Book Excerpt: 'Category 7'

Richard looked over his shoulder at the wall of windows and the dark, glowering bank of cumulonimbus clouds beyond it. The smooth, caplike pileus cloud had stabilized, as the last radar report had indicated it would, and the storm hovered over the ocean, threatening to come ashore at any moment in a rush of wind and hot rain.

The storm would be fast and furious, probably gone within an hour. Not overly dangerous, it would wallop the coastline, annoy the residents, and scare the hell out of the tourists, dousing the hardiest, or foolhardiest, among them who remained outdoors. After the rain ended, the island would return to being steamy and still, the weather a suitably sultry backdrop for its summer season.

"C'mon. Let's mosey. We're on in thirty." Denny and the cameraman pushed through the door, and into the wind.

Richard took a deep, resigned breath and followed them onto the roof.

"We'll just do the teaser out here. If it gets too bad, we'll go back inside," Denny yelled over the howling wind.

"A decision only a moron could make," Richard drawled under his breath.

Denny squinted at him and mouthed, What?

Richard smiled tightly. "I said, 'Good idea.'"

Denny nodded. "You stand there," he shouted, pointing to an open area that afforded no protection from the elements. "That way if you get knocked over, you won't fall over the edge."

Shaking his head, Richard moved to his marks and grimaced against the wind as Denny gave him the countdown with his fingers. As the producer's last finger folded into his palm, Richard flashed his on-camera smile.

"Hello, America, from the not-so-sunny Caribbean. On the day before the official start of the hurricane season, we're already bracing for a close encounter with the second named storm of this year. In what is already shaping up to be a remarkable hurricane season, I'll be providing you with a bird's-eye view of Tropical Storm Barney from the coast of beautiful?" He stopped speaking as he saw Denny's eyes widen and his jaw sag.

Microphone in hand, Richard glanced over his shoulder. His gut clenched as he watched the bloated, menacing clouds exploding over the open ocean with the unholy force of a mid-air detonation. Furious plumes burst in all directions and the sea's dark, choppy swells erupted into a frenzied expanse of boiling, churning whitecaps thundering a crazed ambush on the suddenly puny cliffs and the beach at their base, fifty feet below.

Faster than his mind could register what was happening, the wall of wind hammered at Richard, knocking him to the floor and sending him skidding headfirst into the stone skirting wall that surrounded the roof. As unconsciousness rushed over him, Richard remembered the last time, the only time, he'd witnessed anything like those clouds.

The South China Sea in 1971.

Those storms hadn't been pretty.

They hadn't been natural, either.

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