Lorene Cory studied the man sitting across the table from her and felt certain that she was the luckiest girl in Kansas, possibly the entire world.
The relationship between Lorene Cory and Guy Landers had been easy to describe: she adored him, and he didn't know she existed. They had been going along this way for some time, and both were quite content with the status quo. At least, Lorene was, and she assumed the same was true for Guy. He certainly looked happy enough when she saw him each night.
But now the balance was upset, the world had been turned upside down, because Guy Landers, daring reporter and heart-throb of the Channel 14 news, was sitting on the opposite side of her kitchen table, licking his lips in appreciation of the dinner she had made.
Guy put his hostess under the same intense scrutiny she was giving him and acknowledged to himself that it wasn't his lips he wanted to be licking. When offered, he had only dubiously agreed to do the story on Tornado Alley, and finding out he had to stay with one of the locals, the spinster daughter of the late pastor, he had almost backed out completely. He was, therefore, pleasantly surprised to find Miss Cory was as far from the titanium-haired harridan he had been expecting as it was possible to get. Only in small-town America where the girls married young, could this 25 year old blonde bombshell be called a spinster. His eyes roamed again over the honey blonde hair, cinnamon coloured eyes, and strawberry red lips. Everything about this woman made him hungry, but not for more of her delicious casserole.
Laughing ruefully, Lorene began to clear the table. Get a grip, she advised herself. So what if it's Guy Landers? It would be intolerably rude to throw yourself at him. Give the poor man a break from adoring fans and treat him like you would anyone else.
He made it easier to do by offering to do the dishes, and as they washed and dried side by side, Lorene turned on the radio."This is your five minute warning. In five minutes, a F5 twister will set down in your area. This is not a test. Proceed to your nearest tornado shelter. Do not panic. This is your five minute warning. This is not a test."
"Do you need to go out to film it?" Lorene asked Guy Landers. She thought it was a reasonable question, it was why he was here after all, but he stared at her like he was crazy.
"Are you crazy? It's a F5 twister!"
Lorene shrugged, "They always exaggerate and tell it worse than it is so that we'll take notice."
A howling wind swept around the house and there was an almighty crash as if the sky had fallen down. Peeking around her lace curtains, Lorene saw there was now a barn roof where her lawn had been.
"Or maybe not," Guy commented wryly close behind her. "Now can you please stop pissing around and lead me to you tornado shelter."
She glanced guiltily at him then became remarkably interested in the state of the floor. "Um … There isn't one."
There was a minute of deafening silence and Lorene cringed. "There … there's one in the neighbour's house, but I-I suppose we couldn't reach it … now."
Guy Landers continued to gape at her in silent horror and she started to babble. "You see, my father didn't believe in them. He said God would look out for him and his. And building a shelter was tantamount to saying God didn't exist, and Jesus died for nothing–"
"And how did he die?" demanded Guy.
"He and Mom were in a car that was picked up and thrown by a tornado," she admitted.
"And that didn't convince you to build one?!"
"Hey! I'm recently bereaved; I don't have to think about stuff like that!"
"So now we're both going to die," he murmured blankly. "Thanks a lot."
"No problem," she answered with grim black humour. "I suppose we would be a little safer if we moved to the middle of the house."
She guided him into the den. It was a small room in the middle of the house, with no windows because her father had hated glare on the massive television that took up an entire wall. They huddled together on the giant squashy couch, hoping to find comfort in another human being's warmth.
"I'll never see another episode of The Simpsons," Guy remarked, his attention arrested by the colossal black screen.
"Or Grey's Anatomy," replied Lorene wistfully.
"I wish I'd gotten to see the Hawaiian sunset one more time."
"I should have been organised and gotten that recipe to Annie. Now she'll never know how to make perfect apple pie."
"Is there anything else you regret?" he asked softly.
Lorene glanced from beneath her lashes at the man snuggled up next to her. The ridiculously attractive man with enough sex appeal to stop a buffalo in its tracks at 50 paces. And not just any man, Guy Landers! And she was going to die.
"There is one thing," she whispered. "I've never been with a man. I always thought before I died …"
Lorene stretched like a cat, luxuriating in the feel of Guy's long, muscular body against hers. His lips brushed the top of her head. She buried her face against his throat. "I'm perturbed, Guy," she said indistinctly.
His arms tightened. "Why?"
"Well, wasn't I supposed – I mean, shouldn't I –" Her face grew hot. "I thought it would hurt more," she said finally in a rush.
Guy propped himself up on one elbow against the squishy armrest, frowning a little. "You and I were rather overtaken by events, Miss Cory," he began carefully. "I genuinely intended to be very slow and patient, but somewhere along the line I forgot all that because, well, if you insist on running your nails down a man's back at certain points in the proceedings you're likely to achieve that particular result every time."
"Really? I can count on that?" Lorene's eyes gleamed with wicked innocence. She giggled happily. "Can I have that in writing? Seriously, though, you haven't really explained the absence of pain, or whatever."
Guy eyed her uncertainly. "Shall we say you might have felt more except for your enchanting –" He hesitated.
"Enthusiasm?" She looked at him questioningly. "Was I too enthusiastic?"
"That, Lorene, would be impossible," Guy assured her with emphasis, and lowered himself beside her, twining a tress of her golden blonde hair around his wrist.
Lorene wriggled closer and kissed him lingeringly, intending to smooth the small frown between his brows, but producing a startlingly different reaction. "Wait!" she said breathlessly. "I want to say something else –"
"Later," he muttered inattentively, but Lorene held him off a moment longer.
"I merely wanted to say that – this – was a silly thing to just before we die, because how will we know if we're still alive or gone to heaven?"
"That's very nice. Now shut up," he murmured against her warm silky skin, and proceeded to brew inside her a storm that rivalled the one outside.