As I have told a few people, I have one lone romantic gene that on occasion raises its ugly little head and demands fifteen minutes of fame. This is the end result of one such episode.
Meet Ralph and Alice
“Is there a reason you’re dragging me down here? Is there some old, barnacle-encrusted artifact that needs my attention? This had better be good, I was busy,” Serena grumbled as she kept one eye on the notebook in her hands, the other on the walkway leading down to the marina. She was in the middle of researching a lead on a possible wreck site when her project coordinator, best friend and part-time bodyguard, Gwendolyn Morton, announced there was something Serena needed to see. Dealing with Wendy was like dealing with her brother: there was no getting away from either when they had their minds set on something. Serena had long ago learned that sometimes it was better to go along than argue with them. It didn't mean she was happy about it.
Leading the way, Wendy tossed her long blonde braid over her shoulder and did not look back. “Actually, I haven’t seen Admiral Starke in a few weeks,” the taller woman quipped.
“WENDY! I seriously doubt Admiral Starke would appreciate being referred to an artifact!” Serena snapped, trying not to smile. Wendy Morton didn’t care for Admiral Nelson’s oldest friend and wasted no opportunity taking every jab she could get in. Serena had her own opinion of the man but since he was one of her father’s closest friends, she tried her best to show a little respect.
“How about just barnacle-encrusted?” Wendy offered.
“Alright, a relic then. A relic from some long bygone day, to a time of square-riggers, walking the plank and hanging traitors to the country…”
“Okay, okay, I get the picture! You don’t like Admiral Starke but that doesn’t explain why you’re dragging me out of my cozy little office and halfway across the compound to the marina of all places. I was busy.”
This time Wendy stopped and turned to face her best friend. “Would you stop grumbling already? We though Ralph and Alice might be of some help to you and maybe you’d like to see them in action.”
Serena stared at person who was almost a sister to her and blinked. “Ralph and Alice? The dolphins? And who's this 'we'? Is there a mouse in your pocket? Does Commodore Emery know about this?”
Wendy nodded and took off at a brisk pace, leaving Serena to catch up. “Yes, the commodore knows all about this. Just wait. You’ll see.”
Serena sighed and hurried after the blonde. Whatever Wendy was planning, Serena knew she’d have to play along for now, until she could figure out what the sneaky Morton sibling was up to. She couldn't resist one last parting shot though.
“This had better be good, I was busy.”
Lee pulled himself up onto the edge of the pool, catching his breath as the gray form of the female bottlenose dolphin--Alice--swam up and clicked excitedly at him. He ran a hand through his tangled black curls, before reaching over to a nearby bucket and plucking out a single fish. He gave the fish a toss high into the air and Alice reacted by propelling herself out of the water. She snatched the fish out of the air, and then landed with all the grace of her kind back into the pool.
“I think she likes you!” Chip called out from the other side of the pool, chest deep in water.
“Na, she’s just using me for my ability to throw fish. Gives her a chance to show off.”
“A show-off. Yep. She likes you. Birds of a feather…” Morton trailed off as Ralph sidled up to him, clicking and squeaking as if laughing with the blond human.
“Funny, Morton, real funny,” Lee shot back with a grin. He glanced around one more time and this time Chip called him on it.
“You keep doing that. What are you looking for? It’s not like we’re working with the dolphins in secret. It was the commodore's suggested we come out here and work with them, so they could get used to us.”
“No it’s not that. I just thought Wendy was going to bring Serena down here so she could see what they can do. I thought maybe she’d be interested in how they can help with some of the recoveries.”
Chip beamed. “Lee, that’s a great idea. Do you think she’ll be interested?”
Lee smirked as two figured appeared at the top of the rise and started down the concrete stairs toward the pool. Oh, yeah, she’s definitely going to be interested…. The plan was moving along well.
Wendy saw Lee and executed a quick wave. Lee responded with a smile and climbed out of the pool. Wendy felt her own interest rise as she realized Lee was wearing only a pair of swim trunks. Tall and lean, Lee wasn’t muscle bound like a few of her previous boyfriends. The powerful muscles of his calves and thighs bunched and flexed as he climbed the ladder up and out of the pool. There wasn’t an inch of fat anywhere on his trim frame. He stood tall and straight, as if even when he was enjoying some time off, he could never really escape the rank and responsibility of Commander. The black swim trunks hung low on his narrow hips, accenting his lean waist and abdominal and chest muscles, honed and defined from his active lifestyle. His dark hair was tousled and in complete disarray but his eyes, tawny gold with tiny flecks of jade green, danced with humor. His olive-toned skin suggested a slightly Mediterranean look and gave the appearance of a perfect tan with absolutely no tan lines.
Wendy glanced over to Serena to find the red head following the action on the opposite side of the pool--just like she and Lee planned. Over the last few weeks, Serena and Chip's schedules were obnoxiously crazy and other than a quick lunch together if they were lucky, Chip and Serena hadn't had a date in close to a month. While this wouldn't replace a quiet dinner, it was a step up from grabbing a cup of coffee before Chip vanished into software upgrade meetings and Serena buried herself in research.
Serena Harrison watched as the tall, United States Navy Lieutenant Commander heaved himself up out of the pool, the powerful muscles of his back and upper arms working as he pulled himself up the pool ladder, swim trunks soaking wet and adhering to each and every strategic muscle of his powerful thighs and posterior. Water rolled off his broad, strong chest in thin rivulets, following the curve and contours of his skin and muscles. With a free hand, he ran his fingers through his wet hair, shaking the water from his platinum-white locks, now dark gold from the water.
Serena realized she hadn’t taken a breath in close to thirty seconds while Chip oriented himself. With a shaky start, she sucked in a shallow gasp of air, reminded of those arms holding her close, of leaning against his chest in the glow of moonlight shining on new-fallen snow.*
“Earth to Serena,” Wendy called out with a playful shove against the redhead’s shoulder.
“I heard you already,” Serena snapped, embarrassed at being caught staring. Chip glanced up at her voice and smiled. Not just smiled, but that heart stopping, gut-twisting, smile that could light up the west coast from San Diego on up to the Canadian border on a Saturday night.
“Serena! You should see what these two can do!” Chip invited, his eyes sparkling in the sunlight. That’s the moment the pair of dolphins chose to breech simultaneously, and as they hit the water, the spray further soaked the already dripping officer. For a second he just stood there as water dripped off his hair into his face. Slowly he reached up and wiped the water from his eyes.
Serena felt the smile slipping up on her and she couldn’t stop it. “I see what they can do! Seems even the dolphins have a sense of humor,” she shot back. She laid her notebook on the ground away from any possible splashing then inched her way closer, eventually making her way to the edge of the pool.
One of the dolphins, she wasn’t sure which one, swam up to her and chirped happily. “Okay, Commander, what’s he saying?” she asked with a glance toward Chip
“She,” he corrected, “that one’s Alice. Alice, say hi to Doctor Harrison.” Alice chirped and squeaked as if explaining something to the exec. Chip turned his head sideways as if listening. “Alice, I don’t think she’ll like that,” Chip said to the dolphin. Alice rose up out of the water and nodded her head passionately, her whole body bobbing with the motion.
Serena cast a bemused look to Lee. “Don’t look at me. Chip speaks better dolphin that I do.”
By now, Chip had moved up behind her as the female dolphin seemed to squeak instructions. “Well, if you think so…” Chip replied.
Before Serena could react, she found herself encircled by Chip’s strong arms and the two of them sailed into the pool with a splash.
Harrison came up sputtering and spewing. The first thing she saw was Lee and Wendy on the pool's edge, laughing hysterically. Between the bursts of laughter she thought she caught something about ‘working out better than we planned’.
Pushing her long red hair out of her eyes, she back peddled to brace herself against the pool's edge. Chip followed, balancing himself in the water by bracing both arms against the pool’s rim, on each side of the redhead. Serena looked up at him with amused green eyes
“And just what did Alice tell you, Mister Morton?” Serena asked as Chip leaned closer. Serena felt the butterflies in her stomach quiver with anticipation. Behind Chip, Serena caught the cavorting forms of the two dolphins, both of which seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely.
“She said you needed to loosen up and get out of the office more,” he teased. “I won’t let something happen to you.” With that, Chip leaned in and kissed her, wrapping his arms around the smaller woman. Serena responded, letting him pull her close, feeling his warm body against hers, her fingers tracing slick, wet muscles…
“Do you always listen to strange dolphins?” Serena asked, coming up for air.
“Only if it’s sound advice. Alice is right you know. I mean it. I’ll do whatever it takes to protect you. It’s what I do.”
“I know. I'm learning,” Serena replied and this time she
kissed him, pulling him closer to her, finally admitting to herself that maybe,
just maybe, she wasn't quite as busy as she thought.