A WEATHER WARDEN STORY
We were enjoying a rare day that did not include doom and apocalypse, and wonder of wonders, it was one of those balmy, beautiful early-summer days that reminded me why I lived in Florida.
It had been David’s idea to do a beach picnic, which, given the lovely, mild weather, was a fantastic idea, but it had been mine to take a drive. A nice long one, on winding roads, for the sheer pleasure of putting tires to asphalt and seeing the world. So we had compromised on a long drive followed by a beach picnic, which was a perfect thing to do on such a lovely day.
Me, I loved to get behind the wheel even more than the prospect of the beach itself. I especially loved to drive really good cars, and this one, a Viper, was right up there in my ranking of awesome rides. Not as sweet as my long-lost Mustang Mona, who’d been a casualty of life in the Weather Warden ranks, but still: nice, and powerful.
David had never said one way or another whether he liked cars, but I suspected he did. Although not much impresses a Djinn. This is an unalterable fact of the world: Djinn—or genies—have been around since the dawn of time, although some are certainly newer than others, and one thing they all share is a sense of historical perspective. By the time you get to your first few hundred years, much less few thousand, I suspect, the “been there, done that” feeling is overwhelming.
Which is why it seemed so unusual to hear my Djinn lover David let out a low whistle as I powered through a turn, and say, “That’s something you don’t see every day.”
I peeled my attention back from the curve and looked where he was looking. Just off the road, with the backdrop of the wetlands, was a mob of vehicles and people, and massive industrial video cameras—high-definition ones, I assumed. Everyone looked ridiculously casual in dress, and highly professional in what he or she was doing.
“Commercial shoot,” I said. It wasn’t that astonishing, in this part of the world. Everybody loved the colors and lifestyle here, and there were probably more still and video cameras clicking away here than anywhere else in the country, except Hollywood. And maybe New York City. “What’s so special…”
And then I saw it.
It was a silvery vision of a car, elegant as something designed by a classical sculptor. Michelangelo, maybe, if he’d worked in metal and sheer engine power. I instinctively took my foot off the gas, staring, because in all my extensive years of car fetishizing, I’d never actually seen anything that cool with my own eyes.
I pulled the Viper over to the side of the road, barely noticing the crunch of tires on gravel, and stared. My mouth was probably hanging open, too. Honestly, David was right—you just did not see that every day. Or, in fact, any day, unless you worked at an Italian car manufacturer, or had $1.7 million to throw around on a set of wheels. “That,” I said, “is a freaking Bugatti Veyron. In the Everglades.” It wasn’t the fastest car in the world—maybe number two?—but it was, to my mind, the most elegantly designed. And, not coincidentally, the most expensive.
David let out a little snort of laughter. “I wasn’t talking about the car,” he said. Well, of course he wasn’t, but I was still adjusting to the fact that there was a Bugatti Veyron sitting there, not twenty feet away from me. A couple of staffers for the shoot were polishing it with soft cloths, not that it needed the help to look its best. I blinked and tried to see what else was in the picture.
Ah. He was talking about the girl. The one in the bikini.
The one in the diamond bikini. Not a bikini with diamonds, not a blinged-out piece of spandex … an actual bikini, made of diamonds. Now that I’d noticed her, it was hard to see how I’d missed her in the first place—the glitter of all those facets was blinding. The girl wearing the thing was getting herself powdered—last-minute primping, just like the car—and she looked almost as sleek and expensive as what she was wearing, and what her backdrop would be. I presumed she was a world-class model, or she wouldn’t be here acting as the prop for all that loot. You didn’t go cheap on the talent in a thing like this.
I blinked as a cloud blotted out the sun. No, not a cloud … a shadow, and then a body, big enough to present a solid flesh barrier to me catching any more glimpses of car, girl, or diamonds. He was, unmistakably, security. I could cleverly discern this by reading the giant letters in white on his black T-shirt, which read SECURITY, but even had he been unlabeled, there would really have been no mistaking him for anything else. He was professional muscle; whether he took it to bodyguarding a star, bouncing a club, or donning an overdone belt as a pro wrestler, he’d made a career out of intimidation.
“Hi,” I said brightly. He scowled down at me from way, way up high. Tall, not only broadly built. “Just wanted to see what was going on.”
“Nothing, ma’am,” he said. “Move on, please.”
“I’m not in the way.” I had no real reason not to immediately put the Viper in gear and drive on, but I didn’t like being scowled at. Or ordered around. “That’s a Bugatti Veyron, right?”
“No idea. Move on.”
“Look—what’s your name?”
“Steve, I promise, I’m just looking. Give me a second and I’ll go.”
Instead, Steve took a step back and waved a hand, and from somewhere behind me, two uniformed Florida state troopers sauntered over, one on my side of the car, one on David’s. The saunter was deceptive, because I didn’t for a moment believe they were being relaxed about it. “Miss,” said the one who bent over on my side of the window. He had a thick Southern accent, a little too Southern for Florida. I was guessing he was a Georgia transplant. “You need to move along now, unless you’ve got a pass.”
David reached into the glove box and brought out something in an envelope, which he handed over without a word to the officer on his side of the car. The trooper unfolded the paper, read it, and said to his partner, “They’ve got a pass, Joe.”
“They do? Let me see that!”
The two passed the paper back and forth for a while, then huddled with the security guard, who came back and leaned in David’s window this time. David was noticeably not bothered or intimidated; he even looked amused, from the light glittering in his brown-bronze eyes. (He was trying to keep his Djinn side from showing, at least. Thankfully.)
“Where’d you get this?” Mr. Security demanded, flourishing the paper.
David jerked his chin at the model. “From her,” he said. “She’s my sister.”
“Your what?” As if no supermodel in the world had siblings, or parents, or any kind of family. Well, they did often look lab-grown, that was a true fact.
“Ask her,” David said, raising his eyebrows. The security dude stalked off, as much as someone so muscle-bound could effectively stalk, and arrived next to the diamond model. He bent over and spoke to her. She leaned past him, looking at David, and then smiled.
“David?” I asked, in a voice that was probably way too confused. “Who is that?”
He smiled, but didn’t answer. Annoying.
Security Steve was trudging his way back, and he looked … apologetic. Not that he had a very mobile sort of face, but I got the subtlety from the hangdog set of his slumped shoulders. He leaned in and said, in a much different kind of voice, “Sorry, sir. Didn’t know who you were. Miss, why don’t you park right over there, next to the director’s car? Miss Whitney wants to say hello.”
“Miss Whitney,” I repeated, and followed parking instructions as David continued with that Cheshire cat grin. “Do I even want to know how you’ve picked up a sudden sister named Miss Whitney?”
“The usual way,” he said. “At least, for me.”
“She’s Djinn,” I guessed. “New Djinn.”
“Not just new. She’s only a few years old. Generationally, she’s no older than you.”
Okay, that was bad news. Whitney was a Djinn—okay, fine, I’d stopped trying to figure out why David liked me better than hot immortal chicks that could move mountains and look any way he wanted them. But the fact was, she was actually my own age, and looked about ten years younger, and at least a dozen points hotter, which already sucked. She was also wearing a couple of million dollars of high-carat diamonds in a skimpy little outfit that left nothing at all to the imagination, not even how expert her bikini wax was.
And she had a cute, infectious smile. The bitch. Honestly, that was just taking it too far.
And she winked at me as we walked toward her; then she swigged some bottled water, and shooed away the two walking-shorts-wearing prettifiers who were hovering around her touching her up. “Well,” she said, with a distinct, low-pitched Southern drawl that made the trooper’s sound like he came from Nebraska. “If it isn’t Mr. Boss himself. Excuse me if I don’t kneel. I think this bikini might leave scars.”
David snorted, but he looked amused. “Whitney, what the hell is this?”
“Fun.” She shrugged a little, which woke a blinding flash of diamonds that must have been a menac...