Chapter Two ~
Jim watched as the young woman ran toward them. She looked to be about twenty-five or so, give or take a year or two, either way. She was very cute. She couldn't be much over five foot, but he bet she made up for it in personality. She had long, flowing dark brown hair and a strange color eyes he could only describe as amber. He'd had to catch his breath when she'd turned them on him the first time. He'd never seen such a color and he was immediately attracted to her. He prayed his mind would stay where it should and watched intently as she stopped abruptly in front of her father.
"It's still there Daddy. Why don't you let me carry that feed for you?" She asked, reaching for the bucket.
"No, I got it just fine. I'm not feeble, you know," He said.
Jim laughed and said, "I already offered, but he turned me down flat. I need to apologize for my rudeness earlier. I didn't introduce you to the rest of my crew." He came to a complete stop and said, "This is John Haney. He's the camera guy. He's the one that takes all the awesome footage for my show." He gestured to a tall, skinny red-headed, freckled man in his early thirties.
Faith shook his offered hand and smiled. The return smile she received was one of conquest. She looked away to discourage any advances he might try. "It's nice to meet you John." She dropped his hand and turned her attention to the next guy in the group.
"This is Alex Jones. He spots for me, and he's good at it too," Jim said. He seemed oblivious to his spotter's hungry stare in her direction.
John didn't miss it, though. He reached over and punched Alex in the arm with enough force to cause him to tip to the side. "She's not lunch, so quit staring at her like she’s the main course," He demanded.
Alex's leers hadn't gone unnoticed by the rest of the crew, either. He was the 'lover boy’ of the bunch and he had his sights set on the new woman, and their knowing looks said they knew.
"Alex is the flirt of our little group," Jim continued. "He thinks he's God's gift to all women even though we're always telling him he isn't." He grinned in the spotter's direction.
"Whatever Anderson, you're just jealous because the ladies come to me in droves," He returned. Everyone laughed and continued walking as he took Faith’s hand and brought it to his lips. Wolf-whistles went around the group as his lips touched the back of her hand.
Faith colored with embarrassment and said, "Nice to meet you, Alex." She tried to pull her hand away, but he held onto it for a few seconds longer, until he noticed the look of disapproval on his boss's face. This guy gives me the creeps.
Jim cleared his throat and cut his gaze to a medium-sized man and continued with his introductions. "This is Bobby Cantor. He's my navigator. He makes sure we get where we're going, and in one piece, too. He trained as a stunt driver so he knows what he's doing." There was a measure of pride in his voice when he said, “He’s also my best friend.”
"It's nice to meet you, Bobby." She shook his hand and was glad she felt none of the revulsion she had with Alex.
"We call Bobby Mr. Clean," The spotter informed her. "He has a phobia about touching other people and things that don't belong to him, plus he's bald," He guffawed.
She could tell they all loved the navigator and it warmed her to see such friendship flow between them. "I'm sorry Bobby. I didn't know you were uncomfortable shaking hands."
"It's okay. I didn't mind it a bit." He gave her an equally sincere smile. He threw a dirty look in Alex's direction, and then turned back toward the boss.
Jim could tell all his men had an interest in the new woman. Being a meteorologist wasn't hurting anything, either. "Last but not least, meet Jenny Harris. She's a genius in all things computer. Anytime we need someone to show us something new, she's on top of it. She takes all the data we collect for scientific study and compiles it into easy to read charts and graphs. She's also my sister." He threw a doting smile toward the quiet girl.
At Faith's quizzical glance he said, "Jenny got married when she was eighteen, but her husband was killed in Iraq four years ago. She's been chasing with us ever since."
Faith smiled and held out her hand. The girl took it and shook it firmly. "It's nice to meet you."
Faith said, "It's nice to meet you too."
Her father re-joined and said, "The horses are fed and I'm ready to go."
His voice was full of tiredness and resignation and Faith’s heart filled with compassion. “Are you ok, daddy?”
“I will be, just give me time.” He smiled and put his arm around her as they walked toward the storm-chasing vehicles.
When they got to the truck Faith turned to Jim and asked, “Where should we ride?”
"You can ride with me if you can stand the smell of black cherry.” He winked and gave a wry grin.
"That's fine. I love the smell of black cherry. Are you okay with it Daddy?"
"Yeah, I don't mind it, either. It was one of your mother's favorite scents." He opened the back door and got in, moving as slow as a tortoise.
Jim looked at Faith and motioned her over to him. "Maybe we should have him checked out at the hospital. I think he's in shock. Maybe he needs medical attention."
"I'm beginning to think so, too. My Daddy's a strong man. He's been through a lot, but he’s always managed to rise above it, but this might’ve put him over the edge." She walked around to the passenger side and settled in the front seat. Scooby jumped up on her lap, turned a circle, and lay down. He was asleep before Jim got the SUV started.
The smell of black cherry was pleasant and as she rested against the plush leather seat she sighed deeply.
Jim looked in the mirror and asked Arnold, "Are you hungry? I can stop and grab us a burger and fries on the way, if you like."
"I am kind of hungry now that I think about it, thanks for asking," Arnold said.
"There's a great little Mom and Pop restaurant up on the next road," Faith volunteered. She hadn't realized she was hungry until Jim mentioned food.
"Are you talking about Ethel's Kitchen?" He asked with the hopeful look of a little boy.
Faith smiled and asked, "You know about Ethel's kitchen?"
"Yes, I've eaten there many times. Ethel knows me by name. She even knows how I like my steak. I come through here a lot during the spring and summer. It is part of Tornado Alley."
"Of course, I wasn't thinking. I've always wanted to chase, but never found the time." Why did I tell him that?
"Have you really? You can join us anytime you like. I'm sure the others wouldn't mind."
The CB radio made a static noise and a voice came through the speaker. "Jim, do you copy?"
Jim picked up the mic and pressed the button on the side. "Yes, what's up?"
"There's a huge wedge on the ground up ahead, do you see it? I can see it on radar," Alex exclaimed. "Do we go, or do we retreat?"
"Retreat for now, there'll be others before the day is through. We're gonna stop at Ethel's and get something to eat."
A yell of approval was heard over the CB and Jim smiled broadly. "We all love Ethel's cooking. She's a great lady," He said. "Her husband isn't as nice..."
"He isn't nice at all. He's a raging alcoholic with perverted ways and eyes to match," Faith said hotly. She colored and gave him an apologetic look. "I'm sorry. I know that sounds rude, but the man is a leach, and a perverted one at that."
"Whoa now, I didn't mean to start your motor." He grinned in her direction. "I happen to agree with you. I've helped her on several occasions when I would show up at the restaurant and he was drunk, causing a scene. What we have to remember is he's a human being and needs to be saved like everybody else."