Chapter Four

    As the days passed, her mood did improve. Whether that was the passing of the monthly cycle or her determination to make things better was a toss-up. Whatever the case, the feeling of impending doom continued. By the end of the first week she had to face another enemy – a thunderstorm.
    She woke in the dark of pre-dawn to the sound of thunder. Instinctively she reached over to wake Alex. A cold pillow received her hand. She lay still, praying that the storm would go around them this time.
    A brilliant flash of lightning made the furniture in their bedroom stand out in relief. Immediately a clap of thunder made the room shudder. It took a moment before she realized that the continued sound was actually someone banging on the front door. Who would be visiting at this hour during a thunderstorm?
    Grabbing her robe, she hurried to the living room. Through the bay window she could see Josh standing on the porch. She unlocked the door and opened it, stepping aside as his tall lean frame dripped through the door.
    “What's the matter?” she asked.
    He stepped into the room and removed his hat, running a hand through an unruly shock of red hair. He squinted down at her in the dim light, his gray eyes smoldering with unmasked anger.
    “Have you seen Lori?”
    She shook her head mutely. “What time is it?”
    He glanced at his watch. “Five a.m.”
    She suppressed a groan. Apparently they were fighting again. “Maybe she went to your mother’s,” she offered hopefully.
    He shrugged. “Maybe so.”
    Why didn’t he check there first? Why would he think his wife would be here at this hour? Carmen waited for him to decide to leave, but he stood there as if wanting to talk. She should be a friend and listen, but this wasn’t any of her business. Once they were like brother and sister, but he had changed. He had always been hot headed, but never mean like he often was now. Even his sisters were scratching their heads. Only Mums defended him, as most mothers do. But Mums was also sympathetic to Lori. They were a conservative family, and Mums said Lori’s behavior when she was young was forgivable. Apparently Josh thought so too when he married her. Was that what had come between them now? When they were first married, they fought over the fact that he wanted a baby and she didn’t.
    Lightning flashed brilliantly and a clap of thunder followed. In that instant the telephone rang. She had been waiting for that call. Grabbing the receiver, she answered breathlessly.
    “Yes sweetheart. You answered the phone mighty fast. Were you up? Is something wrong?”
    “No.” She paused. The last thing he needed to know was that Josh was there before the sun.
    Lightning flashed again, and thunder rattled the windowpanes.
    “Tell him you’ll call him back,” Josh ordered sharply.
    A pause. “Who's that?” Alex queried anxiously.
    She sighed. “It’s Josh, he....”
    Josh snatched the receiver from her hand, barking at Alex. “Call her back in a few hours. We’re in the middle of an electrical storm.”
    He slammed the receiver back on the phone. “The fool. Doesn’t he know you can get electrocuted that way?”
    Carmen regained control of her gaping jaw. “Of course he knows, and as soon as I told him there was a storm, he would have insisted on calling me back. You had no right....”
    He waved a hand. “So call him back when the storm is over. Big deal.”
    She jammed her hands on her hips and glared at him. “I don't know where he is, you interfering martinet. Now he’ll be worried.”
    For a moment she thought Josh was going to hit her. She stepped back. “You’d better leave.”
    He shrugged. “I guess so.” He strode to the door, leaving a trail of water. Opening the door, he paused as he stepped out on the porch.
    “If you see Lori, tell her I said to get her tail back home where she belongs.”
    “That should bring her running back,” she muttered dryly, and slammed the door behind him...thankful for the umpteenth time that she hadn’t married him. What must Alex think? At least he was safe.
    She mopped the water and sat down on the window seat. Leaning against the wall, she stared out into the storm. He had been gone over a week now, but the premonition persisted. What was he doing right now? She stared up at the clouds angrily. If they weren’t there she would be able to look at the moon and know he could see it as well. Her eyelids drooped and she drowsed.

    The telephone rang and she opened her eyes. The storm had passed. She leaped off the window seat and dashed for the phone, catching it on the second ring.
    “Yeah.” His voice was caustic. “Is the storm over?”
    “Yes. It’s still raining, but it isn’t lightning any more.”
    “Who took the phone from you - Josh?”
    She sighed heavily. “Who else would be so rude?”
    “What was he doing there so early in the morning?”
    She ignored the significance in his tone. If he was so worried, he shouldn’t have gone on this stupid trip.
    “He was looking for Lori.”
    A pause, then, “again? Why does he always come to our house when she decides to take off?”
    “I don't know. We’re closest, I guess - and she’s my friend - as well as yours.”
    Why were they talking about Josh and Lori? 
    “How has your trip been?”
    “Not bad. I guess TAYCO got what they wanted.”
    “Alex?” she cuddled the phone to her ear and spoke softly into the receiver. “I miss you. It’s so lonely here without you.”
    “I miss you too. In fact, I was calling to tell you that I’m coming home early. I’ve got a flight into Dallas tomorrow - well, actually it would be today - Late evening. Keep your cell phone handy. If I get in early enough, I’ll try to catch an earlier flight.”
    Her heart skipped a beat. “I’ll be waiting by the phone. Don’t get in such a rush that you take a flight out in bad weather, though.”
    “Do you still have that bad feeling?”
    “Something awful.”
    “I’ll be careful.” His deep voice was as smooth as velvet.
    She clung to the phone. “I love you – so much”
    “I love you, too. Now let’s hang up on the count of three, okay?”
    She nodded and then realized he couldn’t see her. “Okay.”
    The line clicked, but she continued to hold the receiver. She closed her eyes and prayed for his safe return. Finally she replaced the receiver.
    She dressed and did the chores. Ten O'clock found her hanging over the telephone, her cell phone on her hip. Finally, at ten minutes after twelve, her cell phone rang. She popped it open.
    “Hey, sweetheart. I’m in Tulsa and they’re announcing my flight as I speak. Meet me at the airport.”
    “I’ll be there. Bye.”
    She dashed out the door and jumped into the car. It would take her as long to drive to Fayetteville as it would for him to fly there from Tulsa. She hit every red light on the way and arrived at the airport fifteen minutes later than she had anticipated. Entering the terminal, she glanced around anxiously.
    A lean figure in a gray business suit and carrying a suitcase stepped out of a crowd of new arrivals. Alex took her elbow and led out the door. She gazed up at him in rapt silence. He was back - and he was fine. The premonition was wrong.
    “Is it really you?” she finally managed through a constricted throat.
    He opened the car door for her and his eyes twinkled with humor.
    “Wait until we get home and I’ll show you.”
    She laughed. “It’s you alright. Nobody else could have that on their mind so frequently.”
    He smiled. “That’s because I have the sexiest wife in the world.”
    She squeezed his arm. “You would know, you little globe trotter.”
    He walked around the car and climbed in the other side. Once inside, he reached out and took her hand, pulling her across the car seat. Kissing her ardently, he finally released her.
    “I’m not going any place without you again. That was miserable. You were right. I shouldn’t have gone.”

Continue to Chapter 5
The Darkest Hour
Linda Louise Rigsbee
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