Authors: Heather Graham
She drove the BMW across the street. She went into the house and discovered that Jordan had acquired all manner of boxesâthe roofers had brought themâand that his boxes were strewn all over the living room.
“Jordan, we've got to do something with all this. We aren't in ourâ”
“Our own house, I know,” he told her, grinning. “I'll get it all picked up. Honest, Mom.”
“Did you find the book?” she asked him.
“Yeah. It's half okay and half not.”
“I think I had most of the negatives in the garage,” Katie told him, and saw the light of hope in his eyes. “Mr. Cunningham said that I could make a darkroom out of the bathroom in his garage. After we pick up, I'm going to see what I can do out there.”
“Pick up, right,” Jordan said wearily. “Okay!”
The hours ticked by as they went to work. She listened to the reports of how Andrew had swept across the southern tip of Florida, then gained momentum again to slam into Louisiana.
By the afternoon, the sun had come up in a big way. It was August in Florida.
She and Jordan rested, going out back to stare at the destroyed pool and to catch what they could of the breeze. They rested awhile, then she started on her crude darkroom. She developed the pictures she had taken the first day, and was pleased with them. She needed to start getting them out to newspapers and magazines. She needed to take more pictures.
Tomorrow. She'd venture out.
Drew returned after dark and instantly excused himself to take a cold shower. Traffic had been a disaster, he told her briefly. It had felt good to get into his car to use the air-conditioning, but then he'd gotten into a gridlock, and he'd had to turn it off.
Twenty minutes later, he was back downstairs. He'd had plenty of ice in a cooler yesterday that had kept most of his meat, but the ice was nearly melted now, and so Katie had cooked the hamburger meat, which had looked as if it was defrosting the fastest. Drew seemed pleased to find dinner ready. “I just didn't think to eat today,” he told her. “I'm starving. Spaghettios again?”
“Baked beans and canned pineapple and the rest of your lettuce and cucumbers. You do still have quite a supply of Spaghettios.”
“I took whatever I could off the shelves Sunday morning,” he told her, grimacing. “The grocery store was almost as deadly as the storm that morning!”
Katie smiled. She'd shopped Sunday herself. She had to agree. “Shall we eat?”
They had dinner. Jordan talked enthusiastically about the roofers. Drew asked about Katie's dark-room, and she told him she'd already developed pictures. Jordan retrieved the pictures, and Drew studied them by lamplight. His hazel-gold eyes touched hers across the table. “They're good. Very good.”
“Thanks. I'm going to drive out tomorrow.”
“Driving is hard.”
Katie smiled. “I'm a good driver.”
“Katie, the best driver in the world is in danger out there now.”
“I have to get out,” she told him.
“Maybe I can take you a few places.”
“I am a big girl.”
“Ah, but you see, I know where to take you. There's a hotel over by the water that was ripped to shredsâbut some of the kids who had been staying in it were catching fish right out of the parking lot. There's a church up on Kendall that's been sliced almost right in half. There's mile after mile of blown-out shops. I know where to bring you.”
“But do you have the patience to wait with her?” Jordan asked, his eyes rolling.
Katie made a face at her son.
“How was your office?” Katie asked Drew.
“Damaged. But we were adding on when the storm struck. Most of the important areas came through with flying colors. We had good storm shutters and didn't even lose windows. The part that was being worked on is a mess, but compared to what else is out there, we're in great shape.”
“You did well,” Katie said. “With your home, with your office.”
“I went through a few hurricanes as a kid. Too much of our population down here didn't know what to expect. And Andrew was a fierce reminder of the power of the elements after all those years when this area was spared the brunt of the storms.”
“Definitely,” Katie agreed. She smiled. “But I thought I knew what I was doing, too. I had Sterno, batteries, flashlights and candles. I had water everywhere.”
Andrew stood up suddenly, taking his plate to the sink. “Everything that you've lost will be replaced,” he said, and she sensed an undercurrent of anger in his voice once again.
Perhaps he had thought she was complaining, when so many others were in worse shape, when she had heard so many tragic stories during the day. The death toll from the storm was rising, from heart attacks suffered by the elderly to the heart-wrenching instance of the unborn child that had died with its mother when she had a cerebral hemorrhage, unable to get medical attention.
She had nothing to complain about. She had Jordan, she had herself.
“I didn't mean to soundâ”
“You didn't sound anything, Katie,” he said, still angry.
She fell silent.
Jordan picked up his dish. “Anyone want to play Scrabble?” he asked hopefully.
Katie stayed silent.
Drew turned around, leaning against the counter. “If your mom is willing, so am I,” Drew told him, looking at Katie. It was an apology of some kind.
“You don't have to play,” Katie told him.
“I love Scrabble. I'll beat the pants off you both,” he assured her.
She found herself grinning.
He did win, but only by a few points. When they finished the game, Jordan was yawning.
“You'd better get to bed,” Katie told him.
“Why? Do I have to get up early?” he asked.
“If you want to come on a photo expedition, you do,” Drew told him.
Jordan leaped right up. “You really want to take Mom around?”
“Yeah. I have to go by work, too, and I need to see to a few more things around here, but at least I can start out with you all. And show you what I know would make for good photos. Some things that shouldn't be forgotten.”
“Great!” Jordan started from the living room for the stairs. Then he came back. He shook Drew's hand and kissed Katie's cheek.
A moment later, Jordan was gone. Katie studied Drew in the candlelight where he sat across the coffee table from her. “You really don't have to take me aroundâ”
“I want to.”
“But it seems as if you feel that you're responsible for me. I really am very capableâ”
“I know that. But I can't tell you just how bad things are. I stood in line for an hour and half today for ice and they ran out before they got to me. There aren't any stores left in this areaâI had to ride along north just to find places that had managed to open.”
“But this is when I need to take pictures,” Katie said. “Before things are back to normal.”
He leaned toward her. “Katie, things may never be back to normal,” he told her softly.
“I need to get out now.”
“Then you'll get out now,” he told her. “It's not that people aren't going outâit's just that they aren't going out more than is necessary.”
“Is there anyone helping with traffic?”
“Oh, yes, the police are out full force and the National Guard is doing a fantastic job. But the scope of the destructionâ¦” His voice trailed away. “It's amazing.” He was quiet for a moment. “Want to play another game of Scrabble?” he asked her.
She shook her head. “No, you beat me. Fair and square. I'm not in a thinking mode at the moment.”
“Want to see a movie?”
“Is this an imagination test?”
He shook his head. “No, that little television has a tape player, as well.”
“What have you got?” she asked him.
“Take a flashlight up to Jordan's room. I'll watch anything you find up there,” he told her.
She went upstairs. She thought Jordan was sleeping, but he moved on the bed, then sat up.
“Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you.”
“Mom? What are you doing?”
“Looking for a movie.”
“The television is a tape player, too.”
“Oh. Hey, he's got lots of neat stuff. All of the
movies. The complete
That's great. Vincent Price was really neat.”
“He still is,” Katie murmured. Drew Cunningham certainly did have quite a selection. One whole corner of the bookshelves was taken up by stacks of tapes. Horror, sci-fi, action-adventure, Shakespeare, romance.
She decided at last on
Arsenic and Old Lace.
She turned around. Jordan shrugged at her choice. “It's one of my favorites,” she told him.
“It's not all that romantic,” he told her.
Katie paused. “It was supposed to be?”
Jordan innocently lay down. “Hey, Mom. Watch whatever you want.”
She kissed his forehead. “I will. Sleep tight.”
“You, too,” he told her. “And don't stay up too late, remember, you've got a busy day tomorrow.”
“Yes, sir!” she told him.
She carried her movie downstairs. Drew did seem to like her choice. “One of my favorites,” he said, slipping it into the slot on the small television. “It's not exactly wide screen or letter box,” he apologized.
“It's a great movie,” she said, “without any enhancement. Besidesâit's a break from the storm.”
He didn't argue that. “There's no popcorn,” he said after a moment. “Well, I could build a fire and we could pop some, but we'd die of the heat.”
“I can live without the popcorn.”
“Want some lukewarm once-iced tea?” he asked.
“I'll get it.”
“And we do have chips,” he called.
It was really an amazing night. They set the bowl of chips between them and munched away, sipping the tea. They talked about Cary Grant and tried to recall all his movies. They lamented his loss, and they laughed at Peter Lorre. They sat close on the sofa, only the bowl of chips between them.
Then the movie ended, and the room seemed filled with silence.
“I'll pick this upâ” Katie began.
“No, I will. Go to bed. You're hard to get up in the morning.”
“I am not!”
“You were this morning.”
“I was very tried.”
“Then go get some more sleep now,” he told her.
Katie nodded. “Good night,” she told him. She paused. “Thank you again.”
“Katie, do me two favors. Quit picking up, and quit thanking me.”
“I owe you, believe me.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I'll explainâsometime,” he told her. “Go get some sleep. We'll have to start early because I do have to work.”
She nodded and turned. She paused on the stairway, but he had already gone into the kitchen.
She went upstairs and had a cold shower. Due to the heat, it wasn't at all terrible.
She curled up in bed again. His bed. Well, at least a bed in his house.
And she thought that the evening she'd spent with him had been better than anything she had done in a long time. It was easy to be with him. He was everything she might have imagined in a manâ¦
She still knew nothing about him. He could be so cryptic, and so brooding.
The roofers had all been willing to just about bow down to him. Maybe he had paid them well. Maybe people were just extraordinarily helpful because of the storm.
She didn't know anything about him, but she knew him. The scent of him, his smile, the sound of his voice. The way he talked, the way he laughedâ¦
She rolled over, worried. He was very attractive. He was awakening things within her that had slept peacefully for a long time.
All right, so she was almost dying to touch himâ¦
And be touched.
After so short an acquaintance.
It was dangerous. She was setting herself up.
What else could she do?
She rolled over and pounded her pillow with that thought. Then she heard his footsteps on the stairs, light, an easy, confident tread.
She thought he paused on the stairway, and her heart began to beat mercilessly.
Was he coming here?
But he did not. She heard his door at the end of the hallway opening and closing.
She closed her eyes again. Sleep, sleep, sleepâ¦
But sleep did not come easily. It seemed hours that she lay awake.
He owed her. That was what he had said. She shouldn't thank him, because he owed her. What did he mean?
He'd explain some time
She groaned, buried her head in the pillow. And sometime, at long last, she slept.
Andrew was being called a “dry” hurricane, meaning that it hadn't dumped too much rain. The storm had moved very quickly, and people were already wondering just what would have happened had it actually sat upon Dade County for any length of time.
It was drizzling in the morning. Katie slept hard and woke to the sound of Drew's voice calling her name.
He was seated by her side on the bed; he had a cup of coffee in his hand, ready to give her.
“You're going to make someone a great wife,” she murmured, sliding up to take it.
“Thanks,” he said offhandedly. “You've got about ten minutes,” he told her, gold eyes glittering as he rose.
“Ten minutes!” She streaked up, the coffee in her hand, and raced toward the bathroom.
“Downstairs, ten minutes!” he said, leaving the room.
She rushed. A sweep across teeth, one through her hairâand a sixty-second makeup job. She found a short-sleeve knit dress among her belongings and shimmied into it, slid into Midge's pumps this time, then quickly checked her camera and equipment. She had discovered a nice cache of film in the garage, so she was set.