||Drama, Romance (H/M)
words, 36 pages (8 ½ x 11”)
||Everything up to mid
||In Memory of Greta
||This is a Harm and Mac
fable—I don’t really believe in soul mates, but I believe in the
magic of finding the right person. This is a story about thick
and thin, love without guarantees and dumb luck.
Everything seemed to be going her way.
Mac walked out of the courtroom and entered her office with a satisfied
sigh. She’d just beaten Sturgis on a big case even though up until the
very end it looked like things would go against her client. She felt
certain that Petty Officer Montgomery was innocent of the murder charges
but she hadn’t been able to prove it. And then when all hope seemed
lost, in an act of desperation she’d recalled a witness to the
stand—Randolph Cromley—a timid little man who’s testimony kept tugging
at the edges of her mind, and when questioned further he had crumbled
before her very eyes and admitted to the crime. The last minute ‘pulling
the rabbit out of the hat’ was Harm’s modus operandi—not hers, but
lately her instincts had taken over and seemed to be guiding her in the
right direction no matter what she did.
Since Harm’s return to JAG, her life had taken on a strange dreamlike
quality where everyday things seemed a little easier. The grocery line
she stood in always moved the fastest, rush hour traffic seemed to
dissolve in her wake, parking places miraculously appeared just for her,
and she hadn’t had to wait over five minutes for a table in a restaurant
in ages. Her eyes sparkled, her teeth seemed whiter and bad hair days
were a thing of the past. Strangest of all she’d beaten Harm in court
twice in a row, and that in itself was some kind of miracle.
Seeing Harm everyday was both a blessing and a curse. She had finally
come to terms with the fact that he didn’t love her, and she had
promised herself that she would learn to live with it as long as he
didn’t disappear from her life again. She sternly reminded herself of
that promise as she sat down behind her desk. But she couldn’t stop
caring about him any more than she could stop breathing, and they had at
least made some inroads into repairing their friendship since she had
helped him in his efforts to get custody of Mattie. He’d had her over
for dinner a few times and included her occasionally on outings with
Mattie, so for all intents and purposes they were getting along better
than they had in months.
She didn’t know how to explain her good fortune in all of the other
areas of her life. Maybe the universe felt sorry for her and the stars
had aligned to ease her pain.
But she was worried about Harm. If her luck had changed for the better,
his seemed to have deserted him almost entirely since he’d been back at
JAG. Besides losing more cases than usual, he seemed accident prone,
unorganized and downright forgetful. At first she just chalked it up to
that fact that he had new priorities, and having Mattie in his life was
going to be an adjustment—a welcome one—but an adjustment all the same.
As time went by she started to realize that his relationship with Mattie
was the only thing that seemed to be going right for him and his work at
JAG continued to suffer. He’d been a little testy when she had mentioned
it to him so she went back to pretending that nothing was wrong and just
worried about how long it would be before the Admiral took notice and
called him on the carpet. That was the last thing he needed right now.
Her thoughts were interrupted when Sturgis stuck his head in the door.
“I just wanted to say congratulations again, Colonel. I was totally
convinced that Montgomery was guilty.” Sturgis smiled sincerely and
moved on into her office.
Harm was right behind him. “It sounds like you did a great job in there,
Mac. Not that I’m surprised. You’ve been on a real winning streak
lately.” He smiled too and seemed genuinely proud of her.
She smiled back and tried to ignore the way her heart automatically
leapt at the sight of him—even if he did look a little disheveled today.
There was an ink stain on his normally immaculate shirt collar, his hair
seemed to have developed a strange cowlick that was sticking straight up
on his head, and he was sporting a big band aid on his chin. Why was it
that it only made him better looking? The rumpled look just made her
want to touch him—straighten him up a little, and run her fingers
through his hair.
She dragged her eyes away from Harm and said modestly, “Thanks guys.
I’ve been lucky lately.”
“Don’t sell yourself short, Mac. But then again, how lucky do you have
to be to beat Sturgis?” Harm winked at Mac while giving Sturgis a hard
time. It almost felt like the old days—back before everything had gone
to hell. Harm’s return had gone a long way to help heal the rifts around
the office, but she didn’t think he really understood how much they
needed him around.
The two men sat down in the chairs in front of her desk and Sturgis
asked, “So what made you suspect Cromley?”
Mac knit her eyebrows together as she tried to explain. “I didn’t
really. I just knew something was wrong with his earlier testimony, but
I never expected him to confess. I was as surprised as you were.”
Harm laughed and added, “It sounds like something straight out of Perry
“I was thinking it sounded more like something you would pull off,
Harm.” Mac thought his ego could use a little inflating about now, but
it seemed to have the opposite effect.
“Not recently.” He shook his head and seemed completely baffled by that
“Things will turn around, Harm. You’ll see,” Sturgis said with
conviction. “You are just having a run of bad luck.”
Harm snorted and dismissed the idea. “I’m not superstitious, and I think
people make their own luck.”
“Well, maybe you should be superstitious, Harm. Don’t forget about that
mirror you shot in Paraguay. That’s seven years bad luck right there.”
Mac tried teasing him.
“And why were you shooting at a mirror?” Sturgis hadn’t asked many
questions about their trip, and they hadn’t volunteered much, either.
“Oh, I wasn’t shooting at the mirror. I was shooting at Mac,” Harm said
casually leaning back in his chair and letting his eyes meet hers.
They seemed lost in some silent communication before Sturgis
interrupted, “This sounds like a fascinating story, but I’m starving.
Why don’t we go grab some lunch, and I can hear all about it?”
“I suppose you expect me to buy since I won the case?” Mac stood up and
was about to grab her purse when she noticed a new visitor standing in
“Webb.” Harm acknowledged him and though he looked like he wanted to
escape, he crossed his arms across his chest and stood rooted by
“Rabb, Commander Turner,” Webb quickly greeted the two men and then
ignored them as he barged over to Mac and said, “I need to talk to you,
Sarah. Let me take you to lunch.”
“I already have plans, Clay. You should have called.” Mac only felt
annoyed by his sudden appearance.
“I know and I’m sorry, but I’m on my way out of town. Please. It’s
important.” He pleaded and glanced at the other two men for their
“Don’t worry about us, Mac,” Sturgis offered. “We’ll let you buy next
Harm remained impassive refusing to influence her decision.
She didn’t look at Harm when she finally gave in. “Okay, Clay. Let’s
go—sorry guys.” She grabbed her purse and her cover and stalked out of
Her irritation had subsided by the time they reached the parking lot.
She knew that she wasn’t really mad at Clay. If he’d left town without
letting her know that would have bothered her too. That was the problem.
She was finding that almost everything he did irritated her because he
wasn’t Harm. He wasn’t even a good substitution. She had hoped for a
while that she could feel something for Clay. They had developed a
bond—a bond born of shared danger, a trust shaped from relying on each
other under the direst circumstances, and because he said he cared she
wanted to care too. That would have made things simple.
As it was, things remained simple. She loved Harm. She didn’t love Clay,
but she owed him more than her irritation. Lunch was a start.
They went to a new tea room that had just opened a few blocks away. It
offered dainty sandwiches and a resident crone who when the mood suited
her would reveal the future to eager customers by gazing at tea leaves.
Clay thought Mac would enjoy the place having experienced visions
herself, but Mac wasn’t feeling all that hopeful about the future, so
she just wanted to hear what Clay had to say and get back to work.
They were seated immediately even though the place was crowded and
ordered chicken salad sandwiches and fruit plates. Mac nibbled on the
small sandwich thinking that she was going to be hungry again in an
hour. This wasn’t really her idea of a satisfying lunch, but she tried
to conjure up a good mood for Clay’s sake.
“So you’re leaving town?” she asked as her eyes drifted around the
place. The décor was a blend of gypsy lace and English cottage.
“Yes, I’m afraid I’ll be gone for a few months this time, and I won’t
have a chance to contact you very often while I’m gone.” Clay seemed
“Well, I understand. I’m just glad you’re well enough to get back out
into the field. I know it’s where your heart is.” Mac meant it
sincerely. He had nearly died as a result of the torture he’d endured,
but the mental damage had been worse in some ways than the physical. He
needed to prove to himself that he could still handle the job.
He grabbed her hand across the table and squeezed it. “Thanks for
She squeezed back and smiled.
They both concentrated on their food, but Mac’s attention was drawn to a
little old woman sitting in a booth at the back of the room. She had to
be the fortune teller that the place touted. She looked like anyone’s
grandmother except for the yellow turban on her head. A black shawl over
a teal polyester pant suit completed her outfit, and Mac was a little
disappointed. She had seen better costumes at Halloween parties. The
woman’s head kept darting around the room, and like a bird spotting
something shiny, her eyes would light on Mac with a gleam and stare
intently before darting away again. Mac didn’t need to have the gift of
visions to know that she was going to be coming over to their table
“Can we leave, Clay? The fortune teller is headed this way, and I’m
really not in the mood.” Mac sounded petulant even to her own ears, but
he didn’t seem to notice.
“Are you kidding?” He swung around to look at the old woman. “This is
terrific. She doesn’t read for just anyone. You have to be chosen.”
“I don’t want to be chosen.” Mac could tell that he was too excited to
“It’ll be fun,” he insisted.
Mac sighed and settled back into her seat as the little woman descended
on them. The future, it seemed, was at hand.
“I see a handsome man,” the old woman said without preamble.
Clay winked conspiratorially at Mac and preened a little.
The woman ignored Clay, grabbed Mac’s hand and continued in a trance
like voice, “The two of you have faced the world together—taken great
risks, and laughed in the face of danger.”
“It was nothing,” Clay said modestly.
The yellow turban on her head wobbled as she snapped out of her trance
and glared at Clay. “I’m not talking about you, young man. You are going
on a long journey, far, far away. Now be quiet so I can concentrate.”
Mac tried to reclaim her hand, but the woman was strong and held on even
tighter. Closing her eyes, she started swaying back and forth. “I see
great happiness and abiding love—you and this man are meant to be
“That was lovely. Thank you,” Mac smiled and hoped the woman was
finished. She’d learned this act herself in Russia. Next she would be
telling her that she would have lots of fat babies and then expect to be
given a big tip. She was ready to pay her just so she would let go of
But the woman wasn’t through. “Together you will have lots of fat babi--”
Suddenly she stopped swaying and frowned. Sniffing the air as if she
smelled something foul, she leaned closer to Mac and said, “Wait a
minute. Something’s out of whack. Your aura is too big for you and it’s
all baggy—like it doesn’t fit you—.” Her eyes widened and she took a
step away from Mac, dropping her hand. “That’s because it’s his, isn’t
it? You took it from him, and you didn’t give it back!”
“What are you talking about? I haven’t taken anything from anybody.” Mac
The fortune teller was swaying back and forth again, but this time she
was moaning loudly so that other customers in the place stopped eating
to watch her. Mac tried to sink down in her seat and looked over at Clay
for help, but he just shrugged and grinned like he thought the whole
thing was funny.
In a low eerie voice she intoned, “A shattered mirror on a truck
reflects your face. Bad luck for him means good luck for you. One half
of a whole, you walked away and cast the spell of NEVER, and now he’s
lost and out of luck and only you can save him.”
Mac had heard more than enough. “I don’t know what you think you see,
but it’s not my fault that he broke that silly mirror—he could have
killed me, after all, and I didn’t cast any spell. I gave him his
freedom which is what he wanted.” She had worked herself up into quite a
state by this point.
“Calm down, Mac.” Clay reached across the table and tried to pat her
arm. “Don’t take it so seriously.”
The old woman plopped down in the empty chair by Mac and said in a
suddenly matter of fact voice, “Look, dearie, this is how it works. The
two of you are undoubtedly soul mates—peas in a pod, two magnets
irresistibly drawn together, lovers bound to each other for all time,
destined, meant to be—and there is no way to change that. I take it he
broke a mirror and obviously what happened is his luck jumped to you—the
love of his life—for safe keeping. Normally in such a case you would be
by his side to protect him. Instead you abandoned him—threw him to the
wolves and left him without any defenses. Now he’s walking around with a
dark cloud over his head—a mere shadow of his former self.”
“Is she talking about Harm?” Clay was a little slow picking up on the
“You’re wrong. He doesn’t love me, but he has had terrible luck lately.
And I didn’t abandon him. I would do anything to make things better for
him.” Mac didn’t want to believe the woman’s nonsense, but all of her
worries about Harm had been forced out into the open, and she answered
as if the woman knew exactly what she was talking about.
“Are we talking about Harm?” Clay asked again.
They both ignored him. The fortune teller got up from the table and
started backing away. “Only you can give him back his luck. Only you can
“But how?” Mac asked frantically. She stood too and pleaded, “Please
wait. You have to help me.”
The woman turned and walked away, never looking back. Mac started to go
after her, but stopped and shook her head in disgust. What was she
doing? It was ridiculous to give this woman’s words another thought.
Since she was already standing up she looked at Clay and said brightly,
“Are you ready to go? I better get back to work.”
Clay threw some money down on the table and followed her out the front
door. “So does this mean that you do love Rabb?”
After lunch with Sturgis, Harm closed himself up in his small office and
tried to get caught up on his paperwork. He deliberately made himself
think about Mac and Clay, sort of like poking his tongue at a sore
tooth, and decided that no matter how hard he tried he just couldn’t be
happy for them.
It might be small and petty but he just didn’t care. It felt good to be
honest about it.
He yelped as he cut himself on a piece of paper in the file he was
flipping through. Stupid paper cut. That was the third one in a week. He
sucked on his finger and thought some more about Mac. She looked great
lately. So good that he could hardly concentrate when she was around.
She lit up every room she walked in to, and the way she smelled! He
groaned just thinking about the last time she was leaning over him while
they were working on a case together. She had caught him sniffing her,
and he had to pretend to be coming down with a cold just so she wouldn’t
kill him. She’d always seemed perfect to him, but now, though he didn't
know how it was possible, she seemed even more perfect. He wouldn’t
allow himself to believe that it was because she was in love with
Clayton Webb--that his love had infused her with some magic glow. It was
probably just his fevered imagination building her up and lusting after
something he could never have. Maybe that was the reason he’d suddenly
turned into a clumsy oaf. He spent too much time thinking about Mac
instead of thinking about where he was going or what he was doing. He
liked the idea of blaming her for his sudden rash of accidents. He was
being petty again, and it still felt pretty good.
He was honestly glad to have her friendship back though. Nothing else in
his life seemed very stable. Coming back to JAG hadn’t been the cure all
he’d been hoping for. He was losing cases left and right—simple cases he
would have never lost in the past. He seemed to have lost his magic
touch in the courtroom and with every loss his confidence slipped a
little more. At least with Mac’s help he did have Mattie in his life
now, and that made up for a lot. But Mattie had agreed to start spending
time with her father again, and Harm knew that it was important that she
forgive him and see if they could salvage some kind of relationship. He
also knew that if things with her father worked out she wouldn’t need
him as much. It would hurt to lose her, but he would give her up in a
minute if it was what she needed to heal the pain she’d lived with since
her mother’s death. Mattie’s long term happiness was more important than
any hole she might fill in his life.
That brought him right back to Mac and the yawning hole that he’d lived
with since Paraguay. Keeping Mac at a friendly distance would be the
smart thing to do. He vowed to do that at least until the next time she
leaned across his desk to look at something. He took a deep breath and
was certain that a hint of her perfume lingered in the air.
Mac tiptoed down the hallway that led to Harm’s office and was
disappointed to see that his door was closed. She’d been hoping to catch
a glimpse of him while he was working. She knew it was silly, but she
thought if she could just watch him unobserved then all of the warnings
about spells and bad luck would slip back into the realm of make
believe, and she could stop feeling so guilty. When Clay dropped her off
after lunch, she’d been afraid of a long drawn out goodbye scene, but
he’d only acknowledged what had become clear to both of them in the past
few weeks. They would never be more than friends—close friends who had
helped each other through a rough time. And that was pretty special. He
gave her a friendly kiss on the cheek and said he’d be in touch when he
could, but before he left he told her to fix things with Harm. She told
him he’d been spending too much time with fortune tellers and waved
goodbye until his car was out of sight. Now she found herself with a
closed door between her and what she needed most. Since she’d left the
restaurant the need to see Harm had been overpowering. It was almost
like a need to protect him—but she didn’t know what she could protect
Before she could make the decision to stay or go the door swung open and
she found herself face to face with Harm.
“Mac! I thought I heard someone out here.”
“Yeah, I just wanted to say I was sorry about lunch.”
“You got a better offer.” He shrugged and turned around leaving the door
open so she could follow him inside. On his way around his desk he
kicked the trash can over knocking papers everywhere.
She grinned as he muttered a few choice words under his breath and then
crouched down beside him as he crawled around on his hands and knees
picking up trash. “Oh yes, a very intriguing offer,” she said as she
gathered up some of the scattered sheets.
“If this is about Clay, don’t bore me with the details.” He started
picking up paper and cramming it back into the wastebasket at a furious
“It has nothing to do with Clay.” She spotted a wadded up paper ball
that had rolled under the desk and reached for it at the same time he
did. Gasping at the unexpected wave of desire that coursed through her
body when his hand touched hers, she turned to find him just inches
away. His eyes were close enough to drown in and his mouth was close
enough to kiss. She leaned toward him and sighed, “But you could get
Her words whispered across his cheek and tickled his ear. “I could?”
he asked huskily. He didn’t want to move. He didn’t want her to move. He
wanted to stay underneath his desk with her and let the rest of the
world pass them by.
He wanted to grab her and run his hands up and down her body. He wanted
kiss her until she whimpered and begged him to kiss her some more. But
instead he remembered where they were and who they were and came to his
senses. Backing away, he banged his head on the edge of the desk but
finally managed to clumsily get to his feet. He held out a hand to help
her up, and she allowed him to pull her off the floor, too. Her hand
felt like it belonged in his, and he held on to it for a little longer
then necessary before dropping it and putting some space between them.
He cleared his throat and hurried to sit down behind his desk. She sat
across from him and was openly staring at him as if she was seeing for
the very first time.
“So, what’s this about an offer?” he asked brusquely.
Mac continued to watch him and then suddenly her eyes widened with an
idea as she blurted out the words, “Feng Shui.”
“I beg your pardon?” Harm was unnerved by the way she was acting, and
now she was babbling nonsense. Maybe he’d banged his head too hard on
“I should Feng Shui your office!” she declared triumphantly. She looked
around at the small cramped space that he’d been banished to and rubbed
her hands together in anticipation. He was still staring at her blankly
so she explained further. “To get rid of your bad luck.” She smiled
triumphantly and settled back in her chair.
He rubbed the back of his head and said indignantly, “I told you I don’t
believe in bad luck, and I certainly don’t believe it has anything to do
with my office.”
She seemed all excited about her sudden brainstorm. “We can rearrange
the furniture, bring in a water element and what ever else it is you’re
supposed to do to help the positive flow of energy.”
“Mac.” His flat tone made it abundantly clear that he was not impressed.
“Since when have you been into that sort of thing?”
“I’ve just read about it in a few magazines, but it couldn’t hurt. Why
not give it a try?” She seemed overly anxious for him to agree.
“Good grief. I lose a few cases, and everyone blows everything all out
of proportion. You act like I’ve been cursed or something.”
She visibly paled at his words. “Or something,” she muttered under her
“I appreciate the sudden concern for my welfare, Mac, but it’s not
necessary. You don’t need to worry about me or my office. Why don’t you
go Feng Shui something of Webb’s? I’m sure he would love it.”
“Clay’s gone, and why are you being so unreasonable?” She was getting
“Unreasonable? Me? I am sitting here minding my own business when you
come barging in here wanting to rearrange my-my-my energy,” he
sputtered, getting a little indignant himself. He thought this was the
strangest conversation they’d ever had.
“I was just trying to help,” she said looking misunderstood and put
He softened a little as he looked at her pouty lips. Then she batted her
eyes at him, and he blinked in return. How very un-Mac like of her. She
never resorted to feminine wiles when they argued. It was utterly
distracting, but he summoned up his resolve and said firmly, “I don’t
need your help, Mac, and if that’s all, I have work to do.” He dismissed
her by opening the file in front of him.
“Fine,” she said as she stood up and stalked to the door. “But don’t say
I didn’t try.” And with a flounce of her hair she was gone leaving him
aroused, bewildered and all alone in his office.
Mac stomped off down the hall and hurried to hide in her office. After
that disastrous encounter with Harm, she needed time to regroup. She
should have known not to go charging in to see him without a plan, but a
plan for what? It wasn’t as if she was convinced that the fortune teller
was right, but some part of her couldn’t just ignore the woman’s words
either. What if it was true and she could help Harm? What if she was the
only one who could help him? If that was the case she had to try. She
owed him her life, and she couldn’t stand by while his fell apart.
On the other hand he said everyone was blowing everything out of
proportion and maybe they were. This called for a little recon. She
would secretly follow him for the next few days and carefully observe
his every move. By this weekend she would have gathered enough evidence
to decide on what course of action, if any, she needed to take.
Her ‘Harm’ radar drew her attention to the bullpen, and she looked up in
time to see him heading toward the break room. He was saying something
to someone across the way and never saw Harriet coming around the corner
carrying two cups of coffee until it was too late. Mac winced as they
collided and the coffee spilled all down the front of him. Harriet
scrambled around apologizing like crazy, while Harm tried to reassure
her that it wasn’t her fault.
Sighing, Mac grabbed a box of Kleenex from her desk and went out to help
with the clean up. Harm tried to wave her off when she came at him with
a tissue, but she ignored him and started blotting his coffee soaked
jacket. Looking at him smugly she said, “The next time somebody offers
to Feng Shui you, I guess you won’t be so quick to turn them down.”
He rolled his eyes, but otherwise stood docilely while she and Harriet
fussed over him.
In the next few days unbeknownst to him, Mac followed him around
constantly. She was good. She was sneaky. And Harm had the worst luck of
anyone she’d ever seen. She watched from a few cars back as a black cat
ran in front of his Lexus causing him to swerve suddenly and crash into
some trash cans. She ran stealthily behind him as he did his morning
jog, only to watch him stumble and fall when a couple of squirrels
chased each other into his path. When he stopped to get gas the pay at
the pump feature was out of order. The ATM machine ate his credit card,
the dry cleaners lost his uniforms and his barber cut an unfortunate
hunk out of his hair. And that was just outside the office.
Now she was trying to discreetly follow him around the grocery store
while he did his shopping. The store was crowded and the only cart
available had been one of those with the one wobbly wheel that wouldn’t
steer straight and it made an annoying thunk-thunk noise as he pushed it
along. It made keeping track of him easier, and so far nothing unusual
had happened. She was getting a little perturbed by all the women who
seemed to think he needed help with his shopping though. Women of all
ages, sizes and descriptions would engage him in conversation if he
stopped anywhere close to them, helping him read labels, recommending
one brand over another. It was amazing, but the produce section was the
worst. Mac wanted to punch the blonde who made a point of leaning across
Harm as she tried to reach a honeydew melon. She kept brushing up
against him and giggling. He smiled back and offered to help her decide
if her melons were ripe. It was disgusting and Mac was about to leave so
she wouldn’t have to watch anymore when disaster struck. He was paying
too much attention to Blondie’s melons and not enough attention to what
he was grabbing when he distractedly picked up an apple from the pile
beside him. It started an avalanche, and soon apples were rolling
everywhere. Women magically appeared from all parts of the store to help
him. They swarmed around him like so many Eve’s tempting him with
apples, but offering him much more. Adam never had it so good.
Hunkered down on the pickles, relishes, and assorted condiment aisle she
watched as he laughed and flirted, and suddenly she lost all heart to
continue the mission. Harm didn’t need her to bring him luck. There
would never be a shortage of women willing to take care of him if he
needed it. She straightened up and was almost out the door when his
voice stopped her.
“Where are you going, Mac?”
She turned and tried to act surprised to see him. “Oh hello, Harm.”
“You’ve been following me for two days now. Don’t you think it’s time
you told me what’s going on?” He moved closer and crossed his arms
across his chest in that stubborn way he had.
“I don’t know what you mean.” She was going to try to bluff her way out
of this, but the gleam in his eye told her he wasn’t going to drop it.
“Let me make you dinner, and we can talk,” His voice was soft and
coaxing, but his eyes still held a bit of challenge as they met hers.
“I am hungry,” she conceded as she gave in to the inevitable.
“Good.” He retrieved his cart, and she joined him in the check out line.
“So,” he finally asked, “Give me a hint. What’s this all about?”
She didn’t know how to explain any of it in a way that would make sense
to him. He was going to laugh and say she was crazy, and she was almost
ready to agree with him. But that old woman’s words haunted her night
‘Only you can save him.’
Her jealousy had almost caused her to walk away a few minutes ago, but
then Harm had stopped her. Maybe that was the fates way of reminding her
that she was his only chance. Summoning all her courage she took a deep
breath and plunged ahead. “You know that thing I said about there never
being an ‘us’? There’s just one problem.”
Something in his expression tightened, and his eyes glittered as he
asked, “Only one?”
“Can we table this until we get to your place?” Her voice sounded
brittle and her eyes pleaded with him to drop it.
“Sure—sure,” he answered quickly. The last thing he wanted was to scare
her away, but before the night was over he was determined to get some
answers to a few questions.
They finished checking out, and then she followed him out to his car. As
he finished putting the bags in the back of his Lexus he turned to her
and said, “I’ll follow you this time.”
She smiled nervously and with a quick nod walked across the parking lot
and got into her car. He pulled out onto the road right behind her but
soon lost sight of her Corvette as he managed to catch every red light
on the way to his apartment. He didn’t mind. It gave him time to think
about how strange Mac had been acting the past few days. She hovered
over him while they were at the office and tried to secretly follow him
around the rest of the time. Even though he didn’t know why she was
doing it, part of him was enjoying the fact that he had her attention.
He started to confront her the very first day when he spotted her
lurking behind a potted palm in the lobby of his bank, and then again
when she hid herself behind a newspaper, a floppy hat, and a pair of
sunglasses a few tables away from him while he was eating lunch, but
something stopped him,. He couldn’t imagine why she was spying on him,
but it felt oddly comforting to have her close by, so he decided to play
along until she was ready to tell him what was going on. But then
tonight when he saw her leaving the grocery store he bolted after her
without thinking. She surprised him by accepting his invitation for
dinner so easily. That worried him more than anything else. She was too
compliant, and she didn’t even seem upset that he’d known she’d been
tailing him. That would usually have gotten some kind of rise from her,
but tonight she hadn’t reacted at all.
The fact that she brought up Paraguay scared him to death, especially
the part about ‘us’. He wasn’t sure if he was ready to rehash that all
over again. They had just regained some semblance of friendship, and a
discussion like that was bound to blow up in their faces again. Then
again they’d never really had that discussion so maybe it was past due.
He almost wished Mattie wasn’t spending the weekend with her father,
because her presence would have kept things from getting too personal.
On the other hand he’d known that this was inevitable from the moment
he’d agreed to return to JAG and work with Mac again. He didn’t want to
keep making the same mistakes with her he’d made in the past, so the
only thing he knew for sure was that he was going to listen to what she
had to say with an open mind and an open heart.
“Mac, you are completely out of your mind.”
“I know it sounds crazy, Harm, but I am starting to believe it’s true.”
She’d blurted out a rambling story about Clay and fortune tellers at
lunch and bad luck, and now she was pacing around his apartment while he
He just stared at her incredulously. “You honestly believe that you’ve
stolen my good luck.”
“Well, I wouldn’t use the word ‘stolen’.” She moved to sit on a stool at
the bar and fiddled with the salt shaker on the counter in front of her.
“What word would you use?” He stirred the pasta that was boiling on the
stove, and then reached over and grabbed the salt away from her spilling
some in the process.
“Accidentally acquired?” She gathered the spilled salt into a little
pile as she watched him season the pasta.
“That’s two words,” he informed her sarcastically.
“Harm, that’s not the point. The point is that I am responsible for all
the bad things that have been happening to you, and so it’s up to me to
fix it.” She picked up some spilled salt with her fingertips and held it
out to him until he took it.
Without being told he threw the grains of salt over his shoulder and
then scoffed, “And you got all of this from a fortune teller.”
“She knew that you’d broken a mirror. She said my aura was big and baggy
and didn’t fit me because it was yours not mine. How do you explain all
Harm put down his spoon and sighed. “Explain what, Mac? Do you hear
yourself? I think you are feeling guilty about what happened in
Paraguay, and it’s manifesting itself in this crazy need to fix things
Her eyes narrowed, and he was almost certain that he’d said the wrong
thing. “And just what exactly should I be feeling guilty about?” Her
voice was soft and tight and it made the hairs on the back of his neck
Something inside him cracked open and the words were out before he had a
chance to take them under advisement. “You should feel guilty for
kissing Webb and not me.”
“I should feel guilty for kissing Webb?” She stood up from the barstool.
He nodded and added, “Even Gunny got a hug.”
“You mean I shouldn’t feel guilty that you gave up your career, and
risked your life to find me? I shouldn’t feel guilty that the Admiral
wouldn’t take you back?” Her voice was getting louder with every
question. “I shouldn’t feel guilty about you going to work for the CIA,
or getting fired from that job, too, or the fact that you ended up being
a crop duster? Those are the things I’m responsible for—” She walked
around the island and was practically yelling in his face. He turned to
face her and she asked quieter now, “But I should feel guilty about
“And not me,” he repeated. All at once she was in his arms kissing him
with a frenzy that had him stumbling back against the sink. He wrapped
his arms around her and planted himself so that he could absorb her
assault and then answered her kiss for kiss. They went at each other
with a vengeance that told of pain and loneliness and need. They tried
to settle old scores and invent new ones. And when they finally
retreated behind gentleness they felt raw and wounded by what they’d
revealed to each other.
When she pulled out of his arms he let her go. Emotions were arcing
around the room, swirling in her eyes, teeming in the pit of his
stomach, and touching her was too much for him to endure at that moment.
He watched as she retreated to the far side of the room to gaze out the
And he wondered about the cost of following her.
But in the end he couldn’t stay away, so he walked up behind her and put
his hands on her shoulders. She leaned back into him and said
hesitantly, “Well, that didn’t solve much.” She seemed embarrassed.
“Was it supposed to?” he asked. He turned her around to face him and
said raggedly, “You’re not responsible for everything that goes wrong in
“Just my little messed up corner of it,” she murmured mockingly.
“Let it go, Mac. You’ve moved on with Clay. I have my job back at JAG
and new responsibilities with Mattie. I’m going to be just fine.”
She laughed and said breezily, “Clay’s gone on a journey far, far away.
He’s moved on, too. So, it seems everyone has moved on with their lives
except me. I’m stuck, Harm. I’m stuck right where we left off in
Paraguay and that damned fortune teller only told me what I already
knew. I screwed up your life, and I can’t fix it. Maybe this is all just
misplaced guilt, but I can’t stop feeling responsible just because you
tell me to.”
She looked miserable, and he didn’t know how much of that was about Clay
and how much was about him. He just knew that he needed to comfort her.
Without a word, he wrapped her in his arms and rocked her back and
forth, wondering what he was going to do about this woman. The hissing,
spitting sound of boiling water broke through his reverie and he yelped
and rushed across the room when he realized he’d forgotten to set the
timer for the pasta. It was a big soggy overcooked mess, and he dumped
the whole thing down the disposal, and then turned to Mac and said with
a sigh, “Dinner’s ruined. I suppose that’s more proof of your bad luck
Mac looked like she was going to cry but waved a hand at the sink and
said bravely, “It doesn’t matter, Harm. We can just order pizza.”
Harm studied her for a minute before grabbing her hand and starting for
the door. “I’ve got a better idea.”
She allowed him to drag her along and asked, “You want to eat out?”
“No.” He pushed the button for the elevator, and chucked her under the
chin. “I think it’s time I had my fortune told.”