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Chapter 7

1200
Thursday
Rabb farm

 

Mac and Mrs. Rabb sat on her front porch, resting. They had taken what had become a daily walk out the mailbox and then finished clearing her smaller flower beds near the house. It was not heavy work, and it made Mac feel good to do something productive for a change. It was a nice day. The sun seemed to make the trees look as though they were on fire all reds and yellow. They sat with huge cups of coffee, rocking in chairs that sat on each side of the glider on the porch. They were both deep in thought when Mrs. Rabb spoke. “I think a good cup of coffee is one of my favorite things in the world.”

Mac said, “I started drinking coffee when I had to cram for exams in college. I’ve been *hooked* ever since.”

“My David got me started drinking it years ago.” She smiled and shook her head.

“Tell me about him, Sarah. Do you still miss him?”

“Yes, I do. You would think I wouldn’t but I do. It seems the older I get, the more my heart turns back toward him. He was my heart.” Mac placed her coffee cup on the small table beside her and sat back into her chair to listen. Mrs. Rabb began.

“As I told you before, we did not get on very well in the beginning. We seemed to get on each other’s nerves every time we spoke. He was the happiest person I had ever met and he got along with everyone….except me. He was handsome and confident and he didn’t think there was anything he couldn’t do. What made me so mad sometimes is that it was true. I almost hated him for that.”

Mac smiled to herself knowingly and Mrs. Rabb continued.

“He was what I think you call “cocky” and arrogant at times. It made me so angry that the qualities that I told myself I hated in him drew me to him…..like a moth to a flame. Just being with him, being part of anything he was doing, made me feel stronger too.”

She laughed. “Even when he and I were at odds, which in the beginning was most of the time. It’s funny; I can’t even remember what we fought about most of the time. I was this tall, gangly awkward girl with a huge chip on my shoulder. He was handsome, charming and most of the time happy as a lark. He told me later on that he only teased me to get me to talk to him. The thing was when I finally started opening up and talking to him he clammed up and would hardly speak to me.”

Mac pulled her coat a little closer, and Mrs. Rabb noticed. “Are you warm enough, honey?”

Mac said “I’m okay; I don’t want to go inside until I have to.”

Mrs. Rabb rose and said, “Well, I’ll warm up our coffee and get something for your legs.”

“What about you?” Mac asked.

Mrs. Rabb laughed, “Oh, Mac, I haven’t been cold since hot flashes.” They both laughed then. They settled back into their chairs after Mrs. Rabb had done as she said.

“As I said before, David clammed up and I couldn’t figure out what I had done. It happened during my 16th summer. I went from 110 pounds at 5 feet 10 to 150 pounds in just a couple of months. I was so embarrassed. Men are so stupid when it comes to a woman with any…well, you know, I was pretty top heavy.” Mrs. Rabb blushed and shivered a bit. “Oh, it was awful. Men either thought you were hot to trot or that you were temptation incarnate. They couldn’t get away from you fast enough.” Mrs. Rabb chuckled and continued.

“David came home that summer and I watched him walking up the path to the house. He looked as though he was going to come in and start his usual *long tall sally* jokes. I was standing at the sink and he walked into the kitchen. I turned to look at him and his mouth just dropped open. The look on his face was priceless. I thought ‘Ha! Now I’ve made David Rabb speechless.’ It was a red letter day. I thought it was, anyway, but then he wouldn’t talk to me at all. I’d catch him looking at me, but when I would start to come toward him, he would look down and say he had to do something or other. I was just crushed and that really surprised me. I found that I missed our teasing each other. He kept his distance for the rest of the summer.”

Mac’s expression turned questioning Mrs. Rabb said, “Oh, we overcame all that. We had all gone into town – Belleville was still a town then – for the Labor Day celebration they had every year. I lagged behind the rest of the group, looking in the store windows and generally feeling sorry for myself. I was busy ignoring David who was ignoring me. Out of nowhere a couple of boys from town cut me off and cornered me in the doorway of a storefront. They were obnoxious, stupid boys. I thought I could handle them when one of them got a little too friendly. I pushed back at him and told him to stop. David, who was walking in front of his parents, just happened to glance over his shoulder and see what had happened. David was after those boys before they had time to blink.” She laughed as she remembered. “Mr. Rabb was not far behind them. Can you imagine those boys? They were running for their lives with two huge Rabbs on their tail.”

She clapped her hands and laughed heartily. “Harmon is like his grandfather in that way. He has the Rabb stature. Tall and broad shouldered. Sometimes when Harmon comes up that walk and I see him in shadow, it nearly takes my breath away. I still miss my David so….Well, anyway, I was mortified and crying and furious with myself for crying in front of everyone. I didn’t laugh much in those days and I certainly didn’t cry *ever* in front of anyone. David and I became better friends after that, though, and it wasn’t long before we became something more.”

Mac shivered and Mrs. Rabb noticed. “We better get you inside. Harmon would never forgive me if I let you catch a cold.”

Mac stood and followed Mrs. Rabb into the house and asked, “Sarah, do you believe love lasts forever?”

Mrs. Rabb looked over her shoulder at her and asked, “Don’t you, Mac?” Then she walked on into the house with Mac, smiling her half smile, following.

 

1300
Thursday
Harm’s Apartment

 

Harm picked up the phone and made the call he looked forward to all morning.

“Hey, you,” Mac said as she answered the phone.

“Hey, how are you doing today?” Harm asked.

“Pretty well, actually. I helped your grandmother get some things done outside and we sat for awhile on her front porch,” she said.

“Sounds nice. Wish I were there. Hey, you haven’t changed your mind about this weekend, have you, Mac?”

“No, of course not. Although I have to admit I’m a little nervous…I mean, Harm, I don’t want to disappoint you in any way. I feel like a broken vessel. You know?”

“Mac, I don’t see you that way at all and I don’t expect anything but your company this weekend. This week has taken forever to get through. I just want to get back out there to you and forget about everything for a while.”

Harm heard her let a quiet sigh. “Thanks Harm and I’m looking forward to this weekend, too.”

She yawned suddenly and Harm said, “Look, I’m not going to keep you but I do want to tell you that I’m a little anxious too, Mac. I’ve never been this much in love before….I’ll see you later… Sweet dreams.”

Mac was stunned and she started to dial his number back. She couldn’t believe what she had just heard. She stretched out on her bed and a slow smile spread across her face. -He would be here soon. The moment was so sweet that she decided to leave it as it was. She *would* talk with him later.

Harm replaced the phone in the receiver. He smiled a smug smile. ‘Sleep on THAT, Mackenzie.’

 

Thursday
1830
Interstate 76 west

 

Harm drove along the highway, eagerly anticipating getting back to Belleville. The day had seemed to crawl by, but it was over now and he was on his way. Mattie was squared away with her dad. He was all set for the new attorneys coming onboard Monday. Lt. Cmdr. Faith Coleman and Major Mike McBurney. He had spoken with McBurney on the phone earlier that day. “ I hope there aren’t any hard feelings about last year, Commander Rabb,” the major had said. He had reassured him that there were none. He chuckled when he thought, ‘God, what are we going to do with another Marine?’

Harm had put on his favorite CD “The Essential Stevie Ray Vaughan”. Disc 2 was his favorite…It was great driving music. He was almost there when “Without You” began to play. He loved that song. It was beautiful and heartbreaking and he loved the guitar solo. For some reason it always made him think of Mac. The music seemed to cast a spell, weaving around his mind, making him ache to hold her that much more.

He finally pulled up his grandmother’s drive and noticed that the house was dark and his grandmother’s jeep was gone. Harm thought, ‘Oh God, Mac, please be there.’ He walked up the steps and noticed a soft glow from the fireplace through the window. He unlocked the door and stepped in. He looked to his left and saw Mac standing in the kitchen doorway. The only lights in the room were the fire in the fireplace. She wore lounging pajamas in a soft shade of peach. Her hair was down around her shoulders and he thought he had never seen anything so beautiful in his life.

She looked at him and Harm walked swiftly but quietly to her and gathered her into an embrace. She lifted her arms loosely around his neck. Mac’s shirt had come up in back as she held him and Harm could feel her skin was almost hot. “Your skin feels hot, are you feeling okay?”

Mac leaned back and looked him in the eye. “Yeah, I guess I got a little too close to the fire.” With that she ran the tips of her fingers through his hair just above his ear and he turned toward her hand.

He looked at her through half closed eyes and said, “Mac …” and then he kissed her. He kissed her deeply and Mac held on very lightly. She simply drew him in, loving him, tasting him and letting him all the way in to her heart. Unafraid.

Harm walked her backward into the dark kitchen and tightened his hold on her. She brought her hands down and back up again around his waist and up his back. She hadn’t meant to, but since Harm’s shirt was loose and untucked, she ran her hand up his bare back.

Harm could not suppress the sound of pleasure as he pressed her against the wall. She felt so perfect in his arms and she tasted so good. She smelled of vanilla and brown sugar. They broke the kiss, but Harm kept her close and whispered in her ear. “You smell like something good to eat.”

Mac looked down and then up at him. “It’s called “Warm Vanilla Brown Sugar.”

“Mmmm… Cookies.” He growled into her ear and they both laughed. Just then they heard his grandmother’s jeep pull into the drive. They heard his grandmother’s voice and Oscar barking a greeting. Mac pulled back from his embrace and smiled. Harm caressed her face lovingly and said, “God, you are so beautiful when you smile.”

The front door opened and Mrs. Rabb stepped in, noticing the fireplace, the lights out and their loose embrace. “Oops. Shall I go back out again?” Mrs. Rabb said with a smile.

“Get in here.” Harm said and they all laughed. Mac turned on the kitchen light and walked into the kitchen.

 

1130
Interstate 70 east
Somewhere in Maryland

 

They had stopped in a little ‘mom and pop’ restaurant off the interstate for lunch. They had started out early, and Mac was getting a little sore from the ride. They where seated in a booth and had been served their iced tea when Mac noticed the sugar substitute wasn’t Sweet and Low. It said Sweet Thing on the packet. Mac thought ‘Hmm..I wonder if he remembers.’

Mac asked Harm to get her a newspaper from the front counter. She slipped a packet down beside Harm’s tea and got up, pretending to walk toward the ladies room. She passed Harm on the way and he smiled at her.

“Be right back,” she said. Mac stepped around a corner and peeked out just in time to see Harm pick up the packet. He frowned, thinking, ‘Mac knows I don’t use this junk.’ He then read the name and a slow smile spread across his face. He began to look up as Mac came from around the corner and casually walked over to the juke box.

A title jumped out at her: “Sweet Thing” by Chaka Khan. ‘Oh this is too perfect.’ She put some coins in the machine and pressed the buttons. Mac could barely contain her laughter. She made her way back to the booth, looking down. Eye contact would have caused her to laugh out loud. She sat down and placed her purse beside her. Harm watched her warily. She faced him, grinning like a Cheshire cat. Just then the words from the song: “oh oh you’re my sweet thing…don’t you know you mean everything.” Harm got it and narrowed his eyes at her.

“So, um, Harm, you never told me what it was that *I ought to know*. What was that you called me…sweet thing?”

They looked at each other and broke up laughing. Harm said, “You really think you’re funny, don’t you?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact I do,” she answered, Cheshire grin firmly in place.

Harm was up and sliding across her side of the booth before she had a chance to protest. He cornered her in, reaching to grab her around her waist but not quite succeeding. Just then a grumpy looking couple passed their booth. “Hmpf!” they both said.

“Hey, you’re going to get us kicked out of here,” Mac smiled as she scolded. The couple looked over at them before they walked out of the door and the woman said, “Get a room.” They both laughed that much harder.

“Ok, ok, feed me sailor. I’m hungry.” So they had their lunch, but Harm stayed on her side of the booth. He said it was to keep an eye on her in case she decided to pull any other stunts. As they walked back toward Harm’s SUV, Mac asked again, very mischievously. “So… Harm, are you ever going to tell me what it is I ought to know?”

Harm smiled at her and opened her door. “I’ll let you know… later.”

 

Chapter 8

Tilghman Island, Maryland
1820
Friday

 

It was late in the afternoon when they arrived on the island. The day was clear and cool and the colors sharp. They stopped to pick up some supplies for the cabin and got to Keeter’s cabin at dusk. Mac was tired from the drive and relieved to finally be out of the car. The cabin was situated near Black Walnut Point, a wildlife preserve, at the southern tip of the island. Sunset was beautiful from the front porch. Mac stretched and walked to the edge of the porch to take it all in. It had been a quiet drive since they had stopped at the restaurant, though it was a companionable silence.

Harm walked up beside her and placed his hand in the middle of her back. “Do you want something to drink?”

Mac was startled and jumped slightly away from him. “Oh, I’m sorry, Harm. I was just deep in thought.” She was a little more nervous than she thought. She hoped Harm would not sense it and that he wouldn’t be hurt by it.

Harm pulled her into his arms, and as though he had heard her thoughts. “You don’t have to be afraid of me, Mac. Remember that I don’t want anything from you but your company.”

Mac relaxed into his embrace, “I thought I was the one with the psychic abilities.”

“Well, maybe it’s rubbing off on me. Come on, I’ll give you a tour of our spacious accommodations.”

The cabin was rustic but had all the necessities. Refrigerator, stove, no dishwasher, huge claw foot tub but no shower. No TV, of course, but neither would miss it. There was firewood stacked on the porch for a fireplace in the small cozy living room. There was a large window there that seemed to bring the outside in. It was lovely and Mac told Harm so.

“I had forgotten what this place was like. It’s been a long time since I was here,” Harm said.

“When did you come out here before?”

“I came out after we got back from Russia the first time. I still had a lot to work through.” Harm started to unload groceries from the bags he had set upon the table.

“You should have told me, Harm. I would have been there for you.”

“You had already done enough. You risked your life for me. I couldn’t ask for more than you had already done.” Harm thought for a moment, “I couldn’t risk falling apart in front of you or the rest of our friends. Do you understand?”

Mac looked at him with an understanding that surprised him. “I wouldn’t have then, but I think I do now.”

They put away their groceries. Harm offered to make dinner but Mac declined a big meal. She was tired, almost too tired to eat. Harm furrowed his brow,

“Mac, you’re beginning to worry me a bit. I’m not used to hearing you turn down a meal.” He smiled mischievously and added, “especially a meal cooked by me.”

“Don’t worry, Harm I’m just beat. I know my appetite isn’t what it was. I think it will start coming back once the surgery is over.” She walked up beside him and nudged his side. “Thanks for worrying about me, though.”

Harm talked Mac into a bowl of soup and a sandwich. After they ate Mac wanted to lie down. It was only about 2000, but she was tired. Harm told her not to worry about it and started to go back toward the kitchen.

Mac reached for his arm and stopped him. “Come lie down with me for a while and talk to me till I fall asleep. I’m used to it now, remember?”

Harm smiled and said, “Yes, I remember. I’m getting used to our nightly talks too. I look forward to them, as a matter of fact.”

“I’ll be right back,” Mac walked toward the bathroom. Harm stood watching her walk away and thought *I can do this. I can do this.* He had wanted so long to feel close to her, to gain her trust. He would do nothing to destroy that now. It meant everything to him. He loved her. He needed her as well but that would have to wait until she was ready, physically and otherwise.

They had settled into the bed. Mac climbed under the covers in a long v-neck t-shirt she had stolen from Harm and running shorts. Harm was lying on top of the covers in his running shorts and t-shirt. “You don’t have to go to bed just because I am. I probably won’t last long once we start talking,” Mac said.

“Thanks a lot, Mac.” Harm laughed.

“That’s not what I meant,”

“It’s okay,” he reassured her. “I didn’t want to show up overdressed.” They both laughed with that and the tension level dropped considerably.

Mac rolled to her stomach and Harm came up on his side. Mac could look him directly in the eye with his body slightly curved around hers. She looked at him, “This is so perfect, Harm. I’m afraid something is going to go wrong. This is like the Make a Wish Foundation sending someone to Disneyworld.”

Harm interrupted her “Stop it, Mac. You’re going to be fine. Don’t say things like that.”

Mac looked down and then back up at Harm. “I’ve just gotten used to saying whatever is on my mind. I don’t even think about it first. I wasn’t trying to scare you.”

“No, I’m sorry. I just want this to work…. for you to be well. I honestly don’t allow myself to think about it when were together like this.” He didn’t want to say or do anything that would keep her from telling him what was in her heart.

“What do you think about?”

Harm looked away, “Oh…. I think about you.” He looked at her then and brushed her hair back from her face. “I think about us.” He looked at her as though he were taking her all in, her hair, her eyes and her lips. Then he said, “About how beautiful you are.” He kissed her lightly and pulled her into his arms and murmured into her hair. “I think of how much I love you.” He still could not tell her face to face, not yet.

Mac’s heart was so full that it ached and she felt so unworthy of him. He deserved better. She ran her fingers through the hair at the nape of his neck. “Oh, Harm, I don’t think love is even an adequate word for what I feel for you. I have been such a mess and I still am. I don’t want to bring this on you. You don’t deserve it. I want to be whole. I want to give you everything you deserve, everything that makes you happy. What if I can’t give you children, Harm? What would you feel for me then? I want *your* children…”

Harm stopped her. “I want that too, but you need to remember that’s not what I want *you* for. I’ll have kids with you any way I can. I know I could be happy. I couldn’t love Mattie more if she were my own.”

Mac looked so sad. “I don’t want you to settle, Harm. You deserve the best of everything.”

Harm was getting frustrated, she wasn’t hearing him. “Why don’t you get that it’s *you,* Mac? It’s been you all the time…since almost the beginning. You. Your opinion meant the most to me, even when it made so angry I could have put my fist through a wall. I can’t stand to see you sell yourself short. You are so much more to me than you believe.”

Mac looked down at her hands and then looked at Harm with a sad longing he had never seen before. “I don’t want to disappoint you. I don’t think I could stand it,”

“It’s not about being perfect, Mac – although you do come pretty close to it at times – and this is not about what you can give me. I want to love you, Mac. Let me…that’s all I want.”

She started to speak and he stopped her.

“Let me finish this. I don’t want to make this complicated. You said once that I make simple things complicated and the way I see it, that’s what you’re doing now. I know you care for me, that you need me.” He cupped her face in his hand. “I want to be here, close to you. I need you Mac….so much. I...” He kissed her. A kiss so sweet, so full of love and need; it spoke volumes, all the things they could not.

Harm could not get enough of the taste of her. He had loved her for so long. He had thought that this time would never come. He didn’t care how far things went tonight. She was here, in his arms, and nothing and no one could change that. She pulled back from his kisses for a moment.

“Harm, I want to feel you close to me.” He started to pull the blankets back and get in with her but she stopped him. “I want to feel your skin,” she said as she tugged at his t-shirt.

Harm was surprised but cautious. He tried not to read too much into anything. He didn’t want to pressure her. He was truly afraid of hurting her, but he was not giving up the chance to show her how much he loved and wanted her. It was as though they didn’t have time for what drove them apart before. He lifted his shirt over his head and looked up to see that she had done the same. “Oh God… Mac,” he said. Harm slipped into bed and lay on his back, waiting.

Mac thought he was the most beautiful man she had ever seen. She lay down next to him and slipped into his arms. He wanted her that was certain. He lay back on the pillows with just enough light in the room for her to see him clearly. The look in his eyes was one she had seen before. Something dark and patient and tender waited for her there. She had seen the look when they were talking on the patio at the admiral’s Dining Out. It had drawn her in even then; through all her grief and confusion, there he was. His body felt strong and powerful under her hands and he seemed to be completely at her mercy. In the early days she would have loved to have had him this way just to mess with him, but now….all she wanted to do was love him.

She rested on her side and lightly touched his stomach. Harms breath quickened and he reached for her arm. Mac couldn’t tell if it was to stop her or hold her hand in place. She kissed him and he let go of her and then gripped each of her arms, pulling her on top of him. Mac kissed him, feeling a fine tremor rush through them both and all the power in Harms body restrained. They touched and caressed and there was no awkwardness. It was as though they were old lovers but everything was new. Mac felt a nagging fear at the back of her mind. What if her body would not respond as it should – what if she disappointed him?

Harm sensed this and slowly, lovingly dispelled every fear she had. Their coupling was slow and careful. Mac knew Harm was holding back and she loved him all the more for it. This only increased her desire to please him; it equaled and surpassed her need to be pleased. He seemed to have other ideas. Harm placed his hands on her hips, gently but firmly holding her fast to him, driving deeply inside her. ‘Oh’ she thought, as he slowly and sensually drew her out. She thought she would not be able to feel this. She hadn’t for a long time…. even before she became ill.

She felt her body tighten around him, she was so close. Her breath caught, “Ha…Harm” When he felt her begin to let go he could not keep himself from driving deeper, her body seemed to be made for him. Mac’s back arched and she said, “Oh…please…I… I didn’t think I could…Oh…. ” and with that Harm felt her warmth flood all over him and he went over the edge with her.

Mac leaned forward and covered his face with kisses and stayed locked in his embrace for a long time. She felt all the love she had for him well up inside her. She could not keep it in anymore. She sat up, still astride him. She tilted her head back slightly and tears streaked down both sides of her face. She said, “Harm, I….”

Harm heard the tears in her voice, "Mac… did I hurt you?”

She answered, “No, no, I….I have to say this. I don’t know what will happen to me. I don’t know what will happen to us….but I have to tell you. I love you. I don’t know why it is so hard for me. It’s been *you* for so long too, Harm. I know I must not be making sense to you. I’m just scared, scared of what the surgery will reveal, scared of what will happen to us...before we even get a chance to get started.”

Harm pulled her close and rolled them both onto their sides; she came back into his embrace. He lay on his back and made soft circles on hers with fingers. He thought for a long moment and said, “Mac, do you trust me?”

“Yes, I do,” she said.

“Then no matter what happens, I’ll always be there.”

She snuggled more tightly into his embrace and they were quiet for a few moments. Harm thought Mac had fallen asleep when she asked,

“Harm, do you remember when I said that I sometimes resented you for your ability to *control* yourself?”

Harm answered in the affirmative.

“Well……I take it back.”

They both chuckled at that and Harm fell asleep with a smug and very satisfied smile on his face.

 

0100
Saturday
Rabb Farm
Belleville, Pennsylvania

 

Sarah Rabb lay wide awake. The house seemed unusually quiet. It seemed odd not to have Mac here with her. She had always been an independent woman. She enjoyed her privacy and she liked her own company. She was glad to have her house to herself for a few days, but she had really enjoyed having Mac here. Something about her reminded her of herself. Mac and Harm were in love; there was no doubt in her mind. Her thoughts turned to her David. Their relationship had been fiery and passionate. She had come into it troubled and trusting no one. There was David: steady, true and happy go lucky. She missed him still. She decided to get up, since she had lain awake for almost an hour and a half.

Mrs. Rabb walked into the kitchen and put on some coffee. Decaf, of course. Harmon would be pleased. She had been experiencing some heart palpitations last year and the doctor advised that she cut back on caffeine. She finally had gotten used to it, though she still had her morning caffeinated coffee. She’d stopped drinking a pot a day by herself. She decided to get the box of letters and pictures she had brought out for Mac. She wanted to see David’s face. It had been a long time since she’d read his letters. Telling Mac her story about how she had come to the Rabb farm and begun her life with David made her want to look back more than she had in a long time.

She opened the box and lifted out the stack of pictures, one of David in uniform on top of the stack. He was handsome and his features so strong. He had green eyes and his hair was a golden brown. His cap was tilted slightly on his head. He looked like a movie star. “Wait for me,” he had written and signed, “Love Always, David.”

She raised her eyebrows and sighed. She thought, ‘Oh my darling David, I always have.’ She’d never married again after she lost him. She did see someone for awhile. After Harmon Senior was grown she and Jack O’Reilly had a standing date every Friday night for years. He had become widower by then. Poor Jack, he was a good man. He just was not her David. She just couldn’t trust anyone else enough to marry. She was Sarah Rabb, and David and his parents had left her more than well provided for. She did not live a life of luxury; running the farm was hard work and she had her work at the VA hospital. To marry someone else and bring him into her home seemed a betrayal, and if she were honest, she just didn’t want to give up her independence to anyone.

She thought of little Harmon then. He had been so angry at his mother when she re-married. It was not fair. Harmon had written from Vietnam and been adamant that if anything happened to him he wanted Trish to get on with her life and for little Harm to have a father. She took the letter he had written just two months before he was listed as missing out of the stack. He had written, “Mom, please don’t take this the wrong way. I respect the choices you made. I know I had Grandpa Andrew the first 16 years of my life, but Harm won’t have that. Trish’s father hasn’t forgiven me for marrying her yet, so who knows how he and little Harm will get along. I don’t want little Harm to want for anything. You may not believe this but Trish is as strong as you are, Mom. I love her and I know she loves me. I know she’ll be a good mother to Harm and she’ll make good decisions for both of them. I trust her, Mom. I hope you will too.” Mrs. Rabb ran her fingers over the written words. He had been right, she thought.

She stood and walked over to the coffee pot. She was still deep in thought about her grandson. She returned to the table and noticed a picture not in any stack. It was of Sergei. He was her grandson too, but circumstance had taken away her chance to know him as she did Harm. He had his grandfather’s hair color and his father’s smile. He was a good boy, so polite almost to the point of discomfort when they met. She’d tried to put him at ease, but he really felt like a fish out of water here. Harmon was so determined that he would stay here and be his brother. She was heartbroken for them both when he returned to Russia. He had sent her this picture along with one of his fiancée over a year ago. She wondered if they had married. She had not heard anything in a long time. She sighed and walked into her living room. The lights were out and she could see outside. She truly loved this place. It was her connection to David. She turned and walked up the stairs thinking of her two grandsons.

 

0600
Saturday
Tilghman Island, Maryland

 

Harm woke to find Mac nestled snugly in his arms. They had both barely moved from were they were when they fell asleep. Harm quietly slipped out of bed and put the coffee on. He then got himself cleaned up for the day. He had looked in on Mac after he had made the coffee. She was smiling in her sleep. She turned over and said his name as though she were teasing him about something. Harm sighed with relief. ‘No regrets,’ he thought.

After he had gotten cleaned up, he ran the water in the tub for Mac. He took a bottle of what looked like bath oil out of Mac’s kit. “Warm Vanilla Brown Sugar,” he said aloud. “I like it.” And with that he poured a little in the tub.

He was going back to the bedroom to wake her when there she was, standing in the doorway. “What do you like, Sailor?” She was disheveled and sleepy looking and looked so sexy that he wanted to take her right back to bed.

“Hey you,” he said as he scooped her up in his arms and walked her backwards out of the bathroom. “Hey… when did you steal this from me anyway?” Harm said as he tugged on the neck of his white t-shirt beautifully draped around Mac.

She smiled mischievously. “Oh, I’ll tell you when you finally tell me…what it is that *I ought to know.*” She laughed and kissed him quickly, ran for the bathroom and locked the door quickly behind her.

“I’ll get you for that, Mackenzie,” Harm said, laughing.

“Yeah, yeah, promises, promises, Rabb,” Mac said through the door.

Harm pretended to be impatient with her. “Hey, get moving, Marine. I’ve got plans for you today.” Harm set out their breakfast: fresh fruit and bagels and of course coffee. He would have been on his own if he had left that out of her breakfast.

Mac emerged from the bathroom looking and smelling for all the world like heaven to him. She wore her hair down, framing her face. She was wearing boot cut jeans and a soft sweater of orange red, the color of the leaves outside. Fall was in full swing here, but the day was clear and Harm intended to get out with Mac and enjoy it. He also wanted to keep Mac so busy that she wouldn’t have time to regret being with him last night. He still feared ruining everything for them. He loved her. She said she loved him, but she also said she fought it. He didn’t want to give her time to do that.

“Harm, are you okay?”

“Uh …yeah, I’m fine. Just lost in thought.”

She walked up to Harm where he was seated at the table waiting for her. She placed her arm around his shoulders and leaned in and kissed him. She looked at him through half closed eyes as she did. When she smiled it broke the kiss. She leaned back and said, “Good morning.”

Harm’s arms went around her waist and he pulled her into his lap. “Mmm... I think I like this better than bagels and fresh fruit,”

“Oh, are we going on the Sarah Mackenzie diet?” She laughed as she said it.

Harm kissed her deeply and said, “Now *that’s* an idea.” He kissed her again and they embraced and laughed a little. It felt so good to be this close. Harm pulled back from their embrace. “You know, we could always stay in.”

“No, that’s okay, Sailor. I want the grand tour. I want to see more than the inside of this cabin,”

Harm smiled at her and waggled his eyebrows. “I could think of worse things.”

 

Chapter 9


0730
Saturday
Tilghman Island, Maryland

 

Harm and Mac decided to go down to Dogwood Harbor and do some sightseeing. They would explore Black Walnut Point tomorrow before they went back to Washington D.C.

They explored the ‘Rebecca,’ the oldest working skipjack. It was a National Historic Landmark. They took a two hour tour. The boats skipper held forth on anything from the boat’s history to environmental issues. Some passengers took turns stepping into positions of crewmen. Harm and Mac just quietly observed. They were civilians on vacation today... They held hands and took in the Chesapeake Bay. Harm had been raised in California, but he loved the Chesapeake. There was a sense of history here like no other place. Annapolis was close by. He felt he had become a sailor on this bay so it was special to him.

The tour was winding down and Mac was showing some signs of being tired. Harm pulled her close to his side, “Hey, are you okay, Marine?”

“Yeah, I’m alright. I’m getting a little tired and I think I could use something warm to drink,”

They found a light yellow Victorian building that housed the ‘So Neat Café and Bakery.’ “This looks nice,” Mac said as she crossed the street with Harm. They went in and the smell of fresh bread baking and coffee brewing made Mac’s mouth water. “Oh, Harm, this reminds me of your grandmother’s house. I think I really am going to miss her.”

Harm smiled to himself. He was so pleased that they had hit if off so well. He had known they would. He said, “You’re still going back aren’t you?...after your surgery, I mean.”

“I plan to, but it will all depend on what I’m going to have to have done after, chemo or radiation. If it’s chemo Harm, I don’t want to put that much on her. I know she is very strong for someone her age, but I have no idea how much I’ll be able to handle. I couldn’t impose that much on her. She’s done so much for me already.”

Harm nodded and pulled out a chair for Mac. He touched her shoulder and asked her what he could get for her. She told him and he went to get her coffee and Danish. She watched him walk to the counter and thought, ‘he’s as afraid as I am.’ He wasn’t going to flinch, though, and she wouldn’t either.

Harm brought Mac’s order to her with a small bowl of soup. “Hey, is that for me?” Mac asked.

“You need to eat more than a Danish for lunch, Mac.” He brought his soup and salad as well, and to his surprise Mac didn’t argue with him. They quietly ate their lunch, each deep in thought about the upcoming week and what it would mean to both of them. Mac decided that they would not dwell on this now. She loved that they had been so happy together over the last week. She drew as much strength from their ability to have fun together as she did from their affection. Harm had been very affectionate from the time he came in at his grandmother’s house late Thursday through today.

Harm had been thinking almost the same thing. He wanted to hear her laugh; he could not get enough of that. He also could not keep his hands off of her. He used to think she would never tolerate that. He reached for her hand as those thoughts ran through his mind, almost involuntarily.

Mac smiled at him, “What are you thinking about, Harm?”

“I was thinking about how much I like to hear you laugh,” he said with a lopsided grin.

Mac smiled mischievously and said, “Even if the laugh’s on you, Flyboy?”

“Yeah, yeah, okay …she’s back. Are you ready to go? I want to have a look at this nautical book shop next door,”

She stood and said, “Okay, but I want to see the plants and wicker place across the street before we go back to the cabin. They have a little bit of everything in there. It seems so from the window anyway.” They agreed and set off.

Harm was wandering around the bookshelves, pulling out one book after another. Mac watched from across the room. *Harm in Wonderland,* she thought. Just then she saw Harm stand a little straighter and extend his hand to shake hands with a man who stood where Mac could not see him. Harm looked a little stunned and had an almost comical look on his face. Mac had to get a closer look, so she walked toward him. The man was walking away from Harm and said over his shoulder, “Try and stay out of trouble, will ya, Rabb?”

Harm quickly answered, “Yes sir, I will, Mr. Secretary…ah, nice meeting you, sir.” The man walking away raised his hand but did not look back.

Mac approached Harm, watching the man walk away and turn the corner toward the door. Recognition dawned and she said to Harm, “That’s not…

“Yes, it was,” he said.

“So he knows all about you, huh?” Mac laughed.

“Yeah, I guess so. I wonder what Sheffield told him?”

Harm still looked stunned. Mac continued to laugh and said, “You know, Harm, it could have been one of so many things.” With that she took him by the hand and led him toward the door.

“Mac, I’m never going to make captain…..Do you think the Boss knows about me?”

Mac shook her head. “Come on, Harmon, it’s time to take me antiquing.” Harm focused on Mac, grinned sheepishly and followed her out the door.

The plant and wicker shop did turn out to have a little bit of everything, and they both enjoyed browsing through. Mac was in the plants and wicker and Harm found an old library table that he decided to have shipped to his apartment. Mac was still taking it all in when a petite woman with blonde hair spoke to her. “It’s lovely isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is,” Mac answered. “There is so much to see for a shop so small.”

“Yes, my husband and I get down here every chance we get.” Mac turned to look at the woman and recognized her immediately. She noticed Secret Service men outside and one just inside the door. “Do you come here often?” the woman asked.

“Ah…no, this is my first visit,” Mac said.

The woman smiled pleasantly and said, “Well, I’m sure you’ll be back.”

“Yes,” Mac said awkwardly and walked toward the door. Harm joined her; oblivious as to whom Mac was speaking. Mac smiled a half smile at the foreboding Secret Service man at the door and Harm frowned at him as he passed him.

Harm glanced over his shoulder and was once again surprised by the person he saw. He walked up beside Mac and draped his arm around her shoulder. “I’m about ready to get back to the cabin….how about you?” Mac nodded the affirmative and they walked toward their vehicle.

They both noticed the half dozen or so Secret Service strategically stationed around the harbor. They got into Harm’s SUV and Mac asked, “You don’t suppose this is the undisclosed location…do you?” They both looked at each other and at the same time said “Nah.”

They got back to the cabin at mid-afternoon. It was warm, with the fall color nearly at its peak and the smell and the sound of the ocean not far way. ‘The best of both worlds,’ Mac thought.

“Do you want anything?” Harm asked.

“Coffee would be great,” Mac said, smiling at Harm. “I could get used to this.”

Harm looked at her directly in the eye, “Good.”

She sat down in the rocker on the porch and listened to the sounds of the leaves rustling on the trees. She heard Harm clattering around in the kitchen. She sighed contentedly and leaned her head back on the rocker and fell immediately asleep.

Harm walked back to the porch with her cup of coffee and said “Hey Mac…” and stopped short noticing that she had fallen asleep. He returned the cup of coffee to the kitchen and walked back to the porch. He carefully lifted her from the chair and carried her to the bedroom. He laid her gently on the bed and covered her with the blanket that was folded on the end of the bed. She smiled in her sleep and snuggled down in the blanket. Harm stood at the doorway and thought, ‘we’re going to be alright,…Jack, I owe you …big time.’

 

1730
Saturday
Tilghman Island, Maryland

 

Mac woke slowly. She heard the sounds of guitar music. ‘Harm,’ she thought. She sat up and wiped her eyes. Harm must have carried her in here after she fell asleep, she thought. How was it that she fell asleep so soundly and so quickly? She shook her head and got out of bed. She stretched as she padded to the front door.

The sun was beginning to set and Harm sat on a chair playing his guitar, focusing intently on the chords. He did not see or hear her walk out on the porch. “Hey, Sailor,” she said.

Harm was startled and they both laughed a bit when he almost lost his hold on his guitar. “I didn’t wake you, did I?”

“No, I don’t think so. I don’t want to spend my whole time here sleeping, anyway. I don’t want to miss anything,”

Harm smiled to himself and said, “Well, I don’t think there is any chance of that happening.” He set his guitar by the chair against the wall and got up. He walked to Mac and pulled her into an embrace. “Hello.”

Mac slipped her arms around his neck, “Hello yourself. What smells so good? I’m starved.”

Harm had made his Veggie Lasagna. Mac teased him about his no meat tendencies…except at his grandmother’s. He had made a good dinner, though, and she ate everything on her plate. Harm built a fire, and Mac took a bath and got into her more comfortable clothes. She loved her jeans but she liked her lounging pj’s. It was more comfortable to curl up on the couch with Harm. She smiled at the thought...

Harm was washing his hands in the kitchen and Mac walked into the living room and saw two mugs of tea sitting on the coffee table waiting for them.

“Harm, you are spoiling me so much. I’m going to expect this all the time, you know.” There was a fire going in the fireplace. The wood scent filled the room. It was just cool enough to enjoy the fire. Harm walked through the doorway and rolled his sleeves back down. He could smell her shampoo and the scent she wore. It was not ‘Warm Vanilla Brown Sugar” this time. It was a little more exotic.

She looked soft and sexy and warm and he wanted to pick her up and carry her to the bedroom. He didn’t want to push too hard where that was concerned, though, not yet. She still seemed fragile to him. Last night was something he’d never forget as long as he lived, but he still knew he had better let her call the shots. He didn’t want to risk ruining everything they had built up between them over the last week.

“Where are you, Harm?”

“Oh...just thinking,” he said, smiling sheepishly.

“Come and sit down with me,” she said, extending her hand. Harm walked toward her and took her hand and sat down. He lifted her feet onto his lap and gently began to rub them. “Nice fire,”

“Yeah,” It was suddenly too quiet and a little awkward. ‘No,’ Mac thought, ‘we’re not going backward.’

Harm saw her frown and said “Does this hurt?”

“No,” she sighed, “I guess it got a little quiet and I got worried….no... it’s stupid.”

“What?” he said.

“I’m just afraid of going back to the way we were before you took me to Belleville. I don’t want to face this alone, Harm, but I’m not used to leaning on anyone or letting anyone close.” She looked away from him. “This is all new to me.”

Harm smiled at her and gave her foot a squeeze. “You’re doing fine, Marine. What is it Grandma says?”

They both answered at the same time. “Sometimes you just have to take things minute by minute.” They both laughed a little and relieved the small amount of tension in the air.

Mac looked at Harm, who was looking at the fire. There was so much she wanted to explain to him. ’Oh, well,’ she thought, ‘here we go.’

“Harm, I’ve had to be tough of heart to change my life. I had to be someone different than I was when I joined the Marines. I could not react the same way I did when things got hard. No more hiding in the bottle or blaming my father for everything. I took everything on myself and it worked for a long time. In this situation it doesn’t work. When I hold things in, the fear and pain only seem to get harder to bear. When I first got my diagnosis I tried to do things the same way I always had. I tried to tough it out and lose myself in my work. It nearly drove me crazy. I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t shown up that night and took me out to Belleville with you. I don’t know what I would have done without your grandmother Harm. Getting through this takes a different kind of strength, one that I’m just beginning to understand.”

Harm took Mac’s hand and let her feet slip down to the floor. He pulled her into his arms and she snuggled up under his chin. He kissed her hair and thought for a long time. The quiet was not awkward this time. It was full of understanding. He remembered Mac breaking down at his grandmother’s house, how lost she had sounded. It was all he could do not to cross the room and pull her into his arms right then. Grandma had been right, though. Mac wasn’t ready to let him see her like that yet. He was so glad she trusted him enough to tell him this now, and he told her so.

Mac hugged him more tightly, “I’m just glad you never gave up on me completely. Cmdr. McCool says that I kept doing things that drove you away or kept you at arm’s length because I didn’t think I deserved you.”

Harm shook his head and hugged her back. She was pouring her heart out again, with an intensity that nearly left him speechless.

“I thought I deserved men who lied to me or didn’t really want the real me, the Marine and the woman.”

Harm quietly said, “I don’t think I know how to separate the two.”

Mac lifted her head from his shoulder and looked him in the eye, “I know.” She kissed him lightly on the lips then returned to her spot on his shoulder and began to talk again. “I was always so careful, or at least I tried to be. I never wanted anyone to think I couldn’t do my job objectively. I know I fell on my face a couple of times, but I thought I had gotten back on my feet on my own. Now I fear that the career I’ve worked so hard to preserve will be taken away from me because of this…disease.”

“You don’t know that, Mac. Look at Bud. He had his moments but he came back and you will too. I know you, Mac, and I’ve always been proud of you, even when you were driving me crazy.”

Mac smiled, remembering seeing Harm on ZNN carrying the little girl from the C-130 last year. “What?” Harm said.

“I was just remembering seeing you on TV last year after you landed that C-130 on that carrier. I remember thinking, *only you, Rabb.* I was proud of you then, and I would have died before I admitted it but I missed you so much. When I saw you, just for a moment, I felt I was there with you.”

Harm interrupted, “You were, Mac. I may not have answered your messages, but the feelings I had for you would not go away.”

Mac sat up and looked at him. “I’m sorry, Harm – for both of us, and what this terrible year did to our lives. I’m glad it’s behind us.”

“I am, too,” Harm said.

They were quiet for a long time and then Mac asked, “Um, Harm, do you stay in touch with any of your old partners from the Company?”

Harm’s smile spread slowly across his face and he thought, ‘I was wondering if she was going to get around to that question.’ Aloud he said, “Hey, let me up so I can put another log on the fire.”

Mac thought, ‘stupid stupid… I should never have asked.’ She said “I’m sorry, Harm, it’s none of my business.”

Harm almost laughed while he had his back turned. She was trying so hard to be sweet, but she was dying of curiosity and he knew it. He stood and brushed the wood from his hands. “I’ll, uh, be right back. I need to wash my hands.”

Mac sat up on the edge of her seat and waited for him to return. She could see him from where she sat, washing his hands. ‘God, I hope I didn’t blow it,’ she thought. He walked back, looking down, and then when he looked at her she looked so stricken that he almost felt sorry for teasing her. Almost…he still owed her for *Sweet Thing*.

He sat back on the couch and reached for her shoulders and turned her around and toward him. She was reclining across his lap and he held her loosely.

“I don’t hear much from Beth O’Neil or Catherine Gale. They were friends, Mac, nothing more.”

“Oh...well, I just assumed…I guess it’s none of my business. I, I’m really making a mess of this aren’t I?”

Harm just smiled at her, and she pretended to punch him in the chest.

“You…You’re enjoying this just a little too much, flyboy. I just thought because Beth made it no secret when she was attracted to someone that...well you…are very, um well, very attractive.”

Harm was laughing now. “Oh… thank you so much, Mac.”

“Oh, stop it,” she said.

“Mac, there was never anything going on there, really. There couldn’t have been.”

Mac was puzzled.

“Do you remember when you and Sturgis and Manetti and I were talking after her sexual harassment case was over, and you asked what our secret was? Do you remember what we said?”

Mac thought for a moment and said aloud “Don’t ask.” She looked at Harm and he raised an eyebrow. “Oh. Don’t ask, don’t tell…Really?” Harm nodded and Mac blushed.

“What are you blushing about, Marine?” Harm said.

“I don’t know…I consider myself a pretty worldly person, but that one went right over my head.”

Mac was totally dumbfounded and Harm couldn’t help but laugh. He hugged her close and she pounded his back.

“Okay, okay… knock it off, sailor.”

They both pulled back at the same time and looked at each other. They both eased in to kiss each other lightly on the lips. One kiss led to another, and before they knew it they became passionate. Harm leaned forward and pushed her back into his lap. He could not get close enough or enough of her taste. He felt a sense of possession of her. She *was* his no matter what happened. It was a fact. He also knew he’d better back off a bit or he’d lose some of that control Mac was so glad he had. He backed off and broke the kisses to shorter but sweeter ones. He would never let her feel rejected by him again. He had learned that over the last week anyway. How could she have ever thought he didn’t think she was good enough for him?

Mac seemed to sense what he was doing and decided to start the conversation and lighten the mood.

“So, Harm, since we seem to be in the mood to tease, are you finally going to tell me what it is ‘I ought to know’?” She gave him her best Cheshire cat smile. “No kidding, Harm, I’ve always wondered what was going on with you that day.”

Harm shook his head and thought *payback.*

He said, “Okay, do you remember that I had fallen backward in the admiral’s chair that day and really hit my head hard?”

Mac nodded the affirmative.

“Well… almost every time I saw you that day….let’s just say you weren’t in uniform and we weren’t talking about JAG business.”

Mac smiled mischievously. “Really?”

“Yeah… really,” he said.

“So tell me, sailor….what was it I was supposed to know?”

Harm blushed profusely and said “Well, that particular time I saw you; ah… you came into the room in a beautiful evening gown and told me that it was supposed to rain that afternoon…and that it was perfect weather for making love.”

Harm looked away. This was getting to him …big time and having her close with her body soft and pliable in his arms, even the easy laughter between them was about to set him on fire.

Mac gave him a slow sly smile and said “Oh.”

“That wasn’t the worst part. I…ah, called Renee Mac that next morning. I swear I saw you, wrapped in a towel, sitting on the side of my bed. I thought I was losing my mind.”

“Oh, honey.” Mac chuckled softly.

She reached up to caress his face. She ran the tips of her fingers through his hair from the side of his head to the back of his neck. She was killing him and she didn’t even know it. *Lighten this up, Rabb,* he thought.

He had an evil thought then. He would get her. He would have her stammering in nothing flat.

“Okay, Mac…I get to ask you something now.”

She smiled and said, “Alright.”

He looked her directly in the eye and smiled. “Ah…you know last night when we were…. Well, you know when we were.”

The look in her eyes sent his upper hand completely out of reach. ‘Smooth Rabb…who is stammering now?’ Harm berated himself.

“Making love?” Mac answered, finishing his sentence.

“Yeah, you, ah…said that you didn’t think you could… and ….well, you didn’t finish your sentence,” Harm stammered. He could still hear the sound of her voice, saying his name, saying she loved him.

Mac looked at him through narrowed eyes and leaned in close and kissed him lightly on the lips. She drew back and looked him in the eye.

“Oh, I think you know….don’t you Harm?”

Harm nodded the affirmative. He kissed her then; the fire was back and burning hotter than ever.

Harm broke the kiss and said, “God… Mac, I want you so much… but I’m afraid I’ll hurt you.”

Mac chuckled softly and shook her head. “Not you, Harmon, not with all your control.” She nipped his bottom lip before he took control and kissed her deeply.

Sometime later…

The house was dark. The only sounds inside the house were coming from the bedroom. The sounds of soft laughter, pleasure and then rumbling thunder from outside and a cloudburst of rain.

Mac whispered into Harm’s ear, “Oh, Harm….it’s raining. I heard that someone said that it was perfect weather for…” Mac didn’t finish the sentence. She was otherwise occupied.

 

 

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6
Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12
 
 
   

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