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Authors: Kim Askew

Tempestuous

BOOK: Tempestuous
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Tempestuous
KIM ASKEW
AND
AMY HELMES

F+W Media, Inc.

CONTENTS

Title Page

Prologue: How Camest Thou in This Pickle?

Chapter One: Hang Not on My Garments

Chapter Two: O Brave New World

Chapter Three: What a Spendthrift Is He of His Tongue

Chapter Four: Good Wombs Have Borne Bad Sons

Chapter Five: Now My Charms Are All O’erthrown

Chapter Six: These Are Not Natural Events

Chapter Seven: Come, Temperate Nymphs, and Help to Celebrate

Chapter Eight: All Men Idle, All. And Women Too

Chapter Nine: Make Yourself Ready … For the Mischance of the Hour

Chapter Ten: They’ll Take Suggestion as a Cat Laps Milk

Chapter Eleven: Now I Will Believe That There Are Unicorns

Chapter Twelve: The Rarer Action Is in Virtue Than in Vengeance

Chapter Thirteen: Unless I Be Reliev’d by Prayer

Chapter Fourteen: A Thousand Twangling Instruments Will Hum about Mine Ears

Chapter Fifteen: You Cram These Words Into Mine Ears Against the Stomach of My Sense

Chapter Sixteen: Sweet Lord, You Play Me False

Chapter Seventeen: Untie the Spell

Chapter Eighteen: ’Tis a Villain, Sir, I Do Not Love to Look On

Chapter Nineteen: Hark! Now I Hear Them—Ding-Dong, Bell

Chapter Twenty: We Are Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made On

Copyright

PROLOGUE
How Camest Thou in This Pickle?

The handcuffs chafed my wrist, but that was nothing compared with the irritation I felt regarding the cretin to whom I was currently shackled.

I finally broke my silence, not with a word but with an—“Ow!”

“Jeez, Miranda, what now?”

“Would you stop yanking your arm around for two seconds?”

“I barely moved!”

“It’s like you have Tourette’s or something. My god!”

Caleb directed his green-grey eyes at me in a flash of annoyance.

“Listen, princess—I’m not enjoying this any more than you are. Now let’s think.” He shifted his glance to the towering cardboard boxes surrounding us. “There’s got to be some way out of here.”

“For the record, I don’t think the psycho who locked us in here conveniently left an escape route for us to find. By the way, if you call me princess again, I
will
scream.”

“At least maybe someone would hear us in here and let us out. Anyway, I thought you’re the one who’s supposed to have all the answers. Can’t you wave your magic mascara wand and conjure us out of here?”

“Very funny. Sorry, but being handcuffed to your ass for the last six hours has robbed me of my powers—not to mention my will to live. And don’t think I wouldn’t kill to have some mascara right about now. I’m sure I look like a hot mess.”

“Quite the opposite, actually.” His unforeseen compliment threw me off guard. Flustered, I redoubled my efforts at cynicism, shifting awkwardly on the cold cement floor.

“With my luck, there are rats lurking around here somewhere. Maybe they can chew through these handcuffs and liberate me. I still cannot believe we don’t have the key.”

“We’re not having this conversation again.”

I sighed and shifted uncomfortably on my butt bones.

“What’s wrong now?”

“Nothing. My back hurts.” Caleb abruptly leaned away from me and started rooting in the corner of the storeroom, as far as he could reach, with his one free hand. Just as I was about to blast him again for jerking me around, he hoisted up a clear plastic garbage bag filled with Styrofoam packing peanuts. This he proceeded to wedge behind my back like a makeshift beanbag chair.

“Better?” He made a few adjustments as I nodded, unwilling to acknowledge his act of chivalry. I rested my hands in my lap, letting his right hand—manacled to my left—graze my outer thigh. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have tolerated such close physical proximity from a guy like Caleb, but in one short night, he and I had already been through an extraordinary saga of events. I leaned in to touch my shoulder to his as the reality of the situation sunk in.

“Caleb?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m scared.” Without looking at me, or saying a word, he rotated his wrist to clutch my hand in his. It was strong and guitar-calloused, and I knew that it was my one saving grace in this absurdly surreal night. At least we were in this together.

CHAPTER ONE
Hang Not on My Garments

Singing along to the latest overplayed indie rock tune pulsing from the stereo speakers, I pulled my car into a spot at the far end of the parking lot reserved for mall employees and then let it idle, dragging out my last few minutes in the cocooning warmth. The song ended and the deejay’s grating baritone voice kicked in:

“That was the latest from a local group, the Drunk Butlers. We’re interrupting this music marathon to let you know about a winter storm advisory in effect for tonight, lasting until five
A.M.
tomorrow morning. Bundle up! It’s going to be a B-R-R-R-R-utal one tonight! Grab someone hot to keep you warm, and we’ll keep things real with more nonstop hits comin’ atcha.”

Snowflakes the size of quarters drifted onto my windshield as I contemplated the slushy expanse between my vehicle and the mall’s main entrance. I could think of about a million other things I’d rather be doing on a Saturday night than working a five-hour shift serving lukewarm hot dogs to mall rats before driving home in possibly blizzard-like conditions. Unless I literally broke a leg—I wistfully imagined slipping on the ice and being rescued by a cute EMT—there was just no getting around it. I reached into the backseat and grabbed the ridiculously tall, absurdly colorful hat I was forced to wear as part of my Hot-Dog Kabob uniform. Sadly, my recent fall from grace and subsequent mandated employment had coincided with a lack of decent part-time jobs. I’d at least hoped to be spritzing perfume from behind a beauty counter at one of the department stores or playing hostess at the “high-end” chain restaurant Teasers, on the other end of the mall, but all the less-humiliating positions were already taken—so I was resigned to looking like an escaped circus lunatic in head-to-toe garish blue-and-yellow stripes. Have I mentioned the worst part? The fake plastic wiener that sits atop the hat, spinning on an axis? It’s basically a fashionista’s worst nightmare come to life, but try telling that to my dad … or the school superintendent who insisted I take a job as part of my “reparations.” I sighed deeply, turned off the engine, and wrapped my coat tightly around me.

Stepping gingerly out of the car, I lowered the towering hat onto my head and, shivering, pinned it into place with bobby pins from my coat pocket. I usually waited until the very last second to don this monstrosity, but frankly (pun intended) it was just too damn cold to go without it. I looked to the right and left, hoping no one was observing me. As I glanced behind me, I was startled to see someone standing behind the car.

A creepy-looking guy in a long black wool overcoat stood about six feet away, staring at me. I self-consciously realized that my hot-dog propeller must have been spinning in the wind, and I flushed, as if I’d just been caught with my pants at half-mast. Damn this hat! But still, it was seriously rude of him to stare. I glanced again, and he was still standing there—tall and broad-shouldered, with a mass of thick black hair. I couldn’t see his eyes, which were shrouded by a furry cap, but he couldn’t have been older than twenty. Snowflakes were collecting on his shoulders—or was that just colossal dandruff? His coat hung open, revealing faded black jeans and bulky black boots. An indistinguishable piece of black fabric hung limply from his fist. As if bored, he slowly turned on his heel and lumbered toward the mall entrance. Whatever, loser!

I clicked my key fob to lock the door and started off across the wintry expanse of the parking lot. The howling wind swirled around me. I shrieked and placed one hand on top of my hat, lest the propeller somehow succeed in lifting me up off the ground. Small eddies of snow spiraled at my feet on the blacktop, but I walked in baby steps, not wanting to fall on a slick patch. The regulation navy blue sneakers I was wearing offered zero traction. Shivering, I wrapped my down parka closer to my torso, but my legs were freezing, clad only in bright red tights under a polyester, royal-blue-and-yellow-striped jumper. The wind stung my face and brought tears to my eyes. At least, I think it was the wind causing me to well up. I thought about this time last month, when I might have come to the mall only to supplement my wardrobe or hang out with my friends, not to shovel greasy food across a counter at people who seriously needed to rethink their carb intake.

Brian Bishop was to blame for all of this. Correction: Brian along with the girls
formerly
known as my best friends—Rachel, Britney, and Whitney. I scowled thinking about them and tried to avoid stepping in the big piles of gray, wet slush near the curb. My life had metaphorically turned to slush in recent weeks, and I held them personally responsible.

Approaching the entrance, I recognized a faux-deputy uniform on the other side of the glass door. It belonged to Grady Pfeiffer, a member of the mall’s Keystone Cop security team. He looked unnerved as he glanced out at the snow, but when he saw me, he threw me a chipper nod and leaned on the door to open it for me.

“Thanks,” I said, already exhausted and chilled to the bone.

“Afternoon, Miranda. Cold enough for you, huh?” Stamping my feet to get a bit of feeling back in them, I wasn’t in the mood for his congenial chit-chat, but he failed to take notice. “How are things?”

“My life is a complete cataclysm, but thanks for asking,” I grumbled as I walked past him into the mall.

“Well, uh….” He was stymied by my dose of attitude, and since I wasn’t inclined to elaborate on my troubles I decided to issue a momentary gag order on my grousing. Grady hadn’t done anything to deserve it, after all.

“Just kidding. I’m freezing my ass off, but other than that I’m fine. Really.”

“Well, that’s good,” he said, joining me as I trudged on toward my destination. “Not for your, er, ass, I mean, but well … uhh … you know I’m always here to help….”

BOOK: Tempestuous
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