Welcome to TANTALIZING THURSDAYS!!!Today, I give you the first chapter of Racy Nights 14 - CHASING THEIR RACY DESTINY.
Kenna Bowman left work earlier than normal on Friday afternoon. She usually worked late into the evening, but hardly anyone was left in the Notus building on Fridays after four o’clock. She’d have preferred to keep working, but it freaked her out even more to be practically alone in the six-story building, even though there were security guards on duty and several teams of engineers who worked late into the night. But this Friday she decided to head home early. Thunderstorms had been predicted all day, and she preferred to watch them from home.
This was only her third week in Racy, Indiana, working at Notus for a limited time in partnership with the National Severe Storms Laboratory, and she loved both the town and the organization. Notus owned and operated the miles of wind turbines along Interstate 65 and US 231, just outside of Racy, as well as other wind farms around the country. But Racy was a major base of operations, and they’d gone out of their way to welcome her as a research partner.
She frowned at the darkening sky to the northwest as she made her way down Notus Parkway. The storm looked menacing, and a quick glance at her phone confirmed a severe thunderstorm warning for Benton County had already been issued. The county was under a watch until midnight. They’d moved in more quickly than she’d anticipated. She just might make it home in time to watch this one from her townhouse on Lilac Way.
Her job didn’t involve storm spotting from the field, but she felt what she did in the lab was just as important. More important, really, but try telling that to the R&D specialists who worked in the field. She studied atmospheric dynamics, and while filming tornadoes and inflow clouds associated with supercell storms made for great network ratings, it was only a small portion of the battle to develop the perfect warning system, which in turn would save lives.
But with the explosion of reality shows, in which viewers wanted blood, guts, and grueling realism, she’d been bucking the kind of thinking that fed more money into field chasers than into research grants for lab study for twenty years now. Ever since she’d been an undergrad at Penn State, when she’d made a comment in a geography class about all the storm chasing shows popping up, and how most of them didn’t have any real training in weather patterns, she’d felt like the redheaded stepchild.
There was less lack of training now, or perhaps there only seemed to be less of it because she was exposed to pros in her day-to-day work. But either way, she still believed that the work she did in the lab had more long-term significance for developing early warning systems and being able to predict and pinpoint storms than what the cowboys did. Taking a camera out to a field and trying to film a tornado before it blew them into the next state didn’t give them the information they needed to make warnings better, faster, and more accurate.
As she turned onto Elm Parkway, still about fifteen minutes from home, she spotted two of the chasers who worked in the field. She’d seen them in the building before, but only for brief periods of time. Tim Malloy, of the same Malloys who owned Notus, and Dale Sinclair, of the infamous Sinclair family right here in Racy.
From what she’d already been told, the Sinclair family consisted of an ER physician who had a reputation for having a vicious temper at home, Cameron, the Racy fire chief, and brothers Hugh and Mason, who both worked at Notus. Hugh was in finance and Mason was an R&D specialist also involved in wind studies, but he didn’t chase storms.
She’d already met Mason, but only knew Tim and Dale by reputation so far. The two worked on a wind studies team as well, but they were part of a field studies team, meaning they did what she spied them doing right now. They set up equipment and measured everything they could measure before the storm took out their equipment, or they got the equipment out of the way before it was ruined.
“In other words,” she muttered, “storm chasers.”
Notus never officially called them that, but that’s what they were. She’d expected a degree of professionalism from these two, but so far she hadn’t heard good things in that department. Watching them now, in front of a large farmhouse with a wind turbine in the back yard, she had to wonder how they’d graduated from college.
She slowed down despite the coming storm to watch them attempt to mount an anemometer in the front yard by sinking the pole on which it was mounted into the ground. That would be fine except she had no idea how they expected to anchor it. Did they have some quick-drying cement handy to fill in that hole?
One of them spotted her and shielded his eyes for a second, then grinned and waved. She hadn’t even realized they knew who she was. Now she was more than curious, so after a quick glance in the rearview mirror to gauge how much time she had, she pulled into the driveway and got out of her car. The wind was cold, and she glanced toward the coming clouds, opening her phone again.
“This is going to be a bad one,” said the man she believed was Tim.
“Yeah. Still no tornado warning, though.”
“There will be,” said the other man. “You’re Kenna Bowman, right? The new researcher from Pennsylvania?”
Kenna glanced into Dale’s handsome face, wishing she didn’t suddenly want to straighten his dark hair, or run her fingers through it to determine if it was as soft as it looked. “I’m from Pittsburgh and received my undergrad and graduate degrees from Penn State, but up until three weeks ago I’ve been living in Norman, Oklahoma.”
Shut up, idiot. He didn’t ask for your CV.
“So the rumors are true?” asked Tim. “You worked for NSSL?”
She nodded. “I still do. I’m only here as a research partner.” She glanced toward the clouds again as thunder rumbled, dark and ominous.
“Shit.” Dale jammed the pole into the ground and Tim began to fill it in with dirt. “We’d better hurry up. This is coming fast.” It was difficult to hear him now over the howling wind.
“I’m not trying to tell you two how to do your job, but how do you expect that thing to stay put in this wind?”
Tim grinned and reached around toward a wheelbarrow she hadn’t noticed before. “With this.” He poured what looked like cement around the pole, then used a trowel to flatten it out. “Let’s go. This is the best we can do right now.”
“It won’t dry in time.”
Tim nodded. “Yes, it will.”
“I’d better get home.” She started toward her car, fighting the urge to ask them if she could stay. This was exciting because she wondered what was mounted on the pole. Now that she was close to it, she saw equipment she couldn’t identify. What were they doing with it? Did it belong to Notus? And whose house was this?
“I hope you live close,” said Dale, eyeing the clouds with a gleam in his eye. “You don’t have much time.”
She followed his gaze, her jaw dropping at the inflow. It was one of those things that when first seen in person didn’t look real at first. Her mind couldn’t process what was happening. But years of training finally kicked in. She knew what she was watching, and she knew she wouldn’t make it home in time now. “Are you sure they haven’t issued a tornado warning yet?”
In the space of time it took all three of them to open their phones to look for weather updates, the tornado sirens in Racy went off.
“Fucking A!” shouted Dale, pumping his fist in the air. “We were right. Yeah!”
“Get inside!” Tim pointed. “We have a storm shelter in the basement. Is there anything in your car you want to grab? Do it now!”
She had her laptop in there, and barely was able to get the door open and grab her bag before running toward the farmhouse, with Tim in front of her and Dale behind her. Every nerve ending was on fire. She wanted to stay outside and watch for the funnel, but knew better. They were too close. Fat, cold raindrops splashed them as they reached the front porch, and when Kenna glanced one more time at the cloud before going inside, she stood rooted to the spot as a wall cloud began to descend.
She’d seen storms form in person before, but never this close. It was mesmerizing and terrifying at the same time.
One of the men tugged at her arm. “Inside. Now.”
That did it. The tone of his voice snapped her out of her daze and she went inside, watching as Tim barely got the front door closed again. Dale pulled on her arm once more and she followed him down a staircase into a finished basement that had her dropping her jaw once again. It was a dungeon. Or at least, it looked like pictures of them she’d seen.
The lighting was low, the floor was carpeted a deep red, and there was bondage equipment lining the walls. She stopped and stared, but Dale was still pulling her along. “Back here.”
On the way into the storm shelter, Tim picked up a big orange tabby cat. “Come on, Tommie. I’m surprised you’re not already in there.”
She followed Dale into a concrete-enclosed room. Once Tim joined them and closed the door, she took a look around. Overhead lighting lit up the space. Two computers sat on a desk, and Dale turned them on to bring up the radar.
“How on earth do you get a Wi-Fi signal down here?”
He pointed toward a modem she hadn’t notice before. “Ethernet connection. Notus set it up for us. And it’s powered by the wind turbine. So even if the city loses electricity, we have an Internet connection.”
“Fascinating.” She glanced at the cat, who curled up on a cushion in a wicker bed in the corner. “He doesn’t seem very upset by this storm.”
“No, and that’s surprising, considering how bad it looks. She’s usually quite the feline barometer. And by the way, it’s a female cat. We named her Tommy, but now we spell it T-O-M-M-I-E. We thought she was a he when we found her and didn’t see the point in changing the pronunciation of her name simply because we were wrong about her gender at first.”
“Where did you find her?”
“In a field after a tornado had gone through. She’d been tossed around and was close to dying, but we patched her up and have had her ever since.”
She watched them both for a few seconds, her heart fluttering. How many men had she known who would save a cat like that? Not too many.
They sat in chairs in front of the screens, watching the radar and scribbling things down on pads of paper. She sat in the only other chair and clutched her bag on her lap. As she listened to them talk about wind shear and cloud tops, she glanced over their profiles. Both men were drop-dead gorgeous. There was no doubt about that. And both had soft-looking dark hair that she longed to touch. They each wore it longer than most men did these days, but she liked the look.
While Dale had dark eyes that flashed with excitement right now, Tim’s were a cool blue, and his expression was more guarded, almost bored. He spoke about the image in front of him as if it were one from a textbook they were discussing, rather than a storm passing just north of Racy right now.
“Where the tornado is passing, is that part of the town?”
Tim turned around and stared at her like he’d forgotten she was there. “Um, no. I don’t think so. It’s all farmland. And it’s not on the ground yet.”
“How do you know?”
He pointed toward the screen. “No debris ball.”
“That doesn’t mean it isn’t on the ground.” She placed her bag on the cement floor and scooted her chair closer. “There’s wind shear and rotation. We saw the wall cloud.”
“You can’t tell on here whether that wall cloud descended. You should know that.”
“I know that. But it also means it might be on the ground.”
“Yeah, it might be. But every one I’ve seen in this area for the past five years on this radar system that’s touched down had a debris ball.”
“Really? Even in a field?”
“Yeah, even in a field. The radar doesn’t distinguish between farm animals and dirt, or pieces of a building. The tornado can pick up cows and shit and that will show up as a debris ball on radar.”
“Or cows and their shit,” said Dale, snickering.
Dale shook his head and she glared at Tim, whose blue eyes were dark now and full of challenge. She’d been right about these two. Cowboys. But arguing about radar wasn’t going to prove anything. She had a sudden image of their equipment flying through the air into Ohio by now. “What about that probe you dropped into the ground? Is it giving you any data?”
Tim brought up a second screen, where he scrolled past columns of numbers and letters. “Looks like it did for about thirty seconds and then went dead. Fuck.”
“We’ll try again.” Dale sounded totally unconcerned about the lack of data.
“What was that probe on it? I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“We can’t tell you,” said Dale. “Because then we’d have to kill you.”
“Oh, hysterical. Really.”
“It’s a prototype we built,” said Tim, not looking at her but instead at the radar. The storm had nearly passed Racy but was heading straight for Fair Oaks.
“I didn’t realize you guys did stuff like that.”
Tim turned in his chair to face her, frowning. “Did stuff like what? Built things? Studied things? What?”
Her face flushed. “Both, actually.”
“You know, we’ve been fighting that kind of attitude all our adult lives.”
“Attitude?” Who was he to talk about attitude?
“Yes, attitude. That those of us who go out into the storms aren’t doing the real work.”
She crossed her arms and legs. “And what is it you think I do?”
“We know what you do. You’re a researcher.” He said the word as if it left a bad taste in his mouth.
“And that’s not real work?”
“It’s theoretical. What we do is real time.”
“What you do is put yourself and very expensive equipment at risk.”
“If we didn’t do that, you’d have no data to analyze in the laboratory setting.”
“If you did it under controlled conditions we’d have plenty of data to analyze, and you wouldn’t waste so much money destroying prototypes, and then brushing it off like it’s nothing.”
“Controlled conditions? How can you control those conditions? You were right in front of that storm as you drove home. You saw how fast it changed. We can’t predict that. And we certainly can’t control it.”
“We could predict it if we understood it better.”
“That’s what we’re trying to do as much as you are.”
“No, what you’re doing is playing cowboy.”
“Guys,” said Dale, turning off his computer screen and rising, “the warning is cancelled for Benton County. We can go upstairs.”
Tim rose and picked up Tommie, who looked perfectly content in his arms. Kenna tried not to think how lucky the cat was right now. She picked up her bag, wishing she could take back the last fifteen minutes. What the hell was wrong with her, running off at the mouth like that? She’d have been caught in that storm if she hadn’t stopped to see what they were doing and been able to hide down here with them. And instead of thanking them, she’d attacked them.
She stopped in the middle of the dungeon and faced them. “I’m sorry. I was out of line.”
Tim averted his gaze but Dale stuck out his hand. “It’s cool. We’re on the same side, but we know that lab rats don’t feel that way.”
She didn’t shake his hand. “Lab rats?”
“That’s what we call researchers. Nothing personal.”
So much for extending the olive branch. “All right. Look, thank you for letting me stay down here while the storm passed.”
“It was nothing.”
She stared into his dark eyes, not wanting to leave but knowing she’d more than overstayed her welcome now. As she turned to leave, her eye caught a spanking bench and she had to cover up an unexpected moan with a loud sigh. “So, what’s with all the bondage stuff?”
“It’s our dungeon,” said Tim.
“I can see that.”
He placed Tommie on the carpeting and the cat walked back to the bed where she’d been earlier. It was identical to the basket and cushion inside the storm shelter. How many of them did they have in the house? “Then what are you really asking?”
She turned at the sound of Tim’s voice, soft, sexy, and challenging. As she gazed into his blue eyes, the urge to kiss them both stunned her. What the hell was going on with her? Thoughts raced through her mind at lightning speed.
She wanted to tell them how exciting it had been to be outside and watch an actual tornado develop, but not now. Not after they’d called her a lab rat. And she certainly wasn’t going to tell them her long-buried BDSM fantasies, or that she’d love to come back here again and have them both show her what all this equipment was used for.
Hellfire. She needed to get out of here and fast before she made a complete fool of herself. “Nothing. Just making an observation.”
Dale led the way toward the stairs. Tim was now so close behind her that she could smell his cologne. Had she noticed that earlier? No. “Have you been in one before?”
“A tornado? Yes.”
Dale stopped and turned around, his dark eyes flashing with excitement and curiosity. She knew what Tim had meant, but she didn’t want to have this conversation. These two had some sort of power over her hormones, and she wasn’t used to gut reactions like that. She dealt in facts and figures all day long. She didn’t know how to handle what was happening to her right now, and consequently she needed to get away from it.
“No, I haven’t.”
“Then how do you know what it is?”
Shit. Fuck. “Educated guess.” She started toward the stairs, which required her to brush past Dale. The electricity coming off them was ridiculous. The air must still be charged. Yes. That was it. It had nothing to do with her unexplained and unexpected physical attraction to them. It was merely the aftereffects of the storm, and the fact that there were more storms coming later tonight.
Once they were upstairs, she practically ran for the front door. Dale reached it before she did and opened it. “See you at work.”
“Thank you again.”
“Our pleasure,” said Tim, his voice teasing and so damn sexy she nearly turned around again. “You can hide in our dungeon anytime you want.”
Their dungeon? They must live here together. She hadn’t realized that before now. She glanced around the front yard. Except for some smaller downed branches, there didn’t appear to be any damage, but the pole they’d tried to cement into the ground was gone.
Her car had no broken windows or new dents from hail that she could see, but she didn’t stop to analyze it. She dug her keys out of her bag and started the engine. As she pulled out of the driveway and headed east down Elm Parkway into Racy, she glanced in the rearview mirror to see them both standing in the front yard, watching her.
It was then she realized that she’d never even asked them how they knew who she was.
**You can purchase CHASING THEIR RACY DESTINY
and the entire Racy Nights series by clicking HERE**