Operation: Road Not Taken3
Part 3
Nancy Eddy

Disclaimers in Part 1

"You warm enough up there?" Harm asked as the yellow bi-plane cut through the cold air.

"Yeah!" she called back through the intercom.

"Would you tell me if you weren't?" he questioned, smiling.

"No way!"

"I didn't think so! You ready to take her for a few minutes?" He felt resistance on the controls.


"She's all yours!" Harm said, releasing the controls.

He had known from the first day that Mattie was a natural. She had just the right touch on the controls to make the plane do what she wanted it to. Over the summer, he had arranged for a friend of his who was a flight instructor to give her the lessons she needed to get her pilot's certificate. These flights couldn't be logged as counting toward the hours she needed for that goal, but it was good experience - and something that they both enjoyed doing.

After Mattie brought the aircraft back to earth and taxied it to the hangar, Harm said, "You know, since you're under 'house arrest', we might as well make use of the time by doing some ground school."

"That'd be great," Mattie agreed. "I've studied some of the things we talked about, but I have a few questions -"

"Tell you what, we'll start this evening, okay?" Harm suggested, putting an arm across her shoulders. "And we'll stop on the way home to get some hot cocoa."

"Yeah!" Her smile faltered as she titled her head against his shoulder. "I'm glad you're around, Harm. And I'm really sorry -"

"I know," he told her, turning her into his arms for a hug. "I know, Princess. And I'm sorry I wasn't there when you needed me to be. Sorry I sent you back at all. But at the time, I thought I was doing what was best for you. It was *never* because I didn't want you around." A blast of cold air came around the corner of the hangar, reminding Harm that they needed to get inside. "Come on. I need some heat."

Mattie grinned. "Yeah. I've heard that old people are easily chilled."

"Is that so?" he shot back, grinning as well. "I won't point out that *I'm* not the one dressed up like an Eskimo."


Clay carried the two cups of coffee into the bedroom. Putting one of the cups onto the nightstand, he stood there, watching Jen sleep while he drank the coffee. Her long hair lay across the pillow, and she looked like an angel. He smiled, thinking that she was indeed *his* own, personal angel, saving him from himself and demons that still haunted his nightmares when he was alone. If it hadn't been for Harm's intervention and his meeting Jen, Clay shuddered to think about where he might have ended up. He'd known other agents who had gone down that road, seen where they ended up, and it wasn't a good place to be.

But thanks to the young woman currently sleeping in his bed, he had a second chance. And he wasn't about to screw this one up. Sitting on the edge of the bed, Clay put his cup down beside the other one before leaning over to press a kiss onto Jen's bare shoulder. "Wake up, sleepyhead," he whispered, leaving a trail of kisses from her shoulder to her neck.

"Hmm," Jen murmured, stretching her arms before placing them around his neck. "I wouldn't mind being woken up like that more often."

"I think that could be arranged," he told her, capturing her lips with his. "I made coffee," he told her when the kiss ended.

Jen scooted up to rest against the headboard, the sheet barely covering her bare breasts as she took the cup he handed her and drank from it. "That's just what the doctor ordered," she declared.

Clay retrieved his own cup and sat beside her.

"Why is it that men seem to make coffee so much better than women?" Jen mused aloud.

"Do they?"

"In my experience, they do. Yours, Harm's - Commander Rabb's."

"When did you drink coffee at Harm's?" Clay questioned.

"When Mattie and I were roommates," she explained.

"Oh." He knew she was looking at him and quickly took another drink.

"You don't think - Clay - he's an officer. And - and he's - like my big brother or something. I never -"

He turned to look at her. "Never?"

"Okay, well, I might have had a *tiny* little crush on him for awhile," she confessed. "But it wasn't anything serious, and he never knew about it. You're jealous," she accused.

"Of Harm?" Clay questioned, hoping he sounded sufficiently incredulous. "That'll be the day."

"Well, he *is* good looking," Jen said, running a finger along Clay's arm. "He's a brilliant attorney." Clay put his cup on the nightstand. "And he's a pilot. And he has this way of looking at a person -" He took her cup from her hands and set it down beside his before pulling her into his arms and giving her a kiss that left her limp and gasping.

His eyes on hers, he asked, "What were you saying?"

"I don't remember," she answered.

"Something about - Harm?"

"Harm who?" Jen questioned, pulling him down to her again for another kiss as her hand slipped inside his robe and closed around him.

Deciding that two could play at the game, Clay's hand slid beneath the sheet which had fallen beneath Jen's breasts and glided along her smooth skin to delve into her moist folds. Her body arched toward the touch, revealing her need, and Clay wasn't about to deny her release. Tossing the covers aside, he slipped out of the robe and covered her body with his before rolling them over so that Jen was on top

She quickly took control of the situation, as he'd known she would, straddling his hips and lowering her body onto his. Leaning forward, her hair fell forward to tickle his chest, partially obscuring one of her breasts. When she would have pulled the hair back, Clay's fingers closed around her wrist.

"Don't," he said, and she smiled down at him, lowering her hand so that he could take her hair and wrap it around his own wrist. Using that silken rope, he slowly drew her close, never applying enough pressure to cause pain. Releasing her hair, he gave her a long, leisurely kiss that built in intensity as Jen began to move against him.

Green eyes locked with brown, even when she sat up, bringing his hands to where they were joined, silently asking him to stroke her. Jen's hands left his, sliding up her body, while she drew in a long breath through her teeth, slowly riding him.

Clay groaned loudly when she slipped a finger into her mouth, and withdrew it to circle the dark aureole of her breasts. His own fingers slid into her wet folds, finding the spot that he knew from the night before would send her over the edge. "That's it, baby," he said when the pace of her breathing began to change. "That's it. That's -" Jen's head went back as her orgasm began, her tightening body bringing Clay along over the precipice with her.

Jen collapsed onto his chest, her head resting just under his chin. Neither of them spoke for several minutes as they recovered. Clay smoothed her hair, running his fingers through it with a gentle touch. Finally, he told her, "You're going to wear me out."

"I'm not the one who started it," she pointed out. "Not that I'm complaining."

Clay gave her bottom a light tap. "Come on. We need to get something to eat and then take you home to change clothes before tonight."

Jen didn't move. "I don't want to move yet."

"Neither do I," he agreed, only to sigh regretfully as the telephone rang. Jen reached over and picked it up, giving it to him before putting her head down again. "Hello?"

"Hello, dear," a familiar voice said.

"Mother." He watched as Jen's shoulders started to shake with suppressed laughter. "Did I forget to call you -?" he asked, giving Jen a look of warning as she slid slowly down his body.

"Not at all. I wanted to remind you to invite Jennifer to brunch and to ride with us tomorrow."

"I already have. She'll be there," Clay said, watching as Jen smiled at him. She was kneeling between his legs, stroking him. He closed his eyes, thinking that not seeing her would make it easier to maintain his control so that he could talk to his mother. It was a mistake as he felt something soft and silky surround his hard flesh. Opening his eyes, he saw that Jen had wrapped her long hair around him, leaving only the tip exposed - which she now stroked with her tongue.

His mother was saying something, but Clay had no idea what it was. "I'm sorry, Mother. Can I - can I call you later? I'm in the middle of something -"

"Of course, Clayton," Porter Webb said. "Give Jennifer my love."

It took Clay three tries to press the button on the phone to hang it up before he dropped it onto the bed. "Damn, Jen. That wasn't fair -"

"You want me to stop?" she questioned. "I will -

"No!" he said, and then, in a softer tone. "No. No, keep - keep going," he practically begged, his eyes fluttering closed again when her tongue found him, circling the sensitive tip. "Jen, I'm going to -" was all he managed to say before he came again, opening his eyes once more to see Jen's mouth on him, swallowing quickly.

He reached down as she unwound her hair from him, pulling her back up to give her a kiss, tasting himself on her tongue before settling her into the hollow of his shoulder at his side. "I need to start taking vitamins if I'm going to keep up with you." Spreading her hair across his chest, he said, "Don't ever cut it, Jen. Please?"

"Don't worry. I'm not planning on it. What did your mother want?"

"To remind me to invite you to brunch and to go riding."


"You're lucky I didn't embarrass us both, pulling a stunt like that."

"Are you complaining?" she wanted to know.

"Not in the least." Taking a deep breath, he sat up and pulled her with him. "Go take a shower while I make something for lunch." He got out of bed, retrieving his robe.

"You sure you don't want to join me?" she asked, still sitting on the bed.

He leaned down to kiss her. "If I do, we'll never get over to your place."

"I don't have anything to wear after my shower," she pointed out.

I put your things in the wash earlier. They should be dry by now." He smiled. "Except for the panty hose and that scrap of fabric you call a thong. Both of those were - a little the worse for wear."

"That's because you're such an animal, Clay," she told him, now posing on her hands and knees on the bed, trying to tempt him.

"Because you make me crazy." He nodded toward the bathroom. "Go on."

"Your loss," Jen told him, scrambling off of the bed to go toward the bathroom.

Clay shook his head, going to retrieve her clothes from the dryer and took them to the bedroom where he left them lying neatly on the bed. Hearing the water running through the door, Clay considered joining Jen, and then changed his mind, knowing that he was right: if he did, they'd end up in bed for the rest of the day and he'd end up in trouble with the head of the department for missing a mandatory faculty dinner.

One of them had to be sensible about this - even if he didn't feel like being sensible.


Mac sat at her desk, working on case notes and the myriad of paperwork necessary to being a judge, listening as Harm and Mattie went over weight and balance, navigation, and regs. When she would reveal confusion about something, Harm would quietly and patiently explain the problem, allowing her to form her own answers. It was nice, being here like this, spending time together.

She had filled them in on her concerns about Mrs. Logan, and Mattie had confirmed that Liz had been driving by herself for some time, usually when her mother wasn't able to. She had also admitted that it had been Liz who brought her home that morning, not Mrs. Logan as Harm and Mac had assumed.

Mattie wasn't as sure that Mrs. Logan might be physically abusing Liz, though, insisting that Liz had never mentioned it, and that she'd never seen any signs of bruises. But Mac had pointed out that it wasn't just physical abuse that she was concerned about, and told them both that she was going to contact Gene Logan as soon as possible.

Mattie had accepted that calmly, agreeing that Liz had often mentioned that she missed her dad, and wished he was home more than he had been since 9-11. That statement alone strengthened Mac's resolve to rectify the situation as soon as she possibly could.


Clay was grateful when Jen found a note from her roommate, stating that she was going shopping and that she hoped Jen had enjoyed her night out. "You want something to drink? There are some soft drinks in the fridge," Jen told him.

"I'm fine."

She slid her arms around his neck. "Yeah, you are," she agreed.

Clay's hands were on her hips, fully aware that the only thing covering her at all was the short black skirt. "We'll be late, Jen," he warned, even as his fingers began to pull the material up her skin until they touched bare flesh.

The sound of the freight elevator caused them to move apart, Clay struggling for control and Jen tugging on the bottom of her skirt. "I'll go change," she told him, disappearing into the bedroom just as the front door opened and Mary came in.

She stopped, looking at him and smiling. "Hi."


"I thought that was your BMW down there," she told him, looking around. "Where's Jen?"

"She's - changing clothes."

"Oh." She put the sack she was carrying onto the counter in the kitchen. "Yeah, I guess that outfit she was wearing last night wouldn't do as well for everyday, would it?"

"Depends on what she was going to do everyday I suppose," Clay replied, stuffing his hands into his pockets. He didn't feel comfortable around the blonde - something about her knowing smirk, he supposed. Probably wondering what someone like Jen saw in him, he mused, staring out of the windows at the street below.

The sound of Jen's door opening made him turn around. She was wearing a conservative knee-length black skirt and a light blue button down shirt with a charcoal blazer over it. "Will I do?" she asked. "You said it was informal -"

"It's perfect," he told her.

"Hi, stranger," Mary said, scrutinizing the outfit. "You go from one extreme to the other don't you, Jen?" she asked, shaking her head. "Never a dull moment around here."

Jen met Clay's eyes in silent communication. "I'll be right back." She disappeared again for a moment, reappearing with a sea bag and a garment bag. "I doubt I'll be home until Monday evening, Mary," she announced.

Mary's eyes moved from Jen, to Clay, who had picked up Jen's overcoat and relieved her of the sea bag. "Really? Should I start looking for a new roomie?" she asked.

"Might not be a bad idea," Clay answered, opening the door for Jen to pass through ahead of him.

"Have fun!" Mary called after them. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do."

"Is she always that - offensive?" he asked Jen.

She slipped an arm around through his. "She's jealous."

"Humph," Clay snorted. "Probably thinks I'm a dirty old man," he said, putting the sea bag down just inside the front doors of the building to help Jen with her coat.

"More likely that she thinks I have a sugar daddy," Jen teased. "And wishes she had one, too."

"Is that the reason you're with me?" he asked, turning off the alarm and unlocking the car as they approached it.

"No. I was only teasing, Clay," she said, looking at him, her dark eyes filled with worry. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have -"

"I guess I'm just a little oversensitive," he sighed, opening the back door to put her bag and the garment bag inside while she got into the passenger seat. Joining her, he said, "It didn't help that the kid at the gas station thought you were my daughter. Glancing into the mirror, he asked, "I don't look that old, do I?"

"I thought it was because *I* looked younger than I am," Jen suggested, a smile turning the corners of her mouth up.

"That was it," he nodded, looking at her. "You look like one of my students now," he sighed. "But at least I don't feel like such a cradle robber."

"I don't have to go if you'd rather I didn't, Clay," Jen pointed out.

"I want you to go. I l-like being with you," he finished quickly, hoping she wouldn't notice his hesitation. Lifting her hand to his lips, he placed it on his thigh before starting the car.


As they were leaving after dinner, Dr. Sterling, head of the Poly-Sci Department, pulled Clay aside, his eyes on Jen, who was talking and smiling with Mrs. Sterling. "She's a very intelligent young woman, Clay."

"Yes, sir. She is."

"I'm sure you had doubts as to whether she would fit in -"

"Not a one, sir," Clay said truthfully.

"Well, she does. If I were you, I wouldn't let her get away." He looked again at the two women. "Muriel's several years younger than I am. We've been happily married for ten years. So don't let anyone tell you that May-December relationships won't work."

"Yes, sir. Thank you." He shifted Jen's overcoat in his arms and approached her. "You ready to go?" he asked.

"I think so. Thank you again, Mrs. Sterling."

"Please, Jennifer. Call me Muriel. I hope we'll be seeing you again." She looked at Clay. "We have these dinners every month, Mr. Webb. I look forward to seeing you both next time."

"You will, Mrs. Sterling. Jen?" he said, holding up the coat for her.

Once outside, Jen looked at him. "So, did I do okay?"

"Okay? Jen, honey, you were *fantastic*!" he told her, lifting her off of her feet to whirl her around. "You had everyone in that room eating out of the palm of your hand. Hell, they liked *you* so much that they liked *me*!"

"You're a pretty likeable guy when you relax and forget to be Clayton Webb, ex-spy," she said, lowering her voice and laughing softly when he looked around. "No one overheard," she assured him, aware that everyone here thought he had worked for the State Department, not the CIA. "Actually, make that a pretty 'loveable' guy," she amended, putting her arms around his neck.

Clay went still, looking down at her as she stood between him and the side of the car. "Jen," he whispered, lowering his head to kiss her thoroughly, not caring that they were still in front of Dr. Sterling's house, and in plain view of the front windows. When the kiss ended, he held her close for a long moment before opening the door for her. "Let's go home."


"Have you ever thought about teaching people to fly?" Mac asked Harm later, after Mattie was in bed and they were sitting in the living room before a roaring fire.

"I am. I'm teaching Mattie -"

"No, I mean other people. I mean really teaching them. I was watching you with Mattie earlier. You're a natural, Harm."

"Mac -"

"I mean it. You could probably do it for the Navy -"

"I'm too old to be changing designators again, Mac," he pointed out. "And I have a career, remember?"

"You wouldn't have to give that up - but you yourself said that you were thinking about taking early retirement in a couple of years. You could open a flight school - maybe even a charter service. And if an occasional case came up that you wanted to take, you could."

Harm considered her words. "I guess it could work - I know that Steve out in Leesburg mentioned that he can't keep a good flight instructor around anymore. Most of them are younger and decide to move on to other things."

"So you'll think about it?" she asked.

"Yeah. I'll think about it. It would mean having to get my CFI, but that probably wouldn't be a problem. Right now," he said, turning toward her, "I have something else that I want to think about."

"And just what might that be?" Mac asked, pretending not to know the answer.

"Making love to my wife," he said, pressing her back against the cushions.

Mac glanced toward the entryway. "We can't do this here -"

"Why not?"

"Mattie -"

"Is asleep. And even if she wakes up, she doesn't have any reason to come down here." He traced a line across Mac's collarbone. "She and I had a little talk today on the way home. Laid out some ground rules so that you and I can have time together without her feeling she's in the way." His lips followed the line his fingertips had made, smiling against her skin when her heart began to beat in double-time. "You like that?" he asked.

"Mmm," she sighed, her fingers finding the bottom edge of his shirt and pulling at it.

Harm moved away enough to pull the shirt over his head, then repeated the action to remove Mac's tee shirt. Unable to get comfortable on the sofa, he got up and pulled on Mac's hand, drawing her over to the rug in front of the fire, where they sank to their knees, arms around each other, caught up in their own private world.


Porter Webb still frightened Jen to a degree. It wasn't that the woman was wealthy or powerful, or that she ran in social circles that Petty Officer Jennifer Coates, Rev. Coates' daughter knew about only from the newspapers - it was because she was wholly and completely devoted to her only son. The rest of it Jen could ignore, but the prospect of doing something stupid or making Clay's mother dislike her was a fear that Jen couldn't set aside.

It wasn't as though Mrs. Webb had ever done or said anything to make her feel as though she wasn't welcome or that she disapproved. Jen felt that the woman was too well bred to do something like that. On the contrary, she always seemed to want Jen to feel at home when she and Clay visited the huge house in Great Falls. As a result, Jen felt confused and uncertain whenever she and Clay were there.

Over brunch, Clay and his mother discussed family matters and Clay's job - including what he referred to as "Jen's triumphant evening" at the faculty dinner. Jen was surprised when Porter smiled and said that she wasn't in the least surprised that Clay's co-workers had been won over by such a charming young lady.

After the meal was finished, Porter excused herself to change for riding, making Jen feel out of place because she was dressed in her usual jeans and flannel shirt instead of riding clothes. Clay was wearing jeans as well, but Jen always felt that Porter disapproved of the attire. When Porter returned on *this* morning wearing a pair of blue jeans and a denim shirt, Jen found herself staring in surprise.

Noticing the look, Porter smiled. "I decided it might be best to go with the flow," she explained, slipping her arm through Jen's. "Are we ready?"

"Yes, ma'am," Jen said, giving Clay a worried look, which he merely returned with a surprised look of his own.

As they neared the stables, Porter turned to her. "Jennifer, would you mind going ahead to make sure that Harrison has the horses ready? I need to speak with Clayton for a moment."

*Here it comes*, Jen thought, looking at Clay. Afterward, she wasn't sure where the sudden burst of courage came from, but she heard herself say, "Okay, Mrs. Webb. But first, I think you should know that I - I'm in love with your son. And nothing you say or do is going to change that." Having said the words, Jen turned and moved toward the stable on legs that were shaking so badly she wasn't sure that she would make it inside.

When she did, she leaned against the wall, lifting her eyes toward the ceiling. "Way to go, Jen," she said softly. "Open mouth and insert foot."


Outside, Porter touched her son's arm to get his attention. "You didn't know, did you?"

"Not for certain, no," he said.

"She's a lovely girl. Intelligent, courageous. You're in love with her, too aren't you?"

"Unlike Jen, Mother, I really think that's something I need to tell her first."

"Fair enough. Are you going to marry her?"

"If she'll have me. I'm too old for her."

"Nonsense. I won't let you talk yourself out of this, Clayton. I think she's good for you."

"Tell *her* that. She thinks that you don't like her." The moment he said it, Clay knew he'd made a mistake. The determined look on his mother's face should have warned him.

"I'll do that," Porter decided, and moved away toward the stables.

"Mother -" Clay called softly, knowing it was useless to try and stop her when she made up her mind to do something. All he could do was to follow along and hope things worked out.

Jen was feeding a carrot to the bay mare that she usually rode when she realized that she was no longer alone. "She's a lovely animal," Porter said, rubbing the horse's neck.

"Yes, she is," Jen agreed.

"Did you mean what you said earlier, Jennifer? That you're in love with my son"


"I'm glad. Because I would hate for you to hurt my only son. Jennifer, I know you haven't had the easiest life. But I hope you'll allow Clayton - and me - to try and make some of that up to you if possible by welcoming you into *our* family."

Jen turned to look at Porter Webb as the woman spoke. "I - you don't mind that Clay and I are -"

"I have always only wanted what was best for my son, Jennifer. And I believe that to be you. Just between you and me, my son has always been a bit of 'stick in the mud'," she said. "Far too serious for his own good. I blame his father for dying when Clayton was so young for part of that; and myself, for not being the warm, loving mother that he needed during that time. I believe that you're slowly managing to change that. To bring him out of himself. And you might even teach me a thing or two as well," she suggested. "Heaven knows, these clothes are *much* more comfortable than my usual riding clothes."

"I'm - I'm not sure what to say, Mrs. Webb -"

"Oh, please, dear. Call me Porter. For now, at least." She took Jen's hand. "Clayton?"

He appeared from the other side of the horse. "I'm here, Mother," he said, eyeing Jen uncertainly.

Porter placed Jen's hand into his. "Since the two of you have some things that you need to talk about, I believe I'll forgo riding this morning."

"Mother -"

"You don't have to -"

"I think I do. And as I'm sure my son will tell you, I'm not a person to be argued with." She touched each of their cheeks, telling Clay, "Behave yourself," before leaving the stables.

Clay stood there watching as Jen pretended an intense interested in the saddle cinch. "So," he said. "Did you mean it?" he asked. Jen looked at him. "About being in love with me?" She turned back to the horse, nodding her head without speaking.

"That's good to know - since I happen to be in love with you," he told her, grunting as she turned and threw herself into his arms. "You really want to take a chance on a washed up old man?" he asked her.

"You're not old. Or washed up. You're wonderful."

"Was that yes?"

"Yes," she said. "Yes, yes, yes!"

Clay swung her around, startling the horse, causing the animal to skitter sideways. But neither of them noticed when Clay pulled her to him, kissing her, burying his fingers into her braided hair. "You still want to go riding?" he asked.

"Not really."

"Good. Because I need to get something from Mother at the house."

"What?" she asked as he pulled her hand, bringing her with him.

"You'll see."

When they entered the house, Clay called, "Mother?"

"In the sitting room, dear," she replied, smiling at them as they joined her, Jen's hand still in Clay's.

"Mother, I -"

Porter rose from the sofa where she'd been sitting. "It's on the table there, there, Clayton. I'm going to ask Markov to make some tea for us."

"What's on the table," Jen asked him as Porter left the room.

Clay pulled her across the room and picked something up from the table in front of the sofa. "This," he said, holding up the largest diamond ring that Jennifer had ever seen in her entire life outside of the movies or TV.

"Is that what I *think* it is?"

Clay took her left hand in his. "Jennifer Coates, would you do the honor of agreeing to become my wife?"

"I thought I already answered that question, Clay," she told him.

"Mother's a bit of a traditionalist," he answered. "Well?" he asked, the ring hovering somewhere between on and off her finger.

"Yes. I'll marry you. Although I'm beginning to think I've gone totally crazy -" she gasped as he slipped the ring onto her finger. "It fits," she told him. "How -?"

"Pure luck," Clay told her, lifting the hand to his lips before giving her a kiss. "You won't regret it, Jen. I promise."

"Of course she won't," Porter said as she returned. "Because if you ever do anything to make her regret it, she knows that you'll have to answer to me." She gave Jen a brief embrace before repeating the action with Clay. "I don't suppose you've considered a date?"

"We've only just decided to get married at all, Mother," Clay pointed out. "I can't take much time off right now - and Jen's time off is dependent on the Navy."

Porter looked at Jen. "You intend to remain in the Navy, Jennifer?"

"For the time being, ma'- Porter," Jen said.

"I don't expect Jen to give up the Navy, Mother," Clay pointed out.

"I simply asked a question, Clayton," Porter replied as Markov entered with the silver tea service, placing it on the table in front of his employer. "Thank you, Markov."

"Will there be anything else, Mrs. Webb?" he asked.

"I think that will be all for the moment."

After pouring the tea, Porter relaxed slightly. "Do you intend to make a career out of the Navy, Jennifer?" she asked.

"I haven't decided yet, ma'-Porter," Jen stated. "I have another two years on my current enlistment."

Porter sighed. "Two years. I suppose that means that I'll have to wait at least that long for a grandchild."

Clay choked on his tea. "Mother -"

But Jen wasn't intimidated in the least. "Once Clay and I discuss it, we'll let you know," was her response, and Clay was surprised when his mother seemed to accept that statement and dropped the subject.

He had a feeling that this was going to be a *very* long day.


Clay tangled his fingers in Jen's long hair, wrapping it loosely around his wrist as they lay together, her head on his chest and one long leg between his. "Don't let Mother push you into anything concerning the wedding, Jen," he said. "If it's left up to her, she'll invite all of Washington and half of the East Coast."

"It's only to be expected," Jen pointed out. "You're her only son. But I'll to keep it from getting too out of hand."

His hand slid down to cup her hip. "There's something else we haven't discussed. Mother mentioned it, but -"

Now Jen lifted her head to look at him. "She wants a grandchild," she stated. "And I can understand that. Continuing the family name and all."

"Do you want children?"

"Yes," she answered without hesitation. "As long as they're yours."

He smiled. "That's good to know. We've got plenty of time to think about it," he said. "It's not as though we have to make any decisions now."

"What if I *want* to make that decision now?" Jen questioned, moving so that she was laying on top of him, grinding her body into his.

Releasing her hair, Clay groaned, burying his face in her neck. "You don't want to wait to start a family?"

"We can wait until after the wedding," she told him continuing to move against him. "But after that -"

He struggled to maintain the conversation as his body responded to the feel of hers. "Wh-What about the Navy?"

"I can have a baby and still be in the Navy," she assured him.

A sudden image of Jen carrying his child appeared to Clay, and he smiled at her. "How do you feel about big families?" he asked.

She returned the smile. "I hated being an only child, wished I had brothers and sisters."

"So did I," he confessed. "How many?" he continued, his hands on Jen's breasts as she sat up, straddling him.

Jen leaned forward. "Why don't -" she paused to kiss him, "we just" another kiss, "see what happens?" She sat up again, raising up on her knees and lowering herself onto him, and Clay stopped thinking at all . . .


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