Storm Warning

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Stuck In Colder Weather

Rayna groaned as she was awakened by an accidental jab in the ribs by a hard teenage elbow. A glance to her left showed a sprawled out, sleeping Maddie was the culprit. Favoring her side, she shifted away in the king-size bed. She’d completely forgotten how Maddie had inherited her unfortunate yet quirky and innate ability to somehow always gravitate towards the middle of the bed when sleeping—no matter the size. Or who happened to be sharing that bed, for that matter—in Rayna’s experience. Although, she noted silently, she’d outgrown the habit during her marriage to Teddy—it seemed to have come back naturally on its own following the separation and eventual dissolution of the marriage. A peculiar observation that she analyzed for a moment before dismissing it with disinterest. That and the simple fact that she was absolutely exhausted. She hadn’t slept well. And she was pretty sure it had nothing to do with flying teenage limbs either. Rather, she was quite certain that her restlessness had little to do with either the sleeping arrangements or the storm, for that matter, and far more to do with a certain little late-night make out session on the porch in the rain with Deacon. Her jittering pulse just thinking about it pretty much confirmed her suspicions and the notion for her.

Embarrassed by her not so g-rated emotions right then, she scolded herself for even allowing her thoughts to wander to such things while her 14-year-old daughter lay asleep just inches away, and forced her eyes closed. As exhausted as she was however, she knew resuming sleep was a joke. She had too much on her mind for that to happen. Her and Deacon. Maddie and Deacon. Her and Luke. Not to mention the label and what seemed like the million things she still had left to do to put the finishing touches on her life-long aspiration/dream that was coming to fruition. She’d worked so hard and just when everything was finally starting to come together, now there was the whole business with Jeff and Edgehill and the buyout…it was absolute insanity. The thoughts were a reminder of the responsibility she had waiting for her back in Nashville …which had her remembering the storm and the not-so-pleasant fact that her car was, at the moment, lying in a muddy ditch, tucked somewhere in the rolling hills of Tennessee…miles from civilization, let alone a tow service.

The storm, she thought again, her eyes flying open as she sat right up in the bed. Her eyes narrowing, she paused and listened. And heard the not-so-welcome sound of the still-present wind and the heavy rain. She’d expected and --after the porch incident--hoped the storm would pass through by morning…but alas, that clearly was not the case outside. In fact, from the sound of it, it’d only gotten worse. The wind howled and shook the structure slightly, albeit not enough to warrant any real concern. Throwing off the covers, she turned and swung her legs off the side of the bed, standing. Stretching her aching body, she padded across the cold, hard-wood floor in her bare feet, wishing she’d had the forethought to pack her comfy, wool Uggs in the overnight bag she’d brought. Or she could always steal a pair of Deacon’s socks, she thought as she walked to the window and pulled back the curtain far enough to see what the weather was doing outside.

She scrunched up her features in distaste, almost wishing she had stayed in the bed. From the looks of it, the storm hadn’t let up one bit overnight. The lake level had risen from the rain and the usually beautiful grassy knolls and land stretching a couple of acres around the cabin seemed to have morphed into a muddy swampland. The sky was dark and gloomy and just plain miserable-looking. It was depressing.

As she trying to figure out what the hell she was going to do with travel being—clearly—out of the question, she heard the sound of a door slam downstairs, a force that shook the window frames and the crystal prisms dangling from the chandelier light that hung over the bed slightly, followed by a deep, angry cursing. Maddie, who’d turned over and was sprawled out on her stomach, wasn’t affected in the slightest. Before crystal prisms started dropping—or anything else—she figured she should find out the cause of the apparent angst swirling down on the first level of the cabin. Quietly, so as not to wake Maddie, she left the room and headed for the stairs.

She was almost to the landing when she first heard, rather than saw, Deacon grumbling and cursing in front of the door, stumbling around on one foot as he struggled to pull off one muddy boot. She would have felt sorry for him, were it not for the humorous sight he made hopping around and swearing like a sailor as he was. The corners of her lips turned up into a smile as she descended the final steps. “You know, if Daphne heard you right now…”

Deacon stopped in mid-hop. “Rayna,” he breathed. “Aw, Christ. Shit. Er-damn it. Sorry,” he said, his expression softening with contrition.

She smirked, crossing her arms as she studied him. “Nice, Deac. You kiss your Mama with that mouth?” she asked, teasing.

He smirked back. “Well, I kissed you with this mouth, if I recall. Just last night, in fact. So…,” he said, smirking.

She pursed her lips, a scoff escaping her lips. She rolled her eyes. “Uh huh, yeah. So um, what’s with the Cirque de Soleil act we got going on here?” she asked, indicating his hopping antics, and decidedly NOT playing into his other teasing banter.

He grunted as he tugged, finally getting the boot off and stumbling back, catching himself a moment before he fell on his ass. He cursed again as he tossed the muddy thing to the wet floor-mat by the door to join its twin. His socks beneath were soaked and muddy as well, which was a clear indication of what lay outside the cabin walls. He tossed his wet coat on a chair, running a frustrated hand through his dripping hair. Water sluiced down the sides of his face from the rain and bare arms from his soaked clothing. “Well, it’s a damn deluge out there,” he said, not even bothering to apologize for the angst or curse. She ignored it as well. “It’s like walking through a whole foot of sludge--at least—just to get anywhere,” he described. “I tried seeing what I could do with that back-up generator,” he explained when she gave him a questioning look. “It’s a mess. I’m going to go back out and try to see what I can do with it in a bit,” he said.

Rayna nodded. “You might want to dry off a bit first,” she said. “You’re gonna catch a death of a chill. And you know, Deacon, if it’s for our account—mine and Maddie’s—really, you don’t have to go through the trouble. We’ve got water and the fire, so we’re fine. We can rough it out for a bit, I think. The storm can’t last forever, right?” she offered, smiling with compassion.

He looked down at her. “Ever the optimist, huh Ray?” he asked, smiling back at her. “Speaking of roughing it though,” he started, his eyes darkening. “I trekked down to your truck earlier,” he said. “

She scrunched her nose. “Yuck--that bad, huh?” she asked.

“Well, I’d say that depends on your definition of ‘bad’, but if you ask me…um, yeah. I’d say it's pretty bad. Christ, Ray. A ‘little’ accident?” he asked, repeating the phrase she’d used the night before. “I know what I saw and there was nothing ‘little’ about that. All that erosion and the flooding—you guys could have been seriously hurt…or worse,” he said, his voice softening. “I’m sorry, Ray. Again.”

She stepped forward, placing a hand on his arm. “Now who’s got some misplaced guilt? Pot calling the kettle black and all that,” she said, trying to lighten the mood and assuage his guilt. “Deacon, its fine. I’m sure it looks worse than it was now, especially all this rain. Either way, we’re both fine. You’re safe, we’re safe…the rest is almost literally, water under the bridge,” she said, smiling more fully.

“Not funny, Ray,” he said, but he smiled a little at the pun. He slid his hand down her arm to her wrist, lifting her bandaged hand. “How’s the hand, by the way?” he asked.

“Its fine,” she said, smiling at his raised brow at her word usage. “Really. My ribs on the other hand, not so much,” she said with a scrunched look.

He raised a concerned brow then. “Ribs? Damn it, Ray. I asked you last night if you were injured anywhere else. You never said anything about your ribs. How bad? Let me see,” he said, moving forward.

She laughed, taking a deliberate step back as she raised her hands to ward him off. “Watch the hands, Mister,” she teased. “Again, you’re overreacting. First off, it’s nothing. Second, it didn’t happen last night. It happened this morning when our sweet daughter elbowed me in her sleep,” she informed him, correcting his wrong assumption.

“Oh, right” he said, understanding. “Even so, that does suck. Sorry. You know, I recall a few bruised ribs and kicked shins and early morning injuries of my own,” he said, grinning. “Usually because a certain someone liked to hog the bed. I think Maddie might have gotten it from her, what do you think? You wouldn’t happen to know anyone like that, would you, Ray?” he asked, smirking as he tucked a stray curl behind her ear, his fingers lingering a moment.

“Oh you…you’re just a bucket of jokes this morning, aren’t you Mr. Sunshine?” she responded with a glare, smacking his good arm lightly.

“You know it,” he said with a big, mischievous grin. “Someone still gets grumpy when she doesn’t get her morning caffeine, I see,” he said, putting a hand to the small of her back and gesturing towards the den and the fire. “Come on, I’ve got a hot plate over there. Let me make you a cup of coffee,” he offered, leading her.

She laughed, stepping away. “You’re soaked, Deacon. I’ve got a better idea. You go get cleaned up. I’ll take café of the coffee,” she said.

He looked down at his soddy clothing, grunted in disgust, then nodded. “Yeah, good idea. You know how to operate a Bunsen burner, right?” he asked.

She rolled her eyes, nodding. “Yes. I think I can manage it. You know, this ain’t my first rodeo, Cowboy,” she said, smiling. “Not get. You’re tracking mud all over,” she scolded him.

“Yes, Ma’am…” he said, still laughing a minute later as he followed her suggestion and trudged his way up the stairs to take a shower and get cleaned up.

Twenty Minutes Later…

One hot, very-appreciated but quick shower later, Deacon was making his way back downstairs, dressed in dry, warm, and best of all, clean clothing—a definite improvement compared to his previous attire. As he reached the landing and started towards the open den, he found Rayna curled up on the sofa in front of the burning fire place, asleep. His lips turned up in to a smile as he glanced towards the Bunsen Burner and hot plate setup on the coffee table and the semi-steaming mugs sitting beside it. From the looks of it, she’d apparently made the coffees and passed out before even taking a sip. Not that he was surprised, considering all that she’d been through in the last 24 hours with the drive up there and the storm. The accident with her truck aside, she’d gotten nearly no sleep.

Not that he’d gotten much himself. After what transpired on the porch between them—sleep had been impossible. He’d tried though. After he’d bid Rayna goodnight and watched her walk upstairs, he’d ducked back outside to cool down and put a damper on his raging hormones and lusty thoughts. When that failed miserably and all he could see were flashes of images of he and Rayna going at it like two mind-scorching, sex-driven teenagers—her on his porch rail, head tipped back and mouth slightly open, waiting…her against the side of the cabin, her moaning mouth hot under his, her long legs wrapped around his waist, the feel of her nails digging into his shoulders...a failed move definitely. Swearing into the rain, he’d gone back inside and settled on the couch in front of the fire, as there was no way he was sleeping upstairs, knowing she lay asleep in bed just down the hall from him. It’d have driven him even crazier.

So he’d bunked on the couch and attempted sleep. An impossible feat, as he couldn’t get Rayna off his mind. It wasn’t just the incident on the porch. It was the whole damn cabin. It was the rug in front of the fire where they’d made love countless times and spent hours wrapped in each other’s arms all night long. It was the couch where he had chosen to sleep where they’d cuddled and talked and sang to each other…many a love song had been written on the couch. Even the black marble counter top and hardwood floor in the damn kitchen had memories that were far from conducive in helping a man sleep. Though she hadn’t been to the place in years, she was still as much a part of the structure as she had been—almost as though she’d never left.

That realization had his thoughts switching gears and going to Megan—his less-than-committed actions leaving him consumed with guilt. Though neither he nor Megan had yet used the word “exclusive” exactly, it was implied. They were together. She was his girlfriend. The fact that he had a long, complicated history with Rayna or even the fact that he’d stopped himself before things on the porch had progressed further—was neither an excuse nor consolation for Deacon. He’d kissed another woman. That the woman had been Rayna only made the betrayal worse, he felt. Not to mention that he’d wanted to do so very much more and had only stopped himself by the hair of his teeth, so to speak. Either way, it was wrong. Megan was a good, caring woman. She’d been there for him after the accident when Rayna hadn’t. Truth be told, she’d saved him. If it weren’t for her, he might have succumbed to the gnawing thirst and taken a drink to forget the hurt he’d caused those who cared about him most. What he’d lost with Maddie and what he’d done to Rayna and the whole damn mess he’d made of his life and everything and everyone around him. But he hadn’t. Mostly, in part, to Megan. She was the complete opposite of Rayna. She made him feel centered, grounded…stable. She made him happy. Thus, the guilt. He spent the next restless couple of hours trying to determine what it all meant and where things went from there. Should he tell Megan what happened with Rayna, or spare her the hurt? Should he ignore what had transpired—the pent-up feelings he still felt—and go on as if nothing had happened? Should he continue to deny what his heart and body both clearly desired—or go forward with a possible future with Megan? There were so many questions that he didn’t have answers for. So with sleep not going to happen, he’d finally gotten up and went out to fiddle with the generator.

Checking on Rayna’s truck had been an afterthought. He’d gone walking to calm his frustration with the generator and ended up on the road that led to the cabin. As Rayna had said, there were parts of the road that were simply impassable and some parts that just weren’t even there anymore, thanks to the flooding rainwaters and geological erosion. He hadn’t known what he expected to see when he’d come upon Ray’s truck, but it definitely had been something other than what he saw. It nearly stole his breath when he saw the SUV laying on its roof in about a foot of mud and swirling water, banged up by the rocks and fallen branches that had come down to rest on the underside carriage of the vehicle that now lay up in the air. Just knowing that Maddie and Rayna had been in that—and that albeit indirectly because of him—had made him want to be physically sick. And furious. In fact, truth be told, the grumbling that had brought Rayna downstairs that morning had more to do with the fury he felt at her for driving out there in the damn first place and himself for being the reason for her doing it—than the generator as he’d told her. He’d wanted to throttle her. If it weren’t for her looking so sleepy and warm and scolding him for his language, he just might have.

Sighing, he grabbed the throw—the same one from the porch the night before—and went to cover her with it. He was tucking it around her shoulder when she made a little sigh and her eyes fluttered open, gazing directly into his. “Oh hey, Babe…” she said smiling, half-asleep and clearly not completely cognizant of what she was saying.

Tamping down his distressing desire to kiss that sleepy mouth of hers senseless and finish once and for all what he’d started the night before on the porch, he gritted his teeth and willed himself to take a step back. “Ray…we should talk…” he said instead…
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