1100 Hours Local
Dark, smoky bar
He finished the drink and signaled for another, his eyes glued to the television screen in the corner. The news was on, a report about a murder aboard a US Navy ship - and the heroic resolution of that case by a Navy JAG lawyer - Commander Harmon Rabb, Jr.
"Damn, he's good looking," a woman sitting nearby commented with a long sigh.
He turned to see her eyes on the screen, taking in the smiling image of Rabb as he got out of the Hornet he'd been flying. The reporter droned on about how Rabb had been flying as the murderer's wingman when he'd made the connection and had forced the other aircraft down after the guilty party had taken a shot at Rabb's aircraft - which, of course, Rabb had deftly evaded.
The murderer was now in custody, awaiting transfer to the States for trial - and Rabb was a hero. Again.
His lips curled in disgust and anger. The man was so damn perfect. Someone needed to bring him down a notch or two. Make him suffer a little. The way he'd made others around him suffer.
"Too bad he's off the market," the woman's companion noted.
He went still, listening as the two women continued to talk.
"I have a friend who works in Washington and does a little business with JAG on occasion. The Commander's practically engaged to a Marine Lt. Colonel that he works with."
Slapping some cash down on the counter, he got up and walked away. It was time to do something. And he was just the man to get it done
0215 Hours Local
One Week Later
Gaining access to the apartment was surprisingly easy. Once inside, he stood in the darkness, lost in the memory of other times for a moment before he recalled his reason for being there. Moving toward the bedroom, he entered and stood beside the bed, looking down at her.
God, she was still beautiful. A dark haired, dark eyed angel. Her hair was longer, spread out across the pillow like a dark curtain. She was hugging a pillow to her, and he could smell the familiar aftershave that Rabb wore even from here.
He'd known they were sleeping together - it was one of the things that he'd picked up since getting to Washington. And it was the reason he'd deliberately put this off until he'd known that Rabb was out of town on an investigation. No chance that he'd be here.
He reached out, wanting to touch her face - and pulled back at the last moment, fearful of waking her before it was time. What he wanted most of all was to lie with her again - to feel her body moving against his, to be one with her.
It *would* happen. Once he'd removed the only thing that stood between them. The one thing that had caused the collapse of all of his hopes and dreams. Taking a cloth out of his pocket, he sprayed the contents of the bottle he'd also kept there onto the cloth.
The sound caused her to stir, but before she could turn around, he pressed the cloth against her face, ignoring her struggles to free herself - and the look of surprise in her dark eyes when she saw his face. "Don't fight it, Sarah," he whispered. "I don't want to hurt you. You're too important to me for that." Slowly the ether had its desired effect and her hand fell limply to the bed, her eyes closing as she lost the battle and fell into a drug-induced sleep.
"I'd never hurt you, Sarah, love," he swore. "I need you. You're going to be the bait in my trap - and once I'm done doing what I must, we'll be together, just as we always should have been." He noticed the photograph of Sarah and Rabb sitting on the nightstand, and picked it up with his gloved hand, studying it before dropping it to the floor and deliberately stepping on it, breaking the glass over Rabb's face and grinding his heel into it.
Leaning over Sarah's prone form, he placed a piece of paper on the pillow beside her head before lifting her into his arms. "Time to go, Sarah," he said.
Harm was glad that the investigation was over. It meant that he and Lt. Jason Tiner would be leaving soon to return to Washington. "It'll be good to get home, won't it, sir?" the young man asked.
"Yeah," Harm agreed, wondering why he had just felt a chill along his spine. The small room felt cold, as if the temperature had dropped ten degrees.
"You okay, sir," Jason asked, looking concerned. "Commander?"
Harm blinked, noticing Jason's worried expression. "Sorry, Jason. I guess I'm a little tired. I'm going to go stretch my legs," he said, standing up.
"I can finish the report if you'd like, Commander, so that you can call Colonel Mackenzie and let her know we'll be leaving soon," he offered with a knowing grin.
"You see entirely too much, Lieutenant," Harm pointed out, but he was smiling. "Keep up the good work. See you in a few."
He made his way to a relatively quiet area of the ship and found a phone where he could place a ship to shore call, giving Mac's number. When it wasn't answered immediately, Harm started to frown. Mac wasn't a sound sleeper - even now, still in therapy, she still tended to suffer from insomnia - unless Harm was with her. The machine finally picked up. "Leave a message. I'll call when I can."
"Hey, Mac, it's me. We're finished here - we'll be catching the COD within the hour. I should be home by this time tomorrow night. I miss you," he added, mentally calculating the time difference. It early Saturday morning in DC. Too early for her to have gone out for morning run, surely. Especially in the weather they were having back there. "I'll try to call before we leave."
Harm hung up the phone and stood there for several minutes, trying to remember what he'd felt a few minutes ago. Cold. Fear. If it wasn't the middle of the night in DC, he'd have called Bud and Harriet, and asked them to go over and make sure that Mac was okay.
She'd probably just turned off the ringer to keep from being woken up, he told himself, deciding that he was being overly imaginative. He was tired. Maybe he was getting to damn old to be running around aircraft carriers doing these investigations. Or doing his quals. He'd done them this trip - but it was getting more and more difficult to keep up the pace.
Instead of going back to his and Tiner's quarters, he went up to the weather deck to watch night ops, hoping it would soothe his troubled mind. But he found himself missing Mac being there to watch the jets taking off and landing. Hell, he just missed *her*. Tiner was good at his job, but he wasn't Mac.
Just before the COD was due to take off, Harm placed another call. This time, it would have been just after dawn in DC. But there was still no answer other than the machine, and Harm left a second message. "Mac, where are you? I'm getting worried here. Jason and I are about to leave on the COD. I'll see you as soon as I get home." He waited a second, and seriously considered making a call to the Roberts, knowing that they would be up by this time - but Jason appeared in the doorway.
"They're ready to take off, sir," he said.
"Right behind you," Harm said, grabbing his gear and following the young officer through the ship and out onto the deck.
"Is everything okay, Commander?" Jason asked over the sound of the COD's engines once they had been catapulted from the deck.
"Yeah," Harm said. "Everything's fine." He just wished that he believed what he was saying.
Mac had woken to darkness, realizing quickly that she was blindfolded. She was tied in a chair of some kind, her arms and legs bound. Her last memory was of waking up and seeing someone bending over her bed in the darkness, holding a cloth over her mouth and nose.
Ether. He'd used ether to put her to sleep. And his voice - she thought she'd recognized the voice, but she couldn't have. It wasn't possible for him to do something like this. Yes, he'd been borderline manipulative at times, and when he'd had a few drinks tended to be aggressive, but this - this was insane.
Checking her internal clock, she was relieved to discover that it was functioning. It had been five hours and fifty-six minutes since she'd been kidnapped.
Moving her hands, she tested the ropes that bound her to the chair, finding them too tight for her to work loose. She was worried about what Harm might do when he got home and found her gone.
The sound of a door opening caused her to become still, listening. Footsteps. "Hello?" There was no response, but she could feel him close by. "I know you're here. You might as well talk."
She felt the edge of something against her lips, and shook her head, refusing to let him give her something else to make her sleep. She felt cold liquid spill down over her chin and onto her chest, leaving her tee shirt wet and clammy against her skin. A hand grabbed her nose, forcing her to open her mouth after a moment in order to breathe, and she tasted water. Unless there was something tasteless mixed with it, it seemed safe enough to drink it. A hand patted her shoulder in silent approval of her action as she sipped the water while he tipped the liquid into her mouth.
Once she had finished drinking, she said, "Why are you doing this?" Still nothing. "Talk to me! I have a right to know why you're doing this to me." She refused to let him know how frightened she was. If she was wrong - if she'd misheard the voice - this could be one of Sadik's people. Or anyone from her past with a grudge because she'd put him into prison.
"Please. Tell me why you're doing this," she said in a soft voice.
A hand touched her cheek, caressing it in a soft, gentle touch, perhaps meant to reassure her, and then she felt him move away before the door closed again.
Even knowing that it was futile, Mac strained against the ropes at her wrists, desperate to free herself, her thoughts on Harm again, wondering how long it would be before he'd be home. When they had talked on Friday night, he'd said that the investigation was almost over and that he and Jason would be heading home soon. But he wasn't sure exactly when that might happen.
"Harm," she whispered, concentrating her thoughts on him, hoping that their 'connection' worked in both directions.
0100 Hours Local
Harm let himself into Mac's apartment using his key, listening for any sign that something was wrong. The room was silent - and he noticed the light on the answering machine blinking, giving silent testimony to his two phone calls, as well as two more. Frowning, Harm went toward the bedroom, worried about what he might find.
When he realized that she wasn't in the bed, Harm frowned, his worry deepening. "Mac?" he called, glancing toward the bathroom - and took a step in that direction. Feeling something beneath his foot in the dark shadow of the bed, Harm bent to pick up the framed photograph of himself and Mac, taken at AJ's fifth birthday party six months ago. The glass was broken and from the looks of it, had been stepped on directly over the image of his face in the photograph, as though the person who had done it had been deliberately trying to remove him from the picture.
Turning on the light, Harm saw the slip of paper on the pillow and picked it up by one corner, reading it. "If you call the police, you'll never see Sarah alive again. Call her cell phone to let me know you're back. I'll be in touch." It had been printed on a computer printer - not a typewriter. And Harm doubted there would be any fingerprints other than his on the paper. But he dropped the paper back onto the bed and backed away, going back out into the living room.
There, he picked up the phone to dial Mac's cell phone, and *someone* answered. But there was no sound except for someone breathing on the other end.
The line was answered, but there was no sound - expect for the sound of someone's breathing as they listened. "Hello? You said to call and let you know that I'm here," he said, hoping that whoever it was would respond. That if Mac had answered and was hurt, she'd find a way to communicate something to him through the connection. The only thing Harm could think about was that someone from Sadik's organization had come back to exact revenge for Mac having killed him.
But if that was the case, they wouldn't have kidnapped her. He would have found her here, dead. "I know someone's there. I can hear you breathing. If you hurt Mac -. Whatever you want, I'll get it for you - just let her go."
The connection went dead, and Harm slammed the phone down in frustration. No police. He wasn't going to risk Mac's life by calling them. But he needed help. He couldn't involve Bud - and he knew that Sturgis was with Verese in Chicago for the weekend.
Whoever had done this had done their homework - they had known exactly when to strike for maximum effect. That told Harm that they had some kind of training. Possibly access to military information. And that led him back to Sadik's organization.
It was times like this that he missed having Webb around to get information from the Company without raising any flags.
He forwarded Mac's phone to his cell, and then left the apartment long enough to make sure that Mac's Vette was still in the parking garage a block down the street. It was. So whoever took her must have had another means of transport. Turning his steps back toward the apartment, he tried to think what his next move should be.
Tomorrow, he'd ask around, see if any of Mac's neighbors saw or heard anything over the last two days - including the last time any of them saw Mac herself. He'd call Mattie; let her know he was home, find out how she was doing. Right now, he was almost relieved that she was back with her father - if she'd been with Mac when whoever did this had come in -
Harm sat down heavily on the sofa as he entered the apartment, closing his eyes, putting his head back for a moment. He hadn't slept on the COD home - and that meant over twenty-four hours that he'd gone without sleep. Once, early in the flight, he'd thought he'd heard Mac's voice saying his name. It had made sleeping more impossible than it would have been anyway. Going to the bedroom, he looked around for any sign that Mac's kidnappers had taken anything else. The only thing out of place was that photograph of the two of them.
Whoever had done this was gunning for him, and he was using Mac as the bait for his trap. Harm sat on the edge of the bed and opened the nightstand, digging to the back of the drawer to find Mac's service weapon that she kept there. She had started putting it there after the mess with Sadik. Whenever Little AJ had come over, she would put it into a locked box in the closet. But when she was here alone at night, it was close at hand.
Harm checked the weapon's clip, and slid it back home with a satisfying 'click'.
Mac thought she'd heard her cell phone ringing, but as close as she'd listened, she hadn't heard her kidnapper say anything when the ringing had stopped. He'd come in several times to give her more water and once to untie her legs and hands and lead her into a bathroom to relieve herself, pressing the barrel of a weapon against her cheek to let her know that if she removed the blindfold or tried to run, he'd probably shoot her before she got ten feet away.
Even then, once she heard the door to the small room close behind her, she had considered taking the chance. If he was alone, she might be able to overpower him. Once finished, Mac called, "Okay," and heard the door open, then felt his hand on her arm again, guiding her back to the chair.
"You can't leave the blindfold on forever," she had told him, but silence remained.
Now, after hearing the phone ringing, Mac waited, listening, sensing somehow that it had been a signal. A moment later, she heard the door open again, and felt her kidnapper's approach. He moved behind her, his hands at the back of her head.
The blindfold fell away, and Mac realized that the room was dimly lit - the only light, in fact, came from the open doorway into the room where her kidnapper had been staying. That man came around to kneel before her, smiling.
"Hello, Sarah," he said, a hand moving up to cup her cheek.
But this time, Mac pulled her face away from him. "Mic." So she *had* been right about the voice. "Why are you doing this?"
"It was the only way, Sarah. We belong together. We've always belonged together. If it wasn't for him, we'd have gotten married and been happier than two people had a right to be."
She could hear a frightening undercurrent in his tone - a thread of insanity that showed in the unusual brightness of his eyes. "Mic, please. Let me go. We'll get you some help -"
He touched her face again. "The only help I need is to have you with me, love. Where you belong. Only that can't happen as long as he's around."
Mac felt chilled - and it had nothing to do with the cool temperature of the dark room. "Mic, what are you saying?"
"There's only one way to make sure that he can't hurt us ever again, Sarah. You know that. He has to be taken out of the picture."
"Mic," she said. "Mic, no. If you let me go, I'll go back to Australia with you. I'll never see him again."
"But don't you see, Sarah?" he asked. "You won't be able to help yourself. As long as he's alive, you'll think of him, want to be with him instead of me. I can't have that. I want you all to myself, the way it should be. The way we were meant to be."
"We will be," she insisted. "Mic, if you kill him, I won't go with you. You'll have to kill me, too."
"Kill you? I could never do that, Sarah," he said in a soft, distant tone. "You're the most important thing in my life. The only woman I've ever really loved. And I know you love me, Sarah. If it hadn't been for his hold on you, you'd have married me three years ago. Do you have any idea how much I hoped they wouldn't find him when he went down? Or that if they did find him, it would be too late?"
Mac pulled away, horrified at the idea. "Mic, I can't believe -"
"I didn't let on because I knew it would upset you and all the others holding their vigil for him. But I kept hoping that he'd be gone, out of our lives so that you could finally move past him and spend the rest of your life with someone who loved you enough to do anything for you."
"If you mean that, then you'll let me go and you won't hurt Harm," Mac insisted.
"Except for that. Oh, I'll let you go. Once it's done and you realize that I'm the one you've loved all this time, not him. He's like some bloody wizard, Sarah. He cast a spell over you to keep you bound to him and the only way to break that spell is for him to die."
"Why bring me here?" Mac asked. "Why not just kill him and then come back into my life?"
"Because I wanted you to know what I was willing to do to have you, Sarah. I gave up my career. I moved around the world, and it wasn't enough. Maybe seeing me get rid of the one thing that stands between us will be the proof of my love for you that you'll finally be able to understand."
Mac's eyes widened. "It was him on the phone earlier, wasn't it? He's back in Washington and knows I've been kidnapped."
"I always knew you were smart, Sarah, love," Mic said. He took out the cell phone and found her home number. "I want you to talk to him. Tell him to come to you."
"I won't do it," she declared. "I won't be a party to your murdering Harm in cold blood, Mic."
"Fine. He'll probably come more quickly if he hears my voice anyway." He pressed the button on the phone, sending the call over the network.
Harm jerked awake as the phone began to ring. Grabbing his cell, he glanced at the caller ID, and noted Mac's cell number. "Mac?" he said.
"Sorry, Rabb. She's a bit - tied up at the moment. I suppose that means you'll have to deal with me."
Harm's blood ran cold as he recognized the voice. "Brumby. So help me, if you've hurt her -"
"She's fine, Rabb," Mic assured him. "Believe me, the last thing I want to do is to hurt Sarah. The two of us have been having a nice reunion, getting to know each other again."
"He's lying Harm!" Mac yelled. "Don't do what he says!"
"Mac!" Harm called back, gripping the phone so tightly that his knuckles were white. "What do you want, Brumby?" he wanted to know, although he had his suspicion about the answer.
"I'll let you know when the time is right. Until then, I'll make certain that Sarah's well taken care of. She's not your responsibility anymore, Rabb. She's mine. She should have been mine for the last three years. She would have been if you'd died at sea as I'd hoped you would. Don't try to find us. And I won't answer the phone again, so don't try to call back."
The line went dead. "Brumby!" Harm said, knowing it was useless. Closing the phone with a loud 'snap', he ran a hand over his face, trying to wipe away the exhaustion and worry.
Brumby had Mac. The Australian had finally snapped and was playing some kind of dangerous game, probably with the intention of getting Harm out of the way so that he would have Mac all to himself.
"Mac, I'll get you out," he promised softly. "Somehow. I'll get you out of this."
Mac watched as Mic turned the phone off and returned it to his pocket. "What now?" she asked. "Why not get it over with?"
"Because it's not time yet. You're not ready."
"I think you need a reminder of why you and I were so good together, Sarah," he said, moving closer, his breath hot against her skin as he spoke close to her cheek.
His lips closed over hers, ignoring her attempt to refuse his kiss. Her mouth remained stubbornly closed until his hands found her breasts, squeezing them, forcing her to gasp from the pain he inflicted on her body. Taking advantage of the opening, he deepened the kiss, searching familiar places with his tongue before leaving a trail of kisses down her neck, stopping at a spot that he remembered had always made her practically melt into his arms.
"Mic, stop," she begged. "Stop it."
He smiled up at her, his fingers finding the hem of her tee shirt and lifting it over her breasts to rest his fingers against her skin. His eyes went to her breasts, drinking in the sight of them. "You know you don't really want me to, Mac. Sex was always good between us, wasn't it, love?"
"Yes, it was," she agreed. "But I don't love you, Mic. I'm sorry, but I don't. And I won't have sex with you now."
"You'll change your mind," he said with confidence. "I know you, remember?" he said, his fingers sliding up to circle her breasts, causing the nipples to harden even further in the chilly air. Leaning forward, he sucked first one, then the other into his mouth, as Mac tried in vain to get away from him.
But the way he had her trussed up on the chair, she had no leverage. Her feet were tied up to the sidebars - away from the floor, and if she pushed the chair back with her weight, her hands would be crushed since they were tied behind her. "Mic, please. Don't do this. If you do, I'll never be able to be with you. I'll always remember that you forced me to do this. That you *raped* me," she told him.
"It won't be rape, Sarah," he promised. "You want me. I can tell by the way your body is responding to my touch that you want me the way you always did."
"My body's response isn't to you. It would respond that way to any man who was doing what you're doing," she reminded him, gasping in shock as she felt his hands on her thighs, moving toward their apex, sliding beneath the wide legs of the running shorts that she had worn to bed. "It's over, Mic," she insisted. "Let me go. You need help -"
His eyes flashed dangerously as he shot to his feet. "The only help I need is you, Sarah," he told her, and Mac's eyes widened when she saw him slowly unzip his trousers to take out his cock. He straddled the chair, tapping her cheek with the head of his cock, running the leaking tip over her tightly closed lips. "Suck my cock, Sarah. You're so good at it. I've never found anyone else who could do it the way you do." She sat there; her mouth closed and her jaws tight, glaring up at him. "I bet you've sucked Harm's cock, haven't you? Given him the same pleasures that you gave me." His hand reached up to grab a handful of her hair, twisting it around his wrist, pulling it.
Mac's eyes started to water at the pain, but she still refused to open her mouth. But when his fingers closed over her nose, Mac realized that she was going to have to open her mouth to breathe, and waited as long as she could before doing so.
Instantly, Mic's cock slipped into her mouth and she gagged as it hit the back of her throat. "Ohh, yeah, Sarah. Your mouth feels so bloody - Shit!" he yelped, backing away, holding his cock. "You bloody bitch!" he yelled at her. "You bit me!" he backhanded her, leaving Mac shaking her head, stunned for a moment by the force of the blow.
Instantly, he was on his knees in front of her again, his look apologetic. "I'm sorry, Sarah," he said. "I'm sorry. I don't want to hurt you, love, but if you insist on acting this way, I'll have no choice."
"Then you might as well kill me, Mic, because I'm not going to have sex with you or do anything else of my own free will. Not as long as I'm tied up and being forced to do it."
"Sorry, love. The first thing you'd do would be to run away and get to him. I can't let that happen. Do you want to know why?"
"Because you're insane?" she suggested, tasting the blood from the inside of her cheek.
"No. Because you're going to be the bait that lures him into my trap. But I might be willing to reconsider if -"
"If?" Mac repeated, knowing what he was going to say before he said it.
"If you agree to give me a chance to show you how good it still is between us. To let me remind you how good I could make you feel. Let me make love to you again, Sarah," he said, caressing the cheek that he'd hit moments ago.
Mac was tempted to say yes, but she somehow knew that he wasn't going to turn away from his goal for any reason. Not even to have sex with her.
His hands were on her breasts again, drawing a physical response from her traitorous body. "Please, Mac. Let me show you how much I love you. How sorry I am for hurting you. But you brought it on yourself, love."
"It was *my* fault that you *hit* me?" she questioned. Realizing how close she'd come to marrying someone with the same potential for violence as her father had had was frightening.
"You bit me," he reminded her. "When all I wanted to do was make you remember how good it can be."
"Let me go, Mic," she begged again. "Before this goes any further. Please."
"I'm sorry, Sarah," he said, running the back of his fingers across her nipples. "I can't do that. Not yet." He grinned as Mac's skin erupted in goose bumps.
0500 Hours Local
Harm paced the living room for the hundredth time, glaring at the cell phone that sat on the coffee table, willing it to ring.
He had taken a quick shower and changed into civvies, and had fixed a pot of coffee. Not that he needed the caffeine. He was running on pure adrenalin as it was, unable to sit for more than a few moments before standing up to pace the room as he was doing now.
"Come on, Brumby. *Call* damn you," he muttered, half under his breath. Imagining what the crazed Aussie might be doing to Mac was making Harm restless and jumpy.
When his phone rang again, Harm had it open and to his ear before the tone ended. "Brumby, it's time to end this."
"I agree, Rabb," Brumby said smoothly. "Sarah has something she wants to tell you."
"Then let me talk to her."
"No. In person would be better. The start of the running trail at Rock Creek Park. Fifteen minutes. And if I see anyone except for you - anyone who so much as *looks* like police or FBI - you'll never see Sarah again."
"Brumb-" the line was dead, the connection severed.
Harm closed the phone and put it into his pocket. Checking the weapon again, Harm stuffed it into the top of his jeans in the small of his back before grabbing his coat and leaving the apartment.
0515 Hours Local
Rock Creek Park
Mac sat in the front seat of the small sedan, her hands still bound tightly behind her back. "Why am I here, Mic?" she asked. "Why do you need me to watch you do this?"
"I told you, love, you're the bait."I need you. You see, Rabb wouldn't come to meet just me. But he'll come if he thinks he's saving you." He reached over to lay a finger aside her bruised cheek. "Harmon Rabb can't resist playing the hero and saving the damsel in distress."
Mac knew that he was right. Harm had proved that he would do whatever it took to save her last year in Paraguay. She knew that she had to try once more to stop this before Mic forced her to sit here and watch helplessly while he killed Harm. "Please, Mic. Don't do this. You don't have to. We can go away together. I'll tell Harm that it was a mistake. That I'm in love with you," Mic," she said. "Please. For me?"
He smiled at her, leaning across the seat to capture her lips with his, delving into her mouth with his tongue. "We'll go away," he promised. "But I can't leave this unfinished, Sarah. I'd never be sure that you were with me because you love me or whether you were there only to save his life." He produced a strip of cloth and tied it around her face, using it as a gag. "Sorry, love, but can't have you warning him. You just sit here and watch. You'll see soon exactly how much I love you. You'll understand once he's gone and you're no longer under that spell he's cast over your heart."
Mic was so locked into his fantasy world that Mac realized she was never going to be able to stop him. He got out of the car as she tried to talk through the gag, but all she could do was grunt and groan at him.
"This won't take long, Sarah," he promised. "And then we'll be together forever."
There was something about the way he said the words, about the look in his eye that caused Mac to shiver again in the artificial heat of the car's interior. She watched as he moved from the car over to a bench near the head of the running trail that she and Harm frequently used. A moment later, she watched with a feeling of intense dread as Harm appeared on the path.
"I knew you'd show up, mate," Mic said, facing Harm.
"Where's Mac?" Harm asked him.
"Sarah asked me to extend her apologies, Rabb. She can't face you after spending the last few hours in my arms." He saw the insane smile appear on the other man's face. "It was as though we'd never been apart. I left her sleeping in bed. She's finished with you. Time to let her go."
"To you? Never, Brumby. You're the one who needs to let her go."
"You don't get it, do you, Rabb? You don't have any choice in the matter. You're the reason she backed off last time. If you had died in the ocean, things would have been much easier. Sarah would have mourned you and then turned to me, accepted the love I have for her. But you survived and ended up ruining my life. You have to pay for that."
"You're the one that walked away last time, Brumby. Walk away again."
"I can't. I'm in love with her, Rabb. You only want her as another trophy. Another woman you've bedded and left when you got bored. There's only one way to end your control over her -" he lifted a weapon, pointing it directly at Harm's chest.
Mac saw Mic's arm come up in the early morning light and panicked, trying to come up with some way to stop this before he could carry out his plan. Looking around the car's interior, her eyes fell on the button on the steering wheel for the horn.
Scooting over in the seat, she leaned over and used her chin to press that button.
Hearing the sound of a car horn startled Mic into looking away just long enough for Harm to rush the other man, both of them ending up on the ground, Mic's gun flying out of reach.
Mac watched through the windshield as they struggled, and her eyes widened as she saw another gun appear in Mic's hand as he pushed Harm to the ground and rose to his feet in one easy motion. Using his knuckles, he wiped the blood away from his mouth. "You still pack a mean punch, Rabb," he commented. "But it's time to end this." He took aim and his finger was tightening on the trigger when another voice rang out.
"Drop the weapon, Brumby!"
Mac took a deep sigh of relief upon seeing AJ Chegwidden emerge from the nearby wooded area, a gun in his hand. Mic's arm never wavered, and she saw him shake his head, refusing to give up.
"Don't make me shoot you, Mic," AJ called out.
"You might as well do it, Admiral. But can you do it before I put a bullet through Rabb's heart?" he questioned.
"I'll ask once more, Mic. Drop the weapon and put your hands over your head.
Harm waited until Mic's eyes moved from him to AJ, and then made his move, rolling to his side and swinging his leg around, sweeping Mic's legs out from under him, sending him to the ground, knocking the air out of his lungs.
Harm grabbed the gun that lay beside Brumby and pointed it at the man while AJ joined them. "He's not going anywhere for a few minutes, Harm," AJ said, placing his hand over the ones that held the gun.
"I was beginning to think you weren't going to get here, AJ," Harm said.
"I probably wouldn't have if I hadn't heard that car horn." He nodded toward the car. "Go make sure she's all right. I'll keep an eye on him and call the police."
Harm stuffed the gun back into the small of his back as he moved quickly toward the car and tried to open the door. It was locked. Inside, he could see Mac, trussed up and gagged with her eyes on his. She managed to turn sideways in the seat and flipped the switch on the door to disengage the lock, and nearly fell out into Harm's arms when he opened it.
He ripped the gag from her mouth, holding her. "Are you all right?" he asked.
"I think so," she told him as he began untying the ropes at her wrists and ankles.
She was shivering with cold, and Harm quickly pulled off his jacket to place it around her shoulders. "Thank God. I was so worried -" he looked at her cheek. "What happened -?"
"It was nothing," she insisted. "I - I fell down -"
"Mac, he hit you. I can see the marks -"
The sound of police sirens reached them, growing closer with each second, and Mac gave silent thanks as she rested against his chest. "It will heal. Everything's fine now, Harm," she said. "Let it go. He can't hurt us anymore."
Harm wrapped his arms around her and held on as tight as he could. "No. No, he can't," he agreed.
0900 Hours Local
"You're sure you're okay, Mac?" AJ asked as he put on his coat in preparation to leave.
"I'm fine, AJ," she assured him. "Thank you again. If Harm hadn't called you -"
"You're the one who helped me find the right spot. If you hadn't thought to honk that horn, things might have turned out differently."
"Thank anyway," Mac said.
"Thanks, AJ," Harm agreed, going to the door with him.
"It was my pleasure. I figure I owe you both. You take care of her, Harm."
"I will, sir," Harm assured him, closing the door behind his former commanding officer before turning back to where Mac was laying on the sofa, wrapped in a blanket.
"When did you call him?" Mac asked.
"Right after Brumby called me the first time," he explained. "He said no police. He never said anything about ex-Navy SEALs. I couldn't call Bud - and Sturgis was out of town, so AJ was the only one left *to* call. I figured it wouldn't hurt to have someone watching my back since I really didn't think he would bring you to the meeting." He sat on the edge of the sofa. "When I got home and realized you'd been kidnapped, Mac -"
"I know," she acknowledged, covering his hands with hers. "All I could think about was how you'd react. Whether you'd think I just left without any explanation -"
"I wouldn't have thought that." He touched her cheek. "Mac, did he -?"
"No," she answered. "He tried. But I wasn't very cooperative."
"Which explains this," he nodded, wincing at the darkening bruise.
"I can't believe that I misjudged him so horribly. How did I miss the signs that he was capable of something like that? You'd think that having grown up with my father, I would have been able to see it -"
"I don't know," Harm said honestly. Privately, he'd always seen the violence lurking just beneath the surface of the other man. But he'd never said anything to Mac about it, believing that she saw it as well and believing that Brumby would never lift a hand to Mac. "Maybe you were blinded by your feelings for him." His eyes fell to the pattern of the blanket, unable to meet Mac's.
"Or maybe I was blinded by what I *thought* I felt for him," Mac corrected. "Harm." When he didn't look at her, she placed a hand to his cheek. "I realize now that I wasn't in love with Mic. Not enough for marriage to have worked. I should never have taken his ring in Sydney."
"Then why did you?" he asked.
"I was hurting from what I saw as your rejection -"
"I didn't -"
She put a finger to his lips, stopping him. "I know that now. But Mic said all the right words, and caught me in a moment of weakness. I don't think I ever thought I would move it over to my left hand. I supposed I kept thinking that it would - push you into making some kind of move."
"And all I did was start seeing Renee," he said. "Even if it was just a 'friendship' ring, Mac, it was still a ring. A sign that you were considering more. And - I wanted you to be happy. Even -"
"Even if it wasn't with you," Mac finished. "I know. It took me a long time to figure that out, Harm. You said once that you needed an instruction manual to figure out what I wanted. That works both ways, you know."
"I do love you," she said. It was something neither of them had ever said directly to the other, and she smiled as she watched the expression that crossed Harm's face.
"And I love you," he replied.
"Dr. McCool suggested that I bring you along to a couple of sessions - if you'd like to go -"
"Do you want me there?" he asked.
"I think it would be a good idea," she said.
"Okay. Just tell me when and I'll be there."
"We're going to be okay, aren't we?"
"You bet, Marine," he assured her. "Not that I expect clear sailing, but at the moment, I don't see any clouds on the horizon."
"Good. Because I could use some calm seas about now," she said, continuing the nautical motif. Harm stood up, wincing. "Are you okay? Mic got some pretty mean punches in."
"I'll be fine," he assured her. "Right now, the only thing I want is to spend the rest of the day in bed, with you in my arms."
Mac smiled, taking his hand and letting him help her off of the sofa. "I think that can be arranged," she told him, going into the bedroom at his side.