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By Debbie Macomber
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneRain. That's all it had done from the moment Lieutenant Commander Catherine Fredrickson, Judge Advocate General Corps - JAGC - arrived at the Naval Submarine Base Bangor in Silverdale, Washington. October in Hawaii meant balmy ocean breezes, mai tais by the pool and eighty-degree sunshine.
In other words she'd left paradise and had been transferred to purgatory.
If the weather wasn't enough to discourage her, the executive officer, Commander Royce Nyland was. Catherine had never met anyone who irritated her more. The legal staff stationed in Hawaii had shared a camaraderie that made working together a pleasant experience.
Bangor was a different story, but the contrast was most telling in the differences between Catherine's two superiors. She simply didn't like the man, and from all outward appearances the feeling was mutual.
From the first, Catherine knew something wasn't right. In no other station had she been required to stand duty so often. For four weeks straight she'd been assigned the twenty-four-hour watch on a Friday night. It was as if Commander Nyland had made it his personal goal to disrupt her entire life.
After a month, Catherine was getting downright testy about it.
"Fredrickson, do you have the files on the Miller case?"
"Yes, sir." She stood, reached for the requested file and handed it to the man who'd been dominating her thoughts for the majority of the day.
Commander Nyland opened the file and started reading as he walked away from her. Catherine's gaze followed him as she tried to analyze what it was about her he disliked so much. Perhaps he had something against brunettes. Although that sounded crazy, Catherine couldn't help wondering. Maybe it was because she was petite and small-boned. More than likely, she reminded him of someone he once knew and disliked intensely. Well that was just too damn bad. As far as Catherine could see, she'd done nothing to deserve his disdain, and frankly, she wasn't about to put up with any more of it.
Scuttlebutt had it that he was single. Catherine had no trouble believing it. If his behavior toward her was any indication of how he treated women, then this guy needed a major attitude adjustment.
His apparent dislike of her solved one problem. Catherine needn't worry about anything romantic developing between them. If she were looking for an effective way to end her Navy career, all she had to do was start fraternizing with a superior officer within the same command. It was the quickest way Catherine knew to be court-martialed. The Navy refused to tolerate such behavior.
Besides his rotten attitude, Commander Nyland wasn't her type. Catherine liked her men less rough around the edges and a whole lot more agreeable.
In eleven years of Navy life, Catherine had worked with her share of officers, but no one had ever struck such a strong, discordant note with her.
Nothing she did pleased him. Nothing. The closest she'd ever gotten to praise from her XO had been a hard nod, as if that were sufficient compliment. A nod!
The crazy part of it was, Catherine had actually gotten excited over it. All day she'd gone around wearing a silly grin.
She needed to get back to Hawaii, and fast.
"Come into my office, Lieutenant Commander."
Catherine glanced up, startled to discover Commander Nyland standing directly in front of her desk.
"Yes, sir," she answered briskly. She stood and reached for a notepad before following him into his office.
Commander Nyland took his seat and motioned for Catherine to sit in the cushioned chair located on the opposite side of his desk.
Catherine glanced around and swallowed nervously. She didn't like the looks of this. The great and almighty commander was frowning. Not that it was the least bit unusual. To the best of her memory, she couldn't remember him ever smiling.
She quickly reviewed the cases she'd been working on for the past few days, and could think of nothing that would warrant a tongue-lashing. Not that he needed an excuse, of course.
The silence stretched to uncomfortable lengths as she waited for him to acknowledge her. It was on the tip of her tongue to remind him he was the one who'd called her into his office, but she'd be a fool to allow a hint of sarcasm into her voice.
"I've been following your progress for the past several weeks." His indifferent blue gaze raked her features. Catherine had never been more aware of her appearance. Her thick, dark hair was coiled in a businesslike knot at her nape, and her uniform jacket and skirt were crisp and freshly pressed. She had the impression if he found one crease, she'd be ordered to stand in front of a firing squad. No man had ever made her feel more self-conscious. He continued to stare at her as if seeing her for the first time. There was no hint of appreciation for her good looks. Catherine wasn't conceited, but she was reasonably attractive, and the fact the man looked at her as if she were little more than a mannequin was vaguely insulting. Okay, she was being unreasonable, Catherine mused. If she had recognized a flicker of interest in those cobalt-blue eyes of his, that would have been worse.
Excerpted from Navy Woman by Debbie Macomber Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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