Title: Could I Have This Dance?
Classification: Nathan and Kristin romance
Disclaimers: Amblin owns them.
“Could I have this dance?” Nathan asked the woman in front of him. He couldn’t remember the last time he had been so nervous about a simple dance. He saw the hesitation in her eyes. “Please?”
Kristin Westphalen didn’t want to dance with Nathan Bridger. In fact she had just bid Lucas a Happy Birthday and was leaving the beach party that the Noyce’s were hosting. But something about Nathan’s little boy look reached deep inside her just as it always did.
“All right, but only one dance.”
Nathan led Kristin to a quiet corner of the dance area and took her in his arms. The band was playing a slow song just as he had requested.
“You look so beautiful,” He told her and indeed she did. Her burnished hair was piled loosely atop her head with just a few wisps escaping. Kristin wore a dark blue summer dress that clung to her figure and enhanced her creamy skin. The dress was sleeveless and cut low across her ample bosom. Long legs stretched from the mid thigh length hem to delicate feet encased in matching sandals.
“Thank you” she answered graciously but Nathan could hear the tightness in her voice. “You look well.”
Nathan knew she was trying to make polite conversation but he only had a few minutes before the song ended. “I’m sorry, Kris. I am so stupid. I know that you never slept with Scott. I don’t know why I thought that you did. I know it doesn’t matter any more but I needed to tell you.”
Kristin stiffened in his arms. “No, it doesn’t matter. I guess neither one of us lived up to the fantasy we had of the other. Let’s just leave all of that where it belongs, in the past.”
Nathan did not respond but used the silent time to enjoy the feel of her in his arms. They’d been apart just less than a year but he missed her tremendously. Nathan had forgotten how complete he felt whenever she was near. He tightened his embrace to press her more fully against him. His head bent so that his lips could reach her neck to nuzzle it. Her head fell to the side allowing him greater access. His hand slipped down her back to cup her rounded bottom and a soft moan escaped her lips.
“Shit!” Kristin abruptly pulled away from him and wrapped her arms around her chest. “I have to go. I’m sorry.” She turned and moved quickly through the crowd to climb the path away from the beach.
“Damn!” Nathan swore softly to himself. He wanted her back in his life so desperately and he knew that he hadn’t imagined her response. As he moved to follow her he felt something sticky across his chest and looked down. The front of his casual button-down was soaking wet, just where Kristin’s chest had pressed into his.
Warning bells began to go off in Nathan’s mind as he processed this information. Once he reached the edge of the path he took off at a run. The lights fell away as he reached the Noyce’s back yard but he saw Kristin slip into their back door. Nathan sprinted after her hoping that she wasn’t just walking out the front door. Nathan was moving so quickly through the house that he didn’t see the elderly woman step down from the staircase and almost hit her. He grabbed the woman to steady her and apologized profusely.
“You should be more careful young man.” The lady told him. She stared at him a moment and then her face broke into a smile. “But of course you are in a hurry. Don’t worry. You’re lady has already gone upstairs. She’s released me for the night so I’m on my way home. May I say that you have beautiful eyes, just like your son’s.”
Nathan’s heart leapt as the woman unknowingly confirmed his suspicions. He politely helped her to the door then turned to bound up the stairs three at a time. Once he reached the top he stopped. Only one door showed a sliver of light beneath it so he moved there and listened. He could hear noise from the inside so he carefully turned the knob and pushed the door open.
The dark blue dress lay in a puddle on the floor, the bodice made darker by dampness. Kristin had thrown a robe around her body and now sat in the middle of the double bed with a small baby in each arm. One of the infants was firmly latched on to her breast and feeding hungrily but the other one appeared to be asleep.
“Please wake up sweetheart!” Kristin was begging the child. “Mummy needs for you to wake up and eat.” She jostled the child in her arm in an effort to awaken him but only succeeded in dislodging the feeding child. “I’m sorry.” She shushed the now crying baby while trying to maneuver it back into position.
“Do you have to feed them both at the same time?” Kristin’s head popped up to see Nathan standing in the doorway.
She glared at him. “Not now Nathan. Please?” She went back to pleading with the child. Nathan saw the glimmer of a tear in her eye and realized that she was in pain.
“You’re hurt! What’s wrong?”
Nathan could hear the discomfort in Kristin’s voice as she replied. “I should have fed them before I went down to the beach but they were asleep. I waited too long to come back and my breasts got too full.”
“I noticed.” Nathan pointed to the front of his shirt.
“You shouldn’t have grabbed my ass. I do normally feed them separately but I need to relieve the pressure.”
“Does it hurt that bad?”
“How do you feel when you’re all filled up and can’t get relief?” She aimed a pointed gaze at his trouser zipper.
Nathan smiled at the memory of some of the techniques Kristin had used to help him under those circumstances.
“What can I do to help?”
Kristin eyed him suspiciously for a moment but she knew she needed assistance. “Try to wake him up please. Tickle his feet gently or get a wet cloth to wash his face.”
Nathan sat down on the bed and pulled the blankets away from the sleeping infant. He gently tickled the baby’s feet and was rewarded with a small mewling sound as the child began to flail his arms and pull his feet away from the stimulus. One dark blue eye opened up to stare intently at Nathan before the small mouth yawned. Kristin tried to maneuver the baby into position while Nathan went to get the wet rag. Nathan gently wiped the baby’s face causing him to cry out. The tiny mouth began to purse but he didn’t latch on.
“Why doesn’t he eat? He looks hungry.”
Kristin gave Nathan an amused look. “He takes a little coaxing. Jamie doesn’t seem to have the same affinity for my chest that his father did.”
“Does.” Nathan replied as he bent to press a gentle kiss on the top of Kristin’s swollen breast. “He just needs a few lessons.” He shifted around the bed so that Kristin sat between his legs with her back pressed firmly to his chest. One tanned hand slipped around to support her breast, guiding the distended nipple between his second and third finger to hold it firmly. The other hand helped her move the baby into a better position. Jamie latched on to the proffered nipple immediately and began to suckle like mad.
Kristin breathed a sigh of relief as the pressure began to ease off. “Ugh! You’re wet.” She pulled away from his chest.
“And whose fault is that?” Nathan asked as he unbuttoned his shirt and pulled it off. He settled her back against him and wrapped his arms beneath hers to help her support the feeding infants.
“You want to tell me about them?”
Kristin leaned her head back to that she could see Nathan’s eyes. “I’ve tried to tell you about them for the last nine months. You don’t seem to want to listen.”
Nathan blushed when he remembered the messages that he’d ignored. “I’m a fool. We’ve already established that, but I’m here now and ready to listen.” Kristin saw the sincerity in his eyes.
“I don’t really know where to start.”
“How about with an introduction. I apparently have two children but I only know the first name of one of them. Not to mention how old are they, their likes and dislikes, what sex are they…”
Kristin leaned her head to one side to indicate the baby in that arm. “Jamie you’ve already met. He is nine weeks and five days old. He likes to sleep. He dislikes my breast, as you have already seen.”
“He just needs his old man to explain a few things to him. He’ll come around. Hell, your breast intimidated me too the first time I saw them."
“Ha ha. This is Madeleine Isabella Westphalen. I call her Maddy. She is nine weeks and five days old minus twenty minutes. She likes to sleep…and eat. She is a bit more temperamental than her brother but they are both very good babies.”
Nathan shifted the blanket so that he could get a better look at Maddy. Her deep brown eyes were wide open and her hair was the color of burnished copper. “Pleased to meet you Maddy. Kris…why didn’t you give them my name?”
“I guess that technically I did. You are listed as father on their birth certificates but since you didn’t seem to want to have anything to do with us it is easier to use Westphalen.”
Nathan’s hands splayed across Kristin’s flat abdomen. “You must have been beautiful carrying my babies.”
“I looked like a beached whale the last few months.”
“I don’t believe that. You couldn’t have gained much weight. Carol took a year to lose all her weight from Robert. You aren’t carrying any extra pounds.”
“Except up top. I gained thirty pounds. James weighed five pounds 9 ounces and Maddy weighed five pounds 7 ounces. I’ve burned up the rest trying to keep up with feeding two of them.”
“Wouldn’t it be easier to bottle feed them?”
“Probably but I enjoy breast feeding, well most of the time. Mother’s milk helps increase their immunity and it helps create a special bond. I’ll have to wean them soon if I go back to work.”
“Is that why you are here?”
“We flew in for Lucas’s birthday party but Bill has made me an offer to do research with the UEO. The university gives me a lot of flexibility but not a lot of challenge. If the UEO is willing to work with me about the children I have to give their offer serious consideration.”
“Where would you be stationed?”
“I’d be here in New Cape Quest. You’d be able to see the children whenever you were in port. If you want to see them I mean. I don’t expect anything from you.”
“Not want to see my kids? God Kris. I thought you knew me better than that. From this moment on I’m a their dad. Two hundred percent.”
Kristin swallowed hard. “We will work something out…” She was cut off as Maddy finished feeding and began whimpering. Nathan’s hand moved to cup Kristin’s breast as he had before but she shrugged him off. “I think she’s full. Could you help me put her on my shoulder? She needs to be burped.”
“I can do better than that.” Nathan shifted slightly so one of his shoulders was free then he took the baby from Kristin’s arm and placed her against him and began to pat gently. “Am I doing this okay? It’s been a long time.”
“You are doing just fine. I…thank you for your help. I’m used to doing things on my own but it’s nice…”
“You don’t have to do things on your own anymore Baby.” Maddy chose that moment to reward Nathan’s gentle patting with a loud burp before cuddling into his shoulder and closing her eyes. “She definitely takes after her old man in that regard.”
“Why don’t you put her in the bed? She needs to fall asleep laying down or she’ll wake up when you move her.”
Nathan laid the baby in the crib just as Kristin instructed him then stood guard over her until she fell asleep. Jamie finished nursing and burped for his mother. Nathan wandered around the room simply observing as Kristin crooned a wordless melody to the dark headed baby as she rocked him. Nathan found the entire scenario very seductive – his daughter asleep in the crib, his son cuddled in his mother’s arms. Suddenly Nathan realized that he didn’t want to leave them. He wanted to be a part of the scene. When Jamie was finally asleep Nathan moved to lift him from Kristin’s arms.
“Will he wake up?”
Kristin shook her head. “He could sleep through an air raid.”
Nathan settled the child into the crib then walked back to the bed and sat down in front of Kristin. She didn’t speak to him but simply watched his movements. Nathan reached over and picked up the damp rag he had used to wake Jamie. He ran it carefully across Kristin’s chest washing dried milk and baby spit from first one nipple then the other.
“Does this hurt?” He whispered.
She shook her head. “Not if you’re gentle.” Nathan noticed that she was breathing harder. He dropped the rag on the side table and bent his head until his lips touched the topmost swell of her left breast. He could feel the tenseness in her body as he lovingly circled the globe with his mouth, the circles growing ever smaller until he reached the aerole of her nipple. He flicked his tongue lightly across the erect peak before moving to the other breast and repeating the action.
Nathan’s lips moved lightly up Kristin’s throat to her jaw line and began nibbling. A soft moan escaped from her lips and her hands moved to cup his head. Nathan took that as ascent and gently pressed her backwards until she lay on the bed with him on top of her. He moved to taste her bottom lip as his hands found the sash of her robe and undid the knot. Nathan pushed the robe to the side and brought his lower body into contact with hers. Her hips pressed upward into the hard bulge of his arousal and she opened her mouth to him. Their tongues dueled, parry and thrust, in imitation of the movements their hips were making.
When Nathan’s mouth traveled back to her neck Kristin attacked his shoulder with lips and tongue while her hands strayed lower and fought to rid Nathan of the cloth barrier between them. Kristin whimpered when Nathan rolled away from her to stand by the bed. He placed a finger on her lips and groaned as she took it between her teeth and began to lave the tip with her tongue. Nathan’s free hand quickly undid his belt and divested himself of the remainder of his clothes. Kristin’s eyes roamed over his body increasing his desire to a fevered pitch. When he was completely undressed he grasped Kristin’s arms and pulled her to her knees to capture her mouth while his hands quickly removed her robe and panties. Once they were both completely nude Nathan pulled Kristin flush against his body. His hands roamed up and down her bare back, one stopping to knead her round bottom. He could feel her moisture on his thigh as she rubbed desperately against him. He dragged his mouth to her ear.
“Is it okay to…the babies?”
Kristin ran a hand between them to grasp his erection as she nodded. “Please?” She whispered. “I’ve missed you. I need you so much.” Nathan could feel her need emanating from her entire body and he knew his was just as great. He placed a knee on the bed and gasped to feel her straddle it and begin to ride.
“God!” He groaned and pressed her back into the mattress, his hands caressing her breasts as he settled between her thighs and slid into her. She arched against him and moaned, a mini climax shaking her body. Nathan wanted to go slow, to savor their first time together in a year but Kristin wouldn’t let him. Or perhaps she couldn’t. She wrapped her long legs around his hips and locked her ankles together to hold him tightly to her. Nathan had no choice but to follow since he was as wild for her as she was for him. They rode the peaks together, voices crying out in unison, as they came with intensity neither of them had ever felt before.
Nathan collapsed against Kristin, both of them breathing heavily. He rolled to his back carrying her with him, still embedded deep within her. They shared lazy kisses as Nathan pulled the pins out of the upswept hair do he had ruined.
“You’ve let it grow longer. I like it.”
“I’ve haven’t had a lot of free time to keep up with things like hair appointments. It seems like I just get one of the babies fed and asleep and the other one is hungry. I don’t know why I thought I could stay so long at the party. Maddy should wake up in about an hour so maybe I can get her fed before Jamie wakes up. He always takes longer to get started.”
“I noticed. I’m gonna have a talk with him.”
Kristin laughed. “You think that a father and son talk about nursing will solve all of his problems!”
“It’s all in the presentation. I’ll bet if you put on a certain black lace teddy he’d come around. There’s got to be something of me inside him.”
Nathan felt Kristin’s inner muscles clench around him and he involuntarily pushed his hips up as he began to harden. “I don’t know about Jamie but there is definitely something of you inside me.” Kristin whispered as she caught Nathan’s lips in a searing kiss and he felt his desire rising again. She pushed herself upright until she was sitting across Nathan’s hips and began to gently rock, clenching and unclenching as she did so. Nathan reached for her but she pushed his arms back down to the bed and shook her head.
Nathan lay back and watched Kristin as she moved slowly. Her hands stroked the silky gray hair on his chest, pausing occasionally to rub his hard nipples. Kristin leaned over and lightly rubbed her tongue along Nathan’s lips and allowed her nipples to brush his chest.
Nathan moaned. He needed to touch her but she kept pushing his hands away, intent on being in control. Kristin sat straight up and used her knees to lift herself away from his hips until just his very tip remained inside of her. Nathan pushed up frantically but she wouldn’t let him go deeper within her. Her mouth took on a wicked curve as she enjoyed his distress. Kristin moved one of her hands away from Nathan’s chest to her own knee and began to draw it up her leg with tantalizing slowness. She reached her hip and paused to stroke the nest of russet curls and caress the length of Nathan’s arousal still joining them. Nathan’s breath was coming in short bursts and he couldn’t take his eyes off of the woman who was tormenting him so wonderfully. Her moisture dripped down him as her hand continued its upward path, pausing to circle her navel before continuing up her rib cage to cup a heavy breast. Kristin’s thumb played with her nipple gently and Nathan’s breath rushed from his lungs as a small drop of milk formed on the peak before slipping slowly down. His tongue licked his lips mimicking his desire to lick her breast. Kristin noticed the gesture and used her index finger to catch the straying droplet. She carried the finger to Nathan’s lips and he pulled it into his mouth thrilling in the taste of her milk and her desire that lingered on her fingers.
“Please Kristin!” Nathan begged. Unable to stand it any longer he grabbed Kristin’s hips and slammed her down onto him until he filled her completely. Kristin’s back arched and she whimpered. She began to move wildly on top of Nathan, his hands continuing to help her along. Kristin screamed his name as she came with earth shattering force and Nathan joined her seconds later.
The frantic pounding at the door startled them both.
“Kristin! Are you okay?” Janet shouted from the other side.
Nathan rolled off the bed and grabbed for his trousers as Kristin searched for her robe. She spied it on the other side of the room and moved toward it as the pounding continued.
“Let me in Kristin? Are you all right?” The doorknob shook vigorously.
Kristin had just managed to get her arms into the robe when a loud wail sounded from the crib. She looked at Nathan and threw her hands in the air before crossing to lift a screaming Maddy to her shoulder.
“Hell!” Nathan muttered as he walked to the door and threw it open. Janet stood there in mid knock.
“I heard you scream and…” she trailed off as she took in the sight before her. Although both Nathan and Kristin were partially clothed their appearance and the tumbled bedclothes left little doubt as to what they had been doing. “Nathan! I…I’m sorry…I didn’t…” Janet turned and took off down the hall.
Nathan closed the door and leaned against it “Well, I guess we gave her an eyeful didn’t we?”
“Or perhaps an earful. I didn’t realize I was so loud…” Kristin discarded her robe and climbed beneath the rumpled sheets. Maddy was obviously hungry again because she had latched on and was suckling vigorously.
Nathan’s pants hit the floor as he maneuvered in behind Kristin in much the same position, as he had been the last time she was nursing. “She should have slept longer shouldn’t she?”
Kristin nodded and Nathan could see the tenseness in her neck. “They never sleep more than a few hours. Maddy is much more sensitive to surrounding noise than Jamie. God, that feels good!” Kristin sighed as Nathan began to massage the tight muscles in her neck and shoulders.
“When do you sleep Kristin?”
“Whenever they do. I catch a nap here and there. Reminds me of my days as a resident. You learn to survive on power naps. Cynthia visits often to try and help me and Katie has come once or twice but there are some things they just can’t do.” She looked down at Maddy.
Nathan’s hand smoothed the baby girl’s silky curls. “They are so beautiful Kristin. I can’t believe that I’m a dad again. I want…I want everything for these two. We are going to be the best parents. We’re going to have to have more room. Do we need to buy a new place or add on to mine?” Nathan’s mind was racing as different ideas began to pop into his head.
“Nathan…” Kristin spoke gently but he didn’t seem to hear her.
“We can add two rooms at the end of the hall…”
“Nathan!” This time Kristin spoke more forcefully. Nathan stopped speaking and stared at her, not liking the look he saw in her face. “I’m willing to work with you as far as visitation but…”
“Visitation? Kris, I want us to get married, to be together all the time.”
Kristin shook her head, a tear coming to her eye. “What about what I want? Do you have any idea how badly you hurt me? When you accused me of sleeping with Scott Keller and walked away from me I almost died. You didn’t even look back. I can’t just forget that!”
“What the hell was this all about then?”
“You started it.” Kristin’s voice was growing louder. “I’ve been lonely since you left and I’ve never been able to resist your touch but how do I know that it won’t happen again? You had no reason to think I’d been unfaithful to you. I told you more about my failed marriages than I’ve ever told anyone. How dare you think that I could do to you what they did to me?” Kristin slumped against him, hating herself for the tears seeping from her eyes. “If we don’t trust each other then we don’t have anything.”
Maddy apparently only wanted a short snack because she let go of the nipple and smacked her lips.
“I don’t know why I thought that, why I did what I did, and I know I hurt you but I will spend the rest of my life trying to make that up to you.” Nathan took the baby out of Kristin’s arms and returned her to the crib. Once she was sleeping he turned back to the bed to find that Kristin had slumped down against the pillows and closed her eyes. He climbed in beside her and pulled her into his embrace.
“Kris, answer one question for me, honestly. Do you still love me?”
Kristin didn’t open her eyes but she finally replied. “I shouldn’t but yes, I still love you.”
Nathan relaxed against the pillow. “That’s the most important thing. We’ll figure every thing else out, I swear.”
The sunlight shining on her face woke Kristin. She sat up with a start knowing that she had over slept. Her robe was thrown over the foot of the bed and she wrapped it around herself before checking on the babies. Kristin breathed a sigh of relief to find that they were both were fast asleep in their crib. The bedroom door creaked as it opened and Nathan appeared carrying a tray.
“Good morning Sleeping Beauty.”
Kristin blushed. “What time is it? Why are they still asleep? They must be starving.” Even as Kristin said the words she realized that she wasn’t uncomfortable, her breasts weren’t full.
“It’s just after 8 in the morning. I suspect that you haven’t slept this late in nine weeks and six days. Are you hungry? I’ve got breakfast.”
The smell of coffee sent Kristin’s stomach rumbling. Nathan uncovered the tray to reveal a full breakfast and Kristin’s mouth began to water. She climbed back into the bed where Nathan joined her, placing the tray between them. He poured her a cup of coffee and she sighed in contentment at the first sip.
“I really shouldn’t drink this you know. Caffeine makes them wild. But God it is so good.”
Nathan snorted. “I don’t really see where a little extra caffeine would make much difference. How do you do it Kris? They were up every two hours and never at the same time.”
Kristin eyed the crib. “They did wake up. Why don’t I remember? What did you feed them?”
“Like you said, there are certain things that only you can do. I just helped them hang on.”
“You mean you brought them to the bed and…hooked me up while I was asleep?”
“You were so tired. There wasn’t any point in waking you up. Oh, I had a little talk with Jamie about three this morning and I think you will find him much more receptive now. Come on Kristin don’t be angry. You needed the rest. When was the last time you slept eight hours? When was the last time you sat down and ate a meal?”
“I don’t remember.” Kristin confessed grudgingly. “They are just babies. They require a lot of care.”
“You aren’t going to be any good to them if you exhaust yourself. Why don’t you come out to the house today? We can introduce the kids to Lucas and to Darwin. We can take all of their stuff and you can stay there. I ship out tomorrow but there is no reason why you can’t stay at the house.”
“I’m not expecting anything. If you decide to take the UEO job then you need someplace to stay. Why should you have to hunt for a new place when mine sits there empty most of the time? At least try if for a little while. You do want to take the position don’t you?”
Kristin reluctantly nodded. “I enjoy teaching but I’d really like to devote more time to research. I just don’t know Nathan. I don’t want to give you the wrong impression.”
“I know that things just aren’t going to become magically right again but we love each other Kris. Give us a chance. Can’t we at least try?”
“For the children?”
“For us, for you and me. For the kids too but mostly for us. Why did I ask you to dance last night? Why did you let me hold you, kiss you? I didn’t know about the kids then but I wanted you back. The babies just add to the deal. Look, I am not trying to push you or pressure you. All I’m asking is that you spend the day with me. I’d like for you to have a lazy peaceful day. I’ll even change all the dirty diapers.”
“ALL of them?”
“Every single one of them, I promise.”
“How can a girl resist an invitation like that? We’ll spend the day at the beach house, but that is all I’m promising.”
“It’s a start, Babe. It’s a start.”
Nathan began to laugh as he pulled the car to a stop beside the beach house that he and Lucas shared, that Kristin had once shared before he’d been such a fool.
“And what, pray tell, do you find so amusing?” Kristin eyed him suspiciously.
“I was thinking about Lucas. Boy is he going to be surprised! Maybe I’ll teach him how to change diapers!”
“Do you think he’ll be okay? He always felt a bit threatened by our relationship.”
“He’s grown up a lot in the last year. You saw how excited he was to see you at his party last night. He blames me because you left. It was my fault but I never told him how stupid I was. Isn’t that crazy? I knew the whole idea was so ludicrous that I couldn’t repeat it to anyone else. I never even said anything to Scott.”
Kristin didn’t answer. She climbed out of the car and moved to the back seat to begin disconnecting baby carriers. Nathan came to help and in moments both infants were free. Kristin grabbed two large diaper bags and Nathan hoisted a carrier onto each arm.
“Into the fray?” Kristin asked.
Nathan nodded and they began to tackle the stairs with their burden. About half way up Nathan groaned. “I could have an elevator installed.”
“Come on, they don’t weigh that much. Would you like for me to carry them?”
“Ha ha. Just go open the door.”
Nathan was sitting the baby carriers on the floor when Lucas burst into the room. “Captain! I was worried. You didn’t tell me you weren’t coming home…DOC!” Lucas hurried to Kristin’s side and wrapped her in a bear hug.
“Sorry, kiddo. I didn’t plan on not coming home but I got sidetracked.” Nathan smiled at the glare that Kristin shot at him. He even missed those. “We have some company for the day if you don’t mind.” Nathan gestured to the baby carriers on the floor.
Lucas’s eyes grew round as he stared into deep blue eyes and dark brown eyes. Both babies regarded him with interest as he dropped to the floor in front of them. “Oh man, this is so cool! What are their names? Can I hold them?”
Kristin knelt beside them and helped Lucas undo Jamie’s harness while Nathan freed Maddy. Once Lucas had the baby safely cuddled in his arms she introduced them. “Nathan is holding Madeleine Isabella, Maddy.”
“That’s a great name doc. Where did it come from?”
“Madeleine is Janet Noyce’s middle name.” Nathan spoke quietly and Kristin nodded before continuing.
“Isabella is my mother’s name.”
“And this one?” Nathan looked at the infant he was holding as if it would break.
“Jamie, James William.”
“Look at his hands. I think he’s gonna be a shortstop. I can’t wait to get him his first glove. Hey, this makes me kind of an big brother doesn’t it?” Lucas stopped short, realizing that perhaps he was taking too many liberties but both Nathan and Kristin smiled at him.
“That is exactly what is makes you.” Kristin told him and Lucas blushed with pleasure.
“I’m glad you feel that way brother because you and I have work to do.” Both Lucas and Kristin looked at Nathan in confusion. “We have baby junk to get out of the trunk, we have lunch to prepare and we are going to set up some sort of shelter on the beach so that Kristin can relax this afternoon without the twins burning to a crisp. You up for it?”
Lucas was already headed for the door. “Hey!” Nathan called and pointed. Lucas quickly moved back to hand Jamie to his mother with a sheepish grin before taking off again.
Nathan turned to Kristin. “Yeah, I think he is going to be okay with us and the kids. But any one can clearly see that those are the hands of a catcher.”
Kristin felt very spoiled. Nathan waited on her hand and foot and Lucas was almost as bad. Every time one of the children had whimpered either Nathan or Lucas was there to pick them up and soothe them. Nathan made a fabulous lunch and Kristin ate until she was uncomfortable. Her appetite had been very sparse since the babies had been born and she’d basically eaten only because she knew she had to. But every thing that Nathan fed her seemed to taste fabulous.
A ramshackled shelter of umbrellas and bamboo curtains was constructed on the beach and the children slept peacefully inside while Kristin lazed in the sun. She’d been secretly pleased to notice Nathan checking her out in her swimsuit and if she was honest she had to admit that she’d been checking him out in his. Nathan had caught her inspection and grinned like a little boy. The warm sun helped to relax her and she drifted off to sleep.
One of the babies whimpered and Nathan quickly realized that he had a severe diaper situation on his hands. He sent Lucas to the house for a replacement but the boy didn’t know enough about babies to bring the wipes as well. Darwin chattered noisily near the shore and Nathan got an idea.
Kristin woke from her much needed nap to find both of her children missing. She jumped to her feet and looked up at the house before turning to the beach.
Nathan flinched. “I think we’re busted!”
He and Lucas were standing in the ocean, water chest high, each holding a laughing infant tightly to their chests. Darwin swam around and between them, being very careful not to splash any water on them. Occasionally he would swim up close and gently bump a baby foot with his snout.
Lucas looked at Nathan as an angry red head strode toward the water. “Should we make a break for it?”
“Normally I’d say yes but they can’t swim yet. Don’t worry. Every thing will be my fault. I can assure you of that.”
Kristin was knee deep in water by that time. “What in the HELL do you think you are doing? Get them out of there. You could drop them and they could drown. They can’t take the sun. Their skin is too delicate; they’re probably burnt to a crisp.”
grinned sheepishly as he approached Kristin and held out the naked infant. “We
had to. Lucas forgot to bring the wipes
and we had to clean Jamie some way. I
couldn’t just leave Maddy out. She
would have been jealous and besides, Darwin wanted to meet them.”
Kristin held the baby close and noticed a distinctive coconut smell. “You put suntan lotion on them.”
Nathan nodded. “We’ve only been out about ten minutes. We were about to bring them back in. They had the best time. They love the ocean.”
“Of course they do Nathan. Can you imagine any child of ours not loving the ocean?” Nathan’s heart leapt at the very genuine smile on Kristin’s face.
“Ew, Gross!” Nathan and Kristin turned to find Jamie enjoying his diaperless time by peeing all over Lucas.
Kristin tried to hide a yawn as the movie ended but Nathan felt it emanate through her body, as she lay curled against him. Lucas was sprawled on the floor in front of them keeping a close watch on both of the sleeping babies.
“They sure sleep a lot don’t they?”
“Babies normally sleep a great deal when they are small. Remember that they are only two and a half months old. I promise you by the next time you get leave they will be a lot more responsive.” Kristin groaned. “I can barely keep up with them now. God knows what I’ll do when they are more active.”
“We need to hire a nanny. What about that lady who kept them last night?”
“Mrs. Selkirk? She seemed very competent but I’m not sure about leaving them with just anyone.”
“Are you going to take them to the lab with you? You know you need some help.”
“I’ll think about it.” Kristin promised then yawned again.
Nathan stood and scooped her into his arms. “You need to get some sleep. Lucas watch the twins until I get back.”
Nathan carried Kristin into the bedroom and sat her on the side of the bed. He reached into the closet and pulled out a suitcase that she recognized. He saw the anger rising in her eyes and cut her off before she could speak.
“It didn’t make any sense for you to go back to Bill and Janet’s tonight. I wanted to spend as much time with you as I could and Bill would probably shoot me if I tried to stay there again. I’m surprised I lived through last night. If you decide that you want to go back in the morning I’ll take you but at least I can be here to help you again tonight. I’ll even sleep on the sofa if that’s what you want. No pressure, Kris.”
“Why do you always make such bloody good sense? What about the babies?”
Nathan pointed to the portable crib that he and Lucas had set up in the corner. “Why don’t you get ready for bed and I’ll get the kids settled.
Kristin moved to the bathroom and quickly changed into her nightclothes. She washed her makeup from her face then stared in the mirror reflectively. Her body had recovered very well from the birth. If anything she was too thin but she knew that her body was pulling every thing that it could to make enough milk for two. Her face looked tired and her eyes showed her turmoil. Nathan was being so wonderful and she was finding it difficult to hold him at arms length emotionally. She wanted so desperately to believe that they might have another chance at happiness but she couldn’t just forget what had happened before. Could she?
“Why do I still have to love him so much?” She whispered to herself. But she knew there was no answer, no explanation. She just did. Kristin loved Nathan as she had never loved any other man in her life. She sighed and shook her head before returning to the bedroom. Jamie lay in the crib sleeping peacefully and Nathan was just entering the door with Maddy in his arms.
“She woke up when I moved her. Do you want to try to nurse her before I put her down?” Kristin nodded and settled into the bed with the baby while Nathan changed into his pajamas. A quiet knock came at the door and Kristin draped a blanket across her shoulder to cover her breast before Nathan let Lucas in. The boy blushed when he realized what Maddy was doing beneath the blanket.
“I’m sorry to bother you.” Lucas stammered. “I just wanted to say good night and how happy I am to have you back here Kristin. You and the babies. I wish…well, I am just glad. They make me feel even more like I’m part of a family.”
Kristin beckoned Lucas to her and placed a kiss on his forehead. “We are a family Lucas. Maybe not the most traditional kind but that doesn’t make us any less special. You try to get some rest. Close your door tightly so the kids won’t wake you up.”
“I can sleep through almost anything.” Lucas moved toward the door but paused just before he exited. “Doc, are you going to stay?”
“We’ll see how things work out Lucas.” He nodded and left the room, carefully closing the door behind him.
“Is that a yes or a no?” Nathan asked quietly.
“It’s a maybe. I’ve been a single parent and I don’t really want to do it again if I don’t have to.”
Nathan gripped her shoulders and pressed a gentle kiss to her lips. “We will make it work, Kris. I know we can do it.” Maddy finished nursing and Nathan placed her in the crib and kissed her head gently. “I’ll leave the door open so that I can hear them, okay?”
“That won’t be necessary.” Kristin flipped the bed covers beside her down and patted the mattress. Nathan slipped in beside her and she turned into his embrace and captured his lips in a passionate kiss.
Kristin swore as the vid link chirped. She shifted her nursing daughter and grabbed a blanket to drape over her chest. Kristin saw the seaQuest logo and her face lit up but she didn’t care. Nathan and Lucas had only been gone for two days but she missed them terribly. Nathan broke into a big smile the moment the screen popped on.
“Hey Baby. God, I miss you. How are you doing?”
“Everything here is the same. We eat, we poop, we sleep, we do it all again. Both of the babies are doing wonderfully. I don’t know what you said to your son but it seems to have worked. He’s more eager than Maddy to eat now.”
Nathan’s eyes shifted down to the lump beneath the blanket. “Could I see?”
“We aren’t on the main viewer are we? I am rather particular about showing off my assets to just anyone. Especially that Mr. Piccolo that I met at Lucas’s party.”
“I’m in my quarters, alone. Lucas may stop by a bit later but I wanted to speak to you privately. I haven’t told anyone else here yet. I thought you might want some time to settle in before…” Nathan’s voice trailed off as Kristin pulled the blanket away to reveal the baby nursing at her breast. “You are so beautiful.” He whispered. “I wish I was there with you. I miss you so much Baby.”
Kristin’s heart warmed at the endearment. “I miss you too.”
They chatted for almost an hour about everything – the house, the babies, Lucas, Darwin. Kristin laughed as Nathan made an ass of himself talking baby talk to Maddy then did it all over again when she brought Jamie to the screen. Neither of them wanted to hang up and the call stretched into the evening. Nathan finally brought himself to say good night when he realized how tired Kristin was. After they had broken the call he stretched out on his bunk with a big grin on his face and started redesigning the beach house in his head yet again.
“What’s wrong Kristin? And don’t tell me nothing because I can see that something is.” Janet Noyce was putting Kristin on the spot and she knew it.
Kristin stared through the plate glass window of the café at the white sand beyond. “I think I was being very foolish to think that this could work between Nathan and me. I just don’t know if I can stand to be hurt again and I know that is what is going to happen.”
“How do you know that Kristin? The two of you looked pretty damned happy to me after Lucas’s party.”
Kristin blushed. Over five weeks had past since that night and neither on of them had mentioned it. “That was just sex.”
“It is never just sex between you and Nathan. Whenever the two of you are near each other the air crackles. The love you share is obvious. If ever two people were meant to be together…”
“I don’t think Nathan agrees with you.”
“Of course he does. I thought Bill was going to beat him up for ‘seducing’ you. I wish you could have seen Nathan trying to explain, telling about how he wanted you to stay at his house, how excited he was about the babies, how happy he was that you still loved him, but most importantly, how much he still loved you. Why do you think he’s changed his mind?”
“When they first left port Nathan called almost every night, at least every other. We’d talk for hours and he’d have to talk to Maddy and then to Jamie, goofy silly talk. But lately if he calls at all he’s very short and he never asks about the kids. If I put them to the screen he seems to soften up some but he hasn’t called at all in five days.”
“Maybe they are on a mission.”
“Then why didn’t he tell me he wouldn’t be in touch for a while. I think he’s had time to think about the responsibility and he doesn’t want it. I have to face it. Nathan would be a sporadic father at best. Is that really what I want for my babies? Perhaps they’d be better off with no father rather than one who only remembers them at his own convenience.”
“Do you really think that Nathan is that callous?”
“I never would have thought so but over the past year he’s become someone I don’t know. The man I fell in love with was kind and caring. When I met him again at Lucas’s party, the time we spent together then made me think that man had come back, that the way he treated me before was just a momentary aberration, but now he’s treating me that way again. That damn boat will always come first and while I might accept that for myself I won’t accept it for my children.”
“Promise me that you will at least try to talk to Nathan before you do anything drastic. I know that you are enjoying your work at the base. Maybe you’re just tired.”
“Of course I’m tired Janet. I don’t sleep more than an hour at the time. I’m so stressed about Nathan that I can look at food and get sick. I feel like all I do is try to nurse and it’s never enough. I can’t produce enough milk to keep up with them anymore. Their pediatrician said I had to start giving them formula. I wasn’t ready to wean them yet but I didn’t have a choice. I just can’t keep up.”
Janet laid a bill on the table and stood up. “Come on” she said as she gathered up one of the baby carriers.
“Where are you going? I need to get back to the office.”
“No, you are coming home with me. If they are on formula then you are going to spend the afternoon in bed while I baby sit.”
“I can’t do that Janet.”
“Of course you can. I’ll call Bill and tell him to fix it. Then I’ll tell him to come home and help me.”
Kristin was too tired to argue any further.
Janet banished Kristin to the guestroom for some much-needed rest. Kristin slept through the afternoon and through dinner but Janet didn’t mind. She was enjoying watching Bill keep the twins entertained. The chiming of the vid phone surprised them both and Janet moved to answer it, surprised to see Lucas at the other end.
Lucas grinned and the relief was evident in his face when he saw the baby in her arms. “Is the doc there with you Mrs. Noyce? I’ve been trying and trying to call but I couldn’t get an answer and I was afraid she might have left again.”
“She was tired so I’m baby sitting while she takes a nap. But she is thinking of leaving. What is wrong Lucas? Why hasn’t Nathan called her?”
“I don’t know. I ask him everyday and he says he was busy that he’ll call today, but he doesn’t. I mentioned the twins today and he looked at me like I was crazy. It was like he didn’t know what I was talking about. He’s been this way for about two weeks. I even suggested that he see Dr. Smith but she says there is nothing wrong with him. Not that I think her examination of him had anything to do with medicine. What do I do?”
Bill had moved to stand behind Janet. “The first thing that we are going to do is get the seaQuest back into port for some routine maintenance or perhaps an upgrade.”
Janet also had an idea. “Why don’t I transmit you some photos of Kristin and the babies? You can print them out and put them in strategic places around his cabin. Try to get Nathan to call here in about an hour. I’ll make sure that Kristin is awake and they can talk.”
“I’m on it!” Lucas was halfway out his cabin door before the screen went black.
Janet knocked lightly on the bedroom door but received no answer. She hated to wake Kristin up but knew that the couple needed to talk. Another light knock yielded no response so Janet turned the knob. She was surprised to find the bed empty but knew why when she heard the sound of retching in the bathroom.
Kristin was sitting beside the toilet losing what was left of her lunch. Janet quickly wet a cloth and bathed Kristin’s warm face. “What happened?”
“I was dreaming about Nathan and the time we spent together last month. It was such a nice dream but then it turned into a nightmare. He started making all sorts of accusations again. I woke up sick to my stomach. I’m going to have to leave Janet. I can’t trust him and I can’t live like this.”
“Kristin we just talked to Lucas. I want you to listen to me. Lucas believes that there is something wrong with Nathan and Bill and I agree. He is not acting like himself. He seems to be having memory problems and mood swings. I think that all of this is tied in to how he’s acted the last few weeks. Please help us try to help him. I know it’s difficult, putting your heart out there again but Nathan loves you.”
Janet helped Kristin to her feet and down the stairs where they found Bill collapsed in his recliner with a baby asleep on each shoulder.
“I wonder who wore who out?” Janet asked and Kristin smiled. No matter how busy the twins kept her she loved them to distraction.
Janet brought in a tray with hot tea and a light broth that helped soothe Kristin’s upset stomach and they talked quietly as Kristin ate. The vid-link rang right on cue.
Janet answered it while Kristin wrestled with a suddenly disgruntled Maddy and Bill and Jamie slept on.
“Janet.” Nathan greeted her. “Lucas said that I needed to call Bill. Is he in?”
“He is indeed although at the moment he is fast asleep in his recliner with your son on his chest.”
Kristin recognized Nathan’s voice and had moved in behind Janet. “Hello Nathan.”
He looked at her with blank eyes as if she was a stranger. Both Kristin and Janet watched carefully as recognition slowly began to dawn. “Kristin. What are you doing at Bill’s? I didn’t expect to ever see you again after you left. You’d better be careful, Janet. She’ll be trying to get Bill into her bed just like she did Scott.
Kristin stepped back as if she’d been physically hit. “You bastard. You lying bastard. I was a fool to trust you again!” The baby she held in her arms whimpered and she moved Maddy to her shoulder to quiet her as she continued. “I’ll be out of your house by tomorrow and I don’t ever want to see you again. Don’t try to see the twins either…”Kristin trailed off at the strange look on Nathan’s face as he stared at the baby on her shoulder.
“Ma…Mad…Maddy.” He finally managed to utter before he groaned and clapped his head between his hands. Kristin could tell he was in great pain.
“Nathan, you have to try to relax. Just listen to the sound of my voice and breathe in and out slowly.”
“Hurts!” He gasped as he pushed against his head.
“I know that it hurts but please try to relax.” Maddy began to giggle and babble his baby sounds at the image of her father on the screen. Kristin continued to talk quietly just below Maddy and the combination seemed to work to relieve the pressure in Nathan’s head. He slowly eased the pressure of his hands and eventually was able to remove them entirely.
“Kris, Baby? What happened? Where have you been? God, I’ve missed you.”
“Nathan you haven’t called me in over a week.” Kristin’s voice was cold. Now that Nathan was better the memory of what he’d said to her was returning. She jostled Maddy against her shoulder to quiet her and turned and walked away from the screen.
“Kris? Kristin!” Nathan screamed after her but she didn’t acknowledge him in any way. “Janet will you please tell me what the hell is going on?”
“You haven’t contacted Kristin in almost a week and just a few moments ago you accused her of trying to seduce Bill.”
“That’s ridiculous! I wouldn’t say that!”
“I heard it too Nathan. Look, call Lucas and get him to explain things to you. Then get that damn boat to port and get home if you don’t want to lose Kristin and your children. Something is dreadfully wrong and we need to find out what it is.”
Kristin was curled in a tight ball on the bed with her children cuddled to her when Janet finally convinced her to talk.
“I’m leaving, Janet. That’s final. I won’t go through this again.”
“You are already going through it. I am sorry that Nathan upset you but it must be obvious that something is wrong. Can you walk away from him when he is hurting?”
“What about my hurt?” Kristin’s voice cracked in anger and she would have continued but suddenly she looked very green. She thrust the babies at Janet and took off for the bathroom where she was sick once again.
When she finally emerged Kristin was pale and very unsteady on her feet. “I can’t continue to do this Janet. I’ve probably got a bloody ulcer already.”
“Just give Nathan a chance to get back. Let’s try to find out why he is acting this way. You’re a doctor. Try to think of something that would cause this.”
“I’ve thought of nothing else since the first time it happened. I don’t believe the problem is physical. The behavior is coming from his mind, his psyche if you will. If that is the case then some part of him must really believe I am capable of cheating on him. I can’t cope with that.”
“Then who can?”
Kristin shrugged her shoulders. “A psychiatrist, a telepath, I don’t know. I’m tired and I can’t deal with this any more tonight. I’d better get the twins home. I’ve got some packing to do.”
“Don’t Kris, not yet. Stay with us tonight. Get a good night’s sleep and rethink this in the morning. Please?”
“All right. But I don’t think I’ll change my mind.”
Admiral Bill Noyce was waiting at the dock the next afternoon when seaQuest reported in. He’d been asked several times by UEO officers why the sub was being recalled so soon after it’s previous departure but he’d blown them off. Bill knew that the UEO brass wouldn’t accept Nathan’s personal well being as an excuse but Bill didn’t care. He and Nathan had been friends for 30 years and he knew that something was wrong. Besides, the brass didn’t have to live with Janet and he did.
Contrary to custom Nathan was the first person off the launch with Lucas a close second. Nathan’s face fell as he looked around and Bill guessed he had hoped to see Kristin there. Nathan approached Bill with a sad look on his face.
“She hasn’t left. Please tell me she isn’t gone.”
Bill sighed. “She hasn’t gone yet Nathan but it won’t be long. Janet and I practically had to sit on her to keep her here this long. She’s headed back to your place this afternoon to pack. We…uhm…we didn’t tell her you were coming. Gives you the element of surprise.”
“Well come on. Let’s go.”
The trip to Nathan’s beach house was an adventure in itself. Nathan insisted on driving and two miles out of the parking lot both Bill and Lucas were praying harder than they ever had in their lives. Someone must have been listening because Nathan didn’t get a ticket even though he must have been doing more than twice the maximum limit. No one was at the house when they arrived and Nathan shot up the stairs, returning a few minutes later with a relieved look on his face.
“All of their stuff is still here.”
The three men settled on the porch to wait but Nathan couldn’t keep still so they sent him down to the beach to walk off some of his frustration. Once he was gone they could and did speak freely.
“Did you have any trouble coming in?”
“When the Captain woke up this morning he didn’t seem to remember anything about Kristin or the twins or us returning to port. But I printed one of the pictures Mrs. Noyce sent me and showed it to him and every thing came back. It was so strange. Like I could see his memory slowly coming awake. I’m gonna plaster his cabin with the pictures.”
“I’ve got a better idea Lucas but I’ll need your help…”
Nathan turned at the sound of a door slamming and ran back up the beach toward the car that had just pulled up. Kristin didn’t see him until she popped up from the back seat with a baby carrier on her arm. Her face hardened and Nathan read the silent curse on her lips before she turned around and took off up the stairs. Bill and Lucas were moving down the stairs to help Janet and had to flatten themselves to the railing to avoid her. Nathan quickly pursued.
Kristin moved straight through the house to the bedroom and closed the door loudly behind her. Nathan heard the click of the lock but he wasn’t about to let a few pieces of wood and metal stop him.
“Kristin, open this door!”
“Go to hell!”
“Open the damned door now. We have to talk!”
don’t have anything left to say to you.”
Nathan’s lips narrowed into a thin line and he moved a few feet back down the hallway before running at the door and hitting it with a flying kick. Wood splintered and flew through the air as the door swung open. Fury boiled in Kristin’s eyes as Nathan stepped across the threshold. Maddy was screaming bloody murder but Kristin was so angry she was having trouble disconnecting the carrier’s restraining straps.
“You stupid son of a bitch! Maddy could have been hit!”
“I’m sorry but you have to talk to me Kristin. Lucas told me what I did and I’m sorry. I remember saying it but it wasn’t really me. I love you Baby. I love the kids. Deep down you know that.”
“You say the words Nathan but your actions don’t back them up. Who am I going to be accused of bedding next – Malcolm? Lucas? Your entire crew? Why would I choose to live like that? Why would I want my children any where near you?” Kristin’s voice caught and tears began to slip down her face. She swiped them away roughly and went back to a still howling Maddy.
“Then help me find out what’s wrong. Something has to be causing this but I need your help. If you love me then please help me.” Nathan fell to his knees as he continued to beg. “If you leave I don’t have any reason to go on.”
Kristin’s heart began to melt as it always did for Nathan. “Whatever is wrong with you is beyond my area of expertise. If it were something organic I’m sure your CMO would have caught it on your last physical.”
Nathan took her hand. “Then help me find someone who can deal with it. You are the person who keeps me grounded. My memory was screwed up again this morning and Lucas showed me a picture of you and the kids to bring it back. Please give me another chance!”
Kristin laid a hand on the top of Nathan’s head and stroked his graying hair. Nathan wrapped his arms around her waist, burying his head in her stomach.
“Our first step should probably be to have you evaluated by a psychiatrist. I’ll be honest Nathan. I really think that someone is using mind control. I don’t know how to combat that. I don’t know who does.”
They both looked up at the light knock on the frame of the door. Janet’s head appeared around the edge of the broken door. “I heard Maddy fussing and I thought you might need this.” She held up a bottle. “Do you want me to take her?”
Kristin shook her head and moved away from Nathan to take the bottle. “I’ll feed her. What about Jamie?”
“He is still sleeping like a log. We’ll be out on the porch if you need me.” Janet’s eyebrows rose questioningly and Kristin gave a slight nod.
Nathan had freed Maddy from the baby seat and was playing airplane with her to Maddy’s delight. She was laughing and giggling more than she had ever done. Kristin abruptly took her away and settled into the small rocker she had added to the room’s décor. Maddy took the bottle hungrily while Nathan stared.
“Why aren’t you…when did you start bottle feeding her?”
Kristin glared at him. “A few days ago. I had to. My milk dried up.”
“Oh God. It’s my fault isn’t it? Your body reacted to all the stress I’ve caused. I’m so sorry. You must be furious at me…for this too.”
“I’m pissed as hell at you Nathan but not about this. I’m the one who should have known better. I’m a doctor for Christ’s sake.”
“What are you talking about Kris? I don’t understand.”
“Neither did I. Janet had to explain it to me.” Kristin chewed thoughtfully on her bottom lip for a moment. “Nathan in spite of every thing I have never lied to you and I’m not going to begin to now. I can’t continue to accept your mistrust. I’m just not that strong.”
“You are the strongest person I know.”
“But you are my weakness. You can always talk me around. I’ve got to learn to say no to you. I have to protect myself and the children.” Kristin turned her attention back to the baby in her arms for a moment, coaxing a smile and a giggle from her. “Can you imagine how much I love this little one and her brother? I thought that at my age conception was unlikely if not impossible. When I found out that I was pregnant I considered running away, going back to England and keeping the baby a secret but I didn’t. I wasn’t ashamed. I was proud of my babies, of our babies. I never tried to hide them from you. I tried to tell you about them several times. When you did finally discover their existence you reacted exactly as I hoped you would. You wanted to be a father to them and I wanted that too. I was foolish to think that it would last.”
“I don’t think it’s foolish at all. I love you more than I have ever loved any one. I love those babies. I will find out what is wrong with me and I will make it right for the four of us.”
“What? Oh, Lucas. Of course he’ll always be part of our family.”
Kristin rolled her eyes. “Yes, Lucas is very much a part of our family but that isn’t what I meant. Janet and I had a long talk this morning. I’m a doctor but I’ve been overlooking some very obvious symptoms. Breast-feeding is an amazing thing Nathan. The advantages it gives a newborn are tremendous. It even helps the mother. For instance, breast-feeding is supposed to decrease the possibility of conception. But it doesn’t always work and I foolishly forgot that.”
Nathan’s face had taken on a stunned look as he stared at Kristin. He swallowed hard. “Conception?”
“I haven’t kept a meal down in over a week. My milk dried up. My breasts are tender. That’s because of the changes in certain hormone levels. I’ve just come from the doctor. I’m pregnant again. Nathan? Are you all right?”
Nathan’s ass hit the floor with a loud thump and he just sat there with a dazed look on his face. All of the air had rushed from his lungs and he couldn’t seem to draw it back in. Kristin knelt in front of him and placed the baby on the floor before grasping his shoulders and giving a gentle shake. “Nathan!”
He wrapped his arms around her and buried his face in her abdomen. It took Kristin a moment to realize that he was kissing it. She felt his tears through his shirt and lifted his face to meet her gaze. As always her heart melted at the little boy look in his eyes.
“Are you…are you going to have the baby?”
“The thought of not having it did cross my mind but only for a second. Having three babies in diapers isn’t going to be easy. The twins won’t even be a year old when this one is born. I didn’t have the easiest pregnancy before and I’m a year older now. I don’t know how I’ll manage but I will. Abortion just isn’t an option for me. Janet is so excited. She says she’ll help me whenever I need it.”
“I’ll help you.”
Kristin snorted. “When you’re in port or when you remember that you’re a father. I’m sorry Nathan but maybe now you can see why I can’t take much more of this. The twins take everything that I can give and as this pregnancy advances I don’t know what will happen. I pray this doesn’t turn out to be twins as well. Apparently you and I are extremely compatible. Just so you know, once this baby is born there is no chance in hell of you ever touching me again.”
“I’ll get snipped.”
“Not good enough. Vasectomy doesn’t work in one in a million cases and with my luck you’d be the one.”
“I’ll get snipped and you get tied. Plus we’ll use birth control.”
Kristin laughed. “I’m furious at you and you’re still trying to figure out how to get in my pants. You are so damned cocky.”
“You’ve got that right babe.” Nathan rose to his knees and pulled Kristin against him, his hands running beneath her skirt to cup her ass. His erection throbbed against her stomach as he captured her mouth.
Kristin pulled away but Nathan still held her lower body tightly. “No, we are not doing this again.”
“At least you can’t get pregnant this time.”
Kristin gently disengaged herself from Nathan’s grasp and picked up Maddy. “I need to check on Jamie. Maybe I could make arrangements for you to see a psychiatrist tomorrow?”
“Does this mean you’ll stay?”
“I’ll stay for the moment Nathan but no promises.”
Nathan snuggled into the warm spot next to him seeking the body that had caused it but he opened his eyes to find the bed was empty. The horrible sounds coming from the bathroom told him exactly where Kristin was. She appeared in the door a few moments later, pale and bleary-eyed. Nathan barely had time to move back to his side of the bed before she collapsed into the pillows. One eye glared at him, the other closed against the light.
“I hate you!”
“Were you this sick with the twins?”
“I was sicker if that is possible.”
“Isn’t there something you can do? You are a doctor.”
“Drugs can cross the placental barrier and damage the fetus. I’d rather be sick than take a chance.”
“How about Lucas and I take baby duty this morning? You can get some more sleep. My appointment isn’t until three.”
“Uhm…” Kristin snuggled back down into the pillows and was asleep in seconds. Both of the twins chose that moment to wake up so Nathan grabbed his robe and went to get them before they could wake their mother up again.
“Oh God! She planned this didn’t she?” Nathan’s noise detected an unpleasant aroma and he took off down the hall at a trot.
“Lucas! Get up! I need your help!”
Lucas appeared at the door clad in boxers and a Grateful Dead tee shirt. Nathan quickly thrust a baby at him. Lucas’s eyes immediately crossed.
“What is that smell?!”
“That, big brother, is the smell of a toxic diaper. I have two situations on my hand so I think that it is time you learned how to change a nappy.”
Nathan met with the psychiatrist who did a thorough evaluation and found nothing to indicate the cause of his memory problems. He was scared that Kristin would use this as an excuse to leave but she had been very supportive.
Janet had volunteered to baby sit the twins during the appointment and when they went to collect them Bill and Janet invited them to stay for an early dinner. Lucas was quickly called to join them with a fresh supply of diapers.
Janet served a light dinner on the back verandah overlooking the ocean and everyone stayed there talking well into the evening. Bill and Lucas had drifted in the corner for a whispered discussion punctuated with furtive glances. Finally Nathan could take no more.
“Would you like to share with the rest of us what you two are up to? With all that secretive planning I keep expecting Ben Kreig to turn up.”
The two men rejoined the group with guilty looks on their faces. They looked at each other as if to say ‘you go first’ ‘no, you go first’.
Finally Bill bit the bullet. “We received a communiqué today from the Central American Confederation about a possible leak in one of their undersea power plants. There are some grave environmental concerns for animal and plant life as well as the coral reef off the coast of Belize. The UEO wants seaQuest down there to handle the situation.”
“So we have to leave immediately.”
“You pull out in the morning.” Bill noticed the way that Nathan’s hand tightened over Kristin’s. “The modifications should be complete by then.”
“What modifications? Are you messing around with my boat without telling me?”
“We want to send a specialist. The thought is that no one person on your crew has the expertise to handle this situation. They want the best person for the job and that person is…Kristin.”
Kristin looked stunned. “I can’t go out on that bloody boat! What about the babies? We had an agreement Bill.”
“I know Kristin and I understand but you really are needed here. Besides I thought that maybe if you were on the boat with Nathan it might help you figure out what is going on. You’ll be housed in the VIP quarters and the conference room is being modified into a nursery for the kids.”
“I can take them with me?”
“I told the brass that you wouldn’t go without them. No one realizes Nathan’s connection or they might not have agreed but…will you go?”
The front doorbell rang at that moment and Lucas jumped up. “I’ll get it.”
Nathan stroked Kristin’s face. “What do you say sweetheart? Maybe we can kill two birds with one stone?”
Kristin looked skeptical. “The babies still have to be watched and both you and Lucas have duties on board. How am I going to look after them and do the research I need to do? Are you going to pull baby sitters from the crew? I’ve heard enough about Wendy Smith to know I don’t want her watching my children.”
“How about you take a nanny with you?” They all turned to see Lucas standing at the door. “Someone who could help with the twins and maybe help the Captain as well.” He moved to the side to reveal a tall blonde woman standing behind him, a woman that Nathan knew only too well, Savannah Rossovich.
Kristin fled the porch and headed for the beach before anyone could stop her. Nathan jumped up to follow but Savannah laid a restraining arm on his hand.
“Let me talk to her Nathan.”
Savannah found Kristin sitting on the dunes, her arms wrapped around her knees, staring into the ocean. She sat down beside the silent woman.
“I only want to help Dr. Westphalen. Why are you frightened of me?”
A short laugh escaped Kristin’s lips. “Am I afraid of you? I don’t really know. I feel my life spiraling out of control. Nathan accuses me of cheating on him with his closest friends then he invites you – the first woman he felt close to after his wife died – here.”
“There was never anything romantic between Nathan and me.”
“I saw you kiss. It’s strange. I wasn’t in love with Nathan then but that kiss bothered me. I guess it still does.”
“Nathan didn’t invite me here. Lucas did. He told me what has been happening to Nathan and he wants me to help. I’d like to help and I think I may be able to but you have to trust me. I think that someone is trying to control Nathan’s mind and I’m your best shot at figuring out who and why. Lucas and Admiral Noyce want me to go aboard the seaQuest incognito, as Anna Ross, your assistant.”
“There will be crew members who know you – Commander Ford, O’Neill, Ortiz….”
“I’ll dye my hair black and make a few superficial changes to my appearance. They may recognize me but Lucas feels that those men you’ve named are trustworthy. No one will expect to see Savannah Rossovich so they won’t see me. I’ll help you watch your children and I’ll try and find out what is happening to Nathan.”
“Through unauthorized mind scans?”
Savannah sighed. “I won’t use any direct scanning. I’ll do random passes just to see if I stray across anything. Also, only with Nathan’s approval and with yours, I’ll maintain a very peripheral blanket around both of your minds. I will NOT be reading your thoughts but staying alert for any outside attempt to manipulate them.” Savannah paused. “You’d know if I were reading your mind wouldn’t you, doctor?”
Kristin nodded. “The nature of my work required me to learn to detect any sort of mind manipulation. I would know of a direct attempt, yes.”
“Given Nathan’s natural abilities he probably would as well. But these attempts are not direct. They are very skillfully done. Will you let me help you?”
Long moments passed before Kristin finally nodded. “I have to try to save my family. Yes, I’d like your help.”
The two women stood up and brushed themselves off before heading back to the house. Just before they rejoined the others Savannah stopped Kristin. “Sometimes feelings are very deeply imbedded without you even knowing that they are there.”
“What do you mean?” Kristin asked.
“Nathan didn’t know that he was falling in love with you when we kissed but I did.”
“So we get on the boat tomorrow before the rest of the crew returns then present Kristin as a fait accompli along with her assistant Anna Ross. The twins stay tucked cozily away in our quarters without anyone being the wiser?”
“That’s it in a nutshell. Of course keeping the kids secret is up to you but we just felt that until we find out what is going on it might be safer for them.” Bill replied.
“There is one more thing.” Savannah interjected. “Based on what the nature of your memory loss has been, I think that you and Kristin should stay away from each other.”
“What?” Nathan looked affronted. “We’re going to be on the same boat. I’m the Captain; she’s going to be doing specialized research. We have to have contact.”
“That isn’t the kind of contact I mean.” Savannah raised her eyebrows at Nathan and he blushed. “Who ever is doing this is using your feelings for Kristin to control you. I don’t know if they know that the woman involved is Kristin Westphalen or if they recognize you have strong feelings for some unidentified woman. That is one of the things we have to determine.”
Nathan laughed. “If this person is telepathic they are going to know immediately that it’s Kristin. Hell, I can smell her perfume and get a hard-on”
“NATHAN!” Bridger found himself staring into the deep brown eyes of one very pissed off woman.
Kristin stalked to the end of the porch and turned her back to Nathan. He followed and spoke softly to her but her back only tensed further. Nathan pulled her into his embrace as he continued to whisper and after a few moments she responded. Although the assembled company couldn’t hear her words it was obvious that she was very angry. The argument continued quietly but vehemently for several minutes before Kristin threw her arms around Nathan’s waist and buried her face in his chest. His head bent down, blocking her face from view but in a few moments it became obvious that they were kissing.
Lucas cleared his throat loudly when Nathan’s hand slipped down to cup Kristin’s ass and the couple drew apart and rejoined the group.
Kristin voiced her acceptance of the plan. “I don’t know if it will work but we have to get to the bottom of it. One thing though, if at any time there is any danger to my babies we stop immediately.”
Lucas, Savannah and Bill all voiced their agreement. Kristin elbowed Nathan and inclined her head towards Lucas and gave a small cough.
Nathan nodded then turned to the young man. “I apologize for my earlier comment. Kristin has no affect on me at all, I am not in the least bit attracted to her, we have never made love and the twins are the result of Immaculate Conception.”
He quickly dodged the elbow that came flying back at him. Kristin glared at Nathan but the impish grin on his face softened her. “You…are saved by your daughter.” She told him as a baby’s cry came piercing through the open windows. Kristin moved into the house and Janet followed her.
Nathan sat down at the table with the conspirators. “Now tell me what you really think.”
Savannah answered. “Obviously the person we are looking for is a member of your crew. Your problems only happen when you are on board.”
“Not true. The first time this happened we hadn’t even launched.”
“How long before the launch did it happen?”
“It was about a month. We’ve been in the water almost a year now.”
“When was the next time it happened?”
“I can’t really answer that since I wasn’t aware that is was happening. I can’t name any single incident until after Kristin and I got together at Lucas’s eighteenth birthday party. Can you think of anything Lucas?”
“I can’t name anything specific but I do know that any time I mentioned Kristin you seemed to blank out or blow me off. You recognized her as a member of the former crew but you never acknowledged the relationship you shared after we lost the boat. I thought that she left you, that it was too painful for you to think about.”
“Nathan, when did you start thinking about Kristin again?”
“After we docked I talked to Bill and Janet about the party arrangements. Janet mentioned that Kristin would be coming to the party. She didn’t want me to be surprised. I thought about Kristin all the way home never really realizing that I hadn’t been thinking about her in months. When I got home I walked through the house and kept having all of these memory flashes, things we did together. Then I remembered why she left, that I accused her of having an affair with Scott Keller.”
“Did she have an affair?”
“Of course not. Savannah, Kristin was married to two different men who cheated on her throughout their marriage. That is why the marriages fell apart. She isn’t capable of being unfaithful.”
“Then why did you think she was?”
“I don’t know. I have this picture in my mind where I walk into my house and I see Kristin and Scott in each other’s arms, kissing passionately. I know this didn’t really happen but I still see it. Sometimes they are in the den fully clothed. Other times they are in the bedroom, not clothed. Sometimes I can’t see Kristin’s face but I sense that the woman is she. Sometimes the man isn’t Scott. That’s another reason why I know it can’t be true.”
Savannah agreed. “If it were true the image would stay the same. That way you wouldn’t question it as much. I’m guessing that the initial suggestion planted was simply to block any romantic feeling you had for any female. It worked well for quite a while. Kristin wasn’t on the seaQuest, had never served on this new boat so there were no attachments there. Your memories didn’t return until you returned to familiar places. You stayed in touch with her for over a month before your memory went again so I would guess that whoever placed the initial suggestion is still in place but they are having to work harder to overcome your deep feelings for Kristin and your children. Perhaps they don’t know about the children so they can’t compensate for that addition to the puzzle.”
“Well I think the obvious candidate is Dr. Smith.” Lucas ignored the look Nathan shot him and continued. “She obviously has the hots for you Captain. She followed you to your island for pete’s sake.”
“Is this Wendy Smith we are talking about?” Savannah asked.
“Wendy Smith is the head of sciences on the seaQuest this tour. Do you know her?” Nathan voiced his curiosity.
Savannah’s face took on a blank look. “We’ve met but I don’t think she would recognize me, especially if I’m in disguise. I found her to be…very confident in her abilities, perhaps too confident.”
Nathan snorted. “Confident is an understatement. I might be inclined to agree with Lucas’s theory because Dr. Smith has shown an aggressive interest in me but we had never met before she reported to duty and that was several weeks after I lost my mind.”
“I don’t think we should make any assumptions about anyone but I’ll be keeping a close watch on Dr. Smith. I don’t want her sensing my abilities either.”
Bill shushed everyone as the sound of Janet and Kristin’s voices grew louder. In a few moments the two women appeared at the door, each holding a cooing baby.
“I thought maybe you’d like to meet the twins since we are going to be sharing quarters.”
“Kris? Are you still awake?” Nathan whispered in the ear of the naked woman in his arms.
“Uhm…” Kristin opened her eyes and stared into his. Her skin was still rosy and damp from their exertions just moments earlier. “You better enjoy it while it lasts. Seven months and three weeks and you are cut off.”
Nathan’s hands wandered down to caress Kristin’s abdomen. “I can’t believe we made another baby, that a little life is inside here, growing.”
“I believe it every time I throw up. Your sperm must have inbred targeting skills.”
“Hey, I’m a submariner. I’m good at firing torpedoes.”
Kristin snuggled into his shoulder. “You also seem to excel at seducing me.”
“I am pretty good at that aren’t I? How am I going to keep my hands off of you once we get on the boat? This plan better work quickly.”
“You don’t know the half of it. If this pregnancy goes anything like the last one we don’t have much longer to figure this out.”
“What do you mean?”
“Sometime around the fourth month the hormones go a little crazy. I get incredibly horny.” Kristin trailed her fingertips down Nathan’s firm abdomen and buried them in his nest of curls, lightly teasing his semi-erect penis. “There is no way I’ll be able to stay away from you if you are anywhere near me.”
“What did you do when you were expecting the twins?”
“I was incredibly frustrated. So I’ll probably be twice as horny with this one.”
Nathan groaned. “You’re going to kill me.”
“At least you’ll die happy.”
Nathan rolled Kristin to her back and pressed his body close to hers. His lips brushed hers tenderly before he nuzzled a path to her ear. “Can you even begin to imagine how much I love you? I swear that I am going to find out what is going on and stop it. I won’t let anyone take away what we have ever again.”
Kristin’s eyes sparkled with tears. “I love you, Nathan, more than I’ve ever loved any one. We will figure this out somehow. I am not going to let you forget our babies or me again. I’ll use every weapon I’ve got to prevent that from happening.” Her lips sought out the sensitive spot just below his ear and he groaned as he began to experience just how powerful Kristin’s arsenal could be.
Nathan’s initial briefing with his senior staff had gone according to routine and the time had come to discuss their current mission. As head of the science sector Wendy had quickly jumped in with several suggestions on the problem awaiting them. Under other circumstances Nathan would have probably been impressed but this time he found her annoying. He quickly clamped down on his feelings before she could sense them.
“All of your suggestions have merit Doctor and I’m sure that our mission specialist would love to hear them, perhaps incorporate them into her own plans.”
Wendy Smith looked stunned. “I am perfectly capable of handling this situation. We don’t need a specialist.”
“Nevertheless, the UEO felt that we did and they provided us with the best. Dr. Kristin Westphalen is certainly one of the most highly qualified scientists on the planet to deal with this situation. She should be joining us in a few moments; in fact she should be here already. Lucas?” Nathan inclined his head toward the door and Lucas exited in search of Kristin.
Wendy’s face had gone deathly pale but Nathan pretended not to notice. “While I recognize Dr. Westphalen’s preeminence in this field I really don’t think that her presence is warranted. My team is perfectly capable of handling it.”
Nathan was beginning to get angry at Wendy’s stubbornness. He planted his palms on the conference table and leaned toward Smith. “Dr. Westphalen is already on board and we’ve been underway for over an hour. I would think that you would be eager to work under a scientist the caliber of Kristin Westphalen. I am sure that all of the crew members serving on her team will learn a great deal.”
Wendy’s body position now mimicked that of Nathan’s and the crew was certain that they were about to blow up at each other when the door swung open and Kristin and Lucas stepped into the room. Kristin’s face was pale but she wore a big smile.
“I’m sorry that I’m late. I guess it’s going to take a few days for me to get my sea legs back. I haven’t been on a submersible since the last seaQuest.”
Kristin accepted greetings from Ford, Ortiz and O’Neill before Joshua Levin wrapped her in a huge bear hug, which she returned whole-heartedly before Nathan continued with introductions.
“I believe you might have met most of these people at Lucas’s birthday party.”
Kristin nodded and smiled greetings to Brody and Loni. Piccolo was fixed with a famous Westphalen glare when Kristin caught him checking out her ass.
“This is our science head, Dr. Wendy Smith.”
Kristin smiled graciously and held out her hand to Wendy. “I’m pleased to meet you Dr. Smith. Lucas has told me so much about you. I hope that we can work together on this project. I’m sure you have some wonderful ideas on how to handle it.”
Wendy grudgingly shook Kristin’s extended hand. “I have a lot of ideas Doctor Westphalen. In fact I don’t understand why we need you here at all.”
Kristin was taken back by Wendy’s bluntness but quickly recovered. “I’m here because the UEO gave me a job to do. If you wish to help then I welcome it. If you don’t then don’t get in my way.”
Kristin turned her back to Wendy. “I’d like to see my work space first Captain then I need to put together my team. Joshua, you’re familiar with the science staff. Perhaps you could help me with that?”
Nathan and Kristin left the room with Lucas and Joshua in tow. The other staff drifted casually towards the door, laughing and joking and studiously avoiding a seething Wendy Smith.
“How is your research coming Doctor?” Nathan kept his distance from Kristin, making sure he stayed on the opposite side of the research table.
Kristin’s head popped up from her microscope and she ran a hand down her neck, stretching her tired muscles.
“I believe we’re making some progress but there is so much contamination. The clean up is going to be massive under any circumstances. I think we’ve come up with a way to inactivate a large portion of the contaminate. We should know more with twenty-four hours.”
“You look tired. When was the last time you slept?”
“I had a nap this afternoon.” Kristin saw Nathan’s eyebrows fly up but didn’t comment.
“Excuse me, Doctor Westphalen, but we just got the results of our last set of tests.” Savannah handed the papers over to Kristin with a thinly veiled look at Nathan. A spark of anger surged through him. The past ten days had been very hard on all of them. Kristin had been putting in long hours trying to contain a major ecological disaster with little rest and minimal time with her children. Nathan and Lucas were putting in long hours helping gather samples for testing and then baby-sitting on their off hours. Savannah had the added problems of trying to keep her identity a secret and constantly using her telepathy. Everyone was on edge.
“We’ve done all we can until the next set of results come back and that won’t be until tomorrow morning. Perhaps we should all try to get some rest.”
Kristin nodded gratefully at Savannah’s suggestion. “A hot shower and a few hours sleep sounds like heaven. Shall I call you in the morning with the results, Captain?”
Nathan nodded and bid the two women good night, ever mindful of Wendy hovering in the background. As he expected Wendy fell into step beside him as soon as he left the area.
“We’ve been so busy since we left port that we haven’t had a chance to talk. Would you like to get a cup of coffee or maybe dinner?”
“Maybe some other time, Dr. Smith. I’m really beat and I feel like I might actually be able to get some sleep tonight.” Nathan’s tone was polite but cool.
“Please Nathan. I know that I reacted badly to Dr. Westphalen’s presence and I apologize for that but it seemed to me that her presence meant you didn’t have confidence in my abilities.”
“The UEO decided to bring Dr. Westphalen on board for this, not me.”
“I realize that now. And you were right. She is, without doubt, the right person for this job. I’m learning a great deal from her. I won’t keep you. Perhaps some other time?”
Nathan nodded absently and would have moved off but Wendy laid a restraining hand on his arm. She quickly looked both ways before quickly brushing her lips across Nathan’s. Wendy was gone before Nathan could respond.
He continued on to his quarters all the while trying to make sense of Wendy’s actions. Nathan knew that Wendy was attracted to him. She’d made it very obvious. He’d even responded slightly on occasion but something always held him back. Nathan had tried to make it clear that he wasn’t interested without hurting Wendy’s feelings but she didn’t seem to be getting the message.
Nathan closed his eyes and lifted his hand to his forehead as pain shafted through his head. He stumbled down the hall, desperate to get out of the light. By the time he reached his door he could barely stand upright. He leaned against the door to push it shut and engaged the locking mechanism before sliding down the cool metal to sit on the floor in the dark.
Nathan groaned when the narrow door into the VIP quarters opened letting in Lucas and a shaft of light.
“Shut that damned door!” He barked as he leaned forward pushing his head between his knees.
Lucas quickly disappeared and was back in moments with Kristin and Savannah. Nathan’s pain was so great that he barely comprehended when they pulled him to his feet and maneuvered him to the bunk.
Kristin motioned Savannah away from the bunk. “This happened the last time Nathan had a memory problem, a blinding headache. Should I treat it or should I call med bay.”
Savannah chewed her bottom lip thoughtfully for a moment before answering. “You treat it if you can. I’ll help Lucas look after the twins. Just don’t get carried away or anything, okay?”
Kristin moved to her cabin and returned with her medical bag. Nathan lay moaning on his bunk, his back to the room, as she closed the door behind Lucas and Savannah. After turning off all of the lights except a dim beam from a crack in the bathroom door Kristin knelt beside the bunk and laid a hand softly across Nathan’s back as she spoke gently.
“Nathan, it’s Kristin. I want to try and help you. I know it hurts but listen to the sound of my voice just like the last time okay.” Kristin continued to talk in a low and soothing tone as she pulled some things out of her medicine bag and gave him an injection then sat down in the bunk with her back against the headboard. Nathan’s continued to moan quietly as her hands guided his body until he was lying on his back against her, his head pillowed on her chest. Kristin placed a few drops of the soothing aromatic oil on her palms and began to gently massage Nathan’s temples and neck. Gradually the moaning stopped altogether and she felt Nathan relax against her. Kristin knew he was feeling much better when he began to smile and she noticed a distinct bulge growing in the front of his pants.
“I think that I had better get up now.” Kristin whispered to Nathan as she tried to coax him off of her. Nathan did shift but only so that he was lying flat in the bed with Kristin in his arms. She felt his warm breath against her ear.
“We promised Savannah…”
Nathan closed his eyes and nodded. “At least let me hold you for just a few minutes. No funny business, I promise.” He shifted their bodies so that Kristin’s back was against his chest.
Silence lay between them as they enjoyed the feel of each other. Kristin smiled when Nathan’s hands drifted to her bottom and she gently pulled them back up to her waist. “Play fair. You know what happens when you grab my ass.”
Nathan’s hand strayed from her waist to her abdomen, still flat in spite of the life growing within.
“How is this little one doing?”
“I’m not sure that this baby is going to be a sailor. He gets sea sick too often.”
“So you are still getting nauseated?”
“Umm…it shouldn’t last too much longer.”
“The sickness should go away about the time I start getting horny. Okay, I’m already horny, I mean when I start getting really horny.”
Nathan groaned and pressed himself harder against her firm bottom. “I’m really horny now.”
“I know, me too, but do you really want Savannah running interference while we make love?”
Nathan relaxed his hold on Kristin. “The twins seem to be doing fantastic. I can’t tell you how great it is to be able to spend so much time with them. I think they are really beginning to recognize me.”
“Of course they are. I think Jamie has taken to undersea life like a duck to water. Maddy is a little more hesitant. She just isn’t as happy as Jamie is. Cynthia was prone to temper tantrums and crying fits when she was a baby. Perhaps it is a female trait.”
“Just remember that you said it not me. Maybe all the Westphalen women are a bit temperamental.”
Kristin pressed her elbow lightly into Nathan’s ribs. “Watch it buster.”
Nathan smiled a buried his face in Kristin’s hair, inhaling deeply. “ I love you Baby.”
“I love you too, darling.”
Nathan’s heart skipped at Kristin’s use of her customary endearment because she hadn’t used it in over a year. Her breathing slowed and evened out and Nathan realized that she was asleep as he gave into his own exhaustion.
Savannah found them an hour later, wrapped in each other’s arms. Lucas peered over her shoulder and a huge grin erupted on his face.
“Let them sleep a while longer.” Savannah whispered to him. “They both need the rest.”
Wendy Smith was angry and also a bit confused. She’d worked for months; secretly planting doubts in Nathan’s mind and now things might be falling apart. Nathan seemed distant and angry with her and she knew that Kristin’s presence was to blame. What she couldn’t figure out was why. Wendy knew that if Nathan and Kristin were lovers she would know. In public they treated each other with the utmost respect but even though she sometimes caught undercurrents there was no intimacy between them – no longing glances, no secret touches or stolen kisses. Wendy couldn’t fathom why Nathan didn’t respond to her. She was much younger than Kristin Westphalen was and she had let Nathan know how she felt on several occasions.
Once Wendy had tried to do a subtle scan of Kristin’s mind but the brick wall she encountered and the sharp look she received let her know that Kristin was aware of what was happening. Wendy was positive that Kristin had no innate empathic ability so she must have been taught to recognize and block it from others. Nathan’s abilities made it impossible to attempt more than just a brief touch without him guessing which is why Wendy had to be so careful at sowing seeds of doubt.
The hour was late so Wendy decided to take a chance and let her mind reach out to touch Kristin’s in the hope that she could read something while her target was asleep. Westphalen’s barriers were still in place but the odd thought came through. Wendy sensed contentment but she also sensed an underlying current of fear.
Nathan’s mind was also a bit more vulnerable while he slept and Wendy immediately felt desire radiating through his thoughts. She probed a bit further to be sure that Nathan was definitely asleep. ‘He must be having an erotic dream. I wonder if it is about me?’ Wendy thought to herself but was quickly struck with the thought that the dream could just as easily be about Kristin or any other woman. Her jealousy grew and she resolved to keep a much closer eye on the Captain and the Doctor.
Kristin paced the floor of the bridge as she stared at the view screen waiting for incoming data. The test results had shown a very positive response to her laboratory-induced solution for the most offending chemical in the environmental skill. A meeting with the leaders of the UEO and the Amazon Confederation quickly led to the decision to field-test the compound in a small area of the contaminated ocean. WHSKR’s were posted throughout the area to collect data and the initial results were expected any minute. Kristin stared at the screen as if she could will the results to appear before turning back into her pace while chewing on her bottom lip.
If the results had not been so important to the environment Nathan would have laughed at Kristin’s agitation. He wanted to go to her, encourage her, but Savannah was keeping a close eye on the two of them, as was Dr. Smith. Nathan watched curiously as Savannah drew Kristin to the side and began to whisper to her. Nathan knew he was part of the conversation because Kristin’s gaze fell on him several times during the quiet but animated exchange. He saw Kristin shake her head once but Savannah must have been very persuasive because Kristin nodded in agreement before the conversation ended.
“Captain.” Nathan turned back to acknowledge Miguel Ortiz. “The first data is beginning to come in now.”
“Let’s see it onscreen Mr. Ortiz.”
Nathan stood and moved to stand beside Kristin and the rest of her team as the figures flowed across the display. He swore he heard a collective sigh of relief as positive results began to appear. But the biggest surprise to all of them came when the results leapt dramatically, performing better than any of them could have imagined. A collective cheer went up and congratulations flew.
Nathan could think of nothing but the pride he felt in Kristin’s solution and how happy he was for her. Before he realized what he was doing he had wrapped her in his embrace. ‘A quick hug shouldn’t hurt,’ he thought. Nathan was about to release Kristin when he felt her arms go around his neck and her mouth captured his in a passionate kiss, tongue on tongue, mating wildly. Nathan couldn’t have pushed her away if his life depended on it.
By the time they separated most of the bridge crew was staring openly at them, Tony Piccolo even going so far as to make fanning motions with his hand. Knowing smiles graced the faces of Ford, Ortiz and O’Neill. Nathan quickly held out his hand to Kristin and shook hers vigorously.
“Fantastic work doctor!”
Most of the crew burst into laughter. Kristin breathed a sigh of relief. Nathan always knew what to say to diffuse a situation.
“I’m very pleased with the results but we still have a great deal of work to do. Come on guys, let’s get back to work.” Kristin motioned her team from the bridge and Nathan watched them go, his eyes glued to Kristin’s shapely behind.
“Was that sufficient?” Kristin asked Savannah once they were back in the relative privacy of the lab.
“I think it did the trick. I thought for a moment that he was going to throw you on the deck and rip your clothes off with the entire crew watching. I couldn’t have asked for any more passion than that.”
“I wouldn’t have stopped him if he had. This whole situation is extremely frustrating.”
Kristin began to set up equipment for her next series of tests. Savannah could tell that Kristin wanted to say more so she stood quietly until Kristin was ready to speak.
“Do you think this will work?”
“I think that there is a very good chance that it will.”
“Nathan is going to be furious when he guesses. I really need for this situation to be resolved, Savannah. I can’t take it much longer and the stress isn’t good for me, for any of us.”
Kristin glanced up to see Nathan standing in the doorway. She glanced at Savannah. “I suggest you make yourself scarce. I’m used to dealing with him when he’s angry.”
“He doesn’t look angry.”
“And you say you can read minds? Trust me, maybe angry isn’t the right word but he is a man in search of answers."
Savannah touched Nathan’s mind with her own. “I think I’m due back in our quarters to relieve Lucas.”
She took off through the opposite door as Nathan advanced on Kristin. Assorted whispers and giggles erupted from Kristin’s science team but Nathan ignored them all as he grasped her arm and pulled her after him. Once he had gained the privacy of Kristin’s small office he slammed the door behind him and trapped her against the cold metal, his face just inches from her.
“It was my understanding that we were on kissing restriction so would you care to inform me what that little display on the bridge was all about?”
Kristin shrugged and dropped her eyes from Nathan’s face. “I was just excited about the test results. I didn’t mean to…”
“Bullshit. I think you knew exactly what you were doing. You wanted everyone to see us together. What I want to know is why?”
Kristin tried to free herself but Nathan kept his hands planted firmly on the door on either side of her waist.
“I’ll get it out of you one way or the other so why don’t you just tell me?”
Kristin licked her lips nervously and Nathan groaned. He shifted his head to nuzzle her neck, his teeth nibbling up and down the silky flesh. Kristin’s hands pushed against him trying to move him away but her head fell to the side to allow him better access. “Tell me.” Nathan whispered against her rapidly heating skin.
“Nothing has happened so Savannah…we thought we needed to try and draw a response from whoever is doing this. A show of affection, initiated by me, seemed the most logical thing to…” Kristin gasped as Nathan’s lips found an erect nipple poking proudly through the thin cotton of her blouse. The soft fabric only added to the sensation that Nathan’s tongue running back and forth across the peak was evoking.
“So you two decided to make you the bait? You had no right.” Nathan spoke as his lips trailed across her chest to find the other peak.
“We just want this to be settled. I can’t continue to be near to you and pretend not to care. Nathan…we have to stop.” Somehow Nathan had loosened the buttons on her shirt and pushed it down her shoulders, baring her breasts to his hungry eyes and lips.
“You don’t want to stop.” Nathan pulled a dusky peak into his mouth and began sucking it vigorously.
“No, I want…Shit!”
The sudden pounding on the door behind them startled Nathan and he bit Kristin’s nipple rather harder than he had intended too. Nathan pulled back to rest his forehead against Kristin’s, both of them having trouble breathing.
“Captain, are you in there?” Lucas’s voice sounded through the closed door.
“I love that kid but I am going to kill him! I’m sorry Babe. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
Kristin nodded and began straightening her clothes as Nathan allowed her to escape. “Just a moment Lucas.” Nathan called as he double-checked his own clothing and wiped Kristin’s lipstick from his mouth. When she’d finished fastening her shirt Nathan pulled the door open to reveal the embarrassed teen.
“I’m sorry Captain” Lucas stammered as his eyes wandered about the ceiling, refusing to meet Nathan’s gaze. “Anna just paged me from her quarters and asked if I would check on Dr. Westphalen. I didn’t mean to…”
“I’m sure you didn’t Lucas but that’s more than I can say for Sa…Anna. I’ve got to get back to the bridge. Keep me informed of your results Doctor.” Nathan stalked across the laboratory and out of the area as if he was daring anyone to speak to him.
Savannah was glad that the corridors were almost deserted as she made her way back to the boardroom nursery. Third shift had just begun and she was ready to try and get some rest if the twins allowed that. Anna Ross had spent the evening catching up on Dr. Westphalen’s paperwork in the laboratory in an attempt to continue her official identify but it had been a long day.
Savannah hopped on the first available Mag-lev and was surprised to see Nathan there. There was no one else in the transport and Savannah waited nervously for Nathan to chastise her about her idea to draw out the mind controller but to her surprise he didn’t say anything about it.
“I took the second shift on the bridge. What’s your excuse?”
“Dr. Westphalen wanted to spend some quality time with…Anyway, I took advantage of the time to catch up on some of the paperwork for the research team.”
“You are a very capable assistant, Anna. A bit to inventive in some of your ideas but otherwise capable.”
“I am only trying to help Captain.”
“I know that. So do you really think this new batch of ‘research’ will really work?”
“Sometimes ‘results’ have to be coaxed out into the light. They don’t just present themselves so you have to really search for them.”
The mag-lev slid to a halt and they both stepped out into the hallway. Nathan fell into step beside Savannah, neither saying a word until they reached the boardroom door.
“I’ll see you in the morning, Miss Ross” Nathan said for the benefit of anyone listening before moving down the corridor to his own quarters. He was grateful that none of the crew realized that the Captain’s quarters had access to the converted conference room or the VIP quarters or he knew the rumors would be even worse than they already were. Nathan had heard that Tony Piccolo was taking bets on whether or not the Captain was ‘doing’ the visiting doctor. He was planning a very interesting punishment for Piccolo’s latest scheme.
Nathan made sure that he locked his cabin door before knocking on the meeting room entry. Savannah appeared immediately.
“Is it morning already?” She joked.
“Do you mind if I say good-night? I won’t keep you up long.”
“Both of the little demons are asleep but I’m sure they wouldn’t mind a bedtime kiss from their daddy.”
Nathan stood by the small cribs and gazed in wonder at the babies sleeping peacefully inside. He still couldn’t believe that they were real. He gently brushed a kiss across each small head of curls before moving to Kristin’s door.
“Captain, I really don’t think…”
“I don’t see what harm it could do after the display we put on today but I only want to check on her and wish her good night. I’ll be back in my own quarters in ten minutes.”
“Make it five.”
Nathan pushed the hatch open and stared at the picture that greeted his eyes. Kristin lay curled up on top of her bunk, a silky negligee covering her slender body; her eyes closed in sleep. She still held a cup of tea in her hand and her reading glasses were perched on her nose. The research papers she had been looking at had fallen on the bunk next to her.
Nathan gently pried the empty cup from her hand and pulled the glasses carefully from her face. He picked up the papers and stacked them on the bedside table before pulling a blanket across her slumbering form. Nathan stopped at her shoulder and stared at the naked shoulder revealed by a silky strap hanging to Kristin’s elbow. The nipple just below the edge of the silk peaked as if it could feel Nathan’s gaze. He absently reached a hand out to stroke the shoulder as he knelt by the bunk. A faint smile appeared on Kristin’s lips and she rolled into Nathan’s warm hand. The silk fell away, exposing her firm breast. Nathan felt as if he were on fire as he moved toward the peak. He saw the faint blue hue left from his teeth earlier in the day as he covered the dusky tip with his mouth.
Even in her sleep Kristin was wildly responsive, arching her back to push her breast more fully into his mouth. Nathan’s left hand wrapped itself around Kristin’s other breast and his right hand slid along her stomach to the juncture of her thighs and began to caress. Kristin’s eyes flew open as a moan escaped her lips. Her hands flew to Nathan’s head and pulled his mouth up to meet hers. The kiss grew in intensity until both of them were crazy with desire. Nathan found himself in the bunk pressing his body fully against Kristin’s, her leg wrapped around his hip. A loud noise from the next room startled them both. Nathan moved back to kneel by the bunk, his hands replacing Kristin’s displaced clothing and covering her to the neck with the blanket.
“How am I ever going to stay away from you once this baby is born?”
Nathan just smiled his best little boy smile. Kristin yawned sleepily and he brushed his lips across hers. “Get some sleep, okay?” She nodded and closed her eyes.
Nathan slipped back through the boardroom just as Savannah was emerging from the head in a set of comfortable sweats.
“See! Four minutes and thirty seconds.”
Kristin awoke with a start as her stomach rolled. “Not again” she mumbled to her self. “I only had a sandwich and a cup of tea.” Her hand gently rubbed her abdomen. “You’ve got to let me keep something down, little one. You need the nutrition too.”
Apparently the baby in her womb didn’t agree because Kristin’s stomach began to churn violently. She leapt up and dashed to the head, barely making it before she was violently ill. Once her stomach was emptied of its contents she leaned back against the wall.
“Your father is going to pay for this.” Kristin’s noticed the strange taste in her mouth and the burning sensation in her throat just as her stomach began to heave again. She rid herself of stomach bile and acid before attempting to stand but strong abdominal cramps wouldn’t let her.
“Hold on, little one, please.” She made it to her feet and stumbled the short distance to the nursery. Kristin managed to push the door open and call for Savannah before she felt the bile rise in her throat again.
Savannah appeared in the doorway just as Kristin fell to her knees at the door of the bathroom. “Get Nathan.” She stammered before once again being sick.
Savannah raced to Nathan’s cabin and shook him frantically. Nathan was sleeping hard and didn’t appreciate the abrupt awakening but when he saw Savannah’s face he knew something was wrong.
Kristin was still hanging over the toilet bowl when they returned and he helped her lean back against the wall and gently washed her face with the cold cloth Savannah handed him.
“This is bad bout, huh Babe?”
Kristin shook her head. Her arms wrapped around her waist as her stomach continued to cramp. “This isn’t morning sickness Nathan. You need to get Joshua quickly. I think I’ve been poisoned.”
Nathan ran to his cabin and saw Darwin floating in the aqua tube just as he knew the dolphin would be. Darwin always sensed trouble. He grabbed the portable vocorder. “Darwin, go find Lucas and tell him to bring Dr. Levin to my cabin.”
Darwin nodded and swam quickly away as Nathan unlocked his door then raced back to the other room.
“I’m going to move you to the bed, okay Baby?” Nathan cradled Kristin gently in his arms and carried her across the cabin. She had gone very pale and her skin was clammy where Nathan touched it.
“Can you tell me what happened?” Nathan asked once he had settled her in the bed. Savannah hovered to the side.
“I woke up and felt ill. I have a metallic taste in my mouth and my throat is burning. Those symptoms, along with abdominal cramping can indicate metal poisoning, probably arsenic.”
Nathan’s hand slid to Kristin’s abdomen. “You’re sure the cramping isn’t the baby?”
“I had a miscarriage years ago. This doesn’t feel the same. There could be danger to the baby though, if it is a toxic substance.”
“You should have told me that you were pregnant.” Savannah’s voice interrupted them.
“We haven’t told anyone Savannah. Janet is the only other person who knows. I’m only eight weeks. We wanted to make sure that everything went okay and we wanted to get this mess straightened out.”
“I never would have let you put yourself on the firing line today. You shouldn’t even be on this boat.”
“Savannah, My children are in danger of losing their father. I am in danger of losing my love. I am not willing to let that happen and I am not the type of person to sit back and let someone else take what is mine. I have only done what I had to do.” Kristin caught Nathan’s hand and squeezed it tightly as another wave of cramping hit her. “Morning sickness seems like a bed of roses compared to this.”
“Morning sickness? I thought you had a special glow about you.” Joshua commented as he moved into the room with Lucas on his heels.
Nathan moved back into the nursery with Lucas while Joshua examined Kristin. They found both Maddy and Jamie playing quietly in their cribs as if they knew that everyone else was occupied. Lucas warmed bottles and Nathan changed diapers then the two men settled into chairs to feed the little ones.
“Was Dr. Levin right, Captain? Are we going to have another baby?”
Nathan stifled his smile. “Yes Lucas. The Immaculate Conception has occurred yet again. In about seven months we shall have three sets of diapers to contend with instead of just two.”
“The twins won’t be out of diapers yet? Geez, you could have planned it a little better.”
“We didn’t plan anything Lucas. It just sort of happened. But don’t worry. Kristin assures me that this will be the last baby we conceive without some sort of real divine intervention.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Once this baby comes, no more sex.”
Lucas laughed out loud. “I wouldn’t place any money on that one. Knowing you two in a few years I’ll have enough brothers and sisters for a baseball team. We’ve got a shortstop so maybe this one will be a pitcher.”
“You know she set herself up. This morning on the bridge when she kissed me, it was deliberate.”
“I know. I’ve been thinking Captain and I have an idea…”
Savannah beckoned Nathan and Lucas back into the room and Nathan handed her Jamie before he moved to Kristin’s side as she sat propped in the bunk. His worry showed in his face. He gazed at her and she raised a hand to caress his cheek.
“I’m okay. We are both okay. This damn morning sickness has kept me from absorbing most of the arsenic. I only have a trace amount in my system and it isn’t enough to hurt the baby. I never thought I’d be grateful for being so sick.”
Nathan turned to Joshua with a raised eyebrow.
“She’s telling the truth. We even know where it came from – the sugar dish. There are still minute amounts left. Whoever did this knows Kristin drinks a lot of tea, or at least expected it because of her English background.” His curious gaze took in the twins in Savannah and Lucas’s arms. “Perhaps I should check…your children? As well, just to make sure. They are probably fine since no one knew they were on board but it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Nathan ran the pad of his thumbs across Kristin’s lips. He spoke, never taking his eyes off of her. “Yes, Joshua, check out our children. And then we stop this here and now. Will you help us?”
Joshua gave his affirmative then Nathan and Lucas laid out the plan they had hatched.
Joshua was putting his medicine bag back in the med bay lockup when Wendy Smith came into the room.
“You’re out late. Anything important?”
“Dr. Westphalen was feeling a bit nauseated. Probably something she ate combined with lack of sleep. I gave her a shot of promethazine for the nausea so she will probably sleep for the next twelve hours.”
“She won’t thank you for that. She likes to be in charge of every aspect of her research.”
“Dr. Westphalen has a good team. I should know. I helped her pick them. She needs the rest. Speaking of rest…”
Joshua’s Pal went off as if on cue. “Levin here.”
“Dr. Levin this is Jenkins down in the research lab. We’ve got a bit of a problem and we could really use Dr. Westphalen but her assistant told us she is down for the count. Anna is on her way down here but we could probably use your help as well.”
“I’ll be right there. Sorry Dr. Smith but duty calls. Oh, I some samples from Dr. Westphalen’s dinner tray to test for food poisoning, just in case. Will you put them in the laboratory basket for me?” Joshua handed Wendy the samples before exiting med bay.
Wendy stared at the containers suspiciously before walking to the sink and emptying the contents of the one containing sugar into the drain. She rinsed the vial clean, being careful not to damage Levin’s label. She removed two packets of sugar from a drawer of her desk and began to add them to the vial but she squeezed too hard and the still damp vial flew from her hand and shattered on the floor. The label was irretrievably damaged.
‘Damn!’ Wendy thought to herself. ‘Levin will believe that I broke the sample but he will want another one. I’ve got to get that sugar bowl.’
Kristin lay curled up in her bunk sleeping soundly when Wendy stuck her head through the hatch door. A quick glance told Wendy that she was alone. ~Who were you expecting to be here? Nathan? ~ She spotted the tray of cream and sugar on the table next to Kristin’s bunk and began to move quietly toward it. The soft soles of her shoes made no noise on the deck and Wendy reached the table without incident. She reached out for the sugar dish.
Wendy screamed aloud and dropped the dish as a strong hand clamped around her wrist and the room light came on. Kristin’s grip tightened as she stared into Wendy’s eyes.
“Why?” Kristin demanded, her eyes ice cold.
“Dr. Westphalen, Joshua told me that you weren’t feeling well and I just came by to check on you.”
“Then what the bloody hell are you doing with that sugar bowl? You tried to poison me. You’re the one who’s been invading Nathan’s mind, turning him against me. I want to know WHY?”
“I think we’d all like the answer to that question.” Wendy turned to find Nathan, Joshua and the woman she knew as Anna Ross filing into the room from the boardroom entrance. Nathan moved to stand over Wendy as Kristin sat up and pulled her robe on over her nightgown.
“I…Nathan, I can explain. I just came to check on Dr. Westphalen. She’s delusional…”
“Stop lying Dr. Smith. Kristin recognized the symptoms of arsenic poisoning. We’ve already tested the sugar bowl. We set you up and you walked right in to it. Now you are going to tell me why you did this to me. You did play with my mind didn’t you? You made me doubt Kristin then you made me forget her.”
“I didn’t make you do anything. The doubts were already there. I just magnified them!”
“You didn’t even know me a year ago but it was you then as well wasn’t it? What did I ever do to you to make you want to hurt me this way?” Nathan shook his head fiercely and looked to Kristin, tears coming to his eyes as he viewed the sorrow in hers. “I love Kristin.” He fell to his knees in front of the beautiful red head. “I love you Kristin. I don’t doubt you.”
Kristin tears flowed harder and she started to speak. At that moment an ear-piercing wail rent the room. A frantic Lucas appeared at the door with a screaming Maddy in his arms.
“I can’t calm her down.”
Kristin moved around Nathan and met Lucas in the middle of the room. Maddy reached for her mother but her screaming continued as Kristin soothed her with whispered words and touches. Nathan stood and stroked the babies damp curls as he added his voice to Kristin’s until the little girl finally hiccuped then buried her head in her mother’s shoulder.
Wendy stared at the scene playing out in front of her. The baby caught her off guard but she understood when Nathan joined mother and daughter. “How could you hide this from me?”
Suddenly her eyes fastened on the other woman in the room. Wendy swept her mind and found herself in a battle of wills. “Rossovich! You blocked my thoughts!”
Wendy’s anger grew. She struck out with her mind. Savannah caught the barrage of emotion aimed at Kristin and Wendy quickly redirected her fury at Nathan. He cried out and fell to his knees, unable to block the onslaught. Kristin screamed and Wendy Smith fell back onto the deck, a vacant look on her face
Kristin was vaguely aware of Joshua Levin supporting Savannah as she fell to her knees beside Nathan. Kristin’s free hand moved to Nathan’s cheek as he sat sobbing on the floor. “Nathan, are you okay? I need for you to speak to me?”
Nathan stared at Kristin and the baby blankly. “Nathan, it’s Kristin. Please try to remember me. Remember the children.” Kristin brushed her lips across his. “Come on darling, please try.” Her lips closed over his again and she felt a tentative response. Kristin flicked her tongue across his bottom lip and he opened his mouth to her. Maddy chose that moment to grab a handful of her father’s hair and yank – hard. Nathan yelped as he pulled back and unwrapped Maddy’s tiny fingers.
“You brat!” He kissed Maddy’s forehead then began to blow raspberries on her cheeks and was rewarded with laughter. His mouth continued over Maddy’s face and across Kristin’s cheek until her reached her mouth and planted a short but firm kiss on her waiting lips. “I love you.” He whispered quietly before he stood to survey the room around him.
“Dr. Levin?” Nathan questioned Levin who was kneeling beside an unconscious Wendy.
“Her circuits have been overloaded and she’s shut down momentarily. I think she will be okay but I need to get her to med bay.”
Nathan nodded. “Lucas will assist you. Once you’ve determined that she will be okay I want her kept sedated until we make some decisions.”
Once the men had left with the unresponsive Dr. Smith Nathan turned back to the assembled company.
“Can anyone tell me what just happened? Savannah?”
The woman shook her head. “It wasn’t me. I was trying to deflect her anger from Kristin and then she turned on you. I felt something…” Savannah turned on Kristin. “Did you tell me the truth? You have no telepathic ability at all?”
Kristin shook her head. “Of course I told the truth.”
“When she turned on Nathan I felt rage and anguish – your feelings doctor. Your feelings incapacitated Dr. Smith. If you didn’t project them who did?”
Nathan caught Kristin as she began to sag. Savannah took Maddy as Nathan laid Kristin on the bunk and tucked her beneath the blanket.
“Close your eyes Baby. It’s all over now. You get some rest.”
Kristin shook her head. “I want to go with you. I deserve an explanation from that woman just as much as you do.”
“I agree but you need to rest more. Don’t forget you were poisoned just a few hours ago. Besides I think I’ll get a much more truthful explanation out of Smith without your presence. I promise I’ll tell you everything.”
When Savannah returned to the room Nathan was stretched out in the bunk holding a sleeping Kristin. When he saw Savannah he carefully disentangled himself and placed a loving kiss on Kristin’s forehead.
“Dr. Levin just called. Wendy is coming around and he wondered if I could…”
Nathan waved his hands at her. “Go. I’ll be along in a few minutes.”
“What about…?” Savannah pointed back into the nursery.
“Kris has got to get some rest. I’ll take care of it.”
Nathan strode purposefully down the hall, ignoring the surprised looks the two small babies in his arms were evoking. Both of the twins were wide-awake and gurgling happily. The mag-lev doors opened and Nathan stepped through, right into an exiting Piccolo and Dagwood. The look on Tony’s face was priceless and Nathan had to bite back a laugh. As Nathan sat down Piccolo turned away from the exit and moved to sit beside his Captain. Dagwood sat on the other side and stared at the babies, clearly fascinated.
“The UEO’s recruiting them younger ever day, huh sir?”
Nathan just smiled; knowing the Piccolo was dying for him to say something, anything at all about the kids.
“Yes sir. I guess these two are for engineering detail? Small enough to fit in the crawl spaces.”
Dagwood emitted a surprised yelp. He’d gently stuck a finger in Jamie’s arm and the baby had grabbed hold and pulled it to his mouth to suck on it.
Nathan couldn’t hold the laughter back. “Now you finally get the hang of it.” He told his young son. “He won’t hurt you Dagwood. I think he’s teething and chewing on your finger helps soothe his gums.”
Dagwood settled back and let the baby continue. “The baby has the Captain’s eyes.”
Nathan nodded as Piccolo’s eyes bugged out. “This is my son, Dagwood. His name is Jamie and this is his sister Maddy.”
Dagwood nodded with a smile on his face. “She’s pretty, like doctor Kristin.”
“She does look like her mother.” Nathan agreed as the mag-lev slid to a stop.
Piccolo began to choke as Nathan stood up and moved to the door. He turned around at the exit to see Dagwood beating a choking Tony on the back. “Mr. Piccolo, don’t get to busy in any extracurricular activities or I might find that the aquatubes need a thorough cleaning, with your toothbrush. Do I make myself clear?”
Nathan was pleased to see the mercenary gleam in Piccolo’s eyes go out, at least momentarily.
Joshua had given Dr. Smith a light sedative, not enough medication to knock her cold but enough to dampen any ideas she might have about mental manipulation. Light restraints held her to the bed as Nathan paced and Joshua and Savannah hovered nearby. Wendy just watched until Nathan finally came to rest at the foot of the bed. “WHY?” He demanded.
“I love you, Nathan. I’ve loved you from the first moment I saw you. We are meant to be together. Can’t you see that?”
Nathan was struggling to hold his anger in check. “If I ever gave you any indication that I reciprocated your feelings I’m sorry but I love Kristin Westphalen. I’ve loved her from the first moment I saw her. You almost destroyed her, destroyed me. You didn’t even know me a year ago. Why did you plant distrust in my mind?”
“I did know you Nathan. I’ve known you for years. I was seventeen the first time I saw you. Mother spoke at the Academy graduation that year and I accompanied her. Your son was in that class.”
Nathan nodded, remembering Admiral Lexington Smith’s keynote speech at Robert’s commencement.
“Mother pointed Robert out to me and told me that he would be a good catch, that she had been foolish enough to let his father get away but I should try for the son. Robert was standing with you and your wife. He was very handsome but you took my breath away. You glanced up and nodded at mother and our eyes met. I knew in that moment that we were fated to be together. That’s why I became involved with the UEO, so I could be close to you. Then your son died and you disappeared but I didn’t give up on you. I was sorry when I heard your wife died, because I knew that you would be hurting as well, but I was happy because I knew that our time had come. Mother heard that Admiral Noyce was going to try and lure you back to the original seaQuest so she made arrangements to have me posted on board, but then Admiral Noyce convinced the powers that be to have a larger civilian science contingent. He hired her and my post was done away with.”
Wendy stopped and took a breath, almost overwhelmed by the rage emanating from Nathan.
“Kristin Westphalen never did anything to hurt you. Why did you try to kill her?”
“She took you away from me! I investigated her when I found out she was going to be your CMO but I wrote her off. She’s middle-aged, hard as nails and hates the military. How could you be attracted to her? After you blew up the boat and moved to NCQ to build the new one Mother began to work behind the scenes to make sure I would be the new CMO. A couple of months before we launched I took leave and moved to NCQ to be near you. That’s when I found out about your relationship with her, that you were living together. You should have waited for me Nathan.”
Nathan had to bit his lip to keep from releasing his ire. “What did you do then?”
“I went to a party one night. You were there with her and your astronaut friend was there too. I had already learned that you sensed if I touched your mind too deeply but when your friend danced with Dr. Westphalen I could feel your jealousy. Outwardly you were smiling and laughing but inwardly you couldn’t stand the thought of any other man touching her. You were so distracted that I decided to use that to my advantage, plant a quick subconscious thought.”
Nathan closed his eyes against the memory of that night. He had been jealous when he’d seen Kristin and Scott dancing together but he’d chalked it up to having too much to drink. He remembered making a comment about the dance that Kristin had taken as a joke. She’d teased him relentlessly about the green-eyed monster and they’d ended up having a night of fantastic sex. ‘That was probably the night the twins were conceived.’ Nathan thought to himself, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.
Wendy’s voice dragged him back. “It was easy to get near to you over the next few weeks, pass you in the hall or sit near you in the cafeteria. Each time I subtly reminded you of your jealousy. By the time the tour started I’d heard that Dr. Westphalen had left you. I knew that she would. She didn’t love you Nathan, not like I do. I tried so hard to let you know that and you were responding, I know you were, but then you always pulled back.”
“You made me forget about her, at least you tried. That’s why I always pulled back wasn’t it? Something in my subconscious remembered Kristin. You couldn’t overcome that.”
“You didn’t need to be distracted by thoughts of her. You were supposed to be thinking about me. So I helped you forget your feelings for her. I told mother that I had to go to that party but she insisted that I go with her to my cousin’s wedding. I didn’t think that you had remembered but when she came onboard I wasn’t sure. You got so angry when I objected to her being here but I didn’t feel any intimacy between you, at least not until she kissed you on the bridge. I wasn’t trying to kill her. I could sense that she hadn’t been feeling well and I thought that if she were to get even sicker she would have to leave the boat. Levin would have noticed if any drugs were missing so I used something from the lab.”
“Arsenic was just a little something to make her sick? Get real, Smith. It was attempted murder and I’m going to make sure that you pay for it. Mommy isn’t going to be able to bail you out this time.”
“You don’t mean that Nathan. You love me, I know you do. It was the brats, wasn’t it? After you got back from Lucas’ party I knew that something had changed but I couldn’t tell what. How do you even know that they are yours? She probably did sleep with Keller.”
Nathan’s hands balled into fists as the slammed down on the end of the bed, not touching Smith but coming very close. “STOP IT! I will not let you control me anymore. Get this straight. I love Kristin. We have two wonderful babies. Kristin and I are going to get married. If you ever try to harm my family in any way you will be sorry. I promise you.” Nathan turned toward the door. “Make sure that she can’t touch anyone’s mind. I’ll send Brody to lock her in the brig until we can finish up here and return to port.”
“NOOOO!” Nathan heard Wendy scream as he exited the room. He did not turn back.
Nathan entered the VIP quarters through the boardroom door and smiled at the sight that greeted him. Kristin was sleeping soundly in her bunk with two sleeping babies tucked safely between her body and the wall. Lucas was fast asleep as well, seated in a chair which was tilted back precariously against the main door. He’d made sure that no one could get through the door without going through him. Nathan shook the boy gently to wake him and motioned for his silence. Nathan leaned over the sleeping woman and gently picked up his small son. He gave Lucas the boy to take back into the nursery. Then Nathan turned to get Maddy, preparing himself to make a dash with her before she could wake her mother up. To his surprise Maddy continued to sleep soundly as he carried her into the next room, her only movement was to stick her thumb into her mouth.
“Is every thing okay?” Lucas whispered as they tucked the twins in.
“Everything is fine. Go get some sleep now. I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow. Thanks for watching Kris and the kids for me.”
Lucas nodded and took off toward the door, a huge yawn erupting from his mouth. Nathan walked back to Kristin’s bunk and had just gathered her into his arms when Savannah appeared. She raised her eyebrows and nodded at the sleeping woman. “Everything okay?” She mouthed.
Nathan nodded and whispered. “I know you and Kristen have been taking turns on that horrible cot in the conference room but you don’t have to any more. You take this cabin. She stays with me.”
Savannah smiled a knowing smile and nodded in agreement. “Only if you let me take baby duty for what is left of the night. Close your door behind you.”
Nathan smiled his thanks as he slipped into the next room. A moment later Savannah heard the thud of the far door being kicked shut.
Kristin snuggled deeper into the warmth surrounding her and sighed as she opened her eyes. Deep pools of blue stared back at her.
“Good morning, Sleeping Beauty!”
Kristin smiled. “I think I’ve heard that before. You wouldn’t be trying to seduce me now would you?”
“Always.” Nathan bent his lips to brush hers in a tender kiss. “How do you feel this morning?”
“A little nauseated but surprising well considering the events of the past 24 hours. What happened after I went to sleep? Where is that woman?”
“That woman is in the brig where she will stay until we finish this little clean up job and get back to port.” Nathan went on to explain everything that Wendy had revealed to him about her motives and methodology. When he finished Kristin sighed.
“I can’t blame her for falling for you but I still hate her. Oh God, she knows about the children! What is she tries…”
“She won’t try anything. I promise. I don’t think she can hurt the children.”
“What do you mean? They’re just babies. Of course she could hurt them.”
“When Wendy overloaded Savannah said that it was your feelings that did it but you don’t have any empathic ability. I think that perhaps one or both of the kids might have inherited some of mine, probably Maddy. I think that maybe she picked up on your feelings and threw them back at the source instinctively.”
“That’s ridiculous, Nathan. She is just a baby!” Kristin sat up and immediately turned green. Nathan eased her slowly back into the pillow before climbing out of the bunk and pulling on his clothes.
“It is just a theory and not even an important one. We can talk about it later. Now, can I get you anything? Would you like some tea? A few crackers?”
“A cracker or two wouldn’t be unwelcome but no tea. I may never drink the stuff again. Get me some ginger ale. And maybe some waffles…with chocolate syrup.”
Nathan pulled his face. “You’re nauseated so you want me to be nauseated too, right?” He dived out the door, narrowly avoiding the pillow that flew his way.
Nathan’s hands were full of the tray of food that he carried so he used his foot to push on the cabin door. It didn’t budge so he tried again. The door still didn’t move. Nathan was suddenly scared and leaned into the door with all his weight. It flew open and he staggered into the room, barely succeeding in hanging on to the tray. He was greeted with applause.
Nathan looked up to find his cabin filled with people. Kristin was curled up in one end of the bed but Lucas was lounging on the other end. Dagwood sat in the chair at Nathan’s desk with Jamie held protectively in his arms. Ortiz, O’Neill and Levin were scattered around the room. Nathan almost dropped the tray again when he saw Ford and Piccolo, not because of their presence but because Jonathan was holding Maddy while he and Piccolo made goofy faces and babbled at her.
“I guess that our news is out. What happened Piccolo? Couldn’t figure out how to fit third shift in the cabin?”
Tony Piccolo just grinned.
“Nathan, be nice. The boys just wanted to meet the babies. They’ve been getting acquainted. Did you get my waffles?”
Nathan sat the tray down on the bed in front of her. “Crackers, ginger ale, waffles and chocolate syrup. Hey, the danish was mine!” Kristin dropped the danish back onto its plate and turned the large mouth imprint away from Nathan.”
“And it’s very good!” She handed the plate to Nathan before devouring her waffles and chocolate sauce. A collective groan went up from the males assembled at the sight of the sticky treat.
“Maybe we should get back to work, gentlemen.” Commander Ford prompted gently.
“That sounds like an excellent idea.” Bridger seconded. He took Maddy from Ford’s arms and handed her to Lucas. “Why don’t you and Dagwood take the twins down to see Darwin? Play a little. Stay gone for at least an hour.” Nathan gave Lucas a hard stare.
Kristin leaned forward slightly to watch as Lucas and Dagwood quickly disappeared into the corridor along with the rest of their visitors. “Am I wrong in thinking that you would like to be alone with me Captain?”
“You would not be wrong.”
“And could this sudden desire to be alone with me indicate that perhaps you have an ulterior motive?”
“That depends. Are you still feeling ill?”
Kristin shook her head as she let her robe slip from her shoulders revealing the silky white negligee beneath. “I feel pretty good actually. Wanna feel me?”
“Desperately!” Nathan flipped the lock on the door before he began pulling off his clothes. He was bent over pulling his pants over his feet when he felt something brush his neck. Nathan tilted his eyes up to find a nest of auburn curls at eye level. Kristin’s negligee lay draped partially across his neck. The rest of the gown was cupped in the palm that she ran sensuously over her thigh. Nathan groaned as her silk covered fingers brushed through the nest of curls teasingly.
Nathan leaned forward and raised his head slightly to run his tongue around Kristin’s belly button. Her breath caught as Nathan carefully maneuvered her back a few steps. When the edge of the bunk caught their knees Nathan pushed Kristin down to sit on the edge and knelt between her parted legs. Kristin smiled a naughty smile and started to lean back but Nathan ran his hands up her rib cage and around to her shoulder blades, holding her upright.
“I’ve only got seven months before you start breast feeding again and I’ve really missed this.” Nathan stared lovingly at her generous chest before he went to work, mouth, tongue and hands working in unison to give pleasure. Kristin arched her back and a low moan escaped her lips as her hands moved to clutch Nathan’s head to her chest. Nathan drew the torment out, nibbling slowly around each globe, working from the outside in but stopping just before he reached the swollen peak. When his mouth left one breast for the other his hand moved in to continue stroking. Kristin began to wiggle beneath his hands, trying desperately to push her nipples into contact with his mouth and hands.
Just when Kristin knew she was going to go completely crazy Nathan lightly brushed his tongue across a pink tip. Her body convulsed and a cry came from deep in her throat as her body shook with pleasure. Her head fell to Nathan’s shoulder and he continued to gently caress her body as she slowly came back to earth.
Kristin drew her head back to stare at Nathan, wonder in her eyes. She moved back and stretched on the bunk while pulling Nathan’s hand to draw him up and beside her. Nathan cradled Kristin in his arms as they kissed lightly. “I love you.” They whispered to each other at the same time, drawing a smile to both of their faces. A few more simple moves joined them together at last. Nathan moved slowly, using long deep strokes to rekindle Kristin’s desire. Their lovemaking was simple but heart felt as a year’s worth of pent-up feeling flooding out. They came together, voices crying out in unison. Afterwards they lay tangled, neither one willing to let go of the other.
The waves rolled gently to shore as the sun worked its way down toward the western horizon. The formal ceremony was over and Nathan, looking very handsome in his dress uniform, stood on the periphery of the crowd and watched as the new Mrs. Nathan Bridger greeted the guests, a brilliant smile on her beautiful face. Kristin wore a simple gown of the palest pink silk covered with lace that hung to mid calf. Cap sleeves and a scooped neckline accented her abundant chest while the empire waist hid her burgeoning stomach. The new baby was still their little secret but, at four and a half months, Nathan knew that it wouldn’t be for much longer.
“You sure you don’t want to change your mind?” Bill’s voice sounded in Nathan’s ear as a glass of champagne appeared in front of his face. “Ford will be a good captain but she is your ship.”
Nathan shook his head vigorously. “No way. I’ve had my turn. It’s time to let someone else take the helm. There is nothing I want more in this world than to be at home with my family. Do you realize that I’ve missed the births of all three of my children? I’m not going to make that mistake again.”
Bill shot a look of curiosity at Nathan, making him wonder if Janet had revealed their secret. “I heard Lucas needs some outfielders to complete the family baseball team.”
Nathan just grinned and remained silent.
Bill looked thoughtful. “Will you be happy on land Nathan? Won’t you be bored?”
“The job you’ve offered me at HQ should keep me pretty busy and God knows I love designing. Look at her, Bill.” Nathan gestured toward Kristin as she stood chatting with Katie, each woman holding a seven-month-old twin in their arms. “Can you imagine any day spent with Kristin Westphalen Bridger a boring day? I’m going to tuck my kids into bed every night, wake them up every morning, and see them grow and change every single day. What could possibly be dull about that?”
“You know that Admiral Smith is gunning for you? She blames you for her daughter flipping out and being remanded to the mental hospital.”
“I can deal with Sexy Lexy. If she doesn’t let up I’ll resign. Kristin and I will take the kids and retire to the island. Get this straight Bill. No one is ever going to hurt my family again.”
Bill lifted his glass to Nathan. “Just be happy Nathan. That’s what Janet and I wish for all of you.” The two men shared a silent toast and a handshake.
Janet’s waving hand caught their eye as she motioned Nathan over to where she stood with Kristin and the photographer.
“Duty calls.” Nathan handed his glass to Bill and trudged across the sand to his wife’s side.
“The photographer wants to get a family portrait. I think that would be nice, don’t you?” Kristin asked Nathan who nodded in agreement.
The photographer quickly positioned the happy couple against the ocean backdrop, each of them holding a child. He snapped a couple of pictures before Kristin could stop him.
“A proper family portrait should have the entire family. Where is Cynthia?”
Cynthia stepped into frame and was being positioned by the photographer when Kristin whispered in Nathan’s ear.
“I love you!” He told her and planted a kiss on her lips. “Lucas, get your butt over here, family portrait!”
The boy appeared with loud protests but both Nathan and Kristin could tell he was extremely pleased to be included. The photographer continued to fuss and rearrange until he was finally satisfied – Lucas holding Jamie, Nathan with his arms around Kristin who stood in front and slightly to one side, and Cynthia holding Maddy on the other end. The camera snapped away as the crowd watched.
“Hey Lucas! Looks like you are going to have to settle for a basketball team.” This came from Ben Kreig, who knew that basketball was not Lucas’s favorite sport.
“Yeah, right!” Lucas yelled back. “I only need two more players. One more set of twins is all it takes!”
Tony Piccolo joined in the game. “You also need to learn to count. A baseball team takes nine players. By my reckoning two more players only gives you eight.”
“You’re not counting the new…”
“Lucas!” Both Nathan and Kristin hissed under the breath but it was too late. All eyes fell to Kristin’s stomach; clearly outlined by the dress that had been pulled tight by Nathan’s clenched hands.
Ben and Piccolo looked at each other and grinned. “Partners?” He asked Tony. Piccolo nodded. Ben reached into his inside coat pocket and pulled out a notebook.
“All right people, birth date, height, weight and sex. Place your bets!” Both Kreig and Piccolo were swarmed with crewmen.
“I’m sorry, sir. Really, I am doc.” Lucas apologized.
“It wasn’t as if we could keep it a secret much longer but you really should be more careful Lucas.” Kristin admonished gently. “And I’m afraid that if you need outfielders you are going to have to look elsewhere. This is the last baby I am going to have, okay?”
Lucas nodded. “ I know, the no sex rule. But you didn’t really plan any of these babies either. I can hope for a third Immaculate Conception can’t I?”
“Lucas will you kindly shut up before I end up in divorce court!” Nathan said in a mock whisper as Kristin turned to glare at him.
Luckily for Nathan the band began to play at just that moment. The first song was one that Nathan quickly recognized. It was the song he had asked the band to play at Lucas’ s birthday party nearly five months ago.
A smile slowly lit Kristin’s face as she held her hand out to Nathan.
“Could I have this dance?”