Archive: tayryn’s tower
Disclaimer: Amblin owns them
Summary: what ‘really’ happened after first season
Notes from tayryn: this is, without a doubt, the BEST story I’ve ever read, that explains what happened after first season. It answers the questions of ‘what happened to Kristin?’ and ‘who the heck is Michael really?’ and lastly, ‘what really became of Robert?’
Jaya has outdone herself with this mini-epic!!
Be warned… you’re going to laugh… cry, and yes, even shout out loud when reading this! I did.
Now, get comfy, and read this masterpiece written by ½ of ESB²!!
Nathan plastered himself against the wall, trying to look inconspicuous as two guards walked by. They were laughing and joking which put Nathan more at ease. If they suspected his presence in the facility they would have been on alert, weapons drawn. Once they were past he casually moved back into the hallway as he fought the feeling that all eyes were on him. Even though he wore tattered clothes and had smeared himself with dirt and grime he was still cleaner than most of the other workers that he saw. ~ Workers? More like slaves. ~
He wandered the hall for another half-hour, his eyes alert to his surroundings, taking in various corridors and possible means of escape. Several of the workers eyed him curiously but no one attempted to speak to him. After surreptitiously trying several doorknobs Nathan found one that opened into a supply closet and dived inside. He pulled his communicator from inside his shirt and quickly tuned it to the frequency O’Neill had specified.
“Bridger to seaQuest.”
Captain Oliver Hudson’s voice came back immediately. “We read you. Report.”
“I’m inside without any problem. No one seems to be paying much attention to me so I’m going to continue to see if I can locate…him.”
“Remember the time frame.”
“Understood. How is Michael?”
“Keeping Lucas and Darwin very busy. Don’t forget your next check-in. seaQuest out.”
Nathan slipped the communicator back into his shirt and cracked the door to check the hallway. Everything looked clear so he stepped out, only to be stopped in his tracks by a loud voice.
“You there! What are you doing? Why aren’t you in the eating hall with everyone else?”
Nathan kept his head bowed in a subservient manner. “I had to finish my cleaning, sir. I was just putting away the brooms.” He mumbled.
The guard seemed to accept Nathan’s explanation. “Well you’re done now so get to the eating hall or you won’t get any food.” Nathan quickly moved off in the direction the guard pointed. Conscious of the man’s eyes on his back he followed the sounds of clinking silverware until he entered a large room. Nathan was astounded at the number of people – workers – in the area. Initial intelligence had led them to believe that the complex held no more than twenty prisoners. This room held closer to two hundred.
A glare from a new guard sent Nathan to the end of the line. His stomach rebelled at the smell of the contents of his tray. ~ They call this food? ~ Another glance at the guard let him know that he had attracted some unwanted attention. He quickly found a place to sit in the middle of a table and began to eat, willing himself not to be sick. He managed to get most of what passed for food down before a squad of equally dirty women came round to pick up the trays. Nathan shuddered to think about the hygiene habits of the cooks.
Nathan was taken aback by the hard stare the woman who picked up his tray gave him but then he realized that he was more likely to be recognized as an outsider by one of the prisoners than by a guard. To the guards these people weren’t even human. The woman turned to look at a guard who was yelling at her to hurry then back at Nathan. ~ Please! ~ His eyes pleaded with her.
The woman broke the stare and continued with her work, never meeting his gaze again, but to Nathan’s immense relief she didn’t call the guards down on him. He breathed a sigh of thanks as he stood and moved out toward the barracks with the rest of the male workers.
Nathan was surprised to see the guards pulling men out of the line at random. He was even more surprised when he was picked. He began to worry but all of the other men seemed unbothered so he played along.
The sorted group of men was led away from the larger group and through several winding corridors before they were finally pushed into a large room. Crude comments from the guards left no doubt in Nathan’s mind as to their purpose there. The women were herded in from a separate door, the reason for their presence soon made clear. Sex for the purpose of conception. Nathan felt his stomach grow sick once again.
Although it was obvious that very little pre-coital chitchat was needed, a table of food had been provided and Nathan moved over to it. There were no guards in the room but he felt sure that they were watching and his mind raced as he tried to figure out how he was going to maintain his cover while avoiding the reprehensible activity. The food on the table was marginally better than what had been served at the meal so Nathan began to nibble. He was going to need his strength if he managed to get free to search. He was surprised to find that the woman supplying the table was the same woman he’d seen at dinner; at least he thought it was. They were all so filthy that it was hard to be certain.
He made a closer appraisal. The woman was small and painfully thin but he could tell that she was strong by the way she handled the large trays. A long braid hung over one shoulder but Nathan couldn’t tell what color the hair was because it was black with filth. Her face was also covered with the black dirt and dust so prevalent in the underwater mining prison. But then everyone Nathan had met was covered in the same manner. Her age could have been anywhere between twenty and sixty. But her eyes…they intrigued Nathan, reminded him of other eyes from long ago. But whose?
The sounds coming from behind Nathan told him that the evening’s festivities were beginning in earnest. ~ Oh, shit! ~ He glanced quickly around the room trying to find a place to hide. The woman seemed to sense his distress. She made a slight motion, at least Nathan hoped that she did, and when she slipped behind a curtain with an empty tray he quickly followed her.
The curtain hid a small holding area filled with food and dishes. Another female stood at a sink washing the dirty offerings the woman brought back. ~ She can’t be more than eight years old. ~ Apparently the woman sensed Nathan’s interest because she moved between him and the girl, her arms folded across her chest. Nathan realized what she was thinking.
“No. I don’t want the girl. She’s just a child!” Nathan wondered how many times she’d had to defend the child before and hoped that she had always been successful. Thank God the raid on this place would begin in twelve hours. Although Nathan hoped to have achieved his personal goal well before then he wanted to help these people, set them free or at least find a more humane holding place.
The woman started at his voice and Nathan realized that she had never spoken. In fact very few of the prisoners had said anything except to the guards. ~ Can they speak? ~
Nathan knew he needed help to complete his mission and he decided to take a chance. “No, I don’t belong here, but you know that.”
The woman nodded and began to move about the room, continuing her work.
“I’m here looking for someone, a man. His name is Robert. He would be about forty now. He was once a naval officer. Do you know anyone who meets that description?”
The woman looked thoughtful before shaking her head, a small frown touching her lips. Nathan marveled at the efficient way she worked. He held himself tense when she went to move back through the curtain and he knew by her quick glance at the girl that she was uneasy as well.
“I won’t touch her. I promise.”
The woman gave a nod and exited through the curtain, leaving Nathan pleased that she trusted him. He started to talk to the child but he was afraid that he might frighten her and he didn’t want to make the woman angry when she seemed willing to help him. He picked up the job the woman had left, drying the clean dishes and placing them back in the storage containers.
The woman made three more trips into the large room, returning with a full tray each time. After she returned from the last trip, she took the child’s hand and led her to the outer door. Nathan stood behind the door so as not to be seen when she opened it. She pointed the girl down the hall and dismissed her with a hug and a kiss to the cheek.
Once the child was gone the woman moved back into her spot to wash the last of the dishes. Nathan began to talk once again.
“Is there anywhere else that they might be holding Robert? I don’t think he is in the men’s barracks so they might be keeping him separately.” Nathan asked. The woman nodded. “Could you tell me how to get there? Draw me a map?”
Once again the woman seemed to hesitate. Before she could respond a loud clamor came from behind the curtain.
“Shit! They know I’m missing don’t they? If they catch me they may look closer at my identity, realize I don’t belong here. Are there guards through this door?”
The woman placed the last of the dishes in the cabinet and tilted her head toward Nathan, an indication to follow. She checked the hallway and motioned him after her, pausing only to lock the room door behind her from a key she carried on a small ring.
Nathan tried to make a mental map of the path they followed but he couldn’t keep up. The woman moved with assurance, confident of her way. She finally stopped before another door and pulled the same key she carried out to unlock it. While she was doing this Nathan noticed a heavy steel door at the end of the corridor. ~ Is that where Robert might be? ~
The room was similar to the first one but much smaller, just a refrigerator and a few cabinets. There was barely enough room for the two of them. The woman pulled out a tray and flipped on a small kettle. While the water was heating she added cups and saucers to the tray as well as a small bottle of whiskey. A sad smile crept across Nathan’s face as he watched her make the tea – warm the pot with hot water then precisely measure out the tea leaves, one teaspoon for the pot and one for each cup. He’d forgotten this small ritual that he’d once watched with such delight.
The woman pulled a cloth over the tray and motioned for Nathan to pick it up. She pointed in the direction of the steel door and made a knocking motion then imitated the action of a turning key. Nathan understood.
“Behind that door is where they might be holding Robert! The tea is for the guards. How many?”
The woman held up two fingers.
“Do I wait for the tray or will they expect me to leave immediately?”
The woman leaned against the counter and folded her arms over her chest.
“Will they be suspicious of me coming instead of you?”
The woman shook her head, a perplexed look on her face. She lifted a hand to her breast and shook her head then pointed in the direction of Nathan’s groin before making a walking motion with her fingers.
“Women aren’t allowed beyond the door. You make the tray but a man carries it.”
The woman made a few more motions with her hands, which Nathan took to mean that she would wait in the room for him. He picked up the tray and headed out.
Nathan was nervous as he knocked on the door but he kept his head low and hoped that the guards wouldn’t notice he wasn’t a regular deliveryman. A buzzer sounded and the door swung open. Nathan entered the room to find two guards playing cards. They barely even noticed him as he sat the tray down on the table beside them and moved away to the corner.
“Hey! The bitch sent us a present tonight! Must be a reward from the boss for the information we extracted from our last admission.” One of the guards opened the whiskey bottle with glee.
“She could have sent two. Hey, I get half of that!” Nathan took advantage of the two men bickering to inspect the room. He quickly noted the entry into the cell area and the access key hanging around one guard’s neck. Nathan was almost ready to make his move when he noticed one of the guards beginning to nod off. The other looked sleepy as well. ~ Damn! She drugged their drinks. When did she do that? ~
Both men soon fell to the table snoring noisily. Nathan quickly grabbed the key and punched it into the reader. The door slid back with a groan. Nathan roamed the corridor softly calling the name of his son but got no response. Most of the prisoners just watched him from behind the bars, their eyes devoid of life. He’d reached the end of the corridor and was beginning to despair when he heard a voice whisper.
“There was a Robert here, a long time ago. He’s been gone about five years. They said he was transported but…”
Nathan couldn’t tell who the voice belonged to and despite his entreaties no one would speak any more. He finally realized that time was slipping away and he was endangering both himself and the woman by lingering. Once UEO forces had liberated the private prison he would make them give him access to the prisoners so that he could ask more about Robert.
The guards were still sleeping when Nathan walked back into the room but the groaning door caused one of them to start and mumble. Nathan moved quietly to the table and dropped the key into its keeper’s lap, after first snapping the chain. He had just settled down in the corner and dropped his head to his chest when one of the men came awake with a start. Through slitted eyes Nathan observed the man look at the cup suspiciously before looking at him. Nathan took care to keep his breath slow and even.
Nathan knew the slap was coming but that didn’t make it hurt any less. He fell to the floor as the guard shouted. “You fell asleep, you filthy dog. Where did you get that tea?”
“Usual, sir.” Nathan mumbled, keeping a bewildered look on his face. “Sorry, sir.”
Nathan crawled toward the table and began to gather up the dishes. The guard apparently decided that he was too stupid to have done anything and began to pick at his partner. He shook the man awake. “Hey, I’m not doing all the work on this shift. Why are you falling asleep on me? Stay out too late last night with the women in the east wing?”
The two men were still bickering when Nathan left through the door they opened. He walked slowly down the hall and made sure that they’d turned the lock back before he entered the small room. The woman was waiting as she’d promised, a worried look on her face. She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw Nathan and grabbed the tray. She quickly but carefully washed every inch of the ceramic ware before drying it and putting it away, all the while listening to Nathan tell what had happened.
They were just about to exit the room when an alarm began to sound in the corridor. “Intruder alert! Possible security breach!” Warnings came through the loud speaker.
Nathan pushed the woman toward the door. “You’ve got to go, get away before they find me. Listen, help is on the way. I just have to hide for a few hours and I’ll be okay. Once they get here I promise I will help you and your child.”
The woman looked confused for a moment then shook her head decisively. She used her key to lock the door from the inside and then pointed to the ceiling as she climbed up on a cabinet. Nathan noticed the ventilation grate and hopped up on the cabinet beside her. Together they slid it to the side. Nathan reached out to boost the woman up and she froze at his touch on her waist.
“I’m sorry. I just wanted to help.” He shuddered internally at the thought of what this woman might have gone through during her time in this hellhole. After a moment she nodded and cupped her hands together. Nathan imitated her motion and knelt so that she could fit her foot into his grasp before lifting her up.
She hoisted herself into the shaft then held out a hand to Nathan and he followed her into the duct. They settled the grate back in place and Nathan saw her begin to crawl away in the dim light from the room. Once again he trusted the woman, followed her even though he had no idea where they were bound.
They halted several times at the sound of guards searching or to avoid beams of light that sometimes swept through the grates.
“We can’t stay in here. They’ll start searching the shafts soon.” Even though Nathan whispered the sound seemed to echo through the dark ducts.
Nathan felt her hand pull lightly on his shirt and crawled after her once again. The shafts were so black that he couldn’t see her and she made so little sound that he struggled to keep behind her. He ran into her several times as she waited for him at a bend or turn.
He couldn’t tell how much time had passed when he sensed that she had stopped and reached out to her. Her hand led his to a barely perceptible notch in the surface and he pulled, cringing at the sound of scraping metal. She dropped through the small hole and he once again followed, trusting her blindly. His feet hit a solid surface about nine feet below the opening and he froze, waiting to find out where the woman was.
The small flare of the match blinded him for a moment before his eyes readjusted. They’d reentered the corridor system of the station but even though Nathan had memorized as much of the floor plan as was available he had no idea of the location. The woman lit a small shielded lantern and closed the shutter until just a hint of light was barely perceptible. They strode stealthily down the hall keeping to the shadows as much as possible.
The sudden glare of the overhead lights blinded them and three guards came from nowhere, nightsticks raised as they charged Nathan. ~ You won’t get me without a fight! ~ He lashed out at the feet of his first attacker, knocking him down before his bludgeon could make contact, but he wasn’t quick enough to avoid the second. Nathan lashed out with his fists, all the while waiting for the sting of the third man’s attack but it didn’t come. His battle shifted and he saw with surprise that the third man lay on the floor clutching his groin while the woman brought his truncheon down on the first guard’s head. Within moments all three watchmen were unconscious.
The woman grabbed a flashlight from the floor and motioned Nathan quickly onward. Nathan paused only a moment to stare at her in wonder.
“Who are you? Why are you willing to risk everything to help me?”
A husky whisper emerged from the woman. “I help you because… you have my son’s eyes.”
Nathan was so stunned that he didn’t realize the woman had moved away until she came rushing back toward him. As she grabbed his hand and began to drag him he heard the sound of other guards approaching. They moved away together in the opposite direction.
The light faded as they slid back into the darkened corridors, the woman keeping a firm grip on his hand. Finally she stopped and pulled him down onto the floor beside her. Her hands led his to another latch and they pulled together. She pushed him through the opening and slid in beside him, closing the hatchway behind her.
Once they were safely sealed in she turned on the flashlight. Nathan was surprised to see that the tiny space had one corner full of supplies.
“You’ve come here before.” The woman nodded and gestured for Nathan to make himself comfortable. He shifted off his knees and sat watching the woman as she crawled to the corner and pulled out matches and candles. She lit two and turned off the flashlight before moving back to the opposite side of the room to sit across from Nathan. Not that there was much space between them. The ceiling was barely a foot above their heads and less than two feet separated their bodies.
Nathan’s mind was still whirling from the woman’s earlier statement. “Is it safe to talk?”
The woman smiled and nodded.
“Are you afraid to talk to me?” Nathan asked.
The woman shook her head slightly and then stopped and spoke her raspy voice barely above a whisper. “They don’t like for us to speak.”
“How long have you been here?”
The woman looked thoughtful. “I don’t really know. I don’t remember arriving. I remember my son being born here and he would be… four maybe…”
Nathan wanted to ask about the boy’s father but he thought that might alarm the woman. “What about your daughter?”
The woman looked confused for a moment and then her face brightened. “Monica isn’t my daughter. Well, she is now but I didn’t give birth to her. Her mother befriended me… I don’t remember when… but not long after my son was born she got sick. I promised her that I would protect her daughter before she died. So she’s mine now.”
“Tell me about this place.”
“They bring people in to work the mines. We don’t leave. Once, back in the beginning, I seem to remember being in another part of the station where everything was clean and the food was better. Sometimes in my dreams I can see a man’s face, hear his voice, but I can’t tell what he is saying. I think that he must be the warden.”
“What about what happened tonight?”
She looked uncomfortable. “They breed their own workers. Some of the mineshafts are very narrow and they use children to work them. They also breed babies to sell on the black market. The men who are picked are given a day off from the mines. If a woman gets pregnant she’s given light work duty and better food.”
“Is that how…?” Nathan stopped before he finished his sentence at the look on her face. “Where is your son?”
“I don’t know.” This time her face showed puzzlement. “I had the opportunity to get him away from here and I took it. I sent him… somewhere… there was a man… someone I trusted… I don’t know the name anymore.”
Nathan could tell that she was getting agitated so he stopped questioning her. He reached into his shirt and pulled out his com-link, pleased when the light showed a faint signal. He saw the woman’s eyes widen as he began to speak.
“Bridger to seaQuest.”
“We read you but very faintly.”
“Be advised, I have been discovered. I am in hiding. Objective is not present. Please change plans accordingly. Bridger out.”
He replaced the com-link. “I needed to call my ship. I told you that help would be here soon.”
“Are you my son’s father?”
Nathan gulped at the question even though he’d been half expecting it.
“No. I couldn’t have fathered your son. I was…far away from here at the time he would have been conceived. Don’t you know who his father is?”
She ignored him. “Who are you and why are you here?”
Nathan considered her question a moment before answering honestly. “I’m looking for a man. He was an officer in the US Navy and he was thought killed but we’ve recently come to believe that he wasn’t. If he is in this hellhole we believe that he might be executed at the first sign of attack so I’ve come to find him. Or at least to try… If what I was told in the prison wing is true then he isn’t here any more.”
The sound of voices and the heavy tread of feet silenced them for a moment. Nathan noticed the woman trying to hide a yawn so he reached into the corner and pulled out a blanket. He handed it to her and grabbed another one for himself.
“Why don’t you try to get some sleep? I’ll keep watch.”
“You try to sleep as well. They won’t find us here.”
Nathan nodded and stretched out on the floor beside the woman, determined not to go to sleep but willing to try and make her happy.
One candle had burned completely out and the other was sputtering when Nathan opened his eyes. He was momentarily surprised to find a warm body curled up close to him. He felt his body react to the feel of feminine flesh pressed up against his. Her eyes popped open and in the dim light Nathan felt as if they were reaching into his soul. Without realizing what he was doing he bent to brush her lips with his. Awareness rushed through his body as she opened her lips to him and met his tongue with hers, the two intertwining in a mad dance.
Nathan pulled back sharply. “Kristin?”
The woman’s eyes widened and her breath caught. “Kristin… that’s my name?” She asked then stated more positively. “I remember. Kristin is my name.”
pulled back against the wall. “NO! Kristin is dead. When I got back they told me that she had
been killed. Lucas and I went to
He grabbed the flashlight and held it to her face as he switched it on. She flinched at the bright light directed into her eyes. Nathan grabbed a bottle of water and wet the corner of the blanket. He began to scrub her face vigorously with one hand while holding the light with the other. Gradually the top layer of grime began to come off and he was able to see her features more distinctly.
Each layer that he removed confused him even more. She submitted to his vigorous cleaning without complaint, understanding his bewilderment. Nathan finally dropped the towel and simply stared, unable to believe what his eyes were telling him.
“How could I look at you and not know you immediately? I don’t understand!”
“You didn’t expect to see me. Why do you recognize me now?”
“The kiss… I only ever felt that from her… from you… oh my God… Kristin!”
“I felt it too… Na… Nath…” Kristin gripped her head with her hands as she struggled to pull anything out of her memory. “Your name is Nath…an.” Her hand strayed to his cheek. “You had a beard the last time I saw you…”
“I did have a beard… my last leave. That was over ten years ago.”
Nathan couldn’t stand the look of pain on her face and wrapped his arms around her. “Don’t fight so hard. I’ll help you find your memory. You’ll come back with me when seaQuest gets here.”
The sound of running and shouting once again interrupted them but this time it was followed by the sound of gunfire. Nathan glanced at his watch. “That will be UEO forces to liberate the prison. We just need to stay out of the way until they get things settled down.”
Kristin scrambled out of his arms and crawled toward the hatch. He tried to pull her back but she fought him off.
“I’ve got to get to Monica. She’ll be scared if I’m not there.” She ripped the hatch from the wall. Booted feet passing by held her back for a few moments but once they passed she slid through the opening and into the corridor. Nathan quickly followed.
“No, stay here. They won’t harm me.”
“If you think I’m ever letting you out of my sight again you are crazy. We go together.”
Kristen nodded and led him down the hall.
The journey back into the servant’s quarters was harrowing but Kristin knew enough shortcuts that they were able to avoid the worst of the fighting. Twice Nathan thrust himself in front of her but the guards who were retreating were more concerned with their own skins and the UEO troops were only firing when they were fired on. They paid little attention to the dirty couple flattened against the walls as they pushed forward.
They finally reached the door to Kristin’s small quarters and she gave a patterned knock. It was answered with another pattern and Kristin replied with yet another. The lock slid back and Kristin rushed into the rooms to grab the girl. Tears sprang to the child’s eyes when she saw Kristin and she looked at Nathan fearfully.
“It’s okay, sweetie. He’s a friend. He won’t hurt us.” Kristin’s voice was low and soothing, calming the child’s fears.
Nathan had closed the door behind him and it flew open, knocking him out of the way as a guard entered the room, obviously looking for a place to hide. He took in Nathan sprawled on the floor.
“What are you doing in the women’s area? You’re the one they are looking for! Get up!” He motioned for Nathan to stand with one hand while the other pointed a gun at him. “You’re my ticket out of here.”
Nathan stayed on the floor and kept the dazed look in his eye. The guard didn’t buy it. He looked from the woman to the girl and back again before deciding on Kristin. He yanked her away from Monica and held the gun to her head. “Get up now or I’ll shoot her.” His finger tightened on the trigger.
Both Nathan and the child screamed as the sound of the gunshot ricocheted through the room. The guard’s hold on Kristin slowly loosened as he slid to the floor, a gaping red hole in his chest. Nathan scrambled to his feet just in time to catch Kristin as she fell in a dead faint. Jonathan Ford stood in the doorway holding a discharged firearm.
“Are you okay, sir?”
Nathan hoisted Kristin higher into his arms. “Have you secured the station between here and the launch?”
Jonathan nodded. “We expect to have complete control within ten minutes. The security forces have given up very quickly.”
Nathan quickly gave Jonathan directions to the prison corridor Kristin had shown him then turned to the girl. “Come on, Monica. I’m taking you and your mother away from here.”
“Sir,” Jonathan stopped him. “Our orders state that no one leaves the station. We are to hold all of the inmates and staff here until the relief forces arrive.”
The look in Nathan’s eye surprised Jonathan Ford. “I’m going back to the seaQuest and I am taking this woman and this child with me. Please don’t argue with me about this. I have to do it.”
Many years of working with the man before him told Ford that Bridger would not back down and he stepped aside, watching curiously as Nathan carried the unconscious woman out the door and down the hall, the young girl following behind.
The launch was sliding into its docking port when Kristin began to come around. Nathan still held her in his arms and the child sat beside them, her hand stroking Kristin’s hair as she stared worriedly at her mother. Kristin’s eyes immediately began to search when they opened and Nathan heard the quiet sigh of relief that escaped her lips when she saw that the child was safe.
“Where are we?”
“This is a sea launch. We’re docking in the seaQuest, the UEO’s flagship deep submersible. You once served on board the seaQuest. I was the Captain. That’s where we met. Do you remember?”
“No… nothing. The UEO is a military organization, isn’t it? Was I in the military? That doesn’t feel right.”
Nathan had to stifle his smile at that thought. “No, you most definitely weren’t in the military. You are a scientist, a medical doctor and an oceanographer.”
“Then what was I doing in a prison? Why don’t I remember?”
“I don’t know but I’m going to find out. I’m going to find out everything that happened to you during the ten years I was gone.” Nathan tightened his arms around her. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m okay.” She remembered what had happened to her. “What happened to the guard? Have I been shot? Monica!?!”
“You’re fine and so is your daughter. Commander Ford shot the guard and you fainted from the shock. The door is going to be open in a minute and we’re going to gather some interest when we board the seaQuest. I’ll try to shield you but it’s going to be hard.”
Kristin reached out her hand to the child and squeezed the small hand the girl placed in it. “We’ll be okay.” She wrinkled her nose at the child and was rewarded with a big grin.
Nathan led the way up the ladder and waited at the top for the women. Monica came up first, followed by Kristin. Nathan helped them both onto the deck before looking up into the steely eyes of Captain Oliver Hudson.
“I presume that you can explain this, Captain Bridger. No one on that station was supposed to leave it until obtaining proper clearance.”
voice was low but determined. “Back off,
A delighted cry sprang from across the deck. “Grampa!” And a small body began to run toward them. Nathan waited with baited breath as Michael approached. The little boy suddenly stopped dead in his tracks.
Kristin fell to her knees and held her arms out as her son ran to her embrace.
Oliver Hudson moved to Nathan’s side. “I understand now.”
“Thank you, Oliver, but no, you don’t understand at all. I don’t even understand.” Nathan turned to Lucas who had followed Michael across the deck.
“I’m sorry you didn’t find your son but at least you found Michael’s mom. That’s fantastic.”
Nathan’s eyes closed as a pained look crossed his face. “Look at her, Lucas. Listen to her.”
Lucas fell silent as he listened to the woman speak to the little boy, her low accented tones soothing, assuring Michael that she wouldn’t be leaving him again. The voice sounded familiar to Lucas but he couldn’t quite place it. It was the gesture that enlightened him, a casual caress of the hand flipping the boy’s hair away from his eyes.
“No… it can’t be. She’s dead.”
The woman turned her head to look straight at Lucas. The young man paled as he looked fully into the face of the woman he thought of as his second mother, the woman he thought he had lost. He slowly walked up to her and fell to his knees beside the small group. Kristin’s hand reached out to give his hair the same gentle caress it had just given Michael’s.
“Lucas. Your name is Lucas… and you call me… Doc!”
Lucas nodded. “Yes, that’s right. I call you Doc.”
“Bridger?” Oliver Hudson was clearly confused. “Is this woman your grandson’s mother?”
Nathan swallowed hard. “It would seem so. I hope you’ll allow Dr. Levin to do some testing.”
“Of course. But I thought you had no idea who Michael’s mother might be. You seem to know this woman.”
“Her name is Kristin Westphalen. She was the CMO of the first tour I served on this boat.”
“Westphalen, I remember the name. She was one hell of a scientist, but I thought that she died. Some sort of freak lab accident years ago. Are you sure this is her?”
“I’m positive. I’d know Kristin anywhere. Before we were lost Kristin and I were… very close.”
“Neither do I, and she has very little memory of the last ten years, but I will find out what happened.”
A cursory examination by a stunned Joshua Levin had shown that both Kristin and Monica were basically healthy though severely undernourished. One tense moment had come when he’d tried to draw a blood sample from the little girl. They had to scrub her skin very hard to remove enough dirt to make the procedure safe. Monica endured this silently but when she’d seen the needle a look of sheer terror had crossed her face and she backed into the wall in an effort to get away. To both Nathan and Joshua’s surprise Kristin had taken the needle from his hand and expertly drawn the blood sample, all the while soothing the little girl as she’d soothed Michael earlier. Both Michael and Lucas hovered on the other side of the room, neither willing to let the mother they thought they had lost out of their sight.
Nathan and Joshua had a whispered conversation before the doctor asked his nurse to take the little girl away and give her a thorough bath. Monica protested vigorously at being separated from her mother, lashing out at the woman trying to remove her, but a few gentle words from Kristin and a promise by Lucas and Michael to stay close by calmed her and they departed.
Kristin sat down on the end of the exam table and watched silently as Joshua listened to her heartbeat and checked her blood pressure before drawing blood from her. Once he was done Joshua rolled his stool back to the end of the table and Nathan moved to Kristin’s side.
“What do you remember?”
Kristin’s eyes closed as she struggled to make sense of random images. “I don’t remember very much. I have vague memories of someplace other than the kitchens but I think they were still part of the complex. I remember my son’s birth and I remember bits of his early years, and of Monica’s, but nothing is continuous.”
“You don’t remember anything before the prison complex?”
Kristin shook her head.
“But you do remember some things… you remembered how to draw blood, you remembered Captain Bridger, you remembered Lucas. You didn’t forget your son even though he wasn’t with you.”
“I didn’t remember Nathan until he spoke my name, not really, although there was something familiar about him from the beginning. Hell, I didn’t even remember my own name until he said it. But there are things… this boat seems alien to me and yet oddly familiar. The voice of the officer who killed the guard, I knew him didn’t I?” She turned to look at Nathan. “His name is… Jonathan… Commander Ford… and you were a … stowaway!” Kristin beamed as a sliver of memory returned to her.
“That’s right, Babe.” Nathan returned her grin.
“What do you remember about Michael’s father, his conception?” Joshua slipped the question in before Nathan could stop him. Kristin immediately froze and refused to talk anymore.
Nathan was furious but he knew that Levin was just trying to help. He slipped a hand gently beneath Kristin’s elbow and pulled her to her feet. “Come on. I think that a shower and some sleep might help you feel better too. We’ll continue the exam tomorrow, okay, Joshua?”
Nathan led Kristin back to his quarters, worried beyond measure about her refusal to speak again. He started the shower and left towels and his bathrobe out for her before retreating back to the main cabin. A knock on his door revealed a very worried Lucas.
“Loni helped the nurse bathe Monica and she almost fell asleep in the tub. She’s in my bunk with Michael and Piccolo standing guard. Captain, I don’t understand any of this. If Doc is Michael’s mother then she… but she wouldn’t have done that. She loves you.”
“Lucas, I don’t know exactly what happened but I don’t really think that Kristin had any choice in the matter. Perhaps Robert didn’t either. Levin is going to do a DNA test just to make sure but I don’t have any doubt as to what the results will be. What I want to know is who did this to them? And why?”
“What about Monica? You can leave her in my bunk if you want. I’ll crash on the floor with Michael.”
“Keep them for a while if you don’t mind. I’ll come and get them once Kristin has showered and gotten some rest.”
Lucas nodded and exited; the worried look still present. Nathan knew just how he felt. He moved back to the bathroom door and knocked.
“Kristin? Are you okay?”
When no response was forthcoming Nathan pushed the door open slightly and called again. He thought he heard something over the sound of the water so he pushed the door open further. Nathan expected to see Kristin’s body silhouetted against the frosted glass of the shower but it wasn’t there. Instead he noticed a dark lump in the corner. He jerked the door open.
Kristin was huddled on the floor, her back to him, her head buried in her arms as she sobbed.
“Kristin? What’s wrong?”
“The dirt won’t come off! I scrub and I scrub but I can’t get clean.” The white washcloth that Nathan had provided lay black on the floor of the shower but Kristin’s body was still coated with dirt.
Nathan’s heart shattered as he listened to her sobs. “No more. No one is going to make you cry ever again!”
Nathan quickly stripped down to his boxer shorts and stepped into the shower. He lifted Kristin to her feet, soothing her as she had soothed her children earlier. Nathan grabbed the washcloth from the floor and coated it with soap then slowly began to scrub Kristin’s back. He kept the pressure firm but gentle and eventually the dirt disappeared, revealing glowing pink skin beneath. He felt her shoulders continue to shake with her silent sobs as he worked his way lower, gradually cleansing all the way down to her feet.
The crying had stopped by the time that Nathan turned her to face him and began on her front. Once again, inch by inch, he washed the dirt away. She tensed when he reached her most private area but Nathan kept his touch impartial even though his own body was reacting as it always had to the sight of Kristin’s nude form.
When he’d scrubbed every speck of dirt that he could find from her body, Nathan pulled the ragged bit of string from the end of Kristin’s braid and freed her hair from its restraint. Once again he started at the top and shampooed it, smiling as the fiery color broke free of the dirt and began to gleam in his hand. He washed and rinsed the waist length curtain four times before the water ran clear and he was satisfied.
Kristin’s eyes had remained closed from the first touch of Nathan’s hands on her body so he cupped her chin with his hand.
“See, no dirt left. You are clean, Kristin.”
Sable eyes opened and stared into his briefly before turning to look over her shoulders and down her back. The movement fanned her hair across her shoulder and over her breast to provide a fiery silk covering, only the erect nipple peaking out. Nathan found the sight even more erotic than seeing the mound completely uncovered and swallowed hard.
“Why don’t we get you dried…” His voice faded away as Kristin turned her attention to the front of her body and noticed the way that his wet boxers molded to his aroused body. Her hand moved slowly to the front of his shorts and her fingers brushed lightly across his growing bulge.
“Nathan…” She whispered his name with such longing that Nathan couldn’t stop himself as he pulled her into his arms and captured her mouth with his. The kiss was gentle and full of promise. She moved against him and Nathan recognized that while Kristin’s mind might not remember him as her lover, her body did. Not wanting to scare her, he quickly broke the kiss and buried his face in her wet hair. She clung to him, feeling safe for the first time that she could ever remember.
Nathan pulled her from the shower and began to dry her off. Kristin allowed him the liberty of touching her so intimately because her body told her that he had already done so many times before.
“We were lovers.” She whispered; catching his gaze as he gently toweled her hair.
“We were lovers.” He confirmed with a smile that made her heart leap.
“What happened? Why did we part?”
because we wanted to. Something happened
with this ship… As strange as this may sound, the ship and her entire crew were
taken off of this planet for a period of about ten years. Our removal was without warning. There was no way that I could contact
you. When we returned I immediately
looked for you and was told that you had been killed in a freak accident in
your laboratory. Lucas and I went to
“Cynthia is your daughter.”
Kristin’s breath caught. “I have a daughter? Why can’t I remember? A mother doesn’t forget her child.”
“I don’t think that you have control over your memory right now, baby. Someone has taken that from you. Cynthia is your daughter from your first marriage. She would be about thirty-two now, I think.”
“Thirty-two? A grown woman… She’s old enough to be the mother of her baby brother.” Kristin’s voice caught as she turned to look at Nathan, fear once again in her eyes. “Oh no, Michael…” Kristin bolted from the room. Nathan grabbed his robe and went after her.
Kristin was sitting on the edge of the bunk a blanket pulled haphazardly around her nakedness as she hugged her arms to her body and rocked.
Nathan sat down beside her. “Tell me what’s wrong.”
“Michael… he called you Grampa. The soldier that you were looking for… Robert… he was your son wasn’t he? And you think that he is Michael’s father. That’s why he has your eyes. Oh God, he was your son!”
Nathan had known that Kristin would eventually make the connection, had dreaded this moment. He tried to embrace her but she pulled away from him. “How can you… you must hate me.”
“I could never hate you, Kristin. Do you hear me? Never! I know that this whole thing has been orchestrated; that someone with a sick sense of humor is behind it. And I swear to you that I will find out who. I know that you didn’t willingly go to my son. Either you didn’t know who he was or Michael was conceived like I saw tonight…”
Kristin’s eyes closed and she swallowed hard. “I remember being in a dark room. I was tied down and there were needles, drugs. That voice, the one I told you that I thought might be the warden, was speaking to me, saying something... I remember the man… your son… they drugged him as well… he tried to fight but they made him…”
Kristin shuddered violently at the memory.
“It’s okay, Kristin. You don’t have to tell me. It’s only a memory. It can’t harm you anymore. I won’t let anyone hurt you ever again. I promise you that I will protect you, and Michael and Monica.”
Nathan moved to his chest and pulled out a white tee shirt. He helped Kristin slip it over her head before pushing her back into the bunk.
“You need to try and get some rest. Lucas and Michael are watching Monica and I’m going to stay right here.”
Kristin’s mouth moved but she paused before the words actually came out.
“You can ask me anything, tell me anything, okay?”
“Would you… do you think that you could hold me… just for a little while? I feel so safe when your arms are around me…”
Nathan slid into the bunk next to Kristin and wrapped his arms around her.
“How can you do this? How can you stand to touch me knowing that I might have been with… your son?”
Nathan shifted so that they were face to face and ran his hands up through her still damp hair. “Remember when we kissed? When I realized who you were? Do you remember that feeling between us?”
She nodded and he continued. “I love you, Kristin. I have loved you for so long, probably from the first moment I saw you. We were going to be together after the end of my last tour but then they took us away. The thought of you was the only thing that kept me going. When I came home to find you gone I wanted to die too. I don’t know what I would have done if that little boy hadn’t come along. You said that you sent him to someone. You sent him to me. Somehow you found out that I was back and you sent him to me, not because you knew that Robert was his father but because you loved me…trusted me to take care of your child. That has to be what happened.”
“It sounds right, feels right.” Kristin’s eyes closed as she struggled to remember more. “The man kept coming to see us, saying things… I can’t remember what he said but I didn’t like it. HE was going to hurt Michael or use him to hurt someone else. He called Michael… retribution for a broken promise. Those were his exact words. I didn’t want to send my baby away but I heard… I heard that this ship was back… that you were back and I knew that you would take care of my son. I remember…”
Kristin’s eyes popped open. “I remember!”
Her words were cut off as an agonizing scream of pain ripped from her. Her face contorted and Nathan felt her head begin to pulse beneath his hands. He quickly hit the com link and yelled for O’Neill to get Levin to his quarters on the double. Nathan tried to soothe Kristin but his words only seemed to increase her pain so he fell silent. He was attempting to lightly massage her neck when he felt the pulse again, this time from a single spot just beneath her hairline. He pushed her hair out of the way to reveal an angry red bulge lying right beneath the surface of her skin. A gentle touch there caused Kristin to scream even louder.
Joshua burst through the door at this point, followed closely by Captain Hudson and Commander Ford. Nathan pointed out the lesion and after a quick examination, Joshua agreed that it was probably the cause of Kristin’s pain. He quickly prepared and injected a painkiller and Kristin’s screams slowly dropped off to low moans.
“I need to get her to med bay. I’m not sure but I suspect that some sort of device has been implanted near her brain for mind control. This may be the reason that her memory is so sporadic. Something has happened to activate a failsafe mechanism in the device, probably removal from the station perimeter.”
“Can you remove it?” Nathan asked.
“I don’t know that yet, Captain. Removing it might cause irreparable damage. We need more information before we make any decisions.”
Nathan grabbed a pair of pants and, turning his back to the men, he yanked them on before discarding his robe and pulling a shirt over his head. He moved to the side of the bunk and whispered softly.
“Kristin, we need to go back to med bay. I’m going to pick you up now, okay? I know that it might hurt to move but Joshua will take care of you.” He slid his arms carefully beneath her shoulders and knees and lifted her effortlessly.
“I can call for a stretcher, sir.”
Nathan shook his head. “I’ve got her.”
Levin and Bridger brushed past the two men standing in the doorway as they left, but Nathan barely gave either of them a second glance. If he had he would have seen the stunned expression on Jonathan Ford’s face. “That woman! She’s Kristin Westphalen. But she’s dead!”
“Apparently not, Mr. Ford, apparently not.”
Nathan sat beside the exam table and gripped both of Kristin’s hands tightly. She lay on her side; her hair pulled out of the way as Joshua examined the inflamed area beneath her scalp.
“There is definitely some sort of device implanted here. I’ll have to do a more thorough exam, run more tests before I know what to do about it.”
Kristin’s face tightened with pain as the device in her body overrode the narcotic that Joshua had given her.
“NO! It has to come out now.”
“I’m just not sure. Let me get the results…”
“NOW! If you don’t take it out now it will kill me.”
Nathan was stunned at the terror those words evoked. “Get it out of her, Joshua.”
Levin nodded. “I’ll call the surgical team.”
Kristin’s teeth were clenched with pain. “I don’t have time for that luxury. Just get the damned scapel and cut!”
Levin opened a drawer and took out a surgical kit. He ripped the package open and pulled out a sterile blade. “This is going to be painful. I need you to try and hold her steady, Captain.”
The doctor cut quickly. One tight scream escaped Kristin’s lips as she clung to Nathan’s hands for dear life. Nathan wanted to scream as well as he watched the blood flow down her neck. Joshua probed quickly and came out with a small microchip. Attached to the chip was a tiny tube still partially embedded in Kristin’s head.
“I need to remove this delicately. I think it’s feeding into her brain.”
Joshua turned to pick up another instrument and the suction apparatus. Nathan’s hands had gone numb from the force of her grip so he didn’t realize that Kristin had released one of them until her hand moved in front of his face. She grabbed the microchip where it dangled on her neck and snatched it, pulling the tube from her head. One more scream emerged from her lips before she fell into blissful unconsciousness.
“Are you sure Mama is okay?” Michael reached out to gingerly pat Kristin’s hand.
“Your mother is just very tired so she needs lots of rest. I don’t want either of you to worry. Dr. Levin is taking good care of her and I’m watching her too.” Nathan embraced Michael and held out an arm to Monica but she moved away from him.
Kristin had not regained consciousness in the twelve hours since she’d forcefully removed her implant. Joshua could find no reason for her continued sleep. Lucas had reported the children’s worries to Nathan and, together with Levin; he’d made the decision to let them visit.
He watched Monica move to the other side of the bed and wrap both of her hands around Kristin’s. Nathan had tried to talk to the girl several times but although he thought that she understood him she still refused to speak. He’d asked Joshua to check the child for a physical problem and the doctor found nothing but she continued to be shy around anyone except Michael. ~ Come on, Kristin. This little girl needs you. She’s going to be lost if you don’t wake up. Just like me. ~
Nathan sent the children on their way with Lucas in tow as the faithful babysitter before settling back into his spot by the bunk. Levin had tried to send him away once or twice but Nathan refused. When Kristin woke up he intended to be there. The last twenty-four hours had taken their toll and eventually his eyes drifted shut as his head fell to the mattress.
He jerked at the feather light touch on his head to find Kristin staring at him, disbelief in her eyes. “They told me you were dead but I didn’t believe them.” She whispered. “I would have known. And now you’ve come back to me and to our bab…”
Nathan was stunned. “Our baby? Kristin?” But Kristin had slipped back into unconsciousness.
The hours continued to tick away but Kristin didn’t wake up again. Blood tests revealed the presence of some unknown agent in her blood stream that matched residue from the tube on the implant but Levin couldn’t isolate it. The tube still contained a tiny reservoir full of the material that would surely have killed Kristin had she not removed it in such a precipitous fashion. Nathan refused to leave her side.
Lucas and the children came and went along with the rest of the crew. Ortiz and O’Neill visited, shocked but happy to know that Kristin was still alive. Jonathan Ford stayed the longest, staring in disbelief at the woman lying on the bed.
“I didn’t recognize her on the station. How is this possible, Captain? Why would someone do this, go to all the trouble to convince the world she was dead?”
“To get back at me, Jonathan. I’m sure that was the motive. Otherwise why would they have brought Robert into it?”
“But as far as the world was concerned you were dead, sir. How could anyone get back at a dead man?”
“Maybe whoever it is just got off knowing that he had control of my son and of the woman I love.”
Jonathan immediately noticed Bridger’s use of the present tense but he didn’t comment.
“There is more, Jonathan. When Kristin did wake up she said something… that I came back to her and to our baby. I don’t know where her mind was. Perhaps she was remembering giving birth to Michael, thinking he was mine. But maybe not… she could have been pregnant when we were taken… we were together just before… I’ve got to find out. I’ve asked Lucas to do a search for me, see if he can locate any sign of Cynthia. Her disappearance must be tied into all of this somehow. She deserves to know that her mother is alive.”
“If anyone can find her, sir, it’s Lucas.”
The tears that gathered in the corner of Nathan’s eyes did not go unnoticed by the young officer. He clapped his hand down on Nathan’s shoulder reassuringly. “We will help you find Cynthia and Robert. And then we will find the person who orchestrated this entire plot.”
“Captain.” The soft voice combined with a gentle shake woke Nathan immediately.
“Kristin?” He breathed as he jerked up to stare at the sleeping woman but there had been no change. “Has anything happened, Joshua?”
“She hasn’t shown any signs of waking up. The last blood test showed that the substance in her blood has increased slightly. Her body doesn’t seem to be fighting it or metabolizing it. I am still trying to determine the nature of the beast, so to speak.”
Nathan stood and stretched. “What else? You can tell me.”
“I have the results of the genetic testing that we did. Dr. Westphalen is definitely the mother of Michael.” Joshua’s face fell as he relayed this news.
“You don’t have to be upset.” Nathan reassured the younger man. “I never had any doubt. The test results are only confirmation. But it doesn’t matter. It can’t change how I feel about her.” Nathan’s hand wandered over her auburn locks as he bent and brushed a gentle kiss against Kristin’s lips. “I love you, Kristin Westphalen. I need for you to wake up and give me hell for being gone for so long. Do you hear me?”
Joshua cleared his throat, slightly embarrassed at witnessing such a tender moment. “ I need to continue my examination of Dr. Westphalen and I thought you could use a break. The children could benefit from spending a little time with you.”
Nathan nodded. “You’ll call if there is any change? Anything at all?”
Levin quickly reassured his former captain that he would but Nathan was still reluctant to leave. He leaned over and whispered into Kristin’s ear for several minutes before he finally gave in and left the med bay.
His first order of business was a quick shower and a change of clothes and then he went in search of the children. He found them in the moonpool, swimming with Lucas and Darwin. Michael immediately climbed out of the pool and threw himself at his grandfather, asking about his mother. Monica moved slower but Nathan could tell that she wanted to hear any news as well. He reassured them both that their mother was resting comfortably and invited them to the galley for ice cream. With a loud ‘hurrah’ Michael quickly dragged Lucas off to change but Monica seemed hesitant.
“Don’t you want some ice cream?” Nathan asked the child only to quickly realize that she probably had no idea what ice cream was. “You will like it, I promise. You can try any flavor you want.”
Then he noticed the tiny tear slipping down her cheek. Nathan knelt in front of the girl and carefully wiped it away. “You are worried about Kristin?” The child nodded.
“She is going to get better. The doctor is working very hard to cure her. I don’t know how long it will take but…” Nathan was amazed at the expressions readable in the child’s face. “You have a home, Monica. Nothing is going to happen to… your mother but no matter what you belong with me and with Michael. I’m never going to let anything hurt Kristin or you again. From now on the four of us are a family. Won’t you give me a chance to be your dad?”
The little girl fell into his arms and Nathan felt her hot tears wet his shoulder. He wrapped his arms tightly around her and held her as she cried.
Monica did indeed like ice cream and Nathan felt like a real dad when he had to put his foot down on the fourth bowl. He didn’t want her getting sick. She pouted for a few moments but when he promised her that she could have more later he was rewarded with a beaming smile. In typical Michael fashion the boy managed to get ice cream all over himself so Nathan sent both children off with Lucas to clean up before he took them to visit their mother again. He was just about to go meet them when he received a page from Jonathan Ford.
Jonathan met him at the mag-lev and walked with him toward the wardroom.
“I hope you don’t mind, sir. I don’t mean to interfere but it seems to me that you need some answers and they can only come from someone who has been here for the last ten years. I took it upon myself to start the ball rolling.”
“What…?” Nathan didn’t complete his sentence because Ford had pushed the wardroom door open to reveal two people sitting there, a man and a woman that Nathan knew very well. “Bill! Janet! What are you doing here?”
Bill shook Nathan’s hand while Janet embraced him. “That’s what we’d like to know. Commander Ford contacted us and said that you needed help so here we are. Does this have something to do with Michael?”
Nathan glanced at Ford. The younger man held his hands up and shook his head. “I just asked them to come, Captain. The rest of the story is yours.”
Nathan ran his hand through iron gray hair as he sat down, unsure of where to start.
“Does this have something to do with that raid on the deep sea prison camp? Did you find Robert?”
“No, I didn’t find him, but I did find out that he was there about five years ago.”
“Are you sure?”
Nathan nodded. “As sure as I can be. One of the prisoners I talked to remembered him, but said that he was transported out at that time.”
“Then we’ll interview all of them. Surely one of them will know more.”
“There is something else, Bill. I… found the woman who gave birth to Michael. I found his mother. DNA tests have confirmed it.”
Bill and Janet’s eyes grew wide. “That is wonderful, Nathan. Doesn’t she know anything about Robert? Surely…” Bill’s voice trailed off and Janet’s took over.
“What is wrong? Are you worried that the woman might take Michael away from you? That won’t happen, Nathan. After being in that horrible camp no jury would ever take him away from you.”
“It isn’t that, Janet. I know that she won’t take Michael away from me. In fact, there is something that you both should know…”
Nathan stopped as the door to the wardroom inched open and Monica stepped through the door, an expectant look on her face. Nathan watched her expression change into a broad smile, as she looked at the people in the room, just as if… she knew them.
Nathan whirled at the sound of a small cry from Janet to see her staring at the child as the blood drained from her face.
“Aunt Janet!” The child flew into the woman’s outstretched arms as she spoke the first words Nathan had ever heard from her lips. Her voice was husky; her words were slightly slurred but still understandable.
Nathan stared at the scene, unable to comprehend what was happening as Bill joined the two females in the embrace.
“Callie? But her name is Monica. I don’t understand.” He finally stammered.
The child pulled away from Janet’s embrace and came to stand beside Nathan. He reached out and stroked her brown locks. “You can talk. Why haven’t you said anything before?”
“Nobody was talking to me. They were all talking to Monica. I know that’s the name they gave me but it isn’t mine. I like being Callie better. That’s the name mama knows me by.”
“How do you know Bill and Janet?” He turned to the couple. “How do you know this child? Who is she?”
Bill looked uncomfortable but Janet’s face was suffused with joy as she reached across the table to grasp Callie’s hand. “Is it really you, sweetheart? We thought you died with your mother!”
Nathan’s brain struggled to process all of the information it was receiving but then the light came on. “Kristin is really her mother. Kristin gave birth to her. She just didn’t remember…” He muttered as he worked though the puzzle.
Kristin’s last words leapt into his mind, but surely this child was too young…
“Mon… Callie, how old are you?”
The child thought hard for a moment before looking at Janet.
“Callie is nine-years old. She was born seven months and two weeks after you disappeared.”
Nathan nodded, his mind quickly doing the math. The timing was perfect, aligning exactly with the last shore leave he’d spent with Kristin. He touched the child’s cheek again.
“See, I told you I was your papa.”
Callie smiled and touched his cheek, her raspy voice touching his heart. “I know. Pictures…”
Nathan embraced the little girl and she gladly returned his hug this time.
“I’m surprised you didn’t see the resemblance.” Nathan pulled back to stare at Callie as Janet continued. “She is a perfect blend of you and Kristin. Her eyes are the same shape as yours and your hair used to be that color…”
Once Janet pointed out these features Nathan was amazed that he hadn’t noticed them earlier. But then Kristin had told him that the child wasn’t hers and he knew that she truly believed that was the case. Once again he resolved to untangle this mystery that kept growing at every turn. This thought reminded him that Bill and Janet didn’t know the entire story but then neither did he.
He stood and swung his daughter up into his arms. “There is more to this story but I think that you should see something first. Come with me.”
Nathan led them through the corridors towards med bay, debating the merit of telling them what they were going to see or springing it on them blindly before deciding on the former. He halted outside the door of med bay to offer an explanation but was cut off by the arrival of Lucas and Michael. The boys exchanged quick hugs with the couple but before anything else could be said Michael burst through the door, anxious to see his mother.
Bill and Janet followed him, curious to see the woman who had given birth to Michael. Although he was behind them Nathan knew the exact moment when they realized that the female in the bed was Kristin Westphalen. They both stopped dead in their tracks and Bill had to move quickly to hold Janet up as she began to slide toward the floor.
“This is my mama!” Michael announced proudly as Bill sank to the floor with a dazed Janet in his arms.
Nathan moved around them to the side of the bed, a quick glance making sure that Janet was okay as he did so. He lowered Callie to the ground then took Kristin’s hand in his own.
“Hey, sweetheart. I missed you.” He bent over and kissed her deeply, uncaring of who was watching. “I brought some company back with me. Bill and Janet came to see you. Our daughter is here too. Callie is standing right beside me and she sure wants to talk to her mama. Won’t you please wake up and talk to our baby, Kris?”
Nathan could feel both Lucas and Joshua’s stare at his words but he ignored them. “Talk to your mama, Callie. You too, Michael. I think that she can hear you.”
He stepped backward to let the children get closer to the bed and listened as their childish voices spoke out, Michael telling about swimming in the moonpool, Callie talking about how much she loved ice cream.
Janet moved to Nathan’s side. “How is this possible?”
“I don’t know, Janet. How is it possible that Callie is alive, that she is here? How is it possible that my best friends knew that I had a child and didn’t tell me?”
Janet could hear the hurt in his voice.
“We thought she was gone, Nathan. We were told that both Kristin and Callie were killed in the laboratory explosion. Bill and I thought that it would hurt you too much to tell you. You’d already lost so much. We thought that losing Kristin… we couldn’t add to that pain anymore by telling you about the child you would never meet. I’m sorry.”
“I had a right to know! What else aren’t you telling me?” Nathan knew he hit a nerve when guilty looks passed over both Bill and Janet’s faces. “There is more, isn’t there?”
Bill answered after a nod from Janet. “We will tell you everything but not now. Later, when we are alone.” He inclined his head toward the children. “You said that you had found Michael’s mother. Are you telling us that Kristin is that woman? That she and Robert…”
Nathan’s face turned hard as stone, stopping Bill’s words immediately. “I don’t know exactly what happened but I do know that someone is using my family to get to me and I’m going to put a stop to it.”
Nathan would have continued but he was distracted when a med tech burst through the door and hurried to Levin’s side.
“Excuse me…” He left Bill and Janet with the kids and moved to the corner where Levin and the tech were pouring over papers. “What is going on? Has there been some change?”
“The substance in Dr. Westphalen’s blood has been holding steady but a few hours ago it fell sharply for a few moments. This happened again just a few minutes ago and we don’t know why.”
“Does this mean that she is improving?”
“We don’t know, sir, but if we can isolate the cause for the drop it may lead us to a cure.”
“Keep working on it, Joshua. Please!”
Nathan slipped back through the small crowd around the bed to stand at Kristin’s side. He wrapped her hand in his and bent to her ear.
“Come on, sweetheart. Those levels dropped for some reason. I know that you are a fighter. We need for you to come back to us, Callie, Michael, Lucas and me. We all need you. Cynthia needs you.” He pressed his lips to hers, opening them slightly and running his tongue along her mouth in search of any response. He got none.
He felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to find Janet next to him. “She didn’t make it this far to lose now, Nathan. Kristin is going to come back to us. She’s in there somewhere, fighting her way back to you and her children.”
Nathan nodded, unable to speak, fear of losing his love after having just found her washing over him.
“She has to come back, Janet. If she doesn’t…”
A loud commotion caught their attention and Dr. Levin came rushing to the side of the bed. “What happened here just a few minutes ago?”
“Nothing… everything is just the same. What’s going on?”
“The levels dropped again, a bigger decrease. Something has to be causing it but what?”
“There hasn’t been any change. I thought maybe, when I kissed her a few minutes ago…”
“You kissed her just now… again? I saw you kiss her before… do you kiss her often?”
“Occasionally…what’s the big deal? We’ve always had a sort of connection when we kissed and I just want her to know that I’m here.”
But Levin was no longer listening. “I need to check something. I want you to kiss Doctor Westphalen again, Captain. When I give the word… kiss her just like you kissed her before.”
Nathan looked at Levin as if he had lost his mind but he nodded anyway.
“Kids… why don’t you take Secretary and Mrs. Noyce to the moonpool to
Levin waited until the room was empty before he waved at Nathan from the lab doorway and disappeared. Nathan lowered his head back to the woman in the bed.
“I love you, baby.” He whispered before he possessed her mouth with his own. He laved her lips with his tongue to moisten them, hoping for some kind of response. His hands slid beneath her neck to angle her head into his, his thumbs pulling slightly on her chin to part her lips. Nathan slid his tongue inside, once again using his own saliva to moisten her dry mouth as his tongue bathed every available nook and cranny. Still no response.
Nathan continued his ministrations, desperate for some sort of response, until he heard Levin’s voice at the door asking him to stop. He pulled back, with one last swipe of his tongue and then began an impatient pace.
What seemed like hours but was really only minutes passed before Dr. Levin came back into the room, his hands full of papers.
“It’s you, Captain. You are the cure. Whenever you kissed Kristin the levels went down, sometimes a little, sometimes drastically but they always went down. This last time the levels dropped incredibly as long as you were in contact with her. The second you broke the kiss the decrease stopped.”
“That’s crazy, Joshua. You mean if I kiss Kristin long enough she’ll wake up. I can do that.”
Levin looked uncomfortable. “That’s what preliminary results show but…I doubt that kissing alone is going to do it. We need to talk…”
Nathan was exhausted by the time he finally made his way back to his quarters, needing some time alone to process all of the information he’d been hit with over the last day. He sank wearily to the side of the bunk, his head slumping into his hands.
“Oh, Kris… what am I going to do, sweetheart?”
Nathan’s sought after peace was interrupted by a knock at the door. He sighed deeply before standing to open the door. Bill and Janet stood on the other side.
“Where are the kids?”
“Lucas has them in the galley eating dinner. He’s promised them a movie after that. We thought it might be a good time for us to talk.”
Nathan wanted time alone to make the decision facing him but perhaps he needed to know the whole story. He motioned the couple in.
“Has there been any change?” Janet asked as they sat on the two small chairs in the tiny cabin.
Nathan dropped back to the bunk. “There is the possibility that Levin has discovered a way to bring Kristin back but… he’s doing more tests. Are you ready to tell me everything? Because I really need to hear it.”
“We will tell you what we know… which isn’t that much. We didn’t know that you and Kristin had… reconnected… neither of you told us.”
“We were waiting until the tour ended. We wanted to surprise everyone.”
“When the boat disappeared…Kristin asked us for information and I told her what I could because I knew that she still cared for you and for Lucas and the others.” Bill nodded at Janet to continue.
two months after the disappearance, Kristin and I were having lunch. She told me that she had decided to move back
last shore leave… about six weeks before we
disappeared… Kristin and I ran into each other, literally, in
“That isn’t the only thing that blossomed.” Janet replied with a smile. “When Kristin stood up her condition was obvious, even more pronounced due to her weight loss. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it before.”
picked the story up once again. “Kristin
moved back to
A flicker of a smile touched Nathan’s lips. “She told me… the one time she regained consciousness. What happened after the birth?”
went to work for the British government doing research. Between that and being a full-time mommy she
stayed busy but she never stopped missing you.
We visited often. We’d just
“But they weren’t… children?” Nathan’s eyes widened as Janet’s words sunk in.
“Children, Nathan… twins… a girl and a boy.”
“I have a son? Where is he?”
“That’s just it. Kristin always kept the children with her… always. After she lost you she wouldn’t let them out of her sight. We knew that something was worrying her. She had mentioned that she felt like she was being followed. That was one of the reasons for our visit. There was no reason to think that the kids weren’t with her. Then Cynthia disappeared. We never saw her again… not at the funeral or the inquiry… it was as if she dropped off the face of the planet.”
“That isn’t like Cynthia… unless Kristin knew…” Nathan’s mind was racing.
“We worried about her, all alone in the world and we tried to find her, with no success. But about a year ago…”
“What? Tell me!”
“We got a package in the mail the day of Bill’s seventieth birthday party.”
“A letter, a bomb? What?”
Bill sighed. “You remember how I collect antique car miniatures? Well, in the package was a small model of a Cooper Mini.”
Nathan felt like he was pulling teeth. “And this is significant how?”
little boy… your son’s name was Cooper.
It’s a stretch of the imagination to connect the two but the package
didn’t have a name or return address on it and Cooper was always fascinated
with Bill’s collection… Nathan? Are you
listening to me?”
Nathan had stopped listening upon being told the name of his son. His mind drifted back to his last shore leave
when he’d run into Kristin in
“I don’t think this is going to work.”
“It will work, trust me. Besides this was your idea.”
“It always sounded so cool when I was a teenager, making out in the back of a Mini. I didn’t know that you had to be a contortionist to do it.” Nathan peered over the seat, an incredulous look on his face.
Kristin was perched on the back seat, her blouse hanging open revealing satiny skin and rosy erect tips on full firm breasts. She threw her right leg over the seat next to Nathan’s head. “Come on, big boy. You can do it.”
Nathan’s doubts were fading fast at the view that his love was presenting him, her short red skirt up around her waist, her knickers having disappeared earlier in the make out session. He vaulted his body over the seat and settled between her legs. Kristin turned her body sideways, lying back on the seat so that Nathan could stretch out on top of her.
“Now what?” Nathan asked as Kristin’s left leg continually blocked his attempts to get closer.
“Watch this!” She proclaimed, pushing her leg beside him and out of the open window. A quick backwards glance showed Nathan that her right foot was propped against the steering wheel, leaving her completely open to his gaze and his touch.
“Me thinks that you’ve done this before, Doctor Westphalen.” Nathan murmured against the breast he’d begun to feast on.
“I’ll never tell… you’re not so bad yourself now that you’ve got the hang of it.” Kristin slid her fingers across his bare chest, the tips playing lightly in his downy chest hair.
“Umm… I think I’m getting a cramp.”
“I know the perfect way to work it out.” Kristin grinned as she pulled Nathan’s hips toward her waiting cradle.”
“No foreplay?” Nathan asked playfully as his fingers dipped into her wetness.
Kristin arched into him. “That’s for tonight, darling. This car is too damned small for anything other than a wham, bam, and thank you ma’am. Besides I am so turned on right now that I don’t need any foreplay.” Her fingers attacked the button and zipper on his jeans. Before Nathan realized it she’d managed to push the offending garments to his knees.
Nathan sank quickly into her welcoming body and found that to be true. “I’ll make it up to you tonight.”
“There’s nothing to make up. Sometimes quick and dirty can be fantastic. Now MOVE!”
Nathan laughed as he ground his hips into Kristin’s, her moans telling him that she was as turned on as he was by the entire scenario.
“Harder, Nathan, oh please!” Kristin begged as her climax began to tease her.
Nathan was straining against his own release and her words spurred him on. He planted his feet firmly, one against the side of the car and the other against the back of the front seat and rocked, slamming himself into Kristin with so much force that he knew he must be hurting her but she just begged for more.
A high-pitched keen rose from Kristin’s throat as she hung on the edge. Nathan thrust his hands beneath her bottom and shifted her hips, allowing for a deeper thrust. His lips sank to hers and his kiss absorbed her long scream as she reached the zenith and fell.
The squeeze of her muscles around his arousal pushed Nathan over the peak as well and he felt every inch of his seed as he expunged it into her welcoming body.
“Nathan…what’s wrong, man? Are you listening?” Nathan shook his head and came back to the present to find Bill and Janet staring at him intently.
“What’s wrong? You zone out on us and get the goofiest grin I’ve ever seen on your face and you ask us what’s wrong?”
Nathan tried to wipe the grin off but found that it was stuck there. “She named him Cooper… I can’t believe that she did that. It’s very possible that the twins were conceived in a Cooper Mini… the back seat of a mini.”
“More information than I needed to know!” Bill announced.
“So perhaps Callie was at the lab with Kristin but Cooper was with Cynthia. When the lab was destroyed Cynthia took Cooper and disappeared, probably someplace that they had already set up. Cynthia is still there with my son and has no idea that her mother and sister are still alive… or that she has another baby brother.”
“Nathan… about Michael… Kristin wouldn’t have… She showed absolutely no interest in anyone else while you were gone. I can’t believe that she would…”
Nathan stood and laid a comforting hand on Janet’s shoulder. “I don’t know exactly what Kristin suffered in that place but it wasn’t good. She told me what little she could remember… that she was tied down…drugged… forced to submit… and so was he. Michael’s conception was a deliberate attempt to hurt me, control the people that I loved. I know that. Now I have to find out who and why and stop it.”
“We’ll help you anyway we can.”
“I appreciate that and I may have to call on you. The kids… if Kristin doesn’t wake up soon I may need for you to take them and keep them safe until I can put an end to this madness.”
“She will wake up, Nathan. She didn’t fight for ten years to leave you just when she’s found you.”
Nathan nodded in agreement, his decision made. He had to do everything he could to get Kristin back, for her children but mostly for himself.
“Thank you for telling me. She’s going to come back to me. I’m going to make sure of it. If you’ll excuse me I need to have a talk with Levin.”
Nathan finished his conversation with Levin then made his way to the galley to enjoy dessert with his kids while arrangements were being made. Callie was growing more comfortable with him all the time so he decided to risk a few questions.
“Callie, would you like to talk about Cooper?” He asked hesitantly, unsure of what his daughter’s response would be.
Her face grew still, the smile falling away. “Cooper is gone.”
“Do you remember the last time you saw him? Can you tell me about it? I don’t want to upset you, sweetheart… I just want to know about him.”
Callie nodded but there were tears in her eyes as she spoke. “Mama had to go to the lab to pick up something and then we were all leaving. I was packed so I got to go with her. Cooper had been naughty so he had to stay with Cynni and finish his packing. We got to the lab and then… there was a loud noise. I don’t remember much after that. There were some men… they were laughing… saying I could join the other rats in the kitchen. Mama wasn’t with me anymore and I didn’t see her for a long time. When I did she was calling me Monica and she wasn’t acting like Mama anymore.”
“Were you at the prison?”
Callie nodded, her eyes filled with fear. “Mama was in a very nice room and I stayed with the other lady. She told me to call her mama, that she was my mama now… but she wasn’t so I just didn’t say anything. I’d go with her to visit my real mama sometimes and after the lady got sick I got to stay with Mama again. Michael was there then… I remember Mama letting me feel him kicking in her tummy and then he was born.”
“Do you remember anyone else there?”
“There was a man who came to see Mama once while we were there. He ignored us but he was very mean to Mama. His voice and his eyes were cold.”
“Did your mother call him by a name?”
“One time she called him a bastard.” Callie whispered then covered her mouth with her hands.
“It’s okay, sweetheart. I don’t want you using that word but this time it’s okay. I need to know anything that you can remember about that man or anything else that happened while you and mommy were at the prison.”
“Who’s Cooper, sir?” Lucas asked, he and Michael having sat silently through Callie’s narrative.
“Cooper is Callie’s twin brother. Bill and Janet just told me about him. He was supposed to be in the lab explosion as well but I think that he and Cynthia are in hiding somewhere. I want you to give the search for Cynthia as much time as you possibly can.”
“A twin… you’re family is growing by leaps and bounds, Cap.”
Nathan grinned. “You can say that again. I’ve gone from one kid to four kids and a grandson.”
“Robert, Callie, Cooper and you.”
A stupid grin crossed Lucas face. “I’ll find Cyn. I’ll go work on it right now.”
“Actually… I need for you to do me a favor. Will you watch the kids again tonight? I’m going to be working on waking Kristin up. The answers I need to solve this mystery are locked inside her brain and Levin thinks he’s figured out how to help her.” Nathan turned to the kids. “I am going to get your mama back for you.”
Nathan knew he would never forget the smiles on the faces of the children in front of him. “I’d better go. Levin probably has everything ready. I’m sure that Bill and Janet will be glad to help you if you need it.”
“We’ll watch a movie or something and then head to bed.”
“I’ll meet you in the morning for breakfast… hopefully with good news.”
Levin pulled the last electrode from Kristin’s body. “Are you sure about this, Captain? There is no guarantee…”
“Do you think that this is the answer?”
“Yes… based on previous reaction, I think this is the only answer. None of our synthetic formulas worked but your kiss drops the levels every time.”
“Then I’m sure. There are three children out there that need their mother. But most of all I need her. You’ve made all of the arrangements?”
“The adjoining cabins are empty and the corridor is blocked to all but medical personnel. If you need me for any reason just call.”
Nathan escorted Levin to the door and secured it behind him before returning to his bunk to stare at the woman lying there. He reached out and wrapped a strand of auburn fire around his fingers.
“I love you so much, Kristin. I hope that you know that… and that you will approve of what I’m about to do. Please fight your way back to me.”
stripped his clothes away and climbed into the bunk beside Kristin. He wrapped his arms around her unresponsive
body and lowered his mouth to hers for the first kiss.
“What the hell do you think you are doing?”
eyes popped open to find Captain Oliver Hudson’s face most definitely in his
space. His head jerked back and
encountered the cold steel of the wall he was sitting against. Levin laid a hand lightly on
his space was once again his own, Levin stood up and shook his head into
wakefulness. He glanced at his watch,
surprised to find that almost three hours had passed. He realized that
“…moved my crew around, disrupted working and sleeping arrangements and for what?”
“We are trying to cure Doctor Westphalen.”
“And why couldn’t this be done in med bay?”
“It just couldn’t, sir. I am going to have to ask you to respect my medical judgement and my patient’s right to privacy.”
“Damn it, Levin…”
“I can assure you, Captain Hudson, that the UEO will support whatever Dr. Levin deems necessary to help us solve this mystery. We consider it a matter of great importance to find out exactly who was in charge of that slave compound and Kristin Westphalen may be the only who can help us.” Bill Noyce’s voice chimed in.
“As you say, sir.”
“Any news so far?” Janet asked Levin.
The young man shook his head. “Nothing yet, but Captain Bridger hasn’t called for me which I am hoping is a good sign.”
that very moment a scream rent the air, a definitely feminine outcry. Laughter bubbled to Janet’s lips as she, Bill
and Levin all smiled.
“Was that Westphalen? My God! He’s hurting her! You have to stop him.”
“He isn’t hurting her. He’s curing her.”
scream echoed through the empty hall, this one most definitely sensual in
“That’s sick! An unresponsive woman?”
“She doesn’t sound so unresponsive to me. Trust me, Captain Hudson; Kristin is enjoying herself and getting cured in the process. Why don’t you just go to bed and let them do what they need to do? Now that I know the Captain’s treatment is working I don’t think any of us need to stand in the hallway playing voyeur.”
Nathan fell back into the pillows exhausted, Kristin quickly moving over him. They shared several long wet kisses before she laid her head against his shoulder.
“Welcome back, sweetheart.” Nathan whispered, his hand once again stroking her sable tresses.
“Welcome back to you as well, my darling. That was a hell of a homecoming.”
“How much do you remember about what’s happened?”
“I remember that you were gone and now you’ve come back to me.” Nathan saw her squint in the dim light. “But I’m not exactly sure where we are…the seaQuest? And where are the children?”
“They are fine. Bill and Janet are here and they have Callie. Lucas is looking after Michael.”
“Michael? You mean Cooper… don’t you?”
“You don’t remember Michael... we should call Levin. He wanted to take blood samples periodically. I don’t think either of us were expecting such a rapid response.” Nathan didn’t want to push her so he tried to change the subject.
Kristin wasn’t buying it. “Who is Michael and where is Cooper?”
“Kristin, how old are the twins?”
“They are… three… almost four… I don’t know. I’m confused. What’s wrong with me, Nathan? Where have you been all this time?”
“Let’s call Levin and get that sample then we’ll talk about what’s happened.”
Kristin hit the switch and blinked rapidly at the rush of light. She ignored Nathan’s protests and climbed over him to cross the room and grab the med kit lying on the desk. Nathan did as he was told and tied the rubber strap across her arm. He flinched as she jabbed a needle into her vein. Moments later a vial of blood was ready to be tested.
“Give this to Levin to do whatever bloody tests he needs to do then get back in here and start explaining. First question – where are my children?”
Nathan nodded and slipped on his pants. “Will you get back in the bunk and rest while I’m gone? I promise that once I get back we will talk. You haven’t been well, sweetheart.”
“So that’s why I feel like shit, huh?” Kristin managed a small smile, which quickly turned into a yawn. “You promise we’ll talk when you get back, even if you have to wake me up?”
Nathan gave a nod and then exited into the corridor. Levin was on his feet and waiting by the time that Nathan reached him.
“She’s awake.” He said tersely.
“So we heard. Is she okay?”
“Here is the sample for you to find out. She drew it herself. She doesn’t seem to remember the explosion or anything after that. She thinks the twins are four years old and she has no clue who Michael is.”
“That could come with time, sir. She might still have enough of this agent in her blood to block later memories as well.”
“I’m not sure that I want her to remember. What happened to her in that place? But if she doesn’t remember that then she doesn’t remember Michael and he will never understand. She’s expecting me to come back, sit down and tell her what is going on. She knows that something isn’t right, that she’s confused. What do I do?”
“It would probably be better for her memory to come back naturally but trying to persuade her of that will be impossible.”
“You’re telling me! That woman is the epitome of stub…”
Both men jumped at the scream echoing from Nathan’s cabin and took off running. They found a wild-eyed Kristin entangled in the bunk sheet, screaming as she tried to kick herself loose. Nathan moved to grab her and they both ended up in a pile on the floor.
“Kristin! Wake up!”
“NO! I know this isn’t real! You can’t fool me again. Don’t touch me!”
Nathan attempted to reach Kristin but the sound of his voice seemed to enflame her more. Finally he did the only thing he could think of. He captured her arms and pressed her to him, his lips claiming mastery over hers in a forceful kiss.
Levin couldn’t help but grin as Kristin slowly stopped struggling and melted into Nathan’s arms, kissing him back passionately. Suddenly she pulled back and stared at Nathan as if he would disappear at any moment.
“You are here!”
“I’m real and I’m here and I’m not going anywhere. Who were you fighting, baby? Who hurt you?”
“Zellar…Zellar was there. He…I think that he wanted…tried…I fought him…he drugged me, Nathan…oh, Nathan!”
She buried her face in his shoulder and burst into tears. Nathan waved Levin from the room. He soothed her gently as he laid her back in the bunk and straightened the covers before climbing in after her.
Finally the tears slowed. “I’m so confused. Please tell me what the hell is going on?”
Nathan knew that she had to be frustrated. “I’ll tell you what I can but I wasn’t here for most of it.”
“How long were you gone?”
“Oh, God… then the twins are nine now… and Michael… Michael is almost five.”
“So you do remember Michael?”
Kristin nodded against his chest, her silent tears warming his skin. “I remember Michael… and I remember who you believe his father is.”
“You said that Zellar was trying to hurt you. Tell me anything that you can remember. Take it slow… don’t force the memories. You went to the lab with Callie and it exploded. What is the next thing you remember?”
“I woke up in a strange place. The decor was plush but I was still a prisoner. I thought that Callie was dead, had no idea about Cynthia and Cooper. I could barely function. I remember Zellar being there… and another man I didn’t know. They talked about revenge against you as if they knew you were still alive. I don’t know how long I’d been there when they began drugging me… maybe they were from the beginning. I remember waking up once in a small surgical suite and knowing that they’d done something… they put a memory control device in my brain, didn’t they?”
“You ripped it out a few days ago, just before you fell into a coma.”
“I knew… it had to come out. Callie… you know about Callie? She’s here?”
“Ford brought Bill and Janet out to help me figure out what happened with Michael. They recognized Callie and she responded to her real name.” Nathan paused as a big smile crossed his lips. “Then she called me papa.”
“The men that Zellar sent to plant the bomb… they didn’t know what to do with her. I begged them to let her go… I knew that Cynthia would find her… or Bill and Janet… but they brought her anyway. On the way there, the one in charge decided that maybe bringing Callie was a mistake. They dumped her in the kitchens and I’m sure they never told Zellar about her. He would have used her against me if he’d known.”
“He made you forget Callie… and everything else… and then he hurt you.”
Kristin nodded against Nathan’s chest. “I wish I could remember more… I remember being pregnant with Michael… giving birth… they took him away from me then, but formula didn’t agree with him so they gave him back to me so that I could breast feed him. I think, perhaps they just wanted me to bond with him even more so that when they took him away my suffering would be greater.”
“Who is they? You’ve mentioned Zellar but you keep saying ‘they’? I need to know who that other person is.”
“I… I don’t know. I can’t even dredge up a description.”
“It’s okay, honey. What else do you remember?”
“I sent Michael to you. There were times that I remembered… some things at least. I heard your name… that you were back and I knew you would protect Michael. The men had begun to visit more often. I didn’t like the way they looked at my son, the way they talked about him as the means of their revenge. I had to get him away. The women from the kitchen helped me. Once they realized he was gone they put me in the kitchens as well but I didn’t mind. At least I was away from them.”
“When I arrived back and found Michael I didn’t really know what to make of him. Here’s a four-year-old kid with a note saying he’s my grandson and my only child has been dead for fifteen years. But then the DNA test showed he was definitely a Bridger so I thought Robert sent him to me, that Robert was alive. My search for Robert is what took me to the prison complex.”
“I’m sorry that you didn’t find Robert there.”
“I am too, but I found you and I found Callie. Now I’m going to find Zellar and I’m going to make him pay for what he’s done to you.”
“I just want to feel safe again. Could we stay with you, Nathan? Just for a little while? I need some time to get my bearings back.”
Nathan tightened his arms around her, not really believing that she thought he’d ever let her go again. “You are safe with me and you always will be. Why don’t you try and get some rest now?”
Nathan heard her muffled okay against his chest. He stroked her hair as her breathing slowed and she eased off to sleep.
Nathan wasn’t so lucky. His mind grabbed hold of the information Kristin had given him and turned it over and over, trying to make sense of it. What other surprises did Zellar have planned? Because Nathan was certain that there would be others. He wondered how many of the events of the last few days had been scripted by the mad doctor. The other question he searched for the answer to was who was the second man and what role did he play in this evil game.
Exhaustion finally won out and Nathan slept deeply for several hours, waking to find Kristin propped on her elbow staring at him.
“Good morning.” She whispered when she realized he was awake.
“Unh-uh…” Nathan slipped a hand behind her neck and drew her head down to his for a deep kiss. “Now it’s a good morning. I’ve missed so many things over the last ten years but this is one of the things I’ve missed the most… waking up with you.”
A tentative smile crossed Kristin’s lips and Nathan realized that she was still very nervous.
“Come here.” He pulled her back to his side and she snuggled in, fitting perfectly against the lean contours of his body. Nathan was glad to feel Kristin’s tight muscles begin to relax as he lightly stroked her back.
“You know we are going to be invaded very soon, don’t you? Levin will be wanting more blood samples and I know three kids that want desperately to see you, not to mention Bill and Janet.”
“Michael, Callie and Lucas.”
“Surely Lucas would resent being called a child. He is twenty-seven years old now…”
“Um… there are some things that I need to explain to you about the ten years that we were gone…”
Kristin listened in amazement as Nathan explained what he could about the last ten years…how none of his crew had aged and that Lucas still appeared to be seventeen.
“So physiologically we are now about the same age? I can no longer make any old man cracks?”
Nathan pulled a face. “Smart ass! You don’t look a day older than you did when I left.”
“Liar! This gray in my hair and the lines on my face tell a different story. Nathan, I need something to wear. I don’t have any clothes.”
“You used to steal mine…How about I lend you a shirt until we can scrounge something else up. I think I’ve got a pair of shorts and a belt that we could modify for you. Buying you and Callie some new clothes will be our first order of business once we get back to land.”
“What about Callie? What is she wearing now?”
“Some of the female crew have been dressing her in a tee shirt maxi-dress motif. She has also developed an addiction to ice cream.”
“She always did love it… before…I’ve lost so much with her… with all of my children.”
“We’ve both got a lot of catching up to do. Kristin, do you know where Cynthia and Cooper might be? They haven’t been seen since the explosion.”
Kristin’s brow wrinkled, deep in thought. “I should know… I can almost… but then it goes away.”
“Don’t worry, sweetheart. We’ll find them. We will put our family back together.”
A knock at the door broke his words.
“That would be anxious little ones. Just a minute.” Nathan called out. He slid from the bed and tossed Kristin his blue button up shirt, pulled his pants up then made sure that she had covered herself completely before opening the door.
The doorway was surrounded – Michael, Callie, Lucas, Bill and Janet all waiting eagerly for news. Nathan smiled and waved them in the door.
The children immediately made a beeline for their mother, Lucas and Janet close behind. Bill held Nathan back.
“Was she able to remember anything?”
Nathan nodded. “Zellar… why didn’t you tell me he’d escaped?”
Bill looked stunned. “Zellar did try to escape… six years ago. He was killed in the attempt.”
Nathan shook his head, his eyes focused on the loving reunion taking place over at the bunk. “Kristin saw him in that prison as recently as a few months ago. Somehow he faked his death. And there is someone else involved, a man that she didn’t recognize. I thought about this all last night. Zellar knows by now that we’ve taken over the facility. He’ll guess that we’ve got Kristin. He won’t know that we guessed how to cure his little concoction and that her memory is returning.”
“But what do you do now?”
“Wait… but it won’t be long. I suspect that I’ll hear from Zellar within the next twenty-four hours. I think that a great deal of what has happened over the last few months was scripted by him. Kristin thinks that she sent Michael away but I’m guessing that was all a part of his plan. How else would Michael end up with a note directing him toward me, a note saying that I was his grandfather? He is playing a game with me and he thinks he holds all the cards… but I’m about to change the rules. This game is coming to an end. There are a few plans I’d like to make, some groundwork to lay but then I’m going to spend the day with my family.”
help you anyway I can, Nathan, and I’ll make sure that
Nathan smiled his thanks and then turned toward the bunk. “Make room for papa!”
Janet moved over to one of the two chairs that Bill pulled up to the bed and Lucas slid to the end of the bunk. The children squealed as Nathan playfully climbed over them and Kristin and slid into the bunk behind her, sitting up and pulling all of them into his lap.
“So…who wants to go to the galley and get mama something to eat?”
Both children quickly volunteered along with Lucas and they scampered out the door, almost knocking Joshua Levin down on the way out the door.
“You’re looking much better this morning!” Levin was genuinely surprised at how well Kristin looked.
“I’m feeling much better. So I guess you want some more of my blood?”
“Just a tad bit if you don’t mind. The last results were excellent. Your blood levels have dropped over sixty percent. I’m hoping that they will have continued to decrease.”
Kristin glanced down, a slight blush on her cheeks. “Perhaps it will have done. Go ahead, do your vampire bit.”
Levin deftly drew the blood then took her vital signs. “You need to stay in bed. Get plenty of rest and eat something nutritious. I don’t want too many visitors wearing you out.”
“The kids will be back with breakfast soon and once we eat I’ll get them out.” Nathan promised.
“Maybe Janet could watch them this morning while I make some calls and have a talk with Captain Hudson.” Bill offered.
“I’ll be glad…” Janet started but was interrupted by the entrance of the children.
The adults burst into laughter at the sight of Lucas and the younger children, each with a tray laden with food.
“We didn’t know what mama would want so we brought some of everything!” Michael announced.
Nathan held the trays while Michael and Callie climbed back into the bed then settled in beside them with the trays spread out between them.
“Grampa? How come Mon… I mean Callie calls you papa and I call you Grampa?” Michael asked between bites of a banana.
“Uh… I’m… uh…” Nathan stuttered, not sure of how to answer this question.
Kristin wrapped her arms around her son. “Callie calls Nathan papa because she’s older than you and she only knew him from pictures and my stories. When you went to live with Nathan on his island you got to know him for real and decided to call him Grampa. One day you are going to meet another little boy who will call Nathan papa, your brother, Cooper. And you will also meet your sister, Cynthia. She calls Nathan… Nathan.”
Michael shook his head. “I don’t understand. How come I never met them before?”
“Because they live far away from here but they will love you. I know all of this is a little confusing but as you get older it will make more sense. All that you need to remember right now is that both Nathan and I love you and Callie very much.”
“Are you gonna come to the island to live with us?”
That question gave Kristin pause. “You’re… Nathan and I haven’t really talked about that yet but no matter where we end up both of us will always be there for you, I promise.”
Michael seemed satisfied by that answer but Nathan noticed that Callie looked a little puzzled. “Once we get through here Captain Hudson is going to take us to the island. Your mom and I will decide what to do from there.”
“I don’t want you to go away again, papa.”
Nathan swooped across the bed to embrace his daughter. “I’m never going to go away from you again, Callie girl. I promise you that.”
Both children seemed to be happy with their parents’ answers and went back to their breakfast. The adults, however, seemed more nervous around each other than they had earlier. Janet motioned Nathan across the room.
“What’s going on between the two of you? I don’t mean… that… I know what happened last night. But you seem so tense.”
“We’ve just got to get comfortable with each other once again. Last night wasn’t exactly what you would call romantic… I can’t even begin to imagine what they might have done to her in there… she might not want me or any man anywhere near her.”
“Can you accept that possibility? Don’t give your children false hope. You and Kristin need to decide if you want to be together before they come to expect it. And don’t do it for the children. Is it the right thing for the two of you?”
“It’s the right thing for me, Janet. I didn’t realize how alive she makes me feel until I found her again. There is no way in hell that I’m going to let her go but I don’t want to scare her away either.”
“The kids are through eating. Why don’t I take them away for a while? You and Kristin sit down and have a long talk. I’ll bring them back with lunch.”
This time Levin almost ran the children down as they once again met in the doorway. He nodded in approval as the group continued out, leaving him alone with Nathan and Kristin.
“I’m glad you listened to me. You do need to rest.”
“I’ve been in bed for three days, Joshua.”
“Being in a coma doesn’t count as rest! Now are you going to follow my orders or do I have to readmit you to med bay?”
Kristin sunk into the bed. “You don’t know how badly I wish at this moment that I was still your boss! I’m not going anywhere. Now, what did the last test show?”
Levin shrugged. “The levels haven’t gone down anymore but they haven’t increased either. I’d like to see them disappear completely since we don’t know what effect they are having on your body or your memory.”
“I’d like that as well but… never mind. What other tests do you want?”
Levin named a list of tests whose names sent Nathan’s head spinning. “Isn’t that a lot?” He asked but Kristin’s look quickly quelled him. Her medical knowledge was obviously back in force.
“I’ll bring Kristin to med bay this afternoon, I promise.” Nathan answered, desperate to get rid of Levin.
The young man finally left and Nathan secured the door firmly behind him. Kristin lay quietly in the bed and watched as Nathan wandered around the room, casually brushing imaginary dust to the floor.
Nathan circled the small room twice before he finally dropped down on the side of the bunk to stare at Kristin. “So…”
“So? I’m sorry about Callie, about both of them. Once we get settled they will come to understand the situation better…”
“There is no situation, Kristin. Unless you can really convince me that you don’t love me anymore, and that can’t be done, we stay together. If you don’t want to be on my island then I’ll go wherever you are. Don’t leave me, Kristin. You’re the other half of my soul.”
Tears came to her eyes. “You can’t still want me after…”
Nathan slid up the bunk until he could embrace her. “I don’t know what happened to you in that hellhole but it doesn’t matter to me. I love you, Kristin. I want us to be together in whatever way that you can handle. I want the kids, all of us together, but most of all I want you.”
Kristin pushed up on her knees and pressed herself more fully into Nathan’s body. “I love you, Nathan. I never stopped; even when I didn’t know myself, somewhere… deep down… you were still there in my heart. I don’t give a damn where we are as long as you want me.”
Nathan’s hand moved to caress Kristin’s cheek. “Forever is a far as I’ll go, my love.”
Their lips met in a tender kiss, a kiss of reaffirmation of a love that had stood the test of time and distance. The kiss continued in the same vein for several minutes, gentle and loving, seeking and healing.
When their lips finally parted they settled back into the bunk together.
“So what would you like to do today?”
“Figure out this entire mess, kick Zellar’s ass, have you kiss me senseless then sleep for a week!”
Nathan laughed. “I’m working on the first and second parts. As for kissing you senseless, I’m always up for that. I think that maybe we need to work on getting your blood levels lower but… I don’t think…”
Kristin laid her fingers lightly over his mouth to shush him. “I agree. I don’t know why but… that… doesn’t feel right… not yet… but perhaps… I’d love to have a shower but I don’t know if I’m strong enough to stand up that long. Would you help me?”
“It would be my pleasure.”
Nathan staggered through the door of med bay and lurched toward the bed, Kristin giggling hysterically as Nathan moaned and groaned. He barely made it to the bed before dropping her to the mattress and grabbing his back.
“Damn, woman. You must weigh a ton!” He told her playfully, both of them painfully aware that she had in fact lost too much weight.
Kristin stuck her tongue out at him and he pounced on her, tickling her almost senseless then finishing the job with his kisses.
“Umm… I’m glad to see you are feeling better?” Levin asked, unsure of how to take the couple’s playful antics.
Kristin’s head popped up over Nathan’s shoulder before she reluctantly pushed him away. “I am feeling much better. I’ve had an excellent nap.”
“And don’t forget a fantastic shower…” Nathan interjected.
Levin noted the rosy flush that rose into Kristin’s cheeks but didn’t comment. “Why don’t I draw a blood sample then we can work on those other tests?”
“I’m beginning to know how a pin cushion feels.” Kristin complained as the needle slid into her arm.
“Excuse me, Miss it-will-only-hurt-a-minute! Make a note of this, Joshua. The great Doctor Westphalen is complaining about a needle.” Nathan teased.
“I am not complaining. I’m just not used to having my blood sucked out every two or three hours! Why don’t you go play with the kids?” A sulky pout graced Kristin’s lips, tempered slightly by the unturned corners.
“We are meeting them in the galley for ice cream just as soon as we get through here. How long is this going to take?”
“About thirty minutes give or take.” Levin supplied.
“I’ll just go call and set up the meeting time while you two do whatever it is you need to do.”
Nathan slipped into Levin’s office and made a quick call to Janet and then had Tim get him an outside link to make a few more calls. Before he realized it Levin was coming to get him, the testing done. Nathan talked with him privately for a few minutes before they returned to join Kristin.
“Did Levin give you the good news?” Kristin beamed at him.
Nathan turned to the doctor. “What good news?”
“It seems that there is no longer any trace of Zellar’s damned substance left in my bloodstream.”
Nathan’s grin broke ear to ear to match Kristin’s blushing smile. She winked at him. “I told you it would work.”
Nathan glanced at Levin but the doctor had turned his back to the couple, busying himself at the counter. He planted a quick but firm kiss on her upturned lips. “So, Mama, you want to go get some ice cream?”
“You bet, Papa.”
Nathan stared into the darkness, flexing his arm slightly beneath the woman sleeping at his side. Kristin pushed her body deeper into the warmth of his arms but slept on. Nathan wanted to sleep but couldn’t. Every nerve in his body was buzzing and he knew that something was about to happen. That’s why he’d left the kids with Bill and Janet. He didn’t want them around when the showdown began.
A light chirp above his head signaled the beginning. Nathan stabbed the button.
“Yes, Mr. O’Neill.”
“The call you’ve been expecting, sir. He says I have twenty seconds to get you or he’s gone.”
“Put it through.”
Nathan quickly sat up as the small vid screen on the desk flickered to life. At the last second he grabbed the edge of the sheet and yanked it to the top of the bed, effectively obscuring the woman within. He toggled the controls until the screen narrowed in on his face alone.
“Seventeen… Eight… Excellent, Captain. Two seconds to spare.” Nathan suppressed an involuntary shiver as the countenance of Dr. Ruben Zellar filled the screen. He peered at Nathan with interest. “You don’t look well, Captain. Have some problems sleeping? That’s understandable since your life turned a little upside down. Finding the lovely doctor, discovering her intimacy with your son, losing her to that damned pesky little coma I planned. You must not know which way to turn. There is a way to wake her up, you know.”
“What do you want, Zellar? Fight your battles with me, not my family.”
“Does that mean that you don’t want to know how to wake up your woman? And as you well know I have plenty of reason to fight a battle with her as well, the meddlesome bitch.”
“I repeat, what do you want?” Nathan felt the subtle movement behind him and carefully shifted a hand back to press Kristin into the mattress. She understood and quickly stilled.
“I want a meeting, Bridger, face to face. If you want to know how to wake up your lover then you’ll agree. Not that you’re man enough to do what it will take…I might even give you information about your son.”
“And if I don’t agree?”
“Then the toxin in Doctor Westphalen’s system will begin to spike in about twenty-four hours. Forty-eight hours after that she will be dead.”
“Name the time and place.”
“You won’t have to travel far. Tomorrow morning come to the surface alone in a launch. From there you’ll be given directions to a house on the mainland. I fully expect the launch to be wired but let me warn you… if anyone else comes with you, or attempts to enter my home, they will trigger a bio defense system the likes of which this planet has never seen.”
“So I walk in and get zapped. How stupid do you think I am?”
“Your DNA profile has been entered into the security system to allow you to enter safely, but only yours. Any thought of bringing a UEO military contingent would result in their immediate and horrible deaths. I’ll expect you on the surface at 9 am… sharp.”
“Wait…” Nathan tried to stop Zellar but the screen went black.
“I’m going with you.” Kristin threw the sheet off and popped up beside him.
“No way in hell, lady. You stay here.”
“You can’t tell me what to do. I’ve been that bastard’s victim long enough. I want to confront him.”
Nathan sighed and mustered his ammunition. “If you try to go with me you might get hurt. He said only me. We’ve got three children out there who need their mother.”
“They need their father… they need you too.”
“I’m not arguing with that and I intend to come back to them. But on the off chance that something goes wrong they need at least one of their parents alive. They need you.”
“And I need you, Nathan. How could I ever go on if something happened to you?” A tear formed in the corner of her eye but she batted it away defensively. “Don’t go! Why should you? I’m awake and the toxin is gone. We know where he is. Send the UEO in. They can blast the place into rubble without any danger.”
“What if he knows something about Robert? I’m sorry, Kristin, but I have to try to find my son. I have to find both of my sons. Just like I would have moved heaven and earth to get to you and Callie if I’d known…”
Kristin nodded. “I don’t want you to go but I understand why you feel that you have to…” She lay back in the bunk, her back to Nathan, and yawned elaborately. “You’d better get some sleep as well.”
Nathan settled in beside her and spooned his body around hers; pulling her close in his embrace even though he felt the stiffness in her body. His eyes fluttered closed and he was almost asleep when he felt the slight movement of her shoulders and realized that she was sobbing into the pillow. Nathan pulled her even closer to him and held her, trying to comfort her as she cried herself to sleep.
Nathan pondered the long stretch of stairs in front of him and then began to climb slowly, his mind drifting back over the morning’s events. Kristin’s anger at his departure was barely veiled in front of the children and both kids cried when he’d left, even though he’d reassured them that he would be back soon. He’d forgotten that feeling, the ache in the pit of your stomach when you have to leave someone that you love, someone who was crying for you. He’d gone back twice to hug both kids. The second time he’d pulled Kristin into his arms as well.
“I will be back!” He whispered emphatically before blistering her lips with his own. She’d responded in kind, clinging to him for long moments, both of them uncaring about the crowd gathered around them.
“You’d better be and soon!” Kristin replied as he reluctantly broke away from her and moved back to the launch. He’d stopped in the doorway and given a wave to his family, burning the image into his brain.
This was the image he clung to as he climbed to meet his nemesis. He caught his breath and pushed on the front door of the cliffside villa. It swung open with a small squeak.
“Welcome, Captain Bridger!” Nathan jumped at the sound of Zellar’s voice issuing from a small microphone by the entrance. “I am glad to see that you followed my instructions. Proceed into the house and up the stairs in front of you. When you get to the top turn left and walk down to the room at the end of the hallway.”
Nathan walked slowly but confidently through the house, his eyes scanning the walls and doors, taking in every detail he could. When he reached the end of the second floor corridor he was confronted by closed double doors. He pushed them down the center and they both swung open.
The room in front of him was large with high ceilings. The center was clear but every inch of wall space was crammed with laboratory equipment. A large metal track bisected the room in the center both on floor and ceiling.
Zellar sat in a chair opposite the doors watching Nathan with an amused grin on his face.
“So glad you could join me. Won’t you have a seat?” Zellar gestured to a chair near him.
“I’d prefer to stand. Let’s get this over with. What is your price?”
“My price, Captain? Whatever for?”
“Your price for Kristin Westphalen’s life. Your price for information on my son. Don’t try to play with my mind, Zellar. It won’t work.”
“Captain… you’d deny me any joy out of the encounter! What about my wants? Surely you didn’t think I’d just volunteer this information!”
“I repeat… What is your price?”
“Oh very well… my price is safe passage out of here to a destination of my choosing. We knew your little UEO raid was coming, had been expecting it, but not for a few more weeks. My escape plans hit a snag and unfortunately I ended up trapped here. So I get a pilot and a helicopter with no tracking equipment. If I’m not followed I’ll let the pilot go when I arrive at my first destination.”
Nathan barked a tiny laugh, knowing that they would never see that pilot again. “You think the UEO is just going to let you fly away from here?”
“They will if you persuade them too. I will tell you how to awaken your sleeping beauty as a show of good faith. Once I’m safely hidden away I’ll send word to you about the whereabouts of your son.”
“What sort of guarantee do I have that you will keep your word?”
“None, Captain… none at all. Tell me, how does it feel, knowing that I’ve had the woman you love, that she’s screamed my name with passion?”
Nathan saw red at Zellar’s words but tapped his anger down. He wouldn’t satisfy Zellar with the response he expected.
“In the first place you haven’t had Kristin. You may have taken her body by force but you never touched her soul. In the second place I doubt you could have… risen to the occasion.” Nathan sneered as he spoke.
He knew he’d succeeded in making Zellar angry when the man jumped from the chair. “Shall I tell you how she screamed with pleasure? Describe the way her body twisted beneath mine as she came for me? As I filled her? Emptied myself inside her?”
“You can do anything you want. That doesn’t mean that I’ll believe you or that I’ll even care. I know that Kristin would never have gone to you willingly. We already know that you drugged her, that you practiced mind control. If she reacted as you say why didn’t you keep her here instead of putting her in the kitchen? If you had really had Kristin Westphalen there is no way that you would ever have let her go.”
Zellar’s hand clenched into a fist and he reached to the lab station at his side. His fingers came up with a vial of innocuous looking liquid and he slowly advanced on Nathan. “Making me mad isn’t a very wise thing to do at this stage of the game, Captain.”
“And making me mad wasn’t particularly wise either, Zellar.” Both men were shocked to see Kristin advance into the room, a tazer held tightly in both of her hands. “Now put the vial down.”
Zellar reached carefully behind him and laid the vial back in its holder, a smug smile on his face. “So you did discover the cure, Captain. Frankly, I didn’t think you could do what it took, making love to an unresponsive woman… what kind of man does that make you?”
“We got your little toy out of my brain before I received the full dose. I didn’t stay unresponsive very long. What a sick little joke… making the antitoxin Nathan’s DNA.”
“I thought it was quite brilliant. After all the only man who could cure you was supposed to be dead. Why aren’t you dead, Captain?”
Nathan had moved to Kristin’s side. “How did you get here?” he whispered.
“The house is connected with the undersea prison, a tunnel through the cliff face. This is where Zellar kept me when he first brought me here and I came back a few times with the kitchen help. The servants are free to come and go so my presence doesn’t trigger his damned device.”
Kristin popped the gun a little higher as she noticed Zellar make a move toward them.
“You are going to tell Nathan everything he needs to know and then you are going to deactivate your little security device.” Kristin took a step closer, resolve plastered across her features.
“And if I don’t?” Zellar asked, that maddeningly smug look still present.
“Then I will kill you.”
Zellar laughed. “You couldn’t kill me the last time. Why should I believe that you could go through with it now?”
Nathan was taken aback for a moment by the evil glint in Kristin’s smile. “I loved my brother deeply and for a moment I actually thought that I might kill you to avenge his death… but I couldn’t do it. But that was my brother. Now you’ve decided to mess with my children and that I absolutely will not tolerate.”
“You should know better than to threaten a woman’s children, Zellar. It brings out the mother lioness in them.” Nathan added to Kristin’s threat.
“If you kill me you will never find out the answers to your questions about Robert Bridger.”
“It might take us a little longer but we’ll find the answers. Someday Robert will resurface and we will never stop looking for him.”
“Ah… but there might be some new questions by then. In fact, you’re already facing another dilemma that you don’t even know about.”
“But I’m sure that you are going to enlighten us, aren’t you?” Nathan asked sarcastically.
“I don’t have to say a word. The evidence will be obvious in a few months, irrefutable in nine.”
Kristin blanched slightly at his words but held the gun steady. “It won’t work, Zellar. I’m on the downward slide to sixty. There are no more babies in my future.”
Zellar grinned like a Cheshire cat. “Perhaps if we were talking about a normal conception but this one would have had a little help. Admittedly it wasn’t easy; the boy was hard enough. Planning this conception took all my skills but it was an inspired idea if I do say so myself.”
“What exactly did you do?”
Zellar settled his body back into the chair. “I don’t guess that it will hurt to tell you. After all, it’s too late to do anything about it.”
“Talk, direct and to the point, NOW!” Kristin aimed the tazer directly at Zellar’s head.
“Kill me, Doctor. What’s done can’t be changed. I did a little bioengineering with your luscious body. If Captain Bridger discovered how to cure you, as he obviously did, there would be repercussions. Two specially engineered eggs were left in stasis within your reproductive system. When Captain Bridger performed his manly duty to wake you up they were both released. One or both of them guaranteed to be fertilized.”
“You bastard.” Kristin whispered beneath her breath. Nathan reached a hand to her waist to steady her.
“What did you do to the eggs?”
“One of them is normal. If it was the chosen one you will have a perfectly normal child.”
“And the other?” Nathan asked, his voice bitter.
“The other will be a monster of your own making, an abomination from the moment of its birth.”
“Then I’ll abort the child.”
“Oh, you could… but it couldn’t really be that simple… could it? If the child dies, you die. Oh, come now, doctor. Surely you won’t mind bearing your lover another child. Even numbers are so much nicer don’t you think.”
The smug smile on Zellar’s face faded as both Nathan and Kristin began to giggle.
“I knew…” she gasped through the laughter.
“Somehow I did too.” Nathan replied.
“You are happy about this? I don’t understand!”
“Then let me enlighten you.” Nathan replied as he fought to bring his laughter back under control. “Your little cure just didn’t feel right so I took a few liberties, changed a few things so to speak.”
“You couldn’t have. A simple kiss wouldn’t have done the trick. A tremendous amount of your DNA would have to be absorbed into the doctor’s system to trigger a reduction. There isn’t enough surface area in the human mouth.”
“I never said that I kissed her mouth. You’d be amazed at the amount of saliva a human mouth can produce given the right inspiration.” Zellar’s mouth fell open as he realized what Nathan was saying. It fell even further as Nathan continued. “And once she was awake we had even more surface areas to work with.”
“You mean… she gave you a… you went down…”
“Yep… that means there was no possibility of conception. And now that you’ve spilled the beans we will make sure that it doesn’t happen.”
Zellar’s face fell.
“It appears that you no longer have the upper hand, Zellar.” Kristin’s voice dripped ice. “Would you like to provide us with information about Nathan’s son? Or are those just empty words as well?”
“You know they aren’t. The boy is proof of that. We couldn’t discover what you had done with him initially but somehow you arranged to send him to Bridger, didn’t you? We were able to modify our plans, plant the note about Michael being his grandson. The boy is on that sub right now, isn’t he?”
“Michael’s whereabouts are no business of yours. What about Robert?”
“I sent him away. His role in our little farce was done so he was of no more use to me. Another of your old friends was anxious to have control of your flesh and blood so I passed him on.”
“Who? Tell me a name.”
“Surely you can figure that out yourself, Captain. Let’s just say an eye for an eye…” Zellar threw his body sideways toward the lab station, the chair he was sitting on toppling beneath him. He misjudged the distance and glassware shattered around him as the station collapsed beneath his weight.
“Run!” Nathan pushed Kristin toward the door and quickly followed her. A hazy cloud began to drift from broken glassware on the station as Zellar crawled along the floor trying to follow them. Kristin stopped at the doorway and began to claw at a small locked cabinet by the door.
“We’ve got to get away!” Nathan tried to drag her from the room but she resisted.
“If that cloud escapes into the atmosphere thousands will die. We have to stop it! Help me break the lock!”
Nathan grabbed the tazer from the floor where Kristin had dropped it and took careful aim at the lock. A quick blast issued forth and the clasp fell to the floor. Kristin flung the door open and hit a switch inside. Large glass doors slid from the wall with a groan and began to move slowly across the tracks in the middle of the room, effectively sealing the toxin within.
Zellar crawled like mad toward the rapidly closing gap and Nathan moved forward to help him but Kristin grabbed his waist and held him back.
“You can’t do anything, Nathan. He’s already dead…killed by his own evil concoction.”
A single glance showed Nathan that her words were true. Zellar’s last potion was particularly deadly as evidenced by the skin slowly curling away from the mad doctor’s flesh. Screams echoed through the room as the venom ate its way into Zellar’s vital organs.
His deep blue eyes drifted back to the haze hanging at the top of the room, most of it behind the glass but a small amount creeping toward them. “What about that?”
Kristin hit another button and the cloud began to flow toward an opening in the ceiling. “It’s an exhaust fan. The filter system can handle that small amount but we should get out of here. Jonathan has a team standing by on the elevator from the prison. We can go back that way.”
Nathan nodded and followed her back through the maze of corridors, his hand gripping hers tightly as they ran from the nightmare behind them.
Half of the sub must have been waiting in the launch bay for their arrival. A cheer went up when they exited the docking ring but Nathan and Kristin only had eyes for the little boy and girl who ran at them. Michael attacked Kristin’s knees while Callie threw her arms around Nathan’s waist and began to sob.
Nathan thanked the surrounding crew and moved his family through the crowd. The Noyce’s and Lucas trailed behind as med bay came into view. Levin greeted them at the door.
Nathan quickly told him what had happened and he agreed that the Captain and the Doctor needed to be examined for any traces of Zellar’s last toxin. The children refused to let their parents out of their sight so Janet and Bill kept them occupied in the corner of the room while Joshua performed his tests.
Nathan joined the small group as Levin led Kristin into a side room for a bit more privacy to continue her exam.
“What the hell happened over there, Nathan?” Bill asked, his voice tense.
“Zellar is gone, killed by his own hand although not intentionally. Why in the hell didn’t you keep Kristin here with you like I asked?”
“Have you ever tried to stop that woman when she has her mind made up? It wasn’t a pretty sight. I even went so far as to threaten to have her locked up. She told me if I did she would emasculate me!”
“That’s a very nice way of putting it!” Janet slipped in.
Nathan could suppress the grin that slipped onto his face as an image of Kristin making that declaration leapt into his mind. “She can be a handful.”
“A handful? I know you love the woman, Nathan but she’s crazy! Well… crazy about you. She made Janet and I promise to take the children if anything happened. And she was so good explaining to them why she had to leave for a little while. Did something else happen? Why is Levin doing extra tests on Kristin?”
“Let’s just say that Zellar’s little mind control device wasn’t the only booby trap he planted in Kristin’s body. Callie…” The child came to her father immediately when he called for her. “I want to ask you something about when you and mommy first came to the prison. You said that you visited mommy in a nice room. Do you remember?”
Callie nodded, her pale face clearly unhappy at having to recall that time.
“You told me that you remember a man coming to see mommy. Would you recognize him if I showed you a picture?”
“I… I think so.”
Nathan had a quick word with Lucas then led Callie over to the vid screen. Lucas’ fingers danced over the controls and a picture of Zellar popped up on the screen.
“Is that the man, sweetheart?”
Nathan felt the shudder as it ran through his daughter’s small frame but was surprised when she shook her head. “That man was there a lot but mama just ignored him. One time he tried to touch her and she hit him.”
Nathan reeled off a list of names to Lucas and Bill, who had joined them, threw in a few more. Pictures of men like Leslie Farina and Milos Tezlof elicited no reaction from Callie. Nathan was beginning to run out of names when Callie finally spoke.
“That man…he’s the one that mama called the bad name.”
The pieces of the puzzle fell into place for Nathan. He and Bill exchanged a knowing look but were interrupted by Levin’s return.
Nathan joined the doctor at the side of the room away from the children. “Kristin is okay, right?”
Levin nodded. “We’ve completed the tests based on what Dr. Westphalen told me and found what we were looking for. Kristin insisted that we go ahead and deal with the problem so I’ve performed two separate procedures on her.”
“What kind of procedures? Why didn’t she talk to me first?” Nathan started toward the door but Joshua stopped him.
“She’s sleeping. Basically we performed a tubal ligation so that there is no possibility of conception. The egg is blocked from the uterus so fertilization can’t occur. We also irradiated her ovaries which should kill any ova that might be left in her system.”
“That sounds major. How long will it take her to recover?”
“I’d like for her to stay here for the rest of the afternoon. I gave her a mild anesthetic that she needs to sleep off but she should be fine by this evening. I know they sound scary but both procedures are relatively minor in this day and time.”
“I want to see her.”
Levin nodded and gestured toward the door.
As Nathan stood in the entryway he decided that he was tired of seeing Kristin lying in a hospital bed. He moved to her side and stroked her hair gently. “Soon, Baby, this will all be over soon.”
Kristin’s eyes flickered open but Nathan could tell she wasn’t completely coherent.
“Love you so much…” She whispered before drifting back into peaceful darkness.
Nathan stole one last caress before he rejoined the group in the main room.
“Papa, is Mama sick again?” Callie asked with a trembling voice.
Nathan squatted on his knees until he was eye-level with his daughter. “Mama is just tired after our adventure this morning and needs to rest a while. She’ll be awake in time to have supper with us and tuck you into bed. Why don’t we go get something to eat and let Mama rest? ”
“So what’s our next move?” Bill asked as they followed Janet and the kids down the hallway.
“I don’t really know. My first impulse is to go after the bastard but I can’t do that until I know that Kristin is okay and that she and the kids are safe. Perhaps it’s time that we went home.”
“Back to the island? You’d be very vulnerable there, Nathan, if he decided to come after you.”
“I don’t think that physical force is what he’s after. This is more of a mind game, at least at the moment. I suspect that since my return the plan may have changed but the ultimate goal is to hurt me by using those I love. He knows we are here. He was probably monitoring Zellar’s conversation with me and with Kristin. I don’t really know what to do. We want to find Cynthia and Cooper but how can I risk them as well? Maybe I should go home by myself and wait. Kristin and the kids could go with you.”
Bill snorted. “Yeah, right, like she’s ever gonna agree to that.”
“I won’t give her a choice. I’ll go now. If you will authorize a launch I can be back at my island before night fall.”
“And leave me here to tell her what you’ve done? I don’t think so! I happen to like my balls right where they are.”
“It’s the best way, Bill.”
“No, Nathan, it isn’t. Don’t run out on her. You’ve just found each other after ten years. Trust her enough to talk to her.”
Nathan sighed; knowing his friend was right but desperately wanting to protect his family.
“Do you realize that I’ll be seventy years old in a few years? I’m too old for this shit.”
“You’re not even sixty thanks to your little high-jacking. But I understand your frustration. You haven’t had time to deal with finding Kristin alive and learning about your kids much less with what happened today. Give yourself a little time to recover.”
“You’re right. But I can’t let him hurt them anymore. She’s been through so much. The things I know about make me sick. If what Zellar said was true… if she really endured all that…” Nathan’s body shuddered as he broke off.
Bill didn’t want to think about what Nathan was implying. “You’re back together. You have your daughter and soon you will have your son. You have your grandson. Ruben Zellar is dead. He can’t hurt you.”
Nathan stopped dead in his tracks. “My grandson… Michael… maybe that’s it. He’s the key to this whole thing. Zellar said… oh my God. That’s it!”
“What! Tell me what’s going on!”
“Not yet, Bill. I need to talk to Kristin first, find out if this is possible… but I think I know what they are up to.”
Nathan took off after the group leaving a stunned Bill standing alone in the corridor.
Michael jumped out of the launch door and ran through the shallow surf toward the beach and Nathan’s ramshackled hut.
“Don’t run too far!” Nathan yelled after him as he scooped Kristin into his arms and carried her through the knee-deep waves to the beach. He returned and performed the same service for Callie, trying not to laugh as Bill attempted to get Janet through the water unscathed.
Kristin was eyeing the hut critically when he returned to her side. “I don’t think that we all will fit.”
Nathan snickered. “The house is still there… just around that bend. It isn’t huge but there will be enough room for all of us, especially if we double up.” He popped his eyebrows at her in a suggestive leer.
A quiet smile touched Kristin’s lips but her eyes held a hint of promise. “You aren’t used to being interrupted in the middle of the night by kids are you?”
“Michael has wandered in once or twice but admittedly I wasn’t engaged in any… activities… at the time. That’s what Bill and Janet are here for, babysitting. Are you sure that you are feeling okay?”
“I’m fine. Three days is plenty of time to recover. And what is more important is that the procedure worked.”
A quick glance told Nathan that Lucas and Tony Piccolo were unloading the luggage so he wrapped his arm around Kristin’s waist and they began to stroll toward the hut where Michael was busy telling his sister about living on the island with Nathan. Over the last few days Michael had begun to occasionally call Nathan Papa in imitation of Callie and neither adult had the heart to correct him.
The house was in a terrible state because Nathan had barely visited it since his return, preferring to stay in the hut with Michael to avoid his memories of happy times spent there with Kristin. Before the men realized it, their ladies had them busy beating the dust out of cushions and curtains. Even Lucas, Piccolo and Dagwood were pressed into service. Even so, the sun was slipping beyond the horizon by the time that they bid the young servicemen farewell, Lucas promising to return to visit on his very next leave.
Both children could barely keep their eyes open during dinner and they were quickly tucked into bed in the room that Lucas had once used. Bill and Janet settled into the guestroom and Nathan and Kristin retired to the room that they had briefly shared during the first phase of their affair immediately following the destruction of the first seaQuest.
Nathan shed his clothes and climbed into the bed while Kristin lingered in the bathroom. He lay there anticipating her return and decided that he looked too eager so he moved to the chest and pulled out a musty pair of pajamas and slipped them on. Still no Kristin. Nathan began to pace before working up the courage to knock on the door.
“You okay, hon?” He questioned nervously.
“I’m fine. I’ll be out in just a minute.”
Nathan then decided that the pajamas sent out the entirely wrong message and debated whether or not to remove them. He finally decided to get rid of the top, mainly because it was driving him crazy. He was shoving it back into the drawer when he heard the bathroom door open.
Kristin stood in the opening framed by the light behind her. She was wearing one of Nathan’s pajama tops, the thigh length garment accentuating her bare legs. Her hands were clasped together, the fingers counting nervously back and forth over the backs of her hands.
“Come here.” Nathan whispered as he moved to meet her halfway. Kristin flipped the light off and moved slowly forward, surprised at how shy she felt. Nathan’s arms slipped around her, pulling her close to him. “I can’t begin to tell you how blessed I feel to have you back in my life.”
“Oh, Nathan…” The dim light from a small lamp by the bed illuminated the tears that came to Kristin’s eyes.
His lips caressed hers gently as she moved more fully into his embrace. He let his hands rest lightly at her waist as the kissing continued, while her hands drifted slowly up his arms and neck. Her fingers fisted in his hair as the kiss deepened. Nathan swung her into his arms and moved to the bed. He pressed her body into the mattress and covered it with his as their kisses and caresses became even more intimate.
Nathan felt Kristin’s tears against his cheek as he broke the kiss and pulled away, rolling to sit beside her on the bed.
“This isn’t working is it?”
Kristin sniffled. “I’m sorry. I want you… I want to make love with you so badly, Nathan. I don’t understand…”
Nathan shifted and wiped the tears from her face. “Perhaps we both want it too much. We’re trying too hard.” He stared at her for a long moment before jumping up from the mattress. “Stay here. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
Kristin curled into a ball and gave rein to her tears as Nathan left the room. Her ears tracked the sound of his movement out of the house, back in to the kitchen, then a knock at a door. She heard the deep rumble of Bill’s voice and Nathan’s answering tone for several minutes before the door closed and Nathan reappeared in their room.
“Hey, don’t cry, sweetheart. No more tears, remember?” Nathan once again brushed her tears away. “Come with me. I’ve got a little surprise for you.” His hand flipped her sandals onto the bed and began to slip them on her feet.
“Where… where are we going?” Kristin snuffled as she sat up and let Nathan put her shoes on.
“That’s a surprise. I think that we need a few hours to ourselves.”
“I talked to Bill. He and Janet will deal with any minor catastrophes that arise and we don’t have to worry about being interrupted at a crucial moment. Come on.” Nathan gave her a wink.
Kristin looked skeptical but she took Nathan’s hand and allowed him to lead her out of the house. They walked arm in arm across the beach, a flashlight illuminating their way on the moonless night. She was surprised when Nathan led her up the steps of his small hut.
Nathan had used his few minutes wisely. Candles burned all around the small room and soft music played. A bottle of champagne sat chilling in a bucket in one corner.
A shy smile touched Kristin’s lips. “This is lovely.”
Nathan’s mind drifted back to the first time Kristin had said that to him. “I think I’d be very jealous if anyone else saw you looking like this… may I kiss you, doctor?”
At her nod he planted a soft kiss on her lips.
Kristin laughed and caressed his cheek. “That was so long ago yet it seems like just yesterday.”
“And you are just as lovely now as you were then. Dance with me.”
Kristin slid into his arms and they began to sway in time to the music. Neither of them tried to push the other into heating things up as they simply enjoyed being in each other’s arms. Lips met as bodies relaxed into each other. Time passed without notice as they kissed and caressed while swaying in time with the music.
No one existed except the two of them as Nathan gently worked a hand between their bodies to slip the buttons of her top free. Kristin felt his shaft hardening between them and slipped her hands beneath the drawstring waist of his pajama pants to cup his bottom as she rubbed her hips lightly against him.
The music changed and Nathan felt Kristin start in surprise. She pulled her mouth away from his to whisper, “Rachmaninov… you remembered.”
“I found this in the house when I got back. Listening to it… remembering listening to it with you… is one of the few things that kept me sane after they told me you were gone. I suppose it must have been worse for you… me disappearing and you finding out that you were pregnant at the same time.”
“The children were my touchstone, my sanity. I had to keep it together because they needed their mother. But somewhere deep inside I never gave up hope that you were still alive somewhere, that you would come back to us. I missed you so much.”
“I missed you too, baby.” Nathan’s fingers drifted beneath the lapels of the open top hanging on Kristin’s shoulders to tease her nipples to erectness. She gasped as electricity shot through her body at his touch then whimpered when Nathan quickly pulled his hands away.
“Kris, I don’t have any idea what might have happened to you and I don’t want you to tell me anything that you don’t want to but please know that I love you and I want to be with you in whatever way you are comfortable with. We don’t have to be intimate now if you don’t want to… if the time never comes… I’m content just to have you with me.”
“It’s no wonder I love you so much, Nathan Bridger. You are an amazing man.” Kristin pulled her face down, her hand capturing his and pulling it back to her breast. Nathan kissed her ravenously, his hunger for her overwhelming any lingering fear. A gentle shrug of her shoulders saw the top slide down her arms to the floor.
“Love me, darling.” She whispered in his ear then pulled back from him and held out her hand. They walked the few steps to the bed together.
Kristin knelt on the side of the bed and hooked her thumbs into Nathan’s waistband and pulled slowly down. Nathan palmed the sides of her breasts as he stared, carefully updating his memory of her body, the changes subtle but obvious to his knowing eyes. Once the pajamas cleared his hips they slid to the floor under their own momentum, Kristin’s hands returning to their sensual caress of his butt cheeks.
Following her lead Nathan allowed his hands to slide below the lacy fabric covering her most intimate place. Long fingers lightly massaged her bottom as they worked the garment lower. He felt the subtle shift of her knee to the side of his leg and brought one hand around to lightly probe the nest of curls between her thighs. The dripping moisture he encountered surprised him and he pushed deeper, feeling her open to his touch.
Nathan’s mouth trailed down Kristin’s swan-like neck as her head fell back, his tongue tasting her skin as he trailed toward her breast. He lowered her body to the mattress and settled on top of her as he continued to love her generous peaks. Kristin whimpered and moaned beneath his touch but when he had drunk his fill and would have moved lower she stopped him.
Her deep sable eyes told him what she needed but she whispered the words anyway. “I want you inside me… I want us to be together, please?”
Nathan positioned himself and slowly penetrated until the head of his stiff member rested within her then stopped to allow her body time to adjust to his presence. When Kristin nodded her readiness he resumed his gentle push in but Kristin was now more than prepared. Nathan felt her nails dig into his cheeks as she grabbed and pushed him down, raising her hips to thrust against him at the same time. He sank to the hilt of his generous member in one stroke.
Something akin to a grimace covered Kristin’s face and Nathan started to withdraw completely but then her eyes opened and he saw her love and desire reflected within them. She wrapped her legs around his waist and locked their bodies together as she met his thrusts.
“Kris… baby… I won’t last long if you… oh, that feels so… I can’t…”
“I’m not going to last either. Come with me, my love.” She clenched her inner muscles tightly around Nathan’s arousal and ground her hips against his as she strove to pull him even deeper within her at every stroke.
Nathan gasped at the feelings and increased the force of his stroke as her body tightened around him. He felt her breath catch and her body stiffen then she screamed his name as her climax took hold. The feel of her warm juices flowing over him and the force of her inner spasms shook Nathan to his core and he pulsed within her, spilling himself again and again before collapsing against her still shaking body.
The warmth of the sun on her hips and the resulting stimulation from that warmth caused Kristin to wake with a smile on her face. She was slightly embarrassed to find her nude form sprawled out across an equally naked Nathan, nothing covering them. She wiggled her hips experimentally against Nathan’s and was pleased to feel his answering response.
“Again?” She heard him whisper and blushed as she settled herself onto his rampant erection.
“Again.” He heard her whisper and grasped her hips to move her up and down over him.
Once the barrier between them had been broken down there had been no stopping them. They’d loved all through the night, slowly and sweetly, quickly and passionately, both of them amazed at their unrelenting hunger for each other. Exhaustion had finally forced them to sleep but both had woken up extremely randy.
Nathan was amazed at his own control as Kristin rode him hard and fast but he could feel it slipping. One hand reached up to caress a bouncing nipple while the other slid to the point of their joining, caressing the swollen bundle of nerves pulsing at the top of her cleft. He wasn’t quick enough and he cried out as he spewed his seed into her sheath, a sob escaping his mouth as the orgasm stretched on and on. Kristin continued to ride his semi-erect member until she reached her peak moments later.
“I’ve missed waking up like this.” Nathan pulled her trembling body into his warm embrace.
“Me too!” Kristin snuggled closer and they shared a gentle kiss.
“Honey… are you okay with this? I don’t want you to feel like you have to… that we have to sleep together… if you…”
“Nathan, I don’t think that I was raped.”
A slow sigh of relief escaped Nathan’s lips as his eyes closed and his head fell. “I didn’t want to ask…”
“The only memory that I have of anything of that nature is the one I told you… but even that seems more fiction than fact now. I was never forced to participate in the kind of meeting you witnessed… I was too old to conceive. Zellar… he tried… but as strange as it may sound, I think he wanted me willingly. He never tried to force me… only to seduce me.”
“It wouldn’t matter to me… only in how it might affect you.”
“I know that, my love. But I am grateful that it didn’t happen. It’s very strange, you know… as much as I loathe Zellar… he is the reason I have Michael… that we have Michael.”
“Forgive me if I can’t be grateful to that bastard for anything.” Nathan’s voice was full of anger. “He hurt you and he hurt Robert… who knows how deep the younger children’s scars will run. I love Michael. I don’t care about the circumstances of his conception, but to use you that way… to use Robert that way…”
“PAPA!” Callie’s scream rent the air, pulling both of her parents out of the narrow bed. Nathan raced toward the door, stopping only to yank on the pajama bottoms Kristin threw at him.
Callie was fleeing toward the hut, screaming for her father as she ran. Nathan ran to meet her and scooped her into his arms. “I’m right here, princess. I didn’t leave you.”
Sobs prevented Callie from speaking clearly. “Men… Michael… Uncle Bill…”
“Callie!” Kristin had reached them and was trying to calm her daughter down. “Breathe in slowly… now out… and in again. Okay, tell us what’s happening.”
“Some men came on the beach. Aunt Janet told Michael to go hide in the jungle while Uncle Bill went out to talk to them. They almost hit him, Papa, and then they said that they were going to take Michael away!”
Nathan’s eyes narrowed in anger as he thrust the child toward Kristin. “Stay here with mama, princess.”
“We’re going back with you. Don’t waste time by trying to argue with me.”
Nathan returned Kristin’s glare for an instant but quickly gave in. He jerked his head in the direction of the house before he took off running.
Kristin followed as close behind him as she could while keeping up with Callie and cautioning her about what to do once they reached the next cove. Her face paled when she rounded the corner and the men Callie had spoken of came into view.
“You Bastard!” She whispered vehemently and picked up the pace, motioning Callie to cut and run toward where Janet was supporting Bill, blood pouring from a gash on his forehead.
Kristin didn’t realize that Nathan had stopped moving until seconds before she impacted against his back. He held himself rigidly as he stared at the man standing twenty feet in front of him.
“Robert!” Nathan breathed in a tortured whisper.
Nathan’s hand had whipped back to hold Kristin behind him so she stared over his shoulder at the man that no one could mistake for anyone other than Nathan Bridger’s son. He was almost a carbon copy of his father twenty years previously, deep blue eyes gazing out of a long angular face. But most importantly to Kristin, this man sparked no hint of recognition in her, no sudden memory of what might have happened between them.
“Dad.” Robert acknowledged his father shortly. “I am here for my son. Please get him for me.”
“Robert… son… what have they done to you?”
“Mr. LeChein rescued me from that hellhole of a prison you left me in. He told me the truth about you, about how you cheated on my mother, about how you made her so miserable that she killed herself.”
Nathan stared at his son, stunned. “That isn’t true, Robert. I loved your mother and I was never unfaithful to her. Not once in nearly thirty years of marriage did I cheat on her. She died from a tropical fever. I did everything I could to save her… I would have died in her place if I could have.”
“They told me you would say that but I know the truth. I saw the documents. I talked to people. I only wish that I’d been rescued two years earlier so I might have been able to prevent mother’s death.”
“Two years…” Nathan couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
Kristin broke his grip and stepped out in front of Nathan. “If you really are Robert Bridger then somewhere, deep down, you know that the things you are saying are lies. Nathan Bridger, your father isn’t capable of what you’ve just described.”
“And I’m supposed to take your word for that? The word of his whore?” Robert sneered at her.
“If you believe this man,” Kristin nodded at LeChein; “He would have you think that I was your whore.”
Confusion showed in Robert’s face as Kristin continued to speak. “I gave birth to the child, Michael.”
Robert’s face was blank for a moment then became animated. “I remember your eyes. I met you at one of their baby making sessions and I chose you for your eyes.”
Kristin shook her head. “It never happened, at least not that way. They implanted false memories in you just as they did in me. I sent a four-year-old Michael to Nathan before I ever saw one of those sessions. I never left Zellar’s house to go down into the prison until last year when I was sent to the kitchens as punishment for getting Michael out of their grasp.”
“A pity your little plan didn’t work, Doctor.” An evil smile crossed LeChein’s features. “We’ve come for the boy and we will have him anyway. The law is on our side. Admittedly you were supposed to be in a coma but that doesn’t really matter. We have papers that grant Robert legal custody of his child and we’ve brought the authorities to make sure that you comply with those papers.”
“You will not take my child from me.” Kristin’s voice was steely, matching the countenance of her features.
“You don’t have any choice in the matter. If it bothers you so much, get a lawyer. We’ll prove abandonment. After all you did give your child away. And all those years in the prison complex… that won’t look good. You won’t take this child away from me… from his father. He’s all Robert has left.”
“You’ve never even seen him! How can…”
Nathan interrupted Kristin’s next words. “All of this to get back at me for your son’s death. Get over it, LeChein! I tried to save the people in that sub. You are the one who backed Marilyn Stark’s crazy plan. You are the one who sent your son with her to protect your interests. I am sorry that he died but that is no reason for you to brainwash my son, imprison Kristin then rip my family apart!”
The mocking smile didn’t waver from LeChein’s lips. “We will have the boy now. After everything that you did to Robert’s mother he agrees with me that Michael would be better off in my care while his father works for me.”
Nathan turned back to his son. “Robert, I don’t know what you’ve been brainwashed into believing but I am going to have my say. What you said just a few minutes ago about wishing that you were rescued two years earlier so that you could have seen your mother… Carol has been dead for thirteen years, not seven. The U.S. Navy reported you as killed in action when your ship went down. I didn’t know that you were being held prisoner.”
“You are lying.”
“Then find out for yourself. Ask Bill and Janet Noyce. You’ve known them since birth. They loved your mother. They wouldn’t lie to you. Come with me. We’ll go together to the hospital… to the record office. You can see official copies of the documents with your own eyes, not something LeChein had doctored up to support his lies. Just get away from this madman. Don’t let him use Michael… don’t let him use you to exact revenge against me!”
“I’m getting tired of this, Captain. Produce the child or the authorities will arrest you and tear the island apart to find him.
Nathan turned back to face his enemy. “I don’t think so. You see I’ve been busy as well over the last few days. Do you remember the young girl who visited Kristin so often before Michael left? You probably never even noticed her. That little girl was able to identify you and that gave me a little time to think about your motives and possible actions. My conversation with Zellar was also highly enlightening as well.”
“You’re wasting time, Bridger.”
“I’m explaining why you aren’t leaving this island with my son… with either of my sons.”
Both Robert and LeChein were stunned by Nathan’s words, as were Bill and Janet Noyce.
The Noyces’ comments broke the silence.
“You didn’t know that, did you, LeChein? Zellar changed the plans on you just a little bit. I don’t think that my son ever went anywhere near Kristin. Zellar didn’t want anyone else touching her. He wanted Kristin for himself, but he wanted her willingly. He thought that eventually she would give in to him. But you wanted your revenge so he made other arrangements to assure that she gave birth to a child with Bridger DNA.”
It was obvious that LeChein thought Nathan was bluffing. “You were no where to be found. I didn’t believe all that UEO propaganda about you being dead but I do know that you were no where near our facility when that boy was conceived.”
right, I wasn’t. But I didn’t have to
be. Robert was a small boy when the
first Gulf War broke out. Carol and I
talked about having more children but then I got orders sending me to the
“You’re grasping at straws.”
“No… I confirmed that my samples had been stolen from the depository yesterday.”
“Even if that were true… after so many years… your specimens wouldn’t have been viable.”
“Probably not all of them but Zellar had enough to work with. He used my sperm to impregnate Kristin. She remembers being in a surgical suite and having the sense that something had been done to her. Zellar then used his little memory devices to plant false memories in both Robert and Kristin about the conception, taking care of your demands in the little scheme. Once the device was removed Kristin no longer had that memory. Zellar told us how difficult Michael’s conception was. That’s because it took place in a lab and Kristin had already started going through menopause.”
“This is all bullshit. You are trying to delay us… stop us from taking the boy. It won’t work.”
Nathan continued as if he hadn’t heard LeChein. “There is another plus for my theory. It also explains how Zellar was able to program my DNA into his little security system. There is no other way he could have had a sample from me, to allow me to pass through the system unscathed.”
“Zellar made another slip.” Kristin interjected. “Because of a bit of genetic engineering he’d done, I was supposed to conceive once again, if Nathan guessed how to bring me out of the coma. He made a comment about I should be glad to have Nathan’s child, that even numbers were so much nicer. He didn’t know… as far as he knew the only way that my having another child could even things up is if Michael were Nathan’s as well.”
“None of your speculation proves anything.” LeChein snarled but Nathan noticed that Robert was listening intently.
Kristin slipped her hand into Nathan’s and was rewarded with a tight squeeze.
“Proof…we’ve got that too. Neither you nor Zellar knew that Kristin didn’t come to your little prison alone. The goons that grabbed her brought the little girl that was at the lab with Kris and dumped her in the kitchens. That little girl was Callie Westphalen, Kristin’s daughter…and mine. Once I began to suspect your little game, the doctor on the seaQuest did a full DNA work up on both of the children as well as Kristin and myself. His findings prove that Callie and Michael are full brother and sister…they have the same parents…and those parents are Kristin Westphalen and Nathan Bridger.”
“NO!” Robert’s face fell.
“I am sorry, Robert, but Michael is my child. You have no moral or legal claim to him.”
LeChein stepped up menacingly. “All of that is irrelevant. This document gives legal custody of that child to Robert. You can make your claims to the judge.”
“I have enough sense to know that if you take Michael off this island today we will never see him again.”
LeChein turned to the man in uniform waiting in the background. “Serve the papers and get the child. We are done here.”
The man stepped up to Nathan with a sheaf of papers in his hand. “I’m sorry, sir, but I have to do my job.”
Nathan held a hand up to the man. “I understand and I expect that. You have to uphold the letter of the law. I am counting on that because if you notice, Admiral Noyce is returning from the house with another set of papers that I suspect postdate the ones that you have. Those papers have been duly signed by the necessary legal authorities and state that the minor child, Michael Bridger, shall not be removed from the custody of his mother under any circumstances until the question of paternity has been completely resolved. It further orders Robert Bridger to submit a sample to an independent and anonymous lab chosen by the court for examination. Kristin and I will also submit samples. Once those results are completed Michael’s birth certificate will be entered with the names of his birth parents – myself and Kristin.”
The man took the papers from Bill and flipped through them, pausing occasionally to double check certain points. Finally he turned back to Robert and LeChein.
“I’m sorry, sir, but the Captain is right. His papers are in order. I have no authority to remove the child from his mother’s custody.”
LeChein’s face turned bright red but Robert just looked stunned. “He isn’t mine… they told me that he was mine… that I had a son.” He murmured over and over.
Nathan caught the surreptitious motion that LeChein made out of the corner of his eye and quickly pulled Kristin back behind him as armed men began to pour from the back of the visiting launch. In seconds five men holding everything from tazers to sub machine guns had fanned out over the beach.
“Give me the child or I’ll simply kill the rest of them, everyone but you, Captain, then I’ll take the child anyway, and your little girl as well, leaving you here to know that all of your flesh and blood is in my control.”
“I expected this of you as well. Which is why I took a few precautions of my own.” Nathan raised his voice slightly. “Commander Ford!”
The area around the beach house immediately came alive as armed UEO troops poured from the jungle, their weapons trained on LeChein and his men. The five gunmen quickly weighed the odds and dropped their weapons into the sand.
“Perhaps you’d like to take Mr. LeChein into custody, Commander. I think that there are laws against threatening a UEO admiral, trespassing, attempted kidnapping and about a dozen other things. Perhaps the officer here would be good enough to sign a statement as to what he’s witnessed today.”
“How could you do this? I’ve had the island under observation since you arrived. No one landed after you.” LeChein asked as he was being handcuffed.
“Simple really. They arrived before we did. They’ve been in hiding in the jungle since early yesterday morning.”
“You won’t make any charges hold. I’ll be free before the day is over.”
“They’ll stick.” Nathan moved in to stare LeChein in the eyes as his voice. “There is no way in hell that you will ever get near my wife or my children again. I will kill you with my bare hands if you try. Do you understand me?”
Cold hatred filled LeChein’s eyes. “Robert… call my lawyers and have them get to work on this.”
Robert nodded slowly his mind still whirling from information overload. Nathan intervened.
“You’ll be given the opportunity to contact anyone you need to. But you’ll be transported on the seaQuest… just in case you had any rescue plans prearranged. Take him away.”
The soldiers turned LeChein and pulled him toward the launch that had appeared on the beach at Jonathan’s signal. Robert fell in behind the group much to Nathan’s dismay. He took a step toward his son then stopped, unsure of what to say.
In the end Kristin made the first gesture, moving away from Nathan and grabbing Robert’s arm to stop him.
“You don’t have to go with them. You’ve done nothing wrong. You were a pawn in these bastard’s game just as I was… we all were. Stay here and get to know your father again but use your own judgement this time. You have a sister and brothers who would like to know you as well.”
Robert stared down at the woman he’d insulted so badly a few moments before, not believing that she was trying to be nice to him. “It would be too awkward.”
“Maybe at first, but we’d all deal with it. Nathan told you the truth, Robert. There was nothing between us for over two years after your mother died. She’d been gone more than a year before we even met.”
Kristin noticed that Bill and Janet had moved closer and she motioned them over then backed slowly away. Bill clasped a hand on Robert’s shoulder as Janet moved to embrace him. Robert, unused to any sort of affection or touch, sank to the sand sobbing as he clung to Janet.
Kristin pulled Nathan away from the group and embraced him, surprised to feel him trembling in her arms. “Give him a moment to adjust.”
“What if he leaves?” Nathan whispered and Kristin felt his tears wet against her neck.
“He won’t leave. If this doesn’t work then I’ll insist that he submit to a full medical exam. Levin will be glad to help and we need to make sure that he doesn’t have a memory implant controlling him.”
“Papa?” Nathan and Kristin looked down to see Callie standing there, a worried look on her face. “Are you okay? Are they going to take Michael?”
Nathan pulled the girl into his arms to share their embrace. “We are fine and nobody is going to take Michael away from us. Speaking of which, I’d better go find him.”
“He’s there, Papa, just under the beach house.”
Sure enough, at Callie’s wave, the little boy appeared from beneath the porch, covered in sand and ran to his parents.
Kristin caught him on a run and swung him up so that the four of them could share an embrace. They stood locked together for long moments until Nathan felt other eyes on them and looked to find Robert staring at the family group.
“Come on.” Nathan told the children. “There is someone very special I want you to meet… your brother, Robert.”
The kids slid to the sand and walked hand in hand with their parents until they stood in front of Robert. Nathan knelt beside them.
“Robert, this is your sister, Callie.”
Callie held out a hand politely. “Hello, Robert. I’m glad to meet you.”
“I’m very glad to meet you, Callie.” Robert stared at the small hand for a moment before he captured it with his own in a gentle shake.
“And this is your brother, Michael.” Nathan continued, a bit worried at how his eldest son might react at meeting the child he had so recently thought was his own.
Robert’s smile trembled for a moment. “Hello, Michael.” He stuck a hand out and lightly tousled the boy’s hair, a look of regret on his face.
Michael grinned. “Another brother. This is so cool, Papa.” He threw his arms around Robert’s neck and Callie quickly followed. Robert held them tightly as he looked enquiringly at Kristin.
“You said brothers… plural?”
A small smile touched her face. “We have quite a large family actually. Nathan and I sort of unofficially adopted a young man from the seaQuest, Lucas Wolenczak. I have a grown daughter, Cynthia, and Callie has a twin brother, Cooper.”
“Are they here?” Robert’s eyes swept the house.
Kristin’s face fell and Nathan reached out to squeeze her hand as he answered. “We don’t actually know where Cynthia and Cooper are. Callie was with Kristin when Zellar’s goons kidnapped her and took her to the prison. Kris knew that someone was after her and she’d made arrangements for their safety. A few more hours and they never would have gotten her at all. Cynthia believed that her mother and sister were killed so she took Cooper and went undercover. Kristin’s memory hasn’t recovered one hundred percent so we don’t know exactly where they are yet…but we will find them.”
“I always wanted brothers and sisters.” Robert cast a tentative smile at the children still clinging to him.
“You will stay with us won’t you, Robert?” Callie asked pleadingly.
Kristin gently eased the children away. “Why don’t we let your papa and Robert have some time together? Let’s go make some breakfast, okay?” With all of the men milling around on the beach Kristin had suddenly become conscious of the fact that she was wearing a pajama top that only covered her to mid thigh and nothing more.
She felt Nathan’s eyes rake her bare legs. “I think that’s a very good idea and maybe you might put on a few more clothes as well?” He whispered to her.
Kristin blushed and nodded her eyes dancing merrily as she noticed Nathan’s now obvious reaction to her state of dress. “I’ll call you when breakfast is ready.”
Nathan nodded and brushed a light kiss over her lips, allowing his hips to brush her thigh.
“Tease!” She whispered for his ears alone then took off toward the house, children in hand.
“We’ll just go help Kristin.” Bill offered as he and Janet headed back toward the house leaving Nathan and Robert alone among the milling soldiers on the beach.
Nathan waited for Robert to say something but he didn’t so finally Nathan spoke. “Why don’t we walk for a little while?”
Robert nodded and they took off in the general direction of Nathan’s hut. Eventually Robert began to speak.
“Mom… how did… was she in pain?” He could see the anguish on his father’s face as Nathan remembered.
“After they told us you were dead I left the navy and we came here to live. Your mother wanted it that way…she couldn’t stand the thought of having any connection with the military at all. We had been here about five years…one day Carol wasn’t feeling well but there was a storm front moving through and she thought that was what was causing her headache. The fever hit a few hours later but by then the weather was so bad that the rescue team had trouble getting through.” Nathan’s voice caught as the memories overwhelmed him.
“I tried to keep her cool, keep the fever down but… then the team got here and took us to the hospital but it was too late. Her kidneys had already shut down and her other systems started going. The doctors did everything that they could but… it was too late.”
Tears filled Robert’s eyes. “And that was thirteen years ago?”
“About that. I was so lost without her. I shut the world out. I came back here and turned into a crazed hermit. I’d still be that if Bill hadn’t dragged me off to tour the finished seaQuest. Touring was all I was going to do but there was a conflict…”
“The one that George’s son was killed in.” Robert’s voice was full of emotion.
“That’s the one. I found out that I missed people and I missed the boat. They’d turned it into mainly a research vessel and I really enjoyed that aspect of things.”
Robert was silent for a long moment. “And then you met her…Kristin?”
That memory brought a smile to Nathan’s face. “I met her the first day on the boat. She was the chief medical officer and head of the science division as well. Over time we became friends… nothing romantic… I wasn’t ready for that yet and she’d been burned before as well. Our research interests merged and we spent a lot of time together but I didn’t realize that my feelings were growing stronger until Malcolm Lansdowne began to buzz around her. I was jealous… I realized then that I was falling in love with her. By the end of the tour we had grown very close and both of us were ready to act on our feelings.”
“So you… are you married?”
“No… not yet… but we will be very soon if I have my way. I let her get away once and I don’t intend to ever make that mistake again.”
“When they took her, you mean? Why did it take you so long to find her?”
sighed, knowing that this part of the story might be a bit fantastic to
believe. “Work tore us apart. I was transferred to New Cape Quest in
“But Callie… and Cooper?”
tried to form other relationships after Kristin but no one else ever felt
right. Over a year after we split up I
attended a UEO conference in
“That’s when Callie and Cooper were… well… you know.”
Nathan grinned. “At the end of the shore leave I asked her if I could come back to her when the tour was up and she said yes. We both knew… the time had come to put ourselves first. I went back to the boat and then…well something happened and as strange as it sounds… the seaQuest and all of her crew disappeared for ten years. When we came back I immediately went looking for Kristin. I was told that her lab had exploded over five years before… that she’d been killed.”
“Oh, God…” Sympathy filled Robert’s voice.
“I came back here and did the same thing I did after you and your mother died, tried to hide from the world. I refused to go back to the boat when they got it seaworthy… would have nothing to do with anyone. Then Michael showed up and gave me a reason to live again.”
“He seems like a special little boy.” Nathan heard the tinge of regret in Robert’s statement.
“Michael is a fantastic kid. I was stunned when I found him then the DNA testing showed that he was a Bridger and I heard the rumours from the UEO that you were alive. Since there was no way that I could have fathered him I assumed that you were his father and I began to search for you.”
“That search is what led you to the prison.”
“The UEO allowed me to infiltrate before they raided it. I found out that you had been there about five years ago but that you’d been moved. And I found Kristin… and Callie, although I didn’t know about her. Kristin hadn’t let her condition be known and after their birth she kept the children sheltered. Bill and Janet were two of the few people who knew about the twins and they didn’t tell me because they thought it might be too much for me to handle their deaths along with losing their mother. That led us here.”
“You…you love her…very much. I can see that.”
Nathan didn’t pull any punches with his son. “She completes me. She’s my other half.”
“For what it’s worth I think she was right…about her and me. I didn’t feel any sense of… familiarity about her… if that’s the word for it. I don’t think that I would have…”
“It doesn’t matter, Robert. Nothing matters except that you are safe and you are back here with us. Will you stay? Even if only for a little while. You could stay in my hut.” Nathan gestured at the small building and led Robert toward it.
“It’s small but you would have privacy. You could eat up at the house with us and maybe… when you’re ready… we could spend some time together. You could get to know Kristin and the kids and Lucas is coming to spend some time with us in a few weeks.”
Robert didn’t respond and Nathan was afraid he’d tried too much too fast. “I don’t mean to push. You take some time… think about it.” Before he could say anything else he found himself wrapped in his son’s embrace. Nathan held on to his child and shed a few tears himself as the anger that had been programmed into him washed slowly away from Robert.
“I’d like that, Dad, I really would.”
Nathan pushed the door to the hut open to show Robert and immediately pulled it shut again. “Maybe I should clean up a little first.”
“I am sure it will be fine, Dad…” A grin broke out on Robert’s face as he stared at the room through the door he’d pushed back open.
Remnants of burnt out candles were scattered around the room and most of the bedclothes lay scattered across the floor. Delicate black lace panties hung from a blade of the ceiling fan in the middle of the room.
Nathan hurried over and snatched the knickers from their perch, balling them into his fist. “I’ll… get this cleaned up right now. We’ve got clean linen up at the house… you might want to leave that door open a little while… let the place air out.”
He hurried over to the bed and began to strip the bottom sheet from the mattress, throwing it to the floor and rolling the entire bundle into his arms, the tiny ball in his fist ending up in the very center. Robert quietly gathered the candle stubs and deposited them in the wastebasket in the corner.
Nathan was embarrassed and he knew that Robert was as well. “Look, son… I…”
“Dad… I know that you love that woman… Kristin. Your feelings for each other are so obvious… it’s just going to take some time… for me to get used to seeing you with someone besides mom.”
Nathan nodded. “I understand. Robert, what I feel for Kristin in no way diminishes the love that your mother and I had for each other. Please believe that.”
“I know, dad. Just give me a little time, please?”
“I’ll take this stuff back to the house to wash. Breakfast should be ready by now. Are you hungry?”
“I… I’ll come back for a while but… could you explain to the kids that I need some time on my own?”
Nathan nodded. “We’ll give you all the space you need, Robert.”
Robert stared at the setting sun as Bill and Janet slipped onto the porch behind him. Bill thrust a beer at the young man and Robert took it gratefully as they settled down into the circle of chairs.
“He’s and Kristin are finishing up the dinner dishes.” Janet answered.
“In between gropes.” Bill mumbled, only to grimace when his wife’s foot connected solidly with his shin.
“They do seem to… like to touch each other.” Robert observed.
“They always did… even before they actually got together. They always seemed to find some excuse to hug or touch.” Bill supplied.
Janet cleared her throat gently and shook her head slightly at her husband.
“It’s okay, Aunt Janet. It’s difficult… but a blind man could see how crazy they are for each other. I don’t believe that mother would have wanted Dad to be lonely… and she has been gone for a very long time.”
“Robert… your father was absolutely devastated after Carol’s death. If you could have seen him when I first came to bring him to the seaQuest… He hadn’t shaved, his hair was unkempt… he was angry, belligerent… mad at the world. Hell, he was a damned recluse. Kristin brought him back from that… Kristin and Lucas.”
“She seems like a very nice person…”
“Kristin is nice. But what is more is that she is sincere. She wants you to stay with them just as much as Nathan does.”
“It can’t be easy for her. Even if the memories were implanted they are still there.”
“Do you look at Kristin and remember? Did you actually see her? Because she didn’t see you. She has no memory of what the man looked like, only a sense of being violated. You didn’t do that, Robert.” Janet moved to hug the man she’d known since his birth.
All three looked up at the sound of giggling from just inside the door. Moments later Nathan and Kristin emerged. Bill just grinned at the sight of the wet handprint dampening the tee shirt over Kristin’s left breast.
Kristin dove into a chair and crossed her arms over her chest as the night air reacted with the dampness to cause her nipple to peak even further beneath the tee shirt. She glared at Bill, daring him to laugh.
Nathan moved to the chair next to hers and sat, plopping his beer down on the table with the others.
“It is amazing how quiet it gets when those two finally go to sleep!”
“They are a lively pair.” Robert joined in. “What is your next step… how are you going to find your other children?”
“We don’t really know. We were planning on going back to the mainland with Bill and Janet. Kristin has a colleague there who might be able to help her with her memory.”
“Do you… do you think that your friend might be able to help me as well?” Robert shocked them by asking.
A gentle smile touched Kristin’s face. “I am sure that he will be… and I know that he will be happy to do so. I think that we both could use some counseling, Robert… perhaps all of us should have a go at it.” She laughed at the look on Nathan’s face.
“After that…” Robert continued tentatively, “Maybe I could help you… find the rest of your… our family.”
“We could certainly use all the help we could get.” Nathan allowed a flicker of hope to linger.
“What do you have to go on so far?”
“Kristin remembers that she had a strategy in place to escape the people after her. She and Callie went to her lab for one last time when Zellar got her. Bill and Janet thought that Cooper must have been with them as well and that they were all killed when the lab exploded. Then Cynthia disappeared. When your old uncle there turned seventy last year he got an unmarked present in the mail. It contained a miniature car… a Cooper Mini.”
Robert nodded vigorously, having some idea of the connection and desperately not wanting any further explanation. “So you think that Cooper and Cynthia are out there somewhere?”
Kristin’s face looked sad. “But I can’t remember any details about my plan. I don’t know what names they would have used or where they would have gone.”
“Oh, I just remembered. There was something else in that package as well… another car… a 1933 Rolls Royce.”
“Does that mean anything to you, baby?” Nathan asked but Kristin just shook her head.
“Don’t worry about it.” He laid a hand on her knee and began to caress it gently. “We will find them.”
“What about your daughter’s father? Would she have contacted him?” Robert asked.
Kristin’s brow furrowed. “I… I don’t know. She wouldn’t have if I had been with them, we wouldn’t have risked the contact… but I guess that it is possible… I can contact him… but he thinks I’m dead. Oh God, this is a mess.”
“Why don’t I contact him for you and explain things?” Bill offered.
“That might work but he will be so angry that he won’t be much help. Somehow, in his eyes, this will all be my fault.”
“He sounds like a right royal bastard.” Robert said.
“You don’t know the half of it. But we have to try.”
The group continued to chat as the moon rose higher into the sky. Finally Robert stood.
“I think I’m going to get some sleep if you don’t mind.”
Nathan jumped to his feet. “Let me get a flashlight and I’ll walk you to the hut.”
“I’ll get the bed things.” Kristin volunteered.
Bill and Janet wished Robert a good night and disappeared into the house just as Nathan and Kristin returned.
“Thanks, but I can make it to the hut. You stay here. I’ll see you in the morning.” With a final nod Robert moved off the porch.
Nathan stared pensively across the sand after his son. “Do you think he’s coming around?”
Kristin moved up behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist, her head resting against his shoulder. “I think he’s doing better than we could have hoped for. He has a genuine interest in helping us find his brother and that’s very positive.”
“Has he been polite with you? I know he’s having a difficult time but I won’t allow him to be rude to you.”
“Nathan… give him time. He’s been perfectly polite. I don’t want to be the cause of dissent between the two of you.”
Nathan shifted Kristin around so that they were face to face and locked her into his arms. “I love my son. I love our children. But most of all, I love you. I am never letting you leave me again.”
“I never want to leave you. I couldn’t bear to let you go.”
Nathan moved his mouth over hers, devouring its softness, asking for entrance with a gentle nibble. She opened to him and he stabbed his tongue into her warmth, stroking hers into a gentle dance with him. One of his strong hands slid down her bare arm to capture her hand, his thumb stroking the palm sensually. The pleasant caress of his fingers sent jolts of pleasure through her body and she deepened the kiss, her tongue exploring the innermost recesses of his mouth.
Nathan turned her back against the rail and ground his hips against her mound, his hard erection growing even more with the pressure. His free hand slipped beneath the bottom of her shirt and slid slowly up the smooth curve of her back. He palmed a heavy breast and Kristin’s head fell back as she moaned his name.
A quick glance at the beach told Nathan that Robert had disappeared around the edge of the cove. ~ Thank God! ~ He thought as he efficiently stripped the white cotton shirt over her head and tossed it away, his hands returning to rub the bare skin of her back and shoulders as his mouth fell to taste a pebbled peak.
“Nathan…” She whispered with ragged breath.
“Umm?” he ground out, unwilling to release the tender flesh in his mouth.
“Take me to bed, please?” Kristin pleaded.
Nathan pulled her legs up around his waist and locked his hands beneath her bottom, settling her into his hips before he turned and carried her toward the house.
~ Damn! I meant to grab another beer! ~ Robert thought to himself as he stopped his trek. He laid the sheets on top of a rock and turned back toward the house. His trek halted as the house came in sight, the moonlight clearly defining the two figures on the porch. There was no doubt in Robert’s mind as to who they were or what was happening. He tried to look away but the sheer sensuality of the picture called to him and his gaze remained locked on his father and Kristin.
He gasped as the creamy white expanse of Kristin’s back came into view. Her moans floated across the air, blending with the sound of the waves at his back. Then Nathan picked her up and carried her into the house, taking care to keep their bodies pressed together.
Robert stood there for a long time, staring at the now empty porch. He’d witness many affectionate moments shared between his parents but none so blatantly sexual and yet full of love as the scene he’d just witnessed. He was going to have to reanalyze the entire situation. He desperately wanted to rediscover his connection with his father. That he’d allowed himself to be duped he had no doubt. Janet Noyce had been his mother’s best friend. Robert knew with certainty that she wouldn’t lie to him and she had backed up the things that his father and Kristin said one hundred percent.
~ She’s certainly a wonderful mother. ~ Robert had noted the way she interacted with both Callie and Michael. Both children obviously adored her. Robert’s thought drifted to his unknown sibling, Cooper. He’d lived so long without his parents that he could imagine how the little boy must feel every day.
As Robert walked slowly back to the hut his thoughts were filled with what he knew was surely happening in his father’s bedroom. To his surprise he found that he was jealous… not over Kristin but over the happiness that his father had found. ~ I want someone to love me. I want a family. I want… I want my father back. ~
Nathan felt the cool air rush over his damp skin and grabbed at the covers that had suddenly disappeared from his naked body. “Let me sleep a few more minutes, baby.” He murmured as she began to shake his shoulders.
“Wake up, you dolt. I know where they are. I remember.”
Nathan bolted upright and stared at Kristin. “You remember? You remember!” He grabbed her and crushed her to him. “Where are they?”
“It was the other car… the one in Bill’s package. My brain just needed a little time to process that information. My father had a 1933 Rolls Royce and it was still in the garage at the house. Cooper loved to play in it. His name was going to be Royce Rollins and Cynthia was going to be Susan Rollins.”
“I’ll call seaQuest and get Lucas on it immediately!” Nathan started to climb out of bed but Kristin stopped him.
don’t have to. I doubt that he’d find
them. No computer was part of our plan…
nothing to leave a paper trail. I’d
already established the bank accounts and bought a house… all through third and
even fourth parties.”
Nathan said a silent prayer as he wiped happy tears from Kristin’s face. “So tomorrow morning we make arrangements to go get our kids?”
Kristin nodded, a brilliant smile on her face. “Why not start now?”
Nathan gripped her waist and pulled her until she straddled his hips. “Now we celebrate!”
Kristin stood in the bow of the boat, Nathan standing right behind her, as they both stared at the sea ahead of them, willing the tiny island in the distance to move closer. He wrapped his arms around her waist.
“They’ll be there.” He whispered in her ear.
“I hope so. Oh God, please let them be there.”
“You folks visiting? We don’t get too many strangers to the island.”
“Yes, we are visiting… a friend. I don’t suppose you know her… Susan Rollins?” Robert asked as he stared at the couple in the front of the boat.
“Rollins… Rollins? Can’t say as I… oh wait, she got a little boy? Seems like I’ve heard my grandson Angus talk about a Royce Rollins, friend of his from school. Angus says he’s smart as a whip and real good at sports. I’ll bet that Royce and his mom are at the village fete today, along with damn near everyone else on the island.”
“Then that’s where we’ll look first.”
“Can’t be too much trouble to find them. The island isn’t that big. Can’t imagine why they would have moved up here in the first place. Not too many people voluntarily chose to live in the Orkney’s.”
Nathan felt Kristin’s body tremble at the man’s words even though she showed no other outward sign of her anxiousness. “We are all going to be together soon.” He murmured into her ear, warming her cold skin with his breath.
“But what if Cooper doesn’t remember me? What if they don’t want us back in their lives?”
“Can you really imagine that happening? Sure this is going to be difficult, but you’ve never backed down from a challenge before. Cynny and Cooper are going to be shocked, of course, but they are going to be ecstatic to find out that you and Callie are alive.”
“And you…” Kristin turned to gaze into Nathan’s face.
“And me, too.” His lips brushed hers lightly.
Fifteen minutes later they were tied to the dock and disembarking, Nathan and Kristin rubbing the children’s faces vigorously. The wind on the crossing had been biting and they were all cold so the captain of the small boat invited them to the dockside pub for a ‘wee dram’.
A roaring fire and warm beverages, hot chocolate for the children and whiskey for the adults, soon had them ready to face the elements once again and they set off on the ten minute walk to the heart of the village, following the instructions the old sailor had given them. The day was actually very pleasant without the added wind velocity of the open sea and they approached the town square in good spirits.
The crowds of people milling about startled them. Everyone on the island must have been there. Nathan knew their work was cut out for them and was afraid that they would miss Cindy and Cooper in the hubbub and have to start asking a lot of questions. Questions would scare Cindy so they had to get to her before she could run again.
“We’ll split up and find them…” Nathan squeezed Kristin’s hand as he reassured her.
“No… we don’t have to, at least I think we don’t. There’s something that I should have told you… about the twins… but I’m not sure if it still…”
“Cooper! Cooper’s here!” Callie blurted out, her face coming alive with excitement.
At that moment they heard a voice come over the loud speaker. “And first prize in the five kilometer race in the nine to thirteen year old category goes to Royce Rollins.”
Callie took off through the crowd before either parent could stop her, intent on finding her twin. Her senses honed in on what she was feeling as she wove through the crowd.
“Robert!” Nathan thrust Michael’s hand into his brother’s then took off after Kristin who had gone after Callie.
The crowds surrounded the small staging area but were held back from the front by a rope. Nathan’s height allowed him to see Callie just after she slipped beneath it even though he hadn’t quite reached the barrier yet.
A young boy stood on the stage shaking hands with an older man, a pretty strawberry blond woman by his side. The boy stepped to the microphone and began to speak. “Thank you, s…Callie! Callie’s here!”
Cooper scanned the crowd then saw his twin enter the open ground and threw himself over the edge of the stage to run toward his sister, unaware of Cynthia’s anxious grab behind him. Nathan had just slipped beneath the rope, barely five feet behind Kristin when he heard the cry of disbelief from the loud speaker.
“Mom?” Cynthia’s whispered question was picked up by the sensitive microphone that Cooper had dropped and reverberated through the sound system. Kristin’s oldest child scrambled to her feet and followed her brother over the end of the stage racing toward the point mid field where Callie and Cooper met head on in a fierce embrace. Kristin was there moments later, crying as her son threw an arm around her neck while continuing to hold on to his sister.
The staring crowd had gone completely silent as Nathan slowly walked toward the group. Cynthia fell to her knees about two feet away and just stared at the face of the mother she thought she’d lost five years previously. Kristin pulled an arm away from the children in her arms and held it out to Cindy.
“Mom?” She asked incredulously. “Is it really you?”
“It’s me, darling. I swear it’s me. The nightmare is over. We don’t have to hide any more.”
Tears began to run down Cynthia’s face but she wasn’t sure what to believe. She felt more than saw the shadow that fell over her as she kept her gaze locked to her mother’s until finally she could stand the scrutiny no more and looked up.
“Captain… Nathan!?! Oh my God! You’re alive!”
Nathan quickly knelt beside her. “Hi ya, kiddo!” He glanced at Kristin. “Word to your mother.” He told Cindy with a wink.
Cynthia launched herself into her mother’s arms, her body racked with sobs. Callie pulled Cooper away and the women moved more fully into each other’s embrace, Kristin soothing her distraught daughter. The twins stopped in front of Nathan.
“Cooper, he’s our papa! He’s come home to us!” Callie exclaimed.
Nathan stared at his newly found son, his eyes drinking in every detail. Cooper was larger than his sister, thicker through the body and several inches taller, but then he’d not been half starved for several years like Callie had. There was no mistaking the boy as his son. His eyes were Bridger blue and his face was long and angular, his body lean and lanky, just like his father’s.
“Cooper…” Nathan whispered, unsure of how to react but he shouldn’t have worried. The boy fell into Nathan’s embrace with a whispered ‘Papa!’
“Who are those people, Robert?” Michael asked as his big brother hoisted him into his arms and moved to stand near the group.
“This is the rest of your family, Michael. Remember your mama and papa telling you that you had another brother and sister? Well you are about to meet them.”
Michael stared at the boy who was hugging his father so enthusiastically, unsure how to feel, but he did enjoy seeing a smile on his papa’s face.
Somehow, through the din, Cynthia heard the strange man’s words to the unknown child and pulled her head from her mother’s shoulder. A shiver went through her as the man’s eyes locked with her gaze. “Mother?” She questioned.
Kristin brushed her own tears away and struggled to her feet, bringing Cynthia with her. “This is Robert Bridger, Nathan’s son. Robert, my daughter, Cynthia.”
The handsome man took Cynthia’s hand in his and smiled. “I’m very glad to meet you. Your mother talks about you so much that I feel as if I know you already.” Robert felt as if he were drowning in her deep brown eyes.
“Pleased to meet you… but I thought… Nathan’s son was supposed to be…”
“Dead? Yes I was. Sometimes over the past fifteen years I even wished I was but I’m still here.”
“There is a lot that we have to tell you… to explain to you, Cynni. Some of it… a great deal of it actually… will be a bit hard to believe. This is one of those things… Cynthia this is Michael. He is my son… mine and Nathan’s.”
Cynthia’s eyes darted back to her mother. “I don’t understand. You’ve been back together for all this time…” Her confusion showed on her face.
“No… it’s difficult to explain and I don’t think that this is the time or place. Maybe we could go someplace a little more private?”
Cynthia glanced around, seeing the sea of faces staring at them as if for the first time. “Of course.”
The elderly man from the stage approached them cautiously. “Is everything okay, Susan?”
Cynthia nodded. “Mr. MacLean, I’d like for you to meet my mother, Kristin Westphalen.”
Kristin smiled graciously as the gallant gentleman took her hand and brushed his lips across her knuckles before she introduced the rest of the company.
Vague introductions were performed and Cooper thanked the man once again for his prize then the group managed to break away and begin the walk back to Cynthia’s cottage.
Kristin found Nathan sitting on a craggy rock jutting out into the ocean, Cynthia’s small home barely visible in the distance.
“Hey, sailor. What’s on your mind?” She questioned as she climbed up beside him.
Nathan pulled her down until she was straddling his lap facing him. “I was just thinking…”
“Deep thoughts?” Kristin’s right hand gently caressed his cheek while her left arm slipped around his back.
“I’m pleased by how well our reunion seemed to go.” Nathan’s hands began to roam lightly up and down her back. “I was also thinking that we need a lot more space very quickly.”
“Perhaps we should stay in NCQ for awhile. Bill looked after both of our homes and our estates so we have a place. I also think we should continue counseling and we are going to have to think about school for all of the younger children…”
Nathan laid two fingers across Kristin’s lips to silence her. “I know you are right but we don’t have to let the world intrude just yet.”
Kristin nodded and leaned slightly forward to share a loving kiss with him. “Okay, no world… not yet.”
Nathan gazed into her eyes. “There is one other thing that we need to talk about.”
“Umm… what is that?” She asked, continuing her oral exploration of the line of his cheekbone.
“We need to talk about our future. It seems like I’ve told everybody I know exactly how I feel about you…except you.” Nathan ran his hands over her cheeks and cupped them in his palms, his thumbs running lightly over her cheekbones. “Kristin Westphalen, I have loved you across time and space and I will love you until the day I die. You have given me the gift of three beautiful children; you’ve given me joy and happiness. But most importantly you’ve given me your love in return.”
Kristin drew up to stare at him as he spoke, her eyes glowing at the depth of emotion she saw in his face. “What about the things you’ve given me? Your love, your friendship, the kids…my freedom. I too have loved you across time and space and will love you until the day I die.”
Nathan smiled. “Then it seems to me like it’s about time that the two of us get married. Ten plus years is a hell of a long courtship. How about it? My beautiful Kristin, will you marry me?”
“Are you sure? You could do much better than a stuffy old scientist whose fiftieth birthday is a very distant memory.”
“Hey, you are talking about the woman I love! She’s a brilliant scientist who is also the most beautiful woman I’ve ever known both inside and out. And she hasn’t answered my question yet.”
“Well…if you’re sure…I want nothing more on this earth than to marry you, Nathan Bridger.”
Nathan’s answering grin spoke volumes and Kristin couldn’t help but respond in kind. She began to giggle with happiness and buried her head in his shoulder. Nathan nuzzled her neck, teasing her skin until she turned her face to his and met his lips in a celebratory kiss.
“So, do they do that a lot?” Robert asked Cynthia as they stared at the couple silhouetted against the setting sun in the distance. A quick tag by Michael distracted her for a moment as she paused to check on the children running wildly in the field around them. They’d been fantastic through all of the afternoon discussions but her cottage was small and the kids were obviously happy to have wide-open space to play in.
Finally she turned back to Robert with a happy smile on her face. “Cooper has been so lost without Callie. I am amazed to see the difference in him so quickly. He seems to be adapting to Michael as well. And to answer your question… I haven’t been around them a great deal but the first time they were together… kissing was one of their favorite past times, according to Lucas at least.”
“Ah, yes… Lucas. I have yet to meet him.”
“Lucas is a good kid. He truly cares about mom and about Nathan. Looks like you’re stuck with all of us… one big happy family.”
Robert cautiously took Cindy’s hand in his own and squeezed. “I can think of worse things… I’ve lived through worse things. I’m actually looking forward to spending time with you… and with the kids… really getting to know all of you.”
Robert saw the worried look in Cynthia’s eye and hastily reassured her. “I like your mother. Dad really loves her.”
“They belong together, Robert. I know that you miss your mom… when I was younger I used to wish my mom and dad would get back together but I realize now that mom is so much happier.”
“I can see that and what’s more… I want that. I think that it is extremely rare but I want a love like that.”
“So do I.”
Cynthia blushed as she realized the intimacy of their conversation and quickly pulled her hand from Robert’s, moving toward the couple approaching them. She immediately noticed the silly grins plastered across their parent’s faces.
“What’s going on?” She asked, half-knowing what the answer was going to be.
“Hang on a sec.” Nathan shouted across the field, his voice quickly bringing all of the children running to his side. When they were gathered around he bent down on one knee and locked his arms around Kristin’s hips.
“My children, Cynthia… I want to talk to you about something very important. I’ve asked your mama to marry me and she has said yes but I thought maybe I’d better ask all of you what you thought about that idea.”
Nathan blinked and found himself flat on his back on the ground, Kristin sitting on her bottom beside him as three small children swarmed them. Cynthia quickly found her way through the group to embrace her mother.
“I take it you approve then?” Nathan laughingly asked.
“Yes!” They screamed in unison.
Nathan looked up at his son and was rewarded with a quiet smile. Robert stretched his hand out to his father. “Congratulations, Dad… Kristin.”
Cooper caught Robert by surprise, grabbing him around the knees and sending him tumbling to the ground in the midst of the rest of the group.
“So when’s this wedding going to take place?” Cynthia asked as Cooper climbed into her lap, suddenly skittish around his older brother.
Nathan and Kristin looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders. “We haven’t really talked about that. I have an idea… Janet did mention something about their house… didn’t want to say anything because I didn’t know for sure if we would…”
Nathan stuck his tongue out at her. “Of course we were!”
“Are you sure you wouldn’t like something a little bit larger?” Cynthia asked.
“NO!” Their voices chimed together.
“Almost everyone we need is right here.” Kristin said.
“Maybe Bill and Janet… and Lucas of course. Perhaps some of the guys from the seaQuest would like to come…but if you invite Piccolo he’d better be on his best behavior!”
“I’ll call Bill and get him started on the legal aspects. He’s already put the ball in motion to take care of the death certificate and get your medical license reinstated. This should be a piece of cake.”
“How soon before you can be ready to leave, Cynni?”
already decided that Cynthia would return to
“I can have the house closed up in a day or two. We have friends here who will watch things until I decide what to do. It’s really just a matter of packing our clothes and saying a few good-byes!”
“Then I’ll make the arrangements for us to leave the day after tomorrow.”
Kristin stared out over the sea of people spread out across the beach in front of her. The wedding they had planned had been a small affair but it hadn’t ended up that way. An added person here and another one there had increased the numbers until they had to frantically scramble to get a bigger cake.
Nimble fingers brushed her back then crept around her waist. Kristin leaned back into her husband’s arms.
“Happy, Mrs. Bridger?”
“Ecstatic, Mr. Bridger!”
“I wish they’d all go home now.”
“Nathan! You shouldn’t just wish our friends away!”
“The wedding is over. The cake has been cut. The bride and groom are anxious to steal away. I would like to take my wife to bed and make passionate love to her! Why shouldn’t I wish them away?”
Kristin grinned. “We could just sneak away for ten or fifteen minutes. I doubt anyone would notice that we were gone.”
Nathan grinned and took her hand, pulling her toward the door of the beach house.
“You are amazing… do you know that?” Kristin whispered to him as he slammed the door shut behind him and backed her up against it.
Nathan’s nimble fingers were making short work of the buttons of Kristin’s dress. “Why do you say that?” He asked just as he worked a sleeve down her arm, the strap of her bra sliding with it.
“Because you… uhmm… a man of your age… to still be so insat…iable… oh, Nathan!” Kristin moaned and locked her hands into his hair, holding him firmly to the naked breast that he was suckling.
“That’s because I’m married to a beautiful and equally insatiable woman.”
“Mom? Dad?” Nathan groaned and pulled back, using his body to shield Kristin as the french doors on the opposite end of the room flew open.
“There you are!” Callie stuck her head around the door and eyed the couple for a moment as she watched her mother’s frantic movements behind her father. When Kristin had her clothes back together Callie continued in, followed closely by Lucas, a knowing look on both of their faces.
Nathan lifted an arm to Kristin’s waist and pulled her closely to him, both of them smiling at the couple in front of them, still decked out in their wedding finery. Callie looked gorgeous in her white wedding gown and Lucas was quite dashing in his UEO dress uniform.
Thirteen years had passed since Nathan and Kristin had spoken their vows, thirteen years of love and laughter, of peace and happiness. Although the children had some adjustments early on, their parents’ love had helped them through the troublesome times. Cooper had recently graduated from the naval academy and was very proud that his first posting was on board his father’s old ship. His goal was to someday be the captain of the seaQuest.
Callie had grown into a stunning young woman, the beauty she inherited from her mother captivating many young men. But Lucas held her heart, had held it from the first moment she’d met him and he’d been so kind to her. Lucas had taken a little longer to realize his feelings for Callie but after some initial hesitation on his part the two began to date while Callie was in college. Nathan and Kristin were delighted with the match, happy to welcome Lucas officially into the family that he was already so much a part of. The couple would settle nearby after their honeymoon, Lucas working as head of the computer division for the UEO and Callie continuing her medical studies.
Michael was something of a mystery to both of his parents, a perfect blend of the two of them. He had his father’s piercing blue eyes and little boy charm and his mother’s auburn hair and direct manner. His brilliance astounded them both and in many ways he reminded his parents more of a young Lucas than of any of his siblings. Michael had a passion for video games, motorcycles, quantum mechanics and girls.
Having found a love and passion with each other to rival that of their parents, Robert and Cynthia married thus completing the Bridger family. The younger Bridgers had three sons – William, Charles and Edward – who were the apple of their parents’ eyes and the joy of their grandparents’ hearts.
“Do you think it’s too early for us to change? We’d like to get out of here but we don’t want to offend anyone.” Callie asked hesitantly.
“Hell no it isn’t too early. It’s the bridal couple’s prerogative to leave the reception when they want to. I don’t think your mother and I stayed at ours more than a couple of hours.”
Kristin rolled her eyes as she stared at him. “Fifteen minutes.”
“We stayed at our wedding reception fifteen minutes before you decided that it was time for us to leave.”
“No… we stayed longer than that. We stayed forever!”
“Fifteen minutes, sir. Cake… toast… honeymoon.” Lucas confirmed Kristin’s statement.
“Hey! You should agree with your father-in-law at least until the wedding is paid for.”
Lucas laughed. “I’m staying on my new mother-in-law’s good side!”
Kristin inclined her head toward the hallway leading toward the bedrooms. “Go change. Your father and I will… pave the way… so to speak!”
“But you’d better be back in ten minutes or I am coming to interrupt you! I owe both of you a couple of interruptions at least!” Nathan yelled after the retreating couple. He waited until they’d disappeared before pushing his wife back up against the wall and lightly biting her neck. She moaned quietly.
“Nathan Bridger… you have to behave yourself. You are nearly eighty years old!” She halfheartedly pushed his hands away from their caressing grip on her chest.
“Don’t feel a day over seventy!” He countered as his lips moved lower down her scooped neckline. Kristin laughed and twisted away from him.
“Later… I promise! Cooper has to leave on the seaQuest. We’ll send Michael home with Robert and Cynthia.”
“Our baby is almost eighteen years old, honey. He’s getting a little old to ship off for a few hours.”
“Trust me, Nathan, he’ll be glad to get out of clean-up duty. He and our grandsons will be buried in video games for the rest of the evening.”
“Then let’s go get rid of everybody!”
They linked hands and shared a loving kiss, chaste but full of promise for the evening ahead, and went out the doors together.