Navy Woman (Navy #4)

Navy Woman (Navy #4) Page 1
  • Background
    Font family
    Font size
    Line hieght
    Full frame
    No line breaks
  • Next Chapter

Navy Woman (Navy #4) Page 1

Chapter One

Rain. 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.

"Yes, sir."

"As I was saying," he continued, "I've had my eye on your work."

She noted that he made a simple statement of fact without elaborating. If he'd been watching her, then she'd admit, not openly of course, that she'd been studying him, too. He may be disagreeable, and to her way of thinking, ill-tempered, but he was respected and generally well liked. Personally, Catherine found him to be a real pain, but her thinking was tainted by a four-week stint at standing duty on Friday nights.

Politics existed in every office, but there seemed to be more in Bangor than the other duty stations Catherine had been assigned. As the executive officer directly below Captain Stewart, Commander Royce Nyland was empowered to run her legal office. He did so with a detached, emotionless ability that Catherine had rarely seen. In many ways he was the best officer she'd ever worked with and, in others, the worst.

It was apparent the man was a born leader. His lean, muscular good looks commanded attention. His office demanded it.

Actually, now that she had an uninterrupted minute to analyze the commander, she was willing to admit he was fairly attractive. Not handsome in the classic sense. Appealing, she decided. Not ordinary.

His features weren't anything that would cause a woman to swoon. His hair was nearly black. Its darkness coupled with his deep blue eyes was a contrast not easily ignored. He was broad shouldered, and although she knew him to be of medium height, an inch or so under six feet, he gave the impression of power and strength in everything he did.

Her scrutiny didn't seem to bother him. He leaned back in his chair, expelled his breath and announced, "I'm pleased to tell you I've chosen you as a substitute coordinator of the physical fitness program for the base."

"Substitute coordinator," Catherine repeated slowly. Her heart beat dull and heavy before it dropped like a lead weight to her stomach. It took a second to right itself before she could respond. If there was one after-hours duty she would have done anything to avoid it was that of coordinator of the physical fitness program. It was by far one of the least envied jobs on base.

The Navy was serious about keeping men and women in top physical condition. Those who were overweight were placed on a strict dietary schedule and exercise regime. As coordinator, Catherine would be subjected to endless meetings to chart the individuals' progress. She'd also be expected to formulate an exercise program designed specifically to meet each person's needs. In addition, she would be given the painful task of having someone discharged from the Navy if they failed to meet the requirements in regard to weight and fitness.

"I believe you're qualified to handle this job effectively."

"Yes, sir," she said, biting her tongue to keep from saying more. Tackling this duty, even on a substitute basis, meant she wouldn't have time to breathe. It was a time-consuming, distasteful assignment. If the executive officer had been actively seeking to destroy any chance she had of developing a social life, he'd done so in one fell swoop.

"Lieutenant Osborne will meet with you and give you the necessary paperwork at 1500 hours. If you have any questions, you should gear them to him." Already he was looking away from her, dismissing her.

"Thank you, sir," she said, struggling with everything in her not to let her irritation show. She left his office and closed the door with a decided click, hoping he'd believe the wind had caught it. Hell, he was fortunate she didn't tear the damn thing right off its hinges.

With as dignified a walk as possible, she returned to her office. She set the pad down a little too hard, attracting the attention of Elaine Perkins, her secretary, who occupied the scarred desk outside

Catherine's office.

"Problems?" she asked. As a Navy wife, Elaine was well acquainted with the difficulties of military life.

"Problems?" Catherine echoed sarcastically. "What could possibly be wrong? Listen, do I have something repugnantly wrong with me?"

"Not that I've noticed," Elaine was quick to tell her.

"I don't have bad breath?"


"Does my slip hang out from under my skirt?" She twisted around and tried to determine that much for herself.

"Not that I can see," Elaine assured her. "What makes you ask?"

"No reason." With that, Catherine stalked out of the office and down the hall to the drinking fountain.

Her hand trembled slightly as she leaned forward and scooped up a generous mouthful, letting the cold water soothe her injured pride.

Catherine wished she could talk to Sally. The two were the only women officers in a command of several hundred men, but that wasn't possible now. Once she'd composed herself sufficiently to return, Catherine did so, forcing a smile.

"I'm pleased to inform you you've been chosen as the substitute coordinator of the physical fitness program," Catherine mumbled under her breath as she traipsed toward the running track several hours later. Dusk was settling over the compound, but there was enough time to get in a three-mile run before dark.

Pleased was right. Commander Nyland had looked downright gleeful to assign her the task. The more Catherine thought about it, the more furious she got.

Venting some of this discontent seemed like a good idea. Clouds threatened a downpour, but Catherine didn't care. She'd just received the worst collateral duty assignment of her career, and she needed to vent the frustration and confusion before she headed home to the apartment she rented in Silverdale. Taking giant strides, she crested the hill that led to the track, then stopped abruptly. Several runners circled the course, but one runner in particular stood out from the rest.

Commander Nyland.

For a long moment Catherine couldn't keep her eyes off him. There was a natural, fluid grace to his movements. His stride was long and even, and he ran as if the wind were beneath his feet. What struck her most was his quiet strength. She didn't want to acknowledge it. Nor did she wish to find a single positive attribute about this man.

If there was any justice in the world, lightning would strike him dead. Glancing to the sky, she was depressed to note a touch of blue in the far horizon. Typical. Just when she was looking for rain, the sun had decided to play a game of hide-and-seek with her. If lightning wasn't going to do the good commander in, then all she could hope for was a bad case of athlete's foot.

Use arrow keys (or A / D) to PREV/NEXT chapter