It was cold and snowy when I wrote this and my mind goes off in weird directions when I’m house bound.
Serena Harrison pulled her car into the lot, feeling lucky to have found a parking spot this close to the restaurant. She put the car into park and shut off the engine. Just to be sure, she glanced once more at her cell phone to make sure she hadn’t missed a call. No, the last one was still from Wendy. Nothing new in the last thirty minutes.
Serena got out of the car and hit the lock on the remote. She heard them click into place then she turned her attention to the restaurant. As she walked up the sidewalk, she passed couples and individuals who smiled and nodded to her in greeting. Seemed like most people were in a pleasant mood this evening. Well, everyone but her friend, Gwendolyn Morton.
About a half an hour earlier Serena had gotten a phone call from her friend asking her to meet her outside this restaurant. When Serena asked why, Wendy got evasive. “Just meet me,” Wendy had growled and hung up.
Since Serena didn’t have much going on this evening, she’d agreed. So here she was, on a Friday night outside a rather upscale restaurant, approaching a very irate looking blonde.
“Wendy, what’s wrong?” Serena asked, frowning at the fury in Wendy’s ice blue eyes.
Wendy crossed both arms over her chest and leveled a soul-piercing gaze at her friend. “I want you to go in there and kill Lee.”
“Lee? As in Lee Crane? The same man who’s probably registered as a deadly weapon?” Serena asked incredulously.
“Yeah, him. What’s the problem?”
Serena blinked. “Well, for starters, murder is just a slightly illegal. How about you tell me what Lee’s done to warrant the death sentence?”
Wendy tapped the toe of a high-heeled shoe, a sure sign of her agitation. “I was supposed to meet him here for dinner. You know how he is. He called and said he was running late, so I said I’d wait for him at the bar. When I got here, he was already here and he was sitting with some little brunette tart.”
Serena tried not to smile, knowing that Wendy was already mad as a hornet. The redhead shoved her hands into her light jacket and rocked back on her heels, stalling for time. While Wendy was extremely understanding of Lee’s job and understood that he might be gone for long stretches of time, she also had something of a jealous streak. She was fine with knowing that Lee might on occasion have to work with members of the opposite sex, either in his capacity as Seaview’s captain or in his role as an active ONI agent. It was seeing that interaction that sent Wendy up the wall.
“I’m sure there’s a perfectly good explanation for this. Why would he agree to dinner with you only to show up with another woman?”
Wendy rolled her eyes. “Because he’s a man. Men are dense. Remember that,” the blonde replied.
Serena grinned. “Listen, let me go in and talk to him.”
“Then you’ll kill him?”
Serena sighed. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.” With that Serena left Wendy standing on the sidewalk and she entered the front doors of the restaurant. The maître d’ smiled at her.
“Good evening ma’am. I’m afraid that I don’t have any tables at the moment. Unless you have a reservation?”
Serena smiled back. “Reservation for two, under the name Crane?”
The maître d’ glanced down at his book. “Yes, here it is. I’m afraid that table hasn’t cleared yet. It shouldn’t be long now. Would you like to wait at the bar?”
“That would be perfect actually. I don’t suppose Mr. Crane has arrived yet?”
The maître d’ frowned. “No ma’am, I’m afraid not.”
“Not a problem, the bar will be fine. I’m in no hurry,” she said. The maître d’ seemed relieved and escorted her through the lobby. She smiled again at him and thanked him as he left her to find a seat. It wasn’t hard to see what had Wendy so steamed.
Lee Crane sat at the bar, rather close to a petite brunette. He looked to be in very good spirits. There were several empty martini glasses on the bar in front of the pair. Serena eased up onto a stool and waited. She ordered water with a twist of lemon since she was driving home and settled back to listen. She could clearly hear both Lee and his companion as they carried on a quiet conversation. But something wasn’t quiet right.
“I’m due back in Washington tonight. But we’ll have to get together again,” he was saying.
Serena frowned. Lee wasn’t ‘due back’ in Washington. He hated the capital and the only way he’d go was if the admiral specifically ordered him. What kind of stunt was Lee pulling? If Chip found out about this…Serena tried not to shudder. Chip and Lee were thick as thieves but Chip might not take his best friend cheating on his sister very well.
The woman giggled and when she spoke it was with a definite Russian accent. “Maybe I too have business in Washington,” she said. “But I have other business at the moment. I will see you later then?”
Lee smiled at her. “Oh absolutely,” he replied. The two got to their feet and the woman leaned in close. The pair kissed, coming up for air when Lee finally noticed the redhead staring at him.
The brunette turned and made a quick exit, her three-inch heels clicking lightly on the tile floor as she walked past.
“Have I offended you in some way?” Lee asked Serena.
She found her blood boiling and she shot to her feet, closing the distance between her and Lee. “You should be ashamed of yourself. I’ve heard you sailors have a girl in every port, but you could have picked a port not so close to home,” she hissed at him, furious that he was cheating on her best friend.
“I beg your pardon?” Lee began but Serena didn’t give him a chance.
“Wendy worships the ground you walk on and you have the unmitigated gall to meet another woman at the same restaurant you were supposed to meet Wendy, your best friend’s sister’s in? Inexcusable! I’ve half a notion to call Chip and tell him what you’ve done. Bet you can’t sweet talk your way out of this!” she snapped angrily. She still had her glass in one hand and she was sorely tempted to dump the contents on the over-hyped playboy. Some friend he turned out to be!
“I think you have me confused with somebody else,” Lee tried but Serena wasn’t buying it.
“And who the hell could I have you confused with Lee Crane? I suppose you’re his evil twin brother? Or an alien that looks just like Lee? If you think I believe any of those stories, you are sadly mistaken, mister!” she snarled, still careful to keep her voice low.
“So you’re a friend of Lee Crane?” he asked her calmly. Serena took a mental step backwards but quickly recovered.
“I was, until I caught him cheating on my best friend!”
“Ah, Serena…” Wendy’s voice interrupted Serena’s tirade. The redhead whirled around to face her friend and her eyes widened in shock.
Lee Crane stood behind the blonde with a hand on Wendy’s shoulder. The blonde was looking sheepish and embarrassed as she looked on at the scene. Serena did a double take, whipping her head around to Lee and then back to the man she thought was Lee.
“Serena, I see you’ve met a good friend of mine, Felix Leiter,” Lee said from his position behind Wendy.
Serena gapped. “Your friend?” she asked weakly.
“One of us has to get a hair cut,” Felix, the man Serena previously thought was Lee, said with a smile.
Serena felt her brain cells starting to die off by the thousands. “But, he looks just like…I mean, you both look…” she trailed off, still confused.
Lee—the real Lee—smiled. “We get that a lot.”
“You don’t say?” Serena replied dryly. She backed away, finding it hard to accept that she’d ripped into a total stranger and it wasn’t even his fault.
“Mr. Lieter,” she began.
“Please, call me Felix,” he said to her with a spectacular smile.
Serena responded with a weak smile of her own. “Felix, then. I am sorry. Seems we got our wires crossed,” she explained and backed up, hoping to put some distance between her and this whole mess.
“No harm done. Maybe I could buy you dinner?” he asked.
Serena continued to back away. “Ah, thank you for the offer but I just thought of something I needed to do. Maybe another time,” she managed. After the scene she’d made, there was no way she could stomach dinner with him! She brushed past Wendy and paused long enough to toss a quick warning. “You owe me,” she growled.
“Noted,” Wendy whispered back. The minute Lee—the real Lee—showed up, Wendy realized she’d made a rookie mistake. She did the only thing she could think of: she called Chip and begged him to come and calm his girlfriend down. She was going to need it!
Serena made her stately way to the front door, passing the maître d’ without a comment. At this point she didn’t entirely trust herself not to snap if someone dared to address her. She pushed though the front doors and stood on the sidewalk, trying to gather her composure.
“Serena?” Chip’s deep voice called out and Serena raised her head in his direction. She didn’t question why he was here. His arrival had his sister’s name all over it. She walked up to him and looked up into his eyes.
“Do you have any mysterious doubles running around that I need to know about?” she asked in a low voice.
Chip swallowed. “Not that I know of,” he said slowly.
Serena pulled back, some of the fire in her green eyes cooling to a slow simmer. “Good,” she said and headed for the parking lot.
Chip followed. After Wendy’s phone call of ‘come down here and calm your girlfriend down,’ Chip didn’t dare let her out of his sight. Tomorrow he’d get an explanation and it had better be a good one!