Glancing at her now, sitting by his side as they drove to his apartment in nearby Port Orchard, gave him further cause to wonder. She hadn’t said more than a handful of words since the ceremony. He hadn’t a clue what she was thinking, but he figured she was looking for some way to get out of this.

"It was very nice of Chaplain Stewart and Lieutenant Commander Kyle to arrange housing on the base for us, wasn’t it?" she asked softly.

"Very nice," he repeated. He wondered how many strings his CO had had to pull to come up with that. The news had come as a surprise to Riley, who’d lived in a small apartment complex for the past two years.

"When will we be moving?"


"How soon?"

Hell, first he couldn’t get her to talk, now he couldn’t shut her up. "Next weekend."

"Good. Packing will give me something to do while you’re gone during the day. Once we’ve moved, I’ll look for a job."

"I don’t want you doing any lifting, you hear?" She flinched at his harsh tones, and he regretted speaking so forcefully. He’d recently bought a book on pregnancy and birth, and it had stated that lifting anything heavy should be avoided. Riley was surprised at the overwhelming urge he felt to protect Hannah and the baby.

"But I want to help."

"We’ll do the packing together." He left no room for argument.

"But what will I do every day?"

"What you normally do."

"I’ve always worked."

He was silent at that, not knowing what to tell her. He didn’t want her out looking for a job. It was plain the pregnancy had already taken a toll on her health. "Relax for a while," he suggested after a moment. "There isn’t any need for you to rush out and find a job now."

She sighed and closed her eyes, leaning her head against the back of the cushion. "I think I could sleep for a week."

She looked as if she’d do exactly that, but not in his bed, Riley noted bitterly. Not in his bed.

Riley’s apartment was on the second floor of a complex overlooking Sinclair Inlet. The Nimitz, an aircraft carrier, and several other large Navy vessels were moored along the piers of the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Standing on the balcony, Riley pointed out each ship for her, telling her its classification and type. Most of the information went over Hannah’s head, but she found the aircraft carrier easy to distinguish from the others.

The apartment itself was compact. It was clear he’d made an effort to clean up the place a bit. The fact pleased her. The living room had been straightened and newspapers neatly stacked in the corner. The carpet was olive green and blended well with his furniture, which consisted of a black recliner and a three-quarter-length sofa.

"You thirsty?" he asked, taking a beer out of the refrigerator.

Hannah’s gaze fell on the alcoholic beverage as she shook her head. She had the feeling he’d offered it to her for shock value. "No, thank you."

Riley shrugged, twisted off the cap and guzzled down half the contents in a series of deep swallows. His Adam’s apple bobbed with the action. Hannah turned away from him, and looked back at the narrow waterway.

"We have a minor problem," he said, joining her at the wrought-iron railing.

"Oh?" It was barely four, and already the sky was darkening.

"The apartment only has one bedroom."

Hannah’s heart sank. "I see."

"Lieutenant Commander Kyle assured me the place on the base would have two, but for now we’re here. What do you want to do about the sleeping arrangements?"

Hannah didn’t know. At least not right then. "I could rest on the sofa, I guess."

Riley snickered at that and turned away from her, pausing at the sliding-glass door. "You’d better come in before you catch a chill."

That wasn’t likely with her wearing her full-length wool coat, but she didn’t want to argue with him. He closed the door behind her, finished the beer and tossed the brown bottle into the garbage. It made a clanking sound as it hit against a glass object, probably another beer bottle. Hannah had never been around a man who regularly indulged in alcoholic beverages and she wondered if this would become a problem between her and her husband.

"You don’t approve of drinking, do you?"

That he could read her thoughts so clearly came as a shock. "Would it matter if I did?"


"That's what I thought." She hesitated, then couldn’t resist asking, "Do you do it often?"

"Often enough" was his cryptic reply. He moved past her to lift her two suitcases, which he’d set down just inside the front door, and carry them into the lone bedroom.

Curious to see the rest of the apartment, Hannah followed him down the narrow hallway. The bedroom was the only room on the left. The drapes were closed and the double bed was poorly made. Hannah guessed that he didn’t often bother to make it in the mornings.

He placed her suitcases on top of the bed, then sat on the end of the mattress. "You won’t get much sleep on that sofa. It’s old and lumpy. In case you didn’t notice, it’s also short."

"I’ll manage."

"I’m not a monster, you know."

She blushed, remembering the dreams she’d had the past week about him springing horns and giant teeth. "I know."

"You don’t sound all that convinced." He flattened his hands and leaned back, striking a relaxed pose. "If you recall the night we met, you were the one who – "

"Please, I’d rather not talk about that night." She abruptly left the room, walking into the kitchen. He followed her just the way she knew he would.

"In case you’ve conveniently forgotten, you were the one who seduced me."

"I… prefer to think we seduced each other," she returned boldly.

"Naturally, that’s what you’d choose to think."

Her face felt fire-engine red. "Do you mind if we change the subject?"

"Not in the least. Answer me one thing, though. What do you expect will happen if we share the same bed? You don’t want me to touch you, then fine, I wouldn’t dream of it. You have my word of honor."

Hannah ignored the question and the man. Opening the refrigerator, she removed a head of lettuce and a package of half-frozen hamburger. "How does taco salad sound for dinner?"

"Fine, for tomorrow night."

Her gaze flew to his, not understanding him.

"We’ll be dining out this evening."

"We are?"

"Right," he said, grinning at her, his look almost boyish. He seemed to enjoy teasing her, bringing up details that would embarrass her, possibly because he fancied seeing her blush. "Far be it for you to tell Junior how you were forced to cook on our wedding day."

"Junior?" Funny, but she’d never given the sex of their baby any thought. The fact that he had, warmed her heart.

"We’ll call him that for now, unless you’d rather not."

Her eyes met his, and for the first time that day she felt like smiling. "I don’t mind, although I think you should be prepared for a juniorette."

"Boy or girl, it doesn’t matter to me. A baby is a baby."

His matter-of-fact attitude stole a little of her good cheer, but she didn’t let it show.

"It’s ladies’ choice tonight. What’s your pleasure?"

Hannah hesitated. She’d been craving seafood for weeks, but it was expensive and she didn’t want him to think she was extravagant. "Any place would be fine."

"Not with me. It isn’t every day a man gets married. How would you feel about a seafood buffet? It’s a bit of a drive, but there’s a wonderful restaurant on Hood Canal that serves fabulous lobster."

"Lobster?" Hannah’s eyes rounded with pleasure.

"And shrimp. And oysters and scallops."

"Oh, stop," she said with a laugh. "It sounds too good to be true." This man had the most incredible knack of reading her mind.

He reached for her hand, and grinning, he led her out the front door and down the stairs to where his red CRX was parked. The drive took the better part of an hour, but once they arrived and were seated, Hannah realized it had been well worth the effort. The smells were incredible. The scent of warm bread mingled with garlic and freshly fried oysters.

Hannah piled her plate high with steamed clams and hot bread. As soon as she was finished, she returned for a slice of grilled salmon and barbecued shrimp, balancing a cup of thick clam chowder on the edge of her plate. The waitress came by with a glass of milk, which Riley had apparently ordered for her. She was pleased to note that he chose coffee for himself.

"This is wonderful," she exclaimed, after returning to the buffet table for the third time. She took a sampling of finger lobster and some oysters.

Riley was openly staring at her.

"Is something wrong?" she questioned, after adjusting the napkin on her lap.

"I would never have guessed one person could eat so much."

Hannah gazed at her plate. "I’ve made a glutton of myself, haven’t I?" She rebounded quickly and smiled up at him. "You have to remember, I’m eating for two."

"You’re eating as if you’re expecting triplets," he teased, but the way his mouth lifted up at the corners told her he was pleased.

Breaking off a piece of bread, Hannah reached for the butter. "Is there anyone you want to tell about the wedding?" she asked conversationally.

"Who do you mean?" Her question appeared to displease him.

"Family," she said, not understanding his mood.

"I don’t have any family."

"None?" It seemed incomprehensible to Hannah, who was so close to her own.

"My father ran off when I was eight, and my mother… Well, let’s put it this way: she wasn’t much interested in being a mother. I haven’t had any contact with her in years."

Hannah set the bread aside. "I’m sorry, Riley. I had no idea… I didn’t mean to bring up unhappy memories."

"You didn’t. It’s in the past and best forgotten."

"How’d you end up in the Navy?"

He seemed to find her query amusing. "How else? I enlisted."

"I see." It had been a stupid question, and she grew silent afterward.

They left the restaurant a few minutes later. A full stomach and the warm blast of air from the heater lulled her into a light sleep. She was only mildly aware of Riley turning on the car radio, switching stations until he found one that specialized in Easy listening.

Hannah woke when he stopped the engine. It took her a second to realize her head was resting against his shoulder. She straightened abruptly as though she’d been caught doing something wrong. "I’m sorry, I didn’t realize – "

"Don’t be," he said brusquely, as though she’d displeased him far more by offering an apology than using his shoulder as a support. Copyright 2016 - 2024