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Authors: Karen Kingsbury

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Domestic fiction, #Fathers and Sons, #Christian, #Religious, #Christian Fiction, #Birthfathers, #Air Pilot's Spouses, #Air pilots, #Illegitimate Children, #Mothers - Death

Oceans Apart (8 page)

BOOK: Oceans Apart
7.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Not even overseas on the loneliest night of his life.



– Oceans Apart –

The shower had been running for five minutes before Connor’s heart settled into a normal beat. What would have made Michele ask a question like that?

Had he always been faithful?

She’d never brought that up before. Never.

Water streamed down Connor’s chest and arms. Had she seen anything in his reaction? A hesitation or twitch of some kind? His face must’ve gone pale as he scrambled for the right words. Even now he had no idea how he’d come up with a cool, quick answer.

Connor worked the shampoo through his hair and nudged the hot water knob higher, hotter. Space. That’s what he needed now, space between the troubles with Joe and Renee—and the conversation with Michele. By the time he was out of the shower and dressed, Michele would forget the whole thing, and the topic of his faithfulness wouldn’t come up again. Not ever. Michele was everything to him now, and never . . . never would he let himself do the thing Joe had done.

That was a lesson he’d already learned.

Suds ran down his face and chest, and the clean smell of bar soap filled the warm wet air. He loved Michele more than ever. Or maybe he’d always loved her this much. That awful night eight years ago was so far back down the road, most of the time Connor could convince himself he’d never been there at all. He was a good guy. Out of a hundred opportunities to fall, he’d been almost perfect.

Ninety-nine times perfect.

And that one time had been nothing more than crazy circumstances and strange twists of fate. Even then he hadn’t been bored with Michele or wanted another woman. Michele was everything to him. As the hot water pounded his shoulder blades, Connor let the shower fill his senses and take him back, back to the days when he and Michele first met.



High school romances didn’t mean a thing to Connor. He was a decent football player and a starter on the basketball team, one of the socially elite who had no trouble finding a date. But Connor rarely let things get serious with any of them, not in a physical or emotional way. He dated girls one weekend and forgot about them the next. His father drilled into him the importance of studying, of setting a goal and going after it. From the beginning his goal was clear.

He would be a pilot.

After graduating he earned an appointment to West Point. In his senior year, months away from being made an officer and earning his wings, he made time for some relaxation. That’s why he agreed to go to a barbecue with a group of guys from school. Connor wasn’t given to reckless drinking or drug use, not so much because he was afraid of how it would make him feel, but because he was afraid of his father.

“Always be on top of your game, Son,” he would say. “Keep away from the stupid things other boys do. That goes for women, too.

Don’t let anything take away your edge.” And Connor hadn’t. Not drugs or drinking, and especially not women. Not that there had ever been a shortage. Women liked West Point students, especially seniors, and they’d made themselves available to Connor since his freshman year. His lanky, muscled body and clean-cut dark hair always turned heads, though Connor had come to think of his looks as something of a curse.

Because his father was right. If he got mixed up with a girl too soon, his dedication toward becoming an officer, earning his wings, and 61

– Oceans Apart –

getting in the skies would be compromised. And he wasn’t about to let that happen.

But by his senior year, a barbecue seemed harmless enough.

It was at Paul Overgaard’s house. Paul was also a senior, probably Connor’s best friend at West Point. The two had rooms across the hall from each other, and despite the gravity of their classload, and the goal of making officer, they shared an easy sense of humor.

Paul’s family lived close by, but Connor had never been to his friend’s house until now. From the beginning of the party, he was certain he’d made the right choice by coming. Paul’s parents’ house was a palace. The backyard was spacious with a massive swimming pool and in the distance, a sand volleyball court.

He was glad he’d worn his swim shorts and a T-shirt, and as soon as introductions were over, the guys headed out to the sand pit for a three-game volleyball tournament. The competition felt wonderful—it was good to do something other than flight training and class work.

At the end of the set, his team came up losers, but Connor didn’t care. The stress of upcoming finals was gone, and he ambled with the guys toward the smell of fresh-cooked hamburgers. He made up his plate, grabbed a seat with Paul and a few of his buddies, and took his first bite.

That’s when he saw her.

Like a vision, she strolled out through the sliding doors. She was long legged, with a figure that made him set the burger back down on the plate. She had pale brown eyes and dark hair that fell in waves around her face and shoulders. Her laughter rang out across the patio, and when she smiled, the sun looked dim in comparison.

“What’s the matter?” Paul poked him in the shoulder and followed his gaze toward the group that had just entered the backyard area. “Connor, come on. Don’t be stupid.” 62

– Karen Kingsbury –

He swallowed his bite and shook his head. “Man, she’s the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.”

“Don’t you know?” Paul laughed and leaned back in his chair.

“That’s my kid sister. I’ve got two of them. That one’s a junior at the state school an hour away.” He shot her a look over his shoulder. “They’re already out on break.”

“Why didn’t you tell me about her?”

“You never asked.”

“Okay.” Connor nodded, but he was in a trance. “That’s fair enough.” He paused, studying her. “She’s home for the summer?”

“Yes.” Paul chuckled. “You can go back to eating.”

“Does she have a boyfriend?” Connor’s eyes were still locked on Paul’s sister. “Tell me she doesn’t have a boyfriend.”

“You have a month left, remember?” Paul gave him a kick under the table. “You told me to remind you if you ever got like this.”

“That was different.” He grabbed a napkin and wiped his mouth.

“Introduce me.”

At that moment, the girl turned and found Paul. Still talking to the friends around her, she made her way to their table and gripped her brother’s shoulders from behind. But already her eyes had found Connor’s. “Hey, big brother, how’s school?” Paul looked up and grinned at her. “One month left.”

“What about your friend?” She motioned at Connor with her chin. Her eyes held a teasing that made it clear she was intrigued.


“Okay, yes.” She angled her face and her smile looked more shy than before. “What’s Connor’s story?”

“I’ve got it.” Connor shot a look at Paul. Then he stood and held out his hand. “I don’t think we’ve met. I’m Connor Evans.” He could feel his eyes dancing, teasing her the way she’d been teasing him. “My story is the same as your brother’s. Senior at West Point, graduating officer in a month.”


– Oceans Apart –

“I see.” She took his hand and gave it the slightest squeeze.

“Nice to meet you, Connor. I’m Michele.” They were together the rest of the evening. Over the next four weeks, Connor drew on all his discipline and saw her only twice.

The evening of their graduation and wing ceremony, Connor and his family joined Paul’s family at the reception.

When the commotion died down some, Connor found Michele.

“It’s stuffy in here.”

She smiled. “Yeah, all those pilot egos crammed into one room.”

“Touché.” He grinned at her. “Let’s take a walk outside. The pond’s just a few minutes away.”

She took his hand and when they reached the pond, he turned and drew her close. “Michele, I’ve thought about you every day since we met.”

Her eyes fell to the ground, and a blush spread across her cheeks. “I wasn’t sure.”

“I would’ve called you every day, but I had finals and graduation and . . .” He searched her face. “Well, now I have the whole summer ahead of me.” His voice fell a notch. “Let me take you out, Michele. Please.”

Connor realized as he stood there, brush and tree groves surrounding them, that she was the first girl he’d sought after. Every other time the girl had done the seeking. He held his breath, waiting for her answer.

“Okay, but don’t fall in love with me.” She was grinning, teasing him the way she’d done back at the barbecue. He took a step back, his hands on her shoulders. “How come?”

“Because I could never be with a pilot.”

“Really?” He raised a single eyebrow. “Too much like your brother, huh?”


– Karen Kingsbury –

“No.” Her smile fell away. “Because I’m scared to death to fly. I couldn’t stand to fall in love with someone who spent half his life in the skies.”

With feather-soft care, Connor eased his hands up her neck and on either side of her face. “Well, then . . .” He wanted to kiss her with everything in him, but he held back. “We’ll have to change that, won’t we?”

For the next two months they were rarely apart. The attraction was there for both of them, but Connor didn’t let her see how intense his feelings for her had become. Before the summer was up, he got permission to borrow a friend’s Cessna. He got her to the airfield by telling her he was taking her out to eat, giving her a chance to watch takeoffs and landings and see that they weren’t so frightening.

Instead, when they climbed out of his jeep, he reached into the back and pulled out two helmets, one for him and one for her.

“Connor . . .” Her face went slack, and her mouth hung open.

“What are you doing?”

“Helping you conquer your fears.” He smiled and took her hand. And to his surprise, she took his in return.

They flew for an hour that night, circling over the area and doing basic maneuvers that caused Michele to gasp out loud. She was seated behind him, and several times she reached out and grabbed his shoulders. “Connor!”

Her voice was muffled in the helmet, but even from the front seat he could hear the panic in her voice fade. A minute later, she’d laugh, her hold on him looser than before. When they were back on the ground, he waited until they were in the parking lot near his jeep again before he asked her what she thought.

“You won’t believe it.” She giggled, her cheeks ruddy from the exhilaration of the flight. “It was amazing, Connor. I’d go up again 65

– Oceans Apart –

in a minute.” She gave him an impulsive hug. “You took away my greatest fear.”

“Good.” He leaned his back against the door of his car and eased her close to him. Then, for the first time, he kissed her. The slow, lingering sort of kiss that bared everything he felt for her, the kind he’d never given any woman before or since.

“Why?” When she pulled away, she was breathless, her eyes colored with passion. “Why good?”

“Because I broke your rule, Michele.” He framed her face with tender hands and kissed her again. This time he looked straight to her soul and said the words he remembered clearly to this day. “I fell in love with you. And I know I’ll spend half my time in the air, so I had no choice—”

She kissed him this time, grinning all the while. “No choice but to teach me to love being up there, just like you do.”


The memories stayed with Connor long after his shower. As he made his way to the airport, they played in his mind, keeping him company and assuring him that Michele’s question was innocent enough.

Married people asked that of each other now and then, didn’t they?
Honey, have you been faithful? Have you ever cheated on me? Am
I the only one you’ve ever loved?
His answer had satisfied her. And, thankfully, he’d been right—she hadn’t brought it up again.

Still . . .

Connor shuddered. He pulled his suitcase and flight kit behind him, a sleek black unit emblazoned near the top with the airline’s fashionable insignia. He’d been briefed on the upcoming flight, a two-hour hop from West Palm Beach to Atlanta, followed by three short flights across the Midwest, and an overnight in Dallas. His 66

– Karen Kingsbury –

copilot that day was a man he’d flown with before, a young guy hired a year ago.

Young and idealistic and dedicated to his family.

The way Connor was when he first started flying. The way he still felt.

He checked his watch and stepped into a men’s room three gates from his own. He had an extra fifteen minutes, time to make sure his uniform was pressed the way he liked it. The conversation with Michele had gone longer than usual, and he’d been in a rush since he left the house.

Three men were washing their hands, and Connor waited until they were gone before stepping in front of the mirror.

He already missed her, missed the proud way she held her chin, and the teasing sparkle in her brown eyes. Michele was not one of the needy, insecure housewives so many pilot friends married. She was a free spirit, a woman who carried a sense of independence that drove him crazy with desire. No matter how long they lived he would never quite catch her, never see her without seeing the chal-lenge she’d been to him back when they first met.

BOOK: Oceans Apart
7.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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