Natural Disaster, page 1
Storm Chasers #1
Copyright © 2019 by Erin McLellan
All rights reserved.
First edition by Dreamspinner Press, 2019
Cover Artist: Brooke Albrecht
Editing: Rose Archer
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. For inquiries, contact Erin McLellan at www.erinmclellan.com.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Content Warnings: tornadoes and dangerous weather situations; discussions of childhood neglect; antagonistic relationship with parent; explicit sex
For more info about these warnings, visit https://smarturl.it/NaturalDisasterCWs
When two tornado chasers form a reluctant team, the pressure between them builds…
* * *
Human-interest reporter—and son of a famous storm chaser—Guthrie Gale wants nothing to do with severe weather. But his station’s director insists he join the storm chasing team, or else, and worse yet, she pairs him with hotshot rookie chaser Luke Masters.
* * *
All Luke wants is to be a part of the KTTY family, and he won’t let prickly Guthrie Gale spoil his chance. Little does he realize Guthrie’s anxiety around storms is more than justified.
* * *
As Oklahoma’s unpredictable tornado season picks up, Guthrie and Luke strike up a turbulent working relationship that shifts between lust and bickering. But when they are forced to outrun a dangerous twister, their trust is tested and the desire between them flashes quick as lightning, threatening to burn more than just their careers.
For Mom and Dad,
who kept me safe through countless disasters,
natural and otherwise.
Glossary of Terms
Life of Bliss - A Short Excerpt
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Glossary of Terms
Base velocity function – a radar function that shows wind speed and direction, which can indicate when there is rotation in a storm
* * *
Chaser convergence – phenomenon in which a high number of storm chasers, many of them amateur, swarm to one area and create traffic jams while storm chasing
* * *
Condensation funnel – a rotating column of condensed water droplets that extends from the base of a cloud but has not yet reached the earth’s surface; also called a funnel cloud
* * *
Cone tornado – refers to the shape of a tornado when it is wide at the top and narrow at the bottom
* * *
Convective Outlook – a categorical multiday forecast released by the Storm Prediction Center that depicts severe weather threat levels
* * *
Doppler radar – a radar system that can detect the motion and intensity of precipitation, which helps meteorologists analyze storm structure
* * *
Enhanced Fujita Scale – a rating system that measures the intensity of a tornado on a scale of 0-5 based on the damage it causes, seen as EF0, EF1, EF2, EF3, EF4, and EF5, with EF5 being the most intense
* * *
Flash flood watch – a notice released by the National Weather Service to indicate that conditions in a certain area are favorable for flash flooding
* * *
Flash flood warning – a notice released by the National Weather Service to indicate that there is a flash flood occurring or imminent in a particular area
* * *
Hook echo – a hook-shaped radar signature during some storms that indicates counter-clockwise winds wrapping precipitation around a rotating column; it often denotes a tornado-producing storm
* * *
Inflow bands – clouds that gather low-level air moving toward a thunderstorm
* * *
Long-track tornado – a tornado that stays on the ground for at least twenty-five miles
* * *
Mammatus clouds – pouch-like cloud structures formed in sinking air; they are associated with thunderstorms
* * *
Particularly Dangerous Situation (PDS) Tornado Watch – a notice released by the Storm Prediction Center at least two hours before the first tornado to indicate that conditions will be favorable for multiple tornadoes or a particularly severe tornado; the purpose is to forewarn the public about probable severe weather and provide storm chasers time to prepare in advance
* * *
Rope tornado – refers to the shape of a tornado when it is narrow and rope-like from top to bottom
* * *
Stovepipe tornado – refers to the shape of a tornado when it is the same width at the top and the bottom
* * *
Subvortex – an additional tornado that rotates near a main vortex
* * *
Supercell – a thunderstorm defined by the presence of a rotating updraft called a mesocyclone
* * *
Tornadic waterspout – a tornado that forms over a body of water or travels from land to water
* * *
Tornado – a mobile, violently rotating vortex of air that touches the ground
* * *
Tornado warning – a notice released by the National Weather Service to indicate that tornadoes are occurring or imminent in a particular area
* * *
Updraft – an upward moving and often rotating current of air that helps form thunderstorms
* * *
Wall cloud – an abrupt and low-hanging cloud lowering from a larger cloud base; it marks the area of strongest updraft and is an indicator of rotation that can form a tornado
* * *
Wedge tornado – refers to the shape of a tornado when it is wider at the bottom than it is tall
Guthrie Gale hated spring in Oklahoma almost as much as he hated meetings right after lunch.
Rain spattered against the windows of the KTTY news station, the sky a deep and ominous blue. Clouds darkened the city skyline, casting a murkiness over the land.
Guthrie had read the forecast and weather maps this morning. They weren’t expecting anything but rain, but he was still on edge.
He jumped as Debbie Debarr cleared her throat to bring the news team’s attention back where it belonged—on her, the boss.
“We’re expecting an active tornado season, as always, and we’re short-staffed. That means some changes are coming down the pipeline. With Mack out on maternity leave, we’d like someone to do double duty.” She paused dramatically before dropping her bombshell. “Guthrie, guess what, bub? You’re up.”
Guthrie fought a frown. He glanced around the room at the anchors, reporters
But he wasn’t part of the weather team. He was a field reporter, for heaven’s sake. Not a storm chaser.
“Yeah, you. You’ve got the experience we need out there. Plus your down-home country charm is evidently soothing to viewers.” Debbie said that in a way that made it obvious she did not find his slight twang soothing at all. “At least that’s what the focus groups say.”
Being stuck in a truck in the middle of a tornado was the last thing Guthrie wanted. Maybe that charm would come in handy now.
Throwing on his best fake smile, he said, “But I’m a pretty face for the camera. I’m not a storm chaser.”
He’d happily let Debbie believe his reticence stemmed from his own vanity at not being on-screen as opposed to the reality—tornadoes scared him shitless.
She rolled her eyes. “Your ego will live.”
Not if a tornado got him, it wouldn’t.
He’d figure out another way to fight this when he didn’t have an audience.
“Whose truck will I be in? Johanna’s?” Mack had been paired up with Johanna last year, spotting and filming while Johanna did the driving and reporting.
“No, I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Debbie said, tapping a bright red fingernail on the table.
Guthrie heaved a discreet sigh of relief. Johanna was KTTY’s veteran storm chaser and the most likely to be in the middle of the action, exactly where he never wanted to be again.
Debbie snapped her fingers. “I know. We’ll put you with the rook. You can give him a big ol’ Okie welcome, show him the ropes, help him settle in.”
Crap on a cracker.
The rook was Luke Masters—KTTY’s newest storm chaser. Guthrie had seen Luke around the station a few times since he’d been hired a month ago after an old-timer retired. Luke was from California of all places. Who’d ever heard of a Californian storm chaser? Guthrie disliked Luke on principle. He was a thrill-seeking newbie, for one. Worse, he was hot.
Luke had the type of face the KTTY brass would have loved to force in front of a camera, but the guy evidently wanted to chase giants, not smile and read from a teleprompter. Plus they’d probably make him cut off his man bun, which would be a right shame.
Guthrie had to force himself not to glance at the beautiful man in question. “Shouldn’t Luke shadow one of the veteran teams for a while?” Guthrie asked. “He’s pretty green.”
Luke sat up abruptly from a sprawl and drew Guthrie’s eyes like greedy little magnets. The muscles of Luke’s arms bunched as he shifted, and his smile was ornery as a rattlesnake’s.
“I spent three years with a team monitoring and chasing coastal tornadoes and hurricanes. And I even have my learner’s permit.” He winked at Guthrie, which incited a rumble of chuckles around the room.
That wink kicked Guthrie’s heart rate up a notch. Made him angry and turned on in equal measures.
“Those coastal twisters ain’t got nothin’ on the ones here. It’s different.”
Debbie grinned and her gravity-defying blond hair ruffled in the draft from the air conditioner. “And that, Guthrie dear, is why I’m pairing you together. It is different here. Who better to teach Luke that difference than someone who knows firsthand what an Oklahoma tornado can do? You have more experience than anyone in the room. Now, let’s talk editorial strategy….”
Guthrie tuned Debbie out as he got his thoughts in order. Luke was staring at him, an eyebrow raised, so Guthrie stared back. Such pretty brown eyes on such an infuriatingly arrogant man. Normally, Guthrie liked men with a bit of arrogance.
The only thing worse than being in the field during a tornadic weather system would be babysitting an irresponsible, hotshot Californian while in the field during a tornadic weather system.
Guthrie was still stewing an hour later as he organized the crap on his desk. He hadn’t figured out how to extricate himself from storm-chasing duty yet. Debbie hadn’t been willing to talk after the meeting, and she was decidedly hardnosed after making up her mind. She’d probably relent if he told her he was too scared to be a storm chaser, but how humiliating would that conversation be?
There was a reason his focus was human-interest reporting. He loved the fluffy stuff.
Tornadoes weren’t fucking fluffy.
“Why aren’t you a weatherman?”
Luke’s deep voice surprised Guthrie so much he dropped his cactus-shaped sticky notes. He turned in his office chair slowly.
“I don’t want to be.”
“But you have the meteorology degree?” Luke asked, because he was annoying.
Luke took a step closer to Guthrie’s desk, the newsroom buzzing around them. He looked good in those dark-wash jeans. Guthrie snapped his gaze off Luke’s thick thighs and scowled.
“I do. I also have my master’s in journalism.”
“Fancy. How’s that student-loan debt treating you?”
“It’s a nice bedfellow that will follow me forever. What do you want?”
“I want to know why a human-interest reporter was tapped to be in the field during inclement weather. She said you have experience.”
Guthrie’s pulse rocketed. Did Luke not know about his father’s reality TV show? That would be the best-case scenario. “You heard Debbie. My voice is soothing.”
“You talk slow. Your voice puts me to sleep.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. What would keep your eyes open? Should I talk about the X Games and the next big energy drink? Maybe surfing? I don’t want you falling asleep behind the wheel of the truck.”
Maybe being locked in a vehicle with this hot prick would be worth it if only to wipe that smug smile off his perfect lips.
Luke’s grin only widened. “And those pesky California stereotypes will follow me forever. I don’t surf, but I do love me some energy drinks.”
“I think this is going to be fun.”
“Speak for yourself,” Guthrie grumbled.
“I always do. Come on. Let’s go.”
Luke took a step back. Guthrie could breathe again, and focus on something other than the man’s legs. Like the dimple in his right cheek when he smiled. Or the slightly crooked bump on his nose. Or his long-ass eyelashes.
“I can’t go anywhere. I’m waiting on a call from a source.” Guthrie needed a statement from the source in order to finish writing up a story for tomorrow’s noon broadcast.
“Oh yeah?” Luke said, his gaze tracking over the details of Guthrie’s office before landing and lingering on a rainbow flag in Guthrie’s penholder. “What’s your story this time? The very competitive Kitten Bowl? Or maybe a Girl Scout troop raising money for the monarch butterflies?”
Luke had obviously been researching him. That shouldn’t have filled Guthrie with excitement, but it did. “That monarch butterfly piece was adorable.”
Luke nodded solemnly. “It was. So what’s the scoop?”
With a sigh, Guthrie said, “The one-hundredth anniversary of a local polka dance hall.”
“It is.” He loved stories like that, even if people turned up their noses at the fluff.
“Won’t they be calling you back on your cell phone?”
“Then you can come with me.”
Guthrie hated logic sometimes. “And where are we going, partner?” He managed to infuse his voice with venom.
Luke’s grin was large enough to park a boat in. “To check out the fleet.”
Luke had been angling for his own gig for ages, and he wasn’t going to let some overly pretty fake cowboy ruin it for him. He’d figure out a way to make this partnership with Guthrie Gale work or die trying.
When he’d interviewed for the contract storm chaser job at KTTY, Luke had discovered a weather team that
The KTTY weather team was the first family—biological or otherwise—that he’d ever had. It was the one he’d chosen. He wasn’t going to let them down.
The fleet of trucks was housed in a big metal garage behind the KTTY offices, so they didn’t have to walk far. Guthrie acted like it was a mountain trek, the way he kept sighing.
It was sprinkling. The gray clouds lifted goose bumps on Luke’s arms. He fucking loved bad weather, and he’d never gotten to spend a full tornado season in Oklahoma. It was going to be awesome.
Luke raised the huge garage door of the metal building. Johanna had assigned him to Truck 5 for the season. It had a paint wrap on it that cheerfully announced it a KTTY Storm Chaser, along with the logos of local sponsors. Despite the tacky advertising, the sight filled him with pride. He’d keep the truck for the season, so he wouldn’t have to do vehicle musical chairs every day there was inclement weather. He got to take this baby home today.
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