Securing the SUV and climbing into the truck he took a deep breath, let it out, then looked at Kelly and Laura. He didn't know what he'd do if anything had happened to them. Suddenly Kelly flung herself in his arms.
"I knew you would come for us, Daddy."
He squeezed her, looking over her head at Laura.
Her smile was tender and pleased. "You left the house for us."
Laura was still stunned.
"I couldn't very well let my best girls sit in a storm without me."
She reached over and sifted her fingers through his wet hair. She was proud of him, but she didn't have to say so. He knew. It was another step into the land of the living.
He grasped her hand, bringing it to his lips.
"Is Serabi okay, Daddy?"
Richard let Laura go, then smiled down at his daughter. So like a kid to be oblivious to the danger, he thought. "She was sleeping by the fire when I left," he said, buckling her in, then driving toward home.
"I say it's a hot-chocolate-and-cartoon-movie night," Laura said. "Warm jammies, popcorn, a real slug feast."
Kelly clapped and snuggled between the two adults, smiling brightly despite the rain flooding around them.
* * *
The chance to talk never came. The storm grew stronger and there was too much to do to prepare. Wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, Laura helped Richard and Dewey secure the yard and the stables. Dewey had already towed the SUV back to the house and it was tucked in the garage. He'd insisted it was his fault, and he'd work on it during the storm.
Richard fed and curried the horses, then secured them in their stalls. They were fortunate that the house was high on a hill, and if the waters reached them, then the entire village would be lost before then. When Richard told her that she and Kelly would need to pack a few things and be ready to take the next ferry, Laura stalled, finding something else that needed to be locked down. She wasn't leaving this island without him and that was all there was to it.
And he wouldn't go.
So she made preparations to wait out the storm.
She had already placed flashlights and candles within reach all over the house. Though Richard had a generator and it was primed in case the power went out, she wasn't taking any chances. The "Caine" wasn't close yet, but they were feeling some of its power. Kelly had her own personal flashlight and Laura had to keep telling her to turn it off, that the electricity was still working and the battery would go dead when she needed it. Finally she had to put it on top of the fridge.
When they made it back inside, Kelly was watching a video with her kitten, so entranced she didn't even look up. Laura hung their coats in the back mudroom, then prepared a pot of coffee.
"I want you to take the next ferry off the island. Go to a hotel and stay there."
"There won't be any hotel rooms available till Columbia. Everyone on the coast is moving inland." Flipping on the coffeemaker, she faced him. "Are you coming with us?"
"Of course not."
"Forget it then."
"Laura, you need to get inland."
"No, Richard. I'm not leaving you here."
"I'm a big boy."
Her gaze moved over him from head to foot. "I know." Her lips quirked. "But I'm still not going."
"You are, dammit, if I say you are!"
She folded her arms over her middle. "Make me."
"Dammit, Laura, can't you see the danger?"
"Don't you swear at me, Blackthorne. If Kelly and I leave, then you and Dewey have to come, too."
"Like hell." He reached for the phone and dialed. "If I have to drag you two to the boat and strap you in, you're getting to safety."
"We are safe here. Safer than we'd be driving through the rain trying to find a motel. And probably safer than the rest of the village!"
He spoke to the ferry offices, asking when the next boat left. He barked at the man on the other end of the line, then apologized and hung up.
"Well, you have your way. There are no more ferries leaving."
"It's no wonder, look at the water."
He did, glancing out the windows. Whitecaps foamed, smashing on the shore. No sooner than one crested, then another crashed onto the beach. Wind shrieked though the trees and the clouds blanketed the stars. He looked back at her. "You did that on purpose. Arguing with me, finding one more chore to do till it was too late."
She shrugged, fighting a smile. He scowled blackly. Laura crossed to him, stopping close and slipping her arms around his trim waist.
"I'm exactly where I want to be, Richard. If we were apart right now all you would do was worry over whether or not Kelly and I had made it to safety. At this point we'd be inching along with a million other people fleeing inland and you know it."