Caitlin Davis stepped out of her shower, grabbing for the large towel on the towel rack. The room smelled deeply of vanilla, and so did she. She, like her mother, steered away from floral fragrances, preferring the scent of vanilla as something fresh and clean. She wrapped the towel around her body, and grabbed for the smaller one to wrap around her hair. Glancing at the clock high on the bathroom wall, she saw that she still had plenty of time to prepare for the evening.
She was going with Lee Crane to a dinner at the Nelson’s. That in and of itself wasn’t unusual; the unusual part was that she had offered to go with him and he had accepted her offer without any discussion. Could it be that he was finally beginning to realize how she felt about him? No! She couldn’t be that lucky. He probably just said yes out of duty to the Admiral and his friendship with her mother. Damn! She was going to have to resort to something soon to make him, what was the expression, wake up and smell the coffee!
She toweled down and liberally rubbed vanilla scented lotion all over her body. Standing, she gave herself a careful appraisal, and once satisfied, left both towels on the floor of the bath, padding down the hall to her bedroom. Her dress lay on the bed, and she smiled as she fingered the silken fabric. Reaching in her dresser, she pulled a sapphire blue thong from it, and slid it on. Taking the dress, she slid it over her head, and let it slide over her body, clinging to all the right curves in the right places. She wore no bra or hose, she didn’t need any, and the dress fit her perfectly. The thin strap tied around her neck, attaching at the point of her throat. The triangle of fabric was attached at the waist, and was backless, except for four thin straps that ran across the lower back. The back waist of the dress rested on the rise of her buttocks. It was slit to mid thigh on both sides, and fell to the floor in smooth, gentle waves. The glittering sapphire fabric, crepe accented with tiny diamantes, highlighted her blue eyes, and pale blonde hair. She slid a rhinestone tennis bracelet on one slim wrist, and put a pair of sapphire and diamond studs, a long ago gift from her paternal grandmother, Ellen, into her ears. She shook her hair, then brushed it so it fell into loose, soft curls, and applied a light layer of deep rose lipstick, choosing to forgo any other makeup. She slid into a pair of sliver sandals with a three inch heel, laced them and stood, once again regarding herself in the mirror.
“Ok, Caitlin, if he doesn’t notice you in this, he’s damn blind!” She reached for the blue lace shawl on the bed, and draped it over her shoulders, walking into the living room of the apartment to wait for her ‘date’ to show up…
Lee Crane, Captain of the Seaview stood at the mirror of his dresser, quietly fixing the tie of his Mess Dress Uniform. His handsome face was deep in somber thought and to look at him one would think that he was angry and brooding. In a sense, he was. He hated these things, hated wearing this blasted ‘Monkey Suit’, and if it wasn’t for the fact that Harriman Nelson was his boss and friend, he would have found a reason to beg off of this event.
When Cathy was alive, it had been so different. He hadn’t minded getting into this particular uniform. They had had some wonderful evenings at the affairs they’d attended. Cathy! In the last year or so, it had become harder and harder to remember her voice, to remember the feel of her next to him. He missed her…every day… her laugh, her jokes, her attitude…her love. The warmth and love of the woman that had been his wife for so short a time. Yes, Robert was a constant reminder of her, but he missed Cathy! There had been days, this last year as well, that she wasn’t in his thoughts in a given day. Almost as if he was going on without her presence with him. After that night, at Christmas several years ago, when he thought she’d come and talked to him, her presence in his life had begun to change, to dissipate a little each day. And because of it, he began to look at things at least a little different. Some of that also was because of Caitlin Davis.
Caitlin Davis. To him she was an enigma. He had to admit that he had always looked at her as the Admiral’s ‘daughter’, and Karen Nelson’s ‘Little Girl’, yet she was causing him some degree of …well, he called it consternation. She continued to confuse him… or was it that he was letting himself be confused. He’d known her since she first arrived with her mother, at the age of 17, but now…now things were now beginning to take on a different slant with respect as how he regarded her. He was slowly realizing that she wasn’t a ‘girl’ any longer. And if what he’d seen on the beach a couple of days ago was any indication, she was most definitely not a ‘girl’…she was most definitely a woman. Smart, savvy…and sexy. Maybe that was what was causing him some unease. He’d watched her with the others during the volleyball game and found, disconcertingly so, that he couldn’t keep his eyes off her. And her attitude. In some ways, she sometimes reminded him of Cathy. She was no pushover. Just like Cathy. And she had no problem telling him, in no uncertain terms, what she thought. Just like Cathy. Yet, she was different from Cathy, too, in a lot of respects.
That empty space that Cathy’s death had opened was still there, yet, like anything in nature, it was looking to be filled. By Caitlin?? No…too many, way too many complications there. First and foremost she was young… way too young for him. There was almost fifteen years between them. And then, again, there was the whole ‘thing’ with the Admiral. Like it or not, she was his step-daughter. What was it Chip had remarked at the wedding, when all the air-jockeys from Miramar were crowding around her, how he wouldn’t want to be the one who came calling… well, Chip was right on that account! As close as he was to the Admiral, this kind of ‘closeness’ would only complicate things further. And he didn’t need the complications. Not now, not at this time in his life. He needed… companionship… that was it… that was all. He’d had his love… he didn’t need to have a family…he had Robert. His mother was doing a great job, looking after him, looking after the both of them.
He sighed. In a sense, he knew he wasn’t being fair to his mother. Helen Crane deserved to live her own life. She had been happy in Providence, but she’d picked it all up and moved here when he needed her, when he and Robert needed her. As far as he knew, she didn’t have many friends, outside the Institute family… she should have. She was at a time in her life that she deserved to be happy too. He sighed again, and shook his head, as he fumbled with the tie for the fourth time…
“Dad?” Robert Crane stood in the doorway.
Lee drew his focus to his son and smiled, as he continued to fuss with the tie. “Yes, Robert?”
The boy walked into the bedroom, and Lee bent towards him. Automatically, Robert reached for the tie, and tried to help with it. After a few frustrating minutes for both, he let the ends of the tie drop, and solemnly said, “Guess you’re gonna need to call Gran for help.”
Lee laughed aloud, “Amazing, isn’t it, Robert? I can command a boat, run the entire thing, fix all kinds of problems, and I can't fix a formal tie….” He shook his head, ruffled his son’s hair, and went to the door of the bedroom. “Mom? Can you come and help a frustrated sailor?”
Helen’s voice, from the downstairs called, “In a minute, Lee.”
Lee smiled and went back to his son, who was now sitting on the edge of the bed. “So, what’s up?”
“Oh, nuthin’. I just wondered where you were going, tonight. Some big party?”
“Nope, nothing as fun as a big party. It’s a formal
dinner at the Admiral’s with some important men.”
”Oh… and are you going alone…again?”
Lee smiled, “Nope…I’m taking a friend.”
Robert’s eyes lit up, “Who’re you going with, Dad?”
“Caitlin. She and I ran into one another on the beach yesterday and she volunteered to help me out. So I’m going with a friend…”
Robert smiled at him, and then, his eyes cast down, muttered something under his breath.
Lee didn’t hear him so he asked, “What was that?” as he fixed the studs on the shirt, and fussed with the cufflinks.
Robert looked up shyly, “I said she likes you, you know.”
”Well, I should hope so. We are friends.”
”Not that way, Dad. I mean she likes you… you know, like a girl likes a boy!”
Lee laughed, surprised at the uneasiness his son’s statement made him feel. “Now how on God’s good earth would you know that, Robert?”
“I just know, Dad. I can see the way she looks at you… Maybe I’m only nine, but I can still tell that she likes you… Don’t you like her?”
Once again, Lee was taken aback at the boy’s forthright question. “Well… I…” he started to stammer, only to have the moment saved by Helen’s arrival. She was wiping her hands on a towel as she entered the room.
“I see my two most favorite men in the world are having a serious discussion… I hope I’m not interrupting anything important… So, what did you want, Lee?” Seeing the tie lying open on his shirt, “Oh, yes…the challenge of the formal tie, I see.” She moved to him, and quickly and deftly made the tie, wiping her hands on her skirt when she finished. “There! You know, you do amaze me, Lee! After all these years, and you still can’t fix that tie!”
He grinned at her and kissed her lightly on the cheek,
“That’s one of the many reasons I have you here, Mom. To help me with my tie…”
He reached for the short, formal jacket hanging on his valet stand, and shrugged
into it, pulling at the cuffs to straighten the look of the uniform. He pulled
the dress gloves from the dresser, took the formal cover from the valet, and
then turned to Robert as he glanced at his watch.
”You and I will have to continue this discussion at a later time, Robert. Now, I have to go or I’ll be late picking up ‘my friend’.” He bent to kiss his son on the head, ruffling his hair once again. “Be good for Gran and make sure that all your homework is done, okay? When I get home, I’ll come in and check on you.”
Robert nodded and slid off the bed, gave Lee a hug, then headed off to his room, with “Gran, I’ll come down in a while and put the dishes away.”
Lee looked at Helen, a look of slight gratitude on his face. “Thanks, Mom. I shouldn’t be too late.”
“G’nite, Lee. I’ll be in my room, reading, when you get in.
Have a nice evening.”
He nodded… “Well, I can only try!” and bounded down the stairs, two at a time, to the garage door. So Robert thinks Caitlin likes me…interesting… Now where in the world would he get that idea?
Caitlin waited for Lee to arrive. She'd been ready a half
hour earlier than he said he would arrive, so she had poured herself a glass of
wine, turned on some soft, easy listening music, and sat waiting and thinking.
She was running memories thru her mind of the years, here at the Institute, the years that she'd known Lee Crane, and the very many complexities of his life. She remembered him when he and Chip had come to welcome them to the Institute. She'd been setting up the computer in the office of the apartment, when she'd been looking for the cords. She'd said hi, and then made as if to go about her business after telling Lee to take care of her mother. What no one knew was that she had been standing in the hall, watching the Captain of the Seaview. She knew he was married, and knew that he had a son, but she also knew, even then, that there was something very special about the man, and she didn't know what it was then.
She remembered, vividly, the tragedy of Cathy Crane's death and the awful heartbreak of her funeral and how it had affected everyone at the Institute, even her mother. Tho’ they hadn't known the woman very long, Cathy and her mother had struck up a cordial friendship. It was Cathy who had advised Karen Davis on how to 'handle' Harriman Nelson. And her mother had learned the lesson well. She also remembered that that was the time that the light and laughter left Lee Crane. He became a driven, single-minded man, taking more chances than anyone even asked of him.
It seemed that he became the only one that could handle certain missions, the only one that could take the chances, take the risks. He never asked anyone to do it for him; in fact, he often volunteered to replace others called on to take the chance.
In one sense, it was as if he didn't care what happened to him. He loved Robert with all the love a father would have for a son, yet he seemed not to care what happened to himself, not realizing what this 'I'm the only one that can take this on' attitude was doing to his son, and those that did love him.
It seemed something that he had also become oblivious to. Not the love of a parent and child, or mother and son, or even the joy of seeing friends fall in love and marry. But a love, for himself, that seemed to be something he either didn't want, or didn't seem ready to deal with. Not that he didn't seem to enjoy her flirtations with him, his reactions at times were downright encouraging. But then, the wall would go back up, and he'd get all tight-assed again. She took another healthy sip of the wine, and sighed.
You know…maybe it’s about time you let someone through that damn wall you’ve built up, Lee Crane. Mom always said you shouldn’t build things too high or you’d never be able to go over them when you need to. Ok…well, I guess it’s about damn time that this one comes down.
He was always on time. He never, never was late for anything, if he could help it. She glanced at the clock on the mantle, and saw that it was close time for him to pick her up. She finished the glass of wine, and rose, taking the glass into the kitchen, and putting it into the sink. She ran a fast hand over the counter and wiped her hands on a nearby towel. She clicked off the light, and moved back to the living room, where she picked up the shawl and her purse, and went towards the door, just as the bell rang. Taking a deep breath, she opened it to find a smiling Lee Crane at the door.
Lee rang the doorbell, and waited for Caitlin to open the
door. He was uneasy, real uneasy, tugging uselessly on the bottom of his jacket,
and fussing with the cummerbund for the umpteenth time; yet he was looking
forward to seeing her. Seeing her!… he was taking Caitlin to a dinner as his
date. His date? No, just a friend, helping a friend in a
The door opened and Lee caught his breath and his eyes slightly widened as he came face to face with the petite blonde woman who was his date. The smile dropped to be replaced by a look that was more of a man stunned by what he saw.
Holy Sweet Mother of God! That dress!
Caitlin smiled warmly at Crane as she faced him. The expression on his face and the flicker of surprise in his eyes told it all. She'd finally gotten a rise out of him. Well, At least, he's noticed!' Hopefully, it would be more of a notice and less of a lecture about propriety.
Waiting a few moments, she finally said, "Lee?"
He stuttered, "Uh… yes… Uh, Caitlin…"
"I … I, uh…well…umm…" regaining his focus, he cleared his throat, "I'm sorry, you just, uh, took me by surprise, that's all. That's, ah, quite a dress…"
Grinning, "Oh, you think so?" Slowly, she turned around, almost in a pirouette, so that he could see the entire dress.
He silently, but sharply sucked in his breath, as she spun, revealing the absence of the back, as well as the tight fit of the dress on her tiny form.
"It… has… no… back!!!!" he gasped.
A hint of a very sly grin appeared just as one blonde eyebrow rose. "You have a problem with that?"
"Uh… no… but…"
Caitlin knew now she had him right where she wanted him...in a slight quandary. In a matter-of-fact tone, she dismissed his protestations and stated, "Well, we'd better get moving, you know how Mom and HN hate to have people be late to their parties."
As she closed the door, he watched her pass by him and walk on ahead, seemingly oblivious to his concern. "Caitlin, do you think that that dress is, umm, well….appropriate for this… dinner?"
She turned on her heel and stopped directly in front of him. "Lee Crane… stop being such a stuffed shirt, will you? This dress is fine… You like it, don't you?"
"I… well…" Clearing his throat, once again, "Uh, yes. I do like it…"
Caitlin smiled broadly, "Good, then let's get going..." Well, at least he's noticed, really noticed, and that's a start!
The elevator doors opened and the couple stepped in. Silently, the doors closed and they headed down to the lobby. Uneasily, they stood in silence. However, Crane found himself stealing quick glances out of the sides of his eyes at the tiny but sexily dressed young woman beside him.
Watch it, Crane… let's not get into an argument here…later… you can argue with her about that dress later…she's right, you are a stuffed shirt!' He stole another quick look at her...She sure as hell wears it well…Remember who she is, Crane! Stop those thoughts right now… a friend, she's just a friend…
By the time they reached the Nelson house, Lee was quite ‘bothered’ by Caitlin. Her dress, her attitude, everything about her was making him think more and more about her, as a woman, rather than the Admiral’s stepdaughter. He tried small talk, and that didn’t seem to help him at all. Every time he looked at her, he felt like a small boy, stammering over his words, or saying something absolutely inane.
Crane, you really are impressing her… keep it up! She may even let you take her home!! Dammit! Why does she make me feel like this? Is Robert right? And if he is right, is what I’m feeling something serious? … Am I falling for Admiral Nelson’s step-daughter? Am I falling for Caitlin?????
Lee got out of the Cobra and went to the passenger side to help Caitlin from the sporty red car. He looked at her once again and shook his head slightly, not quite believing the revelations that he had come upon in the ride in the elevator and the short drive to the Nelson house. Caitlin looked at him and smiled a dazzling smile, causing him to smile back.
It was an easy smile, one that he rarely shared with anyone. One that Caitlin quite frankly wished he would share with her more often. More often… she thought a few moments about the times that she had ‘let him know that she was interested’
Damn! The man’s thick as a damn board!! I may very well have to use a proverbial 2x4! That or a damn brick bat!
Lee opened the door, and bent to help her from the car. “Thank you, Lee,” she murmured. Looking at the house, blazing in light, she took his arm, “Looks like HN has a houseful! I’ll be willing to bet he’s not happy!”
Lee smiled slightly, glad to be taken to a safe topic. He leaned toward her, “Yeah, but I’ll be willing to wager that your mother has it all well in hand and is enjoying it all immensely. And I’ll also bet that those stuffed shirts are in for a dinner that they’ll remember for a long time. One thing’s for certain about your mother… once she and the Admiral got together, the food at these parties improved!”
“And that’s coming from ‘Mr. I’m not hungry, I’ll have coffee!” Caitlin grinned at him, “Well, Mom, believe or not, doesn’t really care for big parties. I mean…she does them, puts up with'em is more like it. But when she does ‘do’ them, she does them very well.”
Lee laughed aloud, “That’s for sure. As for my eating habits, Ms. Davis, that’s only when there’s no choice, and for God's sake, don’t tell Cookie that, because he’ll never forgive me. The man's a whiz with Chocolate Chip cookies and Cherry Pie, but he can’t hold a candle to your mother, her recipes, and the Admiral’s housekeeper.”
It was Caitlin’s turn to laugh, “Well, I won’t tell! It simply wouldn’t do to have the Captain of the boat and his cook at odds. No, Captain Crane, I do believe your secret’s safe with me.”
They stood, arms linked for a moment at the door, before Lee’s gloved hand reached for and rang the doorbell. “Here we go, Little Girl!” he said, quietly. Caitlin squeezed his arm, as Armando, Maria’s nephew, opened the door, and nodded to them. They stepped inside, and Lee handed his cover to the man at the door.
Armando took the cover and said, “Good evening, Captain, Miss Davis. The Admiral and Mrs. Nelson are in the Great Room.” And then with a wink and a sly grin, he bent toward Caitlin and whispered, “Jeez, Caitlin...you're dressed to kill tonight," and then added, "She’s waiting to see you.”
Lee smiled his thanks, as Caitlin nodded conspiratorially and returned the wink as she replied, “Thank you.” She’d known Maria’s nephew for several years now, just as she knew most of her children and relatives. The Admiral’s housekeeper and her family, both immediate and extended, were very close to the Nelsons. And Armando had become sort of a 'de facto' brother during her first years here at the Institute, even before her mother became involved with the Admiral.
They moved from the foyer to the Great Room, seeing a large number of elegantly dressed men and women milling about. A waiter approached, carrying a tray of crystal champagne flutes. Lee took two and then handed one to Caitlin. Seeing the Admiral and Karen standing near the open doors to the deck, they moved through the gathering to their side.
Lee nodded, and Caitlin smiled. “Good Evening, Admiral,
Karen… Looks like it’s a full house tonight!”
“Hmph! Too damn full if you ask me. I do so …” the
“Harry,” Karen gently touched his arm. “We know…” she said softly. A soft smile played across her face, “Believe me we all know!” She smiled at Crane and her daughter, ”Evenin’ Lee, Caitlin… ah…looks like with your arrival, the party’s now complete.”
Caitlin kissed her mother slightly on the cheek, “Looks like quite a party, Mom!” She then leaned over and kissed Nelson as well, “Evening, HN. So…who do we have to schmooze for funding?” She batted her eyes at her step-father in amusement because she knew exactly what was to be done and exactly why he hated having to do it.
However, Nelson’s laugh was a low rumble, and he looked at his wife, grinning, “Ah...she is most assuredly your daughter, Mrs. Nelson!” Then, to Caitlin, “Well, Miss Davis, if you’re feeling up to the challenge, you see that tall, rather pompous looking man talking to Chip? He’s Senator Ralph Easton and he’s the head of the Allocation Committee for Funding for Computer Development. I’m sure that he’s about as literate in computers as a cave man, but he does, unfortunately, hold the purse strings. We can use all the funding he’s willing to give! I do believe Chip could use some help and I think you're just the person to do it.”
She drew herself straight and cocked an eyebrow slightly. “Nuff said, HN. Between me and the good XO, that boat’ll have all the new systems it needs and wants. Chip and I will dazzle ‘im!” she smiled impishly and turned to Crane. "I’ll be back in a bit, Lee. Make sure you save a place for me at the dinner table!” She kissed him lightly on the cheek and glided gracefully through the crowd to Chip and Easton.
Karen and Nelson saw the look of surprise on Crane’s face, and Karen smiled to herself, murmuring under her breath, “Hmmmm, well, now....the Captain’s finally paying attention!”
Harriman Nelson looked at her, puzzled. “Did you say something?”
Amused, Karen shook her head. “No…just watching a very interesting situation taking place…that’s all. You know me and people watching.”
He patted her hand and chuckled. “Something tells me there’s more to it than that. I’m going to assume that you’ll tell me about it later…” and he turned his attention to watch another situation taking place across the room.
“Yep…” and she took a sip of her champagne from the flute she now held. “Much later.” And her eyes kept studying Crane and his reaction to her daughter. Suddenly, she felt a slight nudge at her elbow and looked over to see Tony Rennalt, the Institute’s Chief Electrical Engineer, standing behind her.
The tall, lanky Texan, dressed in a formal black tuxedo, leaned slightly over and whispered in Karen’s ear, “It’s kinda hard to miss the scent…unless the bull’s totally blind or dumb.”
Karen continued to drink her champagne and her eyes shifted slightly to meet his. Again, under her breath, so that only he was privy to her words, she replied, “Some apparently are…”
Just then, Matty Weaver Morton moved to join them and Rennalt leaned back and moved to the other side of Nelson. She was wearing her mess dress uniform. “Admiral, you do throw quite a party, sir.”
Nelson took another sip of his champagne, and looked at his wife, then back to Matty. “For that, you can thank my wife.” He slid his free hand around Karen’s waist, “Without her fine touch, this would be nothing short of a disaster, because…”
Four voices chimed in together, “You hate these things!”
After the laughter, Matty offered, “Lee, I see you
brought Caitlin. Brave man, aren’t you? Escorting the Admiral’s daughter
Lee suddenly looked embarrassed, “Well, we, ah, just came together as friends. We both were coming anyway, and well, it, ah, just made sense, you know… it’s difficult to come stag, it upsets seating plans…”
Nelson attempted a gruff demeanor, but the laughter in his eyes clearly showed, “Well, Captain,” he said, “I do hope that you have my ‘daughter’s’ best interests at heart.”
Lee suddenly felt like a schoolboy, caught like a little boy with his hand in the cookie jar. “Her best interests?! Admiral, we came as friends!”
Nelson cocked his head slightly to one side and
amusingly replied, “Captain, even I have to admit that the dress that that young
lady is wearing is
not one that a woman wears to go out with a friend! Or perhaps you didn’t
Karen Davis Nelson was chewing on the inside of her cheek, trying extremely hard not to laugh at the byplay between Captain and Admiral, and turned away slightly so that they couldn't see. Next to her, Matty Morton suddenly developed a coughing spasm, hiding the laughter on her face behind her gloved hand. Harriman Nelson stood, face frozen in a stern visage, but eyes alight with laughter.
Lee Crane squirmed, yes, squirmed uncomfortably. The last time he’d felt like this was when he’d informed Cathy Connor’s father that they were getting married. Col. Francis Connors was not pleased and he had let the younger man know it on no uncertain terms.
What’s wrong with you, Crane?! This is only friend
to friend… that’s all… Caitlin is only a friend…No.. she’s more than
that… but what… how…?
“Uh, Admiral, I told Caitlin that the dress was…umm… a bit too much… She is her own person, though…and you know these Davis women!”
Quickly, there was a retort from nearby. “Excuse me, Lee Crane!? And just what is that supposed to mean?” Karen Nelson looked sharply at the man now standing uncomfortably with the both of them, the question tinged with amusement more than anger.
Harriman Nelson was close to exploding with laughter at the younger man’s now most obvious discomfort, realizing too well that Lee was digging himself deeper and deeper into the proverbial hole, and quite frankly, Nelson was enjoying watching it happen. He was too close to either Lee or Caitlin to ‘take sides’, but it didn’t stop him from being amused by the entire situation. He stood next to his wife, waiting for the next ‘blow’.
When Crane didn’t respond, Karen coolly asked, this time with an amused eyebrow risen, “And just what is wrong with ‘Davis women’? I don’t think Harriman has a problem in that area, so therefore I don’t know why you would… After all, Captain, it’s not like you’re involved with my daughter in the first place…now is it?”
Lee looked to Nelson for help. However, finding nothing other than obvious amusement in the older man’s face, he finally shrugged and mumbled, “Sorry, uh, Karen… I…uh…I spoke out of turn…umm…”
At that very moment, Chip Morton chose to enter into the small group and Lee heaved an audible sight of relief at the presence of his friend. The Seaview’s XO kissed his wife lightly and clapped a hand on Crane’s shoulder. “Sorry I didn’t say hello sooner, Lee, but old ‘Windbag Easton’ over there was going on and on and on… Thank God your date showed up. Now he can bore Caitlin for a while…”
Harriman Nelson smiled, “Chip, Easton may be a windbag, but he has a few purse-strings we’d like to loosen, and it looks like Caitlin’s doing a good job following you up… wouldn’t you say so, uh-um, Lee?”
Crane looked over at the tiny blonde, smiling and laughing at the comments of the much older man. Lee could see the look of obvious pleasure that such a pretty young woman was giving him such attention. At that moment, Caitlin looked over at him, and smiled a dazzling smile at him, and then went back to her conversation, linking an arm in the Senator’s and guiding him to the bar.
Chip nudged Crane, “Lee, there’s someone you have to meet. Daughter of the head of the Joint Congressional Science and Technology Committee. Anita Esmerelda Elena Vincenza. Her family is old Californian… Very old. And well, when the lady saw my wedding ring, and then met my wife....well, she got real cold and I think we need to warm her up just a bit…”
Crane’s shoulders slumped slightly. Here it was again, the single Captain, the sacrificial lamb… He shook his head, resigned. “Okay, pal…lead on… I guess it’s all for a good cause…I hope!”
Nelson and Karen cast him a look… and a smile passed between them. Caitlin Davis wouldn’t ‘let’ another woman walk off with her date… especially not Lee Crane. If nothing else, it was going to be a much more interesting evening…
Lee followed Chip thru the small crowd, feeling reluctant, and surprisingly concerned about what Caitlin would think… ‘I don’t know…somehow , I don’t like this…”
So concerned about his thoughts, he didn’t realize that Chip had stopped and he took two steps into him, then stopped, looking decidedly sheepish, when Morton flashed him an exasperated look. The Morton glare fixed him in place, and he waited for the required seconds, wondering what this woman was like. His answer came quickly.
Anita Vincenza was ‘sultry’. She was not tall, but she was taller than Caitlin. Her hair was a dark, coal black, that hung to her waist and her eyes at deep, caramel brown. Her figure was voluptuous to say the least. She had more than ample curves, and carried herself in a manner that indicated she knew what she did to men. At least most men. She was wearing a teal green dress, sleeveless, and cut in a deep ‘V’ at the bustline, made of a fabric that clung tightly to her body. It had a slit up one side, to mid thigh, and she wore three inch high stiletto heels. She moved with the ease of a panther, but the look of a barracuda. And one look at the Captain of the Seaview, and the ‘barracuda’ set her teeth to sink in deeply.
Chip touched his fingers to his forehead, acknowledging her, and proceeded to do introductions. The look in the woman’s eyes gave Chip pause, but he was committed to the introduction and couldn’t stop now.
Smiling warily, and very glad that he was married to Matty at this time, he said, “Miss Vincenza, this is Captain Lee Crane.”
Lee acknowledged the woman, and secretly swore to get even with Morton at the first opportunity, “Good evening, Miss…”
She immediately thrust her arm through Lee’s and tugged, not lightly, “I am very pleased to meet you, Captain. I've heard a great deal about you and I'd love to hear of your adventures… there seem to be so many. Perhaps we could find a place to talk, quietly, without interruption… maybe the deck...?” She flashed a smile at him, that made him feel like yesterday’s lunch. He tried to search the room to catch Caitlin’s eye, and he couldn’t see her in the crowd. Feeling trapped, he allowed Anita to lead him out to the deck. Uneasy, he led her to a chair, set at one of several tables that were bedecked in candles and flowers. He slid her arm from his, and bent, holding the chair for her to sit.
She smiled at him, brilliantly, flashing teeth and red, pouty lips. As he sat opposite her, she sighed, and ran her fingers along his white-sleeved arm.
“I’ve heard that you're quite a hero, Captain. My father and his committee have talked a great deal about you and the Seaview. He seems to think that he can do some wonderful things on your boat. I told him I would find out if it was worth the investment.” She trailed her fingers up his shoulder, and lightly caressed his chin. “Perhaps you'd like to try and convince me? “
Lee moved back slightly, pulling away from her touch. She laughed aloud, “Oh, what’s the matter, Captain? Aren’t you willing to help me get a good picture for my father and his committee?” She inched closer to him, drawing her face closer to his. “Don’t tell me that your little old boat is warmer than this…” She planted a kiss firmly on his lips, snaking her arms around his neck, and pulling away slightly, murmuring, “Mmmm, that’s nice…very nice… however, a little participation would be even better.” Lee was stunned by her forward behavior, too stunned to move or react.
She slid from her seat to his lap, wriggling her buttocks and purring, almost like a panther ready to strike. Her arms, now were wrapped around his neck, and she brought her lips close to his once again, murmuring, “Now, Captain, let’s see what kind of a man you really are!” She pulled him close, and began a long, slow studied kiss, designed, at the very least, to get a reaction from Crane. And get a reaction she most certainly did!
Instinctively, only by habit, or practice, or whatever drives a man in a situation like this, Lee’s arms encircled her waist, and, feeling his arms around her, she wriggled harder into his lap, and felt the stirrings of a deeper reaction, one she was indeed seeking. Almost on automatic, Lee’s body was responding, even if his mind was not. He wasn’t thinking, and he found himself answering her kiss with a tentative one of his own. He found his groin beginning to pound, he knew his blood pressure was rising, and in spite of his reservations about the woman, there was no doubt that she was finding him as attractive as he found her interesting. Sighing slightly, his response to the kiss became more ‘enthusiastic’, and she settled even tighter against him. All around them seemed to fade, until there was a loud THUNK and a very feminine voice coolly called out “Lee, need any help over there?”
Startled, he pulled his head up, and looked into a pair of blazing blue eyes. He was suddenly chilled, and he could feel the fire and ice that was shooting from ‘his date’. He saw immediately that the set and stance of Caitlin Davis was none other than combative.
Anita looked up at her, then back to Crane, and licked her lips… "Is there a problem, Miss? I was just getting acquainted with the Captain. He doesn’t seem to mind….”
“I… uh… Caitlin, this… this is Anita Vincenza… her father…”
A light blond eyebrow rose slightly. “Oh, I already know who this lady is, Lee.” Her eyes then locked with the other woman’s and her voice became cooler, her calm Virginia accent coming to the fore. “Miss Vincenza, I’m Caitlin Davis.”
“And…?” the other woman’s voice seemed to drip with acid as she refused to relinquish her hold on the man on whose lap she sat.
“The Captain here is my date for the evening, as well as a very good friend.” She then turned her calm icy glare back to Crane, “I just came out to see if you needed any help. Apparently you don’t. However, HN was looking for you…something about needing your input on a potential research project for the boat…” Slowly, she took a couple of steps forward and with a bit more insistence in her voice, “He’s waiting for you in his study…”
Disregarding the woman in his lap, he began to rise in response to Caitlin’s obvious persuasiveness. Anita had to scramble to her feet, and, in doing so, she presented a very unflattering picture. She was as angry as Caitlin was, but her anger was directed toward Crane, whom she saw as the cause for her sudden state of dishabille.
She glowered at Lee and Caitlin. “I will tell my father all about this,” she hissed at them.
Caitlin Davis turned slowly from Crane’s arm. “Oh, I don’t think that your father will be the least bit interested, Miss Vincenza. For your information, he’s in with the Admiral right now, and HN is showing him all the specs for the new DSRV, along with several other projects. He likes them and I don’t think what you say about your evening, however untruthful it may be, will affect his approval of the funding. Sorry to disappoint you...but the Captain here has business to attend to,” Caitlin tossed her head, and slid her arm tightly into Lee’s.
Indignant and embarrassed, the woman flounced from the deck and stormed back into the Great Room.
Caitlin and Lee hung back. He was still surprised, at Anita’s actions, his reactions, and Caitlin’s. Somewhat absentmindedly, he patted the hand that she laid on his arm. He looked down into blue eyes, at once blazing with anger, but tinged with something more…something else. He shook his head, and looked again, and felt that what ever he’d seen had suddenly passed…He was confused. Very confused. He needed someone to talk to … He also knew that there wouldn’t be an opportunity for him to talk to anyone, and he needed to get inside to Nelson, so he wouldn’t hold up the meeting any longer.
Very softly, Caitlin whispered, “Sorry, Lee. I didn’t mean to embarrass you, but that woman, well…. You are my date after all.”
He grinned slightly at her, “I’m the one who should be saying they're sorry. I apologize to you… I certainly wasn’t behaving like an officer and a gentleman. Especially considering the young lady I am supposed to be escorting.”
She continued to smile softly, “So...I guess we both slipped just a bit.” She tugged gently on his arm, “C’mon, Captain. Let’s get this meeting over with. HN asked for some of my input from the computer specs POV.”
"Sounds good to me," Lee nodded and smiled, and took Caitlin’s arm as it rested on his, “And as a thank you for my, uh, rescue, I claim the first dance after dinner…”
“It’s yours, Captain,” she replied softly. “All yours...and you're more than welcome.”
Lee held the door as he held the door to the Great Room, and the sounds and smells of the group assembled contrasted with the silence of the deck, and the smell of the sea. They were so engaged in a serious conversation that they didn’t see the venomous look Anita Esmerelda Elena Vincenza kept shooting from across the room as her eyes followed them until they both disappeared into the study.
Two hours later, the Congressman from California left Harriman Nelson’s study, smiling, content, and anxious to share his information with his colleagues. He quickly collected a sheaf of papers and left after 'collecting' his now bored but irritated daughter as well. Nelson stood up, rubbing his neck, and stretched. Lee did almost the same thing. Both men had shrugged their dress jackets off, and rolled up shirt-sleeves when the discussion had become intense. Caitlin had kicked off her shoes, and had moved between the three men, pointing out changes, and ways to increase the efficiency of modifications that were proposed. A fifth of Glen Livet had been consumed, and Nelson had managed to to smoke only one cigarette, tho a quiet, gentle admonishment from his step-daughter had kept him from doing any more. He'd made a supreme promise to Karen but he also knew that he needed one to keep him calm… something about his oral fixation. You didn’t suck on a piece of candy when you were talking millions of dollars. It just didn’t work, and it also didn’t feel as ‘right’.
He smiled at Crane, as he rolled down his sleeves, “Well, at least that was productive! I have the feeling that if the Chairman has his way, we’ll get everything we need from his committee.”
Crane shrugged, and looked somewhat guiltily at Caitlin and the Admiral. “I hope that my little ‘fiasco’ with his daughter doesn’t play a part in it.”
Nelson laughed, long and hard. Finally he said, “Don’t worry about it, Lee. I've know Tomas for years, and he stopped listening to Elena’s complaints a long time ago. She uses him to get her men, sadly, not realizing that she can do very well all by herself. She is an attractive woman...and I think that Tony managed to keep her occupied for the rest of the evening anyway.”
“Yeah...attractive...for a viper.” Caitlin muttered.
An eyebrow rose as he turned toward her. “You said something, Caitlin?” Nelson asked, grinning.
“No, no sir… nothing, nothing at all.” She looked at Crane, and then back at her stepfather. “Admiral, would you mind if Lee and I left now? I mean, we missed the dinner part of this shindig, with good reason, of course, but at least Maria managed to send something in, but, frankly, that was hard work and I’m bushed. If Lee would take me home, I would appreciate it.”
“Well, we do have to get underway by...,” Crane glanced
at his watch, “...1200, which is a grand total of 11 hours from now. And I do
have to be at the boat at 0600. Final loading. Chip has to be on the dock at the
Nelson looked at his captain, slightly guilty. “Well, uh… Chip left right after you went out on the deck with… Miss Vincenza. Matty stayed here, but he left. Said something about an early call.”
Lee just shook his head. ”Damn...some people just have all the luck!” Turning to Nelson, “By your leave, Admiral. I’ll take Caitlin home. Please relay my thanks to Karen. I’ll see you on the boat in the morning…uh… I mean later.”
He grinned, and Nelson slapped him on the back, and kissed his stepdaughter on the cheek. Tongue in cheek, the Admiral said to Crane, “And be careful of how you treat her, sir. The Admiral’s daughter, you know…”
Caitlin smiled sweetly at him, a slightly familiar expression crossing her face. “Oh, I don’t think you have to worry about the Captain here… He won’t dare risk your ire and attempt to impugn my virtue.” She leaned closer to her stepfather. “Not that I haven’t tried, mind you!”
Nelson’s eyes twinkled with merriment at her comment and he simply shook his head. She was definitely her mother's daughter. “Go along… the both of you! I’ll tell Karen that you’ve left… And Lee, I’ll see you in a few hours.”
“Aye, sir.” He took Caitlin’s arm, and she carried her purse, shawl and shoes in her hands, the lack of heels making her seem even tinier next to Seaview’s Captain. Nelson again shook his head, and smiling, returned to what was left of the party.
Lee held the door to the car for Caitlin to get out, and reached down to help her rise from the seat.
“Thanks, Lee. You know, you have to admit that you do know how to show a girl an interesting evening.”
He took her arm, and as they walked to the door of the
building, slowly shook his head. "I am sorry, Caitlin. I didn’t mean for
business on the deck to take place… It, well, it just kinda happened. I
certainly didn’t expect her to act like that.”
Caitlin laughed, and Lee looked at her puzzled. “Lee Crane, don’t you know by now that you're an extremely handsome single man that a hell of a lot of women would like to get to know better?”
He looked at her, the soft light from the moon shining
on her blonde hair, framing her face in the soft light. “Well, I don’t know
about the handsome part, but I’ve had a few dates here and there, and all they
seem to want is one thing. To add me to their list of trophies. And
frankly, I don’t
like being a trophy.”
She smiled back at him. “Well, if it's any consolation...I don’t like that idea either. It, ah, seems that ever since Mom married HN, there's been some guys around town that look on me as being some sort of damn trophy. It's irritating as hell. So, I do understand. Besides…you don’t look like the trophy type!”
"Oh...and what is a trophy type?" he laughed.
"Oh...you know...the blond Adonis type, bulging muscles, no brains..." she countered.
"Ok...I think I see what you mean...." was his amused answer. "No, if that's the criteria, I definitely don't fit..."
They walked into the foyer of the Apartments and then to the elevator. “You can leave me here, Lee. It’s perfectly safe,” she offered.
“Hmm, I seem to remember another elevator years ago and I don’t think that one was as safe as it should have been.”
He shoved his hands into his pockets, and she thought that for the moment, for all the flash and feathers he was wearing, for all the medals that hung on the breast of the jacket, he looked like a lost little boy. She saw Robert in him, Robert when he was waiting to see if his father would be all right when he was hurt or injured after a mission. And she felt badly for him. The reference to Cathy had apparently stirred other memories. Sad ones, ones that he didn’t want to have to think about. She sighed. Someday, he would have to get on with his life before life passed him by. At least life with a love, that is.
The elevator door opened and he waited until she went in, then he followed. They were both silent as the elevator moved upward. They remained silent as the doors opened, and they walked down the hall to her apartment. Lee made a mental note to find out who was living next to her. You couldn’t be too careful, even if they were Institute employees.
She stopped at the door, reached in her purse and took out the key. She slid it into the lock, and turned the key, swinging the door open.
“Well, looks like I’m home…” She tossed the shoes, bag and shawl inside the door and stood looking up at him. “So, when do you sail?”
“1400… Look, I’m really sorry if I spoiled your evening…”
She shook her head. “You didn’t, Lee. Trust me, if you had, I’d’ve let you know…”
“Oh.. okay… well, I’ll be going, then…” ‘Why do I feel so awkward? All I want to do is say goodnight… No, I want to kiss her… but…she’s the Admiral’s ‘daughter’… she is, well, she’s a beautiful girl… we had an okay night…it could’ve been better…but…she isn’t UNhappy. Should I?…. Will she let me?…’ he leaned slightly forward, putting one arm up against the doorjamb, leaning over her. "Caitlin, I…uh…”
Caitlin looked up into amber-hazel eyes that were at once full of questions, and full of something else. She couldn’t tell… ‘Well, Girl, it’s now or never… if he doesn’t react this time, I’m giving up… the nunnery is looking better and better…’ She raised her arms, wrapped them around his neck, and brought her lips to his.
He dropped his arm around her shoulder and back, and wrapped the other around her waist, pulling her close. He was immediately aware of her bare back, her tiny waist, the way that she 'fit' him. Her lips were soft against his, and pressing slightly forward, he let his tongue caress her lips.
Her arms tightened ever so slightly around his neck, and she sighed lightly, opening her lips, and allowing his entry. Her heart began to beat harder as she felt his hands and fingers trail over her bare back, and stray to the rise of her buttocks.
He pulled her closer still, the depth of the kiss increasing, her softness slowly crushing itself against him. ‘She feels… good… right…but… the Admiral’s daughter… still …damn…’
Her fingers locked in a few of the curls he fought to tightly control. She sighed again…‘Damn!! Damn!! I love you, you … you… MAN!!’
She pulled away from him, her hand lingering on the snow-white fabric of the dress mess jacket. “Goodnight, Lee… I… I…” Suddenly frustrated, she slid inside the door, and closed it.
He stood staring at the door… His mind, and yes his heart totally confused…He reached for the door, touching it lightly… “Goodnight, Little Girl…” he said softly… ‘Sweet Dreams. Very sweet dreams…” Shoving his hands deep into his pockets, he headed toward the elevator. The Galapagos Islands waited for them tomorrow. It was a no-brainer of a mission. He would be able to think...about a lot of things. Think hard on where he wanted his life to go.
She sat at her dressing table, brushing her hair, hard, almost angrily. She was in love with Lee Crane! And the man was too damn blind to be aware of it. Too blind or just didn't care. She wasn't sure of which. Short of telling him so, she didn’t know how to let the damn man know. And he wasn’t the kind to take to telling him. He’d be noble, and kind, but he wouldn’t let you know if he knew he was in love. There had to be a way to let him know… Maybe when he came back from the Galapagos. Maybe then…
(the story continues in ‘Tests’ and ‘Time to Heal)
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