Title: A Pearl of Destiny – Part 2                      

Author:  Jaya   

Rating: FRAO       

Archive:  tayryn’s tower

Disclaimer:  Amblin’ owns ‘em. 

Summary: Sequel to my Pearl Harbor Challenge response


Notes:  I tried to be historically accurate within the confines of my story.  For instance, Eleanor Roosevelt did travel to the Pacific theater in 1943, however I couldn’t find the actual months.  The song ‘That’s All’ was popular in during the war years –I first heard it on the Rod Stewart album – Great American Songbook.




Nathan Bridger stood by the side of the road surveying his house, the house he hadn’t stepped foot in for over eighteen months, not since leaving it the morning of December 7, 1941.  On that day his life had changed forever.  For a long time he thought that his life had ended that day, with the death of his wife and son, but time had lessened the pain and lately he’d begun to find joy in the little things again.  Although the submarine he commanded, the USS Dolphin, had been in port several times, Nathan had never returned to the house they had shared, always choosing to bunk on the submarine.  He even avoided his friends, seeing only those military people that were required. 


On his last stop his luck had run out.  Janet Noyce, wife of Nathan’s best friend and commanding officer, Admiral William Noyce, had bulldozed through security, run over most of his crew and reamed Nathan out for hiding from her and from everything else.  She’d told Nathan plainly that Carol would have kicked his butt for not getting on with his life.


Nathan ran his eyes over the building once again, taking in the neatly mowed lawn and the freshly painted trim.  Bill and Janet had looked after the house while he’d been gone.  Due to the premium on living quarters Nathan had agreed to let a single officer live there while he’d been gone.  The officer had been transferred three months previously which was one reason Janet had come to see him.  She told him that it was time for him to face the house and the past, accept it and move on.  Nathan had been very resentful at her interference in the beginning but since that time he had come to see that she was right.


So he stood looking at the house in the rapidly dimming light, beating back his old demons until he finally worked up the courage to step onto the porch, approach the door and insert the key in the lock.  Nathan closed his eyes and took a deep breath as his fingers gingerly turned the key and pushed the door open.


Nathan noticed a few small changes in the décor but basically everything was as they had left it when he and Carol walked out the door on that fateful morning so long ago. He turned to head down the hall when he heard a noise.  ‘Wait! What in the hell is a light doing on?’  He was reaching for the light when he heard the bathroom door open and someone stepped out.


The decidedly feminine form was encased in a short black silk robe loosely belted at the waist.  Strands of long wet hair lay across silk covered shoulders as the woman vigorously toweled the top of her head.


Nathan cleared his throat loudly.  The woman’s head popped out from beneath the towel.  Her eyes widened with delight.  The towel slid to the ground as she exclaimed his name and ran to embrace him.


“Kristin?”  Nathan wrapped his arms around her, not really sure what else to do with them.


Kristin pulled back from Nathan, a huge smile on her face.  She quickly took in his stunned look. 


“You didn’t know that I was here?  I’m sorry, Nathan.  I thought that Bill would have told you… but you haven’t seen Bill.  He and Janet have gone to the big island for a week.”


“I haven’t seen anyone.  We just got cleared about an hour ago and I came straight here.  What are you doing here, Kristin?  When did you get back?”


“I never left.  The hospital needed doctors and I’m a doctor.  I needed to work… to keep my mind off of things.  Cynthia was so upset I couldn’t see putting her through the trip back and we really had nothing in Washington so we stayed here.  As to why I’m in your home… Cynthia and I got an apartment in town but with Ben reassigned to HQ I felt like I was in the way so Janet suggested I stay here until I could make other arrangements.”




“You don’t know, but then there is no reason why you should.  Cynthia married Benjamin Kreig.”


“Man, I’ve really been out of the loop.”  Nathan realized he was still holding Kristin loosely in the circle of his arms and stepped back quickly.  “I… I’ll go back to the sub.”


“No.  You don’t have to do that.  I’ve got Janet’s key so I can watch the house, water the plants and such.  I’ll go sleep over there.  You shouldn’t be run out of your home on your first night back.”


“No, I can bunk there.  I’m already packed.”  Nathan smiled and indicated the duffel bag he’d dropped by the door.


Kristin lifted a hand to Nathan’s face, stroking the strong line of his jaw tenderly.  His eyes met hers and immediately the air between them crackled, just as it had done the first time they saw each other.


Kristin broke the contact first.  “You must be starving.  At least let me feed you.  I’m sure I’ve got something to eat around here.”


She moved off toward the kitchen leaving Nathan to follow.  After digging through the refrigerator Kristin came up with bacon and eggs so Nathan sat at the kitchen table and watched her cook, his mind drifting back to another time and place, another woman in this spot. 


Kristin caught his pensive stare.  “You’re thinking about Carol.”


Nathan nodded.  “I’m sorry, it’s just…”


“Why are you sorry, Nathan?  Carol was your wife.  Of course you are going to think of her, especially here.  It must be strange to see me in her kitchen.  But don’t worry, me in any kitchen is not a commonplace occurrence.”


Nathan shook his head.  “It’s okay, really.  I just noticed some things missing, pictures and Carol’s little keepsakes.”


Kristin nodded as she continued to scramble Nathan’s eggs.  “Janet packed up anything she thought you would view as personal.  All of your things and your good furniture are stored in the main bedroom.  It’s locked but Janet left the key here for you.”  She gestured toward a drawer.


“So you don’t use that room?”


“I sleep at the end of the hall, probably your spare room.  I don’t really need a lot of space.  I’ve picked up a few odds and ends but basically all I have to deal with are my clothes.”


“What about your things, in Washington?”


“The office staff was very nice about taking care of that for me.  They stored all of Cynni’s things and mine.  The new senator from Jack’s district rented the house so I don’t have anything to worry about that.  It’s all waiting should I ever decide to go back.”


Nathan began eating the food she’d placed in front of him, while Kristin washed dishes.  Silence hung between them like a comfortable friend.  Kristin knew Nathan was watching her, felt his gaze on her back.  When she finished the dishes she dried her hands and sat down at the table across from the eating man. 


“Tell me about what you’ve been doing for the past year and a half.”


“Submarine stuff.  Not really interesting.  We cruise around and look for Japanese ships.  We gather intelligence on Japanese fleet movements.  We pick up downed pilots.  Occasionally we get a chance to engage the enemy ourselves.”


Kristin’s face took on a frightened look.  “I can’t bear to think of you in danger!”


“We are in very little danger, I promise.  My crewmen know their jobs too well.  They’re the best in the navy.”


Nathan continued to entertain Kristin with tales of his crew while he finished his dinner.  They were both laughing loudly when Kristin stood to take Nathan’s empty plate.  Nathan’s laughter slowly died as she leaned across the table.  The front of her robe gaped open revealing creamy white flesh to his gaze, along with the full inner swell of one of her breasts.  He saw her chest rise and catch as she realized what had happened and dragged his eyes back to her face.  She was staring back at him, gently biting her lower lip as their eyes locked.


Nathan reached out and pulled her hand from the plate, gently tugging her toward him as he shifted his chair from beneath the table. 


Nathan stared at her feet as they stepped toward him, smiling at the bright red toenails.  When her knees touched his she stopped and Nathan slowly dragged his eyes up her body.  When they reached bare flesh he leaned forward until his warm breath flowed over her skin.  He watched her shiver as her lungs dragged in air, her nipples beginning to tent the black silk.


Nathan turned his head slightly until the tip of his nose made light contact with Kristin’s skin.  He lifted his head slowly allowing his breath to caress her skin as his face rubbed the side of her full swell.  His hands slid deliberately up her legs, pressing the back of her thighs toward him until she straddled his lap.


His face followed the line of her body as she slowly sat down, until he was buried in the curve of her neck.  Kristin’s head fell back as Nathan finally touched her with his lips.   He nibbled the line of her jaw from her ear past her chin and back up the other side as his hands worked their way up her back then around to cup her silk clad globes. 


Nathan murmured and nudged Kristin’s cheek.  She understood and brought her head down to meet his as their mouths met, open and wanting.  Their bodies caught fire as their kisses deepened, Kristin wrapping her legs around the back of the chair, Nathan grasping her ass to pull her tighter into his body.


Kristin caught Nathan off guard when she pulled back abruptly and climbed off his lap.  He started to speak but she laid her fingertips across his lips to silence him.  She caressed his cheek tenderly before she stepped away and held her hand out to him.  Nathan stared at the proffered hand for several moments, understanding that Kristin was giving him a choice.  He knew that he could walk away and she would understand but he didn’t want to walk away.  He wanted this woman, had wanted her from the first instant he’d seen her eighteen months ago with intensity he had never experienced before.


Nathan stood and took her hand, allowing her to lead him down the hall to the back room.  She switched on a small lamp as he shut the door firmly behind him.  Nathan waited for Kristin to make some move back toward him but she stood passively, staring at him with eyes full of emotion.  Nathan reached out and rubbed the pad of his thumb across her lips.


“I need you,” he whispered.


By way of answer, Kristin parted her lips and licked his thumb lightly.  Nathan circled her waist and pressed her against his body, letting her feel his hardened length as he pressed his tongue into her mouth.  She returned his kisses, softly mating her tongue with his. 


Nathan felt her tense as his hands slipped beneath the front of her robe to caress bare skin and he shivered with his own desire.  Kristin’s hands massaged his shoulders as she relaxed back into him.  One hand slid around his neck and her fingertips slid beneath his collar.  Nathan quickly pulled the buttons apart and threw his shirt to the floor, desperate to feel her hands on his body.  She smoothed her palms over his warm flesh, her fingertips tracing delicate patterns in his chest hair. 


Their lips continued to mate as Nathan slipped an arm beneath her knees and carried her to the bed.  He’d never kissed a woman who seemed to enjoy it as much as Kristin.  Her mouth pulled at his, reluctant to let go as he lowered her to the pillows and pulled back.  His hands began to pull at the knot holding her robe together.  The silky folds slid back to the bed revealing her splendid body to his gaze. 


Kristin flushed in the soft light and drew her hands over her hips, reminding Nathan of the last time he’d seen her this way.  But then her body had been bruised and beaten.


“Don’t.”  Nathan gently pulled her hands away.  “You are so beautiful, Kristin.  Please don’t ever hide yourself from me.  I need you so much.  Do you want me, Kristin?  Do you want me to make love to you?”


Kristin nodded as she let her hands relax back to her side. 


“Tell me.”  Nathan pleaded.


“I… need you, Nathan.  I need you to love me.  Please?”


“Show me.”  Nathan lifted her hand and moved it to the button of his pants.  Kristin slowly sat up and shifted until Nathan stood between her legs.  Her fingers worked the button free and gradually slid the zipper down.  Nathan also stared down, enthralled by the patch of auburn curls and the pink flesh peeking out from them. 


Kristin lifted her head and stared into his dark blue eyes as her hands worked his pants and briefs over his hips.  Her tongue darted out to wet her lower lip as she felt his turgid erection spring free.  The clothing continued to slide to the floor as her hands slid forward to caress his hardness, her eyes never leaving his face.  Nathan groaned as she wrapped both hands around his shaft and gasped, her eyes closing.


“Kristin?”  Nathan questioned.  “We don’t have to do this if you don’t want to.”


Her tongue darted to her lip yet again and she swallowed hard before she opened her eyes.  “I do want to.  It’s just that… you’re so… well endowed.  I…”


Suddenly Nathan understood.  “I won’t hurt you, Kristin.  I swear.”


“Will you kiss me again, Nathan?” 


Nathan slid his hands beneath the robe hanging from Kristin’s shoulders and pushed it off before he carried her with him up the bed until they lay side by side.


“You really like kissing don’t you?”  He asked as he moved his mouth over hers.


“I do.  I always have.  I’ve really missed kissing… over the last fifteen years.”


Nathan smiled.  “I promise I won’t ever let you miss it again.  I could kiss you forever.”  Nathan began to nibble one corner of her mouth gently with his teeth as his hands stroked and teased her body.  


Eventually he felt her hands began to move slowly on his back.  ‘Slow down, Bridger.  You don’t need to rush this one.’  But their kisses were becoming deeper and more passionate and Nathan felt himself rushing toward the abyss. 


His hands ran slowly down her rib cage and across the flat plane of her stomach before resting lightly in her soft curls.  His index finger slipped through the tangles to lightly rub across her folds.  Kristin responded with a low moan and wrapped her tongue around his in a passionate dance.


Nathan pushed his finger deeper into her core, seeking and finding a small drop of wetness, which he pulled back to lubricate her clitoris.  He began to rub the small bundle in a circular motion, his free hand imitating the motion on a rosy nipple.  The tip of his engorged penis rested on Kristin’s stomach and he began to involuntarily thrust into her. 


Nathan pulled his mouth from Kristin’s to stare into her eyes.  She read his need and shifted her body so that she lay on her back.  Her legs slipped apart and Nathan’s finger slid deeply inside her to find her warm and wet.  Kristin hands grasped his hips and began to wiggle her body beneath his. 


“Kris…” Nathan managed to gasp as she placed the head of his erection at her entrance.  “It’s too soon.  You haven’t…”


Kristin pushed her hips up causing his swollen head to slip inside her.  She smiled at the feeling and hooked a knee over Nathan’s bottom as she pushed her hips upward. He sank deeper into her body as she began to roll her hips beneath him.


“Kristin, you’ve got to stop.”  Nathan attempted to still her hips with his hands.  “Please!  I want you…” He groaned as she clenched him with her inner muscles.  Nathan tried to fight the urge to thrust into her but he couldn’t.  His need was too great.


Kristin could tell that he was fighting his release.  It’s okay, Nathan.  Just let go,” she whispered to him.  His thrusts increased in intensity but he wouldn’t give in.  “Kiss me, Nathan.”


Nathan had been biting his lip in an effort to control his desire until Kristin could share it with him but he couldn’t refuse her request.  He tried to keep the kiss light but Kristin demanded more.  She began to explore his open mouth intimately, thrusting her tongue in time with his hips.  Nathan could hold out no more and cried out her name as he tensed and then spilled himself within her warm core.


Nathan felt Kristin clinging to him as he collapsed on top of her.  Conscious of his weight on her slender frame, he levered himself off of her as soon as he was able.  Nathan reached for her but found that Kristin had rapidly moved to the other side of the bed.


“What’s wrong?  Did I hurt you?  I know I was quick but next time I’ll make it good for you… Baby?”


Kristin had turned back to look at Nathan, a tear threatening to escape her eye. 


“Let me hold you, please?”


Kristin looked stunned.  “You want… to…” She catapulted herself back into Nathan’s arms as her tears began to flow.  “He never… and later I couldn’t…” she bit out between sobs, not really coherent but enough so that Nathan understood.


He soothed her with quiet murmuring, his hands caressing her back and hair lovingly until she fell asleep in his arms.




The dim light from the lamp helped dispel Nathan’s confusion at waking up in an unfamiliar place.  He briefly wondered what had disturbed him; he thought he’d heard his name in his sleep.  Nathan felt Kristin move against him and realized what had happened as she whispered his name again. 


Sometime in the night they’d shifted from being wrapped in each other’s arms to spooning together, Kristin’s back to Nathan’s front.  Nathan tightened his arms and buried his face in her neck as he felt her round bottom rub his rapidly growing erection again. 


Kristin’s hand slipped from her hip to her breast, never noticing Nathan’s arms wrapped around her.  He whispered her name and got no response, causing Nathan to realize that she was still asleep and apparently having a very erotic dream about him.  Her fingers caressed her pebbled nipple as her back arched. 


Kristin’s breathing became more labored and her hand moved downward, disappearing beneath the sheet that was draped across their hips.  Nathan’s mouth grew dry and he swallowed hard as he realized what she was doing in her sleep. This is what he longed to see her experience at his hands.


Nathan started to wake her up and finish the job that his dream self had started but he realized with sudden clarity that Kristin might not be able to express herself in this manner when she was awake.  ‘Damn the bastard for hurting you like this!  I swear I’ll teach you how to feel pleasure again!’


Kristin’s leg shifted up and back over Nathan’s as she continued to seek release.  Nathan couldn’t stand to see her struggle and he wanted to watch her come.  He carefully slipped his hand over her hip and allowed his fingertips to lightly brush her damp curls just below her own hand.  She whimpered and pushed forward against his fingers. 


Nathan brushed delicate kisses along her neck as he propped up on his elbow and slipped a finger into her moist passage.  She moaned loudly at the feeling and Nathan was afraid that she’d woken up but she didn’t open her eyes.  He wiggled his finger in a circular motion, touching the very heart of her desire.  She ground her hips against his hand and began to push back and forth.


Kristin’s eyes flew open wide and her inner muscles grabbed Nathan’s finger as she climaxed, her moisture coating Nathan’s finger and flowing down his hand.  Her body relaxed against his and she stared at him dreamily before her eyelids fluttered and closed.  A contented sigh escaped her lips as she drifted back into a deep sleep.


Nathan slipped his finger out and brought it to his lips to taste and smell her excitement.  He licked it clean before he lay back and curled around her.  “If I can do this to you in your dreams I know that I can make you feel this when you’re awake,” he whispered in her ear as sleep crept over him as well.




Kristin stirred and stretched, catlike, before curling back into the warm body lying next to her.  Her eyes flickered open to be met by deep blue pools, gleaming in the early morning light slowly creeping through the window.


Nathan had been awake over an hour watching the beautiful woman in his arms sleep, enjoying the feeling of her lush curves pressed against his.  He’d used the time to memorize the soft lines of her face and the sound of her breathing.


“I had the most wonderful dream!” Kristin murmured her voice still thick with sleep.


“Um… I know.  I got to watch you have that dream.”  Kristin’s eyes flew open as she realized from the lilt in Nathan’s voice that at least part of her dream had been reality.  Her white skin began to turn slightly pink.


“For the first time in months I didn’t have to dream.  My dream was real, last night and this morning.”  Nathan whispered as he bent his mouth to meet her lips.  They shared a warm kiss before Nathan settled on his back with Kristin lying partially on top of him.


Kristin buried her face in Nathan’s neck and he laughed lightly.  “I can’t see your face but I can feel your smile.”


She raised her head to meet his eyes again.  “I’d forgotten how wonderful this feels, waking up in someone’s arms, starting the day with a kiss.”


Nathan immediately kissed her again, this time with growing passion.  Kristin moaned breathlessly and Nathan shifted her until she was straddling him, his morning arousal caught between their bodies.  Several long wet kisses later, Nathan rolled her to her back and began to nibble along her jaw as his hands did delicious things to her body.


Kristin was so warm and willing that Nathan was surprised when she stopped him.  She blushed delicately as she whispered the reason why in his ear.  Kristin turned even redder when he chuckled and rolled off of her.


“Hurry back, okay?”


Nathan stared at her body in open appreciation as she climbed out of the bed.  She grabbed her robe and wrapped it around her naked form, slightly embarrassed and very aroused by what she saw in his gaze. 


“Be right back.”  She raked her eyes over his male form before moving into the hall toward the bathroom.


Nathan propped himself up on the pillows, hands behind his head and grinned like a schoolboy as he thought about Kristin and what they had shared.  She was absolutely fascinating to wake up to.  He wondered again how Jack McCallister could have ever been so foolish as to take her for granted.  She had been so receptive to his touch in her sleep.  Nathan knew that he would never forget the look on her face when she’d slipped over the edge in her dream and he longed to make her feel that way again, while she was awake.  A thoughtful look crept over his face and he got up and grabbed his pants.  ‘No need to shock the neighbors… yet.’  He thought as he pulled them on.


The bathroom door was still closed as he entered the hallway and he moved toward it, wondering if Kristin was adventurous enough to share the shower with him.  ‘I’ve always wanted to try that.’  He was reaching for the knob when his hand was stayed by the sound of screaming.  He whirled and flung open the door to the room that had once been Robert’s.


A small crib stood in one corner of the otherwise unchanged room.  In that crib a small baby sat screaming its head off.


“Ma… Ma…!”  The child wailed.  Nathan stared, so stunned he was unable to move.  Kristin had to throw all her body weight against him so that he would shift enough for her to get by.


“Mama!” The baby held its hands toward Kristin beseechingly.


“Ssh… it’s alright, lovey.”  She soothed the child as she picked him up and cuddled him.  “You are soaking wet.” 


Kristin grabbed a diaper and deftly changed the child before pulling him into her arms again.  She straightened and turned to find herself alone.


“Nathan?”  Kristin settled the child on her hip and went to check her bedroom.  It was empty but she noticed that Nathan’s shirt and shoes were gone.  She rushed to the living room just in time to see him grab his duffel bag and open the front door.


Nathan turned to look at her, his face stricken as he gazed at the small child she held.  “I’m so sorry, Kristin.  God, I should have protected you.  If I’d known I swear…” his fists clenched in rage.  “I’m so sorry!” he repeated, his voice thick with emotion, as he turned back to the door.  Without warning his fist struck the wall with all the force he could muster before he walked out.


Kristin stood there dumbstruck, trying to understand what had happened.  ‘How could he love me like that and then just leave?’  She knew that she’d made a drastic mistake with Jack but she would have bet her life that Nathan wasn’t a bastard.  He wouldn’t treat her like this…


Her gaze fell to the child in her arms and she suddenly realized what had happened.  Nathan was angry with himself because he hadn’t protected her from Jack that last night.


Kristin ran to the door and flung it open; calling his name, but Nathan had already disappeared.




“I’m sorry, ma’am, but no unauthorized personnel are allowed on board.”


Kristin glared at the young man blocking her way.


“Look Lieutenant…?”


“O’Neill.”  The bespectacled young man supplied his name.


“Lieutenant O’Neill, I appreciate your orders but I want you to understand that I am going to board your submarine and I am going to speak with your Captain.  You can help me do this or you can get out of my way but you are not going to stop me.  I will go above your head, all the way to the White House if I have to.  So I suggest you let me pass.”


Kristin took a step forward and the young lieutenant laid a hand on her arm.  Kristin looked pointedly at his hand before slowly bring her face up to meet his gaze.  To his credit, Lieutenant O’Neill didn’t back down although his arm began to tremble.


“Is there a problem here, Lieutenant?”


“Sir!”  O’Neill immediately came to attention and snapped off a smart salute, which the older officer returned.  “This lady would like to speak to Captain Bridger, Sir.  She insists on boarding the submarine.”


The bearded man turned to Kristin with an interested look on his face.  “I’m sorry, Ma’am, but you can’t come on board without proper clearance.  But…” he continued quickly at the determined look on her face, “Captain Bridger isn’t here, anyway.”


“And you are…?”


“Chief Crocker, ma’am.  Second in command of the Dolphin.  Might I inquire as to your identity?”  The woman’s manner was brusque but something about her intrigued Crocker.  He knew Nathan Bridger well and he knew that his Captain had something important on his mind lately.  He wondered if this woman was that something.  If so, he approved.


Kristin didn’t like to throw her weight around but she was desperate to speak to Nathan.  “Kristin McCallister, widow of Senator Jack McCallister.  Will you tell me where Captain Bridger is please?”


Crocker’s mind quickly snapped back to the last time that he’d heard her name, the morning of December 7, 1941, while he’d been temporarily assigned to run the motor pool.  Nathan Bridger had volunteered to act as this woman’s driver for the morning.  Perhaps there was more to that story…  The Chief quickly dismissed that thought.  He would stake his life on Nathan Bridger being faithful to his wife.  But Carol Bridger was gone and Kristin McCallister obviously shared some connection with his Captain.


“Captain Bridger left me in charge of the refit while he joined the USS Missouri for a short tour.  He thought he’d like to see how the fleet above the surface was fighting the war.  He should be back in three or four weeks.”


Crocker saw a brief hint of… something… flicker across Mrs. McCallister’s face before it settled back into its serene mask.  “I guess I’ll just have to wait to speak to Nathan then.  Thank you for the information, Chief.”


Kristin turned to go but was distracted by the sound of screeching metal and a loud scream. 


“We’ve got a man hurt!” Someone shouted. 


Crocker turned and ran; not realizing that Kristin was right behind him.  He shouldered through the group of men to find one of his charges sitting on the deck trying to staunch the flow of blood that poured from his hand.  Kristin pushed past Crocker and fell to her knees.


“Ma’am, you need to move back.”  Crocker grasped her shoulders but she shrugged him off.


“I’m a doctor and this man needs medical attention.  You!”  She pointed at one of the seamen.  “Find me a first aid kit, NOW!”  She grasped the bleeding hand and pulled it higher in the air, while applying pressure to the area just below the cut.  Someone thrust a metal kit at her and she used one hand to dig through it for sterile gauze.  When the blood flow slowed some she stood to exam the cut.


“It’s deep and I think that there may be metal shards inside it.  It will need to be thoroughly cleaned before stitching.”


Crocker thought a moment.  “Our doctor is out on leave but our med bay is well stocked.  Could you do it here?”


“If he has the proper equipment, yes, I can do it.  Can you walk?  Why… you’re no more than a child.  What are you doing on board this submarine?  How old are you?”


A mop of blond hair fell across the boy’s blue eyes.  “I serve here, Ma’am.  I’m eighteen.”


Kristin surveyed the slender boy.  “And I’m the bloody queen of England!”  She muttered.  “What is your name, son?”


“Seaman Wolenczeck.”


“Your given name?”


“Lucas, Ma’am.”


“Well, Lucas, you’ve got some metal fragments in your hand and I’m going to have to dig them out.  I’ll be as gentle as I can but it will hurt.”


The boy’s low lip trembled slightly but he quickly stilled it.  “I can take it.”


Kristin smiled at the child’s courage as Lieutenant O’Neill helped him stand and offered support as they headed toward med bay.


Crocker shook his head as he watched them go.  The lady doctor had jumped in with no thought but the safety of his crewman.  Her pretty dress was drenched with young Wolenczeck’s blood but she’s given no clue that she’d even noticed.  And she obviously had a mouth on her as well as a kind heart.  ‘You’ve got yourself a live wire with this one, Captain!’




Nathan pondered the pair of bluejean clad legs sticking out from beneath the sad looking automobile in his driveway.  While the hips were definitely feminine he knew they didn’t belong to Kristin, they weren’t curvy enough.  A sting of blue language poured from beneath the vehicle causing Nathan’s eyebrows to rise.  Whoever she was she could definitely cuss like a sailor!


Nathan cleared his throat and the figure began to crawl from beneath the car.  A white tee shirt gave way to a dark brown ponytail and then a pair of lovely blue eyes.


“Can I help you?”


Nathan inclined his head toward the house.  “I’m looking for Mrs. McCallister.”




“Kristin… the lady who lives here.  You are in her driveway.”


“Oh, you mean Dr. Westphalen.  McCallister… forgot that was her married name.  She doesn’t use it anymore.  Westphalen’s the name on her medical license.”  Nathan was more pleased than he would have imagined that Kristin had rid herself of her most obvious tie to her bastard of a late husband. 


“She isn’t here.”  The young woman was beginning to look at him suspiciously.


“That is obvious, young lady.  Could you tell me where she is?”


“Who wants to know?”


“The name is Bridger… Nathan Bridger.  This is my house.”


The pretty young woman gulped and scrambled to her feet.  “Captain Bridger?”


“That’s right.”


“Lieutenant Katherine Hitchcock, Sir!”  The young woman came to attention and saluted.


Nathan’s eyebrow popped even farther up.  “You’re in the navy?”


“Nursing corps, Sir.”  The young woman was still at attention.


Nathan popped a smart salute.  “At ease.  So you know Kristin from the hospital?  Are you living here too?”


“No, sir.  I’m housed in the nursing barracks.  The doc lets me park the car here where I can work on her.  I picked her up for a song in town but the engine needs a little work.”


“And you’re doing it yourself?”


“I’ve got four brothers, Captain.  I can strip an engine faster than any mechanic on the island can.  It’s just this damned intake valve…”


Before they realized what had happened, Nathan and Hitchcock were both in the engine up to their elbows, discussing automobile maintenance.  Nathan provided some much-appreciated advice and was in turn blown away by the depth of the young woman’s knowledge.


“You should be an engineer.” He told her as he rolled his shirt sleeves back down.


“That’s my dream, sir.  Unfortunately the navy doesn’t take female engineers.”


Nathan nodded in agreement.  “Perhaps that will change one day, Lieutenant.  I certainly hope so.  But until then, and if you’ve satisfied yourself that I’m not an escaped lunatic, do you know where Mrs. Mc… Dr. Westphalen is?”


“She was on duty at the hospital but she’s probably done by now.  I think she was going by Admiral Noyce’s house on the way home.”


“Now that wasn’t so hard was it?  Thank you, Lieutenant.”




“Nathan!  When did you get in?  Come on in!”  Bill Noyce dragged his friend into the house. 


“We docked this morning.  I went to the Dolphin to check on the work but everything seemed to be going smoothly so I though I’d come by and say hello.”


“It’s great to see you, out and about.  We hated we missed you the last time you were in.  Kristin told us you came by and that you went to the house.”  He clapped a hand on Nathan’s shoulder.  “I know that couldn’t have been easy.”


Nathan didn’t really know what to say so he said nothing at all.  His reasons for returning to his home had fallen by the wayside when Kristin stepped into the hallway in that short black robe.


“Hey, you got a drink for a weary sailor?  I’m parched!”  Nathan knew that this request was the quickest way to get him to wherever Kristin might be.  Otherwise Bill might drag him into his study to talk navy.


“Sure.  Come on out to the porch and I’ll see if I can’t rustle us up some beers.  Janet and Kristin are already out there.”


Nathan had to close his eyes momentarily when he stepped onto the porch and saw Kristin; her beauty overwhelmed him, as did his desire to sweep her into his arms and kiss her.


Janet squealed with delight to see Nathan and jumped up to throw her arms around him.  Kristin stood much more sedately and offered her hand.


“Captain Bridger.”  Her tone was perfect for polite company but Nathan could sense the ice beneath.  Nathan refused to play her game.


“It’s good to see you, Kristin.”  He grasped her hand and shook it firmly, his index finger slipping into her palm to caress it intimately.


Janet quickly settled Nathan at the table beside Kristin with a beer in front of him.  They spent a pleasant hour discussing mutual friends and war news.  To Bill and Janet Nathan appeared calm and amiable but inside he was intensely aware of the woman at his side.  He felt his body’s pull to hers as surely as if they had both been magnets and he knew she felt the same way although she refused to look at him.


“So, Nathan, you will attend won’t you?”  Nathan dragged his mind away from contemplating the way that Kristin’s skin glowed in the waning sunlight to the question Janet had just asked him.


“I’m sorry?”


“The dance next Saturday night at the O club.  You will come?”  Janet couched her words as a question but Nathan had little doubt that it was a command. 


He quickly began to think up excuses but a slight movement by Kristin caused him to think again.  “We’ll see how things are going with the sub.  If we are still in port I’ll come.”


A few more minutes found both Nathan and Kristin with dinner invitations that they weren’t allowed to refuse.  Nathan didn’t know whether to be happy or upset.  Having dinner with the Noyces gave him more time with Kristin but he would have rather walked her home, had an opportunity to be alone with her.


Nathan excused himself to use the head and came back to find the group dispersing.  Kristin and Bill had disappeared.


“Bill’s gone to change before we fire up the barbecue and Kristin went down to the beach for a walk.  Why don’t you join her?  I’ll send for you when dinner is ready.”  Janet responded to Nathan’s questioning look.


‘Finally, a chance alone!’  Nathan’s step was light as he headed to the beach, his mind travelling back to the last time he’d stood here with Kristin.  He’d almost kissed her that day but held back out of respect for both of their marriage vows.  Today would be different.


Kristin was standing on the beach, silhouetted against the setting sun.  Her shoes lay in the sand at the bottom of the path along with the jacket of the smart blue suit she was wearing.  He drank in the sight of her for several minutes before finally moving to join her.


Kristin didn’t acknowledge him when he moved up beside her and Nathan’s mind searched for an opening topic.


“Crocker told me what you did for Lucas.  Thank you for helping him.”


“I am a doctor.  Helping people is my job.  I’m glad I was there at the time.  He could have lost a great deal of blood without the proper treatment quickly.  What in the bloody hell is that child doing on your boat anyway?  He can’t be more than fourteen.”


“He’ll be fifteen in two months.”  Nathan answered defensively.


“Oh, so that makes it okay?  God you military types never cease to amaze me.  Whatever is expedient!  He should be in school, not sailing around the Pacific in danger of getting blown to bits at any minute.”


“It isn’t quite as dangerous as that!”  Nathan shut up quickly as she turned and glared at him.  “Look, Kristin, I realize that Lucas is way too young to have enlisted but he lied about his age.  I’m surprised that he made it as far as he did without his lie being caught. I’ve talked to the kid, spent a lot of time with him since he came on board three months ago.  This kid is bright!  I mean he is really intelligent.  His home life is awful; his parents fight all the time.  They ignore him so if I send him back there he’ll just run away again.  Once this war is over I’m going to help him go to school, make something of himself.  I look out for him.”


Kristin’s face softened as she recognized that Nathan’s words were true.  He really did care for the boy.  “You’d better watch over him.  He’s become very dear to me.”


A gust of wind lifted Kristin’s hair and flung it around her face like a fiery halo.  Nathan stretched a hand to push it back from her eyes and let his fingers trail over her face.


“Kristin, I came here today to talk to you.  That’s the only reason I’m here.  I went to the house but you weren’t there and the lady mechanic in your driveway told me you’d be here.  Won’t you please talk to me?”


He took her silence as ascent and continued.  “I am so sorry… I really regret what happened…” Sparks flew from Kristin’s eyes.  “No, not what happened between us.  I couldn’t regret that, at least… I’m sorry that I didn’t… that you didn’t enjoy it.”


“What are you babbling about?  Not enjoy our lov… closeness?  Of course I did!”


“But you didn’t… I didn’t pleasure you.”  Nathan’s voice dropped to a whisper as his color heightened. 


Kristin’s face softened slightly.  “Yes, Nathan, you did.  Maybe I don’t express it as openly… but I did…” Her color also began to heighten at the intimacy of the subject.  “But that is no excuse for how you behaved later!”


Nathan knew that his behavior was inexcusable.  He’d thought of nothing else for the last month. “That is what I’m most sorry about.  I don’t have any excuse.  I was just so shocked to see the child.  I never even considered that, well after what you said I didn’t think you could have a baby and seeing it there…”


“Teddy, his name is Teddy, and you should know…”


“Teddy.” Nathan interrupted her.  “That’s a good name for a boy.  He seems like a nice baby and I’m sure that he’ll come to like me once he gets to know me… that is… I’d like to be around, help you raise him.  A child needs a father figure, especially a boy, and you and I seem to suit…”




“I know that I’m not saying this very well but I just thought that maybe we, you and me I mean, could… maybe… get marri…”


“Nathan!”  He cringed at the snap in her voice, knowing that he’d royally screwed up the proposal that he’d been practicing for the last three weeks.  He started to apologize but Kristin laid her fingers over his lips.


“Will you please shut up and listen to me?  I can’t have any more children.  Teddy isn’t my child.”


A great sigh of relief escaped Nathan’s lips, quickly followed by a stuttered “B-b-but he called you mama.”


“Teddy belongs to Cynthia.  He’s my grandson.”


Comprehension dawned on Nathan’s face as Kristin continued.


“Cynni and Ben went out for a night on the town and I was babysitting.  Mama is the only word that Teddy knows.  He calls everyone that, even Ben.”


“God, Kristin, I thought that…”


“I know what you thought, Nathan.  I realized immediately but I couldn’t catch you and you were gone by the time they came to pick up Teddy so I could follow you to the sub.  So you see?  There is no reason for your half hearted attempt to propose.”


Nathan could tell she was still angry.  “I just couldn’t face letting you down too. Then I saw the baby and I remembered how your body looked, the bruises… and I… I should have protected you. After everything he did to you… you trusted me that night.”


Kristin moved away from him and walked to the water.  He followed slowly.  When he reached her side once again she whispered.  “Don’t you understand, Nathan?  You’re the first person, the first man, who has actually cared about me in so long.  Of course I trusted you.”


Nathan caught the past tense in her phrasing and it wounded his heart.  “I’ll make it up to you, I swear.”  He lowered his lips to the back of her neck and began to trace the line of her hair toward her face. 


“Go away!”  She shrugged her shoulders in an effort to remove him but Nathan wasn’t letting her push him away.  His hands grasped her shoulders to hold her as his lips settled on the soft skin below her ear lobe.


“May I kiss you, doctor?”  He met her gaze and held it, his mouth just inches from hers.


“Damn you, Nathan Bridger!”  Kristin whispered back to his as her mouth reached to close the distance between them.


Their lips felt like they were on fire as they clung and caressed.  Nathan poured his heart into the kiss, trying to convey to Kristin how sorry he was for having hurt her.  Kristin accepted greedily and demanded more, her tongue laving and stroking his. 


Before long kisses weren’t enough and Nathan’s hands found their way beneath the hem of Kristin’s blouse.  The delicate slip she wore beneath only served to enhance the warmth of her skin against his palms.  He slid his palms up her sides to touch her breasts, growling in approval when he realized that she wasn’t wearing a brassiere. 


“This better be because you knew I was coming home.”  His lips traced a line down her neck to the first button of her blouse.


“No, I just thought I’d give all the soldiers at the hospital a thrill.  Especially Admiral Lansdowne.”


Nathan pulled back, angered to hear her mention the name of one of the base’s most notorious womanizers.  “Has Lansdowne been bothering you?”


Kristin saw the clouds on his face and gave up teasing.  “Uhm… the damned thing was too uncomfortable.  It pinched me everytime I wore it but I always forgot to throw it away.  Today was particularly bad. It was way too tight so I took it off and disposed of it… God, that feels good.”


Nathan’s lips had latched on to the hollow of her throat.  Kristin let her head to fall back to allow him greater access.  Her hands were busy as well, slipping his shirt buttons free so that her hands could slide inside.  Nathan’s fingers found the metal clasps on the straps of her slip and deftly slid them down, loosening the bodice so that his hands could ease inside.  Kristin almost shattered at the feel of Nathan’s bare palms on her hungry nipples.  She frantically tugged at his undershirt, working to free it from his pants so that she could gain similar access.


A gentle breeze carrying the sound of children’s laughter startled them and they broke their embrace to see a young mother and her children approaching in the distance.  Nathan gave Kristin a sheepish grin as they both tried to discretely repair their disheveled clothing.


A motion caught Nathan’s attention and he looked up to see Ginny Noyce waving at them from the edge of her parent’s back yard. 


“Thank goodness we’d already been interrupted.”  Kristin muttered as Nathan waved in response.


“I think that means that they want us back at the house.”  Nathan responded, not about to tell Kristin that he suspected Ginny had seen a little more than she had thought.


Nathan casually draped his arm around Kristin’s shoulders as they headed back up the beach but he stopped her when they reached the pathway.  “Would you like to go to this dance with me?”


“I… I’d like that very much, if you’re sure.  Base gossip is sure to fly if we go together.  Are you ready for that?”


“Yeah, I’m ready.  I’ll feel very proud to walk into that hall with you on my arm.”




“Can we talk for a few minutes?” 


Nathan was perched on a corner railing of the back porch watching Kristin talk with Ginny and her fiancé, a young navy doctor, when Janet cornered him.  He groaned loudly and rolled his eyes at her.  Janet rolled her eyes back and swatted him.


“I’m serious.  Come walk with me for a little while.”  Nathan reluctantly stood and followed Janet out into the yard.


“I’m glad you finally came home.  I hoped that you would listen to me.  I was afraid that I might have been too rough on you.”


Nathan snorted.  “I think I needed a good swift kick in the pants.  But somehow I get the feeling that isn’t what you dragged me out here to talk about.  You’ve always been straight forward with me, Janet, so don’t change now.”


“I want to talk about Kristin… and you.  Don’t give me that ‘I’m so innocent” look.  I know you too well, Nathan Hale Bridger.  And I’m not meddling.  I just want you to realize a few things.”


Nathan wasn’t looking at Janet, but at the object of their conversation as she enjoyed an animated discussion on something medical.  Janet cleared her throat sharply.


“Go ahead, I’m listening.”  Nathan’s hand waved her along.


“Where do I begin?  I know that there was some sort of connection between you and Kristin from the first time you laid eyes on each other.  Hell, I saw it!”


That got Nathan’s attention.  “You saw…”


“That night at the beach.  The first time the two of you saw each other the tension was palpable.  No,” she said at his worried look.  “Carol didn’t see.  She wasn’t facing you but I was.  Look, I don’t pretend to understand this thing between the two of you but I know that it’s there.”


“Okay, so there is something between us.  Neither one of us is married anymore.  What’s the problem?”


“You haven’t been here the last eighteen months.  You haven’t seen that woman struggle to rebuild her life, carve a place for herself in a man’s world.  You don’t have any idea what that bastard did to her, what she’s had to overcome in her own mind…”


“I saw the bruises, Janet.”


“And I’ve heard the screams.  They stayed with us for two months after you left.  She woke up screaming almost every night but not before she’d relived his abuse in her dreams.  I don’t know if she can ever recover from that.  They call her the ice queen at the hospital because she doesn’t like for anyone to touch her.  Cynthia and that baby are the only people she really lets in… and you.  She lets you in.  Which brings me to my next point.


Nathan raised an eyebrow.  “Which is?”


“The base isn’t a very big place.  Kristin has worked hard to fit in here but one misstep could damage that.  Being the widow of a United States Senator affords her a certain amount of protection but that wouldn’t last long in the face of a real scandal.”


“What kind of scandal?”


“Say a certain navy captain seen leaving her home in the early hours of the morning, less than fully clothed.”


“Oh, shit!  Someone saw me?”


Janet nodded.  “Ginny saw you and she told me.  She doesn’t think that anyone else did but that doesn’t mean that they might not the next time.  I am concerned about Kristin’s reputation but more than that I am concerned about her… and about you.  You have the power to help her but you also have the power to hurt her beyond repair and hurt yourself as well.  Please think about that before you do something you will both regret.”


“You think that I’m making a mistake if I go after Kristin?”


Janet smiled gently.  “I’m reminding you not to forget Kristin’s past.  Women talk and Carol and I were no exception.  I know that you enjoy the physical part of a relationship and I think that given time and a great deal of understanding Kristin might enjoy it again as well.  Just don’t forget that she might not be able to.  If you can’t accept that then you need to let go.  I hope that me saying this to you doesn’t make you mad.”


Nathan lifted his beer bottle to his mouth and took a long swig as he pondered Janet’s words.  He knew that she only spoke them out of love and concern for both Kristin and himself.


“She is so incredible, Janet.  And she is so strong.  Even after everything that he did to her she has an underlying strength.  She also has an underlying passion that he couldn’t kill.  I’ll bring it out if it takes me the rest of my life.  But it won’t.  When we’re together it’s so special and I think that I did pleasure her, maybe not to the level that I would have liked to but, as you say, it will take a little time.  I’m going to go slow.”


“Slow… like on the beach earlier?”


“Dammit!  What do you do?  Have Ginny follow me around?”


Janet laughed out loud.  “Just think about what I’ve said.  I don’t want to see you hurt either.  You are the closest thing to a brother that Bill or I have.”


A peal of laughter pulled Nathan’s attention back to the porch.  “She’s so beautiful, Janet.  I can’t understand what she sees in a beat up old sailor like me but sometimes the pull is so powerful… I can’t really explain it.  I never would have been unfaithful to Carol but…”


Janet laid a hand on Nathan’s arm.  “You don’t have to explain it.  You’ve never had to explain it.  Bill and I were on the balcony that night.  We saw the two of you, heard what you said to each other.  I know that you loved Carol but you have a chance for something very special with Kristin and I think that you are a fool if you let it slip away.”




Janet’s words rang in Nathan’s ears as he and Kristin strolled down the dimly lit streets toward his house.  She had seemed very happy when Nathan volunteered to walk her home and he was overjoyed at the opportunity to be alone with her again.


“I’ll say goodnight here.”


He could see disappointment in Kristin’s face even on the shadowed porch.  “I thought you might…”


“If I ask you a question will you answer me honestly?  Do you want me to come in, knowing what will probably happen?  Why?”


A mask fell over Kristin’s face.  “You’ve been away for over a month.  I just thought you might want… I don’t want you to… I like waking up with you.”


Nathan’s hand slid up her arm to caress her cheek.  “I like waking up with you too.  I like going to bed with you; I love what happens between us in bed and I like sleeping with you afterwards.  But I think that maybe we need to back up a little bit; spend some time together outside of the bedroom.  The next time we are intimate I want it to be because you want to be with me, not because you are afraid I’ll turn to someone else.”


Kristin’s breath caught.  “How did you know?”


Nathan shrugged his shoulders.  “I just did.  I am NOT like him, Kristin.  I can wait until you are ready.  So I think that I should say good night here.”  Nathan pulled her back into the shadow of the house and slid his arms around her.  “However, I don’t think that a good night kiss would be out of line, if the lady is willing?”


“Oh the lady is willing, kind sir.”  Kristin brought her lips to his.  Nathan was once again amazed at the softness of her lips and the delicious ways that she used them.  He could kiss her forever and he very nearly did.  Nathan had no idea how much time passed as they made out on the porch.  He was too busy enjoying the feelings Kristin’s tongue provoked and keeping them restrained at the same time.  When his hands began to slide beneath her skirt he pulled back sharply.


Neither could speak, they were breathing too hard.  “I really think that I should go now.”  Nathan finally whispered.  He reached behind Kristin to the doorknob and turned it.  The door slide open and Nathan maneuvered her through it before breaking his hold on her. 


“Can I see you tomorrow night?  Maybe we could go to dinner or see a movie or something.  I’m on duty until about seven but after that…”


“I’ll be home from the hospital by then.  Pick me up here.”  Kristin reached for something and soft light streamed from the door.  Nathan swallowed hard as he stared at her body framed by the light.


“When did I do that?”  He asked, his eyes glued to her chest.  Sometime in the necking session Nathan had managed to untuck Kristin’s blouse and unfasten the top three buttons.  He’d also worked the straps of her slip down her arms far enough that a fair amount of pink flesh was visible.


Kristin’s finger pointed hesitantly to his shirt and he looked down to find that she’d managed to release even more of his buttons.  He grinned and gave her a wink. 


“Until tomorrow.”


Nathan began to refasten the buttons on his shirt as he went down the stairs.  At the bottom he turned back at the sound of Kristin’s husky voice calling his name.


His mouth went dry as her blouse slid to the floor and her hands returned to tug at the loose straps of her slip. 


“I don’t think it will take very long, until I’m ready.”  The garment slipped slowly southward as she smiled at Nathan and gradually pushed the door closed.




“My God!  How long can it possibly take you to get ready?  You’ve been in there over an hour!”  Bill Noyce was tired of cooling his heels outside of his bedroom while Janet and Kristin prepared for the dance. ‘Finally!’  He heard Janet’s footsteps approaching the door.


Bill’s jaw dropped as his dress uniform was thrust unceremoniously into his hands.  “You can use the spare room.”


Janet and Kristin began to giggle when they heard Bill exclaim “Women!” before he stomped down the hall. 


Both women were in dressing gowns with their hair in curlers.  Kristin was perched in a chair with her feet propped in another as she leaned over painting her toenails.  Janet lay back on the bed and picked up the magazine she’d thrown down when Bill interrupted them.


“How did Admiral Lansdowne take the news?”  Janet peered over the top of the magazine just in time to see Kristin slide the polish brush down her toe.


“Shit!”  Kristin muttered before giving Janet a hard stare.  “Don’t start with me.  I have never given the man any encouragement, you know that.  Besides, I didn’t tell him.  I just avoided him for the last week or so.”


“You may have avoided him but he’s bound to have heard.  You and Nathan have spent every evening together since he returned.  So, tell me.  Is Nathan as good as I’ve heard he is?”


Kristin blushed scarlet.  “I’m sure I don’t know what you mean!”


“Oh please!”  Janet carefully gauged Kristin’s reaction.  “The way you two look at each other when you think no one else is watching, the way you touch each other when you think no one else is watching.  The way Ginny saw Nathan sneaking out of your house at six am?  Don’t tell me there hasn’t been at least some really heavy foreplay!  So did you and he…?”


Kristin’s brown eyes grew even wider than usual.  “She saw him?  Oh, God.”


“Kristin, I’m teasing you.  Well, yes Ginny did see Nathan, and when the two of you are together there is obviously something between you but…” Janet was afraid she’d pushed too far with her little experiment but Kristin quickly recovered.


“Nathan hasn’t even been inside the house this week.  Well, not at night.  He and Lucas did come over one afternoon and do some yard work.  I think we’ve seen every movie in town and been to most of the restaurants.  We’ve even had a few very nice walks on the beach.  But he always says goodnight at the door.”


“Says goodnight?”  Janet’s eyebrows arched and Kristin’s color rose once again.


“You don’t always have to speak with words.”  She murmured.


Janet started to speak then hesitated before continuing.  “Kristin, are you… comfortable with what’s happening?  Don’t let yourself be pushed into something that you aren’t ready for.  Nathan will wait.”


A small smile touched Kristin’s lips.  “You know that I had a very hard time after… but in the last few months the nightmares have almost gone away.  Instead I’ve begun to dream about Nathan, about being with Nathan.  I can’t really explain it.  I just feel so comfortable around him but at the same time he… excites me like no man ever has.  He makes me remember all of those special feelings that I thought the bastard had killed.  I know it sounds crazy but… I just know that Nathan would never hurt me, at least intentionally.  I trust him.”


Janet smiled, Kristin’s words reassuring her worries.  “I think you are right to trust him.  Nathan Bridger is the most trustworthy man I’ve ever known, Bill Noyce included.  Now, do you want to take your hair down first or do you want me too?”


Kristin stood and headed toward the bathroom door.  “I’ll get mine.  I won’t be long.  And the answer to your question is I don’t know if he’s as good as you’ve heard but he’s the best I’ve ever had.”


Kristin giggled at the sight of Janet’s fallen jaw as she closed the door firmly behind her.




Bill pounded on the door the bedroom he and Janet shared for the third time in two hours.  “Come on, Janet.  This is getting ridiculous.  Our guests are beginning to arrive.  Who is going to play hostess?”


“We will be out in a few minutes.”  He heard Janet’s voice from the other side of the door.  “And the only guest here is Nathan and he doesn’t count.  Just go dig him up a beer and have one yourself.”


Bill rolled his eyes for not the first time that night and stomped down the stairs.


“Women!”  He growled at Nathan who began to chuckle.  “They’ve been locked in that room for over three hours and they still aren’t ready!”


“I’m sure it will be worth the wait.”


“It better be.  Ginny even deserted me.  She went over to Cindy Kreig’s to get ready.  Janet actually threw my dress uniform out the door at me!”


“At least yours was handy.  I had to send Lucas over to the house to scrounge mine up.”


The sound of the front door slamming distracted them and Ginny and David, her fiancé, along with Cynthia McCallister Krieg, soon joined them.  Nathan spoke pleasantly to all of them but he noticed that Cynthia seemed particularly reserved with him.  He wondered if she’d heard about his dates with her mother.  Nathan knew that Cindy had idolized the man she thought of as her father, not knowing about the abuse her mother had suffered at his hands.


“Where is Ben?  I’d like to see the boy.” 


Cindy stared at her hands.  Nathan couldn’t remember her acting this shy the last time he’d seen her but then she had been only sixteen then.  Finally she answered.  “Ben is working on another island right now.  He should be home in a few days.


“Well it looks like the gang’s all here!”  Nathan turned to see Janet standing in the doorway, looking lovely in a yellow evening gown.  His gaze was quickly turned to the woman standing just behind her.  As Janet moved into the room Nathan got his first view of Kristin and he was stunned at her beauty. 


She wore a gown of wine colored silk that seemed to float around her.  The dress had a slightly cowled neckline that showed off her magnificent bosom and no sleeves.  It hugged her hips like a glove before flaring slightly to allow her room to dance.  Her otherwise bare arms were covered past the elbow with matching silk gloves and her heeled slippers also matched.  Her hair was pulled away from her face with two delicate combs but left to hang loose around her shoulders.


Nathan started to move to her side but Cynthia beat him there so he remained where he was, his eyes glued to her figure.  She caught his gaze and raised an eyebrow slightly.  He replied by pursing his lips in a silent whistle and allowing a lecherous look to creep into his eyes.  Her smile grew. 


Ginny came up with some sort of idea and dragged Cindy out of the room with her just as Janet returned with the drink tray.  Nathan grabbed two glasses from the tray and quickly trapped Kristin in the corner.


“Thirsty?”  He offered her the glass.


“Maybe just a little.  I don’t drink very much and I’m sure there will be champagne at the dance.”


“I can guarantee it.  You look absolutely gorgeous.”


“Thank you.”  Kristin’s eyes shone at the compliment.


“I need to kiss you.”  Nathan whispered as his eyes darted around the room.


“Maybe we could slip away to the back porch?”  Nathan nodded in agreement to her suggestions and they moved toward the door but Ginny and Cynthia chose that moment to return.  Ginny held a camera in her hand.


“Not so quick, Uncle Nathan.  We’ve got to have pictures.  I always get pictures.”


Nathan rolled his eyes, remembering the camera he and Carol had give Ginny for her tenth birthday.  She’d fallen in love with it and had become the official ‘family’ photographer. 


“Why did I ever give you a camera?”  He moaned but Ginny just laughed, knowing her godfather was teasing her.  They all dutifully posed for photographs before Ginny pulled out some of her previous work to show David.


Nathan caught Kristin’s eye, his frustration clearly visible on his face as he inclined his head slightly toward the door.  She nodded slightly and they once again began to work their way toward the outside only to be stopped by a sob from Cynthia.


“Oh, Mummy!  Look!  It’s you and daddy.  He looked so handsome that night!”


Nathan was watching Kristin’s reaction carefully so he was privy to the patented ‘mummy’ smile she painted on her face.  “Yes, darling, he looked very handsome.  And didn’t you and Ginny look lovely.”  Kristin quickly diverted their attention to another photo. 


“Uncle Nathan!  Here’s one of you and Aunt Carol and Bobby.  This must be the last photo we took…” Ginny’s voice trailed off as she realized the inappropriateness of her comment but Nathan took it in stride as he clasped a hand on Ginny’s shoulder and smiled at her.


“It’s a very good picture, Ginny.  I’d like to have a copy of it if I may.”


“Of course, Uncle Nathan.  Aunt Carol looked so pretty that night.  I always loved that dress.”


“And Robert was so handsome in his dress uniform.”  Cynthia observed.


The two young women continued to flip through photos and comment until Nathan felt like screaming.  He hadn’t considered that the dance tonight would bring back so many memories of the last dance he’d attended.  Finally he excused himself and slipped off to the back porch for a breath of air, knowing that Kristin wouldn’t join him now and not really sure that he wanted her too.  Nathan spent a few minutes on the dark porch staring at the full moon on the horizon until he had his emotions under control.


He returned to the house and headed back toward the front room but was distracted by the sound of Kristin’s voice in the kitchen.  He moved to the door knowing that Janet would look the other way while he apologized for his exit but as he pushed on the door he realized that the second voice belonged to Cynthia.


“Please, Mother.  You have to do this for me.  I’m your daughter.  I should come first.”


“Cynthia, you don’t realize what you are asking of me.  I’ve done everything for you but I just can’t do this.  I can’t hide this from him.”


“You can distract him.  You’ve done it before.  Please!”


Nathan heard the catch in Kristin’s voice.  “For a little while longer, but only for a while.  I want this settled soon.  Ben will be back in two days.  You have until then.”


Nathan couldn’t decide if a healthy curiosity was one of his greatest assets or his greatest curse but he was dying to know what the two women were talking about.  He quickly stifled his inquisitiveness.  From what he had heard he would guess that perhaps Cynthia and Ben were having problems and he shouldn’t interfere.


He flattened himself into the shadows of the back hall as Cynthia exited the kitchen and returned to the others without noticing him.  Kristin followed soon after but found herself imprisoned in strong arms and pulled back into the shadows.


Nathan lowered his lips to hers as his hands pulled her closer. 

“Kristin?”  He stopped mid kiss as his hands reached bare flesh.  He shifted his head so that he could peer over her shoulder.  He hadn’t seen her from the rear so he didn’t realize that her dress had a very low back.  “Aren’t you missing part of your dress?”


He felt her smile against his neck.  “I have a matching wrap.”


Nathan’s curiosity, as well as another body part, was aroused once again and he slid his hands slowly around her sides to cup her full breasts.  He groaned. 


“God, woman!  What are you trying to do to me?”


“The back is too low.  If I wore a bra I’d have to make sure that I didn’t take the shawl off all night and it might be warm.  I didn’t know that you’d mind.”


“Oh, yeah.  I really mind.”  Nathan captured her lips again; sucking greedily on her tongue as his hands began to kneed the soft flesh covered only by a thin layer of silk.  He thought he would explode when he felt her nipples immediately tent the fine fabric and burn into his palms.


“Hem.”  Janet cleared her throat loudly and tried without success to hide her smile at the couple wrapped in each other’s arms.


“I’m going to run upstairs before we leave and I thought you might want to go with me.”


Kristin untangled her body from Nathan’s as Janet made a little gesture toward her lips.


“I’d better powder my nose.” 


“And take a cold shower while you’re at it.”  Janet told Kristin when she walked into the light, a pointed glance at her chest revealing the reason for the comment.  Janet hung her head over the banister to stare at Nathan as he moved out of the shadows. 


“You too.”


Janet’s comment made Nathan painfully aware of how aroused he’d become.  He saw a coated arm swing through the door of the front room and quickly dived into the kitchen.  Bill found him there a few minutes later, standing in front of the refrigerator with the door open.


A huge grin split Bill’s face.  “Going to be a long night isn’t it?”


Nathan couldn’t help but laugh.  “My friend, it’s going to be a hell of a long night.”




Nathan glowered into the crowd as he sipped his beer.  They’d been mobbed as soon as they arrived at the hall, mostly by single men.  Kristin had patiently dismissed all dance requests for the first half-hour but eventually politeness required that she accept some of them.  At the moment she was on the dance floor with Admiral Landsdowne and Nathan was incredibly jealous.


“He does outrank you.  Beside I thought the two of you were friends.”  Nathan heard Bill’s voice in his ear.


“So?  If he doesn’t watch where he puts his hands I’m still going to have to beat him up.”


Bill began to chuckle.  “I don’t see how getting yourself thrown in the brig is going to solve your problem.  You’ve really got it bad haven’t you?  Nathan, Kristin has been dealing with these sharks for almost two years.  She’s the widow of a very influential man and she’s damned gorgeous.  Respect for her supposed grief didn’t last more than a few months.  She knows how to fend them off.”


Nathan hadn’t considered that Kristin’s life might have moved on while he was sulking on his submarine.  “Has she… been involved with any of them?”


‘Oh, my friend.  Your green-eyed monster is showing!’  “She’s been out on a few dates but she wasn’t ready and none of them were you.  She wouldn’t have said that was the reason but Janet and I knew.  Most of them respect her feelings.  Lansdowne, however, continues to be persistent.  She thinks he’s harmless.”


“I’m going to have to break his hand if he doesn’t keep it at her waist.”  Nathan scowled as the Admiral’s mobile hand brushed across Kristin’s bottom, but had to chuckle at the classy way Kristin quickly maneuvered the hand back into its appropriate position.


“Just go get Kristin and dance with her.  I’ll distract Malcolm.”


“Thanks, Bill.  You’re a pal.”


“That’s right and don’t you forget it.  You are going to owe me big time for this one.”


The instant the song ended Nathan was at Kristin’s side claiming her hand for the next one.  Lansdowne did not give up easily but Bill kept his promise and gradually pulled the Admiral’s attention away from the couple. 


The orchestra struck up the opening strains of ‘Moonlight Serenade’ and Nathan pulled Kristin into his arms.  She fit perfectly.  Nathan held her close, much closer than polite society would have deemed proper but he had to feel her body against his.  She didn’t protest.


“We danced to this song before, remember?”  Kristin asked him.


“I remember.  I remember that you looked almost as beautiful that night as you do tonight.  But that was another lifetime.  I want to concentrate on the here and now.”


Kristin sighed as she felt his lips brush her hair.  “I love dancing with you.”


“As opposed to Admiral Malcolm Lansdowne and his octopus hands?”


Kristin giggled.  “They are very migratory aren’t they?  He was quizzing me about you and me.”


“He’s jealous.”


“Probably, but not for the reason you think.  That man has a strong desire to move up in the world, perhaps even political aspirations.  Unfortunately he is in charge of the hospital and I want to keep working there so I have to be polite.”


“If he bothers you at all just let me know.  I’ll take care of it. He’s really not a bad sort.  If he touches your bottom again I’ll take care of it as well.”


“Nathan, I don’t want to talk about Admiral Lansdowne. I want to enjoy dancing with you.  I love the way you feel pressed against me.”


Nathan was taking back by her sudden change of subject and what the statement implied.  He felt a familiar tug in his groin as her hips brushed against his.


“Kris?”  His breathless whisper betrayed his arousal.


Her eyes shone with laughter and happiness and Nathan knew that she wanted him to kiss her.  His head bent forward but she turned hers away.  “Not here.”


Nathan groaned.  He’d forgotten they were in a room full of people.


“Let’s go out to the balcony.”


Kristin nodded, her eyes locked to Nathan’s as the tap came on his shoulder. 


“Do you mind if I cut in, Captain?” 


Lansdowne was back and his tone left little doubt that Nathan was being ordered to step aside.  He bristled but Kristin placed a restraining hand on his arm.


“That would be lovely.”  She told Admiral Lansdowne in her best diplomatic voice.  She inclined her head toward the balcony and gave Nathan a surreptitious wink before moving into Lansdowne’s arms.


Nathan was fuming as he made his way over to the refreshment table and grabbed another beer.  He camped out on the edge of the balcony exit, never taking his eyes off the dancing couple.  He saw Landsdowne attempt to pull Kristin as close as he had held her and her gentle push back to reestablish the distance between them. ‘That’s my girl!’


“Where the hell were you?”  He asked Bill when the man approached.  “You were supposed to be running interference?”


“He got away from me.  I couldn’t tackle him.  He has never been this persistent before.  He thinks you’re poaching his territory.  Don’t glare at me!  You’re the one who showed up after eighteen months and captured her heart.”


Nathan’s face softened slightly.  “She captured my heart, Bill.  From the first moment I saw her she owned it.  I don’t understand how that happened because I loved my wife and I would never have done anything to hurt her.  But the feelings were still there even if I would never have acted on them.”


“Look, why don’t you go dance with Cynthia?  If you and Kristin are going forward with this relationship maybe you should spend some time with her daughter.  Just a word of advice, go slow.  Cynthia was really torn up after the seventh.  She idolized her father and might have trouble accepting you.”


Nathan heeded Bill’s words as he strode across the room to Cynthia’s side.  She hesitated before accepting his invitation but soon they were on the dance floor.  Nathan caught a gleam of approval in Kristin’s eye as she and the Admiral danced by.


“I saw your son at your mother’s house over a month ago.  He seems like a very fine boy.”  Nathan tried to make light conversation, knowing most mothers couldn’t resist talking about their children.  But Cynthia wasn’t most mothers.


“Thank you.”  She whispered in reply and didn’t say anything else.


“How is Ben?”  Nathan tried another tactic.  “I hope that I get a chance to see him before we ship out.  I think I owe him an apology for almost breaking his arm.”


“I’m sure he would like to see you as well.  He thinks very highly of you.  When do you leave?”


‘Is she that anxious to get me away from her mother?’  “We will probably be in port off and on for another month.  Our refit is almost finished but we will have to test it thoroughly before we get too far away from land.”


Cynthia’s face fell momentarily before she painted a bright smile back on.


Nathan decided to take the direct approach.  “Look, Cynthia, I know that you were very close to your father and that it must be difficult to see your mother with someone else but let me reassure you.  I care for Kristin very deeply and I think she cares for me too.  Surely you don’t want her to be alone for the rest of her life.”


“No, Captain, I don’t want her to be alone.  Yes, I do find it very difficult to see Mother with any man other than Daddy.”  Nathan expected this response but was very surprised as Cynthia continued.  “But Mother is happier with you than she has been in a very long time and that makes me happy.  I think the two of you are a wonderful couple and I hope that things progress between you.”


Nathan couldn’t believe that Cynthia was giving the okay to his dating Kristin, even though something in her voice didn’t ring quite true.  Perhaps she was upset that her mother was so happy when there were problems in her own marriage.  Nathan had to remind himself that Cynthia was only seventeen.  ‘Too young to be a wife and a mother.  Damn war!’


They neared the edge of the dance floor and Cynthia broke her contact with Nathan.  “Mother just slipped through the balcony doors and the Admiral is looking for her.  I think that’s your cue.”


Nathan gave the girl a grateful smile before crossing the room and slipping into the warm night air.  He moved instinctively to the shadows of the balcony where he had kissed Kristin for the first time.  She was waiting for him.  No words were needed as he swept her into his arms and kissed her ravenously.


Suddenly Nathan broke the kiss, his eyes peering into the darkness.  “Bill?”


A few moments later a sheepish Janet emerged from the deeper shadows followed closely by her equally sheepish husband.


“That shade looks lovely on you.”  Nathan told Bill as he chuckled at the man’s lipstick covered mouth. 


“You don’t have any room to talk, buddy!”  Bill’s retort only made Nathan laugh louder.


“Lansdowne!”  Janet hissed and pulled on Bill until they were blocking the other couple.  Nathan pulled Kristin deeper into the shadows and down a set of steps.  He didn’t stop until they reached the beach. 


Nathan glanced back toward the building in the distance and saw no one approaching.  “I think the coast is clear for the moment.”


Kristin was laughing silently.  “He really is harmless.  Just a big teddy bear.  He has a crush on me.”


“Judging from his hands and their fascination with your ass I’d say it’s considerably more than a crush.  I should know.  I recognize the feeling.”


Nathan was rewarded with a warm smile from his lady.  “We aren’t really dressed for a walk on the beach but would you like to hide out here for a while anyway?”


Kristin nodded and picked her way across the open sand to a rock outcropping that afforded them a bit more privacy.  She beckoned to Nathan with her index finger.  He gave her a little boy grin and followed willingly.


“Now where were we?” Nathan asked as he lowered his head back to hers.  He kissed her tenderly, gently nibbling her lips with his own.  His tongue flicked out to brush them before retreating, only to reappear moments later.  Kristin opened her mouth beneath his, demanding and receiving the same response from him.


Nathan’s hands began to move lightly over Kristin’s bare back as their tongues continued their passionate dance.  When both were in danger of passing out from lack of oxygen, Nathan broke the kiss and began to trail his mouth down her neck. Nathan’s lips were working magic on the hollow of Kristin’s throat when he felt her breath catch.  His hands moved to her shoulders and began to play with the carefully placed straps there.


Nathan pulled back and stared into Kristin’s face.  A full moon hung in the sky and silvery light bathed Kristin’s features, giving her an ethereal glow as her lips murmured a whispered plea.  Nathan’s fingers slid beneath the thin straps of the gown and began to pull them slowly down.  The bodice of the gown slid down with the straps, slowly revealing her creamy flesh. 


Desire flowed between them as Kristin dropped her arms to her side, allowing the straps to slide all the way down.  The bodice pooled low on her waist revealing her torso to Nathan’s gaze. 


“So beautiful!” He murmured as his fingertips began to trace the line of her collarbone and down to where her gentle swell began.  He bent his head back to the hollow of her throat to continue where he left off.  Kristin gasped and ran her hands into his hair, holding him to her even as she pushed her body into his. 


Sssh.  Easy.”  Nathan whispered as his hands cupped her full mounds and lowered his mouth to lave one rosy peak while his thumb worked the other one.  Kristin’s breath began to come in short pants and Nathan glanced up to see her eyes close as she struggled to control herself.  ‘God!  She’s about to come just from me touching her breasts!’


Nathan redoubled his efforts on her breasts as one hand slid to her waist.  His fingers worked their way beneath the silky fabric, being careful not to dislodge it from its precarious hold on her hips.  His index finger found the band of her panties and slipped beneath, only to come out the other side.  ‘A garter belt?’  His hand slipped down a bit further to find only firm flesh. 


A deep moan escaped Nathan’s throat when he realized that she wasn’t wearing any underwear.  His hand slipped even further beneath her dress and down her firm bottom to cup a globe, his fingertips brushing the patch of deep curls between her legs.  


Kristin’s body tensed and jerked against Nathan’s hand as she suppressed a small scream and climaxed from the touch of his hand.  Her hands fell from Nathan’s head to drape down his back and her head fell forward until her lips brushed his hair. 


Nathan’s hand was at his zipper when her heard laughter in the distance.  ‘Damn! Not again!’  But in one way he was grateful.  He intended to make love to Kristin properly and a public beach wasn’t where he wanted that to happen.  He straightened and pulled her close to him as he slid her dress back up her body and anchored the straps firmly on her shoulders.


“Kris?” He questioned quietly, wanting to be sure that what he thought had happened had.  Her reactions were nothing like Nathan expected but he was sure that in time he could increase her pleasure. 


She turned her face to look up at him, a dreamy smile on her face.  “Thank you,” she whispered.  Nathan stared at the play of moonlight on her sable tresses as he struggled to control his own desire.


A swift rub of her hips against his revealed that desire to Kristin.  “Why don’t we go home now?” She whispered to him, her eyes full of promise. 


“Are you sure?  You don’t have to do this because of me…” Kristin silenced Nathan with a soft kiss.


“I’m sure.  You’ve been invading my dreams for weeks… months.  I want reality.  Help me remember the joy of lovemaking.” Her eyes told Nathan she was speaking the truth.


“Just give me a minute to calm down then we’ll go make our excuses.  Kristin, what happened to your underwear?”


“I didn’t wear any.  Why do you think Admiral Lansdowne kept rubbing my bottom?  He was looking for a panty line.”


“Damn, this means I’m going to have to hurt him.”


Kristin shivered slightly and Nathan realized that her wrap had fallen to the sand at her feet.  He picked it up and brushed it off before draping it around her shoulders. 


“Cold?” He asked, noticing that the temperature had cooled off slightly with the rising of the moon.  He pulled her back into the loose circle of his arms and held her as their mouths once more sought each other out.  Kristin’s hands caressed his sides as gently as her lips caressed his.


“Uhm… my hands are cold.”


“Why don’t you slip them in my pockets?”


She did, but to Nathan’s disappointment she chose his jacket pockets instead of his pants pockets. 


‘Probably best if we want to make it back to the house.’


Nathan felt the laughter bubble in Kristin’s throat as their tongues wrapped around each other.




Her hand slipped out of his pocket, bringing with it a long length of chiffon fabric.


“Should I be worr…” Kristin stopped speaking at the look on Nathan’s face.  He seemed stunned, almost oblivious to her presence as he stared at the scarf.


Kristin grew frightened as he continued to remain unresponsive.  She grabbed his shoulders and shook him.  He looked up to stare at her, the blank look in his eyes scaring her even more.


“Nathan, talk to me!  What is wrong?”


Nathan’s hands gripped the scarf as a low keen rose in his throat.  Kristin stepped back, stunned as he ripped the scarf apart and ran down the beach.


“Nathan!” Kristin screamed after him but he didn’t acknowledge her. 


Kristin didn’t know what had happened to Nathan but she knew that it was very bad.  She grabbed the end of the fabric that had fallen to the sand and hiked up her skirt to run back to the officer’s club.


Malcolm Lansdowne intercepted her as soon as she entered the ballroom doors but she quickly shrugged him off and ran to Janet.


Janet saw the distress in Kristin’s face.  “What is wrong?”


Kristin held out the scarf.  “Do you recognize this?  Why would it upset Nathan so?”


Janet’s face softened.  “The scarf was Carol’s. It went with an evening gown, the gown she wore that last night as a matter of fact.  I remember because she lost the scarf.  I offered to help her look for it, retrace her steps, but she said forget about it.  That was strange.  This was her favorite dress.”


A memory popped into Kristin’s mind unbidden – Nathan’s arms wrapped around her as he stared at her bruised body and his words – “He should be grateful that you married him but instead he beats you up and cheats on you.” And then another memory came – “Tonight I had a real woman, one who’d do anything to help her husband.  Not like you, you stupid bitch.”  She’d assumed that Nathan had heard about Jack’s affairs from base gossip but what if he’d found evidence of them on his own.


“Kristin?”  Janet watched the blood drain from Kristin’s face as her eyes closed. Kristin’s lips were moving even though no sound was coming out and after a moment Janet could make out the words.


“Oh no, not Carol… please… anyone but Carol… you damned bastard… not his wife.”


Suddenly Kristin’s eyes snapped open and met Janet’s.  She saw the truth in them.


“You knew!”


Janet’s face fell.  “I suspected.  That’s a long way from knowing.”


“Tell me.  No, I have to find Nathan now.  You will tell me though.”  The tone in Kristin’s voice brooked no argument and Janet offered none. 


“Do you have any idea where Nathan would go?”


Kristin shook her head but then the puzzlement in her face cleared.  “He’s gone to the house.  I’ve got to get there.”  She turned and ran from the ballroom.


Malcolm Lansdowne once again tried to intercept her.  “Kristin.  You’re upset.  Let me escort you home.”


Kristin shook him away.  “Not now, Malcolm.”  He tried to grab hold of her again but she eluded him and ran straight into the broad chest of Chief Crocker as he exited his car.


“Whoa, Ma’am!  You sure are in a hurry.”


“Chief!  I’ve got to get home quickly.  Please help me.  Nathan needs me!”


Crocker swung the passenger door open for her to enter then slid behind the wheel and peeled out of the parking lot.




Crocker slid to a stop in front of the house and Kristin threw the door open and ran across the lawn.  Crocker caught her just as she reached the front door.


“Let me go!  I’ve got to get to him!”


“Only if I go with you.  That door has been kicked in and I’ve never seen the Captain angry enough to do that.”


“You don’t understand, Chief.”  Kristin hadn’t told Crocker anything more than that Nathan was extremely upset and she was afraid for him.  “Nathan won’t hurt me.  You can follow behind but you must stay out of the way until I see him.”


Crocker nodded and let her go but he followed closely behind.  Kristin gasped slightly as she saw the broken furniture flung around the living area but she passed through and headed down the hall.  She held her hand out to Crocker to stop then slowly entered the bedroom which Nathan and Carol had shared.  Most of the furniture in the room had been destroyed and the wall was full of holes.  Nathan sat on the floor in the midst of the rubble.  The piece of silk that he’d carried with him lay on the floor and the matching dress lay in tatters on his lap.


Kristin approached him cautiously.  “Nathan?”  She whispered his name as she laid a hand on his shoulder.  He didn’t acknowledge her.  She fell to her knees beside him and touched his face, turning it up to her own.  The vacant look in his deep blue eyes terrified her.  She didn’t know what to say to reach him but something in her eyes touched him and he wrapped his arms around her as his body began to shake with his sobs.




Kristin had no idea of how much time had passed when she heard Janet’s voice speak quietly behind her and looked up to see the older woman’s reflection in the broken mirror.  She carefully disengaged Nathan’s arms from her body but he didn’t seem to notice as she slipped out of the room.


Janet’s eyes asked, ‘How is he?’  And Kristin’s answered, ‘Not good.’


“I’ve got to get him out of this house.  He can’t stay here, not until he’s dealt with it in his own mind.”


Janet chewed her lip a moment.  “There is a place… Bill and I bought it when we were stationed here twenty years ago.  It’s on the other side of the island and it is very small, not much more than a beach shack, but the renters left a few weeks ago.  Nathan has never been there so maybe…”


Kristin nodded.  “Any place is better than here.  Can you… will you and Bill help me?”


“Of course.  Bill has the car waiting just outside.”


Kristin ran to her bedroom and quickly changed out of her evening gown and into slacks and a blouse.  She shoved a change of clothes into a small bag and moved into the destroyed bedroom to gather the same for Nathan.


His gut wrenching cry pulled her back to his side and he wrapped his arms around her again. 


“Don’t leave me!  Don’t ever leave me!  Please!”


Sssh.  I’m right here and I’m not going anywhere.”  Nathan held on to her like he would never release her as she coaxed him to his feet and guided him slowly down the hallway toward the front door.


If Kristin had ever had any doubt as to how Bill Noyce felt about Nathan Bridger the look on his face at the sight of his friend cleared it away.  He was heart broken at his friend’s devastation.  Nathan allowed Bill to help him down the front stairs but he wouldn’t relinquish his hold on Kristin.  He clung to her as Bill drove through the silvery moonlight. 


The journey across the island took over an hour due to the roughness of the roads.  Once they arrived, Bill and Janet helped Kristin get Nathan into the small beach bungalow before reluctantly giving in to her request to leave them alone. 


“He doesn’t need a lot of people around to remind him about the past right now.  He has to work through this in his own way and he needs to be alone.  I’ll take care of him.  Bill, I swear to you I’ll watch over him.”


Bill nodded and even though it pained him to do so he took Janet’s arm and said good-bye.  Janet called to Kristin that she would check on them tomorrow and bring food then everything went quiet as the sound of Bill’s car engine faded into the distance. 




Kristin stared at the solitary figure sitting at the edge of the water with worry in her eyes.  They’d been at the cottage for four days and Nathan seemed to be improving but he wouldn’t talk to her. He seldom spoke at all, never about anything important but he wouldn’t let her get very far out of his sight.  The only time he left her was to go to the beach.  He sat there now staring into the afternoon sun.


A quiet knock at the door pulled her attention from the window.  With a worried glance back at the window she moved toward the door.  Janet waited patiently on the other side.  Kristin stepped out onto the porch and pulled the door closed behind her.


“I brought you some more food.  Are you doing okay?”


“He gets a little better each day.  He isn’t talking to me yet but I think that he will in time.”


“I know that you will help Nathan, but that isn’t what I asked.  How are you doing?”


A tear came to Kristin’s eye.  “I’m okay.  It’s difficult, of course, but… I want to be with him, help him anyway I can.”


“Kristin, maybe I’m speaking out of turn but this might not be the best time for you and Nathan to advance…”


Kristin rolled her eyes and laughed.  “You don’t have anything to worry about.  That is the last thing on his mind.  We share the same bed at night but only because he can’t sleep unless I hold him.  I’m no stranger to nightmares so I understand.”


Kristin glanced anxiously back at the door.  “Has anything been said about Nathan’s absence?”


“Admiral Lansdowne has been very interested in both his absence and yours but Bill has taken care of the paperwork.  Nathan hasn’t had leave since the attack.”


“Good.  Once this is settled I think that we need to sit down and have a long talk but now isn’t the time or place.”


Janet nodded in agreement.  “Do you need anything for tomorrow?”


Kristin spoke with Janet a few more moments before seeing her off.  She returned to the house to hear Nathan screaming her name.  She quickly opened the back door just in time to see him leap up the back porch.  He grabbed her in his embrace.


“Why didn’t you answer?”  He nuzzled his face into her hair. 


“I was on the front porch.  Janet just dropped off some supplies.”


“I thought you had left me.”


Kristin tightened her arms around him.  “I’m not going any where, Nathan.  I’m right here and I’m not leaving you.”


She led him to the back of the house and climbed onto the bed with Nathan following close behind.  She quickly arranged the pillows against the headboard and laid back.  Nathan lay beside her, his head resting on her chest as she gently stroked his hair.


“Just sleep.  I’ll be right here when you wake up.”




Kristin woke to find herself alone, a wonderful aroma drifting through the room.  She straightened her clothes as she moved toward the aroma.  Nathan stood at the stove stirring something that smelled delicious.


“I hope you’re hungry.”  He smiled as she approached him and peeked over the shoulder. 


“Suddenly I’m ravenous.  That smells wonderful.”


“Think you can wait about an hour?  This needs to simmer for awhile.  We could go for a walk on the beach and build our appetite.”


Kristin felt the difference in Nathan’s attitude and heard it in his voice.  “That sounds wonderful.”


The sun was beginning to sink into the sea as they stepped onto the sand and began walking, Nathan’s arm wrapped around Kristin’s waist.  They walked in silence for awhile before Kristin finally spoke.


“You feel better, don’t you?”


“I feel connected to the world again. Thank you for standing by me.”


“Do you want to talk about it?  If not to me then I’m sure that Bill would listen.  He’s been so worried.  We all have.”


“Maybe someday, but definitely not now.  When Janet comes tomorrow we’ll catch a ride back with her it that’s okay.  I have a house to clean up as I recall.”


“I’ll do that.  You don’t have to go back there.”


“Yes, I do.  Just once more, then I’m going to put it up for sale.  I won’t sell it out from under you but I don’t want to go back there.”


“Then I’ll find someplace else to live.  I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable when you come to see me… if you still want to see me.”


Nathan turned Kristin into his arms.  “Not want to see you?  Kris… you’re my lifeline.  I can’t imagine ever being without you.  Once this damned war is over… well, this isn’t the time or place for that but you need to know that I don’t intend to ever let you go.”




Kristin caught Lucas’ arm to stop him from following Nathan as the older man walked through the front door for the third time since they’d started cleaning up.


“Just leave him.  He needs a break.”


Lucas’ face fell.  He had come to admire his captain, looked on him as a father figure, and he couldn’t stand to see him hurting.  “I don’t understand.”


“I know you don’t, Lucas, but Captain Bridger has a lot of personal issues to work through.  He will be okay.  He’s a strong man.”


They returned to the bedroom to continue cleaning up the evidence of Nathan’s anger.  This job was soon finished and by the time they returned to the living room Nathan had returned.  He was busy gathering up the wood splinters that had once been a table and the pieces of glass from the pictures that had been on top of it.


Kristin saw him pause and stare at a photograph so she went over to see.


“So young and innocent.”  She heard Nathan murmur and she dropped a hand to his shoulder for a light caress.  “So cute.”


“Uhm.”  She agreed.  “He looks like an angel but he can behave like the very devil himself.”


Nathan turned to stare at her with a puzzled look on his face. “What?”


Kristin pointed to the picture.  “Teddy… he can be quite a handful sometimes in spite of his innocent look.”


Nathan turned back to the picture.  “Teddy?  No, this is Robert.  I remember when he looked just…”


Nathan’s voice faded away as his mind was overwhelmed.  Realization struck.  “Teddy is Robert’s son?  Robert fathered a child?  My grandson!?  You knew?  Why didn’t you tell me?”   But his mind couldn’t leave it there and a memory invaded.  ‘You can distract him.  You’ve done it before.’  And then… ‘For a little while longer.’


“This whole thing…you were trying to keep me from finding out about Teddy.  You were trying to ‘distract me’.”


Kristin’s face blanched as she realized that Nathan must have overheard at least part of her conversation with Cynthia.  “NO!  I wouldn’t do that to you, Nathan.  You know that.  I told Cynthia that you needed to be told the truth.”


“You’re lying.  You’re no different from any other woman.  You all lie and you manipulate.  I trusted you and you are no better than she is!”


Nathan brushed past Kristin and headed toward the front door.


“Nathan!  Can’t we talk about this, please? You have to listen to me.”


“I don’t have anything else to say to you.  I can’t believe that I was foolish enough to trust you.  I don’t ever want to see you again.”


Kristin’s voice was soft as velvet but as hard as steel as he reached the doorway.  “If you leave now, if you won’t try and let me explain, don’t ever expect to come back.”


Nathan kept walking.




“WHAT in the HELL do you THINK you’re DOING?  WHY are you TRYING to SCREW UP your LIFE?”


Nathan cringed as Janet’s voice cut through the silent shell he’d encased himself in for a week.  He should have known she’d managed to get through security to board his sub again.  He squared his shoulders and turned to face her, surprised to find Bill standing with her.


“Did you know that the boy was Robert’s?”


“I don’t see what the hell that has to do with the price of tea in China but yes, I figured it out.  We aren’t stupid in spite of what all of you seem to think.  Cynthia and Robert were absolutely crazy about each other then she marries Ben six weeks after the attack?  Nathan, you are not being rational.”


“I’m not being rational?  They tried to keep my grandchild away from me.  The only thing left of the only good thing from my sham of a marriage.  How many men were there, Janet?  You knew about them too didn’t you?  God!  I can’t trust anyone.”


Janet’s face softened slightly as she viewed Nathan’s torment.  “You have never doubted either Bill or me in thirty years and you have no reason to start now.  I swear to you that to my knowledge Carol was never unfaithful to you, at least until that last night.  You know as well as I that you would have heard it through base gossip.”


Tears began to stream down Nathan’s face.  “Why did she do it, Janet?  I know she didn’t like the navy life but I thought she loved me!”


Nathan sat down heavily in his chair and Janet and Bill sat on the edge of his bunk facing him.


“Carol did love you, Nathan, more than her own self-respect.  I spent a lot of time with Carol in the weeks prior to the attack and I know that she was more agitated than usual.  The base was full of rumors of an imminent attack, of America being pulled into the war and she was terrified of losing you and Robert.  I know she talked to Bill about the possibility of a desk job for you,” Nathan looked to Bill who simply nodded, content to let his wife take the lead in this difficult talk.  “I honestly believe that she did what she did because he promised her he would get you and Robert out of the line of fire.”


“Why didn’t she talk to me?”


“You and Carol had been talking about this for years.  You hadn’t been in port for three months.  Would you have given her fears any more weight than you ever did?  No… that isn’t a criticism of you.  I know that you did everything you could to make Carol happy but in the end you just couldn’t.  I don’t think anyone could.  Her fears took over, Nathan.   She was irrational.  And let’s face it, Jack McCallister would have done anything he could to hurt you.”


“But why?  He couldn’t have known that I was developing feelings for his wife.  I didn’t even know…”


Bill finally spoke up.  “You saw through him, from the very instant that you met him you didn’t like him.  He wasn’t used to that.  Also, I don’t think that he knew that you were the cause but he probably did realize that his wife’s backbone was coming back and he wasn’t a man who liked strong women.  Having Carol at his mercy probably gave him a sense of power.”


Nathan was still sick at the thought of his wife in Jack McCallister’s hands but something deep inside began to gain a glimmer of understanding at Janet’s words.


“The boy… I talked to a lawyer and he thinks that I could petition for the right to see him.”


“We heard.  Cynthia has gone absolutely insane with fear that you might take her child from her.  Do you think they would have kept you away?  Kristin always meant for you to know…” Janet’s voice trailed off.


“But I heard Kristin and Cindy in your kitchen.  Cindy was telling her to keep distracting me.”


“I want you to think very hard about what you might have heard because you’ve obviously misconstrued it.  Cynthia was sixteen years old.  She was crushed at loosing her father and absolutely devastated at loosing Robert. We tried to shield her but she had to have heard and understood at least some of Kristin’s nightmares and realized what her father did to her mother. She didn’t even have any idea that she was pregnant. Kristin figured it out then she called the children together to get answers.  Cynthia spent the night at our house after the party.”


“I remember.”  Nathan shivered involuntarily as the image of Kristin’s bruised body came into his mind. 


“Ginny helped her sneak out to meet Robert.  Things must have gotten out of hand.  When confronted the girls admitted it.  Kristin decided that she would take Cindy away to have the baby then raise it as her own, let the world believe that he belonged to McCallister.  Maybe she even hoped that when you came back the two of you might raise him together.  Cynthia wasn’t in any mental shape to argue.  Then Ben stepped forward and asked Cindy to marry him, asked her to let him raise Robert’s child.  Kristin thought Cynthia was too young but what else was there to do?  They married and Ben has been a wonderful father to that little boy.”


“I appreciate what Ben has done but that still didn’t give them any right to keep him away from me.’


“You’ve been the remote one.  You stayed away for eighteen months.  You refused to let anyone in.  Kristin is like a mother tiger about her daughter and grandson.  She wouldn’t take a chance on you turning your back on the boy or disappearing for another two years.  She wanted to be sure you were ready and she thought you were.  She told Cindy that you were to be told the truth as soon as Ben returned.  Look, Ben came with us.  He’s been trying to speak to you since he got back.  Are you willing to talk to him?”


All of Nathan’s defenses broke down.  “Yes, I’d like to talk to him.”


Bill and Janet left Nathan’s quarters and a few moments later, with a soft tap on the hatch, Ben Kreig appeared.


“Come in, Ben.”


“Thank you, sir.”  Nathan gestured at the chair and Ben sat down and began to speak.  “I want to apologize to you sir.  I had every intention of coming to you and telling you the truth about Teddy but… well, you shouldn’t have found out the way you did.”


“No, Lieutenant, I shouldn’t have.”  Ben’s face fell but Nathan continued.  “But circumstances dictated otherwise.  So I think the question should be now that I know what are we going to do about it?”


“We want you to know that you are welcome to see Teddy at any time and once he’s old enough to understand we will tell him the truth, but when that will be is our decision to make.  Please, Captain… Cynthia isn’t strong enough to deal with a court battle and I can’t believe that any judge would take a baby away from his mother…”


The words sounded brittle coming from someone else.   “I don’t want to take the child away.  Yes, I did talk to a lawyer but I was in a very emotional state and I’ve since come to realize that I don’t want to fight that battle.  I do appreciate your willingness to let me be a part of Teddy’s life and I’d very much like to do that.”


Nathan held his hand out to Ben as the young man stood.  “You’ve been a very good friend to my son.  Robert couldn’t have asked for a better man to raise his son.”


“Thank you, sir.  Please feel free to come see Teddy soon.  Sir?” Ben wanted to say something else but hesitated.


“Go ahead, Lieutenant.”


“Well, we… that is Cynthia seemed to think that there was something… developing between you and Kristin.  We had thought… hoped… that in time the two of you might… well, that you’d be Teddy’s grandfather in another way as well.  Please don’t be angry with Kristin for trying to protect Cynthia.  I have found that there is no length a mother wouldn’t go to to protect her child.”


Nathan nodded, thinking of his late wife’s actions to protect her husband and son.  “Truer words were never spoken, Ben.”


Ben left the room and Nathan sank back into the chair, the import of what he’d done the damage he’d caused to his relationship with Kristin finally sinking in.


“Everything settled?”  Bill clapped his hand on Nathan’s shoulder.


“He’s a good boy, Ben.  Oh God, what have I done, Bill?  I’ve got to go to the house and talk to Kristin.”


“She isn’t there.”


Fear flooded Nathan’s face.  “Where is she?  I’ve got to find her.”


“She’s moved her things out of the house.  Right now she is staying with Janet and I but I overheard her tell Janet that she’s thinking about returning to the mainland.  I’ll be honest, Nathan.  I don’t think that she will forgive you.  I am amazed at how strong she has become.”


“It was always there, beneath the surface.  I’ll go to your house to see her.”


“She won’t see you.  She asked Janet and I to let her know if we expected you so that she could leave the house.”


“Then I’ll just drop by unexpected.”


“You can try it but I still don’t think she will talk to you.  I do know that she won’t be in tonight.  She’s going out to dinner with Admiral Lansdowne.  He’s been around a good bit in the last few days.”


Nathan’s countenance hardened with determination.  “She’s mine, Bill.  I’ve been very foolish but I am not letting her go.”




“You are going to be just fine, son.  Your leg is healing marvelously.  I guarantee that you will be playing baseball in no time at all.”


Nathan marveled at the easy way Kristin interacted with her patients.  He’d watched carefully as she moved up and down the ward checking on each young soldier in her care.  She seemed to remember every name and something personal about each one.  Each young man had a smile on his face when she moved away, although Nathan was sure that some of that had to do with the fact that their doctor was so pretty.


Kristin finished with her last patient and moved toward the door, halting when she saw Nathan standing in the doorway.  Her delicate features turned to stone as she pressed forward, brushing past him with no acknowledgement.


He placed a restraining hand on her arm.  “You can’t avoid me forever.”


“Watch me.”  She shrugged his hand off and moved down the hall toward her office, oblivious to the stares of the hospital staff.  Nathan followed close behind and forced the door when she would have closed it in his face. 


“Look, I made a mistake.  I’ve talked to Ben and we’ve worked everything out.  I understand about Teddy.”


“I know.  I spoke with them yesterday.  I’m glad for you.  You deserve to have Teddy in your life.”


“What about you?  Don’t I deserve to have you in my life anymore?  Have I killed everything that I think you felt for me?  I was confused, Kristin.  I know that I didn’t behave well but I just needed some time to get over it.”


“And every time you look at me you are going to see the woman who was such a failure as a wife that her husband went after yours.  Isn’t that what you see? You don’t trust me anymore.  Maybe you never did.  I think that you should leave.”  Kristin turned her back to him.


Nathan turned her to him and backed her against a wall, pressing the length of his body against hers.  “You don’t mean that.”


“Yes, I do mean it…” Her words were cut off by Nathan’s tongue thrusting into her mouth.  Kristin pushed against his shoulders but he wouldn’t budge.  Over the past few weeks Nathan had learned exactly how she liked to be kissed and he applied every technique, slow and gentle, hard and frantic, until she moaned beneath him. 


When Nathan finally released her mouth Kristin gasped for air as she leaned against the wall, eyes closed, lips parted.  Her lips were swollen from his kisses. 


“Please let me make this up to you, Kristin.  When I look at you I see a beautiful woman who I care very deeply about.  I don’t see you as a failure and I do trust you.  Give me another chance?”


Kristin opened her eyes to stare into Nathan’s.  He saw hesitation there but he also saw longing.  He brushed his lips across hers gently.  “Please…”


The pounding on the door startled them both. 


“Dr. Westphalen!  Are you all right?”  Admiral Lansdowne’s voice penetrated the room.


Kristin slipped beneath Nathan’s arm and moved to the door.  Lansdowne flew into the room, his face flushing slightly as he took in Nathan’s defensive posture and Kristin’s swollen mouth.  “Is Captain Bridger bothering you, Kristin?  The staff said he forced his way in here.”


Kristin’s gaze locked with Nathan’s.  “No, Admiral.  The Captain and I just had a few details to discuss… about his home.  I needed to return the key.  He was just leaving.”


Nathan’s jaw set for a fight but Kristin’s eyes pleaded with him and he relented.  “Yes, Admiral Lansdowne, I was just leaving.  Thank you, Dr. Westphalen.  Perhaps I’ll see you later at the Noyces’?”  His eyes begged.


“Perhaps.”  Nathan was heartened by the fact that she hadn’t dismissed him completely out of hand and he took his leave with good grace, although he did turn and glare at the door when it closed firmly behind him.




The clock hands had pushed past ten when Kristin slipped into the front door of the Noyce home.  She tried to move quietly toward the stairs but Janet’s voice intercepted her. 


“I’m in the front room and I’ve got hot tea.  Why don’t you come and join me?”


Kristin sighed and entered the room to find Janet curled up on the sofa in her robe.  She prepared Kristin’s tea and handed her the cup.


“You look like you could use this.  I wasn’t expecting you to be so late.  Still avoiding Nathan?”


“Was he here?  He said he might… Nathan came by the hospital today.  He said he might come by here.”


“So you didn’t come home?”


Long fingers moved up to rub Kristin’s aching neck.  “Malcolm insisted on taking me to dinner.  I tried to refuse but he just can’t seem to take no for an answer.  He was afraid that I was upset by Nathan’s visit and that you and Bill aren’t being forceful enough in keeping Nathan away.”


“That insufferable son of a… Why don’t you tell me exactly what happened.”


Kristin shrugged.  “Nathan stopped by.  I didn’t want to see him but he pushed his way into my office and begged me to forgive him.  Someone went to get Malcolm and he showed up thinking I needed protection.”


“Did you, need protection I mean?”


“Of course not.  Nathan would never hurt me.  But he’d been kissing me… don’t look at me like that, Janet.  Nathan kissed me and my lips were swollen and Malcolm got the crazy idea that Nathan was trying to force me to… I quickly disabused him of that but he appointed himself my watchdog for the rest of the day.  He is a very sweet man but I thought I was going to go crazy before I could get away from him.”


“So I guess the kissing means you’ve forgiven Nathan?”  A bright smile lit Janet’s face but it quickly faded.


“No, it means that I realize that he is Teddy’s grandfather and I can’t avoid him completely so I’d better learn how to deal with him on a social basis.  I’m not sure I can forgive the other.  I’m not sure that Nathan can forgive me either.”


“What in God’s name have you done to be forgiven for?”


“If I’d been a better wife then Jack might not have turned outside the marriage for… If only I’d been able to have a child…” Janet didn’t know the reason that Jack and Kristin’s marriage had been bad until that moment and it incensed her.


“He hurt you and cheated on you because you couldn’t give him a child?  That is stupid!  The man was a bastard and that was only an excuse.  I know that and Nathan knows that.  I refuse to let you blame yourself.  If you had a child Jack would have still cheated and he would have still found excuses to hit you.”  Janet got off the sofa and moved to kneel beside Kristin.  “And though you and Nathan might not want to hear it Carol is not completely blameless.  She didn’t have to go with Jack, she chose to do so.”


Tears began to pool in Kristin’s eye.  “I love him so much, Janet.  What do I do?  I don’t know any more!  Damn Jack McCallister!”


Janet embraced her friend and held her until the tears were gone.


“Right now you need to go get some rest.  I think that you are exhausted and I know that you haven’t been sleeping well.  Oh, by the way, Nathan did come by tonight.  He didn’t ask for you never mentioned your name, but I knew by the way his eyes jumped at every noise that he was hoping you would be here.  He hasn’t been gone that long.  I finally told Bill to take him out for a beer since I wasn’t sure you’d want to see him.”


Kristin smiled her thanks.  “I’ll deal with that tomorrow.  I am so tired that I think I can sleep tonight.”


Janet bade her friend good night and saw her up the stairs before settling back into the sofa with her book.  Shortly after eleven she heard Bill’s key in the lock and went to meet him at the door. 


Bill and Nathan staggered into the room, stupid grins plastered on their faces.  “Hi, Hon!” 


“Hi, Hon!” Nathan echoed.


“How many beers could you have had in two hours?”


“About ten,” Nathan told her with a pleased look. 


“Go to the front room and I’ll get you some coffee.  Nathan, you I might understand…  Bill, you should have known better.”


“I couldn’t let him drink alone, sweetheart.  Especially not after we ran into that Hitchcock nurse from the hospital and she told us that Kristin went out with Malcolm again tonight.”


Nathan groaned at Bill’s words.  “How could she?  I thought that she was gonna try to forgive me.  I saw it in her eyes.”


“Maybe going out to dinner with Lansdowne wasn’t her idea.  Maybe she just couldn’t get out of it.”


Nathan jumped up.  “You’ve talked to her?  She’s home!  I’ve got to see her.”


“Whoa there, cowboy.  She is getting some much-needed rest.  You can talk to her tomorrow.  It seems that Admiral Malcolm Lansdowne has decided that Kristin needs protection from you and that he is the perfect man for the job.”


Janet left the room in search of coffee after commanding Bill to make sure Nathan stayed put.  Two pots of coffee and an hour later both Nathan and Bill were well on their way to being sober although they could still feel the effects of their liquid libation.  Janet had to calm them down several times to keep them from waking Kristin and Ginny.  But she had to admit that it did her heart good to see Nathan acting like his old self.


“Are you sure you’ll be able to get back to the Dolphin?”  Janet asked when Nathan made his intention to leave known.  “You are welcome to bunk on the sofa.”


“I’ll be… Ginny!  Did we wake you up?  I’m sorry sweetheart.”


Ginny Noyce stood in the door of the room hugging a teddy bear and looking about ten years old.  “You didn’t wake me, Uncle Nathan.  It was… something else.  Mama… Aunt Kris is dreaming again.”


Janet cast a worried glance at the ceiling.  “She hasn’t had a dream in a long time.  At least Cynthia isn’t here.  I’d better go check on her.”


“I’m going with you.”  Nathan’s voice left little room for argument.


“You can’t do anything, Nathan.  Waking her up in the middle makes things worse.  She just has to get through it.  I just like to make sure that she doesn’t… hurt herself.”


“Hurt… I don’t understand.”


Janet thought for a moment.  “Maybe you should come.”  She waved back Bill’s protest.  “I told you once that you didn’t really understand, that you hadn’t heard her screams.”


“She isn’t screaming now.”


“She only screams at the end of the dream.  Come on.”


Janet led Nathan up the stairs to the door of Kristin’s room, Bill following close behind.  “Don’t try to touch her or wake her up unless you think that she might hurt herself.  If you can’t take it then leave.  I’ll be right here.”


Nathan slipped into the room and moved to the side of the bed.  The moonlight illuminated Kristin’s body as it lay rigid on the bed.  Her hands lay beside her head as if they were pinned to the mattress.  It only took Nathan a moment of listening to her moans to realize that in her dream that is exactly what was happening.


Kristin’s body thrashed wildly as her hands strained against their dream bonds.  Nathan’s mouth went dry when she began to speak.


“Please… please don’t, Jack.  I’m sorry… Good… I’m glad you found someone else…. why don’t you go back to her and leave me alone?” 


Kristin’s head jerked as it felt the sting of the dream’s slap.  Nathan wanted to shake her awake and comfort her but he remembered Janet’s caution so he stood and listened while taking care to move several breakable objects away from the bedside table.


He was surprised when Kristin’s words became more defiant.  “How did you get her?  Blackmail?  I can’t believe any woman would want you of their own accord…” Kristin screamed and her face jerked as another dream slap was administered.  “You sick bastard!  You’d take advantage of some woman’s fears for her husband just to get between her legs.”


Nathan wanted to scream as he watched Kristin relive her final rape, her body contorting as she tried to fight Jack, her face struggling to keep out of his reach.  Through her ramblings he came to realize that Jack was telling her about Carol, although Nathan doubted he ever mentioned a name.  He heard the suppressed screams in her throat as her body tried to flee its violator and felt a rage stronger than any he’d ever felt before. He reached a hand out to lightly brush her hair but she pulled up and away.  He started to speak but realized that she was still dreaming. 


“No more… I will not let you do this to me again… Stop! NO!”


Kristin began to scream in earnest as she relived the horrendous beating she had suffered at her husband’s hands.


Janet hurried into the room and pushed Nathan toward the door.  “I’ll take care of her but she doesn’t need to know you’ve seen this.  At least not now.  Go downstairs.”


Nathan left the room but refused to go any further than the hallway.  He cringed with every scream that echoed through the house.  Finally quiet reigned and he sagged against the wall and buried his head in his hands.  He could hear Janet soothing a crying Kristin and he longed to break through the door and wrap her in his arms. 


Bill stood on the opposite side of the hall and watched his friend suffer, unable to offer a single word of comfort.  Finally Janet rejoined them.


“She’s asleep.  I think she’ll be okay for the rest of the night.  Let’s go back downstairs.  You look like you could use a drink, Nathan, and I know that I could.”


Nathan waited until he’d had downed the whisky Bill gave him before he addressed Janet.  “Does this happen a lot?”


“The dreams didn’t begin until about a month after the attack, at least not the screaming part.  She had one every night for over a month but then they began to taper off, probably about the time that she guessed that Cynthia was pregnant.  I know that she still has them but not nearly as often and she hadn’t had one since you came back two months ago, at least until your falling out.  She’s had four this week, probably caused by the turmoil going on between the two of you.”


Nathan’s face jerked up.  “They’re my fault?”


“No, not your fault but… you make Kristin feel safe. When you and she fought I don’t think she felt safe anymore and the dreams came back.  Or maybe it’s being back in this house.  As much as we love having her here I’m sure that she has some very bad memories of that time.”


“What do I do, Janet?  I want to keep her safe and I don’t ever want her to have to experience another one of those dreams again.  How do I get through to her?”


Janet took a deep breath before she answered.  “The first thing that you have to do to help Kristin is to help yourself.  Confront what you’ve discovered, deal with it, and move on.  If you do this and you still want Kristin then you have to convince her of that.  I think that you can do it easily, once you are sure of your own feelings.  Do you know that she thinks you subconsciously blame her for Jack and Carol?”


“She said as much today, but I don’t.  That’s just stupid.  Kristin isn’t responsible for that bastard’s actions any more than I am responsible for Carol’s…” Nathan stopped at the gentle smile that touched Janet’s face and then he understood.  “I am not responsible for the choices that Carol made.  I didn’t force her into Jack’s arms, her own fear did.”


“That’s right.  So now you have to decide where you go from here.”


“That is easy.  Wherever the woman upstairs is.  My only problem is convincing her of that before I have to ship out again.  I am not leaving the field open for Malcolm Lansdowne.  He may be as charming as the day is long but he can’t have her.  Kristin belongs to me.”


“Then go back to your ship, get some sleep and get back here tomorrow.  Kristin will talk to you, I know she will.”




“God damn it, Bill! We haven’t even tested the refit yet.  We can’t head out into the ocean with a load of cargo.  And you know that I can’t leave yet.  I haven’t settled anything!”


“I understand that this is inconvenient but the top brass says that the Dolphin is the sub for this mission.  I’ve tried to explain about the refit testing but they aren’t buying it.  Heavy casualties have depleted the Mercy’s stock and they are desperate.”


Nathan slammed his hand down on the surface of Bill’s desk.  “I appreciate their need but that doesn’t make the Dolphin any more ready.  What the hell is going on?”


Bill rolled his eyes.  “You aren’t stupid, Nathan.  Use your head.  Someone has pulled some strings and made sure that you are going to be out of the way.”


“Lansdowne!  I’ll kill him!”


“No, you won’t.  Malcolm is genuinely concerned about Kristin.  He thinks that you are the reason she has refused to see him the last few days.”


“Hell, Bill!  She’s barely agreed to see me either.  The only time she let me near her was when we were playing with Teddy.”


“She is coming around.  She talks to Janet so I know.  The woman is crazy about you.  She’s just hurt by your actions last week and the dreams have her a bit confused as well.  She will wait for you, Nathan.  I’m sure of it.”


Nathan began to pace up and down Bill’s office like a tiger ready to pounce.  “So it’s Friday afternoon and I have to go back to my boat and cancel leave for any of my crew that I can find so that we can get ready to go by Sunday evening.  I am going to kill Malcolm.  And I’m not really happy with you either!”


Nathan stalked out of the office slamming the door behind him. 


As soon as he was gone, Bill grabbed his phone and punched in a number.  “Honey, we have a problem…”




“Okay Bill, out with it.  Something has been eating at you all day, and it’s not me.”  Janet confronted her husband.


“We’ve got to make an emergency delivery of supplies to the hospital ship Mercy in the middle of the Pacific.  Problem is the supplies have to go out tomorrow and the delivery sub doesn’t have a doctor on board to deal with the medication storage.  I’m just trying to figure out what to do.”


“Can’t you get someone from the hospital?” Janet suggested.


“Do you know how long it would take to cut orders releasing a military doctor to the sub?  Maybe I can make due with a med tech.  What do you think, Kristin?”


“What are you sending?”


Bill began to rattle off a list of supplies, pronouncing them phonetically as he’d seen them on the invoice.  After eight or ten names Kristin stopped him.


“No, Bill.  I don’t think you should trust those types of supplies to a med tech.  You really need a doctor to oversee them.”


“Great.  Now what do I do?”


“Why don’t you send me?”


“You?  You’re a civilian and you’re a …” Bill’s eyes fell to Kristin’s chest.


“I’m a woman and women are unlucky on submarines.  Come on, Bill.”


“You’d be willing to do this?”


“Sure, why not.  I’d like to travel on a submarine and I know you wouldn’t even consider it if there was any danger.”


“I’d have to shuffle some paperwork but it could work.  Is there someone you’d like to go with you?  Another woman from the hospital?  I can’t send you alone.”


“Katie Hitchcock.  She’d love to see submarine engines in action.”


“This is great, Kristin.  Thank you so much.  I’ll go make the arrangements.”


Bill left the table leaving Kristin and Janet alone. 


“Thank you for offering to help.  He’s been so worried.”


“Uhm… I’m glad I could help.  Perhaps I’d better go through my wardrobe and pack a few things fit for a submarine.”  Kristin stood and moved toward the door.  When she reached the edge she paused and turned back to look at Janet.


“So, are either of you going to tell me it’s the Dolphin or am I supposed to be surprised at the dock?”




Nathan had just given the final order for the gangplank to be pulled up when the young seaman was hailed from the dock.  A huge grin erupted on Lucas’ face when he saw Kristin but when he realized that Admiral Noyce accompanied her, he snapped to attention.


Bill and Janet hurried up the plank with Kristin and Katie Hitchcock following close behind.  “At ease, son.  Go get your Captain.”


But Lucas didn’t have to go far.  He’d only taken a couple of steps when Nathan’s voice rang out.  “Sailor!  I thought I ordered you to pull in the plank!”


Nathan’s head popped out of the hatch, anger etched on his features.  It quickly faded when he saw Kristin standing on deck.  He moved toward her, belatedly realizing that she wasn’t alone.


“Bill, what’s going on?”


“You need a doctor to escort the supplies.  I brought you one.  Lieutenant Hitchcock is going as well.”


“What the hell are you talking about?  I don’t…” Nathan’s voice trailed off as Janet aimed a sharp kick at his shin.  “I don’t know how the men will feel about having two women on board.”


Bill smiled.  “That’s why there are two of them.  I know that you are running a skeleton crew so it shouldn’t be any problem for you and Chief Crocker to bunk with your men.  That way the ladies have their own quarters.”


Nathan’s look told Bill that his men weren’t who he was thinking about sleeping with.  “Crocker!”


The bearded man appeared instantly at his Captain’s call.  “Yes, Captain?”


“It seems that the ladies will be travelling with us.  Dr. Westphalen will be in charge of the medical supplies we are delivering.  I know that many of the men might have some problems with females being on board but…”


“Oh, no sir.  I don’t think anyone will mind.  Why Dr. Westphalen is like one of us since she helped Lucas.”


One eyebrow shot up as Nathan turned to stare at the most superstitious member of his crew but Crocker simply smiled.  “Could I take your bags, ladies?  I’ll stow them for you.  I’ll put your things in my cabin, ma’am and Dr. Westphalen’s in the Captain’s quarters.”


A honking horn in the distance caused Bill to quickly check his watch.  “You’ve got to get going.  Come on, Janet, these people have a schedule.”  He quickly ushered Janet off the boat with a whispered caution to Lucas.  Once their feet were safely on the dock Lucas immediately pulled the gangplank in.


Nathan gave the order to cast off and within minutes the Dolphin was pulling away from her berth.  Kristin and Katie had moved out of the way during the final departure and Nathan returned to them shortly, realizing that Kristin hadn’t said a single word to him since she boarded the vessel.


A quick motion of Nathan’s hand brought Lieutenant O’Neill to Nathan’s side.  “O’Neill, this is Lieutenant Hitchcock.  Would you please show her to Chief Crocker’s quarters and make sure that she is given instruction on how everything works?”


“Yes, sir.  Right this way, ma’am.”  Katie started to follow him but then Kristin spoke up.


“Watch his hands, Katie.  The lieutenant has a lethal grip.”


O’Neill blushed at Kristin’s words but kept moving.


“Would you like to tell me what that comment was all about?”


“Let’s just say that Mr. O’Neill tried to keep me off your submarine once.  I don’t think he will try again.”


“Obviously not.  You seem to have charmed my whole crew.  I can’t believe that Crocker didn’t have a stroke at the idea of a female sailing with us.  I’m glad you’re here by the way.”


“Just so you know, this was not my idea, Captain Bridger.”  Kristin’s voice had a distinctive chill in it.


“I never thought it was, Dr. Westphalen.  But as long as it keeps you away from Admiral Lansdowne…”


“Is that what this is about?  Keeping me away from Malcolm?  You have some nerve.  Malcolm has been a very good friend to me when others have let me down.”


“Hey!  I didn’t know anything about this either.  Apparently Bill and Janet cooked this up all by themselves.  Do you think that we could try to get along in front of my crew? In private is different, but I do need to try and retain some sense of control in front of my men.”


“That shouldn’t be any problem, Captain.  And you can forget any ‘private’ meetings.  I’m on this sub to do a job and I’m not going to compromise it by bedding the Captain.”


“Wait until you’re asked before you turn me down!”


Kristin’s hand clenched.  “You bastard!”


Nathan’s eyes filled with desire.  “God, I want to kiss you right now!”


Kristin’s breath caught as her eyes betrayed her own passion.  She swallowed hard.  “Not here.”


“Can I escort you to my cabin?  I won’t ask for anything more.  I can’t… not while we are on a mission… but just one kiss, please?”


Kristin couldn’t have said no if she had wanted to but she didn’t.  A whispered yes slipped through her lips.  Nathan gestured toward the open hatch but a call from Lucas stopped him.


“Captain!  There is some man at the end of the dock yelling at us.”


Nathan moved to the side of the boat and wasn’t at all surprised to see Admiral Malcolm Lansdowne jumping up and down on the end of their berth.  The sub had moved too far away for Lansdowne’s words to carry but his tone was easy to understand.


Bill and Janet moved to Malcolm’s side and Nathan could tell that they were attempting to calm him down.  Apparently it didn’t work because Lansdowne began to point at Bill, stabbing the older man’s chest with his index finger.  Bill pushed the hand away and Malcolm turned back to yell at the departing sub again.  Unfortunately Janet had shifted her foot and Malcolm caught his shin on it. 


Malcolm lost his balance and began to pinwheel his arms in an effort to regain it but that didn’t work.  Nathan and Kristin both burst into laughter as Admiral Lansdowne plunged head first off the end of the dock into the harbor water.




“Laughing at poor Malcolm wasn’t a nice thing to do.”  Kristin chastised Nathan as the moved through the narrow corridors of the submarine.


“I seem to recall someone else laughing just as hard as I was.”  Nathan replied with a raised eyebrow.


“But I feel bad about laughing.  You don’t.”


“Hell no, I don’t feel bad.  He had it coming.  Malcolm Lansdowne has been trying to beat my time with you for the last two months.  And you’ve been encouraging him!”


Kristin stopped dead in her tracks and turned to glare at Nathan.  “I have not!  And even if I have what business is it of yours?  I think you’re jealous!”


Nathan started to reply but the appearance of one of his crewman quickly shut him up.  The young man nodded politely as he slid past the couple and continued on his way.  Nathan wrapped a hand around Kristin’s upper arm and propelled her the final few steps to his cabin.  He followed her through the door and pushed it closed behind him.


“Now, I believe the question on the table was what business is it of mine if you are vamping Malcolm Lansdowne?”


“Vamping?  Vamping!” Kristin was fuming as she crossed her arms in front of her, hands clenching her upper arms.  “I was responding to a friend who was concerned about me, a man who knows his own mind, and a man who doesn’t treat me as if I’m expendable!”


Before she realized what was happening Kristin’s back was pressed against cold steel and her front was pressed fully against a very aroused Nathan Bridger.  His hands gripped her shoulders as his lips captured hers in a searing kiss.


“Damn you, Bridger!”  Kristin muttered when they had to come up for air.  Nathan just laughed.


“You wanted me to kiss you since the moment you stepped on the boat.”


“You are a conceited ass, Captain.”  She tried to break free of his grasp.  Nathan tightened his hold and pushed his hips further into hers to pin her more firmly to the wall.


“And I wanted to kiss you since the moment you stepped onboard.  And kissing isn’t all that I want to do to you…” Their lips met again as Kristin’s arms uncrossed and wrapped around Nathan.  Nathan’s hands slid down her shoulders to her waist and tugged her blouse out of the waistband of her skirt.  His hands deftly slid beneath and up her rib cage to bracket her breasts.


“Damn it!  Today of all days you decide to wear a bra.”  He slid his hands down until he held a firm cheek in each.  “And panties too!”  He sighed in mock dismay as he fingered the line on her hip.  His head dipped back toward hers.


Kristin twisted neatly out of his grasp.  “I thought you said one kiss.”


“I lied.”  Nathan grabbed for her but she eluded him. 


“Nathan, if you stay in here much longer with the door closed you know what your crew will be thinking.”


“If I stay in here much longer they will be right.  Okay, we can’t.  But I’m going to be thinking about kissing you and touching you every second.”


Kristin’s skin flushed at Nathan’s words. ‘Why did I ever agree to this?’


“I think I’d better get out of here before I do something I shouldn’t.  I’ll send Lucas down to show you how to operate the head controls and give you a quick tour.  I’ll come get some of my things later on.”


Kristin nodded; knowing his departure was for the best.  He was pleased to note that her eyes showed disappointment.  They moved toward the door together.


“I don’t want to fight with you, Nathan.  I want to be a help on this mission not a hindrance.”


A grin lightened Nathan’s features.  “I am positive that you will do an excellent job.  I have complete faith in your medical skills and if anything goes wrong with the engines I’m sure that Lieutenant Hitchcock will make a valuable backup engineer.”  Nathan’s hand moved to the door and began to pull it open.  Before the crack was more than an inch wide he leaned in very close to Kristin’s ear.  “Besides, that wasn’t a fight, that was foreplay.”  His lips brushed the hollow of her throat lightly before he pulled the door opened and disappeared.




Nathan leaned against the railing watching the bow of the Dolphin slice through the dark water, enjoying the relative silence of the night.  Only a few crewmen moved around on the outer deck and they knew to leave their Captain alone when he was in a pensive mood.  This was Nathan’s favorite time of the night.  His watch had ended at midnight and he enjoyed spending a few minutes in the night air to help him unwind so that he could rest.  Not that he had gotten much rest this trip.  Every time Nathan fell asleep his mind slipped into erotic dreams about a beautiful redhead.  The fact that she was sleeping just down the corridor in his bunk only made the dreams even more potent.  Nathan hadn’t gone near her in five days, not since their first day at sea.  But he watched every move she made, his body completely in tune with hers.  Perhaps that was why he sensed her behind him and turned to see her standing just a few feet away.


Kristin casually moved forward until she was standing by Nathan’s side, mimicking the stance he moved back into. 


“It really is beautiful isn’t it?  The moonlight on the water…”


“Breathtaking…” The huskiness in Nathan’s voice left Kristin little doubt that he was referring to her.  She kept her eyes pressed firmly forward.


“You’ve been avoiding me all week.”  She whispered. 


“I know.  It was the only way I could keep my hands off of you.”  Nathan delighted in the slightly pink hue that colored Kristin’s skin.  He watched with fascination as the moonlight played in Kristin’s hair, silver streaks rippling to fiery red at the slightest movement.  “Actually I’m glad you came out to join me.”


“I… I just needed to hear your voice… be with you for a few moments.”  A sound behind them caused Kristin to turn her head sharply.  An embarrassed crewman was trying to affect a silent retreat. “I should probably go in.”


Nathan nodded; knowing that if she stayed much longer he was going to have to kiss her no matter how many of his crew was standing around.  “You should try to get some rest.  We should rendezvous with the Mercy sometime tomorrow morning.  We’ll spend a day or so there then head back to Pearl.  I hope that…” Nathan’s voice trailed off.


“What were you going to say?”  Nathan continued to remain silent so Kristin laid her hand lightly over his.  “Tell me.”


“I just thought that maybe we could… spend some time together when we got back to Pearl.  Just you and me, without all of our extra baggage.  See if we could figure out this thing between us.”


“I’d like that, Nathan.”  Nathan had been so sure she would say no that he was stunned when she agreed.  He turned to look at her with a smile on his face. 


“I won’t let you down again, Kristin.”


She nodded slightly, the moonlight making silver waves in her moving head.  “I’m going to try to get some sleep.  I’ll see you in the morning.”


Nathan watched her retreat to the hatch and muffled a groan at how sexy she looked as she swung her legs onto the ladder.  He knew then that his sleep was going to be filled with more very erotic dreams.




With nothing better to do Nathan finally laid down in his temporary bunk to rest but exhaustion took its toll and he eventually drifted off to sleep only to be awakened abruptly as a strong hand shook his shoulder. 


“Captain!  Wake up!”


One dark blue eye popped up to see Lucas standing above him.  “What’s wrong?  Kristin?”  Nathan sat up quickly. 


“No sir.  The Chief sent me to get you.  He said to tell you that we are ahead of schedule and we should rendezvous with the Mercy in about an hour.  He thought you might want a little time to get ready. 


Nathan got up and grabbed his uniform. “I don’t guess Dr. Westphalen is awake by any chance?”  He asked Lucas.


“No sir, I haven’t seen her since she came back from the deck about four hours ago.”


“It’s only four in the morning?  Shit!  I’ve got to have some things out of my cabin.  Maybe I could sneak in and get them without waking her.  Return to your post, Lucas, and tell the Chief that I will be up as soon as I can shower and shave.”


Nathan made his way quietly through the sub until he reached his cabin door.  He knocked quietly but received no reply.  He carefully spun the lock and slid through the narrow opening.  The room was completely dark but Nathan could hear the gentle sound of Kristin’s slow breathing.  He moved unerring toward his desk and switched on the small light there, casting a dim glow throughout the room.  Kristin didn’t stir.  Nathan walked to the side of the bed and stared at her sleeping form.  He felt his body respond to the sight of her red hair fanned across his pillow and he knew that sleeping in this bunk would never be the same for him again.  He allowed his fingers to brush through the silky curls once before retreating into the head.




Kristin turned her head at a sudden sound and found Nathan standing in the doorway; a towel wrapped around his hips his only covering.  Their eyes locked and Kristin’s mouth went dry as she sat up from the bed and moved to him.  He embraced her passionately, backing her against the wall and pressing his full length to her as their tongues mated.  Kristin felt the coolness of the metal against her back; the light slip she wore was no barrier.  In the same way she fully felt Nathan’s heat pressed against the front of her body.  She’d never had a dream quite like this one before.  Kristin often dreamed of Nathan coming to her, silk sheets and candlelight, soft music and rose petals, and gentle loving.  This dream was definitely different.  She’d never felt such raw unbridled desire.  Cold hard steel made a wonderful bed if it would draw Nathan to her. 


Her hands leapt from his bare shoulders to his waist as they grabbed frantically at the towel.  It slid to the floor and her hands moved between them to stroke him, warm and silky yet hard as the steel at her back.  Kristin heard the moan low in his throat and lifted her leg, wrapping it around his naked hip.  One hand grasped his taut ass and the other held him firmly against her, stroking him against her wet folds.  Nathan’s hands moved to the back of her thighs then slid up to her bare buttocks, lifting the slip as they went. 


Kristin’s eyes flew wide open and she stared into deep blue pools, nostrils flaring as she realized that she wasn’t dreaming.  She was wide-awake and she was about to make love with Nathan against a wall, but she wanted him so badly that she didn’t care.  Her arousal was as overwhelming as his was and she thrust her hips forward, feeling the tip of his hard erection slip into her as she did so.


Nathan groaned at the feel of her warmth surrounding his head and slowly pushed deeper as she consumed him inch by inch.  Once he was buried to the hilt Nathan rested there unmoving as Kristin drew his head back down to meet her kiss.  Nathan let Kristin take the lead and she quickly deepened the kiss and ground her hips against him as she grew even wetter. He drew back slightly and the protest rising in her throat became a moan when he thrust deeply back into her. 


The loud clanging startled them both and Kristin whimpered as she felt Nathan withdraw fully from her.  “No!” A soft cry tore from her throat.


“I’m sorry, sweetheart.  That bell is to alert the crew that we’ve sighted the Mercy.   Please believe me when I say that I wouldn’t leave you now if I didn’t have to.”


“I understand.  I hate it but I understand.  Go get ready.”  Kristin released her hold on Nathan’s body but he didn’t move away from her immediately.  She was caught off guard when he scooped her into his arms and carried her back to the bunk, carefully covering her to the neck with the sheet. 


“I’m going to dream about you looking just like this every time I climb into that bunk.”


He bent and kissed her gently before he headed back to the bathroom, smiling as he felt Kristin’s eyes on his butt as he moved.  He paused in the doorway and turned his face back toward her to find her eyes locked on his naked ass.  “Like what you see?”  He asked with a wicked grin on his face.


Kristin returned his grin.  “Not bad, but I’d like it better if you turned around.”


“You are wicked!”  Nathan chuckled and with an evil gleam turned sideways so that Kristin could view his body’s profile, erection raging.


Kristin rolled onto her side and propped on one elbow, the sheet slipping down slightly as she pulled her arm from beneath it.  She slid the tip of her index finger between her lips and sucked it lightly, secretly delighted in the groan that rose from Nathan’s lips and the quick leap from his groin.


“Much better.”


“You are an evil woman and you will be punished.”  Nathan muttered as he closed the door behind him. 


“Promises, promises!” Kristin yelled after him.




Nathan stood on the deck of the Mercy chatting with her Captain, John Dickinson, while the medical supplies were slowly moved from sub to ship.  Both men were eyeing the shapely set of feminine legs directing the transfer.


“How in God’s name did they ever let a woman on your ship?”


“Dr. Westphalen is like part of the crew.”


“You haven’t had any problems?  None of your crew trying to get fresh?  Sneak into her quarters?”


“Of course not.  All of my men respect her too much.  They look on her as a mother figure. ” Nathan smiled inwardly as his mind added.  ‘Everyone except me.  I definitely don’t look on her as a mother and I’m the one trying to sneak into her quarters.’  “Besides, she’s staying in my quarters.”  Captain Dickinson’s eyebrows rose skyward.  “Alone, Captain. We also have a navy nurse on board, Lieutenant Katherine Hitchcock.”


Nathan didn’t like the look that drifted through Captain Dickinson’s eyes.  “Perhaps Dr. Westphalen and Lieutenant Hitchcock would like to join my officers and myself for dinner.  It’s been a long time since we’ve enjoyed feminine companionship. Oh, you and your officers are invited as well.”


Nathan gave him a sardonic look.  “I’ll mention it to Dr. Westphalen.”


“Maybe she and Lieutenant Hitchcock would like to stay on board the Mercy for a few days as well.  It isn’t the Ritz Carlton but we aren’t as cramped as your sub.”


Nathan started to say no but then he thought about how excited Katie Hitchcock would be to see the ship’s engine room.  The thought that he might be able to spend some time with Kristin also crossed his mind.  “We’d enjoy that.  Thank you for the invitation.”  Nathan knew by the look on the Captain’s face that Dickinson hadn’t meant for Bridger to be included in that invitation but he was too polite to correct him.


Kristin chose that moment to bend over and her skirt traveled above her knees.  Nathan didn’t like the way that Dickinson was eyeing Kristin’s shapely backside and he made sure that he moved to block the other man’s line of vision as he crossed the deck.  Nathan came up close behind Kristin and allowed his hand to briefly caress a rounded cheek before he resumed a proper distance from her. 


“How are things going?” He asked innocently.


Kristin gave him a sideways glance.  “Things are going fine as long as a certain pest keeps his hands off my rear.”  She whispered as she straightened and smoothed her skirt back over her hips.


“But how could I resist when you offered it in such a pleasing fashion?”


Kristin gave him a cat-like smile.  “Feel free to reciprocate anytime you like.”


Nathan’s jaw fell slightly at Kristin’s remark. She had been decidedly playful since their interrupted tryst, teasing him to the point of madness.  At that moment Lucas wandered by with another cart of supplies.  Nathan motioned for him to stop and bent over to check an imaginary break in the container seal, making sure that his ass was pointed in Kristin’s direction.  He smiled to himself when he felt her hand prop on his back as she bent over him, checking the same imaginary break.  He almost choked when he felt her free hand slide discreetly between his legs and rub his semi-erect penis.


Nathan quickly straightened and waved Lucas on, glancing around to make sure no one saw their movements.  He noticed that Captain Dickinson was eyeing them curiously but nothing in his manner indicated that he’d seen Dr. Westphalen cop a feel. 


“Shit, Kristin, now I’m going to have to go lean over the railing until I calm down!”


“If you want to play you have to pay the piper!  I’ll see you later, sailor.”


Nathan looked out over the sea, willing his excited member to get a little less excited, but his mind kept returning to the feel of Kristin’s hand caressing him.


“Did you ask Dr. Westphalen if she’d like to stay here?”  Captain Dickinson moved to join Nathan.


“Uhm… no, something else came up… but I’m sure that she and Lieutenant Hitchcock would be delighted.  I know that Kri… Dr. Westphalen would be interested in seeing how your medical operations work.  I’ll check with her when she returns and make arrangements for our thing to be brought over."”


“That would be delightful.  I’d like to thank you, Captain Bridger.  We are so used to coming to port to get our supplies.  It is nice to have someone come to us every once in a while.”


A strange look crossed Nathan’s face and Captain Dickinson was sure that he had offended in some way.  “I’m sorry, Captain, I didn’t mean to say anything to offend…”


Nathan waved him quiet.  “You didn’t offend.  In fact you helped me figure out something that has been bugging me all morning.”


“You and Dr. Westphalen seem… close.  Have you known her long?”


Nathan eyed the man suspiciously, wondering if perhaps he had seen something but Dickinson’s face didn’t show any sign.  “I’ve know her for a few years.  Dr. Westphalen’s husband was killed on the Arizona, as were my wife and son.  We were all good friends.”


“Her husband was a military man?”


“Her husband was Senator Jack McCallister.”


“Oh, the poor woman…”


“She is coping very well.  She’s a hell of an asset to the base hospital.  She’s a wonderful mother and grandmother.”


“She’s a grandmother?  I don’t believe that.”


“Kristin is an amazing woman.”  Nathan gave Captain Dickinson a hard stare.  Suddenly realization passed across the other man’s face.


“I understand, Captain.  I hope that you and Dr. Westphalen enjoy your visit with us.”




Nathan wandered through the medical ward, one eye on the lookout for a certain red headed doctor as he paused to speak to the young men ensconced there.  They had been on the Mercy for two days but he hadn’t found time to be alone with Kristin.  She had been asked to help with some of the patient load and he’d barely even seen her except at dinner.  They had no time to be alone there because every male officer and most of the enlisted men swarmed both she and Katie, no matter where they went.  Nathan had spent the better part of the day on the Dolphin and he was desperate for just a few minutes alone with the lady.


He passed from one ward into the next and finally heard her rich accent.  He followed his ears and found her seated next to a patient’s bed.


“No, Mr. Keller, I will not go out with you when you get back to Pearl.  I appreciate the invitation but I don’t date.”


A grin split Nathan’s face as he recognized the figure in the bed.  “Scottman!”


“Nathan!”  The wounded man stuck a hand out and Nathan shook it vigorously.  “What are you doing here?  I thought you were floating around in a tin can somewhere beneath the ocean.”


“And I thought that you were flying around above the clouds.  Obviously you fell…”


“Only after a lucky Japanese shot shattered my propeller.  The plane spun in and I had to eject.  I spent a little time floating around in your world until one of your tin cans picked me up.”


“I’m glad my world could be of service.  The Dolphin just made a supply delivery to the boat and we’ve been hanging out for a few days.  We’ll probably be headed back to Pearl tomorrow.”


“So this old sea dog is your ride back to Pearl, Doctor?  Pity I don’t have access to a plane or I’d take you for a real ride.”


“I think you should concentrate on getting better before you worry about flying again.  You should be at Pearl in a few weeks to begin your physical therapy in earnest.”


“And after a few sessions of therapy I’ll be ready to take you dancing.”  Scott replied, his eyes roving over Kristin’s body as she stood. 


“I suggest that you look out for fly boys, Doctor.  They think they are God’s gift to women…”


“Thank you for your advice, Captain, but I’d already ascertained for myself that Mr. Keller is something of a charmer.”


“Hey!  Don’t listen to Nathan!  He’ll give me a bad rap.  Just because my landing design got funding over his new submarine design…”


Kristin looked surprised as she turned to look at Nathan.  “You didn’t tell me that you were working on designing a new submarine.  I think that is wonderful!” 


Nathan smiled at her praise.  “It’s just something I kick around in my spare time.  I’d like to talk to you for a few minutes if you have the time?”


Kristin nodded as Scott gazed at the couple with interest, the energy flowing between them palpable.  He cleared his throat.


“Excuse us, Scott.  Maybe we can have a longer visit later.”


The couple moved away from Scott, never looking back.


Nathan steered Kristin along the corridor to the cabin she shared with Katie Hitchcock.  A quick check of the hall showed no one about and he slipped through the door behind her and quickly shut it.  He had barely turned around when Kristin vaulted into his arms, attacking his mouth voraciously with her own.


“Missed me?”  Nathan questioned when Kristin finally released his mouth to gulp in a breath.  His hands wandered up her ribs to her chest.  “I see that you must have.”  Nathan made short work of the buttons on her blouse and within moments it was lying on the floor.


Kristin attacked his buttons with equal fervor as his hands found their way beneath her slip to tease her bare nipples.  She soon had his shirt off as well.  Nathan stooped so that she could pull his undershirt over his head, leaving his chest bare to her touch.


Her hands felt cold to his heated flesh and he felt an uncontrollable urge to feel her bare flesh against his.  Strong hands gripped the neckline of the lacy slip that covered her torso and ripped until she was bare to the waist. 


Kristin wrapped her arms around Nathan’s neck and pressed against him as his hands slipped down to cup her ass and lift.  Her feet left the ground as her knees parted and her legs hooked around Nathan’s calves.  She whimpered in frustration as her skirt prevented her from going further.


Kristin was so enraptured with Nathan’s kisses that she didn’t realized they had moved until she felt the edge of her bunk at the back of her legs.  Nathan lowered her gently onto the mattress and slowly pushed the hem of her skirt up until he could see bare flesh above her stocking tops.  He climbed into the bunk and knelt between her legs.


Nathan watched dusky nipples grow hard beneath his gaze before he bent down to worship the soft flesh with his tongue.  Kristin arched her back as she begged for more contact.  Nathan obliged by pulling as much soft white flesh into his mouth as he could.


Kristin’s fingers mimicked the rhythm of Nathan’s tongue on his nipples, eliciting a soft moan deep in his throat.  A loud thump echoed through the room then Nathan felt Kristin’s foot massage his calf and realized she’d kicked her shoe off.  He could feel every toe as she caressed his leg through the fabric of his trousers.  His moans became deeper as her foot drifted higher, past his knee and up his thigh until it was rubbing his butt. 


Kristin wrapped her leg over his hips and pulled, trying to bring his body into closer contact with her own.  Nathan snickered.


“Getting impatient with me?  We can’t have that…”


But instead of joining her he began to kiss his way down the line of her stomach.


“Nathan…” she protested as he continued to move lower.  Her protest turned to a moan as his fingers slipped into her panties and began to stroke her gently.  His head moved lower and his lips began to paint a trail of kisses up her inner thigh.  “No…” Kristin murmured as his warm breath flowed over her aroused sex.  Nathan inhaled her scent before pushing forward to slide his tongue up her warm folds.  She moaned but Nathan felt her tense so he began to work his way back up her body, unwilling to do anything she wasn’t ready for.


Kristin’s hands roamed up and down his back, her nails raking bare skin as she urged him back to her mouth.


“Thank you.”  She murmured as his mouth settled onto hers. 


Nathan pulled back to stare into her eyes.  “I’ll never do anything to make you uncomfortable and I’ll always stop when you ask me too.”


Her eyes shone as she pulled him back.  Kristin’s lips attacked Nathan’s greedily, her tongue begging for entrance. Nathan obliged her request as he slowly lowered his body on top of her.  He kissed her tenderly.  She kissed him passionately as her body begged him to complete what they both wanted so desperately. 


Kristin’s hands pushed against Nathan’s hips and he levered up slightly to that she could reach the fastenings of his trousers.  She quickly dispensed with the button and zipper and freed his stiff member.  Her fingers danced up and down its silky length while she caressed the head with her thumbs.  Nathan groaned.


“Dr. Westphalen!”   Nathan swore as Captain Dickinson’s voice echoed through the room from the corridor, rising above the sound of his pounding on the door.


“Ignore him, please!” Kristin begged. 


“He might come in and I don’t think him catching us like this would be a good thing.  Damn!  What I wouldn’t give for a week on a deserted island with you.”  Nathan pushed himself away from Kristin reluctantly.


“Come on, sweetheart.  You need to get dressed.”  Nathan shrugged into his shirt as Kristin sat up reluctantly and pushed her skirt down.  She pulled the straps of her ripped slip back onto her shoulders and grabbed the blouse that Nathan threw at her.


The pounding at the door continued as Nathan moved toward it.  He checked back and made sure that Kristin was fully dressed and winked at her as she hopped on one foot while she struggled to push her foot back into her shoe.  Her lips were swollen and her hair was in disarray.  Nathan knew that they wouldn’t fool Dickinson.  The bulge beneath his zipper would be one clue and the fact that Kristin looked like a highly aroused and very frustrated woman would be another.  But at least they wouldn’t be caught in the act.


The door had already begun to swing open by the time that Nathan reached it.


“Captain, please come in.”


Surprise flitted across Dickinson’s face as he took in both Nathan and Kristin’s appearance but he quickly masked it.  “I didn’t know you were here, Captain Bridger, on board I mean.  We had hoped that you were on the Dolphin.  They’ve been called away.”


“What?  My ship is gone?  What the hell happened?”


“We got a report of a downed pilot about one hundred miles from here and the Dolphin was the closest sub available.”


“A hundred miles?  That’s not really in combat range?”


“The pilot was hit but thought he could make it back to base.  When it became apparent that he wasn’t going to he had to eject.  We thought that you were on the sub when the orders came through but they couldn’t find you.  Chief Crocker didn’t feel that he could wait any longer so he gave the order to cast off.”


“I just came back over about an hour ago.  Crocker was busy so I told one of my crewmen.  The chief can handle this.  What about Lieutenant Hitchcock?  She was on the sub when I left.”


“She is still there.  The crewman was hurt in the attack so time was of the essence.”


“So the Dolphin will be bringing the injured man back here?  That shouldn’t take more than a day or two.”


Captain Dickinson shook his head.  “They are taking the pilot on to his ship.  They feel that they can deal with his injuries there.  We were in the process of arranging for a rendezvous with a transport whose path will cross within a few miles of your sub.  They will arrange a meeting point.  Perhaps you’d like to review the navigational charts with me, Captain?”


Nathan nodded.  “I’d like that very much.  I’ll be with you in just a minute.”


“I’ll wait right outside.”  Dickinson replied pointedly.


“Well, so much for a pleasant afternoon…” Nathan laughed wryly as he pulled Kristin into his embrace.


“I’m so sorry, Nathan.  If I hadn’t distracted you then you would have been on your boat and not stuck here.”


“There are worse things I can think of than being stuck with you.  Even if we do have Dickinson breathing over our shoulder like he was your father or something.”


“I suppose that someday we’ll tell our grandchild about this and laugh?”  Kristin tried to match Nathan’s light tone.


“Sure.  I can hear it now.  Well, Teddy, Grandpa missed his sub because he was locked in a stateroom where Grandma was trying to seduce him… and succeeding, by the way…” Nathan deftly dodged the light punch Kristin threw at him.


“Go with the Captain.  I need to get back to my patients anyway.”


“You stay away from Scott Keller.  He’s got his eye on you.”


“Most of your friends seem to have their eye on me, except for Bill.”


Nathan smiled as he remembered a comment Bill had made to him almost two years before when he was telling him about the Senator’s visit, McCallister’s wife is a real looker.’


“Bill may be married but he isn’t dead.  Just because he hasn’t tried to touch doesn’t mean he hasn’t looked.”


“Nathan Bridger!  Are you implying that your friend Bill, my best friend’s husband…


“No.  I am not saying any such thing.  I am simply stating that you are a very beautiful woman and any man who comes near you notices that, married or not.  So you stay away from Scott Keller.”


Kristin grinned, recognizing that Nathan was teasing her and also that he was jealous of the attention his friend had paid her. 


The sound of a throat being cleared loudly came from the corridor. 


“Damn that man!  I haven’t even kissed you!”


“Then why don’t you, Captain?”


They shared a brief but fiery kiss as Captain Dickinson cleared his throat a second time.  Kristin laughed at the fury in Nathan’s eyes as they parted. 


“Go!  I’ll see you later.”




Kristin laughed out loud as the spray from the boat drifted lightly across her face.  The last few days had been hectic, full of packing and making connections.  A small boat had transferred she and Nathan to a transfer ship that had taken them closer to the Dolphin.  The transport ship had been much smaller than the hospital ship, with a much bigger crew compliment.  Nathan had tried to protect her but more than once she’d felt unfamiliar hands grope her body.  Nathan had pushed the transport’s captain and he’d finally agreed to combine their delivery back to the Dolphin with a small supply mission so they’d escaped the boat several hours earlier than they were scheduled.


The pilot of the boat, a young black man with a pleasant smile, grinned from ear to ear as Kristin stood to let the wind touch more of her body. 


“I know how you feel.  That boat can get kind of cramped.  That’s why I always volunteer for these delivery missions.  Gives me a little personal space.”


“You certainly know how to handle this boat well, Mr. Ford.”


“Thank you, Captain.  But you both will probably get tired before we reach the Dolphin.  We have a long trip ahead of us.”


“Can you give us any idea of what our first stop entails, Jonathan?”  Kristin asked.


“Well, I don’t guess it would hurt anything.  We are headed toward a cluster of islands that were once used to monitor Japanese troop movements.”


Nathan cast a worried eye at Kristin.  “Isn’t that behind enemy lines?”


“The islands are on our side now.  When we pulled the observers out a cache of supplies was left behind.  I’m supposed to pick them up.  Once they are all loaded we’ll head toward the rendezvous point with your ship.  So I suggest that you folks just sit back and enjoy the ride.”




Someone had made a mistake on the map that Jonathan Ford had been given and they ended up searching several of the small islands in the cluster before finding the correct one.  Kristin took the opportunity to wander along the beautiful horseshoe shaped beach while Nathan helped Jonathan locate the buried supplies. 


Nathan stared at the beauty wandering along the waterline, her shoes and jacket piled at one end, her blouse unbuttoned halfway down to allow the sun and wind to touch her skin.  She must have sensed his scrutiny because she turned and smiled at him before starting back toward the place he stood.


Nathan met her halfway and placed a chaste kiss on her lips, ever mindful of Jonathan Ford’s presence just a few yards into the foliage. 


“All done?”


“Unfortunately no.  We’ve just located the cache but it’s been buried so we have to dig it up.  Ford has started but I’m going to look in the boat and see if I can find something to help him dig.  With the two of us working it shouldn’t take long.  We lost a lot of time hunting the right island. The sun is going to go down soon.”


“I’ll come with you.  I can help, move sand or something.”


Nathan wrapped an arm around Kristin’s waist as they moved back up the beach toward the boat.  They were almost there when Nathan stopped, cocking an ear toward the sky.  He muttered a curse beneath his breath and dragged Kristin toward the jungle, pausing only to grab her shoes and jacket.  They had barely reached cover when an airplane flew low overhead, then another.  They were low enough that Nathan could easily make out the rising sun emblem on the tail.


The two planes continued over and Nathan hoped they were in the clear, but he wasn’t taking any chances, especially with Kristin.


“Damn!  We’ve got to get Ford and get out of here!”


At that moment the jungle parted and Jonathan Ford came bursting through.  “Captain, did you see?”


“Let’s get out of here, now.”


Ford shook his head.  “No sir.  That’s the last thing that we should do.”


“What?  We can’t take a chance…”


“Sir, I’m betting that they didn’t see us but if they did they were going too fast to get an exact location.  The number of islands in this chain confused us and we are on the ground.  If they saw the boat they will only have a general idea as to the location.”


“Those weren’t long range flyers, Jonathan.  If they are here then there is a carrier somewhere nearby.”


Jonathan nodded.  “Another reason to stay put.”


“We can’t just wait like sitting ducks.”  Nathan’s eyes cut to Kristin.


“Sir, I can’t outrun a carrier but I can outmaneuver one, however I can’t do it with added weight in the boat.  I propose that you and Dr. Westphalen stay here.  If they did see the boat they don’t know how many people were on it.  I’ll run on silent back through the islands then make for the meeting point with the Dolphin. Once I get there we’ll come back for you.  You shouldn’t be here more than a few days.  The island has fresh water and plenty of supplies…”


A memory sprang unbidden to Nathan’s mind.  ‘What I wouldn’t give for a week on a deserted island with you.’  He turned to Kristin.  “What do you think, Dr. Westphalen?”


Kristin bit the bottom of her lip thoughtfully.  “We are still in Allied territory, correct?  And Jonathan stands a much better chance of getting through if he goes alone?”  She shrugged her shoulders.  “I trust your judgement, Captain.”


“Just a moment, Mr. Ford.” 


Jonathan watched with interest as Captain Bridger led Doctor Westphalen over to the far side of the clearing they were standing in.  Their voices were low but he caught an occasional word or phrase here and there.  He quickly surmised that he had been correct in his initial assessment of the relationship between the man and woman.  What surprised him was the doctor’s show of temper, ‘I am NOT a hothouse flower!’  And the easy way in which the captain quickly soothed her ruffled feathers.  Finally the couple rejoined him.


“Well, Mr. Ford… Doctor Westphalen has assured me that she is perfectly capable of surviving a few days without the amenities that civilization offers so I guess that we’ll stay here until you can send back transport.”


“Then we’d better get to it.  I’d like to be away from here by the time those planes turn around.  Let’s get everything off the transport that we can.”


The three of them quickly unloaded the boat until it was riding high in the water.  The only mishap was Kristin’s small bag of clothing, which ended up submerged at the bottom of the inlet when Jonathan’s toss went awry.  As the men moved items from the beach Kristin dragged them back under the cover of the trees.  Finally everything that could be removed was.


“Sir, this island should be safe enough but I would still recommend that you hide the equipment and that you and Dr. Westphalen find someplace to hide yourselves, just in case.”


Nathan nodded, knowing that Ford was right.  “I’ll take care of both of us.  And Jonathan, thank you.”  Nathan shook the younger man’s hand before hopping off the end of the boat onto the beach.  “Be careful.”


Nathan applied all of his weight to the front of the boat and it slowly slipped off the sand and drifted back into deeper water.  The engine sprang to life and Jonathan quickly throttled down until it was almost silent.  With a wave of his hand he turned the boat back toward the open ocean and moved slowly toward the horizon.


Nathan and Kristin stood watching him get smaller and smaller until the waning light reminded them that they had work to do. 




The rain beat down relentlessly on the tarp that Nathan had rigged over low hanging tree branches to shelter them.  They had found the tarp and a few blankets in the supplies that he and Jonathan were digging up.  There had also been various other staples they might need including several crates of canned goods.  At least they wouldn’t starve.  The weather had Nathan worried about Jonathan but he also knew that the heavy cloud cover was to the young man’s benefit.


Kristin snuggled deeper into the warm cocoon of Nathan’s arms as she slept.  He brushed his lips across her hair as he tightened his grip.  His mouth moved in a whispered prayer that he’d done the right thing to protect her. 


They had both worked desperately to rebury the supplies and the surplus items from the boat, keeping only what they would need for several days.  Nathan calculated that under the best of circumstances they would be stuck on the island for three to four days and that was only if everything went completely without incident.  By the time they had crawled beneath the tarp they were both hungry and soaking wet.  Kristin produced a sleeve of crackers and a lump of cheese that she’d been taking back to Katie from her medical bag and they had feasted on that before stripping off their wet clothes and climbing beneath the blankets.


Nathan thought that Kristin had expected him to make a move on her and perhaps been disappointed when he hadn’t but he knew that they were both much too tired.  That and another reason… a casual comment Captain Dickinson had made during their first day on the Mercy had made an impact on Nathan.  The Captain had remarked that it was nice for someone to come to them instead of them having to be the one to go.  Nathan had realized that he had always initiated any sort of intimate contact with Kristin, never the other way around.  At least not until the morning they’d met the Mercy.  For the first time Kristin had come to him, expressed her desire for him.  He knew that she had been dreaming, had even tried to dismiss it because of her dream state but then she had once again made the first move in her cabin.


Nathan knew that Kristin had made a huge step forward in her recovery by being able to act on her feelings, to show her desire to Nathan instead of following his lead.  What he wanted more than anything was to follow through, finish the intricate dance that they’d started almost two years ago.  The tempo had changed three months ago and had been growing steadily stronger ever since.  Nathan felt his body react to the memory of how Kristin had looked as she shattered in his arms during her dream.


“Soon, sweetheart, very soon.”  He pulled her body even closer to his and gave in to his exhaustion.




The sun was high in the sky when Kristin finally stirred.  She reached out to Nathan but the spot beside her on the blanket was empty. 


“Nathan?” she called tentatively but received no answer. 


Kristin sat up and quickly grabbed the blanket to her body when she realized that she was nude.  A quick glance around the area revealed her skirt and blouse, wrinkled but dry, laid out for her.  She smiled at Nathan’s thoughtful gesture and pulled the clothes on before she sat off in search of the missing sailor.


Kristin found Nathan on the beach wearing only his uniform pants, a makeshift fishing pole in his hand.  She cheered as he gave the pole a quick yank and a fish came flying onto the beach.


“So you finally decided to wake up?”  He teased her gently as she joined him.


“You should have woken me.  I know that we have a lot more work to do today.  Why are you fishing?  We have plenty of supplies… you think we are going to be here for more than a few days?”


Nathan shook his head at Kristin’s worried gaze.  “I think that Ford will send someone back for us.  I just think we should be cautious with our supplies in case it takes a little longer than we expect.  Besides, these will taste fantastic, I promise.”  He gestured to the small pile of fish that he had already caught.  “I’ll build a fire and get them cooking.  We need to keep our strength up.”


Kristin eyed the fish suspiciously for a time before nodding her agreement.  “You know how to cook them?  Well, I’m glad because I certainly don’t!”


“I remember.  You told me the kitchen wasn’t your forte... that first night I came back… in the kitchen, just before we…”


Kristin’s face went scarlet at the memory.  “Yes… well… we’d better get going.  We do have a lot to accomplish today.”  Her skin grew even hotter when she heard Nathan’s slight chuckle as she stalked off the beach.


Nathan made short work of breakfast then went over his plans while they ate.  “First of all I think we need to reconnoiter the island, find out exactly what we are dealing with as far as the terrain goes.  Those observers had to have some place to hole up.  We need to find it.  Jonathan said there was fresh water here.  We need to find that as well.”


“I can do that while you finish with the supplies.”


“NO!  You are not to go wandering off on your own.  You stay with me at all times.”


Kristin bristled at Nathan’s captain’s voice but he quickly cut her off.  “I’m in charge, Kristin.  If I tell you to do something you do it.  I have to know that you understand that if we are going to get through this.  I am not being heavy handed but there may come a time when I have to know that you will follow my orders without argument.”


“Fine!” Kristin’s voice was brittle but she gave Nathan her word. 




Kristin remained sulky for much of their island exploration.  Nathan tried to draw her out with talk about the scenery they were seeing but she didn’t budge.


The island itself was small but filled with natural beauty.  They began their exploration on the beach, walking as far as they could down the sand before turning inland.  A hard trek through the dense foliage brought them to the base of a large hill that Nathan wanted to climb.  He was disappointed to find that there was no way up the side of the rock cliff. 


The couple once more began to work around the base of the rock, Nathan in the lead to try and beat down an easier path for Kristin to follow.  Even so, they were both exhausted before they had gotten very far.


Kristin glanced at the position of the sun.  “We should rest for a while and we need water.  We won’t be able to accomplish much if we get heat stroke.  If that meets with the Captain’s approval?”  She ended sarcastically.  Nathan shot her an annoyed look but didn’t reply.


They paused for a few minutes before moving forward in search of a break in the jungle where they could sit down.  Another fifteen minutes found them no closer to their goal. 


Kristin didn’t notice Nathan stop in front of her until she ran into his muscular back.  She allowed her head to rest against him for just a moment before she pulled back.


“Why did you stop?”


Nathan held up a hand to silence her for a moment and then whispered.  “Listen!”


The sound came to Kristin gradually; mingling in with the sounds of the jungle before her ears began to separate it. 


“Water… a waterfall?”


Nathan nodded.  “Come on.”  He took off through the jungle at a breakneck pace.


Kristin tried to keep up but she couldn’t.  The heat had sapped too much of her strength.  She continued to move toward the water and by the time she reached the clearing Nathan was already bent at the lagoon beneath the waterfall, drinking his fill of fresh water.


Kristin’s anger bubbled to the surface and she walked up quietly behind Nathan and pushed.  Balanced on the balls of his feet, he didn’t stand a chance and went headfirst into the water with a loud splash.  He came up sputtering to find Kristin several yards down the bank drinking and wetting her face with the cool liquid.  He moved toward her menacingly but she was watching for him and quickly backed away.


“Why in the hell did you do that?”


“Because you deserve it.  First you lecture me about not being out of your sight then you leave me alone in that!”  She jerked her finger at the trees behind her.  “If you want water so badly then you should have all you want!  It’s the only thing that you’ve shown any desire for since we got stuck on this damned island.”


“Kristin!  You come back here!”  Nathan yelled as she turned and stalked back toward the jungle.  He climbed out of the water and caught her just as she reached the edge. He tried to hold on to her but she continued to fight him.


Nathan grabbed her upper arms and shook her.  “Stop it!”


Kristin’s hand cracked like a pistol when it made contact with Nathan’s cheek.  His hands fell away from her as he backed away.


“I’m so sorry, Nathan.  I didn’t mean… please forgive me?”


“I deserved to be slapped.  I’ve been a presumptuous bastard all day.  Maybe I should try explaining why I do things instead of demanding that you follow blindly like one of my men.  I’m sorry that I left you in the jungle.  I really thought that you were right behind me.”


Tears began to form in Kristin’s eyes as she stood staring at Nathan, rivulets of water running from his wet hair down his bare chest.


“What is it, Kristin?  What do you want?”


“I want you.”  The words rushed from her mouth as if torn by some unseen force.  “We’ve been here almost twenty-four hours and you haven’t so much as kissed me!”


“We’ve been busy and you were exhausted.  You needed to rest and, frankly, so did I.”


A tear slipped down her cheek as she turned away, embarrassed.  “I shouldn’t have said anything.”


“Why not?  You are an equal partner in this relationship.  I thought you finally realized that over the last week, when you came to me, first on the sub then on the boat.  You wanted me as much as I want you.  That hasn’t changed.”


Kristin turned back to stare at Nathan as understanding dawned.  “You didn’t mind?  He never let me initiate anything, not even a kiss, not even in the beginning…”


“Kristin, I am NOT Jack McCallister.  I have no intention of ever trying to dominate you, of trying to smother your special fire, of trying to mold you into some ideal image.  I am in love with you - beauty, brains, temper - the whole package.  Exactly as you are.”


Nathan’s breath caught and his lungs refused to work as Kristin’s hands moved to her blouse and began to slowly undo the buttons.  The sides fell apart as she worked from top to bottom revealing that she had once again decided to forgo a brassiere.  She pulled the hem from the waistband of her skirt and let the garment slide down her arms to puddle on the grass.  A quick nudge with each foot had her canvas lace up shoes joining it. 


Nathan dragged his eyes from her chest to her face.  He saw the question in her eyes and answered with his, letting the desire he’d fought to keep down flow free.  She smiled slightly and Nathan saw her swallow hard as her hands moved to the zipper on her skirt, sliding it slowly down until the skirt sagged low on her hips.  A strategic tug and a gentle twist left her standing completely nude before him.


‘Come to me, sweetheart.  Show me that you want me.’  Nathan willed her to move toward him and actually whimpered when she did so.  Kristin stopped inches from his body but made no move to touch him.  He waited but she continued to stand completely still.




“Equal partners, remember?” She whispered.


Nathan nodded his understanding and stripped off his wet pants and shoes before standing back up in front of her.  He held a hand out to her, palm up and fingers spread.


“I love you, Kristin Westphalen.”


Kristin raised her hand to his, palm down and fingers spread, until the two met and their fingers laced together in an unbreakable hold.


“I love you, Nathan Bridger.”


Their happiness at finally giving voice to their feelings bubbled over as they both began to beam.  Nathan knew he couldn’t wait any longer and moved his face forward, stopping half way as Kristin moved to meet him.  Their lips met gently, a kiss of affirmation and healing, washing away all of the unpleasantness that had been between them in the last few months.  Soft lips brushed firm ones tenderly as they reveled in the simple touch.


Soon simple kissing wasn’t enough and Nathan’s tongue slipped out to run along the edge of Kristin’s lower lip.  She responded quickly, parting her lips and allowing her tongue to trace Nathan’s upper lip until both tangled together in a fiery dance of longing.  Their free hands moved to touch and caress the other, beginning with the back as they drew closer together, but quickly moving on to more intimate parts.


Although Nathan loved kissing Kristin, the time quickly came when kisses weren’t enough.  He gently pulled their hands apart and lowered her to the soft grass beneath their feet before stretching out beside her.  She immediately turned on her side to face him and hooked her top leg over his rear, trapping his arousal between them.  She tried to maneuver Nathan into position but he stopped her.


“Please let me love you.” 


Kristin looked stunned at the begging note in his tone.  It had been so long since anyone had been concerned about her pleasure that she seldom considered it herself.  Nathan rolled her onto her back and moved his upper body over hers, careful to do nothing to make her feel trapped.  He began by kissing her deeply, his hands running sensually up and down her rib cage before finally moving to cup and caress her firm breasts.  He massaged gently, beginning at the outer swell and slowly working his way inward to the dusky peak.  He was pleased to find it pebbled and ready for his touch when he arrived. 


A low moan escaped Kristin’s throat as Nathan’s thumb began its intimate exploration of her nipple.  They continued to kiss, slow deep kisses interspersed with hard quick ones, until both of them were breathless.


Nathan’s mouth began to move down, past her neck, grazing over her collarbone, up the gentle slope of her right breast until it reached the tip and began to nibble gently.  His attentions remained playful at first - a quick nip of his teeth, a rapid flick of his tongue - before he finally pulled the entire peak inside to lave and suck the nipple lovingly.  She whispered his name and arched her back, begging for more.  Nathan obliged and began to pull harder at that nipple while his free hand drifted over to tease the other. 


Kristin’s hands drifted to his head to hold it firmly to her as if she were afraid that he would leave her.  Nathan felt her tense and slowed down his ministrations, not wanting her to come too quickly.  He slid his tongue down the side of her breast into the valley between, pausing to kiss the tender skin there before climbing the other mound.  He pushed up on his elbow so that hand could take over pleasuring the breast he had just left while the other hand began a slow travel down Kristin’s abdomen, drawing lazy circles as it moved. 


“Your skin is like satin,” Nathan whispered against Kristin’s skin as his fingers slipped lower to tangle in the nest of auburn curls at the juncture of her thighs.  He stroked experimentally and was rewarded with a slight parting of her legs.  His index finger slid in to lightly brush her clit before moving deeper into her core.  He found her wet with desire.


Nathan groaned as her inner muscles clenched at his finger and dragged his mouth back to hers, rolling his body until muscled thigh slid between her legs.  He added a second finger to her liquid heat and was rewarded with a gasp as her hips surged upward against his hand.


“That’s it, Kristin.  Lose yourself in the feeling.  Let yourself go.”  Nathan encouraged her as his fingers increased their speed and intensity.  He dragged his mouth to her ear and began to describe to her exactly how she felt beneath his hand.  His erotic words inflamed her even more.  Kristin’s breath began to catch as Nathan drove her closer and closer to the edge. 


“Please, oh God!  Please!” Nathan could no longer stand the need in her voice.  His hand left her breast to grab hers, fingers interlacing as they had in the beginning.  He pushed his fingers in and out faster as his thumb moved up to stroke the center of her arousal.


Kristin shattered beneath his touch, tumbling over the edge as she screamed his name, giving voice to the passion that Nathan had always sensed locked beneath the surface.  Her grip on his hand tightened as Nathan continued to stroke her, driving her to a second climax before she’d recovered from the first.  Nathan braced himself above her and watched her face as he had longed to do since the first time.


Kristin opened her eyes slowly, as she gradually became aware of her surroundings once again.  Smiling blue eyes stared back at her.


“Welcome back.”


“Oh, Nathan!  I never thought that I could feel that again.  I love you so much!”


Nathan responded with a kiss.  “I love you and I’m going to spend the rest of my life making sure you feel that way anytime you wish.”


“Anytime?”  A slightly evil grin crossed Kristin’s lips as her hand drifted down Nathan’s abdomen.


“Okay, anytime that doesn’t get me court-martialed or keel-hauled.”  He sighed as her fingertips brushed over the tip of his achingly aroused member.


“How about right now?”


Nathan’s hand began to drift back and forth through damp auburn curls.  “I think that could be arranged.” 


His index finger once again began to probe as he moved to kiss her.  She wiggled away from him.


“Unh uh.  Not like that…” Kristin lay on her back and urged Nathan to settle between her parted legs.  Their hands worked together to position him.  Nathan sighed again, this time with pleasure as she engulfed his head and he began to slowly ease his way further into her.  Kristin caught him off guard when she grasped his cheeks and pushed with all her strength, forcing him quickly down until he filled her completely.


“Like this.” She whispered, moaning as Nathan moved experimentally within her.  “Equal partners, remember?”


Nathan tried to set an easy pace but he’d hungered after this woman for far too long and she seemed to be just as desperate as he was.  He quickly became more and more aggressive as he moved within her willing body.  Kristin vocalized her feelings just as Nathan had hoped she would, moaning as Nathan’s deep thrusts touched her, pleading with him to continue. 


Nathan struggled with his own desire, fighting to hold back until he felt Kristin’s body tense around him, heard her breath catch as she clung to the precipice.  His hands cupped her bottom and held her to him as he thrust deeply, once, twice then a third time before they both went flying, screaming as they fell.




“What are you thinking?”


The couple floated in the lagoon, Kristin resting languidly in the circle of Nathan’s arms as mist from the waterfall caressed them both.  She lifted her head from his shoulder.


“I’m thinking about how happy I am.  I can’t remember the last time I felt so complete.  I’m wondering what I ever did to deserve you.”


Nathan grinned.  “I’m the lucky one.  To have you here and to know that you love me…” Nathan ended his sentence with a kiss which Kristin quickly responded to.  The gentle peck rapidly escalated into something much more passionate. 


Kristin was so caught up in the feelings that Nathan’s kiss generated that she didn’t realize they were moving until she found her self sinking beneath the deluge of the waterfall.  She pushed away from Nathan and sputtered to the surface on the far side of the flowing water.


“What was that for?”  She yelled but Nathan couldn’t hear her over the sound of the water.  She felt his hand grasp her leg and reached back to grab the rock ledge as she kicked against him.  He gasped as he appeared beside her.


“Why did you kick me?”


“I thought you were trying to pull me under.  Why did you push me beneath the fall?”


“Payback for throwing me in the pool earlier.”


“But you deserved that!  You even admitted it.”


“True.  But I was suddenly struck with an overwhelming desire to watch water run over your body.  I just didn’t realize that it was quite as fast as it was.”


Kristin’s face told Nathan that she didn’t fully believe him but he gave her his best little boy look even as his hands began to caress her beneath the water’s surface.  Kristin quickly found herself backed against the rock face that she was gripping, Nathan’s hands on top of hers as he pressed close.  Their previous loving had been slow and gentle but this time Nathan was more forceful, demanding and receiving the full intensity of Kristin’s desire as they came together wildly.


Kristin clung to Nathan’s shoulders in the aftermath, his hands still gripping the rock ledge to keep them afloat, both of them stunned by what they’d just experienced.


“That was amazing.”  She whispered into his ear.


“You are amazing.”  Nathan released the ledge and wrapped his arms around her while kicking his feet to keep them afloat.  “Marry me.”


Kristin pulled back stunned.  “What?”


“Marry me.  Come on, sweetheart.  We both know that we want to spend the rest of our lives together.  So let’s get married.”


Kristin smiled.  “Okay, I’ll marry you.”




“Nathan, in case you haven’t noticed we are short a few of the necessary things to get married – a license, a minister, witnesses.”


“Unimportant.  We can do all that again when we get back to civilization.  This is just between the two of us.  I, Nathan, take you Kristin to be my wife.  I promise to love you, honor you and cherish you every single moment for the rest of my life.  I promise you that when we are both old and gray and we look back on our life that it will have been filled with all the happiness that I can give you.”


“I, Kristin, take you Nathan to be my husband.  I promise to love you, honor you and cherish you every single moment for the rest of my life.  I promise that I will never take for granted the happiness that you have brought to me.”


They sealed their vows with a gentle kiss. 


“Husband.”  Kristin whispered.


“Wife.” Nathan answered back.


They kissed again, their happiness bubbling over as they both began to giggle. 


“So this means I get to nag you anytime I want to?”  Kristin asked.


“Yep, that’s what it means.  You can nag me.  You can demand marital relations any time you want.  I even have to eat your cooking without complaining.”


Nathan sputtered as his head went under the water.  He came up laughing.  “Okay, I deserved that too.”


“I’ll tell you what,” Kristin told him as she floated by his side.  “I just won’t cook.  That way you don’t have to martyr yourself!”


Nathan laughed again and grabbed for her.  She dove out of his way and splashed him playfully. 


“Come here, wife!” He growled.


“You have to catch me, husband!”  Kristin giggled as she once again darted away from him. 


Nathan gave chase and they both giggled madly as they splashed around beneath the waterfall.  Kristin finally miscalculated and found herself imprisoned in Nathan’s strong arms. 


“I claim my prize, a kiss.”  Nathan bent his head toward her and Kristin opened her mouth eagerly but to her surprise Nathan lifted her from the water and his mouth latched on the heavy weight of her left breast.  She inhaled sharply as she grasped his wet head and arched her body into him.


“Nathan… Nathan! Look!”


Nathan grudgingly dragged his attention away from Kristin’s body to follow the line of her pointing finger. 


Kristin was pointing to a dark spot in the face of the rock, most probably a small cave.  Although their need for shelter wasn’t the most pressing thing on his mind at that moment he recognized immediately the benefit that such a shelter could give them.  His eyes scanned the cliff face and picked out a small path that worked its way up the side of the mountain.


He turned his attention back to her chest.


“Don’t you want to investigate?”






The opening that Kristin had spotted was indeed a cave and it turned out to be everything that Nathan would have wished for in a shelter.  The opening into the rock was extremely narrow and completely invisible unless you were beneath the waterfall.  Inside the space opened into a wide room with a natural hole for smoke in the roof.  Several small crevices were perfect for storing their supplies so that, to the casual visitor, the island would still appear to be uninhabited.


They had been on the island six days when Nathan’s fears were realized.  Kristin was still sleeping peacefully in the cave, exhausted by their previous night’s activities.  Nathan was perched in the top of a palm tree hacking away at a coconut to surprise Kristin for breakfast when he heard the unmistakable sound of an engine.  ‘They’ve come for us,’ was his first thought but his cautious nature prevented him from calling out.  He tucked the coconut under his arm and shimmied quickly down the tree and moved stealthily toward the beach.  He didn’t have to go far before he heard the sound of voices – speaking Japanese. 


Nathan forced himself to remain calm and move quietly, knowing that he couldn’t warn Kristin if he were caught himself.  Somehow he managed to make his way back to the waterfall and dive behind it.  He scrambled up the path, trusting the sound of the water to hide any noise he might be making. 


He burst into the cave to find Kristin sitting up in their makeshift bed, her eyes still heavy with sleep.  A blanket pooled around her hips revealing the top half of her naked body to his gaze.  ‘Not now,’ he told his member as it sprang to life.


“We’ve got company, sweetie, and they aren’t speaking English.  I don’t think they can find us here but if we’ve left anything on the island to let them know we are here they will look harder.  You need to get dressed and hide.  If they find the cave they find me alone.  You stay hidden until they are gone.  I know that the Dolphin will be back soon.”


Kristin had jumped out of bed and was pulling a tee shirt over her head.  Her head popped through the neck, an angry look on her face. 


“What the hell do you mean?  You aren’t giving yourself over to save me!  We stay together!”


“Kristin…” Nathan pulled her into his arms.  “Do you know what they might do to you?  There is no way in hell that I am going to let them get you!”


“We’ve done a good job covering our tracks.  They won’t find us.”


Kristin finished pulling her clothes on as Nathan paced back and forth.  She busied herself with gathering up what little clothing and supplies were visible in the cave and stashing them back in the crevices.  Soon there were no traces of their presence within the normal line of vision. 


“If they find the cave we can hide back here.”  Kristin led him to the back of the cave and around rock outcrop to show him the almost hidden niche there.  The entrance was disguised by the rock and was barely large enough for each of them to squeeze through individually.  Kristin entered first then beckoned for Nathan to join her. 


Nathan grinned as he maneuvered into the small space.  “I really like this!”  He whispered as he wedged himself between the wall and Kristin’s body.  His hands slid down her back. 


He kissed her in a futile attempt to calm her nerves and his own. 


“I’m sorry, sweetheart.  I just need to know what is going on.”


“You are not going out there.”


“No. They’d be sure to catch me.  But I can’t just hide in here…” Nathan pulled his body out of the small opening and helped Kristin as she followed him.


They moved back into the main cavern and his eyes fell on the hole in the roof.  “Maybe I could get out that way.  Stay undercover and take a look around.”


Using the nearby rock wall, Nathan nimbly hoisted himself up until his head was barely out of the hole.  He held on a few moments before dropping back down. 


“There is plenty of cover.  I’m going to try and see if they are still here.  You go back to the little room and stay until I come for you.”


Kristin looked skeptical but moved to do as Nathan asked while he pulled himself through the whole to the top of the mountain.  Nathan stayed low, rolling to the ground as he cleared the opening but there were plenty of plants to cover his movements.  He inched his way slowly along the side of the river until he reached the rim of the plateau. 


Nathan watched the water plunge down into the lagoon for a moment then began to search.  A small boat was moored on the same beach that they had landed on and four soldiers were milling around on the beach.  He was relieved to see that they appeared to be leaving.  Nathan quickly scanned the ground for more soldiers and found none.


All of his senses were tuned to the men on the beach and he didn’t hear anything behind him until Kristin crawled up beside him.  He gave her a strong glare but she met his gaze head on.  One hand flipped casually up in front of his face brandishing a pair of binoculars.  Nathan snatched them from her hand, angry that she hadn’t obeyed him and that she’d thought of the device when he hadn’t.


Kristin settled in beside him and also began to scan the island.  They both lay motionless and silent until the soldiers piled back into the boat and slid down the beach into the lagoon.  Nathan kept the field glasses trained on the small craft until it disappeared over the horizon.


Once the boat was gone and he had scanned as much of the island as he could see he rolled to his side to stare at Kristin.


“Didn’t I tell you to stay hidden?”




“And didn’t you agree to do everything I told you to do?”


“Well… I wouldn’t say I agreed to ‘everything’.”




“I know, but I knew you weren’t likely to run into anyone up here because they would have had to come by me to get to you.  I feel safer up here with you than down there by myself.”


“Kristin…” Nathan sighed as he felt Kristin’s hand trail over his hip.  “That isn’t going to work.”


“Of course not.” She agreed as her hand slipped between them. 


“I mean it!  You aren’t going to distract me with seduction.”  He rolled her to her back and moved over her.


“I wouldn’t dream of it.”  Deft fingers slid his zipper down.


“Just as long as you realize that. Because I am definitely not susceptible.”  The buttons on her shirt slipped from their holes.


“Always.”  Kristin whispered as Nathan lowered his head to hers.




“Hey, isn’t that my shirt?”  Kristin gave Nathan a sly grin as she continued to fasten the buttons on the long sleeve blue shirt she had picked up from the ground.  “I guess I’m stuck with the tee shirt.”


“I need something to protect me from the sun.  I could have pulled something from my bag if someone hadn’t dropped it into the lagoon.”  Nathan grinned at the kidding tone in Kristin’s voice.  Although he’d fallen in love with her the moment he saw her he was daily becoming more and more enamoured with the playfulness that had bubbled to her surface over the last few weeks.


“Did I not try for over two hours to retrieve your bag?  Did I not almost drown before I finally got the damned thing to the beach?  And this is the thanks I get!  You steal my clothes!  The blue shirt is my favorite!”


“Mine too!  You know that the salt water ruined everything in the bag.  I’d have to lose twenty pounds to be able to wear any of those items now.  But if it bothers you so much…” Kristin’s nimble fingers quickly moved down the row of buttons. 


Nathan’s eyes grew dark as she shrugged the shirt off her shoulders to reveal bare skin.  “I guess I could go without.  But then I’d probably have a terrible sunburn… couldn’t stand to be touched…”


“Then by all means keep the shirt.  Let me help you button it.  Top to bottom and get those cuffs too.”


“Uhm, Nathan… I think that the buttons are supposed to go into the holes, not come out of them… Nathan…”


Kristin found herself lying flat on her back staring up into sapphire eyes as the shirt flew over Nathan’s shoulder.


“Nathan… again?  We just…”


He moved in to kiss her but a movement in the distance caught his eye.  He quickly rolled off of her and grabbed the glasses.  Kristin grabbed the shirt and pulled it closed before she rolled to her belly.


“Are they coming back?”  she whispered.


“I don’t know… I don’t think so… but there is definitely something down there.  Let’s go see.”


Kristin gave him a disgusted look as he pulled her to her feet.  Nathan planted a kiss on the end of her nose.  “Later, I promise.”


“What happened to anytime I wanted to?”  Kristin asked as he tugged her toward the opening.


Nathan stopped and spun around so quickly that Kristin ran straight into him.  His arms locked her hips against his as he kissed her deeply.


“Okay, I’m sure that if that’s the Dolphin come to rescue us they won’t mind waiting.”


Kristin craned her neck back to stare at the lagoon.  “Do you think it could be them?”


“I honestly don’t know.  It might be but I doubt it.  Whatever is down there is at least partially beneath the water.  Perhaps our ‘friends’ left a gift.  But I would feel more comfortable if I check it out.  However, if you really just can’t wait…”


Kristin pushed his hands away from her bottom.  “All right.  But you owe me…”


Nathan flashed her a grin.  “Ooh, now I can’t wait.”


Nathan dropped down into the cave then held out his arms to lower Kristin down. 


“I know that you won’t stay here but will you at least stay hidden in the trees until I figure out what is out there?  Please?”


Kristin gave her assent but she didn’t look happy.  They made their way carefully down the path and emerged from behind the waterfall.  Nathan gave a sweeping glance around the clearing before leading Kristin across the open ground and back into the jungle.


Nathan pushed Kristin behind a tree just before the vegetation gave way to open beach.  He looked at her pointedly with one eyebrow raised.  She responded with a short nod.  As Nathan turned to move onto the beach he saw her stick her tongue out at him.


A silent smile stole across his face as he moved to the water’s edge and surveyed the calm before him.  His eyes detected a small ripple that was out of sync with the rest of the water.  He could see an object lying just beneath the surface but couldn’t make out any distinctive features.


Nathan could feel Kristin’s eyes boring into his back as he moved into the water.  He moved slowly, causing as little motion as possible.  The object wiggled as he approached and Nathan realized that it was alive.


The dolphin’s snout popped out of the water as Nathan got closer, a whistle issuing from within.  It began to chatter wildly as it tried to move.  A small dark cloud floated just below its dorsal fin and Nathan realized that the animal was hurt.


“Kristin!”  Nathan called out to her as he reached a hand out to touch the dolphin’s side.  The dolphin moved into Nathan’s touch.


“That’s it, boy.  I’m just trying to help you.”  Nathan rubbed the dolphin’s melon gently with one hand while using the other to propel him into the shallow water.


“What’s wrong?”  Kristin had reached the edge of the water and was watching with concern as Nathan pushed something toward the shore.


“It’s an injured dolphin.  I think that the boat propeller hit him when those guys were leaving.  Can we do anything to help him?”


Kristin waded into the water and imitated Nathan’s actions by rubbing the melon before helping him move the dolphin forward.  When the water was shallow enough she began to inspect the wound, a single cut along the back.


“I can’t really bandage it because of the water but if we could find someway to hold him I could watch the wound for infection.  We might be able to bind the wound together.  We could use some of my clothes, tear them into strips and tie them tightly around him to try and stop the bleeding.”


Nathan nodded.  “Let’s do that then.”


Kristin returned to their cave and was back with supplies and her medical bag within minutes.  She disinfected the wound as well as she could before enlisting Nathan’s help to rip her ruined clothing into strips.  Working together, they bound them around the wounded animal until the bleeding slowed.  By the time that they finished they were both exhausted.


Kristin climbed wearily back to the beach and sat down to watch Nathan interact with the dolphin.


Nathan stared into the dolphin’s intelligent eyes, wondering if it was really reading his mind or if it just felt like it.  “You need to stay here in the shallow water.  We will help you if you stay here.”


The dolphin continued to stare at the man.  He made no attempt to swim away but was content to rest beneath Nathan’s hands.  Nathan continued to rub the dolphin’s melon gently.  “Wise men have argued the theory of evolution for years.  Yet you seem to understand me, know exactly what I’m saying.  I wonder what Darwin would have made of you?”


When the dolphin continued to float in the shallows Nathan left the water and went to sit beside Kristin.  She sighed when he put his arm around her shoulders and leaned into him. 


“It looks like he is going to stay around for now.  I’d better get busy.  Darwin is going to need to eat so I am going to have to catch a lot more fish.  I’d better get some for us too.  Judging by the sun we are way past due for lunch.


“I am hungry but you need to be careful.  You shouldn’t overdo during the hottest part of the day.”


“I am just going to fish for a while.  Why don’t you go back to the cave and get some rest?  I’ll wake you when I get the food ready.”


“Why don’t I stay here and watch the dolphin.  Did you call him Darwin?  I guess we have to call him something.  I’ll move back under the trees and rest there.  Besides, I need to dry off anyway.”


Nathan let his eyes run down her body to enjoy the view of his wet shirt molded to her peaked breasts.  “You could take the shirt off…”


“And you could take yours off too but then you wouldn’t get any fish caught and we’d all go hungry.”  Kristin flashed him a naughty smile.  “I’ll collect, don’t you worry.”


Nathan chuckled all the way down the beach.




Kristin settled the blankets into the sand at the very edge of the beach while Nathan finished checking on Darwin one final time for the evening.  She stripped off her wet clothing and draped it over a small bush to dry during the night before using one of her ruined skirts to dry off.


An almost imperceptible sound tickled her ear and she turned back toward the water to find Nathan watching her intently as he slowly removed his own clothing.


His maleness reacted to the vision of her standing nude before him, her body bathed in silver moonlight.  She reached out to him and he moved toward her, stepping out of his remaining clothing as he did so.


The damp skirt was still in her hands so Kristin raised it to his chest and began to dry him off, moving the cloth in slow circles to absorb all of the moisture.  He followed her direction, turning so she could reach his back, enjoying the feel of her touch as she moved slowly over his butt and the back of his legs.  At her tap he turned back to face her, surprised to find her still kneeling before him.  She continued to dry his legs and his head fell back as she reached his most private parts, hesitating only momentarily before the towel continued its gentle movements.


Nathan felt the towel run over his lower abdomen and then leave his body.  He reached, expecting to find Kristin standing in front of him but she wasn’t there.  Then he felt her warm breath wash over his sensitive skin seconds before her warm mouth closed around his arousal.


She was gone a moment later but Nathan knew that it had taken a lot of courage for her to touch him that intimately and he was glad to know that she trusted him so much.


When he opened his eyes she was standing before him, waiting.  Nathan moved back a few feet, his hands holding hers to pull her with him.  When he reached the edge of the blanket Nathan lowered himself down into a sitting position.  His hands reached up and guided Kristin onto his lap so that she was straddling him.  She wrapped her arms around his neck as his hands stroked slowly up her sides to bracket her full breasts.


“Now where were we when I so rudely interrupted us earlier?”


A soft sound emerged from deep in Kristin’s throat as Nathan’s lips began to lightly caress the line of her neck.  Her hands traveled slowly down his back to grasp his firm bottom as she ground her hips into him.  Nathan was surprised to feel her wetness against his abdomen.  He hadn’t realized that she was already so aroused.


Kristin moaned again as a thick finger brushed over her curls before delving into them to tease her sensitive sex.  She pushed against him and felt the finger slip deep into her damp core. 


“I want you inside me.”  Kristin whispered. 


Nathan was pleased at her request because she still seldom gave voice to her own wants and desires, always allowing him to take the lead.  His hands halted her when she would have shifted off his lap.  He dropped them to her knees where they rested on each side of his hips as his face tilted up to stare into hers.


Nathan parted his lips in invitation and Kristin didn’t have to be asked twice.


“I love you.” They whispered at the same moment, just before their lips met.


Kristin followed Nathan’s lead, allowing his hands to press her thighs up until she was in a kneeling position.  He positioned himself at her entrance and slowly lowered her back into his lap, their kiss continuing through each movement.  One hand crept back up her spine until it reached the end of the braid hanging there.  Kristin kept her hair bound for convenience sake but Nathan loved nothing more than to free it from its bonds.  He pulled the piece of string off the end and quick unraveled the plait until the fiery curtain surrounded their faces


Kristin sat unmoving in Nathan’s lap, enjoying the feel of him inside her, waiting for him to twist them into position but to her surprise that didn’t happen.  Nathan pulled his lips away from hers and saw her look of regret.  He planted one last kiss on the tip of her nose before laying back until he was propped on his elbows.  He smiled at the shock in Kristin’s eyes.


“Tonight you get to be in charge.”


Brown eyes widened as Kristin realized what Nathan meant. 


“You mean… I should…”


“Don’t you want to?”  Nathan rolled his hips beneath her causing her to gasp.  “You can go as fast or as slow as you want, do anything you feel like doing.  Trust me, Kristin.”


Kristin moved her hips experimentally and was rewarded with a burst of pleasure.  Nathan could see the smile grow on her face as she tried this move again.  He groaned as Kristin began to move earnestly, hoping that he could hold out until the end. 


Nathan tried to focus on Kristin’s hair, red fire with silver edges that shimmered in the moonlight but the image only served to arouse him more.  In an effort to keep his mind off the feelings building below his waist he stared at her face.  Her sable eyes were made even darker by desire and she bit her lip in concentration as she focused on the movements which were bringing both of them so much enjoyment.  Her heard her breath catch, saw her nostrils flare and grew harder still. 


Kristin had increased the pace and was moving rapidly up and down on him as his eyes drifted lower.  Her full luscious breasts bobbed in time with her movements, the nipples pert, begging to be kissed.  Nathan leaned up slightly and caught one in his mouth, creating an instant pull as the globe continued to bounce.  Kristin arched into him which changed the internal angle of his touch.  She moaned at the alteration and moved even faster, grinding her hips against Nathan’s, growing more and more desperate for release with every thrust.


Nathan moved to the other nipple and felt her body tense as her breath caught.  Kristin stared at him, poised on the edge yet unable to go over.  She raised her body once more and Nathan sat up quickly, his hands adding to the momentum of her hips as she impaled herself on him fully, screamed his name and fell.


As her inner muscles grabbed and clenched him tightly Nathan joined her, their bodies continuing to move together, each pulling everything it could from the other.


Awareness drifted back slowly amidst the waves of contentment that washed over them.  Nathan didn’t remember falling but as he came back to himself he realized that he was on his back with Kristin on top of him, locked in his embrace.  Their bodies were still intimately joined. 


A serene smile crept onto Kristin’s face as she snuggled into Nathan’s warm torso. 


“That was incredible!”


“Ride’em cowgirl!”  Nathan’s comment earned him a gentle punch. He retaliated with a pinch to her bottom. 


“You certainly make one hell of a mount.”  Kristin whispered into his neck. 


The moon continued to move in the sky as they lay on the blanket, locked together, alternately kissing, napping and whispering together.  Sometime in the early morning hours Nathan felt a something wash over him, something he hadn’t felt in a very long time.  It took him a few moments to recognize it as happiness.  He had finally laid his old hurts to rest and accepted the joy that Kristin brought him.


Some sixth sense told him that Kristin was watching him and he opened his eyes to see her propped on his chest, chin resting on her hands, staring at his face.


“Hey, sailor.  What’cha thinking?”


Nathan put his hands on the ground beside him and began to sit up, pushing Kristin with him as he went.  When he was upright he wrapped his arms back around her, pressing into her hips as his semi-erect member began to harden and lengthen within her.


“I was thinking how lucky I am to be here with the most beautiful woman on the planet.  I was thinking how lucky I am to love this woman and to know that this woman loves me.”


“Hmm.  Do I know this woman?”


“I believe that you might have made her acquaintance.  She is instantly recognizable.  Whenever I’m around her the most interesting things begin to happen to me.”


“That’s amazing!  In fact, if I’m not mistaken, she must be nearby because the most interesting thing is happening right now.”


Nathan pulled his knees up and delicately pushed Kristin back to rest against them.  She bent her head back, allowing him free access to her neck and shoulders, pushing her breasts toward him.


Nathan leaned forward to feast on this much admired part of his wife’s body and soon had her moaning beneath his touch. Kristin locked her legs around Nathan’s waist, pulling her body into firmer contact with his as her hands traced delicate patterns on his chest.


The enticing loll of Kristin’s neck gave Nathan an idea and he carefully worked a hand beneath her leg, loosening her hold on his hips.  Her protest was fleeting as he increased his ministrations to her breasts.  Kristin attention was completely focused on the incredible sensation caused by the constant licking and sucking of first one nipple and then the other so she failed to realize what was happening until Nathan had her leg resting on his shoulder.


“Nathan.”  Her voice was husky with desire and Nathan shivered at the sound of it.  He thrust upward again and was rewarded with a low cry as her concentration refocused on their joining point.  Nathan rocked his hips back and forth slowly, keeping his mouth busy on the tantalizingly soft flesh of her chest.


Nathan carried Kristin to the edge then backed away, placating her with deep wet kisses when she protested, before beginning all over again.  He teased and tormented her heaving breasts as he slowly pushed her upward a second time.  Nathan gradually eased his legs apart to increase his thrusting power, Kristin holding on to his knees to keep upright.


Her body was strung as taut as a violin string when Nathan backed away the second time.  Kristin pummeled his chest in frustration as her body fought against his restraining hands on her hips.  “Damn you, Nathan…. PLEASE!”


His voice was low and sexy in her ears as he whispered soothing words, promising her that if she trusted him he’d give her release.  Finally she eased back against his legs and Nathan began his exquisite torture once again.  When he felt her body tense Nathan pulled back, intent on watching her face as he brought her the ultimate pleasure.  He slid his index finger between them and into her thatch of auburn curls, seeking the center of her desire.  His hips continued to pump into her while his finger teased the hard bud.


The force of Kristin’s orgasm stunned both of them.  Nathan grasped her waist firmly with his free hand as her body began to thrash wildly, her mouth forming a silent oh of pleasure.  He continued to stroke her as she clenched him, holding him tightly within her as her wild ride continued.


Nathan lost himself in the sight of her body convulsing with pleasure and pressed her back against the blanket, trying to hold on until Kristin returned to him.  Somewhere in her pleasure induced haze she realized this and pulled her mind back. 


“Nathan, come for me.  Let me watch you now.”  Soft hands moved enticingly over firm muscle as she stroked his bottom.  Nathan’s eyes were closed, his face clenched as he strained to hold back. 


“Look at me.”  Her husky voice tickled his ears and he forced himself to gaze into her chocolate eyes.  At her urging he once more began to thrust into her, desperate to find his own release.  Kristin’s sensitized skin reacted to his movement and she felt a third orgasm begin to overtake her. 


“Come with me.”  She begged as her body prepared to leap.  A shift of her hand allowed her to gently rub Nathan’s heavy sacs and she felt them pulse as Nathan thrust hard and began to empty within her welcoming body.




The sun had only been up a few hours but the air was already boiling hot.  Nathan dragged his makeshift bucket of fish toward the shallow end of the lagoon to find Darwin waiting for him.  The dolphin had improved a great deal in the last three days.  Nathan thought that Darwin was ready to return to deeper water but he wanted him to be strong enough to do so.  That was why he got up at the crack of dawn each morning to catch fish.


Nathan didn’t mind doing this but he hoped the dolphin appreciated it.  Tearing himself away from a warm bed and a willing wife wasn’t easy.  He smiled as the memory of that particular morning came back to mind.  He hadn’t been able to resist Kristin’s charms and had woken her up for a particularly vigorous round of lovemaking.  She’d been warm and passionate and had immediately fallen asleep again once they were done.


He’d left her snuggled in the blankets and gone about his morning ritual.  Fishing was an important part of that routine but so was scouting the island and the neighboring waters.  Nathan never went anywhere without the field glasses anymore and he used them every few minutes to scan the horizon.  Although he wouldn’t admit it to Kristin, the visit by the Japanese soldiers had him worried.  If they felt safe enough to encroach on this territory they might be brave enough to try to take it back.  Nathan was determined to protect Kristin at any cost.  To that end he’d begun an intense observation program, taking notes on any ship or aircraft that came with range of the binoculars.


Once Darwin had his fill of fish Nathan climbed back to the shore and scanned the horizon once more.  When he had ascertained that everything was clear he decided to head back to the cave and see if Kristin wanted to join him in a morning swim.


A slight movement caught his eye as he entered the clearing by the lagoon and he paused to watch as Kristin emerged from beneath the waterfall.  A smile touched his lips at her choice of clothing.  She had taken one of his plain white undershirts and cut it into two pieces.  The top half was pulled over her head and tied in a knot just beneath her breasts.  The bottom half was being utilized as a skirt, slung low around her waist and knotted at her hip.


Not wanting to startle her, Nathan kept quiet and enjoyed the view as she stood, back to him, and stretched.  His eyes traveled from neck to ankle, taking in the lovely sway of her back and the curve of her hips as they went.


Unaware of Nathan’s gaze, Kristin turned to catch the slight breeze that was blowing, lifting her hair in her hands to allow the air to touch her neck.  The movement drew Nathan’s attention to her firm breasts, silhouetted against the sky.  Nathan loved every inch of Kristin’s body but he would be the first to admit that he was a breast man and hers were certainly splendid.  In fact, he would have sworn that they were growing fuller and firmer every day.  The hem of the skirt caught and fluttered in the breeze pulling Nathan’s gaze lower, down over the gentle swell of her abdomen…


‘Oh God!’  Nathan stared, not believing what he was seeing, that he hadn’t noticed it before.


Kristin turned at that moment and noticed Nathan staring at her from the edge of the jungle.  She smiled and waved but he didn’t respond.  She tried again but still got no response.  Suddenly worried she hurried down the path to find out what was wrong.  Her mind was focused on Nathan and, not paying attention to where she was going, she mis-stepped and fell, sliding down the few remaining feet to the bottom.


Nathan was at her side before the dust cleared.


“Are you hurt?  Stay still for a minute and catch your breath, then tell me where it hurts.”


“Nathan, I’m fine.  What is wrong?  You didn’t seem to see me when I waved and now you’ve turned into a mother hen.  I’ve just got a few scrapes.  Let me get my medicine bag and I’ll put some iodine on them.  Nathan!”  Kristin protested as he scooped her into his arms and began to carefully climb the narrow path.


“You don’t have to do this.  I am perfectly capable of walking up the path.”


Nathan ignored her and continued to climb until they reached the cave.  He deposited her on a blanket folded near the door and went to grab her bag.  Kristin watched him with a worried look on her face, knowing by his actions that something was wrong.


“Nathan, did you see something on the ocean?  Another Japanese ship or plane?”  They had spotted several of these since their close encounter three days ago, although none were near their island.  Kristin knew that Nathan was worried about a repeat visit although he tried to hide it from her.


“No, I didn’t see anything.  I’d be logging it if I had.”  He said in reference to the small notebook that they used to write down their sightings.  “I just… you’ve told me how dangerous a small scratch can be in this heat if it isn’t looked after properly.”


“So I’ll look after it properly right now.  Let’s go back to the water so that I can wash the scrape.  Then maybe we might have a morning swim, Hmm?”


Nathan readily agreed, his mind occupied with mental mathematics and finding the right way to talk to Kristin about his discovery.




The rest of the day passed without incident, the two of them working side by side.  Nathan tried to act nonchalant but Kristin knew that something was on his mind.  She could feel his eyes on her when he knew she wasn’t looking.  Several times she started to say something but stopped herself, confident that Nathan would talk to her when he was ready.


That moment finally came at the end of the day.  They’d eaten a light meal of fish, their usual fare these days, and gone for a quick swim.  Kristin went up to the cave to lay out their blankets while Nathan made one final check on Darwin.


She felt his eyes on her even though she hadn’t heard him enter the room.  Kristin turned to find Nathan leaning against the mouth of the cave, a sentimental grin on his face as he watched her.


“You ready for bed?”  She asked.  “I’m exhausted.  I don’t know why I’m so tired lately.  I guess I’m just not used to hard work.”


“I am making no comment.  The last time I implied something along that nature I thought that I was going to get slugged, and in front of a junior officer as well.”  He continued to stare at her.


Finally Kristin could take it no longer.  “So, what’s on your mind, sailor?”  She asked, waggling her eyebrows suggestively.


“Babies.”  Nathan saw Kristin’s body tense, could feel it from several feet away.  He quickly backed off.  “A baby to be more specific.  Teddy.”  He whispered a silent thank-you as he saw her relax.  “Do you think he misses us?  Well, not me.  He didn’t really know me all that well.  But I bet he misses you.”


Kristin nodded.  “I do miss him.  I’ve spent so much time with him that in some ways he is almost like my own.  He won’t forget me, Nathan, and he won’t forget you either.  Besides we will be home soon enough.  We’ve missed his first birthday but I suspect that he won’t mind as long as we bring presents when we get back.”


“His birthday, that’s right.  Damn!  I hate we missed that.  Do you think that Ben and Cindy will let him visit us?  I mean, we aren’t always going to be in the same place.  That is the nature of the navy.  So maybe, when he’s older, he could come stay with us sometime, for a few weeks in the summer or something.”


Kristin smiled.  “I think that they will agree to that.  They will probably be glad to have some time on their own every once in a while.  Nathan, you are Teddy’s grandfather and no one is going to try to keep you away from him.  I promise.”


“Have I told you lately how much I love you?”


“Not in the last hour or two.  I was feeling totally bereft.”  Kristin struck an affected pose and they both laughed.


“Kris… can I ask you something?  Did you want more children?  I mean… would you like for us to have kids?”


Kristin’s face turned to stone and she brushed path Nathan as she retreated to the outer ledge.  Nathan quickly followed and stopped her just as she was starting down the path.  He pulled her back to the ledge and into his arms, her back to his body.


“Don’t do this, Kristin.  I don’t give a damn about your ability to conceive.  If we made babies together that would be fantastic and I would love them.  If we didn’t make babies together I wouldn’t care.”


“But you are still young enough… you could find a woman to give you children again.”


“No, I couldn’t.  I’m married to you.  I’m married to the woman that I love, the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with.  The only sure thing in either of those equations is you.”


“But the idea is obviously bothering you…”


“I asked a simple question.”


“Nathan, I would love to have your child.  I always wanted a house full of babies.  If I knew of any medical way that I could make it happen I would do it.  But…”


“There are other ways, Kristin.  If you want a big family there are a lot of kids out there who need parents.  We could adopt a dozen of them.”


Nathan felt Kristin relax into his embrace slightly.  “You’d consider that?  Adoption, I mean.  Some men wouldn’t want a child if it wasn’t their blood.”


“Any child needs love.  Hell, we’d adopt Lucas if he was adoptable.”


“I think you’ve already adopted Lucas in your heart.  But a child of your own…”


Nathan shushed her.  “Close your eyes.  Come on, trust me and close your eyes.”


Kristin did as he bid her and was delighted to feel his hands begin to roam across her skin.  Nathan ran his fingertips lightly down her arms until he reached her hands and took them in his.  He pulled their joined fingers to her breasts and cupped them, her hand cradled in his so that her palm touched her own flesh.  The effect was highly arousing. 


Nathan slowly circled her breasts, using his fingers as guides to hers, leading them where he wanted them to feel.  They moved across peaked nipples, pressed against the light cotton of her tee shirt combination.  Kristin’s head fell against Nathan’s shoulder as exquisite sensations began to overtake her. 


Their hands cupped her breasts, filling Kristin’s palm to overflowing with Nathan’s wide hand containing the rest.


“I promise you that these are getting bigger.”  He whispered giving her a gentle hint then pressed his lips to hers to cut off her reply.  He gradually guided her hands lower; his fingers on top of hers as her palms slid down the sides of her abdomen. 


Nathan paused at the bottom, allowing their hands to cup the small protrusion he had seen earlier.  He then led them back up, following the now obvious curve of her belly until they met at the top, continuing to kiss her all the while.  Leaving their left hands just beneath her breasts the right ones once again traveled languidly down, fingers wide as they followed a direct line over her belly button to once again splay across the generous extension.


He felt Kristin’s reaction to each movement, from the sensual first caress to the deliberate ending one.  Nathan knew the exact moment when she realized what he was trying to tell her, felt the disbelief emanate from her.  He continued the gentle stroking while he reassured her with his kiss, pleased when she took control back and began to lead him on the exploration of her new body shape. 


Nathan broke the kiss to gasp for air, curious to hear Kristin’s reaction. She immediately turned her head down to stare at their hands holding her belly.


“This isn’t possible.  I can’t…”


Nathan chuckled and nuzzled her neck.  “I’m no doctor but I’m pretty sure that our diet hasn’t been enough lately to cause you to gain that much weight.  Fish isn’t extremely fattening.  Maybe it is possible.  Maybe it’s a miracle, our gift for the hell we’ve been through.  What does you doctor instinct tell you?”


“It’s been about three months since we…”


“Fourteen weeks, six days and twenty-one hours.”


Kristin shot him an astonished look.  “So that’s what you’ve been thinking about all day long!  I knew something was occupying your thoughts.”


“Well, I knew that it had to be the first time we were together so I calculated it out.  Does this feel like a fourteen week old baby?”


Kristin rolled her eyes at him.  “It’s been eighteen years since I had a baby and a naval hospital isn’t really the place to be to treat lots of pregnant women.  But yes, as best I recall I began to show at about three months with Cynthia.”


“Okay, what about other symptoms?”


“Do you think we could sit down?  My head is spinning.”


“See, there’s one symptom!”  Nathan laughed again at the look Kristin shot him as he led her back in to cave to their blanket.


Kristin sunk to the bed gratefully and Nathan quickly joined her. 


“So is it possible?  There has to be some reason for this.”  Nathan laid his hand lovingly on her abdomen.  “Have you… you once told me that your body didn’t have regular cycles so that’s not really a valid indicator.


Kristin’s eyes closed, her brow furrowed in concentration.  “Once Jack died I became as regular as clockwork.  I never missed a single cycle until…”


“Kristin!  You haven’t had a period since we made love the first time, have you?”


She shook her head sheepishly.  “Everything was so up in the air between us.  I just thought that I was reacting to stress the way that I had before, or maybe to having sex for the first time in a very long while.”


Nathan grinned at the way Kristin whispered the word sex.  She might be a doctor but she was still very much a lady.  “So we have one symptom.  What about these?”  He raised his hands to her breasts.


“They have been more sensitive, I guess.”


“And they are growing.”


“Nathan, I really don’t think…”


“Remember your bra that day I came back.  Maybe the reason it bothered you so much was that it was too small.”  Nathan adroitly pulled the knot of Kristin’s top apart and bared her to his gaze.  “I can feel the difference when I hold you in my hands.  You used to fit perfectly but now you spill over.  The nipple is bigger as well and I think it’s getting darker.”


“That would also be a symptom of pregnancy.  But I can’t really think of any others.  I haven’t been sick or fainted.  I haven’t noticed an increase in appetite or irritability… and just what was that for?”  Kristin glared at a guilty looking Nathan after a choking sound emerged from his throat.


“Nothing, darling.  I swear… it’s just that thing about irritability… you might have been just the teeniest bit cranky sometimes.  I know that it was my fault but during that time that we weren’t getting along very well some people might have described you as irritable.  And what about you being tired all the time?”


“I don’t know what you mean.” Kristin replied sulkily.


“You sleep late every morning, you have to nap in the afternoon and we are in bed when the sun sets… okay, we are not necessarily asleep and yes, our activities do tend to tire one out… but you have been sleeping a lot.”


“I don’t have obvious symptoms like morning sickness and fainting spells.”  She repeated her earlier argument.


“Did you have those with Cynthia?”


“No… but every pregnancy can be different.”  Kristin’s hand spread protectively over her tummy.  “So… it looks like we might be having a baby… daddy.”


Nathan wrapped his arms around Kristin and brushed a light kiss over her trembling lip.  “Time will tell mommy.  Promise me that you will be more careful about climbing and carrying things until we know for sure.  Why don’t we get some rest now?  I know you must be tired.”


The sun was rapidly disappearing beneath the horizon and the little cave was slowly plunged into darkness, limiting their ability to see each other.  Nathan was groping in the dim light for a second blanket to cover them with when he felt the light touch at his waist, heard the unmistakable sound of his zipper being undone.


“The baby?”  He whispered.  “Is it okay to…?”


He heard the light chuckle. “It was okay this morning.  What has changed?”


“I just didn’t… I don’t want to do anything to endanger you or the baby or to make you uncomfortable.”


“It’s safe, Nathan.  I promise.  Besides this is another effect of pregnancy.”


“What… Kris… Oh, God… Kristin!”




The subject of the baby lay quietly between them for the next few days, Nathan sure that a baby was on the way and Kristin unwilling to let herself believe that it was so.  The increase in traffic around the island also disturbed Nathan.  Although none of the vehicles had come close to them he had seen a definite jump in the number of enemy ships nearby and his worry was increasing.  They had been on the island for over two weeks and every day that passed without the Dolphin coming to get them made him antsy.  The thought of Kristin’s pregnancy only increased his fears. 


To that end, he increased his observations and note taking even more.  Although she didn’t say it Kristin sensed his apprehension and her own fear increased as well.  She was also trying to keep thoughts of a baby away, knowing that she would be devastated if it proved to be untrue.


They worked together to improve their plans to hide their presence on the island; Kristin hiding supplies within the cave and Nathan making several camouflage blinds around the island to help him with his observing.  Kristin also helped take notes, her feminine eye picking up details in appearance that his masculine eye missed. 


In between their observations they worked together to reintroduce Darwin into the open ocean, his wounds having healed.  The dolphin swam away happily but they weren’t surprised to see him come back, swimming into the lagoon each evening to visit.


Nathan was spending the afternoon on the mountain top plateau observing when he saw the small Japanese fleet just on the edge of the horizon.  His attention was so riveted to the group that he failed to hear Kristin’s approach until she was almost on top of him.


“Damn it, Kristin!”  He swore at her.  “Don’t EVER sneak up on me like that!  I could have hurt you.”


Fire rose in Kristin’s eyes.  “Well excuse me!  I thought you might be hungry but you can just worry about your own damn dinner!”  She turned and stalked away.


Nathan dropped the field glasses, immediately feeling guilty.  “Kristin, come back.  I didn’t mean it.  I’m sorry.”


He was rising to his feet when he saw her stop and grasp her abdomen before falling to her knees. 


“Kristin!”  He closed the distance between them and dropped to his knees beside her.  “What’s wrong?  Does it hurt?  Is something wrong with the baby?”


She looked up at him with stricken eyes; her breathing coming in short bursts.  Nathan was more scared than he had ever been in his life.


“Please tell me what’s happening?  Baby?”


Kristin struggled to speak.  “Baby… he moved!  Oh God, Nathan, the baby moved!  I’ve had flutterings but I put that down to nerves or bad fish but this was more.  He kicked me!  Your son kicked me!” 


Nathan knew that when Kristin finally accepted her pregnancy it would be emotional but he was totally unprepared when she burst into tears.  He embraced her, whispering soothing words into her ear as she sobbed in his arms.  Silently he once again cursed Jack McCallister for the harm he had inflicted on this lovely woman.


When her sobs finally quieted he chucked her under her chin.  “Hey, we’re gonna have a baby!  And by the way, she is a girl.”


Kristin looked stunned for a moment before a smile crept into her water logged eyes.  “And who made you the authority?  That was definitely a boy kick”


Nathan pushed Kristin back on the lush grass and bent over her. She parted her lips for his kiss but it didn’t come.  Instead Nathan moved to her belly and caressed it with his hands and his lips.


“Hey there, little one.  Do you know how happy your mama and I are to have you join us?  Hmm?”  Nathan lowered his ear to Kristin’s protruding abdomen.  “What’s that?  You want me to tell your mama that she’s wrong?  You are most definitely a little girl? You aren’t too young to begin to learn that your mama is never wrong… ouch!”


Nathan’s head popped up to glare at Kristin but the fist which had just punched him had opened up and reaching to caress his head.


“I freely admit when I’m wrong and you know it.  But in this case I am not.  This is definitely a boy.  Wouldn’t you like another son, Nathan?”


Nathan crawled up her body until their faces were even.  “I don’t give a damn if it’s a boy or a girl or both as long as it’s healthy and you stay healthy.  I would love to have another son.  But I would also love to have a daughter, a little girl with red hair and eyes the color of whiskey.  And that is a good thing since that is exactly what she is going to look like.”


The protest rising on her lips was cut off by his fiery kiss.




The Japanese ships disappeared over the horizon and they detected no traffic over the next few days but Nathan was still uneasy.  Kristin’s abdomen seemed to become more noticeable every day, a tangible reminder to Nathan that there was yet another life for him to worry about now.  Once she had accepted the fact of her pregnancy, Kristin began to glow with happiness.  Nathan often caught her deep in thought, her hands caressing her abdomen as she whispered quietly to the life nestled there.  He was just as bad, stealing a touch at every opportunity.


Their rescue from the island was very much on Nathan’s mind as he wandered along the beach one hot afternoon, occasionally searching the horizon for ships while Kristin took a nap.  He had resisted trying to draw attention to the island by signaling a passing ship, afraid that they might accidentally draw the Japanese to them instead of allied troops, but he was now rethinking that position.  Even though the baby’s birth was still months away Nathan wanted Kristin under a doctor’s care.


Nathan was caught off guard when he heard chattering and pulled his attention to the water to find Darwin there.  Darwin did not normally come to the shore until late evening so Nathan was surprised to see him on the beach at midday.  He waded knee-deep into the water.


“Hey, Darwin.  What are you up to today?”  Nathan knew that it was probably silly to talk to the dolphin but he really believed that the animal understood him.  He rubbed Darwin’s melon gently, noticing that the dolphin seemed very playful.  Darwin bumped at his legs continually as if he was trying to push him out of the water.


“What’s wrong, Darwin?  What are you trying to tell me?”


Nathan heard the crack of the rifle seconds before he felt the bullet rip into his flesh.




Her afternoon nap had given Kristin renewed energy and she emerged from behind the waterfall with a smile on her face, wondering if Nathan would like to join her for an afternoon swim.  She’d checked the plateau so she knew that he wasn’t up there observing and that she’d most likely find him somewhere on the beach. 


Kristin stopped by the lagoon and bent to scoop a handful of cool water to her mouth.  She was washing her face when she felt the back of her neck begin to prickle and knew she was being watched.  She turned quickly, expecting to see Nathan leaning against a tree with an indolent smile on his face, but she saw nothing.


“Nathan?” She called his name quietly and got no response.  “If you are joking with me I don’t find it funny.  Please come out.”


Nothing stirred the surrounding foliage.  Kristin shrugged her shoulders and went back to washing her face, guessing that she’d imagined the feeling.  Once again her neck began to tingle.  She stood and whirled around just in time to receive a strong backhand across her face.  She cried out as she fell to the ground and shook her head to clear her vision.


The Japanese soldier couldn’t be more than twenty years old but he showed no sign of fear as he stabbed his pointed gun at the woman on the ground before him.  Kristin’s mind raced, knowing that if she called out for Nathan her cry would bring him running to meet the end of a gun and possibly get him shot.  But, what if he had already found Nathan?  Kristin’s hand moved protectively over her abdomen and she began to scoot away from the soldier.


Kristin didn’t understand what the soldier said but she understood the meaning and stopped, unwilling to make him mad, hoping against hope that Nathan was okay and would arrive any minute.


“Look, we are stranded here.  We just want to go home.  There is no reason for you to hurt us.”  She spoke quietly, trying to soothe the young man before her.


The soldier gave no indication that he understood her words or even paid attention to them.  His gaze seemed to be riveted on her heavy belly.


Kristin realized that his intentions were of a different kind when he carefully laid the rifle down on a rock next to him and moved his hands to the waist of his trousers.  She struggled to her feet and attempted to run but the soldier grabbed her and threw her back to the ground, falling on top of her to pin her in place.  Another open palmed slap across her face disoriented her and threw her back to another time.  The face before her began to lose its Asian features and take on those of her late husband.  The hands that pinned her down belonged to Jack McCallister.


Kristin whimpered, lost in the moment, reliving eight years of terror in the span of a few moments.  She begged Jack to stop what he was doing, to not hurt her; unaware that someone else was ripping the buttons from Nathan’s favorite blue shirt and baring her body to his gaze.


Then the child within her womb moved, kicking vigorously in protest to the rough treatment its mother was receiving.  Kristin came back to herself in a flash.  The soldier had his knee planted in her belly to hold her down while he worked to free himself from his pants.  Her head twisted around, eyes desperately searching the tree line in hopes that Nathan would burst through.  The laugh that issued from the young man’s throat as he watched her dashed her hopes that he hadn’t already found Nathan.


He fell back on top of her, pinning her shoulders to the dirt as he attempted to push her legs apart.  He was shocked when Kristin began to struggle, fighting to protect herself and her baby.  She landed several pain-inflicting blows before yet another slap confused her momentarily. 


The feel of the soldier’s erection pressed between her legs seeking entrance brought Kristin back to her senses.  He’d moved his grasp to her forearms but he had to release one hand while he positioned himself.  Kristin’s free hand groped the ground desperately and fingers closed firmly around the large rock it came into contact with. 


Kristin didn’t realize that she’d hit the soldier in the base of his skull with the stone until he slumped against her.  She rolled him off of her body and crawled away. 


Nathan struggled into the clearing moments later to find the soldier unconscious on the ground and Kristin retching a few yards away.  He fell to his knees beside her and pulled her into his embrace, hoping against hope that she had managed to stop the fighter before he had completed what his unzipped trousers and Kristin’s ripped clothes suggested.


“I’m so sorry, Baby.  I tried to get here as quickly as I could.  He took me by surprise.  Sssh… you stopped him, sweetheart.  He won’t hurt you.”


“Nathan, thank God!  I thought he’d… why didn’t you come, Nathan?  I called for you.  I felt him watching me, thought it was you… you’re bleeding!”


Kristin lifted her hand from Nathan’s shoulder blade to find it red with his blood.  “He shot you!”


The doctor mode quickly overrode her fear and Kristin moved to Nathan’s back to find his shirt covered in blood.  “Let me get my bag.”


“Kristin!”  Nathan’s sharp voice cut through her focus.  “Get your bag but find something that we can tie this guy up with as well.  We’ve got to move fast.  I didn’t see anymore soldiers on our island but if he’s here others will surely follow.  They will come looking if he doesn’t come back.  We’ve got to make some plans very quickly.”


Kristin nodded, understanding the very real danger that they were now in.  “His gun is over there.”  She gestured to the rock as she started up the cave path.


Nathan dismantled the weapon, securing the ammunition in his pocket and hiding it behind the rock out of the soldier’s sight.  Kristin returned with her medical bag and a length of rope from their cache of supplies.  Together they bound the intruder’s hands and feet securely.


Nathan’s head began to spin from the amount of blood that he had lost and he staggered toward the water, grateful for Kristin’s help the last few feet.


“I need to build a fire, Nathan.  I need to sterilize my instruments and bandages.”


“We can’t risk it.”


“His associates will think that he built it.  Just a small one and I’ll put it out once I’m done.  I will not take a chance with your life.”


Nathan tried to help but his brain was becoming so foggy that he could barely think, much less move.  Kristin quickly gathered the necessary materials and soon had a small fire going and a small pan of water warming.  She stripped his bloodstained shirt away and cleaned the wound in his shoulder carefully.


“The bullet is still inside.  There is no exit hole.”  She used a clamp to pull her blunt probe from the boiling water.  “I can get the bullet out but I’m going to have to open the wound up to do it.  Let me give you something for the pain.  I don’t have much but at least it will help…”


“No, just do it.  I can’t be doped up if that guy comes too and decides to try something.”


Nathan wanted to scream when he felt the scalpel cut into his flesh but he didn’t.  He fought against the pain, knowing that Kristin was working as quickly as she could.  She had the bullet out within a few minutes and carefully cleaned the wound with hot water and alcohol before deftly sewing it up.  Nathan felt as if he had sweat a gallon by the time that she tied the last knot in the bandage she’d made of his last tee shirt.


“You need to rest now.”  She whispered as she smoothed his hair.  “I’ll help you up to the cave.”


“I can’t rest, not until we decide what we are going to do with… SHIT!”  Nathan turned to look at the soldier he had been referring to but all that was left in his place was a pile of rope.  “When did he get away?  I should have been watching!”


Nathan struggled to his feet in an attempt to try and trail the soldier but Kristin stopped him.  Moments later they heard the roar of a boat engine. 


“When he gets back to his ship we are going to have the entire fleet bearing down on us.  We have to get out of here, now.”


“Nathan, you aren’t in a fit state to go anywhere!”  Kristin tried to reason with him but Nathan was halfway up the trail. 


“Maybe I can track him with the glasses.  If his fleet isn’t within visual distance we might have a few hours before we have to move.”


“Where are we going to go?  Can’t we just hide in the cave?  They’ll never…oh, damn!  He probably saw me come out from behind the waterfall.”


Knowing she couldn’t dissuade him, Kristin helped Nathan hoist his body through the hole onto the plateau and then followed him, her increasing bulk making the task more difficult.  They lay side by side, sharing the binoculars, as they watched the tiny boat recede into the distance.  Kristin held the glasses, Nathan dozing by her side, when a movement in the distant view of the lens caught her eye.


“Nathan, there is another ship.”


He came awake instantly, grabbing the glasses from her and peering intently into the distance.  “If that’s his home ship… wait… it’s one of ours.  They are going to intercept him…”


Kristin didn’t need the glasses to see the plume of smoke rising into the air as a shot from the American ship found its target and the tiny boat exploded into a million pieces.


After several long moments they both breathed a sigh of relief.


“We are safe again, Nathan.  Will you please get some rest now?  You lost a great deal of blood and you have to allow your body to recuperate.”


“Not yet.  We aren’t safe here, anymore, not really.  Enemy soldiers have visited us twice in the month that we’ve been here.  It is time for us to get off this island and I hope that ship is the way to do it.  I’m going to build up your fire and hope that the smoke attracts their attention.”


“What if it brings the enemy ships instead?”


“Kristin, I don’t want to do anything that might harm you or our baby but staying here just isn’t an option now.  I think that ship is our best chance out of here.  Are you willing to take that risk?”


Kristin nodded, knowing in her heart that Nathan was right.  She was also worried about Nathan’s wound and the possibility of infection although she wouldn’t admit that to him.  The ship on the horizon was the obvious answer.


“I know you are right, Nathan.  I agree that we need to try and signal the ship but I’ll build the fire.  You don’t need to reopen your wound.”


Nathan looked skeptical but wisely didn’t say anything as they slowly made their way back into the cave then down toward the water.  Kristin moved into the forest and began dragging back any dead or broken limbs that she could find while Nathan fed the fire.


Kristin worked until she was exhausted before Nathan finally called the exercise to a halt.  She collapsed beside him as he slowly fed the last of her offerings into the fire. 


“You should have let me do that.  It was too much for you.”


“Nathan, I am pregnant.  I am not an invalid.  So I am tired.  If this works I’ll sleep for a week and demand breakfast in bed every morning.  If it doesn’t work you can still bring me breakfast in bed once you are better.  But now I really think that you should try to get some rest.  You lost a lot of blood, Nathan.  Your body needs time to recuperate.”


“Okay, I’ll rest.  I can go back to the plateau and rest while I watch…” He staggered to his feet. 


Kristin swiftly added her support to his swaying frame.  “You can go back to bed and rest.  I’ll go and check things out.”  She glanced at the darkening sky.  “We won’t be able to see for much longer anyway.”


The blanket looked very inviting to Nathan by the time he collapsed into it.  He fell into a deep stupor almost immediately, unaware when Kristin checked his bandages or when she left him to climb back to the plateau.


He awoke several hours later to find Kristin curled in a ball beside him, one hand resting lightly on his arm and the other on her belly.  He wiggled his arm experimentally and felt a dull ache in his shoulder but at least the biting pain was gone. 


He slipped from beneath her hand and made his way to the back of the cave but couldn’t climb though the opening on his own.  He made his way back to the blanket and found Kristin sitting up, looking for him through sleep clouded eyes. 


“Don’t worry.  I realized I couldn’t make the climb on my own without hurting myself.  How long has it been since you last checked?”


“Um… about an hour I think.  The cloud cover didn’t allow me to see much once the sun set.  I’ll go back and check now.”


“I don’t mind going if you could just help me…”


“I do not want you ruining my excellent stitching.  I’ll be right back.”


Nathan dug through his duffel bag and found one of his uniform shirts.  He shrugged his healthy arm into the sleeve and pulled the other side over his injured shoulder.  Kristin reappeared at that moment, her face white in the dim glow of moonlight.


“We have company, several men on our beach.  I think that they are American but I can’t be sure.  What do you want me to do?”


“The first thing I want you to do is to put some other clothes on.”  Kristin hadn’t realized until that moment that she was still wearing his blue shirt, the torn buttons allowing it to hang open.  “Then I want you to stay here and wait while I go down to the beach.  Please do this for me, sweetheart. I’ve got to go find out what’s going on down there and I can function much better if I know that you are safe.”


Nathan was quickly learning how to read Kristin’s moods and the look on her face told him that he’d better be grateful for her agreement because she was not happy.


“I’ll be right back, I promise.”  He placed a loving kiss on her mouth before bending and doing the same to her abdomen.  Kristin was muttering beneath her breath as he slipped out of the cavern. 


Nathan was careful to avoid the moonlight, clinging to the shadows whenever he could.  He followed the tree line around the water before striking out toward the beach.  He moved quietly, making as little sound as possible.  Once he reached the edge of the tree line he stopped and listened.


Several soldiers were standing guard over their boat while several more had begun to move up the beach to begin searching the island.  The slight breeze carried their whispers to Nathan’s ears and he breathed a sigh of relief at the American accent. 


He stepped quietly from the trees, holding his good arm in the air.


“Hello!  Don’t shoot!  I’m American!”


Nathan flinched as seven rifles were immediately trained on him.


“Step away from the trees and walk slowly down the beach with your hands up!”


Nathan did as he was bid, but explained as he walked.  “I’ve got one hand up but I can’t lift the other one.  It is injured.  I am not armed and I am alone.”


He stopped when told, standing perfectly still as one of the men approached him warily and quickly patting him down for weapons.


“He is clean, sir.”


Another man lowered his weapon and approached Nathan cautiously.  “Who are you and why are you on this island?”


“My name is Nathan Bridger.  I’m the captain…”


“Captain Nathan Bridger !?!  You’re Captain Bridger?  How in the hell did you get here?  Everyone thinks you are dead!”


“God… that’s why they didn’t come for… what happened to Ford?”


“What I heard was that when your sub arrived at the rendezvous point they found the boat driver floating among the wreckage.  He was alive but had a severe injury and no memory.  It was the damnedest thing.  Apparently a dolphin was swimming nearby, helping to keep him afloat.  They didn’t find any sign of you or the other person so you were assumed killed when the boat exploded.  How did you end up here, Captain?”


“Ford had a scheduled stop to make here on his way.  A Japanese plane flew over while we were stopped.  Ford felt that he stood a better chance of getting to the meeting point while avoiding that plane’s home base alone in the boat so Dr. Westphalen and I stayed here until he could direct the Dolphin back.  We’ve been here over a month waiting for someone to come pick us up.”


“So the doctor is with you as well?  Thank God.  That will make the brass very happy.  What happened to your arm?”


“We had a visit from an enemy soldier earlier today.  He caught me unaware on the beach and shot me.  The doctor managed to subdue the guy but he got away while the bullet was being dug out of my shoulder.”


“The guy we took out earlier today… so who started the fire?”


“We hoped that you would see it and come to investigate.  Today was the second time we’ve had unwanted visitors and I didn’t want to wait for a third time.”


“Well, Sir, Captain Shelley is going to be so happy to see you.”


“Shelley!  That old sea dog!  Fancy Shelley’s men rescuing us.  I’ll never live this down.”


“No sir, I expect that you won’t.  Might I ask where the doctor is?”


“Doctor Westphalen is back at the cavern we’ve been using as our base.”


“If you’d like to get the doctor we will get the two of you out of here.  I bet you’d like some hot food and clean clothes.”


“You don’t know how great that sounds, Commander.  I’ll be right back.”


“I’ll send a man with you, just in case.  Sergeant Thomas!  Go with the Captain.”


The army Sergeant quickly hid the resentment that crossed his face when the naval commander gave him an order.  He didn’t like being assigned to the navy and was highly resentful at having to take orders from those he believed were his inferiors.  He watched Bridger take off toward the trees expecting him to follow blindly.  After receiving a pointed look from the Commander, Thomas did exactly that.


Thomas was confused when Bridger stopped beside a pool of water at the base of a waterfall and told him to wait there.  He watched with interest as the other man began to climb an almost imperceptible path up the side of the mountain then disappeared behind the waterfall.


The clouds that had been filtering the moonlight blew away while Thomas was waiting, revealing the beauty of the spot to his eyes; not that he really appreciated it.  What he did appreciate was the vision that appeared moments later, following Bridger down the path.


The woman was small, shorter than the Captain, with long hair that glowed silvery red in the moonlight.  She’d contained the hair into a ponytail but that did nothing to hide its glory.  She was dressed in an odd combination of clothing, most of it appearing to belong to a man and much too large for her.  Bridger held her hand tightly as he led the way down the path.


“This is Sergeant Thomas.  Sergeant Thomas, Doctor Kristin Westphalen.”


Thomas swallowed hard.  “How do you do, Ma’am.”  No one told him that the person lost with Captain Bridger had been a woman.  He wondered if the Commander knew.


Kristin shifted nervously as Thomas’ eyes undressed her body from the top down but she almost laughed out loud when they came to her protruding abdomen.  Her condition was sure to cause a great deal of surprise in certain circles. 


“Do you have everything you need Doctor?”


Kristin chuckled.  “We didn’t have much to pack.”


“We’ve got everything in here.”  Nathan interrupted as he held up his duffel bag, not liking the way that Thomas had been looking at Kristin.


Thomas led the way back through the forest, pausing only long enough to grab the rifle the Japanese soldier had used earlier when Nathan pointed it out.  He wanted to make sure that he had a good view of the Commander’s face when the female doctor stepped onto the beach.


Thomas wasn’t disappointed.  All of the sailors waiting on the beach did a double take when Kristin emerged from the tree line, one hand clinging tightly to Nathan’s, the other draped protectively across her stomach.


“Doctor Westphalen?  I’m Commander Lewis.”


Kristin shook the young man’s hand.  “Which comes as more of a surprise, Commander, my gender or my condition?”


Lewis blushed.  “If I am honest I’d have to say that both are about equal in the surprise category.  What on earth was a woman doing on your boat, Captain?”


“It’s a long story, Commander.  Perhaps I could tell you later?”


The men splashed into the water to pull the boat closer to shore for Kristin’s convenience then waited expectantly.  Kristin cast a final glance back up the beach.


“I’ll never forget this place, Nathan.”  She whispered.


“Neither will I, sweetheart… neither will I.”   He glanced at the waiting men then decided that he didn’t give a damn if they were looking as he leaned in and gave Kristin a tender kiss.  Their eyes locked, saying everything they wanted without a single word being voiced.  Finally Kristin gave Nathan a short nod and he replied in the same manner as he led her into the water to the waiting boat.


“How long did you say they were on this island?”  Thomas whispered to Lewis.


“They’ve been missing about a month.  Why?”


“Just wondering if Bridger was the responsible party.  If it had been four or five months, well…”


“Judging by that kiss I’d say there is little doubt that he’s responsible anyway.” The smile on Lewis’ face spoke volumes.




Nathan closed the door to the small cabin solidly behind them and turned the lock before pulling Kristin into his arms.  She was trembling.


“Hey, what’s this all about?  You did fantastically out there.  I think Shelley is halfway in love with you already, the damned bastard.”  He felt her tense at his words.


“I’m sorry.”  Nathan whispered.  “I never should have put you in this position.  As far as I am concerned we are married but as soon as we get to port we will make it legal.”


She pulled out of his embrace and walked over to stare out the tiny porthole.  “It isn’t that.  Well, maybe that is a part of it.  I never really thought I’d be in this position, unmarried and pregnant.  Maybe Cynthia did do the right thing by marrying Ben… and I am never going to hear the end of this from her.  I lectured her severely about her behavior and now…”


“I’d get Shelley to marry us immediately if I could, but we still have to do the damned paperwork.  You are my wife right now.  A piece of paper won’t make it any more valid to me.”


“You are going to have to go back aren’t you?”


Nathan was caught off-guard by her change of direction.  “What?”


“To sea.  You are going to have to go back to sea.  It’s your job.  And I have to sit and home and wait…”


Nathan’s heart ripped in half at the sight of her tears.  “Kris…”


She turned and wiped away her tears.  “I know that you have to go, Nathan.  It’s just that I will miss you so much.  I’ve gotten used to having you around all the time.  I just hope that this damned war will be over soon.  At least then I won’t worry about you so much while you are gone.”


“I’ll give it up, put in for a desk job…”


Kristin laid two fingers over his lips to quiet him.  “You would go crazy behind a desk.  We both know that.  You need to be near the ocean.  We will find another house at Pearl or wherever you might be stationed, maybe one with a backyard swing for Teddy and our little boy… and when you come home we will be waiting there for you.”


Nathan moved behind her and pressed his body into hers.  His hands closed possessively over their child’s resting-place.  “You know who is going to be ecstatic about our little girl?”


“It’s a boy, Nathan.”  Kristin turned her head to look at his face.  “Don’t give me that smug smile!  I’m having a boy!”


“Anything you say, dear.  OOF!”  His breath caught as Kristin’s elbow made contact with his stomach.


“The person who is going to be the most thrilled by this, besides us of course, is Janet.”  Nathan finished the sentence with Kristin, the two of them speaking the name together.


“I bet we get a babysitter any time we want one.  And believe me, I am going to want lots of time alone with you.”  Nathan’s breath warmed her skin as he bent into her neck.  “Lots and lots of time.  Maybe we could even have another baby or two or three… or at least have fun trying…” His lips attacked, pulling a moan from her throat.


“That’s the other thing… Nathan… oh, that feels good!”


“What’s the other thing?” He questioned as his lips moved down the line of her throat, pushing the collar of his blue shirt away from her shoulder.  The thin tee shirt she wore beneath only served to increase the sensation of his lips running across her collarbone.


“Uhm… the other thing… this… yes, right there… oh… no, we can’t… we can’t do this… not here…”


“You want to go to the deck and do it?” Nathan mumbled around the peaked nipple that filled his mouth.


“If we… if you stay with me there will be talk.”


Nathan raised his head to stare at her with a huge grin on his face.  “Sweetheart, you are damn near five months pregnant.  Seven members of this crew saw us share a less than chaste kiss on the beach.  Let me assure you, they are already talking.  So let’s give them something to talk about.”


Nathan’s blue shirt hit the floor, followed immediately by the thin tee shirt.  “You won’t get in trouble, will you?”


“There are regs about this but at the moment I don’t really give a damn.  This cabin has a bunk and that bunk has a mattress that will be a whole lot softer than the dirt and blankets that we’ve been sharing for the past month.  I intend to use that mattress now and not for sleeping.”


“What about your shoulder?  Doesn’t it hurt?”


“Not nearly as bad as not making love to you right now will.”


The knot on the length of rope Kristin had used to secure Nathan’s pants around her waist was loosened and the garment slid to her ankles.  Nathan wrapped his good arm around her waist and lifted her from the floor.  She kicked the trousers and her shoes loose from her feet.


“Do you have any idea how beautiful you are?” Nathan whispered to her as he walked her back to the bed.  When the backs of her knees hit metal he lowered her to the bunk and knelt over her.


“Oh yes, I have on no makeup, I am windburned, my hair hasn’t had a good brushing in days and I’m getting fat.  I’m gorgeous.” Kristin replied sarcasm tingeing her voice slightly.


“Your skin is like satin, you don’t need makeup, your hair is glorious and I can’t think of anything more beautiful than seeing you like this, our child growing, safe within your womb.”


Their mouths met in a fiery kiss as their passion grew.  Nathan stopped himself before he went too far, needing to know that Kristin was okay.  He asked her the question that had been in his mind all day.


“Are you okay with this, sweetheart?  Did he… did he hurt you?”


Kristin’s hand caressed his face.  “No, darling.  I bashed him on the head before he could… do that.”


Nathan’s lips moved to caress her belly, his hands caressing her full breasts.  Kristin’s head fell back to the pillow as she allowed herself to get lost in the sensations Nathan’s touch was creating.  She was so overwhelmed that she didn’t realize that his mouth was trailing lower until she felt his breath brush over her mons.


Nathan felt her tense but this time she didn’t tell him to stop.  He brought his hands down to her hips and began to massage her pelvis gently until he felt her legs stir. He shifted in the bunk until he was kneeling between her legs.


Nathan raised his head to look at her, his eyes questioning. 


Kristin realized she was biting her lip and pushed a tentative smile to her face as she nodded, knowing that Nathan would stop any time she asked him to.  He lowered his lips back to her stomach, trailing them across the lower swell, his tongue making patterns on her taut flesh. 


Nathan moved slowly, letting his mouth continue its worship of her belly while his index finger began to lightly trace the length of her folds.  He continued the up and down movement unhurriedly, allowing his fingers to press just a bit harder on each trip.


She gradually began to bloom for him, her sex dampening with desire as his thumb worked her sensitive bundle.  Kristin screamed out, pushing her hand into her mouth to mute the sound, when his lips replaced his thumb.


Kristin was overwhelmed by the sensations coursing through her body, couldn’t believe that she’d denied herself this pleasure in the past.  Nathan’s tongue stroked down her folds, delving deep into her core to caress her in the most intimate way.  He felt her juices gush against him and pulled back to taste them, replacing his tongue with his finger as he moved back to lap her clitoris. 


Kristin looked down her body becoming even more aroused at the sight of grey flecked hair bobbing up and down over the pronounced curve of her abdomen.  Her hand slid over her stomach, her fingers coming to rest curled in Nathan’s hair as she urged him on. 


Nathan slid a second finger in to join the first and increased the speed and force of their thrust.  Kristin began to moan as her body moved frantically, trying to pull away from Nathan and draw him in closer at the same time.  Her free hand clenched the blanket beneath her body as pleasure threatened to overwhelm her. 


“Nathan… please… make it stop… no… yes, there… right there… harder… hard… Oh God, Nathan!”  She screamed as she shattered beneath his touch.


Nathan tore at the buckle on his uniform pants, needing to be a part of Kristin at that moment.  He thrust into her, filling her with a single stroke.  Nathan groaned as Kristin’s inner muscles clenched him and he could feel the aftershocks of her orgasm coursing through both of them.  He moved within her, gasping as another gush of wetness washed over his straining member. 


Kristin hadn’t completely recovered from her first orgasm when she felt the second one began building.  She pulled Nathan’s head to hers and began to nibble his lower lip.  He opened to her immediately, thrusting his tongue into her mouth in time with the movements of his hips.  The taste of her sex on Nathan’s lips made her even wilder.


Nathan broke the kiss and lifted up to rest on his good elbow as he began to pound into Kristin’s welcoming body.  Her warm velvet sheath teased him as he moved, latching on to hold tightly then pushing him away before grabbing tightly again.


Nathan’s breath broke into short pants as he felt his control break.  He came in a sudden rush, exploding into Kristin’s warmth even as she called his name at her own release.  He collapsed against her, his body shaking violently as pleasurable tremors continued to wash over him.


Kristin wrapped her arms around his back and held him to her as they both drifted slowly back to earth. 


Nathan pulled back when he felt the wetness of her tears against his neck.  “What’s wrong, sweetheart?  Am I hurting you?”


She shook her head.  “No, you feel wonderful.  You make me feel wonderful.  I don’t know what to say…”


“Do me again, you big stud you?”




He caught her hand before it could come in contact with his body and rolled carefully until he was on his back with Kristin straddling him.


“You are terrible!”  Kristin told him laughingly.


“I thought I was pretty good, judging by your reaction.”


Kristin blushed as her eyes shot toward the door.  “Was I… you don’t think anyone heard…”


Nathan shushed her with a kiss.  “No, I think your hand muffled the loudest screams.”


“I screamed?  Surely not… Nathan… what are you doing… oh… that’s… OH!”


Nathan’s hand lost its grip on her breast when Kristin suddenly sat straight up.  She grabbed his hand and pulled it to her abdomen.  “Feel!”


He laid his hand fully against her tight flesh and waited.  Kristin gradually shifted his hand around and finally he felt it, just the tiniest fluttering but definitely movement.  His eyes shone as he pulled himself up and wrapped both hands around the protrusion, his fingers splayed for maximum coverage.  The child within seemed to sense its father and continued to move about. 


Nathan bent his head and placed his lips near his hands.  “Hey, little girl.  I love feeling you move around in mommy’s tummy and I can’t wait until you get here.  We are going to have so much fun together.”


“You are going to give your son a complex if you keep referring to him as a her.  Ouch!”


Kristin regretfully pulled herself off of Nathan and climbed out of the bunk.


“What’s wrong?  I was just joking…”


“Your son just kicked me in the bladder, that’s what’s wrong.”


Kristin returned from the head a few minutes later to find Nathan out of the bunk with his clothing readjusted.  “Do you have to go?”


Nathan’s resolve wavered.  “It’s after midnight and I think we both could use some sleep.  They are expecting me to bunk in the first officer’s quarters… I… you know that I don’t want to leave you…”


Kristen nodded, disappointment clearly visible in her eyes.  “I know.  I will miss you holding me…”


Nathan stared at the bunk.  “Tell you what… why don’t I stay until you fall asleep?”


Kristin smiled.  “I’d like that very much.”  She told him as she pulled his tee shirt back over her naked form.


“Don’t trust me?”  Nathan grinned lecherously.


“Not in the least.  Besides, I don’t feel comfortable sleeping without clothing on a ship full of men.”


Kristin slid into the bunk and Nathan followed.  She cuddled into his side and laid her head on his shoulder.


“How long before we get back to Pearl?”  She asked, tiredness seeping into her voice.


“I don’t really know.  First we go to Australia.  We should be there in a couple of days.  Then I get to deal with all of the bureaucratic bullshit my return will be sure to cause.  Then we hitch a ride back to Pearl.”


“Do you think that there is anyway we could get word to Cynni that we are alive?  She must be terribly upset.  Bill and Janet probably are as well.”


Nathan stifled a yawn.  “I’ll make sure that word gets sent.  I promise we will be back with our family very soon.”


Nathan intended to slip out of the bed once Kristin was fully asleep but he underestimated his own level of exhaustion.  He was asleep seconds after Kristin.




The water shone deep blue in the spring sun as Nathan and Kristin prepared to descend the gangplank. Nathan flashed his love a confident smile.


“Let’s get this over with then find someplace with a big bed and a big bathtub.”  He gave her a saucy wink, causing Kristin to blush prettily.


They turned at the sound of a throat clearing.  Neither of them had noticed Captain Shelley approaching, trying not to stare. 


“I’ve got orders to escort you to Army HQ.  Someone from naval subcommand will meet us over there.  I’m really sorry about this.  I know you’d probably like to get some rest… some more clothes…”


They both glanced downward.  Nathan’s uniform was in fair shape because he had put it away after their first day on the island, not wanting to draw attention to his rank if they had any more unsuspected visitors.  Kristin was another story.  The garments she wore were clean and pressed but ill fitting since they belonged to Nathan.  What few items of her own that weren’t destroyed by the salt water would no longer fasten around her growing chest and abdomen.  She straightened the lapels of Nathan’s blue shirt around her shoulders and smiled. 


“There is no help for it now.  They will just have to take me as I am.  Perhaps they will hurry with the debriefing and I can find some place to buy something a little more appropriate.”


Transport was waiting for them on the dock, along with an Army major.  Kristin was used to the double takes her condition was causing and stifled a smile as the major stepped back, startled.


Major Hardy quickly recovered, introducing himself and escorting the couple and Shelley to the waiting car.  They chatted informally during the drive, Major Hardy diplomatically staying away from any mention of the situation staring him in the face.


When they arrived Shelley was led down a corridor in the opposite direction from the one that the major was taking Nathan and Kristin down.  He left them in a large office, the furnishings sparse but comfortable.  Kristin sank down into the small sofa gratefully.  Nathan joined her, his hands moving to the small of her back to begin a gentle massage.


“All of this getting to you?”


Kristin smiled wanly.  “A little.  Mostly it’s just my body trying to adjust to the changes.  My center of gravity has shifted slightly and my back is killing me.  Plus, I’m not used to sleeping on a mattress anymore and I found that bunk on the boat a bit soft.”


“That’s funny; I seem to remember that you slept on top of me more than on the mattress.”  They both smiled at the recent memory.  Nathan hadn’t woken up until daybreak the night he fell asleep holding Kristin but no mention had been made of his absence in the first officer’s quarters.  He’d never shown up there, staying with Kristin for the rest of the trip.


“Oh… right there, just a little bit harder…” Kristin was so intent on the relief Nathan’s hands were giving her lower back that neither one of them heard the door open and close.


“Hem…” They both jumped at the sound of the clearing throat.  Nathan immediately jumped to his feet and sprang to attention in a smart salute.  Kristin followed him up, her increased bulk not allowing her to move as fast.


General Douglas McArthur returned the salute.  “At ease, Captain Bridger.  And this lovely young lady must be Mrs. McCallister.”


Kristin’s face froze slightly.  “I reverted to my maiden name.  I prefer Doctor Westphalen.”


“Of course, Ma’am.  Please sit back down.”


Kristin sank gratefully back into the sofa and Nathan followed as the general settled into a wing chair.


“I can’t tell you how happy I am to see the two of you.  Your driver, Ford I think his name was, regained his memory about five days ago and told us where you were.  Two days ago I received a personal letter from my commander-in-chief stressing the importance of rescuing you as quickly as possible.  I suspect that Admiral Nimitz is in possession of a similar missive.  I’ve already sent word to Washington that you’ve been found.  The President seems to be very fond of you, Mrs. McCal… Doctor.”


Kristin rewarded the general with a smile as he corrected himself.  “My late husband was elected to the Senate when Mr. Roosevelt gained the presidency.  Both he and Mrs. Roosevelt were very kind to me.” 


Her hand tightened around Nathan’s and he knew she didn’t like talking about John McCallister, but the situation was such that she had no choice.  McArthur noticed the gesture and changed the subject.


“I understand that the navy is very happy to have you back as well, Captain.  I must say your kill ratio is very impressive.  Four Japanese destroyers sunk without a single casualty… very impressive.”


“Just doing my duty, sir.”


“No need to be modest, Captain.  You’ve done a hell of a job.  Once naval command arrives and we get you debriefed they are sure to have you back on a boat to Pearl immediately… something wrong, Captain?”


McArthur had seen the look that passed between the couple when he mentioned their return to Hawaii.  Nathan cleared his throat.


“Well, sir, we were hoping that once this was over we might have a couple of days to arrange some things… fill out some paperwork…”


“What kind of paperwork?”


“We want to get married, General.  And obviously we need to do this as soon as possible…”


McArthur’s eyes fell to Kristin’s waist.  So the baby did belong to Bridger.  His office personnel were already taking bets from what he’d heard before entering his private domain.


“I think that could be arranged, Captain.  Let me go speak to my staff and perhaps we can expedite matters a bit.  I don’t imagine the debriefing could take too long.  What could you have seen or done on a deserted island…” 


Kristin thought she saw a hint of embarrassment in the man’s face at his ill-chosen words before he masked it. 


“Actually between our two visits from the enemy and careful observation we saw quite a lot.  Captain Shelley has the rifle that one of the soldiers used to put a bullet in my shoulder.”


Now McArthur was surprised.  “You were shot?  No one told me this… and you’ve seen enemy vessels?”


Nathan’s hand drifted down to the duffel bag at his feet.  “We have every sighting logged.”


“Do you need medical care?  Of course not, you have your own personal doctor. Let me get the ball rolling.”


Kristin leaned back into Nathan once they were alone.  “It’s okay if we have to wait until we get back to Pearl to get married.”


“No, it isn’t okay.  We are going to get married now or I am going to have to start beating up people when they have that smug little smile on their faces.  You will go back to Pearl as Mrs. Nathan Bridger.  Let Malcolm put that in his pipe and smoke it.”


“Is that what this is all about, Malcolm?  Don’t tell me you are still jealous of him?  I am carrying your child, Nathan.”


“NO!  Us getting married has nothing to do with Malcolm.  I just don’t want you to have to go back and face him… and everyone else on the damned base… without my ring on your finger.  I know that you chose me before we even knew about the baby.  You just couldn’t resist my charm and my physical attributes.”


Kristin laughed; realizing that Nathan was trying to take her mind off of the coming debriefing.  “I think that you are the one who is fascinated with my attributes.”


“You do have a point…” Nathan’s hands slid around to cup her breasts, his favorite of her attributes, as his lips began to nuzzle her neck.


“Kristin?”  A deep heavily accented voice cut through the room, causing them both to jump.




Before they realized what was happening, the older man had moved across the room, yanked Nathan off of the sofa and smashed a fist into his face.


Nathan hit the floor with a loud “OOPF”.


“Daddy, what are you doing?  Nathan, sweetheart, are you okay?” Kristin quickly interposed herself between the two men.


Nathan shook his head to clear away the stars, trying to make sense of what was going on.


“He was pawing you!  Who the hell is this man anyway?  Is he the idiot who almost got you killed?  I’ve been so worried about you, Kristi…”


Her father’s voice tapered off as Kristin slowly rose to her feet.  “This man is Captain Nathan Bridger and he actually saved my life.  If he hadn’t insisted that we stay on the island we might have been killed when the boat exploded.  You had no right to hit him!  I’m not sixteen anymore, Father.  I can take care of myself!”


Nathan moved slowly to his feet, careful to keep an eye on the very angry father standing in front of him.  He flexed his jaw carefully knowing that he would soon be sporting a vivid bruise.


“Nathan, this horrid man is my father, Major General Lionel Westphalen.  I’m so sorry that he hit you.  Let me see…”


Nathan continued to eye General Westphalen as Kristin inspected the small cut that graced his chin.  Westphalen paid him the same courtesy, his eyes never straying from Nathan unless they were sliding down to stare at his daughter’s abdomen.


“I’m pleased to meet you, General.”  Nathan said politely, determined to set things right with his future father-in-law.


Westphalen refused to take his hand.  “You bastard!  What in the hell have you done to my daughter?”


‘Well that’s pretty damned obvious.’


“Sir, I can understand how you must feel.  If anyone ever puts our daughter in this position I would want to kill them too… not now!”  Nathan turned and muttered to Kristin at her hissed “our son”. 


Westphalen huffed, his fingers opening and closing into a fist.  “How noble of you, Captain,” he replied sarcastically.


Nathan bit back a sharp retort and continued.  “Kristin and I would already be married if we hadn’t gotten stranded and we intend to…”


“Married!”  Westphalen interrupted his face aghast.  “You think that I will allow my daughter to marry some… broken down old sailor!  That will never happen!”


“Yes it will happen, father.”  Kristin’s voice was quiet but both men could hear the resolve in it.  “I am thirty-eight years old and I no longer need your permission.  This time I am going to marry a man that I choose, that I love.”


“But Kristin, Alex was a famous scientist and John was a United States Senator.  This man is…”


“Stop it right there.  This man is the love of my life.  Alex was a wonderful man but he is gone.  John McCallister was a sub-human baboon who blamed me for not conceiving a child when it was his fault and who got his jollies by beating me and raping me whenever the mood hit him for the last eight years.”


Nathan couldn’t help but sympathize with the man as his face fell, his horror at his daughter’s words blatantly evident.  He placed a supportive hand on Kristin’s back.


“With all due respect, sir, I love your daughter.  But what is even more important is that I respect her.  I respect her intelligence and her talents.  I would never ask her to be anything less than she is and I swear to you that I would never hurt her.  I realize exactly how lucky I am that she loves a broken down old sailor like me!”


“Nathan and I are going to be married.  General McArthur is out arranging things right now.  I would like for you to be there but only if you can be happy for us.”


Kristin’s father moved to the chair and fell into it.  “I… had no… I didn’t know, Krissy.  Why didn’t you ever say anything?  Why did you go back to him?”


Kristin’s anger faded.  “I don’t know, Daddy, I just didn’t.  It took me a long time to come to terms with what happened between Jack and me but, with Nathan’s help, I have.  Nathan is a wonderful man and he loves me.  He’s given me another chance at happiness.  We are going to have a baby together.”


“I’m not blind, Kristin.  That is painfully obvious.”  He glanced at Nathan.  “You love her?”


“More than I’ve ever loved anyone in my life.”


“You will marry her immediately.  You shouldn’t have taken advantage of her…”


“I realize that, sir and I am trying to rectify that now.”


“Excuse me, I am still in the room and where do you get off saying that Nathan took advantage of me? Perhaps I took advantage of him!”


General Westphalen turned scarlet at that implication.  “Oh… I… I’ll go see what’s keeping McArthur.”  He hurried out the door.


“I can’t believe that you said that to your father!  I am trying to get him to like me and then you imply… God, Kristin!  You can’t say things like that to your father.  He’s British for Christ’s sake!”


“Yes but he is a grown man and he should behave like one.  He also needs to accept that I am a grown woman.  I knew that I should never have married Jack.  I almost backed out just before the wedding but I let other people convince me to go through with it.  This time I am following my heart and my heart says that my future is with you.”


Nathan rolled his eyes at the knock on the door just as he was about to kiss her.  “At least they didn’t come barging in on us this time. Next time we should really give them something to see.”


He gripped Kristin’s hand tightly in his as they headed toward the door.




Kristin stood by the window staring at the setting sun as the military brass went over the details of the information she and Nathan had provided them one last time.  Her hands were absently rubbing the small of her back when she felt strong fingers join them.


“Have I ever told you what wonderful hands you have?”  She sighed as Nathan massaged her sore muscles.


“I think you may have mentioned it once or twice.  You need to see a doctor… someone other than yourself.  Your back seems to be hurting you a great deal.”


“It doesn’t hurt, it’s just tired.  You try carrying around a small pumpkin in your abdomen for a while and see what happens to your muscles.  But you are right.  When we get back to Hawaii I will see another doctor… perhaps Dr. Levin.  I think he is an excellent doctor.”


“Can’t you find a woman doctor?”


Kristin glared at him.  “You think we are a dime a dozen?  I’m the only female doctor on the island that I know of.”


“Damn.  I just don’t like the idea of another man touching you.”


“It’s hardly the same thing… unless you plan to deliver this baby with me.”


“No.  Dr. Levin will be fine.  I am sure he is an excellent physician.”


Kristin laughed at Nathan’s quick capitulation when faced with the threat of being present for their child’s delivery. 


“Captain,” they looked up to find General McArthur standing beside them.  “My staff has taken care of the arrangements and the army chaplain is waiting in our chapel to do the honors.  My driver is waiting to take us there… if I may be allowed the honor of attending the happy event?”


Kristin turned to Nathan.  “This is it, Sailor.  Your last chance to run away.”


“The only place I am going to run is toward the chapel as fast as I can.  General, we would be honored to have you attend our wedding.”


McArthur pointed them toward the door and fell in behind them.  They made it all the way to the door before Kristin stopped and turned to look back at her father.  “Are you going to join us, Daddy?”


Westphalen looked from Kristin to Nathan and back again.  “Thank you, yes, I’ll be joining you.”  He was rewarded with a brilliant grin from his daughter as he fell in beside McArthur


“That is a hell of a son-in-law you are getting there.  You knew he sank four destroyers didn’t you…” McArthur’s voice boomed from behind as Nathan and Kristin walked down the hall, hand in hand.




Nathan signed his name with a flourish and passed the last paper to Kristin for her signature.  She signed boldly and handed it on to the chaplain.


“That’s all of the paperwork taken care of so all that is left is the ceremony.  Are the two of you ready?”


Kristin sighed and glanced down at her attire.  “Not what I would have chosen to wear to get married in but it can’t be helped.  Yes, I am ready.”


“I’ve been ready for a very long time.  Let’s make it legal.”  Nathan grinned as he winked at Kristin.


They moved to the altar to stand before the chaplain.  He opened his bible and began to speak.  “We are gathered here today…”




Three people stood at the back of the church – Admiral William Noyce, his wife Janet, and the first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt.


Nathan and Kristin stood in shock as they moved toward the front of the church, Janet literally running to embrace Kristin.


“I knew that you weren’t dead, I just felt it.  Oh, Kris…” Janet began to weep and Kristin joined her.


Bill had captured Nathan’s hand and was shaking it vigorously, his free hand slapping Nathan’s shoulder over and over. 


“Bill… I’m glad to see you too but not the shoulder… please?”


Bill stopped pounding when he saw Nathan wince and realized that he was heavily bandaged beneath his shirt.


“What the hell happened?”


“Not now, Bill.  I’m trying to get married here for Christ’s sake.”


Janet pulled away from Kristin, the sharp kick she’d just received turning her attention to Kristin’s abdomen.  Her eyes widened. 


“I guess that answers the did you or didn’t you question!  I thought that you couldn’t…”


Kristin shrugged her shoulders.  “I was wrong.”


“And I’m the one who figured it out!” Nathan chimed in.  “She didn’t even know.  She didn’t believe me when I told her.  She wouldn’t even believe her own eyes.  Kristin only accepted it when our daughter kicked the sh… dickens out of her.”


“Our son!” Kristin replied in a sing song voice. 


“Daughter!” Nathan replied, his grin growing.


“So it appears that we have interrupted a wedding?”  Nathan gulped hard as Eleanor Roosevelt made her presence known.  “I am very happy to find you safe, Kristin, and I know that Franklin will be as well.  We were both very upset at the reports of your death.”


“Thank you, Mrs. Roosevelt.  May I introduce you to my husband… my husband to be at least, Captain Nathan Bridger.


“Captain, I’ve heard a great deal about you from your dear friends.  Their love and respect for both of you do you credit.  Neither one of them would accept your loss.  Admiral Noyce insisted that he and his wife accompany me to Australia but I knew that their desire was to come here to spur a search for you.”


“I am pleased to meet you, Ma’am.  We’d be honored if you could stay for our wedding.”


“Just a moment, Captain.”


Mrs. Roosevelt laid a hand on Janet Noyce’s arm and drew her to the side of the church for a whispered conversation.  They returned to the couple and flanked Kristin, pulling her down the aisle over her protests and Nathan’s.


“We will return your bride to you in just a few minutes, Captain.”


Nathan passed the time catching Bill up on their island adventures, his gaze continually straying to the back of the church.  Numerous servicemen appeared and disappeared over the next ten minutes.  Nathan was about to go in search of his bride when Eleanor Roosevelt reappeared. 


“Admiral Noyce, I believe the Captain would like for you to do the honors as best man.  General Westphalen, if you would be so good as to come escort your daughter down the aisle?”  She directed as she moved to take her place beside General McArthur.


“But we don’t have any music…” Nathan started to point out.


“Imagine it, Captain.”  The wife of his commander-in-chief commanded.


Janet walked up the aisle and took her place, giving Nathan a wink as she turned toward the entrance.


Kristin appeared on her father’s arm wearing a dress of soft yellow.  It was a bit large through the shoulders and pulled tight across the swell of her stomach but Nathan thought he had never seen her look more beautiful. 


Lionel Westphalen couldn’t help but smile at the eagerness in his daughter’s step as she moved to her groom’s side.  He passed Kristin’s hand to Nathan with a smile on his lips and a warning in his eyes.  Nathan met his eyes with his own message, a promise to the father of the woman he loved that he would never hurt her.


The chaplain’s words were brief, their vows short but heartfelt and in a matter of minutes, with their closest friends in attendance, Nathan Bridger and Kristin Westphalen became husband and wife.




The moon shone brightly through the window of the small but elegant hotel room where the two lovers lay wrapped together, their passion temporarily spent.  Nathan whispered yet another silent thank you to the first lady and her ability to get people moving.  She’d sent McArthur’s staff scurrying during the ceremony and they’d come up with a wonderfully private place for them to spend their first official night together as husband and wife.


Nathan ran a hand along his wife’s sweat dampened back.  “This is so amazing!  I can feel you smiling against my skin.  I felt it the first time and there it is again.  You are smiling aren’t you?”


Kristin giggled and raised her head.  “Of course I’m smiling.  How could I not be after that?”


“Thank you.  Speaking of which… I cannot believe that you said that to your father… that you fully anticipated being taken advantage of many times this evening.  I thought he was going to kill me!”


“He deserves it.  He was very nasty to you earlier.”


“But he is your father.  In his day daughters didn’t discuss things like that with their fathers.”


“Nathan, the man was born during the reign of Queen Victoria.  In his day I’m not sure daughters even did that!  He needs to grow with the times.  This is the nineteen forties after all.”


“I just want to live long enough to see my daughter born.  Oh, and when we get back to Pearl I am immediately making arrangements for her to join a convent when she gets old enough.  I’ll kill any man who…”


“Does to her what you did to me?  Tell me something, daddy.  Would you really deny her this joy… this fabulous feeling?”  Kristin’s fingers began to trace intricate patterns on Nathan’s abdomen.


He groaned and shifted until they were lying side by side.  “YES!”  He stated emphatically as he pressed his lips to his wife’s.


“Well, maybe not,” Nathan conceded long minutes later as he once again lay panting on his back.  “But any man who tries had better be… nope, no one will ever be good enough for our daughter.”


“What about grandchildren?”


“We’ve already got one of those.  Hey, did you see how proud your father was when we told him about Teddy?  I think he would have popped a button if you hadn’t told him I was the grandfather.”


Kristin giggled.  “He doesn’t know quite what to make of you, Nathan Bridger, but I have feeling that someday you will be fast friends.  Keep giving him grandchildren and I’m sure of it.”


“Well I certainly don’t have a problem with that.  After our little red headed brown eyed daughter is born we can try for another red headed brown eyed daughter, then maybe another one and after that perhaps a read headed brown eyed son."


Kristin’s giggles grew into peals of laughter. “Perhaps we should wait until our son is born before we start planning for more, our blue eyed son.”


“But think of all the fun we can have practicing.  Like this…”


“Nathan… what are you…”


“I’m taking advantage of you again.  After all, I think that many times is at least five or six, right?  I’d hate to make you a liar to your father.”




“Just a moment.”  Kristin smoothed the new dress over her round stomach and slipped her feet into her shoes.  “Come in.”


The hatch door swung open to reveal the first lady.  “You look lovely, Kristin.”


Kristin felt lovely.  They’d spent a few days replenishing her wardrobe before leaving Australia and the feminine clothing Janet had helped her pick out made her feel better about her increasing waistline.  The cut of this particular dress was loose but flattering, hiding her five months of pregnancy very effectively.


“Thank you.”


“Your handsome husband just pointed out the island to me.  We should dock at Pearl in about an hour.  He was on his way to get you but I volunteered.  We’d hate for you to be late for the disembarking…”


Kristin blushed, knowing that the large amount of time that she and Nathan spent in their cabin had been commented on.


“I’m sorry that I didn’t get to spend more time with you…”


“Nonsense, child.  You are newly married.  Of course you want to spend your time with your husband.  I wasn’t surprised that you were absent.  Now the Noyces… their absence surprised me a bit.”


Kristin choked back a laugh as Eleanor continued.  “I’m heading back to the mainland tomorrow so I wanted to say my good-bye’s before all of the hullabaloo begins.  I’m very happy for you, Kristin.  Both Franklin and I suspected that John McCallister had a… darker side to him than the one we saw.  Perhaps you experienced the full force of that darkness.”


Kristin didn’t reply but the look on her face told Eleanor that she was right.  “This man that you’ve married… I’ve been talking to people about him.  I think you have made a very good choice.  He obviously loves you and he is so excited about being a father, although for his sake I do hope that the child is a girl.”


“Why won’t anyone believe that it’s a boy!


“Perhaps because its father is so adamant about having a daughter,” Mrs. Roosevelt struggled to hide her grin.  “Put the past behind you and be happy, Kristin.”  She held out her arms and the two women shared a quick embrace.  “Now I suggest that you go join the good-looking man before all the women on shore get a look at him.”


Kristin left the cabin with a smile and went in search of Nathan.  She found him on deck, standing with Bill and Janet by the railing as they watched Oahu slip ever closer.


Bill and Janet didn’t have to turn around to know that Kristin was approaching, the look on Nathan’s face told them.  Kristin moved easily into his loose embrace as she greeted the other couple.  Captain Shelley soon joined them. Kristin took the opportunity to draw Janet to the side.


“So… I know what Nathan and I were doing in our cabin the whole trip but you and Bill?”


Janet’s face began to turn pink.  “Just because we’ve been married over a quarter of a decade doesn’t mean the magic is gone.  We decided to take advantage of the fact that he didn’t really have any pressing duties during the trip.”


Kristin smiled.  “It’s nice to know that I have something to look forward to.  I know that you will be glad to get home.  You taking off to Australia to look for us… it was a wonderful thing for you and Bill to do and we won’t forget it.”


“Kristin, you and Nathan are family.  We would do anything for you.”


“And we feel the same way about you.  I know you must be glad to be home… leaving so close to Ginny’s wedding.”


“I guess I’ll have to enlist your help with all those little details.  You must be glad to be home as well.”


“I guess so… but where is home?  We don’t even have a place to live.  Nathan can’t go back to his house and I don’t want to either.  We are going to look for someplace new as soon as we find out what the navy is going to do with him.  Bill has been very close-mouthed on that subject.”


“You will stay with Bill and I until you work something out.  If Nathan has to go back to sea right away you don’t need to be alone, not in your condition.  The dress hides it very well, by the way… you’re a bit nervous aren’t you?”


Kristin nodded.  “I can’t help it.  Everyone will know… if not immediately, then soon enough.  I’m not really trying to hide it but I would at least like to tell Cynthia myself not just walk down the gangplank with a beach ball beneath my dress.  Once she knows I can deal with the rest of the gossip.”  Her hands gently caressed her stomach as she spoke.


“She will be happy for you.”


“I hope so, Janet, but I’m not holding my breath.  My daughter doesn’t seem to be happy about anything these days, except perhaps Teddy.”


“I’ve noticed.  She’s just had a lot to deal with over the last few years…”


“And I can’t really see the addition of a baby brother changing her mood into a happy one.”


“But a baby sister might…” Nathan slid his arms around his wife’s belly.


“You just won’t give it up will you.  The position of the baby tells me it’s a boy.”


“That is an old wives tale and you know it.  I know it’s a girl, honey.  I just feel it.  See the crowd waiting to greet the first lady?”


Kristin shot Nathan an ‘I know you are trying to change the subject but this isn’t over look’ and joined Janet at the railing.


“There are a lot of people there…”


“And most of them will follow Mrs. Roosevelt.  We will wait for the crowd to disperse and then we get off and head home.”


The crowd did follow Eleanor Roosevelt just as Janet had predicted.  Five minutes after the first lady was driven away in a jeep the crowd had thinned dramatically.


The two couples walked slowly down the gangplank, Nathan carefully guarding Kristin’s every step.  They’d just reached the bottom when she heard someone call out her name.


Four heads turned to find Admiral Malcolm Lansdowne approaching, Kristin his obvious goal.  He pushed Nathan aside and wrapped his arms around her shoulders, pulling her into his embrace.


“I am so glad that you are alive.  I don’t know why Noyce and Bridger thought they could get away with that hair-brained scheme but they won’t get away with it.  If anything had happened to you I would have made sure… but you are safe.  That’s the most important thing.  Let me take you…”




“Away somewhere.  You need some time to recuperate…”


“Malcolm!”  Kristin interrupted him sharply.


Nathan stood back and watched as his wife dealt with her erstwhile suitor.  He wanted to laugh at the way she’d kept her lower body from being dragged into Malcolm’s embrace but at the same time he wanted to deck the Admiral.


Malcolm finally stopped talking long enough to listen to Kristin.  “Thank you for your concern, Malcolm, but the first thing I need to do is to see my daughter and my grandson.”


“I’ll take you to them… I’m surprised that they aren’t here but we’ll find them…”


“Cynthia is waiting for me at the Noyce’s.  Malcolm… there is something that you need to know...”


“I’ll have her escorted to my quarters.  You don’t have to stay with these lunatics any more…”


“Admiral Lansdowne!”  Nathan stepped back when he heard the anger in Kristin’s voice.  Bill and Janet noticed and copied his movements, all three of them thankful that they weren’t the targets of her glaring eyes and pointing finger.


“You wait just one damned minute.  Bill and Janet Noyce are the best friends that I have ever had and I will NOT allow you to disparage them or Nathan.  Bill arranged for me to accompany the Dolphin because the shipment needed a doctor’s supervision and I was readily available.  Our getting stranded was no one’s fault and I will not allow you to blame Nathan for it.  He saved my life time and again on that island.”


“But you should never have been there in the first place.  The regulations are very clear…”


“Screw the regulations, Malcolm.  There is no one at fault here and I will not allow you to cause problems for my friends or for my husband.”


“Hus…” Malcolm’s gaze fell to Kristin’s left hand to see Nathan’s academy ring resting on her ring finger.


“Nathan and I are married.”  Kristin’s voice held a note of sorrow at the pain in Malcolm’s face. 


“Married?  How could you marry him?  He kidnapped you!”




“He forced you into this didn’t he?  Somehow he made you…”


“Malcolm, no one forced me into anything.  I love Nathan.”


The Admiral’s face grew red.  “NO!  He’s made you say that.  This is some sort of plot… I’m taking you away from here so that you can get your head straightened out.”


Malcolm gripped her arms tightly and began to pull her away from the group.  Nathan quickly stepped forward and grabbed Malcolm’s wrist, trying to break his hold on Kristin.  Malcolm let go and took a swing but Nathan anticipated the move and twisted so that Malcolm’s fist missed his face and struck a glancing blow to his chest.


Nathan staggered as a sharp pain shot through his wounded shoulder, struggling to prepare to deflect Malcolm’s next blow but it didn’t come.  He felt Kristin’s arms slid around him at the same instant that he heard a loud splash as Malcolm once again fell into the harbor water.


“I think that you need some time to cool off and get your head straightened out, Admiral.”  Kristin delivered her parting shot before heading down the dock with Nathan.  The Noyces followed as several of the destroyer’s crew rushed to help the Admiral from the water.




“I can’t believe that you pushed him into the water!”


“I didn’t push him, Janet.  He overbalanced when he hit Nathan and I ‘accidentally’ bumped into him when I went to help my husband.  Just like you ‘accidentally’ stuck your leg in his way the first time he fell in.”


Cynthia’s eyes grew wide and she turned to stare at Ginny as the two young women heard the sound of their mother’s voices through the opening door. 


“I have no idea what you are talking about, Kristin.  The Admiral is obviously just clumsy.”  Janet giggled and the sound of male laughter joined in.


“Cynni!”  Kristin beamed as her daughter came into view and ran to embrace her.  Cynthia was slow to respond and Kristin pulled back quickly. 


“Baby, is something wrong?”


“No, mummy.  I’m so glad to have you home.”  This time Cynthia initiated the embrace, holding her mother tightly for several moments before pulling back.  “But I’m guessing that you have something to tell me?”


“As a matter of fact… Cynthia… I know that you loved your father very much but he’s been gone for a while now and I’ve…”


“Welcome to the family, Captain Bridger.”  Cynthia turned to her new stepfather and held her hand out to him as her mother stared on, astonished.


“Thank you, Cynthia.”  Nathan replied sincerely as he took her hand.  “I am very pleased to be part of your family.”


“Would you like to see Teddy?  He has missed you so much, mummy.  He asks about you all the time.  He’s asked about his grandfather as well, Captain.  I have pictures of you sitting on a table and he pulls himself up and points to them, saying ‘Mama’ with a questioning look on his face.  He’s upstairs asleep but I’ll go wake him.”


“Cynthia, wait just a minute.   We are dying to see Teddy, of course, but I’d like to spend a little time with you too.  Come sit and talk to me.  Tell me what has happened while I’ve been gone.”


Cynthia shrugged her shoulders as she joined her mother on the sofa.  “Nothing has happened.  Every day is just the same.  I get up and look after Teddy all day then I go to sleep.  I want to hear about what’s happened to you.  When exactly did this wedding take place?”


Kristin’s face took on a slightly embarrassed look.  “Actually that is something else that I need to talk to you about.”  She glanced around the room looking for support and was surprised to find that it was empty.


“Chicken!” She turned and yelled at the closed door and heard Nathan’s deep chuckle from the other side.


“This must be good.”  Cynthia’s eyes darted from the door back to her mother.


“We actually got legally married almost two weeks ago, the day that we arrived in Australia.”


“Legally?’  Cynthia was clearly enjoying her mother’s distress.


“Well, we sort of had our own private ceremony on the island.”


“That’s my mother.  Wedding before bedding.”


Cynthia thought that her mother blushed because of her comment and quickly apologized.  “I’m sorry, Mummy.  I shouldn’t have said that.  I know how disappointed you were that…”


Kristin took her daughter’s hand in her own.  “No, Baby, I think that perhaps I owe you an apology.  You see…”


Kristin closed her eyes as she laid Cynthia’s hand against her gravid abdomen just as the child within began to move about.  Cynthia’s eyes grew wide as she realized that her mother was pregnant and wider still when the movement and memories of her own pregnancy told her just exactly how pregnant her mother was.


“Mother!  You’re… oh my God!  You’re pregnant.  You are really pregnant, so pregnant that… Captain Bridger found you in his house how long ago?”


Kristin’s skin was scarlet as Cynthia began to chuckle.  “Oh my God!  My mother… I can’t believe it!  And after the lectures that you gave me!  But I didn’t think that you could…”


“Neither did I.  It was quite a shock to me as well.  Actually Nathan guessed before I did and I didn’t believe him, not until your little brother began to do jumping jacks.”


“Little sister!”


Kristin was startled to here Nathan’s voice from the door.  He’d slipped through and stood quietly throughout her announcement, ready to provide support if Cynthia proved difficult.  Fortunately that hadn’t proved to be the case.


“A little sister!  I’ve always wanted a little sister.  Congratulations, Captain!”


“Why don’t you call me Nathan?  I think that under the circumstances…” Nathan smiled as he moved to the sofa, wedging himself behind Kristin and wrapping his hands around her waist.


Cynthia nodded, suddenly shy as she processed the information she had just received.


“A playmate for Teddy. I worry about him being an only child but now he’ll have an… aunt, that seems so strange.”


“There is no reason why Teddy has to be an only child, but I know that he will love having an uncle near his own age.”


“It’s a girl!”


“It’s a boy!”


Nathan grinned at Cynthia.  “Your mother and I are having a slight disagreement.  She thinks our baby is a boy and I know that it is a girl.”


Kristin rolled her eyes.  “Can you believe him?  I’m the one carrying this child and he has all the answers!”


Cynthia eyed her mother critically.  “You aren’t carrying like I did with Teddy.  I agree with Capt… Nathan.  It’s a girl.”


“Wait a minute!  The two of you are ganging up on me?  Well!”


Nathan and Cynthia both laughed out loud as Kristin pouted.  Nathan held out his hand to his new stepdaughter and she grasped it tightly.




Nathan strode into the hospital halls, his light as he searched for his wife.  They’d made plans to meet for lunch after she checked back in for her work schedule.  Nathan knew that Kristin was bound to run into Malcolm and he was concerned but she had assured him that she could handle it.


He rounded the corner heading toward Kristin’s office and stopped dead in his tracks at the sight of his wife in Malcolm Lansdowne’s arms.  Nathan saw red; his immediate reaction to charge forward and hurt the Admiral but he quickly stopped himself.  ‘I trust Kristin… she wouldn’t hurt me. Unless it’s to beat the shit out of me if I make an ass of myself right now.’


He stopped at the corner, not intending to eavesdrop but unwilling to leave Kristin alone with Malcolm.  Kristin broke the embrace and drew back from Malcolm.


“I will always be there for you, Kristin.  Anytime that you need me…”


“I know that, Malcolm, and I’m very grateful but I am married now.  I have Nathan to depend on.”


“But is Nathan dependable?  Look at how many times he has appeared and disappeared over the last year.”


“Nathan had some things that he had to work through, but then so did I.  What is important is that we are together now.  We are defined by our past to a certain extent but that doesn’t mean that it has to dominate our future.  Nathan and I are very happy together.”


“Dammit!  If only Carol…”


“Malcolm, if Carol hadn’t died then I would have happily lived out my life as a dear friend to both Nathan and Carol… nothing more.  But something happened to me the instant that I first laid eyes on Nathan Bridger.  That moment changed my life.”


Understanding began to dawn in Malcolm’s eyes.  “I never stood a chance, did I?”


“You are a lovely man, Malcolm, charming as the day is long… but no, from the moment that I saw Nathan I knew that it was him or no one.  I hope that someday you can find it in your heart to be happy for us.  For all of us…” Kristin drew her hands across the swell of her belly.  “We are going to have a baby.  I never thought that could happen for me again.”


“So this is why…”


“Oh no.  Nathan and I made our commitment to each other long before we knew about the baby.  I never would have led you on.  I tried to tell you… to let you know how I felt about him.”


“I was just too pig-headed to listen.  I really like Nathan.  If he’d married any one but you I would be really happy for him.  But I’ll adjust…”


“You’ll find someone, Malcolm… a wonderful woman who’s perfect for you.”


Malcolm nodded, unconvinced.  “In the mean time you are welcome to work as much or as little as you would like depending on how you feel.”


“At the moment I feel fantastic but I’m sure that will change over the next few months as I continue to expand.  I’ll talk with Nathan and get back to you.”


Nathan took that as his cue and stepped back into the hallway, making sure that his steps rang loudly on the tiled floor.  Malcolm quickly stepped away from Kristin when he saw Nathan approaching.


Kristin greeted her husband with a brilliant smile and Nathan pasted a friendly grin on his face, fighting back the urge to strike out at Malcolm.


“Admiral.” Nathan stopped at attention and snapped a smart salute off. 


“Nathan, good to see you.  Your lovely wife has just been telling me your news.  I’d like to offer my congratulations.”  Malcolm stuck his hand out and Nathan shook it.


“Just get back to me about your schedule as soon as possible, Dr. Bridger.”  Malcolm tendered a final smile at Kristin before moving down the hall and disappearing.


“Hey, sailor.  I was wondering if you were going to come out and join us.”


“You knew that I was there?  How?”


“I don’t know… I just sensed you.  I suspect that you were getting control of your temper so that you didn’t hurt your superior officer.”


“I admit that the thought did cross my mind but then I realized that I had no reason to do that.  You meant what you said didn’t you?  That it was me or no one?  I felt the same thing…”


“Come here…” Kristin dragged Nathan down the hall and into her office.  She closed the door behind them and flipped the lock.


“I seem to recall that the last time we were in this office together we left some things hanging…” Nathan grinned as Kristin pinned him against the wall and pressed her body into his.


“Funny… I remember it a little differently.”  Nathan quickly spun them so that Kristin was the one pinned against the wall.


“Hmm, that’s much better.”  Kristin announced as Nathan’s mouth descended toward hers.




“Walk with me, Nathan.”  Janet’s command left little room for argument so Nathan pulled himself from his perch on the porch railing and followed Janet into the yard, his hand trailing over Kristin’s shoulders as he passed her.  She raised her eyebrow and he shrugged his shoulders.  She encouraged him with that special smile of hers which caused a boyish grin to creep into his features.


Janet stood looking at him, shaking her head.  “You two never quit do you?”


Nathan gave her his best innocent look.  “I don’t know what you mean.”


“Of course you don’t.  You are always looking at each other, touching each other… and the moaning that comes from your bedroom in the middle of the night?   The woman is pregnant, Nathan.  You need to let her get some sleep.”


Nathan blushed, knowing that both he and Kristin were prone to get quite vocal during their exertions.  “Why do you automatically assume that it’s my fault?” He replied with a smile because he realized that Janet was kidding him.


“So you are telling me that it isn’t?”


“Well, not all of it.  Janet, can I ask you something sort of personal?”


“You know that you can ask me anything.”


“When you… do pregnant women get… I don’t really remember from when Carol was pregnant with Robert but Kristin seems to be really… affectionate lately.  That’s not to say that she isn’t usually… but lately… she’s exhausting me!”


Janet wasn’t completely successful in stifling her giggle.  “So I guess that answers my ‘are you happy’ question.  Not that I really have any doubts after watching the two of you.”


“I’m serious, Janet.  The other day she dragged me into her office and locked the door and… right there on her desk… and when we went for a walk on the beach the other night… not to mention the shower this morning.  I’m not complaining by any means but… is it normal?  And is it going to continue after the baby comes?”


“I wondered what was going on in that shower.  Bill thought the pipes were going bad.  I should have known that the two of you were in there together.”  Janet rolled her eyes at Nathan’s innocent grin then continued.


“Sometimes women lose their desire to… be affectionate… after a baby comes but somehow I don’t think that is going to be a problem between the two of you.  Kristin is making up for lost time and you… well, you are just being you.  You might find that a little one puts a damper on things as well… round the clock feedings, diaper changes…”


“I know… that I remember.  But I am hoping that baby-sitting services might be readily available…” Nathan wheedled.


“You are incorrigible.  You know that Bill and I will be more than happy to baby-sit anytime.  But our services stop at three, just remember that.  I can’t handle more than three babies at once, not with Bill at home too.”


“How did you know that we were talking about having more kids?”


“You don’t have to talk about it, Nathan.  Kristin got pregnant the first time you were together.  I don’t think you could be any more compatible.  And the way that you two touch each other… no, I have little doubt that more baby Bridgers will soon be on the way.”


“Three… that’s a good number.  I was thinking more like five but… three redheaded brown-eyed daughters…”


“You keep talking like that and you may well be cut off.  A word of advice… wait until Kristin experiences labor again before you decide how many more children you are having.”


“So… why did you drag me out here?”


Janet smiled sentimentally.  “I just wanted to talk to you alone for a few minutes.  I just wanted to tell you… Bill wouldn’t say anything because he’s a man and men don’t talk about things like that but… we are really happy for you and Kristin.  I hoped that things would work out for you… and they did.  The two of you are really incredible together.”


“She is pretty amazing.”


“And so are you, little brother.  The reason that I dragged you out here is that Bill and I would like to have a party for you and Kristin… a delayed wedding reception of sorts.  I know that men don’t really think about things like that but I think that it would be nice for Kristin…”


“I think it’s a great idea but why didn’t she say something to me?”


“Because this is my idea.  Your baby is going to be the fodder for base rumor within the next week or so.  Let’s nip that rumor in the bud by making it general knowledge.  You and Kristin were married quietly some time ago and now you are announcing it.”


“Thereby putting the Janet Noyce stamp of support out for all of the old cows who might have not so nice things to say…”


“That certainly couldn’t hurt but the main reason is that we love you both and we want to do something to celebrate this happy time in your lives.”


“It’s a lovely thought and I’m sure that Kristin will be pleased.  By all means let’s have a party.  But it will have to be soon.  The Dolphin is due back in port any day and who knows when we will be ordered out.”


“So we will make sure we schedule the party before you leave.  I think that your crew should be here.  I’ll have Bill find out what going on.  I’m sure that we could put a nice party together quickly.”


Nathan pulled a slow drag from his beer bottle.  “Janet… if something should happen… if I’m not here when the baby is born or… well, you know… would you and Bill?”


“You don’t even have to ask, Nathan.  We will take care of Kristin and your baby.  But believe me; Bill is going to do everything in his power to make sure that you are here for the birth of that child.  If he doesn’t he will be sleeping alone for the next year or two.”


“He’d probably appreciate the rest.  I hear that Kristin and I weren’t the only ones who barely left their cabin on the trip home.”


“I think your wife is calling you!”  Nathan burst out laughing as Janet stalked away.




The band was setting up, the guests were due to arrive any moment and Nathan’s wife was in a panic because her dress made her look fat.  Retreat was his first response and he grabbed a beer on his way out the door to the beach.  Thankfully he found the strip of sand relatively deserted.  Everyone was worried about Kristin’s nerves but he needed a moment to settle his. 


Nathan was almost at the water’s edge when he noticed a lone figure on the beach, a familiar figure.  He walked toward his stepdaughter.


“Mind if I join you?”


“Oh, hello Capt… Nathan.  No, I don’t mind at all.  I was just taking a break.”


“Your mom driving you crazy too, huh?”


Cynthia smiled.  “She’s just a little nervous.  I can understand.  I remember being nervous when I really began to show and I had been married a lot longer than mom.  Knowing that everyone knows that you weren’t married when you got pregnant must be unnerving.”


Nathan laughed.  “That’s quite a tongue twister.  So are you really okay with this, Cynthia?  You’ve been great to accept me and I know that your mother is pleased… but I know how you felt about John McCallister…”


“He hurt her, didn’t he?”


Nathan was stunned by the question.  He knew that Kristin had tried to protect her daughter from her father’s dark side.  He didn’t know how to respond but Cynthia began talking again.


“I have some vague memories of what things were like before mummy and I left.  Once we came back things were different between them.  Daddy treated me just the same but I knew that they weren’t as happy as they had once been.  Then mummy began to have days when she couldn’t get out of bed or she was moving very slowly.  I saw bruises sometimes but she always said that she hit a door frame or bumped into something.  After daddy died she began to dream.  I used to go into her room sometimes for a hug or a talk and she would be fighting him in her sleep.”


Nathan sighed, sorry that Cynthia had witnessed the same dream that he had.  “You’re an adult… old enough to know the truth so I won’t lie.  Yes, he did hurt her.  I think that sometimes he hurt her badly.  Your father wanted a son and for some twisted reason he blamed your mother because they didn’t have one.  I think that it’s pretty obvious now that the fault lay with him.  She never wanted you to know.


“She told you about it?”


“She told me, yes… and I saw it for myself… once.”


“When?  It must have been… the night I… I was gone so he beat her up didn’t he?  Oh my God… that isn’t all that he did…”


“I saw your mother that next morning.  She stumbled and I tried to catch her… she was very badly bruised.”


“That is why she was so sick when daddy died.  She was recovering from being beaten… and raped.”


“She never wanted you to know.” Nathan reiterated.  “He was a monster towards her but he loved you like you were his own.”


“He would have been furious at me for getting pregnant.”


“He would have killed Robert for touching you and probably hurt your mother as well.  I think that he would have taken the child from you for he and your mother to raise.  I didn’t like McCallister.  I won’t pretend that I did.  I will spend the rest of my life trying to make her forget all of the unhappiness he caused her, all of the damage he did to her.”


“You make her so happy, Nathan.  I never knew that two people could be so happy together until I saw you and mummy together these last few weeks… these last few months.  Even when the two of you weren’t speaking she still seemed to glow anytime your name was mentioned.”


“Cindy… aren’t you and Ben happy?  I don’t mean to pry but… you don’t seem to be and that’s a shame.”


“Ben is a wonderful man… it’s just…”


Nathan shifted uncomfortably before deciding to dive in headfirst.  “Cyn… I’ll never forget what Ben did for you and Teddy.  He has been a true friend to my son.  But you need to decide what will ultimately make you happy.  Robert wouldn’t want you to bury yourself with him.  If you truly think that you love Ben then make a life together, fight for it.  But if you don’t think that is a realistic possibility then you need to let Ben go for both of your sakes.  Ben deserves to find someone who can love him.  You deserve the chance to find true love again.”


“Ben really loves Teddy.”


“I know that.  He will always be Teddy’s dad no matter what you decide.  But please know that if you should decide that apart is better, your mother and I will do anything that we can to help you.  We will help you find a place to live and look after Teddy while you work or go to school… whatever you need.”


Cynthia’s answer died on her lips as a shout caught their attention.  Bill was puffing down the beach towards them


“Janet said to tell you that you had better get back to the house and deal with your wife immediately.  How can you put up with that woman?  She’s insane!”


“She’s hormonal.  Bill, do I need to remind you of Janet when she was six-month’s pregnant.  I believe that a flying frying pan was involved… and threats to your manhood… oh wait, those were made during labor.”


Bill looked chagrined.  “You married her… you go deal with her!”


“What exactly is wrong?”


“She looks fat.”


“She is fat.  She is almost six months pregnant.”


“Mother feels awkward.  You need to reassure her that you still find her attractive.”


“Attractive, hell, she could be nine months pregnant with triplets and she’d still be the most beautiful woman on the planet to me.”


“Don’t tell us… go tell her.”  Cynthia pointed toward the house with a smile on her face.


“But Nathan, remember that the guests will begin to arrive in the next few minutes.  Maybe you could both attempt to keep your clothes on?”


Nathan shot Bill a nasty look as he headed back up the beach.




Kristin was surveying herself critically in the mirror when Nathan slipped through the bedroom door and closed it behind him, Janet’s whispered, ‘Good Luck!’ still ringing in his ears.  Kristin’s hands were moving over her abdomen, artfully rearranging the drape of the dress over the obvious mound.  But nothing satisfied her.  She pulled the fabric tight across her body.


“You look beautiful, you know.”


Kristin looked up with a scornful expression on her face.  “I do not look beautiful.  I look huge!  I can’t face people looking like this.  Everyone will know how far along I am!”


Nathan walked over to her and put his arms around her, lifting her body until she was propped on the edge of the dresser.  He planted his hands on the surface on either side of her body.


“Would you agree that I am an honest man?”


“You are the most honest man that I know.”


“You know that I have never lied to you.”


“I know that.  What is this all about, Nathan?  We have guest due shortly and I have to find someway of making myself presentable…”


“Kristin Westphalen Bridger, you are without doubt the most beautiful woman on the face of the planet… right here, right now, this moment.  You are gorgeous.  You are beautiful every moment but looking at you, sitting here, pregnant with our child… I can’t imagine that you can’t see that.”


Kristin’s face took on a wistful expression.  “I feel like I’m wearing a tent.”


“The dress looks fantastic on you.  You just aren’t used to having this little extra bit out front.  People are going to know that we… anticipated and I am sorry about that.  I should have married you immediately, but we both had to work through some things before we could reach this point.  Remember that no one knows exactly when we got married and no one has to know.  If any of those fat old cows say anything to you it’s probably because they are jealous.  After all you are married to the handsomest man on the base.”


That comment coaxed a smile to Kristin’s lips.  “You are reasonable attractive.  I’ll give you that.”


“Hey, I’m cute as a bug and you know it.  You couldn’t resist me after all.  And I couldn’t resist you.  You really are gorgeous, Kristin.  You have this glow about you right now… I don’t really know how to describe it.  I’ve heard about a pregnant woman’s special glow all my life and never really noticed it but with you… it emanates from every part of you and it only makes you more beautiful.”


“Oh, Nathan…” His lips stopped her words.


His kiss was gentle; his love flowing through the careful touch of his hands as they fondled her belly.  She moaned softly and leaned closer into him. 


Nathan couldn’t help himself; he’d meant every word that he’d spoken.  He did think that Kristin was absolutely gorgeous and the sight of her excited him beyond measure.  The dress that she wore was flattering to her expanding waistline even though she couldn’t recognize it.  The scooped neckline and empire waist showed her bountiful cleavage to perfection and the skirt fell away to flare attractively to her knees. 


Nathan felt overwhelming desire to show Kristin just how beautiful he thought she was and one hand drifted slowly up her back to pull on the zipper of her dress as the other slid to the back of her calf and began to knead its way upward.


The neck of the dress fell away with a quick shift of her shoulders and Nathan’s hand moved to cup the exposed flesh, kneading the erect peak softly between his fingers.  He released her lips and moved lower, his mouth leaving a trail of kisses as it headed toward a rosy nipple. 


“The bed…” Kristin gasped when she felt Nathan’s fingers make a cursory pass over her inner thighs enroute to their destination.


“Here…” Her legs fell apart beneath Nathan’s gentle probing and he moved between them, pushing the hem of her dress up as he pulled her to the very edge of the piece of furniture.  Her hands fell to his waistband, deftly unfastening it to release him to her touch.


Nathan felt the warmth emanating from her damp core as she stroked his head through her slick folds.  She positioned him and he thrust slowly into her, stopping when he was buried to his hilt. 


“I love you, my wife.”


“I love you my husband… now move, please!”


Nathan pulled back and began to sink into her once again.  The knock on the door startled them both.


“NO!”  Kristin wailed quietly.


“I’m going to kill him.  I swear to God I’m going to kill him.”  Nathan murmured into her shoulder.


“Nathan… Kristin… the guests are beginning to arrive.  Janet sent me to get you.”


“We’ll be down in a minute, Bill.”  Nathan yelled though gritted teeth, his arousal still firmly embedded in his wife’s body.


“You know how Janet hates to be kept waiting…”


“Bill, if you don’t get the hell away from that door right now I will kill you!  We will be down in a few minutes.”




“I swear to you that not one single article of clothing has left our bodies, Bill.  Now LEAVE!”


They heard his shout of laughter as he moved away from the door.


“Sometimes I could cheerfully strangle that man…”


“Maybe we should get downstairs…”


“In a minute…”


“Nathan… we shouldn’t… oh yes… but Janet…”


Shh… it’s your fault you know… if you didn’t look so delicious in that dress… and out of that dress… Kristin… how are you doing that?  Oh lord… Kris!”


Kristin locked her legs around Nathan’s waist and pulled him as close to her body as their child would allow, her hands holding his hips so that he slid smoothly in and out of her wet sheath.


Downstairs Bill was trying to work his way through the house without his wife seeing him.  He’d successfully avoided her for several minutes and was just about to dive out the back door when…


“Bill!  I thought I told you to go get Nathan and Kristin.”


“I tried, honey, I really did… but they were… occupied.”


Kristin’s scream of completion echoed through the house causing both Bill and Janet to jump, their eyes turned to the ceiling.


“Oh, occupied… Damn that must have been fantastic.  I’ve never heard her scream like that before.  Now maybe they can come join their guests.”


Nathan’s loud cry of his wife’s name caused their eyes to once more turn upward. 


“That does it!”  Janet marched to the foot of the stairs and yelled up.  “Hey you two!  If you are quite through I have guests waiting in the back yard to greet you so get yourselves together and GET DOWN HERE!”


Five minutes later Nathan and Kristin descended the stairs, not a hair out of place.  Janet wouldn’t have believed they had been up to any monkey business if it weren’t for the goofy grins on their faces and the screams of passion she and Bill had just heard.


Nathan took one look at Janet’s face and headed toward the back door, pausing only to brush a quick kiss across Kristin’s cheek before disappearing from the house with Bill following close behind.


“Well I must say that you look completely satisfied with yourself.”


“Uhm… I am… and completely satisfied with my husband too.”


“Stop that!  You two behave yourself while my house is full of guests.  Once they are gone you can do anything you want.”


“Anything?” Kristin asked with a grin.


“And I was worried that Nathan might never be able to make you unrepressed.  God, how wrong I was!”  Janet shook her head and rolled her eyes.  “Let’s go greet the guests.”




Nathan’s eyes never left his wife as they greeted the hordes of people who had accepted Janet’s invitation, curious to see if the rumors of impending parenthood were true.  Nathan’s casual caresses across the top of Kristin’s belly left little doubt.


“Relax…” he’d whispered in her ear.  “You are my wife and we are going to have a beautiful baby girl.  We aren’t ashamed of that.”


Kristin blushed the first time he did it but quickly became used to his tender touch.  Nathan rarely left her side, only doing so grudgingly when Janet shooed him away to join the men for a while.


“I thought he’d never leave.  So are you having a good time?”


“Everyone has been very nice.  Of course I can’t imagine anyone being rude in front of Nathan.  He is making it very clear that he is going to be a proud papa.”


“I think that their husbands have put the fear of God into them.  Bill and Nathan have been spreading the word that your father is a major general with very strong ties to the top brass… General McArthur’s presence at your wedding has been mentioned as has Mrs. Roosevelt’s.”


That little sneak!” Kristin laughed.  “What ever am I going to do with him?”


“By all means, be creative.  Having you and Nathan in the house has definitely improved the romance in my marriage so go for it!”


“Janet?” Kristin blushed.


“Not that there was any problem before but… I think Bill thinks he has to keep up with Nathan so every time we hear moans from your bedroom he… actually, lately he’s taken to coming home in the middle of the afternoon when he knows that you and Nathan are on duty…” Janet mimicked Kristin’s blush as she realized how much she’d revealed.


The two women shared an embarrassed laugh as they eyed their husbands eyeing them. 


“What do you think they are talking about?”  Bill asked.


“I’ll give you one guess.”

“What… they wouldn’t talk about… they would!”


“We do… why wouldn’t they?  And by the way, thank you for your timely departure earlier.  I would have been very upset if I’d had to stop what I was doing to come beat the shit out of you.”


“That would have been preferable to Janet’s wrath.  Thank God Kristin screamed out when she did or I would have been in deep trouble.  You certainly got dressed again very quickly after Janet yelled at you…”


“I told you, no clothing was removed.”


“Then how in the hell… no, I don’t want to know…”


“You know that dresser in your spare room?   It’s very sturdy.”


“Jeez, Nathan!   I said I didn’t want to know!”



“You realize that every woman here is insanely jealous of you, don’t you?”  Janet asked Kristin.


“Why would they be jealous of me?  I’m huge.”


“You aren’t huge. You are gloriously pregnant by an adoring husband who obviously loves you madly and satisfies you completely.”


“Janet!  They don’t know… they couldn’t know that we just…”


“Well, they probably don’t realize why… but you definitely have an air of satisfaction about you.  I think… I think that it’s time to dance.”


Janet gave a slight wave to the leader of the small navy orchestra Bill had commandeered for the occasion and he motioned for the members to prepare their instruments.  Her next direction went toward Bill who headed toward the small temporary bandstand and stage while Nathan made his way back to his wife’s side.


“Friends, Janet and I would like to thank you for coming this afternoon to help us belatedly celebrate the marriage of our dear friends, Nathan and Kristin Bridger.  No one knows what life has in store for them but over the last two years many of us hoped that these two people would find their way to each other and damned if they didn’t… sorry ladies.”  Bill apologized for his language as his wife glared at him furiously.


“I know that you all didn’t come to listen to me talk so I’ll be brief.  Ladies and gentlemen, please raise your glasses to the happy bride and groom!”


The assembled company toasted Nathan and Kristin as they took small sips of their own glasses of champagne, all the while staring into each other’s eyes. 


“Come dance with me, Mrs. Bridger.”


“Certainly, Mr. Bridger.”


Nathan led Kristin to the dance floor and pulled her into his embrace as the band struck up the song he had asked them to play. 


“I requested this especially for you.” He whispered in her ear as the young tenor began to sing...


I can only give you love that lasts forever,
And a promise to be near each time you call.
And the only heart I own
For you and you alone
That's all,
That's all

I can only give you country walks in springtime
And a hand to hold when leaves begin to fall;
And a love whose burning light
Will warm the winter's night
That's all,
That's all.

There are those I am sure who have told you,
They would give you the world for a toy.
All I have are these arms to enfold you,
And a love time can never destroy.

If you're wondering what I'm asking in return, dear,
You'll be glad to know that my demands are small.
Say it's me that you'll adore,
For now and evermore
That's all,
That's all.


“They look so perfect together.” Janet whispered as she shifted her hand from her husband’s shoulder to wipe a tear from her eye.  Her dance step faltered but Bill quickly covered. 


“You are just a romantic at heart, my wife.  I knew that you were hoping for this from the time that we saw them together on the balcony, before the attack.”


“They love each other. I know that Nathan loved Carol and Kristin loved her first husband… she even loved that bastard in her own way… but the two of them together… they are just so right.  And a baby, Bill… we are going to get to watch their little girl grow up… her first steps… her first words… I’ve missed having a baby around.  Besides we need the practice.  We could very well be grandparents before too long.”


“Please don’t remind me.  I am having a hard enough time with Ginny getting married.  I can’t deal with what comes after that or I might have to kill young David.”


“You will do very well, Daddy.  Have I mentioned today how much I love you?”


“I love you too, sweetheart.  Hey, you know that dresser that belonged to your mother?  How do you think it would look in our bedroom?”




Kristin sagged against Nathan in relief as the door closed behind the final guest.  He supported her body against his as he led her toward the sofa.  Kristin sank into the soft cushions gratefully.


“It was a wonderful wedding reception, Janet.  Thank you so much.”


“Yes, thank you.  Kristin and I both appreciated this so much.  Now we don’t have to send out ‘we’re expecting’ announcements.”


Kristin shot Nathan a glare that made him shiver in anticipation of being alone with her.  He knew how amorous she could be when riled.


“You look exhausted, sweetheart.  Why don’t we turn in?” Nathan whispered.


“Because we are not leaving this mess for Bill and Janet to clean up alone.  Just let me rest a moment.”


“I’ll help them clean up.  You go on up to bed.”


“Why don’t I make us all a cup of tea?  As for the cleaning up, there isn’t much to do.  Most of your crew volunteered to come over tomorrow morning and help us with the big effort, Nathan.  They think a lot of their captain.”


“They did seem glad to see me.  Bill, what do you think the chances are that I could get young Ford transferred to the Dolphin once he is fully recuperated?  I think he’d make a hell of a submariner.”


“I’m sure that could be arranged but… that would be up to the Dolphin’s next captain.”


“Next… just a damn minute… you’re taking my ship away from me?  You can’t do that!”


“Bill, how could you let them… Kristin’s voice chimed in with Nathan’s.


Bill held up his hands.  “Wait just a minute.  Will you just listen to me?  It isn’t official yet but there is a promotion in the pipelines for you, Nathan.  In a few months you will be married to an Admiral, Kristin.”


Bill was surprised at the sad look that passed over both Nathan and Kristin’s face as they stared at each other.  “Aren’t you happy?  You’ll be at home with Kristin… and your daughter.”


“Son!” Kristin replied reflexively. 


“Why now?” Nathan asked.


“You’ve been up for the promotion for a long time.  Those four destroyers you sank put you on the fast track and your astute observations while you were on the island clinched the deal.  You may have to take the Dolphin out on one more run but… I really shouldn’t be telling you this but she’s being taken out of active service.  Let’s face it, we’ve got newer and faster subs now.  Plans are to use your boat as a training vessel for a while then reassign her to a less hazardous area, probably the Panama Canal.”


“And as an Admiral I’d have to sit behind a desk all day.  I can’t do that, Bill.  I need the ocean.  The idiots in charge would probably station me in the middle of a corn field.”


Kristin grasped Nathan’s hand and held it tightly.  “I’m sure that we can do something to block this.  I’ll write the President…”


Bill was dumbfounded.  Not only was Nathan actually contemplating refusing a promotion but his wife was actually trying to help him.  Bill knew that Nathan’s words were true but he’d momentarily forgotten that he was dealing with a new Mrs. Bridger and this one obviously understood her husband a hell of a lot better than the previous one had.


“You’d be a fool to fight this, Nathan.  An Admiral… don’t you understand what kind of power you’d have.”


“I don’t give a damn about power, Bill.  You know that.  I’m perfectly happy commanding my little boat.”


“Power isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Nathan.  And you can forget about the cornfield.  You’d be stationed right here at Pearl… at least for the next several years.  After that, well, there is some talk of building a new base in Florida for the development section…”




“Research and development, yes.  You’d be in charge of the designers of new submarines and as such you would be expected to contribute your own ideas and designs.  Seems the guys at the pentagon remembered those plans you submitted several years ago and decided that you were the perfect man for this job.  Naturally you’d have to go out occasionally to test new design implementations and such.”


Nathan cast a quick glance at Kristin, wondering what she was thinking.  She stared back, the same question in her mind about him. 


“It could be the answer, Nathan…” Kristin whispered, knowing how torn he’d been about leaving her to return to sea. 


“It does sound good but… I’d still have to go when my orders come down… if this doesn’t come through before the baby comes I’d still be gone…”


“Then you will just have to make damn sure that you’re here for the birth of the next one.”


Nathan swept Kristin into his embrace, kissing her passionately, her arms wrapped around his neck, her feet dangling above the floor.


“Okay, what’s going on now?” Janet asked as she entered the room and deposited the tray on the table.


“I was just telling Nathan the news about his promotion… they’re celebrating.”


“In the middle of the living room!?!”


Nathan’s arm slid down Kristin’s back and caught the back of her legs, pulling up until she was cradled in his arms.  He headed toward the door.


“We’ll help you clean up tomorrow…”


They disappeared into the hallway.  Janet couldn’t help but smile, knowing that their abrupt departure heralded an interesting night for everyone.


Nathan’s head popped back around the doorframe.  “Thanks, Bill!” He said with a big grin before disappearing again.


Janet moved to the door and yelled up the stairs at the departing couple.  “Remember that your crew are due early in the morning and try to keep it down, okay?”


Nathan’s deep laugh was heard over the door slamming shut.




Janet’s planning seemed almost prophetic because orders for the Dolphin’s next tour came down three days after the party.  The Noyces removed themselves from their own home and into Nathan’s empty house for the last two days of Nathan’s leave so that the newlyweds could spend every moment together.


Nathan didn’t want Kristin to come to the dock to say goodbye but she insisted so he relented, secretly glad that he would be able to squeeze a few more moments with her.  She stood on deck next to him with a smile on her face, receiving the hugs and kind words of the crew graciously.  Nathan couldn’t help but notice the solicitous way Lucas treated her.  The boy was constantly at Kristin’s side offering her a glass of water or a chair to sit on.  Once he even asked wistfully, “Can’t you come with us this time, Doc?”


“I wish I could, Lucas, but I don’t think that baby Bridger would make it very easy for me to maneuver in your confined spaces.  And I’m only going to get bigger in the next three months.  I’m going to continue to look for a house while you are gone so perhaps when you return you could come stay with Nathan and me for a few days.”


Lucas walked away with a brilliant smile on his face.


“You are fantastic with him, you know that?”  Nathan whispered to her.


“He makes it easy.  I don’t think he’s ever had anyone really care about him or his welfare before.  Do you think that once everything is over we could help him go to school?  He has such potential.”


“I’m sure we could.  Have I told you today how much I love you, Mrs. Bridger?”


“I believe you told me several times this morning but I never tire of hearing it.  I love you too, Captain Bridger.”


“Sir…” The couple turned to find the Dolphin’s newest crewmember, Jonathan Ford, waiting to speak to them.  “We’ve been cleared.”


“Thank you, Mr. Ford.” Nathan dismissed the man with a nod and a smile.


“Jonathan, are you feeling all right?”


“Yes, ma’am.”  The young man smiled.  “I’m feeling fantastic and looking forward to my new assignment.”


“I’m sure you will do very well.”


Nathan turned to Kristin and took her in his arms, fighting down the tears that had leapt to his eyes.  “I guess this is good-bye.”


“No, sweetheart, not good-bye, just… until we meet again.”


“I’ll do my best to be back in time for the birth.  I am anxious to meet my daughter.”




Nathan bit back his retort; his mind drifting back to a scene he’d accidentally witnessed earlier that day.  Kristin hadn’t known he was standing in the door to their bedroom listening as she spoke to their child.  “I know that daddy is devastated to be leaving you, my precious baby girl, but he will be home very soon, I promise.”


Nathan crushed his wife into his embrace and she clung tightly to his shoulders as she fought to hold her own tears at bay.  She was determined that Nathan take a happy memory of her with him, a memory of her smiling, a memory to keep him warm at night when he was missing her and the baby.


Bill and Janet approached cautiously, not wanting to interrupt the tender good-bye but ready to support Kristin when she needed it.  Nathan’s eyes pleaded with Bill over his wife’s shoulder and Bill gave a small nod of understanding.  Even though he knew that he would worry about Kristin while he was gone he didn’t have too.  He was leaving her in the best of hands.


Eventually Nathan could delay no longer and he broke the embrace, his heart aching to see Kristin fighting back her tears.


“I’ll be back before you know it.  I promise.  Promise me that you will let Bill and Janet look after you.  I’ll feel better if I know that you are with people who care about you.”


“I think the whole damned base is looking after me.  Everyone on this island seems to know and love you… but none more than I.  I’ll let our friends watch out for me.  You come back to me safely.  No taking unnecessary risks.”


“I promise.  Kris…”


She laid her fingers over his lips and shook her head lightly.  “I love you.”


“I love you too.”  Nathan pressed his warm lips to hers, his tongue exploring the recesses of her mouth, unmindful of his crew looking on.  Kristin responded with equal abandon, each of them determined to hold the other until the very last moment.


When lack of oxygen forced them to break the kiss they pulled back to look at each other, to memorize each other, every hair, and every freckle.  Nathan caught Crocker’s approach out of the corner of his eye and waved him back, knowing what he was going to say but unwilling to hear it.


He wrapped his arm around Kristin’s waist, both hands embracing her and their child as they walked slowly toward the gangplank; Bill and Janet trailing close behind.  Nathan couldn’t watch Kristin walk away so he escorted her all the way to the end before wrapping his arms around her and lifting her onto the dock.  His lips brushed her ear before kissing her once more with savage intensity. 


Janet moved in behind Kristin to hold her as Nathan’s hands slipped away.  He walked slowly up the gangplank, backwards, unwilling to lose sight of Kristin for even an instant.  Once he reached the deck Lucas and Jonathan regretfully pulled the bridge in and secured the railing.


“I’ll be home soon, I promise.”  He yelled across the expanse.


Kristin nodded.  “I love you.” Her mouth formed the words and even though no sound issued from her lips Nathan heard and understood, responding in kind.


Nathan had asked the Noyces to take Kristin away before the boat left but she refused to leave despite all of their pleading.  The sub pulled slowly away from its berth and began to move into the channel while Kristin stood at the end of the dock, hand held high as she waved to her husband.  Nathan responded in kind, standing against the back railing, staring at his wife as he waved until she was no longer visible.


“You okay, Cap?”  Lucas’ quiet words brought Nathan back to his ship and away from the dock that he could no longer see.


“I’m okay, Lucas… it’s just hard to leave her.  You will understand someday.”


Nathan ruffled the boy’s hair fondly.  “Let’s get this old tub out to sea so we can do what we need to do and come home.”




Nathan stood at the bow of the boat watching the water part before the force of the Dolphin’s powerful engines.  The trip through the channel had been quick and clean and the sub was cruising around the island on its way to open water.  The crew worked around Nathan, trying not to disturb him as he brooded.


Movement at his side caught Nathan’s eye and he looked up to see Tim O’Neill standing beside him, holding his binoculars. 


“We are coming up to your favorite spot, sir.  I thought you might like to look.”


Nathan took the binoculars and focused in on the outcrop, knowing that it would be empty.  He almost dropped the glasses when he saw his wife there.  There was no way… a smile cut across Nathan’s face as he imagined the wild ride Kristin must have talked Bill Noyce into to arrive at the rock cliff so quickly.


Kristin watched the sub slice through the blue water, her mind drifting through all of the changes over the last two years.  Her hand settled lightly on her gravid abdomen, soothing the active child within as she stared into the distance.  A flash of blue sliced through the air between the cliff and the sub, blocking her vision just for an instant.


“Watch over him, Darwin.” Kristin whispered, knowing instinctively that the dolphin was their friend from the island. 


Nathan saw Kristin’s lips move and heard her words in his heart. ‘Be safe, Nathan Bridger, until we meet again.’  She pulled her hand back then forward and Nathan smiled as the lei she held in her hand flew across the cliff into the churning waters at the base of the waterfall.  He watched, and she watched, until the submarine disappeared over the horizon.






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