Read an Excerpt
Our Wedding Day
May 22, 1985
We posed for this picture at the top of the Naval Academy Chapel steps, and a second one, with a kiss, underneath the arch of swords.Then one more at the bottom of the steps, with Mack's friends in a double row behind us, swords still raised—six handsome men wearing brilliant white.
In Celia's opinion,her new husband outshone them all. The high–collared dress uniform dramatized Mack's dark brown hair, bright blue eyes and tanned skin.
Standing next to her groom, she felt like a sparrow perched beside an eagle.A pregnant sparrow.
She'd broken the news six weeks ago, while they'd waited for pizza during their usual Saturday night date. Mack had stared at her as if she'd sprouted two heads. "You're…pregnant?"
Celia nodded."The baby's due in November.Around Thanksgiving."
"But…" He raked a hand through his hair, and the diamond in his USNA class ring flashed fire under the restaurant lights."Are you sure…?"
Why wouldn't he hope she was mistaken? She had, herself, until the third test—like the first two—came up positive."Yes, I'm sure."
Mack looked at his hands,pressed flat on the tabletop. His cheeks flushed red under his tan."But…how could this happen? I mean, we used—"
"Shh!" She glanced at the crowded tables around them."I don't know how it happened.I guess something went wrong."
He snorted and shook his head."You can say that again." Aggravation was not the reaction she'd hoped for. "Forget I said anything." She surged out of her chair. "I'm sorry I bothered you. Have a nice life."
"Celia—" Mack grabbedfor her hand.
She jerked away, feeling her clammy skin slide against his.With her arms wrapped across her churning stomach, she stumbled across the room, reaching the exit just as the door opened from outside. The newcomer barreled in, stepping on Celia's foot and knocking her sideways in the process. She knew an instant of fear before her knees buckled and the world mercifully went black.
Mack arrived in time to keep the unconscious Celia from hitting the floor. She wilted against him, practically weightless.
"I called 9–1–1."Timmy, the owner of the place, used two fingers to brush a honey–gold curl out of Celia's pale face."Should be here in five minutes."
"She's already coming around,"Mack said.Her forehead creased,and she lifted a defensive hand to ward off…what?
Timmy clicked his tongue. "You oughta get her checked out. I don't want to get sued."
"You won't get sued."Looking down again,he saw her long,dark lashes flutter."Celia? Celia,it's okay.I've got you."
At the sound of his voice, she opened her brown eyes wide. Panic flooded into her face, and her body stiffened in his hold.
"Shh, shh." Mack rested her weight on his knee and cupped her cheek with his free hand."Relax, honey. I'm going to take care of you. I'll take care of everything. I promise."
"P–put me down," she whispered. "I want to go h–home."
He couldn't let her go, not until they'd had a chance to talk."Let's get you checked out by a doctor first.The ambulance is right outside." Red lights flashed through the narrow windows on either side of the door.
"No." She clutched at the front of his shirt. "Please, Mack, no…"
Despite her protests, the EMTs strapped Celia to a gurney and locked her inside the back of their truck. Mack paid for the pizza they hadn't touched, took the pie with him and drove to the hospital, cursing himself and praying for a chance to make things right.
He just hadn't gotten around to considering the specifics of getting married,that was all.Only six weeks from finishing his last year at the Academy, he was thinking about taking exams, about interviews for flight school, about graduation.he'd assumed his future would include Celia,of course.But the first months of aviation training were tough. he'd intended to get firmly settled into his career as a Navy pilot before asking her to be his wife.
Tonight,making wedding plans had moved to the top of his priority list. For one thing, if the Academy found out he'd gotten a girl pregnant before graduation, he'd be out in the street on his butt in a matter of minutes. Kiss that carrier command goodbye, Butler.
As an officer and a gentleman, he owed Celia every possible consideration. More important, his Irish Catholic mother would flay him alive if he fathered a child and didn't marry the mother.
What tortured him, though, was remembering the hurt in Celia's sweet brown eyes when she'd thought he didn't care about the baby. Their baby. For a moment, she'd believed that he would leave her to take on this responsibility alone. He must not have done a good job of convincing her he loved her, if she could reach such a conclusion so quickly.
He intended to correct that mistake right away.
Even in a small town like Annapolis, Saturday night meant chaos in the emergency room.The waiting area was standing room only, and several patients had been stashed on gurneys in a hallway. One of them was Celia.
"Mack." She started to sit up as he took her hand."I don't need this. Please, just take me home."
He eased her back to the pillow. "I need to know you're okay. It won't take long once we've got somebody's attention."
"That could take all night." She rolled her head from side to side."I don't want to stay here all night."
"You won't." Mack hitched a hip onto the gurney beside hers."Meanwhile, we can plan our wedding."
Celia stared at him,her mouth open."Wedding? What are you talking about?"
Mack slipped his class ring onto her middle finger, where it hung loosely."Will you marry me,Celia Monroe?"
She pulled her finger out of the ring and her hand away from his. "No. I will not." People in the hallway glanced at them, and she lowered her voice. "I am not going to marry you just because I'm pregnant."
He stared at her from under lowered eyebrows."There's no chance you're having an abortion. None at all."
"Of course not!"
"What are your other options?" "I…"She looked at the wall beside her."We'll be fine. You don't have to worry."
Mack pressed his point home."Then why tell me?Why did I need to know, if you didn't want to get married?"
Celia turned her whole body away from him, curling up into a ball. Her shoulders shook with the force of her sobs. She flinched when Mack laid his hand on her shoulder.
He maintained the contact. "Celia, honey, I am not going to desert you and our baby. We're going to get married right after graduation. You'll go with me to Norfolk,and then to Pensacola when I start flight school. That's all there is to it." Leaning close, he kissed her cheek, then drew back a little and pulled her around to face him."I love you." He held her gaze with his own. "And I want to take care of you. I want us to take care of each other."
Celia couldn't look away. Mack's eyes were Chesapeake–blue, as mesmerizing as the bay on a summer afternoon. Like his Irish ancestors, he could talk the sun out of the sky when he put his mind to it. Six months ago, he'd talked her out of her virginity and now…now he wanted to marry her. How was she supposed to say no when this was what she'd longed for since their very first kiss?
"Yes, Mack" she said softly."I will marry you."
Celia and Mack
Dancing at their Wedding Reception Lucky for us, the weather was gorgeous—sunny, warm but not hot. We left the chapel and drove across the Severn River to a state park, where the caterer had put white cloths over the picnic tables and benches.We ate strawberries,drank champagne and danced barefoot on the grass.
"If you'd given me more time," Grace Monroe said,
"we could have thrown a really wonderful reception."
Celia put an arm around her mother's shoulders. "What could be better than a brilliant day with the sparkling river nearby,green grass and cold,crisp champagne?"
Grace looked at her daughter's bare feet."You'll have grass stains on your hem.And none of our friends were able to attend on such short notice.I would have thought you'd know it takes at least six months to plan a proper wedding."
"You've done it beautifully in only four weeks." She gave her mom a squeeze."I'm going to rescue Mack.His eyes are starting to glaze over."
She went to stand beside her husband—her husband!—as he listened to her father replay an ArmyNavy football game. "The punt went deep, I ran back, and back some more…then that ball socked me in the gut. I grabbed it, started zigzagging my way…" He turned his head to look at Celia."Hey, darlin'. Did you want something?"
"A dance." She propped her hands on her hips and looked from her dad to Mack."Which of you handsome men will do me the honor?"
"Age before beauty." Dan Monroe took her arm and at the same time put a palm on Mack's chest to push him back a step."You'll get to dance with her the rest of her life, son.This one's mine."
Mack laughed. "Whatever you say, sir." But he gave Celia a wink before turning toward the bar.
As they swayed to a slow tune from the forties, Celia couldn't help staring at Mack over her dad's shoulder.
"Can't take your eyes of him, can you, darlin'?" Her cheeks heated up."Um…no.I do love him,Daddy."
"Glad to hear that." He drew back far enough to see her face."You're taking on a big job, being a Navy wife."
"I remember.You were gone a lot."
"And I was just an engineer, not bucking for command like Mack. That kind of ambition is more than a career, Celia. It's an obsession."
She patted her dad on the shoulder. "We'll be fine. I promise."
"Anything we can do to help, you let us know. I've got plenty of time now that I'm retired.Your mother and I will be more than willing to take care of our grandchildren, no matter where you are. Just don't wait too long to get started,okay? We aren't getting any younger."
With a secret smile, Celia turned her head away and danced a little closer.If you only knew,Daddy.If you only knew.