Seaview was on her way back to Santa Barbara, after two months chasing penguins around Antarctica. Admiral Nelson and a group of scientists from several South American governments were studying the effects of ozone layer depletion on the animals.
All the data had been collected and would be analyzed at the Nelson Institute of Marine Research. Further studies would be made the following year; to see what the changes were, if any.
If Chip Morton thought that counting noses of seals was boring, marking penguins, measuring eggs and weighing chicks for two months in sub-zero weather just topped the charts.
The doctor had been busy with hypothermia, frost bite and sniffles from several crewmen. He had given them a rather stern lecture on proper attire for the climate. He was not sure if it worked, but sometimes children had to learn the hard way.
Kowalski had commented that the winter gear was so cumbersome that catching the animals was almost impossible. "How can you get anything done when you look and feel like the Goodyear blimp? We can barely walk, let alone run and work with the critters."
"Come on, Ski." Paterson smiled at his irritated friend. "Next assignment may be in the Antilles or some other nice, warm spot."
"Yeah, and then heíll complain about sunburns!" Rileyís comment got a laugh out of the crew in the mess.
The crew was happy to return home. A lot of the men had families waiting for them and those with kids were looking forward to vacations with their loved ones. And these would be long, enough to get a good dose of family life.
Seaview was scheduled for a refit of the reactor and general maintenance. Only a limited number of the regular crew and officers were needed, so the rest had a minimum of six weeks of liberty.
Admiral Nelson got on the intercom. "Lee, could you come to my cabin please?"
"On my way, sir." answered the Seaview captain. He too was glad to go home. For the first time in his life, he actually had someone waiting for him.
Lee knocked on the door and the Admiral called him in.
"Lee, I was looking over the complete reactor overhaul schedule and we should be able to do it in six weeks, if nothing goes wrong. The contractors will start three days after we pull in and I want at least one officer and six crewmen with them at all times. They will not be playing with Legos here, and I want no screw-ups, in fact, not even a hiccup."
Crane smiled at the Admiralís wording. "I have made up a rotation schedule with myself, Morton, OíBrien, Sparks and Sharkey. The entire engineering crew will remain in shifts, so we will have enough competent people to supervise the whole thing, and everybody gets some time off."
"So, happy to get home?" The Admiral suspected that Lee Crane was in fact more than happy to get home.
His current girlfriend, Cynthia Casavant, had first come aboard the Seaview on a Wish Foundation outing for her little girl. Crane had started seeing her on a regular basis right after the cruise and was with her when Brittany died. Rather than leave her alone in an empty apartment, he had simply packed everything she and her daughter had owned and carried it to his own apartment. Cynthia stayed. Nelson suspected she had nowhere else to go. The fact that she loved the Seaview captain was probably another factor in the equation.
Harriman Nelson was pretty sure that a marriage was in the works, but wondered if the intended bride was even aware of it. He knew Lee was trying his best to convince her to say yes. The man was in love, make that Love, with a capital ĎLí.
Crane looked at his boss. "Yes, sir, I am. I hope Cynthia is too. I sent her a message yesterday, with our time of arrival. She should be meeting me when we arrive."
"I see you are the first one on the schedule, followed by Chip. Take the first three days off. Chip and I will handle anything that comes up and you can return for the beginning of the overhaul."
"Thank you, sir. Would you like to come over for dinner one night? Iím sure Cynthia would be pleased to see you again." Lee offered.
"Iíll let you know, when things get settled." Nelson answered. Crane returned to the control room and Nelson continued with his planning.
The Seaview glided gracefully into her berth at the Institute. When all was secure, Lee Crane and Chip Morton went up to the deck and walked the gangplank to the docking area. Lee scanned the length of the dock and spotted his car, toward the entrance.
Sitting in the driverís seat, engrossed in a novel, a young woman was waiting for him. She did not notice their approach, so she startled when Lee greeted her.
"Hi, did you miss me?" he asked her.
She looked up and her smile melted away any lingering cold he picked up in Antarctica.
"Hello, yes, I did miss you." She got out of the car and gave him a slow, soft kiss.
Chip cleared his throat, feeling like an intruder.
"Hello Cynthia, how are you?" He smiled at her and opened his arm when she came close enough to kiss him on the cheek. He also got a short hug. ĎThis leave is starting well.í he thought.
"Iím fine, thank you. Is anyone picking you up? We can drop you off wherever you want or would you prefer dinner with us tonight?" she offered.
Chip knew the invitation was sincere, but he declined dinner. He did not want to mess up Leeís homecoming.
After dropping Chip at his own apartment, Lee and Cynthia went home. Nothing had been changed, even if he told her that he didnít mind if she made the apartment more to her liking. After all, it was also hers, as far as he was concerned.
"I thought you would add some of your things to the decoration." he commented.
"I didnít feel it was right to change your home without you being here."
He looked at her in concern. "But, this is your home too. Love, I would not have asked you to move in with me if I did not want any changes. If you do not like the place, we can find something else. As long as you are there, it will be home to me."
"Lee, this is so difficult. No, let me finish." she raised her hand when he tried to interrupt her. "When Brittany died, you gave me a new home and I cannot tell you how much it has meant to me. You are the most thoughtful and loving man I have ever met, but living here, I feel I am taking advantage of what you are offering, without giving anything in return."
She went to the couch and continued. "I donít want you to hate me, which will happen eventually, because I think you leaped into this without knowing what you were getting into."
Lee knelt in front of her and took her hands in his. He kissed every finger and her palms. Cynthia had an extremely exotic look, and it made her more than desirable to him. She had long black hair, violet eyes that became black, matching her moods, even features that showed Asian ancestry, but her coloring was like dark honey. Long, slender limbs and soft curves also added to her beauty.
"I knew what I was doing. I was bringing a wonderful woman into my life." Lee whispered.
Cynthia looked into is amber-brown eyes and was overwhelmed by the love she saw. She smiled and kissed his lips.
Lee got on the couch and returned her kisses. Soft caresses followed. He wrapped his arm around her and licked her lips. Her mouth opened and the intensity of the kisses increased.
He unbuttoned her shirt and placed his hands on her ribcage. Gently pushing her to the carpeted floor, he knelt above her and started to remove her clothing, then his own.
As always, he could not believe that she was here, with him. She was so beautiful, like a work of art. Her skin was warm and soft and he wanted to kiss every square inch of her. He started with her throat and made his way down to her knees, not missing any part.
Her fingers were playing with his hair. His skin was smooth and where her hands touched, she followed with little kisses. She teased his nipples and he laughed at the sensation. She knew where he was ticklish but she was careful not to overdo it. Only pleasure, never discomfort or pain.
The kisses became more intimate and she eventually reached his throbbing manhood. She wrapped her lips around him and started licking. He was panting and moaning his pleasure. He grabbed her hair and twisted it through his fingers.
"Cynthia, this is so good, please, donít stop." He kept repeating her name, begging her to continue. His voice was husky and he was close to loosing his control. She stopped and trailed kisses up to his lips.
Lee rolled her over on her back and landed soft, light kisses on her belly. Then his tongue searched and found what he knew was the center of her pleasure. She shivered at first, then the warmth spread to her whole body. While he was gently sucking her, his hands were caressing her legs and moved up to her breasts. Soon, she too was panting and murmuring his name.
When the sensation stopped, she could not prevent a little whimper from escaping her lips. She opened her eyes and met his. Need and desire overcame all thoughts and they joined their bodies, male and female.
Lee felt her tighten her muscles around him and groaned with pleasure. He tried to keep his movements slow, to please her. He felt her soft breasts, rubbing against him and he stopped moving, so he could concentrate on his new target. He licked one, then the other. His fingers traced the tender flesh and he smiled at her.
It was so good to feel him inside of her. She wanted this to continue forever. She was matching his movements, her mind completely filled with the sensations his body made on hers. She moaned when he suckled her breasts, teasing her nipples until they were hard.
Feeling her pleasure building, she had to let him know. "Lee, now, please, nowÖ."
With deep, slow thrusts, he brought her over and followed, his cries of pleasure mixing with hers. When their bodies calmed down, he raised his head and looked in her eyes. "I love you, I love you" Lee repeated the phase, like a chant. He nuzzled into her neck and stopped moving, but he kept saying that he loved her.
Cynthia had never felt like this in her life, even with Brittanyís father. Her pleasure was Leeís first concern when they made love. He was so attentive. Even if she loved him beyond reason, she was not sure it would work out, in the long run.
They had similar tastes and outlook on life, but he was an important man, with many responsibilities, and she was not certain that he would not resent being tied up with only her. After all, she was sure he knew many women, with more experience than her, who could be better lovers and companions.
Because of Brittanyís illness, she had spent years alone, most men being afraid of the responsibilities that serious illness brought. Her first husband left skid marks behind when he left, soon after learning their child had leukemia. So, when Lee started spending time with them, she was relieved that he also seemed to care for her daughter.
After a while, Lee raised himself on his elbows and resumed the light kisses she liked so much. She could still feel him inside her and knew that this was his favorite moment after making love. She carefully wrapped her legs around his hips and sighed with contentment.
"Captain Crane, you are a wonderful man. I wonder what I did to deserve this." she purred into his ear.
"Ms. Casavant, you are the sexiest woman I know. All you have to do is be here with me. I want this to be forever, Cynthia. Please, would you marry me?" he asked her. His heart was pounding, what if she refused outright and left? He could not imagine loosing her.
"Marriage? Are you serious?" then she saw the look on his face. "You ARE serious. Lee, this is a big step. You know I was married before and it failed miserably. I donít know if I can go through that ever again."
"The man you married left you when things got rough. I promise never to do that. Whatever happens in our lives, we will share and help each other. If you are not sure, I will wait as long as you want. But I want you to know that I will not give you up without a fight. I will prove to you that I can be a good husband. Please, Cynthia, please." Leeís voice had a strange sound to it. As if he was fighting something he did not like.
"I cannot refuse, my love, but I cannot say yes either. Just give me some time," she asked, in a low voice.
Lee got up from the floor and helped her to her feet. He couldnít keep is eyes off her. She was so perfect; she was even the right height. When he held her, her head could lean against his shoulder without her standing on tiptoes.
Just as he was reaching for her again, the phone rang. He went to pick it up, but Cynthia stopped him.
"Let the machine answer, we can always return the call later." she explained to him.
Chipís voice sounded amused when he started talking. "Hi, when the two of you are finished getting reacquainted, I thought we could plan a double date. Let me know."
Lee grabbed the phone, suppressing his laughter. "Mr. Morton, I would suggest that you address your commanding officer with a little more respect."
"Yeah, right! So, what about going out somewhere? Angie and I will pick you up, your carís back seat is way too small."
Lee invited Angie and Chip for dinner. Cynthia decided that a little bit of Japanese home cooking would be different.
When they settled over an array of vegetables, meat strips, scallops, shrimps and rice, they were all famished. Just to add some fun to the meal, Cynthia declared that they could only use chopsticks. Surprisingly, only a minimal amount of food landed on the floor or the table.
Angie and Cynthia got along well and had become good friends while the Seaview was in Antarctica. They started making plans for a shopping trip to L.A. when the men groaned.
"What are you complaining about?" asked Angie. "Iíll let you know that this will be a girlís day out. Neither of you is invited, and if you were, it would be as carriers."
"And they can look the part in Dress Blues. The Whites will not do, they would look like pricey ice cream vendors." added Cynthia.
"Do you get the feeling that we are being insulted?" Chip said, turning to his captain and friend.
"Definitely. Think we should make a run for it?" returned Lee.
"Naw, my dress uniforms are at the cleaners, so Iím off the hook, and you are going to be on the Seaview for nine days. Who do you think we could convince act as chauffeur? We need to keep them off the expensive stuff. They could get a liking for it."
Both women started laughing and the two officers joined in. The evening ended when the Ďgirlís day outí was scheduled for following Saturday. The would stay in a hotel overnight and come back Sunday, in time to be back at work the following day.
Cynthia had major work to do with a series of presentations for the school district and the deadline was approaching fast. Luckily, most of it was done and only details were left. But she felt that sometimes details took more time than the main body of work.
When their guests left, Lee and Cynthia started to do the dishes and clean up the dining area. With both of them working, the whole thing was done in a flash.
"Lee, Iím kind of tired. Do you mind if I go to bed right away?" Cynthia asked.
"No problem. Itís actually a pretty good idea."
They made their way to the bedroom and Cynthia reached for her usual nightshirt. It was a shapeless flannel affair that covered her from neck to knee. Lee thought it was the ugliest thing in existence, but it kept her warm when she got up during the night. She was such a light sleeper, Lee was almost afraid to move during the night.
She had acquired the habit over the years, getting up at least once every night, to check on her daughter and she could not get rid of it. She would go to the living room and read a while or watch television. She went through a lot of books in a year. No wonder she was such a good conversationalist. She had probably read something about every subject anyone could come up with.
Lee did not bother to wear nightclothes. He was hoping to convince her to remove hers, so they could snuggle, he wanted to feel her skin next to his. Sleep was much better that way.
When she joined him, she had this little smile and a playful look on her face.
"Let me guess. You want me out of this and buck naked."
"Good guess. Did you take up mind reading?"
"No need. Some parts of you are betraying you."
"Well, I was gone for two monthsÖ."
She pulled her nightshirt over her head. While she was struggling to get her hair out of the shirt, Lee rose up and started to caress her breasts. She kept her arms above her head and enjoyed the sensation. It sent little electric thrills all over her body.
His lips encircled one nipple and he licked and suckled until it was so hard, she thought she would go crazy. He then turned his attention to her other breast and repeated the procedure. By now, Cynthia was moaning and it was the most exciting sound Lee ever heard.
His hands were going lower, to her buttock and reaching between her thighs. Lee felt the warmth welcoming his fingers and he started to explore, much to his loverís delight.
When Cynthia lowered her arms to caress him, he looked up. "No, donít touch me, lie down and let me please you."
She did as he asked, curious about what he intended to do. He made her grab the headboard and told her she could move any way she liked, but she was not to let go. He was going to please her and he did not want her to distract him with her touch and kisses. That would come later.
He started by kissing her eyelids, her cheeks, her nose and worked his way all over her face and neck. Sometimes he licked or nibbled, so she was kept in suspense. It made the whole thing even more erotic to her.
It was hard not to kiss him back, but she would wait.
"MmmmmÖ you are a bad boy, Lee Crane. Making me feel this way and not letting me play with you."
"Iím not bad, I just want to be sure of what you like. That way, I know I will always be able to please you. You are so beautiful."
"You are an explorer at heart, arenít you?"
He did not respond to her comment and resume nibbling on the soft skin of her breasts, from nipple to side. The effect was immediate. Cynthia hissed through her teeth and shook her head. Her eyes were opened, but she was not seeing anything, only feeling her loverís touch.
Lee caressed her with only the tip of his fingers, barely making contact with her skin, sending shivers down her spine. She was writhing on the bed and when she turned on her stomach, he did the same thing to her back.
Her breathing became shallow and she was panting. He could make out his name when she talked, but the rest of the words were lost in her moans.
Knowing she was reaching her peak, he knelt behind her, grabbed her full hips and entered her from behind. Cynthia matched his thrusts and moved her body in a way that was threatening to drive him over the edge. He wanted her to come first, so he could make her come a second time, all the while being inside her. It was so good, seeing her like this.
He released her and waited for her to turn around. He was so excited, he was sure he would climax too early and he did not want to. Cynthia turned and reached out for him. Lee caught her hands, twining his fingers through hers and holding them above her head. She opened her legs, inviting him to continue. This time, he did not have to wait long. After the first penetration, Cynthia stiffened under him and he could feel her pleasure, her need for him, overwhelming her.
When she stopped shaking and panting, she smiled at him. With a little frown, she realized he was still hard and hot inside her. Lee started to move again, keeping her hands away from him. They came together, in the most intense burst of pleasure either had known.
They fell asleep, with Lee on top of his love. His last thought was of how lucky he was to have her.
They slept late the next day, enjoying the warmth and the sense of security they got from each other.
"I donít want to get up. I want to stay in bed and make love with you all day long." Cynthia told him. "You are an amazing lover. I never thought playing games like this was so pleasant. We definitely have to do this more often."
Lee stretched his lean frame and held her a little tighter. " I wish we could stay in bed, but I have to go to Santa Barbara this afternoon, there are a few things to discuss with the contractors. Itís almost 1030. Do we go for brunch somewhere? It would be nice and I really donít feel like cooking." He nuzzled her neck for a while and then got up to take a shower.
A little spark of mischief lit up Cynthiaís eyes, but Lee did not notice it at all.
She waited until he had finished his shower and entered the steamy bathroom. He thought she was going to take her turn under the hot water, but was pleasantly surprised when she knelt in front of him and pulled his hips toward her.
Cynthia was nuzzling his most intimate parts, and he knew there was no way he was going to stop her. She was kissing one place, licking another and generally driving him insane.
In no time, he was just as hard as last night, and she wanted to make sure he got his fair share of pleasure. She was sucking softly on the tip of his penis and he was trying to either get away from her or make her do more, but she was having none of it.
By now, Lee was moaning and he just wanted the release she could bring him. He wanted to be inside her, but each time he tried to touch her, she moved his hands away. Her fingers were raking between his thighs and instinct made him thrust his hips forward.
As he was offering more of himself to her, she slid as much of his shaft into her mouth as she could. Holding on tightly to his buttocks with one hand, cupping him with the other, she used her tongue to tease him even further.
All Lee could think of was pleasure, release, warmth. He finally came and to his surprise, she had not moved away. He sat down next to her on the floor and held her tight, telling her he loved her.
They finally got out of the apartment just after lunchtime and Lee went directly to meet the contractor. Cynthia grabbed some paperwork she had done for Angie and went to the Institute.
"Hello, Angie. Here are the documents you wanted reviewed. I underlined the spelling and grammar errors. Some of the meaning is getting lost on pages 6 and 7. Maybe the researcher doing this paper could clarify, not everybody is an expert on anemones and sponges."
"Hello, Cynthia. You look good this morning. Lee happy to be home?" Angie said with a wink.
Cynthia laughed and shook her finger at Angie.
"Bad girl, Angie. How could you think of something like that? Never mind. And yes, he was happy to be home."
Turning serious, Cynthia sat in front of Angie and confided: "Lee asked me to marry him."
Before she could even get on with what she wanted to say, Angie smothered her in a hug. "Iím so happy for you! You will make a beautiful couple. Will it be in Dress Whites? Who do you want to invite? When .."
"Angie, stop! I have not said yes." Cynthia said, trying to calm down her friend. She succeeded. Angie sat back in her chair like she had been hit with a ton of bricks.
"What do you mean, you have not said yes. You two are in love! Is there something wrong?" Angie was seriously confused.
"Angie, there are some things about me that Lee does not know and when he does, he might change his mind. Thatís all."
"Unless youíre an ax murderer, I donít think it will be an obstacle to him. Do you want to talk about it?"
"I will tell him when he comes back tonight. It would not be right for me to keep secrets. They always catch up with you, usually at a bad moment."
Angie watched her friend leave and thought hard about what the other woman had said. What could Cynthia have done that would make Lee go away? He was crazy about her, that much was obvious to all those that knew him. And she was sure Cynthia was deeply in love with him.
When Lee finally got home, Cynthia was waiting, sitting at the table in front of a cold dinner and crying.
"Love, whatís wrong? Why are you crying?" Lee was worried, Cynthia never cried over insignificant details. Something was very wrong. He dropped his briefcase and took her in his arms, holding her close, waiting for her to make the next move.
She finally calmed down enough to talk. Lee took her to the couch and she settled into his arms, taking comfort in his strength.
"Now, tell me what is wrong." He asked with a soft voice.
"Iím sorry, this is all my fault. Well, maybe not, but I was still the cause of it." She took a deep breath and continued. "I know you were curious about my family not coming to Brittanyís funeral. The reason was that they did not approve the choice I made when my first marriage broke up."
"When we found out that she had leukemia and that she was not likely to reach her teens, Carl decided that it would be better if the baby were to be institutionalized. So did my family. They figured that if she was removed, then this whole thing would never have happened and we could go on with normal lives."
"Carl left when I refused to ignore my daughter. She needed us, not some sterile hospital where strangers would take care of her, but not really love her. After the divorce was final, I wanted to go back home, to my parents. They told me I had a choice: leave Brittany and go back to Carl or hit the streets, because they did not want me back. I chose her."
Lee held her even closer. He could hardly believe this; then againÖhe too had made a choice in the past.
"I loved my daughter more than life itself. I would have died if I had known it would have made her better. I go some small jobs, so I could afford low-end apartments and enough food to keep us going. Medical care was something else and I tried everything I could to find the money. Fortunately, I met a medical researcher who was interested in Brittanyís case, so in exchange of top-of-line care; he got exclusive rights to write a paper on her case. It worked well, until we found out that the treatments were not having any effects and were just making her miserable. We had come to the end of the road. I had them stopped, with only maintenance medications to keep her comfortable until she had to go back to the hospital. These were very expensive, but it was the right thing to do at the time."
"I didnít tell you then, but when I called my family to say that Brittany was gone, they said that since things were back to normal, I could find myself a husband and have other children, or go back to Carl, since they kept in touch with him. That it was all I they wanted for me. It made me so mad, I slammed down the phone. Things will never be normal, Lee. If and when I have other children, I will always be afraid that the cancer will come back and take them away."
In a smaller voice, Cynthia kept talking. "This is why I am so hesitant to say yes. I know you will want children someday, but Iím not sure I want to. And you can have any woman in the world. Why settle for me? I have nothing to offer, but I want you to know that I do love you. More than I ever thought possible."
Kissing her hair and holding her close, Lee whispered in her ear. "I still want to marry you, you are the one and only for me. You give me warmth, you are kind and loving. You are my lover, my friend, and I cannot imagine life without you. Whether we have children or not, time will tell. It is too soon to make that decision. And I am glad that you did the right thing for Brittany."
Turning her to face him, he continued "If your family could not see how brave you are, they do not deserve to have you with them. Why would I want someone else? I know you will have a hard time believing this, but I truly think we are perfect for each other. When I come home to you, I find peace and acceptance. You know there are things I cannot tell you and you accept that. You do not have jealousy fits because Seaview stops in a foreign port. I met other women, but they did not like it that I was gone so often and for such long periods of time."
"I never had anyone waiting for me, now I have you. It was a big deception to my parents that I joined the Navy. They did not approve then, and they do not approve now. Whatever I do is not good enough for them. I guess it is one more thing we have in common. I canít go back either."
Cynthia settled in Leeís embrace and they fell asleep on the couch. During the night, Lee woke up and carried her to their bed. Making sure she was comfortable, he went back to the kitchen to get a glass of water.
ĎWell Carl, you ignored her, hurt her and left her. Now, she is in my life and I will make sure she will always want to stay.í
Returning to the bedroom, he smiled at Cynthia, now awake.
"I just got an idea," he said.
"An idea? Is it a Ďletís make loveí idea or something else?" she replied with a smile.
"That makes it two, then."
"Letís hear the first one."
He sat next to her on the bed. "Where would you like the honeymoon to be? I have never visited Europe like you did and Iím sure you would make a great guide."
"MmmmmÖ. This wedding thing is really important to you."
"Yes, I want the world to know how I feel."
"A billboard would be simpler, but yes, I will marry you. But," stopping him in mid-leap for her "I do not want to have a state wedding. I want something small, in a quiet place, with your friends."
"Deal, although Angie may have something to say about this." Lee laughed when he mentioned the Admiralís secretary. She would be so disappointed! "Now, how about my second idea?"
"Yes, to that one too." Cynthia opened her arms and reached for him.
Lee lowered her on her back and looked at her for a long time. She had said yes, she would be his wife! This was so right. How could something make him so happy and scared at the same time?
He lied down next to her and with his fingertips followed the line of her jaw. He rolled over her and kissed her with a passion that surprised them both.
His tongue explored her mouth and she returned the favor. She nibbled his lips and made her way to his ears. "I love you, Lee, forever."
The soft whisper was like an electric current. His hands ran all over her willing body. When he finally returned to her breasts, he was like a starving man. Every lick, kiss and suckle was savored and enjoyed by the two lovers.
His lips traveled down to the soft hair hiding her sex. With a gentle nudge, he opened her legs and rained kisses on her so sensitive parts. Cynthia was moaning and her breath was ragged. Lee was making sure that nothing was forgotten. His tongue found every soft fold and entered her.
Cynthiaís mind was exploding with the sensations. She arched her back and ran her hands into his hair. Her legs were shaking with pleasure. Lee kept sucking her and when his fingers found their way inside her, she could not hold back. She came in an explosion so strong, she almost passed out.
Catching her breath, she reached for her lover; he was so strong, so male. Even his scent was a turn-on. She wanted him so much!
Cynthia reached for his buttocks, to kiss and tease him, but Lee turned her over and took her from behind. She answered his thrusts by moving her hips to his rhythm. He let go and asked her to ride him. Lying on his back, he could tease her nipples and run his hands over her sides and back. Every movement of her hips was a wave of pleasure, she held him so tightly. He caught her legs, pushed them alongside his and her body covered him. He gently rolled them over, put his hands under her soft buttocks, and pushed inside his lover with faster and stronger strokes.
She felt she could not escape his increasing pounding, nor did she want to. It made her feel so wanted, so desirable. With a throaty groan, Lee came and relaxed on top of her. Wrapping her legs around his hips, she waited for him return to reality. She was playing with his hair when she realized he was getting hard again. "Soft, warm, I want more, moreÖ" she heard him say, his voice low and changed by desire.
She lifted his head and kissed him deeply, with passion and tenderness. She was feeling her pleasure rise again and she needed him, maybe more than before. This time, there was no play, no games, just simple, straight, hungry thrusts, which brought them together in a finale so satisfying, neither could move or talk.
They fell asleep, limbs entangled, when exhaustion caught up to them.
The next day, Cynthia and Angie went on their girlís day out. With a wave from Cynthia, the car left the driveway and sped away.
Lee sighed and started to think about the wedding. He wanted this occasion to be so special. ĎMaybe Chip and the Admiral will have some ideas.í
He got to his car and drove to his office. His secretary informed him that the refit on Seaview was to start on time and that he was expected on the boat by 15:00. He would spend the next 9 days on board to supervise and check the work. He looked at the list of Seaview crewmen that would be with him and gave a small nod.
He plowed through the paperwork at a speed that surprised him. He went to get Chip for a fast lunch at the cafeteria. When he reached his friendís office, Chip was buried behind a huge stack of files.
"Hello, Chip. I see the refit is keeping you busy." Lee teased.
"Mmph! I wish it were only that. I am reviewing potential candidates for the crew and even if some of them look good on paper, you never know until you meet them. What can I do for you?"
"Two things. Iím going for lunch, if you would care to join me. Iím getting married. Would you be my best man?"
Chip looked at Lee with a dumbfounded expression. It took him two tries before he could talk. "I knew it! You two were made for each other." he rose and went around the desk, giving Lee a couple of slaps on the back. "So, when is the big day?" then he realized something. "Why me? I mean, Admiral Nelson should be your best man."
"Cynthia would like him to be her witness, so she will ask him when she returns from L.A. So until then, you are to keep this secret." Lee warned.
"Come on, letís go for lunch, itís on me." Chip said. "Who will give away the bride?"
"I think my future wife has something in mind, but has not let me in on it yet. It can wait, we are planning to have it when the refit is finished."
"I just want you to know I hate wearing Dress Whites, although not as much as the Admiral." Chip laughed.
"Donít worry, Cynthia wants something small and simple. It will be Dress Blues, but I think it would not take a lot of convincing to have her agree to just run away and get married in secret."
"Youíre the Captain of the Seaview, number two at the Institute, you have saved the world countless times. How small do you think this is going to be?" Chip sneered at his friendís naïveté.
"Oh man, this is going to be an Ďeventí, isnít it?" Lee asked, visibly deflated.
"Yep, it will be. Just the crew is 125 men, plus spouses and dates, plus Institute personnel, plus friends and Navy brass and maybe a few politicians. You canít get any simpler."
"I want to elope." Lee said plaintively.
Chip laughed all the way to the cafeteria, dragging a quiet and pensive Lee Crane.
"Angie? There is something you should know." Cynthia said to her friend, while they were enjoying the walk down the busy street.
"You said yes, didnít you?" At Cynthiaís nod, she continued. "I knew it! This will be so perfect. I can imagine the whole thing : flowers, bridesmaids, orchestra, Dress Whites, the whole enchilada!!"
"Donít get ahead of yourself. I want something simple, Dress Blues at most, with only a few people. I do not think having a three ring circus will be of any significance."
"Honey, Lee Crane is a very important man. Maybe you do not realize this, but the minimum guest list will be about 500 people." Angie replied.
"WHAT!!! This is insane. I am not going through with this. I canít." Cynthia was shocked. "Angie, I swear the church will tip over. I have no one, everybody will be there for Lee."
Confused at her friendís distress, Angie tried to calm her. "Cynthia, letís sit down somewhere and tell me everything."
They went into a café and ordered. While waiting for their snacks to arrive, Cynthia talked in a quiet voice.
"I told Lee that my family threw me out when I chose Brittany over my first husband. I never really had the time and energy to make or keep friends, so when I met him, Lee was the only person I had outside my daughter. Now I have you and Chip and the Admiral, although he is more Leeís friend than mine."
Getting her emotions under control, Cynthia went on. "By having such a large wedding, I will feel like an outsider, as if I am intruding into someoneís life and being seen as if I am taking advantage. Angie, would it be so bad if it was a small wedding? Lee didnít seem to mind, but if it will make it better for him to have such a large ceremony, I will not object."
Angie was silent for a while. "We need to think about this. With Chip and the Admiral, you will have a pretty good idea of what will be expected. And I will keep myself under tight reins. I promise, it will not be a three ring circus, but you may have to contend with a few clowns." she offered with a smile.
Cynthia smiled back. "I guess you are right. Shall we go on? I think I will need a dress or something."
Shopping for a wedding dress (or something) was a nightmare to Cynthia and sheer heaven to Angie. She dragged her friend to countless stores and boutiques, had her try dresses until Cynthia felt she was a doll and that Angie was a little girl in a fantasy world.
"You will need a gown and a veil, you know. What about this one, with all the pearls?"
"But why, it will look good." questioned Angie.
"One, it is white, I donít think this would be appropriate since this will be my second wedding. Two, if the men are to wear Dress Whites, it will look like a snowstorm in the church. Three, I do not want to look like Cinderella, this dress just has too much of everything on it." Cynthia explained eyeing the over-ribonned and elaborate dress, trying to hide a shiver.
"Good points. What color were you thinking about? You would look great in pale blue or maybe lilac, it would match you eyes."
"Come with me, I saw something in one of the shops we went into this morning. It may not be an official wedding dress, but it is what I want."
They went back and Cynthia slipped into the changing room with her chosen gown. Angie was not allowed to see it before, so she paced back and forth in front of the closed curtain.
"Well, what do you think?" asked Cynthia, stepping out of the small room.
Angie was speechless.
"This isÖ. Wow! You look likeÖ Wow! With this, I donít think Lee will want to wait for the ceremony to be over before beginning the honeymoon."
"So, itís a go?"
"Yes. Itís a go. That poor man will never know what hit him." Angie laughed. She was surprised at Cynthiaís choice, but it would beÖmemorable, to say the least.
After finding what Angie considered Ďthe perfect shoesí, which Cynthia described as CFMS, they went for the jewelry store. Earrings matching the dress were found and they returned to the hotel.
"I am exhausted," said Cynthia, flopping on the bed. "I never expected this would be so tiring. And from what you told me this is just the start? I will never make it to next month!"
Angie sat next to her friend. "Donít worry, you will have a lot of help. Now, what will we be having for dinner?"
Cynthia considered her growling stomach, her sore feet and her depleted wallet. The sore feet won and they ordered room service.
Over salads and sandwiches, the two friends launched into a good round of gossip and giggles.
When she arrived on Sunday evening, she hid her purchases and went for a long soak. She had a lot to think about. Things were getting out of hand and she did not like it. Well, it would wait until tomorrow, when she would ask the Admiral to be her witness. And she had to find Sharkey. And talk to Lee.
Just after lunch, Cynthia climbed the steps of the Institute and made her way to Nelsonís office. This is where she had seen Lee the first time. He was so handsome, she could not believe that he would also prove to be a good man, kind and caring.
"Good afternoon, Angie. Is the Admiral available? I have something to ask him."
Angie winked. "Go right ahead. He is in there."
Cynthia knocked on the door and waited for Nelsonís acknowledgment. When it came, she entered the large office. Nelson gave her a large smile and offered her a chair.
"Admiral, I have a favor to ask."
"A favor? Sit down and tell me about this." Nelson was puzzled. Why would she come to him and not Lee?
"Lee asked me to marry him and I said yes. I would be honored if you would be my witness."
Nelson got up, hugged the young woman and gave her a resounding kiss. "Of course I will! Who will be Leeís?"
"He was supposed to ask Chip this weekend. And I still have to find Chief Sharkey. So, please do not announce it until we do."
Nelson smiled. "I will not say a word. Would this explain why Angie looked so smug this morning?"
"Yes, it does. I have to go, thank you sir. It means a lot to me." Cynthia gave him a kiss on the cheek and left.
ĎLee, you lucked out on this one. Donít loose her.í
Cynthia hunted down the CPO and found him near the docks, hounding the refit crews. She waited until he finished his overview of the (assuredly poor) quality of their work and waved to him.
Sharkey was happy to see her. He really liked her and it was a damn shame that her little girl had died. He hoped that the skipper would make his move at one point and stop keeping everyone is suspense. When would he ask her? It was unusual for the man to let a situation go on like that. He actually had money on this and the jackpot was growing, since not only the crew of the Seaview was in it, but also most of the Institute personnel.
"Hello Chief, I have a favor to ask." Cynthia said with a smile. She liked Sharkey, he was a softy but he tried to hide it. He was so transparent, at least to her, but she would never let it on. He had been so kind to her daughter when they visited the Seaview, he had earned a special place in her heart.
"Sure, maíam. What can I do for you?"
"Captain Crane asked me to marry him. I would like you to walk me down the aisle."
Sharkey was stunned. She was asking him to be the Ďfather of the brideí? When he found his voice again, he agreed and wanted to know the whens and wheres.
Cynthia cut him short. "It has not been officially announced yet, so please wait until you tell anyone. It will be in about 8 weeks, so everyone will know soon. Is the Captain on the boat? I would like to talk to him if it is possible."
"Sure, let me get him for you." Sharkey turned toward the Seaview, with a bounce in his step. He found Crane in the control room, checking readings from the reactor room.
"Sir, Ms. Cynthia is on the dock. She asked if you had the time to see her. And sir? Congratulations. I promised not to say a word until you tell me so." Sharkey looked ready to burst. The man just could not keep a secret, especially a good one like this.
"Thank you, Chief. Please check with the refit crew in the reactor room. I donít want any mishaps. Even if the reactor is down, there is still a lot of precautions to be taken. Make sure they follow them." Crane turned and went toward the ladder.
"Yes, sir." Sharkey turned to leave the control room. He wanted to skip all the way to the reactor room, but decorum held him back. Nobody could get him to explain his beatific smile, so they just gave up after a while.
Walking the plank to the dock, he spotted Cynthia. ĎShe is so beautiful when she smiles.í
When he reached her, he took her in his arms and kissed her. "You smell good. I love that perfume." Lee let her go. "You told Sharkey, havenít you? He looks like a cat who swallowed a canary."
"I asked him to walk me down the aisle. He is a good man and he really is fond of you."
"What did you want to talk to me about? Is something wrong?"
"Nothing is wrong. Well, actually, I told Angie when we were in L.A. and she kind of went overboard. She keeps talking about the Ďwhole enchiladaí, her words here, and that we can expect about 500 people. Lee, this is insane. I donít think I can survive something like that."
"Chip said the same thing. Unless we elope and make the whole crew think of mutiny and keelhauling, we will have to go through with this. Iím sorry, Love, I did not know." Lee wrapped his arm around her shoulders and turned her toward the Seaview. "Let Angie plan the thing, it will make her happy. Just put your foot on the brakes from time to time and everything will be fine. It is only one day after all."
"I guess you are right. On the other hand, I will get to see you in Dress Whites. You will be so handsome, all the women there will be jealous." Cynthia laughed. She gave him a goodbye kiss and went back to her work.
Angie enrolled Chip into the planning and everything went into high speed. There was not much time left to have everything done. Cynthia felt she was in a whirlwind and just gave up.
She said no to vanilla cake, she hated the stuff, it was too bland.
She said no to the line of bridesmaids, it was just too tacky.
She said no to the military band, this was not a parade.
Yes, you can have a dance floor.
No, I will not have Lee grope me in public for the garter.
Yes, I will throw the bouquet if you want me too, but what if some general catches it?
I really donít care who sits with whom. I donít know these people.
What do you mean by "news coverage"?
Thatís IT! Iím going to hibernate for the next 6 months, just do the whole thing without me.
And Lee was not much help either. Even if he was not officially on the boat during the other officersí shifts, he still prowled the corridors of the sub and made the contractors miserable. Well, at least he was venting his stress on something. She wished she could. So she started scrubbing the apartment down to the drywall.
By the time he got home, Cynthia was so exhausted, she usually fell asleep instantly. He liked holding her, her head supported on his shoulder, her body warm and trusting against his. She looked so fragile in her sleep, Lee was compelled to protect her, as if his life depended on it.
Finally the day arrived. It was sunny outside and the wedding was scheduled at 16:00. She was expected at the church at 14:00 and so was Lee.
Angie had insisted that she slept over at her place, so Cynthia went along with it. She thought that the custom of bride and groom not seeing each other before the wedding was kind of ridiculous. They had been living together and making love to each other for months now. What could they possibly have missed seeing?
At 8:00, Angie dragged her out of bed, pushed her in the shower and started breakfast. The whole day had been scheduled to the minute.
"Iím getting married to Lee, but the wedding is for everyone else." she complained to her friend.
"Of course it is. Now letís get your hair and make up ready. Kowalski is picking us up at 13:30." Angie was so upbeat, anyone would have thought it was HER wedding day. Cynthia had her hair braided the day before, so all that was left to do was tying and weaving the metallic ribbons in it.
At the appointed time, the young sailor rang the bell and Angie yelled to him to come in. Her hands were in Cynthiaís hair and she just could not get the thin braids to stay in place.
"Kowalski, get over here and put your finger there. Hold it so I can tie the strands together." Angie was working fast, time was running out. Within five minutes, all was ready.
"I guess sailors DO know how to tie knots." Cynthia winked at Kowalski. "And you look good in dress uniform."
He blushed a little, but did not say a word. If the dress was as elaborate as her hair, it was going to be a shocker.
She went into the bedroom and slipped into her dress. She fought her way into the CFMS ĎShoes, these are shoes.í Putting a large cape over her shoulders, she returned to the living room. "Ready or not, here we go."
Kowalski opened the door and she settled in the back seat. ĎIím so nervous, all those people. Iím going to be sick!í
She got to the church and was ushered into a small side room. Peeking out, she saw that the church was filling up and that there was a lot of brass in the audience. She could not see Lee, but the Admiral and Chip were there. They looked relaxed, so she guessed that her future husband was there somewhere, not running away as fast as he could. Heaven knows that it was what she wanted to do!
The crew of the Seaview took her side of the pews. She smiled and made a note to thank them later. It was nice to know she was not alone. Sharkey and Angie must have had a hand in this. These two were fast becoming precious friends.
A man walked by the door, not noticing her. Cynthia stepped back and closed the door. Leaning on the wall, she closed her eyes and whispered "No, no, no, noÖ."
"Honey, whatís wrong? You look like youíve seen a ghost." Angie was by her side and stroking her arm. "My goodness, you are so cold!"
Looking into the worried eyes of her friend, Cynthia wanted to cry. "Itís him. He will ruin everything."
"Who? Who will ruin everything?" Angie did not like the way Cynthia was reacting. ĎThere is something seriously wrong here.í She opened the door and hissed to Sharkey and Kowalski.
They came into the room and saw Cynthia, sitting dejected on a chair. They looked at Angie in silent curiosity. She shrugged her shoulders and went to Cynthia. Kneeling in front of her, she took her cold hands in hers.
"Honey, tell us what is wrong, we will help you." Angie coaxed, trying to get her friend to talk.
"Itís him." Cynthiaís voice was barely a whisper.
The revelation hit Angie like a slap. Cynthiaís first husband! What was he doing here? He left her when she refused to give up her only child. Why did he come back?
She turned to the two men and explained the situation. Kowalski went outside, grabbed Paterson and Riley, and hunted down the intruder. Sharkey stayed and sat by Cynthia, patting her hand, not knowing what else to do. She leaned her head on his shoulder and soaked in his kindness. She wished her father had done that for her, when her baby was sick.
Riley went up to the Exec. "Mr. Morton, there may be a problem." He launched into an explanation and saw the Admiral turn red with rage.
"Chip, get Lee and tell him. I will take care of this unwelcome guest," said Nelson, taking charge. "Where is he?" he asked Riley.
"Kowalski and Paterson are having a discussion with him outside. Ski said Ms. Cynthia was really taking this badly. She was just sitting there, not crying or anything, just like, frozen." Riley guided the Admiral to the three men outside.
"What is going on here?" demanded Nelson, in his best command voice. The large, dark man in front of him did not react.
"Cynthia is my wife. Iím here to take her back," he said. "She might have changed her name, but she is still mine." His arrogance was getting on Nelsonís nerve. "I saw the announcement in the paper. Nice pictures, and Iím not leaving without her."
"As I recall, you asked for, and got, a divorce. Cynthia has made a new life, let her be." Nelson pointed out.
"Admiral, Chip just told me. What is going on?" asked Lee, followed by Chip.
"So you think you can take her away? Her family told me the kid finally died, so she can come back now." The man was not noticing the looks of pure loathing he was getting from Kowalski and Paterson.
Lee was furious. "She is staying here, with me, for as long as she will want to. You had better go, or you can be escorted out."
"Lee, let me talk to him." Cynthia came toward them, still wearing the cape. Lee though she looked like a queen, with her hair up like that.
"Carl," she began "you left me when I needed someone. You always thought of yourself, first and foremost. I met people who do not think like you and I want to stay here, with them. Whatever you say or do will not make me change my mind. I know that you want to object to the wedding. Please do, and I will tell them of your honorable behavior when Brittany got sick. These are military men in the church. How do you think they will react to this? And what about the journalists? Do you think they will listen to you and tell only your side? You threw me away, my family did not want me back. So be it. But I found a new home here, with friends who like me, a husband who loves me and, unlike you, he was there when I needed him. Nothing was asked in return. He does not hold a tally sheet. Lee gives freely, without expecting anything back. And he gets all I can give, because I want to, not because I have to."
With that said, she turned, smiled at her love, and went back inside.
The man looked at the uniformed men surrounding him. He realized that he lost. But just for now. He would get her back. As if this captain was a match for him. She would come back on her own, he was sure of that.
With a sigh of relief, Nelson watched him leave. Clapping his hands, he steered everyone back to the church. "I believe we have a ceremony to attend."
With Lee, Morton and Nelson waiting near the altar, the music began. Cynthia appeared near the door, escorted by a smiling and beaming Sharkey. There was a general intake of breath, mostly by the men.
"Lee, close your mouth, you look like a hooked fish." Chip whispered. He had to admit that Cynthia looked magnificent. ĎI canít believe I didnít notice her that way before.í
The dress was floor length and molded the womanís curves like a second skin. It was help up by a series of small straps in a sunburst pattern to a metallic neck ring. The shimmery fabric was copper and the effect on Cynthiaís dark skin was stunning. With the metallic ribbons in her hair, she looked like an exotic goddess, carved of precious metals.
He could not believe what he saw. She was an apparition in copper and gold. When she reached him, he kissed her hand. She was standing close to him and he knew this was right.
Lee was so handsome in his Dress Whites, she still did not understand how he could have chosen her, but he did. When he took her hand in his, she forgot all doubts. ĎYes, this is my true love. My companion for life. And we will have children. He will be a good father.í
The ceremony went without any interruption, some of the Seaview crew volunteering to stand guard, just in case. No one was going to ruin the skipperís day. They exchanged the rings, original creations from a friend of Lee. Gold bands with a weave of red, yellow and white gold.
When the priest asked if anyone objected to this union, not a sound was heard, much to Cynthiaís relief. They kissed and the audience applauded and cheered. The newlyweds walked back to the entrance and the local photographs went into overdrive. Needless to say, it was a foregone conclusion that the dress would make definite waves in the more conservative circles.
At the reception, which was held on Institute grounds, Cynthia and Lee were showered with good wishes, hugs and kisses. Even if she only knew the men of the Seaview and some people from the Institute, Cynthia enjoyed being the center of attention, which was a surprise to her, she was not a glory hound.
Riley approached the bride and kissed her. "This is the only time I will ever be able to do that and walk away. I might as well take advantage of it."
Cynthia laughed and hugged him. "Thank you, Riley, and I will save a dance for you."
A large dance floor had been installed on the lawn and the music started. Lee guided his wife for a waltz, dancing with her, alone on the floor. On the next dance, Cynthia reached for Sharkey and Lee asked Angie. Others joined in and the evening started.
Cynthia could barely sit down. There was always someone asking her to dance.
She was dancing with an Admiral, she did not know his name, but it was obvious he knew Lee. And he did not necessarily approve of him as a commanding officer, he was too much ĎNew Navyí. Cynthia smiled and kept quiet. What could she say? Then some other official took her away. She was aware that Lee was also dancing, the Institute staff taking most of his time. When she met his eyes, he smiled and winked.
At one point, she was in Chipís arms. "Chip, promise me you will look after him. I think Lee attracts trouble like a magnet."
"I will, Cynthia, I will." Chip answered, holding her just a bit closer. She was a good dancer. Her body followed his, without hesitations or mistakes. After the set, Chip let her go and she went to Lee. He put his arm around her waist and she leaned against him. Chip knew that they belonged together. He would see to it that nothing and no one would take them apart.
After cutting the cake, which was also commented upon, Cynthia threw the bouquet. A little girl caught it and ran straight for a man wearing a US Marine uniform, happily showing her father her new treasure.
Chip tapped Cynthia on the shoulder. "Whatever gave you the idea of a chocolate and mocha cake?"
"This is supposed to be a special occasion, so the cake has to be different. Who remembers vanilla? And I had to get the attention away from the dress."
Lee laughed. Chip Morton was a chocolate addict and he suspected that his wife just made herself a friend for life.
At the end of the evening, a wilting Cynthia was sitting with Angie, Chip and Nelson.
"Honey, you said that your shoes were CFMS when you bought them. What does that mean?" Angie asked.
Both men looked down and saw the high heel sandals, with the thin copper straps, that added a least three and a half inches to her height. Definitely not comfort shoes.
Cynthia smiled and explained the letters to Angieís ears. Angie blushed and started laughing, tears coming to her eyes. Nelson and Chip looked at each other and shrugged. Women!
"What is so funny?" asked Lee, looking at a hysterical Angie, an extra helping of the cake in his hands.
"My definition of CFMS." Cynthia said, pointing to her shoes.
"And what is the definition?"
"Come Fuck Me Shoes."
They looked at her for a second and started laughing along with Angie. The really bad jokes started from this point. They stopped when the various guests came to say goodbye.
After a while, only a few members of the crew were left, and all were sitting with the senior officers, telling tall stories to Cynthia about plants that walked and living puppets. She was not sure if she believed all of it, but she would never spoil their fun by saying so.
When it got to the mermaid, Lee blushed and she teased him. "Well, Captain Crane, I believe we will have a little discussion on the subject, in private." She could not resist, he was so attractive with a little bit of red in his cheeks. The others hid their smiles behind their hands or a glass of wine, but the Admiral and Chip were laughing their hearts out.
"I think we had better go home. We are leaving early tomorrow." Lee said, offering his hand to his wife, thinking it was better to leave while he was ahead.
She took it and turned to her new family. "Thank you for the wonderful day. Enjoy yourselves. We will see you later, Admiral." She kissed the older man.
Angie also stood up, kissed Lee and hugged Cynthia. "Have a good trip, honey. And be happy." In a voice meant only for her, she added "He loves you so much. Take good care of him."
"I will." promised Cynthia, in a soft whisper.
When they reached the apartment, Lee swept her up in his arms and carried her over the threshold. Letting her to her feet, he closed the door behind them.
"I love you." he told her.
"I love you." she answered.
He kissed her lips and her mouth opened, allowing him to explore deeper. She felt his hands, running along her back, following the curves of her hips, reaching her buttocks. When he held her closer to him, she was aware of his erection, pressing against her belly, demanding to be acknowledged.
While her tongue was licking his lips, she reached for the buttons of the uniform and removed his jacket. The belt was next, followed by the shirt. She knelt and slowly lowered the zipper and let his engorged penis free. Lee had started panting, not knowing what to expect from this wonderful woman, but he knew that the pleasure would be intense.
She kissed him lightly, from the tip of his penis to his scrotum. This was so good! Then she took him in her mouth, licking and sucking until he moaned and pulled away.
Kneeling in front of her, he released the thin strands that held up her dress. His breath caught when he realized she had no undergarments, not even panties. She was so beautiful. He weighed her breasts in his hands, lowering his head, he started teasing her nipples. Her hands were caressing his back, sending shivers down to his buttocks. Suckling, nibbling and licking her breasts, he explored her body with his hands. Her sex was warm, moist with desire and his fingers found her hardening bud. She whispered his name and moved her hips away from him. Holding her, he got up and carried her to the bedroom.
He put her on the bed and stood over her. He positioned himself so that he could see and kiss her hidden female parts, fluttering with need, while she was doing the same to him. They lost themselves in the sensations, not caring about anything else but pleasure.
His tongue was darting in and out of her, sending Cynthia into a frenzy of sucking, licking and teasing. Her hands were cupping him, her nails were scratching him in areas he did not know were so sensitive, her mouth was welcoming him, without hesitations. When he was close to loosing control, he moved away and looked at his wife. She opened her legs, inviting him into herself, her arms begging to hold him.
He covered her body with his, and slid easily inside her. She was tight, squeezing him, the feeling was almost too much. He was afraid to move, lest he come before she did. He always enjoyed seeing her arching her body to meet his thrusts, her hunger for him overwhelming her natural reserve. When she came, she became even tighter, like she was sucking him, it was the ultimate pleasure. He would never have enough of her. He moved his pelvis back and forth, plunging into her with deeper and stronger strokes, bringing himself to orgasm. It hit him like a storm, surrounding him and making him surrender to the sensations.
When reality came back to them, Lee nuzzled into her neck and asked "Happy to be married?"
"Yes, I am. I was a very nice day, even if I knew almost nobody. Your friends are nice." She sighed and held him tighter, wrapping her legs around his hips.
"I wish Carl had not showed up. He could have ruined everything for you. I donít understand why he was there. I had not seen him in over six years."
Lee kissed the sensitive spot between neck and shoulder. A small shiver was his answer.
"He wanted you back, saying that you were now free to return to him. I told him that you would stay with me. The men were ready to escort him out." He paused and changed the subject. "You really made Sharkeyís day. He looked as proud as if he was your father. He likes you a lot. I think you would be able to get the moon out of him. From Chip too." He looked at her and saw that she was frowning. He waited, sure that she would tell him, when she felt the time was right.
"Lee, I will stay with you, as long as you want. I love you. And I want to have children, yours."
He raised himself on his elbows. "Yes, a child, a little girl, as beautiful as you are. And we will tell her about her sister, so she will know what a motherís love is."
Gently, he gathered her in his arms and rolled over. He was now on his back, still inside her, feeling her warmth. She raised herself on her hands, moved her hips to fit herself better to him. His hands caressed her sides, teased her breasts, massaged her buttocks and thighs. His fingers found their way to her sex and caressed the center of her pleasure. She was feeling him harden again, his male member welcomed and secure inside her. Cynthia was breathing hard, moving her hips with more speed, loosing control of her body, giving herself to him, to do as he pleased. Lee matched her movements, feeling himself closer to the edge with each passing second. They came together, panting, moaning each otherís names, kissing and holding.
Falling asleep, holding his wife, Lee finally felt complete. He would have his own family, promising himself that he would never ask his children to live his life. He wanted them to have their own. Oh, they would leave eventually, but would always return, knowing they were wanted and loved, precious treasures to be protected and cherished.
At 6:00, the alarm clock startled both Lee and Cynthia out of deep sleep. They had to be at the airport by 8:00, the plane to Paris was leaving at 9:30.
After a quick kiss and a shower, they grabbed their packs and went to the car.
"So, Ms. Crane, ready for take-off?" Lee asked with a smile.
"Yes, Captain Crane, I am ready. You will love Paris this time of year. Walking the small side streets and arguing with the garçons will give you a real feeling of the place. Not the same as going around in a chauffeured car, but you will get used to it."
Cynthia was happy. For the next two weeks, she would not have to share Lee with the Institute or Seaview. Not that she minded that much. The boat was a like part of his personality and he would be completely miserable if she were to ask him to stay on land. She knew Lee would say yes, to please her, but she did not want to lose Lee Crane, Captain, to gain Lee Crane, lost soul.
She overheard him say to Harriman Nelson that he had resigned with some part of the service. She had not inquired too deeply about it, since it was obviously something he could not talk about. She had seen that the Admiral was relieved, so that must have been a good decision, for all involved.
They boarded the plane and Cynthia was surprised to see that they were in first class. On her first trip, she had been on stand-by and her seating arrangements were not this luxurious, in fact they had been just above hanging onto the wing. Lee asked for champagne and he gave her a small box, wrapped in a gold foil.
Cynthia looked at him, smiled and caressed his cheek. He was so kind!
Opening her present, she could hardly believe what she saw. It was a gold bangle, with a weave of yellow, white and red gold, a perfect match for their wedding rings. Inside, there was an inscription : Lee Ė Cynthia Ė Forever.
"Lee, this is beautiful! I will treasure it forever. Thank you." Cynthia kissed her husband and laid her head on his shoulder. She would wear her loverís gift, always, to show him how much it meant to her.
The steward came with bottle and glasses and served them. There were few passengers in first class and they were the only newlyweds. Some of their traveling companions wished them good luck on their new life. The flight went well and they arrived in Orly in the afternoon.
Cynthia guided Lee to the bus terminal and they got on board, direction Montparnasse. There they would take the subway to get to their hotel. It was a small bed and breakfast, in the 6th arrondissement and they had reservations for five days.
She had convinced him that walking was way better than driving, especially in the city itself. So they would use public transportation and walk to most places she wanted him to see. When they got out of Paris, they would rent a car and visit outside the city, exploring vineyards and castles.
They got to their destination and met with the owner, a small middle-aged lady, with graying hair and the well known French flair for clothing. She showed them to their room. It was small, but it had a washroom with shower. The house was very old, dating back to the 14th century and had an interior walled garden, overrun by flowers and vines.
Lee was surprised by the house. It was well preserved and had passed the years with grace. The walls were thick, obviously made of stone. There were tapestries on the walls, some of them seemed to be ancient.
"Do not forget, Love, Paris is over 2000 years old. Some of the buildings in the Marais have parts of their foundations that date back to the roman invasion. Can you believe that central heating existed back then? I will show you the city has it was and is, not as what the tourist trade makes it to be." Cynthia smiled and snuggled into his arms.
Lee put his fingers under her chin and raised her head for a kiss, which became more demanding and left her breathless. Her hands went under his shirt and she raked her nails across his ribs. Lee shivered and groaned at the sensation. She was now playing with his nipples and nuzzling his throat. He loved it when she was like this, taking what she wanted.
They undressed each other and Lee sat on the bed. Cynthia got on his lap and he lowered her slowly on his hardening manhood. They did not move, only kissed and held each other, reveling in the feeling of oneness. When he couldnít stand it any longer, Lee got up, still holding his wife and started moving his hips. Cynthia circled him with her legs. She felt she was floating, lost in a sea of pleasure. Lee was getting harder and hotter, she could feel it.
She whispered to him, knowing his need was immediate "Come, Love, pleasure yourself, I love you."
Lee moaned and lost all sense of time and location. Only this moment counted, when he would come inside his wife, his love. With a few more thrusts, he reached his peak and lowered Cynthia to the bed.
"I couldnít wait for you, Iím sorry." he did not want her to be disappointed.
"Lee, it is not that important. I like watching you, feeling you, knowing you are enjoying what we have. You are not a selfish lover and you needed this so much. Unless I am mistaken, you will drive me out of my mind soon enough." Cynthia reassured him, covering his face with kisses and holding him close to her.
There was a knock on the door. Frowning, Cynthia got up, put on Leeís shirt and went to answer. The diminutive owner gave her a telegram and left, but not without winking to her. She had seen newlyweds before and, like all others, these two would be in the room more often than outside.
"What is it?" Lee asked.
"Itís for you. Only Angie knows where we will be, at least this week. This must be from her." Cynthia gave the message to her husband and sat next to him, leaning her head on his shoulder.
Lee read the message and all color drained from his face. "No, this canít be trueÖ."
"Love, whatís wrong?" not waiting for an answer, Cynthia pulled the paper from his slack fingers and read.
To : Captain Lee Crane
From : N.I.M.R.
Come back ASAP. Mr. Morton missing. Kidnapped, ransom note. FS-1 en route to Marseilles. Go direct. Do not try to contact us. Nelson.
Cynthia had never faced a situation like this before. But she knew she would be needed and made up her mind. "Lee, call Santa Barbara, get some details. I do not understand why the FS-1 has to pick us up. It would be much faster on the Concorde. And I think they would have phoned, not sent a telegram. Something does not add up. There is too much detail in the telegram, and not enough."
Lee got dressed and went downstairs for the phone. When he came back, he looked at Cynthia, puzzled.
"How did you know? Chip is fine, Nelson never sent for us. In fact, they are on a mapping mission in the Atlantic. With only this," Lee pointed to the piece of paper in her hands, "how could you possibly know it was not true?"
"I cannot say how I know. ButÖ the words are wrong, the way they are put together. The Admiral did not send this. I have worked with him on some presentations, I know how he puts his ideas down on paper. It is almost like a fingerprint, he is no more aware of this than he thinks about his heart beating. This is not him, the pieces do not fit. It isÖ too formal, you and Chip are his best friends, he would never address you this way in such a situation. And itís not Angie either."
Lee looked at his wife. She always surprised him. He knew she was an expert with languages, but to recognize someone just by the way they write? This was amazing! "Where did you learn that?"
"I never learned it. I always could do that, itís probably the same thing that makes you such a good captain. Your KNOW. I know words. You know the sea. This is not making much sense, is it?" she asked with a small sigh.
"In a way it does." Lee sat next to her. "I also contacted ONI and they want me to go along with this. Somebody wants to lure me to Marseilles. We need to know who and why. You will go back home, Iíll feel better knowing you are safe."
"Two points. One: who or what is ONI? Two: they know we are together. If you go alone, it will be a major tip-off. We are together, in this and everything else. I can defend myself, you know that, and this will not be expected."
Lee took her hand and kissed her palm. "ONI is the Office of Naval Intelligence. I resigned my commission when we got engaged. I never though I would be drafted back. And they said the same thing as you, that leaving you behind would be too much of a tip-off. Cynthia, this could be so dangerous. If something were to happen to youÖ"
She kissed him and spoke softly. "I could get hit by a bus crossing the street, or slip in the bathtub and split my skull. There is no way to know the future. But we are not going into this blind. I will follow your orders and I know more about this country and its people than you do." She smiled and nudged his shoulder. "Between the two of us, they donít stand a chance. From what I understand, we only need to know who, the rest can be handled by the authorities."
Lee sighed. "This is not my idea of a perfect honeymoon." He started twisting his wedding ring, a sure sign of stress for him, if she ever saw one.
"Not mine either, but I think ONI will owe us one on this. I always wanted to know how it felt to shop at Diorís. Iíll send them the bill." Cynthia winked and Lee felt his heart tighten. He could not lose her, could not imagine a life without her.
Despite his misgivings, Lee went along with the plan and they left for Marseilles the same day. The high speed train was comfortable and Cynthia fell asleep, leaning on him. He put his arm around her shoulders and held her close. He nuzzled her hair, closing his eyes. Her trust in him was complete, that he knew; and he promised himself he would never betray her or let her down.
The Cranes finally reached their destination. They each had a small backpack. They had shipped back to the States everything they would not need and bought some items that looked innocent enough at first glance, but could be useful in a pinch. Leeís ONI contact had found a small radio that looked and worked like a regular receiver for commercial stations, but modified to be a two-way short-wave radio. That gave them a homing signal, for Seaview to follow.
Cynthia had bought what looked like two sticks, about the length of her forearm, with inscriptions on them. At first he though it was a souvenir of some kind, but now he was not so sure. They got some concentrated food bars and bottled water. The universal Swiss knife was also included, but hidden where, hopefully, no one would think to look for it.
Cynthia had insisted on hiking boots, long pants and shirts. It was a little hot for the season, but it would protect them in case they had to get physical with the unknown enemy.
Looking for all the world to see like two anxious young people making their way to the city docks, Lee immediately discovered that they were followed off the train and into the small streets. His ONI contact was right: Cynthia had to come with him. Damn!
He took her hand and nudged her into a faster walk. She did not demand an explanation, she just followed his lead. True to her word, Cynthia was obeying his orders like she had been Navy all her life. Lee was grateful for small favors.
They headed towards the piers and walked along the shore. Of course there was no sign of FS-1, but their follower was still there. Cynthia was holding to Leeís hand with all her strength. She had never been this frightened. She was glad that Lee knew what to do, because she felt so out of her element.
As they approached a small warehouse, the door opened and three men with guns walked in front of them.
"Captain Crane, Mrs. Crane. Nice to meet you. You will follow us without making a scene. I do not think either of you is bullet proof." the taller man said.
Lee and Cynthia walked inside and came face to face with yet another gunman. This one was more relaxed and better dressed.
"I must admit that it was rather easy getting you to come to us, Captain. And your lovely wife is there too. How charming. Now, I am sure you have questions, but these will wait. You see, my dear Captain, you are a gift to a friend of mine. Your Admiral has been a thorn in his side from time to time, and since I need a favor from him, I though an offering was the easiest way to his cooperation."
Coming closer to Cynthia, he continued "You are very lovely, my dear. Maybe I should keep you for myself, but then Captain Crane would be harder to control. My friend will find a use for you, I am sure. He likes hunting and you would make a perfect prey, you have a runnerís build."
The Cranes were tied, gagged and blindfolded. They were carried to a ship and the engines started. When the swaying motion got more pronounced, Lee knew they were headed toward their mystery destination.
Lee was very angry. Mostly at himself, for leading Cynthia into this. He should have insisted that she get back to Santa Barbara, tip-off or not. Chip would take care of her if anything happened to him. But now she was here, and he was helpless to do anything about it.
Who wanted him and why? A personal enemy of Nelsonís? He did not know who the leader of this band was, but the answer would be known soon and they would not like it. Of that, he was sure.
Cynthia was thinking furiously. She did not know much about Leeís work, outside of the oceanographic missions and such. Obviously, this concerned his Ďotherí duties. She tried to remain calm, at least in appearance, because she certainly did not feel so.
After a while, the bindings were removed and they found themselves in small cell-like rooms. They could see each other across the corridor, but nothing else. The movement of the ship indicated high seas rather than a river or channel. Even if they got out of the cells, where could they possibly go? What was the destination?
"Love, are you all right?" asked Lee in a concerned voice.
"Iím fine for now. A bit hungry but I can live with it. Do you have any idea of who could be behind this?"
"No. Cynthia, Iím so sorry. I should have sent you back."
"Too late now and Iíll rather be with you. I said we were together in this, as in all things. I have not changed my mind. I love you, Lee Crane, whatever happens, I love you."
They were silent after that. Later their packs were returned, with all they had bought. They had not found the knife, it was small enough to be hidden in the lacing of Leeís hiking boots. Cynthia smiled when she saw her sticks. At Leeís curious look, she winked and blew him a kiss. With some draw string from her outfit, she attached them to her leg and rolled her pants back down.
A meal, or at least something passing for edible, was given after a while. This continued for a long time. They slept and talked, but nothing much could be done. They never heard anyone and could not see outside. The only person they saw in all that time was the tall gunman with the slop, as Cynthia had dubbed the so-called food. At least it didnít make them sick and it didnít appear to be drugged.
Not being able to see outside, they lost track of days. The meals were not at regular intervals, so that was not a reliable way to measure time.
At one point, the door opened and the leader came in. He looked at his prisoners and smiled. The room took on a chill.
"We have arrived. You should know that my customer is Dr. Sands. Ah, I see you recognize the name Captain Crane. Admiral Nelson has annoyed him so often in the past. Itís a shame really that we had to settle for you, but we know the dear Admiral will be very depressed upon seeing your body. It will make for a good start."
Turning to Cynthia, he continued his monologue. "My dear, Dr. Sands was thrilled to learn that you will be coming with us. I will let you and your husband say goodbye, then he will be sent to his Ö destiny. You will be a wonderful addition to Sandsí collection."
He opened the jail doors and pushed Crane into Cynthiaís cell. "You have one hour. No one will disturb you during that time. Good bye."
Lee and Cynthia held each other and sat on the floor.
"There must be a way out, we have to find it." Cynthia spoke softly, her face against Leeís chest.
"I love you, Cynthia. You are my sun and my life. We will get out of this." He kissed her tenderly and they settled into each otherís arms.
"Who is this Dr. Sands? Have you met him before?" Cynthia was curious, and talking helped her to control her increasing fear. She had not liked the comment about Leeís destiny.
"He is a very dangerous man." Lee started. When he finished talking, Cynthia was shivering in his arms. He held her tighter and kissed her.
Eventually, the hour came to an end and they were tied up again, but this time there was no blindfold or gag. They were lowered into a small zodiac, along with two of the gunmen, and they soon reached a small tropical island. The beach was white sand and the trees were huge, but did not look completely natural.
Lee and Cynthia were pushed toward a low building, standing in the center of a fortified compound. There were several men there, all armed. They were then ushered inside and met with the cause of their problem.
Dr. Sands was standing in front of them, looking pleased and with the cruelest smile Cynthia had ever seen. He walked toward Lee and hit him in the face, over and over. When Crane fell to his knees, Sands stopped hitting him. Then one of the gunmen took over. Eventually, he stopped too.
Sands turned toward Cynthia "This is interesting. You did not beg me to stop hurting him. Is the honeymoon over so soon? I thought the two of you were in love."
"Would it have changed anything if I had pleaded with you?" When Sands shook his head, Cynthia continued. "Then what would have been the point? I think you would have hurt him even more, just to hear me scream and beg. I will not give you the satisfaction."
At this, Sands laughed and took Cynthiaís face in his hands. She wanted to gag, but kept control over her reflexes.
"You are smart, arenít you? I will have much fun with the two of you. Eventually, you will hate each other, I will see to that." He released her and patted her cheek.
Sands ordered them into their cell and the Cranes were dragged to a filthy room, with a small window. When the door locked, Cynthia went to Lee and looked him over, as best as she could in the dim light.
"Are you all right? Iím sorry, maybe I should have tried to do something." She was desperate. Large bruises were forming on Leeís face. When she opened his shirt, she saw other marks, silent witnesses to the beating he just received.
"Iíll be fine, and you did the right thing. He is a sadistic man, and whatever you say or promise to him will always come back to haunt you." Lee leaned against the wall and took several deep breaths. "Come here, let me hold you."
Cynthia settled into her husbandís arms and tried to find a position that would not increase his discomfort. He was breathing regularly, without wheezing or coughing, so his lungs were OK, that much she knew.
Lee was moving slowly, with care, his whole body was hurting. He hoped that the hidden radio signal would reached Nelson and the Seaview. They had to be found, and soon, otherwise he did not have great hopes of getting out of this mess.
"Yes, Love. Iím not sleeping, Iím to scared and angry."
"Iím so sorry you are here. You should be home now. I asked Chip to take care of you if ever something happened to me. I had to know that you would be safe and with friends. I never imagined that you would be with me in this situation."
Cynthia gave a small laugh. "Lee, I asked Chip to watch over you because you are such a magnet for trouble. Poor Chip, he must be going out of his mind by now, since he canít keep his promise to either of us."
Lee held her closer and they fell asleep. It was not restful, they were plagued by nightmares and the taunts of the guards. When the sun rose, Lee estimated that they got about 2 hours of sleep in all. The day ahead promised to be long and grueling. Would they survive it?
They learned much too soon how Sands wanted to play. They were kept in separate cells. They could not see each other but they could hear everything.
Sands was questioning Cynthia, about all sorts of obscure subjects. When she got a wrong answer, Lee was beaten by one of the guards. In a way, it was fortunate for him that it was her there rather than someone else. She knew a lot of trivia, in fact she had never lost a game like that, except against Admiral Nelson, and usually it ended in a draw.
After three or four hours, Sands got bored and left.
"Lee, can you hear me?" Cynthia wanted to cry, but the guards were still there. She had to keep control, if not for herself, at least for Lee.
"Yes." His voice was filled with pain, she could hear it.
"How are you? I am so sorry my Love. I just could not answer everything he asked. Forgive me, please, forgive me." She started sobbing, tears running down her face. She had felt this way only once before, when she learned that nothing more could be done for her daughter. She did not want to give in to despair, but it was so hard.
So that was how Sands wanted them to hate each other. Each failure would lead to pain and fear. Hell of a way for a conditioned reflex experiment thought Cynthia.
"Nothing major. There is nothing to forgive. I love you. Always." Lee replied. He could not tell her that every part of his body was covered with bruises and cuts. Breathing was painful, but it did not feel like broken or cracked ribs. He had that before and he would have recognized the signs.
The guard came by his cell and gave him some water and a bit of food. It was not much, but it would keep him going for another day. How many of those were ahead for them?
The following night was filled with nightmares. Finally, the pain lessened to a dull all-over ache and Lee slept fitfully for a few hours. Cynthia had cried herself to sleep silently, she did not want Lee to hear.
The next day, it was Leeís turn to be questioned. It felt worse than the other way around. He pleaded Sands to leave his wife alone, but it got nowhere.
"Donít worry, my dear Captain Crane. You will have your turn tomorrow." Sands replied, with a sickening smile.
By the end of the day, Lee was sure he would loose Cynthia. She was depending on him and he was failing her. If they ever got out of this, she would leave him and find someone who would not put her in such situations.
"Lee?" her voice was low and ragged.
"Love, how bad is it?" now he understood why she wanted him to forgive her. The guilt he felt was enormous. "Please, answer me."
"I hurt all over. I wish I could have some water. I am to thirsty." her reply was slow and slightly slurred.
"Did you get any water or food today?" Lee asked. He had received a small ration and had assumed that she had some too.
"No. They told me it was not my turn."
"Why didnít you tell me? I would have given you mine."
"I know. That is why I didnít tell. You needed it more than me at the time." Her voice became soft, carrying the love he always felt and heard when they were alone. "I love you. Always."
They were silent after that, trying to get comfortable enough to sleep, to make it through another day. Waiting for rescue, for their friends.
The Seaview was racing towards Leeís radio signal. The signal had stopped moving and was now close to an archipelago in the southern Atlantic. The place was not populated, but belonged to Caster Holdings. ONI was researching who owned this company. It was a maze of acquisitions, holding companies, private and public owners. But there had to be a top to the pyramid.
Nelson and Chip were in deep discussion in the control room. The had succeeded in calming Sharkey (somewhat) but the rest of the crew was on edge. The skipper had been kidnapped and NOBODY did that to their Captain.
"Sir, we are within range of the target ship." Paterson announced.
"Rig for silent running. I donít want them to know we are here." Chip ordered.
A chorus of "Yessir" followed.
Once they were directly under their target, they waited. They were not in international waters and could not afford a diplomatic incident. They had to gather proof and enough of it to make a case stick. The Cranes just happened to be good bait.
Nelson was not too pleased by ONIís role in all this. Why had they been so adamant about Cynthia going along?
Sparks came up to the Admiral. "Sir, we just received confirmation as to the owner of the archipelago. Itís a Dr. Emmet Sands."
At the news, Nelson groaned. "Damn! When will that man learn?" Seeing Mortonís questioning look, he explained.
"About 15 years ago, I ran into Sands. We were working on the prototype for an underwater habitat. He wanted to genetically alter humans, so they could be part fish and breathe under water. He had even started his experiments on human subjects. He had kidnapped young people, rovers who would not be missed. In all, he slowly killed 10 men and 13 women. All between the ages of 15 and 22. I discovered what he was doing, testified against him and he was condemned to prison."
Nelson took a deep breath and continued. "Later he escaped, with some inside help. He returned to his idea of mixing human and animal DNA, to make what he called a superior race. He was caught again, and I testified as an expert witness. He was sentenced to jail once again. And now he apparently escaped. Iím afraid Lee and Cynthia are in for a bad time if we donít get them back soon, very soon."
Chip was frantic, but did not let it show. What would happen to Lee and his wife? They did not deserve this, their life together was just starting and it was obvious they were devoted to each other. He had promised Cynthia he would look after Lee, he could not face her if something happened to him. And he would not be able to forgive himself if something happened to her.
Two divers would go and try to help Lee and Cynthia. They would reach the island underwater and surface in an isolated cave. Morton and Sharkey had volunteered and Nelson could not refuse them. They probably would have gone on their own anyway.
They reached the island without being detected and stripped out of the wetsuits. The were about 150 meters from the landing area when they were surrounded by armed men. The two officers were brought to a low building, with bars in the windows. The guards shoved them in the central room. A giant TV monitor was on one wall, a computer on the opposing one. A third wall, the farthest from them, contained cells. With Lee and Cynthia Crane in the central one.
Chip was shocked by their appearance. They both were covered with bruises and their clothes were showing evidence of dried blood.
A rather fat man introduced himself as Dr. Sands. He had dirty yellow hair and seemed very agitated. "Iím so glad you could come. You must be from the Seaview, Nelsonís sub. Rodney, please send the signal to Seaview, Iím sure they will like to see what will happen."
Rodney flipped a few switched and sent the signal. It was received by Seaview and Nelson activated the video monitor.
Sands continued, getting more expansive as his speech went on. "You see, I have this passion for hunting. And since it is illegal to hunt some of the best quarries, I decided to make myself a little zoo. I collect specimens and turn them loose. Then my hunters go after them. I thought having a male/female pair would be much more fun, especially since they are so fond of each other. I wonder if self-preservation will take over at one point or if they are able of self-sacrifice for the other."
"However, for this run, I will not give them the wonderful enhancements that are achieved when I inject animal DNA. It would take too long to be effective and I want you, Nelson, to see your captain die. My hunters will not have guns, they will be using crossbows. The one that is left will be captured again and kept for another run later."
"Rodney, please release the two specimens. They are allowed only their clothes. This will make this more sporting. And they have three hours to hide. This will be so much fun!"
Addressing the stunned Seaview crew, he turned to the camera and smiled. "And you gentlemen, will have the pleasure to see the kill firsthand. Oh, and if your boat interferes, your two men here will be killed on the spot. And not nicely. This would be too bad, because I think I could use one of them in my new experiments."
Lee looked at his friends and raged. "If I get my hands on you, Sands, I will tear you apart!"
"Calm down or I will have to be mean to your little mate. And she is so pretty, it would be a shame to maim her before the game begins." Sands purred.
Cynthia and Lee were taken out of the cell and prodded at gun point toward the exit. Passing next to Sharkey, Cynthia smiled. She wanted to hug him for being there, she wanted to kiss Chip for being such a good friend. They had to survive and escape. There must be a way.
After they were taken to the edge of the forest, the tall gunman waved them toward the trees and started a stopwatch. The game had begun.
Lee grabbed Cynthiaís hand and they sprinted under cover. They ran for a while then stopped. It was hard to keep up the pace when they were in so much pain from the beatings.
Crane looked around "We have to plan this. Chip and Sharkey will need to be rescued and I know Seaview will not be able to interfere."
"Lee, Sands said that they will see firsthand when we will be killed on this hunt. If they can see, it means cameras and maybe microphones. They know where we are at all times, this is not a hunt, it is an execution, but with more excitement for the pursuers."
"You caught that too, didnít you?" he told his beautiful wife, so smart, so warm. He could not let her down, he had to keep her safe.
Cynthia looked in his eyes and came closer to him. She whispered in his ear. In the control room of the Seaview, they could see Crane startle, smile at Cynthia and hug her. They had a plan!
Morton and Sharkey came to the same conclusion, but this apparently escaped Sands. "How sweet, I knew they would make a nice pair. I will have her killed first, slowly of course, so he can hear her scream. Then the Captain, after a few more runs. Oh, but this is fun!"
The Cranes looked around them, walked outside the camera range, but did not reappear on any other monitor. There was no sounds. Sands was furious.
"Rodney, what is happening? Find them!"
For the next four hours, the henchmen criss-crossed the island, but no sign of their quarry. They had vanished, but how? And where?
When Cynthia hinted at a solution, Lee could hardly believe it. It was so obviously simple. She was so good at reading people, it was somewhat disturbing. Was he like an open book to her? Is that why she never insisted on knowing what he was working on, because she just figured things out on her own?
"Sands is fat, he thinks all others are as lazy as him. And his cohorts do not appear to have high intellectual abilities, he would not be able to tolerate that. We have to get above the situation, where there are no cameras, where we will be able to act without being seen. In the trees."
He had hugged her. They located the camera and walked away. When they were relatively sure they were out of range, they climbed a large tree and settled on a branch. They had to wait and see if they were missed. It worked. Now to get to their friends and stop Sands.
Nelson guessed what happened and laughed. The crew looked at him in shock. "Gentlemen, I believe Mr. Sands will get a very bad surprise. Captain Crane is an excellent agent and it appears that Cynthia also has some tricks up her sleeve. I have every confidence they will return."
Turning to the radio shack, "Sparks, keep recording this. It will be the complete proof we need. This should get him a life sentence, at least, and it will justify our intervention with the local government."
Lee and Cynthia traveled slowly, from branch to branch, tree to tree. It was tedious, they could not make noises and they had to remain immobile when searchers were below them.
Strangely enough, no-one had found Leeís knife or Cynthiaís sticks. She was probably right about the intellectual abilities of henchmen.
When the night fell, they settled on a large branch. Lee put his back to the trunk and held on to Cynthia. They would take turns sleeping.
Not one word had been said since this started. They could not afford to give up their position. Somehow, they knew what the other wanted to say. A smile, a frown or a hand movement was sufficient.
In the morning, they had finally reached the clearing with the building where they knew Chip Morton and Francis Sharkey were kept. Hopefully, they were still alive. Now the problem was to get in without detection.
Noise would not be a problem. The gunmen who had captured them as well as Sandsí Ďhuntersí were milling around, talking and planning their games. There was a lot of yelling from Sands, but all in all, it would be an advantage to them.
Cynthia counted 16 men, all armed. This number did not include Sands and Rodney. If there were others inside, she did not know. Lee signaled her to get higher in the tree and he followed her.
"How many did you count?" he asked.
"Sixteen outside, with Sands and Rodney inside. Maybe more we cannot see."
"Agreed." Lee chewed his lower lip. "How good are you at fighting? I need the truth on this, Love. We cannot make any mistakes."
"I would never lie to you. I may not always tell all, but I do not lie." she answered. "I have training in Tae-Kwon-Do, and I can use my sticks. A broom handle would have been even better, but I will make do." She admitted to being very sore and stiff, but she could make it. She would have to.
"What are those things anyway?"
"I use them to increase my reach. When you hit someone fast enough at a good spot, you can break bones. Painful and efficient. And even if I drop them, they cannot be used against me, since not that many people know how to use them." she smiled at his reaction. Poor Lee, he never suspected that his wife had such a background. ĎI will have to make this up to him.í
"Weíll wait until things quiet down over there. Then we go in."
They took their positions lower in the tree and waited. Cynthia was starved and she suspected that Lee was also hungry. Thirst was the worst, but this could not be helped for now. They had found some moisture on leaves at dawn, but that was all. It would have been too dangerous to go to the ground and find a stream.
The whole day went by, without any real decrease in the activity below them. At dusk, they finally got their chance.
The hunters had given up for the day, saying among themselves that maybe Crane and his woman had made it to the water and tried to swim for the submarine, but the boat had not surfaced. They were probably dead, drowned.
Morton was to be the next prey, but with only a fifteen minute head start. Sands did not like making the same mistake twice. The hunt would start at dawn.
"Sir, we have to do something!" Sharkey was very worried. The skipper and his wife had disappeared from the monitors and now Mr. Morton would be killed.
"Chief, calm down. I will not make this easy for them. If Iím to last longer than an hour, I will need to rest. Please, chief. Maybe Captain Crane is closer than we think. He has never let us down before, he is not going to stop now." Morton said and lied down on the packed dirt floor.
ĎMan, how can he stay so calm? If I ever get my hands on these jokersÖ.í Sharkey resumed his pacing, trying not to make too much noise.
Outside, Lee and Cynthia made their way silently down the tree. They touched the ground and ran toward an all terrain vehicle, hiding behind it.
A guard was coming their way and they crouched down, trying to make themselves invisible. The guard passed in front of them, not paying attention as he should have. Cynthia got up and whacked him on the side of the head with her sticks. He went down like a rag doll. He did not have time to sound the alarm.
"Remind me never to get you angry." Lee whispered.
"Iíll let you know, donít worry." Cynthia whispered back.
They crawled to a jeep and lied under it. No guards. Where were they? Lee noticed a small barrack. When they got closer, they could hear the laughter of the men and their plans for Chip. Lee went pale and shivered. Cynthiaís eyes became almost black. These were definitely not nice people. They jammed the door from the outside and returned to the main building.
The door was opened to let the cooler air come in. They saw Sands, Rodney and three other men. Chip and Sharkey were in the middle cell, with Chip lying down, probably trying to rest before the hunt that was planned for the next day.
The men were not carrying their weapons, but these could not be far. Lee nodded to Cynthia and they rushed inside. They made a bee-line for the henchmen, figuring that Sands and Rodney were not the main menace for now.
Lee pushed one of the men toward the cell and Sharkey snaked an arm around his throat. Morton got up and helped him out of his misery.
"Cynthia, behind you!" yelled Chip.
She whirled and crouched at the same time, extending one of her legs. The move literally sent the man sprawling with all four in the air, as she cut his legs from under him. She was using some kind of stick to hit him and he went down for the count.
Lee was busy punching the other gunman and was having a hard time to get him down. He finally connected with a right punch. Now for Sands and Rodney.
Cynthia was beating up on Rodney with her strange weapon and he could hear the manís bones breaking. He would not be able to use his hands for a long time.
Lee turned all of his attention on Sands. The large man was trying to make a run for it, but Lee caught him and tripped him. He bounced to a stop and tried to reach one of the guns. Crane was faster.
"Now, Sands, you will sit on the floor and do not move. Iím in a very bad mood and you donít want me to take it out on you." He looked at his wife. Rodney was on his knees, begging her to stop. She pushed him toward his boss and started searching for the keys to the cell.
"The keys are in one of the drawers, under the computer keyboard." Sharkey told her.
She retrieved them and opened the door. Sharkey hugged her, telling her he had been so worried. Letting her go, he went to Crane and took over watching the prisoners. Chip also hugged her and gave her a small kiss.
Chip contacted Seaview. Nelson sent them some men and they cleaned up the place. The local government was grateful about Seaviewís intervention. Apparently, there were rumors in some coastal villages about people disappearing and turning up mutilated and changed. The capture of Sands and his associates would explain much of what was going on.
The whole lot of Sandsí men were put in the brig, along with their boss. It was not a large room to begin with, and it was even smaller with the large man inside. It did not bother Crane the least.
The Seaview doctor then pounced upon both Lee and Cynthia. They were given IV fluids and treated for their cuts and bruises. Apparently, everything was more painful than dangerous. Sands did not want his victims to die too fast. That had played in their favor.
"You both will stay here until tomorrow. I want to make sure nothing will crop up. And the IV stays put, or it will be another day more. I hope this is clear enough, Captain?" Jamieson asked. He was not in a mood to argue the point.
"I will make sure he stays put, donít worry." Cynthia said. She got off her bunk and went to Leeís. She made a shooing motion with her hand and he moved toward the wall, leaving her some space. She climbed in and soon both were sleeping soundly, much to the doctorís surprise.
A number of crewmen found excuses to stop by Sickbay. Of course, all complaints were legitimate and they would never just come by to check up on the skipper, but how was he, you know, since I am here and all that.
Morton and Nelson also dropped in.
"How can they sleep like that?" remarked Nelson.
Lee and Cynthia were sharing a narrow bunk, but the lack of space did not seem to bother them. The doctor shrugged.
"I donít know. I just have to be careful to inject in the right IV tube when I give them medication." When Nelson raised an eyebrow, the doctor continued. "Not sedatives, just pain killers, to take the edge off. It relaxes enough to sleep, but if there is a need, they can be out of it in seconds."
"Let them sleep. They both need it badly." Nelson signaled both Jamieson and Chip toward the small office.
"How are they handling this? Sands wanted them to hate each other. Were we in time?" the Admiral was worried. Who knows what makes people stick together or fall apart?
"Iím not overly worried, Admiral. I hear them talking when they are awake, but it doesnít feel right to eavesdrop on the skipper. They will be all right, I would bet on it. There is thisÖI donít knowÖjoy, I guess, when they talk to each other, when they think no one is there. " replied the doctor.
Morton looked at his sleeping friends. "I think Jamie is right. Lee is stubborn as a mule and Cynthia is not someone who gets sidetracked easily. They care too much about each other to let anything come between them. They will be fine."
After 24 hours, Lee and Cynthia were released from Sickbay and told to get a good hot meal and take it easy, or else.
The Admiral asked them to return to Santa Barbara on the Seaview, since their Paris trip was down the drain and neither had the energy to plan anything else for now.
When ONI contacted them for a debriefing and report, she let them know in no uncertain terms what she thought of the whole thing.
The agent who was talking to her agreed that ONI should pay for their ruined trip, that they should have had better security to start with and that in general, they were incompetent, but the wording on the last part probably went right over his head. Ms. Crane did have a way with words.
Lee took command of his boat and the young couple settled into a routine.
Nelson drafted Cynthia into reviewing his latest papers, much to Leeís relief. A bored Cynthia was not something he wanted to consider. It became part of the boatís normal day to see the skipperís wife following Nelson with papers to sign, update, and whatever.
"Well, sir, how does it feel to have a personal assistant on board?" Lee asked his boss and friend. They were finishing breakfast and spending some time reviewing the next mission, which was scheduled to take them near the Galapagos Islands.
"I have to admit that I have never been so up to date on paperwork, but donít tell that to Angie." Nelson smiled.
"I promise. And Angie has enrolled my wife into having you do as much paperwork as possible before we get back. She wants to take some time off and this is the only way she can make sure that the pile will be manageable when she gets back. But you didnít hear it from me."
"Ah!" Nelson exclaimed. "This is a conspiracy. These two should have never met." He put his coffee cup on the table and left the officerís mess.
With a smile, Nelson returned to his lab, in the hope of hiding from more papers. Cynthia never interrupted his work when he was in there, but how did she know when he actually put a foot out of the hatch? He had yet to make it past the first turn of corridor before she found him with more stuff to review. Must have the same administration genes as Angie.
Chipís admiration of Cynthia went up a notch, after her demonstration with the sticks. He was even more surprised that she was also pretty good with a staff, which she called a Ďboí. He made a note to himself never to get on her bad side.
"Chip, wait." Cynthia was coming at a fast pace behind him and he stopped, waiting for her to catch up. "I need your opinion on something."
"Sure, what is it?" he asked.
"Well, when we left for Paris, Lee gave me this gold bracelet that matches our wedding rings. I would like to give him something too, but I must admit that I have absolutely no idea. Youíre his best friend, what do you think he would like? What would YOU like to have?"
Chip mulled this over for a moment. He knew what HE would like to have, but that was notÖ possible.
"Cynthia, Lee doesnít expect anything back. I donít think you realize how much he cares for you. During the last mission to Antarctica, he almost made me swim back. All he could think of, and talk about, when he was off duty, was you. When you accepted to marry him, it was like a dream come true for him. Leeís family reacted badly when he joined the Navy and, even if he had friends and colleagues who cared for him, he never had anyone that was true family, that would share his life away from the boat. Now he has you. Just be there when he comes home. It will mean more to him than anything you can give."
Cynthia nodded and went back to Leeís cabin. She had a lot to think about.
Chip sighed and watch her leave. ĎI wishÖí but he did not dare complete the thought.
Well, he had some new recruits to terrorize. That would keep him busy for a while. He hated going back to his cabin. It shared a wall with Craneís and even if they were not on the same shift, he could not help but hear them when they made love. He would have to suggest sound proofing, but later, so as not to make Lee uncomfortable. He had never spent so much time in the officerís mess or in the observation nose.
Back in his cabin, Lee was wondering where Cynthia had disappeared to. The Seaview was not that big, so she was near, he could almost feel it. When she came in, he got up from the desk and put his arms around her, holding her close. It felt so good to have her close to him. She smelled good, and it was not her perfume.
He had been worried that this whole thing had damaged their relationship, but it had kept true to course. She had been right. Nothing could tear them apart, unless one of them decided to leave. And they both wanted to stay.
She started to talk, but he kissed her and pushed her toward his small bed. All thoughts of discussion went out the window (hatch?) and she responded with enthusiasm and passion.
They undressed and Lee locked the door. He looked at her and waited for her to make the first move. She always had wonderful ideas for their games. She climbed in the bed, stretched her arms above her head and told him what she wanted.
"I want to be kissed and caressed, slow and soft. Please?"
He nodded and walked toward her. He massaged her arms and shoulders, kissed her throat, licked her breasts. She was making small sounds, halfway between a sigh and a moan. He got to the best part and parted her legs with his hands. His fingers explored every hidden fold and she became even warmer. He needed her so much.
He joined her on the bed and entered her, slowly at first, with small movements. Then his instincts and needs took over and he started to move with more speed. Cynthia was enjoying this, his loss of control, when he was inside her. It made her feelÖ female, that was the only word she could think of.
Lee was deep inside his wife, feeling her warmth, wanting this to never end. He was afraid to come too soon, of not pleasing her, even if she was meeting his thrusts with her own. Then he felt her become tighter, molding her body to his. This was so good! With harder and harder pushes, he came and so did she, her moans echoing in his ears, like music.
He kissed her lips, making his way to her ears and throat. She was whispering his name, telling him she would stay with him forever.
He slid out of her. He kept her legs opened, looking at her, licking his lips. He wanted to please her and reached for her center of pleasure.
Cynthia thought she would explode with the sensation. The first peak had not receded and he was bringing her toward another one. He was very talented at this. His mouth was hungry and he licked her until she shook. She grabbed the pillow and covered her mouth to muffle her screams as the sensations ripped through her. Her body was writhing and bucking, she had no control over it.
Lee was hard again, just looking at her moving like that in her passion, it was so exciting. He entered her and started pushing against her, demanding more. Cynthia was covered in sweat and all she could do was react to Leeís body, feeling her pleasure rise again. He felt so strong, leaning on top of her, pinning her to the bed. After a while, Lee let go and came in a long shiver, like an electric current was searing every nerve ending.
He looked into her eyes and saw her love and acceptance. Not willing to move, they settled into the small space and fell asleep.
Several days later, they arrived in Santa Barbara. Lee stayed on board for last minute checks and Cynthia left for the apartment. She had some things to do before he came home, so she told him to take his time.
When Lee arrived, just before dinner, Cynthia was waiting with her surprise. Lee froze when he walked in. On the walls were paintings and pictures Brittany had made, on the couch was the colorful bedspread she had at her old place. She had put her few possessions out of the storage boxes and made his apartment theirs.
She smiled to her husband. "Welcome home. Iím glad you are back. This is our home and wherever you are, no matter how far, or for how long, remember that I am here, and that I will wait for you. Always."
He went to her, took her hands and kissed her fingers. "Thank you. Iíve dreamed of this for so long. Now I have a home. And I will come back to you. Always."