Book 2 In the Stealing Time Series
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by KJ Waters
Shattering Time – Book 2 in the Stealing Time Series
Chapter 13 – Stuck in Town
Ronnie woke calm and satiated. She stretched her legs and rolled onto her back. Most of the time she slept in a T-shirt so the caress of the sheets felt particularly sensual against her naked flesh. The sun peeked in around the window shade and she wondered what the day would bring. Then it hit her. The day would bring Hurricane Frances to her doorstep! There was no way she could be here for that. She should have left yesterday.
“Crap!” She sprang out of bed looking around for Jeffrey. He was already up—nice of him to let her sleep when he knew she was trying to leave. The clock showed 8:31 a.m. You should have left by now. It blinked to 8:32, too late.
Her skin crawled with gooseflesh, longing for the warmth between the sheets, but there was no time for luxuriating. In the passion of last night, she had forgotten to finish packing and did not set the alarm. She clicked the TV on before gathering her clothes and headed toward the shower, pausing to lean on the doorjamb when the weatherman came on.
Terry James was tamping down his all-out roaring excitement for the good of the community. “In sheer size, Frances is nearly twice as big as Charley with wind speeds peaking at one hundred and forty miles an hour.”
Ronnie held her temples. “No!” This was not happening again. And for God’s sake she wasn’t going to be here for it. She shut the door and turned on the shower. Flashes of last night assaulted her as the hot water hit her body. A dizzying passion washed down the drain as she fought the urge to take her time under the steamy spray. Panic won out and she finished soaping up and rinsed, longing for more but this was not the time or place.
Ronnie quickly dressed and finished packing. She combed her long hair and put it in a high ponytail, no time to mess with it. Once all her things were ready to go and she clicked the TV off, picked up her duffle bag, and made her way to the kitchen, wondering if Jeffery had gone out for an errand or was lounging with coffee nearby.
The door to the garage was ajar. She pushed it opened and found the attic ladder down. “Babe?” she called.
“Oh, hey you’re awake.” His voice was muffled from above. “I’ll be right down.”
“I thought you finished last night with that?” She craned her neck to look up the stairs.
The ladder creaked and she saw his sneakered foot on the paint-stained wood of the step. His tanned muscular leg was within reach as he climbed down the ladder.
“I thought so too, but after I saw the weather report I wanted to double check it. The storm is going to last for days, Ronnie. It will be so much worse than Charley, I’m afraid.”
Her guts did a backflip. “I’m ready to leave. You want to come with me?”
“Leave, Ronnie, the traffic is totally backed up on the interstate. I don’t think you’re going anywhere.”
All the blood left her face and her hands tingled. “What do you mean?”
“Seriously, they’ve evacuated millions of people along the coast and low lying areas inland. They’re all on Ninety-Five right now.”
“But I’m not going to be here, Jeffrey. Damn it, I should have left last night like I wanted to.”
He raised his eyebrows. “You don’t regret last night, do you?” He reached out to grab her arm, but she stepped backward.
“Look, I am not going to be here when Frances hits.” She held her hands out. “I’m taking my chances out there.”
“Ron, it’s the largest evacuation in history. How do you think you’re going to get on the interstate and make it to Virginia before the storm hits?” She could hear the frustration in his voice. “It’s just not feasible.”
“Jeffrey if I leave now I’ll get ahead of the crowd and it won’t be too bad.” Her mind raced with every reason she should not be here.
“Really? It is already too late Ronnie.” He turned her around and shoved her toward the kitchen door, back into the house.
“Just wait, they show both interstates, Four and Ninety-Five, all the way to North Carolina are clogged with evacuees. You’d never make it home in time and hotels will be booked. What will you do in your car on the road when it hits?” His voice took an angry tone.
They went to the TV and she clicked it back on. Sure enough, Terry James was showing Skycam views of the road. Traffic was crawling.
“Now what do I do?” Her cheeks flushed. With Jeffrey so thoroughly distracting her the night before, she hadn’t left as planned. There was supposed to be time today to get out of town.
“Babe, I’ll stay with you.” He wrapped his arms around her.
Ronnie broke free, claustrophobic. “No, no, no. I have to get out of here!”
“Babe.” He took her hand pulling her toward him.
“Aren’t you monitoring this storm like you did Charley? Don’t you have to be in the lab?”
“I probably should but if you need me, Ronnie.” He hugged her.
“No Jeffrey, I can’t.” She pushed against his chest and looked up at him.
“You can’t? Why can’t you?”
She shook her head not sure what to say but she didn’t want to be with him during the storm. “Okay, okay. Damn, I really wanted to get out of town, Jeffrey.”
He kissed her forehead, “I know, but look it will be fine. Your house made it through the last storm with just a few branches down.”
“A hurricane the size of Texas?” Ronnie pushed away from him and swallowed her fear. Would she end up back in eighteenth-century London again, or somewhere worse? It had been so horrific last time.
The phone rang and she glared at it as if it was an alien invading. Who the hell could that be? “Hello.”
“Hey, love, I just wanted to see if you were on the road yet. You didn’t answer your cell.” Steph’s cheerful Scots greeted her.
“Oh, God Steph, I wish. I’m staying here.” Ronnie eyed Jeffrey, who took her waist and pulled her toward him. Ronnie stiff-armed him and he turned toward the kitchen. “Have you seen the news? Traffic is a nightmare, I’ll never get home in time.”
“What will you do now?” She could hear Ian in the background trying to grab the phone. “Ian, stop.”
“Jeffrey’s here,” Ronnie said.
“No, seriously? Ronnie, you have to be smarter than that. You can’t be with him during this storm. You just cannae.”
Ronnie heard more shuffling and then Ian’s voice. “Hi, Ronnie. How are you? What color knickers you wearing?”
More shuffling and Steph got the phone back. “Ya wee eegit, stop playing around this is serious. Sorry love, he’s acting as if he’s twelve. What if me and the eegit came to stay with you? I swear he won’t go through your underwear drawers.”
She could hear Ian in the background begging, “Please, please, oh please.”
Ronnie couldn’t help but smile, he was a hound dog for sure but he did make her laugh. “Are you sure?”
Ian was back on the line, “If you’re short on beds I’ll be happy to share yours, Ronnie.”
She laughed. “That won’t be necessary Jeffrey will be in my bed.”
Steph was back on the line, “Not if I have anything to say about it. Ronnie, you have to tell him to shove off.”
Ronnie’s cheeks grew hot. It was the usual battle between Jeffrey and Steph. Either way, she would make someone mad. “I don’t think I have enough food though and they’re saying the storm should last the entire weekend.”
“Hey, run to the store and just grab what you can. I’ll bring what I have and call Nick. Your tank is full, right?” Steph said.
“Yeah, it is.” Ronnie walked to the kitchen and opened the cupboards, making note of what she had. Not much.
Steph continued. “Good, better go now, the shelves are emptying as we speak.”
“Okay, come over soon okay?” Ronnie hung up the phone, grabbed her car keys and walked to the driveway. “Jeff. I’ll be back. I’m going to the store. Anything you need?”
“Yeah, buy some of those Starbucks ready-made drinks, we’re gonna need some coffee.”
“Okay.” She knew she should tell him Steph was coming over but he would be pissed. Would Steph and Jeffrey kill each other? It would be uncomfortable, but maybe, just maybe, they’d learn to get along.
Ronnie dashed through the store grabbing what was left of the essentials and fought the frantic masses to get to the register. It was daunting to think about the many meals they’d have to prepare with five people there over the duration of the storm with no power. Would it be enough? There would be no turning back, the roads would be impassable after the storm and stores would be closed. After Hurricane Isabel, it had been weeks before the power returned in some of the Virginia Beach neighborhoods.
Ronnie jumped back in her car and fought traffic back to the house. As she pulled into the driveway she eyed the huge trees in her new yard, the potential for horrible damage was looming directly over her roof. In the side yard a giant loblolly pine tree five times the height of her house waved a branch in the wind as if to say, “Hello, I’m here to make your day.” In the front yard, a few hickories and smaller live oaks shimmied in the light breeze.
Behind the house were the camphor, grapefruit, and orange trees, but the neighbors all had large trees that could easily flatten her single-story ranch. Jeffrey was right the trees had made it through Charley with no issues, but it was possible that one had been damaged during that storm. Frances was going to be a lot worse. She grabbed the groceries and made her way through the open garage door through to the kitchen, setting them down on the countertop.
“Jeffrey!” She might as well just tell him so she could stop stressing about it.
She heard a muted, “Up here.” And she walked to the open attic. “Give me about twenty minutes, I’m almost done.”
“Okay.” Crap, she’d have to wait. Steph would be here by then. Ronnie busied herself with putting away the groceries and finishing the laundry she’d started earlier. Counting on her fingers she calculated the number of pillows needed. She and Jeffrey would be in her bed, Steph and Nick in the guest room, Ian on the couch.
She called Steph, “Bring pillows for you and Ian. You’re welcome to have Nick come too. The more the merrier.” At this point, it didn’t matter and maybe Nick could diffuse the heat between Jeffrey and Steph to make the situation civil.
“Okay, that would be lovely. We were just talking about it,” she said. “Did you tell Jeffrey you’ve invited the entire neighborhood over?”
Ronnie squirmed. “I’m about to. Just waiting for him to leave the attic. He’s shoring up the roof.” They spoke for a few more minutes making arrangements and Ronnie hung up, eager to finish the final preparations before her friends came over. How would Ian and Jeffrey get along? Jeffrey would probably look down on him, who knows that might get Ian’s ire up and then what? Would Ian fight with Jeffrey? This was a big mistake. They’d be stuck in this house for days with all of them on top of each other.
She called Steph back. “What is it love, we’ll be there in a few minutes can’t it wait?” Steph asked with a bit of edge in her voice.
“Steph, I’m sorry. Just got worrying about Ian and Jeffrey going at it. Could you talk to him and maybe …”?
“Ooch, why don’t you tell him to ride it out at his house alone? Woman, he is the only one of us that won’t be easy.” Steph didn’t try to hide her anger.
“Maybe I should.” She knew Jeffrey would not leave.
“Look we’ll be there soon, I’ll speak to Ian and let him know to be on his best behavior.”
Jeffrey walked into the bedroom covered in cobwebs and dust. “Hey babe, I’m gonna hop in the shower.”
“Jeffrey, Steph, and her brother are coming over. Maybe Nick too.”
“Why the hell didn’t you tell me before, Ronnie? I’m not sure I want to be stuck in the house with a gang of …” He looked away.
“A gang of what, Jeffrey?”
“I’m going to take a shower and decide if I can be here. Thanks a lot for this, Ronnie. I came over here to be with you, to make sure you’re safe and you invite a mess of people too? Don’t you want me here?”
“Jeff, I’m sorry.” She forced her tone to be neutral, not angry. “I wasn’t even planning on being here myself. I’m supposed to be in Virginia and away from this horror. I’m scared to death that it will happen again and when Steph called we decided she should be here too.”
He looked at her, anger showing on his even features. “It won’t happen again, Ronnie. You are safe here with me. Tell Steph to stay home, we really don’t need more people here. It won’t go over well I’ll tell you that right now.”
“No, I’m not doing that. I feel like I need both of you here. Can’t you just help me out?”
In response, Jeffrey peeled off his shirt and wadded it into a ball and threw it on the floor. He walked to the bathroom and shut the door.
“Crap.” Ronnie sat on the bed, feeling more stressed by the minute.
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