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Dangerous Waters

By Radclyffe

Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2018 Radclyffe

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Dangerous Waters

Army National Guard Colonel Sawyer Kincaid has served her time dueling with death in the deserts of Africa. Now that she’s home, the only sand she wants to see is on the beach in South Florida. Too bad Tropical Storm Leo, swiftly gaining strength out over the Atlantic, is about to draw her in to another life or death war, this time on home soil.

Dr. Dara Sims has too many critical patients in the intensive care units at Miami Memorial to consider evacuation, no matter how determined the battle-hardened colonel is to make her. As far as Dara is concerned, evacuate is just another word for abandon. When a state of emergency becomes a state of siege waged by Leo, all she can do is hope the rising waters relent before she loses everyone, herself included.

Acclaim for Radclyffe’s Fiction

Love After Hours, the fourth in Radclyffe’s Rivers Community series, evokes the sense of a continuing drama as Gina and Carrie’s slow-burning romance intertwines with details of other Rivers residents. They become part of a greater picture where friends and family support each other in personal and recreational endeavors. Vivid settings and characters draw in the reader…”—RT Book Reviews

Secret Heart “delivers exactly what it says on the tin: poignant story, sweet romance, great characters, chemistry and hot sex scenes. Radclyffe knows how to pen a good lesbian romance.”—LezReviewBooks Blog

Wild Shores “will hook you early. Radclyffe weaves a chance encounter into all-out steamy romance. These strong, dynamic women have great conversations, and fantastic chemistry.”—The Romantic Reader Blog

In 2016 RWA/OCC Book Buyers Best award winner for suspense and mystery with romantic elements Price of Honor “Radclyffe is master of the action-thriller series…The old familiar characters are there, but enough new blood is introduced to give it a fresh feel and open new avenues for intrigue.”—Curve Magazine

In Prescription for Love “Radclyffe populates her small town with colorful characters, among the most memorable being Flann’s little sister, Margie, and Abby’s 15-year-old trans son, Blake…This romantic drama has plenty of heart and soul.”—Publishers Weekly

2013 RWA/New England Bean Pot award winner for contemporary romance Crossroads “will draw the reader in and make her heart ache, willing the two main characters to find love and a life together. It’s a story that lingers long after coming to ‘the end.’”—Lambda Literary

In 2012 RWA/FTHRW Lories and RWA HODRW Aspen Gold award winner Firestorm “Radclyffe brings another hot lesbian romance for her readers.”—The Lesbrary

Foreword Review Book of the Year finalist and IPPY silver medalist Trauma Alert “is hard to put down and it will sizzle in the reader’s hands. The characters are hot, the sex scenes explicit and explosive, and the book is moved along by an interesting plot with well drawn secondary characters. The real star of this show is the attraction between the two characters, both of whom resist and then fall head over heels.” —Lambda Literary Reviews

Lambda Literary Award Finalist Best Lesbian Romance 2010 features “stories [that] are diverse in tone, style, and subject, making for more variety than in many, similar anthologies…well written, each containing a satisfying, surprising twist. Best Lesbian Romance series editor Radclyffe has assembled a respectable crop of 17 authors for this year’s offering.”—Curve Magazine

2010 Prism award winner and ForeWord Review Book of the Year Award finalist Secrets in the Stone is “so powerfully [written] that the worlds of these three women shimmer between reality and dreams…A strong, must read novel that will linger in the minds of readers long after the last page is turned.”—Just About Write

In Benjamin Franklin Award finalist Desire by Starlight “Radclyffe writes romance with such heart and her down-to-earth characters not only come to life but leap off the page until you feel like you know them. What Jenna and Gard feel for each other is not only a spark but an inferno and, as a reader, you will be washed away in this tumultuous romance until you can do nothing but succumb to it.” —Queer Magazine Online

Lambda Literary Award winner Stolen Moments “is a collection of steamy stories about women who just couldn’t wait. It’s sex when desire overrides reason, and it’s incredibly hot!”—On Our Backs

Lambda Literary Award winner Distant Shores, Silent Thunder “weaves an intricate tapestry about passion and commitment between lovers. The story explores the fragile nature of trust and the sanctuary provided by loving relationships.”—Sapphic Reader

Lambda Literary Award Finalist Justice Served delivers a “crisply written, fast-paced story with twists and turns and keeps us guessing until the final explosive ending.”—Independent Gay Writer

Lambda Literary Award finalist Turn Back Time “is filled with wonderful love scenes, which are both tender and hot.”—MegaScene

Applause for L.L. Raand’s Midnight Hunters Series

The Midnight Hunt


RWA 2012 VCRW Laurel Wreath winner Blood Hunt


Night Hunt


The Lone Hunt


“Raand has built a complex world inhabited by werewolves, vampires, and other paranormal beings…Raand has given her readers a complex plot filled with wonderful characters as well as insight into the hierarchy of Sylvan’s pack and vampire clans. There are many plot twists and turns, as well as erotic sex scenes in this riveting novel that keep the pages flying until its satisfying conclusion.”—Just About Write

“Once again, I am amazed at the storytelling ability of L.L. Raand aka Radclyffe. In Blood Hunt, she mixes high levels of sheer eroticism that will leave you squirming in your seat with an impeccable multi-character storyline all streaming together to form one great read.” —Queer Magazine Online

The Midnight Hunt has a gripping story to tell, and while there are also some truly erotic sex scenes, the story always takes precedence. This is a great read which is not easily put down nor easily forgotten.”—Just About Write

“Are you sick of the same old hetero vampire/werewolf story plastered in every bookstore and at every movie theater? Well, I’ve got the cure to your werewolf fever. The Midnight Hunt is first in, what I hope is, a long-running series of fantasy erotica for L.L. Raand (aka Radclyffe).”—Queer Magazine Online

“Any reader familiar with Radclyffe’s writing will recognize the author’s style within The Midnight Hunt, yet at the same time it is most definitely a new direction. The author delivers an excellent story here, one that is engrossing from the very beginning. Raand has pieced together an intricate world, and provided just enough details for the reader to become enmeshed in the new world. The action moves quickly throughout the book and it’s hard to put down.”—Three Dollar Bill Reviews

Dangerous Waters

© 2018 By Radclyffe. All Rights Reserved.


ISBN 13:978-1-63555-234-8


This Electronic Book is published by

Bold Strokes Books, Inc.

P.O. Box 249

Valley Falls, NY 12185


First Edition: March 2018


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.


This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.


Credits

Editors: Ruth Sternglantz and Stacia Seaman

Production Design: Stacia Seaman

Cover Design by Sheri (graphicartist2020@hotmail.com)

Acknowledgments

I am often asked where I get my story ideas, and I usually answer “from things I read in the news.” Not every story I write is an action-adventure or intrigue story, though all my books are romances. Sometimes I’ll read an article about the farm-to-table food movement or a study on the genetics of bird flu or the restoration of a priceless artifact, and a plot idea emerges. Then all I have to do is imagine the people involved and how they might find love in the process of solving the challenges inherent in the situation. Given the amazing response to the 2017 hurricanes in Texas and Florida by civilian and military first responders as well as ordinary citizens, I was instantly captivated and changed my upcoming publication schedule so I could write this book in the moment.

Many thanks go to: senior editor Sandy Lowe for her remarkable ability to adapt to my creative impulses and her excellent publishing expertise in support of BSB’s authors and operations, editor Ruth Sternglantz for treating each book as if it were the only one on her desk, editor Stacia Seaman for an incredible job of putting this one together, and my first readers Paula and Eva for taking time out of their busy lives to send invaluable feedback. Sheri got just the right cover once again.

And as always, thanks to Lee for weathering all the storms. Amo te.

Radclyffe, 2018

To Lee, for every season

Chapter One

Landfall minus 10 days, 6:15 a.m.

National Hurricane Center Atlantic Ops

Florida International University, Miami, Florida


“How’s the world looking this morning,” Stan Oliver said as he hipped the door to the control room closed while juggling a big blue Mickey mug of coffee, a powdered jelly doughnut spewing white sprinkles on the scuffed, stained, baby-poop brown carpet, and a sheaf of printouts under his left arm. He’d almost made it to the desk he shared with the other two shift supervisors when half the stack slipped and followed the doughnut to the floor. “God damn it.”

“When are you going to stop contributing to the extinction of what’s left of the planet’s forest cover and get a tablet like the rest of the world,” Bette Jones said without turning from her trio of thirty-two-inch monitors. The muted light from the screens erased the lines around her mouth and eyes and filled out the hollows in her cheeks, giving her profile the flat perfection of a face stamped on an ancient coin.

Stan edged his mug onto the corner of the gray metal desk set perpendicular to the long row of computer banks, monitors, and communication arrays and scooped up the papers and doughnut. Dumping the pile in the middle of the desk, he settled into the chair and leaned back. “I’ll start using one of those overpriced mini flat-screens as soon as someone figures out a way to scribble on one so it actually feels like writing. I think when I doodle.”

Anjou Beck snickered from the adjoining station and, when Stan shot him a look, quickly bent his head over his keyboard, blue-green dyed forelock dancing above delicately arched blond eyebrows.

“Doodle,” Stan repeated, “as in free-form design, coloring outside the lines, unleashing the power of the unconscious mind…”

“Doing science here,” Bette said in her soft South Carolina drawl. “Facts, figures—”

“Uh-huh. Forecasting, computer modeling.” Stan took a bite of doughnut and brushed crumbs from his red polo shirt with the NHC logo on the chest. “It’s not all science. That’s why they’re called predictions.”

Anjou sat up straight, his thin shoulders rigid in his plain white T-shirt, indignation coloring his pale Scandinavian cheeks a jaunty rose. “We’re not witches, you know. Those forecasts are all based on billions of bytes of data and constantly refined, dynamic analyses.”

“No argument.” Stan propped a foot on the corner of the desk and sipped his coffee. The kid was a genius but could use a few years’ seasoning to develop his instincts. Hurricane forecasting was more than just numbers and charts. “But never discount that squirmy feeling in your gut when you see something that just doesn’t look right.”

Bette laughed. “The udgies, you mean.”

“Exactly. So…any squirmy udgies this a.m., you two?”

Anjou shook his head with a mumbled, “I don’t believe you guys.”

“Inez headed away from the coast an hour ago and wind speeds are dropping, just like we figured,” Bette said. “New York will get some rain but not enough disturbance to cause any noticeable coastal surges.”

“Good news for the UN meeting this week,” Stan muttered around the last of his doughnut. He knew Inez had stormed herself out already, having logged in remotely to the research center’s main tracking program at four a.m. as had been his habit for the last fifteen years, but his team didn’t need to know that. He wasn’t checking up on them, he was just starting his day with a clear picture of the winds and waters of the North Atlantic basin—his territory. Officially for the next eight hours or so, and twenty-four seven as far as he was concerned. Weather didn’t follow a clock, and neither did he. His job was to be here, tracking the storms when they traveled. “Water temps, Atom Boy?”

“Still warm.” Anjou stroked a few keys and a steadily climbing graphic appeared on his big screen. Surface temps had been rising for the last twenty years, and this year was no exception. “Too warm.”

Stan grimaced. Hurricanes fed off the heat radiating from the ocean’s surface. “Hot spots?”

“Nothing showing,” Anjou replied.

Bette said, “Watch the coast of Africa today.”

“Why?” Anjou switched screens rapidly, scanning air temp, wind speeds, ocean current graphs. “Can’t see anything unusual.”

“Got a feeling, Bette?” Stan asked softly.

“Mmm,” she murmured. “Might talk to the hunters in a bit.”

“Good idea.” Stan noted the time and the key variables in their sector and programmed the satellite readouts for the far east Atlantic. Well out of range for anything likely to make it all the way to their side of the ocean, but he knew better than to ignore an udgie.

Chapter Two

Landfall minus 10 days, 7:00 a.m.

Miami Memorial Hospital

Miami, Florida


Dara closed the PowerPoint slides and flicked on the conference room lights. Four eager faces, a fifth one barely awake, and the sixth unapologetically bored gazed back at her from the length of the conference table. “Questions?”

“I still don’t see why we have to be able to identify poisonous snakes,” Marco said with a hint of a whine. He flicked his shock of jet-black hair out of his eyes with an impatient gesture, managing to look put out and put-upon at the same time. “I’m not going to be practicing in the Everglades.”

A couple of his colleagues grinned, and he laughed, enjoying the subtle applause.

Dara bit back her reflex reply: Because I expect you to.

Marco, who undoubtedly planned on working at one of the posh local private hospitals when he finished, was the oldest son of an influential Miami family and, like many of the sons and daughters of the privileged Dara had grown up with, hadn’t yet cultivated a tolerance for frustration. Hard to do when you were used to every whim being instantly satisfied. Not his fault, really, and her job was to help him, and the rest of his group, learn to exchange arrogance for confidence in their own judgment.

“All right, let me show you why.” Dara opened PowerPoint again, scrolled down to her ancillary slides, and selected one.

Kirk, the other male in the group—when had the gender ratio flipped and women begun to predominate in med schools across the country? Probably when men decided that medicine wasn’t the prestigious career it used to be and definitely wasn’t the most lucrative—grunted and said, “Nasty.”

“Indeed,” Dara said dryly. The foot in the middle of the slide was three times its normal size, fire-engine red with a hint of blue-black along the tips of all the toes, the skin peeling off in wet sheets. She picked out the resident who’d been half asleep during the lecture. “Suki, what’s the pathology here?”

“Um.” Suki cast wide eyes at her colleagues, barely hiding her desperation as she grasped for an answer. “Snakebite?”

“Good deduction, considering the topic for this morning’s lecture was venomous bites. But that’s the etiology, not the pathology.”

Suki frowned, and Dara sighed inwardly.

“Anybody? The difference?”

“Cause and effect,” Naomi, who’d graduated top of her class at Howard, answered quickly.

“Correct. The clinical signs resulted from the snakebite. So, Suki, want to try again?”

“Cellulitis?” she said with a hopeful lift in her voice.

“Correct. What else?” After a long silence, Suki had clearly exhausted her diagnostic acumen for the morning, and Dara shifted her focus to Consuela. “Thoughts?”

“The discoloration of her—or his—toes looks like ischemia. Early onset gangrene?”

“Good. Anyone want to venture what the cause of that might be?”

Six bodies shuffled in their seats.

“All right. Let’s go around the table and list the causes of reduced blood flow to the lower extremity.” Dara nodded to the resident on her left. “You’re up first.”

When she’d finally walked them through all the potential causes for toes falling off, they finally made their way to compartment syndrome, caused by swelling and inflammation from the poisonous snakebite.

“Good. Now, what antivenom should you use? Marco?”

Silence.

“There’s no way to know,” Kirk, who for some reason hid his intelligence behind a perpetually bored facade, replied as if the effort was an annoyance.

“And why would that be?”

He met her gaze. “Because you don’t know what the snake is.”

Dara smiled. She’d been watching him since he’d first sauntered into the ER eight weeks earlier and hadn’t needed long to decide he had the potential to be one of the best residents she’d trained in a long time. He underplayed his book smarts but couldn’t conceal his innate clinical sensibility, something that couldn’t be taught. If he wanted to cover up his native intelligence, she’d let him, as long as his practice lived up to his potential. She understood the need to wear a different public face when the private one left you vulnerable.

“What if the patient told you it was red, black, and yellow striped.”

Suki shot up in her seat. “That’s a coral snake!” She blushed and looked around. “I grew up down here.”

Dara pointed a finger at her. “Exactly. And that’s why all of you need to know what the indigenous poisonous species are in your area. With any luck, your patient will be able to describe for you what happened, and you can prescribe an antidote.”

“Can’t you just get somebody from infectious disease to do that?” Marco said.

Dara narrowed her eyes. “As long as you’re in this residency program, you take care of the emergencies. If you need a consultant, it better be after you’ve made the appropriate diagnosis to begin with. All clear on that?”

Six heads nodded, even Kirk’s.

Dara closed up her computer. “Okay, we’re done, then. If you worked last night, get out of here. The rest of you, go grab charts.”

As the residents filed out, the head ER nurse, and Dara’s best friend, Penny slipped into the room.

“How are they doing?” Penny asked.

Dara sighed. “They seem to get younger and less prepared every year, but maybe that’s just because I’m older and getting more tired every year.”

“Yeah, like thirty-two is ancient.” Penny scoffed. “Haven’t you set the record for being the youngest section head ever or something like that?”

“Age is a state of mind,” Dara muttered.

“Well, I’m about to make your morning even better. There’s a Gold Coaster in room seven who insists on seeing an attending, and you’re the only one free.”

Dara gritted her teeth. Gold Coaster. Back in her residency days, she’d heard the term applied to herself when people thought she wasn’t listening, as if her family’s money somehow bought her a pass. Maybe it had in terms of getting into the college she wanted, which unfortunately also happened to be her father’s alma mater, although she’d put her grades up against anyone’s. Being a bona fide heiress—God, she hated that term—sure hadn’t paved the way during her residency. If anything, training in Miami, where her family name showed up on buildings, parks, and even a road sign or two, made her life hellish. A couple of her attendings had obviously resented her presumed special status, and trying to have a personal life where her social connections didn’t surface was impossible. Good thing she was too damn busy most of the time to care.

“Can you see her?” Penny prompted.

As much as she worked to distance herself from her family’s reputation and the social network attached to it, she couldn’t deny a patient the right to request an attending. She’d just bring a resident with her and insist they be involved in the care. “What is it?”

“A facial laceration, of course.”

“And they’re not requesting plastic surgery right off the bat?”

“We’re trying to ward that off.” Penny grinned sheepishly. “I might have suggested you were highly skilled with facial lacerations, could see her sooner, and wouldn’t charge as much.”

“Oh, thank you.” Dara shook her head and tucked her computer under her arm. “All right, I’ll be there in a couple of minutes.”

“Thanks, you saved me one headache.”

“How are you feeling?”

Penny made a wry face and patted her stomach. “I’m gonna have two in diapers when this one comes along. Of course I’m ecstatic.”

Dara knew she meant it. Some people were born to be parents. “How about Sampson? Is he ready for the double dose of daddyhood?”

Penny rolled her deep-brown eyes in an expression of fond exasperation. “We were really happy when Evie came along, kind of unexpectedly after, you know, six years of trying and a year of considering other options, and then poof! It’s like somehow we unlocked the fertility vault, and without even trying, number two is on the way. Sam has been marching around with a puffed-out chest like he’s the father of the year.”

Dara laughed. “If your BP gives you any problems this time, I want to know about it.”

“Believe me, you’ll be the first to hear.” Penny waved and hurried back to the central station.

Dara exchanged her computer for her tablet and joined Vincie Duval, the chief ER resident, who leaned against the counter entering notes into a laptop. Taller than Dara by a few inches and willowy where Dara was slender at best, Vincie was a top candidate to join the ER staff at the end of the residency year if she wanted. So far she’d been quiet about her plans. Vincie’s parents had immigrated from Guadeloupe when Vincie, the oldest of four, was only six. Her father had died on a fishing boat lost at sea, and she’d grown up helping to raise her sibs. If she wanted to take a job closer to her family, Dara could understand. She’d ended up staying close too, although their stories couldn’t be further apart. She shrugged the past away with the realities of the moment, a habit that was second nature now. “Got a minute to see a patient who might need sutures?”

“Sure.” Vincie’s perennially smiling light-green eyes brightened, complementing her smooth, tawny complexion. With her boundless energy and effortless beauty—if she wore any makeup it was too expertly applied for Dara to tell—Vincie somehow always managed to look ready to take on anything.

If she’d ever been that optimistic, Dara couldn’t remember when. Sometimes Vincie’s enthusiasm made her feel decades older than she was. Granted, her blond hair, naturally tanned coloring, and blue eyes gave her a perpetual south Florida beach glow even without trying, but inside she was weary. And she really didn’t have time for that, today or any other time. Dara pulled up the intake form on her tablet and held open the curtain enclosing cubicle seven for Vincie. Once inside, she stepped to the bedside of an elderly woman propped up on the stretcher, a small square of gauze taped to her forehead and a bruise purpling her left upper lid. She wore a red cardigan that looked like cashmere over a mismatched, incongruous stained yellow T-shirt along with an imperious expression.

“Who are you?” she demanded querulously.

“Ms. Hastings?” Dara held out her hand. “I’m Dr. Sims, and this is Dr.—”

“Finally.” The woman dismissed Vincie with barely a glance and glared at Dara. “I asked for one of the attending physicians, and I don’t want to see a resident.”

Dara kept her smile in place. “I am one of the attendings, and this is Dr. Duval, one of our senior in-house physicians. Can you tell us what happened?”

The woman plucked at the hem of her sweater and, after a second, waved a hand toward the tablet. “I’m sure it’s all in there. I already told several people.”

“Perhaps you could tell me again,” Dara said.

“What did you say your name was again?”

“Dr. Dara Sims.”

“Sims. Sims.” The elderly woman—her intake form put her at seventy-four—frowned. “Any relationship to Barrister Sims?”

An ache started at the back of Dara’s head. She could ignore the question or, in the interest of time, simply answer. She surrendered, at least partially. Barrister did not deserve a mention. “Priscilla Sims is my mother.”

“Oh,” the woman said, her expression softening. “Well, then, I suppose it’s all right.”

Dara nodded, feeling her smile begin to slip. “Can you tell us what happened,” she asked again as she pulled on gloves and removed the gauze. The laceration was superficial, and she glanced over her shoulder at Vincie. “What do you think?”

“I can clean it up and Steri-Strip it.”

Dara nodded and replaced the gauze. “How did this happen?”

“I…I…the maid or someone must have moved a footstool. Careless of them.”

“I see.” Something in the woman’s tone tugged at Dara’s memory. The familiar oh, it’s nothing, I’m just busy she’d heard from her grandmother so many times as her memory and awareness had begun to slip away. “Did you experience any dizziness or loss of balance before you fell?”

The patient’s gaze flickered away. “No.”

“Light-headedness, chest pain?”

“No, no.” Another hand wave. “Oh, perhaps I was dizzy for a second.”

Dara asked a few more questions as she examined her, noting how Ms. Hasting’s answers changed when Dara repeated some of the same questions. She wasn’t sure if the patient was being intentionally evasive or really couldn’t remember.

“How did you get here?” Dara asked.

“I had the doorman call a car.”

“Good,” Dara said. “The laceration isn’t bad, and I don’t think you need sutures. While we set up to put some Steri-Strips on that, I’d like to get an MRI.”

“All right,” she said, strangely acquiescent.

“We’ll be right back.” Dara motioned for Vincie to follow her into the hall. “What do you think?”

“She’s definitely confused,” Vincie said. “Maybe as a result of the fall, but possibly something else is going on that caused it to begin with.”

“I know. The MRI will rule out anything physical. Let’s find out who’s with her from her family, and if there’s no one here, let’s get someone. She shouldn’t go home alone.”

“I’ll take care of it.”

“Call me when you get the MRI results.”

“Got it.”

Dara headed for the workstation to check on the charts of patients waiting to be seen. When the clerk saw her coming, he held up the phone.

“There’s a call for you, Dr. Sims,” he said. “I was just about to page you.”

“Who is it?”

“Brian from Shoreline Residential.”

Dara’s heart jumped and she held out her hand. “I’ll take it, thanks. This is Dara, Brian. Is something wrong?”

“I’m sorry to bother you, Dara, but your grandmother is asking for you.”

Dara checked her watch. “I’ll be there as soon as I can. I just have to get things covered here.”

“Sure thing. I’ll be here.”

Dara hung up and swung around. Penny was right behind her. “Hey, I need to leave for a while.”

“I heard.” Penny squeezed her arm. “Go. Everything here is under control. I’ll call if anything changes.”

“I won’t be long,” Dara said.

If she was in time at all.



Landfall minus 10 days, 1:30 p.m.

Roc Hotel

Miami Beach, Florida


“Morning, Harry.” Sawyer slid onto a stool at the thatch-topped cabana next to the pool outside her room. She braced herself against the hundredth round of Jimmy Buffett singing about the mythical Margaritaville of some long-ago endless summer.

“The usual?” Harry asked.

Man, had she really had enough to drink in two days to have developed a usual? She squinted in the glare from the water and tried to picture where she’d left her shades. Bedside table, where she would have placed her weapon if she’d been on duty. Getting sloppy now that no one was likely to be shooting at her. “Hold the vodka this morning. Just make it hot and spicy, though.”

“Like your women, huh?” Harry the bartender’s sun-leathered skin crinkled around his watery blue eyes as he winked and reached for the Stoli. He waggled the bottle. “You should take the hair of the dog. Start your day off right.”

Sawyer smothered a wince. Harry was wrong on several counts, but a lesson in PC-terminology was beyond her at the moment. She needed a headache remedy, true, but hair of the dog was definitely not on the menu. If she’d been enough of a drinker to handle the vodka, she wouldn’t have a hangover to begin with. “Just the juice, thanks, Harry.”

“You know best,” he said dubiously. “I saw your blondie friend come down for a swim this morning. You don’t like the beach?”

“I like it fine.” Sawyer passed him a ten and palmed the sweating glass. The celery fronds drooped over the top, looking about as lively as she felt. She pushed them aside, sipped the blood-red juice, and coughed when the horseradish hit the back of her throat. She blinked tears from her eyes. “Just not before noon.”

He laughed. “Late night.”

“Catching up.” She was only two days into her fourteen-day leave, and last night had been the first night in a year she’d said more than ten words to a woman who wasn’t her best friend’s wife, her CO, or her barista. Not for lack of poolside company, true, and Harry clearly had noticed the traffic to her table. But talking was not doing—at least not in her book, and she’d heard enough bragging on supposed sexcapades in mess halls and Humvees to know the difference. Last night had ended after a round of drinks in her room with Bridget from Brussels, an abbreviated make-out session she hadn’t even been sure she wanted and hadn’t initiated, and a hasty apology when she’d bowed out of anything more intimate. Bridget had taken the rebuff with a shrug and an air-kiss before sashaying back out to poolside. No doubt to have better company before too long.

Alone under a clear, star-studded sky, Sawyer’d stretched out in the lounge on the postage-stamp-sized patio and finished her drink and one more she really didn’t need. Thus explaining waking up at noon with a crick in her neck, a tracer barrage of too-bright sun lighting up the insides of her eyelids when she tried to open them, and a deuce of 50 mm’s pounding away at her cerebellum. In civilian terms, a mother of a hangover.

Stateside for less than a month and pathetically out of practice in more ways than one. Well, she had twelve more days to catch up on living in a non-war zone before the next round of reservists arrived for training on the HH-60s. Coordinating pararescue team maneuvers on the Pave Hawks wouldn’t leave her much time to think about what shape her future was going to take now that she was home. Of course, she might get deployed again, and that would solve all her problems. True.

Chapter Three

Landfall minus 10 days, 2:00 p.m.

Shoreline Residential Center

Miami, Florida


“How is Priscilla?” Caroline Sims asked as she carefully straightened the blanket over her lap. The typical September Miami day edged into the mid-eighties, but she wore a pale-rose crocheted shawl around her shoulders over a faded blue dress with small white pearl buttons down the center. Her white hair was recently permed in the nondescript style of so many women her age, a style Dara knew for certain her grandmother would have hated if she’d been aware of it. The dress was hopelessly out of date as well, but one of the few items her grandmother still recognized.

Dara remembered the day a decade before when she and the housekeeper had spent a frantic two hours searching for that dress while her grandmother verged on the brink of a full-blown anxiety attack, only to find it neatly folded in one of the boxes her grandmother had marked for the handyman to take to the Goodwill. No amount of explanation could convince Caroline that the housekeeper or some other member of the help staff hadn’t put it there. By then, she’d been forgetting more and more, and Dara had finally been forced to consider options for the future and what would be needed to keep her safe. The task fell to her, since her mother just couldn’t cope, and there was no one else, was there.

Now the dress, laundered dozens of times since, was a faded reminder of the woman Caroline used to be, even though right at this moment, her eyes were clear and focused outward.

“She’s fine, Grandmom. Busy,” Dara said, searching madly for something to say about her mother. “You know, with so many of her humanitarian organizations.”

Charity had lost its political correctness, even though Dara suspected that’s what her mother considered anything that truly benefited those beneath her social status.

“Well, your sister always did like helping others,” Caroline said.

“She’s my mom,” Dara said gently. Her grandmother’s social worker had suggested this was a safe correction when her grandmother was lucid but still a little confused.

Caroline frowned. “Of course, I know that. Barrister’s wife.” She smiled. “And you’re my favorite granddaughter.”

Also, the only granddaughter, but Dara just reached out and took her grandmother’s hand, happy to have her nearby for a few minutes. “Have you been outside for a walk lately? It’s getting cool enough in the afternoons now, and I know how much you like the flowers.”

Caroline nodded. “Yes, thank you for reminding me. I must tell the gardener to trim the roses. They’re getting so leggy.”

“You know,” Dara continued gamely, “there are roses along the path. I’m sure Brian will be happy to walk with you.”

“Brian. Oh, of course. He always was such an attentive son.”

Dara couldn’t bring herself to correct her, since thinking about her father—correction, Barrister—brought up too much anger. Anger she really should’ve let go of a long time ago and told herself she would every time the flush of old resentments rose within her. Twenty years was a long time to harbor feelings that were perfectly appropriate for a twelve-year-old, she’d told herself more than once. So what if he’d walked out, left them, started another life and another family. In his eyes, he’d always done his duty, being sure the family had everything money could buy.

“Brian is your nurse,” Dara said. “The African American guy who helps you get to the dining room and your group sessions?”

“Of course, Brian.” Caroline’s face brightened. “But I think you’re confused, darling. He’s not the nurse. I’m quite sure he’s the attorney.”

“Would you like to go outside now?”

Caroline was quiet for a long moment, her gaze slowly drawing away, pulling back from Dara’s. She shifted to glance out the window that looked onto the acres of lawn and gardens and trees behind the residence, the walkways carefully maintained so the elderly or the less than able could manage them on foot or in a wheelchair.

“I do so wish Barrister wasn’t so busy,” Caroline whispered. “I’m sure he’d come by more often, if he could.”

Dara swallowed hard. Barrister had stopped coming by the moment he’d walked out the door. His checks and the dividends from the family businesses continued to flow into her trust and her mother’s accounts, but his attention—the one commodity of his she’d truly longed for and never been able to capture—had gone elsewhere. A new wife, eventually a new family. Half siblings she never knew.

“I’m sure you’re right,” Dara said around the silent screams choking her.

Her grandmother focused on her again. “I’m so glad you decided to visit. You will come again, when I’m not so busy, won’t you?”

“Of course I will.” Dara kissed her cheek. “I’ll see you again soon.”

Her grandmother smiled, the smile she’d cultivated over years in polite society, the one she aimed at those whose faces and names she would forget as soon as she turned away.



Landfall minus 10 days, 4:30 p.m.

Roc Hotel

Miami Beach, Florida


Sawyer jolted up in bed, the sheets a tangle around her bare feet, the room a dull yellow, the air a heavy coat of grit and sweat on her skin. She’d drawn the beige floor-to-ceiling curtains across the double sliding glass doors to block out the relentless sun, the glimmering white sands, the insistent bludgeoning brightness of the holiday beach.

She couldn’t quite capture the dream flickering at the edges of memory, not that she wanted to. She’d stopped dreaming somewhere in the middle of her last year in Africa. The heat, the blazing sun, the ever-present thump of ordnance in the dark had scorched the possibilities from her unconscious. Dreams were things that existed in the daylight, and only nightmares ruled the dark. Fortunately, she’d driven both away, and if the price was random stretches of near coma masquerading as sleep that didn’t haunt her while awake, she was willing to pay.

She rubbed both hands over her face and through her sweat-damp hair. She needed a haircut—the back was going to hit a good inch below her collar soon. She could probably get by until she headed back to base, though. She had plenty of time—too much time. She looked at the clock. Three hours gone. She’d only intended to stretch out for a few minutes after her shower, but her body had had other ideas. At least her head wasn’t pounding any longer. Still a little fuzzy, but nothing she wasn’t used to. Dehydration was a familiar companion. Absently grabbing the bottled water from the bedside table, she downed half of it and checked her phone with the other hand.

As she expected, all the messages were work related: internal memos from central command, updates on regs, squad movements, activation orders, changes in schedule. Halfway down, she saw a rare personal header.


Rambo@gmail.com

How is the sun?


Smiling, she swiped to view.


Hey, Bones. How’s the beach? How are the babes??

Getting anything? I mean, relaxation wise :-) :-) :-)

R

PS 2 is on the way!


Grinning, Sawyer hit Reply and typed:


Water’s great, getting lots of sleep, having a great time. Congrats, what’s your hurry?

B


She hit Send and leaned back on the pillows. Rambo, aka Ralph Beauregard, was about the best friend she had in the world. They’d gone through Guard ROTC in college together, ended up in the same battalion group, and deployed together. They’d both gone active Guard together too, and now he was her counterpart in supplies and acquisitions. He kept troops fed and clothed—and armed when necessary. He also kept her search and rescue teams outfitted with the latest gear and medevac supplies.

Just seeing his name made her miss the squad. Why’d she ever think a leave with nothing to do except not think about where she’d been or what lay ahead was a good idea?

The twelve days in front of her stretched longer than twelve months in the field ever had.



Landfall minus 9.5 days, 6:15 p.m.

National Hurricane Center Atlantic Ops

Florida International University, Miami, Florida


“Hey,” the tech at the big screen said to the room in general, “something’s cooking out there.”

The evening supervisor walked over and scanned the readouts. “Huh. Wind speed above that wave formation has doubled in the last hour.”

“Yeah, and the water temp’s still high.”

“Could be something forming,” the supervisor said. “Let’s send out a watch notice. I’ll pull up the list of names.”

“Pretty far out there,” the meteorologist said.

The supervisor nodded, still watching the patterns swirl and coalesce. “Yeah, probably nothing to worry about.”

Chapter Four

Landfall minus 8 days, 3:05 a.m.

National Hurricane Center Atlantic Ops

Florida International University, Miami, Florida


NOAA Hurricane Advisory

Tropical Depression Leo

12:00 a.m. AST

Location: 12°N 32°W

Moving: NNW at 20 mph

Min pressure: 980 mb

Max sustained: 35 mph


Stan Oliver cleared his throat as he swiped his phone off the stand beside the bed, his thumb automatically repeating the action to take the call. Next to him, his wife mumbled, “Let the dog out,” and rolled over, sound asleep again before Stan could mutter hoarsely, “Hello?”

“Sorry to wake you, Stan. You said you wanted to be notified—”

“No problem.” Stan was operations chief at the NHC, and the only reason he still took shifts on the floor was because he liked it. He liked seeing his people at work, and he liked watching the patterns of wind and rain and life moving over the vast surface of the Earth, reminding them all—at least all of them who paid any attention—of just how very insignificant they all were, and how much they owed the planet for tolerating their presence.

“Jonas change course, did he?” Stan sat up on the side of the bed and cupped the phone in his palm, although Anna gave no sign of hearing him. They’d been tracking Hurricane Jonas, a Cat 1, who’d been heading into open water in the Gulf as it lost power throughout the evening. He’d checked on him just before he’d gone to bed a little before midnight, and he’d shown no signs of rebuilding, as sometimes happened when the speed dropped over warm waters. Inez had long since been downgraded to storm status and no longer threatened the East Coast. Unusual, to have two so close together. Ten named storms, with six progressing to hurricanes, was about average for the whole season, but it was peak week in peak season, and weather was changeable. That was a fact that never altered.

“Not Jonas—Leo. He’s showing rapid intensification. Speeds have increased twenty knots in the last four hours.” Claire Donahue was a seasoned meteorologist, and the faint rise in her voice hinted at excitement only someone who knew her well would pick up.

Stan heard it. An increase in speed that quickly was the hallmark of a powerful storm forming. “Is he looking like a Cape Verde event?”

Cape Verde storms formed just off the coast of Africa and the Cabo islands, and if they managed to track all the way across the Atlantic, often became the big storms—the monster storms. The hurricanes that literally rained down death and destruction to hundreds.

“He’s already as big as Hugo was, with half the time forming.” Claire paused. “If he keeps moving this way and the currents stay hot, he’s going to be bigger than anything we’ve ever seen.”

“I’m coming in.”



Landfall minus 7 days, 8:45 a.m.


NOAA Hurricane Advisory

Tropical Storm Leo has been upgraded to a Category 3 hurricane. Five-day, tropical-storm-force wind probabilities of 90 mph winds are projected over an area ranging from the Caribbean to the mid-Atlantic United States.



Landfall minus 7 days, 4:45 p.m.

Roc Hotel

Miami Beach, Florida


Sawyer stroked underwater, her lungs just starting to burn when she hit the far end of the fifty-foot pool. A hundred laps, all of it submerged except for a breath at each turn. After the first half mile her mind emptied, even as every other sense heightened. Shadows rippled on the surface—bodies moving across the steaming patio tiles; turbulence to her left—a swimmer making a clumsy dive; a distant hum—music, not incoming. She wasn’t alone anywhere, and she could never let down her guard.

When she surfaced in the deep end of the pool, she let her momentum carry her up and out, slapped both hands flat on the surround, and tucked her legs. She straight-armed into a push-up, knifed her body over the side onto the deck, and vaulted to her feet. Flinging water and tendrils of black hair from her eyes with a quick shake, she quickly focused to check her position. All clear.

She stretched, welcoming the subtle buzz of adrenaline and the undercurrent of restored control. No more alcohol, a reasonable five hours of sleep the night before, and two good meals a day put her back on an even keel. Two miles in the pool had even started to work off a lot of the nervous energy she couldn’t seem to burn off anywhere else. Weren’t vacations supposed to be relaxing?

Maybe they were, for most people, but not for someone who’d been in near-constant physical motion all her adult life, and the bulk of that time in mortal danger. Sitting still, even to read a book, which she’d done plenty of while deployed, was a trial.

“Very, very nice,” a deep sultry voice said from behind and to her right, accompanied by soft clapping.

Sawyer pulled up a mental snapshot of the terrain even as she turned. A lone sunbather, midforties, blond, bronzed, and toned, in a white two-piece that revealed a whole lot more than it covered up.

The woman smiled slowly, removing designer shades to reveal sharp green eyes. A shapely arm encircled with a pricey-looking gold link bracelet held out a snowy white towel in Sawyer’s direction. “I almost hate to cover up the scenery.”

Sawyer took the towel and riffled it over her hair, letting it dangle in her right hand when she was done. The blonde surveyed her with frank interest. Sawyer hadn’t worn a conventional bathing suit, just a sports top and tight black jogging shorts, which covered about as much as the cutoff T-shirts and shorts she was used to wearing in the desert for the endless days they waited for orders to move out. She’d gotten used to not being looked at. The brutal heat, constant stress, and insidious boredom went a long way toward dispelling physical interest. Her stomach tightened in a wholly unexpected way as the woman’s gaze moved over her bare shoulders, down her nearly bare torso, lingering for a few seconds on her midsection, before slipping farther down.

“What is it exactly that you do to get a body like that?” the woman asked.

“Not a thing,” Sawyer said. “Good genes.”

The woman laughed and lifted a martini glass with two olives rolling in the bottom. She gestured to a lounge chair beside her. “Join me?”

“Thanks, but I gave it up.”

“Drinking, or fucking?”

Sawyer glanced around, but no one seemed to be paying any attention to them. She grinned. “The first, although it’s a little early in the day for the second too.”

The woman tipped back her head and laughed. “Now I know you’re lying.” Her lips lifted in slow invitation. “I’m Catherine Winchell. I’m sure you’ve never heard of me, which is just as well, considering the circumstances. And who might you be?”

Sawyer strode closer, folded the towel, and set it on the chair next to Catherine. “Sawyer Kincaid.”

“And what are you doing here? You don’t have the look of a beach bum, and I don’t see the wife and kids anywhere.”

“None of the above. Just a somewhat reluctant vacationer.”

“I can see that. Maybe you should learn to relax a little more. Sawyer.”

Sawyer nodded. “You’re right, and I appreciate the advice.”

Catherine sipped her drink. “If you don’t want to be propositioned, you probably should cover up those abs. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a body like yours before.”

“Uh…thanks.”

Catherine laughed again. “If you change your mind, I’m in 742.”

Sawyer gave a slight nod. “I’m a whole lot more than flattered—”

“You don’t need to be flattered, you just need to be good.”

Sawyer was searching for an answer to that one when one of the pool waitstaff came toward her holding out a portable phone. “Colonel Kincaid?”

Sawyer unintentionally straightened. “Yes?”

Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Catherine sit up a little, her expression turning hawk-like, avid, as if she suddenly sensed prey.

“Emergency call for you…uh…Colonel…sir?”

“Thanks.” Sawyer held out her hand for the phone. “This is Colonel Kincaid.”

“Sawyer, sorry to interrupt your leave,” General Jim Baker said.

“No problem, General,” Sawyer said, turning her back and walking to the far side of the pool, out of hearing range of the few remaining people who hadn’t gone inside to start preparing for the dinner hour. “How can I help you, sir?”

“NOAA just sent out another updated hurricane advisory. Big storm coming, and the governor has ordered us to mobilize. I want you to take ground command.”

“Yes, sir. I’ll be there in four hours.”

“Driving?”

“Yes, sir. From Miami Beach.”

“Why don’t you head on out to MIA. We’ll send a bird for you.”

“Yes, sir.”

“See you at the briefing.”

“Yes, sir.” Sawyer blew out a breath and glanced out toward the ocean. The sky was a gorgeous aquamarine over water almost the same color blue, with playful gulls circling above lacy froth-tipped waves, and dozens of oblivious vacationers scattered along the immaculate beach in colorful cabanas. Unsuspecting, unwary, and possibly in mortal danger. In the Keys, on islands, in cities along the coast, the same picture unfolded. Battles came in many guises.

The boredom, the aimlessness, the uncertainty of purpose fell away and Sawyer knew exactly who she was and what she was about. She strode back around the pool, and as she passed Catherine Winchell’s chair, the woman called out.

“Colonel Kincaid, is it?”

Sawyer looked back. “Just Sawyer at the moment.”

“Anything you care to share?”

“I’m afraid not.”

Catherine rose and walked beside her as Sawyer continued toward her room. “You don’t watch much television, do you?”

“Not really.” Sawyer paused on her patio by the sliding glass doors. “I’m sorry, I’m a little short on time.”

“I can see that. That’s why I’m curious.” Catherine dug in the colorful straw satchel she’d slung over her shoulder and held out a card. “Channel 10 News, Miami bureau.”

Sawyer did not take the card. “Now I’m really short on time.”

Catherine laughed and tucked the card delicately under the waistband of Sawyer’s shorts. “I can be a good person to know.”

“I don’t doubt it. But I’m not the person you want to talk to you. We have a media representative, if and when there’s anything to talk about. I’m sure your station will have the number.”

“I’m sure one of these days we’ll see each other again.”

“It was nice talking to you, Ms. Winchell.” Sawyer nodded and slid open the door.

“You never mentioned what branch of the military,” Catherine called after her.

Sawyer smiled and shut the door, letting the heavy drapes fall closed behind her. Catherine Winchell was as persistent as she was beautiful and, if Sawyer wasn’t mistaken, used to getting what she wanted. The only safe play with a woman like that was no play at all. As she pulled her duffel from the closet, her stomach tightened with an undeniable twinge of regret.



Landfall minus 6.5 days, 7:45 p.m.

Ocean Drive, South Beach

Miami Beach, Florida


Dara’s cell rang as she let herself into her condo. From the door she could see across the open-floor living space to the balcony and the ocean beyond. She still had enough daylight left for a run if she hurried. She could be on the beach in two minutes once she hit Ocean Drive. Hurriedly she dug out her phone from her backpack and checked the readout. Private number. Her pent-up breath escaped. Not the hospital. “Hello?”

“Dr. Sims?”

Dara winced. Celebrated too soon. She vaguely recognized the voice but couldn’t quite place it. “Yes?”

“Sorry to bother you at home. This is Victor Sanchez.”

“Of course, how can I help you, Mr. Sanchez.” She’d heard the hospital CEO speak enough times at staff meetings, but she didn’t really spend a lot of time with the administrators. They were budget and protocol people, and she mostly wasn’t. Sure, she had to deal with the financial end of things to keep the ER running, but fortunately, the medical chief of staff bore the brunt of that. As to procedure and protocol, if it didn’t affect patient care, she left that to management to manage.

“You couldn’t be reached, so the call got handed up to me.” He chuckled. “And I am sending it back to you.”

Dara glanced at her phone and saw there was a missed call. “Sorry, I was driving. I put my phone on Do Not Disturb when I’m in the car.”

“Very wise of you. We’ve been alerted there is a statewide hurricane alert. Nothing critical at the moment, but since you’re the head of the hospital’s emergency response team, I thought you’d want to know sooner rather than later.”

“Of course. I’ll check my mail—I should automatically get an update from the state.”

“Well, it is the season for these things, and I’m sure it will turn out to be nothing much.”

Dara rolled her eyes. In her line of work, nothing was nothing to worry about until she was absolutely certain every possibility had been considered.

“Just be sure to keep me apprised,” he said, already sounding as if he’d dispensed with thinking about the potential problem.

“I certainly will,” Dara said. “Thanks. I’m sorry you were bothered.”

“No trouble at all, Doctor. You have a nice night.”

Dara switched to her mail program. The last message had come in just after she’d left work. An advisory from the state emergency response division alerting all level one trauma centers of an impending weather event. She scanned the details. A hurricane warning, apparently a big enough storm to warrant enhanced readiness, but still a good week away. She quickly typed a memo to the other members of the hospital emergency management team for a morning meeting and sent it out. She could already hear the complaints about a seven a.m. meeting, but that was the only way to get everyone together at such short notice. Maybe by morning, the threat level would’ve been downgraded, and she could cancel the meeting. These kinds of alerts were common this time of year.

Shedding her clothes as she hurried to the bedroom, she put thoughts of hurricanes aside. If she was lucky, she could still get in a decent run.

Chapter Five

Landfall minus 6 days, 5:55 a.m.

Florida National Guard, Joint Training Center

Camp Blanding, Florida


Sawyer rounded the corner to the briefing room just as Rambo approached from the opposite direction.

“Sorry about the vacation, Bones.” Rambo’s mildly sarcastic tone told her he knew damn well she was happy to be back. Maybe he was being just a little bit critical too. He mostly gave her the space she demanded, even from a friend, but every now and then he slipped in a gibe that maybe she could do with a little more fun and less work.

She let his needling pass, because when it counted, he’d always been there for her. When her mom died, when her family scattered at last, as if the glue holding them all together had finally hardened to dust along with her, he’d been the one to stand with her at the graveside and watch her sisters and brothers begin to drift away on the wind. He’d been the one to invite her home for a meal, and to his wedding, and to the baptism of his first child. He never pushed, but he was always there.

“How’s Miko?” Sawyer asked, knowing exactly how to divert the conversation from herself.

His smile broadened, joy tingeing his creamy tan skin an unexpected and oddly beautiful rose. “Gorgeous as ever. She seems to get prettier every time she’s pregnant.”

“I don’t think you should mention that around her. It sounds a little—” She waggled her hand.

“Macho?”

“That might be one word for it.” She pushed the door to the briefing room open and let him pass by. “Tell her hello from me.”

“You’re overdue for barbecue.”

“Uh-huh.”

He didn’t have a chance to bug her further. The rows of chairs facing the big screen at the far end of the long, narrow room were half full, and a dozen troops followed them in and shuffled to seats. She and Rambo settled in the first row, as was customary for the ranking officers.

She nodded to the wing commanders, who flew aerial surveillance, and her squad, the Pave Hawk helo pilots who flew combat search and rescue when deployed, and when at home, civil SAR, EVAC, and disaster relief.

“Attention!” a deep male voice commanded from the back of the room and everyone shot to their feet.

Brigadier General Jim Baker, commander of the Florida National Guard, strode to the front of the room at precisely 0600 accompanied by another officer. Sawyer had served under him for most of her ten years in the active Guard, at home and abroad. In his midfifties, he was still sandy haired and in fighting trim. He had the well-earned rep of being a boots on the ground leader. She respected and trusted him, and when he’d pushed her to go full-time active Guard, she’d found a home she could count on.

“As you were,” Baker said, and everyone sat.

The screen behind him lit up with a map of the eastern United States, the Caribbean, and a portion of the Atlantic Ocean. Red circles, stacked like poker chips spread across blue-green felt, trailed across the ocean toward the islands south of the continental US. As the circles closed in on land, streamers spread out like tails on a whip, fanning out into dozens of lines headed toward the islands scattered in the Caribbean and the Florida Keys. Some drifted off into the Gulf of Mexico and others turned northeast away from the coast. The majority, however, ended up over land, stretching on a path from New Orleans to North Carolina. Baker fixed a laser pointer on one of the circles in the middle of the ocean marked with a time stamp. “This the last location of Hurricane Leo’s eyewall. It’s too early to tell for sure where he’s headed from here.” The red light danced over the many paths headed for inhabited areas. “Right now, the computer models show these as the likely paths.”

“That’s helpful,” Rambo muttered.

“What we can be sure of,” Baker continued, ignoring similar comments from around the room as he focused the pointer on Florida, “is he’s going to hit land with a seriously big punch.”

Baker handed the pointer to the officer by his side. “Major Kim is with the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squad and has just come back from a data-gathering mission. I’ll let her fill you in on the details.”


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