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It was almost midnight when Harm drove Laura back to her sponsor’s house. After everything they had discussed that night, Harm thought there was nothing more that could make him uncomfortable around her, and yet, she managed to throw him a curveball in the car.

There was something she’d been thinking about since that horrible night, but, until now, there hadn’t been anyone she could talk to about it. She wasn’t entirely sure she wanted to ask the commander, but, she was too curious to stop herself. And, after tonight, she knew the commander would be nothing less than totally honest with her.

“Sir?” she began. “Um…I’ve been wondering about something.”

“Go ahead,” Harm encouraged, his eyes focused on the road.

“Well…I just…it isn’t always like that, is it?”

Harm’s eyes narrowed, as he tried to guess what she was asking about.

“Being…with someone, sir,” Laura clarified.

“No,” Harm answered firmly, understanding her meaning. “Of course not.” It seemed there was, indeed, something he felt awkward talking about; he was grateful to have driving as a minor distraction. “The first time is always a little painful for women, I think, but, not anything like what you went through.” Harm knew he couldn’t back away. This devastated girl needed answers, and right now, only he could provide them. Steeling himself to his purpose, he continued on. “But, after that, when you’re with someone you love, someone you trust to be safe with you – with your body and your heart – then, it’s beautiful. Physical intimacy is special, but it doesn’t hold a candle to physical intimacy attached to emotional intimacy. And, you know what? It only took me forty years to figure that out.”

Harm’s last comment made Laura smile, even if just a tiny bit. When they pulled up at the correct house, they were both relieved to see Laura’s sponsor’s car in the driveway.

“I don’t know what to say, sir,” Laura said. “’Thank you’ hardly seems like enough.”

“It’s more than enough,” Harm assured her. “I’m glad I was home when you called, and I’m glad we talked.”

“Me too, sir.”

“Will you do something for me, Laura?” Harm asked. “Will you promise me you’ll think about what I said earlier, about pressing charges?” Laura sighed. “Please,” Harm said. “It’s important.”

Laura nodded. “I will, sir. But, I’m not promising that I’ll do it, sir; only that I’ll think about it.”

“That’s good enough for me,” Harm said. “Try and get a good night’s sleep, too.”

“I will, sir,” she replied, and as she got out of the car, she found herself thinking – for the first time in a long time – that it might actually happen.

 

TWO WEEKS LATER
HARM’S APARTMENT
ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND
2213 EST

 

Terri had agreed to give Harm the time he needed, and, for the next few days, they carried on as they had before Harm had found out about Laura – with the exception of making love. Harm still wasn’t eating very much, but he and Terri managed to share a few dinners together, and they still occupied each other’s bed, albeit in a completely innocent way.

Harm seemed to be more relaxed, so Terri tried to use the opportunity to recapture a little of their previous spark. They were in Harm’s bed, and Terri started with the same tactics she had used a few night before – slow, soft caresses along Harm’s back and arms. Harm was unresponsive, so she moved closer, to whisper in his ear. “Haaaarm,” she purred, continuing to tickle his skin, “I’m wide awaaaake…” she sang, her tone rising in invitation.

“Well, I don’t know any bedtime stories,” Harm snapped. Remembering when Mac had said the same thing to him, during their investigation on the submarine, Watertown, only made him even angrier. They were supposed to have been friends, but Mac had blocked him at every turn, waiting until Chief Hodge had smashed his larynx, before she would give his suspicions any credence. All Mac had ever done was push him away, and now, it seemed all Terri wanted to do was pull him closer. Well, not tonight. Not for a long time, if the way he was feeling was any indication.

Terri sighed loudly. She turned on the bedside lamp, and sat up in the bed. “Harm,” she said, “I love you, but if you don’t love me, just tell me, and I’ll pack my things and be out of here in fifteen minutes.”

“What?” Harm said, sitting up quickly. “You know I don’t want you to leave.”

“Do I? All I know is, it doesn’t seem like you want me to stay, either.”

“Why? Just because I don’t feel like doing that tonight?”

“You haven’t felt like ‘doing that’ in ages, Harm. If I did something wrong, tell me what it was, so I can fix it. Otherwise, I’m going to get dressed and be gone, because having me in your bed is obviously not something you enjoy.”

“Terri, stop it,” Harm said firmly. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Don’t I, Harm? Harm, we can’t go on like this. Whether it’s because of something I did, or something I didn’t do, things haven’t been the same between me and you since you started worrying about this student of yours. I don’t know who she is, or what she did, but Harm, she’s destroying you. You’re not sleeping or eating enough, and you’ve been ignoring everyone else around you, and I don’t know what to do anymore.” After her last words, she gathered her clothing and started to get dressed.

“Terri,” Harm said, coming over to the other side of the bed, where she was putting on her shoes. “You’re talking crazy,” he said, reaching out to put his arm around her.

“Don’t, Harm,” Terri said. “If you don’t want me touching you, then I don’t think you should bother touching me.”

“Terri, what are you really trying to do here?”

“What am I trying to do? Harm, for God’s sake, I’m trying to get you to see what’s happening to you! To us! We can’t go on like this, Harm.”

“You’re going crazy because we haven’t made love recently?! Jesus, Terri, it’s not that easy, y’know. Just because I’m a man doesn’t mean I’ll always jump at the chance to hop into bed! Women aren’t the only ones who don’t feel up to it when there’s something big on their mind! This has nothing to do with you! Or is that just the way you think – that everything’s always about you?!”

Terri ran out of the bedroom, tears stinging her eyes. She gathered her purse and her jacket, and was nearly to the door when Harm shouted to her.

“Terri, come back here!” Harm ordered. “You’re not getting on the road like that!

“Like what?!” Terri snapped.

“As angry as you are! Whether you believe it or not, I care about you, damn it, and I’m not gonna let you storm out of here and get into an accident!”

“Stop treating me like a child, Harm! I’m forty years old, damn it! I know there’s evil in the world! You don’t have to shield me from every bad thing that ever happens! I may not know what the hell is going on with you and that girl right now, but I can damn well drive myself home!” With that, Terri grabbed her car keys and ran out the door, slamming it shut loudly behind her.

“Damn it!” Harm, yelled to no one. He picked up a glass vase and threw it against the wall, shattering it into countless pieces.

 

LATER THAT NIGHT
OUTSIDE TERRI’S CONDO
ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND
0013 EST

 

Arriving home after her fight with Harm, Terri had prepared a nice, comforting bath for herself. The hour-long soak in hot water and soothing eucalyptus spearmint bath salts she’d treated herself to had gone a long way toward relaxing her, but part of her was still on edge.

She was torn between feeling livid at Harm, or feeling proud of his relentlessness when it comes to truth and justice. It was one of the things she loved about him, but that was before it had interfered with their relationship, before it threatened the happiness they’d found in each other – happiness that both of them had all but given up on ever finding.

His passion for the truth was one of the many things that had attracted her to him, even from their first meeting, during the investigation of the remains of the Native American naval hero, Jimmy Blackhorse. He’d proven himself an even stronger crusader for justice in the aftermath of the nightmarish murder of Annie Lewis. Harmon Rabb, Jr., was in a class by himself when it came to honor, integrity, and loyalty, and Terri loved him for that. He had never intended to be anyone’s hero, and yet, there was an endless list of people for whom he had become exactly that. He hadn’t done any of it for the accolades, or for the attention. It had simply been the right thing to do, and Harmon Rabb, Junior, was one of the last souls left in the world who did just that, every time, without fail. He was larger than life, and he was the only person in the world who didn’t see it.

Terri had known all along it would be a challenge to love him. She had seen his single-mindedness in action when he’d stopped at nothing to uncover the truth behind Annie’s murder. Everything in his life had taken a distant second place in priority behind finding justice for that sweet little girl. At the time, she used to imagine how incredible it would be to be part of his world, and what it would take to captivate him – to catch the attention of a man who worked miracles on a regular basis. But that was years ago, when they were just friends. Now, their relationship was quite different, and those fundamental qualities of his were affecting that relationship.

Terri felt very low for thinking such a thought, but she wasn’t sure she could accept taking a backseat to every “cause” Harm would take up.

Terri had always been a confident woman, but now, she found herself questioning her sense of self-worth. She’d always been proud of her intellect, and even of her body, although, like most women, she’d struggled for a long time with accepting the fact that she simply wasn’t built like a supermodel. She had plenty of other qualities that made her desirable, and there was nothing wrong with being sure of herself. In fact, without that self confidence, it would have been difficult, if not impossible, for her to have gotten as far as she had in the Navy.

And yet, now, because of a man, Terri began doubting herself. Damn him, she thought. No, she corrected herself: the Harmon Rabb she’d fought with earlier was simply not the same one she’d fallen in love with. Damn whatever this is that’s making him act this way. Damn this for jeopardizing the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

Wrapped in a thick, soft terrycloth robe, Terri sat at her vanity table and slowly combed her still-wet hair. Her bedside lamp, and a large rose-scented pillar candle were the only sources of light in the room. She took her time with her hair, wishing she could untie the knots in her heart as easily as they slipped out of the long, golden strands.

When she was finished, she reached for a small bottle of relaxing aromatherapy oil. She dabbed a drop on her neck, and was about to rub some onto her wrists, when a sound from outside caught her attention. Someone was strumming something pretty on a guitar. Terri went to the window to see who it was.

Pulling back the sheer, cream colored curtains, she looked down to the courtyard. The sight before her took her breath away. Harm was standing there, in full, regal-looking mess dress, looking up at the window as he played. His guitar case was at his feet, laying flat on the grass, being used as a table for the bottle of wine and single red rose he had brought with him.

When he saw the curtain drawn back, he waited for Terri to meet his eyes, and then he began to sing.

In every heart there is a room
A sanctuary safe and strong
To heal the wounds from lovers past
Until a new one comes along

I spoke to you in cautious tones
You answered me with no pretense
And still I feel I said too much
My silence is my self defense

And every time I’ve held a rose
It seems I only felt the thorns
And so it goes, and so it goes
An so will you soon I suppose

But if my silence made you leave
Then that would be my worst mistake
So I will share this room with you
And you can have this heart to break

And this is why my eyes are closed
It’s just as well for all I’ve seen
And so it goes, and so it goes
And you’re the only one who knows

So I would choose to be with you
That’s if the choice were mine to make
But you can make decisions too
And you can have this heart to break

And so it goes, and so it goes
And you’re the only one who knows…


By the time Harm had finished the song, tears were falling freely down Terri’s face. God, she loved him.

She went downstairs and out the back door, walking slowly toward Harm. When she reached him, she took the guitar from him, setting it down gingerly on the grass. Standing up straight again, she looked into Harm’s eyes for several seconds before finally wrapping her arms around him.

Responding in kind, Harm embraced her as well, burying his face in her sweet-smelling hair. “I’m sorry, baby,” he whispered in a trembling voice.

“Shhh,” Terri said.

Harm obliged her, and they stood there, just holding each other, for long minutes. Finally, Harm could stand it no longer; he broke the silence. Pulling away just enough to look at Terri, he said,  “I love you, Teresa.” He saw tears on her face, and he knew they matched the ones on his own.

“I love you too, Harm.”

Harm reached down for the rose on his guitar case, and passed it to her.

“Come inside,” Terri told him. She took the bottle of wine, and Harm followed behind her, after putting his guitar away.

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

Once they were inside Terri’s condo, Harm stood his guitar case against the wall near the door. “I know how much you love me in this getup,” he said, indicating the extremely sexy, yet terribly uncomfortable mess dress uniform, “but, would you mind if I changed into something else?”

Terri threw him a pouting face for a second, but she granted his request. “Go ahead,” she said, “but, I’ll tell you one thing: anyone who’s ever claimed a white uniform and gold wings are overrated, is clearly out of their mind.”

Harm smiled brightly, but offered no verbal reply. Instead, as he carried his overnight bag into Terri’s bedroom to change, he thought of the one person he distinctly remembered making such a comment, many years earlier. Yes, he thought, Mac had clearly been out of her mind.

When he returned to the living room, Terri had uncorked the wine, and had arranged a selection of fine cheeses on a smooth, wood board, to go with it.

“What’s the occasion?” Harm asked.

Shrugging slightly, Terri replied, “I think we deserve it, after what we put each other through, earlier.”

“You mean, what *I* put *you* through,” Harm said, regretfully.

“It takes two to tango, Harm,” Terri said.

“Tangoing?” Harm, chuckled. “Is that what they call it these days?”

Terri shrugged. “No,” she said. “I guess I just prefer the idea of us tangoing, rather than fighting.”

Harm smiled. “Well, I can’t argue with you there.”

“Come on,” Terri said, taking Harm’s hand, and leading him to the couch. “There’s a perfectly good bottle of wine going to waste over here.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

An hour and a half later, the bottle was nearly empty, and with it had also gone the underlying, persistent tension that had been with them since before their fight. They were both on the borderline of a buzz, and it was enough to make Terri attempt to get Harm to make love to her, despite the fact that it was the very thing that had caused their fight.

She began by getting up from her chair, and proceeding to sit in Harm’s lap. Placing her hands on either side of his face, she looked deeply into his eyes, and said, “I’m sorry, Harm. I didn’t mean to talk to you that way.” Then, she captured his lips with hers, kissing him softly, and holding it for several seconds. “I love you. You know that, right?”

Returning her gaze with equal intensity, Harm nodded slowly. “I know. I love you, too. I’ve just had a hard time of showing it lately, and, for that, I’m sorry. I don’t mean to hurt you, Teresa.” While he spoke, he ran his hands over her hips, squeezing gently. “You’re the best thing in my life; it would never be my intention to make you feel like anything less.”

“And still, I feel I’ve said too much; my silence is my self defense,” Terri said, echoing the song Harm had sung. “That’s a beautiful line, Harm. Who wrote it?”

“Billy Joel,” Harm chuckled.

“Is it true?” Terri whispered. “Is that why you’re not telling me what’s going on – to protect yourself?”

“No,” Harm said immediately. “If anything, I’m protecting *you,* sweetheart. I wish there was some way I could make you see that.”

“So do I,” Terri said quietly. “I’m so afraid of losing you,” she admitted, unashamed.

“That’s not going to happen,” Harm told her. “I promise.”

“I wish I could believe you.”

“Then, let me prove it to you, baby,” Harm said.

Terri nodded slowly. She slid off his lap, took his hand, and led him toward her bedroom. She was momentarily disappointed when Harm walked away from her, but she quickly felt better when she saw what he was doing: Being familiar with her condo, Harm busied himself gathering candles, setting them on her dresser, and on the bedside table, and lighting them as he went. The room was bathed in the soft light, and Terri watched as Harm approached her slowly, his face a mask of intensity like she hadn’t seen in weeks. She didn’t know exactly what he was going to do, but as her mind raced with the possibilities, she felt every nerve in her body come alive, and he hadn’t even touched her yet.

When Harm was finally standing before her, he reached up and cupped her face in his hand, sweeping his thumb slowly along her jaw, as he gazed into her blue eyes, which were growing darker, under the low light, and the heat of her growing desire. For several long seconds, that’s all Harm did, caressing her face, marveling at the softness of her skin, and marveling even more at how he could have possibly kept himself away from the feeling of being with this woman.

He had never been very good at putting his personal feelings into words. Tonight, he could only pray that his gentle touch, and the intensity of his eyes, would convey all he longed to say to Terri. He watched her lips become darker, and then, finally, he lowered his mouth to hers, starting with the simplest, most innocent kind of kiss. Pulling away just a tiny bit, he rubbed his lips against hers for a second, before opening his mouth wider over hers, making a tight seal for the kind of kiss he’d denied her – denied himself, for far too long. Feeling Terri open to his demand, he slipped his tongue into her mouth, tasting the sweetness only she could give him. The kiss was slow, long, and deep, their tongues sliding against each other, mating sensuously, offering just a hint of the long night of slow lovemaking Harm had in store for Terri.

All the while, Harm’s other hand grasped Terri’s hip, pulling her close to him, allowing her to feel the proof that she wasn’t the only one who had missed their intimacy. Terri whimpered, and Harm pulled away, a sly grin on his face, because he knew this was only the beginning. Terri reached out to touch Harm’s chest, but Harm took her hand and returned it to her side. Tonight would be about her, and only her.

“Do you trust me?” Harm asked her.

“Yes,” Terri whispered.

“Then just let me…do this, okay?”

Terri tried to respond, but all she could do was nod. The feel of Harm’s warm lips on her neck had stolen away any words she might have said. He kissed her languidly, taking his time to reacquaint himself with the taste of her skin, the sensation of merely being near her this way. He cursed Laura’s attackers, and their connections, over and over again, for putting this feeling in jeopardy, for robbing him of his ability to be with Terri like this. Too many people had already suffered far too much at their hands, both directly and indirectly; he would be damned if he was going to add Terri’s name, and his relationship with her, to that list.

Tonight, he would do anything and everything he could, to erase all doubts from Terri’s mind. She had been unknowingly caught up in this web of malevolence, and Harm was determined to pull her loose from it. Taking her hand in his, and putting his other hand at the small of her back, he led her to her bed, where he laid her down on her back. Confusion on her face, Terri looked at him, as if about to question his action, but Harm shook his head. “Shhh,” he assured her. He sat down at the foot of her bed, and tenderly took hold of her ankle. Leaning down, he placed a kiss on the outside, just the first of a trail of tiny, quiet kisses he would forge as he made his way toward her thigh. He stopped when he reached the hem of her bathrobe, starting again at the bottom, with her other ankle.

Terri had half a mind to protest, and tell him to pick up the pace, but she could tell he had no intention of doing so. Something about his eyes told her she was in for a very long, very erotic night. All Harm had done was kiss her legs, but she could already feel the heat gathering between her legs. Even the thick material of her bathrobe couldn’t hide her nipples, swollen almost painfully from the slow, exquisite torture.

“Harm, please,” she whispered. Even she wasn’t sure what she wanted, but she knew she couldn’t stand much more of this denial.

A deep, masculine chuckle escaped Harm’s lips. Deciding to give Terri a tiny respite, he took her hand, helping her to sit up, and then stand. Her senses on overdrive, every sensation was heightened, from the scent of the jasmine candles, to the soft feel of the plush carpet beneath her feet. It occurred to her that, in this state, depending on what Harm did during the next little while, she might go over the edge and never come back.

Keeping a little bit of distance between them, Harm reached out to untie the belt on Terri’s robe. When the two ends fell loosely to her sides, the robe opened a little, exposing just a hint of Terri’s voluptuous body to Harm’s hungry eyes. Harm reached inside, pushing the robe over her shoulders, and down her arms, until it slipped off, landing in a pool at the floor.

God, she was exquisite. Harm’s eyes drank in every inch of her, from her long, golden hair, to her shapely, womanly curves. Curves that he could not wait to run his hands over. The very thought of doing just that was arousing him even more, but he refused to give in to his own need too quickly. This was for her, he kept reminding himself.

He reached out and placed his hand on her waist, while his other hand explored her shoulder, her arm, until finally he landed his hand on her face again, drawing her to him for another torrid kiss. If not for Harm’s hand on her body, Terri was certain her knees would have buckled, and she would have melted into a puddle on the floor. God, it was incredible, being with him like this again, the feel of his hands roaming her body, the cool, masculine scent of him intoxicating her to a place outside herself.

Listening to Terri whimper every few seconds only spurred Harm on, made him more certain than ever that this was the right thing to do – to erase any doubt from her mind that he was anything but completely, fundamentally in love with her. Through sighs and moans, Terri practically begged Harm to touch her, and, finally, he told himself it was okay to move to the next step. Keeping one hand on her waist, he moved the other to her breast, cupping it so gently, sweeping his thumb over the hardened, straining bud that ached for his attention.

“Mmmmhh…” Terri moaned. Harm froze when he saw a lone tear travel down Terri’s cheek.

“Terri?” he whispered, wondering if he had hurt her.

More tears fell from Terri’s eyes, and she nodded, as she bit her lower lip. “It’s fine, Harm,” she whispered, her voice trembling. “I just…I’ve missed you.”

Harm moved his hands to either side of her face. He looked deeply into her eyes. “Me too, baby. I’m so sorry.” With that, he kissed both of her eyes, then moved lower, covering her mouth again, trying to convey all the love and reassurance he could in a simple kiss.

By now, Terri was aroused to a fever pitch. She could feel the wetness gathering at her core, feel her insides quivering with anticipation. “Harm, please, make love to me,” she invited.

Harm shook his head, causing Terri to panic for just a second, before Harm smiled, and said, “Not yet, beautiful. Not yet.”

“Harm,” Terri said, through the haze of her overwhelming desire, “I know what you’re doing. You don’t have to…”

“Yes, I do,” Harm insisted. “For all the times I haven’t. I love you, honey, and I want to show you.” He caressed her cheek with his thumb. “Do you think you can let me do that?”

Terri nodded, one final tear of pure joy and relief falling from her eye. “I love you, Harm.”

Harm leaned in to kiss her again, more forcefully this time, his tongue exploring her welcoming mouth, feeling like if he kissed her for a thousand years, it wouldn’t be enough time. Unfortunately, the part of his mind that was still capable of conscious thought, told him that if he was ever going to get to the other places on her glorious, irresistible body, then he would have to pull away from her soft, sweet lips.

He finally broke the kiss, and led Terri back to the bed. He undressed himself slowly, watching her curvaceous form the whole time, wondering how on earth he was going to resist plunging himself into her, in order to give her the kind of loving she deserved.

Watching the scene before her, Terri grew more aroused than she ever imagined possible. She was convinced if Harm so much as said her name again, she would feel the waves of pleasure pass through her, and it would all be over. Her whole body begged to feel him inside her, to feel his weight above her, protecting her, driving her to heights she hadn’t known existed before being with this incredible man.

Harm joined her on the bed, stretching out beside her. He gently rolled her onto her back. Lowering himself to her, he took one of her cinnamon nipples into his mouth, circling his tongue around the straining peak. Terri writhed in pleasure from the contact, the moans she was unable to control driving Harm on even further. Continuing to lavish her breast with the attention it had been denied for so long, Harm’s hand found her other breast, his thumb and forefinger rolling the hardened nipple, causing Terri to cry out in even more ecstasy.

Harm’s erection was harder and heavier than he’d ever thought possible, and yet, he was still determined to postpone his own release, in order to prove to Terri, once and for all, that no matter what else was going on in his life, he loved her, and nothing would ever change that. He refused to let himself climax before her. He was so turned on; he knew that once he came, he would collapse for the night, and there was a lot more he wanted Terri to feel before the night was over.

“Harm, please,” Terri begged. She was unconsciously rubbing herself against him, desperately seeking some kind of release from the sweet agony she was in.

“Please, what?” Harm whispered, just before he kissed her again. “Please touch you?” he asked, running his big hand down her side, resting it on her warm mound.

“Mmmhh,” Terri moaned. She bucked at the contact, so close to her throbbing center.

“Please do this?” Harm asked. He ran the soft tip of his middle finger along her soaking wet folds, whispering his touch over her swollen clitoris. Terri cried out; she was convinced Harm had transported her to somewhere else, some other-worldly universe, where nothing existed but the two of them, and the intensity of the heat between them.

“Or maybe you meant this,” Harm pondered aloud. He slipped a long finger inside her, the burning heat warming his whole hand.

“All of it,” Terri panted, “I meant all of it.” Harm slowly slid his finger out of her body, deciding he preferred her reaction when he stroked her fully, his finger making the barest contact with her hard clit. Terri’s hips took on a will all their own, rubbing her center against Harm’s hand, her every thought going to the way it felt to lose herself in this man’s arms, and how she ever could have thought for even one second that he had stopped loving her.

Terri’s cries grew louder and more frequent, and Harm knew she was close to climaxing – the first of many he had in store for her that night. “Don’t fight it,” he told her. “Let it come, baby. We’re not done yet, I promise.”

With that encouragement, Terri bucked harder and faster against Harm’s hand, digging her nails into the skin of his back, trying to latch onto something, to keep herself rooted to this exquisite moment. Her whole body tensed as the orgasm washed over her, her sex pulsating with each wave of pleasure that hit her.

Harm watched closely as Terri experienced the high, and then came down from it. He was addicted to the very sight of her: her flushed skin, her lips, dark and swollen with arousal, parted now, as she gasped for air, breathing through the most stunning orgasm she’d ever had. Harm couldn’t help but think that Terri’s breasts had been neglected for the last few minutes, so, as soon as Terri had regained her equilibrium, he lowered his face to her torso once more, one hand kneading her hip, while the other massaged her breast, making sure he didn’t give her nipple a chance to return to its usual softness. Satisfied that he had accomplished that goal, he switched to the other breast, savoring the feel of the pebbly nipple with his tongue.

Terri was panting, still not fully recovered from her violent climax. “Harm,” she choked out, “you have to stop…I can’t…”

“Sure, you can,” Harm chuckled. “I’ll help you.” With that, Harm started at her lips, and kissed a trail of fire down her neck, down through the valley between her breasts, past her navel, until he arrived at the delicious destination between Terri’s thighs. He used his hands to coax her legs apart, then positioned himself between them. His senses were instantly intoxicated by the scent of sex. The scent of her womanly arousal. The scent of how much she loved him.

“I’m not stopping anything,” Harm told her, as he tickled the curls covering her mound. “In fact, I’m just getting started.” Those were his last words to her before he lowered his mouth to her apex, reaching his tongue out to taste her treasure. His tongue followed the same path his finger had, moving in long, slow swipes, along the length of her folds, pausing for just a second when it reached her clit. He could taste her juices; nothing had ever nourished him the way she had.

“God, Harm, oh, God!” Terri cried, overcome with pleasure, as Harm used his mouth to work her into a frenzy, alternately nibbling and languishing his tongue soothingly over her tight button of pleasure. “Don’t stop,” she begged, even as she felt another climax tear through her. “Please, don’t stop.”

Harm needed no such instruction; he had no intention of stopping – not when he was making Terri feel every bit the beautiful, beloved woman she was to him. Not when she was grinding herself against his face, reveling in every second of gluttonous pleasure he was giving her.

A third orgasm hit Terri on the tail end of the second, and she moaned and screamed over the duration of the intensity. It took several seconds, but when she was finally able to open her eyes, she saw Harm hovering over her, just watching her.

“Do you have any idea how beautiful you are?” he said, his voice unsteady. He brushed a few strands of hair off her sweaty forehead.

Terri’s response was not in words, but in action. Reaching up, she pulled Harm down toward her, fusing their mouths together, and thrusting her tongue into his mouth. She could taste herself on him, and it made her want to please him even more. She didn’t care if Harm had intended for this to be “her night.” She was going to make sure he enjoyed himself, too. While they were still kissing, she snaked her hand between them, reaching for Harm’s long-neglected penis. She wrapped her hand around the engorged shaft, rubbing slowly up and down, swirling her thumb over the straining head.

“Aaaah, Terri, God…” Harm gasped, throwing his head back. Terri continued working her ministrations, alternating hard, fast pressure, with long, slow motions. She worked Harm into a frenzy like he had never known before. He was convinced he would shatter into a million pieces if he wasn’t inside her soon. Even so, a part of him was reluctant to take her. This was supposed to be about her – her pleasure, her feelings – but Harm was so aroused, he knew he wouldn’t be able to take it slow. He needed release, and he needed it quickly. He wanted to be inside Terri when he came, but he didn’t want to hurt her, and he didn’t want to seem selfish.

How, he didn’t know, but Terri seemed to sense what he was thinking. “Take me, Harm,” she told him. “I want you inside me. I need you.”

Harm shook his head. “Baby, I can’t be gentle…I don’t want you to feel…”

Terri took Harm’s hands in hers, lacing their fingers together tightly. “Do it, Harm. Do whatever you need to; I’m with you. It’s okay.”

The weight of a thousand emotions threatened to crush Harm. “I love you so much,” he said, before pulling her in for a kiss. As soon as they separated, he offered her his hand, to pull her up. He turned her around, so her back was to him. Taking her wrists in his, he brought her hands to the headboard, and she followed his unspoken request to grab hold of the brass. He had one hand on her hip, and, one last time, he whispered in her ear, “Are you sure?” Terri nodded immediately. Harm guided his painfully throbbing erection to her opening, entering her from behind. He grabbed her hips, gripping them tightly, guiding the pace as he slid effortlessly into her. Her wet heat enveloped him, welcoming him home. His movements grew more frenzied, his thrusts harder and faster, as he drove into her again and again, her inner walls tight around him. Knowing he was close, he reached around to the front of Terri’s body, his fingers seeking her throbbing apex. Finding her swollen clit, he massaged the tender bundle of nerves until Terri’s moans and squeals reached a high again.

“Now, Harm!” Terri cried. “Now, come with me,” she panted.

Harm’s grip tightened on Terri’s hips. He thrust up once, twice, three more times, and then his body froze. The only thing he was conscious of was the absolute, overwhelming ecstasy of relief, as it passed through him, the pulsations of Terri’s body drawing his seed deep into her core.

Both of them satisfied and utterly exhausted, they collapsed next to each other, and drifted into restful, dreamless sleep.

 

THE FOLLOWING MORNING
(SATURDAY)
0953 EST
TERRI’S CONDO
ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND

 

Harm had gotten up to use the bathroom. When he returned to the bedroom, the bed was empty. He followed the scent of freshly brewing coffee to the kitchen, where a satin nightgown-clad Terri was reaching into the refrigerator for a French vanilla creamer.

Harm walked up to her quietly, doing his best not to alert her to his presence, until he surprised her by wrapping his arms around her from behind.

She gasped, but immediately relaxed in his arms. “I’ve missed you,” she said.

Harm smiled, and leaned over to kiss her bare shoulder. “I was only gone a few minutes.”

“Minty fresh,” Terri said, smiling.

“I brushed my teeth, since I was in there, anyway.”

Terri nodded. She didn’t say anything, but Harm picked up on something in her eyes. “Missing me…” he said tentatively. “You’re talking about more than just now,” he theorized aloud. Terri nodded, then looked away. Hooking his finger under her chin, Harm coaxed her gaze back to his. “I’ve missed you, too, Terri. I don’t know how many times I can say it, before you’ll believe me.”

“Why did this happen, Harm? How did we get to that point, and, more importantly, what can I do to make sure we never get there again?”

Harm sighed. Not again. He thought his session of practically worshipping her would finally erase any doubts she might still have. Clearly, she was harboring more than just some surface fears. Something much deeper was going on inside her. The question was, would she tell him what it was?

“There’s something big on my mind, Terri. You know that; I’ve been telling you about it for weeks.”

“No, Harm,” Terri said. Knowing that they had traveled and re-traveled this territory countless times, all to no avail, she tried to keep her tone gentle and non-accusatory. “You haven’t. You’ve told me something’s going on, but you’ve given me no clue as to what it is. At this point, I’m not even asking for my sake, or our sake, anymore. I’m asking for your sake. I’m worried about you.”

Harm smiled. He brought Terri’s hand to his lips and kissed the back of it. “I know you are, sweetheart, and I love that you care so much. All I can tell you is, it’s something disturbing, and it’s made me…well…making love just can’t be my first priority right now, that’s all. It’s not you, and it’s not us. That’s just the way things are now, but it’ll get better eventually, sweetheart. I promise.”

“Making love isn’t supposed to be a chore,” Terri said.

“Exactly,” Harm replied. “It’s not supposed to be a challenge; it’s supposed to be the most wonderful, passionate, natural thing in the world, and that’s exactly why I haven’t been able to bring myself to share it with you.”

A look of total confusion, and slight offense, marred Terri’s features, and Harm knew at once that Terri had not understood him. He rushed to quell any misconceptions she might have had. He took her hand in his, and brought it to his chest, pressing it against his heart. “Teresa, when I make love to you, I want to focus only on you. I don’t want anything else clouding my mind. When two people make love, they deserve each other’s full attention, and if I can’t give that to you, well, I don’t want to fake it. I don’t want to just go through the motions; you deserve more than that from me. I should be able to focus on you exclusively, in and out of bed, and, lately, I haven’t been able to do that. I do love you, Terri, but there’s something on my plate right now that’s making it difficult for me to show it. It’s going to go away, though. I can’t tell you how soon that’s going to happen, but it will happen.”

“I wish I could believe you,” Terri said.

“Why can’t you?” Harm asked.

“I’m just not wired that way, I suppose,” she answered, tentatively. “Look at it from where I am, Harm: a man, a woman, a great relationship. That adds up to something for me, but, if it doesn’t for you, then, I don’t know…”

“It means more than making love, Terri,” Harm said. “That’s part of the equation, but not the whole thing. You have to know how much I love making love with you, but it’s also not a cure-all for me. It never has been. In fact, sometimes it just makes things worse,” he added, cryptically.

“How so?”

“It takes my focus off of what’s important.”

“Are you saying making love with me isn’t important to you?”

“You know I’m not,” Harm insisted calmly. “It makes my thinking cloudy,” he clarified. “Do you know how many times I’ve caught myself sitting at my desk, while my students are working, and I’ll get to thinking about you, and some of the incredible nights we’ve spent together. Well, before I know it, I can’t stand up, because everyone will see the effect the mere thought of making love to you has on me. I love you to the point of distraction, sweetheart.”

Terri blushed at Harm’s confession, but she offered only a slight smile. “That’s nice,” she said, half-heartedly.

Something in Terri’s tone made Harm uneasy. “But…”

“But it doesn’t make me feel much better,” Terri admitted, a deep sense of regret evident in her voice.

Harm sighed. He knew he was hurting her, and he hated himself for it. “It won’t always be like this, Terri; I promise. Someday, this will all be behind us, and you and I will go back to what we had before.”

“Will we?” The doubt in Terri’s voice was overwhelming.

“Of course we will,” Harm said. “Nothing’s changed about the way I feel, Terri. I love you; I’m just distracted right now, that’s all.”

“Is it all?” she prodded. “Sometimes I think…”

“What?” Harm asked, sensing that they were finally about to get to the heart if things. For a while now, he had sensed there was more to Terri’s fears about their relationship than just the fact that they hadn’t made love like they used to in quite a while.

Terri shook her head. “Nothing. Never mind.”

“Terri, please,” Harm said, taking her hand in his. “Talk to me. Tell me what’s going on in that head of yours.”

“It’s silly.”

“If it means something to you, then it’s not silly.”

Terri sighed deeply. “I guess…I guess I’m just starting to wonder if maybe you’ve finally seen what’s wrong with this picture.”

“What picture?” Harm asked, genuinely clueless as to what Terri was talking about.

“You and me,” Terri answered. “A tall, strong, sexy, make-you-weak-in-the-knees man, with…me.”

Harm’s eyes narrowed. Terri had infused the word, “me,” with all the revulsion a person might use when talking about raw sewage, or nuclear waste, leaking into the groundwater supply. “What are you talking about?” Harm pushed.

“Let’s face it, Harm,” Terri said, “I’m not exactly a supermodel. My uniform pants aren’t the same size they were when I was fresh out of ROTC. I can pass the Navy’s physical fitness test every year, Harm, but I’m not in danger of winning any marathons, or any beauty contests, for that matter.”

Stunned at hearing Terri talk this way about herself, Harm could only stare at her, half shocked, half wanting to shake some sense into her.

“Mac may not be in your life anymore, Harm,” Terri continued, “but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that, for a very long time, you were in love with her. And who could blame you? She’s thin, she’s got legs that go on for a mile, and she has that exotic heritage that comes through just enough to make her gorgeous. You’d have to be blind not to be attracted to her.”

“Terri,” Harm tried to interject, but Terri cut him off.

“But now you’re with me, and I just can’t figure it out. How can you go from a Porsche to a Honda? From the Waldorf-Astoria to a roadside Motel 6? From lobster and truffles to 2-day old, cold pizza?”

“What?” Harm finally said. “Where on earth is this coming from, Terri? And how could you possibly compare yourself to those things? You are a beautiful, intelligent woman, and I love you. I love your heart, your soul, and I love your mind. And, despite what you seem to think about your body, it is gorgeous, and I love that, too. Every single soft, curvy inch of it.”

“Then I suppose that’s why we’ve been having such a hard time lately?” Terri said, with sarcasm. “You love me so much, you can’t even touch me? Harm, just tell me the truth. If you’ve changed your mind about us, and you think I’m unattractive, just tell me. I know you’re trying to do the gentlemanly thing, but, really, I’d rather you just cut me loose, if you don’t want to be with me anymore. I understand completely, Harm, believe me. Do you think I look in the mirror every day, and I’m happy with what I see? You want someone prettier, someone thinner, and I’m just trying to let you know that I understand, and I don’t expect you to stay with me out of some…I don’t know…misguided sense of nobility.”

“What the hell are you talking about?!” Harm said, exasperated. “Terri, I fell in love with you because you’re everything so many other women aren’t: confident, independent, strong-willed, logical, enchanting, sexy, beautiful, mesmerizing…do I need to go on? And now, you’re talking about yourself like you’re nothing, like you have nothing to offer.”

“Well, I don’t.”

“Jesus,” Harm whispered. Did *I* do this to her? He wondered. Had all these weeks of his being distracted actually caused Terri to honestly believe these things about herself? God damn it, he was going to wipe the floor with every last one of those sons of bitches at the Academy, if it was the last thing he ever did. “Terri, I don’t know how many different ways I can say it, and make it get through to you. I love you, and you need to know that when you talk that way about yourself, it hurts me. It hurts me because I love you. Do you understand that when you say those things, you’re insulting the most important person in my life? Plus, you’re insulting me, because you’re saying I’m wasting my time loving someone who’s so terribly undeserving of love. And I don’t know why you’re thinking those things.”

“I’ve thought them for a while, Harm,” Terri confessed. “But it’s been getting worse and worse. I mean, when I can’t hold your attention in bed anymore, what am I supposed to think?”

“You’re supposed to think that something’s going on at the Academy right now, and that it’s in your best interest to know as little about it as possible. You’re supposed to think that I’m trying to keep you out of it, because it’s snowballing, and pretty soon, it’s going to be an all-out avalanche, and I’m doing my damndest to keep you out of its path.”

“Then, why is it so much easier for me to think of the other possibility – that you’ve finally realized you could have Helen of Troy on your arm, and instead, you’ve wasted the past six months being with me?”

“I…I wish I knew where this was coming from, Terri. You’ve never talked about yourself that way before. I mean, I never knew you felt that way.”

“I don’t, usually. But things are different now.”

“How so?”

“Well, for one thing, you and I are together.”

“So? What does that have to do with it?”

Terri looked away from him and smiled. “I just…I feel like people will look at us, at you and me, and wonder what someone who looks like you is doing with someone who looks like me.”

Harm looked at her as if she were speaking Chinese. “Are you crazy? Terri, you’re incredibly beautiful. Don’t you know that? “What people will *really* be thinking is, ‘What on earth is that incredibly intelligent, talented, and utterly stunning woman, doing with that washed-up, middle-aged, completely unremarkable man?”

“Middle-aged, huh?” Terri teased, feeling a little bit better.

Harm offered a sly smile. “That doesn’t mean I couldn’t give a younger guy a run for his money.”

“I think I might need a little convincing,” Terri intimated. Cupping Harm’s face in her hand, she ran her thumb along Harm’s lips.

“What the heck was that all about, anyway?” he asked her.

Blushing, Terri offered a slight shrug. “Temporary insanity?”

“You’ve got that right,” Harm said, pulling Terri close to him, his hands resting on her hips through the satin of the nightgown she put on when she had awoken during the night. “Because you’d have to be insane to feel that way about yourself.”

Terri smiled. “Well, I think you did a very good job of convincing me of my…merits.”

Harm chuckled. “Your ‘merits,’ huh?” he teased, running his hands slowly up her torso, resting them on her breasts. “Then how come every time I think about your ‘merits,’ all I want to do is turn you into a bad girl?”

Terri chuckled. “I was wondering…”

“Yes?” Harm asked, his tone rising.

“Do you think this coffee would taste better in the bedroom?”

Terri could feel Harm smile against the back of her neck, his warm breath fanning her exposed skin. “I think it warrants further study, Commander,” he said. “Let’s go find out.”

“You’re not too tired? You worked pretty hard last night, sailor.”

Harm’s eyes flashed with a devilish glint that Terri had not seen in weeks – with the exception of last night, of course. “I was just getting warmed up.” With that, he grabbed Terri, settled her comfortably in his arms, and headed out of the kitchen, toward the bedroom.

“What about the coffee?” Terri reminded him.

“Forget the coffee,” Harm told her. “I promise, I’ll wake you up in a much more…interesting way than caffeine ever could.”

 

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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