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Classification Romance (H/M)
Length Approximately 4,000 words; 10 pages (8 ½” x 11”)
Spoilers None
Rating GS

 


21:30
April 21, 2007
Washington, D.C
.

 

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 file.

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 this evening.

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 wife’s voice.

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.

 

Chapter 2

 

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 Tomcat.

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 deterred.

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 overpowering.

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 partygoers.

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 in temperature.

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 want Mac?”

“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 spinning kiss.

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 point.

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 full report.”

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 disbelief.

“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 relaxed.

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.

 

Epilogue


05:15
April 22, 2007
Rabb Residence

 

“Mac,” he whispers urgently, as the first light of dawn peeks through the curtains.

“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 them away.”

“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 justifies.

“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 beneath him.

“Well why didn’t you say so,” he grumbles, diving for my neck with his lips.

“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.

 

The End
 

 
 
   

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