Admiral Harriman Nelson

United States Navy (Ret.)

and

Captain Karen L. Davis

United States Naval Reserve

request

the honour of your presence

at their marriage

Saturday, the nineteenth of April

at Two O'clock in the Afternoon

Mission Santa Barbara

2201 Laguna Street

Santa Barbara, California

 

 

 

 

 


 

Now and Forever

by

Jane Daffron

 

 

He couldn’t sleep.  No matter how hard he tried, he tossed and turned.  Finally, he threw the covers off and rose, pulled on a pair of sweat pants, a sweatshirt, and a pair of tennis shoes.  Heading out the back of the house and down the stairs to the lawn, he then proceeded to the stairs that would take him to the beach below.

 

There was a half moon out that hung high in the night sky.  Looking at his watch, he noted that it was 0330 as he started to walk along the quiet, calm surf.  It was spring…the wee morning hours of April 19th, to be exact.  In less than 11 hours, he’d walk into Mission Santa Barbara and watch the woman he loved walk down the aisle and marry him.

 

Once before, he’d come so close to this moment, yet tragically lost it all because of his own misplaced pride and ego.  He shoved his hands in his pockets and walked, heading toward an array of rocks that jutted out into the water.

 

What the hell gives me the right to ask her to put up with all of this?  How can I keep her safe when I couldn’t do it with Katherine?

 

The waves lapped at his feet, barely erasing his footprints as he made his way up the beach.  He stopped to breathe in the fresh sea air.  He loved to come here when he needed to think.  It was one of the few places where he could be alone.  And yet, it was here that so many events of importance had happened within the last few years.  His initial meeting with her daughter; his kidnapping; the night he made love to her and then asked her to marry him.  And just a few hours ago, they had walked to these very rocks and talked before trying to wind down so they could both face the coming event.

 

Climbing up on the rocks, he sat down on one of the large boulders and simply looked out at the moon’s trail on the calm water.

 

Well, Harry…you’re going to really do it this time.  In about 10 hours or so, you’re going to put on that uniform, stand before God and witnesses, and take Karen Davis as your wife.  Do you really know what the hell you’re doing?

 

The water seemed to shimmer like silver glitter as it rippled and slapped against the rocks.  The tide was receding now and the array seemed to slowly grow as the water shrank from around it.  His heart was calm and at peace, but his mind…that was a different matter.  He kept questioning himself, trying to rationalize that what he…what they…were about to do was right…for both of them.

 

She doesn’t really understand that I’m involved in things that may put her or Caitlin in danger.  Lord, I don’t think I could live with that…something happening to either one of them.

 

He remembered the night out on the yacht when they’d talked.  How good it felt to hold her in his arms, to feel her body close to his.  And then he remembered her words to him about life not ever giving any guarantees.  She’d certainly known what it was like…she knew the pain he felt…and the loneliness.  And yet, she’d opened herself up…to him.  He looked back at the compound, the lights twinkling in the night.  The apartment building where she lived could barely be seen but he could make out the outline from here.

 

Ah, Karen.  We’ve been through a lot these last months.  I hope I’m not so set in my ways that I can’t adapt to yours.  I want you to always be happy…for us to be happy.  I don’t know if I can tell you things…things you need to know…things I want you to know about me.

 

Something caught his eye out in the water as it broke surface.  A dolphin swam idly not far from the array…it came closer as he watched the mammal, transfixed that it seemed to be coming toward him.  He knew that they gravitated toward humans but for some reason, this one seemed intent on making his ‘acquaintance.’

 

“So…you’re alone too, eh?” he said aloud to his aquatic friend.

 

The dolphin squealed slightly and threw back its head, shaking it in acknowledgement.

 

“Sometimes…I think…maybe we’d be better that way.  What do you think?” he quizzed the animal.

 

The animal shook his head from side to side.

 

Nelson chuckled.  “Maybe you’re right.  However, you don’t know this particular person.  She’s headstrong, opinionated, and willful…but I have to admit, she, ah…makes life interesting.”  He stood up and put his hands in his back pockets and watched the dolphin as it swam slowly near the rocks.  “You know…if someone heard me out here, they’d think I’ve lost my mind.  Talking to you…to myself, for that matter.  I’m supposed to be getting married at 1400 hours today to a wonderful, caring woman who absolutely delights in challenging me.”  He laughed aloud.  “Maybe that’s what I need.  A challenge.”

 

He looked down at his watch and shook his head.  “Damn…if I’m going to get any sleep, I’d better get my ass in bed.”  Then, to no one in particular, “I’m getting married this afternoon.”

 

 

The warm spring sun shed its first rays out upon the cloudless bluing sky. Birds chirped gaily; the trees, flowers, and shrubs had begun their annual renewal of the earth’s colors. A slight cool breeze rustled the newly emerged leaves of the trees outside the building. It was the beginning of a beautiful morning in April in Santa Barbara, California.

In her apartment at the Nelson Institute of Marine Research, Captain Karen Davis slowly awoke to the annoying sound of the buzzer of her alarm clock. Turning over and hitting the snooze alarm, she pulled the pillow over her head and started to drift back off to sleep. Now, where was I? Oh, yes...Harry...oh, yes...oh, God! yes, that’s it...ohhh...ahhh...  She was just getting into the good part when the pillow was unceremoniously lifted from her head and she was shaken into reality.

"Mom! It’s time to get up. You’ve got a hair appointment at 1000 and then you meet the lady for your makeup at the church at 1230. And you do remember that the wedding is at 1400," Caitlin Davis laughingly said, looking down at her mother sprawled out on the bed.

Karen groaned and pulled the covers back over her head, desperately wanting to finish her dream.

Caitlin stood there and laughed. How many times had this scene been played out, only in the reverse? It was always her mother trying to get her out of bed. Now, the tables were turned. And today, of all days. She figured her mother would have been up at the crack of dawn. After all, it’s her wedding day, for crying out loud. The day Karen Davis would become the bride of Admiral Harriman Nelson, director of the Nelson Institute.

She then figured that the rehearsal party last night had done her mother in. The officers and crew of the Seaview had given a huge party in honor of the Admiral and his bride-to-be here at the Institute and it had gone on until the wee hours of the morning. Caitlin herself had not gotten in until after 0300. She had noticed that her mother and the Admiral had left the party before midnight. She surmised that they had come back here or gone to his house. However, when Caitlin finally came home, she found sand tracks on the carpet and sand on her mother’s shoes, evidence that they apparently had walked along the beach for sometime before saying goodnight. Quite frankly, she was surprised that Karen was asleep alone in her bed at 0300. One time before she had come home unannounced and found them together, fast asleep, her mother nestled safely and serenely in Nelson’s arms. Witnessing the peacefulness of the scene, she had simply closed the door to her mother’s bedroom and went on to her own room.

"MOM! Get up! This is your wedding day, for God’s sake. You’ve got a lot to do before 1400 today." She then yanked the bedspread off her mother.

Karen rolled over slowly, opened her eyes and allowed them to come into focus before speaking.  "God, you’re as bad as he is."

"Don’t let HN hear you say that, Mom...Sorry, but you’re the one getting married today, Mother dear. Now, into the shower with you and I’ll have breakfast ready in a minute." Caitlin threw her mother’s robe to her. "By the way, where did you two slip off to last night? You missed the best part of the party. I won the limbo contest."

Karen sat up in bed, trying to get her bearings before her feet hit the floor. "Somehow, I’m not surprised at that, Sweets. After all, you are just a tad bit smaller than most of Seaview’s crew. And, if you must know, we went for a walk on the beach." She grinned at her daughter. "Guess what? He’s as nervous as a worm on a hot rock. Wouldn’t ever admit to it, but I can tell." She fingered the ring on her left hand and smiled. A beautiful 2 caret oval white diamond sat in yellow and white gold. The shank on each side of the stone was flattened to accommodate special engraving. On one side was Seaview’s crest; the other, a copy of Nelson’s family coat-of-arms. He had designed the ring himself and an old family friend, a jeweler from Boston, had implemented the design and made the ring.

Nelson had given it to her the previous October during one of their many visits to his 'special deserted beach' about 5 miles from the Institute. It had become their own secret refuge, where they could talk openly and freely away from prying eyes and without interruptions. It was also the same place he had brought her to the very first night he had asked her out. The scenery and mood that night had escalated their passions to such a point that he had almost forgotten all propriety. Her cooler head prevailed at the time; however, they later consummated their relationship about a month later. It was also the stage for the joyous reunion between them after her six-month absence from NIMR.

That night in October, they had gone there for a late night picnic. Nelson had built a huge campfire, and between the scenery and way too much champagne, they ending up making love on the beach and then spent the night there. She had accused him of planning the entire episode since several blankets just happened to be included with the supplies for the picnic. He, of course, declared his innocence in the matter, and playfully teased her unmercifully that night. The next morning, as the first rays of the morning broke through, he awakened her by again making love to her and afterwards had asked her to marry him. She had sat up under the blankets they had shared and cried tears of joy as he slipped the ring on her finger.

Karen’s mind was snapped back to the real world when a glass of orange juice was thrust into her hand.  Caitlin then gently pushed her mother toward the bathroom with the admonishment, "You!...In!"

"Yes, ma’am!" her mother grinned and snapped a mock salute and decided not to even try to argue with her this day. She walked in and turned the shower on, getting it very steamy. Standing under the hot, piercing, prickling water, she let it wash over her as her mind took in the sensual pulsating sensations. Her mind began wandering to the fact that at 1400 hours this very day, she would walk down the aisle at the Santa Barbara Mission Church and into the arms of the man she loved.

 

 

Across the NIMR complex, a large brick house on a small knoll sat overlooking the ocean. Inside, an alarm clock in the bedroom was insistently ringing, although the occupant was already in the shower. Hanging on a closet door, in perfect order, was a formal dress white uniform, adorned in a multitude of gold braid and buttons, ribbons and medals. All of the necessary accessories had been laid out for their owner so that no time would be wasted in dressing. His gloves and cover lay on a table next to a navy blue velvet ring box.

The shower stopped and shortly Admiral Harriman Nelson stepped out of the bathroom and looked around his bedroom. Stopping to shut off the alarm, he spied a few of her things that she had left there on previous occasions. A hairbrush, a pair of sandals, a nightshirt hanging over a chair, a pair of earrings on the dresser. In the floor, near the back window, were a couple of boxes containing her things that she had brought over the day before, reasoning that after today, these would be things of immediate need until she moved her belongs from her apartment to the house.

He looked at the photograph of the two of them that was sitting by the telephone on his nightstand. It had been taken this past Christmas at the annual party under the mistletoe that someone had hung. By that time, everyone at NIMR knew that Captain Karen Davis was the "Admiral’s Lady" and that she was to marry him come spring. He smiled as he fingered the silver frame. After today, there would be another picture to grace his desk aboard Seaview, one of her in her wedding gown. She had been so secretive about it, swearing his secretary, Angie, and her daughter, Caitlin, to absolute secrecy once they had seen it.

His eyes fell on the stark white formal uniform that he would wear today. Normally, he absolutely despised the thing, preferring his beloved work khakis or even the traditional blue uniform. But somehow, today...somehow,...he didn’t seem to mind at all that he had to wear it. Today would be very special.

He walked over to the table near the front window of the bedroom and picked up the blue velvet ring box. Opening it for the umpteenth time, he picked up the ring, a plain gold wedding band, and began checking it again. Looking at the engraved inscription inside the ring, he smiled to himself.

True love is as endless as the sea.

It was a perfect compliment to her uniquely designed engagement ring. That, in and of itself, had taken some time to pull off. He had given his old friend, Levi Marston, the design and asked him to make it. Getting her ring size was a trick, but once done, Levi had quickly implemented his design and delivered the ring to his old friend. He remembered the morning this past October when he had finally slipped it on her finger. Now the culmination of events of the past few months was about to take place. And he had never been happier.

Harriman, old boy, you’re really going to do it. You’re not going to let her get away this time, no matter what it takes.

Suddenly the phone rang. Crossing the room, he answered it on the third ring.  "Nelson, here."

"Morning, big brother. Are you ready for the big day?" came a familiar female voice on the other end.

"Good morning, Edith. Did you get in all right? Where are you?" Harriman smiled that his sister, his only living relative, had finally made it in for the wedding. He had been worried that her flight from New England wasn’t going to get her in on time. But hearing her voice relieved his anxiety.

"Of course I’m all right, Harry. And I’m at the Westin. Got in about three a.m.. I started to call you but then, I wasn’t sure that you’d even be home...or that you may have had company." There was an amused lilt to the last part of the statement.

"I was home, and no, I didn’t have company. I wish you had called; I would have sent a car for you."

"No need. Okay, so what time does this wedding of yours take place?"

"At 1400 hours. I’ll send someone for you to get you there. I’m leaving at 1200 with Lee, Chip, and Sharkey. Karen made Lee promise to get me there early," he laughed. "I think she believes that I’ll be late."

"You’d better not be, Harry. Or I’ll keelhaul you myself. I never thought that I would live to see the day that you of all people would be getting married. But you know what, dear brother, she’s a treasure. I really like her and her daughter. You’re lucky, you know. You’re getting a family in the process of all of this. You need this. And I couldn’t be happier for you," Edith Nelson laughed. She had always teased her older brother about marriage prospects and the fact that it seemed that he would be married to his microscope or the Seaview. Harry had introduced Karen to his sister a year or so ago, and the two women had become instant friends. Edith liked her easy going and plain spoken manner, traits they obviously shared. She had watched her with Harry and noticed her interaction with her brother. Then Edith met Karen’s daughter, Caitlin. It was like looking in a mirror. Mother and daughter were so much alike, yet so different. Harry had told Edith that it was Caitlin who kept insisting that he date her mother. Edith could see why. Karen and Harry were an ideal match.

"Well, I guess I’ll see you at the church, then. Oh, and Harry, lighten up a little, will you? You’re getting married today."

"Don’t you worry. I will. Let me know if there’s anything else you need," he gently teased her.

"I will, don’t you worry. Now, get ready, love. Your bride awaits."

"See you there. Bye."

He hung up the phone and sighed. Usually the teasing went the other way, with him concerned about her suitors. His thoughts were interrupted by a knock at the front door.

Now, who in the hell could this be at this hour?

Grabbing a bathrobe and tying the belt, he opened the door slightly to reveal four older men, all dressed in formal dress white uniforms, and all four displaying the admiralty rank. Standing before him was Jiggs Starke, B. J. Crawford, Arthur Fergurson, and Charles Norwood.

Starke burst out laughing. "Harriman, for God’s sake, man. It’s your wedding day. Why aren’t you dressed yet?" He turned to the others and said, "See, what did I tell you? We have to make sure that Harry here gets to the church on time."

Nelson almost slammed the door on his four old friends.

I don’t need this right now. It’s too damn early to put up with this.

Keeping his temper in check, he calmly said to them, "Gentlemen, it’s only 0800. The wedding is at 1400. Captain Crane and Commander Morton have both been appointed my guardians to deliver me safely into the arms of my bride-to-be. Now if you don’t mind..."

"Ah, come on, Harriman, we only want to make sure that you get there," Starke replied as he barged in the door and settled himself in the living room. The other men followed suit and Nelson was left at the door shaking his head.

 

 

Karen had finished her shower and joined her daughter in the kitchen for breakfast. Sitting there in her bathrobe, she casually read the newspaper as Caitlin went over the day’s schedule with her. Karen’s younger cousin, Page Leister, and her sister-in-law, MariEllen, were coming up with their gowns and assorted things before they left for the hairdresser. Caitlin and the other two comprised the bridal party, with Caitlin as the honor attendant. An Institute limo, NIMR2, would take the four women and their belongings to the hairdresser and then to the church. Another limo, NIMR1, would take the Admiral and his party, Captain Crane, Commander Morton, and Chief Sharkey, to the church at approximately 1230.

"Mom, are you going to have enough time to get your makeup done and get dressed?"

"Yes, Caitlin, I’ll have plenty of time. It won’t take that long. Besides, once I’m dressed, the photographer will come in and do pictures." She looked at her daughter and was intrigued at the sight she beheld. She’s a true mother hen. Somehow, this picture should be in reverse.

Karen munched on a croissant and drank her juice. Reaching for the portable phone, she dialed a Centrex number she knew by heart. It rang three times before it was answered.

"Nelson."

She smiled upon hearing his voice. Walking toward the living room, she sat down near the glass door that opened onto the balcony. "Good morning," she responded. She could heard the roar of laughter of several men in the background.

"Good morning to you. How did you sleep?"

"Okay, but better if you had been there. Even better still if you had woke me up this morning instead of my daughter doing it," she told him. Lowering her voice a bit, she continued, "I was having a very interesting dream about you when I was rudely interrupted."

He laughed softly, knowing exactly to what she was referring.  "I guess you’ll have to wait until tonight to finish it, now won’t you?"

"That’s not soon enough for me," she countered suggestively. Hearing the voices in the background she asked, "Hey, who’s over there at this hour?"

"I’ve been invaded. Starke, Fergurson, Norwood and Crawford are all here, dressed and ready to go."

"You need the cavalry sent in?"

"Would be nice. Got any ideas?"

"Sure do. Tell you what...I’ll give Lee a call to come rescue you. I think he and Chip can handle that crew and clear them out of there. In the meantime, I’ve got to get my things together or I’m going to be late myself. Ski’s going to pick us up and take us in. I’ll have him bring my bags over to your house so we don’t have to come back here. I think Caitlin’s planning a mini-family reunion or some sort of party after we’ve left. I told her it was okay as long as the place was cleaned up when we got back. I trust her...the crew is a different matter."

"I’ll have them put in the dining room. We’ll worry about picking them up later. Now about the calvary..."

"Say no more...I’ll see you at the altar. Love you."

"I love you, too. Thanks."

She pressed the receiver button down and released it. Smiling, she dialed another centrex number. Two rings this time. And this time a very sleepy voice answered.

"Crane, here."

"Lee, good morning. It’s Karen."

"Morning, beautiful. Are you ready for a wedding?"

"Sure am, but my groom needs to be rescued."

Crane shot up in bed and rubbed his eyes with his free hand. Looking at the clock beside his bed, he noticed it was 0830. "What’s wrong, Karen?" he asked, alarmed.

"I just talked to him. Seems Starke and some other admirals have invaded Harriman’s house. Fergurson, Crawford and Norwood are there. Can you go shoo them out so he can get dressed and to the church?"

"Sure can. I’ll call Chip and we’ll go over together…and if I can find Tony…I’ll drag him along for the ride.  He and ‘Captain Bligh’ get along so well together."

"Oh, God, yes,” she laughed.  “Look, thanks, Lee. I’m trying to get ready to leave myself and I don’t think it would be too kosher if the bride made an appearance over there right now. And besides, isn’t this part of a best man’s duties, anyway?"

Crane laughed. "Sure is. It will be handled, Karen. And we’ll have him there ready to go at 1400. I promise."

"Good, just so I see him at the end of that aisle when I get there."

"No problem. See you there."

"Thanks, Lee. I appreciate it. Bye."

She hung up the phone and looked at the clock on the wall. 0830.  Okay, I’ll go lay out my things.

She walked, barefoot, back to her bedroom and carefully placed her gown back into the long dress bag. Where were her shoes? Her necklace? Her garter? And his ring. She picked up the velvet box and opened it. A plain gold wedding band. Simple and classic. Inside, she had the jeweler inscribe

H. The light will always shine with you in my life. K.

She had remembered how Caitlin had once told him that the day her father was killed, the light went out in her mother’s eyes and that since Karen had begun seeing him, that light had returned. Harriman had told her about it during one of their long beach walks. She had thought it appropriate for his ring.

Now, she had to find the essentials. Something old, something new, something borrowed, some blue. Well, her garter was blue; Caitlin had donated her bracelet and she would wear an antique heirloom hair comb donated by Edith Nelson, Harry’s sister; her grandmother’s wedding ring that would be kept in a package on her person was old and the lace on her wedding dress was antique; and the something new was a pair of diamond and pearl earrings she had bought just for today.

She heard voices in the living room and decided to investigate. Coming out of her bedroom, she saw both her cousin and sister-in-law coming through the door with their gowns and bags in tow. Caitlin was instructing them what they could do with their things until the limo got here.

"Page, glad to see you got here. I was afraid that Bob O’Brien had diverted you someplace last night."

Her cousin, a statuesque blonde with a southern mountain accent, turned and flashed a smile. "Now, Karen, ya know that I’m too busy to consider anything serious." She was a busy attorney with the largest law firm in Richmond. It had been a real coupe for Karen to get her untangled from her office. "Besides, ya know I just love men in uniform. And, lord, girl, do you ever have them around here."

"Tell that to Caitlin. It’s never fazed her. Besides, if you think it’s bad now, wait till the wedding. There’ll be more white uniforms there than you can shake a stick at. I understand that there’s a contingent coming from Miramar. You might just need Crane and Morton to run interference for you. And judging from last night, all you’ll have to say is the word ‘go’," Karen laughed at her. Her cousin was one very attractive lady attorney. The youngest in the family of 23 first cousins, Karen had asked her to be an attendant because she symbolized the Leister family, her own family beginnings. And Karen had always thought of her as her baby sister.

"Yeah, she had most of the single senior officers falling all over her last night," MariEllen Davis chimed in. A slim blond lady about eight years older than Karen, she symbolized Karen’s second family, the Davis’. She had flown in from Washington, DC for the wedding and was used to the military because of her job with the Federal Maritime Commission and its proximity to the Pentagon. Karen had wanted her in the wedding because for the last 25 years, MariEllen was the closest thing to a sister that she had ever had.

"You people,...Lord,...they’re just guys. That’s all," Caitlin yelled in from the kitchen. She came in with a drying towel and looked at all of them. "They get such inflated egos at times. Well, not all of them," she looked at her mother and grinned weakly. "HN’s not like that, thank God."

"Thank you, daughter. Now, with that settled, ladies, we have to leave by 0930 in order to be at the hairdresser by 1000. Kowalski should be here shortly. Let me get my jeans on and Caitlin, come get my things and put them out here, please." She turned and went back toward the bedroom. Grabbing her favorite pair of jeans and a white cotton button down shirt, she dressed quickly and grabbed a pair of shoes. This would be all that she would need until getting to the church to dress. Her gown and other clothes and accessories were packed and ready to go. She and Caitlin then carried the clothes and a bag out to the living room to join the others. They sat and compared notes on the party the night before. Caitlin was briefing Page on which of the officers were best suited for her, putting Crane lower down the list than Karen had figured. According to her daughter, Page was more suited for Bob O’Brien. Her reasoning was that most of the others were not really serious about relationships and O’Brien was even though Page had said she wasn’t in the market for one. Caitlin told her that even if she didn’t plan to get serious now, there was always the future, and O’Brien was a very nice likable guy who was steady and could be depended on. Page laughed and told her younger cousin that she’d give the recommendation the thought it deserved.

Karen cast a wandering eye over her child.

How grownup she is now. Hard to believe she’s twenty-one years old.

Her daughter could turn a man’s head in a heartbeat and had on several occasions. Today would be no different. Karen had to remind herself that it was she who was going to be the center of attention walking down that aisle, but a lot of roving eyes in white uniforms were also going to be checking out her daughter as well. She had no qualms that Caitlin knew how to take care of herself where these ‘persons’ were concerned, but she also knew that Crane, Morton, and the rest of Seaview’s crew would be there to waylay any unwarranted attention. They had always looked out for her.

Thank God for that, at least.

 

 

Captain Lee Crane and Commander Chip Morton, both dressed in their spotless dress white uniforms, and Tony Rennalt, dressed in a black western style tuxedo walked up the short brick-laid walk to Admiral Nelson’s house at approximately 0930. They could hear the uproarious laughter all the way outside. Jiggs Starke’s voice was hard to miss. Lee looked at Chip and they both instantly knew what they had to do. Karen had been very specific. Get them out of the house so Nelson could have some peace and quiet. His old friends meant well, but this was not the day for Academy reminiscing. It was not going to be easy to persuade four four-star admirals, one of whom was Chief of Naval Operations, to leave so that the groom could have time to dress. But they had been given a mission from a higher authority...the bride. Therefore, failure was not to be in their vocabulary and would not be tolerated.

Morton rang the doorbell and the three men waited. Within a few seconds, it opened to reveal a rather big hulk of a man standing in the doorway. Jiggs Starke could have played linebacker for a pro football team but chose to make the Navy his career and his life. He now stood between Crane and Morton and Nelson.

"Harriman, I think your lady has called the dogs on us. Crane and Morton are here…and Mr. Rennalt…what the hell are you doing here?" Starke called back into the house. He then turned back to the two younger men. Scrutinizing them, he sternly said, "I assume that you have come to make sure that Admiral Nelson is delivered to the church on time?"

Crane drew himself up to his full height of six foot one inches and stood toe to toe with Starke, jaw set and determined to do battle. "Yes, sir, we have. And if you gentlemen will kindly depart this residence, we can get him there," he replied courteously but firmly.

Starke knew that Crane was Harriman’s best man. He liked the younger man, even if he was ‘new Navy’. This was going to be one day that his glaring stare could not deter these two from their duties. He stood fast for a few seconds, then relinquished the door.  "Gentlemen, I do think we had better depart before we’re thrown out. Harriman Nelson, you have good men here in Crane and Morton. I do suspect, however, that they were under the threat of death if they did not succeed here. We will take our leave and see you at the church."

Tony casually leaned up against the open door and looked at the upper echelon of Navy brass that was assembled in Nelson’s living room.  “Damn…I’ve got some cars you all could park…” and he grinned right at Starke.

“Mr. Rennalt…” Starke boomed.  “I don’t know what the hell you’re doing here, but you definitely are out of place.”

“Me?  Hell…I’m here to make damn sure you leave Harry here alone so he can get all gussied up to go get married.  Now, you can get your sorry ass out of here and let the man be,” Tony drawled.

The other men picked up their hats and gloves and laughed at the byplay between the two men.  After they all bid them farewell, Nelson, Crane Morton, and Rennalt were now alone in the house.

Nelson looked at his two officers with a look of relief and gratitude.  "I take it Karen called you," he inquired of Crane.

"Yes, sir," Lee laughed. "She said you needed rescuing. I see now what she meant."

"They’ve been here since 0800. Couldn’t get rid of them. Thanks for coming over."

"No problem. Now, is there anything else we can do?" He looked around and realized that Nelson had not been able to even eat breakfast. "How about we fix some bacon and eggs while you get dressed? The ladies ought to be leaving about now for town. That means that it won’t be long before we go in."

"Breakfast sounds fine, Lee. I’ll leave that to you two."

“Hey, Harry,” Tony arched a sly grin, “You need to get yourself into that damn white suit.  Karen expects your sorry hide to be at that alter on time and I’ll be damned if you’re gonna disappoint her.”

“Oh, I fully intend to be there…courtesy of my best man, Mr. Rennalt,” he returned fire.  Then, the telephone rang. "Now, what?" Nelson boomed. He picked up the receiver. "Yes?"

"Sir, you asked to be informed when NIMR2 had left. They just went through the gate," replied the guard.

His temper lowered several notches. "Thank you."’

"Well, gentlemen, the ladies are safely on their way. Now, if I can at least have some peace and quiet, we might be able to make it on time." He then turned and headed back toward his bedroom leaving the two younger men standing and staring.

The three men looked at each other in amusement. In all their years here, they had never seen their boss as flustered as he was this day. Crane and Morton removed their tunic coats, then with a coatless Tony, proceed to make what would pass as bacon, eggs, toast, and coffee. Morton looked at the clock on the stove. 0950. A little over four hours to go.

 

 

Kowalski had picked up the women at Karen’s apartment. He safely stowed the four gowns and their baggage in the trunk and over the back seat. Acting as chauffeur was one job he didn’t mind today. He had worked with Captain Davis for over three years now and was part of the DWD team. He and the other members of the Seaview’s crew had watched with curiosity the growing relationship between Admiral Nelson and Captain Davis. They were ecstatic when it was announced that she was going to marry him. He, like the others, liked, respected, and admired their boss. And they definitely liked her. It was a good match, he decided. A good match, indeed.

He drove them into Santa Barbara to a hair stylist salon called "Jean-Marc’s". Karen had made arrangements for all of them to get the complete treatment of hair, nails and a pedicure. A makeup artist would be at the church to complete the treat. Davis had instructed Kowalski to take all the gowns and baggage to the church’s bridal dressing room. The Wedding Director of the church would take care of undoing the gowns so they would not wrinkle. After his errands there were finished, he would then return to the Institute and drop off her two large pieces of luggage at the Admiral’s house. After dressing in his own dress whites, he would then return to the hair stylist at 1230, collect the ladies, and deliver them to the church. A busy day. All this and then implement the plan that Caitlin Davis and he had come up with. The crew had wanted to do something special for the Admiral and Captain Davis. Upon hearing this, Caitlin had joined in on the conspiracy. It had to be timed just right and would take the cooperation of every non-com and enlisted personnel aboard Seaview. If it worked, it would be quite a sight to see.

He returned to the Institute at approximately 1100 hours and drove by the Admiral’s house with the bags. Knocking on the front door, he came face to face with Commander Morton.

"Yes, Ski?"

"Captain Davis’ bags, sir. I was told to bring them here."

"Okay. Bring them on in and sit them in the dining room."

"Yes, sir."

Kowalski picked up both the large suitcase and the garment bag and placed them as directed. He noticed that Captain Crane and Commander Morton were absent their tunic jackets and that Tony Rennalt was minus a tux jacket, tie and had his shirt sleeves rolled up. The air smelled of fresh coffee and bacon. Shortly, Nelson walked out of the back bedroom, trying to fix the closure on the collar of his jacket.

"Damn, I never could get this thing closed right. And I swear that it’s even harder today."

Morton got up and walked over to him. Sensing the rising frustration, he asked if he could help.

"Thanks, Chip. I’d appreciate it." He stood still as his Executive Officer managed to get the top closure in place with the Velcro tab.

"There, sir. Finished. I do believe that Ms. Davis should be thankful that we agreed to wear these today."

Nelson chuckled at his exec’s use, or nonuse, of Karen’s title. He finally saw Kowalski standing there. "Yes, Kowalski?"

"Nothing, sir. I just brought Captain Davis’ luggage over. I’m to pick the ladies up at 1230 so I’ve got to hustle to get dressed myself. If that’s all, sir?"

"Oh, yes ...yes. By all means."

Ski left thinking that he had never seen the ‘O.O.M.’ so nervous. Guess getting married does that to a guy.

 

 

The ladies were thoroughly enjoying themselves at Jean-Marc’s. Somewhere along the line, the conversation started to get a little out of hand with regard to Karen’s wedding night. Page had given her a rather risque nightgown and then made the off-hand comment that she probably wouldn’t have it on long enough for him to notice it. Knowing that her daughter was listening, Karen didn’t want to indulge too much in this rather ribald recitation. She had always been fairly open with Caitlin about certain matters, but there was still some things that she’d rather keep private and not discuss with her. Only when she was sure that Caitlin was out of hearing range did she make the sly comment that he didn’t know what any of her gowns looked like so why would this be any different. When pressed for details, Karen simply refused to divulge any more. The conversation went steadily downhill from there. Finally, laughing so hard that she nearly had tears in her eyes, Karen called a halt to the conversation. And when Kowalski arrived to transport them to the church, little comments were still being made.

 

 

Around noon, the limo arrived at the Admiral’s residence. Patterson had been chosen to drive the party to the church. He had already picked up Chief Sharkey, who was waiting patiently inside the vehicle.

Inside, Lee Crane saw the car arrive.  "Admiral, the limo’s here. Are you ready?"

"I believe so." He looked around the house for one last time. The next time he would be coming through the door it would be with Karen as his bride. Strange. It started to look all so different somehow. He put his hand in his pants pocket and felt the ring box. Pulling it out, he handed it to Crane. "I think you’d better keep this safe for now."

"Yes, sir. Now if you’re ready, we’ll get you to the lady that this belongs to."

Nelson picked up his hat and gloves and followed his two younger officers and his old friend out the door.

 

 

At approximately 1230, NIMR2 pulled up in front of the Mission and out came four women in blue jeans, dresses, and shorts. They headed for the church’s bridal dressing room and closed the door to the outside world.

Five minutes later, NIMR1 pulled in front of the other limo. Patterson got out and opened the door for Nelson, Crane, Morton, and Sharkey to exit. He and Kowalski exchanged glances and nodded. It was a signal that their plan was all in place and ready to go.

Once inside the church, the men were directed to the waiting room to the right and behind the altar. Here, they would wait until it was time for them to join Father Bernard and the Rev. Murphy Miller in front of the church, just prior to the start of the ceremony.

In the other part of the large church, Karen and her ladies were starting to get dressed. The bridesmaids were to be dressed in identical tea length dresses of the palest pink silk overlaid with antique ivory lace. Nothing ornamental, yet simply classic and elegant. Karen had given them each a gift of a small strand of pearls to wear.

The bride’s gown, however, was something else entirely. She had searched for three months, trying to find just the right thing. Since she had been married before, the gown had to be one of classic simplicity. Unsuccessful in her initial search, she finally approached an old friend of hers who custom designed wedding gowns. They had come up with a straight sheath underlayer of ivory silk overlaid by multi tiers of antique ivory Venetian lace. She happened to be discussing the design with Edith on the telephone one day, who then in turn brought Karen a very special package on her visit to the Institute the very next week. As she gave the package to Karen, Edith explained that it would nice if she could incorporate the contents into her wedding gown if at all possible. Karen had cried when she opened the package, for inside was a multitude of yards of antique ivory lace that had come from Edith and Harriman’s great-grandmother’s wedding gown. Also included with the package was a small whalebone hair comb with a waves and curls design. Ivory pearls accented the design at the top of the comb and were also scattered above the crest of the comb itself. Edith had explained that in their family the lace was usually handed from mother to daughter, but this is a very special exception. The comb was a very special heirloom of their grandmother’s that Edith had kept. She told Karen that she would be very honored if she could wear it in her hair. As Karen fingered the intricately carved designs, she knew that somehow, someway, she would find a way to honor that request. The hairdresser had done a wonderful job, sweeping her short hair up on the right side behind her ear to use the hair comb as her only hair ornament. Diamond and pearl earrings completed her jewelry. As she dressed, Karen could hear the faint strands of Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring through the closed doors. She knew the church would be starting to fill up now.

"Caitlin, come here a minute," she motioned to her daughter. "Go out and check out the inside of the church. See if everything is all right."

"Sure, Mom. Be right back."

Caitlin, already dressed, left the dressing room to check out the church. Sure enough, there were already people beginning to be seated. She noticed a group of about 20 or so young Naval officers in dress whites sitting as a group on the left side (the bride’s side) of the church. Those have to be the guys from Miramar. On the right side, were several higher ranking officers and their wives. Pretty soon there would be over 500 people inside the sanctuary of the church. Including the President of the United States.

Someone laid a hand on her shoulder and she jumped. Turning around, she saw Lee Crane in his dress whites. God, he looks drop dead gorgeous.

"What are you doing out here? Shouldn’t you be inside helping your mother?"

"She’s almost dressed," she whispered. "Can you believe this? Everything looks so beautiful." Turning to him, she looked up and said, "And you don’t look so bad yourself, mister."

"Thanks, kid. Chip and I are going to have to be your bodyguards today, I believe. Especially with those hot shots over there," he replied, motioning to the group of fighter pilots.

"Thank you, sir. But I do believe I can handle myself. You must remember, Mom taught those guys; I know how to handle them. Besides, one look from her and they’ll run like rabbits." She smiled sweetly at him. If I were only 10 years older..."How’s the Admiral doing?"

"Nervous. Chip’s trying to keep him calm. I guess your mom’s rather sedate right now. This is her second time, after all."

Caitlin looked at him and lowered her voice to a bare whisper. "Are you kidding? She’s so high right now that you won’t get her down until next month. You should have heard those three at the hairdresser’s. And they think I didn’t hear them." She winked at Crane and continued, "Wonder what HN would say if he knew what they were discussing? I did hear something about chocolate and its ‘magical’ properties."

"Lord, don’t start with that now." He looked at her and, for the first time, saw a very beautiful young woman who had practically grown up before his eyes. He would definitely have to play bodyguard today, or Karen would have his and Chip’s heads. "You better go back. I’ve got to get up front. I understand that Rev. Miller was supposed to come back to see Karen. He just came in to see the Admiral. What’s the story on him?"

"He’s an old, old family friend. Married, christened, and buried most of the Leisters. He helped do Mom and Dad’s wedding, he did Grandma and Grandpa’s funerals, and he helped Mom cope with things when Dad died. Mom really wanted him here as sort of a connection with her family. That’s why Page is here, too. Her dad was my grandpa’s youngest brother, and she’s the youngest of all Mom’s first cousins on Grandpa’s side. Mom’s kind of sentimental about family. I guess he wanted to make sure that HN was ‘okay’, if you know what I mean. Mr. Miller is really a very sweet man and Mom thinks the world of him. You know, she was really happy that HN’s sister, Edith, decided to come. I heard her tell him that she really wanted her here because it was his wedding, too, and that family is really important at times like these."

The music was continuing on now as Handel’s Air from the Water Music could be heard throughout the corridors. The church was beginning to really fill up now. Looking at his watch, Lee saw that it was 1335.

"Better get back. 25 minutes until show time," Crane told her.

"Okay, see you in a little bit. Oh, and don’t be surprised by the white aisle," she said coyly, and winked.

He looked at her, puzzled, leaving him wondering what she was talking about. White aisle? Before he could ask, she had turned and left. He decided that he better get back to the groom, or they’d send a search party out for him.

 

 

When Lee finally made it back to the waiting room, Chip was about to flog him.

"Man, where have you been? He’s about to have a fit because you were gone so long."

"I ran into Caitlin in the hallway. You know something, you and I are going to have our hands full after this is over with. Those fighter pilots are going to be all over her. You ought to see her."

"Well, all I know is if we don’t get the mother married to him, somebody’s going to have our heads."

"Okay, okay. Let’s go. It’s about time to go out anyway. Hey, do you know anything about a ‘white aisle’?"

Chip looked at him as if he were speaking a foreign language. "Haven’t heard of it. Why?’

"Caitlin said not to be surprised by the ‘white aisle’. Before I could ask what she meant, she left to go back to the dressing room. Thought you might know."

"Nope, I don’t have a clue. But I’d bet you twenty that she’s up to something."

"Chip, you know I don’t take sucker bets," Crane laughed and patted him on the back.

Sharkey had overheard the conversation and came up to them. "Begging your pardon, sir, but did you say ‘white aisle’?"

They looked at him and Crane nodded. Sharkey shook his head.

"All I know is that I heard Kowalski and Patterson talking about a ‘white aisle’. When I asked them what they were talking about, they clammed up tighter than a drum. But I do know it has something to do with the wedding. And Miss Davis is definitely involved in some way."

The three men looked at each other and each hoped that it in no way spoiled this day.  They walked into the vestibule and saw Nelson in conversation with the priest, Father Bernard, and the visiting minister, Rev. Miller.

"Ah, Captain, there you are. Could you please come over here? There are a few things we need to get straight." the priest requested.

Father Bernard explained to the men that since he was the officiating minister, he would administer the vows. This would satisfy both the Church and all legalities. Rev. Miller would bless the rings and handle their exchange. Lee would have Karen’s ring and give it to Rev. Miller when requested to do so. Once the procedure was clarified, the two ministers retired to dress in their cassocks, one in black, the other in white.

The two ministers returned to the waiting area of the vestibule where the four men were standing. Outside in the church, the pews were full. Members of the crew had served as ushers and were seating the final arriving guests. Two of which were the President and the First Lady. The music transitioned to Bach’s Arioso in A. It was now 1355.

 

 

At precisely 1400, Father Bernard, Rev. Miller, Admiral Harriman Nelson, Captain Lee Crane, Commander Chip Morton and Chief Petty Officer Francis Sharkey walked out of the vestibule and into the front of the church in front of the massive altar. Mission Santa Barbara was over 200 years old and build in the Spanish cathedral style popular in those days. Nelson looked out among the over 500 people who had come here to help celebrate this day. He saw his sister in the front pew, beaming her approval at him. His old friends, Starke, Fergurson, Crawford, and Norwood, each with their respective wives. Officers, politicians, dignitaries that he had known and served with. Glancing over to the other side of the church, he saw many of the pilots Karen had trained, as well as many members of her family and friends that had flown from all over the country. Many of the Institute’s employees had come as well. It suddenly dawned on him that in each pew, the very last seat nearest the center aisle had been left unfilled. Strange. But then, he had more important things to think about.

The music stopped for a moment and during the lull, two columns of sailors wearing white uniforms marched silently down the aisle. At the end of the aisle, they broke apart, in strict military timing, and entered each pew precisely at the location of the empty seat. In unison, they sat down, at attention.

Crane and Morton’s faces suddenly lit up with recognition. The ‘white aisle.’ Nelson leaned over and asked Crane for an explanation.

"I don’t know, sir. I wasn’t informed of this," he whispered to his friend. Clearly Nelson wasn’t angry, just surprised, and pleased.

Suddenly, the music started for the bridal processional. The string quartet seated in the balcony began Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major, its melodious notes filling the cathedral with a surreal quality. First there was Page Leister. Tall, blonde, and blue eyed. A true Southern woman with the legal brains to go with the beauty. MariEllen Davis came second as the music played on. Finally, Caitlin stepped through the doorway. As she came slowly down the aisle, the pilots nudged one another in disbelief. Was this the little nerd of a girl that always came with her mother to the airfield? No, it couldn’t be? Oh, yes, it was!!! Mouths were dropping open in disbelief.

When Caitlin reached the altar, she turned around toward the open doorway. A trumpet sounded and the first notes of Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary were heralded. Harriman Nelson stiffened, turned, and directed his gaze to the doorway as Crane and the others followed suit. Karen then appeared holding onto the arm of her nephew, an Army Major, and stood there looking at him from the entire length of the aisle. As she stepped onto the carpet, the two columns of sailors seated on the aisle seats rose and turned toward the center, standing at parade rest. They provided an ‘aisle of white’ for her to pass through. It was quite an impressive sight. She was momentarily stunned, fully not expecting this. As the music progressed, she slowly walked down the aisle. She was having to breathe very slowly since her heart was pounding so fast. Nelson watched her every step of the way, his eyes unwavering, never leaving hers.

God, she’s beautiful.

When the last bars of the music built to a crescendo, Caitlin left her position and walked a few steps down the aisle. Karen and her escort stopped at her daughter’s side. Caitlin then took her mother’s hand from her cousin and led her the rest of the way to the front of the altar. As the music ended, Caitlin stood between her mother and Nelson.

The priest began…"In a wedding such as this, I would normally not ask this question. However, it has been requested that I do so." Gazing at the three people standing before him, he asked, "Who gives this woman to be married to this man?"

"Her daughter does," Caitlin answered.

And with that, Caitlin kissed her mother and whispered, "I love you, Mom." She then placed her mother’s hand in Nelson’s, leaned over, softly kissed him on the cheek and whispered to him, "Take good care of her. I love you both."

Surprised, he nodded and quietly replied, "I will, don’t worry."

She stepped back into line and the ceremony began.

The priest motioned for Nelson and Davis to follow him to the altar area. Crane and Caitlin together then followed them. As Caitlin took her mother’s red and white rose filled bouquet, the priest addressed the congregation. Karen was listening but really wasn’t listening. She glanced out of the corner of her eyes at him, standing there so straight, so solid and so solemn. He looked so handsome. She knew he hated that white uniform. Despised was more like it. But he, and the others, had worn it to please her. He turned his head a bit and saw her smiling at him. Tightening his grip on her hand, he let her know that he understood. She barely heard Lee Crane and Caitlin recite the two scriptural readings that were to be read.

Lee ascended to the podium at the side of the altar and read 1 Corinthians 13:4-13.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Caitlin then came to podium and recited Ruth 1:16-17.

But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me."

They both then returned to their places and then Father Bernard walked down to Karen and Nelson and softly asked them to repeat the marriage vows.

He addressed Karen first.  "Karen Davis, do you take Harriman Nelson to be your lawfully wedded husband? To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, to love and to cherish, cleaving only unto him, for all the days of your life?"

She looked into his eyes and clearly said, "I do."

Then he turned to Nelson.  "Harriman Nelson, do you take Karen Davis to be your lawfully wedded wife? To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, to love and to cherish, cleaving only unto her, for all the days of your life?"

He slightly cocked his head, squeezed her hands slightly, and replied, "I do."

Father Bernard then stepped aside to allow Rev. Miller to address them. Miller asked for the rings. Caitlin and Lee stepped forward and gave him the gold wedding bands. Taking them in hand, he held them in the palm of one hand. Directing his speech to the two, but loud enough for all to hear, he extolled, "A ring has no beginning, no end. It is infinity. Therefore, it is a symbol of your love for each other." Then he looked directly at Nelson. "Sir, I have known this lady, and her family, for a long, long time. And it is with much love and pride that I help perform this ceremony today, for she is truly dear to me and my family."

Miller then turned his attention to Davis. "Karen, you are as dear to me as my own daughters are. I know that you have come here with total love and commitment in your heart for this man. Now…"  He gave her the larger of the two rings, instructing her to place it on the third finger of Nelson’s left hand.

She repeated the words Miller said to her. "I give thee this ring as a token of my love and faith in you. I will love you and cherish you forever." Tears were beginning to form in the corners of her eyes.

Miller then gave Nelson the smaller ring and directed him to place it on the third finger of her left hand.

Looking at her, he smiled and repeated softly, "I give thee this ring as a token of my love and faith in you. I will always love you and cherish you forever."

They turned toward the two ministers. Rev. Miller stepped aside as Father Bernard offered a final blessing. Shortly afterward, he then addressed the congregation.

"In as much as these two have consented to become one, it is by the power invested in me as a minister of the Holy Church and by the state of California, that I pronounce these two husband and wife. Admiral Nelson, you may now kiss your bride!"

Harriman Nelson broke into a wide smile and leaned over to kiss Karen. A loud applause broke out in the church, led by his own crew. The two turned and faced the congregation as the music of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy swelled through the cathedral. Seaview’s crew were standing at attention and as the pair started down the aisle of white uniforms, each of the crew saluted their commanding officer and his new bride. The rest of the party left the altar area as Crane and Caitlin walked out together, followed by MariEllen and Morton, then Page and Sharkey.

 

 

The obligatory pictures were made after the church sanctuary was cleared. First there was family, then friends. Finally, one with the President and the First Lady.

Harriman Nelson looked over at his bride of less than an hour. He was truly amazed. He watched her as she conversed with her daughter. Then it dawned on him that Caitlin was technically now his step-daughter. Edith was right. He had gained a family in this. He was deep in thought when he felt someone touch his arm. Wheeling around, he found Edith standing beside him.

Slightly shorter than him, with softer but similar features, she planted a kiss on his cheek.

"Congratulations, Harry. I’m very happy for you, and for her."

Placing his arm around her shoulder, he smiled and replied, "Thank you, Edith. You know, I honestly didn’t think that I’d ever see this day." He glanced over at Karen. "She’s worth the wait." Then turning the table on her, he asked, "Now, sister, when shall I do the honors at yours?"

Edith Nelson looked at her older brother and rolled her eyes. "Won’t you ever give up? Maybe one of these days, I’ll get serious enough to consider it."

He laughed softly and then watched the proceedings taking place around him.

 



At the back of the church, alone in the doorway, unseen by the wedding party, stood a solitary man, dressed in an immaculate white Armani suit. 50ish, sandy hair, and of athletic build, Michael Briggs stood, leaning on his cane. The only color adorning him was the black eye patch covering his left eye. He had been invited to this wedding by the bride although he wasn’t quite sure why. He and Karen Davis had come to harsh words on more than one occasion. The last one being over a year ago. He recognized several of the men in the party, particularly Lee Crane and the groom, Harriman Nelson. Both were known to him through their association with ONI. Crane, in fact, had participated in a job or two for his section at the Firm. He observed the events with a mild interest. He had decided to come in order to make peace with her. There was also a small bit of regret that he had not been able to win her when he’d had the chance. It was not for the lack of trying, but she had made it quite clear that she wasn’t interested in him.

Lee Crane had just finished with his set of photographs with the bridesmaids when he looked up and glanced toward the back of the church. It took a few seconds for his brain to register the image, but when it did, he couldn’t believe his eyes. Walking over to the Admiral, he whispered something to him. Nelson immediately turned and glared at the back of the church with mounting anger. Seeing the man standing there infuriated him. How dare he! And on this day of all days!

Nelson and Crane left the group and walked to the back of the church where Briggs stood. The Admiral’s temper was suddenly rising to a near boil.

"Michael, what in the devil are you doing here?" he stormed.

"Admiral, believe me, I didn’t come here with any other purpose in mind but to witness your marriage to that fine lady up front there. It was at her invitation that I am here." He looked at Nelson and grinned. Why did certain people always have the same kind of reaction toward him? Shifting his weight off his bad leg, he continued, "You really are a lucky man, Admiral. I hope you realize that. Years ago, I tried to ‘win’ her hand, so to speak. But it didn’t work out. Said she didn’t ‘trust’ people in my profession. Can’t say as I blame her."

"As long as you did not come here to discuss ‘business’, then I have no problem with you being here. In one way, I guess I do owe you a thank you for getting me out of that mess last year." Nelson begrudgingly said.

Michael turned to him and shrugged, "Don’t thank me, thank your bride up there. She’s the one who’s responsible. Crane here can verify that. I just supplied the vehicle and the means of extraction. And, if I might add, at the considerable possibility of the loss of my life had I gone against her. She’s a formidable lady, Nelson. She was quite determined to bring you home safe and sound."

Harriman’s facial expression softened somewhat as he remembered the episode. Looking at Briggs and crossing his arms in a very defensive and defiant stance, he spoke very deliberately but softly, "Again, Michael, you’re welcome to remain as long as ‘business’ does not come into play. Not here, not today. Do I make myself perfectly clear?"

"Yes, you do."

"Good. Now, if you don’t mind, I have to get my bride to the reception." He turned and walked back up to the front of the church, leaving Lee Crane to deal with Briggs.

"You know, I don’t think he likes me very much." Briggs said with a somewhat sardonic smile.

"No? I wonder why ..." Lee replied, somewhat sarcastically. "I have to go, too. Don’t make any trouble here, Michael. You’ll regret it, if you do. I’ll see to that personally."

"Captain, as I told the Admiral, I’m here only as a guest. Nothing more. Besides, I would only wish her, and him, the best of luck." Turning to face Crane, he declared, "You know, I really do think that she would have come after me last year if I hadn’t provided her with the ‘Lady’. Quite frankly, I wasn’t even aware that she could fly her."

Lee looked at him, remembering the conversation he had been privy to between Karen and him that day in her office. Briggs was right. She would have come after him and he probably would not have survived it professionally. She had been totally ruthless in dealing with him. In fact, Lee Crane had never seen that side of her and hoped to God that he never would again. But that was now ancient history. This was a day for celebration. Not macabre remembrances. Crane shook his head and left Michael standing there, alone, as usual.

 

 

Admiral and Mrs. Harriman Nelson stepped through the front door of the church into the bright California sunshine. Outside, the officers of the Seaview stood at attention, sabers in hand. Upon a signal from Commander Morton, the men snapped to and formed the traditional crossed saber arch. The crowd roared its approval. They were then whisked away in the black limo marked NIMR1 and headed for the reception at the Country Club.

Inside the limo, he reached for her and pulled her close to him, enveloping her in his arms.

"Are you happy?" he asked, looking at her as he tilted her head upward with one hand as the other wandered down her thigh.

"More than I’ve been in a long, long time," she murmured a reply as he kissed her passionately.

In the front seat, Patterson simply smiled as he quickly hit the switch closing the opaque smoked colored sound proof glass partition.

 

 

The Country Club was alive with activity. Guests were arriving, chattering away gaily about the uniqueness of the wedding. The Secret Service agents stationed at their posts stood stoically watching for any inordinate activity, ready to take action at a moments notice to protect the President. The dignitaries had all arrived and all that was missing now was the bride and groom. NIMR2 had already arrived but NIMR1 was late. Kowalski called Patterson on the car phone to see if everything was all right and to obtain an ETA.

"Hey, Pat, where are you? You taking the scenic route?"

"Ski, we’ll be there in plenty of time. I’m under direct orders to take it very slow." Patterson answered.

Kowalski had not picked up on the tone in Patterson’s voice. "Well, everybody’s waiting on them."

"Ski, don’t sweat it. As I said, I’m under direct orders. And I don’t dare do otherwise. Okay?"

Ski finally caught on. With a little laugh, he asked, "Hey, Pat, what’s going on back there?"

"Man, you don’t want to know and neither do I.  I put the back glass up and then I get a call to go slow. That’s all I know. We’ll be there shortly."

Kowalski, chuckling to himself, turned to the back and addressed Lee Crane.  "Sir, Patterson said they’ll be here shortly. He’s…ah …being held up a little and can’t make much speed. I think they’re taking the scenic route here."

Crane and Morton looked at each other and started to laugh. They clearly understood what Ski was trying to tell them without being too overtly blatant about it. The Admiral had obviously wanted a bit of time and privacy with his new bride before meeting their guests. And what the Admiral wants, the Admiral gets.

 

 

NIMR1 finally arrived at the Country Club to all appropriate fanfare and to the delight of all the guests. A formal receiving line had been set up (much to Karen’s chagrin) and once that was dispensed with, the music began. The Moment was softly playing as Nelson led her out onto the dance floor for the traditional first dance. Holding her close, he whispered in her ear, "Not much longer."

She looked at him, noted the twinkle in his eyes, and smiled. No, only a few hours more. She placed her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes. She always felt safe in his arms. Effortlessly he led her through the music, letting it drift around them. He whispered her name and she raised her head. All she could notice was his blue eyes riveted to hers. At that time, no one or nothing else mattered. They were the only ones who existed here at this particular time and place.

Before she knew it, Lee Crane had cut in and she was being led around the floor. Caitlin was now dancing with her new stepfather.

Nelson looked at this beautiful young woman, so much like her mother. He saw her glancing over to look at Karen dancing with Lee.

"You know I’ll take care of her, don’t you?"

She looked up at him. "Yes, I know. I guess I’ve known that since we had our little talk that Christmas. I know you love her. Just make sure that she doesn’t do anything, well, stupid, like trying to go off and rescue you, or something like that." Her blue eyes sparkled.

"I’ll remember that. You just remember that if you ever need anything or anyone to talk to, you can always come to me."

"I know that. Why do you think you got so much e-mail from me? I’m just glad you finally took the hint and asked Mom out."

"That was a hint? I thought that was a blatant statement of fact." He laughed at her pouting face.  “I told you…patience has its own little rewards.”

"Well, whatever. It worked, didn’t it? And this is the end result. Seriously, I’m glad you two finally got together. Mom’s happier than I’ve seen her in a long, long time. And you know what? I really don’t think I’m going to mind it at all that you’re my ‘dad’." She then planted a soft kiss on his cheek and they finished their dance.

 

 

The champagne was being served and Lee Crane stepped forward in front of the huge wedding cake sitting at one end of the room. Nelson and Karen were now standing along side him.

"May I have your attention please?" he asked loudly over the excitement of the 500 guests present.

The crowd moved forward to hear him.

"Ladies and gentlemen, as best man, I understand it's my duty to offer a toast at this time to the happy couple here." The crowd fell silent. Turning to Karen and the Admiral, he raised his glass. "To my good friend, mentor, and commanding officer; you have given me opportunities to do things I never dreamed of having the chance to do. For this, I will always be eternally grateful. And when you brought this lady aboard Seaview, I knew it was going to be interesting. But, sir, we never realized that you would be the one to end up marrying her!!

"To my good friend, and lovely lady, Karen. I watched you come aboard Seaview and take it by storm in a manner and way that can only be described as one of the most laid back that I have ever seen in my life." Light laughter erupted from Seaview’s crew. "I have seen you ingratiate yourself into the lives and hearts of all aboard, especially that of its owner. You truly are a wonder and a treasure.

"May both of you find the happiness you so richly deserve in your lives together. I have watched the two of you over the past few years and have never seen two people who truly belong together the way you two do. You both have known sadness and tragedy, but you survived it all to find happiness within each other. So from now on, may the only pain in your lives be that of the very best champagne."

The crowd joined in the toast. All of a sudden, there was clanging of metal on glass.  The crowd turned to see where the noise was coming from and saw Tony Rennalt standing at the back of the room with a full glass of champagne.

He cleared his throat and held up his glass.  “I guess I need to add something to this occasion,” he drawled, his Texas accent peeking through.  “I, ah, remember a long time ago when there was a darkness in your life, Harry.  And I watched as you stumbled around trying to find some light.  You finally found the switch about four years ago.”  He slowly moved through the parting crowd to the couple and stopped in front of them.  “This lady…well, she became that light.  May she shine in your life for the rest of eternity.”  He took a sip of the bubbling cold liquid and then announced, “Now…I’m gonna do something here that I’ve threatened to do for a long time.  I’m gonna kiss the bride!”  And he leaned over and kissed Karen fully amid chuckles and applause from the wedding guests.

After that display, Caitlin then stepped up to them. Looking at her mother and the Admiral, she knew that Karen was happy at long last. Raising her voice over the din of the crowd, "May I have your attention also, please?"

A hush fell over the hall.

"To my mother. You gave me life; you have loved me, comforted me, scolded me and cared for me. You gave of yourself and went without someone to care for you for a long time. You helped me through the hard times when Daddy died, putting me first and yourself last. Now it’s your time to love again.  To Admiral Harriman Nelson. You befriended me and listened to me, encouraged me, and became a surrogate father for me at a time in my life when I really needed one but never knew it. You gave my mother back her life in so many ways, but the most important was you put the light back in her eyes that was gone for so long.  To both of you. I love you both and hope you will have a long and very happy life together."

She threw her arms around her mother and kissed her on the cheek. Both women had tears in their eyes. Caitlin then went to Nelson and he hugged and kissed her as a proud father would to his own daughter.

The guests applauded and lifted their glasses in unison.

 

 

About midway through the wedding reception, Lee Crane spotted a potential disaster waiting to happen.  Caitlin Davis was surrounded by four young officers from Miramar. Now, Caitlin had assured Lee that she could indeed handle herself around these men, but after overhearing some of the ensuing conversation, he wasn’t so sure.

The girl’s only 21, she can’t possibly handle the lines they’re throwing at her.

He reasoned that if he didn’t get her away from them, that Karen might have his head. And, then it dawned on him, so would the Admiral. For it finally hit him that he was now the girl’s stepfather.

Oh, God. Just what I need.

He started to walk over and play the stern Captain act, but something told him to hang back and watch the fireworks instead. Going to the bar and ordering a drink, he turned and watched her mannerisms, noting that they belied an undercurrent of maturity beyond her years. At one point, she looked over, caught his eye, and smiled, nodding slightly, an acknowledgment that she knew she was being observed. Lee suddenly realized that what he was seeing was no longer the girl everyone treated like a little sister, but a very beautiful, intelligent woman. What he was witnessing was not a damsel in distress but someone who could definitely hold their own with these men with a quiet air of confidence. The bad thing about it was that some of the lines the young men were using sounded vaguely familiar to him. It was then that he realized that he, too, had been guilty at one time or another of what he was trying to protect her from.

Guess the shoe’s on the other foot here, Lee, old boy. Makes you sound like a real idiot, now doesn’t it?

Lee stood by, nursing his drink, watching her hold ‘court’ with the pilots. He watched her laugh at their jokes, knowing full well that their lines were meant for only one purpose. What these guys did not know was that, to her, they represented over-inflated egos who were only out for one thing and for which she held no tolerance.

Her mother has raised her well in that respect.

She had told Crane more than once that she learned early on in her mother’s career with the Navy how to distinguish fact from fantasy, especially where the fighter pilots were concerned. This whole scenario was nothing but a facade. She knew it and Lee Crane soon came to know it as well. She deserved to be with someone who would accept her, and appreciate her, for who and what she was, he reasoned. Not just a pretty face, or, as he had recently observed, a nice body

Certainly not these oversexed, hot air yahoos. He smiled a wary knowing grin around the mouth of his glass. Guys, you don’t know who you’re up against here. Talk about crash and burn. KA-BOOM.

Chip Morton slid in beside him at the bar. Ordering Jack Daniels and ginger ale, he looked over in the direction of the pilots, finding Caitlin right in the middle. He glanced over at Lee, who was intently observing the proceedings.

"You’re not going to break it up?" Chip asked him.

"No, I don’t think so. From what I’ve seen, she’s not in need just yet. Actually, she’s doing quite well. And, as she will tell you, she’s a big girl now. You know…" Crane turned back around to him, his back to the others, "…whoever corrals her is going to get more than he bargained for." He sipped his drink as he contemplated his own words.

"Isn’t that the truth? You know, I guess we never realized how she has grown up in four years. Remember the day they moved in? She came out looking for the computer cords and didn’t give either of us a second glance." Chip remembered. He couldn’t help but notice the change in her, too. Gone was the cute little ‘nerd’. In her place had emerged a woman of brains, beauty, confidence and substance.  “Matty says that she’s, ah, more grown up than we ever wanted to imagine.  And she can hold her own, too.  She’s definitely not Karen’s little girl anymore…that’s for sure.”

"Yeah, well, she was only about 17 at the time, Chip. Then again, she’s never been one that has been impressed by the uniform. Guess it goes with the territory since Karen was already in. And Karen’s not like that either, you know that. Now, she’s 21. No matter what, though, she’s still a kid."

Chip took a swallow of his drink. "Yeah...maybe. But she’s evidently old enough to be able to deal with them pretty well. A ‘kid’ wouldn’t know how to handle herself like that. Those guys don’t know her like we do, do they?" He looked at Lee’s expression as he turned back around and watched her. There was definitely something going on behind those eyes. Chip couldn’t read his friend’s mind, but he’d swear if he didn’t know him better, Lee was actually a bit jealous of her flirtations with the pilots.

About that time, Admiral Nelson walked up to the bar and ordered two drinks. Looking at Lee’s and Chip’s interest in the proceedings involving Caitlin, he asked lightly, "Gentlemen, are you trying to play chaperone for my stepdaughter?"

Lee looked over at him with a cautious gleam in his eye. "Don’t you think someone should, sir?"

Nelson turned around and cast a discerning eye on the scene. After surveying the situation a few minutes, he turned back to the bar and quietly said, "Possibly…but I wouldn’t do it openly  if I were you…  My best advice would be to just watch and don’t interfere unless absolutely necessary. Knowing her, she can take care of herself. Of that, I have no doubt. Besides, better you two than me. Or should I say, better you, Captain, than me or Mr. Morton here – he’s got his own wife to think about.  And I just married her mother, remember?  My ‘parental rights’ here are untested in this particular area."

The two younger officers had to work really hard to stifle the laughter swelling up inside. Watching Nelson walk away from them, Chip Morton poked Lee in the ribs and observed, "Man, how would you like to be the guy that comes to pick her up for a date and he opens the door?"

Crane thought about that for a moment and broke into a cagey grin. "You know, that thought had occurred to me. It would be...interesting,” and he glanced back with a renewed interest and watched Caitlin as she held ‘court.’

The two men exchanged amused looks and proceed to follow orders to only observe, not interfere.

 

 

The reception was winding down. Frankly, Karen was glad. She was tired and her feet hurt. She so desperately wanted to take her shoes off, but with so many dignitaries and political types still there, she didn’t dare. Looking out over the rooms, she uttered a sigh of relief.

There he is. God, I really need my feet rubbed sooo bad.

She tried to make her way across the room to him, but kept getting stopped about every 30 seconds. Small talk had never been her strong suit and now it was wearing a bit thin.

Come on, Karen. This is your wedding reception, for God’s sake. Enjoy.

Karen finally made it to the bar and ordered a glass of white zinfandel wine. As she turned around with her glass, she almost bumped right into Michael Briggs.  "Michael…I’m sorry. I…I didn’t know that you were here…I didn’t think you’d come."

"No need to apologize, Karen. Actually I decided to come to wish you the best and to give you this." He leaned over and softly kissed her on the cheek. Looking at her in her wedding gown, he felt a slight pang of jealousy. "I want us to be friends, Karen. Good friends. You deserve the best. I wish it could have been me you married…but I understood why. Nelson’s a very lucky man and I truly hope he understands and appreciates that."

"Thank you, Michael. Listen, I’m sorry about last year. What I said to you and the way I had to say it. But I had to bring him back safely and there was no other way. You have to understand that I would have done what I said I would do."

"I understand. I’m not exactly happy about it, but I understand. You just caught me off guard when you told me about your flying capabilities. I had no idea you knew how to..."

"Yeah, well, it’s a long story. Maybe…sometime…we’ll sit down and discuss it."

During this exchange, Harriman Nelson had caught sight of his bride from across the room. And he clearly did not like what he saw. Michael Briggs was talking with her and he saw him lean over and kiss her. Then he saw the discussion turn serious. Nelson frowned, excused himself from the guest he was talking to, and started toward the pair. He had already warned Briggs once. He didn’t want to have to do it again.

Walking up to her and placing his arm comfortably around her waist, Nelson looked Briggs squarely in the eyes and asked, quite pointedly, "Michael, can I help you with something?"

Karen looked at her husband and saw the rising flash of anger in his eyes that betrayed his calm, steady voice. She hadn’t realized until now that the two men actually knew each other. She knew Lee was acquainted with Michael, but never imagined that Harriman would know him. Karen recognized all too well the body language and tone of voice he was using. She teasingly had said something to him one day about it, calling it his "territorial protection" mode. She had seen him use this exact same tactic when he wanted to make sure someone knew they had crossed the line with him and to back off quick. In fact, he had tried it with her a couple of times. One time she did back off, the other, she won. But she learned to watch him carefully when he did do it. Looking at the two men standing next to her and watching them silently square off against each other, she knew she had to defuse the situation quickly and quietly.

"Harriman, I didn’t realize you two had met. Michael is an…old friend. He helped me out last year with your situation," she said softly, her voice barely above a whisper.

Nelson stiffened and somewhat tightened his grip on her. "Yes, we’re acquainted, Karen. I’m quite familiar with the Firm that Michael works for and what his position is there."

She was suddenly very uncomfortable with his attitude. She knew both he and Lee Crane occasionally did ‘jobs’ for ONI and that Lee had worked for Michael once or twice. But why was Harriman so openly hostile toward Michael? For some unknown reason, he was making this extremely difficult.

Is he that threatened by Michael’s presence here? He should know better than that!

Carefully but firmly removing his hand from her waist, she turned to him and quietly said, "Harriman, perhaps we can discuss this later, in private. Michael simply wanted to wish us both the best. That’s all."  She then turned around and faced Briggs. "Michael, I think you’d better go. Thank you for your help in getting him home. I appreciate it…more than you know."

Briggs nodded his head in silent acknowledgment, turned around and walked off. Karen turned slowly around and faced her husband. Had this not been the occasion it was, she would have let him have it right then and there. This shouldn’t be happening.

This is our wedding day, for God’s sake.

Suddenly, she took him by the hand and motioned for him to follow her. Leading him into an empty secluded side room off the main hall, she closed and locked the door behind her so that they could not be disturbed.  She wheeled around to face him. What she saw was the same posture he had taken with Briggs.

Oh, no. Harry. Not this time! Not with me you don’t!

"Harriman, what in hell were you trying to do out there?"

"Not a thing," he calmly stated, his arms crossed and a stern look on his face.

"Bull!!"

She glared at him and felt her own temper rising. This wasn’t right. So she decided to cool down a bit. Taking a deep breath, she walked over to him and placed her arms around his neck. Looking him straight in the eyes, her voice softened. "Harriman Nelson, you’re the worst liar, you know that? You’re jealous of Michael. Well, you have no reason to be."

His arms slowly went around her waist and she could feel his body relax. He was slowly pulling her to him. Continuing, she looked at him, her eyes never leaving his. "I married you because I love you, Admiral Nelson. Never, ever forget that. Michael is very ancient history. I don’t like what he represents, either. But, I had no choice but to go to him to get you home."

He didn’t say a word. What he did do was bend his head down slightly and tenderly kissed her. First her lips, then her face, then her neck. His hands then cupped her face and he kissed her with so much force it took her breath away. His hands wandered down her back and pressed her against him. She knew what he was doing, but she didn’t care. Her body had begun to respond to his touch. Her brain was telling her this wasn’t the time or the place for this. But the rest of her…

"Harriman, we can’t…ohhh…"

"Hmmm…" his lips softly touching hers again and again.

"This isn’t fair…you know we can’t…" she broke away from him, her heart pounding furiously. He was smiling at her. She suddenly realized he had accomplished what he wanted to do. He had turned the table on her.

"You’re terrible, you know that?" she said, half scolding him, as her heart was racing

"It worked, didn’t it?" he asked, raising an eyebrow, a half grin on his face.

"Harriman Nelson, I swear…" she looked at him and her heart melted. "We’d better get back to our reception. They’ll send a search party out for us in a bit."

"Let them…" he pulled her tightly against him again. "I don’t care. I’m sorry I acted like a raging bull earlier. I know what he did and that you had no choice but to go to him. One day I’ll tell you why I detest who he works for and what he is. And why I would prefer that you have as little contact with him as possible."

"You don’t have to. I already know. I’ve known about it for a long time. Listen, we have an eternity to talk about this. I owe you an explanation, too. But remember this, I love you. I married you. What happened, or didn’t happen, between Michael and me doesn’t change the fact that I’m standing here with you as your wife. Now, I believe we’d better get back to our guests."

He softly kissed her again, then turned and unlocked the door. "My dear, I do believe we have a party to finish." Then he added, with a twinkle in his eyes "…until later, Mrs. Nelson?"

"Until later, Admiral. Until later."

 

 

Once they rejoined the party, guests would not leave them alone. Starke and Crawford came over and pulled him over to the side with Fergurson and Norwood. Karen found herself being pulled to the other side of the room with her nephews who had brought their various children. She was tired and so desperately wanted to get out of there. Caitlin was over by the bar with her harem of jet pilots so she was of no help. She could see Harry over in the corner with his four old Academy buddies. The same ones that Lee and Chip had to boot out of his house this morning.

She sent one of her nephews after a glass of wine, and after an appropriate amount of visiting, decided to retrieve her husband. Weaving her way through the congratulations and best wishes, she reached her objective. Okay, guys, you’ve monopolized him enough. She overheard Starke’s loud voice extolling this year’s football team. Uh, oh. Here we go again. She had heard this song and dance before.

Karen slipped in beside Harriman, his arm unconsciously making its way around her waist, and listened for a few moments. Then she decided to see if she could one up Starke.  "You know, Admiral Starke, my alma mater plays Navy this year. Maybe I can convince someone to take me to that game." she said coyly and with a very distinct honeyed southern accent that she hardly if ever used.

Starke glared down at her. He had to remember that she was now married to his old friend and was not just a subordinate officer. "And just who is you alma mater, Mrs. Nelson?"

"Virginia Tech, suh. And if I remember right, the last time the two teams met, which was at the Academy, by the way, Tech won by quite a margin and they went on to win the Sugar Bowl that year as well." she replied sweetly, sipping on her wine.  “Such a shame, too...they haven’t played each other since that time....”

Harriman Nelson and the other three men were trying very hard to stifle a laugh. To them, she had just proven that she could hold her own with Starke by putting him in his place and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it. Harry pulled her close and kissed her cheek, whispering "Good going."

Starke realized he was at a distinct disadvantage with her. She may technically be a captain, but today she was the bride of an Admiral. So he had to gallantly admit defeat.  "Madam, you are entirely correct. Now, if your husband here will bring you to a game this year, maybe we can have quite a party since you obviously enjoy the sport...and perhaps you'll want to rethink your allegiance.”  Turning to Nelson, “Harriman, what do you say?"

Starke was not giving him a way to back out, so he had to agree.  “I think we could possibly make time…that is if Seaview’s not out on an assignment.”

“Well, I think we could maybe work on that…if you really want to,” the CNO joined in the conversation.

Nelson took a sip of his drink and looked at his bride, who stood smiling at him.  “We’ll see, gentlemen…we’ll see; however, I don't think you'll succeed.  The Captain here definitely has a mind of her own.”

Karen coyly smiled at the four admirals.  "Gentlemen, if you don’t mind, I really do need to speak to my husband. I hate to tear him away from such an illustrious assemblage of Navy brass, but…if you will excuse us..." she sweetly said as she slipped her arm through his.

CNO Charles Norwood looked at the two and chuckled.  “Gentlemen…I do believe we’ve been outranked…and outclassed.  What say you that we leave these two alone?”  The men then muttered their congratulations and walked off, each trying to find their wives.

Harry patted her hand and looked at her. Again, she had come to his rescue. Twice in one day. Not bad. Not bad at all.  "Thanks. I wasn’t sure how I was going to get out of there. When Jiggs gets started, he doesn’t know when to shut up."

"Kind of figured that. Anyway, I had an ulterior motive." Looking around her, she decided that it was about time for them to leave. She slipped her arm around his waist and looked at him. "What do you say we skip out of this party? I really would like to get out of this dress and into something a bit more comfortable. My jeans are in my suitcase. My feet hurt, too. I could really use a foot massage and my sandals are back at your house."

"Actually, I’ve been looking for an excuse to get out of here. But aren’t there certain formalities that we need to observe before we leave?"

"What, you mean like throwing the bouquet, and the garter? I guess so. However, it is our party. And we can do whatever we want. Where’s Caitlin, and we’ll get this show on the road."

"The last I saw of her, she was with several of your ex ‘students’ from Miramar. Lee and Chip were watching out for her from a safe distance."

Karen silently laughed but was at the same time was touched. She felt sure that Caitlin could handle herself but she was also glad there were two white knights ready to rescue her if need be.

"Well, personally, I’d rather just slip out of here without all the other fuss involved. Tell you what, I’ll let her know, we can say our goodby’s and get out." She slipped her arm through his and whispered, "Actually, I just want to get away from here so we can finish what we started earlier."

He looked at her, the mischievous twinkle in her eyes told him what she had in mind. "You really want to leave?" he asked.

"Yes, I do."

"All right, go find Caitlin. Let her know we’re leaving and I’ll get us out of here. Would you rather go back to the house or go to the yacht at the marina?" he replied, now determined to take his bride and leave.

"Actually, I wouldn’t mind going to the yacht. But our bags are at the house. What about them?"

"Don’t worry, I’ve already arranged for them to be brought to us. We don’t fly out until tomorrow evening anyway. Now, go find Caitlin."

"Deal. Meet you out front in 10." She quickly kissed him on the check and walked off in the direction of the laughter coming from the bar area.  She quickly found Caitlin amidst a horde of Navy pilots. Surveying the scene, she saw Crane and Morton standing to one side of the bar, leaning up against it yet keeping a watchful eye on her child. Walking over to them, she slid in between the two. Watching her daughter, she observed the men’s reactions to her. Turning around to the bar, she softly said, "My baby’s grown up. She’s not a child anymore."

Chip looked at her. "No, she’s not. But she still needs ‘protection’ from wolves in sheep’s clothing."

"True, Chip. But when you raise a child, you can only do so much. After that, all you can do is pray that you’ve taught them right and give them guidance when they ask for it. You’re going to learn that as Alex grows up.”  She sighed just a bit.  “Caitlin will handle things in her own way. In her own time. I’ve always known that she was more mature for her age in a lot of respects. Sometimes it’s frightened me, but she’s got a good head on her shoulders. An awful lot of good old fashioned horse sense to go with that mind of hers."

Lee turned around, still contemplating his drink. "She’s still a kid, Karen."

Karen looked at him. He seemed to be brooding about something, but she couldn’t pick up on what it was.  He’d never paid much attention to her before, and what little he did, was more like a big brother than anything else.  Besides, he was so much older, was a widower with a small child.  "Lee, to me she will always be my ‘child’, my ‘little girl’. But even I have to admit that she’s grown up to be a very attractive woman. Don’t you think I see her turning heads? Don’t you think that I worry about her getting involved with the wrong man? What mother wouldn’t?! But I also have enough God given common sense to realize that Caitlin is going to go her own way. I just hope the deviation isn’t too far off the course I laid in."

Karen decided that the subject matter was getting too serious, so she decided to change it. Lee’s sudden attitude puzzled her. Taking matters in hand, she walked over to the growing number of young men vying for her daughter’s attention. Making eye contact with Caitlin, she motioned her to leave the group. Protests were filed as she got up and walked toward her mother.

"Yes?"

"Honey, we’re going to leave. I’m tired, my feet hurt, and I want to get out of this dress. And he wants out of that uniform jacket. So, if there is anything you need to do, do it. We’re are going to leave in 10 minutes and we’re going to go to his yacht."

"What about the flowers and the garter?"

"Skip it, they’ll never notice it. Besides, I’m a bit too old for that nonsense anyway. He’s gone to make some sort of arrangements to get us out of here. I’ll tell Lee to go find him and help. Like I said, we leave in 10."

"Okay. Are you going to leave in your gown or are you going to change?"

"No, I’ll leave in the gown. I have clothes at his house, I mean our house. Now, scoot."

She walked back to Crane and Morton. "We’re leaving in 10 minutes," she announced to Lee. "He wants your help."

Lee put down his drink and looked over the room. Not seeing Nelson, he asked her, "Okay, where’d he go?"

"Don’t know, though, I think I did see Tony heading out with him. All he told me is that he’d make the arrangements. You’d better find him and help. He’s got that determined look in his eye and you know how he gets when that happens."

Chip laughed. "Do we ever! Let’s go, buddy, and see what we can do."

The two men left the bar and went in pursuit of the Admiral. Whatever he had planned, Lee knew he would not be deterred from its implementation.

 

 

NIMR1 was waiting at the front of the Country Club. Crane and Morton had finally found the Admiral as he talked to Patterson about leaving. Caitlin gathered her mother’s belongings and put them in the limo. After saying their goodbyes, the couple finally was able to leave and the Admiral and his new bride came out and entered the limo. Karen had left Caitlin in charge of clearing out the rest of the guests and taking care of any other matters that needed to be dealt with.

As Caitlin walked back into the Club, she caught the heel of her shoe on the doorstep. Tumbling forward, she almost hit the floor, or would have had it not been for Lee Crane. He caught her just before she could do serious damage to her arm.

"Damn." she exclaimed.

"Well, you’re certainly welcome, Miss Davis." Crane replied.

She looked up at him, embarrassed, and realized that he was holding her in his arms, their faces only inches away from each other. Quickly backing away, she caught her breath and apologized. "I’m sorry. That wasn’t meant for you. I was mad because I just broke a heel on a very expensive pair of shoes."

"Good. Glad to know that your frustration was because of the shoe and not me."

"Lee, now you know that I could never be mad at you. Besides, how could I ever be angry with someone who’s been looking out for me all day, even though I didn’t need a chaperone?

"Well, Ms. Davis, someone had to look out for you." His hazel eyes scrutinized her and his voice fell lower. "You shouldn’t have to play games, Caitlin. You’re better than that, and much smarter, too."

"Well, Captain, I only ‘play’ when I want to. I’m not naive...You should know that."

"They obviously didn’t."

"Well, they don’t count because they’ll never take the time to find out."

"Games can have consequences, Caitlin."

"Lee, you’re getting entirely too serious here. Lighten up, will you? I know those guys are after only one thing. And that’s one game I don’t, and won’t, play." She took off her other shoe, balancing out her height of five foot two. Straining to look up at him and then looking him dead straight in the eyes, she said softly in a tone that was almost daring him to action, "Besides, I would never play games with someone who cares about me, or that I care about."

Stunned and speechless, he stood there and watched as she turned around and walked off, disappearing into the Club.

 

 

In the limo, Karen immediately took off her shoes. Nelson watched her, observing her movements and the obvious look of sheer relief shown on her face as she removed them. Amused, he delighted in seeing this little side of her. He pulled her close to him and kissed her forehead. "Do they really hurt that much?" he asked as he held her.

"My mother always said never to try on shoes before the afternoon. I’d forgotten how right she was. Yeah, but they’ll feel better now. Now you know why I tend to go barefoot a lot at home. Hate the restriction."

"How about if I massage them a bit? Would that help?"

"Now that would be wonderful." She looked at him with an expression of gratitude in her eyes. She turned around and slid to the opposite side of the car seat. She placed both feet in his lap as he began to gently rub the sole of one foot. Closing her eyes in total contentment at the calming effect it was bringing, she did not notice him pick up the phone nor hear the instructions he gave to Patterson. She did not hear the faint hum of the partition window being raised. God, this feels sooo good. I’ve got to remember to have him do this ever so often. She was so tired that the soothing motions of his hands on her feet were actually making her drowsy. It was actually quite luxurious. She felt as if she were being transported into some kind of dream world.

He watched her facial expressions as he first massaged one foot, then the other. They moved from pain slowly to calming serenity. Then he started to work on the calf of her leg. First one, then the other. Slowly his fingers worked out the knots in her muscles. He thought it intriguing to watch her as she reclined there, her eyes closed, but her face betraying how she was feeling. This was one of the few times that her guard was completely down and there was no masking her emotions.

"Karen," he whispered as his hands again worked themselves further up her calves.

She half opened her eyes and saw him sitting there, slowly massaging her leg. It felt sooo good. "Yes?" She answered drowsily.

"We’re at the marina. Would you want to continue this here or on the boat?" He had a very amused and curious smile on his face.

"Ummmm...Can’t I have both?"

"Well, I don’t think that Patterson’s going to want to sit up there forever. Besides, we do have time before we sail. Our bags will be here at any time."

She slowly sat up and looked at him, her eyes gazing into his. "You know, sir, you have a wonderful way with your hands. But, then again, I already knew that." Resigning to the fact that she was going to have to put her shoes back on, she sighed, "All right, let’s get this over with. But I swear, I’m throwing them overboard as soon as we leave the harbor."

"Deal."

She swung her legs down and put the offending shoes back on her feet as he was opening the car door to get out. Patterson had gotten out and walked around to the passenger side, holding the car door open and helping her out. As they walked down to the pier, their presence seemed to cause a minor stir among the locals. It had been a long time since they had seen Admiral Nelson here. Although his 150 foot yacht, Dreamweaver, was moored here, and kept in constant readiness, it had been a few years that anyone had actually seen him go aboard it. The buzz among the locals that day was that he had just gotten married and that the lady with him was his new bride. No one approached them; no one would dare to. Reaching the end of the pier, they were met by the vessel’s Captain, James Young, and his two crewmen. The Captain sharply saluted Nelson and said, "Welcome board, sir. Everything has been done as you requested. The Institute called and said your and Mrs. Nelson’s bags should be here within the hour. As soon as they arrive, we’ll sail." Turning to Karen, the Captain greeted her warmly. "Mrs. Nelson, it’s an honor. Congratulations to you both."

"Thank you, Captain." she replied.

Boarding the yacht, Karen looked about at some of the equipment placed here and there. She remembered him telling her that he had used this as a research vessel in the days before the Institute was build. Some of the instrumentation still remained, but had been unused for some time. He led her to his spacious cabin on the deck below toward the stern of the ship. Entering, she saw three large vases full of long stemmed red roses, two bottles of champagne chilling in ice buckets, champagne glasses, and a box of Godiva chocolates. Gone was the standard bunk bed that had been there for years and in its place stood a beautiful cherry queen size bed. He’d had the entire cabin remodeled about six months ago. He had turned Angie loose on it with the simple instructions to do it tastefully so that Karen would like it. It was to be a surprise for her and he had felt Angie knew her tastes fairly well. He was right. It was beautifully done. Gone was the stark research furniture and neutral colors. The cabin was now bathed in rich paneling and muted colors of greens and mauve, reflecting the tastes of both the owner and his bride. The furniture, simple but classic and elegant Queen Ann style, was of cherry, reflecting Karen’s taste.

"Harriman, this is beautiful. I never imagined…  Well, I have to say, it’s definitely different from the first time I saw it."

"Thank Angie. She’s the one responsible."

Karen smiled and replied, "Remind me when we get back to personally thank her. It’s absolutely beautiful."

He closed the door and started to remove his white tunic jacket. Struggling with the Velcro closure, he swore under his breath, "Damn."

"Having a problem?"

"It’s this damn collar. Whoever designed this blasted thing should have been shot!"

She walked over and looked at him. Reaching up, she peeled it back easily. "There…that wasn’t so hard, now was it?" She flashed a smile at him. "Men. You just do not have any patience with these things, do you?"

There was a short knock at the cabin door before he could answer her.  "Come in." Nelson called out.

The door opened and one of the deck hands entered, carrying their suitcases. Placing them over to the side, he nodded to the Admiral, then exited without ever uttering a word. Within about five minutes, they felt the engines start and the yacht slowly proceed away from the dock.

Unbuttoning the tunic jacket, he looked at Karen. She was busying herself with her bag, taking out several articles of clothing. Most notably was a pair of blue jeans, a t-shirt, and a pair of sandals. He also briefly saw something that he surmised was a nightgown.  He grabbed a white uniform shirt out of the closet and as he buttoned it, told her, "I’ve got to go up top for just a moment. If you’re hungry, I’ll have something sent down for us."

"Actually, I am a little hungry. For all the food that was at the reception, I really didn’t get much of anything. And I really can’t enjoy the champagne on an empty stomach."

"I’ll take care of it then. Be back in a few minutes." He kissed her lightly and headed out the door. Actually, what he wanted to do was to give her some time to herself. With all the excitement of today, he figured she needed a few minutes alone. Besides, he really did need to speak to his Captain regarding their destination and then see that dinner was sent down to them.

Emerging from the hatchway onto the open deck, Nelson breathed in the fresh, cool sea air. The moon was beginning to rise over the horizon and it left an endless trail of reflection on the calm sea. So much had happened today. Looking up at the sky, he saw the first stars of the night beginning to materialize. In the distance he saw the twinkling of the city lights of Santa Barbara. It was calm and peaceful out here. I’ve been away from this for too long. He did miss Seaview, but this was most certainly not a night to be aboard his beloved sub. This was a different kind of peace and he never realized how much he really missed it until now. Suddenly he was aware of someone standing behind him. Turning, he found that it was the Captain.

"Is there anything I can do for you, sir?" Captain Young asked of him.

"Yes, keep her course near the Institute. If need be, anchor just off the point. Also, send dinner down for Mrs. Nelson and myself. Coffee, if it’s fresh, tea for her otherwise."

"Yes, sir. Will there be anything else?"

"Breakfast at 0800 tomorrow. We have a flight to Honolulu to catch tomorrow evening. Oh, and after dinner has been cleared away, we’re not to be disturbed unless it’s an absolute emergency. Is that clear?"

"Yes, sir." The Captain started to leave, then turned back. "Sir?"

"Yes?"

"It’s good to have you back aboard. And even more so now."

Nelson smiled. Yes, he had been away far too long. "Thanks, Jim…"

 

 

Down below, Karen figured Harry had wanted to leave her alone for a while so that she could have some down time to herself. He had come to know her so very well. After a day like today, it was kind of nice to have a few minutes to collect your thoughts. She slipped out of her wedding gown and she was debating with herself as to whether to put on her comfortable jeans or whether to play the seductive temptress. Page’s gift was beaconing her to do the latter, not the former, and it was tempting, very tempting.

She looked around the exquisitely decorated cabin. Yes, she’d definitely have to thank Angie. It was beautiful. Crossing over to a cabinet that was set into the wall, she opened a drawer to put some clothes away and found a multitude of candles laying inside. All shapes and sizes.

Angie, you sly fox. How did you know?

Thinking back, if anyone had ever visited her apartment, they would have seen that Karen had candles everywhere. It was one of her passions. Angie had evidently picked up on this and filled up the drawer with them. Karen took them out and placed them on every piece of furniture that she could, the tables getting groups of three or four. Rummaging around in the drawer she also produced a book of matches. As she lit each candle, she smiled to see the soft glow it gave the room. Soon there was about 50 to 60 candles lit, each with their flames flickering and casting a sensual, erotic mood upon the scene. Looking around for the light switch, she switched off the lights, leaving only the candles to provide any needed illumination. Dinner by candlelight didn t sound too bad. She then caught sight of a small compact stereo with a CD player. Looking around she found numerous discs of classical, new age, and jazz music. She thought they looked awfully familiar. In fact, it really looked like several of them were from her own collection.

Angie must have gotten these from Caitlin.

She found one particular one that she had always liked. Symphony of the Sea. The music began to fill the cabin with very soft mellow jazz mixed with the alluring sounds of dolphins chattering, seagulls, and waves crashing on the shore. Picking up her clothes, Karen made her last decision for the night and headed for the bathroom.

 

 

About 15 minutes later, Harriman Nelson headed for his cabin. As he got to the door, he met the deck hand with their dinner tray. Opening the door for the crewman, Nelson was momentarily astounded at the sight that he beheld. Candlelight was everywhere. Reflecting off of everything imaginable. Where in the world had they come from? He heard soft music playing in the background. Directing the crewman to put the tray down on the table, he then dismissed him, telling him not to bother returning for the dishes. When he closed the door, Nelson turned around and saw Karen standing by the table surrounded by the soft glow of the candles. Gone was the ivory lace wedding gown and in its place was a straight, long, navy blue silk sheath nightgown with the thinnest of straps and the deepest cut v-neckline he had ever seen. It embraced her body like a second layer of skin and just barely covered the curves of her breasts. There wasn’t much left to the imagination since the silk was thin enough to provide only the illusion of color.

She had already opened one of the bottles of chilled champagne and had poured the two glasses full. Handing him one, she drank from her glass and watched him as he graciously accepted his and then drank from it. He found himself totally captivated by the entire scene. Watching her as she drank, he realized every motion was a total open invitation to her sexuality.

Is it possible that my own wife is trying to seduce me? Hmmmm, this could get very interesting!

"I believe you started something this afternoon, sir, that was left totally unfinished," was all she said. She put her glass down on the table and began to slowly unbutton his shirt, easing it from his shoulders and gently gliding it down his arms, then let it fall to the floor. Her eyes never once left his. He offered no resistance yet he longed to slide the gown right off her shoulders and make love to her in every form imaginable right then and there near the table or on it if necessary. He wanted to take control of the situation but somehow he was now quite content to let her be the seductress. Her hands slowly and lightly slid across his chest, causing his skin to tingle as if it were on fire from her touch. Slowly, softly, she kissed his chest and placed very light kisses up his chest to his lips as she moved her arms around his neck, and then kissed him deeply, savoring the taste and feel of his mouth and feeling each movement of his body in response to hers. She moved her body against his and felt the evidence of her actions rising and hardening between them. She was slowly and methodically driving him insane with lust with her unbridled sexual advances.

She’s never been like this before. My God!!

Then, just as suddenly, she broke the embrace, took his hand, and led him to the bed. He wanted so badly to take that nightgown off her and hold her soft breasts in his hands; to kiss them and then kiss her hard and so deeply that she would shiver from his touch. But she kept just far enough away from him that he could not reach his objective.

"Karen..." he softly spoke her name as he was pulling her down with him trying to free her of the garment.

"Shhhh..." her voice was so different, so...sensual... so very erotic. She put her finger to his lips to silence him. "Shhh.   Tonight, I’ll ...make love to... you," she softly declared. She started to kiss him gently and lightly on his lips and then slowly, before he knew it, she was moving down his body. The straps of her gown fell from her shoulders, exposing the mounds and swells of her breasts. Her hands massaged his arms and his chest as her lips provided the basis for the tingling sensations he felt. She was slowly and systematically divesting him of his t-shirt and before he knew what had happened, he lay bare chested on the bed. Next she stood up in front of him and stepped out of her nightgown, revealing her nude body to him. Her eyes never left his. He reached for her but she kept him at arms length. She leaned over slightly and unbuckled his belt and slowly unzipped his pants while she kissed him, teasing him with her mouth. Then, before he knew what was happening, she had freed him of all hindrances and he was lying there waiting, the anticipation of what was to come, making him mad with pure animal lust for her. He watched her in total amazement as she laid his uniform trousers on the chair beside the bed. He had made love to her many times, but never had he known her to be like this. So uninhibited. So brazen. So totally sexual in nature.

Karen looked at him with the most unusual look in her eyes he had ever seen. He had never seen this side of her before. She had always been an enthusiastic and active participant when they had made love, but this time was totally different. She used her hands to massage every square inch of his body. Touching him ever so lightly, she delighted to see the hardening effect she had on him.

What is she doing?

What she wanted to do was to show him that she knew how to give pleasure as well as receive it. Gently, every so gently, she found her way over top of him. She took both of his hands in hers and kissed them. She then proceeded to brush her lips against his body, first his neck, then his eyes, mouth, and his chest. His body shuttered with anticipation. Her hand slowly found its way down to its target and she lightly touched him, causing him to tremble. He closed his eyes, allowing her to do whatever she wanted, daring not to speak, afraid that it might end too quickly. Her hands stroked his groin as if they were feathers. Softly. Gently. He felt warm breath and then a wonderful moist warmness surrounding him. For what seemed an eternity, this heavenly feeling continued. It was driving him insane. In all his years, he had never know this kind of true passion and true sensuousness. Then, all too soon, it ended. He opened his eyes and looked into her face. Reaching for her, he then pulled her up on top of him. He wanted her so very much; he wanted to make love to her over and over; to show her that he truly, deeply loved her.

Harry reached up and she allowed him to explore her body with his hands. Her skin was so very soft and smelled of a combination of vanilla and musk. Raising up, he pulled her down onto the bed. His hands were all over her body, exploring every crevice, every centimeter he could find. He gently kissed her neck and shoulders and buried his face in her hair as he kissed her neck. Pushing it from her face, he kissed her over and over. Now it was his turn to please her. He gently rolled her onto her back. Working his way from her neck, he brushed each nipple of her breasts with his mouth, kissing it softly as if to pay homage to it. He softly kissed her stomach and she moaned in response. Proceeding on, he soon found the most sensitive spot on her entire body. Her body shuttered and she raked her fingers through his hair. He slowly positioned his body between her legs, never leaving her for a second. His hands stroked her breasts and stomach, and her body responded to his every movement. The warm moistness of her body was like velvet to him, so soft, so sensitive. She had not spoken a word since the beginning of the seduction. She felt a tide beginning to swell, to stir deep from within and just as she was beginning to crest, he stopped. She looked at him as he rose atop her and felt his arms around her as he entered her. Together, they began to move in unison. Their rythmn quickened and their passion grew stronger with each passing second. Their hands met and their fingers entwined. She looked up into his face and saw that he was lost within the dream that had engulfed them both. He looked at her and saw that she, like him, was nearing the point of no return. He could feel her body begin to stiffen around him. Then all of a sudden, her back arched, and she tightly held onto him as he felt her muscles contracting as she came. A few seconds later, he could hold back no longer and a rush of euphoria enveloped him as he sought his own relief within her sweet body.

Slowly, deliberately, they slowed their pace until the stillness brought them back to reality. Their bodies were bathed in the sweat that they had created from their lovemaking. He lowered himself down until his chest covered hers and his mouth hungrily found hers. They lay there together, linked, the bond between them to be now and forever unbroken.

 

 

The next morning, Nelson was awakened to a light tapping at the cabin door. Turning over to face the alarm, he noticed it read 0800. Allowing a moment or two to pass until he could clear his mind of sleep, he realized it must be one of the crew with their breakfast. Glancing over at the table, he realized that they hadn’t eaten the dinner from last night and that it had sat there untouched. He quietly got up, put on his robe and crossed the room to the door. Silently opening it, he directed the man to remove the other tray and leave the breakfast.

He looked at the bed where Karen was fast asleep and shook his head in amazement. She had been insatiable last night. He remembered last looking at the clock as it read 0330. She had finally dozed off to sleep in his arms sometime before then; he’d had to shift his position and she had rolled over off his arm. When she did, he had gotten up to extinguish all the candles she had lit and to switch the stereo off.

As he looked at her now, covered with the bedspread, her nightgown lying on the floor next to her side of the bed, he smiled at the remembrance of their lovemaking. She was finally his wife, his to love every day for the rest of his life.  Climbing back into the spacious bed beside her, he bent over and lightly kissed her shoulder. He knew that at this time of the morning she had a tendency to be a light sleeper. But after last night, she might very well still be in a deep slumber. His fingers traced the outline of her arm, up to her neck and then to her ear. Kissing her neck, he whispered, "Karen, wake up. Breakfast is here."

There was a slight movement of her body, then a low moan.

He tried again, this time with another part of her body. And this time, he definitely got a response. She shifted her position and rolled over to face him. Opening her eyes slightly, she had to focus on the person lying beside her. Slowly, a smile appeared on her lips. "Good morning," she whispered.

"Good morning. Breakfast is here. And since we didn’t eat the dinner last night, I think we ought to at least get up and eat this."

Her arms stretched out from under the covers and she involuntarily held them above her head and stretched out her muscles.

"What time is it?" she asked.

"A little after 0800. The cook sent fresh orange juice, toast, coffee, omelets, and ham. There’s also some fresh fruit. Melon, I believe."

Yawning, she replied, "Sounds good, but…" and then smiling a wicked grin, "what I want right now is…you." She reached up and pulled him to her, his mouth coming down hard upon hers. And this time, he was the one in control.

Harry needed no encouragement. He slowly planted hot kisses down her throat to her shoulders. One hand brushed a nipple of one breast and he gently played with it as a small moan escaped from her lips. Gently, he lowered his mouth to it, teasing it. Then he turned his attention to the other. At the same time, his hand slowly crept its way downward to that most sensitive and erotic part of her body. Hot moistness covered his fingers as he sought that most sensitive of places on her body. Once found, he lightly touched it, sending shivers through her. Her back arched and she gasped as he gently applied pressure to her hidden spot. God, how he wanted her! But he would control this time between them. He wanted it to last as long as possible before pushing her totally over the brink of no return. She had driven him mad with passion last night. Now he was determined to have his way this morning. Two could play this game, he reasoned, as he slowly drove her wild with desire. He continued his sweet torture of her body until she looked up at him and, with her eyes glazed over, told him in a whisper, "I want you."

His own body certainly needed no encouragement. Just the mere thought of what was to come and the feel of her was enough. Slowly, deliberately he entered her body, making them as one again. They began to move in unison, as if one complete being. He kissed her deeply as he sought to bring her to her ultimate release. As their pace quickened, he heard her moan slightly then felt her stiffen and take her relief around him. He, in turn, found his own release within her as she urged him on with the motions of her body.

Her arms circled his waist and her hands pulled him hard into her, wanting to have as much of him as possible. Their motion slowed, soon becoming almost nonexistent. His mouth covered hers and he passionately kissed her and they lay entwined and joined as the one creature they had become. Resting, enjoying each other, loving. They were one.

 

 

At 0930, they finally sat down to the table for a lukewarm breakfast. Harry had ordered another pot of hot coffee to be brought to them. There was still a full bottle of champagne in the bucket, the first one having been emptied.

"What time is our flight?" she asked.

"Around 1800, I believe. We’ll head back in a few hours, dock, and then take our time going to the airport. I’ve left instructions that a car will be dockside at 1400. Traffic shouldn’t be too bad on a Sunday."

"I think Caitlin’s to fly out this evening sometime. We may run into her at the airport. If not, that’s okay. I’ll contact her from Hawaii. She’s got exams in two weeks and I told her I wanted her to get back with plenty of time to study."

"She’ll be all right, Karen. You know that."

"I know, ...I guess I’m just being paranoid."

"No, you’re being exactly what you are...her mother."

"I know, I know. By the way, ‘Dad’, I saw you two dancing yesterday. You know that one of these days, you’re going to be the one walking her down the aisle."

Nelson broke into a smile at her comment. In fact, he nearly spilled the cup of coffee he was holding when he started to laugh.

"You know, I hadn’t really thought about that, but I guess you’re right."

She got up, walked over, sat back down on the bed, then reclined across it, looking at him. He came over and joined her. Watching her, he made a snap decision to ask her a question that he was anxious to have an answer to.

"I want to ask you something."

"Sure, go ahead."

"How do you know Michael Briggs?"

She looked at him, trying to decide whether to tell him the entire story.  Why did he have to bring this up right now?

It was clear that he had a strong dislike for him, anyway. Would revealing the entire truth make it better or worse? She had to make a decision and fast. Knowing him as she did, though, anything but the complete truth would not suffice. Making her decision, she sat up and put the pillow she had been laying on up against the headboard. Leaning back against the pillow, she looked at him and made her decision.

I hope you’ll understand I can never tell you the full truth.

"Years ago," she started, looking over at him. "A girlfriend of mine sat me up on a blind date with a guy that flew helicopters for a living. He and an older friend of his have a company that flies stunts for the movie and tv studios. It wasn’t long after I first came to Miramar. She was dating a buddy of his, and the buddy thought he needed someone. See, he had lost his girlfriend in a bad accident. Anyway, I dated him a couple of times but it never went anywhere. He was too sullen, too moody. A real loner. In time, though, we became real close friends. In fact, it was his cabin up at Big Bear that I was at when you were kidnapped last year.

"One day, out at Miramar, I was up getting some flight time. I had gone in for a practice run when I get a really strange reading on my radar so I decided to check it out. I got within range for visual verification, when I thought I had lost my mind. What I saw was a helicopter.

"I tried to make contact with the pilot to let him know that he was in a restricted area. The pilot wouldn’t answer at first. Then he spoke a few words, saying that this was a shortcut and he’d be out of the area in a few minutes. Well, when he spoke, I recognized the voice as that of my friend. I got as close as I dared to see if I could get some sort of visual on the pilot."

She waited a moment until she could catch her breath.

"I looked over into the cockpit and he turned toward me," she involuntarily shuttered in her remembrance. "Anyway, all of a sudden he goes Mach 1 on me. So I hit the throttle and took off in pursuit. He must have hit the throttle again because he left me behind. I swear he must have been doing close to Mach 2.

"About a week later, I was out at his company’s hanger bringing something to him that he had called me about. We were alone in his office and I just casually mentioned that I would love to see that chopper he was in the week before. Boy, the look that came over his face could have frozen rock. Denied even knowing what I was talking about. But I knew. I knew. About 2 or 3 weeks later, I was out there again and this big white limo pulls up to the door and out comes this man, dressed all in white, carrying a cane. He’s wearing glasses with the left lenses blacked out. He’s got a beautiful female assistant with him also dressed in white. Anyway, the two of them go into the office with my friend and they close the door. Apparently the guy in white was a friend of his but they were having an argument. You could hear them shouting through the door. I heard the name ‘Michael’."

"It made me curious so I contacted a friend of mine in NIS and had him do some checking. It took a while, but when I finally found out who Michael really was, I knew then that my friend had that chopper and there was a lot more there that he wasn’t telling me."

She looked at him lying there beside her, intently listening to her. She decided it was time to tell most, but not all of the story.

"One day, I got a call from my friend to come housesit his cabin one weekend while he was away on business. That Saturday, this white helicopter shows up and Michael walks up to the house and comes in like he owns the place. Well, he was extremely surprised to see me since he was expecting to see his…our…friend. And let’s just say that I wasn’t exactly decent. I was supposed to be alone so I figured I didn’t need to wear much."

Harry had propped himself up on an elbow by now. He smiled at her recitation of the event, surmising that Michael probably was just as surprised to see her without her clothes on. He most certainly would have been.  "That must have been quite a pleasant surprise," he replied smiling and kissing the top of her shoulder.

"Well, he looked at me and I looked at him and then he asks where my friend is, figuring he’s probably up in the bedroom, right? Wrong! I let him know real quick that he’s not here and won’t be back until the following week. Michael apologized and let me go get my clothes on. Now, remember, by this time, I already know who Michael really is and what he does. But he doesn’t know this. By the time I get down the steps from dressing, he’s gone and I heard the helicopter taking off. A few weeks later, he shows up at Miramar for some reason. Then he called me and asked me out. We started dating, but he never mentioned the incident at the cabin. He was a total gentleman the entire time. He was very charming, very smooth. Told me he was in ‘International Relations’ for the government."

“But how did that tie you into that helicopter?” he asked.

"A couple of months after I met Michael initially, I was up again in an FA-18. Again, I get a strange blip on my radar. When I finally got up even with him, I asked him to go to a secure channel. I guess I peaked his curiosity because he did. I called him by name and again asked if I could see that chopper. I also let on that I knew who he was working for and dropped Michael’s name into the conversation. When he realized it was me, he directed me to come see him soon and then he hit the throttle. Well, as soon as I got down, I went home, changed, and headed for his hanger. Apparently, he’d had me checked out pretty good because when I did catch up with him, he finally agreed to let me see her.

"He took me out somewhere out in the desert and into a cave. I couldn’t even begin to tell you now where it was because I was blindfolded." She looked at him to see if he had any reaction to what she was telling him. What she saw was a look of intense interest. "When he removed the blindfold, I saw this beautiful black and silver helicopter sitting on a pad, illuminated by the sunlight coming in from an opening in the top of the cave. I think for the first time in my life I was speechless. I had never seen anything like her. She’s a modified Bell 222 jet helicopter. And when I say modified, that’s an understatement. He opened her up and let me look inside. You would have thought I was in some sort of spaceship. I don’t know how much you remember about being in her, but she’s a four-seater. Actually, originally, there were to be two pilots and two co-pilots."

"I seem to remember something about four seats. But there were five of us in there. Things got a little hazy there," he remarked.

"I know. Lee or Chip, I don’t know which one, was in a ‘jump seat’ in between the two back seats. Cait was in the main co-pilot’s seat in back. She was working the computer controls. You were up front with me. Anyway, he told me he was impressed with my flying and since he knew me pretty well and would I be interested in learning to fly her and acting as a back up pilot? For him to ask me this was a real indication of trust for him. I, of course, jumped at the chance. I already knew how to fly helicopters so I already knew the basics. But this was different. There’s so much armaments and she’s real sensitive to the touch. And we are talking ultra high tech targeting systems here, too. But it didn’t take me long to get the hang of it. She handles so smooth, almost like an extension of yourself. Her main co-pilot was so impressed that he said he felt that I was as good as my friend as a main pilot. That I had a natural ability. Now, mind you, I’m doing this without Michael ever knowing about it. That’s the way my friend wanted it. He and Michael have a sort of a ‘love/hate’ relationship. They sort of tolerate each other.

"Anyway, I flew her a few times on some things but then hadn’t done so again until I had to come after you. My friend and his main co-pilot had been injured in a slight plane crash during a movie shoot. Cait, the back-up pilot, was the only one available. In my mind, I was the only logical choice to pilot. So when you couldn’t be found and the Institute’s communications systems couldn’t pick up on your homing signal, I knew what I had to do. I didn’t want to have to contact him, Harriman. We hadn’t parted company on the best of terms. I’m not exactly fond of the methods they have to use and let him know it. We argued and words were said; hurtful words. Anyway, I hadn’t had any further contact with him until the day I called him. I knew I had a lot of leverage because the higher ups in the government don’t know about some of the Firm’s little projects. If they were to find out, there’d be hell to pay all the way down the line."

She stopped for a minute, sat up straight, and faced him. "I asked Lee and Chip to be present during my phone conversation so there’d be no misunderstanding. I had no idea at the time that Lee knew Michael or had even done some work for him. Michael tried to put me off…told me he didn’t know what I was talking about.  My patience was already paper thin and I let him have it between the eyes. In a nutshell, I threatened to go to the President if he didn’t deliver the equipment in 6 hours from my call.  Lee told me later that I actually scared the hell out of him with my tone of voice."

"I slightly remember looking at you behind that helmet, Karen. It scared even me. I didn’t even realize who you were."

"I know, and I’m sorry. But when I’m in that kind of situation, I find myself just tuning everyone out and zeroing in on what I have to do. It’s funny, or not, depending on your perspective, but I remember Lee shoving you in the seat and I kind of remember you looking at me but I don’t remember anything else. It’s like I was on ‘auto pilot’ and my brain shuts down to everything else but my objective. And that was to get us out of there."

"What little I do remember were your eyes. It’s almost as if there was no emotion there, no recognition; it was like they were…"

"Ice?"

"…Yes. I guess you could say that. Your voice, your manner, everything…was ice cold. I’ve never known you to be so cold and ruthless. Then again, I was pretty well out of it so my memory is still pretty hazy about what exactly happened."

She looked down and a half grin appeared. "That’s how I got my name. The ‘Ice Queen’."  Lying back across the bed, she looked at him. "Harry, Michael and I dated off and on for about a year. I broke it off right before I went to Miramar that last time…before you showed up.”

Nelson searched her eyes before he asked, “How serious was the relationship?”

She bit her lip, not wanting to tell him what he didn’t really need to know.  “As serious, I guess, as he would allow it to be.  Michael isn’t the type of person to allow someone to truly get close to him.  I will tell you that the little time I spent with him allowed me to see that I had a right to live again.  That I didn’t have to live my life cloaked in what was…but live it in the here and now.  He got me to see that I was alive inside, Harry…that even though part of me died when Robert did, the rest of me was fully alive.”

There were a few hesitant moments on both their parts.  “Is that why it took you so long to realize it was right between us?” he quietly asked.

“Partly…and partly because it was the fact that you are my boss.  I didn’t want any question of impropriety arising from any relationship between us.  But I also wanted to make sure that I really felt about you…in my heart…was right.  She touched his face and he took her hand in his and kissed it. "You see, for me, making love is a culmination of three things. Mind, body, and heart. If any one of those is not there, it doesn’t mean a damn thing. That’s why that first night on the beach, my body so desperately wanted you... needed you. But my brain and my heart weren’t ready. The more I saw of you, the more I was around you after that, the more the other two came into sync with my body. By the time we were in Williamsburg, I knew for sure that I felt comfortable making love to you because you had shown me that you cared what I wanted and how I felt."

She shifted her weight and snuggled into his arms. Looking up at him, her expression softened. "By the time we went back aboard Seaview to go to the Azores, I knew I was hopelessly in love with you. I couldn’t sleep that Monday night. Ended up oversleeping the next morning. I knew that from that point on that I didn’t want to be alone ever again. When the accident happened, somehow I knew it would be you that would be there to save me." Her fingers lightly brushed his chest as she struggled to continue. But he didn’t give her the chance.

"Karen, I understand why you went to Briggs. I may not like it, or him, for that fact, but I do understand. I don’t like him, or the Firm, or any of them, for the plain simple reason that dealing with people like them was what got Katherine killed. And to be able to complete the Institute and build Seaview, I ended up having to make a deal with the devil. In exchange for the remainder of the funding, I had to agree for us to do certain jobs for them ever so often. I don’t like it. Never have. But we have to. I would prefer that you keep your distance from him, or any of the others, for that matter. I don’t want to lose you the way I lost her."

She looked at him and saw the pain and distrust in his face. "Harriman, I understand what you’re saying. I really do. But let’s get something straight here. I’m not Katherine. We’re two entirely different women from two different time periods. She was from a time where women didn’t, or wouldn’t, get involved in things like this. She must have been very special to you for you to be this concerned. But I’m not her. And never will be. I can handle myself pretty well. You want to keep me away from ONI and I appreciate that. You also want to keep me away from Michael. And I can appreciate that, too. But you have to understand that I don’t appreciate, nor will I tolerate, double standards here. This ‘I can but you can’t’ attitude won’t cut it with me. I want to steer clear of Michael and the Firm, too. But that is my decision to make, not yours."

"Would you fly that helicopter again if he were to ask you?’

She hesitated. She had asked herself that very question several times since last year. And she honestly didn’t know the answer.  "I…don’t know. I really don’t know. To tell you the truth, I’m kind of glad that I’m not at Miramar as much. I’ve had a lot of time to think since last year. And to be honest with you, I really don’t like what I become when I fly like that. It frightens me."

"Why?"

"I think it’s because I get ‘tunnel vision’ so bad. And that I get so devoid of all emotions and feelings. That’s not me." Her expression changed and a dark veil descended over her eyes. "It would have to be awfully damn important for me to do that kind of flying again."

He held her close, feeling her heartbeat as they lay there. He could almost feel her anguish at relating the story. "Karen, I’m sorry if I brought back some bad memories…"

"No, Harry…It’s not that. It’s…well, I just don’t know right now. I wish I could give you a definitive answer."

He looked down at her as she lay in his arms. He wasn’t real happy about the prospect of her doing jobs for Briggs. One person in this family working for ONI or whomever was enough. And he didn’t intend for it to be her. He had made a promise to himself when she came back to him that he would keep her safe. And he meant to keep that promise, and Michael Briggs be damned.

 

 

Caitlin Davis woke up to the alarm making the most annoying noise. As she lay in her bed, she listened for any possible sound in the apartment but it was silent. Her mother, now safely on the beginning of her honeymoon, would have been proud of her last night. She had actually gotten most of the guests out of the apartment before 0200 this morning. The very last one to leave was Lee Crane. He had stayed to help her clean up and make sure everyone got out okay. She hadn’t even asked him, but he volunteered anyway. Said it was his way of knowing that her mom wouldn’t have to worry about her if he was there. She had protested but secretly was glad for the help and the company.

As they cleaned up and stacked the dishwasher full of dirty glasses and plates, she had actually made him laugh with her impressions of some of her professors and her recitation of some of the antics that the ROTCs in the Corps of Cadets had pulled. Thinking back on his days at the Academy, he in turn related several incidents, including some of the stories about a then Captain Harriman Nelson. She was fascinated to hear the stories about her new ‘stepfather’, saying that the more she knew, the more leverage she would have with him. Crane had told her to be extra careful, that Nelson was an expert at turning the table on you when you least expected it.

They had sat and talked and laughed until almost 0500. When Crane realized how late it really was, he profusely apologized and started to leave. Caitlin, however, had told him that since it was getting breakfast time, why not wait and go after they had breakfast. She had gone into the kitchen with him in tow and proceeded to cook a huge meal for the two of them. He had been amazed at her ability to take charge.

They sat on the balcony and watched the sun come up. Caitlin had made a remark about a yacht that was anchored just off the point southwest of the Institute. Looking further through a pair of binoculars, Crane recognized the boat as the Dreamweaver.

When he did finally decide to leave, she had walked him to the door. There had been an awkward silence between them after she thanked him for helping her. She could have sworn that he really wanted to kiss her but something was holding him back. He had hesitated, instead planting a kiss on her forehead and told her to go on to bed. After he left, she felt really strange. It had seemed so natural to have him there. And she was actually very disappointed to see him leave.

Caitlin finally got out of bed and headed to the shower. She had to catch a flight back to Virginia since she had exams the next week so she had to finish packing quickly and then catch a ride to the airport. Smiling to herself, she thought, Wonder if I could get Lee to take me in? After showering, she looked at the clock. 1200. I wonder if he’s up? She checked her mother’s Institute directory and found the centrex number for his home. Picking up the telephone, she dialed the number. It took about 5 rings before a very sleepy male voice answered.

"Crane here."

"Lee, Caitlin. Sorry to wake you, but I was wondering if I could impose on you to take me to the airport this afternoon. I’ve got a 1830 flight out to Roanoke and I need a ride."

He had to shake himself to wake up enough to be able to think straight.

"Sure, can you be ready by 1500?"

"Almost ready now, as a matter of fact. Just have to get dressed and finish packing. I’ll be ready."

"Good, I’ll pick you up around 1500, then."

"Thanks, Lee. I really appreciate it. Bye." As she hung up the telephone, she smiled to herself. It would be interesting to see if he would actually try to do something.

At Crane’s house, he lay in the bed trying to clear his brain of grogginess. He hadn’t figured on hearing from her this soon. As he thought back on earlier this morning, he wondered if he weren’t half crazy.  That for some reason…Caitlin Davis bothered him…and the strange thing was…he couldn’t figure out why.

He finally decided to get up, shower, and shave. If she needed help closing up her mother’s apartment, he’d better get over there. Admiral Nelson and Karen were to be gone for a month long honeymoon and he was to be in charge in his absence. And that also included making sure that Caitlin got back to college for her finals.

 

 

Dreamweaver docked back at the Marina around 1200 hours and the crew made preparations for shutdown. Karen was standing on the deck near the bow of the boat, watching the docking procedures. Harriman was in the Captain’s cabin, going over instructions for the boat’s future use. She had decided to take this time and enjoy the warm spring sunshine and the slight sea breeze. As she observed the scenery around her, she thought back on the last couple of days. She fingered the antique cameo broach that Harriman had given her as a wedding present. He had explained that it had belonged to his maternal grandmother and that he wanted her to have it. It was exquisite piece with a rose colored background and white raised carving. So much had happened and it had all seemed to have happened so very fast. Smiling, she remembered yesterday and the wedding. All that planning and preparation and it was over so very quickly. The reception had been a blur, except for the confrontation between Harry and Michael. She still had a hard time rationalizing that little scene in her mind.

Why was Harriman so jealous of Michael?

Even after she had explained her relationship with him, she could still tell that Harry wasn’t exactly pleased about any future association with Michael.

She remembered last night and how she had actually seduced her own husband. That one thought brought a sly grin to her face, one meant only for herself.

Just wait, Harry. Just wait. There’s more where that came from.

Karen looked over and saw him emerge with the Captain. He walked over to her and stood next to her, watching the dock crew help moor the lines on the yacht.

"The car ought to be here in an hour or so. Are you packed?"

She nodded and slipped her arm through his. "I need to call Caitlin before we leave. Just to wish her luck on finals."

"I’m sure she’ll do fine. She always has."

"And how, sir, would you know? Have you been keeping up with my daughter’s academics?"

"But of course." He told her, slightly grinning, his head cocked to one side. "Who do you think convinced her to take the computer engineering courses this year?"

She looked at him in amazement. He was actually loving this.  A new person to mentor and shape…but this time, the person was his stepdaughter.

 

 

Lee Crane arrived at the apartment building at approximately 1500 hours. Caitlin had the door open and her luggage sitting just inside the apartment door. He noticed the textbooks setting there...Theories of Computer Engineering Fundamentals...quite heady and technically oriented subjects. He knew she was really into computer programming, but never realized she was this much into the more advanced technical aspects of it.

"Caitlin? It’s Lee Crane."

There was no answer.

Now where is she? he thought. Walking into Karen’s apartment, he thought he heard someone crying and it seemed to be coming from one of the bedrooms.

"Caitlin?" he called out again. He was getting a bit concerned, but still there was no response. Determined to find her or find out what was going on, he started to check the bedrooms. Opening the door to the first one, he found himself in what was obviously Karen’s master bedroom. He quickly scanned the room and closed the door. Proceeding down and across the hall, he saw a door that was slightly open. Pushing it wider, he found her standing with a picture frame in her hand.

"Caitlin, are you all right?" he softly asked as he stepped inside the door.

She turned around and he could see her tear stained face. Walking over to her, he put his arm around her and gently took the picture from her hands. The photo was of her and her father. She must have been around two to three years of age at the time the picture was taken. Looking at it, he observed that she and her father appeared to be having a very serious ‘discussion’ while seated on the steps outside of some kind of building. It was also obviously one of her favorite pictures of her father.

Wiping the tears away with the back of her hand, she explained, "Mom, Dad, and I had gone to the Virginia Historical Society Museum one Sunday afternoon. Mom took this picture of Dad and me outside the museum. It’s always been one of Mom’s favorites of Daddy and me. I guess I was a little over 2 at the time."

Lee looked closer at the picture. The man sitting there with her obviously was her father. The resemblance was uncanny. He had always thought that Caitlin looked like her mother, but after seeing this picture, there was no doubt who she looked like.

She looked at Crane and sat down on the bed.  "I guess I just finally realized that Mom really has gone on with her life. It’s not that I didn’t want her to marry HN but…" she whispered, "…it just makes it all so…so final."

She got up, went into the bathroom and threw some cold water on her face. Coming back into her bedroom, she found Crane looking at other family pictures scattered around her bedroom. On her dresser was a large picture of Nelson, Karen, and Caitlin that was taken at last year’s Annual Christmas Party. Next to it was the one of her, Lee, and Chip that was taken at the same party. He was amazed to see the transformation in her in the last four months. How can anyone change that much in so short a time?

"Lee, do you remember that picture?" she asked, looking at the one of the three of them.

Crane smiled slightly, remembering that night. He had danced practically most of the night with her. She had proven to be an excellent partner and he had thoroughly enjoyed her company.

"Yes, I do," he replied.

"So do I," she quietly said and smiled at him.

An uneasy silence prevailed until Caitlin looked at him and announced, "Well, I’ve got a plane to catch. I think we’d better go, Captain." She turned and walked out of the bedroom and clicked off the lights in each of the rooms.

"Mom shouldn’t have to come home and contend with burnt out light bulbs. By the way, I’ve packed up a lot of her things that she wanted sent over to HN’s house. Could you make sure that they’re taken over there so she doesn’t have to bother when she gets back?"

"Sure, no problem. I’ll see to it. Considering that they’re going to be gone a month, I doubt that moving is something that she has on her mind right now," he quipped.

Caitlin smiled slightly and picked up her purse and her books. Crane picked up her bags and they went down and placed everything in his red sports car.

As they drove out of the compound, Caitlin seemed to be in another world. Lee thought she was being way too quiet, but decided to give her time for her own introspection. Normally she would have been talking a mile a minute, but today her mind was elsewhere. She had actively but quietly pushed the romance between Admiral Nelson and her mother. And she had been ecstatic when Karen told her he had proposed. But in a way, she hadn’t figured she’d feel this down about the fact that her father was truly gone and that her mother had really started her life over.

Reaching the airport, they checked her luggage through and then parked his car. As they walked back to the terminal, they spent the time reminiscing about her first days at the Institute.

"I guess I was quite the ‘nerd’ and pest then. But then again, that was four years ago. A lot can change in four years."

Looking at her now, he realized how very true those words were.  They sat down in the waiting area to wait for her flight to board. He had already decided to stay with her until she got on the plane. Finally at about 1805, the flight was called. Picking up her purse and carry-on bag, they started toward the doorway to the enclosed ramp.

"Thanks for bringing me to the airport and keeping me company. You really didn’t have to do that."

"I know, but it was my pleasure. Besides, it’s the least I could do for the instigator of the ‘white aisle’," he grinned.

She broke into a wide smile. "I’m glad you approved, Captain. Ski and I thought that it would be both unique and appropriate. Looks like we were right."

Other passengers walked past them as the boarding call continued. He handed her the carry-on luggage.

"Well, I’ve got to get on. Thanks again, Lee." She turned to walk down the ramp, but she could feel him watching her.

He turned and began to walk away when he suddenly felt someone take hold of his arm. Wheeling around, he came face to face with her. "Caitlin?! What’s the…"

"Shhhh…" she whispered as she place her arms around his neck and pulled him down toward her. Standing on her toes, she kissed him, softly at first, then more tenderly.

He could have stopped it…should have stopped it…but he didn’t. Instead, he drew her closer to him and returned her kiss with the same enthusiasm.

She broke away from him and looked into his hazel eyes. "Well, Captain. Now you know that four years does indeed make a difference. And furthermore, I don’t play games like this." She softly kissed him again, then turned and proceeded down the ramp, leaving him standing there, watching her walk away and feeling stunned and very uneasy.

 

 

At the opposite end of the terminal, another plane had departed from its loading platform and was taxiing to the runway for takeoff. Harriman and Karen Nelson were safely in their seats in the first class section of the Boeing 747 that was bound for Hawaii.

"I hope Caitlin got to the airport on time. I’d hate to know that she missed her flight," Karen remarked, looking out the window as the plane rushed down the runway.

He took his wife’s hand and slightly squeezed it. "I’m sure she made it. I called the Institute around 1530 and they said she had left with Lee and was headed to the airport. I’m sure he’ll take good care of her and make sure she makes the flight."

"I’m sure he will, too. It’s just that..." she replied, looking out the window as the plane gained altitude. Something about Lee’s attitude of late regarding Caitlin was puzzling her.

"Karen, you’ve got to learn to let go. She’ll be fine. Lee’s with her."

"I know, I know."

"Good." He held her hand for a moment. Looking at her, he remarked, "You haven’t even asked where we’re going."

"Well, I know we’re going to Hawaii. The rest, as far as I’m concerned, is irrelevant. As long as it’s private and isolated, I don’t care. Besides," she whispered, "I trust your judgment, sir."

He laughed and replied, "Oh, it’s both, you can be assured of that. We’re going over to Maui. I’ve rented a house near Hana for the month. A private plane will be waiting for us at the Honolulu Airport when we land."

"Sounds heavenly. A whole month, just the two of us. No Institute, no sub, no crew, no ONI missions." She fringed a mock horrified expression on her face. "Harry, will we be able to stand it?"

He chuckled at her joke and then replied, "Actually, I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for a month long honeymoon with you. Do you realize that we’ve never had this much time alone since we’ve known each other?"

She leaned over and kissed him lightly on the cheek. "Well, guess what, my dear...we now have the rest of our lives together. Hopefully, at least this time, we won’t be disturbed until we get back."

"Well, the only ones who know where we’ll be are Angie, Lee, and Caitlin."

"It’d be nice if we could do this ever so often," she stated, fingering her wedding band.

He looked at his bride. He’d have to remember that request for the future; then looking out the window as the plane gracefully flew high above the clouds, he smiled to himself as he remembered the past few days. And for the first time in a very long time, Harriman Nelson felt truly content and happy.

 

The End

 

 

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