Warnings: Netiquette violations: language and adult situations
Further warnings: If you are a Rachel Quest fan read no further - delete now.
Disclaimer: (See Prologue)
My walk leads me to the promenade of the lighthouse. I hear Benton ascending the stairs behind me. Silently I vow, *I will not acknowledge his presence.* He drops something across my shoulders. I shrug it off of me; I will not accept anything from him. He has dashed my hopes and dreams as surely as the rocks below have dashed those of the waves that break upon them. Not intentionally, never intentionally, not Benton, but broken they are.
My memories of that long Memorial Day holiday are tarnished; those golden memories that have served to sustain me so well recently are gone. Never again will they shine so brightly. Tears silently trail down my cheeks. Those memories saved my sanity during a recent mission that went bad. Mr. Corven and the other directors at Intelligence-One thought the mission was handled brilliantly, and was a success. We lost two men; how could that have been a success? One was a seasoned veteran who had been with Intelligence-One since "day one;" the other, a green rookie, a raw recruit who had no business being on the mission. Their deaths were the result of a stupid and careless mistake. At the debriefing I learned that the rookie's wife was due to give birth at any moment. A kid who had his whole life before him had ended up on a stainless steel table waiting for his next of kin to confirm his identity. A child would grow up never knowing his or her father.
My hand had gone of its on accord to my abdomen. I couldn't keep denying what my body had been telling me. My thoughts kept replaying Corven's words. "Poor kid, his wife is due to deliver their first child anytime now."
In my mind I could hear Phil's call to Benton. *I'm sorry, Doctor Quest, but Will was killed on the mission. During the autopsy, we discovered that she was pregnant. If I had only known about her condition, I would never have sent her.* Black dots swam before my eyes; the room tilted, sounds became distorted and I felt myself falling.
I remembered coming to in Phil's office with the feel of a damp clothe pressed to my forehead and six very concerned faces looking at me. I passed it off as "coming down with something." A couple of the agents testified that I had indeed been sick on the flight back. It's a good thing that they were bachelors. None of them knew the difference between morning sickness and the flu.
The first thing I had done when I got home was call an OB/GYN in Rockport. I had debated over the issue of whether to see a doctor in Washington, or Rockport. Rockport won, if I had seen a doctor in Washington Phil Corven would have gotten the results before me. It was bad enough that Intelligence-One had insisted that my marriage to Doctor Benton Quest be kept secret---I could well imagine what would happen if I were pregnant.
I am somewhat of a mystery to the town of Rockport. I come and go at all hours of the day and night. I always leave town on one of the Quest Enterprises' jets---sometimes I returned on one and sometimes I returned on a commercial flight. The license plate on the green 'Vette I drive are from Virginia.
No one in Rockport suspects that I am married to Doctor Quest. I am introduced as Ms. Harkness. Benton and I always maintain the proper employer-employee personification in public.
The town gossips are shocked over the way I flaunted myself in the face of propriety by spending nights at the Quest Compound. Even Mrs. Evans doesn't do that...except for rare incidents when Doctor Quest and Mr. Bannon are away. The odds are 7 to 1 that I am Race Bannon's mistress...and isn't that disgraceful considering that his daughter also lives at the Quest Compound.
The doctor ran the standard pregnancy test and offered to call me at home with the results. I insisted upon waiting for them in his office. When he confirmed what I had known but denied, I began to cry. He then started giving me options, abortion, adoption, raising the child on my own.
I'm sure by bedtime that night the telephone lines were hot from the news of my visit to 'THE DOCTOR' and the fact that I had left his office in tears.
That night I made my confession to Rachel Wildey Quest. I felt guilty about my pregnancy and I sought forgiveness and absolution for my crimes against her.
I wasn't ready to tell the "family" about my pregnancy. Yet, I needed to talk to someone...what's that old saw about keeping a secret, "If you want to keep a secret only tell two people but make sure that they are both dead." So, I spent the night telling Rachel Wildey Quest about myself and how I ended up married to her husband.
Even though Rachel has been dead for seven years, her portrait still hangs over the fireplace in the living room. Benton couldn't bear the thought of taking it down. Now, I'm glad he didn't. Oddly, I've found it comforting to talk to from time to time. If anyone had seen, or heard me that night I'm sure they would have had me committed to an asylum. By the time I was through talking to Rachel's portrait I felt better about a lot of things.
I will take the third option the doctor gave me; raising the child on my own. I can't stay here, not after tonight. I've been shot, stabbed, and even tortured by experts---but none of it hurt as badly or was ever as painful as when Benton asked, "Who?"
I had expected the "how" question. Despite Benton's genius, we are talking about a person who cannot program a VCR. Sometimes the smallest everyday things give him the most trouble. It's quite comical to watch him struggle with an electric can opener.
I had even half way anticipated the "where" and the "when" questions. After all, he is a scientist, one who deals in facts. I had never even stopped to consider that he would ask "who."
I will admit that I wasn't a virgin. Let's face it: once it's lost you can't replace it. Had he forgotten the words we had said I do to? I remember them. "Wilhelmina Stoker Harkness, do you take this man as your true and lawful husband; and God helping you, do you promise to love, cherish, honor, and protect him, cleaving only and ever unto him, until death shall separate you? Do you?"
I had taken a vow. What is the saying..."Death before dishonor." Some small sound behind me brings back to the present. I want him to hurt as badly as I am hurting.
"I'm leaving." I toss the words over my shoulder as I turn toward the stairs.
He misunderstands me. "Then we will talk about this tomorrow?"
I stop on the stairs. "No. There will be no tomorrow---at least not for us." I turn to look at him.
What I see casts me as the darkest of villains. The Intelligence-One part of me screams, *Fool! This is a trap!* He is on his knees, head and shoulders bent. Even in the dim moonlight I can see his shoulders shaking. OH, GOD! How can I leave him? I can't leave him. Not like this.
I go to him. I kneel down and take him in my arms, cradling his head against my shoulder. I have succeeded. I have hurt him as deeply as he has hurt me and I feel very small for it. All I can say is, "Benton don't cry. Please. I'm sorry. Forgive me. Don't hate me."
I feel one of his hands, with those long, surprisingly delicate fingers of his, caress my lower abdomen. He looks up at me with his incredible periwinkle blue eyes through tear leaden eyelashes. "My baby."
I manage a small affirmative shake of my head. "Yes."
He shoots me a lopsided grin---one reminiscent of someone else in the Quest family. "I don't remember here being in the list of wheres."
"No. It's not." I softly answer him.
He kisses me. By the time we return to the house the lighthouse is on the list of wheres. It's a good thing no one else is up when we enter the house. I look a sight wearing Ben's loafers and bathrobe.
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