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Negotiating Relationships - Part 3
ďWhy would you think that?Ē Mac was astonished at Harmís last statement.
ďMaybe thatís a poor choice of words.Ē Feeling awkward standing at the counter, ďLetís sit down a minute.Ē Harm reached for Macís arm and guided her towards the living room.
ďHarm, what happened?Ē Mac was getting concerned for Coates.
ďWho ever Jen was with kept insisting he could stay longer, and she kept repeating it was late he needed to go. If heíd told her one more time that he wouldnít mind another drink, I was going to make my presence known regardless of how embarrassing it might have been to Jennifer.Ē
ďHarm that hardly constitutes forcing yourself on someone.Ē
ďMattie told me at breakfast yesterday that Jen had only been out with this guy twice, and they were going out for dinner last night. You know as well as I do that Jen doesnít seem to do a lot of dating. I just donít want this guy taking advantage of any loneliness on her part and pressuring her into something she doesnít really want to do.Ē Obviously upset, Harm kept his voice low.
At that comment Mac couldnít hold back a small chuckle.
ďAre we talking about the same Jennifer Coates? Harm, I canít picture anyone talking her into anything she doesnít want to do. Sheís well over twenty-one and has most likely been around the block a time or two. Or have you forgotten how you two met?Ē
ďNo, I remember. But thereís a big difference between hustling someone and being seduced.Ē Harm smiled a little at the memory of Jen and Tiny.
ďSo now itís not forced, itís a seduction?Ē Mac was trying really hard not to laugh in Harmís face. He was definitely in over protective father mode. All that was missing was for him to pull out his side arm and polish it in front of Jenís new suitor.
ďMac, it was only a third date,Ē Harm insisted, incredulous that Mac wasnít sharing his concerns.
ďHarmon Rabb, you are still a prude!Ē Mac couldnít hold back the smile anymore.
ďI am not. I just donít want her hurt and I canít very well just sit back and ignore it after all sheís done for me and Mattie,Ē Harm replied, slightly defensive.
Taking a minute to contemplate everything Harm had said, Mac considered the situation and how obviously upset Harm was. If he indeed wound up with long term custody of Mattie, the young girl might never have a love life unless Harm learned to loosen up a little. At least learn the difference between wishful persistence and unwelcome advances.
ďWhat do you think of this: invite Mattie, Jen, and her new Öfriend over for dinner. This way you can meet him, and judge for yourself whatís really going on. In the meantime, Iíll have a little chat with Jen and see if thereís anything to your concerns.Ē Mac waited for what she said to sink in.
Taking hold of her hand, he smiled broadly. ďThanks, Mac. Thatís a great idea.Ē Harm knew heíd gotten along well for almost 40 years without Mac, but he also was beginning to accept that he wouldnít ever be able to survive without her again.
Sarah MacKenzieís office
ďGood morning, Colonel. You wanted to see me?Ē Jen stood at attention in front of Macís desk.
ďAt ease. Yes, as a matter of fact I did. Why donít you take a seat.Ē Mac waved to the chair at Jenís side.
Despite Jenís military training, to anyone who knew her, her unease was easily readable in her eyes.
ďMattie has brought to Harmís attention that youíve been dating someone.Ē Mac smiled trying to reassure the young Petty Officer.
ďYes, maíam, but I havenít had him over with Mattie home. Weíve only just met and I would never do anything that the Commander might consider inappropriate around Mattie.Ē She meant every word sheíd said.
ďI know Jen. We both do. Thatís not why Iíve asked you here.Ē Mac could see Jenís shoulders relax a bit.
ďWeíd like to invite both of you over for dinner. I thought it might be a good opportunity for Harm to meet him, if you donít mind. I also thought it might help relieve some of his fatherly paranoia.Ē Mac smiled thinking of how concerned Harm was for Jen. There were worse things that could happen to a girl than having Harmon Rabb take you under his wing.
ďI wouldnít call the commander paranoid, maíam,Ē Jen smiled shyly.
ďHmm.Ē Jen might think differently had she heard last nightís conversation. Mac mused to herself.
ďWant to tell me about him?Ē Mac smiled broadly, hoping Jen was relaxed enough for a little girl talk.
Grinning happily, Jen shrugged her shoulders and leaned forward on her seat.
ďWell, maíam, his name is Robert. Everyone calls him Bobby.Ē
The first thing to cross Macís mind was how dangerous could someone named Bobby be?
ďHeís petty officer Calvoís older brother. Heís 28 and a CPA, heís never been married, and heís awfully sweet maíam.Ē Jennifer blushed slightly at the last thought. ďOf course, after only three dates itís hard to tell, but he seems different maíam, reallyÖnice. Know what I mean?Ē
ďYeah, I think I do.Ē Mac smiled truly pleased Jen had found someone to keep company with.
ďLast night, when he brought me home after dinner and discovered that Mattie wasnít there and we were alone, he was still the perfect gentleman. He stayed for a cup of tea and didnít even try to kiss me until he was at the door leaving.Ē Jen looked down and flushed several shades of red.
ďNice kiss, huh?Ē Mac couldnít resist commenting. It wasnít really a question.
ďYes, maíam.Ē Jen was still blushing.
ďHe teased me a bit about coming in for another cup of tea, but it was late and probably not a good idea.Ē
ďHe wasnít forcing himself in any way, was he? I mean changing his mind about wanting to stay after all.Ē Mac was glad to have the open door to ask the question and hoped Jen didnít find it too intrusive.
ďOh, no, maíam. He really was very sweet. He would never, I mean if he wanted to, heís had plenty of other opportunities toÖwell, you know. He hasnít though. Heís been really respectful. I didnít think there were anymore men like that out there. Most guys Iíve known think one dinner entitles them to anything they want. Bobby didnít even kiss me until our second date, and that was a small peck.Ē Jen grinned again. She wasnít used to being treated this way. She liked it.
ďAt first I suspected, Mary, I mean Petty Officer Calvo, warned him to behave, but itís just his nature maíam. Heís a really nice guy, sort of like the commander.Ē
"In that case, how does Friday night sound?" Mac asked.
"Iíll check with Bobby maíam. Will that be all?" Jen asked, standing up.
"Yes, dismissed," Mac replied just as her phone rang.
"Hey, beautiful." Harmís voice carried through the phone, low and sexy.
"Morning," she practically cooed.
"Had a chance to talk to Jen yet?" Harm had been distracted all through court this morning wondering about Jen.
"Yup, sheís going to check with Bobby about Friday night."
"Yeah, according to Jen, heís a young you." Mac giggled into the phone. "Except heís a CPA." Definitely safer than falling in love with a sometimes fighter jock, Mac smiled to herself.
"Weíll see," Harm replied, the thought of a younger him wasnít necessarily all that reassuring.
ďWill you please stop pacing,Ē Mac asked almost dizzy from watching Harm.
ďIím not pacing. Iím organizing,Ē Harm explained, returning to the kitchen from the bedroom, taking a beer out of the fridge.
ďLooks like pacing to me,Ē Mattie offered from her spot next to Mac in the living room.
Harm glared at the two. ďFine, have it your way. Iíll sit in here with you.Ē He took a few steps over to the easy chair and sat down heavily.
ďHarm, please donít make this guy feel like heís facing the inquisition.Ē Mac leaned slightly forward in her seat.
ďIím not.Ē Harm took a sip of his beer.
Standing up, Mac took a deep breath and moved over to sit on the arm of the chair Harm was in.
ďHarm, Iíve been through a lot with you. Iíve seen you face all sorts of odds and trust me when I tell you, youíre scaring me.Ē Mac smiled softly, placing her hand on his arm.
ďThis guy is not going to be another Ted Bundy. Just relax. Okay?Ē Mac didnít think it would work, but she had to try for Jenís sake.
Within seconds Jen knocked at the front door. Harm got up to answer and paused to reach for Macís hand, pulling her alongside him. Smiling broadly at her, ďYou always have been my voice of reason.Ē
Mattie decided to stay in her spot on the sofa. After all, the poor guy didnít need a welcoming committee. She watched as Harm reached for the door. All the tension and nervousness that had been clearly evident only moments ago, washed away the instant the door was open wide. Confidence and authority were beaming from every pore. Considering the transformation before her, Mattie realized this must be what happens whenever he steps into a courtroom or climbs into a tomcat. Only the stellar officer is in attendance.
ďHey Bobby, nice to see you again.Ē Mattie called from her seat, amused by Bobbyís immediate look of relief at finding a friendly face.
ďHi Mattie.Ē Bobby waved, following Jen over to the sofa by Mattie.
ďCan I get you two something to drink?Ē Mac offered.
ďIíll have a beer maíam,Ē Jen answered first, hoping to make Bobby more comfortable.
ďMe too, maíam,Ē Bobby accepted.
ďHave you been in the military?Ē Harm questioned.
ďNo, sir. I was raised in Texas. If I ever assumed any adultís name was something other than sir or maíam Iíd find myself on the wrong end of my grand daddyís switch quickly,Ē the young man smiled.
Harm chuckled at the honest response.
ďWhere in Texas?Ē Mac inquired as she handed him his beer.
ďFrisco. It used to be a small town just north of Dallas,Ē he replied taking a sip of his beer.
ďUsed to be?Ē Harm questioned.
ďDallas has been growing at an insane pass over the last twenty years. What used to be cow pasture is now either freeways or shopping malls,Ē Bobby replied wistfully.
ďYou miss the small town feel?Ē Harm continued.
ďYes, sir. It will always be home but itís not quite the same anymore.Ē
Dinner conversation continued much along the same lines for the rest of the evening. Harm discovered what Jen and Mac had reported was indeed true. Bobby was a clean cut, well educated, polite man. Heíd graduated from Southern Methodist University at the top of his class. Shortly after his sister was stationed here in Washington, heíd been courted by one of the larger DC accounting firms and decided the change would be good for him. He had seriously been considering returning to the slower pace of Dallas when his sister introduced him to Jennifer.
Shortly after dessert Mattie excused herself. As was the truth with most 16-year-olds, spending the evening with her pseudo parents was not anywhere near as entertaining as spending the evening on the computer with friends.
It was almost midnight when Bobby stood up to leave.
ďThank you, for a lovely evening. It was a pleasure finally meeting both of you.Ē Bobby smiled sincerely at his hosts.
ďSame here.Ē Harm offered his hand to Bobby.
ďWeíll have to do it again,Ē Mac suggested.
ďYes, maíam,Ē Bobby and Jen replied in unison, before smiling at their choral response.
ďLet me walk you out,Ē Jen offered quietly before turning to Harm and Mac. ďGoodnight, sir, maíam. Thank you.Ē She smiled and followed Bobby out the door.
ďSo, can you put away the shot gun?Ē Mac asked leaning against the now closed door.
ďYes, mother,Ē Harm chuckled, taking a spot on the sofa and tapping the seat next to him.
Once Mac had made herself comfortable beside Harm, he placed his arm around her, pulling her close.
ďYou know, I wasnít exaggerating Mac. You always have been my voice of reason. You were always the one with the plan when I was running off half cocked. It was true back in Russia searching for my father and it was true here tonight.Ē Harm looked down at her beautiful brown eyes.
ďI once told you what I wanted most was to never lose you. As sincere as I was then, I mean it even more now. I couldnít stand to live another day if you werenít by my side.Ē Not blinking, Harm continued staring into her eyes.
A thousand thoughts were flashing through his mind. He didnít want to be dating Sarah MacKenzie. He didnít just want to make love to her. He wanted her for always. He wanted to do what the fortune cookie had encouraged him to do all those months ago, he wanted to take the road not taken. He wanted to fulfill his hearts desire and make Sarah MacKenzie his wife.
Mac was torn between telling him how she felt and reacting to the magnetic pull his lips had on her. Before she could make up her mind one way or the other, the sound of a knock on the door made its way through to them.
Gently shifting her weight off of him so Harm could stand up, he went to see why someone had so rudely interrupted them.
ďMay I come in, sir?Ē Jen stood timidly at the door.
ďOf course.Ē Harm stepped aside.
ďI was just wondering Colonel if maybe you had a minute, Iíd like to talk to you.Ē Jen called on her military discipline to hide her nervousness.
ďOf course Jen.Ē Mac shifted to one side of the sofa allowing Jen plenty of room to join her.
ďI was thinking in private, maíam.Ē Jen glanced at Harm. ďSorry, sir. No offense intended. Just girl talk.Ē
ĎMust be some girl talk if it canít wait Ďtil morning,í Harm thought. He made a conscious effort not to jump to any negative conclusions. ďSure, Iíll go see if Mattieís still up, maybe we can catch something interesting on TV.Ē Standing behind Jen, Harm shrugged his shoulders at Mac before closing the door behind him.
ďWhatís up Jen?Ē Mac inquired, pointing for Jen to sit down beside her.
ďWell, maíam,Ē Jen started
ďOkay, first rule, if weíre going to be having the kind of talk I think weíre going to have, in my boyfriendís apartmentÖĒ Mac had to stop herself from choking. This was probably the first time she could recall referring to Harm as her boyfriend. The thought sent shivers down her spine. Grabbing her thoughts, she continued, ďYouíd better drop the maíam.Ē
ďYes, maÖMac.Ē Jenís lips twitched at her not so smooth save. ďI think itís pretty obvious, I really like Bobby.Ē
ďThis is the fifth time weíve been out in about two weeks, heís a nice man whoís probably had lots of nice girlfriends. I donít know what to do maíam.Ē
Mac smiled ignoring the slip.
ďI, I donít want to mess this up.Ē Jen stopped wringing her fingers and looked up at Mac.
ďWhy would you mess it up? Youíre a nice girl, Jen. Youíve got wonderful qualities and youíre very attractive. Harm and I have been amazed that this is the first time weíve noticed a man paying any attention to you.Ē
ďWell, like you said maíÖMac, Iím not bad looking. There are lots of men who have asked me out. Most arenít too willing for a second date if they donít get what they want on a first date. Needless to say, I havenít had many second dates lately. Iíd even given up on first dates, till Bobby.
ďHarm would be the first to tell you, any of those guys werenít worth the first date.Ē Mac wasnít sure where this conversation was going.
ďJen what are you really wanting to ask me?Ē Mac realized that maybe Jen was going to need a little coaxing.
ďIím scared maíam. I really really like him. And Iím veryÖattracted to him. Itís been a long time since Iíve...been with anyone.Ē Jen looked back down at her hands. ďI donít want to be too easy and I donít want to play too hard to get. What do I do, maíam?Ē Jen looked up at Mac, the fear and love in her eyes fighting each other.
ďOh, Jen. I canít tell you something like that,Ē Mac sighed softly. ďHas he tried anything, I mean has he made some kind of move on you?Ē Mac couldnít believe her choice of words.
ďNo. Heís been the perfect gentleman. Hasnít even tried for second base,Ē she giggled girlishly.
ďThen why are you so worried?Ē Mac was still a little confused.
ďHeís coming over for dinner tomorrow night and Mattie is spending the night at Susanís. Itíll be the first time weíre alone for any real length of time,Ē Jen said, biting her lower lip.
ďI see. All I can say is follow your heart. Youíre a big girl. Iím sure youíve been down this road before. If youíve made mistakes, learn from them. Donít be guided by fear. Whether itís fear making you do something or fear stopping you from doing something. Donít let fear cloud what your heart tells you.Ē
The sound of Macís words hit her like a ton of bricks. Do as I say, not as I do. What a hypocrite. Mac had let fear rule so much of the last eight years of her relationship with Harm. Despite all the progress they had made, she was still allowing fear to rule her heart. It was time she followed her own advice.
Sending Jen back to her own apartment reassured, Mac took the time Ďtil Harm returned to ponder her own statements. Without looking at her watch she knew it was after 1:00 am. Her little chat with Jen hadnít seemed very long, but theyíd talked for over an hour. Mac needed to think. Was she postponing the inevitable out of fear or was she really building a solid foundation that would last forever.
Gathering up her things, Mac met Harm at the door.
ďItís late, I really should be going home.Ē
ďI fell asleep on their sofa. Jen had to wake me up,Ē Harm snickered.
ďLet me walk you downstairs.Ē Harm pulled the door closed behind him. ďIs everything alright?Ē He asked trying to keep his worry from showing.
ďYes.Ē Mac smiled at him. ďJen really likes this guy and she just doesnít want to make any mistakes. The only problem is sheís not asking the person with the best track record for advice.Ē Mac rolled her eyes.
ďExperience is worth its weight in gold. Whether good or bad, everyone can learn from it.Ē Already by Macís car, Harm leaned down and kissed her gently on the lips. It took everything in him not to tell her he loved her. Soon.
ďGoodnight,Ē they echoed. Harm stood on the curb until Macís taillights faded in the distance. How could he have waited so long tell this woman how he felt? Shaking his head, he made his way back to his apartment.
Saturday morning Harm had appeared at Macís for their morning Jog with a single peach rose.
ďI donít know what the color means, but its beauty reminded me of you,Ē Harm grinned, handing her the flower. Gently, he raised his finger to wipe the single tear that fell down her cheek. ďThe idea wasnít to make you cry,Ē he smiled.
ďThank you,Ē she answered, sniffing the rose tenderly.
Sunday Jen and Bobby joined Harm and Mac after their run for a picnic in the park. Despite the age gap, Harm and Bobby seemed to have a lot in common, including Bobbyís grandfather was a WWII fighter pilot, now retired and living in Wichita Falls.
After playing an amusing game of flag football, ladies against the men, the ladies sent the men in search of ice cream as their spoils.
ďHarm, youíve known Jen a long time havenít you?Ē Bobby asked casually as they walked across the park.
ďNot by most peopleís standards, but Iíve known her a few years.Ē
ďWeíve spent a lot of time talking. Sheís told me all about her father, her youth, her arrests.Ē Bobby chuckled at the picture he had conjured up of Jen in a Santa suit.
ďShe seems to feel she owes you a lot, and to hear her side of it, sheís right.Ē Trying to gage Harmís reaction, either this man was extremely humble or Jen was exaggerating considerably. Bobby suspected Harm really didnít believe heíd done that much for Jen.
ďI didnít do anything more than anyone else would have done. Colonel MacKenzie was as much an influence on Jen as I might have been.Ē Harm felt Jen gave him too much credit. She was the one who turned her life around.
Walking a little further in silence, Bobby turned to Harm again.
ďDid Jen ever mention the men in her life?Ē Bobbyís eyes scanned the horizon for the ice cream vendor.
ďNo.Ē Harm wasnít comfortable with where this was going. ďItís none of my business.Ē
ďDonít get me wrong. Iím not looking for gossip.Ē He paused searching for the right words.
ďShe seems to be afraid of something, I was wondering if, having grown up on the streets and all, if maybe something or someoneÖunpleasant happened to her.Ē He turned his head to look carefully at Harmís expression.
ďI honestly wouldnít know. Iím sorry.Ē Harm returned the manís gaze. He was pleased to see honest concern in Bobbyís eyes.
ďI just donít want to her to think I donít want her, but I donít want to come on too strong if she needs space.Ē Bobby was searching the distance again.
ďWhatever youíre doing, she seems happy.Ē Harm followed Bobbyís gaze spotting the Italian ice vendor.
ďYou really think so?Ē Bobby smiled hopefully.
ďYeah, I do.Ē
Looking up at the knock on her door, Mac smiled from ear to ear when she saw Harm leaning against her doorway with a cup of Starbucks coffee in each hand.
ďI come bearing gifts,Ē Harm grinned.
ďIf thatís Hawaiian Mocha, accepted.Ē Mac raised one eyebrow, playfully.
ďIt is,Ē Harm smiled, looking very satisfied with himself.
ďHow did the interview go?Ē Mac asked taking the lid off her coffee.
ďAbout as expected. This case seems pretty cut and dry. I can probably talk my client into taking a plea.Ē Harm was enthralled watching Mac blow on her coffee.
Stepping back into the hallway, ďIíd better get going if I want to get out of here at a decent time tonight. Are we still on at my place tonight?Ē Harm inquired quickly.
ďYup.Ē Mac had looked back at her computer screen.
ďOh, it will just be the two of us. Mattie has Alateen tonight.Ē
Nodding her head, ďGot it, see you later.Ē Mac looked up for just a minute to catch Harmís departing smile and went back to work.
Putting the two pizzas in the oven to warm, Harm wondered who could be knocking at his door.
ďWhy didnít you use your key?Ē Harm questioned as Mac pushed past him.
ďCouldnít find it,Ē she mumbled, dropping her briefcase and cover on the floor and taking a seat on a barstool.
Mac had a hollowed look in her eyes that worried Harm. Quickly, he moved over to where she was.
ďWhatís wrong, has something happened?Ē
Dropping her forehead in her hand. ďItís Lieutenant Buckman.Ē
Harm didnít understand.
ďI was almost ready to leave when the admiral called me into his office.Ē It had been a long time since Mac had really wanted a drink. ďIt seems Lieutenant Buckman finally snapped. The police found him trying to toss a couple of guns into the lake.Ē Mac straightened up to look at Harm.
ďHe shot his mother and the two neighbors she ran to for refuge, then shot himself before the police could arrest him. Theyíre all dead.Ē Mac collapsed against Harm.
At a loss for words, Harm immediately gathered her into his arms before gently guiding her over to the sofa.
ďItís my fault. If heíd done brig time, theyíd be alive.Ē Mac tightened her grip on Harm.
ďItís not your fault Mac. You didnít put the gun in his hand or pull the trigger. Thatís why he was in counseling.Ē
ďI could have locked him away. I had him dead to rights.Ē Sighing deeply, ďHold me,Ē she pleaded, despite his already firm embrace.
ďMac, there was no way you could have known.Ē Harm smoothed his hands up and down her back trying to reassure her.
Pulling away from him, ďI should have stopped him. Three innocent people,Ē Mac sighed. She really needed a drink. Looking into Harmís eyes, she saw the sympathy, the compassion, and maybe even the love. Without any conscious thought she pressed herself up against him capturing his lips hungrily in hers.
Before he could think, Harm was engulfed in the searing embrace. Mac was desperately teasing his lips, begging for entrance. Too quickly he found himself under her attack. Mac was fervently leaving a trail of fiery kisses along his lips, his jaw, past his ear, down his neck. He was being consumed by Sarah MacKenzie, the fire in her touch was matched only by the desire burning in him.
Overwhelmed by the surging passions induced by Macís heated caresses, Harm was almost frozen in place, all his senses overloading. Mac continued her path of searing wet kisses down the front of his neck, her hands roaming across his chest, down his abdomen. Her left hand circled up to his shirt and began undoing the buttons, her other hand grazed down his front tugging at his belt, her lips never separating from his hot skin.
When he felt his belt click loose, a lightening bolt of reality brought him to his senses. Harm grabbed for Macís hands with the reflexes of a fighter pilot. Forcing himself to calm down, Harm searched for his voice.
ďMac, stop,Ē he gasped, his breathing labored, his desire still soaring.
She continued her oral assault despite Harmís firm grip on her arms.
ďMAC.Ē Letting go of her arms, Harm pushed her away as gently as he could. ďNO.Ē He leaned his head forward trying to meet her eyes.
Dropping her head slightly, ďI need you. Please.Ē She tried to reach for Harmís zipper before his hands stopped her again.
ďNot now, not like this.Ē Harm wanted her so badly, but he would never be able to live with the regret in her eyes when she woke up with him the next morning as though he were a bad hangover.
Lifting her face to meet Harmís gaze, the flood of pain came bursting through as she fell sobbing into Harmís arms. ďWhat have I done?Ē She was crying for three dead souls and the man whose love sheíd almost taken advantage of.
ďYour job.Ē As far as Harm was concerned, that was the only issue to be dealt with tonight.
Harm held Mac until she was cried out. Finally she changed out of her uniform, had a cup of tea and curled back into Harmís arms for the rest of the night. It was only the second time in the little over two months theyíd been dating that they had slept in the same place. Next time Harm hoped it would be for the right reasons.
A/N: Domestic abuse can only escalate. The outcome of this particular case is not an exaggerated figment of my imagination. I repeat myself at the risk of nagging. If you are, or know someone in an abusive relationship, donít ignore it. You can also help by considering a battered womenís shelter for your next donation of unwanted goods.
Mac called upon the discipline of her Marine Corps training to get through the next few days, and the love of a good man to get through the rest. Slowly Mac began to reconcile her heart and her head that she had truly done what she thought would be in everyoneís best interest. It would be a long while before she would be really okay, but she was getting there.
ďThat was a great game Mattie,Ē Mac repeated, coming in the front door.
ďI canít believe we blew them away,Ē Mattie grinned. ďWe havenít been able to beat Oakdale all year!Ē Mattie was beaming with excitement.
ďJust goes to show you, in sports, nothing is a sure bet,Ē Harm added, hanging his keys on the wall and locking the door.
Walking over to the sink, Mattie poured herself a glass of water and drank the entire glass in one very long gulp.
ďHey, there champ. What are you part camel?Ē Harmís eyes were wide as saucers watching Mattie drinking.
ďI wish, then I wouldnít be so thirsty after the games.Ē Mattie set the glass down in the sink. ďI need to get going, Iíve still got some homework to finish,Ē she huffed, wrinkling her nose.
ďI guess Iíll see you in the morning.Ē Harm gave her a quick hug. His eyes followed her walking out the door.
ďYouíre really going to miss her if she has to go back to her dad.Ē Mac watched Harmís gaze frozen on the closed door.
ďYeah, she really changed my life,Ē Harm sighed, before joining Mac in the living room.
Turning on the stereo, he took something off the shelf.
ďI picked this up for you the other day.Ē Harm handed her the CD.
ďCyndi Lauper,Ē Mac exclaimed enthusiastically.
ďI noticed every time her new rendition of Walk On By comes on the radio, you raise the volume,Ē Harm smiled bashfully.
Leaning across the couch to reach him, Mac kissed him soundly, square on the mouth. Scooting over, Harm returned the kiss with ardor. Stopping for air, Harm grinned at Mac.
ďThis reminds me, how would you like to go out to dinner Saturday night? I know weíve made it a habit to stay in but I thought it might be nice not to have to do dishes.Ē
ďI think thatís a great idea. We could use a night out, thank you.Ē Mac knew full well that Harm was trying to help her get over the rough week. She loved him all the more for it.
ďWell, Iíll be. Youíre on time,Ē Mac said, opening her mouth wide to feign total astonishment.
ďComedienne,Ē he teased back, kissing her softly on the cheek.
ďJust let me turn off the coffee pot, finish tying my shoes, and weíll be ready to go,Ē Mac smiled.
ďNo hurry.Ē Harm picked up her newspaper.
ďDid Mattie mind you wonít be home for dinner tonight?Ē Mac asked from the kitchen.
ďNo, sheíll probably be at Susanís again.Ē Harm was still looking at the paper.
ďAgain?Ē Mac asked, with a frown as she sat down next to Harm.
ďYeah, she spent last night at Susanís and my guess is sheíll stay over again. I have no idea what is so wonderful about Susanís.Ē Harm put the paper down.
ďMight have something to do with Susanís brother James,Ē Mac said, tying one shoe.
Noticing the look of horror on Harmís face. ďRelax. Heís in college and most definitely not interested in his kid sisterís friends. They probably just enjoy spying on him.Ē Mac rolled her eyes remembering what it was like to be young.
ďOkay, ready to go?Ē she asked, both her shoes tied.
ďLetís go.Ē Harm extended his arm indicating for Mac to lead the way.
ďDo you know how things are going with Jen and Bobby. I meant to ask Jen myself, but things were a little tough this week,Ē Mac asked locking the door behind her.
ďWell, no one has said anything to me, but if Bobbyís car being parked outside the building at 0600 is any indication, Iíd say all is well,Ē Harm smiled mischievously.
ďReally?Ē Mac looked honestly surprised.
ďNow whoís a prude?Ē Harm mocked.
ďNo, itís not that.Ē Mac looked away solemnly. Why could Jen let go of her fears and she couldnít?
ďYou donít think somethingís wrong do you?Ē Harm was beginning to get concerned.
ďNo, not at all. I think itís great.Ē Smiling in earnest for her friendís happiness, ďReally, great.Ē
Although it had been a while since their first visit here, the hostess obviously still remembered them. Of course, Mac had learned years ago that most women found Harm hard to forget.
Tonight Harm and Mac were given a small table for two on the veranda. It was a lovely spring night, perfect weather for dining outdoors.
ďBeautiful flowers and good food, youíre spoiling me Rabb.Ē Mac smiled over the edge of her menu, momentarily distracted by the memory of the roses delivered to her house that afternoon.
ďNot possible,Ē Harm grinned behind his menu.
ďDid Mattie stay at Susanís again tonight?Ē Mac asked setting her menu down beside her.
ďYes, I knew she would. If sheís not at Susanís than sheís at Mariaís. Either way the three of them are always together. Theyíre like the three musketeers,Ē Harm smiled, placing his menu on top of Macís.
ďDoes Maria have an older brother too?Ē Mac inquired grinning.
ďNo, she does not,Ē Harm enunciated carefully. ďShe probably just chases after Susanís brother,Ē he laughed.
ďGlad youíre not taking this brother thing too seriously.Ē Mac moved her hand forward reaching for Harmís.
ďA good friend of mine explained to me, thatís what teenage girls do.Ē Harm squeezed her hand.
Dinner out was just what Mac needed to put the week behind her. She loved how attentive Harm was being. She was a self-sufficient marine, but she was learning to like not having to stand on her own all the time. The dinner had been exquisite. Both delighted in pleasant conversation, good food, and the company of someone they loved.
Missing the privacy of their normal Saturday night routine, Harm and Mac went back to his place for an after dinner cup of coffee.
ďStill want coffee, or would you rather have tea or some sparkling cider?Ē Harm asked, fishing matches out of the drawer.
ďItís still early, I think the cider might be nice.Ē Mac watched as he lit the large candle on the kitchen table.
ďMmm, I love how that candle smells,Ē she sniffed.
ďIíll have to remember that the next time Iím shopping for cologne,Ē he teased.
ďYouíre incorrigible.Ē Shaking her head Mac walked over to the CDís. ďDid you ever get the rest of your collection back from Mattie?Ē
ďNot all of it. Iíve been getting them back a few at a time. I believe we still have the sounds of the seventies though.Ē Harm bit back his amusement.
ďHow about Anita Baker?Ē Mac called out, pulling the CD off the shelf.
ďSounds great.Ē Harmís soft whisper next to her ear sent an involuntary shiver up Macís spine.
Handing her a glass, he placed a soft kiss on the side of her neck. ďI love the way you smell.Ē
ďItís not me, itís the candle,Ē she teased. Turning on him quickly, she kissed the tip of his nose and sauntered over to the sofa.
Following in step behind her, Harm placed his glass on the coffee table.
ďMay I have the honor of this dance, madam?Ē Harm bowed at the waist, extending his arm in invitation.
ďIíd be delighted,Ē Mac replied in her best British accent. Moving into his arms, they slowly began to dance around the small space.
ďDid you notice Bobbyís car is still downstairs?Ē he asked softly.
ďYes, is it in the same spot?Ē
ďGuess theyíve found paradise in DC,Ē Mac giggled.
Harm looked down into her eyes. ďSo have we.Ē
Mac slowly turned her face up, meeting him halfway. Delicately their lips met in a gentle caress. Too soon their lips parted, the original intent of a mere show of affection accomplished. Seamlessly, Mac slipped her head into the nook of Harmís shoulder as he brought his chin to rest partly against the top of her head.
They danced this way through several songs, barely swaying, enjoying the warm cocoon of each otherís company.
Totally at home in Harmís arms, Mac mindlessly began drawing circles on his back, gently following the curve of his shoulder blades back and forth. Her fingers were igniting sparks throughout Harmís body like a fast growing brush fire on a dry summerís day.
Harm had carefully planned every event in their day. It was no coincidence that much of his music was still at Mattieís or the large cranberry candle was burning on the table. He had wanted to make tonightís dinner something just as special as their first date had been. He wanted Mac to know how he felt in his heart and he needed to let her know before he became any more aroused at her touch.
ďMac, Sarah.Ē Harm didnít want to just blurt it out, but his brain was directly attached to the tingling fire pulsing through his veins.
At the sound of her given name, Mac stiffened slightly. Much to his relief, her hand stopped doodling on his back.
ďI just wanted you to know that I meant what I said earlier. Every day since weíve been together has truly been another day in paradise.Ē Feeling like a lyric from the sounds of the seventies, Harm let out a small chuckle.
Thinking the same thing, Mac relaxed again in his arms.
ďI didnít mean that to sound like a clichť,Ē he whispered in her ear.
ďYou didnít. I feel the same way,Ē she replied, her voice low and raspy with desire.
Searching her face, Harm momentarily stopped swaying. Meeting her lips briefly in only a hint of kiss. Harm breathed onto her moist lips, ďI love you.Ē
Mac felt his breath reach the tips of her toes. Like oxygen fanning a flame, his words fanned the embers of her growing passion. At the feel of his lips lovingly against hers, his tongue requesting entrance with its delicate caress, her lips parted shamelessly with a will of their own.
This was more than she could stand. The man she loved with all her heart had just said he loved her. Her knees were beginning to buckle underneath her.
Harm could feel Macís heart pounding rapidly beneath him, the roundness of her breasts pressing against him. Her hands were once again drawing circles along his back, sending shivers up his spine. Every cell in his body was on fire with want for her. Deepening the kiss, he pulled her closer than he thought humanly possible, devouring the taste of her until the need for air became too heavy to refuse. Dragging his lips away from her mouth, he began nibbling down her neck.
Her lips finally free to speak, Mac whispered into Harmís ear. ďI love you.Ē
Gasping at the sound, fueled by her words, his lips came crashing against hers once again. Anything that might have resembled delicately slow vanished at the knowledge she loved him. Their tongues mingled somewhere between a vicious duel and graceful dance.
The feel of Harmís fingers wandering through her hair, across her neck, down her shoulder, was slowly chiseling away at any remnant of fear that may have lingered in the back of her mind. Every ounce of her being ached for him. Pressing and pulling him closer, she could feel his arousal strong against her, her desire pooling heavily low to her core.
Breaking away, breathless, Harm softly kissed her lips, her eyes, her cheek. His lips hovering once again over hers, he heaved a deep sigh. ďPlease.Ē
ďYes.Ē Her lips closed the distance, continuing the age old dance.
Yes, was the most beautiful sound in the world to Harmís ears. Not only did she love him, she was ready to let him show her just how much he loved her.
Dipping to one side, He reached under her legs and raised her off the floor into his arms. Her arms firmly around his neck, their lips blending together as one, Harm carried her into his room. Carefully setting her down on the bed, he nuzzled up beside her, his hands eager to explore her sensitive skin, his lips recapturing the warmth of her kiss. He had always envisioned their first time together as long and slow, but for the first time in his life he wasnít sure he could find the willpower to slow things down.
In a tender frenzy of passion, the two hastily rid each other of all layers of clothing. Somewhere in their heated haze of desire they were aware of buttons popping and fabric flying. Finally freed from his self-imposed rules, Harm kneaded and caressed every inch of exposed skin, intoxicated by its feel. He was virtually overwhelmed by a desperate need to be one with Sarah, his Sarah. The feel of her soft skin under his fingertips sent sparkles of warmth to his very soul. Never had he loved anyone with such intensity. He was totally lost in his love for her.
Breathe, Mac reminded herself. Harmís skillful touch had her writhing with pleasures sheíd never known possible. Sheíd never wanted more desperately to be joined with a man in her life. Every sensitive part of her body ached with desire. She needed to be one with Harmon Rabb as much as she needed air to breathe.
When he could hold back no more, Harm leaned into Macís ear and breathed, ďI love you.Ē With those three fateful little words, Harm slid deep inside her. Her hips unable to remain still urged him on. His slow and steady strokes took on a faster pace. Her legs wrapped around him pulling him closer, deeper. Unable to hold back, his name escaped her lips with every exquisite thrust. Her body coiling tightly around him, Harm thrilled at every sound she made, her head thrown back in ecstasy, her chest arching high, her soft breasts too close to resist. Leaning over, he lightly licked the tip of one nipple. Mac gasped for air, her insides clutching him in an even tighter grasp. Harm could take no more, with one final stroke he emptied everything he had into Sarah MacKenzie, his love, his heart, his soul. Never again would either belong to anyone else.
Their hearts and souls had been seared together as one for all eternity, and now the morning sun peered through the front windows, a rude reminder of the end of a glorious night.
Shifting to block the rays of light, Harm smiled contentedly at the warmth of Sarahís soft body snuggled against his own.
ďMorning, handsome,Ē Mac purred, stretching with the flexibility of a kitten.
ďI love you.Ē Harm said, lightly kissing her forehead.
Grinning, Mac threw her leg over Harm, then climbed over to straddle him.
ďI love you too.Ē She kissed him back. Studying his face, ď what are you thinking?Ē Mac asked.
ďDonít hand me that. Youíve got that same shit eating grin on your face Iíve seen too many times before.Ē
ďI was thinking last night was better than anything I could ever have dreamed up.Ē Harm rolled his eyes playfully.
ďYeah, it was wasnít it?Ē She leaned down for another kiss.
Consumed by her kiss, Harm wrapped his arms around her, his body immediately reacting to Macís nearness.
Running her hands along Harmís chest, almost melting at the feel of his strong arms around her, Mac was startled when he suddenly froze.
Squirming out from under her, Harm quickly sat up. Closing his eyes a moment and taking a deep breath, he looked intensely at Mac.
ďWhatís the matter?Ē she asked, almost panicked.
ďI just realized, I was so absorbed in finally making love to you last night that I never gave a second thought to using protection.Ē
Macís hand flew up to her mouth, her eyes opening wide as saucers. ďOh God, neither did I.Ē
ďI take it, youíre not on anything are you?Ē He took hold of her free hand in his.
She shook her head no.
ďWell, I havenít been with anyone since my last physical, so there arenít any worries there,Ē he reported, reaching over and pulling Mac back into his embrace.
ďI just had my physical,Ē she whispered, settling against him.
ďThen that just leaves one thing.Ē Harm kissed the top of Macís head.
ďYour looks.Ē Her panicked look of horror was instantly replaced by a broad grin.
ďMaybe, your looks.Ē Harm smiled back. Taking a minute to let everything sink in. ďWould that be so awful?Ē
ďYour looks, or my looks?Ē Mac teased.
ďMaac. You know, we do have an anniversary coming up.Ē Harm started lightly rubbing her arm.
ďMm, five years,Ē she acknowledged. ďItís not very likely,Ē she added.
ďThat Iím pregnant after one night.Ē Mac leaned more heavily on Harm, almost saddened by the reality.
ďI suppose not, but it only takes once,Ē Harm shrugged.
ďI know, but the odds arenít in our favor.Ē
ďYouíd be okay with it if you were?Ē
ďYeah, I think so.Ē Mac nodded, her eyes twinkling.
ďI think this is all Iíve ever wanted. To wake up to you every morning and tuck in children with your looks and my brains every night.Ē Harmís voice was so low it almost cracked.
ďMe too,Ē Mac agreed her voice barely audible.
Pulling away to reach in his nightstand, Harm opened the drawer, then turned back to face Mac.
ďI had originally planned this for another time, another place. In light of this conversation, I donít know that I could wait for the perfect setting.Ē Harm opened his hand displaying a small dark velvet box.
Macís heart lurched to her throat at the prospect of what might be inside the box.
ďI hope you know I love you with everything I am. Would you allow me the pleasure of proving that to you every day for the rest of my life? Sarah, will you marry me?Ē Harm flipped the box open, the light immediately reflecting off the diamond solitaire, dancing colorfully on the walls around them.
A single tear slipped down her cheek. ďYes. If youíll let me do the same.Ē Mac threw her arms around Harm, quietly repeating in his ear, ďYes. Yes. Yes.Ē
Pulling back from her embrace, Harm took the ring out of the box and reached for Macís left hand.
ďAllow me.Ē Smiling at each other, Harm slid the ring onto her finger.
Using a condom this time, Harm and Mac made love over and over until Macís stomach loudly demanded food.
Two hours later
ďEggs are almost ready, are you going to be much longer?Ē Harm called to Mac from the kitchen.
ďNo,Ē she answered, walking towards him, drying her hair with a towel.
ďMmm. Smells good, flyboy.Ē Mac closed her eyes taking in a long whiff.
The sound of someone knocking on the door brought Mac out of aroma heaven.
ďIíll get it,Ē she grinned at Harm, stealing a piece of bacon for the trip.
ďOh, hi, Jen.Ē Mac was a little surprised. Usually Jennifer and Mattie, if she was home, slept in until almost lunchtime on Sundays.
Turning back to the kitchen, ready to steal another slice of bacon, Mac asked, ďWant some breakfast?Ē
ďNo, thanks. We went to IHOP for pancakes.Ē Jen was facing Mac, but smiling at Bobby. ďI was surprised to see your car back so early from running,Ē Jen commented, changing her mind and reaching for a strip of bacon.
ďWill you two cut that out! I know I donít eat it, but Iíd like some left when the eggs are done.Ē Harm shook his head dismayed.
ďSorry, Commander,Ē Jennifer shrugged, taking a bite of the bacon.
ďWe decided to skip our run this morning.Ē Mac too was facing Jen but grinning at Harm, playing mindlessly with her new ring.
ďSo what brings you by?Ē Mac asked, turning her full attention to Jennifer.
ďThis.Ē Jen stuck her left hand out in front of Mac.
ďCongratulations!Ē Mac gasped, giving Jen a hearty embrace. ďYou too!Ē Mac added, turning to hug Bobby.
Moving the frying pan over to one side. Harm approached the newly formed huddle.
ďIsnít this a little sudden?Ē Harm had unintentionally slipped into father mode.
ďWeíre planning a long engagement, sir,Ē Jen answered softly.
ďOnce I told her my intentions, it didnít make any sense to wait.Ē Bobby tried to explain.
ďWhat, you want them to wait eight years like we did?Ē Mac smacked Harm playfully with her left hand having forgotten about her own new jewelry.
ďOh, my God! Colonel!Ē Jen screamed, spotting the shiny new ring.
While the two women oohed and aahed at each otherís rings, Bobby walked over to Harm. ďDid you really wait eight years to propose?Ē he asked sincerely.
ďItís complicated,Ē Harm answered out of one side of his mouth.
ďI bet!Ē Bobby laughed out loud.
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