Author: Kim Q
Rating: Mild PG13
Flavor: humor, action, hurt/comfort, touch of angst, bit of romance and a kitty!
Notes: This story was inspired by a 'we never see Chip scruffy' remark on the
Seaview yahoo list and has been given huge help and encouragement by my beta
Fidelma, the MegaCon hens and the Friday/Sunday night chat ladies. The bathrobe
is Lin's fault! ;) Thanks also to my hubby for helping me get inside Chip's head
and to Helen for her invaluable help with Kaia's Navy career path. All mistakes
are mine and mine alone. Set in October of 1978. First posted on the
SubPen writers list.
Dedication: to my beloved feline companion of thirteen years, Samson
McKitty, Esq. a.k.a. Samuel Horatio Hiss a.k.a. Bat-cat. May the catnip grow
thick across the Rainbow Bridge, my dear friend.
A small dark form huddled anxiously on a slippery outcropping in the middle of a
swift flowing river, soaked fur plastered tightly to a thin body. Where was he?
The last thing he remembered was scratching his way out of a rough bag only to
end up in the middle of nothing but nasty water! He’d paddled frantically for
solid ground and had managed to haul himself up on to a slimy rock, looking
around in vain for any sign of his brothers and sisters. Why had the Big Smelly
male tossed them all into the Wetness? He missed the Small Nice female who had
cried as he and his littermates were carried away. She was kind and warm and
knew how to scratch just the right spot under his chin. The exhausted creature
mewed pitifully, but the only response was a warning growl from the far bank
that caused the little one to shiver with terror. What was he going to do now?
One warm, clear Friday in late October, a deep blue Corvette convertible cruised
smoothly along Cabrillo Highway, winding though the rambling hills of the Santa
Ynez Mountains of Southern California. The wind of its passage ruffled the pale
blond hair of the car's driver, Lt. Commander Charles Phillip "Chip" Morton,
USNR, XO of the mighty submarine Seaview
. Chip was in a cheerful frame of mind
as he expertly maneuvered his perfectly tuned machine towards the turn off for
Highway 101 and the way home to Santa Barbara.
The meeting at Vandenberg AFB, though it had dragged on for hours, had been
quite successful. Most of the ruffled feathers of the Air Force's upper echelon
had been carefully smoothed and Riley and Sharkey were off the hook for their
little misadventure in the Flying Sub... at least with the Zoomies*. Chip
grinned wolfishly. Lee hadn't been nearly as easy to placate.
Reaching down, Chip switched the radio to his favorite classical music station
and pushed all thoughts of Seaview
and her crew to the furthest recesses of his
mind. He settled in to enjoy the scenic drive through Gaviota State Park as the
sun began to paint the sky with the rich, vibrant colors of a California sunset.
His thoughts turned to eager anticipation of a rare three day weekend liberty.
To make it even sweeter, Kaia had invited him over for dinner this evening.
Something about their three month anniversary as a couple?
Shaking his head, he chuckled indulgently. Just like a woman to keep track of
such things! Growing up with three sisters, he had thought he understood the
female of the species better than most men, but there were still so many
unexplained mysteries. Like why every woman he had dated loved it when he wore
his black leather flight jacket. Chip still couldn't figure that one out. But
far be it for him to complain when the results were quite agreeable.
A dark brooding symphony began to pour out of the speakers. Not at all suitable
for his current mood. Rummaging with one hand through his box of 8 tracks, he
pulled out a collection of swing classics and inserted it into the player. The
exuberant beat had him tapping his fingers on the steering wheel and humming
along as he smoothly navigated the twisting road. Tonight would be a major
milestone in his relationship with Kaia as it was the first time he had been
invited to her home for a romantic dinner-for-two.
Oh sure, he had helped her move into her new residence on N.I.M.R. property back
when she'd first been hired by Nelson but he wasn't the only one. Chip scowled
at the memory. There had been no shortage of volunteers wanting to help the
lovely engineer move in. Not that she had ever treated anyone at the Institute
with more than sisterly friendship or polite professionalism. In fact, he'd been
worried that she might never see him as anything other than a good friend or
colleague. But he had been quietly persistent and here he was, about to
celebrate three months of...
The wheel of his Corvette jerked sharply to one side. The telltale vibration
from a blown tire caused him to slow down and pull off to the side of the
highway. Stepping out of the car to survey the damage, Chip muttered several
dire imprecations under his breath. This was going to make him late. Hopefully
he could explain himself before Kaia killed him for worrying her. If only he’d
listened to Lee and allowed the motor pool to install one of Nelson's new car
phones into his precious baby. Ah well, it could be worse. It could be raining…
As if on cue, the clouds darkened and a spattering of drops began to fall. With
a curse that would have made even Sharkey blush, Chip hurried to put up the
convertible's top and grab his cover off the passenger seat. Pulling his service
pistol out of the glove compartment, he checked the magazine and tucked the
weapon into his belt for safety. He and Lee had hiked upper Gaviota Park many
times and knew that it was prime mountain lion country. Best to be prepared as
the light rain wouldn't bother a hungry feline. He rummaged in the trunk for a
flashlight as the brilliant sunset was quickly fading into a somber grey dusk.
With one last particularly colorful metaphor aimed at the annoying
precipitation, he dug out the jack and spare and set to work.
It didn't take long before the spare was in place, the tools were put away and
he was ready to hit the road. While he was somewhat damp due to the rain,
despite the protection of his flight jacket and cover, the only other casualty
to his clothing was one small smudge on his pants. Grinning, Chip thought how
Lee would tease him about the infinitesimal mark ruining his reputation for
surviving the worst catastrophes with an immaculate uniform. It wasn't
completely true, of course, as that whole Palau incident* proved quite clearly,
but his reputation for fastidiousness had long ago been made part of Seaview
lore by the crew. Gleefully embellished by the skipper, of course.
A menacing growl caused Chip to spin around, his pistol appearing as if by magic
in his hand. His eyes widened as he saw the shadowy form of a huge mountain lion
crouched on the far bank of Gaviota Creek. As the river wasn't very wide at this
spot, the cougar was a very real threat. However, it wasn't focused on him, but
on a small dark blotch clinging precariously to a rock in the middle of the
water. To his shock, the tiny creature appeared to be a very young kitten. The
tattered remnants of a burlap sack hanging off a branch downstream indicated
that some cruel bastard had attempted to consign a litter of kittens to a watery
grave. He moved slowly towards the river, mentally kicking himself for being
such a softy, but he just couldn't let the poor little survivor become a
mountain lion snack. He prayed that Kaia would understand the extra delay.
As the cougar tensed its muscles, ready to pounce, Chip aimed his flashlight and
pistol carefully then squeezed off a shot. Hitting the ground in front of the
creature, precisely as planned, the impact of the bullet and the crack of the
pistol caused the mountain lion to rapidly reconsider its dinner plans.
Exhaling in relief, Chip engaged the safety, tucked his pistol into an inner
pocket of his jacket and headed to the edge of the river. He was glad that the
cougar had decided to leave as he hated the thought of killing such a
magnificent animal. Shining his flashlight around the area, he spotted a fallen
branch that should serve nicely as a bridge for the kitten to cross over to
safety. He carefully extended the branch across the water, resting one end of it
on the rock where the kitten watched his every move. "Here, kitty, kitty," he
called encouragingly. "Come on. I won't hurt you." Exasperated blue eyes met
defiant green as the kitten backed away as far as the rock allowed and hissed at
his would be rescuer.
Chip stretched the branch out further, teetering precariously on the edge of the
muddy bank. His foot slipped and he tumbled into the cold, dark water.
Instinctively clinging to the flashlight, he let go of the branch which promptly
repaid the favor by bouncing off of his head. Scrabbling to regain his
equilibrium and his footing, he breathed a sigh of relief as he discovered that
the water at this spot only came up to his chest. But it was so cold! While he
could ignore the pain in his head from the vindictive branch, the chill seeping
into his bones would mean hypothermia and an overnight stay in the hated
N.I.M.R. Med Bay if he didn’t grab the kitten quickly. He groaned at the
thought. If Jamie didn't kill him, Kaia certainly would. Chip slowly splashed
his way over to the rock where he could swear the kitten was laughing at him.
"Come on, kitty. Last chance for a ride off this blasted rock."
The tiny black kitten, shaking with fright, stared at the Huge Scary cat. A
sudden crack like lightning caused him to jump straight up and spin around. To
his surprise, a human was on the bank of the river, with bright light coming out
of one hand. Huge Scary ran away and the human began to make strange sounds,
waving a large stick at him in a very threatening manner! Puffing himself up as
best he could - especially considering that his fur was all wet - he hissed at
the silly human. His threat must have worked as the human promptly fell into the
icky Wetness, though it still tried to make it to his rock. As the Big Wet human
came closer, the kitten could see that it did have a kind face that reminded him
somehow of the Small Nice human. A sudden rustling in the bushes across the
river reminded him that Huge Scary could still be lurking nearby and that
perhaps Big Wet was not quite so bad after all. Gathering the last of his
strength, the little kitten jumped.
Chip scrambled to catch a soggy projectile as the kitten evidently decided that
he was the lesser of evils. Cradling the soaked creature in one arm, he slowly
made his way back to the edge of the river. Eyeing the muddy bank with a
jaundiced eye, he sighed yet again. There was absolutely no way he was going to
be able to climb up without both hands. Bracing himself, he shoved the little
wet furball inside his jacket and shirt and tucked the flashlight into his belt.
Ignoring both the pain of the kitten's tiny sharp claws gouging his chest and
the trickle of blood that continued to drip down the side of his head, he grimly
focused on the unpleasant task of climbing back up to the road.
Inch by agonizing inch, Chip hauled himself up through the smelly muck and mire
to stand shivering beside his car. If only the rain had been strong enough to
wash off the mud… He scraped off as much of the excess sludge as possible then
pulled out his flashlight. There was no way he was going to sit his squishy
mud-coated self inside his pristine Corvette without a little protection. He was
pretty certain he'd seen an old beach towel in the trunk when he pulled out the
spare. Rummaging around for the towel, he was pleased to notice that the rain
had finally let up and the kitten had stopped clawing his chest. Before he could
breathe a sigh of relief, a brisk wind began to pick up, pushing the torrent of
sand that tumbled out of the beach towel directly into the muddy mess that was
Manfully resisting the temptation to bang his head repeatedly on his car, Chip
carefully covered the driver's seat with the sandy towel and slowly eased his
tired and abused body into the seat. He fastened the seat belt then reached a
hand in to check the now quiet kitten. Satisfied that it would be still for now,
he sat for a long moment, pondering his options. He was now more than two and a
half hours late for his dinner date and it would take him at least another half
an hour to get to Kaia's. His head hurt and his recently healed ribs* were NOT
happy at the bumping they'd received. He was cold and wet and starving and muddy
and had no change of clothes and no way to tell Kaia what had happened. Perhaps
he should just drive home and call her from there? He shook his head. She'd sic
Jamie on him, worried that he had minimized his injuries then she'd kill him
A wiggling inside his shirt reminded him about his tiny passenger. Blue eyes
narrowed in thought. Didn't Kaia once say that she loved cats? The kitten might
very well make a good peace offering. He could apologize to her in person, hand
over the kitten and then head home to lick his wounds. His shoulders slumped
along with his mood as he reached forward to start the car. Not exactly the nice
intimate evening he'd been anticipating!
The miles flew by quickly as Chip sped towards N.I.M.R. and the site of his
impending doom. He was fortunate that his excessive speed didn't attract any
attention. Considering the way the rest of this evening had gone, it was a minor
miracle. Pausing at the main gate, his blistering Glare of Death insured that
the guard asked no questions though he was sure he'd heard muffled snickering as
he went past. He'd deal with that later.
As he drove up the winding road leading to the housing reserved for senior
Institute personnel, his anxiety grew. While Kaia was usually an easy going
person, there was a quiet fire underneath that could erupt given sufficient
provocation. Like her boyfriend being over three hours late for their date,
Chip pulled up in front of one in a line of lovely homes perched on a scenic
bluff overlooking the ocean. Shutting off the motor, he paused for a moment to
gather his courage. He hauled himself and the kitten out of the car and stood
shivering in the renewed rain. Stepping up to the door, he took a deep breath
Lt. Commander Kaimana "Kaia" Winters, USNR, head of N.I.M.R.’s Department of
Computer Systems & Research, stared sightlessly into the moonless night. Slender
fingers tapped anxiously on the railing of her deck as a cool evening breeze
ruffled her long dark hair. The sound of the rushing waves hitting on the beach
below was usually soothing to one who had spent her life in service to the sea.
But not tonight.
As the rain once again began to fall, she spun on her heel and stalked back
inside. Pausing in the dining room, she glared at the table. Slim, elegant
candles, arranged to set just the proper romantic mood, had long since melted
into waxy blobs. Food, painstakingly prepared to tempt and tease a most
formidable appetite, had been put away untouched. Soft music on the stereo,
chosen for just the right ambiance, now repeated in an endless and irritating
He was probably just running late at Vandenberg, she told herself. He’d call
anytime to say he was leaving the base. Nothing to worry about. After all, what
kind of trouble could he get into on a short simple drive? She snorted and shook
her head. Yeah, right, like any senior Seaview
officer could ever go anywhere
without trouble sniffing closely behind, waiting for the perfect moment to
Kaia wandered towards her living room in a last futile attempt to distract
herself… tweaking one of the bright pillows that graced the comfortable couch…
straightening an infinitesimally crooked painting of lush tropical flowers...
She stopped at a small table at the end of the couch, staring down at the
too-silent phone. Perhaps she should call the gate and see if they'd seen him?
No, no. Chip was a big boy. He didn't need her checking up on him. Besides, it
would generate some serious scuttlebutt. Though they weren't really trying to
hide their relationship - after all, they were consenting adults of equal rank
and not in the same chain of command at N.I.M.R. - both of them cherished their
She sighed deeply, crossing the room to gaze into the dancing fire that
flickered in the fireplace. Countless questions cascaded through her anxious
mind. What if he'd had an accident? What if he was unconscious at the side of
some deserted road? What if he was bleeding to death in a ditch and needed help?
What if he'd been kidnapped? What if…?
Mercilessly stomping on her overactive imagination, Kaia rested her now aching
head on the cool stone of the fireplace mantle, struggling to push her fears
back into the dark, shadowy corners of her heart. But it was hard. So very, very
hard. She was all too familiar with unexpected tragedy.
Lifting her head, she reached out a hand and lightly touched one of the many
photos that had a place of honor on the mantle. A dashing dark-haired,
green-eyed naval officer with a crooked smile posed with a lovely blue-eyed
blonde and two grinning teenagers. She smiled wistfully at the happy moment,
forever frozen in time. The photo had been taken on her and her twin brother's
sixteenth birthdays, just days before their father left on a UDT* mission. Only
a couple weeks later, right before Christmas, she first heard the dreaded words
that would shatter her world and forever taint what should be a season of
We regret to inform you...
Her sad gaze turned towards yet another photograph, that of a young Navy
lieutenant with light brown hair and a cocky smirk, golden wings glittering
proudly on his chest. It had been a whirlwind romance; sweeping them into future
plans with the supersonic speed of Tom's F4 Phantom II. The future seemed as
endless as the blue skies above despite the uncertainly of war. He had proposed
right before leaving on deployment overseas. But Tom had been shot down and
captured, dying in a squalid POW camp a year later. Her heart had again been
torn to pieces.
We regret to inform you...
With her dreams of a loving husband and family lying in tatters, she coped by
throwing herself into her naval career. She completed a doctorate in computer
engineering, achieved qualification as a nuclear sub engineer and eventually
became XO of a submarine dry dock. She had thought that she had finally come to
terms with the tragedies in her past and was facing the future with cautious
optimism. But fate would once again intervene. Blinking back tears, she ran a
gentle finger along the lines of an architect's model of Seaview
, nestled among
the photos on the mantle. It was an elegant tribute to her mother’s greatest
We regret to inform you…
That time the messenger had been Admiral Nelson himself, his deep sapphire eyes
shimmering with sadness as he told of betrayal aboard Seaview
and her mother's
brutal murder.* One year later, he would offer her, Ava Winters' daughter, a
position here at N.I.M.R. Despite the sad associations, the job was a dream come
true, the ultimate fulfillment of her professional goals as a computer engineer.
On the personal side, she had very carefully built up the walls around her
heart, preferring a peaceful, if occasionally lonely, existence rather than run
the risk of yet another terrible loss. She was content. Or so she'd thought.
Pushing away from the mantle, she turned towards the warm oak bookshelves that
flanked the marble fireplace. Picking up a rare seashell that Chip had given
her, she traced the lacy edges with a finger and smiled wryly. The last thing
she had expected was a certain handsome blue-eyed blond charming his way past
her defenses, upsetting her nice safe little world.
He'd been so very patient and gallant. A razor sharp brain tucked behind a calm
façade enlivened by a totally wicked sense of humor all wrapped in a stunningly
attractive physical package. Add in the fact that he was loyal and honorable to
a fault and her poor heart didn't have a chance.
Kaia set down the shell and moved away from the shelves, her blue gaze troubled.
She just wasn’t sure she could take having her heart broken again if something
happened to Chip. Rubbing her hands briskly up and down her arms, she shivered.
After nine years as an officer in the Navy, she was strong and self-sufficient,
comfortable with difficult decisions and the challenges of leading men. But
somehow... somehow she didn't feel very strong right now.
Plopping down on the couch, she leaned forward, resting her chin in her hands.
Her long hair fell about her face as she frowned. It was bad enough when she’d
heard about his misadventure on Palau with the Flying Sub, but at least then she
had the decoding and analysis of Dr. Salii’s data to distract her from her
anxious thoughts. But now, with nothing to divert her attention from her fears,
she wasn't sure she could handle it. And that wasn't really fair to Chip. He
deserved someone who wouldn't fall apart every time he had to leave. But she
could never, ever ask him to give up the sea for her. That would be like asking
him to give up his soul, his very essence. No, she would never do that.
Leaning back to rest her throbbing head on the soft pillows of the couch, she
stared pensively at the ceiling. Perhaps she should break it off now, before
things went any further, spare both of them further heartache but… she wasn't
sure she was strong enough to rebuild her walls. Despite their short time
together, Chip had burrowed himself deeply into her heart and soul…but still…
Shaking her head, she ruthlessly suppressed her inner confusion and glared at
the phone. If Chip didn't show up by twenty two hundred, she'd call the main
gate...scuttlebutt be damned! A sharp knocking at the door caused her to leap
from the couch and rush over to the entrance foyer. Her heart caught in her
throat as she gathered up her courage and opened the door.
As the door opened, Chip saw a familiar slender silhouette haloed by the warm,
welcoming light streaming from inside. A gasp of dismay was quickly followed by,
"What on earth happened to you?"
Chip took a deep breath. "I'm sorry I’m so late, but I had some trouble with my
“Well, don't just stand out there in the rain, come inside!” A small hand
reached out to tug firmly on his arm.
“No, no! I’m a mess," he replied, trying to keep his teeth from chattering as
the cold rain intensified. "I’ll just head on home. Sorry to have ruined
everything but perhaps we can get together tomorrow and…”
The soft, lyrical voice he loved turned steely. “You’re not going anywhere,
Mister! Get in here now!” Before he quite realized what had happened, Chip found
himself inside the foyer, dripping mud and water onto the tile floor as Kaia
closed and locked his only escape route. “Auē! * You are such a mess! Stay here
while I get some towels. I need to see how badly you're hurt…”
"I’m fine, Kaia. Nothing a little hot water won't fix. I'll just head on home
Twin ice blue lasers stopped him cold. “Chip, if you leave now, I’ll call Doctor
Jamieson and let HIM give you a proper examination.”
“That’s blackmail!” he protested weakly.
“Blackmail is such a dirty word,” she purred, a hint of amusement breaking
through the concern shimmering in her crystal blue eyes.
He was doomed.
Steel crept back into her voice. “Now stay put!” A bemused Chip watched Kaia's
graceful form disappear down the hallway. A squirming inside his flight jacket
reminded him of how he got into this mess in the first place. Wincing at the
renewed pain caused by sharp little claws, he took off his muddy jacket and
undid a few buttons of his soaked khaki shirt. His passenger poked out a dark
head and mewed pitifully. "It's all your fault, you little stinker," Chip
muttered as he gently scratched behind the kitten's damp ears.
"Here. These will keep you warm until you can get cleaned up." Kaia returned
with an extra large fluffy towel in each hand. "You'll have to use the shower in
the master bathroom because..." She stopped short, her eyes widening in
surprise. “You have a kitten in your shirt!" Chip couldn't help chuckling at the
look on her lovely face. "Why do you have a kitten in your shirt?"
"Well, after fixing a flat on my car I saw this kitten on a rock in the middle
of Gaviota Creek and..."
"Let me guess," Kaia interrupted dryly, raising one hand to stop his
explanation. "You went in to rescue the kitten and that's why you're soaking
wet, covered with mud and three hours late for dinner, right?"
Chip squirmed a bit under her piercing gaze, shuddering as a substantial gobbet
of mud slithered from his hair down his neck. "Um...yes. That's about it." He
thought it best not to mention the mountain lion. "I won't be able to keep a
kitten since I'm away so much, but I know you like cats so I was wondering if…"
Kaia shot him an exasperated glare that stopped him mid-babble. "Of course, I'll
keep the kitten, Chip. Just hand it to me and get out of those wet things. You
can drop them right there and I'll take care of them while you shower. After
you're cleaned up, I can check the extent of the damage and see whether or not
Dr. Jamieson needs to make a house call."
"You want me to strip? Right here?" Chip asked with some shock as a slight flush
crept up his neck. While he had entertained certain...hopes...for their romantic
evening together, that wasn't exactly what he had in mind!
"I don't want you tracking mud across my new carpeting," she replied with a hint
of irritation. "Give me the kitten. I'll dry it and find it something to eat
while you strip and hop into the shower." A flicker of mischief flared briefly
in her ice blue eyes. "I'll even promise not to peek if it will make you feel
His finely honed survival instincts caused him to avoid the flirtatious retort
that was at the tip of his tongue and simply nod wordlessly as he handed over
the kitten. Kaia carefully wrapped the little foundling in one of the soft
towels and headed towards the kitchen, cooing a constant litany of soft
As Chip stood there in an ever-widening puddle of watery goo, a tiny illogical
part of him felt jealous of the pampering the little creature was receiving.
Here he had been hoping for a wonderfully romantic and possibly intimate evening
and the wet fuzz ball of a kitten was getting all the cuddling... Shaking his
head, he sternly told that resentful part to shut up. He certainly wasn't a very
attractive sight all covered in mud. It was a wonder Kaia hadn't just tossed him
back out into the rain. With a resigned sigh, he began to shed his cold wet
clothes. Wincing, he carefully eased his shirt off his bruised body and dropped
it beside his jacket. The large fluffy towel felt soft and warm as he wrapped it
around his chilled shoulders. Digging his wallet out of his pants pocket, he
grimaced at its waterlogged condition and laid it on the small table in the
foyer next to his keys. Maybe he could borrow Kaia's hair dryer to try and
rescue the contents...
It was a relief to remove his squishy socks and soggy shoes, despite the
coolness of the foyer's tile floor on his bare feet. There were few things Chip
hated more than the feeling of sloshing around in soaked shoes. Unfortunately,
his calling as a submariner caused it to occur all too frequently. His belt came
free pretty easily, but his pants were another story. Somehow, despite having
them professionally tailored, they always seemed to fit rather tightly across
his six. When he complained, the seamstresses just giggled and assured him that
the next pair would fit better. At the moment, his wet pants clung with great
determination to his skin, requiring serious effort to peel them off. But
eventually, with much undignified wiggling, he managed to add them to the
growing pile of muddy clothes.
Shivering in his skivvies, he moved the large towel from his shoulders to his
waist. With one cautious eye fixed on the kitchen doorway, he reached under the
towel to slip off his briefs and quickly escaped to the relative safety of the
Kaia walked towards the kitchen, gently rubbing the tiny kitten dry as best she
could with the soft towel. She refused to let her mind dwell on the fact that
there was an extremely handsome man stripping down to his skin in her foyer.
Sure, she had been hoping that their nice romantic evening might result in a
certain amount of undress, but not because of him falling in a blasted river!
Chip was almost as much a trouble magnet as his skipper.
Though she had to admit - very quietly in the privacy of her own mind - the
dratted man did look incredibly sexy in such a scruffy state. Rumpled hair, torn
muddy clothes, a scrape and smudges of dirt on his handsome face… Such a
contrast to his usually spotless condition. And the blush and hint of a
vulnerable look in those gorgeous blue eyes when she told him to strip? Heck, it
had taken all her self control - and a stern mental reminder that he was
probably bruised and battered beneath all the mud - to not pounce on the poor
She shook her head and sighed. Just when she'd started to regret caring too
much, even considering calling things off, he pulled something so sweet and
noble like risking life and limb for the sake of a helpless kitten. An indulgent
smile crossed her face. It was his kind heart - hidden so well behind a mask of
XO efficiency - that had enabled him to sneak past her stalwart defenses in the
first place. Fortunately this time he'd survived his impulsive actions more or
less in one piece and the tight bands of fear that had encircled her heart could
finally loosen. Her smile quickly fled. Until the next time.
Resolutely pushing her doubts aside, she set the kitten and towel down on the
kitchen floor. Opening a can of tuna, she scooped some out onto a plate. Tiny
pinpricks of pain alerted her to the presence of a famished feline scrabbling
its way up her black palazzo pants. It dove into the gushy mass of seafood head
first, its entire body vibrating with the force of its purr. Kaia picked up the
plate and attached kitten, placing both on the floor where the feast was quickly
As fur was methodically smoothed into proper place by a raspy tongue, the
satiated little fluff ball was revealed as an adorable pure black male, about
eight weeks old, with huge green eyes. "I think I'll call you Kolohe for all the
mischief you've caused poor Chip," she said, scratching the kitten under his
chin. "Speaking of Chip, I'd better rinse out his clothes. I'll put them in the
wash after he finishes his shower. They may not be salvageable enough for duty,
but they'll get him home. I'll also see if I can come up with a makeshift litter
box to hold you until I can get to the store." She waved a finger at him. "You
stay out of trouble." Kolohe responded with a deceptively innocent look and a
loud purr before wandering off to explore his new home.
Once the mess in the foyer had been cleaned up and Chip’s clothes were soaking
in the small sink in the laundry, Kaia rummaged through the storage boxes tucked
into the closet of her guest bedroom. Here it was, six months after she'd joined
N.I.M.R. and she still hadn't quite finished unpacking... With a grunt of
satisfaction she pulled out the huge bathrobe her brother had given her. Chip
would hate it, but it was the only thing she had that might fit those
wonderfully broad shoulders. He did have such nice shoulders. And chest. And...
Sternly telling her overly enthusiastic hormones to behave, she draped the robe
over her arm, grabbed an extra safety razor and toothbrush from the hall bath
then headed for the master bedroom.
Cascading water, hot as he could stand it, beat down upon Chip's sore, battered
body, washing away the worst of the mud. Tendrils of steam curled lazily around
his chest and shoulders and fogged the frosted glass of the shower door as the
luxurious heat slowly drove the last of the chill from his bones and relaxed his
aching muscles. As he searched amid a plethora of perfumed products for a
shampoo that wouldn't make him smell like a girl, he shuddered. The cacophony of
scents served as an unpleasant reminder of growing up sharing a bathroom with
three sisters. At least Kaia's stuff was mostly of a tropical fruity or exotic
spicy smelling variety rather than the stinky kind his sisters preferred. Maybe
because she was born and raised in Hawaii...?
Gratefully stumbling across a relatively inoffensive coconut scented shampoo,
Chip lathered up his hair - being extra careful around one particularly tender
spot on his head - and allowed his mind to wander. As it often did these days,
it turned towards the lovely lady in the other room. A keen, sharp mind that
loved all things technical as much as he did...a kind, compassionate heart that
was a faultless reflection of her outer beauty... He'd been drawn to her like a
moth to a flame.
Chip reached for a bar of Ivory and scoured each and every inch of his tall,
lean frame, relishing the clean slick feel of the slippery soap on his skin
after his filthy mud bath. As the last remnants of muck and blood that had
coated his body spiraled sluggishly down the drain in a swirl of brown and red,
his thoughts again traveled back to the vision of loveliness that had greeted
him at the door, hauling him out of the chilling rain.
A silky turquoise halter top exposed a generous amount of soft, touchable honey
gold skin, while loose flowing black pants swirled sensuously around long slim
legs...quite a change from her usual sober work khakis. But the most attractive
thing about Kaia was that she seemed to have absolutely no clue how pretty she
actually was. She thought of herself as scrawny, but Chip saw a trim, athletic
surfer's body that had subtle but very nice curves in all the right places, with
an innate grace that was mesmerizing. She thought of herself as funny-looking,
but he saw an exotically beautiful face that reflected her part Native Hawaiian
heritage... thick, dark brown hair that tumbled down past her shoulders when she
was off duty... huge almond shaped eyes - though they were of the same stunning
shade of ice blue as her mother's...high cheekbones...full luscious lips that
just begged to be kissed...
"There's a razor, toothbrush and robe for you here on the counter, Chip."
He jumped as the sound of her voice outside the shower interrupted his very
stimulating reverie. "Thanks." Before he could stop himself, his awakened libido
took over his tongue. "You know, there's room for two in here." As the last word
left his traitorous lips, he mentally kicked himself. Way to scare her off,
To his great relief - and slight disappointment - Kaia just laughed, "You must
have hit your head harder than you thought."
"Who said I hit my head?"
"The blood dripping down one side of your face said so," she replied dryly.
"Oh." Damn. She'd be sure to call Jamie now!
As if she could read his mind she said, "Somehow I think we need to check out
the extent of your injuries before we make any..." He could hear the smile in
her voice as she paused. "...plans." Luckily she couldn't see his blush through
the frosted glass shower door. "I'll go get the first aid kit while you finish
up." With that, he heard the door shut.
Shaking his head at his stupidity, Chip turned the water to cold for a long
moment then shut it off and stepped out of the shower. Grabbing a fresh towel
from the pile Kaia had left for him, he scrubbed himself dry, taking glum note
of all the various bumps and bruises he'd managed to collect during his river
adventure. He wiped the fog off the mirror then secured the towel around his
waist. Peering critically at his reflection, he groaned in dismay. Not only was
his upper body crisscrossed with bruises from his tumble into the river and
scratches from the kitten, he also had a doozy of a scrape on his left cheek.
Looking down at the pink-handled ladies' razor Kaia had left for him, he made a
command decision. He'd already blown his 'immaculate' reputation to smithereens
so he'd put up with a little stubble rather than torture his poor face any
further. As he brushed his teeth, he thought gloomily that the capricious gods
of fate were determined to completely spoil any possible romantic plans he might
have had for the evening.
Unfortunately, it appeared that the fates were not yet finished with him. As he
unfolded the robe left on the counter, his eyes widened in horror. "Kaia!"
As she checked the contents of the first aid kit, Kaia let her mind drift back
to the inspiring glance she'd gotten of Chip in the shower as she delivered him
the razor and robe. Though the frosted glass and clouds of steam provided
discreet cover, oh, the tantalizing silhouette of broad shoulders and slim hips
Her pleasant musings were rudely interrupted by her name being bellowed from the
master bathroom. Chip must have discovered the robe. She put on her best poker
face as he marched out wrapped in a garish yellow and blue oversized terrycloth
bathrobe that hung down to just above his knees, exposing strong, toned legs to
Kaia's appreciative stare. The huge robe positively screamed "tacky Hawaiian
tourist" though the bright blue flowers were a good match for those gorgeous
"Where in blazes did you get this...this...thing?"
"My brother gave that to me as a gag gift last Christmas," she answered with
amusement. It was amazing how a grown man could sound so much like a grumpy
little kid. "It was the only thing I had that might fit you while your clothes
are being cleaned." Kaia wasn’t about to admit that she’d almost hoped she
couldn’t find the robe. Patting the back of one of the chairs around the dining
room table, she said, "Come sit. I want a closer look at that wound on your
She suppressed a chuckle at Chip’s extremely careful adjustment of the robe for
maximum coverage before plopping himself down in the chair. "I'll never tease
Lee about his red plaid robe again," he grumbled.
"You should have seen the squid boxers I got my brother," Kaia replied with a
wicked grin. Leaning over him, she tilted his head forward and gently probed the
mass of disheveled blond hair. "Ah, you have a nasty bump and scrape, but it's
not bleeding anymore." She carefully placed cloth-wrapped ice on the lump. "Hold
this. It will help bring down the swelling. You must have quite a headache. Do
you feel any dizziness?"
"No. I feel fine... now."
He almost seemed to purr as she continued to run her hand through his still damp
hair. It felt so silky soft and the light scent of coconut was most appealing…
As if reading her thoughts, Chip reached up and put his free hand on her waist,
gently pulling her closer. The hand took advantage of the bare skin exposed by
her halter top, wandering across her back in a most distracting manner. A
delightful shiver ran down her spine as his long fingers searched for the lines
and swirl of the small sea turtle tattoo on her left shoulder blade.* It had
been expertly done many years ago – in honor of her father - so it really
couldn't be 'felt' but that didn't stop Chip from trying or stop her from
enjoying the attention of his nimble fingers.
Taking a deep breath she tried desperately to keep on task. "Having any
difficulty focusing your eyes?"
"Not when I'm looking at you," he said with a flash of that irresistible smile.
"You brat," she swatted playfully at his arm. "You know what I mean. Let me
check your eyes to make sure you didn't give yourself a concussion."
"As you wish, my lady." Chip met her inspection with the full force of his
intense gaze. Losing herself in twin pools of sparkling blue, she did note that
there was nothing at all wrong with his eyes. Not a blessed thing…
After they came up for air, Kaia somehow managed to remember that she still had
more Morton to check. Reluctantly she eased out of his strong arms, studiously
ignoring the beseeching look in those big blue eyes. Taking a deep breath to try
and settle her thoroughly awakened hormones, she said firmly, "Chip, put that
ice back on your head and let me take a look at that scrape on your face. And
the cat scratches on your chest need antibiotic ointment, not to mention any
other cuts or scrapes you picked up.”
"They're no big deal, Kaia. No need to fuss..." he groused, giving the
cloth-wrapped ice a brief glare before obediently returning it to his head.
"As you've begun to ooze blood, I humbly beg to differ." She placed a tiny kiss
on the end of his nose and smiled sweetly. "Now, would you like Dr. Jamieson to
tend to your wounds or..." she dropped her voice to a sultry whisper and wiggled
her eyebrows at him "...me? Your choice, handsome."
"Well... when you put it that way…" The megawatt smile returned, dimmed only
slightly by the judicious application of peroxide to the scrape on his face. She
studiously ignored the pale golden stubble along the strong curve of his jaw,
though her traitorous hormones were quick to notice the appealing roguish look
it gave him.
Steeling herself mentally, Kaia grabbed a tube of antibiotic ointment and opened
the top of the bathrobe to expose Chip's chest. This next part would be very
difficult. The possibility of distraction was extremely high. From the slight
smirk on his face and the way his hand continued to roam so deliciously across
her back, it was clear that the scoundrel realized the precarious nature of her
objectivity and was determined to test her resolve.
Slowly and very carefully, she slathered the goop over the many shallow kitten
scratches decorating his well-defined chest. It was such a nice chest. Not
bulky, but broad and deep with just the right amount of taut muscles under
smooth, fair skin and a light dusting of pale blond hair. As Kaia allowed her
hands to wander further inside the robe - just to make sure she didn't miss a
scratch, of course - Chip's breathing quickened. A clear indication that Mr.
Stoic himself was getting rather distracted. She made careful note of a couple
of un-bruised places on his ribs that seemed from Chip's reactions to be a touch
ticklish as the data could come in handy later.
As her fingertips encountered the rough ridge of a recent scar across his left
ribs - a souvenir of his little adventure in Palau - Kaia's romantic mood
evaporated like fog meeting sunlight. Before Chip could ask why her hands had
stopped moving, a loud grumble from the depths of his stomach gave her the
perfect excuse to escape. "I...I'd better go heat up some food for you." She
fled to the kitchen, ignoring the puzzled look on Chip's face.
A confused Chip looked towards the kitchen where Kaia had disappeared. Things
had been going so well. One moment she was kissing him and caressing his chest
and the next...zoom! What could have caused her to jump like that? It couldn't
be just his growling stomach... could it?
Perhaps she was still mad at him for being so late? He considered the
possibility for only a brief moment before dismissing it. Kaia was usually
reasonable about such things once she knew the details of what had happened. As
a Navy brat as well as an officer, she understood the demands of duty and how
quickly the best laid plans could fall apart due to unforeseen circumstances.
Not like his last girlfriend. A frown furrowed his brow as he adjusted the ice
pack on his head. Debbie had been clingy and needy, constantly whining about
being left alone while he was away on Seaview
then demanding every moment of his
attention while he was in port. Luckily - before he'd gotten in too deep - Lee
had helped him realize that Debbie was nothing more than a gold-digger, only
interested in Chip for his status as XO of the famous Seaview
and his very
generous salary from N.I.M.R. Hell, it turned out she'd been more interested in
his Corvette than him.
Chip's scowl softened into a warm smile. Not like Kaia. Raised by a gifted naval
architect mother* who rejected her own aristocratic upbringing to marry an
unpretentious Hawaiian naval officer, Kaia was dismissive of the typical
trappings of status. While she could pull off an elegant, cultured look with
style and grace, she much preferred the casual, laid back lifestyle of her
native Hawaii. Her home reflected that relaxed outlook with a cheerful riot of
tropical colors adding a bright spark to the calming ocean hues and clean,
flowing lines of her comfortable furnishings. Like her home, Kaia was without
artifice or pretense, exuding a warm, honest spirit that had charmed him from
the first time they'd met. She'd easily seen the all too human man behind the
studious mask of duty and efficiency he usually wore and she still liked him!
With her he could just be himself and that was a very rare gift.
His smile spread into a wry grin. Lee, however, had been a very different story!
It had taken quite a while for Kaia to become comfortable around Seaview
skipper. But the perceptive Lee understood that her feelings towards him had
been affected by grief due to her mother's murder aboard Seaview
on his watch.
Lee's own personal reservations - his discomfort with the idea of a woman
playing around with his Lady's computers and his worry that Admiral Nelson might
have hired her out of a feeling of guilt – had been slowly allayed by her quiet
competency and professionalism and the two had begun to build a solid
Once Lee had realized that Chip had fallen big time for the lovely engineer;
he'd been very supportive, encouraging his friend to persevere when things
looked hopeless and trying various not-always subtle ways to bring the two
together. Of course, the brat had teased him unmercifully about Chip needing to
be under the influence of Salii's drugs before admitting that he'd begun dating
Kaia, but that was only to be expected.
However, there was one major drawback to the growing comfort levels between his
best friend and his girlfriend. Chip rolled his eyes at memories of them double
teaming him while he was recovering from his adventures on that blasted island
of Palau. It was bad enough having one "mother hen" to deal with! Though he did
have to admit...somehow he didn't mind Kaia fussing over him quite as much as if
it were Lee or Jamie.
He absentmindedly scratched at the scar on his lower chest where the ribs were
newly tender from his river exploits. That's where she had stopped caressing
him. Ah, the scar! It must have reminded her of his close call. Damn. He knew
she was sensitive about losing those she cared about.
Removing the ice pack, he leaned his elbows on the table, resting his aching
head in his hands as he brooded. Kaia had already suffered so much tragic loss
in her life and his job on Seaview
wasn't exactly the safest billet on the
planet. Not to mention the extra risk brought on by his rare job for the Office
of Notable Idiots when Lee needed a computer expert partner. Was it really fair
for him to ask Kaia to risk her heart yet again just to be with him? On the
other hand, how could he let her go now that she'd wound her way so deeply into
his own heart?
Kolohe jumped down from the pot of dirt. It had made a very good place to answer
certain needs once the plant was removed. Finishing up his exploration of his
new territory, the kitten ended up back in the wonderful Place of Food. His new
human, the Big Nice female, was there too, but she seemed upset and was leaking
a little wetness from her eyes. He twined himself around her legs, purring
loudly, winning a pat on the head and a huge chunk of tender pork. She seemed
better after his attentions, so he settled down to devour his prize.
As Kaia bustled around her kitchen, her mind wallowed in self-recrimination. How
could she have been so stupid! Why couldn't she just enjoy the nice intimate
moment? She'd been caressing his chest for Pele's sake! She popped slow-roasted
pork into the microwave for reheating then spun around to briskly stir a pot on
the stove as she continued her mental flagellation. It wasn't as if she didn't
know the risks associated with Chip's line of work. Despite her initial
reluctance to allow him - or anyone - past her carefully built inner walls,
she'd been dating the guy for three whole months, had even provided some tender
loving care while he was recovering from that stupid Palau mission. He'd been so
patient and understanding… Here she'd finally felt ready to take the next step
in their relationship, invited him over for a hopefully intimate evening, and
what did she do? She allowed herself to be freaked out by a stupid scar! Chip
must think she was an idiot!
A soft Damask napkin served to carefully blot away the few stray tears that had
managed to escape her tight control. She had to pull herself together. Chip had
been through enough this evening. He didn't need to deal with her foolishness as
well. Even if her romantic plans had been shattered by her own stupidity, at
least she could give the poor guy a decent meal for all his trouble.
Taking a deep determined breath, Kaia stepped around the purring ball of fuzz at
her feet and rummaged in the cupboard for plates. She filled two blue porcelain
bowls with steamed white rice and set them on a black lacquer serving tray then
transferred the coconut shrimp she'd re-crisped in the toaster oven to a
matching serving plate. Opening the fridge, she pulled out a couple dishes then
stared speculatively at a cobalt blue, hand blown glass pitcher perched beside a
bottle of wine. Considering Chip's bonk on the head, she'd forego the wine she'd
originally planned and serve the mixed fruit drink instead, just to be safe.
Slowly the tray was filled to overflowing with a variety of hot and cold dishes.
She took another steadying breath, tucked a small bottle of aspirin into her
pocket and carried everything into the dining room.
Chip leapt up to help Kaia with the overloaded tray she'd brought in from the
kitchen. It looked like she'd made enough food to feed the entire starboard
watch. “You didn’t have to do all this just for me, ” he protested, feeling even
guiltier for his tardiness.
“Well, I was hoping you’d share,” she replied dryly, the tiniest hint of a smile
hovering at the corners of her lips. “This is nothing fancy, just some typical
island fare. Roast pork, steamed rice, coconut shrimp with plum dipping sauce… “
She indicated the various foods, then set a steaming bowl of noodle soup in
front of him. A wonderful spicy fragrance tickled his nose and tantalized his
taste buds as his stomach stridently reminded him that his last meal had been
far too many hours in the past. “This is called saimin. It will warm you up. But
first…” Kaia dug into her pocket and pulled out a bottle. Removing the top, she
grabbed one of his hands and shook two white pills into his palm. “Take these
aspirin. They should help your headache.”
“I don't need...” Her icy glare and her firm grip on his hand reminded him that
sometimes discretion was the better part of valor. “Okay, okay. Thanks." He
tried not to make a face as the bitter taste of the aspirin warred with the
sweet, fruity flavor of the drink Kaia had poured into his glass. From the
amused look on his lady’s face, he mustn’t have been very successful.
“Try the ahi poke,” she said, waving one hand towards a colorful concoction
resting on a bed of red cabbage. “It should take the bitter taste away.”
“Ah-hee what?” He peered with curiosity at the plate in question.
Kaia laughed. “Ahi poke. It’s raw tuna with green onions, crushed kukui nuts,
red peppers, soy sauce and seaweed. Hardest thing to get here in California was
the kukui nuts.” She looked at him with a challenging grin. “Surely you’re not
afraid of a little raw fish?”
“Of course not,” he replied, affronted that his culinary courage was being
questioned. “I’ve had sushi before.” He grabbed a fork and stabbed at the salad.
The sweet taste of the raw tuna contrasted nicely with the spicier ingredients.
He began to enthusiastically tuck into the rest of the mouth-watering food,
pleased to see that Kaia helped herself to a generous serving as well. He loved
a woman who enjoyed food as much as he did, though her slender frame did make
him wonder where she put it all.
A insistent mewing from under the table indicated that the little kitten had
decided to join them for dinner. Kaia shook her head as she said with some
exasperation, “Kolohe! You ate an entire can of tuna already. You can’t possibly
“It means rascal or mischief in Hawaiian.”
“Very appropriate,” Chip replied with a chuckle, his eyes crinkling with
amusement as Kaia surreptitiously slipped the little beggar a bit of raw tuna.
Despite the soft smile that crossed her face as she cooed at the kitten, she
seemed more reserved than earlier, her long hair now twisted up into a loose bun
held in place with what looked like a pair of chopsticks. She generally only
wore her hair up at work, but, like him, she tended to retreat behind a
professional veneer when uncomfortable. Somehow he had to get her to relax again
so he could find out what was really bothering her. Ah, but of course…
“How’s the new data storage project coming along?” he asked, suppressing a smirk
as her whole demeanor changed. As he’d hoped, the quiet reserve fell away as she
spoke enthusiastically about the work being done by one of her teams regarding
high density data storage. Their research could result in dramatic shrinkage in
the size of the computers integrated into Seaview
. Admiral Nelson was determined
that N.I.M.R and Seaview
would continue to be on the cutting edge of the newest
computer technologies and he’d found a willing disciple in Kaia.
Watching her crystal blue eyes sparkle with enthusiasm as slender, expressive
hands flew every which way to enhance a point, Chip was reminded once again of
one of the many reasons why he loved her. She’d shown the same passion when
she’d first gotten the chance to work with Seaview
’s computers. Lee teased him
that she really was attracted to Seaview
as much as to him, but Chip was glad to
have found someone who understood their devotion to the Grey Lady.
While Chip had never been as much of a flirt as Captain Casanova - or the
admiral for that matter - he’d been known to occasionally charm the ladies with
a friendly smile or two. But after years of warm yet mostly casual
relationships, he’d given up hope that he’d ever find that special woman who
could accept his calling as a submariner. Then Kaia walked onto his boat and
into his heart.
From hints dropped by Admiral Nelson, who was very protective of his computer
protégé, Chip knew of Kaia’s tragic past and so had been very cautious and
patient. He didn’t want to spoil this relationship by moving too quickly. It was
too important. She was too important. He still wasn’t quite sure how she felt
about him, but the fact that she’d invited him into her home for a private,
romantic dinner had been encouraging. Unfortunately he didn’t exactly make the
best impression this evening. Not just late, but showing up on her doorstep half
drowned, covered in mud and now looking completely ridiculous in the Robe From
Chip sighed inwardly. Here he was, the battle-tested executive officer of the
, able to make the most hardened sailors tremble with one lifted eyebrow
and yet he felt like an awkward teenager again, full of uncertainty and doubt.
He just wasn’t sure how to broach the topic of her earlier uneasiness without
scaring her off completely. At least she was beginning to relax again.
Kaia watched in approval as the mountain of food in front of Chip slowly
disappeared. The poor guy must have been starving. But he still contributed some
insightful comments with regards to her research team’s newest project. Chip had
always treated her as an equal, respectful of her skills yet willing to
cheerfully argue esoteric points of computer theory. It was refreshing after so
many years of dealing with men either dismissive of or intimidated by her
technical knowledge. Plus he understood her passion for Seaview
. While Tom had
been proud of her engineering accomplishments, he had been too much of an airdale* to truly appreciate her obsession with submarines.
Chip stretched his tall frame, looking as content as the plump little kitten
grooming himself nearby. “That was wonderful, Kaia. Thank you.”
“You’re very welcome, Chip.” Kaia stood quickly to distract herself from the
tantalizing fact that his long-limbed stretch had made the hideous robe move in
most interesting ways.
Jumping to his feet, Chip grabbed his bowl and plate, setting them carefully on
the serving tray. “Let me help you clean up.”
“That’s okay, I’m just going to rinse these and put them in the dishwasher.”
“I insist!” He gallantly picked up the heavy tray, turning the charm up to near
lethal levels with yet another charismatic grin. Her protest died on her lips.
The man simply did not play fair!
Working together, they quickly put away the scant leftovers and loaded up the
dishwasher. Kaia suppressed a smile at the utter domesticity of the moment.
Whether it was cleaning up after a meal or rewiring the prime circuit panels of
’s massive computer, she always felt so comfortable with Chip.
Surreptitiously sneaking a quick peek at his aristocratic profile, she was
heartened by his relaxed and open expression. Perhaps she still had a chance…
The household chores complete, they wandered back into the dining room. Kaia
couldn’t help chuckling as Chip shared Riley's latest futile attempt to prank
Chief Sharkey. The exec's impersonation of the gruff Chief of the Boat was both
hilarious and scarily accurate. Just as he got to the climax of his story, a
small, fast-moving ball of black fur zipped past their feet, causing Chip to
stumble. Kaia reached out a hand to help steady him but his balance was totally
shot and they both went down in a jumbled pile of terrycloth and turquoise.
Kolohe zoomed towards the Room of Fire and took refuge under a table, settling
down for a thorough grooming to steady his nerves. His new humans were so
clumsy! Pinning down his twitching tail, he chewed the tip thoughtfully. Must be
because they were so big. Not to mention they insisted on running around on only
their back two paws. Very silly! Green eyes grew large as the kitten took note
of a long, thin snake-like object dangling from the top of his hiding place. He
reached out a curious paw…
To Chip's utter embarrassment, he ended up sprawled across his lady love. For a
long moment, all he could do was stare as if mesmerized into the stunning
crystal blue eyes only inches away from his own. Dark brown hair - freed from the
sticks that had been scattered by the force of their fall - tumbled around her in a thick
cascade. She felt so warm and soft and perfect and...
"We've got to stop meeting
like this," she finally gasped. Mortified, he blushed beet red and scrambled to
his feet, reaching down a hand to help her up.
“Are you okay?” he asked, his anxious eyes scanning her lovely figure for any
sign of damage.
“I’m fine,” she said with a growl as she smoothed down her pants and
straightened her blouse. “Nothing hurt but my pride.”
“Are you sure? Maybe we should call Jamie,” he said with a teasing grin,
reaching out to carefully tuck a wayward strand of hair behind one of her ears.
But instead of returning his smile, she turned away, bending down to pick up the
two lacquered sticks that had held her hair in place. Chip's heart plummeted. It
looked like once again he'd ruined everything.
As she straightened up, Chip took her free hand in his and turned her to face
him. “Kaia…” Her eyes continued to avoid his gaze, focusing instead on the
delicately carved sticks in her left hand. “Kaia, I’m sorry,” he said, giving
her hand a small squeeze. Her eyes finally met his as he continued, “I’m sorry
for... for everything. Sorry for knocking you down, sorry for being so late and
especially sorry for worrying you.”
She waved her free hand dismissively. “I’ve been a Navy brat and officer long
enough to know that things can come up. It’s just that…” she dropped her eyes
again, her dark hair obscuring her face like a veil, “…sometimes, I tend to
worry too much.” To his dismay, her voice broke as she said, “I’m sorry, you
deserve better than that…”
"Shh. It’s okay, I understand." Chip soothed as he pulled Kaia close. He could
feel the tenseness in her shoulders and back through the thin slippery silk of
her blouse as he firmly wrapped his arms around her slender frame. "My father
was a firefighter and my mother was always worried, though she kept it hidden
from us kids as best she could. My grandmother thought she was crazy marrying a
fireman. In the end,” his voice softened with sadness, "we did lose him while he
was responding to a call.”
“I’m sorry you lost your father, Chip. I know…” Kaia said, her voice again
faltered. “I know what it’s like...” She shifted in his embrace, turning
sideways and resting her head on his chest. While Chip enjoyed the feeling of
her cuddling closer, surrounded by the sweet and spicy scent of white ginger
that clung to her hair, he wished he could read the emotions revealed in her
expressive blue eyes. But if it was easier for her to talk to his chest than to
his face, he’d hold her for as long as she needed him.
"It hard to see someone you care about head into danger and then sit and wait,
not knowing if you’ll ever see them again. I know it's something that many people
have to deal with. It's just...” She shifted slightly in his grasp as she
continued in a voice almost too soft to hear, “I've lost so much already. My
mother...she was devastated by my father's death. That's why she took my brother
and me from Hawai'i back to Philadelphia and threw herself into her career.
Kinda like… like I did after I lost Tom."
His arms tightened around her in response to the pain in her voice. Though he
would do anything in his power to spare her a repeat of such anguish, he was
reminded of something his mother had told him after his father’s funeral. "Kaia,
may I ask you something very personal?" At her nod of acquiescence, he asked
gently, "Do you regret loving Tom? Would you have wanted to be spared the pain
of his loss if it meant you wouldn't know his love?"
She was silent for a long moment and Chip feared that perhaps he'd pushed too
far. But she turned once more in his embrace - facing him squarely this time,
her voice steady and determined, though her intense blue eyes shimmered with
unshed tears. "Sometimes I thought it would have hurt less if I hadn't loved
Tom. But he was a special part of my life. Knowing him, even for such a short
time, was a precious gift. I won't dishonor his memory by saying it would have
been better if we'd never met."
Chip smiled, hearing an echo of the words of strength and love spoken a year ago
in his mother’s rose garden. “That’s what my mom said. She also said that no one
can ever know what each day might bring, even in so-called 'safe' jobs.”
"A very good point,” Kaia said with an unsteady smile. One slim hand reached out
to lightly trace a path down the line of his jaw and around the scrape he’d
received earlier. “Your little incident tonight certainly was a reminder that
there is always a risk of losing those we love, even on shore and off duty."
He struggled to control the inner heat generated by her feather-light caress.
“Yes, nothing in life is guaranteed. We must cherish whatever time we do have
with..." He pulled back, his heart skipping a beat as his brain finally
registered what he'd heard. "Wait a minute, you said 'those we love.' Does that
mean..." he paused, gathering his courage to ask what his heart demanded,
“...you love me?"
Kaia froze for a moment, cursing herself mentally for her slip. "Of course I
care for you!" She poked his chest with her finger for emphasis. "I don't ask
just anyone over for an intimate evening you know! I'm not that kind of girl!"
she said with a touch of righteous indignation, trying to cover her
Chip stared down at her with a heartbreakingly hopeful smile on his handsome
face. "I believe the word you used was... love."
She once again burrowed her face into the rough fabric of his robe to hide from
those too perceptive blue eyes. Before she could stammer out another denial, she
felt a deep rumbling chuckle from the strong, broad chest beneath her cheek.
Long, elegant fingers gently combed through her hair as he said the words that
she'd never thought to hear again. "I hope you did use that word because…I love
As she looked up with tears in her eyes, the love and passion in his sky blue
gaze shattered the last remnants of her walls, setting her free to acknowledge
the truth. "I do love you, Chip."
The incandescent joy in his glowing grin caused her knees to turn to jelly as he
replied. "Then we can face anything...together." Strong arms swept her up and
spun her around in jubilation before his lips claimed hers. She had thought his
kisses were fabulous before, but now…
An annoyingly familiar 'nudge' in her mind dragged her from the edge of paradise
back down to earth. Mentally uttering a litany of colorful metaphors, Kaia
reluctantly pushed away from her love's eager embrace, "I'm sorry, Chip, but I
have to answer the phone."
An absolutely adorable, confused look dashed across his face. "The phone? I
His eyes widened in shock as Kaia grinned. "It's my brother. I always know when
he’s calling." She drew one slim finger down Chip's bare breastbone. "Don't
forget where we left off." she purred. Turning away, she blew a kiss over her
shoulder as she hurried off to the kitchen to catch the phone.
Chip stared at the kitchen doorway and suppressed a shiver, wrapping the hideous
bathrobe closer around his lean frame. It shouldn't really spook him that Kaia
and her twin brother shared a very special, bond since his own identical twin
sisters had a similar connection. But the practical exec much preferred
rational, concrete things that followed rules of common logic. He crossed his
arms and snorted. Of course, considering all the strange and inexplicable things
and her crew had dealt with since she was launched, empathy between
twins was rather minor.
Casting his mind back to that wonderful moment just before the phone rang; Chip
shook off his momentary unease and wandered into the living room, his step light
and his mood ebullient. She loved him!
The dancing flames of the fireplace seemed to echo his joy, casting a shimmering
light that had distinct possibilities. Most women were quite agreeable to
cuddling in front of a fireplace and the radiance would make Kaia's golden skin
positively glow. Though she would be lovely in any setting…
As his mind happily considered various romantic scenarios, he noticed a tiny
sparkle of light glinting amid the photos and treasures on the fireplace mantle.
Curiosity piqued, he moved closer to see what could be causing the reflection.
He was surprised to discover that the source was a small diamond solitaire ring
set into a slender niche carved into the bottom edge of a thick black wood
frame. The photo in the somber frame was that of a young Navy pilot with golden
brown hair and eyes. Chip stared for a long moment at the photo, wondering about
the man who had first won Kaia's heart.
His eyes wandered across the other photos, each one a small intimate peek into
Kaia's past…a formal family portrait…two little children digging in the rare
black sand of a Hawaiian beach… those same children again, now teenagers with
surfboards, happily showing off hard won trophies…Kaia and her mother proudly
posing with her brother at his graduation from the Naval Academy. His gaze
settled at last on a model of Seaview
. He'd never seen such a detailed depiction
of the Grey Lady aside from the one in Admiral Nelson's office. It must have
originally belonged to Kaia's mother…
Chip turned away from the mantle and shook his head. Her father, her mother and
her fiancé…all lost due to the demands of duty. He marveled at the courage it
had taken for Kaia once again risk loss for the sake of love. But love him, she
did. How could he ever have gotten so lucky…?
A brief glimpse of motion from out of the corner of his eye caught his
attention. Looking around, he saw a phone sitting on the end table beside the
couch and wondered why it hadn't rung earlier when Kaia's brother had called. A
quick peek under the table gave the answer. Chip chuckled as he picked up a
sharp-toothed ball of black fluff that had been gnawing happily on one of
several pieces of well-chewed phone cord. "You little rascal! Kaia named you
Sinking into one end of the plush couch, he sucked at the fresh scratch on his
left thumb as a purring kitten kneaded his stomach. Fortunately, while the
bathrobe he was wearing was totally lacking in any taste or fashion sense, it
was thick enough to protect his tender flesh. Now that the aspirin had dulled
his headache and assorted aches and pains and, more importantly, he was assured
of Kaia's love, he could finally relax a bit. Not too much, of course, his lady
was expecting him to continue where he left off and he would most eagerly
oblige. But the couch was comfortable, the kitten's purring soothing, and the
flickering light from the fireplace restful...
"Aloha, kunāne.* Crappy timing as always," Kaia growled into the mouthpiece of
"Why, you got somethin' mo' bettah, kuahine?" Lt. Commander Kekoa Winters, USN,
said with a laugh as he slipped momentarily into the Hawaiian pidgin of their
childhood. Sobering quickly, he continued, "Just letting you know that some of
my Team's platoons are about to deploy so I'll miss the holidays this year. You
know the drill."
"Only too well. How are Mahina and the boys doing?"
"Mahina's one tough wahine." he replied, his deep voice warm with affection and
pride. "She can handle anything life tosses her while I'm gone, even the mayhem
caused by rambunctious toddler twins."
"You're just lucky to have found a gal who doesn't mind being married to a Navy
SEAL. You froggies can be awfully high maintenance," she teased.
"Hey, I resemble that remark!" he replied with another husky laugh. "She's going
to take the twins to visit her parents in Hawai'i for the holidays. Michael and
Mark love visiting them so the boys'll have a good time even with me away. You
got any plans? Perhaps with this mystery man you won't tell me about?" She could
just 'see' the sly smirk on the brat's face. "You know, maybe I should take a
platoon or two from my Team to Santa Barbara on a recon mission...see who my
little sister is hanging out with…"
"Don't you dare!" she replied with heat, sending a warning surge of irritation
down their twin bond. "I can take care of myself! And I'm only five minutes
younger than you, oh ancient one!"
"Ouch! No need to go all pupule on me. I can feel da stink eye all da way down
here in Coronado."
"Then behave!" Kaia glared at the phone. As much as she adored her brother, he
could be an annoying meddler when it came to her love life. "I can handle the
holidays fine by myself, thank you very much. Now, if you'll excuse me, I was in
the middle of something very important. Stay safe and..."
"Important? What could be more important than talking to your one and only
bruddah before he leaves on deployment? Hmm, I seem to sense a certain amount of
antici.... Ah HA! You have the mystery man over at your place!"
She gritted her teeth in frustration at his irritatingly self-satisfied tone.
"For your information, his name is Chip Morton and yes, I invited him over for
After a moment of shocked silence, her twin replied. "Auē! You mean to tell me
my kuahine is dating one of Admiral Nelson's bubblehead poster boys?"
Kaia rolled her eyes at the incredulous tone of his voice. "Weren't you the one
who kept telling me it was time for me to get on with my life...that I shouldn't
live in the past?"
"Yeah, I know but..." he paused. "Wait a minute, isn't it kinda late to be
"Kekoa!" she said through gritted teeth. "That is none of your business!" Her
icy tone of voice should be sufficient warning that he was heading for severe
bodily harm if he kept up his current line of interrogation.
A deep, rich laugh echoed down the phone line, "Okay, okay." He turned serious
for a moment, "So, he's really that important to you?"
"Yes. He's that important to me," she replied softly, thankful that he couldn't
see her blush over the phone.
"Well, just remember that he'd better treat you right or I'll have an entire
SEAL Team on his six in a heartbeat!"
Kaia rolled her eyes. "You just worry about your platoon deployments, XO. Mālama
pono, aloha, bruddah!"
"A hui hou kāua, aloha, Kaia!"
As she hung up the phone, she just couldn't help a wry smile at her brother's
overprotective instincts. Though he was often exasperating, she couldn't fault
him for his concern. The death of their father had forced Kekoa into adult
responsibilities early and he was always looking out for her. Whether she wanted
him to or not!
She hurried back into the dining room, eager to take up where she and Chip had
left off, but he wasn't there. A gentle rumble led her to the living room. She
stopped short in the doorway, her heart melting as she happily drank in the
endearing sight of a sound asleep Morton with a tiny, tightly wrapped ball of
kitten snoozing peacefully on his tummy. Chip's lithe, tanned frame was sprawled
across the length of her couch, one bare leg drooping lazily off the edge, the
other slightly bent, causing a most intriguing shift in the bathrobe's rather
haphazard coverage. One long arm stretched up and behind him, framing a fair
head turned molten gold by the dancing glow of the fireplace while the other arm
cradled the purring foundling. The flickering flames cast captivating shadows
across his handsome face and glinted off long pale lashes. Relaxed in slumber -
his usual controlled intensity temporarily banked - he looked so young and
vulnerable. And quite delectable.
To her overactive hormones' extreme disappointment, however, she just didn't
have the heart to wake him up. Come morning, though... With an anticipatory grin
she grabbed an afghan from the back of the couch and tucked it carefully around
his legs and feet, heroically resisting the temptation to indulge in more than
the tiniest bit of caressing.
As she leaned over to chastely kiss his forehead, two arms wrapped themselves
around her, dislodging the kitten and pulling her down onto his chest. She
squeaked briefly in surprise before eagerly snuggling into his embrace. "I
thought you were asleep!"
Summer blue eyes twinkled with mischief. "Well, someone kept running her hands
up and down my legs…" A hand gently pushed her hair to one side so he could
leave a trail of light kisses along her neck. "Besides, you did tell me not to
forget where we left off..."
Luxuriating in the wonderful sensations he was causing, it took a moment for her
to remember what he was talking about. Ah yes… Shifting her weight slightly, she
ran a finger slowly down his exposed chest. "I think I left off right
about…here." Her fingers wandered boldly inside his robe, causing his breath to
once again quicken. Her hand momentarily stilled causing him to raise one
elegant eyebrow in question. "Are you sure you're okay? I'll understand if
you're not feeling up to…" Her words were interrupted as the passionate
intensity of his kisses stole her breath away. Her last coherent thought was
that he evidently felt just fine.
Kolohe was not pleased. He'd been unceremoniously dumped from his very comfy and
warm spot to the cold wood floor and then - to add insult to injury - his humans
were petting each other instead of him! He carefully washed his face with a damp
paw while he contemplated his next move. His attention was caught by the temping
target of the tender toes of the human male… Crouching behind one end of the big
couch, the mighty warrior shifted his weight, tiny butt wiggling in anticipation
of a powerful burst of speed…
~ End :::evil grin:::
Chip's Corvette: purchased new with his NIMR signing bonus money in '71 (story
• Zoomies - Army/Navy nickname for Air Force personnel. Corresponding Air
Force/Army nickname for Navy personnel is squid. Within the Navy, bubblehead is
nickname for a submariner, frogman/froggy is nickname for a SEAL, and airdale is
nickname for aviation personnel. Certain “colorful modifiers” are often
• "Flying Under the Influence" (posted elsewhere on on this site)
• I have written Kaia as the daughter of a widowed Ava Winters, the naval
architect who helped Nelson design Seaview
and who was murdered in the second
season episode, “Death Ship”. Ava was played with grace and charm by the lovely
June Vincent. Kaia’s physical appearance and ethnic heritage is based on Maren
Jensen (Athena from the original Battlestar Galactica). Her Navy career is
inspired by Capt. Mary Townsend-Manning, the first female to graduate from Sub
Officer School at Groton, the first female to be Repair Officer on a sub tender
and the first female to earn golden submarine Engineering Duty Officer dolphins,
though I have NOT made Kaia the first at any of these out of respect for Capt.
Manning and her fellow female Navy engineering pioneers.
• Underwater Demolition Team - The precursor to the Navy SEALS, they served
through WWII, Korea and the beginning years of Vietnam. In March of '61, the
creation of the SEALS was authorized with SEAL Team One forming up in January of
'62, consisting entirely of former UDT personnel. By the mid 60's, the remaining
UDT were absorbed into the SEALS. I have Kaia's UDT father dying in the line of
duty in Dec. of '61 and her twin brother (USNA class of '67) becoming a SEAL
• Kaia and Chip first meet in a Work-In-Progress story about seven months before
• Hawaiian Names, Words and Phrases
Kaia - "of the sea” or an ancient word for fish - normally used only as a
diminutive of a longer "Kai____" (sea) related name.
Kaimana - traditional meaning is divine power/magic (mana) of the sea (kai) but
in modern times it is also used to mean "diamond."
Kekoa - "brave warrior, courageous one"
Mahina - "moonlight"
Auē! (alternate/older spelling is auwe) - Oh no! Oh boy! Oops! Aiee! Wow!
kaikunāne or kunāne - brother of a girl
kaikuahine or kuahine - sister of a boy
wahine - woman/girl
pupule – crazy
stink eye – the evil eye, similar to a certain XO’s patented Glare of Death. :)
Mālama pono! - be careful, take care
A hui hou (kāua), aloha! - goodbye until (you and I) meet again
• Kaia's tattoo.
It's on her left shoulder blade and is only about three inches
in size and slightly tilted to the left as though crawling across her shoulder,
therefore it is usually hidden under her khaki uniform. Like the picture, it is
in only black ink, as are most traditional Hawaiian tattoos. Tattoos have a
special significance in native Hawaiian culture and were a symbol of the higher
classes and warriors. Women of high status also were often tattooed, especially
as a memorial after the loss of a loved one. Kaia and her twin brother, Kekoa,
have tattoos in memory of their father, a naval officer who died in the line of
duty when they were just 16. Kekoa's tattoo is a more complex pattern and
somewhat larger. Both used sea turtles because that is the aumakua or
'deity/totem/guardian' of their native Hawaiian grandmother's family.
© 2009 Kim Q. All Rights Reserved