Today was the first day for her to drive to Albuquerque. She had her hair pinned up high on her head and was wearing glasses.
Sharlee looked disappointed.
“Babe, just be yourself. You’re an exceptionally intelligent woman who is also easy on the eyes. Besides, as soon as you start talking about the molecular composition of water, etc., etc., it will become clear that you know your stuff!”
“I better hit the road.”
Sharlee gave Noah a quick kiss and then left the house. They had rented another car for the two weeks of Sharlee’s lab so that Noah could drop Skylar off at her great grandmother Kaye’s home before he went to his classes later in the morning. Then Sharlee would pick Sky up after she returned from Albuquerque later in the day.
Throughout the day, Noah and Sharlee planned to use FaceTime to talk with Skylar on any breaks that they had. That way, hopefully, she wouldn’t miss them as much. It had taken a lot of talking for Noah to convince Sharlee to do this. It would only be for two weeks, and Skylar would be fine.
Sharlee made her way into the room where the lab was to be conducted. She felt a little nervous, but she was also excited. There were a few other participants in the room milling about and talking idly.
She seemed to be the only female, and the others in the room stared at her. She didn’t see it, but as she passed, some of them mouthed the words “Wow!” and “Smok’n!” to each other. She smiled and said, hello. They returned her greeting and went back to their conversations. She found an empty station and put her things away. Sharlee was surprised when Kristian settled into the station beside hers.
Sharlee frowned. Kristian laughed at her expression.
The instructor was walking by their table and overheard Kristian’s comment. He went to the podium in front of the room and directed everyone to go to their stations.
“First, I’d like to introduce myself to those of you who do not know me. I am Dr. David Baker, and I will be your instructor for the next two weeks. You have been selected for your participation because you are the brightest and the most talented of your peers,” He paused and looked pointedly over at Kristian and Sharlee.
Sharlee smiled feeling reassured. She was here based on her abilities and nothing else. Kristian may have mentioned her name to someone on the selection committee, but her selection was based on her own merits. However, she was a very well-mannered young woman, and so she did thank Kristian anyway.
“You’re welcome Sharlee. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for any student interested in the medical or biochemical field, and I wanted to share it with you.”
Sharlee didn’t know how to respond to that, but thankfully, she didn’t have to respond because the instructor returned to the podium to start the class. Sharlee would have preferred a different lab partner, but Kristian’s station was directly beside hers. So she didn’t want to make an embarrassing point of asking someone else.
“Thanks anyway, but I brought my lunch with me.”
Kristian was disappointed, but he left with the others. Sharlee called Sky.
Skylar held up her picture to the camera and Sharlee admired it.
Sharlee could see both him and Skylar.
“It’s going good! The professor approved my idea for my research project, and I’ve already begun working on it.”
Sharlee talked with Noah and Skylar for a while longer and then after the call ate her lunch. She tried to eat and cook as healthy as possible. She’d also prepared lunch ahead of time for Noah to take with Skylar to her Grandmother Kaye’s home for them all to eat.
Kristian had been a bit miffed that the instructor had selected her idea for their project rather than his. However, the instructor had given him the option of choosing another partner to work on a different project, but Kristian had wanted to continue working with Sharlee. Although he was initially reluctant, Kristian became engrossed in Sharlee’s theory, and they worked well together. The first day went by quickly, and Sharlee was happy to head back home to her family.
Kristian was at the station beside theirs, and he was standing close behind one of the other participants showing him a different and more efficient way to fill the beakers. Sharlee could see that Benny was uncomfortable having Kristian so close to him, and she thought it a bit odd that Kristian had shown him in that way. She was to have a better understanding of why later that day. He did the same thing with her.
He moved behind her and placed his hands on hers as she poured the fluid from the flask and into the beaker. Sharlee’s breathing quickened, and she was uncomfortable. He kept his hands on hers for longer than necessary. She knew that other students were looking at them. The instructor saw it as well.
Kristian moved away smiling. “Just trying to help.”
Sharlee’s face felt hot. She didn’t feel that she could complain because he’d done the same thing with another participant earlier. So she just decided to forget about it and continue working.
Afterwards, they were so involved in the experiment that Sharlee lost track of time until their instructor interrupted them. Sharlee realized that the other students were already gone, and she would be late getting home to Santa Fe to pick up Skylar.
They were at a critical stage in the experiment, but it wouldn’t take much longer to come to a stopping point. Sharlee knew that Noah would still be in class, and so she sent him a text to let him know that she would be late getting home. So he would need to pick up Skylar from Kaye’s house. Then she called Kaye to let her know that she would be late leaving, but Noah would come for Skylar.
As she did so, Kristian began kissing her on the neck. If Sharlee moved to push him away, then she could spill the fluid and ruin her experiment. Kristian had chosen that moment because he knew that. Sharlee was furious!
“Oh excuse me!”
Kristian moved away. Sharlee finished putting the fluid into the beaker.
So Sharlee logged the results of the test while Kristian cleaned up their area. Then the guard walked with them out to their vehicles. Kristian pulled off first, but the guard stopped Sharlee to speak with her.
He watched until Sharlee started her car and drove out of the parking lot. Sharlee intended to have a serious talk with Kristian about his behavior. It was unprofessional, and his advances were unwanted.
Noah had picked up something for them to eat for dinner that night so that Sharlee wouldn’t have to worry about cooking. They ate dinner and then played with Sky for a while in the nursery before her bedtime. Noah laughed at the serious expression on Skylar’s face as she played her xylophone. He saw a troubled look in Sharlee’s eyes.
Sharlee was tired and didn’t feel like discussing it now. She felt guilty about the fact that she hadn’t told Noah about Kristian’s participation in the lab. She also felt a bit guilty because of her physical reaction to Kristian’s advances. She had no control over that, and she knew in her heart that she wasn’t interested in a romantic relationship with Kristian. She loved Noah completely and without question.
“I’m just tired.”
Noah had suspected throughout the week that Sharlee wasn’t telling him something. He was just waiting for her to come out with whatever it was. They went to bed early.
“Babe, you’re dreaming.”
“You were talking in your sleep. What were you dreaming about?”
He reached over and turned on the bedside lamp. Sharlee thought for a few moments and remembered the dream. It was about what had happened at the lab, but the guard hadn’t come inside the lab during her dream. In her dream more had happened, and she’d ended up slapping Kristian.
Sharlee knew that she had to tell Noah. Her conscience wouldn’t let her continue to keep something this important from him. He was doing better now with controlling his anger trying especially hard since Skylar was born. Sessions with Sarge as well as the martial arts training had really helped him. So she decided to tell him. Besides, they had promised long ago not to hide things from each other.
“Noah, I didn’t tell you this because I didn’t see the need to upset you. My dream was because of…” She hesitated. Maybe she shouldn’t tell him what had happened today. Maybe just telling him that Kristian was also a lab participant would be enough.
Noah was looking at her intently. She started again.
“Kristian is taking the lab too. He mentioned me to the selection committee, and they invited me to take the lab. The instructor stressed that it was because of our skills and talent that we were chosen to participate. He wanted me to know that I didn’t get invited because of Kristian, but it was because they felt that I was one of the best students under consideration for the lab program.”
“What has happened in the class? What is making you look so upset and making you toss and turn in bed? What made you dream about that… guy?”
“Kristian is not behaving in as professional a manner with me as he should be doing.”
Noah was still looking at her. He could read her face so well and knew there was more. He knew he wouldn’t like it, or she wouldn’t have hesitated to tell him. He knew that she was afraid of his reaction.
Sharlee told him about the kiss on her neck and the guards arrival. Noah didn’t say anything. Sharlee could see that he was fighting for control.
“Noah it’s only for one more week, and I’m going to talk with him on Monday. I’ll complain to Dr. Baker if he doesn’t…..”
She trailed off as Noah got up from the bed. He started pulling on his jeans.
Sharlee grabbed her robe. He had on his shirt and shoes and headed for the bedroom door.
Then he rushed from the room with Sharlee coming behind him!
Dale came through the door in time to hear Kristian’s comment.
“Noah settle down! Let me talk with him!”
After Noah was calm again, Dale faced Kristian.
“Kristian, I have to admit that the comment that I just overheard made my blood boil too. I find your behavior disappointing as well as bewildering. You were disrespectful of my daughter as a married woman and as a colleague. You seem to have forgotten that Sharlee is my daughter, and her safety and happiness comes first for me.
I am your mentor, and you have put me in the unfortunate position of giving you a warning. Taking liberties with my daughter is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. I’ve helped you reach the level of success that you have achieved because of my high opinion of your abilities and the belief that you are an outstanding young man.”
He looked Kristian in the eye.
“Don’t make me think that I was wrong about you. If you step out of line again, I’ll take you down. I will put the word out and have your medical license revoked, and you won’t be able to practice medicine anywhere in this country. No agency will accept you for employment. I will also instruct my daughter to file a sexual harassment complaint against you that will tarnish your reputation. The choice is yours from this point onward.”
Kristian looked at Dale in disbelief. He had truly believed that Dale wanted him to be with Sharlee rather than with Noah. Was Dale just saying this to placate Noah? He knew that he hadn’t mistaken Sharlee’s response to his kiss and to his touch. She was attracted to him too.
“Dale, you can’t really want Sharlee to be with this dimwitted oaf! He can’t even take care of her properly. She has to parade herself for perverts to lust over just so that she can have a paycheck!”
Noah was fuming and wanting to hit Kristian again, but Dale was still between them. Dale was frowning.
“Are you talking about her job with the Harley Davidson Company? You do know that Harley has been a well-respected company for many decades? Even some doctors whom you know ride motorcycles including Harleys. As a matter of fact, Dr. Harper, the chief of emergency spoke with me about a month ago. He rides a Harley and refuses to ride anything else. He wanted to know when Noah’s dealership is going to open. He’s looking forward to having somewhere local to shop. His wife is interested in learning to ride too. After Noah’s shop opens, he’s thinking of starting a riding group here comprised of professionals. I’m actually proud of Noah and Sharlee for finding such an inventive and successful way to take care of their family.”
“Kristian, I more than anyone understand your feelings for Sharlee. I mean how can you look into those big green eyes of hers and feel nothing. However, what I don’t understand is how you can treat her in such a disrespectful way. She is a highly intelligent, confident woman. She knows who and what she wants, and I’m awed and appreciative each and every day that she loves me. You can’t know her very well if you don’t realize that she has an extremely high moral standard for herself. I have complete trust in her, and I know that she will never cheat on me in any way! You lost her respect by crossing the line with her and copping an unwanted kiss.”
He turned to Dale. “I give you my word that I’m not about to slug him again tonight. Can you give me a minute alone with him?”
Dale studied Noah’s face and stepped into the next room.
“I’m not like Dale just using words to get my point across. I believe in taking action when someone is a threat to a person that I love. A surgeon isn’t any good with broken fingers. It’d be a shame if you had an “accident” like that. I promise you that you will have just such an “accident” if you step over the line again with my wife.”
Kristian was silent for a few moments thinking. He’d always gone after something if he wanted it. He didn’t doubt that Noah would complete his threat, but he wasn’t afraid. However, he realized that Noah was right. As long as Sharlee was married to Noah, she would not be open to any type of romantic relationship with him. He sighed. Of course, she wouldn’t! He’d been such an idiot. Her character was one of things that he admired in her. He called Dale back into the room.
“Noah, you and Dale are right. I have been very disrespectful to Sharlee. I give you my word that I will not cross the line again with her. I won’t continue to pursue her while you and she are together. I apologize for my behavior, and I will apologize to Sharlee when I see her on Monday.”
Dale smiled in relief that he had not misjudged Kristian. Kristian had just made an impulsive mistake and would not repeat it. Noah looked doubtfully at Kristian. There was something about the way Kristian had chosen his words that made Noah feel uneasy. He and Dale headed outside to their vehicles.
Noah agreed. “Hey, you wouldn’t want to come home with me and protect me from Sharlee would you?”
Dale laughed! “No, I’m afraid you’re on your own for that one!”
“Yes, you have told me that before, and most of the time, I do know that you can take care of yourself. However, when we fell in love with one another and became committed to each other, I believed that your battles became my battles and my battles became yours. I’m never going to stand on the sideline when any man crosses the line with you, just as I don’t believe that you would if the situation were reversed.”
Then she touched his cheek.
“Keep me from staying mad at you!”
“Oh Noah! I love you too!”
“Not much before your Dad got there, but he’s going to have a shiner. He apologized and said that he’ll apologize to you on Monday. He said he won’t do anything like that to you again. Babe, if he doesn’t keep his word, please tell me! We promised to be open with each other about everything.”
“Yes, you’re right, Noah. We did. It’s just that I know how you feel about Kristian, and I didn’t want to upset you.”
“Alright, I promise to tell you, but you have to promise not to lose your temper.”
“I promise that I’ll try not to lose my temper.”
“I guess that’s the most that I can ask of you. Maybe it would be good for you to teach me some of those martial arts moves you’ve learned like you suggested. You’re right that Cara and I should be able to defend ourselves if needed.”
Sharlee yawned. It was 2:00 in the morning, and she finally felt like she could really sleep.
“Let’s get some real sleep now.”
Noah hesitated. Did he really want to know the answer to this question? If he were honest, in his heart he already knew the answer, but he felt like he needed to hear her say it tonight.
He told her, “I don’t see it myself, but I know that a lot of women probably think that Kristian is charming and good looking.”
Sharlee grinned at Noah. Then she looked him in the eye seriously.
“Years ago, I met and fell in love with my soulmate, you, Noah! I knew that you were the one and only man with whom I wanted to share my heart, my body, and my life. You are still the one and only man that I want. No one, not Kristian nor any other man is going to come between us. Just accept the fact that you belong to me, and I belong to you.”
Noah smiled at her. “I knew that, but I just wanted to hear it again tonight. I’m beat too! Let’s head up to bed.”
They turned out the lights and made sure the alarm was set.
On Monday morning, Kristian was waiting for Sharlee in the parking lot when she arrived for the lab. He apologized and promised to be a gentleman from now on. Sharlee accepted his apology but warned him that it had better never happen again.
The instructor took Sharlee into his office and asked if she wanted to lodge a complaint against Kristian for his behavior. The guard had told him what he’d witnessed the previous Friday. Sharlee had told him no because Kristian had apologized. She did say though that if Kristian didn’t keep their relationship professional she would want to file a sexual harassment complaint against him. The instructor offered to speak with Kristian, but Sharlee told him that it wasn’t necessary for him to do so.
Kristian kept his word and the rest of the week went smoothly. Their project was one of the two chosen for further development at the bio-chemical lab that sponsored the class. Sharlee was extremely proud!