Nanoplague

Standard

 

NanoPlague

Dash McCallen

The runabout Ursus’ interior lights powered up and the onboard computer bootstrapped into service.

“Operational Database Interfaced Network, O.D.I.N  online.”  

“ODIN, recognize Lieutenant Regulus Bondman in command of the galley and cafeteria. I need a list of included teams and the specific dietary needs. Please, list the names by herbivore and carnivore classes.”

“Please, stand by. Accessing database of assigned crews.” The bass-voiced speaker rumbled in the ceiling.

“List and print onboard inventory of protein base to my display. Display designator Alpha07.” Reg tapped on the tablet he held in his hand.

Lieutenant Regulus Bondman continued his pre-mission inventory of the kitchen alongside Lt. Callisto “Calli of the Galley” Angustifolius. They were close friends and lovers when the chance arose.  

Regulus, as a human, found that the Lupus Sapiens hybrid to be enthusiastic when spending time with him. Although some of her DNA was non-sapien, she was part wolf, her mind was brilliant and as she could walk like a human, her abdominal fur was luxuriant to the touch, more so than a fluffy puppies tummy.

And her tongue?  Well, Reg, as his friends called him, found out that a Lupus hybrid doesn’t kiss like a human, instead she would use her long tongue to lick his neck and face when she walked by.  This was her version of a kiss, that in his opinion was both a shock but a thrill at the same time — If a bit of an embarrassment if she’d pick the most inopportune moments to do it when he wasn’t expecting and he was on his headset trying to hold a conversation with someone or he was carrying a large object.

She’d laugh at him in good humor if he had his hands full and her saliva in his ear while he stood there immobilized in shock.

“We need more loading packets for the protein resequencer.  We have…”  Reg paused his comment as he read through the ship’s manifest cross referencing the passenger list. They checked off the required nutritional requirements of each species of the crew.

“Lieutenant Commander Benjamin A. Gyas.” Reg sighed as he read the name from the list and shook his head. “Damn.”

“Ben Gyas, the bear? Yeah, I know him. He’s sweet and more than a little cute. And wow, yeah, he can eat more than an entire wolf pack if you let him. I’ll order more protein base now.” She smiled and the bright blue eyes from the human side of her genome along with her pointed ears enhanced the look of joy about working with her favorite human when buzz sounded from her inventory screen with a note “Message Timeout, Try Again Later”.

“Reg, I have to go back to the kitchen to get more protein packs. The messages I sent aren’t getting through for some reason.”  She was less formal now that they were not among other cooks and crew.

“Okay, but hurry back. The survey teams will start embarking in about a half hour. I already have pasta cooking for a double baked meat lasagna after we depart, and I still haven’t started anything for the herbivores.”

“And we’re bunking together?” She winked. “I have plans for you after we get off shift.”

This lupus is a horn-dog when she’s in a mood. Reg laughed and shook his head.  It’s obvious she never read the memo that mating season for wolf hybrids was only once a year.

The “galley” of the medium-range runabout Ursus was spacious.  A full complement of cooks could feed the crew of the Longbow in the galley of this size. The runabout was built with very stout specifications. A well-constructed bear of a ship, designed to leave and extend the reach of the Longbow’s teams, explore new planets in extreme hostile environments and keep the teams safe.  The Ursus was built for exploration with potent shields to protect against radiation and collisions with the stray rock, its powerful engines allowed it to land in any gravity well tolerable to crew. And this was his first time in charge of the well-appointed galley,  it made Reg smile.

 It would be a good change after the tragedy on the planet below.

“ODIN,” Reg addressed the computer. “I need a check on the deliveries of water and protein base. We’re running short of time.”

“The delivery transport is located at the pantry behind the kitchen.”

“Send a message: ‘Hurry up, please. We’re scheduled to depart in three hours.’ Post it as urgent.”

“Verbal message sent and pending receipt, Lieutenant Bondman.”  ODIN responded with a formal tone.

The exploration ship, Longbow, a massive science vessel, a  three-kilometer from stem to stern long, two-kilometers at the widest and a thousand meters from keel to superstructure in a rough lozenge shape. A swift and capable ship for deep space exploration around the, so far unnamed, K-type star, discovered by the Galactic Remote Observatory, Kuiper- with the acronym of GROK.

The first planet explored in the ten-planet system had evidence of an advanced civilization, but it appeared to be long dead. The find was exciting to everyone on the ship.  Teams of geologists and xenoarcheologists took shuttles down to the planet.

The dig sites were as exciting as the visual survey from space. There was one thing curiously missing.

Life.  Simply, there was none.

No bacterial reservoir underground or a buried endolithic lichen could be found.

Xenobiologists mapped for DNA in the air and found nothing.  All carbon based material was tied  

Something had killed the planet. Nothing grew. No plant, no fungus, not even a slime mold.  

And another curious observation. Bodies were missing. No fossils, no decayed remains of plants or tree stumps.There were fossils in a collapsed ruin of a museum, a rich history.  But nothing with an organic structure.

It was all bare mineral soil.

A mystery, considering the amount of synthetic material that was dated by molecular decay scan put the ruins of the planet at more than two hundred-thousand years old.

The geologist team who surveyed what appeared to be, at one time, a reservoir for water to the desiccated community downstream.

Fifteen kilometers up a canyon, above the well-designed water distribution system the survey team’s shuttle landed on a flat spot, the pressure of the displaced atmosphere caused a small handful of soil to be displaced in an unnoticeable move over the edge and out of sight.  The handful of gravel caused a fist sized rock to roll down a hill that knocked a couple more stones loose as a dozen stones continued on their path, determined by gravity and unchecked by any obstruction.  

The slide gathered more stones, rocks, and soil not held in check by roots of plants or even moss. It happened quickly and the weather survey team at the top of a desiccated peak had no clue what they had started.

The landslide traveled over small hills, its speed topped seven hundred kilometers per hour and only the alert eyes of Qwantay Paris kept more people from dying as she yelled for everyone to return to the shuttle.

But Captain Katherine Scrivener wanted to know all the details after the dead and wounded were brought back.  

The kitchen crews were under request of the First Officer Kurrg, a Panthera Tigris Sapiens hybrid who had served under the command of Captain Scrivener for the last five years.

Although the captain and the first officer trusted each other implicitly, the arguments could get loud, even through the closed doors of the Captain’s office. Like any roaring match between lion and tiger could be.

Still, the missions were scheduled for other survey teams to take the runabout Papillion to the other three planets and assess them for any relics of a civilization.  

Careful examination of the planet below, revealed no radiation or products of a nuclear war, nor any biological contaminants that might indicate biological warfare. Not even toxins.

Power generating plants were in good working order. Nuclear plants had long ago gone into a shutdown mode and were totally dead.  

The Captain Scrivener brought the full capacity of the Longbow to bear on the investigation of the accident and to further examine the planet to find out what happened. The other survey teams would take forty people on a seven day traverse through the asteroid belt and explore the two remaining planets for evidence of war or something more cosmic.

One theory was a supernova may have sent a gamma ray burst into the K-star’s system and sterilized it. But no evidence had yet been found.

So, the investigation was multifold: Survey the other planets, find the causes for the avalanche, and what caused the civilized planet to be abandoned in what appeared to be an instant.

Dr. Honie Pers was directing the movement of equipment on board of the Ursus and stopped in for a cup of coffee.  

“You’re the doc, Doc.” He smiled. Dr. Pers was addicted to earth’s native black brew of stimulants. She was an intensely funny woman who was known to have little use for politicians and policies at the cost of people’s lives.

“Thank you for clearing the freezer for the bodies, Reg.”  She nodded. Stuck with the catalogue of the dead.  Her drinking partner, Dr. Eta, was killed in the avalanche and Dr. Pers asked to be reassigned to the Ursus for exploration. She was unable to perform the autopsy after the incident. “I appreciate the speed and the care you gave them.”

“No worries, Doc.  I was following orders from the chef, besides, I like Professor Eta.” Reg looked down and corrected himself. “Liked. Sorry.  He taught at the University of Sapphire where the United Planets have their central headquarters.  I attended there for a few years.”

“That’s a good school.” She took a sip of her coffee and looked at Reg with a smile. “You brew a good cup.”

“The protein sequencers do a passable job at reproducing the coffee. But I keep a five kilo-bag of raw beans in my room. I roast them in the kitchen in between food preparations, about two pot fulls worth a night.” He tapped his pad and a crystal-clear cylinder of a gel that looked like the transparent albumen of eggs loaded into a dispenser, the clear proteins were synthetic and machines could resequence them into any food item.  “A single kilogram can replace two-metric tons of food when it recombined proteins with air and water to create food-grade hydrocarbons and fats that mimicked the texture and flavors of what the different species’ nutritional requirements — And the flavors that they liked to eat.”

“That’s creative! I’ve never thought about the back of the kitchen, how you all created the food.  I figured I didn’t want to really know where you got the proteins to resequence.” She said just as her handset buzzed.  She looked down, tapped on the screen and nodded. “The exciting part of the survey, we found that the wounded people on the geological survey team are healing at a rate about a thousand times faster. There are nanobots in the soil that are healing the wounded.”

“Nanobots?” Reg stopped installing the protein base into dispenser and looked at the Doctor.

“Yes, we discovered them on the cadavers that were put in body bags then put in your freezer.” She smiled. “Doctor Ferso discovered them in the beginning. They are slow moving and tiny. Ten-thousand can fit inside of a red blood cell with room left over.”

“I want to call them Eta’s discovery, but the message on my handheld was that Doctor Ferso wants first rights to name them.”

“I’m surprised they work at all.” Reg said as he programmed at the kitchen’s master computer, syncing his pad with the different needs of the crewmembers. “All the images coming up from the surface looks like it’s been dead a long time. The way it looks, like a huge fire. It looks almost burned out.”

“Yes, that’s the consensus. Something had a very destructive effect on organic material. So far, we haven’t found any trace of organic material.” she drained her cup of coffee and looked at the time. “Where are my people? They’re supposed to be bringing equipment.”

Reg’s handset toned. The screen illuminated when he looked at it, it made him smile. It was Calli.

“Hey, you…”

“Reg, listen. Something’s going on. There is movement in the freezer where they put the bodies. They have a security team here with weapons.”

All non-security personnel evacuate the kitchen. Report to your emergency stations.

“Reg…”

Then the ship address system came online.

All personnel, intruder alert. Lock doors and shelter in place. All non-security personnel clear the passageway. Repeat, security personnel only in passageways.

“Calli, come to the Ursus if you can.” Reg looked around and the Doctor was tapping controls on the loading ramp, closing it and airlock. “Shelter here, safest place there is.”

“No, I can’t make it. I’m going to try and go to my room, it’s just down the hall. They’re pushing people into rooms together.” Calli sounded worried as she was jostled while she spoke into the screen of the tablet. “I’m not even going to get to my room.”

“What’s going on?” Reg demanded.

“I don’t know.” She answered with a little fear in her voice, and for a lupus, that was as close to hysteria that she would get. “I’ll get there as soon as I can.”

“Well, I know.” The doctor turned around, her handheld computer was lit up.  “They’re transmitting to me a whole database.”   

Doctor Pers went pale.

“The critically wounded have changed. Chief Medical Officer Cyprus has sent me that the nanobots have affected the geologist. He bit…”  She tapped the screen.  “Oh. Dear God. They’ve animated!  The cadavers. Doctor Eta is attacking people. “

A scream sounded from out in the hangar, Reg ran up the stairs to look from the bridge of the runabout.

People were being attacked by silver skinned creatures in service department uniforms. Hangar control office was a scene of a pitched battle.  Reg watched the humans with fist sized holes of flesh bitten out of them do a rapid, physical change into a walking nightmare of silver skin horror, and death lean.  While he watched the carnage, someone hit the console emergency override and opened the hangar doors to open space.  

Bodies, pallets of equipment, anything that was loose flew out the door. Shuttles and runabouts were anchored in their positions with mag-locks and didn’t move.

Captain Scrivener’s voice could be heard in a broadcast over his handset and tablet.

Security team-blue to engineering. All other security personnel report to the bridge.

Two minutes later, the lights went out. Emergency com-systems illuminated and speakers that were never meant to be used, boomed out the Captain’s voice.

Abandon ship! All hands! Abandon ship! This is not a drill.

The inner airlock burst open as if someone set an explosive, but Reg couldn’t hear it in the vacuum of the hangar.

Until the tsunami of air, bodies and hardware crashed into the side of the Ursus, and now loose of the de-energized maglocks, was blown towards the open doors.

Tumbling bow over stern towards the hangar doors, the Ursus became tangled up with other ships that formed a logjam at the partially opened doors, the sounds of impact on the galley service door. The exterior airlock door was still open, Reg realized, something big few into the airlock.

Until the shuttle Prydwen, tumbled, bounced and hit the logjam of vessels and bodies with the force of an artillery shell and broke the tangled pile of ships, hardware and bodies.

Reg and Dr. Pers bounced around inside of the out of control Ursus like dice in a cup, the artificial gravity of the Ursus wasn’t online yet, they were under the influence of the Longbow’s systems.

ODIN! Emergency stabilize!” Dr. Pers yelled. “All available power to the stabilizers!”

The big runabout stopped tumbling in space and loud sounds of crashes echoed up and down the hallways as the artificial gravity booted up.

“ODIN! System report.” Reg said but he was rewarded only with a high pitched sound was emitted by what was once ODIN.

“Well, that’s not helpful.” Reg groaned. “If it’s not able to respond, we can’t verify orders.“

“You okay, Reg?” The doctor lay in a fetal position on the floor and moaned with her hand over her stomach. “I’m hurt.”

“I’m okay, I thin…” Reg screamed as he tried to take her hand. “My back!”

“Let’s get to sick bay. We’ve stabilized the ship  at the moment.”

“Ugh.” He struggled to his feet. “My shoulder hurts like I have a bad bruise, and it pops like something’s broken.”

Another alarm sounded.

“Of course!” Reg said. “We have more.”

“ODIN!  Define alarm!”

A buzzing sounded, ODIN’s voice was thready but could be understood.

“H-hu-hull,” ODIN paused. “B-br-bre-brea-breach.”

“We’re venting atmosphere.” Reg groaned at the doctor. “Crap, we don’t have anything.”

“I see it! Galley delivery door, where the water vapor is condensing, something hit the door and punched a hole.” She pointed. “About the size of my thumb.”

“I have an idea! He staggered into the kitchen in muttering about glue and starch. Then his voice echoed in the empty kitchen. “Yeah! Ow! Ow-ow! My shoulder! Ow! Hot, son of a mother…!”

With a storm of profanity and comments about pain and the object’s heritage, Reg came out of the kitchen with dripping towels and over his left arm and with both hands, he carried a large plate of what looked like pasta.

“Here! Stuff the towels into the hole.” The erosion of the air had expanded the size of the hole to a ping-pong ball and the atmosphere was venting now in a stiff breeze just a foot from the wall.  

Dr. Pers wadded up a wet towel and pushed it into the hole. The cloth was sucked into the growing hole and stuck. Water boiled and froze at the same time to became a weak dam against the stream of the atmosphere. The stream of atmosphere oscillated through the cloth as the water froze and broke away. With a smile, Reg flipped the plate of hot, cooked pasta against the frozen towels that partly plugged the hole.

Drawn into the smaller holes of the wet towel, the cold water chilled and hardened the pasta. The water-saturated food swelled when it froze and plugged the leak. The pressure of the inside of the Ursus pushed the metal serving plate against the wall, making an effective seal with the cooked noodles.

The loss of the atmosphere was stopped.

“Well, that was exciting.” Doctor Pers said.  

“We’re safe now.” Reg said, as he took a third towel and smoothed around the edge of the seal.

“Where did you learn that?” The Doctor asked.

“Academy training in the event of a meteor strike. Anything wet and flexible can be a sealant and it will fill a hole.  And a thick enough paste will plug some pretty large holes. I just wasn’t sure that the hole might be too large. So, I used a wet towel to plug the biggest part of the hole, then use the pasta to seal it.” He smiled, then groaned in pain. “Now, can you fix me?  I fixed the ship and burned my hands and my back is killing. Now, it’s my turn?”

“Let’s get some images of your shoulder.” She smiled, but she appeared more pale than before.

“Okay, Reg, see here?” The doctor pointed at the image on a handheld display screen and used a clinical tone.“You have a fractured scapula.”

“Not much can be done. It’s not displaced. You have some internal bleeding and the bruise will spread. I have something to prevent much more bleeding. But for now, we can sling the arm and some pain control, but you’ll just have to heal. We don’t have the facilities on board to do any surgery anyway.”

“Okay, then,” Reg pondered. “Let’s get to cleaning up the kitchen and pour some coffee and figure out what we are going to do. The Longbow will need our assistance.”

She shook her head and read the report that her previous college had sent them with a video.

“To any station receiving this: I am the Chief Medical Officer of the Longbow. We have lost power and are falling into the gravity well of an uncharted planet. Do not land on the planet. It’s contaminated with an alien technology beyond our understanding. I am transmitting on all frequencies the data we have uncovered. Anyone who came in contact with the planet has mutated and have become aggressive. There is a battle in the corridors, security has been overwhelmed.” Sounds of weapons fire got louder and the look of of the Chief Medical Officer was one of resignation. “Do not rescue us. The ship is on a self-destruct course. All data we are transmitting on all channels. Any station receiving this, this is the Longbow…” The video abruptly ended.

The Longbow was lost.  

“Callie.” Reg whispered at the display the pain of her loss not registering yet. “Callie.”

The data that the chief medical officer sent in an emergency broadcast had been downloaded to her data management device and she scrolled through the information and began to swear.

“Lieutenant,” for the first time, he heard her groan in pain. “We have some serious problems. And now, I need your help.”

“Doc, what is it?”

“When we were thrown around a pushcart landed on me with supplies. I don’t remember what. All kinds of crap was flying around.” Regulus noted she had a definite pallor while she spoke. “My right side is tender. I can’t move much to that side. I’m beginning to see a bruise like you have on your back.”

“I have a bruise?” He tried to look around his shoulder but squawked when the pain stopped him. “I’ll believe you.”

Regulus pulled his data pad out of his vest pocket and began to type.

“Um, Doc, how long will we be on this tub until we get rescued?”

“Okay, here’s the deal.” She read the detailed report. “The planet is covered in nanobots.  To the ratio of one part per trillion. It’s in the dust, it’s airborn.  At first, it was overlooked because they aren’t organic and don’t appear to be active.”

She traced her finger over the screen and changed the page.  

“These are so small. They can fit ten thousand in a red blood cell and still leave room for the cell to do it’s job.”

“That’s nice, but what can they do?” Reg asked.

“Getting there.” She read on. Took a deep breath. “Okay, each nanobot is also a bit of information.  A zero or one. On or off. Individually, they can’t do anything but mainly replicate. Doctor Gray noted that the nanobots began to help heal wounds. They were using adipose tissue from other parts of the body to rebuild broken bones, repair lacerations.” She flipped the screen and changed the page. “Individuals can do little, but the more they replicate and add to the group, they become a collective program.  We just don’t know what the program is.”

The doctor shook her head and looked at Reg.

“Was.” She corrected him. “This was written in real time during the exam.”

She read on. “The nanobots are repairing broken bones at an incredible rate.  We may have a discovery that would reduce surgical and injury downtime. Including, old injuries that seem to be repaired.”

“That doesn’t seem bad at all.” Reg said. “Like a good discovery.”

“It reads that way for a few pages. Known chronic illnesses undetectable. Arthritic joints healed in our older crewmembers.” She flipped through the screens. “Until this entry. The dead are reanimating, but are mindless. The nanobots are out of control and resequencing the most grievously injured wounds to another DNA pattern we aren’t familiar with. The corpse’s of team members awoke hungry and are getting aggressive. It seems that the nanobots are using all available proteins to repair the dead tissues. We can’t feed them enough and Nurse Jameson Curtis was bitten by one. The nurse lost a finger to the bite, but it grew back in less than an hour.”

“Okay, some downsides.” Reg said as they walked to the bridge of the Ursus.

“The nurse changed over the following hour and Jameson became violent. From appearances, he lost weight as his normal endomorphic body type has become more ectomorphic. His appearance has taken on a pallor, a color of gray similar to brushed aluminum with reptilian scales.” The doctor read on. “People with minor injuries of broken bones are healed in minutes, depending on level of contamination. Those with more grave injuries don’t just heal, they change. The nanobots program themselves to alter the whole body. Then, it’s as if the program becomes corrupted and then it reverts to changing the DNA to the non-terran DNA that they were originally programmed with.”

“Holy crap. So a little wound is good, but if you have a bad wound? Like a bullet hole. You change?” Reg asked.

“It sounds that way. And not just bullet holes, Reg. I’m in trouble.”  She looked at him with panic in her eyes. “I’m bleeding inside, something is torn. I can feel my heart beating in my abdomen and it’s swelling. Oh god. I was having such a good day, too. I thought we might get a trauma nurse to help me with the abdominal repair. I would normally have a few hours before I bled out too much.  I could teach you how to use the equipment, but…”  She looked at the door of the kitchen.

Tears rolled down her cheeks.  

“The equipment wasn’t delivered yet. I’m going to change on you.”

No!” Reg yelled at the doctor for the first time. “We aren’t contaminated.”

“The entire ship has been contaminated, the nanobots are airborne. They weren’t organic. They were too small and too few at first to be detected. We can’t assume that we are free of them.  Any place we go, we will contaminate, even with just one.” She whispered.  “A single nanobot would sterilize a world by replication. I’d bet that’s what happened to the planet.” She pointed out the window of the mess hall at the receding world the Longbow teams had so recently surveyed.

“The nanobots were inactive because they had stripped every protein possible to build their version of people.  Eventually, they ran out of organic proteins and consumed the plants.  Hydrocarbons were made out of water and soil. That turned it into  a desert planet. They consumed everything and left dust. The last living things were consumed by the nanobots who needed the energy to continue.” She looked at him. “We’re a plague ship. Any place we stop, we’ll destroy.  And I will change first. I can feel the changes now.  I have lost weight, and I don’t think I’m bleeding. So, the nanobots aren’t fully activated yet, but the effect is ominous. It’s like a cascade effect, one starts all the rest.”

Reg sat with his mouth open. The meaning of what she said was too big for his mind to wrap around. But, she was correct. When she walked on board the Ursus just an hour ago with her properly tailored uniform, it had perfectly fitted to her.  

“What about the gray goo effect?  They should disassemble like everything? Rocks, metal- everything?”

“I don’t know that, I’m a Doctor, not a nanotech engineer.” She shook her head weakly.

The Doc’s smock now hung on her like it was at least one size too large and her cheeks appeared to be sunken.

“Well, maybe we can transmit the data from here and get to a robot medical lab for help.” She tried to look for a bright side.

“No, doc.” Reg said. “I’m trained as crew, not engineering or command. I’m a cook, but I do have a working knowledge to do basic navigation and stuff. The Ursus has a type-A drive. We’re limited to just over twice of lightspeed. Longbow had a type-D. It could do a magnitude greater speed than that, maybe more.  And our transmit range for data is a lot less than the Longbow. We’d have to be in a system for them to hear us.”

“Hear you, is more likely.” She said cryptically while she stood and walked around the kitchen. “I’m hungry. Do we have anything? I’d like some eggs.”

“Eggs?” Reg was suddenly alarmed. “With your belly? Doc, is that wise?”

“Sunnyside up.  Just lightly cooked. Bread, if you have it.” Her eyes had a noticeable glint. Like she was on the verge of tears. “I”m healed, in a twisted sense.”

She’s been crying.

“Doc, how many eggs?”

“Three.” She paused. “No, four.”

“Four eggs? Doctor?”

“I’m fine. I’m the Chief Medical Officer on board.” She gave him an odd look. “Reg, oh.”

She put her hands to her face.

“Oh, no.”

“What?”

“I’m changing now. I want to eat raw eggs and I’m looking at you.” She tore her eyes away. “I just thought of you as food.”

Reg panicked, her skin was definitely a metallic-gray hue. He hadn’t noticed the subtle change until she moved.

She was also even more slim, easily ten-kilos less. The change was accelerating and he could see metallic scales forming on her skin.

“I…” Doctor Pers made a sobbing sound. “I’m sorry. I need to go to the airlock. You need to lock me in.”

She walked quickly, almost at a run while she motioned Reg to keep up.

Doctor Pers staggered as she stepped into the opening of the cargo airlock. She grabbed at a large, red handle to steady herself as the interior door slid shut.

The handle, Reg noticed, had block lettering on it in white.

“Exterior airlock override”

“You cannot let anyone make physical contact with the ship, but you need to transmit everything on my medical pad.  It should be uploaded to ODIN for safety, back it up. You will be okay with the broken shoulder.  Don’t get badly hurt or you will change.” Reg wasn’t certain that her voice was attenuated from the intercom or if her voice was changing.

Her face had become shiny with faceted crystal teeth.

The crazy thought hit him. Crystallized?

“Doc! What do I do?”

“Go to the outer stellar observatories. They’re the closest and have good data bandwidth. Reg, can you do that? Can you make it there?” She closed her eyes and looked as if she might weep. “You have to get in range and warn people to stay away from this system. It may already be too late.”  

Before Reg could answer, she pulled the emergency latch and opened the hangar door.

Reg screamed as her body shrank from sight out into space and left him on the Ursus.

Alone.  

Then he realized.

The Ursus was his first command.

Reg shook his head and wept, in another time and place? He would’ve partied.

It was supposed to be seven days with forty people and Calli. He and Calli would have spent all their off hours in each other’s arms while the survey teams were trudging around in the muck of the planets.

He would have loved to have spent time in bed with that long-tongued Homo Canis Lupus Sapiens for a week of nights.

Regulus Bondman turned and walked back to the bridge, while his fingers tapped on the information pad.  

“ODIN, display damage report.”

A squeal that was ODIN’s voice informed Reg that no conversation would be taking place anytime soon.

Reg sighed. He had no skills to repair the system, let alone the voice interface.  He just didn’t know how that worked or even where it was located.   

Flashing red pixels indicated the damage to the stout-built ship. Two stories tall, fifty paces wide and twice that long, it was a limited-range transport and personnel carrier with limited resources compared to the massive three-kilometer-long Longbow.

Once on the bridge, ODIN displayed a fire warning in the holds that contained all-terrain vehicles for moving around a planet’s surface.

“ODIN, extract air from the hold and flood with halide gas.” A high pitched burst of static answered him. The pixel indicating a fire went dark.

“ODIN, cease all voice responses until repairs are completed.” Reg had no idea how to do that, but at least he wasn’t going to go deaf by listening to the shriek of a broken speaker.  

“ODIN, display ETA to nearest deep space stations with data connection.” A long moment passed while Reg hung his head after he read the display. Two weeks at normal cruising speed for the Longbow. Not what he was looking for, but he knew the next answer.

“ODIN, display for maximum cruising speed for Ursus to the same location.”

Eight weeks, three days, twenty hours.

Damn, that’s a long time.

Reg knew how many crates of protein base had been brought on board. With a quick calculation on the pad, if he had seven days of food for forty people, for one person, he had more than enough food.

“ODIN, how much atmosphere have we lost when the ship was damaged?”

This took about a heartbeat longer.

Atmospheric oxygen: 20.95 percent.

Good.

Pressure zero point 98 bar.

“ODIN how convert that to my level of training?”

Fourteen point two one three seven PSI and falling.

“Ack,” Reg boggled. “Falling? Not good!

Reserves ten percent.

Crap on a cracker!

“ODIN, locate and identify leaks.”

A dozen pixels illuminated. Another yellow pixel lit up and flashed a warning of an overheated circuit.

“ODIN, reroute power away from that circuit and mark for repairs.”

The yellow alert went out.

That left the venting problems.

But not all of the leaks venting were atmosphere, but all were venting out.  

Coolant leaks contaminated the air in some sections.  

The list went on. With the agony in his right shoulder, he used his left hand to drag and carry tools to repair or close valves that moved toxic, but needed gasses and fluids through the ship for its operation. He went to work. He hadn’t given up the fight to live. Lieutenant Regulus “Reg” Bondman would fight the universe for every breath, every blink of an eye. He wouldn’t just give up, so he set to work to repair all that he could.

After Reg made his way to the two hull leaks that vented atmosphere to space, he sealed them with simple and easy patches. Pre-constructed patches that were little more than metal plates with peel and stick pads that adhered to the bulkheads and sealed the holes. Then, he worked on into the night until the last coolant leak was sealed. Hours passed and finally, he was finished with emergency repairs.

Reg sat on the command seat once all the repairs were complete. His shoulder was a symphony of pain. He could see the dark blue of the bruise on his shoulder.  It had spread while he worked the muscles, instead of giving the body a rest and ice.

“ODIN, reduce oxygen levels to sixteen percent.”  

Then, he thought about it and tapped on his pad. Altitude of about twelve thousand feet would be liveable.

“ODIN, reduce atmospheric pressure to nine psi.” Reg tapped on the command console. “ODIN, set course for the Copernicus Deep Space Observatory platform. Engage at maximum cruising speed.”

“What is our ETA? Round to nearest day.”

Eight weeks. Four days.

“ODIN, how long will oxygen last until I lose consciousness?”

Three weeks. Six days.

“ODIN, adjust the atmospheric scrubbers up to maximum. Recalculate how long if carbon dioxide is scrubbed out of the air.”

Four weeks. Two days.

Reg sighed.

“ODIN, if I broke down all water sources for the component oxygen, recalculate oxygen levels until I suffocate.”

Five weeks. Four days.

I’m going to take a shower. He’d have said it out loud but he felt out of breath.

He groaned in pain while the shower sprayed many thousands of tiny drops of water on his skin, to clean his skin of everything he could. Except for what he wanted.
Each drop that slammed into his skin had it’s own pain message. Each impact redefined the word “pain,” but every moment the level of pain was reduced.  

The bruise had become large enough that he could even see the edges of yellow, green and blue that had spread from his shoulder to his ribs under his right arm. There was really no need for a mirror to see the glory of the injury he sustained when he bounced around the inside the Ursus.  

His tender flesh rebelled as he turned his back away from the stream that jetted against him. He put his head against the simulated stone tile designed to make crews to feel like it was an organic experience on this interplanetary ship.

Reg couldn’t give two craps right now. He was out of ideas, he was a chef, not a member of any damage repair crew, except for patching holes, putting out fires.

He wept while the water washed away his tears along with the filth of smoke, dried pasta, and sweat.  

And he wished, nanobots.

“I should be more stiff than earlier.” His self-conversation kept him from hearing things. “A few edges are now pale yellow-green instead of that red-purple that new bruises have. So, the internal bleeding’s stopped.”  

 It had only been six hours since he landed badly when the Ursus did it’s the tumbling, out of control exit  from the hangar of the Longbow through the broken airlock doors the size of a football field each.

Six hours ago, Doctor Pers diagnosed him with a fractured scapula. There was little to do, she said, other than to sling it.

Six hours? He shook his head in the stinging spray of water. Only six?

It seemed like a lifetime ago.

His estimated time of arrival to the nearest deep space platforms in the Gliese system was still two months away.

If my oxygen would only hold out that long. He sighed.  A futile wish, but no one ever wants to suffocate.

His mind spun with the catastrophe and pain.

I just need to get this hunk of junk close enough to transmit the information from the medical computer’s database.

He turned to let the hot spray beat on his chest for a few minutes.  

It was all the enjoyment he would get.

He let the near-scalding water wash away his tears, his mind raced with the situation. He never volunteered for this mission from hell, he wanted experience.  An entry on his work history, the experience and spend time with the cutest fur covered female in the fleet.

“I did want my own ship one day. An interstellar catering setup.” Reg banged his forehead against the ceramic tile. He could feel in his mind the impacts resound through the conduits, hallways, and offices. No one to hear them anywhere.

Reg knew it was just a fantasy. He couldn’t hear the echos, but he could imagine the noise echoing down conduits and access tubes.

Alone on this ship, the whole galaxy seems unpopulated.  He turned the hot water up another notch, just above the pain threshold.

Doesn’t matter.  It’ll heal. Maybe even better than before maybe.

Roxana Pilot, an engineer he dated, once told him that eighty percent of the energy an engine produces is wasted in the top twenty percent of the ship’s maximum velocity.  

“In other words,” she smiled at him as they slowly piloted between planets in that wonderful weekend of kisses and coupling. “It’s more efficient to go a little slower than top speed.”

Yeah, Roxana. He spoke to the pleasant ghost of a memory. But I’ve no plans to land anywhere.   

His mind snapped back to the present with a gasp for air, and he was back in the shower. His mind drifted easily in the rarified air.

It’s all I can do is make more speed. But he knew the outcome would be the same. I can’t breathe any less. The way the power units keep overheating, the one thing I have in abundance is smoke. Power generation is no problem, but I can’t do more speed. At least with the oxygen dialed down so low, short circuits done become big fires.

I’m just running out of compressed air cylinders to wear while I spray the fires with the… he couldn’t remember.  The fire – putter-outer stuff.  

Extinguishers!

He shook his head, turned on the cold water, letting the stinging water pummel his face to focus his mind.

Movement.

Just outside of the shower room. Reg pushed open the steam-fogged door.  

“Hello?”

Nothing.

Just his towels. Stolen from the kitchen to dry off with.

Reg stepped out of the shower and dried himself off and walked naked to the galley.  

“Damn, this thing is big with no one in it.” He said to himself as he walked along the cluttered hallway. “We need a food fight.”

He laughed. He would have enjoyed it more, but the laugh took his breath away.

The walk felt a lot more difficult as if he was on a hike in the high mountains. Laughing was not supposed to be a luxury. He had to make oxygen choices. Laughing was no longer one of the givens that this human could make.

Lack of oxygen or carbon dioxide poisoning. Either one was lethal. The products of burning from the fires had polluted the air. The atmosphere scrubbers worked overtime to remove toxins and carbon dioxide as it was.

I wish I knew how to reduce the gravity. It would make it so much easier.

Reg shook his head. He had done as much as he could. He needed another brain and ODIN, the computer, was badly damaged.  

There was no one to talk to other than himself or ODIN, who tracked his movements with small sensors placed everywhere in the ship.

“ODIN, please stop being obvious when tracking me with the cameras, please? It bothers me.”

The cameras all became still and were a simple background.

Still, there was the feeling of movement that was just beyond his sensory range.

“ODIN, scan entire ship. Log anyone that has moved in the last ten minutes and print the results to my pad.”

The response was swift.

One. Listed as Lieutenant Regulus Bondman, sous chef, temporarily in command of the Ursus.

Funny, the computer has developed a sense of humor.

Weird, it seems that I’m missing something.  

Reg walked down the hallway. The sounds of his footsteps attenuated by the thin air in the ship. His feet sounded far away.

Or, is it because I’m hypoxic?

I’m dying.

“Ugh! I’m dying and no one is here to help me!” He punched the wall next to the kitchen door as he went in. “I’ll be dead in a month, choking on my own waste.”

“ODIN, play something rock hard.  Something from the group, Twisted Fate.”

The music sounded tinny, as if all of ODIN’s speakers were blown out.

“ODIN, cancel music.” The sounds were terrible. It reminded him of when he was a teenager. His dad said it sounded like rending metal.  

Right now, his dad was correct.

He wished he was with his old man now, so he could ask him for advice. For help.

Henry Kristopher “Hawk” Bondman, Ph.D. The senior astrophysicist at University of Nova Aquila. His wisdom and wit for raising the children along with the matriarch of the family, Penelope Bondman, Ph.D. and professor of studies at the same school.

Reg loved them both. He would have loved to be at his parent’s house now, drinking mom’s version of coffee. Deep, dark, and would cause your heart to do palpitations for hours after you drank a cup.

Regulus.

“What!” Reg yelled to the room. “Where are you?”

Reg!

Then, an ear-splitting scream. He looked down the table.  

Forks, knives, spoons for eyes made a face on the flat surface.

And it screamed his name.

It was Calli’s voice.

The circle of spoons looked like Calli’s beautiful eyes.

Okay, I’m officially freaked out.

He ran out the door into the hallway. Calli’s image was visible on a wall and then faded as he stared at it.

Wake up! Come back to the hear and now. Mom and dad would expect you to think your way out. C’mon Reg, how would you leave a legacy? What would you say if you could send them a message?

Message!

“That’s it!” Reg snapped his fingers and headed to the bridge.

He climbed the steps to the command level, and there he saw her.

Most of her, anyway.

Calli.

Her face was fully formed, but the rest of her body appeared skeletal, like a real life stick figure drawn by a child in an art class. Bones took shape over the basic construction, but the eyes were Calli’s.

“Reg.” Her mouth articulated his name. “You left me.”

“No!” Regulus’ mind almost unhinged. “We were ordered to shelter in place. The doctor even locked the ramp.”

The ghost took a hesitant step towards him. She was fully formed, naked, but with the fine, downy fur that was her species that made it heaven to touch her.

Reg shook his head.

“Calli? You can’t be Calli.” His voice was high and tight.  

“No, we are a recreation of the one that you last spoke to over the communication systems. The details of her appearance are in the medical files.” The Calli-Clone said. “We felt it imperative that you are not alone. No one needs to die here.”

“Her medical file? Ugh, never mind. You know everything. I’m already dead. The Longbow crashed into the planet that you’re from, we had a hull breach and we vented three-quarters of the atmosphere in the runabout. So, I’m dead in a few days, long before rescue is possible.” Then he got angry. “And you, all of your kind, turn us into some kind of alien that eats everything.”

“No, Reg.” She took a hesitant step. “We’re not changing anyone. There was a simple mismatch of our technology and your alien biology. We didn’t understand  the senescence of your kind.”

She smiled in a way that was so much like Calli. It took Reg’s breath away.

“We meant no harm, only to heal. We didn’t understand what death is to you and the reanimated needed protein. It was an error. But, we learned. The more there are of us, the more we understand.”  She reached towards him. “Come, take my hand. Let’s sit down and talk.”

Reg recoiled in horror.

“Really, Reg.” She smiled gently. “Nanobots are in you now. A touch by my hand won’t change anything.”  

“Still, you’re just a pile of nanobots holding hands.” He tried to sound braver than he was.

“I feel cold.” Calli-Clone folded her arms over her breasts. “I need to find some clothes. I’m not just ‘a pile of nanobots holding hands, Reg. Down to the very molecule, I am physically a perfect Callisto. Her medical profile is in our memory. Even down to the scars.”

“So, you have her memories?”

“No.” She looked at him with sad eyes. “We have her emotions, but we are not Calli.

“Teach us.” Her face brightened with a smile again. “We can learn about the species of your society and be a huge benefit to everyone. Yes, there were errors made in first contact. Don’t let it devolve into something that it’s not. Let me be Calli.”

She held out her hand, again, and he refused to hold it. She was as intelligent as Calli and just as well spoken.  

And she looked so very much like her. Down to the scar on the shoulder she sported from a surgery after a climbing accident when she was young.

Except for tattoos. They were conspicuously absent. A skull with a brace of pistols as crossbones from her favorite novel was missing from her left breast.

And his name. Regulus Bondman, tattooed to the inside of her thigh, was also missing.  Neither tattoo was ever recorded in any medical file.

So, they don’t know everything. Reg pulled at his chin. That’s useful.

“Reg, where is my room?” He led her to their room a few doors down.

When she entered the room, she made a slow circuit around until she came to a picture on a low table and picked it up. It was the image of them at a party.  

“You and Calli were mated?” She looked at Reg.

“We were intimate.” He answered and she put the portrait of them down.

She went towards the bed of the small quarters and pulled on the knob of a drawer to lifted out sheer negligee.

“Should I wear this?” She gave him a sideways glance. “This is not in the database.”  

“I thought you wanted a uniform?” Reg infuriated by this intruder pawing through Calli’s stuff. “You’ll need her uniform is in the closet.”

“Reg, Relax. We have a long time to learn.” Her smile faltered a little and she opened the closet. “You should teach me the nuances of what I will need to know to be an ambassador to the other worlds.”

“Ah, no.  You aren’t even organic. You’re a…” He paused. “I don’t know what the hell you are.”

“If you were to take a skin sample, you’ll find that I have cells, albumin, DNA, mitochondrial function.” She looked at him, a tear formed in the corner of her blue-husky dog eye. “I’m as real as Calli. I’m also more than her.”

He watched her dress, this artificial construct of his dead Calli. Then was revolted at himself for thinking of her body. He knew what kind of message he should send to the nanobots.

Message!

“What’s wrong, Reg?” She stroked his shoulder. “We can make it to the shipping lanes. You have a ten metric tons of gelled protein. We can convert them into oxygen. It won’t be a problem to create enough oxygen for your survival. We can survive without oxygen, so only enough for you is needed.”

He stood at the docking port and looked out the porthole for a moment. This clear, armored ceramic that sealed between the interior of the ship to the vacuum of space was where the doctor made her final goodbye.

“What if a planet won’t accept your presence in their environment?”

“We will convince them. We will change them for the better, they will see we are good for people.” She smiled. “They won’t be sick, they won’t age, if they fight, we will change them.”

“Right.” He yanked on the airlock manual override lever and grabbed the passageway handrail.

The Calli-Clone didn’t have time to scream before she was swept up in the roar of hurricane force winds and out the black hole into space. Reg pushed the lever back to the “close” position and locked it.

He had to send a message. In a month, he would suffocate to death. Then, the nightmare would begin.

He would be modified by the nanobots that were in him. They would fix the dead cells of his body and  he wouldn’t remember anything.

With a sigh, he sat down and started the video journal of the last days of his life that was to be transmitted to the Medical Network automatically.

First order of business.

“ODIN, navigation change. Plot a course for the surface of Gliese 687.”  Reg paused for a moment after the confirm screen popped up on his screen.

He tapped in his password.

Are you sure? (Y/n)

Am I sure? That’s twisted humor for sure.

He gave a bitter laugh and pressed the green pixel.

Reg didn’t notice any change, but at twice the speed of light, the red dwarf star would appear to be small and blueish as he approached.

“I’ll be dead anyway.”

He tapped a command on the pad and turned on the captain’s communications screen, took a breath and began.  

“ODIN, lock navigation controls.” Reg thought a few minutes, then made his way to the engineering section of the ship.

With a sigh, he pulled the panels off the core navigational controls, pulled the circuit interface cards from the slot and snapped them in half.

“It’s done.” Reg whispered to no one in particular.

“ODIN,” Lt. Regulus Bondman, sous chef, in his first command, gritted his teeth. “I’m sorry, bud.”

He had killed the ship. Their next stop was in the radiant arms of a red dwarf star.

Reg trudged back towards the bridge and sat heavily in the captain’s seat and began recording video.

“I am Regulus Bondman, the sous chef in the kitchen onboard of the Exploration Ship Longbow. I am, so far as I know, the sole survivor of the catastrophe that has killed everyone on board of the Longbow.” He took a deep breath. It was more of a gasp, really. “Do not attempt to rescue me. The Ursus is a quarantined ship. Repeat: The Ursus is a plague ship. This will be my death journal and I will leave the video cameras on to record every moment until the Ursus enters the photosphere of Gliese 687. I will be dead at least two weeks before the Ursus gets close enough for anyone to receive the signal. I have the computer set to transmit all data when it is in range. Do not approach. This is a plague ship.

While he sat there with his face in his hands and wept, a soft, feminine hand touched his shoulder.

“Reg, why did you do that to my other self?” The husky-blue eyes of the husky-hybrid sparkled with anger.  

“Can you show me where I can get clothes?” The nude Calli-Clone asked as if she didn’t know.

 

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Children of Fury : Hellions Chapter 5. Savage Sisters

Children of Fury:Hellions
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Chapter 5. Savage Sisters

The moon had not yet set when two ships quietly rounded the headlands of the bay.

Blackfish and Lir slid into the bay under the silent, carefully pulled oars powered from men who pulled the quiet vessels next to two darkened ships.

Darkened, but not asleep.

On board the Wrath and Scorned, crews sat and watched the illuminated ships draw up close, smoking fuses at the ready.

A young man’s voice called out, hailing the dark ships.

“Ahoy.”

And a woman’s voice answered.

“Mon Dash?” Then a squeal of recognition and applause, Annamarie’s favorite youth had returned as promised.

Cheers erupted, sailors stowed the guns and once darkened gunports were closed and sealed. The reunion with adoptive big sisters and their crew erupted in cheers and lamps were lit.

Sunrise found the crews of four-pirate ships deep in conversation.

“Mssr. O’Danu.” The brilliant blue eyes of the French Fille-du-Roi looked happily at Conn. “You are most blessed with such a jeune homme.”

She feasted on eggs gathered from the island the night before.

“I don’t understand, Captain.” Conn said with his head tilted slightly.”

“Emmm… Jeune man.” She repeated, her blond hair spilled over her shoulders. Then thought a moment. “Young man?”

A chuckle from a crewman nearby earned an icy look, silencing him instantly.

Laughter echoed over the morning water, the ships with space enough between them, men in the ropes and masts ready to unfurl canvas at a moments notice.

Stories told, Conn, and the other fathers learned of the children that sailed the small ship that brought them home.

While the peals of laughter and stories were told and laughed about. The one known as “Back-from-the-dead-red” looked around and spotted her most protected of men standing on the bow of the Wrath. She walked up to the youth, a boy when she last laid eyes on him, in the year that passed, he had grown nearly as tall as she was, his shoulders had become broad.

But the one that Annemarie called “Mon Dash!” still stared out over the water with those green eyes that filled her with worry.

The eyes were full of an anger that would haunt her soul for years. A steady, unblinking gaze that wished that his future lay somewhere beyond the horizon. When last they sailed together, she prayed that when this young man reunited with his family, he would find peace.

“Talk to me.” She sat on the bowsprit. “You have been and always shall be my man.” Her voice soft in the daylight and she held his hand.

“My dad and all their crew cannot keep up with us. They are learning how to sail their ship which he built as the same as ours.” He shook his head, blood-colored hair glistened in the sunlight. “Granuaille has drilled the crew of the Blackfish until everyone hates her.  But we can load and run out the guns faster than fast. Even Dana has earned his place amongst us.”

“Who, pray tell, is Dana?” Jacquotte asked.

“That would be me.” Icy blue eyes under the hair golden sunshine. The small boy-child, in her eyes stood next to the older and taller captain of the child crew. “I am his brother, what are you doing with him?”

Jacquotte laughed in happy surprise at the younger boy’s protective nature.

“Your Keegan, is my Dash. He is my man, I have fought beside him and hold him dear in my heart.” She winked, this seemed to relax the younger one. “I will always be by his side.”

“Dash, you did not tell me you had such a handsome brother.” She ran her fingers through the red hair.

“You know him, this was the cabin boy we took off of the ship under the command of Captain Tudor.” The cheeks and lips smiled and had a slight blush, however the green eyes remained haunted. “This is him.”

This is him? His hair was not nearly as bright yellow, he was shades darker. And he had black fingernails.” Jacquotte clapped. “Mon dieu! You have cleaned up well, cabin-boy.”

“I am not a boy, I am a pirate.” He stood with his hands on his hips.

Coming barely to the woman’s shouldershe slipped her arms around Dana’s shoulders and kissed him on the forehead.

“Any family of my Pirate Prince is welcome aboard any of my fleet.” She laughed while Dana blushed brightly.

“Don’t worry, Dana,” Dash laughed. “She has did that to me and Bradan, when we met.”

The sudden memory of his old friend wiped the laughter from his soul like shadows banished by sunlight.

The tall, redheaded woman stepped up to the one she called Dash and put her arms around him.

To her, he was Dash MacDíoltas, The Son of Revenge.

“You, young Dana.” She brushed a blond hair out of the tow-headed boy. “You would turn a girl’s head quickly.”

“Aww. Ma’am…” Dana started, finding a deeper shade of red to turn.

“Call me Jacquotte, or if you cannot, Captain will be well enough.” She smiled.

“Keegan? Keegan!” Conn’s voice sounded over the deck.

“We must return to the meeting, it seems that the meet and greet is over.” Keegain said to the others.

The trio stood and walked back to the larger group. Jacquotte sadly did not have time to talk to Keegan, her dash of spice in her life. A kindred ginger, this boy with the green eyes, who would replace her lost family.

In the crowd of captains and officers, they drank toasts to each other and greeted the red-headed captain of the fast ship Blackfish.

“We sail at the turn of the tide.” Keegan directed. “We head south, then west. There is a man we need to meet.”

When tide turned and began to withdraw, four ships gracefully rounded the edge of the hidden bay and turned to a southerly course.

Destination: Port Royal.

Captain Henry Morgan would be quite surprised to see that his favorite pirate had returned. However, the return of the children pirates would not go as unnoticed as everyone might hope.

Pirate hunters, given the a charter to find and eliminate any pirates working for the wrong government were on the rise.

In the twenty-first century, they would be called bounty hunters or mercenaries.

The red haired teenage captain of the Blackfish called them one only thing.

Target practice.

Children of Fury:Hellions
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Chapter 4. A Small Fleet

Blackfish and Cúliath, sister ships built by the great smiths in the land named after the Florentine navigator Vespucci.

This land now called America, with cooperation with the natives that lived in the lands had met with Conn a number of times in the years after their arrival.

The chief of the tribe at first told the homeless Irish to go home over the water.

The Conn agreed, that was what they wanted to do, but so long as the hated red-coat wearing empire was in control, they would have to fight for their lives where ever they would live.

One gathering, Conn traveled to the village of the tribal leader, bringing food and music with them.

Food shared, to the beating of the Irish drums and a fiddler that excited the tribe into a clapping, laughing dance. Trade of one drum for another between musicians went for hours until their tongues were tired, their feet ached. And the fiddler played up all the songs and shanty’s he knew.

In the end, promises were made, no papers, a gift of the bow of the fiddle was offered, but rejected. Only a tin whistle that they gave another flute in exchange was accepted in friendship. Even the old chief who never smiled, clapped his hands as the angels of both villages danced in grace and beauty that brought tears to the eyes of the parents of the children.

The spinning dances, the wise woman blessed the Irish with the most sacred of prayers.

Sleep that night in the warm evening came late, and the morning people rose late.

Smiles and tired waves, the two groups, the permission for remaining in the land followed with promises to treat the land like their hearts. Drums beat on the walk back until the the sounds faded in the distance of the forest.

Conn walked in silence, followed by the rest of the musicians and by his two sons, Keegan and Dana, along with the other lost children who came home.

All the children walked together, in the months that followed their return, they did everything as one.

Granuaile, the dancing strawberry blond girl of the night before, smiled with a look that Conn would have to write in his journal. This young lady who all the children said she did more magic with a cannon that any sailor couldn’t match, had eyes for their son.

The chief of their neighbors promised Conn their support against the red coat if he would support them in their struggles during the cold of winter.

In the long talk of the night, the chief’s eldest son would guide strangers to the land where and how to cut trees for the big ships and many big guns.

That night, the prince of the chief lay down to sleep on the floor with a simple blanket.

Keegan showed the chief’s son, Fighting Bears, a hammock saved from the Grampus. After some time with struggles, Fighting Bears got into the hammock with some embarrassed laughter. But fell asleep quickly.

Later, he kept the net-like bed he slept in, then gave Keegan a knife made for scraping and one for hunting.

Such was the state of the cooperative help with the people from across the water. Fighting Bears nodded, he told how the water ebbed and flowed. His ideas that the single ship was not enough.

Under his prodding, Conn built two ships, prepared for combat with the skills of every artisan and metal worker that escaped the burned and poisoned villages in their home land.

Conn had his own fleet, he would use the tools to make the world remember the crimes against his home.

Children of Fury: Hellions Chapter 3. Hammers and Tongs

Children of Fury:Hellions
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Chapter 3. Hammers and Tongs

The two blacksmiths who also improved their skills on metal-working from the old country, hammered chains and formed links that they created out of the most crude of metals.

Sounds of arguments between the big men, occasionally a comment about the clan of the other, but never did it come to blows. They were friends, cousins even, but their thought processes were different.

This difference gave them an advantage in their forge and foundry. They learned to live as contemporaries of the shipwright Conn O’Danu, they took to his way of thinking outside of the normal traditions of their craft.

In their hands, metals were as clay was to the sculptor.

Bronze spikes, cast and forged, reheated and forged again. Many of the pieces ended up in a pile of ruined designs and sent back to the foundry for recasting.

They built one ship at a time, it would be sailed by Conn and then torn apart. The evolving shapes became a predator with no equal, with speed and power, bred by complexity. The crew fought as much with the ship as they did with their victims. The ships built by the shipwright were always victorious in a lopsided battle, but the village knew could do better.

By profanity and hammer blows. The latest rakish ship took shape. Local native tribes extracted promises from Conn would make the men in Red Coats pay for the broken promises.

Keegan, returned from the sea with more than a hundred of the children that the families accused the English that Parliament took the children, promised the leaders of retribution during a great council meeting. The oldest and wisest of the leaders offered drink of a steaming cup out of a fire and then the men smoked a pipe that was as long as his Bradan’s grampa’s pipe, but more solidly built.

When offered to Keegan after the council. The younger O’Danu choked and vomited outside of the circle of men, who all thought it was of great humor.

All but the eldest, who other community people called “Indian”. The council explained did not like the term, thus the Irish Conn and his son Keegan strove to avoid using it.

The day came, the father and son walked with the warrior prince of the tribe. The highly intelligent native sat on the new ship and spoke in Gaelic with Conn and his son. Directing them that to strike a blow against the redcoats would need a fist. The ship represented but one finger.

“Build another. One for adults.” The Great Prince said. It was not a a suggestion.

Conn stroked his chin. Before the evening was out, Keegan watched the elder version of himself speak with the tactical genius. The first truly new world ship began to take shape.

In the hidden cove, where Irish, German and the original residents of the lands, built two ships, the Blackfish and Cúliath.

Sister ships, one for the fathers, one for the children who refused to let the warm beds and fine meals deter them from the rage that they felt, a call to return and save those that were left behind because the Grampus was too small and out-matched by the navies of England, Spain, France.

This knowledge did little to soothe the pain in the hearts of the children, grown too soon.

Men and women of the communities up and down the bay supported the children as they came and went. Famous returning from an impossible life, the communities became igorant when the English or Spanish visited, looking for the Irish children who escaped slavery.

No one knew or heard of such children except from the two warring Empires.

The only united front the colonial powers shared, was the hunt for the hellions that sank so many ships of the empires.

Captain Elliott, in service to his Parliament, and whose mission is to find the children and bring them to justice in the Courts. He left the bay once again in frustration, no one admitted to have seen such children. No news of the small ship, stolen from a merchantman had, seemingly, vanished.

Captain James Elliott looked over the maps and gave a big sigh. Could it have been the children fell to the treachery of the Atlantic and perished? Had they become part of the vanished souls and ships that happened every year?

Two hundred children, with skills that would make any navy envious, engaged, sank or stole ships of the Navy Royale were the most wanted pirates in the western Atlantic. And he was tasked with the job to capture the one that was whispered to be the son of the devil. A redheaded youth that was known as Captain Mac Díoltas, the demon of the sea.

No one knew where he had come from.

Some said that he was one of the spirits that the Deputatum Rex of Ireland was killed by a curse on a village. Others whispered that his name, which meant “Revenge” in the barbaric langauge of Hibernian isle.

In command of the Black Eagle, he was positive he could capture the boy-pirate and bring him to justice at the end of the hangman’s rope from the yardarm of his ship, the Black Eagle. He was proud of his frigate-built warship, with it’s own list of victims from the Spanish, Dutch and French navies, few ships on the water worried Captain Elliot.

But, Conn O’Danu had drive and focus unlike any other ship builder and Captain Elliot would soon learn the lessons that other seafaring warriors had discovered. The ships from the new world were not to be discounted in a fight. Diarmuid An Dubh and Nial Gabham stood side by side while they directed the teams to build what Conn asked.

As a shipwright, Conn O’Danu never backed down from his strange ideas. He built ships that could turn in their own length, sail close to the wind with unheard of speed.

It made Conn smile when the sounds of the blacksmith shop rang all day

He enjoyed the sounds of the hammers on the ships. They were hammers that the empire would hear from the America’s to London.

Children of Fury: Hellions Chapter 2. Quartermaster’s Report

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Chapter 2. Quartermaster’s Report

Disaster.

That was the only word for it.

No, there was another, an add-on to emphasize the level of defeat.

Unmitigated disaster.

The classification was undeniable.

A dead captain.

A burnt-to-the-waterline ship.

Dead crew, but for a handful that jumped overboard or were put off on longboats.

All to a single ship that out-sailed, out-gunned, out-fought the ship-of-the-line of His Majesty’s Navy.

They were adrift for three days, rowing like madmen against the ocean current before they got to an island.

The curses of having no navigator or maps.

The navigator, captain and the talented helmsman that knew how to read the sea better than anyone were all obliterated in the lopsided battle with a crew of child-pirates.

Children they call them! More like a small-stature crew of barbarians who should have struck sail when challenged. But, they fought with uncanny skill. They turned their ship and fired, time and again. All the while, they would not offer a target for the big guns of the third-rate ship-of-the-line.

Chain-shot, bar shot, heeling and tacking. It was more like a dance, a dance of death for the English warship. Cannon from the small ship battered the larger vessel at will. It seemed to hit from all points of the compass. The whipstaff blew away with helmsman’s the left hand still holding onto the tiller.

A cannonball cares not for who fired it or where it goes. Random chance, the will of gods, demons and a roll of the infinite dice of the Lord God determine a sailor’s life in battle.

No matter how the Captain prayed for his life, or the helmsman who vanished in a hail of iron rain could change the outcome.

And in politics, those that administer the will of the King care little for God’s Will or Random Chance.

There was a ship lost, that was the question that the minister wanted answered from the only surviving officer of the Worchester.

And “Will of God” was not going to be an acceptable answer. Then, the summons came from the doorway.  He stood and followed the owner of the hand up the steps to the next floor.

Dressed in his military best and a new powdered wig, he entered into the chambers and walked where the squire led him.

His heels made an echo on the fitted stone floor as he walked down the hall into the chambers of proprietary governor’s office.

His Highness Gurdman Stonecutter, Governor for the Virginia Colony, stood in the middle of the Great Room that served as his chambers. Tall, he stood six-feet four-inches and towered over everyone in the court. At ten-stone, he weighed less than most men.

Informally, his peerage called him “Colosus”, something that he did not object to. He lived up to his name in his focus as a warrior. Fair in judgement, but without mercy in his treatment of anyone who failed the Empire, he had anticipated the arrival of his only visitor of the day.

Archebald Whyte, late of the Worchester stood respecfully off to the side as told by the Governor’s secretary, until the Governor turned and addressed him.

“Tell me a story, Quartermaster. What happened to the King’s ship I gave to Captain Willim?” The Governor asked as he sat in a large chair, built just for him. The secretary filled a cup of wine for the Governor, leaving Quartermaster Whyte standing, without comfort or refreshment.

It promised to be a long afternoon.

Children of Fury: Hellions Chapter 1. New Threat

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Children of fury hellions 3 October 2014

Chapter 1. New Threat

Tongs and hammers, wood and copper, iron and wood, the ship took shape in the backwater of the great bay, hidden by the local geography, the ship grew in its lethal shape for a lethal design.

The hull was knife-edged, a keel that resembled the fin of the largest porpoise in the world’s oceans. The Blackfish grew in shape and deadly purpose. Conn O’Danu paced as he directed the carpenters to follow the measurements and drawings to the bitter-end of each page. There would be no gaps, no errors. Conn used green, live oak for the frame and hull of the new ship, stout construction to the extreme. No guesswork allowed, each measurement carefully made by standard marks on flat sticks and small knots on cords.

This pleased Conn, this oak of the new land demonstrated itself as a resilient wood and made for the tightest construction he ever envisioned possible.

In the course of the construction, the men and women adults felt need to build a ship, the urge to build came from Keegan, who reassembled the crew of children that had returned home. Their mission, the small ones had decided, return to the islands in the south and rescue their friends, mothers, fathers and all their families that remained.

The children, parents found, while still children in their bodies, had matured into adults far before their time. The New Model Army took them as babes needing their mothers for slights and scrapes, the children returned as pirates that the naval powers feared. Pint-sized warriors willing to fight and take wounds, to bleed for each other and what they felt as a righteous mission. Mothers and fathers, sadly, took months to learn the precious innocent children were gone forever, replaced by hunters and legends. They were threats to all on the ocean.

The cruelty of the Empires of the world had taught them how to sail and fight. Now, they were punishers of the sea, and to the sea they would return until that which the Empire had stolen were all returned.

Copper and iron metal heated and hammered in place. Diarmuid An Dubh and Nial Gabham, the two talented blacksmiths of the village, made connections to other artisans of metals and the powers of Hephaestus, forged with imagination the plates of copper they attached to the hull of the ship. A ship which they hid in the back-waters of the bay.

Ideas from the boy who brought the children home, copper scales nailed on the bottom of the ship’s hull. Copper nails held the dinner-plate sized copper ellipse shaped scales in place. Brass and bronze nails driven in measured distances by carpenters and craftsmen. The builders who followed what Keegan O’Danu and Dana, who the O’Danu’s had adopted as one of their own, showed where to drive the metal spikes into the wood.

Under the shade of a nearby tree, as word spread, children gathered by ones and twos. They were returning, time for retribution was at hand.

Mothers with fear in their hearts, tried to pull these children who gathered in the clearing. Children, those that had been lost and then returned, who still carried a fire in them that frightened most adults.

Such anger, taught by the Empires of the sea and this New World that they colonized. Taken for slavery and pleasure, a life was worth less than the sweat it took to pull a knife from a sheath.

Fathers pulled on children who turned and looked at the patriarchs in the eye. In the child’s eye, an unwavering fury danced in each of their hearts. The souls of a generation pushed beyond civilized limits, filled instead with the single thought.

Retrieve that which was theirs.

Parents words of denial and demands, spoken of in angered whispers as families tried to rebuild. But no one denied that each family was still rent and torn with missing members.

These were children who learned a mission. Their first mission was to come home.

A new call to arms, a new mission, flames of deep, unremitting anger sparkled in youthful eyes. Confidence that only the young had, and a fury taught equalled only by the devil himself at those who raided their villages.

The followers of Cromwell, the devil of all the crimes against this group of children that despised the soldiers in red and the Rump Parliament who followed after Pride’s Purge. The efforts of a few had instilled such anger in a whole people.

And the growing Empire successfully angered two groups of people to that point in its history. 

The Great Scots of the North and the Highlands and the entire Hibernian isle.

The Governor of the colony could not know of the return of a crew of children on a ship that was like no other.

In time, despair would settle over the hearts of Governors and Ministers alike in future days as rumors of the hell-ship, named Blackfish, a fast and lethal warship that sailed the waters of the West Indies came to their ears.

But we are getting ahead of the story…

Failure of the Heart

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If Only… The failure of the heart

 It seemed like a lifetime ago, he knew her as a young man and broke her heart. Three words he never said, the phrase withheld with a hesitant heart. 

She once looked him in the eye and used her willpower to get him to speak his heart, and then he changed the subject. In the months that passed, they began to see less of each other. Then school, career and the end of innocence came after that

Then came separate lives.

Years later, after a friend (now no longer such) played mind games with the knowledge that friends share in matters of the heart and served only to increase his guilt while he kept her in the front of his memories.

Thoughts of a life that could have been, a smile never forgotten, a sad look that never rose above the pain of his immaturity.

Often he could look back and recall her expectant smile. The words she never heard in life he now whispered as he knelt at her headstone.  Another victim of domestic abuse that could have had her path changed for the better with but a single expression of emotion from a college-bound ex-boyfriend. A phrase that could have changed their lives.

Could he have changed the world with three words?

“I love you.”

Silence. Granite and bronze are as unresponsive as the teenage heart that has plans of school and career. Could this young man have saved her from the pain and years of domestic abuse?

Perhaps.

Then again, perhaps not.

With a heavy sigh, the ex-boyfriend stood and walked away from his agony of failure. The weight of ten-thousand nights that he relived his choice that condemned them to separate lives.

Could their lives have been different? The world will never know.

But the answer was known, deep in his heart.

The deepest wish of a simpler time, the teenager, now aged with laced with white hair and a slight limp from a long-ago accident that also left him widowed had come to visit, just fifteen months too late.

News in the way of gossip around a school reunion came to him of her current address on this quiet lane, lined with headstones. Only an apology on his lips and the sob that escaped his soul.

As the salt and pepper haired man held hands with princesses and left the lane, the curious voices of the grandchildren echoed among headstones. Soft sounds of life were all that they left for those that slept the forever slumber.

Married by MIstake Epilogue Or: Chapter 59. In This Corner, The one, The Only…

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Epilogue Or: Chapter 59. In This Corner, The One, The Only…

‟TOM!” Kaylee jumped in his arms and hugged on him, as if she would never let go for all her days. ‟Where did you come from?”

He paused in mid-hug for a moment and gave a crooked smile with his inappropriate humor on the verge of words, pointed down the hallway.

‟Over there, the men’s room around the corner.”

‟Mr. Harte, I am Maxwell Silverham. We have met with these two women here to find a way to have you brought back to the United States. Please, tell me where have you been if you weren’t in Asia?”

‟Yup.” The cowboy hat had a distinct shape to it as he nodded. “I was in Asia on business and had a spot of trouble, but with the help of a local crime lord…” Tom pulled off his hat and scratched behind his ear. The long, red hair that once hung to his collar, now was shaven to a stubble.

‟Crime lord?” Beryon asked.

‟Yes, please don’t interrupt,” Tom gave the lawyer a hard look. “The term is my own. In any event, a well-connected citizen of means,  who’s interested in my children’s books of Leonard the Leafy Sea Dragon and wishes to open up the market in southeast Asia to publish the book series. He helped me out of Singapore. But at a cost.” Tom smiled. ‟He gets another eighth-cent per book sold.”

“We anticipate a lot of children’s books sold.” Tom rubbed his head. “Hate this haircut but it was necessary.”

‟Very well, but where did you go?” Max asked.

‟From there, I got my plane back, but the custom inspectors took saws to the cabinets, walls and whatever else they thought might have a hidden cache of drugs, they even tore up the carpet.” Tom frowned. “They even shredded my bed with razor blades.”

‟But the lawyer advised  me to leave Singapore with haste. The window for legal departure became more difficult with every minute that ticked past.” Tom took a deep breath of a man who ran for his life, and succeeded if just by the smallest of margins. “So I went to Australia and did my book tour.”

“While I was there, I paid a cabinet company to rebuild the bathroom and bed. All the other cut-up bits and parts were in boxes, I dumped them in Oz. I left my kitchen and laundry machines in Brisbane. It was a long and miserable flight back.” Tom made a sad shake of his head. “But,I got some extra range out of the Pacific Wizard because of the reduced weight. Without the cabinets and furniture, it increased the range by a measurable amount.”

‟Wow.” Melanie looked out the window for the big jet. ‟Where is the plane now?”

‟Well,” Tom smiled. “The Pacific Wizard is in Arizona with the cabinet builders to have a new interior built. I just paid a six-month lease here for the Sea Dragon to have month by month service until I get the Pacific Wizard back.”

‟Serviced here?” State Department Maxwell Silverham asked. ‟Can you elaborate? What do you have done?”

‟I have the plane hauled out and the hull cleaned of sea life.” Tom said as if he described it to a child. “They use a variety of methods, pressure and steam-clean technologies. Then repaint if needed. It is a low copper paint for environmental considerations, but it eliminates cross-contamination of species.”

‟Very good. I think my presence is no longer required here.” The United States agent nodded. “Mr. Harte, welcome back. I have someone contact you for a statement, a mere formality. You have cleared customs?” Max asked.

‟Yes, in Arizona.” Tom said. ‟Not that there was much to hide. It was in locked containers or on my person. Pain in the neck to live out of, but perfect for inspection.”

‟My services are paid in full by Leticia Nesmith on your behalf, Mr. Harte.” Beyron added. “You don’t wish my services?”

“I thought you were free from the Attorney General?” Kaylee asked.

“For you, yes.” Beyron nodded. “In the case of Thomas Harte, he got himself into that situation, my charges are in effect for him.”

‟Please leave me your card, I will need some representation with business contracts of the Singapore business society.” Tom said.

‟I don’t do business law.” Beryon said with his smile faltered.

‟No, perhaps not, but do you know someone who could? In your legal group, maybe?” Tom smiled. ‟Plus, I might still need some representation in the criminal courts before I go back. I won’t go back if the court there wants to prosecute me.”

‟Excellent.” Beyron nodded and his smile widened. “I look forward to see our company to do business with you. I’ll have my secretary find someone and contact you. Let’s do dinner. My wife makes a rum-cake that is to die for and we can burn a few steaks, then map out a strategy for a business model for both legal protection for you and assure that you don’t lose money in the international taxation of the different governments.”

He shook Tom’s hand then turned and walked with Max to the limousine.

“One shark teased and soon ignored.” Tom whispered to Kaylee and Melanie . “He would never leave without questions otherwise.”

‟Why did you go to Arizona with the yacht?” Kaylee asked as the government limousine left. “I thought a better place would be a yacht factory on the coast?”

‟The company in Yuma did the original cabinetry work, I liked  the material’s quality then, and since they have improved on the material technology. They can make the same kind of cabinets with less weight. I can save two-thousand pounds, and still have more cool stuff!” Tom shrugged with a smile. ‟And it is a renewable, fire-resistant wood.”

‟Wait. Wood is fire-resistant?” Melanie asked.

‟It’s treated at the factory.” Tom chuckled. “Spared no expense. It is all custom-built now. In a twisted way, when they gutted the entire plane, it saved me money, a rather uncomfortable ride, but I got my computer and tablets back, and all the rest of it is replaceable.”

“They looked at the drives, one officer recognized a story and told me that he reads it to his children every day.” Tom chuckled. “It helped me get the computers back, the stories on it that one officer didn’t wish to interrupt the book series. Although I think he took copies of the next couple books.”

‟Well, let’s go look at it, you will need an artist’s eye and a woman’s touch.” Kaylee said.

‟Why would I need a woman’s touch?”

Kaylee looked at Melanie and the sisters laughed.

‟This has all the promise of fun and excitement.” The younger sister clapped and laughed while Kaylee kissed him. ‟Tom, welcome to the family. Wait’ll mom and dad meet you. If you live through that, you’ll be famous.”

*I might be safer in Asia.* Tom gave a nervous laugh.

<fin>

Married by Mistake Chapter 58. Thomas Harrison Harte

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Chapter 58. Thomas Harrison Harte 

‟Well, Miss Grant and Miss Grant,” Beyron nodded to Melanie . ‟We will try to find Mr. Harte. And get him out of the system in Singapore. If there is any luck at all, we might be able to have him released to us before the investigation into his situation is complete.”

‟The State Department has limited influence in Singapore, the Singapore government has taken great pride in numbers of convicted drug smugglers for minor amounts of drugs, and has hanged many others. In the event they convict him he for the amount that you describe and what they say they have found, he faces a maximum sentence of a decade in prison, or he could be caned a maximum of two-dozen times. To be honest, they may give him a reduced sentence because of his age and his popularity in that part of the world.” Max said. ‟He might be able to find a legal way out, or have help of someone of influence in the political structure there.”

Max pulled at his earlobe for a few moments in thought.

“Australia has attempted more than once to recover Australian nationals with limited success. Our influence is less than Australia.” He said at last.

‟So he’s punished for my stash.” Tears welled up in Kaylee’s eyes.

‟Yes. And you are sure it is less than two-ounces?”

‟Yes. I stressed out to the max when he was in the hospital.” Kaylee admitted. “I smoked quite a lot of it.”

‟We will make a press release, but your request for a passport to go to Singapore will not happen. The process will be too long for you make reasonable plans to go to Singapore, and my advice on this?” Max coached Kaylee gently. “It is a bad idea in the extreme. Do not attempt to rescue him by confession to the government in a Singapore court that the drugs are yours.”

Max Silverham pondered a minute more. Never a person to comment without deep thought.

‟I have to let your lawyer here say his part and ask the questions. But, I have one now. I look around your apartment, I do not see indications of the financial base to pay the salary that Mister Ferguson, and this master of law that has brought me out of where I belong to come here. Yet, you said you married Mister Harte?”

‟Excuse me, the financial base for the young lady is not relevant to the situation.” Beyron advised. ‟We decline to answer that.”

‟I’m not a judge.” Max said.

‟Just so you remember that.” Beyron said. ‟I am her advisor, not yours, you have your own. But the advice you have given is good advice so far. Just the question is inappropriate in this context.”

‟I withdraw it. I do have further questions on where he stored his aircraft. He flew from one part of the world and landed in their waters? You said he has a float-plane?”

‟Yacht, flying yacht.” Kaylee corrected. ‟Or flying-boat. Sorry, he gave too many corrections on that detail and I picked up the habit, but you have to see it to understand. It is a glorious home.”

‟We have to look into this, this airborne palace might have contaminated our harbor with exotic marine species.” Max sat up and began to write. ‟Where did he have his plane hauled out.” Pause. ‟Yacht.” Pause. “Er… Craft.”

‟A couple miles down the road at Harbor Bay Airport.”

‟Care to join us in an excursion to the airport?” Max Silverham asked. ‟You can show me where he serviced his plane at.”

Kaylee puzzled.

‟Don’t you have staff for that?”

Max smiled.

‟Perhaps you don’t know my rank, or it’s just misstated by Mister Ferguson here. I am the staff. I just rank a little higher and liaise between the civilian and military sides of the same mission, but I am still the staff, I answer to the real politicians.”

A half-hour later, with Kaylee ’s car in the lead, Beyron sat in the front passenger seat the group drove into the car lot of the private plane owners.

‟That hanger there, is where he had the Pacific Wizard serviced and kept when it was out of the water.”

‟You have been here of late?” Maxwell Silverham asked. ‟You mentioned that you came back to look for him?”

‟Yes. But they wouldn’t tell me any information.” Kaylee said with a sag to her shoulders. ‟I couldn’t get them to tell me the time of day. Only the lead tech would to talk to me.”

‟Well, let me see if I can loosen some lips.” Max smiled and his eyes sparkled with determination when they walked towards the office.

‟I don’t know him very well, but I know the type.” Beyron whispered in a conspiratorial voice to the sisters . ‟Loves the hunt.”

With an air of importance, Max stepped up to the counter in the office, flanked by the two uniformed Marines. Max got immediate attention.

‟I will help you, my manager’s indisposed with a potential client.” A petite First-Nation’s woman said.

‟I need access to your records on one Mister Harte, Thomas. When he was here and if he has an address out of the country.”

‟You need to wait, then. I cannot access the history of our clients without cause.”

‟The cause is because I told you.” Max said firmly. ‟Do you know who I am?”

‟No, and I don’t care. You need a few forms filled out first.”

‟Ma’am, I have identification, two marines and I carry the authority of the United States Government. I do not need to fill out forms for this.”

‟Then you don’t need what I have.” She looked at him with black eyes without so much as a blink of fear. ‟Warrant, police, and my faith that you are not some asshat that thinks you can walk in here with two weapons on each hip.” She pointed at the marines.

One marine broke character and gave a small smile for the briefest of moments but never deviated his eyes from the straight forward.

‟Now, you sit down, shut up or leave.” She hissed. ‟White man, black man, marines, you think you can still push my people around. Guess again.”

Then to Kaylee and Melanie, she smiled.

‟What can I do for you ladies?” The eyes softened and she became helpful.

‟We are just here to do some business for Tom Harte, the author? He had his plane here for service. I would like to pay any balance on a bill.” Kaylee presented the shiny black card with her married name engraved on it.

‟Oh!” She looked at the card with Kaylee’s image on it. ‟Just a minute.”

She handed the card back to Kaylee, she nodded, smiled and walked down a hallway then disappeared out of sight.

Two minutes later, she returned.

At first Kaylee noticed the cowboy-hatted male who walked down the hallway and sported a hideous scar on his forearm, recently healed.

Then the familiar smile, a sparkle of an emerald eye, she knew that face. It was one she had kissed more than once and made her heart dance.

It was Thomas Harrison Harte.

Kaylee ‘s once and future husband.

Married by Mistake Chapter 57. News Channel Gone Dark

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Chapter 57. News Channel Gone Dark

In her apartment, every moment Kaylee spent outside of class, her computer logged in and a bluetooth connection to her television to watch it with her sister.

Melanie paced around the apartment in agitation. The news website out of Singapore at first uploaded the few still images and fewer videos had no recent enough updates to calm her irritation.

One high-quality video, the news reporter explained that Singapore authorities detained an American, Thomas Harte, while they investigated the charges that he smuggled marijuana bundled for transportation and a bottle of unknown liquid that investigators suspected as a narcotic. Cleared of drug-use by medical examination, the prosecutor planned to use the reports against him in a court and prosecute the United States Citizen as a smuggler.

‟He was cleared by a blood check? How can they use that he was clean against him?” Melanie said.

‟There, it said it. If he had it in possession and he’s clean, they know he was trafficker.” Kaylee held both hands to her tear-streaked face.

‟I’ve called Lettie, she called the government here. I talked with a lawyer that Lettie set me up with, he will set me up with the state department and we will see if there is any help I can do.” Kaylee said.

‟How can you help?”

‟The stash was mine.” Kaylee said. ‟It was in with my massage oil. I know that’s what they are calling as narc-oil.”

‟You left it? In his plane?” Melanie clapped her hand to her forehead. ‟You never planned to stay with Glenn.”

‟I, uh…” Kaylee stammered, then her temper flared. ‟Screw you.”

That just made Melanie the Monster and kid sister laugh harder.

‟You say that and that means I’m right. Tom got you to love him.” She smiled at her sister and poked her older Kaylee over her heart. “He writes about airship pirates, but he is the King of Pirates who stole your heart. Thomas Harte is a thief of hearts.”

 ‟Shut up, Melanie or I’ll tell mom.” In an empty threat. “And don’t poke me.”

Melanie quieted down and giggled for several minutes.

‟I’ll need to tell the State Department that Tom and I had gotten married and then annulled.” Kaylee rubbed her forehead. ‟Dad will poop a pinecone.”

‟Yeah, a whole tree of them.” Melanie smiled, but her tone was sad. ‟You know those crazy paparazzi with cameras will be here. You won’t be able to walk or drive to classes.”

‟I’ll live on campus then.”

‟The wait list is two years long, you won’t get a place until after you graduate.” Melanie shook her head. ‟If you tell the State Department, you can save him, but you will lose your chance to graduate in peace. The photographers will be all over you like flies on a dead fish.”

‟What…?” Kaylee interrupted. “Mel, the feed just went down. Just have a four-zero-four ‟Not Found” code.”

‟Just go back a page.”

‟I did, Online Network News only has other countries in the menu, Singapore is not there. Not even weather.”

‟Wierd. Try alternate news feeds.” Melanie suggested and sat next to her sister at the computer.

‟Okay.” Kaylee typed in the addresses of the different sources.

‟Those are old images we’ve seen. Tom might be free. Oh!” Kaylee smiled. ‟Lettie has sent an email.”

Then the excitement turned into crestfallen defeat.

‟She says Tom’s locked up in jail, Singapore police have confiscated his passport. She looked at the laws, sent me the link.” Kaylee clicked on the highlighted text. ‟That is harsh. He might get ten-years for the weed and forfeit all his possessions and death penalty is mandatory for the narc-oil.”

Melanie looked at her sister.

‟Death? But that is only aromatherapy oil, right? That essence of rosemary I gave you for your birthday.” She shook her head. “And they took… His plane?”

Melanie kept reading over Kaylee’s shoulder.

A phone rang, and both sisters looked at their phones before Kaylee picked it up.

‟Hello? Yes. Yes, at home. Yes. Las Vegas, three weeks ago. My address is…” Kaylee looked down off the balcony. ‟You know where I am? Yes. Right away? I’ll be here.”

‟That was the lawyer. He and a State Department rep are on their way.‟ Looking down, ‟Oh… Drat! I need to get dressed in something nicer than my t-shirt and jeans.”

‟At least put on a bra. You’re kind of on point since you have been on the phone.” Melanie pointed out.

‟What! ACK!” Kaylee squawked and ran to her room to change clothes, covering her chest up with her hands.

‟Why did you cover and run? It’s only me.” Melanie laughed again. The younger sister enjoyed when the elder stressed out.

‟Oh my god! Omygodomygod I can’t find what to wear.” Sounds in her bedroom echoed as she slammed drawers and closet doors.

‟Wear your dark green skirt, boots and your black silk blouse with the pocket.”

‟You borrowed my skirt last month for the class interviews, have you brought it back?”

‟No, it’s in my laundry.”

‟Crap. Mellie, help, I am in a panic, I need some advice.”

‟Okay, black skirt?”

‟Yes, past my knee. Heeled boots, black silk blouse and the gray jacket.

‟Yeeaah… I would leave the jacket.” Melanie said and looked out the window. ‟It’s too hot to dress in those extra layers.”

‟Yeah. Yeah… I will meet with some important people, I don’t want them to think I am just a college kid.”

‟Well. You are, and he is a lot older, you might not get away without that label in their minds, then they would say it.” Melanie mused as she helped her sister adjust the collar on the blouse.

‟I don’t know what to say.” Kaylee said and walked out of the room. ‟The lawyer will be here in a moment.”

‟Okay. Okay.” Melanie said as the sibling turned around. ‟Okay, you look good. Wait, did you put a bra on?” Another squeak of profanity from her Kaylee who disappeared into her room again.

A short few minutes and she was ready. The sisters opened the door to walk down to the sidewalk and both sisters screamed in surprise.

Four men stood in the hallway, two in military uniform in places on either side of the door. Two in civilian office clothing, one looked like he had swallowed some vile drink.

‟Miss Grant?” The dark-skinned man held out a hand. ‟I’m Beyron Ferguson, attorney at law. The G.I. Joe here is the secretary of the local state department office, Maxwell Silverham.” he indicated the sour-faced man.

‟Local?” Melanie said. ‟I didn’t know we had a local one.”

‟And you are?” Beyron said.

‟She is my sister, Melanie Grant. I would like to have her here while you interrogate me. Should I get a lawyer?”

‟Please call me Max.” The older white-haired man said. ‟No you don’t need a lawyer, and local is a relative term Miss Grant.” He nodded with a smile to Melanie.

‟May I get you a glass of water?” Kaylee asked.

‟No, thank you.” Max said. ‟May we sit?”

Motioning to the breakfast table, they all took a seat while Beyron pulled out a notepad.

‟For the record Miss Grant… Kaylee. I am your attorney, appointed by the Attorney General of the United States, pro-bono. That is no charge to you.” Beyron explained to the two women. “I will give you advice, but I will do what you ask, even finding a replacement if I do not fulfill my job to your satisfaction. Mister Silverham here is the government investigator in charge. He would like to ask about your relationship with Thomas Harte who is now in custody in Singapore and will stand trial for drug possession in the next few days. This is not a criminal investigation, but I am here to protect your rights in any event his questions stray into private areas that are not relevant. If at any time you wish to stop talking with Mister Silverham, we will bring this to an end. Do you understand all that?”

Kaylee nodded.

‟Before we start,” Max said, ‟What is your relationship with this author who seems to lack a street address.”

Kaylee held hands with her sister and relaxed, she felt more confident than ever and explained the events of the past summer.

Married by Mistake Chapter 56. Mr. Lee, I presume?

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Chapter 56. Mr. Lee, I presume?

“I will make a request that you are on police bail, in the meantime the guards will escort you across the street back to your cell until I find how much the bail will be.”

This deflated Tom, he did not want to go back to the miserable place where odor of vomit and dead cockroaches were common decor.

Before Robert could pick up his phone to call for a guard to take Tom back to his cell, there came a knock at the door.

A young man with a camera stood at the door and two men stood on either side of him. The two men wore matched navy blue business suits with lavender ties.

If Tom was not so terrified of his current future, might have laughed. But the twenty-something man in the middle of the trio did not fit with the group.

The young man looked down, and introduced himself as Liem Han, then one of the men in a gentle motion, a hand on his shoulder.

With a grimace of terror Liem spoke an invitation.

‟Mister Lee would like for you to join him for tea.”

‟Thank you.” Robert said. ‟When.”

A squeeze on Liem’s shoulder made the young man moan in abject fear.

‟Now. A limousine is waits for us outside.”

The men that escorted them, only gave minute professional nods as the two men inside gathered up the papers from Robert’s desk and walked out the door.

‟Please remember to lock your door.” The taller one said to Robert. ‟You will be returned safe and it would be a shame if someone took what little you had left because of an open door.”

Tom actually felt better when Robert locked the door before he turned and walked out of the house to the stretched limousine.

The team lavender opened the limo’s door and invited the three escorted men to climb inside the plush transporter’s interior and they closed the door behind them. Inside, an Indian woman with a strong British accent, faced them as they sat.

‟Mister Lee wishes to meet you both. Mister Liem, you will sell all your pictures with rights to Mister Lee. Interviews may be granted, but only after Mr. Lee approves. In the event there is a paid interview, the payments divided evenly, agreed?”

‟Um.” Liem stammered. ‟Do I have a choice.”

‟Yes. But it would be in your best interests to accept the deal. The consequences would be unfortunate.”

‟Ma’am.” Tom pointed at Liem. ‟Why is he here?”

‟Mister Liem Han has taken pictures of you at the time of your arrest. He sold them to the highest bidder. Mr. Lee has purchased most of the images, but the first few went out to the internet before we were aware of your legal troubles.” She explained in precise langauge.

‟Excuse me, who are you?” Robert asked.

‟Mister Mitch, my name is Mumtaz Nayyar, former legal advisor to the British consul here in Singapore.” She said in an even voice.

‟Why former?” The lawyer asked.

‟Mr. Lee pays a great deal more.”

‟Simple and direct.” Tom tried to chuckle but it came out as little more than a squeak. That Lee Kong Kuen had precise knowledge of where he was, bothered him.

‟Now, Mr. Mitch. My employer wishes to help you along with this case of Mr. Harte here. We have arranged for dropping of the drug charges, but you need to press for the government substantiate the drug charge.”

‟I don’t understand.”

‟The police misplaced the plastic bag as I understand it.” She folded down her laptop lid. ”There are no drugs. The report on that just came through to me.”

‟That is…” Robert searched for a word opened up in a practiced smile and showed perfect, polished teeth. ‟Incredible intelligence young woman.”

‟Do not flirt with me, it does not work.”

‟Mister Harte, you have been in Liem’s pictures. As a result certain elements of politics and some family have contacted the US Embassy here. She claims to drive for your wife. But our sources indicate you are a widower.”

‟I don’t have a wife, and I have a lot of limo drivers.”

She opened her laptop lid and traced her finger over the screen.

‟Lettie?” She read the name on the screen invisible to the rest of the passengers.

‟Oh yes, she owns the company.”

‟Does the name Kaylee sound familiar?”

Robert coughed.

‟I’m sorry, until we are more confident on these recent events, I advise him to say no more.”

‟Of course.” She looked out the window. ‟Here we are. Your mystery will resolve in a moment. Your host is waits there at the front step.”

The elegant car pulled up and a tall, bald elderly man dressed in lavender robes stepped forward and waited while the limousine driver opened the door. The two men in the business suits flanked the newcomers men and remained silent, bowed low to their employer.

Mumtaz bowed, but not as low as the two suited men, introduced the three guests.

‟Mister Harte, Mister Mitch and Mister Liem, this is my employer Lee Kong Kuen.” Then she stepped off to the side and fell silent.

‟Mister Lee.” Robert held out a hand. ‟Pleased to meet you. I have heard much.”

He shook his head, then the old man held out a fist and bumped knuckles.

‟I do not shake hands with outsiders, I understand that this is acceptable among westerners. Please come with me, we have much to discuss, but first you will need a change of clothes.” Mr. Lee turned to the men in business suits. ‟Some comfortable robes for them.”

‟Follow us.” The taller of his soldiers said without humor.

In a half-hour they sat in a room and wore lavender colored robes when their host entered.

He sat on a padded stool near a work of art, a short truncated obelisk with a one-meter-diameter flawless, transparent-quartz stone that rotated on a shallow pool of water.

‟There are few large quartz crystals in this world that are flawless. This is one.” He said, his hairless head gleamed nearly as much as the polished stone.

‟Mister Liem Han. I will pay you one-million Singapore dollars for your pictures, also for your camera and your phone. You will not give interviews unless I say it is acceptable. All interviews will be here under my supervision with Mumtaz in attendance. You’ll be paid and I will get half. If you receive offers of interviews, you will refer whoever asks to Mumtaz for negotiations.”

‟Yes.” Liem said. ‟I was just lucky, I saw the American get detained and taken out of his plane.”

‟Thank you.” Mr. Lee nodded. “You were lucky, indeed, and you’ll be rewarded for your work. You have a job interview with the person on the paper that Mister Hom has handed you. You will need new clothes and, Mister Hom? Please escort Mister Liem and select for him some proper clothes for an interview.”

He watched the men leave, then the eyes became hard and looked at Tom.

‟Your cannabis is high quality from the Emerald Triangle. DNA analysis tells us it is from Oregon. Mr. Harte, you do not plan to import any of this material into or through this part of the world?” The brow on the old man became furrowed with concern.

‟No. I will repeat what I have said, I was not aware it was on my plane. I have no interest in transport or smuggle of any material.” Tom looked at his host with a steady gaze. “I have had a relationship with a woman and we have parted company, I think it was hers.”

‟So I have heard, you sought an annulment in Las Vegas.”

‟Yes.” Tom nodded.

‟Tell me, in truth, do they have an entire street covered in Las Vegas?” The old face was unreadable.

‟Why, yes.” Tom said, careful of his words. “It is animated at night with lights.”

‟I wish to go there and see that, but I will need a tour guide.” A slight smile escaped him. ‟You will need to set that up. A staff of all men, a full floor and skilled escorts to show me around. I don’t trust any place outside my walls. And have all escorts trained in protection. Not all of my bodyguards have passports.”

‟Okay, I can do that. Is this a payment for any help?” Tom asked. “For my freedom?”

‟No, that is a friend who helps another friend in need. I would not ask you to do any illegal activities on my behalf.” He shook his head. “Those needs I can take care of with my own devices.”

“For payments to satisfy the debt incurred of your current legal issues, we will speak of the market you wish to enter with your children’s books.” The lord of the manor nodded. ‟Initial letters of interest we have exchanged, will reflect an extra two-cents per sale in U.S. dollars to me for one year, I expect also to have two-cents per sale on tickets of the movie worldwide release. Not from sales in the US, the convoluted tax laws there are beyond reason.”

‟But, Mr. Lee, There is no movie for the children’s book series planned.” Tom pointed out.

‟Mr. Ritch.” The bald head turned and addressed the lawyer.

‟Mitch. Like Robert Mitchum the actor, but no ‘um’ at the end. Just Mitch.”

‟I beg your pardon, Mr. Mitch.” He gave a slight bow to his head. “You should represent Tom here to negotiate the fine details between our markets.”

‟I am not a contract lawyer.”

‟Then I suggest you find one that you can afford, this market will be worth millions to all of us, in my opinion. Tom, you are a gifted storyteller. I look forward to someone who will read your books read to me at bedtime.”

‟Who… oh.” Tom looked around at the staff. Everywhere, young, athletic men in loincloths of their hosts favorite color performed maintenance on the grounds with brooms and rakes.

‟Most these young men are heterosexual, they are all only my employees. This is not a sex camp, I have my own relationships, but I do like the sculpted male body at work, so they maintain my homes as if they are a haven for monks.”

Robert looked up from his personal digital assistant app with a nod.

‟I accept the offer for the job as Mr. Harte’s representative.”

‟Excellent, Mr. Mitch. We shall communicate by way of computer for business. If we need to meet in person, we can meet in Australia or across the bay, outside of Singapore. Any of my homes are open to meet and for general use.”

‟You have homes in Australia?” Robert asked.

‟Why yes, I have six homes there.” The bald head nodded.

Tom nodded and smiled. He had met Lee Kong Kuen at a dinner party at the old man’s mansion in Point Piper, Australia.

‟Back to business. I would like to meet again, soon. But first we need to get Mister Harte out of the country. For the moment, investigations have come to a halt. There is a judge that will give your passport back to you Mr. Harte. Leave the courthouse, go straight to the airport, file a flight plan and leave the country. Call now to have it fueled and ready.” One of the men in business suit leaned over, whispered into Mr. Lee’s ear and handed him a tablet computer with images on the screen.

He looked with concern at Mumtaz, she nodded. ‟Or buy a ticket to anywhere outside of the country.”

‟What is that Mr. Lee?” Robert asked.

‟I am not sure at this time that Mr. Harte would want his plane back after he sees this. The good news, they have found no further evidence or items but the safe. The safe they will ask you to open tomorrow. Drug dogs have not hit on the safe so there is no pressure to open it. The bad news,” He handed the tablet to Tom. ‟They have stripped it to the bulkheads, all that you had is in boxes now, your plane is as if it came from the builder. It is little more than a tube with wings.”

Tom went pale.

‟Bed, walls, cabinets. What did they do? Use saws?”

‟In my experience, that is the most probable method. You have the good fortune that the wings and engines are still in place.” The wise old eyes sparkled with irritation. “Investigations are required in such cases as this, but blatant destruction without due regard makes me unhappy. People don’t like life when I am unhappy.”

‟He is correct,” Robert agreed. “I have defended people who were in their cars, the government inspectors cut the cars apart. Even the engines, if there is no one to protect the possessions, the investigators do not stop.”

‟Damn.” Tom boggled.

‟I will take care of the issue and see out some recompense for the damages on your behalf. So we will be in touch Mr. Tom.” Lee Kong Kuen said in a soft voice. ‟You are free as of now, if they execute you or you are in prison for the next ten years and spend that time here, you will not make any money for yourself, Mr. Mitch or myself. We need to keep you honest and free.”

‟Miss Nayyar, call the justice house and have them hold Mr. Harte’s passport for pickup, he will arrive in my limousine. Mr. Chen, file a flight plan for our guest’s plane if he desires to fly it and get him to the airport with all haste.”

‟Yes sir.”

‟Mr. Mitch. Gather your team. I predict that your services will come to one-half of one cent per book sold of Mr. Tom Harte’s Sea Dragon books.”

‟Bloody good!” Robert said.

‟Make it so, we will meet again in a month.” He turned to Tom again. “One more item.”

‟Yes?” Tom said.

‟This woman that has caused you much grief. Did she want to stay with you? She had signed all the wrong areas in the papers.”

‟How did you know that?”

‟I have a copy of them.”

‟But you said the government could not open it.” Tom said. ‟How did you get a copy?”

‟My people are far more resourceful, it is why the engines and wings are still on your plane. I did not get involved quickly enough to save your interior.”

“I can have the interior rebuilt.” Tom nodded. “Thank you for all the help.” 

‟Very good, at any rate. Mr. Tom.” He rose to his feet and motioned him to follow.

After they walked among the topiary for a few minutes, the old man spoke like a father to a favorite son.

 ‟Find her, I wish to meet the woman who could cause you such distress. One bit of observation? She left birth control in a drawer, she wants you to return.”

‟I…” Tom looked down. ‟I don’t think so. She went to her boyfriend.”

‟She did not. She looks for you.” The two men locked eyes. ‟Your secret marriage is out of the shadows. You will have paparazzi look for you once again.” The old man nodded. “At any rate leave Asia now or you will never be able to leave. The judge will not let this go if you are still here when the sun rises again.”

Tom nodded and bowed. Tom turned to walk with Mr. Hom as Liem had done, but this time to the car.

This was no limousine, instead an all-electric four-door Tesla with an engine that hummed like an electric transformer.

Tom was not just about to leave and be free, this was a story of speed.

Married by Mistake Chapter 55. World Online News Network

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Chapter 55. World Online News Network

Kaylee watched as raw feeds from Singapore online news scrolled across her screen. The sisters watched images of a man, escorted out of an airport in handcuffs.

“Authorities state they have arrested an accused drug smuggler and sources have stated, a known murderer from the United States. Although the name was withheld by authorities until they verify the suspected drug smuggler’s identity.” The talking head on the tv narrated while the video and images shifted on the screen.

But Kaylee recognized the airplane on which they captured this dangerous human being.

It was Tom.

Melanie’s boyfriend found a raw news feed web-site then used a cable to plug the tv into his tablet and they all watched the image display titled that an accused rich drug smuggler stand trial.

They tried to turn up the sound on the video but that did not help, the three of them did not understand the language, but the subtitles gave the story. While she watched the feeds on the TV, Kaylee held her hands to her face with tears in her eyes.

She knew where she forgotten her misplaced stash.

The Pacific Wizard, in the bedroom dresser on her side, second drawer from the bottom with her blindfold to help her sleep and aromatherapy oils. She closed her eyes and imagined what version of hell that a foreign drug smuggler’s life is like.

*And it’s not even Tom’s.* Her heart stood still. *Legal here, what are the penalties in that country?*

“What are the laws in, where’s he at? Singapore?” Kaylee asked.

Arthur, Melanie’s boyfriend rubbed his forehead in thought.

“Severe. They execute for drugs there that we have legalized.”

Kaylee looked out the window at the bay, to the west there was the horizon. She wished with all her heart she could fly over the horizon and rescue the man who suffered because of her.

*I wonder if he is safe?*

In a dusty jail in Singpore, sat a citizen of the United States. He was so exhausted he struggled to remember his own name.

Tom. His name was Tom. He had been awake so long, his deepest memories were fuzzy.

His books, a pirated movie that made the rounds and the assurances from the United States Ambassador had done little to help his state of mind.

He had just survived twenty-four hours of interrogation at the police station and Tom fretted like a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. He sat alone at a table while police and prosecutors paraded in front of the judge and the narration cryptic law was in English, the direction taken by Singapore jurisprudence was obvious. 

“They are about to do what they do best,” A dapper-mannered man sat in front of him. “Crush an individual found with drugs and obscene devices. The blindfold that they found they will consider as evidence of a crime, your statement to the inspector that you smuggle women will compound your case.”

“You have passed blood and urine drug tests, you are clean except for medications for those you have prescriptions for. In other words, you are clean and not a user.” The lawyer read from a paper without a smile.

Tom relaxed as he heard this from his hastily appointed legal advisor, but then it took a decidedly dark turn when the lawyer held his hand up as Tom began to smile when he heard about his clean test results.

‟If you do not use the drugs, then you are a smuggler.”

‟No. That means I did not partake. They found it in a drawer, inside a woman’s toiletry bag that had a blindfold to help her sleep and I don’t know what else.”

‟Ah yes. And how did you know of the blindfold, and the drugs. Where is this woman?” The lawyer asked his client.

Tom looked into the face of the blue-eyed British legal esquire that practiced in Singapore.

Robert Mitch was born of English parents when Singapore was a colony of the Empire, left the country for England to get his legal degree and then became a lawyer in the busy center of business and crime. Over the years as he worked for defense of tourists that ran afoul of the law and their families, he often charged exorbitant fees.

They almost always paid the prices he often asked, the large income even allowed him to bribe the occasional official to look the other way while evidence vanished.

He smiled when he read the legal charges.

*This case promises a large payday! This client is a rich American!*

‟She is probably in California, I last saw her in Oregon.”

“She’s a prostitute then? Marijuana is legal in Oregon, yes? So, we can argue that the drugs were there, without your knowledge in a place where it is a legal drug.” He scribbled down notes on a yellow pad. “That will help. The obscene violations will also be investigated, we will argue that she brought the drugs on board without your knowledge. But I assure you that won’t matter.”

It was Tom’s turn to hold up his hand.

‟She is not a prostitute, she’s a friend and we had…” Tom paused. ‟A relationship. But it’s over now.”

‟Is she still alive?” Robert asked. “You’ve a reputation as a lady-killer that got away with the crime.”

‟What the f…” Tom exploded and was unable to speak for a moment. “What kind of question is that?”

‟The kind they will ask you in the investigation.” He looked at Tom. ‟The prosecutor is good at his job to put anyone in jail with drug charges. Right now they are have a court’s order for a thorough search your plane. Down to the last bolt.”

‟What does that mean?” Tom asked.

‟They will to take it apart to look for hidden compartments. Do you have any on board?”

‟I have a safety box, has legal papers in it. I would wish those to stay private.”

“In the course of investigation, no secret of yours will remain a secret or private.” Robert shook his head. ‟If the papers are on the plane, they will become part of the investigation and evidence to show the judge. What is on those papers?”

‟Jesus. Annulment papers.” Tom held his head in his hands. ‟Just annulment papers. We got married when she’d gotten stoned. Then it ended.”

‟So you drugged her into actions against her will?” Robert wrote on his pad of paper again.

‟NO! No no. Oh good God!” Tom nearly fainted. Even his defense lawyer was not on his side. “No, that’s all wrong. Not how it was.”

‟This is how they’ll present the investigation, in light of the reports about your family. Some archives say you might have had a hand in their deaths.” Robert shook his head and opened a local English language newspaper and showed it to his client. “Mr. Harte, at this point, if you want to keep your head out of the noose, I recommend you to not mention, at all, the circumstances of this annulment. You got married, it did not work out, it’s over.”

‟The noose? How about I stay out of prison?” Tom said in a panicked tone.

‟To be honest.” Robert put his pen down and looked at Tom. ‟There is not a strong hope for that at the moment. You were found with almost five-hundred grams of marijuana. This area is known to grow copious amounts of the weed. This is worth a life sentence, confiscation of your plane and seizure of any drug money. And report on the oil that was found is still not back yet. They will treat it as marijuana resin or hash oil for the moment. If tests show it is, in fact, a hashish oil? With the weed you already had on board, that is a mandatory death penalty and they will hang you. By this time next month, they will send you back to the states in a box.”

‟The oil, I don’t know, it might be a massage oil. Drug money. There is no money on that plane, just what was in my pocket.”

The lawyer stared at Tom for a long moment. He picked up his phone and dialed a number.

“It’s Robert Mitch. Yes, with the American now. Yes, that is what I have called about, thank you. It is? Thank you, again.” The lawyer broke the connection and looked back at Tom. “Good news, the oil is a mineral oil with traces of eucalyptus and rosemary in it.”

Tom and Robert both took a deep breath.

“That would have been a death-penalty, be assured of that.” Robert added. ‟Mr. Harte, You need someone who is local on your side before this goes any further. What is the reason you are in Singapore Mr. Harte?” Robert wrote down his question.

‟Tom, please, call me Tom.”

‟No, I don’t think so.” Robert said in a calm tone that did not reassure Tom and only increased his anxiety. ‟I don’t do that, it is a matter of respect. And while friendship lets someone call another by first names, we are not friends. I work for you and the courts and it’s not proper business otherwise.”

‟So,” Robert continued. “I ask again, why are you in Singapore?”

‟I was about to meet with someone to get my books published, perhaps printed here and maybe have a movie funded. Lee Kong Kuen, is his name.”

‟Lee Kong Kuen,” Robert froze in mid-scribble and looked up. “The Mr. Lee who-has-more-money-than-god, Mr. Lee?

‟Yes.” Tom said. ‟That’s him. Why?”

Robert sat up and his eyes wide, his price to charge the witless Yankee just reduced to a normal fee. If it became known that Robert gouged a business partner of Lee Kong Kuen? Mr. Lee would do things to Robert that were too hideous to think about.

Perspiration broke out on the lawyer’s forehead as he fumbled for his thoughts.

‟Maybe, you’ve a chance to get the hell out of this country if this hits the news.” Robert said, he became highly motivated to win. ‟Once it goes public, then this will back the law into a corner and motivate them to release you, it would make them look bad and cost them a great deal of money. Whether bribed, blackmailed or bro-manced for favors. No matter what punishment they would impose.”

‟Bro-manced?” Tom looked at his lawyer.

‟It has become a recent term here to describe favors the leaders here go through. It comes, I think, from an American tv comedy that is popular here.” Robert said. ‟I think you Yanks call it a ‟good old boy” system” and it works on a daily basis here.”

‟Let’s get it done then. Faster we can get me out of here, the better.”

Robert’s phone chirped and he looked at the text display.

‟Mister Harte, I think we need to turn on the tv.”

What Tom saw, made his jaw drop. A news story showed him as a prisoner escorted out of the airport.

‟Tom, you need talk to Mister Lee, right away.” Robert grimaced. ‟It may already be too late, if he feels you are a petty smuggler, he will not help you. But, if he will help, this will just evaporate in a second. Just assure me, that marijuana is not yours.”

‟Not mine.” Tom said. “I truly did not know it was there. I am here on business only, writer’s busines. I want to get my children’s stories published here in this part of the world.”

‟Fine, I will do all that I can to get you out of this. But with your nationality as an American and first time here? And if I can get the charges dropped?” Robert looked directly at his client. ‟You get on that big damned plane of yours, push the throttles all the way forward and get your red-white-and-blue butt out of Singapore. No stops, no explores, no Indiana Jones adventure-seeker games.”

‟Could I come back?” Tom wondered out loud. “For business?”

‟Well, you can, if you wish. But my advice, not for a couple of years.” The lawyer nodded. ‟And then, it would be bloody good to take my advice, do not have so much as a crumb of a drug nearby.”

Outside, Liem Han sat in the shade near his motorbike, waited for this rich American to come out so he could take more photos and video.

“Come out, Yankee, you will make me rich.”

It was a good day to be a photographer.

Married by Mistake Chapter 54. Big Trouble In Little Singapore

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Chapter 54. Big Trouble In Little Singapore

The black-irised eyes of the customs officer looked into the emerald-green eyes of the author.

‟You fly alone? This is unusual.” The official was not impressed by the Pacific Wizard, nor did he show any signs of good humor.

‟I don’t need anyone to fly. I have no children or wife.” Tom said with a smile. “The computers and I can do it all with no one else. So I travel by myself.”

‟Why come by yourself? This is quite unusual.” His accent was decidedly British, stern as he was, he was not uneducated. “This is a place for families and tourists. You are no tourist?”

‟Business.” Tom struggled to suppress his knack for inappropriate humor in stressful situations. “I am here to make a contract with a publisher for children’s stories.”

‟In such a big plane?”

‟It is mine and it’s the only one I have that can cross the ocean, Officer. Sir.” Tom was a bit nervous. He disliked confrontations as a habit. The last time he had dealt with the law, the press got involved for years after. “It is my home.”

‟We will check your aircraft.” The officer motioned to some of his team to enter the jet.

‟I will live on my plane, except to meet with Mister Hikaru Ngyen?” Tom dropped the name. ‟I’m sorry, I did not get your name Officer…?”

‟Lieutenant Lai.”

‟I’m sorry. Lieutenant Lai, I’ll stay on my plane, here. I only go to town to meet for business and leave.”

‟We will search the plane.” The lieutenant repeated himself in flat tones.

‟You search for what?” This had to be a bad joke. Somewhere someone had a big laugh.

‟For drugs. You can easily smuggle drugs in such an airship as this, yes?” The Lieutenant’s gaze was steady and he did not blink.

‟Only to smuggle women.” Tom winked, and tried to smile then realized that was a poor move.

‟What? You smuggle women?” He looked at Tom with irritation. ‟Where do you go after you leave?”

‟Australia.” Tom answered. “I have a book launch to do autographs and a convention scheduled to attend.”

‟Where are you from?” He said as he took a close look at Tom’s passport.”You are long ways from home.”

‟All over the United States. But home would be, I would say…” Tom paused. He had no home base, really. He used his agent’s office address in the past, now he could not remember the new address. ‟San Francisco, California.”

‟Expensive place to live.” He looked Tom in the eye.

‟Yes, but I have a comfortable income.” Tom countered. “I am self-employed.”

‟Smuggler?”

‟Smuggler? Me?!” Tom blink and shook his head, this conversation took a decidedly bad turn into the most twisted nightmare he could ever dream up. ‟No! I am an author, a writer of children’s books and adventures. One of my adult novels is a movie, maybe you have seen it?”

‟What movie?” Lieutenant Lai asked dangerously. ‟You write children’s books and adult books?”

‟The movie is Steamland about the book of the same name.”

‟Dogs.” The Lieutenant spoke into a radio microphone attached to his collar. Then to Tom. ‟Do you have any drugs to declare?”

‟What? No. There are no drugs to declare, other than aspirin and prescription medications for depression and panic that I don’t take all the time.” Tom decided he would take some of those drugs as soon as he finished with this conversation.

‟Do you feel panic now?” The eyes tried to pierce Tom’s claims of innocence, the man was on a mission. He took his job with a serious attitude. Or was perhaps he waited for a bribe.

Tom shook his head.

*Good god, I don’t want to open that can of worms, if the officer was an honest man, it would make matters so much worse. It would be better to let the officer ask if he wants some payment.*

‟I’m about to.” Tom admitted.

A small dog, brought up by a woman who did not even look at Tom. She unleashed the hound at the steps of the plane and picked it up the wagging-tailed officer. It reminded Tom of Snoopy the dog.

A beagle. Good noses, no-threat, a good choice of a dog to clear the jet.

Tom sat on the steps while the woman and the dog when through the plane, he could see when they started from the front, where he stowed equipment for water operations.

*The inflatable boat, electric motor, anchors, chains, ropes.*  He ticked off the inventory of the closet.

All of a sudden the dog barked its fool head off and Tom stood up and looked in. The Snoopy lookalike pawed at his refrigerator and Tom relaxed when they opened the door and the summer sausage he had bought in Germany was there, open.

The woman spoke in a harsh voice at the dog when it lunged forward to get the meat of the knee-high storage unit, then continued on its job and sniffed around the inside of the Pacific Wizard.

The lieutenant looked at Tom and then looked away, clearly embarrassed and hung his head.

Tom’s stress level dropped. Then the dog sounded off again.

Tom looked towards the bedroom of the big plane when the woman officer stood up. In her hand she held a heavy plastic pouch, rolled up like a giant burrito of a green leafy… Tom’s heart fell. 

The officers spoke in rapid Malay, then Lieutenant Lai turned to Tom.

‟It is illegal to use marijuana here.” The Lieutenant said and nodded to his officers who took Tom by both arms and pulled him out of the plane.

‟I don’t smoke, I don’t know where that came from.” Tom regretted the words the moment he said it. He sounded like every arrested drug smuggler in history as alarms went off in his head. “Wait!”

‟You are under investigation for possession of restricted drug.” Lieutenant Lai said.

Tom closed his mouth and did not protest loudly.

*I know better than to argue, all research and subjects I have written have taught me that a street fight with the police is just a “no”. Better to wait for a lawyer to find just how bad things are.*

Tom walked upright with the officers, not overly tall at an inch below six-feet tall. But he towered over the police officers and, in an ironic twist, it entertained him in a hysterical, panic driven way.

At the entrance to the air terminal, a freelance photographer that shot pictures of places and people to sell on the open market shot several pictures of Tom as they led him into then out the front doors of the airport.

He switched to the HD video of his camera, Liem Han, future news reporter for a big city news source (Maybe even tv!) recorded the arrest of a pilot of an oddly painted jet that had landed.

The pilot was a caucasian that looked familiar, but he couldn’t put a finger on it. He made a mental note to ask his girlfriend when he got home, Liem walked quickly to his second-most expensive possession he had ever purchased and hit the ignition button on the motorcycle.

He pulled up next to the car that the dog officer poured water in a bowl for her dog on the sidewalk, he asked her what the arrest was for.

‟Drugs. That American is a smuggler.” She said. “He had three-hundred grams of marijuana and a bottle of oil, fifteen millilitres.”

‟American! Thanks.” He slipped her a fifty-dollar bill he sped away and caught up the police car with the tall, redheaded prisoner and followed it at a respectful distance. This was a possible death penalty case with an American.

He kept his distance, Liem watched as the car pulled up at the police center and sat there for several minutes.

Liem linked his phone to his camera with the bluetooth connection and sent still photos that he had just taken to his girlfriend and willed it to upload faster. He hoped she would see the photos right away and text him back if she recognized the red-headed foreigner.

The phone toned with her favorite love song and Cho looked to see what Liem had to say. A single line, “Who is this?” accompanied three photos.

It took her a minute to recognize the images, and instead of a text, she called Liem.

‟You don’t know who that is? That is the guy that wrote the movie you bought me. He is famous in Australia. They say he is dangerous and killed his wife and kids in the USA, he has tried to sink boats of… ”

‟Thanks! More pictures on the way! He hung up on her without a chance for her even finish her sentence.” He turned on the camera again, double checked that the battery pack was at full charge and connected and turned on.

A mistake he had committed once before and lost a chance for photos that would have made a name for him.

He had a famous person in his sights, and the first photos in the world of him under arrest, and Liem smiled.

*It happened right in front of me!*

The American who had beaten the system and got away with murder was now arrested in Singapore, Liem knew he had a gold mine of photos in his camera.

Four officers came out and pulled the American out of the police car and escorted him inside. Everyone had a hand on the tall redhead, they did not take any chances he might put up a struggle.

And Liem recorded it all with his camera, and he smiled widely. More expensive than his motorcycle, the camera and the long lens just paid for themselves, and two phone calls later, he uploaded video to the network to a buyer for a handsome price.

In the days that followed, Liem’s life and career became a roller-coaster ride beyond his dreams.

Tom’s life, however, was a vertical epic descent into hell.

Married by Mistake Chapter 53. Singapore

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Chapter 53. Singapore

After he left Hiroshima, Japan, Tom’s plane traveled over the expansive eastern Pacific Ocean, the early day was clear and broken clouds. The Pacific Wizard’s upgraded twin engines operated so smooth and so well-balanced, one would hardly know they pushed the big plan at hundreds of miles-per-hour as he wandered around the open expanse of the big jet alone.

Tom walked the length of the plane, using the restroom. At his designated altitude, he still flew slow compared to the commercial airliners.

Not meant for blistering speed, his craft and home was a yacht, after all, a flying boat. And even with the upgrades in the engines, it still traveled at a sedate speed of a little less than six-hundred kilometers-per-hour, about thirty-percent slower compared to commercial passenger jet.

But, it was his home.

He passed over the water, the autopilot followed the path programmed in the flight computer. The Japanese were sticklers about accuracy and with the unusual private jet, made good and sure that he had the proper data set logged into the computer.

He stood behind the pilot’s seat, he did not sit back down, just stood there and watched the machine fly on itself with the automatic guidance system engaged. He had spent a lot of time in the plane in recent weeks. Although his arm was no longer oozing blood, he kept applying new, clean dressings, if the air-pressure changes caused some unexpected problems. The last thing he wanted, to lose the use of his injured arm.

It would have a scar for some time that would be impressive to show off. But for now it was an angry line that crossed his forearm, as if someone hit him with an ax.

It was quite impressive to the unprepared, if he could show it off. But there was no one to show it to while being on the Pacific Wizard in mid-flight.

Tom took a deep breath and let it out in a controlled slow exhale, it felt so good, he stretched a second time before he went to his desk and picked up the tablet computer. It was the one he used so often to write on and sat back in the pilot seat, where he could keep an eye on the displays.

Radar indicated several aircraft above and below, a heavy jet was passing over him going the same direction. He read the display and looked the specs up on his computer and shook his head at the numbers it displayed on the size and speed of the larger plane.

Laughing, the engines on the passenger jet was larger by far than the two that powered the Wizard. Even with the engine upgrades when he purchased the big jet through his company, the specs made him a tiny bit envious.

If he could get another upgrade and put those on his yacht.

Laughing out loud again, he realized he would have to have the engines out on longer stalks or have divots pounded into the fuselage of the plane to fit the big fan-powered blowtorches.

A man could stand up inside the big airliner’s engines if he had a mind to.

He could spend all day in the air with Kaylee if he had the plane like those. Except for the cost, some twenty-five thousand US dollars per hour!

She would have to paint a lot to sell her creations to help offset the cost of flying a privately owned seven-eight-seven.

*Even if it is just a fantasy.* Tom shook his head. *There was no way to buy one of those wide-bodied birds.*

The memory of the woman echoed in his head.

His shoulders sagged. He had spent almost the last two hours not thinking of that raven-haired artist.

She had made him laugh, and even if she had not intended to do so, she had hurt him to the core of his heart.

More than he would ever admit to anyone except himself. It was important to him that she kept her promise to… He forgot the other man’s name except he was a congressional aide of some kind.

Shaking his head, he returned to his writing, trying to keep Leonard the Leafy Sea Dragon and his friend Weeds, on a child’s level of understanding. This story had become one about keeping promises.

“A promise kept, makes a person’s word valued.” He typed on the screen in the word bubble of Wendel, the Weedy Sea Dragon.

Still, as he wrote the adventures of Leonard and Weeds his mind drifted to the mote of loneliness in his mind.

The autopilot computer chimed, it was time to make radio contact with Singapore and begin his descent.

Checking his fuel, he was still had a third of his operational fuel left. Traveling the way he had of late, the service techs in San Francisco had fitted his yacht with fuel cells and turned the luxury jet into a virtual gas-can with wings.

Tom, hopped from one city to the next from book-con to comic-con for signing of books and traveled alone, he had flown the great circle route with no one to talk to in the big plane.

Still, he had the computers and could video chat with anyone he chose. But he had no one to call. So he followed his schedule, his eyes settling on a the event that he had attended after Dr. Manga’s installation, the event where the sponsor set him up with a date-for-hire.

He laughed sadly at his perception of the date, that woman came from a company the organizer hired at the Frankfurt comic-con to escort him so that he would look even better with the beautiful woman on his arm.

Tom laughed as the night had progressed and the escort was in fact, more than an escort. With a Master’s Degree in biology and organic chemistry. She was wonderful to talk with an ability to see both sides of an argument, a quick wit and the ability to shut down the probing questions on her relationship with Tom.

Even when one person tried to prove that she was some gold-digger with no brains.

‟I hoped you would slap down that SOB from the vomit-rag tabloid, but jeeze!” Tom commented when they were alone and he laughed. The sight of the tabloid reporter made to look like an imbecile tickled him. “That was beyond good!”

She called herself Krystal with a slight Saxony-German accent, and Tom immediately doubted that was her real name. As far as her education, he could not prove she lied about a Master’s Degree, and she could talk with anyone about nearly any subject. Even the most recent journals of learned circles of chemistry.

When Tom started to talk to her the next morning, she picked up the phone called someone, then told him to get dressed.

‟We are going to breakfast.” She smiled. Taking him by the hand and led him out the door of the hotel.

‟Sorry about last night, I have a lot of things…”

‟Shhh… Mister Harte. Things happen, sometimes they don’t. You are awesome and you did a lot of public interaction at that event. In total, I am very impressed with your work.”

‟You have read my books?”

‟I’ll read the rest tonight, but I read all the children’s books while you slept.” She tapped her phone.

‟Wow. That’s a lot of books, I’ve written for a quite a few years now.”

‟I can read two-thousand words per minute. That’s measured, sir.” She smiled. ‟I can type one-hundred words-a-minute, and I speak five languages, there is little that gets by me.”

‟Anything else? Why are you with me, why not at your own convention?”

‟I’m still in debt for school and a chance compete for a place on the Olympic Archery team.” She said as they stepped into the elevator, alone. “I need to purchase some equipment to keep up with the other competitors.”

Tom laughed, then she kissed him deeply.

‟That’s for being wonderful.” She said softly, coughing with a guilty sound.

‟You said you couldn’t kiss me last night.”

‟Yes, I broke the rule. Sue me.” She chuckled as the doors opened. No one was there to snap pictures or talk to them. She knew the way around the crowded hotel.

‟You are good.” Tom said, looking around. They had come out of an elevator facing away from the foyer and walked out a side door.

‟Logistics and protection. Part of the job.” Only then did Tom notice that Krystal’s eyes were quick to take in everything.

‟We can walk out now. We have reservations at the Meadow. It is where we will meet some of your cohorts in crime.”

‟My cohort… What?” Tom looked sideways at her.

‟The other authors. Each one has an escort to get them there and on time.”

‟So you are a babysitter?”

Krystal laughed. It was a musical sound.

‟I am an escort, but our company requires special skills that is beyond the typecast Hollywood version.” She said softly. As they got into a dark-windowed limousine. ‟I am here to make you look good and to keep you safe.”

Tom boggled.

‟And I thought you were just smart.”

‟Not bad for a call girl?” Crystal said. ‟Don’t worry about my emotional state. I am well compensated to keep you safe.”

‟Who would want to hurt me? I’m just a storyteller.”

‟You don’t know?” Her face became serious, no longer a tall, Nordic beauty that graced the floor, but a military-esque hard look of a bodyguard. ‟There was a threat to the convention. Because of your novel and movie, it is felt that you are a high-value target.”

‟Oh crap…” Tom boggled. “So you are a bodyguard? But just not armed.”

“Oh yes, sir I am.”

“Please for the thousandth time? Call me Tom.” He said.

“Yes, Tom, I’m armed. I carry devices always within reach.” She slid up her skirt, where he could see she carried four knives and two small pistols with silencers in thigh holsters. “Point two-two caliber with sound suppressors. Power is not as important as placement.”

Tom could not get his mind off what was under her skirt for the rest of the trip in .

That was over a week ago. Today he stood inside the Wizard far above the eastern edge of the Pacific Ocean descending into Singapore. Here, he was to meet with a local publisher and distributor for children’s books and he received an invitation to stay at a high-mountain villa. He would to try to get his stories published in the island country. A fresh market for him.

The autopilot chimed and returned control to the human pilot and Tom guided the big jet down into the approach lane.

Slow descent and a perfect touch down with mild weather, the Wizard rumbled down the taxiway to where the crews indicated with their long, bright-colored batons.

The engines powered down with the typical sound of jets and Tom stood out of his seat. Opening the door, and stepped out into the sunshine of the beautiful southeast Asia day.

A few hours later, Tom would wish to never see such a day again.

Married by Mistake Chapter 52. Kaylee! Turn On The News!

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Chapter 52. Kaylee! Turn on the News!

In the week that followed the crazy phone call from Melanie , Kaylee’s thoughts spun like a tornado in her head and the idea to stop at the airport to check on when Tom might return seemed more like a good idea every day.

After two weeks of nag texts by her sister, Kaylee took Melanie to the airport to find when Tom would be scheduled to return.

Melanie’s eyes reflected bright surprise when her older sister drove past the commercial airline terminals and followed around Earhart Street to a gate marked ‟Restricted Access”.

‟Now where?” Melanie asked as they rolled up to the gate.

Kaylee just smiled and punched in a code on a keypad mounted on a steel post.

The gate opened slowly with no more drama than if they had pressed the remote for the garage door at home.

‟Oh my god!” Melanie laughed. “You have access!”

‟You know, you say that a lot?” Kaylee chuckled. Sister’s, were the best friends.

‟Well, when did you get Secret Squirrel access?”

‟Tom gave it to me when had the Wizard’s hull cleaned and serviced here.”

‟Cleaned and serviced?”

‟Yeah, things grow on the hull if he leaves it in the water too long and he had to have it cleaned for travel to different places.” Kaylee blinked then covered her face with a hand. ‟Oh crap, I sound like a snob plane owner.”

Melanie laughed harder as they drove around the parking area to the big hanger and parked next to other private cars.

Their car was decidedly out-of-place, even the pickup trucks that were there, were new and expensive looking. Kaylee’s beat-up, creaky import car, in comparison, appeared rather sad among the upscale cars from the ‟Big-3” American builders and one European exotic car that the girls suspected as a compensation for someone’s ego.

Kaylee led her sister to the human sized door in the moving wall and tried the knob and found it unlocked.

They opened the door and walked inside the fluorescent-lighted interior. Several planes sat around while technicians turned wrenches and climbed on ladders as the doctors-with-wrenches went about and serviced their winged patients.

‟This way to the office.” She told Melanie. ‟We’ll ask about the Pacific Wizard.”

Ten-minutes later, they walked out of the office, disappointed.

‟That was a lost cause.” Melanie ground her teeth in frustration.

‟What gets me is that they didn’t even know who he was.” Kaylee answered quietly.

‟Ask the guy with the clipboard?” Her sister pointed to a stationary man in a white coat.

‟It might get us kicked out, but yeah.”

Walking up to the man with the board he was tapping on. It was a tablet computer and he was calling it every vile name in the book.

“You useless piece of electronic equipment, your mom was a pocket calculator and rode in everyone’s pocket…”

‟Excuse me.” Kaylee said, she recognized the man as one of the techs that worked on the Wizard.

“May I help you?” The tech seemed both irritated and relieved at the interruption.

‟The Pacific Wizard, you worked on it last month?”

‟You’ll have to be more specific than that.” Without looking up from his infuriating tablet. ‟Check in the office for the status of the plane.”

‟No, I mean the flying boat that you steam-cleaned and painted the hull last month and did some checks?”

‟Oh yes. Tom’s plane.” Tablet man looked up. ‟Say, aren’t you the woman that lived on it, too?”

‟Yeah, I’m back at school now.” Kaylee blushed. ‟Do you know when Tom will be back?”

‟No sorry, I don’t expect him back. It was the first time he had ever been here for service.” He pulled off his hard-hat and rubbed his bald head. ‟I heard his plans were to go to England, but he was hurt in an accident. So I don’t know if he went but I know he picked up his plane here and left with a full load of fuel a few weeks ago. I was in the office when he paid up. First time I have ever seen a black signature card.”

Kaylee thanked him and began to walk back to the car with Melanie when he called after them.

‟Miss?” He pulled at his salt and pepper goatee. “He mentioned plans about business in Japan and Singapore then to Australia, or the other way around, I don’t remember.”

‟Thank you.” Kaylee smiled sadly.

In the car on the way out, Melanie watched her sister.

“He will never be back.” Kaylee said with a sob after they got on the highway.

‟Maybe you can find him in the email?”

‟I never emailed him, I was always with him. I don’t know how to get ahold of…” Then her eyes got big and said one name. “Lettie.”

‟Who?”

‟Limo company owner in Northern California, Tom’s supported her in the past. They’re friends.” Kaylee sounded pleased remembering Lettie’s name.

Back at the apartment, Kaylee called Lettie’s number and she picked up on the first ring.

‟Kaylee ! I had a thought about you the other day.” Her smile could be felt through the phone. ‟I didn’t want to have you as a lost friend. How are things?”

Kaylee updated Lettie while Melanie made some tea.

‟Tom has an itinerary to go from Japan down to Australia in his new jet.”

‟New jet?”

‟The Pacific Wizard.”

‟Oh, I didn’t know it was new.”

‟Oh yeah, less than a year old, he got it to replace the Sea Dragon when his novel got picked up for a movie.” Kaylee could hear Lettie coördinate her business operations and tell her cousin ‟Limo-3 got requested for this.” A sigh and the sound of papers and the tap of keys. ‟Sorry, Kaylee .”

‟No problem.” Kaylee smiled. Lettie was an awesome person. ‟I just want to find out how to get ahold of Tom again.”

‟You did the deed and now want it back. The normal answer is ‟no”. A pause as she typed again on the keyboard of her business. “But I like you and I think Tom would like me to help. The only contact information I have is through his agent.”

‟Yeah, that is not a good email anymore. He fired her.”

‟I recall. Sorry Kay… Uh, Kaylee ? Do you have cable tv? You might want to turn on a headline channel. Tom’s in the news.” Lettie sounded alarmed. “It looks like he’s been arrested!”

“What!” Kaylee stood up from the chair she had settled in.

She pointed and waved at Melanie to get her to turn on the TV they flipped around the channels until they found a headline news station and there, in an Asian airport surrounded by armed guards, was the Pacific Wizard.

‟Lettie, I gotta go!” Kaylee gasped out. “Thank you for all that you have done for me!”

Kaylee hung up the phone and both sisters stood in front of a television transfixed by a news reporter who spoke in even tones of a news story about a reclusive man who insisted that people call him by his first name where ever he went.

They had found Tom.

Married by Mistake Chapter 51. Watching the Bay

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Chapter 51. Watching the Bay

*Homework!*

*Ugh!* She had cottonmouth from the awkward sleep position on her tablet. In a moment she laughed when she sat up. She left a face print on the smooth, high gloss finish of the computer’s screen. *So much homework! Not enough coffee!*

Every night. Kaylee had not taken time to smoke even one bowl in two days. She sketched every day and, after the first few days, it brought her no joy. A still-life of the bay from her balcony, then she went to the beach and painted there.

One late afternoon the memory of Glenn returned in a blast of fury, in a heated moment of inspiration she threw sand on the paint, before it dried, unable to rework the image, she displayed it in class.

She expected Doctor Fayse to reject the sand-textured painting out of hand, but he instead gave her extra points for the painted colors and strokes of the brush and sand effect, giving the feeling of emotion of anger and rage that she had created.

Rage?

Yeah. Oh yeah, she was angry. She kicked Tom out of her life in favor of Glenn.

And then Glenn screwed the pooch on that subject. Samantha, too for that matter, and his life.

That he could not see his way to keep his DNA in check, really did not hurt.

*It’s that he is, rather was, supposed to be my best friend, too. He should have talked to me, not just give a half-limp kiss and never say a word about a pregnant wife.*

*Yeah, he screwed his life up, all right.* She kicked an innocent stick of wood on the ground hard enough that the little driftwood twig skipped across the parking lot. *But so did I.*

Tom was overdue in the bay and she was unable to keep away from his website. It was no help, just an information page, no “Contact Me” information, there was no way for her to email him.

Georgia closed his email that she had in her phone, after he dealt with that agent, it looked like he signed with another company and there was no direct contact with him through that web-site either.

Never in the news and the events on his web page were out of date and ended with Doctor Manga’s installation at Cambridge University in the UK.

Still, everyday she went to the beach with an occasional drive past the airport, but the closed football-field sized hanger doors looked as if they had not been used and there was a noticeable lack of activity around the building.

Another week dragged past and the wet season was coming, she would go home for Christmas soon and Tom’s plane still had not returned.

Early Saturday, Kaylee was in a deep sleep and the sun had not yet come up. She had spent her Friday night in deep study and memorized her half-dozen assignments and typed her class reports on each with an original point of view as required by the professors.

Seven hours a day in classes, another four-hours at home on her computer, another shift at the beer and ribs cook-house. She felt overwhelmed, as so many college students do.

She had nightmare dreams of the reports when her phone rang, saving her from being attacked by a anthropomorphized, giant report on an artist that she could not recognize. She was thankful for that save.

It was Melanie. She loved her sister more than anyone in the world at that instant.

‟Mmph. Hel-” Kaylee yawned and dropped her phone on her face. ‟Lo? Melanie ?”

‟Tiny! I found him!” Melanie was wide awake. ‟I know where Tom is!”

‟Whath timeish ish it?” Kaylee was almost incoherent. She had not slept well, then it had hit her in last night’s studies and she slept like the dead without any sleep aid or to cook hash-brownies to assist in her stress. “Tom? Who’s you talkin’ ’bout?”

‟It’s quarter of three. Why are you sleeping? You are always up at this time.”

‟Not th’ last four days… Mel, I was asleep, issa ya drunk?” Kaylee slurred her words as if she had was drunk herself. “Wha’ di’ you say about who? Wha’ Tom?”

‟No! Noooo…I have been on the hunt for Tom.” She sounded like she found a gold nugget after a long search. ‟You know I had Steven check some things for me?”

‟Sheven? Ahem..Steven? Th’ Stalker?” Kaylee interrupted. “Wonder” *yawn* “Ful. C’n I g’back sleep now?”

‟Not a stalker.” A pause as her sister contemplated the conversation. ‟Okay, well, maybe I am. But it’s for a good cause!”

Kaylee laughed while she balanced the phone on her head and pulled her arm under the blanket while her younger sister babbled news about a guy named Tom and his travels.

‟Did you hear me? He is in Australia.” Mel said to her sister in a sad tone of voice. ‟Aw. Kaylee, I think he has moved there.”

‟Moovmmph… Moved there?” Kaylee ‘s brain did not register the conversation still.

Then she blinked and stared into the dark.

She was wide awake with a sudden rush of thoughts.

“You mean TOM? My Tom?” She said loud enough and had to grab at the phone. ‟Tom has children’s books published there. Southern Oz.” 

‟Where?” Melanie did not catch what her older sister said.

‟Australia, he called it Oz a lot.” She did not want to wake up this much, but now she was awake and not happy. ‟Can I sleep? I need to sleep. I’m too awake, I don’t wanna be awake.”

‟Well, you need to stop by that hanger and go ask. Not just drive by.”

‟I won’t stalk him.” Kaylee said, she struggled to dive back into sleep and try hard to forget that screwed up chapter of her life.

‟You’re not a stalker if you’re worried about him.” Melanie said in conspiratorial tones. ”I was worried. You remember the look on his face when you and he were here?”

‟I remember you squeaked like a mouse and fell off of the sofa.” She grumbled and snuggled back under the blankets.

‟That never happened. He startled me.” Her sister was defensive. ‟But he did have a big smile. Tiny, you made a happy man.”

‟You just want me to hook up with him again.” She mumbled. “Melly, I’m going back…”

‟If you don’t, I will.” Melanie interrupted.

“…to sleep.” Kaylee finished.

‟If you keep on that subject, I’m going to hang up on you.” Kaylee twisted the phone around so the light from the screen didn’t bother her.

‟Okay, I’ll let you go.” Melanie said.

‟Good.”

‟You need to get some sleep, you are a bitch at night.” Younger sisters, sometimes, annoy and Melanie was making it her number-one trait as far as Tom was concerned.

‟Good night, Mel.” And she broke the connection, laughing herself to sleep.

*When she gets older, she will be the most famous busy-body in our family.* Was Kaylee ’s last thought before sleep reclaimed her.

The morning after the phone call. Kaylee walked around in the apartment, off in her emotional bubble. It took two-hours for her to figure out what was bothering her.

That phone call at zero-dark-thirty by her over caffeinated sister who was more insane about Tom than cats were about laser-pointers.

She made coffee in an old-school way of heated up water in a pot, then she poured the scalding liquid over Kona coffee grounds in a single-cup filter.

Not for the first time, she drank her coffee on the balcony and looked towards the picturesque bay.

And not for the first time, she saw only beautiful blue water and boats.

And not for the first time…

She wept.

Married by Mistake Chapter 50. Back To The Bay

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Chapter 50. Back to the Bay

The flight south to the college town was decidedly longer than the flight from the southland to north. The commercial jetliner was slower in the air by nearly a third. It was comfortable, but although it was a larger aircraft, the comfort was not nearly the same as when she went north with Tom and the other authors.

Tom. The memory of the name made her sigh and the thought made her wonder if he might be at the Charthouse where he liked to spend time before they met.

*No, he was in England by now, attending Dr. Manga’s installation.* She rubbed her temples. *I’ll have time alone with no temptation to see him.*

The arrival and collection of her bags took a little longer than during the summer trips on the private and chartered planes, when she traveled with Tom. It made her laugh at herself, she was quick to spoil.

The student-artist laughed. The party girl laughed. Most of all, Kaylee laughed at herself.

*‟Spoiled” indeed!* On the south-western coast of the United States, where the sun shines more than not, it was easy to get spoiled, she reminded herself while she walked out of the airport terminal.

A short walk to the nearest taxi, the ride was less than half the distance than the cab-ride when she went home. This time she did not wait to have her door opened, though the driver did motions to open the door for her.  A young man who smiled at her a lot, giving furtive glances and an attempt at a seductive smile.

If she was in the mood, she might have flirted back. But she still wanted to punch someone.

Hard.

And she needed to head back to the martial arts academy for a workout to sooth her stress levels.

She had not been there for over a month, worried that the Guro would forget who she was.

She stretched on the sidewalk in front of the apartment, it had been three hours in seats that moved over the ground or through the air without much room to stand up and get the blood to her legs.

She looked forward to the walks up and down the hills and stairs of the university and then a workout at with hand to hand and sticks at the Serrada academy.

A familiar voice screamed her name as Melanie came flying out the door of the apartment.

‟RING! Tiny! Ring, I want to see it!” Melanie the Monster, kid-sister, excited muppet of Kaylee’s childhood danced on the balls of her feet. Her Taekwondo skills showing. ‟Ring! Now! Woman!”

‟Sorry, no ring.” Kaylee said and told her the story while they walked up the stairs to her home for the last year.

‟What!” Melanie lost her composure when she learned of Glenn’s life-changing event.

‟Tiny!” She used her pet name for her sister. “You dumped Tom for Glenn and then Glenn does that? Did you kick him in the head?” Her eyes sparkled with fury for her sister being wronged. Worst of enemies when they were little, they were the best of friends now. If someone ever made one sister cry, the other sister was like the Erinyes of old and become a sister’s mission to cut the offender’s good life into confetti of wept for distant memories.

‟I did better than that. I made friends with his wife. He will have to become the speaker of the house to make up for it all.” Kaylee laughed. ‟He has a laundry list of makeup chores for the next twenty-years.”

Melanie laughed at this image. Glenn was now a slave to his own life that he had prearranged with a spectacular exercise in carelessness and neglect.

‟What about Tom?” Melanie asked. ‟You, I don’t know what you call it. You…”

“I unmarried him.”

“Ha! That’s a good one. Does he know what has happened? He is going to flip when he finds out.”

‟No, he is in England by now giving a speech.” Kaylee frowned as she fit the key into the lock. The lock felt stiff as if it had not been used enough since she had left for home and the Pacific Northwest.

‟When does he come back?” Melanie smiled, her imagination operated at full speed. ‟I want to talk to him more. Maybe he will teach creative writing at the school? I would so take that class.”

‟What about your boyfriend, David? He’d get jealous if you drool over some old rich man who lives on the ocean and teaches your class.” Kaylee smiled. “Besides, Tom is gone for at least three more weeks.”

‟Yeah! In that float plane!”

‟Flying-boat.” Kaylee corrected. ‟Actually a yacht. You should see the inside of it.”

‟You were married to that! Oh my god, and you gave it all up to be with Glenn and he… and he… Oh my gawd!” Melanie covered her eyes with her hands. ‟I could have had a brother-in-law…”

‟That was almost as old as dad. Pops would have had a stroke.”

‟You don’t know that. I’m serious Kaylee, you gave up a lot to find that Glenn would have cheated on you with some crony.” Melanie sounded exasperated. ‟When I go home for Christmas, I am so gonna kick Glenn around the block. Stupid, stupid boys that walk around with one thing on their minds.”

‟How about having a bowl full?” Kaylee was getting tired of Melanie’s venom towards Glenn.

‟Full?” That turned Melanie ’s attention to another subject. ‟Is it Schroder’s sinsemilla?”

‟Of course!” Kaylee held up a bag. “Fresh from Mr. Schroder’s greenhouse. I couldn’t find my other stash while at home, I think I left it here.”

‟Bummer, it’ll be all shake. Then light the new up, what’s keeping you?” Melanie laughed. ‟But you are still not off the hook for Glenn’s screw-up.”

‟What? Why am I blamed for Glenn’s pinhead problems?” Kaylee laughed. “Besides, I had half-kilo because we don’t get back home enough.”

‟Tiny, welcome home.” Melanie smiled. “You have to pay for the choices you make. Glenn should have done it with you in high-school.”

“We’d all be screwed then.” Kaylee nearly choked on the pipe when her sister suggested that it was a good idea to have gotten pregnant so early in life. “And he still would have gone off to D.C. and knocked her up. If not her, someone else. Glenn is a horn-dog and a pig.  Okay! No more talking about him, we’re finished.”

Laughing, the sisters smoked late into the night. They ordered a party plate from the deli down at the corner and carried the plastic tray back to the apartment and with giggles, smoke and a view of the bay from Kaylee’s balcony.

They caught up on all the tears, laughter and news only the way two sisters could while eating exotic cheeses from the far away lands called Wisconsin and Tillamook.

Married by Mistake Chapte 49. The Good-Bye Girl

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Chapter 49. The Good-Bye Girl

Fourteen days at home flew past with a blur.

Kaylee in the meantime recharged, recovered from her shock at Glenn’s immature life choice, was packing for the return to Ocean Bay University.

Her dad made her laugh. She had sat with him on a home-made bean bag chair while she smoked a pipe for the first time with the man she always thought was without a clue about life for the young generation.

The old man had more on the ball than Kaylee ever gave him credit for. She always thought of him as an IT nerd-tech that was only involved with himself.

Instead, dad liked Steampunk music, knew a thousand things she never thought possible of his generation.

Funny, it seemed the older she got, the smarter he was. In fact she viewed her father, Charles Achilles “CAG” Grant, as brilliant, funny, talented and wise.

She didn’t tell him about Tom, however. She started a dozen times and Dad shushed her each time.

‟Your past is in your behind.” He said softly.

‟What?” Kaylee looked up at the man who was the standard she held all other men to. ‟Dad? What?”

‟Sorry, that’s good weed.” He gave a crooked smile. ‟Put your behind in your past, you don’t need to talk about it just now.”

‟You mean that I should put what on my butt?”

‟No.” Dad was trying for a serious moment but giggled. ‟What is done is history. Leave it there for now.”

‟Okay.” Kaylee smiled and took another hit off the pipe. Her parents always dealt with Anders Schroder with his home-grown. It was the best weed in the area.

Mr. Schroder grew enough of the best cannabis to sell to the retail outlets, but little more than that. Fully licensed and inspected, Mr. Schroder kept the businesses going with only enough income to keep his bills paid. The old man just liked the beauty of the plant and wished to make clothes out of the hemp fiber he grew from other species. Often telling Glenn and Kaylee that it was better than cotton.

The weed relaxed her and made the heartache of Glenn seem so much smaller than it was.

*At least I’m not pregnant! Pretty sure.* She laughed to herself.

She began to think of that last time on the plane after she came home.

Tom was weak from spending so much time in the hospital bed, she had grown protective of the soul that thought he was her protector. He cautioned her heart to avoid what Tom said in gentle words, ‟Complicate things”.

Another few days home.

An argument over who’s toe-sock was left out on the porch with her brother ended with mom telling them to go put on their socks.

Kaylee came out wearing hers and Mike, with one bare foot and looking sheepish.

While the kid-brother learned to do his own laundry, at dad’s insistence to prepare him for college. Another requirement of the patriarch of the family.

Dad did not care what each of the children wanted to do, but he did require that they earned the highest degree of education available for that interest.

A strong preference for a doctorate, and no one dared defy dad on this point.

Kaylee worried a lot about trying to earn a doctorate in fine arts, a tall order. But dad was motivational and insistent.

That afternoon, while she packed to return to Ocean Bay U., Glenn pulled up in his car.

Alone.

He walked up to the door, intercepted by Kaylee .

‟Don’t you have a life to attend to? Does Sam know you are here?”

‟Yes, she knows. Our mom’s were talking and she found out you were leaving today, she sent me with this.” Glenn held out a small gift, a compass with an email address taped to it.

“Sam wants to pursue a friendship with you.” Glenn’s voice was almost a whisper.

Kaylee was still unsure, her heart still ached after that day. She had found a kindred spirit in Samantha Schroder, but still envious at the same time.

She took the offered present with a smile that she did not feel in her heart.

‟I know I hurt you, if I say it was an accident, it would be an insult to everyone. But it was not planned, I wanted to stay with you.”

‟Do not tell me that, do not let Sam hear you say that.” Kaylee on the verge of rage shook her finger in his face. ‟You want to work as a member of congress élite and a senator’s aide? You put on a face of a happy husband and proud father. You did this with her without thought or precaution, now you have a child. You had better love that baby, or I swear I will kick you so hard you it will take a year for your breastbone to heal. And you know I can. If you ever break up with Sam, I will use you for my flow-drills. You don’t get a stick, you just have to stand there and take it.”

‟Then I’ll send my dad after you, he’s pissed at you as well.” She added.

‟I can see that. He’s standing in the window, looking at me.” Glenn voice trembled with more than a little fear.

Charles Grant stood in the picture window with his arms crossed, a stare like a cougar lining up for a kill for a full minute then stepped out of sight.

For a single moment of shining terror, Glenn thought the old man was coming out.

‟I’ll keep in touch.” He told Kaylee. ‟Maybe we can get together then.”

‟No.” She shook her head. ‟We have our own lives, lived our own way and our own adventures. Good-bye Glenn. I’m sorry this is how it ended.”

She hugged him awkwardly and walked back to the house and closed the door quietly behind her.

And leaned up against it and caught her breath. It was the single hardest thing she had ever done in her life.

And she was still standing strong.

‟Everything all to rights, sweetheart?” The measured tones of her dad entered her world, the old man was sitting in his chair. Two glasses and a bottle of his favorite fifty-year-old rum sitting on the end-table.

‟Oh. Daddy…”

She sat in his lap for the first time in over a decade, the twenty-something woman left the room while the broken-hearted child wept on her father’s shoulder.

Pouring a splash of rum in each glass, he handed one to his sniffling princess.

‟A toast to accidents. Without them, we’d never know where we are in life and where our strength lies. Some are happy, some are sad, a toast to them all.”

‟A happy accident?” Kaylee said after she took a sip of the spiced amber liquid and coughed. The ethanol burning her throat.

‟Yes, if it was not for an accident, I’d never have met your mom.” Her dad said with a wink.

‟She said she met you standing in line at a store.”

‟Pharmacy, for pain medication.”

‟Same thing.” She sipped more of her dad’s treasured rum.

‟Who do you think gave me the pain.”

‟What?”

‟She worked as a bookkeeper at an office and I was running cable for a network. Wireless networking was unheard of in those days. While I crawled by a desk, she opened a drawer over my head.” He rubbed his head of the memory of it. ‟I broke the drawer when I stood up, scalded myself when a coffee cup on the desk spilled down my back.”

Kaylee broke out laughing.

‟Oh my god. She never told me that.”

‟And I wished he never did either!” Mom hid her face in her hand, she had walked in from the back of the house. ‟I nearly killed your dad with a concussion and wrecked our new computer system at the same time.”

‟The coffee went into the server.” Her dad added. ‟It was awful, blood and coffee everywhere.”

‟It looked like someone got slaughtered by a coffee machine.” Mom admitted.

‟I was talking about my shirt.”

‟I was, too.” Linda laughed.

Parents and offspring talked for over an hour, mom and dad told secrets on each other from the time before children while they shared the bottle of rum until it was all gone.

It was a good end to an otherwise miserable day. With three hours to go, the Grant family took their eldest princess to the airport to return to her life back in Ocean Bay University.

Not for the first time in her life, she was looking forward to seeing her sister.

*Wait until Melanie hears the news of how Glenn really changed his life up, never to return to the house without a wife and child in tow.* She shook her head.

During the drive to the airport, Kaylee spent most of the trip looking out the window of the car to the trees that lined the highway. Lost in thought over the last two-weeks.

She wondered if she could just take double classes and never leave the school. It would take a meeting with her mentor and class coördinator.

The world was rainy when she arrived, but it was a rain of promise and excitement, it washed away her doubts from the summer.

Now, it was just grey and wet.

Married by Mistake Chapter 48. The Family Dinner

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Chapter 48. The Family Dinner

Around the Grant dinner table, Kaylee’s appetite returned and she was enjoying the banter between Dad and her mother with Mike, her high-school kid- (Almost no longer a kid!) brother and his girlfriend, the captain of the debate team and vice-president of the chess club where he had met his current romantic interest.

Baked potatoes piled enough for six people instead of the five that sat around.

Finally, the stress of the missing person was too great for Mike to stand and had to ask after the blessing of the food was complete.

“Where’s Glenn?”

Dad gave a soft cough to draw his son’s attention and made a subtle shake of his head.

“It’s okay dad.” Kaylee nodded. “Glenn is married and his wife is pregnant”

Her brother, taking a drink from his cup, shot soda out his nose. The pain bringing tears to his eyes, covered his face to hide the mess.

“What the…”

“Michael!” Mom was quick.

“What is he thinking?” A quick look at his mom. “I wasn’t going to cuss.”

“Yeah, right. Don’t kid a mom, kid.” She fixed him with a look that ended all conversation on the subject.

“When did he tell you about his marriage?” Dad asked. The look in his eyes matched his icy tone.

“Well, he didn’t. I went to his house to surprise him. He wasn’t home and I met his wife, instead.” Kaylee laughed. “Sam, her name is Samantha, told me they had several classes together and dated a few times. They got married two months ago and she is thirty-two weeks along.”

“Oh! Someone was being naughty and got caught.” Mike’s girlfriend, Carrigan said.

“He is an ass.” Charles growled. “He should have known better. He does know better. The entire family over there should take turns beating him with a switch from that willow tree that Anders planted years ago.”

“Dad, she is a nice girl.”

“He’d be a dead boyfriend if I was her dad. Got her life all turned into mangled code.” Dad’s hand squeezed the steel cup he had poured coffee in until it made eerie noises.

“Honey, relax.” Mom said. “You’ll get your blood pressure up, and if you go to the hospital again, it will be because I have thumped you on your head.”

“Yes ma’am.” Dad chuckled with mock terror and released his favored coffee cup.

“So what will he do, now?” Mike asked. “Is he coming home to stay?”

“No, Sam said that they would move off campus and her family will help with the baby. They are will both finish school and Glenn just has to meet with Congressman Millan about a staff position next summer. They’ll move to the Capital to live there, Glenn will get extra credit and he’ll get his degree early. He has an in with the congressman and he’ll get some help with his school costs.”

“The congressman will buy the school books?” Dad shook his head.

“She said that the congress has a special scholarship program for students that get enough hours in as assistants and interns.”

“Fu…” Dad glanced at Ma who was looking straight ahead without blinking. Daring her husband to finish the profanity at the dinner table. “Foolish spending of our tax money! Poli-sci is not served well by those fu.. fools in the capital.”

The one subject that always drove dad to the point of insanity was any conversation about politics and politicians. Glenn never earned CAG Grant’s respect with his interests in politics and his service to congress.

“He should work in the community to better it for the people here, not run off and make a life in a den of snakes.”

“Dad, he has done a lot of good here, why not be happy for him to go to a place where he can do a lot of good for the entire nation?”

“I don’t care if he can’t take care of where he puts his progeny, I’m worried about where he might guide the nation if he cannot take precautions while he’s having a good time.”

“What does his wife have anything to do with it?” Kaylee was still defensive about Glenn, even if she wanted to stand in line to beat him with the willow switch.

“I don’t care about his romantic life. He could stick it in a knothole of a tree for all I care.” Dad’s eyes sparkled with fury. “I have a daughter, TWO daughters! That if a man cannot be trusted with their lives, protect those that trust him, perhaps he shouldn’t have a job and have a chance to fark things up for everyone, everywhere.”

“Charles Achilles!” Middle name. Almost made Kaylee laugh, Mike did and got the back of his head slapped by mom as she walked to her seat.

“Sorry,” Dad laughed in a guilty way. “But I mean it. Accidents happen, but one can choose the safest action to start with. He didn’t care enough to take responsibility and left it solely up to her. That’s wrong. It takes equal responsible effort on both parts, him and her. So how will he lead? Leaving it up to someone else?”

Kaylee thought about it.

“He married her, at least.” Mike was trying to help.

“He should have prevented her pregnancy to start with. If he loved her and chose to have a baby without getting married, that would be fine by me too.” Dad said.

“Charlie, don’t fib.” Linda laughed.

Looking sideways at his best friend and wife, Dad smiled crookedly.

“I’d still beat him. Yeah.” Dad nodded. “But marrying her right after she found out she was pregnant? That is, to me, rather guilty. I would be fascinated to see the spin they put on it.”

“Dad, Grover Cleveland had a kid before he got married.” Mike countered.

Dad took a deep breath.

“Sorry, I won’t get into a history argument with you and I won’t address something that would go off topic. That was another time, another set of rules.” Dad growled.

“Today, Cleveland would have been in prison, had his life ruined, been dragged through the courts.” Dad made his final word on the long-ago President. “Glenn could have that happen to him. I like the boy, but that was a serious wake-up call to pay more attention to his actions.”

“It’s not like other politicians have had kids.”

“And not one of them will become a leader in congress or the president.” Dad nodded. “The most recent events, it is lucky the women didn’t evicerate the men in public. Glenn must have had that thought when you showed up at his door.”

“He wasn’t home when I got there and he didn’t know I went there to see him or that I sat and made friends with Samantha. When he got back from his errands, I surprised him when he walked in the door.”

Dad laughed. Paused. Then laughed again as the mental image played out in his mind’s eye.

“Oh!” Charles Achilles Grant laughed even harder and gave his son a playful punch in the shoulder. “I would have paid good money to have been there and watched that.”

“No. You wouldn’t have enjoyed it very much. It was a little ugly, and it was going to get much worse for him with Sam later.” Kaylee said softly. “Sam and I had a good long talk. She didn’t know anything about me.”

“Oh. Damn.” Linda said and broke her own rule. She was as profane as anyone, but her rule at the dinner table as a cuss-word free zone was a long-established tradition.

Dad laughed again, crossed his arms and leaned back in his seat, he seemed to enjoy the discomfort he imagined for Glenn.

In dad’s opinion, some of life’s lessons are moments best savored.

“I do not wish ill on your Glenn.” Father Grant said in a soft tone of wisdom. “But I think the knowledge bumps that his wife will inflict will show what the man is made of — If he survives.”

Dad pondered a moment. “It might even do him some good in the end.”

Married by Mistake Chapter 47. Kaylee Simone

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Chapter 47. Kaylee Simone

The sound of crunching under the studded tires as Charles Achilles ‟CAG” Grant wheeled into the driveway with his four-wheel-drive Porsche. Dad was not a flashy man, but he enjoyed the German engineered cars since he was a boy, when he got his first ‟Poor man’s Porsche” in the form of a 1958 Karmann Ghia that he had upgraded many times before his regrettable lack of judgement of selling his baby.

It took him many years, but at long last he rediscovered his old car as it sat in a workshop behind the house where the owner had disassembled it to the last bolt and kept a meticulous online blog of each step he took while he rebuilt the ancient car to his personal specifications.

Including a potent computer system that ran most of the car’s systems.

Charles Grant parked his Cayenne in the garage, a tired smile crossed his face. Much as he would have loved to pick up his eldest princess from the airport, the early drive home pleased him and allowed him to miss much of the rush traffic.

He walked to the house, the call of nature driving his stride and he made a beeline to the bathroom after he entered the side-entry to his home. The hour plus drive tended to make him sleepy, so a travel-mug of coffee from the office kept him awake, but also kicked his kidneys into high gear while his foot got heavier on the throttle.

Opening the door after he finished, Charles breathed out the sigh that someone makes after one empties a desperate, absolutely full bladder.

‟Linda? Where’s Kaylee ?” Papa Grant asked after he made a circuit of the first floor of the two-story home.

‟She took my car to go surprise Glenn. She won’t be back for a few more minutes. I told her dinnertime was, well, now in a few minutes.”

‟Your car is in the garage and locked.”

‟Really? I saw her leave, I never saw her come back.”

‟Something’s wrong, then.” Cag said.

‟Oh. Uh-oh.” Mama Grant put down the pan she was cooking in. ‟Charlie, watch my butter crescents. It is a new recipe I have for the new café, we are going to go with a revamped menu.”

‟I can…”

‟There are some things a mom can do that dad’s can’t when it comes to daughters.” Linda kissed him. ‟You are the best dad to walk the earth, but as good as you are. I am still the mom.”

‟Yes, dear.” Dad made a sad smile, a bit put out.

‟Keep saying that, you might get lucky tonight.”

‟Oh! Yes, dear!” He laughed. This was not so bad as he knew this is one serious mom when it came to her daughters.

She found her eldest princess in the back under the gazebo on the porch swing that Charles had put up years before. It became Kaylee’s favorite art place. She had drawn dozens, if not hundreds of watercolor, pastels and charcoal images in the times since.

She had even shared times of smoking weed with her daughter after the princess turned eighteen. Admitting to nothing before her coming of age.

Linda sat next to Kaylee in silence, waited and watched the clouds for fifteen minutes.

‟Glenn is married.” Kaylee said quietly. A sniffle was her only tell of the tears spent on the way home.

‟That explains a lot.” Mom said. ‟It was like his mom fell of the face of the earth since Glenn arrived home. She was not calling me or stopping by. Now I know why.” Linda frowned nodded. “They have kept it under wraps, no one has talked about seeing anyone new in town.”

‟He has a baby coming.”

‟Oh, damn.” Linda boggled and put her arms around her eldest daughter. “He never told you?”

‟He didn’t have to. She answered the door because he wasn’t home yet.” Kaylee said softly.

‟Oh crap.” Mom covered her mouth in shock. “Oh crap, what an introduction!”

‟It was awkward, but she is nice and, well, big pregnant.” Kaylee ’s eyes glistened with tears. The rain had returned with sprinkles, the drops sounded a soft staccato of rhythm on the awning and grass around them. ‟Then she invited me in for coffee and we had a long talk. She is due in six-weeks.”

‟She wasn’t a nasty to you or strut like a tramp? I’ll have a word with Glenn’s mom.”

‟No. In fact, she was very nice.” Kaylee shook her head. ‟She brews a strong cup of coffee and is delightful to talk to. She told me how she and Glenn had been on and off. Then she forgot her pills on a trip and went a month without them.”

‟Well, that was not very smart.” Mom shook her head and spoke in tones of support.

‟No, especially while with Glenn, he is irresponsible.” Kaylee laughed sadly. ‟She didn’t say that, but I don’t need a treehouse to fall on me.”

‟She and Glenn have a much closer lifestyle than he and I do.” Kaylee ’s voice nearly a whisper. ‟They share many more interests, majors and friends. I have more in common with Tom Harte.”

Mom slowly stroked her daughter’s hair as her eldest leaned on her shoulder and wept quietly. The broken heart of a child leaking out on the blouse of the grown mother.

‟What if you go back and spend time with that cartoonist?”

‟Novelist.” Kaylee said. ‟Mom, I could use a bowl about now.”

‟Well, your dad has been busy. You just need to go to the tree over there. That bird house built into the side of the tree?”

Kaylee stood and went to beautiful, meticulous crafted miniature A-frame and pulled on it.

‟No. Honey. Push it into the tree.”

She pressed with the flat of her hand on a post of the porch, populated with pine cone trolls, the house slid in on polished metal rails, exposing twin finger-holes.

She smiled at the craftsmanship and pulled out when instructed to do so by her mom, the trunk of the tree opened with a drawer, custom fitted with a glass pipe set and four slots for the stash.

‟Oh my gawd!” Kaylee laughed. ‟When did he do this?

‟The tree splintered in a storm, dad did a lot of work, taking off branches and fixing the trunk with glues and screws. But he made a treasure box to fit in the trunk and saved the tree in the process, it still grows.” Linda looked at the big coastal sequoia.

‟These are not a pirate’s treasure.” Kaylee told her mom as she looked over the uncovered storage compartments.”

‟Pick one of the pipes, you will find those are all treasures.” Mom grinned. “Hand carved snakewood, that white one is a dragon-claw, there are two small water pipes.”

The two women laughed and smoked while they remained safe and dry under the covered swing while the storm clouds brought more rain.

‟You know, mom.” Kaylee felt better after a few minutes. ‟It’s a good thing you are cooking dinner. I think I am going to have a good appetite.”

Mom gasped.

‟My DINNER!” Jumping up with a string of profanities. ‟I left your dad in charge. He’ll try and help out. The last time, he turned a simple spaghetti dinner into a seven course disaster!”

Kaylee laughed and laughed while her mom ran. Mom was so funny when she smoked.

Of course it had nothing to do with Kaylee smoking, but that also made her laugh, too. Locking up the weatherproof stash box, Kaylee followed after her mother and joined her inside the house for a rescued dinner.

Her dad was an accomplished cook and yes, sometimes he did get carried away.

This made Kaylee laugh again as she made her way to the house in her mother’s wake, the pain of Glenn no longer a wound that made her weep.

*Mom’s are great.*

Married by Mistake Chapter 46. A Husband’s Terror

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Chapter 46. A Husband’s Terror

The familiar car pulled into his driveway and Glenn finished his chores around town at the request of his mother. After he took the silver platter to the Grant’s house and tackled by Kaylee who nearly gave him a heart attack. He did not look forward to the conversation about his sudden life change that he invited no one to attend.

Sam and he dated on and off. Two months after they had a weekend trip to Canada, Sam began to get sick at every smell there could be.

Eggs, she got sick.

Soup. Any flavor. She got sick.

Pasta. (Pasta!?) Sick.

Toast. (Well, smoke, he did not clean his toaster.) Sick.

So Glenn went with his ill friend with benefits to the doctor, sudden movements sometimes made her nauseated, so he drove.

The doctor smiled and sat down with them, explained that the hyperemesis gravidarum would pass after a few weeks and in the interim they would put her in a hospital and give her some IV fluids and keep her hydrated.

Glenn had to ask the doctor to define the of the name of this arcane illness. His mind refused to accept what the doctor tried to say.

In a moment, the doctor congratulated the couple. It was no virus, it was morning sickness, Sam was pregnant.

Glenn could not believe it at first. He could only see his career  fall into a smokey ruin like his toaster.

Samantha was also a poli-sci major and after hours of tears, they decided to get married. Neither one of them needed to have a scandal.

In his panic he had forgotten his home town while he was in the big-city. He had fixed a flaw in his life.

“So I’m a flaw?”  Sam became furious. No one called her a flaw, she threatened to tell everyone that he would leave her when she needed him most.

It evolved into a scream fest and rash words exchanged. They did not see each other during that week or part of the next. Two-weeks later, while they attended a study group together and sat across the table in awkward silence while they studied with the group.

Glenn finally brought her a glass of water and some saltines, seeing that she was pale and had developed a sheen of sweat on her forehead.

This singular awareness and his effort to keep her nausea under control had gone a long way to get Sam to smile at him again.

By the end of the homework jam session, people got up and went back to their apartments and lives.

Except for Glenn Schroder and Samantha Walshe who talked far into the night and they married in secret the next day in a civil ceremony. Shortly after that, they went off to Washington State and had a small ceremony for her family.

In those panic filled days, the childhood promise he had with Kaylee evaporated.  He forgot the depth and breadth of the years invested and he did not remember any moments of paper cigar rings and motorcycles.

He began to think about his childhood sweetheart about a week after he had done the deed with Sam, when she was changing her name to Schroder while he stood there.

Glenn practiced and readied for weeks to have a long talk and try to keep things on the down-low with Kaylee. Then when she showed up early at her mom’s house and surprised him, all practiced words left him.

But! He told himself, life changes and he and Kaylee readied for each other to have separate lives.

He walked up the steps to his parent’s house unaware of the new car parked on the street. Glenn’s focus consumed with all his thoughts that raced in circles in his mind. He wanted to make things smooth with his best friend, who he had replaced with a new, pregnant wife. When he would get to talk to Kaylee, he would make it sound reasonable that they stay close friends.

*Yeah! That was the way. If I could do what the Senator Mumy did in Washington, who talked his wife out of a divorce and still kept his girlfriend.* He smiled. 

And no one knew but for Glenn who ran errands for them. And the girlfriend began to come on to Glenn.

*Senators and Congressmen shared a lively trade in girlfriends and boyfriends. Congress members would grow tired of their trysts with one and move onto the next. The women in Congress are as bad or worse than the men in Congress.*

The one thing that Glenn looked forward to, have enough petty cash to keep an apartment in D.C. on the side.

He nodded. *This is one thing I have it dialed in, I know Kaylee and I can pull strings with her.* 

He opened the door and stepped through, he had weathered the worst part of the storms, but with any luck? He would still come out with a little fun with a bong and Kaylee and Sam would never have to know about the local party-girl he had on the side.

Then he stopped at a sight that made his heart drop into the pit of his stomach.

In all the world’s history, the things would fill a man with terror and fear for his life.

The Great Chicago Fire…

Terror of being consumed by a wall of flames.

The Great Quake of 1909…

Terror of the very ground that shook without reason.

The Stupid Husband Bust…

Terror? Terror is to stand in the doorway while your girlfriend and pregnant wife sipped coffee, looked at you and invite you to sit.

In the kitchen.

Near knives and other sharp objects.

And boiling hot liquid.

That is terror.

Married by Mistake Chapter 45. The Mother-Child Reunion

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Chapter 45. The Mother-Child Reunion

She watched Glenn leave to do the chores for his mother, Kaylee turned and walked in the house and handed the platter to her mom, sat at the dinner table and waited for the matriarch of the family put her mobile phone back in her holster.

Not often in the family kitchen, Mama Grant, the hard-driving and meticulous leader of local business after the girls had gone off to college.

Once-upon-a-time she was a soccer-mom with dresses and worked as an office accountant. She did odd jobs on the side to balance books for local businesses, her life was one of four walls, erasers and double-entry books.

Then she had to hold a meeting with the owner of a small, money-losing enterprise called ‟Java Hut” and give the owner the bad news that he was broke.

The owner sold the business to her in lieu of the work she did to balance his books. Preventing a foreclosure on his contracts and business with creative book-keeping to keep the collectors at bay. Even then it was a major effort. Linda Grant took a personal loan, using her car as collateral to keep the doors open.

After months and diligent following of the business map the previous owner had created, she discovered the flaws in his business plan and corrected the minor operational errors.

The net income increased geometrically after each change in operations. In a six-months time, she paid off the loan, opened a second café on the opposite side of town with easy access of the main highway.

The income increased enough that and a third café opened, followed by a fourth and a fifth. No longer called Linda by other businesses, she was Mrs. Grant.

When she left her employer, in anger he predicted that she would return, humbled, despite of her first successes.

‟Women do not have what it takes to operate in this coffee business.” The old man said. A coffee roasting company owner of a mind-set era she thought was dead, his last words motivated her with anger. She became determined never to go back.

Even if she lost her house and starved. She would never work for that dinosaur ever again.

He, she promised herself, would work for her.

Her husband, father of two princesses, kept his job only for the retirement account. He helped his wife, followed her directives and business model, imposed strict observance of Mrs. Grant’s rules of operations.

If ever a husband was proud of his spouse, it was the Patriarch of the Grant clan.

The change in Linda surprised Kaylee in both outlook and attire.

Before, mom was in skirts and blouses. Now she wore slacks and a polo-shirt with the logo of her company, her hair, differently styled and her demeanor was more focused and intense. A coffee buyer, learning how to roast coffee and her business success, becoming known as a keen business mind and a well-respected leader of the business community.

Kaylee loved her mom before, now, amazed and truly proud of her. Unlike some of her college friends, embarrassed about talking about their own parents. Kaylee already enjoyed talking about her mom, and she was Kaylee ‘s personal super-hero.

Mother and child sat down over the coffee and Kaylee opened the subject.

“Glenn is acting odd.” Kaylee said before her first sip.

“No.” She corrected herself. “Not odd. He was…”

“Reserved.” Mom said and nodded.

‟I noticed that. He wasn’t excited answering the phone when I called his mother and asked for the platter.” Linda Grant and Katherine Tucker-Schroder were friends who went back to their own high school days in Salem, both moving out the northwestern state for different times and reasons and kept a close friendship.

‟I wonder if he is in trouble somewhere. Maybe his job is in jeopardy in Washington.”

‟Perhaps.” Mom nodded slowly. ‟I think it is more personal. Something close to his heart that is scaring him.”

‟Well, he doesn’t have to be scared to talk to me.”

‟Have you ever done something that scares you to talk about?” Mom sipped her coffee and looked over the top of the rim into her daughter’s eyes. A sparkle there that meant that mom was fishing a little.

‟Well…”

The story of Thomas Harrison Harte, drinking and a summer of adventure poured out of Kaylee in laughter, tears, smiles and more laughter.

‟Anullment makes it that you never divorced. Someday maybe we can talk about it with your father, but for now? I think it would be best if we kept it between ourselves.”

‟And Melanie .” Kaylee said.

‟Yes, and Melanie .” Linda stood up and kissed her daughter on the head as she refreshed her coffee.

‟I won’t ever tell Glenn. It would be a problem that we might need to do counseling over.”

‟Well, that’s up to you.” Mom said. ‟You are Glenn’s girl to go through all that, rather than bringing home a millionaire husband.”

‟Should I have done that?”

‟It’s done. No going back to worry about it.” Mom said quietly. ‟Besides, Glenn and you have a relationship that you need to take care of.”

‟Yes, this is true.” Kaylee nodded. ‟Glenn and I have a lot of good memories and I don’t need to bring up anything that might screw things up. Melanie thinks that Glenn is going to ask the question.”

‟Oh honey! That would be terrific!” Mom said. ‟That might be the thing that is stressing Glenn out. Men have such problems with that issue. Your father couldn’t even say it right. It took him five minutes and I said yes before he got it out.”

The two women laughed and made jokes at the expense of the male gender for several minutes.

‟Kaylee , take my keys. Go talk with Glenn, we can make this an engagement announcement dinner.” Mom smiled widely. ‟It’s full of gas and the wheels are winter readied. Oh! When you come back if you can pick up a five-pound bag of russet potatoes from the grocer, we can have enough bakers for dinner. I have a roast in the oven that would go perfectly with that.”

‟Thanks mom, you’re the best.” Kaylee said, standing up and heading to the door.

Standing on the front porch for a moment, she thought about what her mother had said. She did not want to hold anything back from dad, but there was time enough for that discussion.

Looking around for the dark red Dodge Durango, the car her mom had named ‟David” sat in the two car detached garage. The garage was her dad’s own design. He had designed it as a pull through with cobblestone drive around the entire structure.

One thing her father had an eye for, was beauty and function. He had turned the attached garage into his shop that he spent long hours in with his IT skills. Sometimes mom would worry that government agents might come and take him away as a hacker of some arcane database.

Kaylee wanted to go surprise Glenn at his house, she got into David the Durango and started up the powerful engine and it grumbled to life.

Kaylee wondered if mom had work done to the new car, it felt unusually powerful when she pulled out of the driveway.

She smiled to herself and nodded in her thoughts. *Mom’s was right. Glenn sometimes stressed out when he had important things to do and if he is going to ask me to marry him would be no different, he might even panic.*

Even if it was a forgone conclusion that she would say yes, it would stress him out if he was already having troubles at college or his assistant program.

In deep thought, she drove over a newly paved road, the old section, patched for years, becoming a solid patch, each asphalt patch that filled a pothole covered part of its neighbor, new patches overlapped old patched asphalt until the funds became available to replace the patchwork pavement. The ride was a smooth surprise that made Kaylee laugh, she remembered the route to Glenn’s house as so bumpy, people had to slow down or risk damage to their wheels and tires.

It was a nice drive today, a classic country road that was perfect. Trees glistened in the mist, it was a Kate Williams watercolor image, Kaylee smiled. She wondered if Glenn would have gotten an engagement ring that duplicated the cigar band that he had given her a few years before.

That would be funny and romantic!

Pulling in the Schroder driveway, the two-story A-frame home was a beautiful place in the small town. Peaked roof homes were the norm, but this one used extensive glass to look out over the valley.

She got out and looked up, in the tree, the elaborate treehouse that Glenn and his dad built when Glenn was not even a teenager, was still there. She had sneaked up into the treehouse with Glenn more than once. A good place for a couple of kids with the summer off.

She created more than one sketch of the views from the treehouse.

It looked tired and dusty. A window, broken sometime in the years she was at college, and the ladder from the Rose Suchuck Ladder company that leaned up against the tree, looked unsafe at best. It had been years since she climbed the ladder to get inside of their little home away from home.

Natural stone steps, built by his father after he spent weeks in a rock-hunt along riverbeds for just the right kind of stone fit tight together.

Plus four small nuggets of gold, a lost wallet and one victim of a mountain lion attack over the months of his hiking. The victim stayed in touch with Anders Schroder over the years and they often traded services to the business benefit of each construction company.

Kaylee walked slowly up the steps, she enjoyed the memories of childhood passions and anticipation of being a member of this family.

The natural wood door was taller than most, shaped like the A-frame of the house, hundred-year-old iron knockers from some antique store that a talented cabinet company took great care to fit in the middle of the doors. The effect was dramatic and castle like. When the doors opened, it was as if the whole front of the house welcomed you in.

She rang the doorbell and looked around, Glenn’s car was not in the driveway, she had arrived ahead of him.

This was fun. David the Durango was new and Glenn had never seen it before, plus she had parked near the neighbor’s house. She would surprise him, twice today. If she needed, she would beat the engagement ring out of him, then kiss all the bruises better.

Footsteps, she knew the sound of heals, his mom would be surprised, too. If she beat Glenn home, she did not know that Kaylee could stop by.

And the pregnant woman who opened the door was a complete stranger to Kaylee .

‟Um. Hello. I’m looking for Glenn?” Kaylee had a thrill of fear, like what the lookout on the Titanic might have had at the last moment.

Smiling, the pregnant, blond woman held out her hand.

‟Hi! I’m Samantha, Glenn’s wife.” 

Married by Mistake Chapter 44. Something missing from your mouth

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Chapter 44. Something Missing from your mouth

Home! It made Kaylee happy. There! There at the memorial park where, one summer’s day, she discovered that if she wore her hair down, Glenn would run his fingers through her hair and enjoyed the texture of her curls.

Over there, he invited her to skinny-dip with him at the pond.  But she was still a victim of strep-throat and wouldn’t swim. Instead Glenn just suggested she lay naked on the rocks, which she did! After laughter of that day and she pointed out that her dad would hurt him if pops ever found out, it was good summer memory of that year, too.

The taxi ride was typical of the area, battered on snowy roads and potholes. The cab, strictly functional with a rough ride on studded tires, was normal for the suburban type of taxi.

Home was so close, she could walk it from here. Her excitement was oddly muted.

Her thoughts turned back time and again to the man she left in the rain where he stood alone.

She looked out the window and told herself to shake the fog of melancholy off, Tom would be on the plane by now and be above the clouds far away from her, he was now history. Maybe.

He did have that moment. A look that bothered her. He reminisced with her and it should have made him smile, but he had a look of unfathomable sadness for a brief moment. A deep look like someone who once before stood on the edge of the road to say good-bye and could not bear to do it again. Then he was his quirky self again with a wide smile. 

They had a great summer, but they were careful with each other and honest. Neither she or Tom expected it to last forever.

Kaylee was honest with Tom, she had a promise to keep. She and Tom, until that day at the start of summer, a lifetime ago it seemed. They did not know each other.

He was some random guy on a beach who wrote notes on a tablet computer.

She was a college student that had a really, really bad day.

He was the man that she would have not expected to wake up next to after a night of drink and smoke. *And married!*

It was so unexpected, she had gotten stoned many times and had never had even a hint that she and a date might get married.

*But there’s that sparkle about Tom. A color of soul that I could see even through my wine goggles and pharmaceuticals.* The heart of the matter was her heart, in the grand scheme of the universe, could the heart feel fondness about the strange man in the flying-yacht?

If not for two bits of information.

One: That Tom never asked. Was she with him for the simple reason of his money?

The answer was no, and that she even wondered about herself, it caused her to follow through with annulment of her marriage with Tom in a way that no one knew. Just to prove to herself the honesty of her heart.

And they did not have a pre-nup. His implicit trust her in her heart and soul. That there was no second thought, as if that was even needed. She left that life with her conscience clear, but with doubt in her heart.

And her heart did ache. Excited as for the question Glenn was about to ask, it ached for the quirky humor, adventurous spirit of Thomas Harte, the airship thief of hearts.

Still, she had Glenn, the boy that she first got stoned with, grew up with and had such a long history. Everyone knew that Glenn and Kaylee were best of friends and one day they would be married.

Every mile the taxi drove towards the home she grew up in, her smile widened. She wondered if everyone would be there, except Melanie who stayed behind for the start of early term classes.

The bump of the pothole that had been in the intersection for the last decade brought her out of her introspective moments.

She was home.

The cab driver got out and walked to the back of the taxi. For a moment, she expected the cabbie to open the door for her. Instead he opened the trunk and took her bags out.

Kaylee laughed at herself.

She’d been spoiled!

She pushed on the door and it opened with a rusty groan. A noise that cars get when the hinges exposed to the harsh elements are often stressed with constant open and shut, far beyond those of a normal car.

After he sat the bags on the sidewalk, the cabbie tipped his hat to Kaylee .

‟Thank you, miss.” He smiled as he looked at the bills she gave him and counted an extra twenty.

‟Keep the change and thank you.” Kaylee smiled.

The rain had stopped for a few minutes. By the looks of the clouds and the dark columns that obscured the hills and lowlands, it will rain again in a few minutes.

She gathered the bags up in her arms, she suddenly felt like an overloaded pack-mule — and she packed light!

The humor in the situation tickled her again. She was back home and happy. Soon she would get a big hug from mom’n’dad. Then to see Glenn, if he had not yet arrived at the house.

She had messed up everyone’s schedules, she knew, she took the private jet to an airport that was so much closer, it seemed a wise move.

Dad had emailed her, and he directed her on what was the best airline and the most on time. Her plane would land around dinner time and he would pick her up then. That made her shake her head it began to snow at the scheduled time of arrival on her smart phone if she followed the plans that the patriarch of the family had planned.

Dad’s office was fifteen minutes from the airport in Portland and he would pick her up on the way home. Except that Kaylee was eight-hours early and the airport she arrived at was an hour closer. She would surprise everyone when she walked through the door.

Up the steps, she stood at the doorbell for a moment. Oddly the small, pale mark on her finger where the jeweled band had been the last month stood out in her awareness. It was not very noticeable to the rest of the world, but to her it was a giant flag.

A leftover memory. A good memory, but one that she did not want exposed.

Not just yet, anyway. Mel, her sister, knew, she was the only one in the family aware of any of the events in the past summer.

It promised that an intense conversation with mom in the near future would happen after she unpacked and settled in.

The the first few notes of Westminster chimes sounded when she pushed the button, the sound made goosebumps on her skin that had little to do with the cold, moist air. The mission “Surprise!” was now active.

The door opened and her mom took a moment to register that her eldest daughter stood in front of her.

‟Kaylee!” The elder version of the daughter shrieked and jumped to hug Kaylee . ‟What? Where did you come from? How are you here so early? No one is here. Oh my God! We need to call your dad before he leaves early to pick you up.”

She walked into the house and was assailed by the smell of coffee, the primary drink in the house since before Kaylee could remember. The warm scent was pervasive and tickled her senses with chocolate notes. She was ready for a cup of coffee that her mother would make in a french press and then store the fragrant black liquid in the same kind of insulated pots she used at the cafe’s.

Mom often took the time off to make the coffee at home, too. As the owner of a chain of cafe’s, Linda Grant could take any time off she wished.

‟I only have to work half the day, and it doesn’t matter which twelve hours.” She would often joke. An accountant by her diploma, Mother Grant discovered that she had a strong business acumen and transformed a small, money-pit café into five salary-equivalent coffee and sandwich shops.

Mom’s recent history was a surprise for both of the Grant women as they talked.

Then a pause in the conversation.

“What have you been up to? You’ve arrived home late this summer. Any troubles with classes?” Mom asked.

‟It’s a long story, mom. But I promise I’ll tell you later. Glenn’s car just pulled up in front.” She stood up and hugged her mom and walked calmly to the door.

Then flew off the porch into the arms of what most of the girls in town agreed was the most handsome boy in town.

Glenn Greggory Schroder, president of the student body at Lincoln High School in his senior year. After graduation, he studied to become a congressional page then an assistant, he worked on his voter base so when he ran for an elected office life would be much easier while the he stumped for votes.

Six-foot-tall, blue-eyes of Danish extraction, Glenn, destined in his life to be elected to congress and, in breathless whispers by girls, a governor of the state, or even greater, office.

The friends that knew him, team members from the chess club and the debate team knew that he had a mind as dull as a hammer. But his talent for comeback was whip-quick. He never seemed to let that he was wrong or had the facts twisted ever stop his arguements, then if that did not work he would try to change the one subject to another that he had a handle on.

And he could drink! Only once did Glenn admit that he was even close to a DUI when the police wanted to pull him over after drank beer while home from school.

The officer that had tried to chase them, got hung up in a narrow lane and with a seven-point turn around, he had fallen so far behind that when he pulled into the driveway behind the parked station-wagon, everyone had already exited the car and sat around the pool with drinks in hand.

Unable to prove who was behind the wheel or violations of open beverage law occurred while they were in the car, the officer issued a weak threat that he would keep an eye on them.

In the small Oregon town, the officer always had his eye out.

Glenn admitted to the group, even when Kaylee sat in his lap that he was really too wasted to drive.

This set off a fight between Kaylee and himself.

Still and somehow, they stayed together. But with threats and argument, Glenn never admitted that he had ever did drink and drive again.

He never even admitted that he attended any party in school or on his internship in Washington.

Today, the only admission he had been his surprise at his girlfriends appearance.

‟Hi!”

‟Ohmygod! I have missed you!” Kaylee nearly screamed as they almost fell down into the wet grass of her parent’s house.

“You’re home! You weren’t supposed to arrive until after six o’clock tonight.”

‟I had a chance to catch an earlier flight and surprise everyone. ‟

‟You did that!” Glenn smiled a crooked smile, but there was wrongness about it.

‟Your mouth needs something.” Kaylee said with a sideways grin.

‟What?” The Nordic blue eyes almost crinkled in good humor.

‟My lips!” With that, she kissed him deeply.

The kiss was long and passionate of a couple that had not kissed in a long time.

But it was a troubled kiss. Kaylee pulled back.

‟I thought you would be happier to see me.”

‟I was not ready for you. I have one more stop to make, I need to shop before I come back.”

‟Ooh… Would it be… Oh, I don’t know. Important?” She got to her feet and almost danced in excitement.

‟Oh quite.” Glenn said. ‟I need to talk with you later, after you say hello to your mom and dad.”

‟I have gotten mom, already. Mom just texted Dad when I got in.” Kaylee bounced on the balls of her feet.

‟You have changed up my plans, I have a few stops to make, I was told to drop this server plate off to your mom. She said it is for a ham tonight and needed it.”

Glenn reached in his car and pulled out a silver tray with local names and places etched around the edges.

‟When I come back, you and I will go for a ride downtown.  I need to talk to you.” Glenn said. ‟It’s serious.”

‟Oh.” She smiled but he did not. She refused to let him dampen her spirits or change her course of thought. She took the platter and kissed him, again.

‟I look forward to our talk!”

She watched him drive off, her smile faded to a frown. He acted different. His smile was wrong and his eyes were in a far-away place.

Inside her heart, she worried that he might be in trouble with the law, or maybe he ran afoul of the law in the capital with possession of an illegal substance and was about to be charged or had gotten caught in a undercover operation.

She walked back to the house to give her mom the big platter. A pensive look crossed her face.

The more she thought, the more she worried.

Married by Mistake Chapter 43. Leaving on a Jet Plane

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Chapter 43. Leaving on a Jet Plane

The limousine ride for Kaylee was quiet, giving her a chance to think. The trip home to see Glenn filled her with excitement.

His family was hard-working and, while not wealthy, they had no wants or wishes that were not answered.

She wondered what kind of ring she might get. The last time they had spent a summer home, Glenn had negotiated to lease a three-wheel motorcycle from a company with full windshield and a trailer that folded out as a tent.

They had toured Canada that year and she found a ring with a star sapphire, surrounded by small diamonds as an engagement ring.

Glenn nearly fainted right then and Kaylee laughed at his frugal soul.

‟A ring is a ring. I would love it no matter what.” She had told him when he got his breath back.

Afterwards, he walked into a smoke-shop and bought an expensive cigar, tossed the large brown stogie into a garbage can and took the small brass-colored paper ring off the shaft and put it on her finger.

‟I will replace it with a real one after we graduate.”

The ring had long since worn out, but it lasted for the length of their journey before they started as freshmen at their separate colleges. Still, she kept the wrinkled and torn paper-foil ring in between the plastic pages of a photo album.

It excited her to think that the day was so close, and she had almost obliterated that future.

*Mangled it, even!* Kaylee memories mixed both excitement, sadness and an ironic laugh, a party with a strange man who became an accident of a husband for a short time. *At least I was able to put my life back on track, and Tom is kind enough for one last favor and fly me home.*

Tom said they could use an airport closer to home than going to a commercial airport. There she could take a taxi home instead of trying to have family take time to drive the hundred miles, pay for a bus, or try to find connections to land at the same airport. And she had no need to buy tickets it was the best of all choices, it showed his heart and friendship.

The limousine arrived at the gate leading to the private area where the jet was. She could see it was the same kind of Lear jet as she had taken to Las Vegas with Tom.

The person that stepped out of the plane was none other than Captain Watson.

Regina Watson! This made Kaylee smile, Captain Watson made Kaylee feel motivated to make choices.

The chauffeur pulled to a stop and the driver got out and walked around to let her out.

‟Thank you, Miss Grant.” He remembered her name despite not talking with her at all. Kaylee was feeling a bit worried, she still did not see Tom anywhere when the limousine drove off.

‟Kaylee ?” Tom’s voice came from the building where Regina Watson was walking towards.

Tom stepped into the sunshine and smiled a wide smile. One would think they had not seen each other for weeks, instead of just that morning.

‟Let me get those for you.”

‟No, if you hurt your arm again, I’ll break your leg.” She warned him.

‟I have it.” A tech walked from the office behind Tom and took the bags that she was carrying.

A long hug from Tom, old friends. Lovers as of the previous morning, but no animosity.

She felt that pang of doubt that haunted her a few times when she molded her body to his for a moment.

Tom flinched a little.

‟What happened?” She touched his wounded arm. ‟Is it hurting?”

‟No, it actually feels pretty good, I wrote a few chapters this morning. A novel idea called ‟Married by Mistake”.

‟You better not be using my name!” Kaylee laughed.

‟I’m kidding, actually a fourth book to Steamland that’s in theaters. It will be the last one. I planned only three, but it began to come out of my hands this morning.” Tom smiled. ‟There was one in the middle that had needed to fill in some gaps. The mother’s point of view of losing her child to the abuse of government’s agent.”

‟Wow, sounds intense.”

‟I have a few folks proofreading it as of this morning.” Tom said as they entered the cabin of the jet. While they were settling down, a few more people climbed in.

‟I thought this was a private charter?”

‟It is, but they also chartered it. We are all going to the same place.” Tom smiled. ‟I would like to introduce you to a few writer friends of mine. Dee O’Kelley. He has written a few swashbuckler novels. The Porthos series, the musketeer that is also a kind of anti-hero?”

‟Haven’t heard of it.” She whispered to Tom after she shook hands with Mr. O’Kelley.

‟Phoenix Alexandra, she has written about a woman who becomes a private-eye after retiring from military special forces. She is doing well with that, it’s on the New York best-seller’s list.”

Kaylee smiled and nodded hello to the rest of the group as they filed in. Six in all, the writers all chatted animatedly among each other on the upcoming book-con that they were going to attend in Seattle.

Tom smiled as the group settled in, Captain Watson finished her checks and closed the door.

The speakers overhead chimed on the small jet and the seatbelt sign illuminated.

Although a group, the chartered jet had few seats in relative terms, and was very comfortable. This was a different airplane that Captain Watson was in charge of. The seats were different, it was as if the group had wished for a family room with wings.

‟How do you know Tom, honey?” A beautiful woman asked Kaylee .

White haired, but intense black eyes, she looked as if she had stepped off a farm. To call her elderly would have been wrong on a philosophical level, her eyes had seen much during the years of her life, but the life and light in them was piercing when she looked at Kaylee .

‟We are friends, I helped her out with a problem at Ocean Bay University with Doctor Manga.” Tom chimed in when Kaylee looked stuck.

‟Kaylee , may I introduce you to…”

‟I know!” Kaylee grinned. ‟Margaret Patrice! You are my favorite author! You wrote about Honey, the homeless dog.”

‟A young adult book, my answer to Old Yeller. That was a long time ago, my dear. I have written many since then.” She smiled. ‟And thank you for remembering me and your kind words. Are you going to Seattle with us?”

‟No, I am getting off near Portland, if Tom slows the plane down a little.”

The older woman laughed lightly, a sound of a person that enjoyed to laugh. Her eyes sparkled with good humor.

‟You should ask Tom out.” Margaret whispered in a conspiratorial tone to Kaylee when Tom became deeply involved in conversation with Thomas Kraig who had written a fan-fiction of an established science fiction series that became a basis for an upcoming movie.

”He has been alone for far too long. I would do things with him, but alas, I have a family that might take a dim view of an old woman in pursuit of a man who lives on a floating plane.” The wrinkles around her eyes smiled as brightly as her lips.

‟Flying boat.” Kaylee corrected, and immediately regretted. ‟I’m sorry, he has jumped me for that a few times. It has become habit.”

‟Jumped you?” The sparkling eyes smiled with the dual meaning. ‟Have you slept with him?”

Another jaw-dropping moment that Kaylee ’s command of the English language failed her.

‟Maggie, Kaylee is a bit of a wallflower, kinda shy and all. Are you intimidating her?” Tom leaned over and asked.

‟Not at all!” She laughed. ‟I think I was finding some details.”

‟No details to find.”

‟Maggie!” Thomas Kraig piped up. ‟Stop intimidating people. Forgive her miss…?”

‟Grant. Please, call me Kaylee .”

‟Of course. Kaylee . See Maggie, she is a sweet girl, not like us Bohemian Bull types.” It was Phoenix that had reined in Kaylee’s favorite author.

Still, the white-haired author studied Kaylee .

*She knows.* Kaylee’s eyes tried to hold a bland look. *She knows there was something going on between Tom and me, she’s just a few hours late.*

The flight continued with Phoenix looking at pictures on Kaylee ’s camera, her entire collection of paintings over the three years of fine arts studies at Ocean Bay.

An image of Tom without a shirt surprised them both and Kaylee coudn’t get it off fast enough. Laughing quietly, Phoenix patted Kaylee ’s leg.

‟I saw nothing.” She whispered.

The overhead speakers chimed and the sign ‟Seatbelts” illuminated.

‟Ladies and Gentlemen, we are beginning our descent to disembark a passenger. We will be landing in about five minutes, our time on the ground will be about a half-hour.”

The last chance to hold Tom’s hand presented itself without being obvious.

It was the one thing she was going to miss with all her heart.

Married by Mistake Chapter 42. Packing

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Chapter 42. Packing

After the exhausting “Unwedding” in Las Vegas, partying with her never-was husband, he dropped her at home, where she sat in her apartment drinking coffee with her sister, Melanie.

The two Grants sat next to each other in the bay window of Kaylee’s apartment on a garage-sale special faux wicker loveseat. They had turned it around to create their own private space while they talked like sisters do.

‟It was amazing, we saw acrobats and a ballet that hung from the ceiling! Tom introduced me to the manager of the casino who let us go back and meet the circus group. A few of them knew Tom from his novels and movies.” Kaylee described with a wistful smile. ‟I’m sorry that you weren’t his sister-in-law for very long.”

Melanie held her sister’s hand.

‟You are on my spank-list for that, but you did the right thing. Glenn has asked about you a lot. He’s made it sound urgent and I know he said he had to go back early.” She nodded. ‟I bet he got an appointment somewhere and wants to take you with him to D.C. to meet everyone.”

‟What about going to school here? I can’t marry him until I graduate.”

‟You would be engaged in that time.” Melanie winked over the cup as she sipped the coffee that she had bought down the street. A ‟Shot in the dark”, black coffee with a shot of espresso that she sweetened with some sugar. ‟You don’t have to run off and get married. Even if you like to do that.” She nudged her sister as they sat and looked out the window.

Sisters, first and always. They knew each other’s secrets and stood by each other no matter what the world came at them with. They might fight with each other, but they were family.

Melanie looked out over at the bay where a large jet floated.

‟It seems strange seeing it from so far away.” Kayley whispered, almost to herself. ‟It’s bigger than most boats.” Her smile widened. ‟Hard to miss with those colors.”

‟Is he there now?”

‟No. He had to make arrangements to move the Sea Dragon. The FAA approved it for flight and Tom needed to have a check up on his arm. He heals fast I think, his fingers don’t tingle anymore and he has movement enough to type without me helping him. He was typing when I left the Wizard at the airport.”

‟So everything is all right there.”

‟Do you know he has so much money that he gets free rooms at casino’s?” Kaylee said wistfully. “That whole thing kind of made me mad.”

‟You told me that.” Melanie brushed the hair out of her sisters face.

‟I am still amazed.”

Melanie smiled. Her older sister had repeated things time and again for the last couple days while she packed to go back home and meet up with Glenn.

*Glenn.* Melanie’s future brother-in-law would be interesting to have around. He would spend a lot of time in the Maryland area as a congressional aide and possibly be elected. *I am not as excited about that as I was about Tom. Politics corrupts so many people with power, money, drugs, drink, parties with temptation everywhere. I have no trust in them, that kind of snake den would cause nothing but trouble.*

Melanie wanted her sister to avoid that kind of stress, and Glenn was good-looking enough to have a dozen girls on the side, and Washington was awash in pretty women and men.

Kaylee leaned on her sister, putting her head on Melanie ’s shoulder.

‟I miss him. I miss Tom.” She said. ‟I did the right thing, Mel, didn’t I?”

‟Yes.” Melanie put her arm around her older but smaller sister and kissed the top of her sister’s head. ‟Glenn is our generation, Tom is almost as old as mom. I looked it up.”

On the volleyball courts, they called Melanie “The Monster”. As the six-foot-tall captain of the volleyball team, she drove her team to back-to-back championships. But now she was a sister. Melanie the Monster loved Kaylee more than anyone else of her generation.

‟I’m taking a flight with Tom to go home. He has some business in Seattle and would drop me close to home, I could take a taxi on the cheap then and surprise everyone.”

‟What business does he have in Seattle?” Melanie ’s quizzical smile tickled Kaylee ’s soul.

‟A book event where he autographs works of his novels for people.” Kaylee got up and refreshed her cup of coffee. ‟He goes to those a lot, like twelve times a year, maybe more.”

‟Headed home in a private jet.” Melanie laughed. ‟You’re spoiled.”

‟Chartered.” Kaylee corrected. ‟Oy! He has taught me that habit. Sometimes, Tom makes me mad and he is not even here.”

Melanie laughed again, harder. Her sister’s tastes in things had changed in the five weeks of being married, rather, not-married according to the government, to Tom. She had become more complex, even her drawing and painting all night had been fast paced and prolific.

Twelve charcoals done in eight hours. Some surreal like Picasso and Salvador Dali. A Monet style drawing of Melanie as she napped on the couch during the night, among the many that she did.

All for her own pleasure.

*If it was pleasure?*  She pondered.

*All passion for sure.*

Some art she created with bright colors and filled a heart with happiness.

Others, blue and sad, a cold pastel of a single heart, alone in a snowy field.

‟I need to get packed,” Kaylee said softly, got up and went to gather her clothes for her trip. “So I can fly with him.”

Melanie tossed back the last of her coffee and smiled.

‟You have a last ride on him?” Winking at her older sister.

‟No, that part’s done. Tom is just doing this as a favor because I am late and he is going north, too.”

‟When is the limo supposed to pick you up?”

‟Anytime, now. It’s a ninety-minute flight to Portland from here.”

‟That’s all?”

‟That’s that Tom said.” Kaylee shrugged. ‟It will be the last time I see him for a month. My classes don’t start at the normal date, they are a later starting class this year. Professor Denton, who is teaching it is in France.”

‟You have Professor Denton? That is cool! She got married to her wife last spring and they are in France on a honeymoon.”

Kaylee stacked her luggage by the door.

‟Yeah, did you see who she married? It was in the paper, her wife is an artist downtown.”

‟Yup! Sculptures are amazing, she even has a bathtub sculpted out of soapstone.”

‟I saw that, shaped like a flower. They want thirty-thousand for it.”

‟I am not going to buy it. Not for that price.” Melanie laughed.

‟I won’t buy it for a tenth that price, it is too much.” Kaylee nodded as she put her toothbrush in the last small bag to take down.

‟You are traveling light.” Melanie noted. ‟You used to go home with almost everything.”

‟I’ve learned a few things this summer.”

A knock on the door and Kaylee answered it. A handsome older gentleman was there, wearing a drivers uniform. It was a driver that she had not met before.

‟Miss Grant?” He asked.

*Ouch.* A sharp pang in her heart when he used her maiden name.  *I had gotten used to being a Harte.*

‟Yes, Just these bags, please.”

The trio walked down the stairs to the street, a midnight-blue limousine waited. It was not stretched like many were, it was more business and less party.

‟Give mom and dad hugs for me. I wish I could go but I need to set up for early starting classes. I’m supposed to have access to the school network, but I’m blocked from logging in.”

Kissing her sister good-bye, Kaylee got into the limousine and the driver clicked the door quietly, leaving Melanie waving on the sidewalk.

For one brief, shining moment, she wished she still wore a ring. A pale band on her skin of her ring-finger showed where she refused to take it off until the very end.

One last time, she looked at the bay, where sat the Pacific Wizard, just before they turned inland to the airport and lost sight of it.

In the front of the limousine, Gulstan the Chauffeur looked in the mirror at the young woman who appeared to weep. Professional that he was, he would never ask.

What happens in his limo, stays in his limo. 

Married by Mistake Chapter 41. Afterglow and Tables

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Chapter 41. Afterglow and Tables

Candles, perfumed smoke of a cedar-wick that crackled on the far table wafted through the room with two exhausted lovers relaxed in the soft light.

Tom still had his shirt half-on, he was too drunk to take it off with one arm when they got home, the white material stained from when he fell into a fountain. .

Kaylee kissed Tom’s chest as he slept. Six hours of dance and drink and then home to the penthouse pushed him over the edge of exhaustion more than once, he drank too many cups of coffee to keep going.

Now, with his shoes removed, he was in a deep sleep, despite where he lay his recovering arm.

Small marks on his chest would take a few days to heal where she had bitten him during a slow dance, but between the ice-cubes she dropped down his shirt and kissing, he was sleeping with his arms around her. The pain of his wounded arm forgotten as was the wound in both their hearts while their bodies recovered from the intense celebration.

They were friends and even if her promise had to take them each on a separate path in life, she knew in time that he would relax more.

‟You know,” Tom said quietly, little more than a whisper. ‟If this is what it is like getting  annulled from you, I want to do this once a week, at least.”

Kaylee laughed quietly, the sun was going down and they were about to wake up.

‟There is a private gaming table with our names on it?” She asked.

‟Now you mention it.” Tom snuffled. ‟We do.”

‟You said you like to play blackjack?” She asked and pressed her body against his, she was still in her silk party clothes, too tired the night before to undress. She wanted to remember what it felt like and she wanted to touch every inch of him for as long as she could.

All too soon, this journey of passion and party would be over and she would go back to the life that she had planned since before puberty.

Artist, student, possibly even the wife of a congressman. Elected officials had a more complex life while trying to do their jobs.

Glenn often said they had to make hard choices that might make them unpopular with the voters. So the right thing was the thing that would get them removed from office.

It was a wonderful, great time build a life.

If it wasn’t for Tom and this past few weeks of wonder and passion. An exciting summer of build-up to the wedding and the first years together with Glenn.

She lightly touched Tom’s chest. He twitched with a slightly hysterical giggle. His body was still tingled from the intense excitement of the impromptu party and dances she made him do while he drank expensive wines until his words slurred.

His smooth and, now, hairless chest. Her skill with argument, convincing him on this last night of the thrill and fun to have every hair on his body removed, every strand of stray hair. His control impressed her while the attendant wax his underarms and toes.

Even if he did squeak a couple of times.

*Well, maybe not fun for him, but I enjoyed watching it.* She smiled, on the knife-edge of laughing out loud.

The rewards of his clean-to-the-Nth-degree-body made for better dance-floor teases. She loved his bare, hair free chest.

*He will never forget any of this, I hope he still loves me for having his hair ripped out!*

She knew she would never forget.

Kissing his chest, his twitching making her smile. She stood up and pulled him to the edge of the bed.

‟Oh? What now?” She shut him up with a kiss.

‟Let’s not waste anymore time! Let’s go party gamble for our un-wedding.” She smiled and opened her bag and pulled out a small black dress.

‟What? Do you have a wardrobe in that thing?” He yawned, and made a quiet yelp of pain. “My armpits are sore! Woman, you said this was painless.”

She laughed.

‟Melanie ’s design. Whenever we travel, we keep nice clothes in a kit, I have another one for formal, it is slightly larger with a full length black dress and heels. It fits in a dresser drawer, and I can put it in a bag or purse in a second. She has wanted to market it, but some problems with one seam  or another not lining up and we keep getting creases in the wrong places.” She smiled while she pulled the dress up, pulled her hair out and tucked herself in. Buttoning up the up to the top of her cleavage. ‟We are going to try to roll dresses in the next design in special tubes made for packing. It takes less room and, in theory, does not cause creases.”

‟Quite the invention.” Tom smiled as he pulled on a red-silk shirt.

‟We had plans of being famous designers and do art-level clothing that could be inexpensive, and recyclable. We could keep it as haute couture, with a fraction of the price.”

‟What has stopped you?”

‟Lack of funding and time. Dad is an IT tech and mom teaches accounting. It’s just enough to help us go through college, even with scholarships.”

‟Yes,” Tom took a deep breath let it out slowly and shook his head. ‟This state charges more for education with a high cost of living that prevents many students from going to higher education. It is a weakness in this country. No investments in education on a higher level.”

‟Well, whatever, but I am going to finish what I have started and have my Master’s in fine arts.”

‟Okay, I’m ready. Do you want to go gamble?”

‟Yeah!” She cheered. “Woot!”

‟I don’t know if I want to take you downstairs, there won’t be any eyes not looking at you.” Tom said. ‟I may become jealous.”

‟Yeah, right. You have one quirk. You are the most laid-back man I know.”

‟The most laid on his back, anyway.” Tom laughed. ‟Okay, to the elevator.”

Kaylee walked carefully in her high-heels, wearing the shoes, she was as tall as Tom.

‟You are beautiful.” Tom whispered.

Kaylee felt her cheeks flush.

‟Thank you. I wanted you to enjoy this date.”

‟I have. I’m just sorry it has to end.”

‟Tom, I want to go home to Portland when we get back. Glenn is waiting for me there, he has asked the family about me. Melanie says that he is going to ask the question.”

‟The big question?”

Kaylee laughed.

‟I hope so, if he asks me to borrow my car, I’m going to punch him.” She raised her fist. “Hard.”

They both laughed awkwardly.

The door of the elevator opened and the couple entered.

A direct ride to down, over twenty floors, to the one room with limited access.

Tom handed over his room key,  scanned by a security guard who nodded and then they were in.

‟Let’s go here, you said you like the old-style dollar machines?”

‟Oh yeah, you have no idea.” Kaylee laughed and imitated the clinking of silver dollars falling.

‟Okay,” Tom smiled. ‟Let’s go over here.”

At a cage, Tom chatted a girl who knew him by sight.

‟Hi Tom!” She smiled, a brilliant grin that looked natural. Kaylee felt a pang of jealousy when she leaned in and kissed Tom on the cheek.

‟Five-thousand singles for this young woman here.” Tom said. ‟She wants to play the dollar slots.”

‟Yes, sir. Very good choice.” She smiled again and began to tap on a computer touch screen. ‟And your usual starting stake?”

‟Yes, please.” Tom nodded. ‟And if she comes back, fill her order at a thousand-chip increments, she can carry those without tipping over.”

‟Of course.”

The stack of chips were the size of silver dollars of the Eisenhower era.

‟If you go over there, you can play the giant machine and still watch me. I’ll be here on the table with blackjack.” Tom pointed to the empty table in the middle of a large room with very few people walking about.

‟Wow!” Kaylee boggled. ‟I never knew this place even existed.”

Tom smiled and sat on the stool. He was the only person there.

‟I don’t think this one is open, hun.” Kaylee kissed him. “Maybe we can raise our hands to attract attention?”

‟It’ll be open, give it a half-minute.” His eyes reflected the confident tone in his voice.

Kaylee laughed and went to the one-armed bandit and dropped in a few of the chips that clanged all the way in. Her first pull she won twenty back that clanged in the tray under the two images of cherries and a golden number seven.

An hour later, Kaylee dropped in her last dollar chip. Biting her fingernails she pulled the lever, then the jackpot hit on a minor score.

She won all but two-hundred dollars back in chips. The sound clinked nonstop while machine stayed in dispense mode for five minutes.

Gathering up her Casino treasure in a bucket, she went to see how Tom was doing and found him right where she left him, but now he sat with five other gamblers, plus the dealer. In front of him was a minor stack of chips, she noted, and it seemed smaller than when she had left him, and the chips were different colors.

*Lower denominations.* She tried to look over his shoulder.

‟Tom?” Caressing his shoulder. ‟I’m ready to go see the rest of the town.”

‟Hi, babe. Just a minute. I’ll finish this hand and we can go look at things.”

‟How much are you betting?” She was unfamiliar with the chip colors.

‟A hundred.” Tom did not take his eyes off the dealer’s hands.

‟That’s a lot of money to put down on a single bet.” She said while the dealer went down the line of players. ‟I could have a lot of fun with a hundred dollars than to blow it on a bet. I thought you would bet the regular amount.”

‟It’s not a hundred dollars.” Tom said with a crooked smile.

‟What is it?” She blinked. “Credits?”

‟A hundred-thousand.”

Kaylee felt like she had been hit with a snap-kick in the chest and lost her brain-power to speak, her mouth opened and her lips just twitched.

‟Oh my god?” Tom asked. While he nodded. With a jack and a duece showing, he drew a king and lost the bet. ‟Okay, thank you.”

He rolled a token towards the dealer.

‟Thank you.” The tuxedo clad dealer smiled at the five-hundred-dollar chip given to him.

‟Tom!” Kaylee was able to get the word out. ‟Tom, you lost a bet! That could have bought a nice car, even.”

‟It wasn’t one bet. That was my third loss in a row, that is why it was time to quit.”

‟Wut?” Kaylee got dizzy and grabbed at Tom’s sleeve and looked in his eyes.

‟I lost three bets in a row, it was time to leave.”

‟You lost a hundred-thousand dollars on one bet? You were betting… A. Hundred.” Kaylee couldn’t breathe. “Thousand. Dollars.”

‟Yes. I was there, I know it was a hundred-k bet.”

‟You lost three-hundred thousand?”

‟No, only one-seventy five.”

‟Oh. TOM!” She was about to blow a gasket. Suddenly, she was angry.

‟I’m still up two-hundred twenty thousand.” He shrugged and continued walking.

‟Holy crap!” Kaylee sat down on a stool.

“Well, are you hungry? Let’s go get food.” Tom smiled.

“Now I know why they want your money back.” She got up to follow Tom, her legs still a little shaky. Kaylee was not sure if it was from the shock, dancing or wine.

“They always do.” Tom laughed.

Married by Mistake Chapter 40. This Girl Loves Her Sharp Dressed Man

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Chapter 40. This Girl Loves Her Sharp Dressed Man

Smiling, Kaylee climbed out of the pool and padded around on the concrete walk, the water glistened on her bare skin. She spread out a towel and Stretched in the sun at Tom’s side, while he soaked his feet in the pool.

Sitting next to his left, she touched his bandaged arm.

‟You got this damp. We will need to change it before you get dressed and we go out.” She observed. Her skin puckered in the breeze that blew over the open area on the roof of the penthouse.

She helped Tom to his feet and they walked down the stairs to the breakfast nook where the bag with bandages sat.

Slowly unwrapping the arm, exposing the ugly suture line, Kaylee smiled softly.

‟The color is better than when we got to the hospital. How does it feel.” She stroked his hand with her fingers.

*She is caregiver who is breathtakingly beautiful, shy as a hammer and cares for me, a partner who can’t swim with her.* He moved his fingers. “It doesn’t hurt at all, at the moment.”

‟It is not leaking at all right now. The bandages are still clean underneath.”

Tom looked away, he did not want to look at it since the doctor cut off the bandages, the bluish color at the hospital had alarmed and frightened the author of books. In his head, he got too close to losing the arm.

‟That’s good. Just make sure its clean and cover it up, I don’t want to look at it at all, it makes me a little… Well, a lot… worried.”

Kissing his fingers, she looked in his eyes.

‟You feel that?”

‟Yes. How could I not?”

‟Sensation for soft touch is normal.” She smiled. Then biting his thumb lightly. ‟Feel that.”

‟Oh, yeah.” He gasped and his eyes got big. ‟This is a tease?”

‟You’ll never know.” She slowly wrapped his arm with a roll bandage wearing a slight smile.

‟What do you mean? “I’ll never know”.”

Her creative muse of art and sensation awoke, she stood up, reached in the bag and took out a blood-red short-sleeve silk cocktail-dress and pulled it over her head, laughing at Tom’s eyes.

‟Like I said, you will never know.”

‟Do you have anything in that for me?” Tom grinned. “Is this part of the surprise?”

‟Well, now. She turned on her phone and ordered a black tuxedo. We have the obvious out-of-the-way. I had the tux set up for my call.” She took his hand and pulled him to his feet.

‟Follow me.” She took him by the hand, pulling Tom out of the kitchen chair.

‟Where are we…”

‟Shush and follow my lead, brat.”

‟Brat?”

‟Hush. Close your eyes.” She pulled him firmly. “We have something to fix before you get dressed. Follow.”

Playfully resisting, he followed her slowly across the suite, a pause as she picked up a bag tickled his imagination of what was about to happen.

Pushing him to a large, padded cushion, it took Tom a moment to realize he was sitting on a bed.

A big bed.

Tom bounced a bit, but no spring, it settled. Memory foam.

It was comfortable and somewhat firm. The bed felt large, king-sized.

A sound of a small ratchet echoed in his dark world, she had picked up something.

‟What…” He felt a metallic clamp on his right thumb.

‟Move to the head of the bed, lay down and let me lift your hands up over your head, so they are above your heart a little.”

Stretching out on the bed, he found a pillow, and she laughed lightly at his efforts. She knelt next to him and gently guided his wounded arm over his head.

The clicks of a ratchet sound and sensations of a clamp on his other thumb through the slats of the headboard alarmed him and he tugged at his arms.

He was trapped.

‟Kaylee ?” His eyes opened wide.

‟You will call me Mistress.”

Tom started to laugh and found that he had a most definite bound and helpless sensation, his hands held in place by the thumb-cuffs.

For the first time in his adult life, he was afraid of a woman in the bedroom.

Thomas Harte, writer of steam-pirate stories, survivor of near disasters and surgery gave a nervous giggle.

“Be gentle?” he whispered.

Kaylee gave the most wicked laugh she could muster.

For twenty-minutes while they waited for his tuxedo to arrive, she taught him the reason about why she was not an ex-wife.

Kaylee was pulling her dress back over her head when the doorbell rang and she left to answer it.

“Um. Thumbs?” Tom’s voice came out as a whine.

“Don’t go away.” Kaylee laughed when she left the room.

*Like I have a choice.* He tugged at the thumb-cuff. He could hear her talking with another woman at the door. *It sounds like she just gave my number to Erika.*

She returned to the bedroom with a black tuxedo, carefully hanging it on the bar in the closet.

“Now mister.” She turned to the helpless non-husband. “We dress you, cuz there isn’t any date I like better than have my men dressed in formal clothes. Tonight, you wear a stick-pin, cufflinks, and there are gloves, a hat and a cane at the door.”

“A hat?”
“Silk shirt, hat, cane, gloves. Mister, then you’ll be one sharp dressed man.” She waved two brand-new mirror-shined black dress shoes for him to wear.

When they finished getting him dressed to the nines, they stood in front of the doors of the elevator.

She could not take her eyes from him and was humming a tune.

When the doors closed behind them, she whispered-sang in his ear while holding his hand and stepped off the elevator car to the stares of the staff women at the lobby desk.

“Every girl is crazy about a sharp dressed man.” And kissed him on the earlobe. “I love you in your tux and black tie.”

*I love you, too.* Floated through his mind.

Married by Mistake Chapter 39. Suite and Shower

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Chapter 39. Suite and Shower

Tom knew how to get to the hotel and told Kaylee not to follow the GPS.

‟That thing is taking you around the long way. I don’t know that route, and through a neighborhood?! That’s nuts. Take the next left, go to the highway on-ramp. Three exits, and left. It’s easy to find.”

‟You have been there before?” She said, after slowing for a slightly wobbly street person who walked across the street in the middle of the block and waved thanks at her.

‟He should know better,” She growled at the scraggly man. ‟That is a good way to die and that would just screw up my day.”

‟Well, deep breath. We have a nice room waiting for us.”

‟It’s just a room.”

‟You used the married name? My name?”

‟Well, yeah.” She nodded. ”I used the card you gave me.”

She thought a moment.

‟I suppose I should give it back to you.”

‟No, keep it. Let it expire in three years and use it for emergencies, getting married, paying rent.” Tom smiled. ‟Especially if you buy books. My books.”

‟Drumming up business, are you?” Kaylee laughed.

‟Well, that would be self-defeating. My, money buying my book? Then I’d pay commission, there is no profit in that.” Tom chuckled. ‟Consider it a gift if you buy one.”

‟I’d buy a bunch and give them away, try to drum up business for you.” Kaylee winked as she merged on to the highway.

A small smile crossed his lips, then a far away look settled in his eyes and Tom looked out the window and remained quiet for a few minutes.

‟I’ll miss you.” She said softly. ‟I know you are unhappy.”

‟You know me pretty well, already.” He said in a soft voice and turned back to look out the window. ‟You will go back to school this fall, probably with an engagement ring. Melanie will stop coming to my movies, she will stop buying books and hold a grudge. The world will end and I’ll drown my sorrows in an overdose of rum and painkillers and fly the Pacific Wizard to a bad landing on the ocean with no survivors.”

‟What? Tom!”

‟Kidding, just poking at the pity-pot for a moment.” Tom gave a crooked smile. But there was some truth that glinted in his eyes. A sadness that he didn’t cover up quickly enough for Kaylee to miss.

It was a horrid sadness of soul, a soul that she cared for.

‟On the subject of the hotel, have you been there before?” She changed the subject back.

‟A time or two for book-signings. They wanted me to play, too. I have a minor weakness for blackjack. I win more than I lose, as well. The casino is always interested in winning back some that I have taken from their tables. Roulette is good, too, but I lose more there.”

‟I like dollar machines.” She smiled. “I might ask you for a few rolls”

‟I bet.” Tom laughed at his own joke.

Kaylee gave him a sideways look.

‟That was terrible.” She said with a crooked smile shaking her head.

‟Made you grin.”

Guiding the electric SUV to a parking slot, she overshot the painted line of the parking stall and began to struggle slightly getting it straight.

Outside, a woman got out of her small hybrid and started to berate them though the glass of the Tesla.

‟You people need to get over your small penis envy! That car is an abomination, sucking down more gas than you are worth! This is what will wreck the world for us all in twenty years! Selfish, stupid whore.”

Kaylee got a look in her eye that Tom had seen once before.

He had seen the look when she stomped a man twice her size nearly to death, and this look was just the same, but this time, he saw it up close along with the white knuckles of the warrior woman.

‟NO! No, Kay! No!” He grabbed at her hand.

‟Lady, go into the casino where you belong. You no clue what you are talking about.” Kaylee’s temper was a nuclear furnace. 

‟I do, you drive that gas-pig around and the rest of us pay for the global warming filth that you create, that movie showed it to us. Inconvenient isn’t it? You drive gas guzzler’s with all your careless abuse of fossil fuels.”

‟Lady,” Kaylee hissed. ‟You get in your fossil-fueled car, take your attitude and get the hell away from my husband…” Kaylee choked. ‟And me.”

‟My car is an all green hybrid. I get fifty-miles per gallon, how much does your pig get?”

‟I can’t tell you, it doesn’t take gas.”

‟Diesel! Foul, nasty, penis envy…”

‟It does not use any kind of oil. No diesel, no gas, no propane.” Tom said.

‟What?” The woman pronounced it ‟wut” and blinked in confusion.

‟It’s all electric, no hybrid. It gets an electric equivalent of over two-hundred miles per gallon.” Kaylee clenched her fists. She was an artist about to paint her version of Dante’s Inferno on this woman. ‟So. Kiss-off.”

Taken aback, the woman shook her head.

‟You lie. There is no such thing.” She looked at the back of the Model X.

‟No tailpipe, witch.” Kaylee called over her shoulder while they left her looking at the dark windowed car with the electric-car tag hanging on the mirror.

“I was this close,” Kaylee held up her thumb and forefinger. “She was about to have a problem.”

“Yeah, I know, she is still looking over the Tesla.” Tom laughed as they walked across the parking lot.

They made their way into the casino and to the check-in desk.

The clerk did not bother to look up when Kaylee stepped up to the counter.

‟Reservation for Harte.”

‟One moment please.”

Another voice from around the corner.

‟Harte? Kaylee and Thomas Harte?”

‟Yes.” Kaylee nodded.

‟Steve, go over there, I have this.” It was a dapper woman with a the air of Captain Watson, all professional.

‟What? Why?”

‟Remember I said of the VIP coming in?”

‟Oh.” And moved off.

‟I apologize for that. I was watching for your limo to come in.”

‟We came by rental car. Miss…?”

‟I have this Kaylee .”

‟Erika, thank you for watching, but we are in a rental car this time. Might go driving later.”

‟Very good. Do you need the rental returned for you and we will arrange a limo for your use later, on the house.” Erika said.

‟That would be most excellent.” Tom nodded. ‟My usual company I use here?”

‟Desert Limo? I’m sorry, but they are out of business.”

‟Oh? Since when?”

‟About three weeks ago, IRS came in and shut them down, the tax-man took out a lot of limo companies. There are only two in town now. A few gypsy limos, but the two that stayed operating for the moment is Deviance Limousine and Gemini Limousine are still in business. Until the IRS gets to them.”

‟Why is the IRS involved?”

‟They are cleaning house around here. It is causing trouble for everyone.”

‟I can understand. In any event, we will be changing and heading out in a bit.”

‟A limo will be on standby for you, Mister Harte. A moment’s notice will be all that is all we will need.”

‟Very good, as you can see, I have a small problem with my arm. Could I get a porter?”

‟Right away.” Erika said, dialing a number. ‟Where are your bags now?”

‟Black Tesla rental, in the electric only parking stall.” Kaylee said.

‟Very good,” Erika nodded to a young man who was standing within earshot, who walked up and took the key from Kaylee and headed out to the car.

‟Your bags will be up at your suite momentarily.”

‟Thank you, Erika. We will wait for the bags in our room.”

‟I will trust you will find the lodgings to your pleasure. You have a panoramic view, the gaming table on the floor is available at any time. You also have access to our private gaming area as you see fit. And as always, this will be comp. Your VIP code was not entered when the clerk took the call, so I will deduct the reservation charges now.”

‟Thank you.”

‟Mister Harte? This way, please.” It was an impeccably dressed man with a Mid-Atlantic accent wearing a name tag Gene Childs, Hotel Manager.

‟Tom. Please, call me Tom.” He smiled. ‟I ask you that every time I arrive.

‟Yes, sir. Tom.” The manager smiled. ‟It’s an old habit.”

Riding the elevator up, Kaylee looked over in front of Tom and tapped his hand.

‟We are going to the top?”

‟Yes, ma’am. This is Mister… er… Tom’s regular place when he stays. I can say that Tom does not bring his family members here often, we are always pleased to serve you in any wishes you might have.”

‟Tom’s family…” She thought for a moment and looked down.

The doors opened, there was no hallway. They stepped out directly into a frosted glass foyer with a wooden door.

‟The normal full security precautions, four-inch-thick glass and polycarbonate panels with electronic privacy. It converts from clear to frost with a press of a button on the remote control and at several panels around the room. The door is all but breach proof. The whole floor is a panic room.” Gene walked around and pointed the features. ‟Limited access to the elevator, staff and the key-holder for this floor only.”

‟Thank you, Gene.” Tom said as the elevator chimed and the young man walked in with their bags.

‟Of course, please call me directly if there is anything you need. Twenty-four hours.” Gene said as he handed Tom his card. ‟The number on the back is my direct line.”

‟Thank you, again.” Tom smiled.

Two hotel staff members stepped inside the elevator and the doors slid silently shut.

‟I thought they would never leave!” Kaylee said. ‟I’m *family*?”

‟He was being circumspect. He could have gone the other way and asked if you were a working girl.”

‟That’s just wrong to assume.”

‟Agreed. But you must admit, we are an odd couple. You are young, beautiful and vibrant. I’m OFU.”

‟Oh-Eff-You?”

‟Old, fat and ugly.” He said as he walked to the door and pressed the button on the key and unlocked the door to the suite.

She kicked Tom in the backside.

‟You stop that.” She started to make a growl then gasped. ‟Shut-up! This is not our room? Oh-my-gawd!”

The walls moved on command when Tom tapped the buttons on the remote control.

Three hundred-sixty degree views of Las Vegas and the surrounding mountains took her breath away.

‟Tom, I swear, I only wanted to get a nice room. I didn’t book a penthouse.”

‟You forget my name carries some influence. They may have thought you were just some any Kaylee Harte, and I wager they mulled that over, and did not clue on it.”

‟How many times have you been here?”

‟A few, I don’t count. Usually, I stay on the Pacific Wizard.” Tom said as he sat down in a sculpted leather chair that looked out over the landscape.

‟Is the bar open?”

‟Everything is. You heard Erika said that it was comp.” Tom said, grunting slightly as he moved his wounded arm to a comfortable position.”

‟Wow. Macallen whiskey!” Kaylee balked. “What? This one is thirty-years!”

‟They should have the full spectrum.” Tom nodded, looking out the window.

‟Holy crap! Do you know how much this is? I saw some in the locked case at the Tower of Liquor in Ocean Bay.” She turned it around in her hand slowly. ‟And I can open it?”

‟If you want. But if you open it, you better drink it. That is about three-hundred dollars you have in your hand.” He said as he kicked his shoes off.

‟I’m going to put it back, I have never held anything that expensive in a bottle.” She poked around in the refrigerator. “I can’t read this except for chocolate.”

“Oh, that would be the old world Luxemburg or German-made chocolates.” He chuckled. “Impossible to say, wonderful on the tongue. Except I don’t like chocolate.”

Kaylee laughed at that. 

‟What are you up to, hun?” She asked while he pulled off his shirt.

‟Thinking about jumping into the pool.” Tom said.

‟There’s a pool?” She turned around, nearly dropping a full bottle of Pyrate Rum, with ‟Cask Special” on the label.

‟Let’s go swimming!”

‟You didn’t bring a suit. Remember?”

‟Skinny dip!” She yelled as she ran through the suite peeling off clothes. ”After that I am going to have a cuddle with you until you cry for a mommy!”

Tom watched her jump in the penthouse pool, her skin shimmered in the ripples of the clear pool water. He didn’t laugh, in fact, it saddened him on a deep level. Until a little while ago, she was his wife.

This troubled him on so many levels, he was not sure he could count them all.

But he was going to have one last night of love with a twenty-two-year-old art student and martial arts master with the moves of a gymnast.

‟You know, you’ll need a shower after this. This is a salt pool.”

‟I’ll give you a body shampoo, before we go to bed.” She yelled from the far end of the pool while he sat in the shallow end, with his arm perched above the water.

Tom chuckled, that was a plus. He had spots he could not reach.

It was a lesson about how important each of his hands were.

*A serious lesson.* He pulled at his earlobe with his good hand while he watched the young woman swim in the private pool forty stories in the air.

Married by Mistake Chapter 38. Emergency Room Visit

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Chapter 38. Emergency Room Visit

“We will have to go back to get our bags when we have the car.” Kaylee, taking command of the situation. She had noticed that Tom look more pale, but was not saying anything.

Kaylee contorted herself to look through the tunnel that separated from the front to the patient compartment.

He definitely favored the arm and he rubbed the fingers lightly. The occasional yelp of pain was testament that his arm caused him more agony than before they left the plane.

“Tom, why don’t you admit something is wrong? You picked up that bag with that arm, did it hurt then?” Kaylee called back.

“No. But that is the only thing I did. I didn’t even think about it.” He admitted. Tom Looked at the medic. “I really didn’t feel anything was wrong after I picked up the bag.”

“I’m married, I am not about to get in the middle of an argument. You just stay cool, you can always argue later.” The medic shook his head with a wry grin.

“Chicken.”

“Yup. Big rule: Do not get involved with husband-wife spats.” The medic chuckled. “I always lose.”

“My arm hurts worse, I thought it was the plane and decompression.” Tom moaned.

“Is it throbbing or is it a steady pain?” The medic asked as he taped down an IV on Tom’s good arm. “Your blood pressure is lower than I would expect.”

Using pillows, the medic raised the arm above Tom’s heart.

“Oh, I had a bit of surgery on my arm and it started to hurt after I picked up a bag to carry. I shifted it to my good arm, but I think I pulled on something too much.” Tom said, his voice stronger, doing his best to hide his discomfort. “Actually, that makes it feel better.”

“Okay, it’s just a short trip to Mountain View hospital, just a couple of miles.” The medic said as he looked forward, his name was George, he looked like a man who had many miles in an ambulance. “How long have your fingers been cool like this?”

“Cool? They felt warm in the airplane.”

George pressed on Tom’s fingernails of his good hand.

“Uh-huh.” Then his fingers went to Tom’s pained hand. “Can you feel when I touch your fingers?”

“It tingles a bit.” Tom said. “That’s okay, it has been like that for a while.”

“Define a while?”

“Most of the day, but my fingers have stayed warm and red.”

Nodding, George let no concern show behind his brown eyes. He might as well been talking about the weather.

“Well,” George pressed on the bandage, leaving the bandage on his arm. “We will get the doctor to open this time-bomb carefully.”

“Why don’t you do it?”

“Ah yeah, no. What if I release the pressure and turn you into a firehose of blood?” George chuckled. “That would be a bad thing. I can see it leaking through the gauze now. This close to the ER, you are better off to have a surgical team look this over to release the pressure.”

Tom laughed nervously, unsure if he was joking.

Backing into the ambulance bay at the ER Entrance, Kaylee watched a conversation between George and an older woman in a white coat about surgery and sudden and increasing pain got the doctor’s attention while the medic crew rolled Tom in on a bright yellow ambulance gurney.

“Mister Harte? I am Doctor Octavia Guzman. Is it okay if I examine you and your arm.” The white coated woman smiled as a nurse walked close and started taking notes on a computer stand.

“Do your fingers tingle?” The doctor said

“Yes, a little.”

“Have they been cool or warm?” She asked touching them. Her raven-black hair was almost blue, the black eyes of a local native tribe. She had an air of professionalism mixed with deep caring. The crew rolled Tom to a separate room off to the side and moved him to a hospital bed.

“Cap-refill is greater than four-seconds. We need to get a view of his surgery site.” She directed to the nurse.

Giving orders for a host of tests, she sat down with Tom and Kaylee .

Answering all her questions, the original trauma and surgery to fix the wound.

“Donna?” He turned to the clerk. “Get me his surgeon on the phone.”

“Let’s open this bandage and see what the trouble with the arm is, shall we?” The Doctor trimmed away the white bandage, stained a slight-brown with the fluids soaking through from the suture line.

“You say you picked something up?”

“Yes,” Tom hissed in pain when the doctor pulled back on the layer of bandage she cut. “My other hand was full and I was just going to hang the bag on my good wrist. It wasn’t heavy. Maybe seven-kilos. My elbow popped, but it always pops after not using it much.”

“Hm. Fascinating.” While she trimmed more of the wrapping away. “This is rather tight, did you wrap your arm this tight to begin with?”

“Kaylee , my wife, she was in the other room when I started the wrap with one hand.”

“Well, now I have looked a little deeper, you would do well to let her do it from now on. You wrapped it too tight and restricted the return circulation.” He pressed a fingernail, blanching it white. The color returned quickly. “You might be having more pain in the hand now?”

Tom moaned slightly.

“Yeah, it aches.”

“How long has it been since you changed the dressing? When did you wrap it so tightly?”

“Um.”Tom thought, looking at the clock on the wall. “About three-hours now.”

“Blood is returning, but I am still worried about the extensive surgery you had on this arm and the bandage being tight for so long. The popping sound you heard also bothers me. I’ll be talking with your surgeon and ask his opinion. I recommend you see him as soon as possible over this incident.”

The doctor looked at his fingers again, the color had returned to reasonable facsimile of normal and were warming up.

“I will get a vascular consult on this and make sure that no lasting damage resulted from the bandage.” She smiled at Tom. “I think you get to thank your wife for saving the arm. She told the nurse that you wanted to go to the hotel and instead she brought you here in the ambulance.”

“That’s true.” Tom said. “But I wanted to change the bandage at the hotel room, so we could have cured the problem.”

“Maybe. But you did not know. You had gone all the way around with the tape when you put your bandage on, the tape acted as a constricting band and cut off the return of the blood in your arm. ” With that, the Doctor walked out.

Two hours later, they were in a rental Tesla and driving towards the courthouse.

“Seriously, Tom.” Kaylee said in an irritated voice. “You wrapped that thing too tight. Doctor Tribbing told Doctor Guzman that you’ll be okay, but you need to let someone else dress your arm. It was lucky I paid attention when they said how to check the fingertips.”

“You are my hero.” Tom winked but winced when they hit a bump. “It’s still tender to bumps.”

“I will not have you behaving like an idiot teenager, you will hire a home-care person until your arm is fully healed.” Kaylee sounded threatening while wheeling the Tesla Model X into a parking spot set aside for electric cars.

“We need to get going.” Tom nodded. “I can arrange the home care in a blink.”

“Well, we are here. Let’s get this done and go party. We also have to check in to the hotel room.”

“Just one? Not two?”

“I plan to have one more night, I’ll party with someone who’s not my husband until you pass out.”

“I will drink some espresso, then.”

“I’ll make you some chamomile tea, instead. It’s healthier for you.”

“Maybe.” Tom said. “Ugh, arm is throbbing.”

Standing in line for five minutes, they discussed their party plans for the evening.

The clerk was slightly disbelieving to the intent and the friendliness of the couple. They paid cash for the forms, and followed the instructions on the printed paper. They finished in a short time.

Walking back out to the car, they found a citation on the windshield for parking in the electric-only car stall.

The parking enforcement officer was just getting back to his vehicle.

“What is this for?” Tom asked.

“You can’t park there, sir. Electric only.”

“This is electric.”

“Sorry, sir. I don’t it says four-wheel-drive on the back.”

“It’s all electric…”

“Bring it up in the courts, it’s not my call.” The young man said.

Kaylee sighed. An urge to kick someone was growing, like she not had kicked a man in the chest in a month.

“Let’s go to an un-wedding party of our own. Forget this place. We’re done with business here.” Tom suggested.

“Yeah! Let’s get out of here.” The wife-that-never-was agreed.

Climbing into the eSUV, Kaylee found the large tag that hung on the mirror which had a large blue lightning bolt emblazoned on it that would be visible from the sidewalk and have avoided the parking nazi from citing the rental.

“Kay, it’ll be interesting to have that conversation, but I will make sure it’s passed on to the rental company.” Tom smiled. “We were in a hurry and wanted to get me out of the ER. So if they told us, I don’t recall.”

“Neither do I. And I don’t remember getting a receipt.” Fishing through her purse. “But here it is.”

Reading the slip, she gasped.

“It says where the electric tag is. Ugh.”

“Nothing to worry about. It doesn’t go on anyone’s driving record.”

“Just annoys me,” Kaylee said as she tapped in their destination to the hotel in the GPS. “But I came here with a good time planned and I will not have anything distract me.”

“Oh? Want to lay out by the pool?” Tom said as he looked out the window. “It is a nice day, a bit hot. We can always go gambling.”

“Gambling is good, I didn’t bring my swimsuit or many clothes. Some nice pants and a top so we can have dinner out somewhere.”

“But you brought a bag that’s kind of heavy.”

“Tom, those are bandages and other supplies for things.”

“Other things? What do you mean… Ooh!” The meaning of what his ex- sank in…

Well, he couldn’t call her an ex-wife, in the eyes of the government, it never happened. So she has no ex- in relation to her other than as an ex-girlfriend.

Still! Oh, smoking crap on a cracker!

“Supplies.”

Jeeze. She was serious about this being a one last time to remember.

“Um, be gentle with me?” Tom asked.

Laughing cryptically, Kaylee just drove.

Married by Mistake Chapter 37. Las Vegas, Declaring A Medical Emergency

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Chapter 37. Las Vegas, Declaring A Medical Emergency

The jet punched a hole in the air as it sped over the horizon, taking a direct line to the desert city, shining like a jewel in the barren land.

They had to get down, Tom’s arm was showing signs of decompression illness, a kind of compartment syndrome that blocked blood from circulating in his arm. If it was up to Captain Watson, she’d have an ambulance waiting for him to get him to the medical center emergency room.

Pushing the limits of the rated engine’s power until they could not go any faster, Captain Watson managed to shave a measurable amount of time off the trip. A planned orbit of the city that would give the passengers a view of the beauty of it, even during the daylight the view was glorious. The Captain skipped the flyover and they saved a half-hour to get him on the ground.

Captain Watson would never say it outside of the conversation with her first officer sitting to her right.

“The fool flew too soon.”

“Did he have medical clearance?”

“No, I would bet not.” Regina said as she got cleared for her approach, declaring a medical emergency and ordering a paramedic unit.

The wheels touched with a feather like control that Watson used. A fine pilot, she never bounced the passengers or her planes if it was humanly avoidable.

As they taxied to the private terminal, she heard Tom moan loudly with a profanity.

“We need to expedite this. That medical problem is growing worse back there, Captain.” Kevin spoke quietly.

“Check on EMS, be sure they’re cleared to meet us when we stop.” There was no room for questions. “I will speak with Thomas Harte and see what is going on with his arm.”

“Affirmative that.” Kevin nodded, patting his shirt, confirming the mobile phone that resided there was still in place.

Coming to a stop, Captain Watson stood and walked to the rear of the cabin where Kaylee and Tom sat.

“Everything alright?” The Captain could see it was not, Tom was pale, perspiration shined on his forehead.

“Just a bit of an ache.” He hissed through gritted teeth.

“His fingers have gotten darker red, but they are still warm.” Kaylee said.

“Would you let me call you an ambulance?”

“You can.” Tom moaned when he moved his arm. “But I will always be human. Just don’t call me late for dinner.”

Kaylee looked at Regina and sighed.

“I already ordered an ambulance before we stopped. It is coming now.” Captain Watson said.

“I should have let Kaylee carry the bag.” Tom winced.

“Is that is what is going on?” Regina raised an eyebrow. She observed a light pink stain on the bandages that covered surgical wound. “You have saturated the bandages. Look, I can have you back in San Francisco in under an hour.”

“No.” Tom grimaced. “We just need to change the dressings and take a look. I strained it when we packed and I moved the bag.”

“What did they do for you, Tom?”

“They had to graft a vein they took out of his butt.” Kaylee said.

Regina almost laughed, but no one in the world knew.

“I might have over-stressed it.” Tom admitted. “Maybe you can hold over the next few hours, I’ll pay extra.”

“We have another assignment, Tom. But I’ll see what I can do.” Captain Watson said.

“Okay, we can wait until the morning after we get clear of the courts.” Tom looked like he was feeling better.

“But your arm?” The Captain asked.

“We will change the dressing and see what it looks like…”

“It’s gross.” Kaylee nodded.

“But I have finger movement.” Tom said as he wiggled his fingers with obvious discomfort.

“Well, let’s get you somewhere to get the dressing changed.” Kaylee growled. “We have to get to a doctor where we can check that arm right away.”

“Do you know where you are going?” Captain Watson asked.

“I don’t. But we have a rental car here, somewhere.” Tom moaned slightly. Turning his head to look out the window, the paramedic ambulance was coming down the taxi-way.

“Let me give you a directive. You will go by ambulance to the ER straight away.” The Captain said and turned to the Co-Captain who nodded and dialed the tower.

“Thomas, you do not allow yourself to become a wreck. I have a seven-year-old nephew that loves your books. He even has a model of the flying yacht you have. It’s painted in the colors of the Pacific Wizard.” Her tone betrayed her normal professional façade.

“Seriously. I will come fly your jet for you if you need.” Kevin Nunez said. “I hear you have a twin-engine yacht.”

“With wings. And I’ll refuse service.” Tom added, trying to laugh, failing and moaned out a profanity instead.

“That does it, I’m taking him to the emergency room to get that checked out.” Kaylee said and stood up. “Come on, trouble. The ambulance is here.”

“I’m not trouble.” Tom with a strained grin, got up. “I just write it.”

“Yeah. Trying to lift stuff, you refuse to listen, over exert that wound that we spent a million dollars to put back together.” Kaylee growled.

“It wasn’t a million dollars.” Tom said.

“The final bill has not come in, they were charging forty-five bucks a pill for over-the-counter acetaminophen.” Kaylee grumbled. “And you took a lot of pills. It might be a million dollars in the end.”

Two uniformed people stepped on board, a man and woman, both with patches that said “Paramedic” on their chests and back, kneeled next to Tom and took report.

“Maybe. But that is what I have health insurance for.” Tom said in between questions as they escorted Tom from the chartered jet and he bid farewell to the pilots as they went about securing their race-car of the sky.

Tom sat on the ambulance gurney and Kaylee walked next to him while the medics wheeled their patient to the waiting EMS unit. The medic in charge motioned to the second with three fingers.

The EMT nodded without a word, got out of the ambulance before he finished his procedure and got into the driver’s seat.

It took a moment while he sat Kaylee in the front passenger’s seat and made sure she wore the seatbelt, then got in behind the wheel and made a radio report.

“Medic-27 enroute Med-center code 3, one passenger, one patient.”

The radio echoed his report and confirmed the destination.

“Okay, ma’am. Do not ever drive like I am about to do.” He winked and flipped an overhead switch, she could hear clicks of relays as navigated the ambulance around in a careful turn back the way they came. The EMT never used the siren until they got to the gate and out into traffic.

In the back, she could hear the medic describe the serious medical problem.

“ETA 4 minutes.” The medic in the back could have just told someone when lunch would arrive.

Married by Mistake Chapter 36. Captain Watson

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Chapter 36. Captain Watson

Without the approval from the Federal Aviation inspector to certify the jet as airworthy, the Sea Dragon was still grounded.  A shrug from Tom and a few phone calls later, he sat with Kaylee, hand in hand while they rode in the limousine towards the parking lot of the charter jet service.

The jet sparkled with a coat of white paint and a stylized sun on the tail sat with the turbine blades slowly in the breeze that blew over the airport.

The muscular arms of Captain Watson were visible to Kaylee when the limo pulled up in front of the private entrance.

Lettie opened the door and let the couple out and touched Tom on the forearm.

‟You two make a good couple. Both of you are artists and compliment each other.” Lettie looked at them both. ‟If it costs me your business, I don’t care, I just had to say that.”

‟Lettie,” Kaylee smiled. ‟It is something I have to do. It’s a promise I have to keep.”

‟Lettie, you’re good.” Tom kissed her cheek. ‟You will always have my business when I am in Northern California.”

Nodding, Lettie told Tom that her number was always open and he could have any car he wanted in her inventory at any time, including a new MRAP-style limousine ready to go into service in the next few weeks.

‟That does not sound like something to take to a book-signing.” Tom laughed.

‟You’d be surprised what people think they like to ride in.” Lettie shook his hand. ‟I supply it so they don’t have to buy one or sign up for three years into the army.”

‟Thank you for your words, Lettie.” Kaylee hugged her. ‟I hope to see you again.”

‟You can find me on Google-plus. Facebook I don’t use anymore, they charge too much.” Lettie hugged tightly back.

‟Same name?” Kaylee asked.

‟Yeah. Or you can look up ‟sexy biker bitch”. That will get you to me.”

‟You bet I will.” Kaylee smiled.

Watching Lettie drive away in her limo, Tom and Kaylee walked inside, greeted by Captain Watson.

‟Hello Tom.” The tanned face of the retired military pilot smiled as the author of so many novels entered the building, followed by Kaylee .

‟And Missus Harte.” The Captain smiled warmly. The most emotion Kaylee had seen the professional pilot express.

‟Kaylee , please.” The younger woman asked.

‟Of course, Kaylee .”

‟Regina, my plans are to do business in Vegas and return by morning.” Tom said, in a matter of fact tone. He did not start with his usual small-talk.

‟Thank you, I learned it was you and where you said you wished to go. The Lear is ready to fly. I have just to file a flight plan. Kevin Nunez is my right-seat and he is on the plane now. Please see him and make yourself comfortable, I will be there in ten-minutes, we will be wheels-up in twenty.”

Kaylee and Tom nodded and walked out the door towards the Leer Jet holding hands.

‟I hear they are going to Vegas to get an annulment.” Another pilot mentioned to Watson. ‟They were talking about it when I was standing outside.”

Captain Watson stood up from the phone where she had filed the flight plan.

‟I have had worse.” She gave a heavy sigh. ‟Mister Harte is a regular customer.”

‟Don’t you know him?” The first pilot, a handsome twenty-something buzz-cut hairstyle co-pilot of mixed race.

‟Why do you use his last name?” The older cargo-pilot said. “He insists on first name.”

‟I use a formal addressing when talking in third-party conversations. It is respectful to Mister Harte and all he has done. I give him all the respect he is due, and when talking to me about others, I would expect the same.” Watson then turned on her heel and walked out.

‟Bitch.” The young cargo pilot muttered under his breath and received a punch in his shoulder by Buzz-cut.

On the jet, Captain Watson stepped into the cabin and smiled at the couple.

‟Tom, I have heard of your plans in Las Vegas. I must say that I could not disagree more with this trip.” The Captain said. “Kaylee here is the  bandage to the scars on your heart and soul. You must know that I had to address that. You always have said to speak my mind, even if you don’t want to hear it.” She did not smile, but nodded in self-agreement, turned to make her way forward and sat in her seat. Captain Watson, after speaking her mind put on the headset for the radio and began her check off for startup procedures in the all glass cockpit.

One at a time, the engines spun up, giving Kaylee the thrill she had the last time of being in a race car of the sky.

‟Tom, this is exciting, I know why you like to fly. But why don’t you have something like this?”

‟Well, I don’t like to stay in one place for very long. The paparazzi start sniffing around, they have already started it with the long-range picture of us on top of the Pacific Wizard.” Tom looked out the window as they taxied to the runway. ‟When I go, I won’t tell anyone my destination. I can upload manuscripts over the internet from anywhere. There are a lot of places in the immediate area that I can put down on — not counting airports — and live there for a while.”

‟You were going to move away when I went back to school?”

‟You would have to learn how to drive a different route each time.” Tom chuckled. ‟I’m not much of an interest to those jackals at the moment, so hiding out is easy. Just moving from one place to another in the area, I have dozens of bodies of water and airports. They would spend too much time looking for me than they would be paid for.”

‟Until they’d find out about me.”

‟Then we would be fodder for the monsters of the tabloids.” Tom frowned. ‟They would hunt us to the grave like they did a princess.”

‟Oh, oh! The engines are wound up to take off!”

‟Wound up?” Tom chuckled.

‟Whatever they call it when they step on the gas pedal.”

‟Uh. There is no gas pedal.” Tom was looking at her sideways. ‟You sat up front with me in the Wizard.”

‟Well, yeah. I just wanted to make you laugh.”

‟You made me worried.” Tom laughed. ‟Early onset Alzheimer’s or some such.”

‟Well, it worked.” Kaylee blinked, the jet felt like it was a horse at a starting gate, anxious for speed. ‟Omy gawd! Here we go!”

The sleek jet began to roll with the brakes off. Gathering speed, the rakish plane with swept wings did not find the end of its acceleration like one would with a car. The faster it went, the faster it accelerated as it overcame its imprisonment of the earth and to the sky like a soul on fire.

Then, suddenly, it rotated up on its back landing gear and quit the earth while Kaylee made noises like a teapot on full boil.

‟I LOVE that!” She laughed hysterically with her eyes closed.

Tom laughed at her squeal while they gained altitude.

After several minutes, they leveled off and banked into a turn towards the southeast, towards Las Vegas.

‟I hope this is fast, my arm aches.” Tom moaned slightly.

‟How long as it been hurting?” Kaylee said, suddenly alarmed.

‟About ten-minutes. Just before we took off I think I bumped it.”

‟Tom. Damn. You cannot do this to yourself.” Kaylee touched his fingers, feeling the tips and making sure they were warm and the correct color, even if stained with the iodine-betadine ‟Bug Juice” (as one nurse called it and made her laugh.) that covered his arm.

Picking up the phone, as she learned to do on the last trip north from Ocean Bay.

‟Captain, can we see you back here, please?”

A moment later, Regina Watson appeared.

‟Yes? Tom?” She focused instantly on the pale writer.

‟It’s nothing, my arm aches a little.”

Captain Watson blinked.

‟How long?” The Captain asked.

‟A few minutes.” Tom was becoming pale from the pain.

‟Like a man.” Kaylee growled. ‟It began to hurt him right before we blasted off.”

Looking around, the Captain asked Tom.

‟What did your doctor say about flying? Maybe I should declare and emergency and put down.” She grimaced. ‟What kind of injury did you have, Tom?”

‟Nothing much, I got stuck with a shard of glass in my forearm.”

‟Say the truth. Regina, it cut his tendons and everything down to the bone. Even cut the bone.” Kaylee said. ‟But his fingers are warm and when I press on the nails, it returns to color fast.”

‟That is serious surgery for a man that makes his life with typing.” Captain Watson was sounding as serious as a sidewinder missile. ‟MISTER Harte.”

‟Kaylee , I am the all-seeing, all-knowing, unforgiving Queen of The Sky here and you will address me as Captain. But my first name, Regina, please feel free to use it when we are on land. You and I will get Tom back into shape.” Regina smiled. ‟What is causing you to go to Vegas to get divorced?”

‟Annulment.” Tom said helpfully, but then cringed when both women looked at him. ‟Crap on a cracker, sorry. I’ll just take the nearest exit.”

‟Just be quiet, Tom.” Regina said. ‟You are an injured party and not thinking clearly. This is obvious.”

‟Well, honestly.” Kaylee said quietly. ‟I have requested to get this annulled.”

‟If I may ask.” The Captain didn’t smile. “Why?”

*Does she ever smile?* Kaylee shuddered at Captain Watson’s intense air of authority.

‟This was not supposed to happen. I have someone at home I made a promise to. Tom is good enough to let me go, so all this is my fault.” Kaylee said. ‟Although I there is a lot of pressure on me to stay with Tom from all sides. Every one of his friends have stood up for him. But still, I have to keep my promise.”

‟I don’t agree.” Captain Watson said. ‟You made a promise with Tom.”

Tom raised his hand.

‟Can I say something?”

‟No!” The women answered in stereo. Then both women laughed while he cringed.

Captain R.M. Watson’s laugh was frightening, a sound like someone might make when shooting down an enemy.

‟I have a boy at home that believed me when I said I would marry him.” Kaylee explained. “When Tom and I did this, it was a kind of crazy party and I had a blackout night.”

‟Were you on drugs?” Regina looked at Tom who held up his hands.

‟Of my own hand. I like to smoke and drink. It makes party life that much more fun. I woke up married to Tom, so we never dated but the one night.”

‟Ah, okay. Princess Anna on a cane. You seriously married him on your first date? Drunk to the point of no memory of the evening?”

‟Yes.” Kaylee tried to look the Captain in her eye, but was unable.

Captain R. M. Watson was quiet for a moment.

Then she laughed.

‟I did the same thing with my first husband. Kaylee, at least you aren’t pregnant.” She pondered for a moment, pulling at her chin. ‟Are you?”

‟Not so far as we can tell.” Kaylee gave a timid laugh.

‟Okay, I understand, you started your contract with each other in the worst way. At least you are friendly to each other. With Tom hurting, I’ll pick the pace up a bit. We will make for maximum speed, it’ll save us some time.”

Nodding with a soft smile. She turned and made her way back to her seat in the front of the speeding jet.

Kaylee looked at Tom.

‟You have more friends that fight for you than any ten people, combined.” She stroked his face.

Tom smiled weakly, his arm was causing him more pain by the moment and he was not prepared to argue.

“Captain. He is getting worse.” She yelled to the cockpit. The Captain nodded as she answered.

“We just got clearance for our flight change.”

Then…

Kaylee did not think possible, but she felt the small jet accelerate.

Married by Mistake Chapter 35. Familiar Face

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Chapter 35. Familiar Face

Tom and Kaylee left the office and as soon as the door closed behind them, Kaylee spoke first.

“I don’t think that person was happy with you. She was quite upset about just filing the plan then she had cancel it.”

“She’ll recover.” Tom nodded. “Right now I have to call the exchange. Did you like the crew on the last flight?”

“Yes, what was her name.” Kaylee grumbled at her senior moment.”

“Watson?” Tom asked helpfully.

“YEAH! That’s her. Captain R. M. Watson.” Kaylee nodded her head.

“Good woman. She flew in Iraq and other places that I can’t recall. Multiple ratings. I request her a lot, the company knows my account number and gives me a list on who is available. She is the only woman on their staff that is multi-engine jet rated.” Tom described his history with the company.

“They only have one woman on staff?” Kaylee blinked, for a moment she felt that old urge to boycott.

“No, they have others,” Tom smiled as they walked, holding hand. “She is the only one rated for multi-engine jet.”

“Oh.” Kaylee laughed. “I was going to use another company if they didn’t hire women.”

“Oh no. Lettie, my NorCal Limo owner is a major investor. I would doubt that they’d make a glass ceiling. Could happen,” Tom pondered “But if Lettie found out? I’d run if I were them.”

“OH! I know Lettie! She picked me up from when we hit the birds.”

“Oh yes. That was a special favor, normally they don’t take limos off the pavement.” Tom smiled. “She is a rare one.”

“She said you helped them get a start?” Kaylee leaned her head on Tom’s shoulder for a moment while they walked.

“Not precisely. I just keep them on retainer and speed dial.” Tom said. “I direct business their way. They only have a few cars and I think only four drivers. Lettie and her cousins.”

“They have a post-grad psych major working for them. A guy named Kaikane.”

“Sounds Hawaiian.”

“He is. You get points for paying attention.”

“I don’t know Kaikane.”

“He knows you.”

“I get that a lot.”

“You are likeable.”

“Am not.” He argued.

“I’m going to slap you.” She growled at the lack of his self-confidence.

“Promise? We won’t have the chance for a mile-high fun time.”

“Seriously. You need to relax on yourself, you need someone to keep you…” She paused, looking for the words. “Well, not on your best you always seem at your best, but keep you from being so dark.”

“Your books will show that and if you are writing children’s stories, you need to keep them light.” Kaylee looked at him evenly with the soul of a woman who would protect the one she cared for, even from himself. “You write beautiful words like no one I know. Probably as good as any of the great writers. Even like Joyce and Steinbeck or Hemingway. But you don’t have to go all Edgar Allan Poe to do it.”

She paused and took a breath before pushing on with the thought.

“Tom,” She kissed his hand and looked into his eyes. “Don’t go back into that hole you locked yourself up into for a while.”

“What makes you think I am going back into anything?” Tom smiled. “You have given me light and passion. We are ending a contract in a way that protects you. I am not emotionally broken, I could have invested in it emotionally if I thought that you were sober and we spent some time together.”

He kissed her hand and smiled before he continued.

“Not baked, drunk and horny as you were. I can say I am fond of you, and that extends into friendship. And yes. I want you to stay, but not at the cost of a future.” His voice was soft, covering up a hidden emotion.

Kaylee thought a minute as they waited for Lettie to arrive with a limo. Tom’s speed dial rang her phone directly and he had told her of the situation.

“You are the best man I know, next to my dad.”

“I would like to meet him, someday.”

“Are you kidding? He would die to meet you. Steamland, if there is anything written by you on that series, he has it.”

“Heh, I bet he is almost my age.”

“I think you are older.”

“Oh. Um. Yikes!” Tom laughed. “He might greet me with a shotgun.”

“No, I think he’d be happy to have you in the family.” A twinkle in her eye showed her humor. “Even if you did corrupt his daughter.”

“TMI sweety.” Tom closed his eyes as if to block out the scene.

“Kidding.” Kaylee laughed.

A dark limo wheeled in. It was Lettie.

“Tom! Kaylee !” She seemed happy to see them. “It seems like we just left you both in the Sea Dragon.” She her smile was wide and bright.

“We need a ride to the Executive Airport to the private entrance.”

“Let’s go. Traffic is good, I can get you there in thirty minutes.”

“I will pay you for two hours. The plane won’t be ready until then, take us to The City to drive through the park and down the beach.”

“Hm. Tom, if I may suggest, from here? Let me take you to Half Moon Bay and then up along the coastal highway. We can pull in, then you and Kaylee can walk on the sand.”

“We…” Tom stopped for a moment as if something caught in his throat. “We are heading to Vegas to get an annulment.”

“WHAT? No…” Lettie caught herself and the professional woman came back to grips. “Sorry, Tom. But my opinion, she makes you smile. Kaylee , for a girl who was so mad at him a few days ago, you have a glorious soul that’s been touched by this gentle man.”

Motioning the couple into her limo, Lettie’s strained smile stayed frozen to her lips.

“That is all I will say on the subject. I apologize. Not my place and I’d fire anyone who did what I just did.” Lettie said. “One trip through Golden Gate Park, back to Executive. Do you have your transport taken care of?”

“Yes, thank you.” Tom smiled.

The Lettie close the door and got in the front of the stretched limousine.

“What was that all about?” Kaylee asked Tom.

“Lettie is kind of protective. But she has a point. I can switch companies if it would make you feel better.”

“No, actually, it makes me smile. Tom. Only someone special can evoke that kind of emotion in people, someone who people would stand up for. If I can come back and marry you?” Kaylee ’s eyes shined with tears. “I want to invite all your friends. From pilots, to writers, to limo drivers and everyone I can find that calls you by your first name.”

“Um. That is everyone I meet. I insist to dispense with formality. I am no better than anyone.”

“You are a great writer. Not many people can do that. PLUS!” Kaylee raised her index finger and touched the tip of his nose with it. “You do more for the fire fighters than just with your fleet of water bombers.”

“Water bombers? What… OH! Air tankers. How did you know about the tankers?” Tom blinked.

“I…” She bit her lip. “Well, I looked on your history in your computer back at the Pacific Wizard.”

“You’re kidding?”

“Ah. No.” A guilty laugh. “I was mad and curious and alone. You have internet on your computer at the Wizard and I logged into the guest accounts. Your name is all over the net.” Kaylee said.

“Ah. Yes.” Tom mimicked her.

“No problem. So you know about my aerial firefighting air-force that some states won’t use.” Tom smiled. “It works in most states, California is a bit more… Picky.”

“You have changed the subject. We need to talk and have this understood.”

“Well, technically, you changed the subject.” The quick mind of the writer did mental gymnastics around their conversation.

“Don’t change the changed subject.” Kaylee laughed. “The point is, you deserve more happiness than you have. And we can do it together if you and I start on a proper friendship and wedding.”

“Okay, I think we can do that. But you go take good and well care of Glenn. I’ll be your little secret.”

“Little? Little would be if you were an undergrad student of art, but you are a successful writer.” Kaylee shook her head, laughing. “AND, mister, you have two private flying yachts and your own personal air force and I don’t how many non-profit organizations that you have listed as getting support from you. So I would not call you little in any description.”

Tom chuckled.

“Well, tell you what. We split the sheets on this and you decide that this accident was a good thing to happen. We’ll have that wedding for you.”

“Not for me. For you. You should be honored. My family and friends combined couldn’t fill four rows in a church. I tend towards the shy side.”

“Shy? You? Shy like a hurricane. Let me see,” Tom smiled. “You have skills in karate…”

“Eskrima.”

“Yeah, that.” Tom smiled. “You like to lay naked on a beach, you are a bartender and you would not surrender in any meek way to a large man with a knife. And. If I recall he had at least a hundred pounds and a foot taller than you are and you still kicked the living poop out of him.”

“Heh!” Kaylee laughed. “Yeah, I did. It felt good, too. He wanted to hurt me, and I was in the proper mood to return the favor.”

“That is all too true, you are good.” Tom gave a quiet laugh at the memory. “I would have not ever missed that show for anything. It was fun to watch, shocking, but fun to watch.”

“You know, I might write about it someday.” He said more to himself than her.

“I would like to read that. Make me as an avenging angel.” Kaylee smiled.

“You can be sure.” Tom nodded. “I would make you that and more.”

The limousine pulled into the Golden Gate Park and drove around the green strip. Tom pointed out an archery range and a giant windmill as they drove by.

Talking happily with each other, two people enjoying their hearts and souls. Knowing that it would come to an all too soon end. They learned more about each other while Tom poured wine in glasses for the both of them and fed Kaylee dark chocolates from a crystal jar he purchased from a tiny, exclusive shop he made Lettie stop at in the Height-Ashbury district. Little more than a hole-in-the-wall near a Whole Foods store on Stanyon, he ran in and out in a minute, Tom’s wounded, but healing arm flapping painfully as he stepped hard off the curb.

It was an unplanned celebration.

Two people celebrating friendship and the strange path that brought them together.

After their second circuit of famous park, Tom leaned over to Kaylee and kissed her slowly with chocolate flavored lips from a San Francisco hidden candy-store.

“Let’s go get unmarried.” Tom whispered without conviction. “The time is now.”

“Okay.” She said, looking down into the glass of her wine, the sadness of the moment setting into her heart.

“This has been very enjoyable, Tom. You make it more difficult by being so nice.”

“You want to stay?”

“Yes. And no. I want my chance with Glenn.”

Tom stopped the conversation and toned Lettie to drive them to the airport with the phone from the back of the limousine.

“Time to go, thank you very much Lettie.”

They rode in awkward silence to the airport, the atmosphere in the limo becoming darker and increasingly tense.

“It will be okay.” Tom said, holding Kaylee ’s hand.

“Thank you.” She made a sad smile.

Together, two lovers and friends rode to the airport to fly to Las Vegas, to get “un-married”.

Married by Mistake Chapter 34. Flight Plans

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Chapter 34. Flight Plans

Kaylee finished dressing while Tom pulled on his clothes in awkward silence.

“Why are you mad at me?” Tom said as they walked across the tarmac to the flight control office.

“If you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you.” Her words chilled the air.

Tom rolled his eyes in that way that drives women crazy and would turn Mother Theresa into a club wielding banshee if she had seen it.

Half-way from the office in the three-hundred meter hike, Kaylee started to laugh and took Tom’s hand.

“I’m sorry. But I kind of thought you would be a little heartbroken.” She smiled. “I was hurt you are just okay with it.”

“Kaylee, no, I’m not okay with it.” Tom said as they walked through the door. “But, if I trapped you here, what good would that do? You’d leave anyway and never return. My way, it stings like a slap, but you might decide that you like life on the Pacific Wizard and the need to renew your passport once-a-decade.”

“Renew my passport? What do you mean?”

“You can’t leave home without it. If we went anywhere, like the U.K. to watch Doctor Manga’s installation for example, you will need that silly-assed bit of paper and plastic.”

“Hm. I don’t know, Tom. You make me feel…”

The clerk walked in and Tom pulled a form from the slot and began to fill in the blanks.

They finished the paperwork in ten-minutes, filed with the person behind the desk and walked out, Kaylee felt a pang of sadness when Tom took her hand as they walked back to the Flying Sea Dragon.

“I’m serious, Kaylee. I don’t want to see you go. But there is an old poster about a butterfly or a bird or something, you let it go and if it returns, et-cetera.”

“Yeah. Who knows. Maybe Glenn needs to tell me he is gay and everything is off, because he is in love with some guy named Joe Young or something.”

“We talked about this, I don’t want to think I’m a consolation prize. You make me smile wide because you are my wife.” Tom smiled at her. “But I laugh because I am your husband.”

“What?” Kaylee blinked. “I don’t understand you, you are talking in riddles.”

“No riddle. I smile because I got such a great treasure, if I can count you as such, and in comparison, you got the joke prize. I got a better deal by far out of this whole situation than you did.”

Tom laughed out loud at this.

For a moment, Kaylee pondered what he had said.

Then she began to laugh.

“Tom, you are the treasure. Never say otherwise.” She kissed his hand and continued to swing it in hers.

“Yeah. Ain’t ever going to happen. I’m just a writer, I am not a treasure. You are the gem in this relationship. I’m a damaged diamond, a shattered sapphire, a pulverized pearl, a…”

“Okay, enough. And you are not.” Kaylee said pulling on his hand as they got close to the big jet. “You have had more sorrow than anyone should be allowed, but you are awesome. You make me draw and paint. You keep me turned on, creatively speaking.”

“I thought…” Tom was winking like a dirty old man in a bar.

“Shh. I am being serious and trying to tell you my heart, you are trying to make a joke.”

“Sorry.”

“Men are all alike.”

“Well. Yeah. We’re married at the moment, I’m supposed to act like that, it’s in the rule book.”

“You are changing the subject.” She growled at him. “Is this bothering you?”

“Yeah, you could say that.”

“Okay, well, I would like to go back to my old life, but it is not going to happen. You have already spoiled me.”

“That is a good job, spoiling you. Glenn will have to work that much harder.” Tom said as they approached the Sea Dragon.

“You have raised the bar high on that.”

“I hope so.”

“Where are we going now?” Kaylee asked as Tom walked past the steps going up to the door of the jet.

“Over here to the service office on the far side of the hanger. I need to do a couple of things. first is to make sure the payment for the services is complete and two, that the inspection by the FAA officer clears the Dragon for flight. I want to go over it together with him and make sure that nothing falls off the yacht while we are airborne, that would go into the bad column.”

“What if we took a commercial flight?”

“We could, but then we would be at the mercy of the commercial operators and TSA officers that are tasked with complex jobs that now take hours what used to take minutes when our grandparents traveled. Back in the day of Humphry Bogart and Casablanca.”

“I wish it would be like that. I could so make a charcoal of that.”

“How long would it take you?”

“I… I don’t know, why do you ask?”

“Well, I need to find that pain in my neck FAA agent or we have to charter a plane, or we have to buy tickets and wander over to the terminal and be tourists in Vegas. It may take hours to do that last part, just to leave on a commercial airline, so you might go do some drawing?”

“And leave the business to you while I entertain myself? Hardly, Mr. Harte. I am not just along for the ride, I will help you make this happen, even if it is my choice— right or wrong. I control my destiny.”

“One day, Missus Harte, you will be in charge of your own house of beauty, painting and sculpture. You will be an artist in demand.” Tom nodded. “You have the attitude.”

“Right? Just for now, I have to finish another year of college, get my business admin minor out of the way. Melanie will help me, we keep each other balanced with life’s challenges.”

“I would like to get to know Melanie better.” Tom smiled.

“Tom, do you plan to replace me, already?”

“Heh. No.” He back-pedaled quickly. “She just sounds like a good friend to have. And she likes my movie.”

“Oh, you don’t know the half of it. She is a true fan and in love with some of your characters. The airship pirates, some of the princes. Her costume for Halloween last year was the red-headed pirate princess, I can’t remember the character’s name.”

“Julia Aquila.”

“Yeah! That’s it, Melanie makes a good Princess Aquila.”

“SteamLand is fun to write.”

“Is? It’s not finished?”

“Heck-no. There are lots of adventures for the Sky-Pirate empire to deal with.” Tom smiled with the memory of writing the novel series.

“I thought you liked to write children books now?”

“Yeah, that is fun, but SteamLand.” Tom smiled wide. “I really enjoy writing. So much fun with that. Roman times, airship pirates, steam-powered arrows, demi-gods. A lot of fun.”

“Demi-god?”

“Oh. Ut-oh. Spoiler-alert.” Tom laughed. “Let’s go over here. This way we can talk without being distracted.

Together they went to cancel flight plans and charter an executive jet, instead of taking the yacht.

Married by Mistake Chapter 33. I Smile Because You Are My Wife, I Laugh Because I Am Your Husband

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Chapter 33. I Smile Because You Are My Wife, I Laugh Because I Am Your Husband

‟Tom! This. I mean you…!” Kaylee paced the length of the jet, laughing hysterically holding her hands to her face. ‟I don’t know what I was thinking. I don’t want to talk about this. We can’t be having this talk.”

She tried to make herself relax.

‟It can happen,” Tom said with a smirk. “It would be a simple mistake if it were a small thing, but you made an error like that? You’re stuck as my wife. I’m sorry but that makes me smile. It’s your issue to deal with right now. We can fix it, besides I don’t mind being married to you.  It’s entertaining.”

‟Tom, it is my decision. A deeply personal decision! No one gets to tell me what my choice will be.” Kaylee stood for a moment. ‟I’m sorry. It is a frightening concept and, like you said, complicates matters.”

‟Well, I think you are jumping the gun a little. I am, and I always will be, a great supporter of your choices. First, you are my friend. I know I am not the first choice and we did do the deed and you had other plans. I accepted that fully, weeks ago.” Tom stood behind her and slid his arms around her, holding her back against his chest.

‟I hoped you would stay, and if you want, I will help you find your own life. I am old and I have a life of stories.” He said as she turned around in his arms and buried her face into his chest. “You need to build your own story, chapter by chapter. Child by child when you get there. For now, you make me smile and you are my muse.”

Tom chuckled when an a thought struck him. 

“You make me smile, because you are a precious gem, and you are a treasure that anyone would crawl over broken glass to have in their life.” He smiled. “But I laugh because I am your husband and you cannot do much about it just now.”

This made the tears that were welling up in her eyes turn into laughter.

‟Tom. You are the funniest man I know. I wanted an engagement ring from Glenn, ever since we were kids and you help me do that.”

‟Keeping you happy is my mandate.” Tom smiled. “I cannot keep you here and have you in misery. If I help you go, maybe you will return with all I have to offer.”

Sliding her arms around him, she pressed her breasts against his chest and kissed him.

‟Do not make me love you. You’d make me feel bad for all that has happened. But I promised…” Kaylee smiled softly.

‟Yes. The promise.” He smiled back, but it was a smile that did not reach in his eyes.

‟Don’t interrupt. That is rude and you will make me mad. But yes. I would like to get married and remember it.”

‟I understand.” Tom said as he laughed with a sad tone. ‟And we have had a good time this last month.”

“It is the weirdest month I’ve ever had.” Kaylee whispered.

*It’s been a summer to remember! I have seen both the good and bad sides of people. It’s as if some grand illusionist with  a twisted imagination has written my life. A perfect storm of adventures and perverts. Days with drugs…*

Kaylee gasped.

*What if this was all a dream? Could I be still in early June? After being attacked, when I beat the crap out of that serial rapist, wanted on at least ten different crimes. Am I going to wake up in my bed, alone?*

‟No.” She said it into the hollow of Tom’s neck.

‟No? No what?” Tom sounded worried. ‟You have not had a good time?”

‟Oh yes. I said a thought out-loud. There was a moment where I thought this might all be a drug dream from the first night, or someone has written my life on a word processor.” She shook her head. “Like I am in control, but he or she makes my words come out.”

‟Now you’re inspired by something. As a writer, I know how the thoughts might come. Maybe I have written about you and you are just…”

‟Tom, do not trivialize my moment of insanity. Please.” She bit his chest lightly. ‟You did not write me into existence like some Twilight Zone movie.

‟Funny that you know about that show.” Tom chided. “You are older than you look.”

‟I study all the time. I like to get to know my husbands.” She wiped her nose on his chest and laughed at his reaction.

‟How many husbands have you had?” He looked down at her when he flinched. “Ack! Brat.”

‟Are we going to do pillow talk standing up or would you like to cuddle?”

Taking by the hand, she pulled him to their bed and pushed him down.

He smiled, she had opened up to him more in those few moments than she had in the weeks of his hospitalization.

‟Well, I don’t know about you,” Tom said quietly, laying on his back with Kaylee laying on top of him, gazing into his eyes. ‟But I appreciate the author of your life putting you on my chest. This is nice.”

‟I don’t know. Maybe they would put this all into a book- a series even.” She laughed. “I could go on adventures with you until we made the coastal cities complain, we could be a husband-wife crime solving movie series.”

‟Naw, I couldn’t take that. I’m sad enough that you want an annulment to go marry someone else.” The writer of heart and passion looked down. “Keep this going as a series? We’d have to roll the clock back and live an hour-by-hour book.”

‟That would be a long series.” She nodded. “And a lot of fun.”

‟Okay. So let’s put that fantastic fantasy away and live what life we have left together. To use the story-writer vernacular, when you leave, I’ll close this chapter and move on into the world.” Tom followed her thoughts and wrote the story in his mind, letting his mind think out loud. “I was only going to be on the west coast for the summer anyway, then the speech at Doctor Manga’s installation. I might stay there for a few months. I have a few book-signings to do there for the next installation of Steamland.”

‟Next? How many are there?” She smiled. The first time she heard of the sequels.

‟Five as of this summer. The movie is from book-three. ‟Steamland: Heat”. And it violates more Steam-punk rules than it follows.” He made a soft chuckle.

‟Yeah, I have wanted to ask you about that. No Victorian-Age, you used Rome as the base for your civilization.”

‟Well, book-one started with Heron of Alexandria improving on Ctesibius’ inventions, that were already two-hundred years in development.”

‟Heron and who?”

‟Read the books.” Tom laughed, the force of his humor bouncing her up on down on his chest where she used him as a body-pillow.

‟Human technology was so close to having steam-power thousands of years ago, it is not funny, really.” Tom winked.

“Missed the steam age by that much.” Tom held up his thumb and forefinger so that little more than a finger’s width showed. ‟No telling where we would be if someone built steam trains or such back then. Christ could have traveled the lands of Nazareth in an airplane.”

‟Tom, you’ve an imagination like no other.” Kaylee said smiling widely. ‟You are my muse in your own way. When you were in the hospital, I did a lot of drawing. I have much more to do, I have the itch and you are all in me, making me need to draw.”

‟I enjoy being in you.” Came the lecherous remark.

‟What? OH! Tom, I’m being serious.”

He stroked her back with his good hand, the splinted and wrapped wounded-arm carefully placed on the pillow beside them.

‟I’m just being honest.” He smiled. ‟Besides, not to move too far off the subject, but, we have to do a paper-chase to get the filings done. You need to head home to go be with Glenn.”

‟I get the feeling you are pushing me away.” Kaylee said.

Feeling suddenly unhappy, selfish, even a little unwanted. She took her head off Tom’s chest and got out of bed.

‟I think we should get going. You said you would be able to fly with your arm?”

‟Yes. I have feeling, the fingers are pink, I have a good pulse. I have taken my medications and we have redressed the injuries.” He ticked off the laundry list of things. “I have no numbness. I can type, slowly or hand write on the screens. I have multiple tablets I use for that. I cursive write on the screens all the time.”

‟Cursive?”

‟It is my form of entertainment. It tickles me to see the computer read and transfer it into text.”

‟So what are you saying?”

‟We can fly the Sea Dragon there. No waiting.”

‟Oh. Okay. I will have to think about that.”

‟Why?” Tom got serious as he pulled on black jeans and a black polo-shirt that had a sleeve removed to accept his bandaged arm. ‟We can leave now and you are suddenly pulling back on going?”

‟Well…”

‟Do you want to stay married to me or go be with Glenn?” Tom said gently and sat on the edge of the bed as Kaylee pulled on her shoes.

‟Two things. I care a great deal for you, Glenn would have never tolerated my quirks.” She said. “He would have blamed me for the Professor. And Glenn likes to keep me stoned. Loving him when we’re stoned is fun.”

‟When you can remember it. So according to him?” Tom winked.

Kaylee laughed.

‟I remember! Most of the time…” Blushing slightly, but Tom got closer to the truth than he knew. ‟Second thing is… I have really come to adore you. No. I don’t want to do it, but I made a promise and I don’t want to wake up in bed with you and keep saying ‟If only” even once.”

‟Do you say that now?” Tom sounded hurt.

‟Well, no. You have not given me the chance.” Kaylee held his hand. ‟Don’t be hurt. I would come back and marry you if my fantasy fails.”

‟So I am the consolation prize?”

Kaylee face-palmed, she did not mean it as an insult and an embarrassed laugh escaped her.

‟You weren’t any kind of prize. You are the kindest, bravest man I know to put up with me, my quirks and my promises.”

‟And the best friend you will ever have. I want to you go marry him. When you look out a window and see a jet fly by, think of me. When you have children, get them the Leonard Sea Dragon Series, and I’ll write about an artist in my Steamland books. I might even name her Kaylee with a sister named… Oh damn…” Tom had the look of a man who forgotten an important detail.

‟Melanie .”

‟Yes! Melanie .” Tom laughed. ‟Melanie would not be overlooked in the stories if I put your name in it.”

‟She would like that.”

‟But that would be your connection with me as you write your own story in life’s book.” Tom said, serious again. ‟I have my own explores to do in the world.”

‟You find someone?” Kaylee said. ‟Please? You should not be alone.”

‟No. I can’t promise that. I won’t be untruthful to you.” A small smile played on his lips.

“I have been alone a long time, you were a surprise.” Tom said. ‟A pleasant, exciting, twisted, funny and chocolate-flavored,” He licked her lips. ‟Surprise.”

‟You are not upset?”

‟I am a little hurt, but I am not a teenager and life-is-over crushed.” Tom gave a sad smile. ‟I knew you did not want to be married and you could have had a divorce that next day, but you wanted it annulled instead. So, I am well prepared.”

“Okay.” She looked him with suspicion, then changed the subject. ‟We can fly now?”

‟Let’s file a flight plan, check with the crews to prepare the Dragon and we can leave in an hour.”

Married by Mistake Chapter 31. First Night Home

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Chapter 31. First Night Home

Kaylee woke up the next morning, with stiff and tired muscles. Her thighs burned so bad that it was painful just to move her legs. She threw one leg across the sleeping Tom, making him snuffle when she moved. It was sweet to her ears and she smiled at the sound.

She had all but wore him out, he was weak and out of shape from being in a hospital bed for the previous two weeks and not allowed to move his arm.

Inside he heart she laughed, Kaylee enjoyed being stronger than Tom. She had pushed him down and made him enjoy himself equal to the number scenes of drama in their lives.

Just one thing tickled her mind and she was not sure if it pleased her or not. He kept whispering her name in absent-minded ways, sometimes he used her married name “Kaylee Harte”, as if he enjoyed the flavor of it.

At least it wasn’t some other woman’s name, although warmth on how he said the words caused sparks inside of her.

Pleasure or sadness she could not make up her mind. But if anything, she was not going to stay with Tom and prove Georgia correct that she stayed with him because of his money and fame. If anything, now it was a motivation to her to depart and go back to her old life. No one would insinuate or call her such vile names.

But, for now, she was happy that Tom held her in his heart — at least by name.

Kaylee kissed his chest and he, well he didn’t snore- precisely. But she disturbed him and the snort/snore echoed in the small room. He inspired her, and her inspiration wanted to draw.

Her inspiration? The author of such a children’s series of adventure-picture books with a moral in each story about sharing, hero decisions that even a child could make.

To stand up against authority if danger exists. The right and wrong choices of the fictional leafy sea dragon made were an adventure to children of all ages and sold well to his target audiences.

Then his creative works became movies of steampunk. Kaylee felt that he had a romantic soul in him for that genre, something that would let his pain out and make him smile with his heart as much as his face.

Since she had known him, she had felt that his heart was little more than a bleeding scar from the wounds inflicted by life.

And she put some of bloody scar there.

She remembered she hurt him. He never admitted it. But she hurt his heart and his soul.

Quietly, as she listened to his heart beat, a tear slipped out of her left eye when Kaylee wished she had not signed and sent off the papers.

Even an accident that it was, as a husband Tom showed himself as a higher quality of husband than any she could have dreamed of.

And he helped her to annul the relationship on her request.

So why did she cry?

Slowly, carefully, she disentangled herself from Tom. He mumbled something that sounded like her name, then slipped back into the fuzzy, comfortable arms of sleep.

The cool air of the flying boat made the stiff muscles in her legs ache as she walked the full length of the plane, in his pirate jammy-pants that hung down to her mid-calf and a skull and crossed pistol t-shirt that hung to past her thighs. If someone was in the right position to look into the front wind-screen of the jet, they would have seen her moving through the big jet wearing his clothes.

Although Tom was sleeping well, Kaylee wanted to eat something and softly padded on her bare feet into the galley.

Opening the small refrigerator she felt the chilled air spill over her feet like a flood. This made her grin, she was going to warm them up on Tom when she crawled back in bed.

Her thighs ached in fatigue in the dawn-twilight of the day and instead of bending her legs, she bent over and looked for a carrot or an apple to get a bite of.

Suddenly, she felt a hand on her back, with a swat on her (and sticking out, unprotected) backside.

Yipping and standing up suddenly, she hit her head on the handle of the overhead freezer.

‟TOM! You startled me.”

‟You think that was a surprise? You are lucky it was just my hand.” He grinned. ‟Besides, what you have is in my jammies and the skull and crossbones could to not be missed. I probably could bounce a coin off it from across the room.” Tom squeezed her around the waist in a firm hug.

‟Tom. Stop the fantasy, we are at breakfast.” She said, standing with a carton of milk.”

‟Okay, I guess I’ve already had dessert.”

‟You have had enough dessert for three men.” She laughed. ‟For now, I need some fuel for my engine.”

‟Come back to bed. We don’t have much time left.”

‟I’m going to eat, I can make you something. Some exotic art-college food perhaps?” Kaylee looked around. ‟Hm… red wine, chocolate, vanilla beans, vodka— why do you have vodka here? Coffee, pomegranates, how long have these been here? ‟

Kaylee picked one of the red fruits out of a basket slung under one of the cabinets.

‟Banana, apple… I have plenty to work with. Chocolate and red wine to start. Later, I am going to make a pomegranate-chocolate snack later.

‟That’s a lot of chocolate.”

‟I’ll show you things to do with chocolate that will change your mind. You’ll want more.”

‟I already want more.” Tom said, moving papers off the small table in the galley, taking them to his work-station. ‟Are these the papers you signed?”

‟Those are the copies. I sent the originals off. Please, Tom, put those away and let’s enjoy the last of our time as a married couple.” Kaylee said while she set the breakfast table.

‟Did you sign both sets?” Tom said as he was flipping through the annulment forms. ‟You signed this one.”

‟Yes, I signed them both the same way at the same time.

‟Same exact way?”

‟Same exact places, both sets, why?”

Tom coughed, then laughed.

‟You signed these papers in the wrong places.” He nodded as he flipped though the form. ‟Yup. The clerk of the court will reject this filing.”

Tom laughed at Kaylee ‘s jaw-drop moment.

“We are still married.” His crooked smile let her know he enjoyed this.

Kaylee could only facepalm and moan a cuss-word.

“This just became a lot more difficult.”

Married by MIstake Chapter 30. Tears and Smiles

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Chapter 30. Tears and Smiles

‟I’m glad you are out of the hospital, I couldn’t wait for us to get back to the Wizard.” Kaylee sat down on the floor, next to the chair he kept his arm on. ‟But, I signed the papers and sent them off when I was here. You had two sets, one to send and one to keep. I signed both sets so we can keep them on file here.”

With a sigh, he nodded.

‟So, we are no longer married as soon as the clerk of the court signs and stamps it. You did it how I told you to do it?”

‟I’m so sorry. But I have to get home outside of Portland, Glenn is asking for me. My sister says he is going to ask me to marry him.” Kaylee couldn’t help the tear that ran down her face as she sniffled.

‟Oh, poop.” She gave a sad laugh. “I promised myself I wouldn’t cry.”

‟Yeah.” Tom choked on the knot in his throat. ‟I knew this day would come. The month is up.”

Kaylee rested her chin on his knee.

‟If it makes you feel any better, I almost shredded the papers. You have been better than Glenn has ever been,” She took a big breath. “But I grew up with him and we have planned to marry each other as far back as I can remember. He asked me to marry him at my sixth birthday party. He wrote it in a birthday card, in crayon.”

Tom laughed. “Do you still have it?”

‟Don’t laugh. But yes.” Kaylee bit him gently on the knee. ‟It’s silly, I know. He has also been a bit of a butthead and stupid over all the years. Once he’d gotten drunk, fell into a pool,  sank like a stone and I had to save him. We have history.”

‟And we don’t?” Tom sounded more harsh than he intended. ‟In the last month, we have set new records that even newlyweds everywhere would dream of.”

‟Not fair. You have an advantage. Not many men get married and fly away on their own jet plane. Fewer still can write a children’s series like you have.” Kaylee shook her head as she named off Tom’s points. ‟You have more than most college students, and that is what Glenn is, a college student. That’s what I am. And you are a rogue, an explorer. You are a pirate! A Steam-Punk King Pirate who has stolen my heart, but I have a promise to keep.”

‟You made that promise when you were all of six-years-old. I’m not so sure that might count.” Tom nodded.

‟Does a promise have a lower age limit?”

‟Uh. No, I suppose not.” Tom was not wanting to pick a fight like that. “A promise is a promise.”

‟No. My father always told me a promise is something to keep. Things change, say if Glenn was gay or I died in a plan crash.” Kaylee gave him a  playful sock on the thigh. ‟Then that voids the promise. But we are still alive and I can assure you Glenn is hetero, fully hetero.”

‟Okay.” Tom slouched in the chair. The stress of the last eighteen-days exhausted him. ‟You have always been my first concern. I held on to the hope you would decide to give us more of a try. Even now, I see you are not sure.”

‟No… no. No, I’m not sure. You have made me mad a few times since the first morning. But it was an exciting mad. You are a maddening, wonderful, frustrating, crazy, super-smart guy that makes me want to pull out all your chest hair.” Kaylee and Tom laughed at the same time. ‟And I would love to stay here.”

‟But?”

‟But I have to at least try to keep my promise.”

‟Agreed.” Tom nodded. Upset as he was, it actually helped to talk to her.

Kaylee also nodded.

First and always she would be friends with Tom and she knew he put her first. She would always put him first, except for the promise she made Glenn.

The promise of a six-year-old girl to the boy she grew up with.

Taking Tom by his good arm, she pulled him to the bedroom in the back of the plane.

‟For now, however, I am STILL your wife and you have neglected me.”

‟Oh! Doctor Kaylee , I’ve been occupied. Perhaps you have heard of this minor wound I suffered. I had to take a stitch or three to get a smaller scar.”

‟Well, I have the cure for you to forget that ache for a while.” Winking and pulling him as she walked backwards.

In the last few days, she had not realized that the tension she had building in her was a jet engine about to blow a gasket.

Now that she thought of it, there was more than a gasket she was going to blow.

The night in the plane was somewhat louder than it had been in the last ten days.

The world would envy, and sometimes pity, the husband that night. Kaylee did things to Thomas Harrison Harte that became legend in his mind and illegal in forty states and Washington, D.C.

In the end, Kaylee laughed harder than she had in the last few days.

Married by Mistake Chapter 29. Georgia off His Mind

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Chapter 29. Georgia Off His Mind

Lettie sat in the driver’s seat of the limousine, and explained that Kaikane was off the clock, by state law.

They rode in the limo quietly for a few minutes, while Tom looked out the window.

Finally he spoke.

‟First time I have ever fired someone.” He pulled at his earlobe as he thought. “Georgia has been with me for three years as an agent, she was assistant to Fred Granger for seven years before that.”

‟Why not call Fred and talk with him about being your agent.”

‟That’d be a long distance call.” Tom gave a wistful smile. ‟He passed away a few years ago. That’s how Georgia got my account. Originally, she called me her “minimal account” and rarely took my calls. She wanted little to do with me and getting events scheduled was difficult at best.”

‟Then the first of the children’s books were finally published at a startup Aussie book publisher and put in limited circulation in the south. They didn’t sell well in the first few months. Then Christmas hit.” Tom chuckled with the memory of it. “Someone’s grandmother or dad or maybe even a child picked one up in Melbourne and after that they vanished off shelves like bread-crumbs to ducks.”

“It was a good Christmas right at that point. The stats began to pick up before Thanksgiving.” He smiled.

“A second printing went forward and it sold out in less than a week. I had the second book written and it sat in Georgia’s email for so long that the system purged the email. I had to send a second file and she said she never got it. I found it in her junk file folder when I helped her with a few files.” Tom smiled wryly. ‟I’m kind of adept at computer networks.”

‟She had me listed as junk and spam until the first check arrived with more than two figures on it.” Tom stroked Kaylee ’s hand as he walked her through his memories. “The first few checks were less than a c-note. The next? I think it was around two-grand, then she said I got lucky and not to get used to it.”

“But,” Tom laughed out loud. “The next book sold out again, same with the fourth and fifth. I suggested that we make a set, she resisted and I insisted.” Tom’s confession to the relationship was one of strain. ‟The sales were geometric, I expanded my scope of subjects — against her advice — and Steamland the movie is one of that results.”

“One subject I like to write about is steampunk. The other is the children’s books. So, it is time for her to depart,” Tom had a look of a beaten dog who had just been freed. “I didn’t realize I was so far under her control. I’ve assumed it was a kind of partnership and I was just one of many clients.”

‟Honey, you might be only one of a group, but she is the one that got you to this point. Good or bad.” Kaylee stroked a stray hair out of his face. ‟The reason I reacted, I didn’t know book agents got paid so well. I mean, she spends a few minutes a day on your business and you pay her thousands.”

“Well, she takes her cut, then pays me. She cashes the check.”

Kaylee thought a minute with her mouth hanging open. 

“No, that is so not a good idea. She gets a check, cashes it and then pays you?‟ She tried to process this upside down information. “AND! If you sold more stories? She could make millions from you by only a few minutes work per day and you’d never know it. Who is to say she is not skimming more than she’s allowed? I’m saying she could be ripping you off.”

‟I don’t think that it works like that.”

‟Maybe not, business is not my major. Art is. But I can balance a checkbook. You should have a cap on the commission you pay, in my opinion.”

‟Like keep it below ten-percent?”

‟Like keep it to a flat fee. If an agent makes a quarter-million dollars a year from you, you could be their only client, exclusively.”

‟Well,” Tom slipped back into thought. “That’s all well and good, but honestly. You don’t know the business.”

‟No, I don’t.” Kaylee admitted with grumble under her breath. *That irritates me for him, and I’m irritated at him, too! He is paying out a huge amount of money and he is okay with it.* ‟Do you know how the business works?”

‟Not really. I have had a tax accountant handle that. Two years ago he suggested change agents or renegotiate the contract, anyway.” Tom said and shook his head. ‟That means I have to hire a lawyer or some such and I am not sure I want to deal with those people after my last run-in with them.”

‟I think you should call someone from all the friends you have made. Doctor Manga might even know a few good experts.” Kaylee the wife said in a thoughtful tone.

Tom pondered a moment as Lettie piloted the limo through the Bay Area traffic.

‟Lettie is driving, she owns the limo business here in the state.” Tom said. “Sometimes I talk to her, she has a lot of friends in Los Angeles that are attorneys. She has an uncle who is a judge in Sacramento.”

‟I have talked with Lettie, she has wisdom.” Kaylee smiled.

‟She has learned a lot from her contacts.” Tom nodded. ‟She was one of those that said it was time to change from Georgia a few months ago.”

‟She’s right.” Kaylee stroked his arm. ‟Tom, you can get like an advance before you finish. I have heard of that.”

‟Well, I figure it would come in time. It is not free money, it comes out of the back-end of royalties.”

‟Well, that comes to a lawyer then.” Kaylee nodded.

‟Right.” Tom nodded as they pulled into the parking area of the hanger. ‟Oh, it looks like they have finished working on the Dragon.”

“I had to ask someone to clean up where you got cut, honey.” Kaylee said. The term of endearment coming out without her meaning to say it. “You left quite a mess, it had all dried and turned black and glass. No one had gotten the idea to clean up where you bled. You lost a lot of blood.”

“Yikes, that had to be nasty, good idea for getting that clean-up ordered.”

Another limousine sat parked near the Sea Dragon, the tall Hawai’an Kaikane stood there with his arms crossed, waiting for them to arrive.

“I called ahead to help us get Tom settled in.” Lettie smiled. “Kaikane can help Tom get up the steps and into the plane, the more bodies to help, the better.”

“I can walk.” Tom protested weakly.

“She’s right.” Kaylee poked at her husband. “Right now, I bet my grandmother could push you down.”

“She’s right. You are in need of help this time, Tom. Just go with it.” Lettie nodded, standing by her sister of soul and spirit.

Tom was a little woozy still, getting out of limo and moved unsteadily to the jet with Kaikane helping Tom walk. For the first time, Kaylee noticed that Kaikane’s hands. Long fingers and finely boned like a musicians, but exerting a grip on Tom’s shoulders, he was not about to let Tom fall to the ground.

Sitting Tom at his desk, on the arm-rest of the seat, Kaikane let Tom lay his arm gently on the padded support.

‟Brudda, this works for you? You let me know what you need. You have done me well, and I always take care of ohana.”

From the door, Lettie leaned in and smiled.

‟Is this the spot where you got hurt?” Lettie asked, Kaylee nodding.

“It was hideous, there was blood caked on the floor and broken glass everywhere.” Kaylee pointed out the new flooring and carpet was.

“Well, at least he is home where he belongs.” Lettie nodded.

“He can get some work done.” Kaikane agreed. “Mister Tom, you are keeping my little sister eight-years-old at home in Kōloa, is excited with all the books. She tells me to call you ohana and if you come to the islands you must stop by for meals. So keep on writing, you have one fan that would miss it if you stopped.”

Tom grimaced as he tried to wiggle fingers.

‟No matter what, the fingers hurt and it will be a challenge to write.” Tom groaned.

‟I have access to voice to text, if you like.” Lettie said. ‟I used to date the coder for that program. He is still sweet on me, I bet I can get you his latest code.”

‟Maybe, I don’t work like that. I get lost in the sound of my voice, I like to pause my fingers. Even backspace is my best friend and gives me time to review what I was writing.” Tom smiled. “I sound like an idiot when dictating.”

‟I can type for you anytime, Brah. I have to type my papers all the time.” Kaikane said. ‟Plus you have your lady here to help you.”

Kaylee laughed.

*For a loner who traveled so much in his jet to avoid people, he draws a lot of attention from friends that will do things for him.* Kaylee laughed. *It is hard to think that Tom thinks of himself as unfriendly with so many friends that would go out of their way to help him out.*

Kaikane and Lettie bid their farewells, her black limousine followed by Kaikane’s blue limousine disappeared out the big doors of the hangar.

Kaylee closed the door of the big plane and sat down. Alone for the first time in weeks with the sparkling green-eyes that occupied such a large chunk of her summer.

‟Tom, do you want any pain-medication now? The discharge instructions read that you should take them as needed, but no more than every four-hours.”

‟No,” He sounded tired. ‟I’m okay for now. Just glad being home. But, you know what I would like? PIZZA!”

Kaylee laughed.

*They say hospital food was never as good as the real world. But this stay,* she noted, *The hospital food was not just good, but great. Chef-restaurant great. And then he goes and orders pizza for the entire floor, eight nurses stations, eight pizza’s each. I do not feel like arguing with him about his food choices. And now Tom wants a pizza, again. A San Francisco pizza from the Italian district.*

She started looking up pizza on her phone.

After she ordered the pizza delivery, Kaylee hung up the phone and turned, looking him in the eye.

‟Tom, I have to talk to you.”

‟Uh-oh. That sounds like THE TALK.”

‟Yeah. I guess I can talk about it now.” She sat and held his good hand, taking a deep breath.

She began to talk to her husband about annulment papers.

Married by Mistake Chapter 28. Early Release

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Chapter 28. Early Release

Back at the hospital, Kaikane opened the door for Kaylee , she talked with him one more minute before returning to her life, he gave her the breakdown of the famous Hawai’ian word that is commonly used.

“Ha is spirit, of breath and life. It is the divine breath that allows us all to seek our center. So, aloha Barb. Malama pono- take good care of yourself.” Kaikane smiled. “And you take care of Tom, he will take good care of you.”

A hug from the hot Hawaiian and she entered through the automatic doors and signed in as security Lt. Honey Stevens waved at her and buzzed Kaylee through.

The ride up the elevator was uneventful, rounds were over and the medical professionals, a few with MD on name tags some with RN, one with “Phlebotomist II”, color-coded tubes, tape and small square gauze pads filled the small, wheeled cart that he pushed.

She arrived at the floor where ICU housed Tom. Kaylee stepped out of the elevator, her mind on Kaikane’s words.

‟Passion of the heart, it is rare. It is like a wave on the water, sometimes you must hang-ten to keep on it. If you fall off, you get wiped out.” He smiled, saying the words of wisdom of his peers. “You have to wait and measure each one to find the perfect match to you, then ride the best one you can.”

She puzzled over that, in a way she kind of understood. It might make more sense to a surfer when she saw a group at the nurses station.

As she walked by, Kaylee caught snippets of conversation that included Tom’s name.

‟We want the story, who is this mystery woman who Thomas Harte was with? Did she cut him? Was it her?”

She pushed her way through and met Tom, finding him as he sat in a wheelchair with flowers and cards piled on top of him.

‟Why hello! They are discharging me! I’m out.” Tom looked cheerful.”I’m going home.”

Kaylee smiled wider than she had in days. It was a night…

*Ugh! This night is about be even worse, I have to tell him that I signed and mailed off the papers.*

Then Georgia stepped out from behind the door with more of Tom’s get-well cards in her hand.

‟Ah, Kaylee. I thought you might have left and went home.” She glared at Kaylee . ‟Business keeps going, but you would not be aware of that. You cannot even balance your own books, it seems. You were two-months behind on rent before you met Tom, failing a class and you couldn’t even finish the finals. I would venture a guess that you didn’t even have a job or a prospect for one when you met Tom.”

‟Now wait a minute. You dare…”

Georgia’s face split into a malicious smile.

‟Did you or did you not have yourself in a compromising position, nude with a professor? How many times has this gone on before you blew the whistle?” Georgia pressed the point harder when Kaylee’s shocked look told volumes. Her money well spent on the P.I. ‟I wonder if the professor will make his case for entrapment. Probably so. Then he will sue because he will never work in education again because of you.”

‟Georgia.” It was Tom as he rolled back towards them in the wheelchair, pushed by a nurse. ‟Is there a problem?”

‟No problem.” Georgia answered. ‟Just some girl talk. About gold in the area and the women prospectors that dig for it.”

‟Okay,” Tom missed the reference. “Well, there is a lot of stories around this area.” Tom nodded and smiled, oblivious to the shocked look that Kaylee had on her face.

The trio, plus nurse pushing the wheelchair, moved towards the elevators that Kaylee had just exited a few moments before.

‟Georgia, I have the next edition you need. We still have a week to edit it anyway, the adventure is a bit longer than previous. Nearly doubled the word-count. I am quite pleased with it, Kaylee here has helped by being my muse.” Tom smiled and kissed Kaylee’s hand.

‟Tom.” Georgia said softly. ‟We need to keep you on a regular schedule. The book signing I had set up for you had gotten postponed because of this little side-track into the hospital. You need to get back into the swing of things. I am sure your wife here would be interested in you continuing your career and keep an income to supply her with the attentions you have given her.”

Kaylee was at the brink of breaking, the thought of painting this woman as spider in her next work art . Georgia was certainly creepy enough, the older woman pulled on threads to make Kaylee flinch.

Kaylee spoke up.

“I need to speak with Tom, alone and we are returning to the Sea Dragon to have time alone and talk about some important items.”

‟I need the manuscript, Mrs. Harte.”

‟Georgia, I have it sent to your email just now.” Tom said with no room for argument. ‟This is why I have put this on the database so I can get access to it with my tablet.” He said holding the flat glass and plastic collection of electronics that bore a strong resemblance to a large mobile-phone.

‟With this, I have played a game called ‟Ingress” from my room.” Tom said with a laugh. “On the way home, drive slow, I want to do some gaming along the way.”

Kaylee and Georgia looked at each other for a moment, the animosity between them momentarily forgotten as the collective shrug between the women joined the rolling of the eyes.

*Boys and toys.* Made Kaylee smile inside. *It is nice to know that some parts of life never change.*

Then Kaylee became interested in the stories he described the city. He used it as a reason to walk the City by the Bay.

“You have the look of someone who has important news to talk about.”

She poured out her heart to him in a gush, at first, she was ready to get angry at him. She was sure that Tom would be defensive, even if she did what he told her to.

It he sounded as if he found a way in his heart to still be friends with her, even after she told him that she signed the papers and sent them off to the courts in Nevada.

They would be together at least one more night together before Georgia the Agent got her wish to have Kaylee out of Tom’s life and be his wife no more.

Tom told Kaylee the wicked witch of the children’s books had her investigated.

*Investigated!* She shook her head, trying to remember if she saw any kind of cloak and dagger person around her.

“Really, Georgia did this?” Forced out of her shock and asked the unbelievable.

Startled out of her world of indecision, sex and growing affection for Tom, with the words of Georgia insinuated that the only reason Kaylee married him was only for his money.

*Could it be true?* She doubted herself.

Could she have only stayed with him because of the glorious life that he lavished on her?

She didn’t care about what could have been, she was going home to Glenn.

Tom was awesome, but he was not what she had planned.

She was lost for a few minutes in her deepest thoughts. When she came to the here and now, Tom’s voice cut through her emotional storm with his own irritated voice.

‟… So we went for a day flight in the Sea Dragon. So, Georgia, she is not digging for gold. I made first contact, you can call off your investigation, I know more about her than you think.” Tom finished as Kaylee came back from an inward look on her own heart.

‟Tom, she is distracting you from your work.” Georgia said as she followed Tom and the nurse out the door of the elevator. ‟No offense Miss Grant, but Tom, there is no way you could be writing with her walking around naked in your winged-yacht.

‟I don’t walk around naked on his, whatever you called it.” Kaylee growled. Her right fist clenching, she could punch the woman in the sternum so hard she could separate it from the cartilage that attached it to her ribs. It would crackle and pop for the rest of her life, even after it healed.

*Control!* She had control.

‟Do you really want to go there, Miss Grant?”

‟Georgia, it is Missus. She is my wife.”

This made Kaylee cringe. She had signed the papers, Tom should have known that would have happened when she left last night. He gave her step-by-step directions on what to do.

‟Tom, you prove to me that you can write with her doing who-knows-what when you are alone for what reasons…”

‟Hello, I’m right here.” Kaylee looked at the agent.

‟She only knows.” Georgia shot a look at Kaylee . ‟You stay out of this. You are the cause for all this.”

‟Georgia, I have sold a few hundred-million dollars worth of books…”

‟One hundred-ninety eight million last year, after expenses.”

‟Yeah, and you get fifteen-percent of that.”

‟Whoa!” Kaylee ‘s eyes boggled. ‟Fifteen PERCENT? Of almost two-hundred million dollars in a year? Almost three-hundred thousand dollars for one client?”

Turning to Georgia, no longer looking belittled and beat down. She was now convinced where Georgia stood.

‟You called ME a gold-digger? And you suck over a quarter-million dollars a year just from Tom?” Kaylee was angry, verging on fury. Her knuckles were white, her fists were hard a stone. ‟You… You… hypocrite!”

‟Kaylee , just a moment.” Tom said. ‟Please let me finish.”

‟Georgia, you have been with me for a decade. Each year has been better than the last, but for as long as we have been together, you have been always pushing. You have chased off nearly every woman I have tried to start a relationship with, only Kaylee has remained. But you force me to choose, now. We must seek our separate lives from now on.”

‟You… I am fired?”

‟That is a bit harsh, but accurate.” Tom nodded. ‟It’s just time we parted, I hope amicably.”

“Tom…” but it was over.

Thomas Harte fired her.

Married by Mistake Chapter 26. Papers

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Chapter 26. Papers

Kaylee left the medical center after they settled Tom back his room. He had been in a bit of pain as the nurses bathed him and gave medications to help him sleep.

She walked across the macadam surface of the airport to the hangar where the Flying Sea Dragon sat, she could barely keep from sobbing the trip from the hospital.

It hurt so much to even think of those papers that sat somewhere inside the plane, waiting.

She rode in silence in a taxi she caught at random to the airport, she did not want to ride with anyone who knew Tom, knew of Tom or had even heard about his books.

She had a serious need to sit and drink wine and smoke a bowl with her sister and talk.

She missed the afternoons with Melanie like they had in their teens. They had barely graduated from high school, but as the best of friends and the worst of enemies, they would be in a furious scream-fest fight for minutes, then would be the best of friends as they settled down for a toke.

But no outsider dare make either of them cry.

Woe be unto the person that faced the wrath of the Grant sisters. It would make for an epic bad day when both sisters would turn on the offending person with fury that only sisters, family, and those of the same heart and soul have.

As they grew older, and although they took different classes and their lives were on different paths, they became closer still.

Opening the door of the big jet, she looked down at the broken glass that still lay on the floor.

And blood! Everywhere, large black clots that cemented fibers of the carpet into a mat with choking copper-smell. It surprised her the amount that soaked into the carpet on the floor. A body-trail in the glass where he crawled to the door and yelled for help at the plane’s technicans and engineers.

She stepped past the gore and glass that almost ended Tom’s life and perhaps did end his life as a writer.

She sat at the chair and looked where the papers in the manila envelope waited, filed in the cubby-hole that Tom told her about.

She thought of Melanie and all the fights they had while she sat in the Flying Sea Dragon and held the annulment papers in her hands.

*Tom said I just had to sign on the lines in the document and mail it with…*

With…

She slumped in the chair and a wept.

*It’s strange, this is just what I wanted four-weeks ago! Now I have a serious temptation to put it in the washing machine, somewhere on the plane. Except, damn, I’m not sure where it is, hidden behind some cabinet door.* Kaylee took a heavy breath, *I’m not sure if this is wise.*

Her hands trembled when she found the place to sign in the back of the document.

She slipped the papers into the manilla envelope they were paper-clipped to, she closed and sealed the package and walked out the door of the big flying yacht.

*The Flying Sea Dragon is not as big as the Pacific Wizard is inside, it’s more cluttered with furniture, bulky items to make it feel close. Still, a comfortable plane to live in.*

*A flying yacht.* She reminded herself as she walked across the airport to the main offices.

She nearly didn’t get to mail it, the woman behind the counter almost gave it back because of Kaylee ’s facial expressions and the slumped-sad way she carried herself.

“Miss, I don’t know what you have in this, and it’s not my place to say. But do you really want to send this?” She looked as if she might have known Ben Franklin when she started for the post-office. Not a trace of color in the great-grandmotherly hair.

With the postage stamped on the envelope, the woman gave Kaylee one more look, a last chance to change her mind, then slowly it into the slot behind her and it was in the US mail with a required a signature on delivery at the court.

Once the clerk of the court received and signed for the papers, in the eyes of the government, it never happened.

It would be as if she was never married.

While Kaylee walked out to the sidewalk she dialed the number on the business card that the Chauffeur Kaikane had given her and told her to call anytime she needed a ride. This time it would be to the hospital. She would tell Tom that she signed the papers, but she was not sure about how she felt.

After breaking the line with Kaikane and his peaceful voice, she hit speed-dial and called Melanie .

‟KAY!” Melanie was always excited to hear from her sister. ‟Where are you?”

‟San Francisco. Tom has had a good run of luck with the doctors since his accident.”

‟You need to come home quick as you can. Glenn is here and he has asked for you, he said it’s important.” Melanie said in a conspiratorial tone. ‟I think he is going to ask the question.”

‟Oh.” Her heart finished the phrase. *Damn.*

‟You don’t sound excited.” Melanie became quiet, shocked at the response. “This is what you have waited for since you were kids.”

‟I just signed the papers and sent them off to Nevada. I stop being married and never was according to the state once the papers arrive.”

‟Oh sis. But this is what you want, right?”

‟I don’t know. Tom needs me.” Kaylee was quiet as she waited for the limo. “You should see his eyes. Mellie, he is a good man, he cares for so many things and he’s in pain because of me.”

‟But he was alone before he met you, and it’s only been a month.” Melanie said helpfully. ‟And you said he nearly crashed the plane with you in it.”

‟He showed the wine country off to me from the plane.” She was defensive all of a sudden. “Melanie , it was beautiful, right up until we hit the birds, scared me so bad I think I nearly peed myself.”

At the other end, her best friend and sister laughed, knowing Kaylee the way she did, for her to say something like that was funny.

They talked as sisters do over the phone. Switching to video chat while she waited for the contract limousine to pick her up.

‟Why don’t you take a cab?” Melanie asked as Kaylee sat on a bench and waited in the shade of a tree.

‟No. If this is my last limo ride I don’t have to pay for, I want to enjoy it as much as I can. Besides, there is a hot Hawaiian that drives it. You’d love him. Surfer type, intelligent as any professor, knows more about sensemilla than a DEA cop.”

Melanie laughed so hard she snorted, then held her hand over the lens while she composed herself.

‟Stringbean? You know I can still hear you.” Kaylee took her turn of laughter, using the nickname that they worked out as children. This only made Melanie laugh that much harder.

Melanie Grant was the only person in the world that could make Kaylee laugh when things were at their darkest.

Kaylee hated her for that…

Which made her laugh all the harder, she loved her sister more than anyone else in her generation. They were, after all…

Sisters.

Married by Mistake Chapter 25. Month’s End

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Chapter 25. Month’s End

Kaylee walked slowly with Tom as while she pushed him in a wheelchair towards the ‟Garden of Healing”.

Reaching the trees, native redwoods that bounded the half-acre garden full of native coastal plants.

The garden grew rich with beautiful colors of life, a peaceful location in the middle of the huge facility of intense emotions where hearts and souls healed from having their bodies repaired from different trauma and illness.

The couple enjoyed the sunlight until they came to the natural ten-century old Cathedral Tree where Kaylee parked Tom in his wheelchair, talked and held hands like the lovers they had become.

The Cathedral Tree, a half-circle of redwood trees that grew in a large open area on the campus of the medical center. Kaylee smiled at the smells that reminded her of home. She could feel the power of the Earth that lived here. In the middle of the healing professionals, medicine and sterile atmosphere, the Gods of Old, of life and sky sat in watchful gaze over the modern lives that began, ended and healed in the nearby structures of doctors, nurses and patients.

Except for one stubborn area of his arm, Tom’s condition improved faster than predicted, he impressed the team of surgeons, one suggested that part of the healing was the hand holding by the young wife had a positive effect.

“Attitude accounts for much of the recovery.” A journeyman surgeon said during an exam of Tom’s arm while waiting for Doctor Tribbing.

Fortune had it that the wound made by the glass in the tissues was smoother than even they could do with their surgical steel scalpels. Even obsidian or diamond bladed edged instruments could not have performed a cleaner, smooth-edged incision.

The wound, they said after surgery, was perfect for them to repair. Flesh and even the ends of the bone that were cloven so smoothly that the ends matched up precisely.

The only failure was the annoying lack of healing in one deep area in his arm. A drainage kept coming from the tubes they put in to help his wounds to keep fluid from building up.

Tom had stopped eating for fear of gaining weight and lost weight, despite the IV that ran into his arm constantly. Kaylee nagged him to eat, and when he did, he would only eat the most minute of portions.

Once again she could not help but think of more than three weeks ago. The summer was an adventure in ways she had never dreamed.

They sat in the filtered sun of the Cathedral Tree. The perfume from the tree made Kaylee think of camps and a campfire, she took deep breaths and images of fire-roasted cornbread, and foil-wrapped baked potatoes danced in her head. She could feel the power of the earth coming from the ancient species of tree dance with her muse.

Even obnoxious, bored children that made noise and were under the constant shush of nurses and parents, whispered in the natural wood enclave saved by some genius architect. Such was the power of the Cathedral Tree.

Small crosses with names – people who committed to each other here –  tucked in the small areas between the trunks of the trees. Momento’s of weddings and thanks for the peaceful place in the middle of a medical center.

It promised of a time she looked forward to when the hospital released Tom and they would spend an evening on the beach.

In the quiet of the shade, Tom had slipped into a soft sleep, caused by the residual effects of heavy medications. She sat and held his hand, waiting for him to drift awake again when they would talk more. A conversation between the husband and wife, lovers and friends that could continue after a nap as if it never stopped.

In this quiet moment, Kaylee ’s phone chimed an alert to a text message. As she read her phone, it was a class synopsis that her education mentor suggested for the upcoming year.

Scrolling through the pages, the mentor reduced her class schedule. The math showed she had enough extra credit she had done the year before. She could do one less class this year, two less in her senior year if her grades qualified.

*I might do post-grad credits before I graduate! I like extra credits.*

‟Kaylee ?” Tom was awake! ‟Damn, how long have I been sleeping?”

‟Tom! How do you feel?” It was her standard question. The arm would sometimes cause him in agony. Then she smiled and gave him a synopsis. “Oh. Today or total? You woke up for a half-hour this morning, but you have been pretty groggy the last seven days. They don’t want you to move the tendons just yet.”

‟It has been a week?.” Tom had lost time during his stay. It was a regular start to all his conversations of late.

‟Yeah, a lot has happened and everything has been on hold.”

‟Let me get my mind around this. I’m still fuzzy.”

The drugs they shot Tom up with during the last week faded quickly in the sunlight and redwood perfumed air.

*The nurse had said this would happen when they discontinued his medications that kept him from moving much.* She smiled.

Even in his induced sleep, he was incredibly uncomfortable. A stomach sleeper and the doctor wanted him to keep the arm above his heart.

‟We need the annulment papers signed. We can file them tomorrow or the next day. I’ll have Robin, my lawyer, do it. You just need to sign the papers, they are on the Flying Sea Dragon.” Tom said quietly. His voice much improved since the first night when the nurse said it was a side-effect of having a tube pushed past his vocal cords.

‟What about your signature?” She frowned. This moment took a sudden turn to the sad-side.

‟I signed the papers weeks ago, a night you were crying in your sleep.” Tom said quietly, a shot of pain ran across his face. ‟You whispered Glenn’s name in that dream.”

‟Omy god, I’m so sorry.” Kaylee doubted that the pain was from his arm.

‟Don’t be. You said from the beginning, we weren’t supposed to be married. And really, you did not have to come here, either. You are a good person, but I am almost twice your age, I have all I have, but I lack one thing.” Tom moved a bit and groaned in pain and whispered a profanity. ” A future.”

Tom looked up at the big tree and gave a big sigh.

‟Like this young tree, your future is still bright and lays ahead of you with your Glenn. Get the papers and walk them over to the offices at the airport. Send them registered mail so it’s a required signature. That way it is the soonest it will be over, and you won’t have to return from your days back home to here and deal with this mess.”

‟Tom, I…” She couldn’t talk, her throat had tightened up like a knot. It was what she had wanted all month, why was it that it seemed to hurt, now that the time was here.

When this mess started she wept for the loss of her single-ness.

She loved with him.

She had fought with him.

She raced to his side in his time of need.

She spoke with the doctor about him and his arm when they thought that they may have to amputate.

She had fought for him with that witchy-woman who would demand he write while he recovered from having his arm, his future, hung by a thread of flesh.

She still felt like he told her to abandon him.

‟Tom, I…” Damn, there goes that knot in her heart again. ‟I will stay until they send you home, there are days I can catch up.”

‟You have to sign up for the classes, I’ll be discharged to attend Doctor Manga’s installation and make a speech. I can do that with only one arm.”

‟Tom, Honey, maybe you and I can get together after you get back from, Cambridge is where it is?”

‟That would be nice, but when I get back from Cambridge I’ll head to other places for a while.”

‟You think you might move?”

‟I am never in one place for long, you know that.”

‟Well, I thought. I mean, I just assumed that you stayed there.”

‟No, I was in Ocean Bay to meet with Dr. Manga and make a few donations and write. I would have been long-gone if we never met.” Tom groaned as he shifted in the wheelchair. “I just couldn’t fly away.”

‟And how do you plan to fly with that arm.” Kaylee was a little taken aback at her effect on his life. She and Tom worked well as a team and she kind of wanted him to grieve. It stung her that he had planned on moving on already. ‟You should be with someone to help you heal.”

‟I’ll hire a nurse, if need. But I think I am okay with flying on a wide-body jet in first-class. I can even buy tickets for four seats so I can spread out.”

This was all twisted, she was about to get what she wanted and he acted all matter-of-fact about how he would return to the world that he lived in.

*It feels like he woke up only to stab my heart.* Her heart and soul had a hard time with this.

*No. This,* she made a choice, *Is an opportunity. My life can get back on track, I’ve had an adventure. Me and Melanie can share this and still be friends with Tom. I can still go live my life as I meant it to be.*

But why did she feel as if she was about to lose a piece of her heart. If Tom wasn’t so badly hurt, she’d break his arm.

*And I can do it, too.*

*Ugh!* She clenched her teeth.

Even if it was right, this was so wrong.

*So damned wrong.*

Married by Mistake Chapter 24. A Phone Call

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Chapter 24. A Phone Call

‟Agent of Success” Her business card read. She had been Tom’s second agent after he got started selling his books out of the back of his closet and over the internet. 

She stroked her cat, Bond, while she mulled the situation over.

*If it was not for me, he would have been just like the thousands of authors of talent who stayed in the pits of obscurity fighting over morsels. I am more of a wife to him than that… That… Bimbo… stealing my position and probably would cause Tom to change agents.*

*This is not acceptable!* Tom represented three-fourths of Georgia’s current income. If he knew just how much she got in commission, there would be an investigation. She — legally — charged for her various services with a contracted percentage over her base.

She had taken Tom on as a flat rate as she did with all her clients, but when she read one of the children’s books she was showing to a bookstore, she knew then that she could do a percentage and still Tom would make money, enough money to keep him from the thoughts there was another way.

When his books took off, they automatically renewed the contract as a shrug and handshake over drinks and a launch party.

Tom did not think of the amount of money involved, especially when she couched the terms in a positive light.

*In this case, ignorance is bliss.*

At least for the Georgia Hershey Agency.

Dialing an often used number from her early days, she called Trevor Charles, private investigator.

She had used his services for finding agents that were taking advantage of clients, then springing the information on the client in an engineered ‟casual” conversation.

‟Mister Charles. Georgia Hershey. Yes, it has been awhile. I’ve an assignment for you, there is this young woman I need to know everything about…”

Married by Mistake Chapter 23. Realization

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Chapter 23. Realization

She sat in the window seat while Tom slept. It was a strange emotion. She felt empowered, Kaylee looked out the window while Tom slept. He was unaware of the conflict that had just happened between her and the publisher, she needed to tell him that his agent came in and she chased the woman and her broom out of the hospital.

Kaylee ’s heart raced with the adrenalin rush of the collision between her and the business woman who drove Tom to write while in bed and at all waking hours.

Between the machines that beeped and sterile smells, she realized that Tom would not come home from the hospital in time to sign the annulment, she would be married when she went home in the next two weeks.

*Maybe.* She shook her head. *Drat!*

*Why is it, it seems that the world wants me with Tom?* She bit her nails for a moment. Falling back on a bad habit. *In my dreams, I’ve always painted a life with Glenn, I imagined it with all the glitter and hues of happiness. A life of birds, forests, even nights were adventures. Now it is going to pieces faster than I can think, this past three weeks has been fun, but it has been a blur. I don’t know what else to do.*

She ran the memories through her head like a movie, looking for something that she had done right for a change.

All of the memories ended in a rough landing in a river, then Tom’s injury while he carried a large piece of glass out of the plane, alone like a foolish human male when service crews surrounded him after she left and went back to Ocean Bay. It became apparent that he was fortunate that people were there. If he had been alone?

*I could be his widow.* She blocked that out. *I don’t want to think about that.*

As soon as she found about his accident, she felt compelled to come be by his side, to answer questions and sign papers and protect him, this man who lived his life as a bachelor-hermit and would-be-hero.

She laughed even though she felt tears in hear heart. He was a hero.

All from that Friday. That one day that was the domino that caused other pieces to fall in a pattern that now made her focus on how she walked through her life.

Cut tires on her car, those could not be avoided and if it were not for Tom, her tires would still be flat. Then the attack on the beach later that same day.

*Then! OMG! That professor!* If ever she wanted to have a list of people she wanted to break, he was number one.

Kaylee longed for some peace and quiet.

*I just want to paint and have time to sculpt. This is a summer that tops all summers, even when I hitchhiked across Europe and lived in those hostels when I could afford it.*

That was a summer of adventure and excitement that she had sought out, this summer, all the adventure and craziness came at her.

Now, she sat in a hospital room with someone who was her husband with a serious injury, a man she did not know just a few weeks before.

And she was protective of him.

*Like a wife.*

That word again. Wife.

It haunted her, maybe even make her re-think her use of pharmaceuticals and mixing them all to party with people. Sometimes she did not know who she partied with.

She needed to finish college, that much was certain, two years left to go, plus grad school if dad would pay… At least part… of it.

Melanie , her sister and confidant would to go to school at the same time and their parents were always on the verge of not paying the bills. Tuition for school was expensive with the costs of two apartments, they groaned under the costs while running their businesses.

But as a wife, this would have consequences that she could not even dream of. Tom might help, he was that kind of person. But even if his hair was not gray, he was still older than she would normally date.

Covering her eyes in a flash of almost-laughing.

*Date? I’m was married to the man.*

He could even be a wife-beater like the tabloids said.

*No.* She shook her head. *If anything he is the most kind, gentle and generous person that ever tapped a keyboard. Tom is a man who someone could care about.*

He was someone who walked alone after the death of his family, some would say the his experiences broke him, but Tom healed with the writing children books and the novels of passion for the adults.

If anything Tom had, it was heart.

And a good one at that. Kaylee smiled softly to herself.

Slowly stroking his hand, Randy the Nurse came in and checked the pump next to Tom’s bed.

“Tom’s temperature has gone up a little, the Doctor has ordered an antibiotic in his IV pump.” Randy said it as if he it tickled him to do his job. “We got the pizza by the way, everyone did! It was amazing to see so many deliveries at the same time. Tom, thank you.”

Tom, heavily dosed a half-hour earlier mumbled then drifted away again into his narcotic dream world.

Randy leaned over to Kaylee .

“Would you like a slice of pizza? Mister Harte is sleeping, I’ll slip you some before he wakes up.”

“Pissa?” A mumbled voice from the bed. “I sshmeell peet- sa.”

“Shhh, Tom.” Kaylee whispered to his ear. “You need to rest.”

“Oh bull! Someone has pizza!” he was more awake now. “You are sneaky, I thought you were nice.”

“I have a permanent spot on Santa’s naughty list.”

Tom laughed, then moaned.

“Please, no jokes, it hurts when I laugh.”

Kaylee took her turn to laugh and left to get a slice of pizza.

“How long did it take to get here?” Tom asked Randy as the nurse tinkered around the room, setting up the IV pump on a strange-looking pole with wheels. Resembling a metal spider at the bottom with the eight-wheeled suspension that held up the chrome-plated T-topped pole.

“It took a little while, the pizza store called to verify that it was really you. A couple of hours after that, it took five delivery guys nearly an hour to bring it all in. They had to make ten trips!”

“More than 30 minutes, it’s free.” Tom tried to laugh, and groaned in pain again as he moved his wounded arm.

“I don’t think this counts.” Randy laughed as he went about his job.

“Can Tom have a slice of pizza?” Kaylee asked as she came back into the room.

“Yes, no problem about that, he has technically been eating since yesterday.” Randy nodded, a bit of marinara sauce on his upper lip, while he chewed. “Technically, I’m not supposed to eat outside of the back-room, but the Doctor insisted that we get this piggyback set up.”

“I’d buy him a pizza, too. Say, what is his office’s address?” Tom asked.

“They are closed by now, try it tomorrow if you like.” Randy said. “I”ll be back, I have to go to attend to another room.”

“Hey, naughty girl, would you give me a bite or three of that pizza slice?” Tom smiled, he was getting stronger, despite the drugs.

Not for the first time, as Kaylee chewed her pizza slice, Tom made her smile.

Naughty girl?

When the doctor released him, she would show him a new definition of naughty.

Married by Mistake Chapter 22. Treatment Course

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Chapter 22. Treatment Course

Richard Tribbing, MD, Microsurgeon, specialist in the field that saved both Tom’s life, his professional life and his arm walked in with the team of doctors who all worked to answer their calling as microsurgeons while they made their afternoon rounds.

Looking at Kaylee , he smiled as he and the seven other doctors and fellows entered and filled the room.

Describing the injuries,commenting that the wound was ‟Large shard of glass left the wound clean as if a large scalpel had cut through the soft-tissues leaving the wound with no appreciable tearing or avulsion mid-shaft radius. The weight of the glass was sufficient to cut through the bone without deflection. There were eight-slivers of glass removed during the procedure. Imaging did not reveal any other glass in the arm.”

Kaylee sat and listened, twice she tried to leave as the surgical team made notes, questioned, and spoke in terms that sounded like Greek to her.

Doctor Tribbing chuckled when they spoke later and she referred to the conversations.

‟So how long do you think it will be before he comes home?” Kaylee asked. ‟We live on a flying yacht, there is not much room for putting a hospital bed in the plane, he told me last week he has a deadline to finish writing for.”

‟Well, he won’t be going home until the danger of… ” The Doctor paused and pulled at his chin. “How should I put this? If anything should go sideways against any of our plans to get him home and whole and functioning.”

‟How long?”

‟Depending on how his healing responds, probably two to three weeks, we have not had any problems thus far so maybe on the shorter side of that.”

‟Three weeks.” Kaylee said quietly, thanked Doctor Tribbing and sat next to the sleeping Tom and held his hand again while the Doctor left the room to continue his business.

‟Kaylee ?” It was Randy the nurse at the door. ‟There is someone who wants to see you in the waiting room.”

‟Me? Okay.” This puzzled her as no one of her friends or family knew she was at the hospital with Tom.

Kaylee walked out to the waiting room where sat a middle-aged woman with a quick eye who sat ramrod straight. She was the only one in the room.

‟I am Kaylee .”

‟You? You are Tom’s new wife?” She looked down and bit her lip in a grimace. ‟I am Georgia Hershey, Tom’s agent. I am the one that gets him published and I have been with him for the last decade. I don’t know you.”

She looked as if someone had spit on her.

“How did a young… lady… as yourself marry to Tom? That is so classic. How did you meet?” It was a near accusation tone of voice, followed with a sigh. “No no..never mind. I am here to check on him, there is an installment on the series due on the Weedy Sea Dragon, but you won’t know about that I’m sure. But I will ask anyway. Do you know if he has finished it?”

‟First, I am Tom’s wife. Second, I have heard about you and how you have pushed him to write, I’m not sure of his view of you gnawing on him to get things done.” Kaylee felt something inside of her, an anger that she last felt when she broke a man’s arm. “He has told me that you said it was due at the end of the month, but the contract I’ve read specifies no such deadline. It reads simply ‟As finished.” And third, he has one completed in the last month, I have read it and it is complete but unedited. It will get to you when it he finishes the edit.”

‟And I know that Leonard the Leafy SeaDragon is a series, your attempt to misdirect me is offensive.” Kaylee kept even voice, hiding her mounting rage.

‟I would like to see him.” Ms. Hershey said, matching Kaylee ’s tone.

‟The answer is no. He needs rest, he will contact you when he is ready and not before. He has endured a horrid injury and still might lose his arm. His access is limited while he is on polypharmecutical therapy and external fixation to hold the bones in the normal anatomic positions. ” Kaylee had to clench her fist on her drawing hand until the knuckles cracked. She chose her words with care to show the woman that she was not a simple girl. “You go back to your office, and tell the truth to who ever needs to hear it, Tom has been injured and is now with family in the intensive care department of the finest institution that can be found.” Kaylee felt heat building in her chest. “So you go back to your office or whatever crack you crawled out of and he will send it in.”

‟Well.” Ms. Hershey backed up a step. ‟Tell him to call when it is convenient, but please make it soon.”

The agent walked out amid scattered applause.

An RN smiled at Kaylee as she walked past.

‟That was awesome, she called when you and Tom were asleep, then came in and was treating us like trash. It was good to see her taken down a few notches.” The name badge said ‟Trish” on it. ‟She demanded entry. Then she told us she was Tom’s closest thing to family.” Trish frowned with the memory of the event. “We told her that security would escort her out.”

‟We got married earlier this month. Kind of a surprise for both of us.”

‟What does he write? You said something about a dragon?”

‟That’s a children’s book, he has written stories that have made it to the movies. ‟ Kaylee took a deep breath, she was suddenly cold, not realizing she had started to perspire during the confrontation. ‟His movie, Steamland that is in the theaters now.”

‟Oh? Oh WOW! I have seen that twice! It is a great movie, he wrote that?” Trish’s eyes widened.

‟Yup, he’s the author.”

‟Missus Harte, anything you need. No one will get in without your say-so.” Randy said from the door as he let both women in. Kaylee felt a bit like royalty after that. The young woman with an iron will who took no crap from anyone.

Kaylee smiled, returning to Tom’s side feeling accomplished. She had done something that she felt was worthy of the title of “Mrs. Tom”.

Married by Mistake Chapter 21. Night In the ICU

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Chapter 21. Night in the ICU

The constant, subtle sounds made an undertone that kept Kaylee from a sound sleep. Tom constantly moaned in his drugged-sleep state which further kept her popping her eyes open to check on the wounded man she was growing fond of.

Even with the heavy-duty narcotics in his system, Tom’s sleep was without rest, the arm was kept elevated with external hardware that looked like scaffolding on a building. To help the wounds to heal, wrapped in multiple layers of surgical gauze, the room was too warm for his comfort which kept him from resting and the IV fluids went into his good arm kept him from turning over.

Kaylee was over-warm, too. She could have slept naked in the room and not wish for so much as a sheet. But the compassionate nurses brought a fan in that blew across her to keep her from overheating. She still felt sorry for her husband.

Tom, stuck in one place and, for an active sleeper this was a fresh hell to live through. Plus he slept on his stomach almost always.

She asked the night-shift nurse, a skin-and-bones woman who wore a sweater that had more acronyms and abbreviations on her name-badge than anyone she had met in the ICU, if they could turn the heat down a bit.

“I’m sorry, doctor’s orders, we don’t want patients to have cold-related problems with the injuries, so we keep it close to their body temp in here.” She smiled, the wrinkled face that had seen many shifts and had answered the same question a hundred times, lit up in a comic smile and her eyes sparkled as if she was about to reveal a secret. “I am still cold, even with it as warm as it is.”

The two women hit it off, Elda, was the nurses name, offered to get Kaylee anything she needed during the night, supplying pillows hand over fist and showed her how to inflate the vacuüm packed, plastic covered items without anyone watching.

Kaylee moved the reclining seat and make-shift bed that family members used for sleeping in the same room while loved ones recovered from what life-challenges they recovered from.

Now with the makeshift pile of blankets and pillows closer to Tom, she reached out and held his good hand while she dozed in the chair next to his bed. It was an awkward arrangement, but it seemed to settle the wounded husband and author of children’s books so that he had a quiet sleep.

As his sleep became restful, she would decide that was the best thing she could do, this was the connection he needed to heal.

Starting awake when a nurse came in to check on a misbehaving IV pump, although he slept, Kaylee did not get much rest that night.

*In and out of the room all night,* She shifted in her sleep-spot. *The nurses do their checks on Tom with their rounds and wake me up.*

Like practiced witches and wizards with their practiced motions over complex and arcane machines, the magic fluid that kept her Tom…

There it was again, ‟Her” Tom. What was this that he was to her? What was she to him?

It was almost funny, in a sad sort of way, she thought as she faded to sleep again for the countless time, so tired she missed the next round of checks by the silent ninja nurse.

Kaylee woke up next and the night outside the window had gone from black to a midnight-navy-blue, becoming lighter as she stared at a flock of pelicans, illuminated by the city lights, flew in a “V” formation towards some unknown destination.

Sunrise would be soon and Tom was still asleep, but his thumb was caressing her hand as he mumbled something in a dream.

Not about her, he mumbled a man’s name, and a tear leaked out of his eye. That was odd, why would he dream about a man so much as to mention his name and weep? Then it hit her— it was not a man’s name.

It was his dead son.

Tom was having a nightmare about the night his family died, she choked and thought she might cry for his agony.

She stood and leaned over, a gentle kiss him on the forehead and he took a deep breath and opened his bright eyes.

‟What are you doing awake?”

‟That’s funny you should say that, I think you were having a nightmare.”

‟I was? Yes, I guess so, but I can’t remember what it was about, but I think I’ve been crying, is all I remember.”

‟You were trying to speak, you were saying a name I could not make it out. It sounded like…”

‟No, please. If it was a nightmare and I can’t remember, let’s leave it there.” His hoarse whisper did not sound as ragged as a dozen hours before.

Kaylee gave a soft smile and nodded, he was right. Why make a nightmare more real in the midst of the current waking nightmare of tubes, wires and synthetic fluids that dripped into his arm?

As the sky outside slowly changed from venetian-blue to more azure-grey, the fog seemed to roll in more, fighting the light of the sunrise in a futile effort of resistance against the summer sun. Patches of the dark blues giving way to indigo that surrendered to the cool blues of the new day.

Kaylee would have thought it would be romantic if not for the soft hiss of the oxygen, beeps of the monitors and distant alarms of some demanding pump that had run its course or had an error.

And Tom’s snoring. He had dropped off again.

*Men! They don’t know when to watch something of beauty.*

Another graveyard nurse, Suzanne, a nurse from South Carolina came in and did a last check and smiled at her.

‟We will be going off duty now, we are giving report in fifteen minutes, your next nurse team is led by Randy, he took care of your husband yesterday.” She smiled. “Would you like some coffee? We have fresh made.”

‟Yes, thank you.” Kaylee smiled when the small, round smiling woman walked quickly and quietly out the door. Kaylee never knew anyone who could walk with such silent speed.

She had to get up and out of the way while the men and women in white coats poked, prodded, inflicted pain making Tom yelp and made him wiggle fingers that had swollen during the night. The swelling seemed to make the team of medical magicians worried.

Arcane questions and language were tossed around. Someone poked at Tom’s hand who yelped again and uttered a profanity.

Randy came in after reports had been given and doctors filed in and out.

‟We need to get you breakfast, how did the night go?”

‟Tom had a bad night. Some nightmares just before dawn.” Kaylee reported. “Then the doctors came in and hurt him.”

‟Yes, that happens, they keep to the first rule of medicine, to do no harm. But they can inflict as much pain as they deem necessary.” The nurse chuckled. “Sometimes they get carried away. I think they like test the limits of tolerance.”

“The drugs he gets are known to cause some sleep disturbances.” Randy said with a teacher’s wisdom. ‟Sleeping here, does not help, either. Strange bed, strange sounds, odd smells and pain. Not a good combination, like the old saying, there is no place like home.”

‟That reminds me, how long will he be here? What things do we need to buy to help him heal?”

‟That.” Randy smiled like a hospital’s own Santa, ‟Is the purview of the Doctor, I cannot say. Every time I do, they make a liar out of me and I get in trouble.”

‟When will we see him, again?”

‟Doctor Tribbing? He is making rounds now. You should see him again, maybe with his team in a few hours or so. Right now, we have to take another reading of Tom’s fingers to make sure of the circulation is still there, I can look and see that it is normal color, they left notations that the hand is swollen, and they want to document numbers. So I will be back in with another tool, it’s busy elsewhere at the moment. I read he did well during the night. They took a measurement and the numbers looked good, but his fingers were swollen slightly.”

‟I saw her do that, but I was half-asleep and didn’t ask.”

‟She would have loved to talk to you, she is a wonderful lady.”

‟You two are keeping me awake.” The voice from the bed was barely above a whisper. ‟You know what time it is?”

‟Good morning to you too.” Randy laughed. ‟And yes, I know, I just got here. Your wife is giving me a report on your night, she said it was kind of rough.”

‟Yeah, I couldn’t sleep, I’m a stomach sleeper and y’all don’t have me any kind of close to that.” Tom voice was stronger.

‟Well, talk to the doc. He is the master of this domain.”

‟Okay. And the pin-happy doctor who poked at me was not helping.” Tom took a deep breath. “I’m kind of hungry, too. Is there breakfast?”

‟Sure thing. The menu is on the TV control attached to your bed. Follow the prompts on the screen and the food will make it here as long as you order in the next twenty-minutes.”

‟Okay, I want a pizza from Alioto’s on the Wharf.”

‟Hah. Good luck with that, but our kitchen makes great food.”

‟I’ll buy pizza delivery for the entire floor today.” Tom croaked out.

‟That’s nice of you Mister Harte, but the Department, I think you mean.”

‟No, I mean the floor. And remember, my name is Tom.”

‟The floor has a dozen stations, you are talking a lot of pizza.”

‟Party hardy Marty. Pizza is coming, I need my phone.”

Laughing Randy left the room.

“I don’t think Randy did not believe I can do that.” He laughed. “He does not know Thomas Harte has both the resources and, even drugged as I am, the will to do it.”

“Kay, dial this number for me please?” His voice was stronger, the power of his soul danced in his eyes. She enjoyed looking into those emerald-green eyes of the writer.

She could see what he had in mind and it made her laugh.

*He has a surprise for everyone on this floor.*

Married by Mistake Chapte 20. Beside Manner

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Chapter 20. Bedside Manner

Kaylee exited the elevator car and followed the signs on the signs to the locked ICU doors, Kaylee picked up the phone on the wall and held it to her ear.

‟May I help you.” The voice was impersonal, professional and disinterested as if it answered the request for entry a hundredth time this shift.

‟Kaylee Gra… Harte to see Tom Harte.”

The lock buzzed and she pulled the heavy fire-rated door open and walked in to the nurses station.

The tall, redheaded nurse with a badge of ‟Michelle, RN, BSN, MSN” stood up and smiled.

‟You are looking for Mister Harte? The Doctor is in with him now.”

‟Thank you.” Kaylee nodded and smiled and followed Michelle who led her to room ‟E” where through the partly closed drape, through the door she could see a body that lay covered in tubes and wires.

The smells of disinfectant were everywhere, and although the nurses station was cool, the breeze that wafted out of the ICU room was quite warm, tubes ran to Tom’s uninjured arm, an oxygen tube ran from the wall ending in a forked pair of small tubes going into his nostrils.

“Please wait here for a few minutes, Missus Harte, the doctor is with your husband now.” Michelle said. “I’m sorry to have to make you wait, the doctor went in and sat down.”

“No worries, Michelle. I will wait here, thank you.”

The right arm was laying in gauze that had already stained a red and the doctor was touching the copper-colored fingers with a stainless steel stylus.

‟Yeah, I feel that.” Tom croaked out.

‟Good, can you move them?” The doctor asked.

A moment passed, and the fingers moved almost imperceptibly, but definite movement.

‟Good.” The Doctor just noticed them as Kaylee stood outside the door. “OH! You’re his wife?”

‟Yes.”

‟Tom has spoken a lot about you, how do you do? I’m Doctor Tribbing, I led the team to repair the wound in Mister Harte’s arm.” The Doctor pulled the drape open to allow her in and then fully around and obscured the world outside the door. “That was my fault, I didn’t let anyone know I came back here to double-check Tom’s wound.”

‟Kaylee!” Tom’s voice was hoarse and creaky. ‟Hi.”

‟He will sound like that for a few hours, he just got out of surgery, there was a bit of damage and we reattached his tendons without difficulty.” The Doctor nodded then adding. “He may have some nerve damage we are watching for.”

‟What happened?”

‟Report is he dropped some heavy glass object, a broken section of glass hit his forearm and cut a large defect into his arm.”

‟How deep?” Kaylee ’s eyes grew wide.

‟Well,”The Doctor said as he flipped through the chart. ‟Through the soft tissues and the radial bone. It was like being hit by a large scalpel. We had some cleanup to do with glass splinters, but the damage was otherwise clean on his forearm, no breaks, the glass cut through the bone, we did an external fixation— this is why you see this Erector set construction here on his arm. The soft-tissues were similarly cut, but it was, as I said, like a scalpel had done it.”

‟What, how.”

‟He said he was carrying a glass table top that broke when he fell and Mister Harte ended underneath it all with this wound.” Again, Tom gave a weak nod. “So we have some chance of a crush injury as well, but it is not obvious at the moment.”

‟Oh my god.” Kaylee held her hand to her mouth. “Will he be okay?”

‟Yes, he lost a lot of blood, but we fixed the leaks. He said he had to crawl out from under it to get help.” The doctor looked at Tom who nodded.

‟What he said.” Tom croaked again, then went quiet as his eyes closed.

‟He will be in and out for a bit. I prescribed him some pretty potent pain relief. He woke up in good deal of pain after the surgery.” Doctor Tribbing said. “An object hit his hand with considerable force before the glass cut his arm.”

‟He is okay now?” Kaylee repeated herself, her mind spinning.

‟Time will tell for sure, but the prognosis is good.” The Doctor nodded to himself, the smile ran away from his face when a tone in his jacket pocket sounded, the doctor opened the cover and looked at the screen of the flip-phone. ‟I’m sorry, but I must go. He will become more alert in a little while.”

“Michelle!” The doctor turned and called across the hallway.

He walked out to answer the text he received and she sat next to Tom.

‟Hey. You came!” Tom sounded surprised.

‟Yes, I have been here for a few minutes, you talked to me already.”

‟Oh. I don’t remember.” Tom said. “You sure? I know everyone who comes in and out.”

He sounded sharp, but he faded quickly. A blink of an eye that did not open again.

‟It’s the drugs, like when we got married.”

Tom tried to laugh, then groaned. ‟Ouch.”

‟What is wrong?” Kaylee stood and kissed him on the forehead. “Are you in pain?”

‟My throat is sore, like they ran a pipe-cleaner coated with broken glass down it.”

‟Are you sick?” She stroked his nose. “No kisses for you if you are.”

From the doorway, a nurse walked in, different from the one that greeted her. He was heavyset and goatee going grey at the edges, ‟Randy, RNIII, MSN” On his badge.

‟I’m his nurse for the next few hours. Tom has done well during the surgery.” Randy said with a smile. “I hear you are doing well, Mister Harte.”

‟Why is Tom’s throat sore?”

‟When he was in surgery, they put a tube down his throat, it’s not unusual to have that discomfort.” Randy said. Soft-spoken, quick to smile, he had years of caring and seemed to enjoy his job of caring for the sick and injured.

‟How long will his throat be sore?” Kaylee stroked Tom’s good arm.

‟A few hours to a couple of days. His vocal cords got an unusual bit of abuse today. Some ice chips if he wants.” Randy nodded at Tom. “It will go away after a bit.”

‟Ice chips, yeah. Please.” Tom rasped out.

‟You bet, Mr. Harte.”

‟Tom, please. Mr. Harte is my dad. Admiral Harrison Harte. He will be on his way,” Tom winced as he spoke.”Him, you better call him Mister, mister.”

Randy laughed at the wordplay from a recovering patient, just out of post-op.

‟It’s you came back to this room faster than normal.” Randy said when he returned with a plastic cup of ground up ice.

‟I was tired of being in there, I told them I wanted to come back. The nurses in there were telling me that I had to spend time there until I was awake. So, I started singing, “Oh the cow kicked nelly in the belly in the barn” song- I tried to get a singalong with the other patients. They shoved me out pretty fast then.” Tom gave a weak smile.

Kaylee covered her laugh with her hand.

‟Oh, Tom! You didn’t.” She covered her face. “Oh gawd. You are worse when drugged.”

She turned to Randy. “Is it too late to claim I don’t know him? He is embarrassing me.”

Randy laughed.

‟Tom, you are one of a kind.” Randy shook his head and silently exited the room.

‟I did.” Tom said, smiling. ‟All kinds of messed up being in there and in pain. And flippin’ COLD, I don’t know why they have such cold oxygen going on a mask to wake you up.”

“Ugh..that hurt to say.” He grimaced.

‟Tom, you have to hush and suck on ice for now.”

‟I’d rather suck on your lips in a kiss.”

‟TOM!” Kaylee looked around, but no one was close enough to hear. ‟You are… seriously, bad.”

‟Punish me when I get home.”

‟Soon, how long will you be in here?”

‟I don’t know. What day is this now?” He took a small spoon full of ice. “\I feel like I have been in here for a month, already.”

A tap on the door.

‟Mister Harte?” It was a phlebotomy tech looking to draw Tom’s blood.

‟Over there, the pretty dark-haired one.”

This made the blood-draw tech to look between the two people in the room.

‟I heard about you.” The tech laughed. “Sorry, you can’t fool me.”

‟Made you pause though.”

Even with his arm almost cut off, Tom tried for laughs.

Kaylee looked out the window while she sat and thought while Tom flinched and said ‟Ow.” every time the tech touched him.

*A little boy in a grown body.* Kaylee shook her head and laughed again.

Later when she arranged for an overstuffed chair in so she could sleep next to Tom, she began to think twice about things. She hated to admit it to herself, but the truth of it all, he earned her respect. For good or bad, she had grown fond of him.

Married by Mistake Chapter 18. Frantic Flight

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Chapter 18. Frantic Flight

“Hello,” The woman behind the counter said as Kaylee walked in. “You shouldn’t come in that way. Just so’s you know, that is access to the airplanes only. It is dangerous to cross that way and if the security were to catch you, they are a serious pain in the neck. They can arrest you or make you walk around.”

“Yeah, I have had a run-in with one on the way over here from the Pacific Wizard across the way.” She had learned that sometimes the dropping of the name would open doors for her in some cases. “So I just ran across.”

“Oh! You’re Kaylee .” The counter-woman did not make it a question. ”I just received a call from a limo company in Sacramento that you needed a flight. I must say, that was a surprise to hear about Tom being married.”

“I thought I was meeting a driver here? And… We are not supposed to be married, it was one of those things that happened when drinking. We are getting annulled in a few days.” She laughed as she said it. “We are just good friends that partied too much and did a bit of a dare game that went out of control.”

“Of course.” Counter-Woman said it in a way that it was something she could not quite swallow. “Considering who it is for and that the flight is an emergency need, our only wait is the crew. No on the driver, I have a plane that is ready to depart when you are.”

From The back room, walked a muscular, petite woman with more stripes on her sleeve than anyone else Kaylee had seen.

“My bird ready for flight?” The pilot asked Counter-Woman. “Fueled and serviced?”

“Yes ma’am.” Counter-Woman seemed to shrink a little. Even if the Captain was smaller than she was, the Captain carried the air of unquestioned authority with her.

“What is the ETA of my right seat?” The Captain said in a matter-of-fact way that she expected an immediate answer. “We leave as soon as they arrive.”

“Your first officer will be Rome Oldman today. He is driving time from his home. He called as he pulled out of the garage of his house.”

“Thank you, advise me when he arrives, leave when he walks in. We have a bonus for getting our VIP to destination in less than an hour.” The Captain looked at the clock. “We are going to push the envelope. Where is my VIP?”

“Right behind you.” The flight agent said.

“Oh. Hello.” The Captain extended her hand in a business like handshake. “I’m Captain R. M. Watson. We will be flying as soon as possible. I’ll walk you to my aircraft.”

As they walked through the door, the Captain continued talking as if she was giving a report. “Follow me, please, let’s step on board while I wait for my right seat driver. I received a call from Lettie Nesmith of the Discrete Limo service in Sacramento, Tom’s been in an accident and I’m hired to fly you to Hayward Executive and have you there to meet her limo at the top of the hour. I trust you packed light, you can store your carry-on where the signs indicate there and there.”

“Yes, I packed light, I brought nothing except my purse.”

“Perfect.” Captain Watson said. “Take a seat and settle in, you don’t need to use the seatbelt just yet and I am going to finish my pre-flight checks.”

Kaylee settled in to the closest seat, someone placed the seat belts for convenience to clip on and she did not wait for instruction to do so. She was impatient to fly out and arrive at the airport in the north and the snap of the clip satisfied her need for action. Kaylee could not recall the name of her destination, other than Lettie had set everything up and she wished they were already in the air when she heard Captain Watson’s voice raise while she verbally mauled her copilot.

“DAMMIT ROME! Stopping for a foo-foo coffee on a mission is not acceptable, we’re scheduled to arrive at our destination in fifty-minutes. We are going to push the envelope as it is.”

Kaylee could hear a male voice asking if the package had arrived.

“Package”? She was a package, not a passenger.

“The package is Thomas Harte’s wife.”

“Bullcrap, he’s not married. We would have heard about that.”

“Let’s go, we can talk on the way.”

“No way Mister Harte’s married.” Rome said as he stepped into the sleek jet. “Oh! Hello. You are a passenger, not a package. I’m Captain Oldman, I’ll be your co-captain in the right seat next to Captain Watson.”

“I’m Kaylee , Tom’s wife. Tom’s has had some kind of an accident and is in the hospital in San Francisco.”

“What happened to Mr. Harte?”

“I don’t know, something with his hand. Lettie, the owner of the limousine company called me and told me that he cut off his hand.”

“Oh no.” Captain Watson said, showing emotion for the first time. “Okay Missus Harte, strapped in? Good, hang on, we are pushing the limits of this jet. Our maximum rated speed is mach zero point eight-one, we will be doing all that.”

Moments later, the business jet taxied out to the runway and lined up. Kaylee could not hear what the pilots were saying, but moments later, it was as if someone pulled a trigger and shot them out of a gun, the chartered jet accelerated faster than either the Pacific Wizard or the Flying Sea Dragon. The wheels came off the ground quickly and it seemed as if the diminutive jet sat back on its tail and climbed steeply into the sky. This was a race car compared to Tom’s sky-yacht.

As the ground fell away, Captain Watson turned and spoke loudly for Kaylee to hear.

“Missus Harte, you have a phone call. The phone is on the wall next to you on a magnet mount so you just need to push the gold button next to it.”

“Thank you.” Kaylee said loudly back. Captain Watson nodded and turned back to her guidance of the winged missile as it banked and headed to a northerly course.

“Hello?”

“Kaylee ! You made it, good. I have Kaikane, one of our newest drivers waiting for you. He’s a tall Hawaiian and is well-trained. He will drive you to the California Pacific Medical Center.” It was Lettie, her voice was uniquely embedded in Kaylee’s memory these days.

“The hospital will tell me nothing of Tom’s injury, but the rumor has it that he was carrying a tv out of the plane when he fell. The tv landed on his arm and broke, the glass cut him up.”

“Lettie?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Are you like Tom’s personal assistant or something?”

“Oh heck no, he can’t afford me. But we are good friends, and he is one of my best customers. Probably the best customer we have. All my family thinks the world of him.”

“But how do you spend his money like the chartered plane?”

“Get-Jet, the company that owns the plane you are on, also thinks highly of Tom. I know the company president and I just gave him a call. It seems weird, but we are all pretty friendly, so we watch out for each other. Tom has had a hand in getting more than a few of us in business, so we all owe him.”

“Wow. You are all friends and do this for each other?”

“Kaylee, Tom’s a tremendous person who spends far too much time alone. Even a philanthropist needs to have friends, even if he doesn’t think he does.”

“Lettie, I don’t know him like you do.”

“You will learn about him.” She could almost hear Lettie smile at the other end of the phone. ”He is someone who had his heart torn out and his soul shattered at one time. I don’t know his history except for what he has told me. But I know what he is like now. When we started the company, we had one limousine, he contracted and invested with us and allowed us to buy our next two limo’s in less than a year. We’ll buy out his investment in eighteen months. Not that we want to distance our company from him, but we, my family and me, we want the company to ourselves.”

“Understandable.”

“You have Tom.” Lettie said softly. ”Kaylee . Keep him. Like it or not I’ll put some pressure on you. He is going to self-destruct if he has no muse to show the world he builds.”

“Lettie, you are a meddler.”

“Yes, I always have been, according to my sister.” Lettie laughed. “I’m not proud of it, but I will always do what is right.”

“Everyone’s mother?” Kaylee asked with a laugh.

“Hah! Yeah, but I can’t have my own kids. So I adopt everyone.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Oh no, not that there is anything wrong. I don’t date men.” Lettie laughed. “You’re a good person, too. Compassionate. You match Tom’s spirit, you both are like eagles. You fly together in your souls.”

“I’m not as good as you would think.”

“Well, don’t doubt yourself. You have what it takes.” Then Lettie broke the connection and Kaylee put the phone back in its cradle.

Moments passed while Kaylee looked out the window watching the green of the long state pass by.

*Do I have what it takes to fill the shoes of a wife? The annulment, that’s my goal.*

Then again. There was something about how people stood up to help Tom.

*Maybe.* She pulled at some lint on her shirt. *Maybe I’m looking at this all wrong.*

Married by Mistake Chapter16. Week Three

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Chapter 16. Week Three

She sat in the morning, alone on her balcony, Melanie had left with her visiting boyfriend and went to a theme park. Sipping the tea of MariMint, a recipe of her own mixing of spearmint and marijuana teas.

*Twenty-one days! Sheesh, it has been three weeks since I woke up with this ring on my finger, happy, hung over. Only twenty days and it seems like a lifetime ago.*

She laughed at the memory while looking at her ring.

*A wonderful lifetime ago.*

Still, all had not been without problems, not that the start was smooth as satin sheets, either.

The last week Tom had spent in northern California supervising the repairs on the crash-landed Dragon. He asked her to come back up north, while they towed the plane out into a larger channel, where they could pull the flying boat up on land and disassemble its wings and put the body of the plane on a truck and move it to a hanger for repairs at an airport.

Yeah… No. Tom told her to stay on the Pacific Wizard at the Bay, that she would be bored to watch the process and be reminded of the near disaster that was their date of wine tasting.

*That plane was an accident and no one tells me what I must do. I choose my destiny. He needs a partner if any part of the computer files are true.*

She did not ask him if she could come be with him, that would be a waste of effort.  She had studies left to finish and needed to meet with Professor Manga to assure her grades were intact.

*I will not let the last two years of classes be flushed down the toilet.* She gritted her teeth. *I know more than enough to pass this years classes.*

She stopped being angry at him and had began to miss Tom’s quick wit and the curve of his shoulders where she rested her hand on him at night, when she slept.

Shaking her head, she brought herself out of those thoughts of a life with Tom that danced in her head.

*I will spend my life with Glenn.* She reminded herself, *I head home in a few weeks and we’re was cutting it close with the annulment from this drunken, Las Vegas fiasco.*

*I wish Tom was an ass, just a truly hateful person.* She shook her head while she took another sip of her tea. *Not a hero who frightened the crap out of me while avoiding a crash of the plane and made me angry. I should not have blamed him, it was an accident.*

She gave a heavy sigh. *I’m not angry over what he did, he saved our lives with that heroic effort that has my deep respect.* She began to adore this man.

*His life was a tapestry that I could paint and muse with for years.* She could feel the urge to draw and paint. He was such a large point in her life that he gave her inspiration to draw.

Kaylee sighed. *It’s not fair. I should charge Tom with taking advantage of me while I was wasted. But I thought I knew what I was doing that night. Besides, I love all that Tom has done, even saving us.*

*Love? Oh, Crap.* She began to cry again. She would be out of the mess of it all if she just walked away.

*If I did, me and Tom could date as normal people do and start over. Not this backwards, life-destroying maze of confusion.*

Except, Glenn. She needed to spend time with him and his beautiful eyes. Back to the life that she had dreamed of as a girl in grade school, that life was the one she would live. She enjoyed being married to Tom, still, it was not the life she planned.

What was she thinking? It weighed her down, heavy in the feeling, and still, although it was a burden, it energized her imagination, it gave her wings in her heart. Tom’s bright soul illuminated hers with the urge to begin drawing.

Her fingers began drawing on a paper with a pencil, working feverishly, she decided she needed her sketchpad.

Dr. Manga! She knew she required a good performance in what ever test she would need to pass, even if he had all but promised her a passing grade. She knew her art history backwards and forwards. And yet? A charcoal sketch is always subjective grading.

*Unless I draw like a first year student with crayon, and cannot say the names of Victorian era art, the Headmaster will give it a hight grade.*

Coming out of her funk, Kaylee stood up to find her phone.

*I need to call Melanie.*