The Weatherman

When Serena Frost starts a new job at the British Weather Centre, she learns about a rival company, Readiweather.com, whose forecasts are uncannily accurate. A chance encounter with Readiweather's founder piques Serena's interest, but she soon finds both her heart and her life in danger, as some people will stop at nothing to discover Readiweather's secret.

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7. Chapter Seven

Jeff showed Serena the guest room, the kitchen and the bathroom. “Make yourself at home,” he invited. “You can use anything in the house as if it was your own. There is only one rule on which I must insist.” He indicated the door next to the computer desk. “Do not, in any circumstances, go through this door. Will you promise me that?”

            “I promise,” Serena nodded. “I won’t stay long, anyway.”

            Jeff could see that the trauma of the evening had exhausted her. “You need to sleep,” he said. “I’ll find you something to sleep in and make you a mug of cocoa.”

            “Thank you,” Serena said five minutes later, as Jeff handed her a T-shirt, some tracksuit bottoms and the cocoa.

            “I’m sorry that’s all I could find,” he said.

            “They’ll be fine,” said Serena, smiling weakly for the first time since the fire.

            “If there’s anything else I can do, just shout.”

            “I will,” she promised.

            “Goodnight Serena. Sleep tight.” He wanted to kiss her, but knew it would be taking advantage. Instead he stepped backwards out of the room and closed the door.

 

            Serena hardly slept that night, but Jeff was already awake and working on his computer when she got up.

            “What time is it?” she asked.

            “Just turned ten.”

            “I should be in work!” Serena exclaimed. Jeff shook his head.

            “Don’t worry. I’ve already called Rob and let him know what happened. He said not to rush back. They can cope without you while you get sorted.” He paused. “Help yourself to breakfast.”

            “Thanks,” she said, sitting down. “What are you doing?” she asked, as she opened the cornflakes.

            “Just a bit of work,” he explained, twisting the screen of his laptop so she couldn’t see it.. “Thought I’d get it out of the way so I’ve got time to help you out.”

            “You don’t have to,” Serena protested. “You’ve been more than kind already.”

            “It’s no problem,” he replied. “What’s the point of being self-employed if you can’t give yourself the day off now and then? I don’t think I’ll be getting many calls today anyway.”

 

            After Serena had had her breakfast, Jeff drove her to the charred remains of her house to see what was left. It was a traumatic experience for Serena, especially given the death of Michelle, but it was something she knew she had to do. The house still stood, and had been made safe by the fire brigade, but was badly charred and blackened by flame and smoke. She moved sadly from room to room, collecting her few undamaged possessions. She could see that she would be spending quite some time filling in the insurance forms – most of her clothes were lost for a start – but realised that compared to Michelle, she had escaped lightly. Michelle… Grief rushed over her and she knew she could stay in the house no longer. She rushed out, weeping, into Jeff’s arms. He held her tightly, saying nothing.

 

            That afternoon, they went shopping to replace Serena’s clothes. Serena had offered to go alone, but Jeff had insisted on coming with her, and she appreciated it. Although she normally enjoyed shopping, she wasn’t in the mood for it now. How could she pick bright new clothes when her best friend had just been killed? But Jeff gently steered her through the stores, making suggestions and comments to encourage her – a light blue jumper that matched her eyes, some elegant work clothes, and some just to “chill” and relax in.

            “I’ll just go and try these on,” she commented, taking what they’d selected to a fitting room. Jeff waited outside. The summer lines were now in store and a red knee-length halter dress hung on the end of a rail near where he stood. Serena would look good in that, he thought. It was her size too, he discovered. He raised an eyebrow when he saw the price, but decided to buy it anyway. There was no queue at the checkout, so he just had time to buy it and get it bagged up before Serena reappeared.

            “How do I look?” she asked, standing before him in a pair of smart jeans and a white blouse.

            “Absolutely stunning,” Jeff answered with a smile.

            “You sure?”

            “I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life.” Serena smiled again and went to try something else on.

            Eventually they were ready to pay. They stood in the queue, weighed down by the amount of clothing in their arms. Serena’s expression changed.

            “Some of this is going to have to go back,” she said. “I can’t afford all this.”

            “You don’t have to,” Jeff replied, reaching for his credit card as they approached the till.

            “I’ll pay you back when the insurance pay up,” Serena promised. Jeff shook his head.

 

            Serena sorted the clothes and hung them up in the wardrobe in her room. She was glad Jeff had been there for her today as she knew she wouldn’t have had the strength without him. She returned to the living room where Jeff was sat at his laptop, with his phone clutched to his ear.

            “Mrs. Wheeler, I can confirm that it will be dry and sunny for your daughter’s wedding on Saturday. Temperature twenty four degrees.” A pause while Mrs. Wheeler spoke, unheard by Serena. “Thank you for calling Mrs. Wheeler. And remember, we’re so confident in our forecasts that if the forecast is wrong – in any detail at all -  you can call us back within five days for a goodwill payment of five hundred pounds and compensation for any problems caused by the weather.” He took the phone from his ear and pressed the red button to terminate the call.

            Serena, stood behind him, coughed to get his attention. He spun round in his chair.

            “That’s very generous of you,” Serena commented. “Offering to give them five hundred quid if you get the forecast wrong.”

            “I don’t just do that,” Jeff explained. “If I’m wrong, and it rains, and the bride’s dress or the guests’ clothes are ruined, I’ll pay for that too. Obviously if I’d told them it was going to rain, and they got wet, then I wouldn’t pay for that.”

            “You must have a lot of faith in your forecasts.”

            “I do,” he grinned, without a trace of arrogance. “I’ve never had to pay up yet.” There was another pause. Jeff reached down under the desk and retrieved a shopping bag.

            “While you were trying the clothes on earlier, I got you a present,” he explained, handing the bag over.

            Serena opened it and pulled out the dress. “You shouldn’t have!” she protested.

            “You’ve been through a tough time in the last twenty four hours. I know it can’t make up for what you’ve lost, but I thought it might help cheer you up.”

            “You didn’t have to.”

            “I wanted to.”

            “I’ll just go and try it on.” Serena disappeared into her room with the dress and reappeared a few minutes later wearing it.

            “You look absolutely magnificent from every angle!” Jeff exclaimed as Serena twirled in front of him. She stopped twirling.

            “Thank you for everything you’ve done today,” she said, and kissed him.

 

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