8,000 words, 21 pages (8 ½” x 11”)
through a series of flashbacks, Mac reminisces with her teenaged
daughter about the events that caused a certain Commander to
finally share his feelings twenty years earlier.
It is important to love.
It is more important to say so.
~~ French Proverb
June 2022 1000 local
The grand brick colonial stood at the end of a peaceful, tree-lined
avenue. And from its elegantly appointed master suite, Brigadier General
Sarah Mackenzie Rabb emerged, clad in a white terry cloth robe. She sat
at her dressing table, applying her collection of creams and cosmetics,
smoothing one persistent strand of her chin-length hair. A smile formed
on her face as she shifted her glance from the diamond solitaire ring on
her finger to her reflection in the mirror. It had been twenty years and
she still had it. She still looked good. Though in her mid-fifties, time
had been benevolent, not having plundered or pillaged from her face, her
body. Instead, the years had been content to wash over her, leaving only
the designs of graceful maturity and gentle wisdom in their wake. These
last twenty years had been the best of her life; brimming with joy, with
prosperity, with love. And she still looked damn good.
Mac heard the familiar morning sounds from down the hall - water
running, doors opening and closing. “Morning, Lizzie! Nice of you to
join the world of the living,” she called in the motherly tone she’d
long since perfected. She beamed with pride as eighteen year old Lizzie
appeared at the doorway, rolling her eyes, sporting a half-smile.
Elizabeth Sarah Rabb had indeed inherited the best of both of them, her
father’s towering height, his chiseled features, his show-stopping
smile. And her own flawless complexion, her intuition, her poise. Sarah
Rabb had raised her daughter to dress, to walk, to shop like a woman.
And to fight like a man. “So tell me, how was your date with Sean last
Lizzie groaned, rubbing her eyes. “It wasn’t a date. We just met for
Mac put down her hairbrush. “No progress yet, huh?”
Lizzie flung herself on her parent’s cherry wood sleigh bed. “Why are
men so pigheaded?” This was accompanied by the classic drama-queen sigh
that most girls her age had down to a science. “Mom, Sean and I have
been friends since freshman year. Four years! I know there’s something
there, but he just won’t…ugh! It’s so frustrating!”
Mac giggled devilishly. “Sounds like someone we both know and love.”
Lizzie bolted upright. “I know you and Dad were friends at JAG for a
long time before you got married. But was he really as stubborn as
“Worse! And we were friends for six years before anything substantial
happened.” Mac grinned slyly. “But it wasn’t entirely your father’s
fault. I did my share of running. I was even engaged to another man
during that time.”
“You mean that Australian guy?”
Mac cocked her head in remembrance. “Yep. But all that time, there was
only one man I truly wanted, even though I spent much of those six years
denying it. Deep down I knew your father loved me too, just as I know
you feel that Sean wants more than friendship with you. But I was where
you’re at for a long time. Not entirely sure, just needing something
real, something plain and simple to really be convinced.”
“That’s it exactly. If he could just get off of his six and say
something, do something. Mom, what worked for you two? What finally got
Dad off of his six?”
“Elizabeth Rabb, I think I just might tell you. But this is gonna take a
while and we need some serious ammo.”
Mac returned five minutes later with her version of ammunition, two
steaming cups of coffee and two jumbo chocolate croissants.
“Holy heck! Where’ve you been hiding those?”
“These are for emergency use only,” she whispered, handing a plate to
Lizzie. “You know, PMS and heartache. And don’t even think of telling
With a crafty wink, Lizzie took a sip from her mug. “So what was it?
Were you guys on assignment somewhere exotic, or trapped below some
sinking ship or something?”
“No nothing like that. And if someone would have told me before that it
was gonna happen the way it did, I would never have believed them. But
it was truly incredible. Now, even after twenty years, I remember the
details so clearly, like it was yesterday.”
March 2002, 1930 Local
Sarah Mackenzie’s cherry red Corvette crawled upon what is normally
referred to as the fast lane of interstate 66. But despite the
capabilities of the 6-speed 350 HP V-8 engine, the Vette, as well as the
vehicles of other D.C. commuters, were impeded heavily by the winds and
torrential rainwater from one very angry storm. Rain fell in sheets on
her windshield. Her only guide through the maze of wetness and
wind-swept debris was the faint sight of red from the taillights ahead
of her. She’d passed one accident a few miles back and prayed that she
would avoid any more before she reached the restaurant. She was already
28 minutes late from the time she’d agreed to meet Harm. Hopefully, he
wasn’t too worried about her.
Bella Luna Restaurant
Harm was sick with worry. He stood in the reception area, his face
nearly pressed against the freezing glass. The rain beat mercilessly
upon the window and he cursed himself for picking a restaurant closer to
his home than hers. His one consolation was that Mac had conquered far
worse threats than thunder storms.
“Sir, your table is ready. Would you like to wait there for your guest?”
The blonde hostess held up two menus.
Harm shook his head. “No thank you. I’d rather wait here for her.”
“I’m sure she’s late because of the storm. A couple of the other
customers were talking about the mess on the 66.” The hostess noted his
anxiousness. His guest must be someone special. And very lucky, too.
This sailor was drop-dead gorgeous. “Sir, I’ll just hold your table.
Just alert me when she arrives.”
“Thank You.” Harm continued to stare out the window. He’d wanted this to
be a nice catch-up dinner. They’d both been so busy lately they hadn’t
had anytime to talk. After all of the awkwardness and confusion of the
previous year, they were just beginning to feel comfortable around each
other again. He rolled his eyes in exasperation of the fact that
everything seemed to keep them apart; work, obnoxious Australian naval
officers, TAD assignments. And now, even the weather had taken its place
Harm buttoned his raincoat and readied his umbrella. He ventured
outside, taking cover under the large awning that wrapped around the
building. It was foolish to be out here, but maybe, just maybe he could
will her to him faster. He wanted to see her car the second it pulled
into the adjacent parking lot. As he paced nervously, he thought he
heard voices coming from the side of the restaurant. Though it was
difficult to see more than a few feet in front of him, he did notice a
man and a woman standing against the brick wall, deep in conversation.
He turned away, not wanting to intrude, concentrating again on the
street in front of him.
Suddenly, the voices rose, then turned to screams. He whipped around
just in time to see the man shove the woman’s head roughly into the
wall. Harm bolted as the man threw his hands around her neck, screaming
obscenities. It was the last action this man was able to make as Harm
grabbed him, sending him to the pavement, knocking him out cold with one
“God, are you all right?” He knelt down beside the woman, lifting her up
slowly, taking note of the nasty cut on her head and the bruise forming
on her cheek. She was young, maybe in her early twenties, with long
black hair. “Call the police and an ambulance!” he called to the two
restaurant employees who’d come out at the sound of the commotion.
“No, it’s okay…I’m okay,” the woman managed to say, through her shock,
through her tears.
“Ma’am, just let them check you out. You have a head wound that might
She nodded, looking down at her companion who was still lying on the
asphalt. “Thank you…”
“I’m Commander Rabb. Harm. Don’t worry. He’s not going to wake up for a
while. Let’s get you inside.”
Mac let out a sigh as she finally pulled into the parking lot. She was
one hour and 27 minutes late. She thought Harm might have given up on
her, but she saw his SUV, plus a police car.
She was barely through the doorway when she felt the strong arms of her
partner wrapped tightly around her. Although she had no idea what had
gotten into him, she was by no means complaining. “Harm, what…”
He pulled away slightly, still holding her close. “Mac, I was so
worried. I thought you’d never get here.”
She unbuttoned her coat. “I know. I’m sorry. The 66 was a parking lot.
Hey, why is your coat all muddy? Does this have something to do with the
cop car outside?” She asked, her brows knit together.
Harm signaled the waitress. “I’m afraid so. I’ll explain over dinner.
They were nice enough to hold our table.”
Mac shook her head in disbelief. “I swear, Harm. You can’t even manage a
simple dinner out without encountering some sort of conundrum.”
“Cute, Marine. Just follow the hostess, okay?”
Lizzie crinkled her nose. “So that’s when he told you he loved you? You
mean all I have to do is make Sean a little scared for my safety and
he’ll feel compelled to confess his feelings?”
Mac shook her head, laughing. “Lizzie, the storm thing might have worked
for an ordinary couple. But, your father and I, well our relationship
was far from ordinary. Throughout our history we’d been chased by
Russian spies, hunted and shot at by murderous poachers, Columbian drug
lords, you name it. A measly storm just wasn’t gonna cut it. What
happened at the restaurant was only the beginning. Getting us finally
together took something extraordinary. Something totally unexpected.
“Lieutenant Andrew Morgan is accused of driving under the influence and
willful destruction of private property.” Admiral Chegwidden’s voice
boomed from the head of the conference table. “Turner, you’ll prosecute.
Rabb, you’ll defend.”
“Aye, sir,” the officers said in unison, accepting their respective file
The admiral produced another set of files, turning to face Harm.
“Commander, you’re dismissed for now.”
“Thank you, sir.”
As the door closed, Admiral Chegwidden continued. “I had Commander Rabb
leave because he happens to be a material witness in this next case. As
it turns out, the female he assisted a few days ago is Corporal Lisa
Gomez, stationed at Quantico. She’s charging her former boyfriend, Petty
Officer Third Class Anthony Moreno, with assault. Colonel Mackenzie,”
“I’m aware of the fact that you happened upon the incident in question.”
Mac nodded. “I arrived just as the accused was being taken into custody,
sir. Corporal Gomez was already en route to Bethesda.”
“Good. You’ll prosecute.” He slid the folder down the table. “Lieutenant
Singer, you’ll defend.”
Lauren Singer’s eyes perked up. “Yes, sir,” she said emphatically.
The admiral sighed. “That’ll be all, people. Dismissed.”
Mac peered in the doorway to Harm’s office, indulging herself in a few
stolen moments of just looking at him, absorbed in his work. This man
was certifiably beautiful. Not wanting to arouse any suspicion from
fellow coworkers, she reluctantly knocked on the door frame.
“Enter.” Then his eyes brightened. “Hey, Mac.”
“Well, sailor, it looks like our better-late-than-never dinner at Bella
Luna has resulted in an assault case for me and a little trip to the
witness stand for you.”
Harm raised his brows. “You’re prosecuting?”
“Yep. I just reviewed the info.”
Mac leaned in close, voice just above a whisper. “That would be
“Great. That’s one cross-examination that’s sure to leave me with a
splitting headache.” He rubbed his temples in anticipation.
“Tell me about it. Every time I go up against her it’s like one part
litigation, one part jousting match. Look, I need your official
statement. That adrenaline-induced play-by-play I got between bites of
your chicken Florentine the other night isn’t gonna cut it.” At this she
received one of the killer-watt smiles that made life simply worth
“Well then, counselor, why don’t you pull up a chair? I promise to give
you a detailed account of the incident. Minus the adrenaline of course.”
She returned the smile and added a wink, flipping her legal pad to a
Mac let out a sigh when he finished his explanation. “Well, you know I
can’t talk to you about the case, but just between you and me, nailing
Petty Officer Moreno’s ass to the wall is going to be my personal
Harm chuckled. “I’ll bet, Marine. Hey, are you going to see Corporal
“Yeah, I’ve got an appointment with her later.” She paused for a moment.
“You know, Harm, I guess it was a blessing that I was late the other
night. I mean, you never would have been able to help otherwise.”
Harm nodded in agreement, moving close to her, voice low and smooth.
“Well, Mac, you know what they say – everything happens for a reason.”
Her cheeks grew flushed at his wickedly close proximity, at his piercing
stare that traveled all the way to her soul. She could have sworn his
words had carried more than one meaning. But that was just it. Harm had
made an art out of throwing things out there that showed serious
more-than-friends potential. What she wouldn’t give for one clear and
simple statement from this man. Was plain English too much to ask?
She shook it off for the sake of duty, rising from the chair. “Hey,
thanks for the statement. I’ll catch you later?”
He nodded, returning to his files. “Sure thing. And give Cpl. Gomez my
There were children playing on the wide expanse of grass in front of the
newer apartment complex. As Mac shut her car door and wound around the
front fender and onto the curb, she almost bumped into two school aged
boys, belly-down on the hot white concrete. They were armed with
magnifying glasses and seemed to be entertaining themselves with the
comings and goings of ants or beetles as if it were the only thing they
should be doing. A stray soccer ball nearly knocked the briefcase out of
her hand. She retrieved it with the other as its penitent owner,
complete with bouncing blonde pigtails and a smudge of dirt on her cheek
ran up to her.
“Thank you!” the little girl cried and caught the ball, running back to
her friends. But after a few steps, she halted and turned, flashing a
wide-toothed smile that could easily compete with sunlight. Though Mac
returned the smile, something inside her grew sad and misty eyed for the
little girl she once was.
She’d always put an incredible amount of time and dedication to every
case she’d ever worked on. But there was something about assault cases,
especially domestic incidents, which made her a vicious courtroom
opponent and a zealous advocate in every way. She did it because it was
too late to save her mother. It was too late to save that little girl
that still suffered deep inside of her. But it was not too late for
Corporal Lisa Gomez to be saved, to find justice. And she would make
damn sure of it.
Mac stared intently at the woman who answered the apartment door. She
was petite with a strong, muscular frame. Her long column of black hair
was secured in a ponytail, but it was her face that caught Mac’s
attention. She had beautiful, sharp features and flawless olive skin.
But her beauty was marred by the purple bruise on her right cheek and
eyes that Mac could only describe as tired. Tired, not from lack of
sleep, but from the inner shame of her situation. “Corporal Gomez?”
“I’m Lieutenant Colonel Sarah Mackenzie.”
“Yes, ma’am. I’ve been expecting you. Please come in.” She moved aside
and ushered Mac to a small tweed-covered loveseat.
“Tony, uh, Petty Officer Moreno and I had been dating for two years,”
Cpl. Gomez began, after Mac had covered a few preliminary details. “We
talked about getting married and everything. Tony was a model boyfriend
for so long. But he started changing; drinking more, becoming
suspicious, controlling. He’d never had a bad temper before. But lately,
even the littlest things set him off.”
“Had he ever abused you physically before the night of the incident?”
Cpl. Gomez’s eyes filled with tears. “Yes, a few times. But he was
always so sorry afterwards.” She looked Mac straight in the eyes. “And I
was so stupid. I’m a marine. I’ve been given training. I’m supposed to
be stronger than that. I’m supposed to be able to take care of myself,
both inside and out.” She touched the bruise on her cheek, her gaze
dropping to the floor.
Mac’s voice was soft and steady. “You’re also a woman. Love sometimes
has a way of clouding our judgment, dampening our skills, our most basic
sense of reason.” She knew this all too well.
Cpl. Gomez nodded. “Yes, ma’am, and that night the heads-up marine was
nonexistent. Look where it got me.” She turned her head to show Mac the
bandaged wound. “Eighty stitches.”
Mac took a deep breath. “Why don’t you tell me as much as you can
remember from that evening.”
“Tony wanted to meet me for dinner in the city. We chose Bella Luna.
Everything was fine until he started ordering drinks. He became
obnoxious and rude to the waitress and was starting to make a scene. By
that time, I’d had it. This was the last straw. I decided that I was
gonna break it off with him, for good. But that night, the weather was
terrible and I had at least an hour commute back here. I just wanted to
go home.” She rose, pacing the floor. “When I told Tony in the parking
lot, he starting accusing me of cheating on him. You know, leaving to
meet some other guy. He began to yell, calling me a whore and a
worthless slut. I couldn’t believe what he was saying. I slapped him,
just as an instinct out of the hurt and the anger. Well, that only made
him worse. He…he punched me then rammed my head against the brick wall,
grabbing my neck. The next thing I knew the commander was there. Rob?
No, Rabb. Commander Rabb. It’s like he came out of nowhere. If he
wouldn’t have been there, God knows what Tony would have done.”
Mac looked up, nodding in sympathy. “Commander Rabb will be testifying
on your behalf.”
“So you found him, ma’am?”
Mac smiled. “Not only did I find him, he’s a fellow Judge Advocate. Your
knight in shining armor just happens to be my partner.”
Cpl. Gomez’s eyes grew in wonder. “Ma’am, the commander not only rescued
me, he helped me talk to the police and waited with me until the
ambulance came. He was a true gentleman, kind and brave. I mean, he
didn’t have to help me. He could’ve just minded his own business. I
realized that’s the kind of man I want, the kind of man I deserve. Not
some drunken bully like Tony.”
Mac put down her legal pad. She spoke slowly, with emotion. “What
happened to you was inexcusable, but at least you got out before it was
too late, or before you brought children into the picture.”
Cpl. Gomez looked at Mac’s grave expression with confusion.
“Corporal, you’re the one who’s brave, for filing charges and for moving
on. My mother, well, she married her Petty Officer Moreno.”
Lizzie took a bite of her pastry. “Wow, it seems like that lady kind of
had a little crush on Dad.”
“Well, it’s common to idealize someone who saves you from a dangerous
situation. But, you’re right. Your father had quite a commanding
presence. He still does. Besides being tall, dark, and handsome, he
owned every room he entered and gave you the impression that he could
save you from anything or anyone. He sure ended up saving me.”
Mac paused reflectively and spoke in quiet. “From myself. Lizzie, I
loved your dad and I wanted him. But our friendship, or whatever it was
that we had, had gone through a lot of trauma, more than most marriages
experience. It left me with a concrete wall inside, of hurt, of fears,
of doubts. I was pretty insecure.”
“So Dad broke that wall down?”
“Well, yes. Your dad did eventually break down the wall. But, here’s the
kicker. It was actually Lt. Singer who handed him the hammer.”
“Lizzie giggled. “You mean Lt. Insubordination?”
Mac groaned. “Ah, yes, the one and only. Your father and I, and well,
the entire JAG office was pretty much used to her antics. She’d put
herself on a rocket straight to the top and didn’t care who she burned
on the way up. But Lizzie, the day of the Article 32 Hearing, she’d
obviously fastened her hair bun a tad too tight.”
Lizzie let out a burst of laughter.
“This was an open and shut case. I had plenty of evidence to send Petty
Officer Moreno to Court Marshall, despite Singer’s defense strategy that
the incident was actually a fight that Lt. Gomez had provoked by
slapping him. The whole thing went haywire when she found out that the
admiral was going to be observing the hearing. And not only that, he was
planning to bring a couple of visiting two-stars with him. As you can
imagine, Singer was in ambition ecstasy. This was going to be her
defining moment. I was the senior attorney with a lot more respect and
experience. If she could in any way discredit my witnesses and sully my
case, it would make her shine. But, she forgot that litigation is about
the client, not the attorney. All she had to do was protect Petty
Officer Moreno’s rights until it came time for Court Marshall. But, that
day, she took it way too far. She’d behaved reasonably well throughout
most of my witnesses. But when your father took the stand, her cross
examination nearly gave everyone in that courtroom a heart attack.
Including Judge Sebring.”
Lt. Lauren Singer rose and moved to the center aisle. “Commander Rabb,
were you going to be dining alone at Bella Luna Restaurant the night of
the alleged incident?”
“No, Colonel Mackenzie was planning to meet me for dinner.”
Singer continued. “Commander, could you describe the weather that
“It was raining.” He smiled inwardly. Singer was going to have to work
for every tidbit of information.
Singer sighed in frustration. “Commander, isn’t it true that it was not
only raining, but the Weather Services Bureau categorized that
particular storm as one of the worst that D.C had experienced in
“I’m not aware of the report, Lieutenant.”
“Would it be fair to assume that visibility was severely poor?”
Singer was pacing, gesturing with her hands. “The rain was pouring down,
the wind was bowing around dirt and debris, thunder was crashing,
visibility was hampered?”
“Why then, Commander, were you outside of the restaurant?”
“I was waiting for Colonel Mackenzie.”
“So then, Bella Luna doesn’t have a lobby or reception area?”
She looked him directly in the eyes. “Again, why then, were you outside
waiting for the colonel?”
Mac looked up. “Objection. Counsel is badgering the witness.”
“Overruled. Please answer, Commander Rabb,” Judge Sebring said.
The palms of Harm’s hands began to feel sweaty. He answered softly,
looking directly at Mac. “I was worried about her.”
“Was she delayed that evening?”
Singer nodded. “I see, Commander. Please tell the court, what is the
relationship between yourself and Colonel Mackenzie?”
“Commander, are you and the colonel close friends?”
Mac’s eyes shot up. Something about this was wrong. Very wrong. Having
to object about something regarding herself was just plain surreal.
“Approach!” Judge Sebring intervened. Mac and Singer marched up to the
Mac spoke first in a hushed whisper. “Your Honor, counsel is attempting
to distract the court from the real issue in question here.”
Singer was not going to give up that easily. “Your honor, I’m attempting
to establish the witness’s state of mind that evening, as it might
relate directly to his perception of the alleged events between Cpl.
Gomez and P.O. Moreno.”
Judge Sebring, paused briefly. “Objection overruled. But, Lieutenant,
you’re string is a short one.”
As Mac trudged back to her table, Singer repeated her question.
Harm took a deep breath. “Yes, we are close friends.”
Singer continued, “Commander, isn’t it true that you were consumed with
anxiousness, with worry for the colonel’s safety and whereabouts, so
much so that you left the comfort of the lobby and subjected yourself to
the elements just to see her, first hand, enter the parking lot?”
Harm swore inwardly. How Singer had climbed right inside his brain with
her note pad was beyond him. But, he was under oath. “Yes.” His voice
was low, defeated.
Singer went in for the punch. Her voice was fire. “Commander, isn’t it
true that you’re in love with Colonel Mackenzie?”
Lizzie was jumping up and down in utter hysteria. “Omigod! Omigod! Mom,
tell me that was a joke! Tell me Singer didn’t actually ask Dad if he
was in love with you! ”
Mac sighed with a sly smile. Just relating the events to Lizzie had
reminded her how monumental the whole thing had been. “Oh, Lizzie, it
wasn’t and she did.”
“What did you do? Did you object?”
“That moment totally took my breath away. Do you have any idea how many
years I longed to know the answer to Singer’s question? And the thing
was, I had the power. I was in control. If I didn’t object, Dad would’ve
been forced to speak truthfully. I would’ve gotten my answer. All I had
to do was keep my mouth shut.”
Lizzie was kneeling on the bedspread, hanging onto every word.
“Remember what I said earlier, about litigating not being about the
lawyer, but about the client. Well, though it killed me, I was forced to
follow my own advice. Singer was trying to make it seem like Dad was so
preoccupied with worry, because he was in love with me, that his
perception of the events had been altered. But her question had gone one
step too far. It was uncalled for and the answer could’ve hurt Cpl.
Gomez’s case. There was really only one thing I could do.”
Mac was trying desperately to remove her stomach from the floor. She
couldn’t even look at Harm. Singer, however, was just standing there,
looking as annoyingly smug as usual. The courtroom had erupted in gasps
and Judge Sebring, having to bang his gavel, demanding order, was the
only thing that had bought her a few seconds to regroup. “Objection,
irrelevant,” she barely managed. Her voice lacked the fervor usually
associated with a motion to object. But this had been no ordinary
objection. This had been no ordinary question.
Judge Sebring was not amused. “Sustained! Lieutenant, your string of
leeway has officially run out! You’ve managed to establish a close
relationship between the witness and the colonel. But I will not have
this courtroom turned into a set for Days of Our Lives! Now, please
Singer nodded, her manner displaying no evidence of the reprimand. “Yes,
sir. Commander Rabb, given the harshness of the elements, the poor
visibility, and your preoccupation with worry over the colonel, how can
you be absolutely certain that the event you responded to wasn’t
actually a mutual fight, provoked by Cpl. Gomez herself, who happens to
be a highly trained marine?”
Mac finally ventured a quick glance at Harm. It wasn’t pretty. She’d
seen him enough times to know when something had gotten to him. And
Singer’s bombshell question had definitely gotten to him. He was rubbing
his temples, sweating profusely.
Harm let out a deep breath, trying his damnedest to regain control of
himself. “Because it is not a mutual fight when one person is less than
five and a half feet tall, and she’s just been punched, then gotten her
head bashed into a brick wall. And, not only that, an intoxicated man
over six feet tall, weighing more than two hundred pounds, is grabbing
her neck with his hands! No matter what the circumstances, or the
weather, or who I was worried about, what I saw was not just an
altercation. It was assault.”
There was nothing more Lieutenant Singer could do. “No further
Harm couldn’t find her anywhere. Court had been in recess for at least
an hour and she’d just disappeared. He had to see her, to at least try
to deal with the awkwardness of what had happened or it was just going
to become another thing that stood between them. He entered the break
room, encountering only Commander Sturgis Turner, filling his coffee
“Hey, have you seen the Colonel?”
Sturgis turned to his friend. “No, haven’t seen her. Harm, are you okay?
You look a little frazzled.”
“That’s putting it mildly.” He looked around, drawing closer to Sturgis.
“Look, you’re never gonna believe what Singer did in court.”
Sturgis listened in amazement to Harm’s recount of the courtroom fiasco.
If he’d thought so before, now he was certain. Harm and Mac’s
relationship, or whatever the hell it was, had officially taken over JAG
Headquarters. First it had been the constant cat and mouse bickering,
then the inadvertent insults, then Mac’s secret declaration of love in
her office. And now, it had actually ventured its way into the
courtroom, the sacred place of all that is true and honorable. Sturgis
shook his head in total wonder. The thing was, this time, he wasn’t sure
if Mac wanted to kill Lt. Singer...or kiss her. Harm’s murderous
desires, however, were quite obvious.
“Sturgis, can you believe it? Can you actually believe she did that? And
to make it worse, the courtroom was packed! The Admiral was there, plus
two visiting two-stars from the Pentagon. Hell, the only people missing
were Webb and the SecNav. Just think of the party we could’ve had then!”
Harm was trying his best to keep his voice down. He was failing
Sturgis nodded in sympathy. “Buddy, I sure feel for you. That particular
question is hard enough to answer as it is, but then, for you to have to
answer it on the witness stand…”
“It was beyond terrible. Hell, what if Mac hadn’t objected? Talk about
your worst nightmare coming true…” Harm heard the clicking of her heels,
smelled the spicy fragrance of her perfume, felt her presence in the pit
of his stomach before he turned and saw her there. She had her cover in
her hand, purse draped over her shoulder. Her expression was pure ice.
“Excuse me, gentlemen.” Mac brushed past both of them, heading to the
Harm grabbed her arm, “Mac, wait, please…what you heard…that was…”
“It’s nothing, just forget about it Harm. Just forget about the whole
thing.” She opened the door, digging out her Tupperware bowl.
“Mac, please. I owe you an explanation…”
She broke free of his hold, flying out the door. “Save it, Rabb. You
don’t owe me anything.”
Harm bolted towards the doorway, whipping around to face Sturgis, “Call
me foolish, but this time I need to…”
“Move it, Commander. You’re a bigger fool if you don’t.”
She managed to make it to her car with some semblance of the grace, of
the proud decorum due her rank. But once the door closed, the tears
came. And they came in floods.
Any JAG HQ support staff member working amidst the third floor bullpen
that particular day would’ve been given quite a show. For he or she
would have seen a 6’4” full commander in the United States Navy
virtually running down the hallway, flinging open the door to his
office, only to emerge seconds later with his cover and briefcase. Then
he or she would have seen said commander flying towards P.O. Tiner’s
office, narrowly avoiding a disastrous collision with Harriet, weighted
down with a two-foot tall stack of files.
“Tiner, is he in? It’s an emergency.”
Tiner immediately picked up on the commander’s ‘push the intercom button
or die’ glare. “Excuse me Admiral; Commander Rabb would like a moment,
“Send him in.”
It was all that Harm needed. In a flash he was standing in front of
Admiral Chegwidden’s desk. “Sir, request permission to leave…
The admiral hadn’t even looked up from his file. “Have a nice afternoon,
Mr. Rabb. I’ll expect you bright and early tomorrow morning.”
Harm was just about to execute the fastest salute and about-face in
history when he noticed something on a nearby bookcase, something that
gave him an interesting idea. He grabbed the item. “Sir, if it wouldn’t
be inappropriate, or too much trouble, might I borrow this?”
Only then did the admiral look up to face Harm. What Commander Rabb
needed with that particular item was beyond him. But, he ventured a
guess that it had something to do with the circus show that had recently
taken place in the courtroom. He sighed, wondering if these words would
become the death of him. “Yes, you may borrow it. Now get the hell out
of here and that’s an order.” When the door closed, his mouth inched
upwards just a hint, in a knowing smile.
The Corvette screamed down the beltway. Mac was overcome by the emotion
of it all. It was just too much. The whole day had just been too much.
The question was throbbing, pounding, burning like fire in her mind as
her foot pressed against the gas pedal. Isn’t it true that you’re in
love with Colonel Mackenzie? She willed herself to stop sobbing, to stop
thinking about that damn commander. Singer’s question had been bad
enough but the overheard response was a knife to her heart. Again, she
willed herself to stop sobbing, to stop loving him.
Harm finally reached his Lexus, noticing her now empty parking space.
She was miles ahead by now. As he threw his belongings in the back, he
cursed himself for leaving the Vette at home today. The engine hummed,
tires squealed as he flew out of the gate. This was by no means the
first time Sarah Mackenzie had run away from him. But this time, she
wasn’t going to get far.
The knocking on her door had startled Mac from her self-induced coma.
She was sprawled out on her sofa, comfortably dressed in denim shorts
and a black tank top. The dim afternoon light, the thick haze of quiet
had settled upon her, offering her a morsel of peace from the reality
she would be forced to face again in the morning. The knocking had
broken that peace, signaling that part of that grim reality was standing
on the other side of her door. She remained still, part of her wishing
that he would just go away, the smaller, weaker part daring to wish that
“Mac, open the door, please.”
Only silence answered.
“Mac, I know you’re home. Your car’s right out front. Please open the
door. I really need to talk to you.”
Harm didn’t want to do this, but it had to be done. “Lt. Colonel Sarah
Mackenzie!” he yelled, “we can do this the easy way or the hard way.
Now, the easy way is for you to let me in to talk to you, just for a
minute. The hard way results in you having a broken down door!”
Mac rolled her eyes, rising from the sofa. The last thing she needed was
an angry landlord. She unlocked the dead bolt, opening the door to let
him in. She stood aside as he walked through the doorway. The hurt, the
frustration poured forth. “Why, Harm? Why did you come here? I already
told you, there’s nothing that needs to be said. Just forget about it.
Just move on.”
Harm, grabbed her by the wrists, forcing her gaze to meet his. The sight
of her swollen, tear-stained face broke his heart, but he had to get
through to her. He used his courtroom voice, one reserved for the
hardest of witnesses, for the most jaded jury members. One that was
thick with power and persuasion. “You’re wrong, Sarah. There’s so much
that needs to be said. There’s no way in hell I’m moving on and neither
She looked up in confusion, “But you said...”
His fingers gently, but swiftly pressed upon her lips, silencing her.
“No, not yet. Just here me out first.” At her nod, he pulled an item out
of his briefcase.
She’d thought this day couldn’t have possibly become any more bizarre.
She’d been wrong. “A Bible? What, are you trying to convert me or
Harm opened it. “No silly, look.” He showed her the inside cover stamped
JAG Courtroom Issue. “Mac, court is again in session.”
“What are you talking about?”
He led her to the sofa, closing the Bible. “Swear me in.”
“Are you crazy? I still don’t get it.” Mac watched him place the Bible
on her coffee table. One hand rested on the cover, the other was raised.
Then he looked at her. She’d seen this particular look only a handful of
times; on the fairy in Sydney, on the dock at Norfolk when he’d kissed
her, on the Admiral’s porch at her engagement party. It was the look
that made her knees weak, her palms sweat, her heart flutter.
“Mac, please. Swear me in.”
Her voice shook as she began, “Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth,
the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”
“I do.” He rose from the sofa. “Now, this is going to sound like the
worst insult you’ve ever received, but you’re gonna have to trust me
She nodded, still unaware of what he had planned.
“Do you remember the last two questions Singer asked in court today?”
“Harm, how could I forget them? This whole day is going to haunt me
Harm’s eyes twinkled. “You’re right about the forever part, but I
promise you, after this, it’s not gonna haunt you. Now, I need you to be
“You heard me. Ask the questions, Mac.”
She finally understood. And that understanding totally blew her away.
Somehow, she managed to rise from the couch, positioning herself in
front of him. “Commander, are you and the Colonel close friends?”
Harm smiled and began to speak slowly, letting every word enjoy its own
moment. “Yes. Colonel Mackenzie is the best friend I’ve ever had. She’s
been through so much with me and she’s put her life, her soul, her very
sense of reason on the line for me countless times. She’s the one I love
to laugh with and to grieve with. She’s my ally and my equal. She’s my
Tears were threatening her eyes once again. But these were new, joyous
tears that filled the tracks of sorrow already prevalent on her face.
She took a deep breath before asking the next question. Her voice was
fueled by wonder, by curiosity, by the simple love she felt for this
man. “Commander, isn’t it true that you’re in love with Colonel
Harm stepped closer to her, taking her hands in his, looking up at her
with eyes saturated with emotion. “Yes. Yes it’s true. I love her so
much. I love her because she’s smart and funny and so, so beautiful.” He
grazed her face with one finger, brushing away a tear. “I love her
because she’s power and grace and elegance all wrapped in one. I love
her because she can tell time without a watch and she can eat mounds of
junk food and still look like a supermodel. I love her because she
understands me, she knows me and she still wants to be around me. I love
her with a love that has always been there and that always will be. I
love her and I hope to God she loves me too.”
“She does.” Mac was crying openly now. “She does love you. I love you.”
She felt his arms draw her to him, his lips upon hers, claiming her.
Owning her. She savored every move, every permutation of their lips,
their tongues. This kiss, the feel of his love, of his body pressed
against hers, had been worth it. It had been worth every day, every hour
she’d pined for him. Dreams of this kiss had come to her countless times
before. But the dreams had paled sharply in comparison to the reality of
this moment, to the sheer perfection of it.
Harm reluctantly pulled away, still holding her close. “Mac, you need to
know the truth about what you overheard with Sturgis. If I didn’t love
you, then Singer asking that question wouldn’t have mattered. I would
have just said no. But I did love you, I do love you. I was so
frustrated because I didn’t want the first time I said it to you to have
to be in a courtroom, in front of all of those people.”
Mac nodded, rubbing his muscular arms back and forth. “I know, Harm. I
understand.” She began to laugh. “God, the Admiral was there!”
Harm joined in the laughter. “Don’t remind me.” His face turned serious,
lips brushing her forehead. “You deserved so much more.”
“I deserve you.”
His answer was another passionate kiss that made her knees buckle. “You
do realize that this is it. I’m not talking about casual dating here.
Mac, this is forever. I want it all- the big house, the proverbial white
picket fence, the two o’clock feedings…”
Mac’s heart swelled. “Harm, you’d better be serious, besides you’re
still under oath.”
“I’m damn serious, Sarah Mackenzie. And to think that Singer had a hand
in this. Now, I don’t know whether to string her up or send her
“String her up!” they said in unison.
Harm led her to the sofa, pulling her down on his lap, nestling her in
his embrace. His voice was a low, throaty whisper. “But, the thing is,”
he paused, covering her neck, her bare shoulders with feather-weight
kisses, “we have plenty of time to muse about ways to torture Lt.
Singer. Now, I have a few legal maneuvers of my own to share with you.”
Lizzie was beside herself, dabbing her eyes with a tissue. “Oh, Mom!
That was…that was just amazing. It was like something out of a movie.”
Mac sighed wistfully, still feeling the effects of having relived the
moment. “It really was. From that day on, we were inseparable. We were
married only one month later. I managed to still plan a beautiful
wedding, with all of our friends and family. There was not a dry eye in
the church during the ceremony, including your father’s. But don’t tell
him I said so.”
“Don’t tell him what?”
Both women turned to see Admiral Harmon Rabb Jr. poised at the door,
Mac shook her head. “Sorry Admiral, that’s classified. Hey, how were the
driving lessons with Hammer?”
Harm snorted in laughter. “Let’s put it this way. It’s gonna take a
major miracle for any DMV office in the state of Virginia to issue
Harmon Rabb III a drivers’ license. He’s downstairs raiding the pantry
for junk food. So what are you two ladies up to in here?”
“Well, Lizzie was having a little Sean trouble, so I thought I tell her
the story of the first time you said you loved me.”
Harm beamed with pride at the two beautiful women who meant the world to
him. “Hmm, if Sean is anything like I was, I think I have something that
might help.” He opened the bottom drawer to his dresser and took out a
“Dad, is that the Bible you used when you went to Mom’s house?”
“The one and only. Uncle AJ gave it to us a part of our wedding gift.”
He handed the Bible to Lizzie. “Now scoot, future Midshipman Rabb, and
that’s an order. You march right on over to Sean’s house and get
yourself some answers. If he gives you any trouble, just tell him that
the Judge Advocate General of the United States Navy’s gonna put him on
the witness stand.”
With a salute and swift kiss to her father’s cheek, she was off. She
popped her head back in the room for a few seconds. “Mom, thanks. For
Mac smiled, moving into the open arms of her husband. He was fast
approaching sixty, but had the body of a man half his age and a
distinguished face that still brought butterflies to her stomach. As his
lips came down on hers for a searing kiss, one thought came to her mind.
It had been twenty years and he still had it. He still looked damn good.