Rachel Caine: Gale Force

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Rachel Caine Gale Force
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Weather Warden Joanne Baldwin is on vacation when her Djinn lover, David, asks Joanne to marry him. She's thrilled to say yes, even if some others may be less than happy about it. Unfortunately, Joanne's pre-marital bliss is ended by a devastating earthquake in Florida. And she can't ask David and his kind for assistance. Because the cause of the quake is unlike anything Joanne has ever encountered — and a power even the Djinn cannot perceive

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Gale Force

(The seventh book in the Weather Warden series)

A novel by Rachel Caine

To the librarians and staff of the New Orleans Public library system, struggling to return from the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. You are truly amazing.

Almost every branch of the NOPL sustained damage during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and many are still closed and in need of renovation.

Donate by visiting the Rebuild Web site: nutrias.org/~nopl/foundation/katrinafoundationdonation.htm .

Other Gulf Coast-area libraries are also still in need of your help. You can find a complete list through the American Library Association: www.ala.org/ala/cro/katrina/katrina.htm.

Please donate generously to bring books back to those who, like us, want to believe that words can change the world.


Joe Bonamassa, for giving me Sloe Gin and the inspiration to do this thing.


“Honey!” I yelled. “Get the phone, would you?” It was ringing off the hook, and I was a little busy trying to put out a fire—a wildfire, actually, blazing across Alligator Alley along the coast of Florida. It had been burning for three long days, sending choking black smoke our way.

Never off duty, that was me. Joanne Baldwin: Weather Warden by first choice—if a world-ending storm blew up without notice, I was the go-to girl. My secondary ability—and second choice—was to act as a Fire Warden, which was what was occupying me at the moment. Being an Earth Warden, helping living things heal and grow, and controlling things such as earthquakes and volcanoes, was also something I could do, though not nearly as reliably or as well. As far as being comfortable with the abilities, having Earth powers was still a distant, weird, cautious third.

I stood on the balcony of my apartment building, my eyes stinging from the whipping wind and drifting smoke, and worked magic. It didn’t look like I was doing much of anything. Truthfully, I probably could have gone inside, picked up the phone, and talked to whatever cold-calling telemarketer was on the other end . . . but I was feeling frustrated, and I needed to do something positive, so I was concentrating, from a distance of several miles away, on rendering burnable underbrush less burnable. These changes would have to be undone later, for safety, but they made dandy firebreaks in the meantime.

Of course, I was interfering with Fire Wardens and Weather Wardens who were already doing their assigned jobs. Well, that was why I was the boss, right? That was what bosses did—interfere. (My bosses always had, anyway, although come to think of it, I hadn’t liked it much when I’d been on the sticky end of the problem.)

The phone quit ringing. Good, I thought. Maybe they’d just given up.

The glass door behind me rumbled open on its track. I didn’t turn away from the railing until a man’s hand dangled the phone over my shoulder. I looked at the phone delivery service, eyebrows raised in silent question; David just raised his own in response.

David was always fantastic on the eyes, but he was especially great just now, at sunset, when the red sky picked up bronze tints in his skin and highlighted supernatural sparks in his eyes. Oh, his eyes—currently the rich, dark color of old pennies—were taking on a brighter hue as I watched, because although David was currently wearing human form, and liked to wear it a lot, at a DNA level he was something completely different. We call them Djinn, because the old tales of those supernatural creatures able to do humans’ dirty work were somewhat true.

Of course, these tales were also a whole lot not true, as I continued to learn every day.

David was only half dressed, in a pair of worn blue jeans riding low on his hips. There was a lot of tempting gold-dusted skin on display, and so much to admire, from broad shoulders to abs that would make a Greek statue cry with envy.

He usually had a shirt on, but then, David was actuallymore modest than I was. At least, in public. In private . . . well. Let’s just say that when David played at being human, he brought his A game.

David waggled the phone again, significantly. I blinked and took it, thinking that the last thing in the world I wanted just now was to get distracted from enjoying the view. “Hello?”

I wasn’t prepared for the volume—or the tirade— that erupted out of the phone. “Joanne, would you please butt out already? Jeez, woman, we can save the world without you! Just go relax! Do you even own a dictionary? Vacation! Look it up!”

The voice on the other end was Paul Giancarlo, one of the most powerful element-controlling Wardens in the country. He happened to specialize in weather work; he was also one of my oldest surviving friends. The tone was a strongly Jersey-accented bellow, barely contained by the phone’s speaker. I held the phone farther from my ear. “Oh, hey, Paul,” I said. “So. How’s that fire going?”

“The fire is going fine, and you need to quit screwing around. You are not on duty. I have coverage on the damn fire, and you need to stop—”

“Helping? Thought you needed it. Because three days is kind of a long time to be breathing smoke—”

Kid. Stop already. We’re on top of it!”

I doubted that. “Let me talk to Lewis.” Lewis Levander Orwell, my old college buddy and part-time crush, was the only guy in the entire Wardens organization who still had the right to tell me what to do, a fact that made me a little smug and—yes, I could admit it—a little insufferable.

“Lewis doesn’t want to talk to you. Lewis wants me to tell you to butt out. Get it? You’re on vacation. Vacate already.”

Before I could fire back, Paul hung up on me. I stared at the phone, surprised and a little wounded.

David took it from my fingers, put it on the patio table behind me, and said, “I assume he told you that you aren’t needed right now. No, actually I don’t assume that. I overheard.”


“People three doors down heard it,” he said. “It wasn’t a great feat of supernatural detection.”

I glared at him for a second, but honestly, I couldn’t stay angry at David, especially when he gave me that look.

But I glanced toward the fire again anyway, and I heard him sigh. “Jo. Let go. I know how hard it is for you, but you need to let other people handle their jobs. That’s why they have them.”

“Three days!” I said, pointing an accusatory finger toward the smoke. “Come on, you don’t think they could have been a little more aggressive about it?”

“You know as well as I do that sometimes managing how a fire burns is more important than putting it out,” he said all too reasonably, and stepped between me and my view of the conflagration. Not that he wasn’t, you know, burning hot himself. Because he definitely was, and I felt myself inevitably getting distracted.

“Stop that,” I said, not with a lot of strength.

“Stop what?” He reached for my hands, and I shivered as a breeze moved across my back, which was left mostly bare by my sky blue halter top. Florida had been kind to me, for a change, with lots of sun, lots of untroubled, cloud-free beaches. It was as if the Wardens themselves had conspired to make my vacation uneventful, at least on the weather front, until this fire thing had popped up.

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