Author's Note - Hi, readers! For those of you leaving reviews, we both appreciate it and love hearing from you. For some reason, for the past two weeks, fanfic isn't letting me respond. But, I wanna take this moment and tell you guys thank you!

Song Inspiration - "The Thunder Rolls" by Garth Brooks


The Thunder Rolls

Chapter One

Tumbling clouds fell around them as the SUV barreled further down the deserted highway, the two passengers quieter than proverbial church mice. Hesitantly, she flashed the man beside her a sidelong glance and grimaced.

Only two words could define what she saw reflected on his roughly hewn face.

Seriously pissed.

Well…she supposed he had cause. It wasn't a surprise, after all.

She'd defied a direct order...his direct order, and not for the first time, either. Technically, she knew this one couldn't be held against her...or at least her fledgling career. No, these consequences would be of a much more personal nature.

As if she hadn't already endured enough in the personal consequences department today, she thought, self-consciously lifting a tentative hand to her bruised throat. Closing her eyes, she recalled those terrifying moments of over an hour earlier.

Hindsight was indeed twenty-twenty. What she wouldn't give to go back to this morning and simply ignore her ringing phone instead of answering it!

Of course, she had picked it up, however. After years of silence between herself and her father, it was his familiar, gravelly voice that had greeted her first thing this morning. He'd wanted to know if she'd received his letter.

She should have simply hung up the phone. There were a thousand things she should have done.

Instead, she'd allowed herself to be manipulated into an immediate visit to his maximum security home, ostensibly for him to say goodbye before the disease he carried within him claimed his worthless life.

And that had been the beginning of the end…in more than one way.

Shifting uncomfortably in the leather bucket seat, she turned to stare out the window, the Virginia countryside passing quickly. Closing her eyes, her thoughts once again turning inward, she understood that she should have never gone alone.

Her intentions had been pure. Or so she liked to tell herself right then, her conscience searching for something altruistic to define the actions she had taken earlier. In the end, though, she knew that she had her own motives that were still a bit indefinable in her mind, but, admittedly, more than a little selfish.

She needed closure. And boy, had she received that in spades.

Letting out a deep sigh, she tried to ignore the flashing memories that refused to leave her overworked mind. She could still see her father's face when she had first sat down next to the small bed, her knees touching the mattress. Holding her own emotions in check, she had merely met his eyes, hoping that she could find some hidden key that would give her the answers to the questions she had asked for years. Maybe, just maybe, she could decipher the oppressive codes that had seemed to weave around every fiber of her life.

At first glance, though, he hadn't appeared to be the monster she had first thought he would be. He just looked…old. Harmless.

And that simple dismissal of his danger had been her downfall.

As she'd sat in the small airless room, attempting to make small talk with a convicted serial killer, she'd watched his eyes. They'd been so much like her own, it had made her skin crawl. For several minutes, that connection more than she'd expected, she'd actually been convinced that she could do this...see him and not be terrified.

For his part, her father had been initially contrite...involved…soft spoken as he'd asked her what she'd done with her life. His questions had been simple, really. Where had she gone to college? What had been her major? Was she happy?

Normal questions that any father would want the answers to...but, she should have known her father was anything but typical. But the part of her that had missed having a functional parent had been too happy that he was showing an interest to notice the subtle signs that there was an ulterior motive at work.

As her visit had reached the half hour mark, their conversation had turned to him...his illness...his health.

His coming death.

She should have noticed the change in him...seen the trap she was stepping into.

She should have, but she hadn't.

Until it had almost too late. She hadn't seen the way her father's eyes had suddenly shuttered, his pupils enlarging to twice their normal size as he had rasped out what she had then thought was his contrite confession.

She had obviously heard what she wanted to hear…what she so desperately had needed to hear for almost a decade.

But perception is not always reality, and she had slowly started to realize that his remorseful tone was starting to harden…to sharpen. And his weak voice had started to strengthen as he had told her about his plans for his future…about how he wasn't yet finished with his work on this earth yet.

His final coup was yet to occur.

The element of surprise had been on his side, and he was obviously counting on exactly that. Her reflexes had been dulled by emotions, her expectations lowered due to the circumstances. The quietness of the empty sickbay had been suddenly broken by the sound of a squeaking bedspring, and Ashley's senses went on high alert a mere second before she felt his bony fingers suddenly attach themselves around her neck.

And as she tried to scream, to catch her breath, she realized in that moment that all of her fears had been brought to fruition. Her very life was literally in the hands of this madman that had given her half of her genes, and she had believed that he was going to demand them back.

She dimly heard the guard yell for help as her father's palms became manacles around her neck, choking the life from her. But as dark lights had danced in front of her eyes, she'd heard another voice...this one infinitely angry and every bit as dangerous as her fathers had been.

And as suddenly as the madman that her father was had grabbed her, she was free, thrown behind an enraged Special Agent David freaking Rossi, his larger body shielding hers protectively.

It had ended as quickly as it began. But she had known that the situation was nowhere near over.