Approximately 4,000 words; 10 pages (8 ½” x 11”)
April 21, 2007
Lord I’m exhausted. For the last twenty-nine hours I’ve been either
traveling on some variation of plane, or sitting on a hard bench
somewhere waiting for the next transport. Miraculously on the last leg
of the journey, I actually was able to sleep for six hours. I napped a
couple of other times, but this last time I really fell asleep. I’m
still not entirely refreshed but I’m at least functional.
I usually don’t sleep on planes. Mac always teased me about it. She said
I was too much of a control freak to sleep while someone else was at the
controls. She’s right; I am. I’m learning though. I don’t fly much any
more, at least not at the controls. I travel several times a year but
never for long, mostly inspection tours. Once the SecNav decided that I
was too much trouble for normal duty and I would be perfect to spot
trouble brewing, he’s kept me very busy.
The first year Secretary Sheffield held the office was a bad one. Every
imaginable career-killing incident that could befall a Naval officer
came my way. He pretty much decided I was a screw-up not worthy of his
time. By the time I came up for my twenty-year retirement, the choice
was either promote me, or turn me loose. Someone convinced him to review
my service record and the circumstances surrounding the mishaps from
that fateful year. When the review was finished, I found the record of
my aborted court martial in Singer’s death had been expunged from my
Furthermore, a notation covering my resignation was overwritten, with an
explanation that I was officially TAD to the CIA for six months on a
heavily classified assignment for his office. Several smaller
misfortunes were similarly altered, and I suddenly found myself
reinstated as the Navy’s shining poster boy. I was suffering from
virtual whiplash when I was chosen for an early promotion. Then he
ordered my transfer to his office. I was to report directly to him.
The job has been fascinating, and although I only occasionally litigate,
I find I don’t miss it as much as I once thought. The chase, the
investigation, was always the most fun in any case, as it’s the best
place to get at the truth immediately. I do admit though, I miss the
times when I would go to court against Mac.
Sheffield hasn’t been the easiest person to work for, sometimes he makes
my life a living hell, but somehow he is always fair and ultimately asks
no more than I can deliver. Unfortunately, I occasionally have to
convince myself I’m capable of delivering what he asks for.
This last assignment was a prime example. I had to assess both the legal
and flight environment on five ships in three weeks, during combat
operations, and stay out of the way of the crew doing their job. As if
that wasn’t enough, he had Tracy email me that I’m expected at his
wife’s birthday party tonight. I needed to have my investigation wrapped
up and return in time to attend. Of course, we aren’t talking about
Levis and hot dogs over a barbeque in a neighbor’s back yard. We’re
talking about formal dress uniforms, and a ball at the finest hotel in
DC. Not my idea of fun on the best night, but after twenty-nine hours of
travel, it can only be considered cruel and unusual punishment.
There is only one tiny spark of hope to reward my attendance this
evening. The Admiral was ordered to attend as well, with his newly
appointed Assistant JAG. She will be there.
I was lucky in encountering light traffic on the freeway from Andrews.
Reaching home I changed quickly, before turning to downtown DC and the
penthouse ballroom of the appointed hotel. There are people milling
about and it takes me a few minutes to get the attendant to take my car,
before I can hurry up the steps and into the elevator. I’m an hour late
and I’m certain I’ll be the subject of his displeasure at some point
I step through the massive doors and search the room with my eyes. My
immediate concern is to locate the only real reason I’m attending. I’m
here for the dance, for one dance really, for the dance I will have with
her. We’ve danced so many ways for so many years. Tonight I just want to
feel her in my arms.
If not for that opportunity, I’d beg a flat tire or stalled freeway
traffic. Hell, I’d say a wing fell off the damn airplane, anything just
to go home, but she’s here and I want this dance.
I spot the top of her head across the room. She’s near the Admiral, and
I start in her direction my heart quickening at the sight of the soft
curls in her hair. It’s all I can see, but it’s enough. Every nerve
ending in my body is reacting to the thought of gathering her in my
arms, holding her close, and moving to the music. My mind drifts to
imagine the touch of her legs sweeping against mine, through the fabric
of our formal clothes. To consider how her breasts will feel barely
brushing my chest, as we glide to the tempo. I know too well the scent
of her hair, as it falls against my cheek; the soft bouquet of her
perfume, as her body warms in my arms. I imagine her gentle voice
whispering sincere words of welcome in my ear, even as I murmur my
pleasure in her nearness.
The thought of holding her close, of moving with her pressed to me,
threatens to make crossing the floor to her difficult. Suddenly, like a
cold shower, a hand encircles my arm and the slightly shrill voice of
Mrs. Sheffield greets me.
“There you are Captain, I thought you were going to stand me up. You
know I asked my husband to make certain you were here for the party. I
certainly didn’t want his most valuable officer to miss such a gala
event.” I cringe at the flirtatious overtones inherent in my boss’s
Turning my best officer face to her, I drag my eyes from the barely
visible head across the room, and fasten my eyes on the countenance of
Caroline Sheffield. In doing so, I wonder for about the hundredth time
how I ever became so embroiled in Washington politics. All I ever wanted
to do was fly fighters. Yet here I am knee deep in the artificial social
scene that is the undercurrent, and sometimes the underpinning, of the
heartbeat of our nation’s capitol.
“Happy Birthday Mrs. Sheffield,” I give her about half of my best smile,
still more than enough for any polite society. I’m not trying to seduce
her, just congratulate her. “I’m so sorry I’m late. I had a very
difficult time finding available flights. But when I told them I
couldn’t miss your party, well you can just imagine how everyone
cooperated.” I school my face carefully to promote the outright lie. She
glows with pleasure at the compliment.
I neglect to mention how little this information impressed the sergeant
who arranged my flights, the one time I tried it. There was just no need
to go there. After all, she lives in a different world, and I’m more
than aware she would never understand the one I function in; it just
didn’t make sense to broach the subject.
At that moment, Mr. Sheffield joined us. Although I saw a hint of
displeasure in his eyes at my tardiness, the fact his wife was
positively sparkling with delight softened away his anger. He greeted me
cordially with a promise to meet early Monday to review my report, and
his best wishes that I enjoy the party.
I breathed a sigh of relief as I turned to find her again. I needed to
collect my dance; I’d waited too long. Surveying the crowd, I allowed my
mind to return to its wanderings, reviewing again the responses my nerve
endings would have to her touch, her scent, her voice. To conjure the
feel of her lithe body as it brushed mine. To recall the cadence of a
waltz, as we turned effortlessly together around the room, floating on
the notes as they hung suspended in the air.
As the current dance ended, the crowd parted naturally. She was before
me wrapped in deep red, like a dark cherry, her gown swirled and clung
to her as though it was made of vintage wine. The vision, while deeply
sensuous, was by no means suggestive. The curves of her gorgeous body
were merely hinted, not blatantly revealed.
She was captivating, and I was apparently not the only one who thought
so. As the crowd parted further, I saw the man she had danced with,
Governor Carrolton. He was young, barely five years older than I, short,
just reaching Mac’s height without heels, and stocky but lean. He had
won every campaign he had engaged in over the last twenty years, and he
was powerful in both body and connections. He had no trouble letting
anyone know of his power base, and he was looking for a wife. His wife
of twenty-five years had died last spring, after falling from her prize
jumper. After waiting a mannerly mourning period of three months, he had
begun a quest for a new one.
I closed on them as quickly as the formal setting would allow. She
turned slowly, and I found myself looking into the deep golden brown
eyes of the woman who would dance with me. I was still several steps
away, but she knew I was there before I uttered a word.
“Harm, I knew you would come,” she smiled brilliantly.
“I came for our dance,” I responded pointedly, with my best smile.
For a long moment the world slipped away and we both forgot protocol,
while the powerful politician fumed his displeasure.
Taking a deep breath, and squeezing my arm as I moved my hip to touch
hers, she turned her head to introduce us.
“Harm have you met Governor Carrolton? He was kind enough to give me a
gentlemanly escort,” she introduced. It had the double effect of showing
appreciation for his courtesy, and letting him know it was only his
courtesy that interested her.
He extended his hand displeased, but never losing his polished public
façade. His defeat had been so gracefully executed, it could easily be
accepted as a victory.
His face still didn’t know whether to show displeasure or pride, as he
finished the exchange with perfect manners, and turned to mingle with
the crowd in search of another target.
In that moment, the band ended their short break. The guests resumed
dancing with a slow romantic song that practically required close body
contact. I pulled her as close to me as the formal setting allowed, and
lost myself as her presence settled over me. Gradually I pulled her
closer, until a mere whisper separated us.
When the second dance ended, the band switched to a Latin beat. I was
uncertain I could keep the time and steps after my long flight. Mac’s
concern was that another dance like the last would result in
embarrassment before this illustrious crowd.
“Harm, why don’t we get something to eat? I’ve had a long day and you
must be exhausted from your flight,” she suggested wisely.
Acquiescing to her timely intervention, I followed her to the
well-appointed buffet, and found an extraordinary assortment. We secured
a small table in an isolated corner and enjoyed a much-needed repast.
The seafood was light, the vegetables were perfect, and the salad was
exquisite. We shared a small but delightful chocolate dessert. There was
even an imaginative assortment of non- alcoholic beverages, and urns of
the very best coffee I have ever encountered.
By the time the service staff removed our plates and refilled our
coffee, I was actually feeling human. Temporarily discarding the fatigue
from twenty-nine hours of travel, I found I was ready to dance with her
all night if she agreed.
We finished our coffee and a comfortable silence fell between us. We’ve
always had the gift of being able to sit quietly, not needing to fill
the empty air with needless words. A small smile tugs at the corners of
my mouth as I ponder the concept that in the past we might have done
well to enjoy more of being quiet and less of conversation. These things
were never planned though, learning when to shut up had never been
strong points for either of us. Our relationship long resembled a cross
between a well-worn easy chair and a nine G upside down loop in a
I met his eyes as the music began to play again. He offered his hand for
mine palm up, I laid my fingers across his. He led me quickly to the
dance floor and whirled me away from any of our remotest acquaintances.
Apparently, Rabb was on one of his obsessive missions tonight. His quest
this time was to occupy my entire dance card for the evening.
As we swayed and whirled through the next three numbers, more than once,
I saw or felt a sudden turn or quick change in direction. When I cared
to look, each time I found Harm had outdistanced pursuit by someone who
had attempted to cut in.
I smiled against his shoulder at his complete disregard for protocol and
etiquette. Appearance of impropriety is proscribed in military life. The
opportunity to disregard it with impunity seldom occurs. He may have to
live and work in this world, abide by its rules, but tonight he was
toying dangerously with the concept it was going to happen without his
full co-operation. Tonight he was unwilling to share, and would not be
Less than thirty percent of the crowd knew of, or were personally
acquainted with, the tall, dashing Navy Captain who was the SecNav’s
personal troubleshooter. Very few present had any idea that the
seductive, crimson clad, temptress draped in his arms was the Assistant
JAG. We had arrived separately; therefore, there was no presumption of
previous acquaintance. As these thoughts washed over my awareness, I
tried desperately to stifle the resulting embarrassed giggle, but Harm
reacted as it rippled down his chest muscles, and smiled down at me. I
could see, by the look in his eyes, he was thinking the same thing.
I noticed as eyes drifted our way soon after the second dance began. At
first, I thought it was Harm’s obvious efforts to avoid interruption.
Soon I started feeling what others had perceived. The respectful
distance people usually maintained at a formal dance had lessened
between us. Imperceptibly, moment by moment, Harm had drawn me closer.
Our bodies barely met along the full length, but our movement was so
completely harmonious, the suggestion of sensual combustibility was
The gentleman sent repeatedly to interrupt our dance had most likely
been dispatched by whoever the self-appointed propriety police were for
this particular event. ‘Scandalous,’ someone surely said. ‘Separate
them, before everyone notices’. It was really quite pointless because
everyone had already noticed.
The movement of our bodies against one another, not quite touching but
with scarcely a breath between us, was so perfect, so electric, so
whisper soft that it vibrated through the assembled company like a shock
wave. Completely innocent of overt eroticism, yet possessing a seductive
sensuality, our dance filled the room with unexpected emotions. Harm’s
response to our dilemma made his next move unanticipated yet completely
predictable. It simultaneously brought great relief to the assembled
He smiled down at my startled look when a sudden turn and a whirling
step brought us through the double doors and out onto the terrace.
Moving from light to shadow, he pulled me against him closer than ever.
In a half dozen graceful steps, we rounded a large potted tree, and he
pinned me to the wall of the building.
Faced with polished marble, it was smooth against my back, but cool in
the night air. I might have shivered at the sudden chill but his arms
were around me, one hand cradling my head, the other pulling me close at
the waist. His lips covered mine and his body was pressed against me so
tightly I couldn’t move, even for an involuntary reaction to the change
Gentle and loving, firm and passionate, his desire evident, he moved his
mouth over mine in a multitude of caresses. Softly, he worked my lips
until they begged to part for him. Lord this man can kiss. It is one of
his consummate talents, and God knows he has more than his share of
extraordinary skills. I felt his hips begin to move so slightly against
mine, as he fanned the flames of my desire like a whispering breeze over
the embers of a brushfire. Slowly he ended the kiss and pulled back just
far enough to breathe.
“You’re going to get us court-martialed Harm,” I protested feebly.
“No one’s going to bring charges against us Mac,” he smiled patiently.
“They’re all just glad we took it outside.” His devilish grin lit the
darkness, as he ducked his head for another kiss.
“What was that nonsense with the Governor?” he asked a long moment
later, a tiny spark of jealousy lighting his eyes. His words made
nibbling motions against my mouth.
“He thought he had a lot to offer me,” I teased.
“And does he?” Harm tickled my lips with his tongue.
“Not what I want,” I replied retuning the caress.
His breath caught before he could inquire, “Who can give you what you
“Well there is this tall, handsome, Navy Captain I’ve had my eye on,” I
could form no other words; my lips were now fully occupied with a head
I wish I could say I resisted, I wish I could swear I wanted to resist,
but my will power failed me and I surrendered completely.
Before I was certain of my name again, I found him smiling at me, his
beautiful blue eyes twinkling in the starlight.
“What do you say we take this somewhere else entirely?” he suggested.
All I could do was nod dumbly, I wasn’t certain I could walk at this
He pulled back a little further, and gave me a moment to compose myself
before he offered his hand.
“Come,” he said softly. “Let’s get out of here.”
I took his hand and followed. Not meekly, but proudly, challenging the
world to recognize the depth of our alliance, confident in my actions.
A moment later, we were face to face with Mr. and Mrs. Sheffield, the
guest of honor and our host. Her expression was a deep and puzzling
combination of envy and admiration. His was definitely amused
aggravation mixed heavily with encouragement. It appears the SecNav has
finally discovered what a handful Harm can be, when he settles on a
path. Fortunately, he has a strong enough sense of humor to contend with
him most of the time.
“Sir, Ma’am,” Harm smiled his most charming smile. “I want to express my
appreciation for your gracious invitation, but I’m afraid I need to ask
you to excuse me for the remainder of the evening. It was a long trip
home. Of course, I wouldn’t have missed your party for the world Mrs.
Sheffield,” Harm took her hand sincerely. “Sir, again thank you for your
kind invitation. I’ll be in your office first thing on Monday with my
What could Sheffield say to such polished manners? Harm had charmed the
socks off both of them. Then I saw a wily smile cross the SecNav’s
features, and his eyes sparked with mischief.
“Surely you don’t have to leave, Colonel. After all the night is young,”
he suggested. The man was not to be outdone. Harms eyes widened in
“I’m afraid I do sir. I have a rather important trial starting Monday
and I can’t be too prepared. I do hope you’ll excuse me. I’ll just say
my goodbye to the Admiral and thank him for his kind escort. Captain
Rabb will see me home,” I explained smoothly, as Harm’s body visibly
I shook his hand and murmured a few polite words to Caroline Sheffield,
before we turned and retreated hastily from the room. No clarification
was necessary. Our intent was readily apparent. I had no need to find
the Admiral, he was completely aware of what was happening. From across
the room he lifted an eyebrow and I nodded. It was enough.
I collected her wrap from the checkroom and led her to the elevator.
Fortunately, it was too early for the party to break up. We had the
elevator to ourselves. This auspicious circumstance blessed me with the
chance to reinforce my suggestion through several more kisses as we
descended twenty-one floors to the ground level.
She shivered slightly in the night air as we waited for valet to bring
the car. I held her tight against my side to warm her. I sincerely hoped
some of her trembling was due more to anticipation than just being cold.
The drive home seemed to take forever. I was able to hold her hand and
kiss her fingertips each time we stopped at the countless lights along
the way. The traffic was blissfully light, as DC’s inhabitants remained
hard at work. The business of being social was as important to its
participants as the daytime politics that drove them.
Finally, I brought the car to rest in its parking spot, and helped her
from her seat, encircling her once again with my arms. We were in a
private place now, and no one was here to see.
As the door closed and locked behind us, our clothes began to fall away
hampered only by our need to kiss and touch. My shirt, tie, and
cummerbund landed near the front door, followed closely by her dress.
Our shoes, socks, stockings, and my trousers were left on the steps,
trailed by a line of underwear leading up to the bed.
Suddenly all memory of my exhaustion fell away, as everything I had
anticipated became mine. What started as a burning need during the
dance, morphed naturally to a slow, steady flame igniting the night with
its strength and power. Unquestionably, a fire that would burn forever,
dimmed only slightly as it banked for each day’s duties, before flaring
again into the evenings of the future. We finally fell asleep, tangled
in each other, completely contented and at peace.
April 22, 2007
“Mac,” he whispers urgently, as the first light of dawn peeks through
“Hmmm?” I answer, unwilling to move unless it’s for a really good
reason, like more of what we were doing before we fell asleep.
“Mac,” he squeezes my shoulder slightly. “Our clothes, I’m going to put
“Don’t worry about them Harm, I’ll get them later,” I offer, stretching
like a cat in a sunbeam and wrapping my arms around his neck. He doesn’t
resist too hard, when I pull him into a long languid kiss
However, he soon has that worried look on his face again. “Mac, we have
to pick them up now,” he reiterates.
“No we don’t, Harm,” I murmur sleepily, “T’s okay really.” I wrap my leg
around his and feel his body respond. Yummy!
“Mac the sun’s almost up,” he coaxes, his words saying one thing, and
his body arguing another.
“I know Harm, relax. You won’t turn into a pumpkin,” I giggle slightly.
“C’mon Mac, the kids will be awake soon, and they’ll find our clothes
all over the house,” he insists.
“You’re such a prude sometimes,” I smile indulgently. “The children are
precocious, but not that precocious,” I torment him a moment longer. The
paradox of Harmon Rabb is that he will flirt dangerously and seduce his
own wife in a room full of scandalized strangers, then be discomfited at
the questions posed by a pair of three year olds.
“Its not that Mac,” he flushes, showing that it is, “It’s just that the
last time it took me a week to find my wings in the toy box,” he
“Kids are at Harriet’s, Harm,” I murmur sleepily.
“All three of them?” He asked incredulously. “The twins and the baby?”
“Yes, Harm. We have to return the favor next month, but we have ‘til
this afternoon alone, now do you want me or not?” I tease, snuggling
“Well why didn’t you say so,” he grumbles, diving for my neck with his
“You didn’t ask,” I moan as he hits the spot that makes me weak. My
insides turn to warm custard. I whimper my pleasure and bless the night
we ignored a knock on our hotel door.
‘Maybe we’ll pick up the clothes about noon,’ is my last useful thought
as his body envelops me.