Navy Blues by Debbie Macomber released on May 23, 2003 is available now for purchase.
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About the Author
Hometown:Port Orchard, Washington
Date of Birth:October 22, 1948
Place of Birth:Yakima, Washington
Education:Graduated from high school in 1966; attended community college
Read an Excerpt
Seducing her ex-husband wasn't going to be easy, Carol Kyle decided, but she was determined. More than determined-resolute! Her mind was set, and no one knew better than Steve Kyle how stubborn she could be when she wanted something.
And Carol wanted a baby.
Naturally she had no intention of letting him in on her plans. What he didn't know wouldn't hurt him. Their marriage had lasted five good years, and six bad months. To Carol's way of thinking, which she admitted was a bit twisted at the moment, Steve owed her at least one pregnancy.
Turning thirty had convinced Carol that drastic measures were necessary. Her hormones were jumping up and down, screaming for a chance at motherhood. Her biological clock was ticking away, and Carol swore she could hear every beat of that blasted timepiece. Everywhere she turned, it seemed she was confronted with pregnant women, who served to remind her that her time was running out. If she picked up a magazine, there would be an article on some aspect of parenting. Even her favorite characters on television sitcoms were pregnant. When she found herself wandering through the infant section of her favorite department store, Carol realized drastic measures needed to be taken.
Making the initial contact with Steve hadn't been easy, but she recognized that the first move had to come from her. Getting in touch with her ex-husband after more than a year of complete silence had required two weeks of nerve building. But she'd managed to swallow her considerable pride and do it. Having a woman answer his phone had thrown her for a loop, and Carol had visualized her plans swirling down the drain until she realized the woman was Steve's sister, Lindy.
Her former sister-in-law had sounded pleased to hear from her, and then Lindy had said something that had sent Carol's spirits soaring to the ceiling: Lindy had claimed that Steve missed her dreadfully. Lordy, she hoped that was true. If so, it probably meant he wasn't dating yet. There could be complications if Steve was involved with another woman. On the other hand, there could also be problems if he wasn't involved.
Carol only needed him for one tempestuous night, and then, if everything went according to schedule, Steve Kyle could fade out of her life once more. If she failed to get pregnant well, she'd leap that hurdle when she came to it.
Carol had left a message for Steve a week earlier, and he hadn't returned her call. She wasn't overly concerned. She knew her ex-husband well; he would mull it over carefully before he'd get back to her. He would want her to stew awhile first. She'd carefully figured the time element into her schedule of events.
Her dinner was boiling on the stove, and Carol turned down the burner after checking the sweet potatoes with a cooking fork. Glaring at the orange-colored root, she heaved a huge sigh and squelched her growing dislike for the vegetable. After she became pregnant, she swore she would never eat another sweet potato for as long as she lived. A recent news report stated that the starchy vegetable helped increase the level of estrogen in a woman's body. Armed with that information, Carol had been eating sweet potatoes every day for the last two weeks. There had to be enough of the hormone floating around in her body by now to produce triplets.
Noting the potatoes were soft, she drained the water and dumped the steaming roots into her blender. A smile crowded the edges of her mouth. Eating sweet potatoes was a small price to pay for a beautiful baby.. for Steve's baby.
"Have you called Carol back yet?" Lindy Callaghan demanded of her brother as she walked into the small kitchen of the two-bedroom apartment she shared with her husband and Steve.
Steve Kyle ignored her until she pulled out the chair and plopped down across the table from him. "No," he admitted flatly. He could see no reason to hurry. He already knew what Carol was going to tell him. He'd known it from the minute they'd walked out of the King County Courthouse, the divorce papers clenched in her hot little hands. She was remarrying. Well, more power to her, but he wasn't going to sit back and blithely let her rub his nose in the fact.
"Steve," Lindy insisted, her face tight with impatience. "It could be something important."
"You told me it wasn't."
"Sure, that's what Carol said, but oh, I don't know, I have the feeling that it really must be. It isn't going to do any harm to call her back."
Methodically Steve turned the page of the evening newspaper and carefully creased the edge before folding it in half and setting it aside. Lindy and Rush, her husband, couldn't be expected to understand his reluctance to phone his ex-wife. He hadn't told either of them the details that had led to his and Carol's divorce. He preferred to keep all thoughts of the disastrous relationship out of his mind. There were plenty of things he could have forgiven, but not what Carol had done-not infidelity.
As a Lieutenant Commander aboard the submarine USS Atlantis, Steve was at sea for as long as six months out of a year. From the first Carol hadn't seemed to mind sending him off on a three-to-four month cruise. She even used to joke about it, telling him all the projects she planned to complete when he was at sea, and how pleased she was that he would be out of her hair for a while. When he'd returned she'd always seemed happy that he was home, but not exuberant. If anything had gone wrong in his absence-a broken water pipe, car repairs, anything-she'd seen to it herself with barely more than a casual mention.
Steve had been so much in love with her that the little things hadn't added up until later- much later. He'd deceived himself by overlooking the obvious. The physical craving they had for each other had diluted his doubts. Making love with Carol had been so hot it was like a nuclear meltdown. Toward the end she'd been eager for him, but not quite as enthusiastic as in the past. He'd been trusting, blind and incredibly stupid when it came to his ex-wife.
Then by accident he'd learned why she'd become so blas about his comings and goings. When he left their bed, his loveless, faithless wife had a built-in replacement-her employer, Todd Larson.
It was just short of amazing that Steve hadn't figured it out earlier, and yet when he thought about it, he could almost calculate to the day when she'd started her little affair.
Lindy's voice cut into his musings, and he lifted his gaze to meet hers. Her eyes were round and dark with concern. Steve experienced a small twinge of guilt for the way he'd reacted to his sister and Rush's marriage. When he'd learned his best friend had married his only sister after a dating period of a mere two weeks, Steve had been furious. He'd made no bones about telling them both the way he felt about their hurry-up wedding. Now he realized his own bitter experience had tainted his reasoning, and he'd long since apologized. It was obvious they were crazy about each other, and Steve had allowed his own misery to bleed into his reaction to their news.
"Okay, okay. I'll return Carol's call," he answered in an effort to appease his younger sibling. He understood all too well how much Lindy wanted him to settle matters with Carol. Lindy was happy, truly happy, and it dismayed her that his life should be at such loose ends.
"Soon," Steve promised.
The front door opened, and Rush let himself into the apartment; his arms were loaded with Christmas packages. He paused just inside the kitchen and exchanged a sensual look with his wife. Steve watched the heated gaze and it was like throwing burning acid on his half-healed wounds. He waited a moment for the pain to lessen.
"How'd the shopping go?" Lindy asked, her silky smooth voice eager and filled with pleasure at the sight of her husband.
"Good," Rush answered and faked a yawn, "but I'm afraid it wore me out."
Steve playfully rolled his eyes toward the ceiling and stood, preparing to leave the apartment. "Don't tell me you two are going to take another nap!"
Lindy's cheeks filled with crimson color and she looked away. In the past few days the two of them had taken more naps than a newborn babe. Even Rush looked a bit chagrined.
"All right, you two," Steve said good-naturedly, reaching for his leather jacket. "I'll give you some privacy."
One glance from Lindy told him she was grateful. Rush stopped Steve on his way out the door and his eyes revealed his appreciation. "We've decided to look for a place of our own right away, but it doesn't look like we'll be able to move until after the first of the year." He paused and lowered his gaze, looking almost embarrassed. "I know this is an inconvenience for you to keep leaving, but."
"Don't worry about it," Steve countered with a light chuckle. He patted his friend on the back. "I was a newlywed once myself."
Steve tried to sound casual about the whole matter, but doubted if he'd succeeded. Being constantly exposed to the strong current of love flowing between his friend and his sister was damn difficult, because he understood their need for each other all too well. There'd been a time when a mere look was all that was required to spark flames between him and Carol. Their desire seemed to catch fire and leap to brilliance with a single touch, and they couldn't get to bed fast enough. Steve had been crazy in love with her. Carol had appealed to all his senses and he'd ached with the desire to possess her completely. The only time he felt he'd accomplished that was when he was making love to her. Then and only then was Carol utterly his. And those times were all too brief.
Outside the apartment, the sky was dark with thick gray clouds. Steve walked across the street and headed toward the department stores. He didn't have much Christmas shopping to do, but now appeared to be as good a time for the task as any.
He hesitated in front of a pay phone and released a long, slow breath. He might as well call Carol and be done with it. She wanted to gloat, and he would let her. After all, it was the season to be charitable.
The phone rang just as Carol was coming in the front door. She stopped, set her purse on the kitchen counter and glared at the telephone. Her heart rammed against her rib cage with such force that she had to stop and gather her thoughts. It was Steve. The phone might as well have been spelling out his name in Morse code, she was that sure.
"Hello?" she answered brightly, on the third ring.
"Lindy said you phoned." His words were low, flat and emotionless.
"Yes, I did," she murmured, her nerves clamoring.
"Do you want to tell me why, or are you going to make me guess? Trust me, Carol, I'm in no mood to play twenty questions with you."
Oh Lord, this wasn't going to be easy. Steve sounded so cold and uncaring. She'd anticipated it, but it didn't lessen the effect his tone had on her. "I. .I thought we could talk."
A short, heavy silence followed.
"I'd rather we didn't do it over the phone, Steve," she said softly, but not because she'd planned to make her voice silky and smooth. Her vocal chords had tightened and it just came out sounding that way. Her nerves were stretched to their limit, and her heart was pounding in her ear like a charging locomotive.
"Okay," he answered, reluctance evident in every syllable.
"When?" Her gaze scanned the calendar- the timing of this entire venture was of primary importance.
"Tomorrow?" he suggested.
Carol's eyes drifted shut as the relief worked its way through her stiff limbs. Her biggest concern was that he would suggest after the Christmas holidays, and then it would be too late and she would have to reschedule everything for January.
"That would be fine," Carol managed. "Would you mind coming to the house?" The two bedroom brick rambler had been awarded to her as part of the divorce settlement.
Again she could feel his hesitation. "As a matter of fact, I would."
"All right," she answered, quickly gathering her wits. His not wanting to come to the house shouldn't have surprised her. "How about coffee at Denny's tomorrow evening?"
Carol swallowed before answering. "Fine. I'll see you then."
Her hand was still trembling a moment later when she replaced the telephone receiver in its cradle. All along she'd accepted that Steve wasn't going to fall into her bed without some subtle prompting, but from the brusque, impatient sound of his voice, the whole escapade could well be impossible this month. That bothered her. The one pivotal point in her plan was that everything come together quickly. One blazing night of passion could easily be dismissed and forgotten. But if she were to continue to invite him back one night a month, several months running, then he just might catch on to what she was doing.
Still, when it had come to interpreting her actions in the past, Steve had shown a shocking lack of insight. Thankfully their troubles had never intruded in the bedroom. Their marriage relationship had been a jumbled mess of doubts and misunderstandings, accusations and regrets, but their love life had always been vigorous and lusty right up until the divorce, astonishing as it seemed now.
At precisely seven the following evening, Carol walked into Denny's Restaurant on Seattle's Capitol Hill. The first year she and Steve had been married, they'd had dinner there once a month. Money had been tight because they'd been saving for a down payment on the house, and an evening out, even if it was only Saturday night at Denny's, had been a real treat.
Two steps into the restaurant Carol spotted her former husband sitting in a booth by the window. She paused and experienced such a wealth of emotion that advancing even one step more would have been impossible. Steve had no right to look this good-far better than she remembered. In the thirteen months since she'd last seen him, he'd changed considerably. Matured. His features were sharper, clearer, more intense. His lean good looks were all the more prominent, his handsome masculine features vigorous and tanned even in December. A few strands of gray hair streaked his temple, adding a distinguished air.
His gaze caught hers and Carol sucked in a deep, calming breath, her steps nearly faltering as she advanced toward him. His eyes had changed the most, she decided. Where once they had been warm and caressing, now they were cool and calculating. They narrowed on her, his mistrust shining through as bright as any beacon.
Carol experienced a moment of panic as his gaze seemed to strip away the last shreds of her pride. It took all her willpower to force a smile to her lips.
"Thank you for coming," she said, and slipped into the red upholstered seat across from him.