"I’m going to stand outside," Lindy said, cutting into Rush’s thoughts. The ferry had been underway for about twenty minutes. She stood and buttoned her sweater before heading for the weather deck.

"Sure. Go ahead," Rush answered. He didn’t mind the long ride to and from the shipyard each day. Most of the navy personnel lived in Kitsap County, across Puget Sound from Seattle. But Rush preferred the cultural advantages of living in a big city.

Rush watched as Lindy moved outside the passenger area and stood against the stern, her hands on the rail. The wind whipped the hair from her face and plastered her thin sweater against her soft curves.

Just watching Lindy, Rush felt his heart constrict. When she’d been holding Timmy and Tommy, laughing with them, bouncing the twins on her hips, Rush hadn’t been able to tear his gaze away from her. The earth could have opened up and swallowed him whole and he swore he wouldn’t have been aware of it.

Seeing her with those two babies had been the most powerful, most emotional moment of his life. The sudden overwhelming physical desire for her was like a knife slicing into his skin and scraping against a bone – it had gone that deep. Not once, not even with Cheryl had he thought about children. He enjoyed Jeff’s sons. They were cute little rascals, but seeing Lindy with those babies had created a need so strong in him he doubted that his life would ever be the same again. He wanted a child. Son or daughter, he didn’t care. What did matter was that Lindy be their mother.

Even now, hours later, his eyes couldn’t get enough of her as she stood, braced against the wind. He thought about her belly swollen with his seed, her breasts full and heavy, and the desire that stabbed through him was like hot needles. The sensation curled into a tight ball in the center of his abdomen. He’d longed for her physically before now. The thought of making love to her had dominated his thoughts from the first morning he’d stumbled upon her in the bathroom wearing those sexy see-through baby-doll pajamas.

But the physical desire he was experiencing now far exceeded anything he’d previously known. And it was different in ways he couldn’t even begin to explain.

Unable to stay parted from her a minute longer, Rush left his seat and stepped outside, joining her at the railing.

Wordlessly he slipped his arm over her shoulder. Lindy looked up at him, and her eyes were unusually dark and solemn. The effort it cost her to smile was revealed in the feeble movement of her mouth.


She pressed her index finger across his lips the way she did when she didn’t want there to be questions between them. Although she strove valiantly to prevent them, tears filled her sweet, adoring gaze. Inhaling a wobbly breath, she pressed her forehead against his chest in a vain attempt to compose herself.

Rush wrapped his arms around her, needing to comfort her, feeling strangely lost as to what to say or do, and not completely understanding what was wrong. Her lithe frame molded against him and he reveled in the feel of her softness pressed to him. "Honey, what is it?"

She shook her head. "Susan said…"

"She offend you?" Rush couldn’t imagine it, and yet the anger rose in him instantly.

Lindy swiftly jerked her head from side to side. "No… no, of course not." Her arms were around his middle now, her eyes as dry as she could make them. But her chin quivered with the effort.

She lifted a hand and touched the side of his face, her eyes full of such tenderness that it was all Rush could do to meet her gaze.

"Do you remember the night we met?"

He grinned. "I’m not likely to forget it. I nearly tossed you into the street."

"You were perfectly horrible. So uncompromising… so unreadable."

"So arrogant," he added, regretting every harsh word he’d ever said to her.

The corner of her mouth quirked with a swift smile. "A good dose of healthy arrogance to put me in my place as I recall."

He brushed the hair from her face and nodded, resisting kissing her, although it was difficult.

"I disliked you so much----I actually looked forward to thwarting you. I could hardly wait for you to leave. And now…now I dread it. I wish I could be more like Susan. She’s so brave."

"She’s had far more experience at this than you." Rush searched her face, and under his scrutiny the normally cool, composed features began to quiver with unspoken anguish. He understood then. She was afraid, almost desperately so, and bravely holding it all inside. Pierced to the quick by his own thoughtlessness, he tightened his grip on her and breathed in the sweet flowery fragrance of her silky dark hair.

"Honey, nothing’s going to happen to me."

"But… the gunboats… the missiles."

"I’m coming back to you, Lindy."

She brushed her hands down her cheeks to wipe away the sheen of tears. "You think I’m being silly and emotional, don’t you? This isn’t wartime, and nothing is likely to happen, but I can’t help thinking…"

He took her by the shoulders then, gripping her tightly. "No," he said sternly, his heart filling with a mixture of concern, tenderness and understanding. His mind groped for the words to comfort her. "You’re not overreacting. It is going to be dangerous; I’m not trying to whitewash our assignment. But, Lindy, my sweet Lindy, I’ve never had anything more to live for than I do right this minute."

"You’d better come back to me, Rush Callaghan." She said it as though it were a fierce threat and the consequences would be dire if he didn’t.

Death was the only thing that would keep him from Lindy. Unless… The thought was as crippling to him as the fear of him dying was to Lindy. "Then you’d better be waiting for me."

Her sturdy gaze held his and his hands slid from their grip on her shoulder to stroke her slim, swanlike neck.

"You still don’t trust my love, do you?" she asked, looking sad and disappointed.

"Yes," he answered, nodding his head for emphasis. "I believe you." He wasn’t sure he should – she was so young, so susceptible – but God help him, he needed everything Lindy was so generously offering him.

He took her hand and brushed his lips over her palm and then, because he couldn’t resist and didn’t give a tinker’s damn who was watching, he kissed her mouth.

It was ten by the time the Yakima docked in Seattle. The hike to the apartment was a steep climb, but the night was so gorgeous that Lindy didn’t want to hurry home. Every minute left was precious and wasting even a single one would be a crime.

"Let’s go to the park," she suggested.

Rush looked bewildered for a moment, and asked, "What park?"

"The one here on the waterfront."

"Whatever for?"

Lindy laughed and slapped her hand noisily against her side. "So much for romance."


"Come on, Rush. I’m finished crying. When you sail off into the sunset, I’ll be there wearing a smile. All I ask is for you to humor me a little before you go. If that means taking a short detour to look at the stars from Waterfront Park, I think you should at least be willing."

"Lindy – " he said her name on the tail end of a sigh " – you’ve got to get up and go to work in the morning."

She thought for a moment he might refuse her, but he didn’t. He slipped his arm around her waist and guided her in the direction of the park.

They climbed the stairs to the second level and stood at the railing, overlooking the quiet green water. The lights from Harbor Island and West Seattle flickered like moonbeams dancing in the distance.

Lindy folded her hands over the cold steel rail, Rush behind her, his chin resting on the crown of her head. "Remember the last time we were here?" Lindy asked, thinking of their wild race up the stairs and the joy she’d experienced in having bested him.

"Yes." Rush’s low voice carried a frown.

Lindy twisted around and gazed up at him. "Why do you say it like that?"

"You called me Paul. Remember?"

It took her a second to recall that and all that had happened afterward. "Was that really such a short time ago?" It felt like years instead of just a few weeks.

"Yes." His brow pleated with a grim look.

"No wonder you think I can’t possibly know my own heart," she whispered, a little desperately. "No wonder you’ve never told me how you feel."

His brows lowered even more, shadowing his face as though he’d realized he’d never said it. "I love you, Lindy."

She closed her eyes and let the words rain down over her heart like velvety smooth flower petals, relishing each one, holding them close so she would have them later when she needed them. "I know," she whispered, the tears back in her voice. "I just wanted to hear you say it one time before you left."

Chapter Nine

"Lindy?" Rush dropped his hands from her shoulders. His mind was buzzing, as active as any hive. He felt weak from her touch, weak from the effect of her tears, weak with a desperate need to hold her and make her his own. He’d loved unwisely before, and had given up the dream of ever finding happiness again. And then Lindy, his sweet beautiful Lindy, had slammed into his life, and Rush knew he would never be the same again. His heart felt as if it would burst as he pulled her closer, breathing in the perfumed scent that was hers alone.


Rush couldn’t believe the thoughts that were bouncing around in his mind like Mexican jumping beans. Nothing seemed to keep them still. He loved Lindy. He desired her in a way that went miles beyond the physical. Her courage, her honesty, her spirit – each had shattered every defense he’d managed to erect over the years. From the moment they’d met, she’d played havoc with his heart.

"Rush?" She was staring up at him with wide, inquiring eyes.

"I think we should get married." There. It was out. He watched as the surprise worked its way over her features, touching her eyes first, narrowing them as though she wasn’t sure she’d heard him right. Then the excitement and happiness broke out and glowed from every part of her, followed almost immediately by swift tears that brimmed in her clear, brown eyes. When her teeth bit into her lower Up, Rush wasn’t sure what to think. She tossed her arms around him, and Rush felt the shiver work through her despite the warmth of the June evening.

"Yes, I’ll marry you." Her answer was issued in a small voice that pitched and faltered like a boat bobbing in a storm at sea. "When?"

"We’ll buy the ring tomorrow."

She nodded, her eyes bright and eager. "I’ll arrange to take off early enough so we can get to the courthouse before it closes."

"The courthouse?"

"For the license." She cast him a stern look that convinced him she would make a wonderful mother.

Once he understood the implication, Rush frowned, unsure how to proceed. "But I don’t want to get married now."

The happiness that had been shining from her face faded, then vanished completely to be replaced by a stunned, hurt look.

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