“Tornado warning,” Sam said, wishing they weren’t too close to the coast to have a basement, like they’d had in the other house. “Get everyone into the bathrooms now.”

Screams followed, and to Meagan’s credit, she went into action, calm and collected, moving everyone where they needed to be. Kiki, Ginger, and DJ were calm under pressure, herding the cast and crew to safety.

“Funnel cloud on the ground nearby,” Josh shouted behind him.

“What’s happening?” Meagan yelled, rushing down the stairs toward him in the beam of his flashlight.

He charged toward her. “Bathroom, sweetheart. Go to the bathroom.”

Terror flashed in her eyes, the kind that spoke of panic not calm, but she’d shown it to none of the people in her care. He rushed her to the master shower where several other people were huddled, and pulled her into a corner, wrapping his arms around her.

“Sam?” she whispered.

“I got you, Meg,” he said, tightening his hold on her. “I got you, and I won’t let anything happen to you.”

She stared up at him and then hugged him, her cheek to his chest. “I got you too, Sam.”

He buried his face in her hair, and he knew in that instant, he wasn’t letting her face this storm, or any other, without him, ever again. Now, he just had to figure out how to convince her of that.

21

THE TORNADO BRUSHED past them, but it was enough to shake the walls, terrifying Meagan and everyone else in the house. The minute it was gone, Meagan kissed Sam as she’d never kissed a man in her life. He was officially her hero, and she didn’t care who knew. To heck with fears of “what if” things didn’t work out with Sam. Life was short and that’s why she’d chased her dreams, even when doing so was difficult.

She clung to him and then stared into his eyes. “I am so glad you’re here, for so many reasons.”

“Me, too, baby. Me, too.” He ran his hand down her hair.

“Meagan! Meagan!” Carrie rushed in and bent down to hug her. “I can’t believe it. I can’t believe this really happened.”

“We’re okay. That’s what counts. I need to make sure everyone else is, as well.”

Sam pushed to his feet. “Keep everyone inside until I can make sure it’s safe, and assess any damage.”

“I’m coming,” Meagan said. “Carrie, you stay.” She got to her feet.

Sam pressed a flashlight into her hand. “I need you to stay. Let me do what I do. Let me get everyone out of this safely.”

She inhaled. Damn, he was hot when he was in soldier mode. She couldn’t believe she was thinking that, even under the circumstances. She nodded. “Okay.”

He started to turn, but she grabbed his arm, unable to help herself, and she kissed him. “Be careful.”

“Always” he said before departing.

“It’s the curse,” Carrie murmured, drawing Meagan’s attention. “There really is a curse.”

“If everyone is alive and well, this is a blessing, not a curse.”

It was only a few short minutes before Sam shouted all was clear. Meg came running up the stairs and into Carrie’s arms, and Meagan’s stomach lurched. “Samantha! Sam! Samantha! I have to find Samantha.”

Meagan took off toward the front door and didn’t stop when splatters of rain hit her face. She dashed over to her own house and, in seconds, was yanking open the door. She dropped her flashlight, and darkness overtook her. Meagan knelt down, fumbling for the flashlight. “Samantha! Here kitty, kitty.”

Behind her, someone switched on a flashlight. The scent of Sam was unmistakable. “Do you see her?”

“No.” Her heart twisted. “What if something happened to her?”

“She’s okay. Just scared and hiding, I’m sure. Here, little girl. Come on, kitty.” He moved through the house, calling her in various ways. “There she is.”

Meagan heard the cat’s meow and just like that, Sam became Samantha’s hero, too. He scooped her up in his arms and brought her to Meagan.

“Now that my two girls are safe and united, I need to go deal with this mess.” He kissed Meagan’s forehead and headed toward the door.

And Meagan was pretty sure in that moment, she had fallen in love with Sam. She was scared, she felt exposed. But tonight in that bathroom, she’d made a decision to put herself out there with Sam, to be willing to get hurt.

* * *

JUST BEFORE SUNRISE, having spent the past few hours juggling the after-tornado crisis, Sam found Meagan at her house. She was still dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, asleep on the couch with Samantha curled next to her. The remote control lay by her head, and the weather channel was on mute.

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