* * *
Lee Crane had never liked Philip Kensington.
Of course, now that Kensington had taken to pestering his
girlfriend on a regular basis, Lee liked him even less.
He was leaving Ro alone so far this evening, but Lee knew it was
just a matter of time before he started in offering her obscene amounts of
money to leave the Institute. The
Admiral seemed to take Kensington’s antics with a grain of salt and
appeared to have thrown poor Dom at the magnate to keep him occupied.
The really frustrating thing was that Lee wanted to talk to Dom,
but he couldn’t draw her off for a private conversation without freeing
up Kensington. No solution to
this dilemma was presenting itself and Lee was ready to give up any hope
of this evening being anything but a tremendous headache.
“You’re going to give yourself ulcers,” Ro commented,
drawing his attention back to her. It
didn’t take much to do that, really.
She was a captivating person in every sense and sometimes Lee
wondered how he’d finally managed to snare her when every other man that
laid eyes on her wanted her and most were more than willing to tell her
so. Right now, she was
smiling at him with amusement lighting her features.
“You know, if looks could kill, he’d have a fiery hole burned
right though the middle of him. Just
forget about Kensington. He’s
busy with the hopeless task of getting Dom out on a date and that will
probably keep him occupied most of the night.”
Lee shook his head at the whole thing.
“Why doesn’t Dom just go out with him and not sleep with him?
For a man like Kensington, that’s as icy a bucket of water as
he’ll ever be doused with.”
Ro laughed softly. “For
all her exboyfriends, Dom is picky about who gets to walk around with her
on his arm. Kensington doesn’t pass muster, so he doesn’t even get
out of the gate. I, for once,
won’t complain that she hasn’t gotten tired of him giving it another
try. It’s keeping him out of my hair.
I would have thought that you would’ve been happy about that,
“Normally, I would, but I wanted to talk sense to Dom,”
Lee grumbled. He had thought
he wouldn’t have to. That’s
why he had made sure that certain members of the Seaview’s crew knew
what was going on at Dom’s house. He
had figured that Kowalski, Patterson and Riley would run this homeless man
off, and Kowalski in particular had looked ready to care of the matter in
a quite satisfactory and final manner.
They had gone around to Dom’s house before coming into the
Institute, but things hadn’t gone as Lee had anticipated.
Now he was convinced that he needed to talk sense to Dom himself,
since everyone else from the Admiral on down had dropped the ball.
He just hoped Ro wasn’t going to be furious about him take a firm
stand on this after he talked to Dom.
Dom would probably be mad at him, but she wouldn’t stay mad
forever and Lee didn’t want her to get hurt.
Ro let out a heavy sigh.
“Don’t make me regret telling you about that, Lee Crane.
And I don’t think the Admiral would be happy about you picking a
fight tonight. That’s what
it’s going to come down to, you know.
Dom does not back down when it comes to this sort of thing.”
not happy about her charity project either.
And you haven’t been at the Institute that long.
You don’t know the multitude of possibilities of trouble that Dom
could be opening herself up to with this man,” Lee told her.
He knew first hand what those possibilities were, unfortunately.
Dom wasn’t going to have any such experiences if he had anything
to say about it, though likely she wouldn’t thank him from saving her
from trouble. “I really
don’t want my next mission for the Institute to be the retrieving of one
kidnapped Marine Biologist, or worse, hunting down someone that hurt her
Ro made a calming gesture, saying, “I didn’t get that
sort of vibe off Harper. After
meeting him, I was actually more concerned with him taking up permanent
residence at Dom’s house and sponging off her indefinitely than any of
that. And Dom did have one
pretty valid point. Harper’s
had a couple of days to do whatever he wanted with no one even knowing he
was there and he hasn’t done anything at all.
It wouldn’t make sense for him to wait or to let Dom take him to
the police to be fingerprinted if he wanted to hurt her.”
“There are lots of crazy people in the world, Ro,” Lee
“Yes, and one of them is my best friend,” Ro sighed.
“Just let it be for now. Dom
will be in on Monday. You can
get her alone in her office then.”
Lee wanted to argue the point, but he had to admit that Ro
was probably right that it could wait.
Whatever this man was up to, he didn’t seem to be in any sort of
hurry. Still, Lee told
himself that he would go around to Dom’s house first thing in the
morning and settle things once and for all.
“And you wonder why I prefer to be out at sea,” he grumbled,
not looking forward to the task he had set before himself in the
“Like things don’t do their best to see us all in an
early grave there,” Ro said with a mischievous grin.
“Don’t start,” Lee said.
“I’m just saying that I would like to go out on a cruise
and actually accomplish what we’ve set out to do without something weird
or dangerous happening,” Ro teased.
“We do, all the time,” Lee told her, not about to give
her this one.
“Such as when, exactly?
Refresh my memory.”
Unfortunately, Lee couldn’t think of a mission that had
run entirely smoothly since Ro had joined the crew of the Seaview or for
some time before that. He
found himself thinking back on the boat’s misadventures, but didn’t
get a chance to dwell on it for long because there was a high pitched
squeak then angry voices suddenly were rising from across the room.
The louder of the two voices was Kensington.
Lee wasn’t able to hear the other voice clearly, but when he
turned, there was no doubt that Senator Barnett was person that had drawn
the magnate’s ire. “Now
what?” Lee sighed, but Nelson was already there, defusing the situation,
which seemed to involve a blushing Doctor Babin.
“I knew that Barnett wouldn’t be able to keep his hands
to himself,” Ro muttered angrily.
Whatever had happened, it was already over.
The Admiral, who had a fatherly arm around Dom, had Barnett looking
shamefaced and apologetic as he started to make his way toward the
room’s exit. Kensington did
not seem to want to let whatever had happened go, nor Barnett for that
matter, and he began to follow the man, bringing the Senator’s security
to attention. Nelson halted
Kensington with a look that Lee had seen on very rare occasions, the one
that made seasoned sailors tremble in their boots.
He had probably already warned the man to back off, because that
was what Kensington was now begrudgingly doing.
Lee wasn’t going to leap into the fray and make things worse,
especially since Kensington was stalking away from the situation in his
general direction, just where Lee didn’t want him to be.
“How does Barnett get reelected term after term?
Can anyone tell me?” Kensington asked no one in particular as he
snatched a glass of champagne from the server circulating through the
room. He stopped right in
front of Lee and Ro and continued, “It’s not as if no one knows about
his wandering hands. Is that
what our country is coming to?”
“I don’t know, Mister Kensington.
Maybe the other person running for office was worse,” Ro
commented offhandedly. Her
speaking seemed to be all the encouragement that Kensington needed to
change the subject.
“Now, Miss Simmons, I thought I told you to call me
Philip,” he said smoothly. “Certainly
you would call me that around the office when you come to work for me.”
Ro was trying not to roll her eyes and she said, “Mister
Kensington, I’m not interested in...”
“In your own department?” Kensington asked before she
could finish what she was saying. “Your
own research and development department with an open ended budget.
Think about it. What
could you do with your own handpicked team and no financial worries?
You’ve complained about the energy problems California is facing
when we’ve spoken in the past. What
if we could do something about that?
About fixing the country... no, the world’s energy woes.
You could do it, Rowena. I
know you could, given the right backing.”
If Ro was tempted it wasn’t evident, especially when she
said, “And you would profit handsomely from it, wouldn’t you, Mister
“Ah, ah,” Kensington said, wagging a finger at her.
Ro was beginning to look like she was ready to bite it.
“That’s Philip, remember?
And I’m certain that Admiral Nelson profits from your work here
at the Institute, Rowena. It
would be no different working at my company, except that you’d get a
bigger cut of that profit.”
“It’s Miss Simmons or Lieutenant Commander Simmons,”
was Ro’s only reply. She
was struggling not to tell Kensington off and Lee figured that he’d let
this go on as long as he was willing to.
“You wanted to check up on Doctor Babin, didn’t you,
Miss Simmons?” he asked as he imposed himself a bit between Kensington
you, Captain,” Ro said, then she marched off in Dom’s direction
without another word.
“She’s a fiery lady,” Kensington commented with
admiration, obviously not at all bothered by Ro’s less than flattering
attitude toward him.
“And not one to change loyalties,” Lee cautioned him.
Kensington turned his attention to Lee and a good natured
smile claimed his face. “Yes,
just one of the things that makes her so attractive, Captain.
You are a lucky, lucky man.”
“I am a man that does not discuss my personal affairs in a
public setting,” Lee told him. He couldn’t believe he was stuck here having to be civil
Kensington. Lee had been
hoping to avoid him entirely.
However, Ro had vanished off somewhere with Dom and the Admiral was
scanning the room as if he were looking for something specific and
unpleasant. He’d been doing that on and off all night, which made Lee
wonder what sort of trouble he should be preparing for. Not that the Admiral had said to expect any trouble.
Oh, no, that would be entirely too easy.
When would Nelson stop trying to protect everyone by keeping them
all in the dark until things had gotten out of hand?
Probably never. Lee
wondered who or what was about to assault the Institute and the Seaview
Kensington started talking about the department he was
planning to form for Ro, determined to ignore the fact that Ro wasn’t
ever going to go work for him and that Lee wasn’t really listening to
him. What did the man think,
that Lee was going to help him? There
was absolutely no chance of that. He
glanced around, wondering where Ro and Dom had disappeared to.
By the time he looked back to Kensington, the billionaire was
glaring across the room at something.
Lee followed his gaze to find Barnett had not left and was talking
to someone well away from Kensington.
Lee tried to remember the name of the couple that the Senator was
laughing too loudly with, but he came up blank.
Kensington began to edge that way, but Lee shifted his position to
place himself in the way. At least this bit of trouble he could quell, wondering what
Barnett had done to get Kensington so mad and Dom so embarrassed.
What a night, Lee thought with a mental sigh.
Now he remembered why he hated these affairs.
Dom was exhausted as she trudged up the stairs to her house,
shoes dangling from the hand that held her purse, her keys in the other.
She never knew that raising money for science could be so hard on
the feet. Thankfully, Philip
Kensington, who had tried to monopolize her time on the dance floor, was a
good dancer, not a toe crusher like some of the other men that were there.
Poor Philip, she thought as she put her key in the lock.
He hadn’t managed to woo Ro off to his company or her off to
Australia. Dom chalked the
latter attempts up to her purple dress, knowing he certainly hadn’t
shown much more than a passing interest in her before seeing her in it.
Philip had still given Nelson a sizable check at the end of the
night and seemed cheery enough. Actually,
aside from when Senator Barnett grabbed her butt, making her squeak in
alarm and fling a cup of punch over the buffet table, the evening hadn’t
been all that bad. As she opened her front door, she waved to the car’s
driver, who was waiting in her driveway to make certain she was in the
house before he left.
As Dom entered her home, she saw that Seamus was still awake
despite the lateness of the hour and reading something on her computer.
She closed the door, not making any effort to be quiet about it,
but he still seemed oblivious to her.
“Seamus?” she said as she approached him, wondering what he was
doing that had him so entranced.
He looked up to her, bleary eyed with exhaustion.
How was the party?” he asked as he rubbed absently at one eye
with the back of his hand. She
found herself smiling warmly at the childlike action.
“It was fine,” Dom replied, then looked at the computer
to find the a news story about Middle East tensions on the screen.
That was odd, because after talking with him the last couple of
days, she knew that Seamus didn’t know anything about that sort of
thing. Maybe that’s what he
was doing, she thought, trying to get up to speed on what was happening in
the big picture in the world rather than his small part of it.
“Seamus, it’s three in the morning.
You should be sleeping.” He
nodded to her words and signed off her computer, not really seeming to be
awake enough to argue the point. Dom
took his arm, thinking that she had better guide him to his bed because he
looked out on his feet. Seamus
gave her a sleepy grin as she took hold of him, not seeming to mind in the
least that she was dragging him off someplace yet again.
“So, how was your night?” she asked softly as they started to
the stairs. He frowned a
little and looked away from her to the stairs they had started to climb.
“Depressing. Doesn’t anybody like anybody else?” he asked, probably
commenting on the world situation.
“Well, as you predicted, lots of people, mostly male
individuals, seemed to like my dress,” Dom said, not about to tackle
such heavy topics as the Middle East or world tension in the wee hours of
the morning. “And
fortunately, most of them were gentlemanly about it.”
“Most?” Seamus asked as he looked back at her, sounding
both more awake and more than a little peeved.
“Somebody got fresh? Did
you slug him or do I need to go after him?”
“Why Mister Harper, are you offering to defend my
honor?” Dom asked, adopting a southern drawl and fanning herself with
her purse. “I do declare,
chivalry lives again, and in my own home.”
She dropped the accent and patted his arm.
“Don’t worry. He’s
been properly chastised for his beastly behavior.
And don’t you go getting into fights, especially on my account.
You’ll just get arrested. Please
tell me that you don’t make a habit of solving your disagreements with
other men with your fists, or of getting into brushes with the law.”
“No,” Seamus assured her.
“I’m a lover, not a fighter.
Not that I get much loving or that I don’t get my butt kicked far
too often, but it’s not like I was the one to start things most times.
Well, not physically, anyway.
Sometimes my mouth has a mind of its own and it seems to have a
death wish. And as far as the
police, I don’t exactly go out of my way to attract their attention.
It never turns out very well when they want to talk to me, so
it’s the straight and mostly narrow for me, I swear.”
Dom was rather curious as to what ‘mostly’ meant, but it
was probably a subject best left for a better time of day.
“All right. Good
night then, Seamus,” she said, releasing his arm as they reached the top
of the stairs.
“G’night,” he replied, giving her one of his dimple
filled smiles, then went into her guest room.
Dom closed the door after him because he was already
starting to undress, apparently not realizing that he was about to give
her a show. She chuckled
softly as she went to her room, thinking about the number of times she’d
had to close his door. Maybe
he wasn’t used to having a door to close so it just didn’t occur to
him to do it. Maybe he’d
been locked into places where he didn’t want to be.
That thought was a little disturbing, but who knew how he’d been
treated before now. He did
have a lot of scars, just not anywhere readily visible.
She’d known since the night he’d wound up in her care that
someone had abused him badly sometime in his past.
It really was no wonder he was so afraid people were going to hurt
him. She hoped he felt safe
and comfortable in her home. After
the panic attack in the garage, she thought maybe Seamus wasn’t as at
ease as she had thought.
Seamus certainly seemed fond of her, as the zealous hug, his
earlier comment on the sofa, then his desire to defend her attested.
She hadn’t minded. In
fact, she had felt touched by his hesitant displays of affection, more so
than she had been by any other recent attempts to get a similar reaction
out of her by other men. She smiled and shook her head, certain that neither Ro nor
Nelson would be at all happy about that.
Not that she intended to let these little overtures get anywhere,
especially while Seamus was staying with her.
She could only see that leading to problems.
Dom undressed and collapsed into bed, thinking that she needed to
call her sister in the morning and see if she had gotten everything the
police were sending. Toni
hadn’t called to say she had, but that wasn’t exactly unexpected.
Toni wasn’t big with updates within the family and since Dom
wasn’t paying her, she couldn’t exactly press the issue. It would all be settled soon enough.
The next thing Dom knew, sunlight was filling her room.
She sat up, pushing her hair back out of her face and wishing that
she had remembered to brush her teeth the night before.
She shuffled into the bathroom and had a shower, which woke her up
completely. She glanced at
the clock as she dressed, finding that it was almost noon.
Still, Seamus had been up as late as she had, so he was probably
still asleep or just getting up, she reasoned.
However, when Dom opened her bedroom door, she found the
guestroom door also opened and Seamus no where within.
He was probably hungry, Dom thought, assuming she would find him in
the kitchen. Again, she was
wrong, for Seamus was sitting at her computer, typing at lightning speed.
She stood at the bottom of the stairs, watching him in amazed
silence for a few moments until he looked over his shoulder, gave her a
smile, then turned back to what he was doing as he said, “Good morning!
Must have been some party. Figured
you’d be up hours ago. Sorry
to make you drag me to bed last night.
Not that you’d have to drag me to your...” He
stopped suddenly, winced quite visibly, then quickly said, “your second
floor! To sleep!
Um... I... uh... I made a sandwich for you half an hour ago when I
heard the water running. It’s
in the fridge.” He glanced
warily at her, cringing a little as he continued to type.
Dom smirked for a second, but quickly forced a neutral
expression on her face. Okay,
she wasn’t imagining things. Seamus
had a little crush going. Well,
that wasn’t exactly strange. She
was being nice to him and from what little he’d said about his past, not
too many people had. Dom
could tell by his pained expression that he was hoping that she’d missed
his slip, so she decided not to comment one way or another.
“Good morning to you, too, and thanks for the sandwich.
I guess you ate.”
Seamus seemed terribly relieved and replied, “Sorry.
I got a little hungry.”
“Don’t apologize,” Dom told him as she walked the rest
of the way down the stairs and moved up behind him.
“I keep telling you, you’re a guest.
You should be making yourself at home.
So, what’cha doing?” She
leaned over his shoulder and looked at the numbers and symbols flashing
quickly onto the screen. None
of it made the slightest bit of sense to her.
“Hey, cut that out!” Seamus complained, lifting a hand
to cover part of the screen. “It’s
part of the surprise!”
“If you say so. It’s all gibberish to me,” Dom told him with a little
laugh. She set a hand on one
of his shoulders, leaned lightly against him as she pointed at one symbol
and added, “Did that come out of my keyboard?
I’ve never even seen that before.”
Now Seamus laughed and seemed to relax again.
“Of course it came out of your keyboard.
Where else would it come from?
You don’t know anything about programing, huh?”
“No. Like I
said, me and mechanical things don’t get along.
Hey, this is work. You’re not supposed to be working, remember?
Do I have to drag you out of the house again?”
“It’s not work, it’s a present!” Seamus protested.
“I’ll be done in five minutes.
Go eat your sandwich or something, huh?
Give a guy a break.”
Dom laughed and almost gave him a little peck on the cheek.
No, she told herself, she’d better not do that.
“Okay, but in five minutes I’m coming back in here and pulling
the plug,” she warned him, then gave his shoulder a little squeeze
before going into the kitchen. As
she took the sandwich Seamus had made for her out of the refrigerator, she
wondered where someone that had been living on the street had learned to
type that fast, much less do programing.
Libraries, she supposed. They
were open to the public and were a good place to get out of the cold
Boston winter days. What
about the nights, though? She
shivered at the thought and glanced over to where Seamus was working,
knowing he wouldn’t see the look of pity.
The look didn’t last, for she admired his fortitude too much for
it to remain. He’d been
through so much, much more than she knew about, but he was still a nice
person. He hadn’t given up.
That took incredible courage.
Dom thought about what Ro had said last night about how
Seamus would be better off with someone whose job it was to help the
homeless. Ro hadn’t talked
to him, though, not beyond polite dinner conversation. She didn’t know how nervous he was about the police and
other authority figures. He
was almost as afraid of them as he was of doctors and, for some reason
that he wasn’t telling her, he was afraid that any or all of these
people meant him harm. Again,
she thought about the scars she’d seen on his torso.
Seamus had every right to be afraid of being hurt.
He’d been hurt quite a bit.
Dom frowned. No one
was going to hurt him anymore, not if she had anything to say about it. Seamus would stay here until she was absolutely sure he’d
be all right somewhere else.
“All done! See?
Not even five minutes. More
like three. Maybe four tops,” Seamus announced as he all but bounced
into the kitchen, wreathed in triumphant smiles.
He lightened Dom’s mood immensely and she grinned over at him.
Seamus turned a chair around and sat on it backwards, leaning
against the back and watched her take another bite of the sandwich he’d
made with a delighted look on his face. “How’s the sandwich?
Should be okay. I
didn’t have to cook anything to make it.
Course, I almost burnt the tomatoes by cutting ‘em up too
Dom giggled around a mouthful of food, which seemed to
please Seamus to no end. Why
did everyone immediately think he wanted to hurt her or take advantage
when such a simple thing made him so happy? If Dom had ever had any doubts, they would have dissolved in
that moment. Seamus would
stay with her for as long as he wanted and she would be happy to have him.
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