Reality Check

By

Jane Daffron

 

Author's Note: The events that are chronicled here take place within the story A Renewal of Life. We know that people often have second thoughts about their actions, and the ramifications of those actions have to eventually be dealt with. Even though our characters aren’t ‘real people’, I try to treat them as such and that’s why I decided to inject a bit of realism into this scene and expand it.

 

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Mid-March…The Williamsburg Inn, Williamsburg, Virginia

 

0244. He woke from a light slumber and glanced over at the clock-radio on the nightstand. The barest of light shone through the heavy brocade curtains that covered the bedroom windows, casting a faint eerie glow in the antique laden room. Slowly, quietly, he withdrew his arm from under the woman’s head lying next to him. Almost in an automatic response, she rolled to her side and slightly away from him.

He gently drew the covers up over her bare shoulders, making sure she wouldn’t be cold, then quietly slipped out of the old-fashioned four-poster bed. Walking into the bathroom, he retrieved a bathrobe that had been provided by the hotel from behind the door. Slipping it on, he then walked back into the bedroom and sat down in a chair opposite the bed. Sitting back, he steepled his hands under his chin and gazed over at the figure that lay blissfully sleeping across from him.

Admiral Harriman Nelson couldn’t hear her faint breathing but he could see the sheet move slightly as her chest slowly rose and fell. His eyes, now adjusted to the darkness, simply watched her in the residual light …and he contemplated what had happened but a few short hours before. The scent of their lovemaking still hung in the air. Tonight… they had consummated the growing relationship between them…sweet, tender lovemaking…unlike anything he’d known before.

For the two weeks before they sailed for the North Atlantic and HMS Titanic, he and Captain Karen Davis, Seaview’s mission specialist, had begun to see each other socially. In fact…they’d been together just about every single evening. After that first night out on the beach, he’d finally felt the yearnings for the closeness he missed. Yet both of them had kept their more passionate instincts at arm’s length…almost afraid to give in to what was to be the inevitable. When she’d passed him the note after the Deep Water Dive (DWD) team’s first dive on the Titanic, he’d known she’d finally made her decision. It’d taken him nearly two years to ask her out after he’d employed her as the mission specialist and new Dive Officer for the Seaview. Two years of denying his attraction to her and, apparently, hers to him. Now…as he sat opposite her while she slept, he studied her like some specimen in his laboratory. The way she breathed as she slept…her exact position. The way her hair lay on the pillow. The way she had looked as they shared that ultimate intimate moment…he had seen her eyes open wide and then slowly close when she crested around him, relishing in the incredible feelings of her own climax.

In the short time since he’d covered her, she’d thrown part of the sheet off, her nude body now partially exposed to him.

God…I haven’t felt like this in years… Damn, Nelson…what the hell have you done here? Have you taken advantage of a situation to satisfy your own physical needs? ‘Cause if that’s the real reason for all of this, then she sure as hell doesn’t deserve it!

He silently got up, walked somberly out into the main room of the suite, and poured himself a drink from the mini-bar. Padding back toward the bedroom, he stopped and stood in the doorway, looking at her, and remembering his own feelings and actions from just a short while ago. Shaking his head, he wondered why… Why now…and why had he allowed it to happen.

I asked her…she could have stopped it…but she didn’t. Why? She said she wanted me to make love to her. Dammit, you fool…this woman deserves better than you can offer her. She deserves someone who can make her happy…who can give her what she needs. Oh, God…she looked so beautiful last night in that dress…sitting there in the firelight. Ever since that night on the beach, for some reason, being with her feels right…it just feels so damn right.

Taking a sip of the scotch, he walked back and sat down in a chair opposite the bedroom door. His eyes fell on the heap of rumpled clothes lying in the middle of the floor. His life had now taken a permanent turn, he wasn’t sure in which direction, and for better or worse, she had now become an important and integral part of it. He sighed. Somehow he knew that this was but the beginning what could well be the rest of his life.

Well, Nelson…What the hell’s it going to be? Do you want this? If this relationship goes further…you could end up…who knows where it could lead…maybe marrying her. Would that be so bad? I mean…would it?

Glancing back at the bed, he realized everyone…or at least a lot of people…had been gently nudging them together for the past couple of years. Her daughter, his friends…even some of his employees. Had they all seen what he hadn’t? And Karen…she had kept her own distance, yet had been friendly and sociable enough. Even to the point of including him in major family holidays and occasionally inviting him to dinner. She’d always been nothing but courteous and professional toward him. Even during the times that her daughter had blatantly thrown them together…like the night of the Holly Ball at St. Xaiver’s School.

She was damn nervous about that night. She wanted to kill Caitlin for what she did…throwing us together that way. Damn…I can’t deny that I’m attracted to her. Hell…I just made love to her, for crying out loud. He took another healthy swig of the golden liquid. You know, Harry…you’re one sorry sonofabitch. You really are. Here you are…in a romantic hotel suite with this wonderful woman…and you’re sitting here, trying to figure out whether or not what you just did was right. Well…you should’ve figured that one out before you dropped your goddamned pants, old boy.

He refocused on the figure as she moved just a bit in her sleep. He remembered Tony Rennalt’s words of a few months ago…You can’t make love to a grave. Katherine’s gone and never coming back, no matter how much you want it.

Tony was right. As much as he really hated to admit it…he was right. It was time to move on….It was time that he found someone to share his life. He sure as hell wasn’t getting any younger. Most of his men had families…so why not him? He wasn’t sure where this relationship would lead, but one thing he was sure of was that there was a missing part to his life and maybe, just maybe, she would fill it.

Why shouldn’t it be me? Damnit! Tony’s right…Katherine’s not going to ever come back… I just don’t want Karen to ever be hurt like Katherine was… She deserves better than that. She’s right about one thing, though. Life doesn’t give you guarantees… Well, if she can start over…maybe I can, too.

Finally, a few minutes later, he downed the last of his drink. Sitting the glass down on the bar tray, he headed to the bathroom and then moments later, slipped back into the queen sized bed next to her. The movement caused her to stir slightly and turn to face him, instinctively snuggling next to him, as if she belonged there. He surrounded her with his arms, gently pulling her against his body and feeling her warmth as she molded her body to his.

I could get used to this…I’ll have to admit that. I could really get used to this.

Kissing her forehead lightly, he settled in to rejoin her in sleep.

 

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When the first rays of dawn broke, Nelson lay awake, on his side, facing her. Karen was sound asleep and oblivious that he was watching her. He stroked her hair lightly as to not awaken her then turned over and he picked up the telephone. Calling Room Service, he placed an order for their breakfast. Sitting up in bed, he surveyed the surroundings of the room as well as what he could see through the door. Clothes were on chairs, the floor, and a lamp. Gazing back down at her, his mind digested all that had really transpired the night before.

God, were we really that bad last night? You know…the last three weeks has been hard on her with all the prep work for the team’s first dive. God…last night…she must have just let it all out.

She’d surrendered to him completely…something he’d realized was hard for her to do. Karen Davis was not the kind of woman who gave in easily…but that’s exactly what she’d done. She made a slight movement and turned over toward him. He bent over and softly kissed her cheek, then eased himself out of bed. Putting on the robe he’d picked up earlier, he wandered into the bathroom to shower and shave.

I’ll wake her when breakfast gets here…she deserves to sleep in…

As he entered the steamy stream of water, his thoughts turned to the night before.

It’s funny…I didn’t figure she’d be so… nervous…at first…I guess I just didn’t expect it…She’s never that way on board the boat…she’s always so damn cool…so calm. And yet, she gave herself to me...freely…Course, then again, Harry, old boy, you weren’t exactly sure of some things yourself here…I mean, come on…

He’d found she’d been almost shy with him at first. And yet, she certainly wasn’t inexperienced. Once he had assured her, he found she knew what she wanted and had gently guided him in that direction. He’d observed her every movement and expression, making his own mental notes along the way. If this liaison was to go even further and become more involved, they had to come to know each other in the most intimate of ways, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. And when she had reciprocated the erotic pleasures, he’d found himself immersed in a world of sensuality that proved she could give as well as receive.

I guess it’s been hard enough on her…losing her husband and all. From what she’s told me, she was very much in love with him. Hell, they had a child together. That’s more than I ever had. Katherine and I never got that chance…

Standing under the prickling hot water, he washed the soap from his body and let the pounding wake up his senses. He’d found a comfort last night that he’d not known in too long a time. However, he was also wondering how much of himself he should reveal to her. It wasn’t that he wasn’t aware of the true significance of last night…to either of them. Quite the contrary…he was more than acutely aware that for her to give of herself in such a manner was the ultimate for her. In the nearly two years that he’d known her, he’d watched her keep a tight reign on her own personal feelings. Not that she didn’t show little glimpses of herself…but she had retained a certain formality around him most times.

I’ve got to learn to let go…she’s so laid back at times…when she’s around people she can relax with…I want her to be able to be that way with me… She’s got a strange, wicked sense of humor sometimes, I’ve got to admit that…but I guess she’s had to develop it in order to survive. I really think…if it’s possible…I could fall in love with her. Maybe that wouldn’t be a bad thing. I’m tired of being alone…

Reflecting back, he realized she’d done exactly what he had….kept that personal part of herself under wrap. And then after he’d decided to break the ice and take that fateful step, she’d started to let him see more of that down to earth part of her that only her team saw and he’d had the good fortune to see glimpses of.

Turning off the shower, he grabbed one of the towels from the heated rack and slowly dried himself, then wrapped it around his waist. Standing in front of the mirror, he looked at himself.

What in the world am I doing here? Why did I allow myself to become involved with her? I’ll tell you why, Harry…cause you’re falling for her and you just really don’t want to admit it.

He picked up his razor and proceeded to shave. Again the pleasant thoughts of the night before invaded his mind. He could still smell her scent and feel the touch of her skin on his. The mere thought of what had taken place excited him even now. It had been awhile since he’d been with anyone…not that he did it indiscriminately. His last ‘relationship’…if you could call it that…was a brief fling with stewardess he’d met on a trip to Washington, DC about a month before he’d met Karen. He’d been flying First Class and the woman had initiated a pleasant conversation during the long flight. The liaison had lasted all of two weeks…the length of his trip to DC.

But this was different…because she was different. He wasn’t sure why…but somehow, deep inside, he knew she was and he wanted to make sure she was never hurt. Never. Even the lovemaking with her was different. Every movement of her body with his was almost in perfect sync…as if they were perfectly suited to each other. He’d waited until she was ready…that’s why her shyness was almost confusing to him. And yet, she had shown him that she was certainly no novice in the art of physical pleasure. She had always exuded the air of total confidence, yet with him, she had been almost nervous. Until, that is, when he took her into his arms in front of the fire.

He brushed his teeth and then stood looking at himself in the mirror. Damn. You look like hell, Harry... Picking up another towel, he headed back into the bedroom.

 

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The distant noise of a running shower slowly stirred her back into the world of the living. At first, she wasn’t quite coherent as to where she was. However, when she ran her hand down the vacant side of the bed and smelled the faint scent of his aftershave, she knew. Opening her eyes, she focused in on something. His blue jacket was draped over a chair. His suitcase was open…her own suit bag was open and clothes hung over it. Her eyes scanned the room. There were clothes on the floor and something was on a lamp. Good, Lord. What a night!

She smiled to herself. A complete sweet smile of pleasure. Then there was the sudden realization that she was wearing nothing but a smile. Oh, well. That’s life. And with that, she stretched out diagonally across the bed. If he wants back in, well, he’d have to…she stopped and smiled wickedly at that thought.

The water stopped. A few moments later, she heard his electric razor. She sat up in the bed and tried to fully comprehend what had taken place between them. Pulling the sheet up around her breasts in an involuntary reaction of modesty, she suddenly realized she must look a mess.

Oh, dear God. Bed head…I’ve got to have a hellacious case of bed head. And I’ve got to get to the bathroom… She quickly got up and headed straight for her suitcase, rummaging through to find a brush or comb, as well as her robe, then walked over to the dresser. As she made herself somewhat presentable, she looked around the room and then spied her dress on the floor in the outer room of the suite. Her bra lay on top and her panties….she started looking and saw them lying on the floor at the end of the bed. Right where he’d tossed them after he took them off her. She gathered up her clothes and placed them over the arm of an adjacent chair and threw her robe over the bottom of the bed.

Damn, girl…you really did it, didn’t you? You really let your guard down last night.

Still nude, she walked back to the bed and picked up the TV remote, turning it on to a familiar local station. She slipped again under the covers, pulling the sheet back up over her. Settling back against the propped up pillows, she reflected back on last night. She’d crossed that imaginary line…she’d made love to her boss. But for whatever reason, he had become more than that in the last month. He was warm and kind and gentle…and strong.

Oh, God…was he strong. He can be so damn standoffish at timesbut damn…Not last night…I don’t think I’ve ever felt like that! I just hope I didn’t make a fool of myself…

Last night, for the first time since her late husband, she let another man consume her. Totally and unashamedly, she had completely surrendered herself to him. She hadn’t been able to do that with Michael, the only other man after her husband…she always had to retain some sort of control… She wasn’t really ready to yield to another man at that time in her life, even though Michael had taught her so much. But Nelson…well, Harriman Nelson was different. When he gave of himself, he gave all. And for everything he took from her…he gave her tenfold in return.

Why couldn’t I ever be like that before? I can’t believe I let him just have his way…I never did that with Michael…and I don’t think I ever did it with Robert.

Her recent past relationship with Michael Briggs had shown her that she could be sexual…to fully enjoy the joyous sensations that her body was capable of giving her. But she eventually knew that he would never allow himself to be touched in his heart…and she ultimately knew the relationship wouldn’t ever progress past the bedroom because of it. She needed more than that in her life…and he wasn’t willing to give it. Harriman Nelson, on the other hand, for some unknown reason, had touched her heart, and her body, in a way that she hadn’t known since her late husband, Robert. When she looked up into his steel blue eyes as he entered her, his eyes had reached right down into her soul…and into her heart from that very moment.

Sighing softly, she struggled with her thoughts and feelings. That’s the first time I’ve ever really looked into his eyes. I mean, really looked. God! They’re so blue. And I swear, if I didn’t know better, I think he could see right through me. Karen, old girl, there’s something going on behind those eyes…majorily going on…and you’ve got to find out what it is. This man…maybe he’s what you need in your life. I know that what happened last night was right…I know it. It wasn’t just the moment…or the light…or the mood. No…my heart tells me this is right. Ok…so why the hell am I sitting here, naked as a jay bird, being so damn nervous about when he comes out of the bathroom and sees me like this? Looking around the room, she kept one eye on the clock. I’ve got to go to the bathroom. I wish to God this place had two. I have got to brush my teeth…

She could hear him humming as he shaved. You know…I could get used to this again. I’m just so damn tired of having to do it all. Christ! For once in your life, Karen, let someone else take the reigns, okay? You don’t have to do it all…you don’t have to be it all…You deserve some damn happiness in your life…that’s what Robert would have wanted for you and you know it. Why the hell do you think you went up to the cemetery? You went to get his blessing on this and you know that.

And yet, there was a part of her she felt had to hold back…she had to be very careful…she couldn’t allow herself to fall in love with him for fear of being hurt again. It wasn’t just her career…it was her. The problem is…that’s exactly what’s happening and there’s nothing I can do about it …It was as if she was powerless to stop what would be.

She looked over at the bathroom door. Drawing in a deep breath, she slowly exhaled and assessed the situation.

I wanted him to make love to me last night…ever since that night on the beach. If it’d been right then…I would have…but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.

She had craved it…needed it…ever since the beach. And they had come so close the following night. He could have done it while we were out on the yacht…but he didn’t. What if he’d tried? Would I have let him? A few moments more…another intense kiss…and… But it had really taken her until now to reconcile within herself that what she knew would happen was right. She needed more than just physicality…she needed, no, she desperately yearned for what was really missing in her heart. The real question was…was Harriman Nelson that missing piece?

What is it with him? Why is this whole blasted thing driving me up the wall? He asked me last night…I think…no, I know…he would have stopped if I’d said no. But Lord…I didn’t want him to stop. I needed him to make love to me. I needed him…period. She smiled to herself. He’s so damn sexy. There’s something about him…I swear I don’t know what it is…he’s not like Crane…I mean…Lee is handsome…but Harry…there’s a quietness about him…I don’t know how to put my finger on it, but there’s something about him that I feel so comfortable with now…he makes me feel safe. God, when he puts his arms around me…I feel as if nothing will ever touch me. I’m just so damn tired of being alone. I’ve got to stop putting up these damn walls...I can’t learn to love again if all I’m ever afraid of is getting hurt again.

Shutting her eyes, she remembered every touch of his hand on her, every kiss, every movement of his body within hers. A warm feeling filled her and she could still feel his being flowing into hers as they had given over to the sensual feelings of ecstasy.

Oh, God…I can still feel him…If I close my eyes…I can still feel him inside me when he came. I think that’s the first time I’ve ever looked into someone’s eyes and seen what they look like when it happens. His eyes kinda glazed over…like he saw me but didn’t really see me.

And then…as she lay in his arms, still linked with him and the way she had felt as she had drifted to sleep lying next to him. It had been so long she had felt that safe and content…a long time.

No…last night was right…for whatever happens now, even if I have to leave the Institute, it was right…I know in my heart…it was right.

Somehow…someway…what had happened last night had been preordained…meant to be. And she wouldn’t trade it for the world.

 

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Shortly, the door to the bathroom opened and he strolled out, finding her sitting up in bed, watching the morning news on WAVY-Norfolk.

"Well, well, sleepy head, you finally decide to wake up?" asking her as he sat down beside her and drying his hair with a towel.

"Well, I kinda had no choice since someone was makin’ so much noise in the shower. What time is it?"

Picking up his watch off the table beside the bed, he replied, "0645 and I’ve already ordered breakfast for us. It should be up shortly."

Grinning a bit, she slid further down beneath the covers. "It’s too early. And besides, I know I must look a fright. This is the reality check, Admiral…the morning after."

He laughed and slid under the covers beside her. "Well, if it is, then we’re both having it. And besides, Captain…I thought it was your habit to rise around 0630."

Snuggling into his arms, she raised up and kissed him then looked into his eyes. "That, sir, is when I’m working. Last time I looked, I was on leave as of yesterday morning. And if you want further clarification, I would suggest you take that question up with my boss."

"Hmmmm, I just might have to," was his bemused reply just as he pulled her into a long, searching embrace, his strong hands roaming her body at will. "Particularly if he’s a real bear in the morning."

"Why, Admiral…whatevah are ya tryin’ to do, suh?" she laughingly asked as she pulled away. "Look, you pulled rank, got up early, and have been hogging the bathroom. I’ve got to at least make myself presentable." She quickly kissed him and hopped out of bed, grabbed her small makeup bag from her suitcase and disappeared into the bathroom. A few minutes later, she reappeared. "Now…I feel a bit more human."

He sat up on the bed and simply looked at her…. "You never cease to amaze me."

As she slid back into bed, she looked at him. "I don’t understand…"

"Well…here we are, in a very romantic hotel room…we made love last night…and you’re now complaining about bathroom time," he teased her.

Karen maneuvered herself closer and sat, cross-legged, facing him, and then broke into an apologetic grin. "Hey, look," she explained. "When you live with a teenager, you learn very quickly that one bathroom simply does not make it. I’d never be able to get in if all we had was one. Besides, it’s been a long time since I’ve had to wait in line to use one…particularly where a man is concerned and wondering if said gentleman understands certain things."

He raised an eyebrow in slight jest. "Oh?"

She could tell he was teasing her…yet she was also enjoying the little banter between them. In a way, it helped to ease her sudden uneasiness of ‘the morning after’. So she decided to tease him back. "Yes…like whether or not the man in question has been considerate enough to put the lid down on the toilet." Her own eyes flickered in mischief. "My father was absolutely the world’s worst about that…and unfortunately, it usually was discovered in the middle of the night when you’re still half asleep. Robert, on the other hand, knew he’d better not even think about doing it…that is, if he valued his life."

The turn of the conversation was amusing to Nelson. He suddenly reached for her and pulled her toward him, enveloping her in his arms. Then in one quick motion, he rolled her on her back and lifted himself above her. "Well, I can assure you, Captain Davis…I’m most considerate. About that…and other things as well," and his mouth crashed down on hers, his hands beginning a slow descent along her waist. It was most obvious that he wanted her and within moments, she started to reciprocate the ministrations. Not long afterward, they were again engaged heavily in the arms of passion, continuing where they’d left off the night before. Finally, they linked hands as the world exploded around them.

He held her tightly to him, kissing her softly and tenderly as he rolled onto his side. Lifting her face, he was astounded to see tears in her eyes. Alarmed, he wasn’t exactly sure what to do. This certainly hadn’t happened the night before. "What’s wrong?"

"Nothing…absolutely nothing," she quietly replied and returned his kiss in like kind.

"Then…why the tears?" he asked as he caught one with his back of his hand. He was afraid that he’d hurt her in some way…something he desperately didn’t want to do.

"Because…" she hesitated and then explained, "You’ve made me feel loved again. That’s why. And partially because I cry when I’m happy. I guess that’s something you’ll learn about me… if we keep going."

"Hmmm…and I’ve made you happy, have I?" he asked as he kissed her shoulder. This was another side of her that he was surprised to see. "And as for the other…what do you mean if? Looks like I’ve got a lot to learn about you and from the looks of it, it’s going to take quite a long time…you’re a complicated woman, Karen Davis."

"Well, you have…made me happy that is. And I’m certainly not complicated. Far from it." Then in an attempt to change the subject, "I have a question, though. How long are we going to be here?"

His slight laughter seemed so easy and natural now somehow…he was becoming more accustomed to this new closeness. Pulling her tighter to him, "Why do you ask?"

"Well…It would be awfully nice to just stay sequestered here for the week…but I know that’s a bit unrealistic. And the maid probably does need to come in and clean…" She looked around at the disarray in the suite. Looking back over at him, she shyly remarked, "I think we, uh, sorta made a bit of a mess here…"

Nelson looked at the room and had to concur. "Tell you what. How about we go back to the real world on Tuesday or Wednesday morning? That gives us plenty of time together and we can still do some exploring here."

"Hmmm, that’s good. I can deal with that. Now, where were we?" and she pulled him closer to her. Unfortunately, just about the time she had engaged him in a rather passionate embrace, there was a knock at the door and a voice saying "Room Service".

"Damn!" he muttered under his breath, then kissed her deeply and got up, put on his robe, and walked into the sitting room of the suite to let the waiter in.

After he had signed for the meal and tipped the man, he called out, "Breakfast is served, m’lady."

"I’ll be right in," she replied as she slid out of the bed and headed into the bathroom. He heard the shower start and then about ten minutes later, it stopped. Five minutes after that, she emerged in a robe with a towel wrapped around her head. Nelson handed her a cup of hot coffee. Sitting it on the table, she suddenly put her arms around him and kissed him deeply and passionately, yet it was she who broke away first as she felt his hands pull her robe loose and his hands encircle her still damp body.

"Why, Admiral, whatevah do you have on your mind, suh?" she teasingly asked him, still with her arms encircling his neck, as she pressed her body into his.

Kissing her cheek tenderly, he whispered, "Well, Captain, I do believe it can be better physically demonstrated than verbally explained."

She giggled. It was the first time that he had ever heard her truly do that. Hmmm, that’s a bit different…different, but good.

"Maybe I’ll take you up on that demonstration a bit later. Right now, I’m starved. What did you order?" Taking the covers off the plates, she surveyed the bountiful breakfast. "This looks wonderful. I’d always heard that the Inn was known for their meals, among other things. We’ll have to do brunch on Sunday." She broke a croissant in half and then smiled. "You know, I do believe that today is going to be an absolutely glorious day."

 

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The remnants of breakfast lay on the tray and the last part of the coffee was drained from the silver coffee pot. Together they sat on the bed in companionable silence, reading the morning papers the Inn had provided. He had put out the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door so they wouldn’t be bothered until they had made their plans for the day. At one point, Karen was sitting in the middle of the bed, cross legged, reading USAToday and she looked up at him as he sat propped up against the headboard, reading another paper. Silently, she took in the scene around her. The two of them, beginning to become comfortable with each other, in intimate surroundings.

His eyes raised and met hers. "Is something wrong?" he asked, putting the paper down on his lap.

A small smile graced her lips. "No…but you know something? I think this whole thing is interesting."

"What thing?"

She raised an eyebrow and closed the newspaper. "Well…look at us. We’re sitting here, on the bed, reading the paper, as if it were the most natural thing in the world."

"Well, it is, isn’t it?" He understood fully what she was getting at, but decided to play along instead.

"I guess…it’s just that…well…"

"Not what you envisioned just yet, is it?" he remarked.

She sighed and then scooted up next to him and sat back against the headboard. Chuckling, she replied, "Well, Admiral…after last night and this morning, I’d have to say that, no…it isn’t. But then again…for some reason, it seems perfectly normal. Somehow, I think, people have an unrealistic view of things…"

"Like what?"

"Well…the ‘fantasy’ view would be that we’d spend the next few days engaged in heavy sex and never see the outside of this room."

"I think that view, if practiced, would kill both of us, don’t you think?" he mused.

"Hey, at least we’d die with a smile on our faces," she cracked and then reflected, "Seriously, Harriman…I think, for some reason, that both of us want something a bit more…substantial…in our lives. I know I do."

He put the paper over on the nightstand and turned to her. Searching her eyes, he saw not a longing for just physical love, but for something far deeper…far more lasting. "If I didn’t, we wouldn’t be here. I’m not the kind of man who’s going to commit to something if it’s not right, Karen. I think you know that by now. And I’m also not the kind of man who would be here simply for one thing."

Her hand touched his cheek. Softly, she replied, "I know…that’s why I’m here, too…that’s why…"

"Well, I think," and he took a deep breath, "We’ll just have to take this journey together to see if it’s to be." And he leaned over and kissed her, gently at first and then more passionately, pulling her closer and feeling the tension leave her body as she relaxed.

 

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They decided to laze the morning away, reading the papers, watching TV and talking, then opted to get out in the early afternoon. As they walked down Duke of Gloucester Street, a light snow began to fall. Karen told him that this part of Virginia rarely saw much snow. Too close to the sea and too temperate a climate, she had said. Yet it was an invigorating kind of weather, cold and crisp and clean. They stopped by many of the restored colonial houses for live character presentations and then strolled to the Royal Governor’s Palace. Inside, actors, portraying citizens of the era, told the history of the colonial capital of Virginia. Their explorations took better part of the afternoon, so Nelson called ahead to make dinner reservations at one of the colonial taverns, Chownings. There, amidst the candlelight and characters, they enjoyed colonial fare, music, and drink and talked for what seemed to be hours.

Karen watched him closely as they talked. He really is enjoying himself. I do believe that he takes himself much too seriously sometimes. If he’d just let himself really let go… Suddenly, she looked at him in the candlelight. Good Lord, I’m falling in love with him.

He looked over and noticed her softly smiling at him. "What is it?"

She reached out and gently touched his hand. "Nothing. I’m just happy to see you’re really enjoying yourself. I wasn’t sure if you really would…"

Taking her hand in his, he replied, "Hmmmm, I guess I can be a bit of a stuffed shirt at times, can’t I? Old habit, I guess. One I guess I really need to break…It’s just that…it’s been so long since I’ve had anyone to share something like this with." He leaned over and drew her into a slight kiss. "Now…that situation has changed, hasn’t it? Do you know that I’ve never done the ‘colonial tour’?" There was actually a twinkle in his blue eyes. "I was stationed in Norfolk when I first got out of the Academy, but I just never seemed to take the time."

"Yes, I believe it has changed…and I can’t believe that you spent all that time at Norfolk and didn’t do the ‘tour’. I guess we’ll just have to remedy that. Since we’ve ‘done’ Williamsburg, how about Yorktown next? We can check out where dear old Lord Cornwallis lost it all to General Washington, then we can take in Jamestown day after tomorrow. "

"Well, Yorktown sounds like a good addition to the itinerary. After all…this is your neck of the woods, I do believe, and I think I could use a good tour guide. Now, Captain, what say ye to a midnight stroll in the snow after we finish here?"

"Admiral, I’d say…let’s do it."

 

σσσσ

 

They finished dinner and left the tavern, walking arm in arm back toward the Inn. Snow was beginning to fall heavily now. The lights in the colonial area were still illuminated and it cast an eerie glow around the area. Once back in their suite, Nelson again ordered warm brandy to be sent up. The fire in the fireplace in the suite had already been lit by the maid and the bed covers turned down as well.

As they sat by the fire sipping the brandy, he watched her as she seemed to glow in the firelight.

I promise you, Karen…I’ll protect you…as much as I can if we go further…if we should…

He contently settled back in one of the chairs and found himself drifting deep into another world. It was now past midnight and he found that he could not imagine himself to be anywhere else but here.

I know this place isn’t the real world…but…I don’t want this to end…

Suddenly, he felt her hand barely touch his arm. She was looking up at him, puzzled at his far off expression.

"Harry…is something wrong?" she quietly asked. "You look like you’re somewhere else."

"No…I’m here," he softly replied, as he sat his brandy down and reached for her hand, drawing her up to him. "I’m right where I should be…" and he silently led her to the bedroom where he slowly and tenderly began to make love to her.

 

The end (of the beginning)

  

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