Crash and Burn - Chapter 42: He ‘ike lono

Lanikuhonua Estate, Honolulu, 9.25 p.m.

The setting was very romantic, and not at all pretentious. Line upon line of little white lights hung around the spacious lawn, twined around wooden veranda pillars, forming a flimsy barrier between tall palm trees illuminated by discretely placed white spotlights. The chairs and tables were covered in white cloth with simple arrangements of small tea-lights as centerpieces. There was no stage, no orchestra, only a dance floor at the right of the dining setting with moody jazz crooning out of well-hidden speakers.

Steve hung on the outskirts of the crowd, consisting mainly of uniforms, Navy and Marine alike, nursing a beer with Mary, and the Five-0s keeping him company, when Catherine Rollins approached their small group, a smile on her lips.

Steve let his gaze run appreciatively over her. She looked amazing in a crimson strapless ball-gown, the flared skirt swishing with every step and he experienced a pang of regret when all he felt upon seeing her was the usual admiration a man felt for a beautiful woman. There was no pain at their relationship ending, no surge of desire at the sight of her naked shoulders and the hint of cleavage.

“Hi, guys,” she greeted, hugged Kono and kissed Danny, Chin and him on the cheek. “You look great. And you, Steve, dashing as always.”

He looked into her eyes, thankful she wasn’t faking it. She was genuinely happy to see them, to see him, there was no rancor, no hard feelings.

“And you’re as beautiful as ever, Cath,” he complimented her.

“Thanks.” She ran her hands down the bodice of her gown. “It was very last minute.”

“It looks good on you,” he asserted.

“Your date’s one lucky bastard,” Danny put it. “He has the most beautiful woman on his arm tonight.”

Cath blushed slightly, remembering her date using those exact words earlier, when they left for the ball. “I think that’s a very subjective observation, Danny.” She looked at Mary and Kono. “You have two gorgeous women with you tonight, I’m sure they don’t appreciate you admiring someone else.”

Mary and Kono disagreed and the three women gushed about each other’s gowns, discussed designers, styles, and shoes.

“Who are you looking for?” Steve asked as he noticed Catherine looking around curiously.

“Sabrina. Another beautiful woman, wouldn’t you agree?” she said with a twinkle in her eye. “I can’t wait to see her in a gown.”

“You’ll wait a long time, then,” he said. “She’s not coming.”

Cath was taken aback. She’d fully expected the two to have talked things through. “Why not?”

Steve shrugged, keeping an impassive expression. “She’s leaving tomorrow. Where’s your date?”

She almost got whiplash at the rapid change of topic, but she got the hint. “Waiting for the governor to show up. Apparently they went to school together.”

With impeccable timing, Joe White joined their little group with another, strangely familiar, silver-haired man in tow. “Steve, gang, this is Sebastian Hawthorne. Seb, these are Catherine Rollins, Danny Williams, Chin Ho Kelly, Kono Kalakaua, Mary McGarrett and her brother Steve,” he finished with a pointed look.

At a closer look, as the man was shaking his hand vigorously, Steve could see the family resemblance. “Nice to meet you.”

The man checked the honors pinned over Steve’s heart. “I see you were pretty good at what you used to do,” he said with a grin. “My son talks about you a lot. Your team really made an impression on him, McGarrett. That seldom happens.”

Steve refrained from telling the man his son had also made an impression on him. And not in a good way, so he merely nodded.

The usual small-talk started, on their opinion on the decorations—upon which Danny commented on the abundance of white—their enjoyment of the evening so far, the peculiar absence of their host et cetera.

When the appropriate amount of time passed, Steve was certain Hawthorne would move on, however the man was either oblivious to Steve’s transference of dislike or simply didn’t care. He wouldn’t budge.

“When Joe here told me I’d get to meet you, Steve—you don’t mind if I call you Steve, do you?—I simply couldn’t wait. It’s great to be able to talk to yet another SEAL around here. What’s left of my friends, beside Joe, spend their retirement in Florida, my only son defied tradition by joining the Marines, and—” Hawthorne spread his arms, encompassing the uniforms milling around “—these Navy boys have no idea what a SEAL really is and I won’t even mention the M-word again.”

“You were a SEAL?”

“Yep. SOTIC with Team Two. Nam. Met your father there.”

Joe grinned conspiratorially at Hawthorne, and the others were silent, letting them talk, and while Steve appreciated the opportunity to talk to another SEAL who’s worked on ‘the other side’, he really didn’t want to bond with Hawthorne. Call him petty, but he couldn’t help it.

And Hawthorne was still talking, “Makes you wonder if it isn’t genetic, you know. My son might’ve veered off the path, but my daughter sure didn’t get that memo, falling for a SEAL and all.”

“Marcus doesn’t have a sister,” Mary interrupted.

“I also never heard of the governor having any other siblings,” Chin supplied.

Sebastian Hawthorne smiled. “Yeah, well, that’s because I was stupid. My father told me an illegitimate child would ruin my career, so we kept in under wraps. Then, her mother died, and the kid went into the system...”

They all stared as the old man’s eyes misted over and Joe patted his back gently.

“Then, one day, my son brings home a stray. A girl, a true fighter. They went to the same school and they ended up in detention together. She was ten, my son almost fifteen. A bunch of guys had picked on her and she’d started fighting. When he’d tried to intervene, she’d slugged him just as the principal had arrived. The others ran, the two idiots got detention. So what does my son do, he brings the kid home.”

He chuckled, though it sounded more like he was choking on his emotions. “As soon as I saw her, I knew she was Laney’s kid. My kid. She’d been bouncing around in foster care for years. Of course she didn’t want to have anything to do with me—she still hasn’t melted entirely toward me, to be frank, but she adored her big brother from the start. And he adored her. They’ve been inseparable ever since.”

“So why isn’t this public knowledge?” Mary asked, a bit angry Marcus had never told her about a sister. Sure, they hadn’t dated for long, but still. “It’s been like twenty years.”

“She doesn’t want it made public. She’s afraid it might damage his career. We’ve been telling her it didn’t matter, but she’s stubborn. Takes it from my side of the family,” Hawthorne said proudly. “Besides, with her kind of work, it’s best not to have any connections.”

“Is she in the military, too?” Chin asked.

“Nope.”

“CIA?” Kono ventured.

Hawthorne shook his head. “Not really. You can take your pick, though. She was a top-choice for any interagency deal.” He grinned, a picture of a proud father. “She’s a firecracker, I tell you. Fluent in seven languages, degree in criminology and cryptology, don’t-know-what-color belt in Taekwondo, she’s even learned Krav Maga, an excellent shot... You name it. Bright, stubborn, intense, goal-oriented...Until, bam, one day she falls head-over-heels for a Navy SEAL. She hasn’t been the same since.”

“What happened? Did he die?” Mary asked, clutching her brother’s arm.

“Oh no, he’s very much alive, but a crack opened the day she met him. A crack someone exploited ruthlessly a few years back.” Hawthorne grew silent, staring into the lines of white lights crisscrossing above them. “You see, she was in the middle of a mission. Top secret, big, and global. Someone decided they didn’t want the mission to succeed, so they went for the brains. My daughter. And they used the guy she was in love with as leverage. They threatened his life and she gave in. She thought she could protect him, though he could take care of himself—the guy was a SEAL, I told her—but she wouldn’t listen. She gave them everything they wanted, broke it off with the guy, then went on a suicide mission to get back the intel and eliminate the threat.”

Hawthorne looked at the stunned faces around him. “A tough cookie, my girl. She went MIA, and when we all thought she was dead, she came back a few months later, and never spoke of it since. Her superiors must have known about it, though, because she even got a commendation. Not that she cared for it.”

“Then what?” Catherine asked, her eyes misty.

Hawthorne shrugged. “You’d have to ask her. All I know is she quit her job and didn’t resume the relationship with the guy. I wish I had him in front of me, look him in the eye and shake his hand for being man enough to capture my little girl’s heart. To tell him not to be stupid and that if he still loves her, he should take another shot at it. Because she sure still loves him.” He looked pointedly at Steve. “You and me both know we SEALs are tough, he should’ve fought for her, tried to learn the truth, made her see that he was willing to see it through no matter what. Don’t you agree?”

Before Steve could say anything, Hawthorne looked toward the veranda. “Ah, our host has finally arrived. And with a stunner on his arm. He takes after me, you know,” he finished with a grin.

Steve turned and almost swallowed his tongue at the sight of the woman whose hand was tucked firmly in the crook of Marcus Hawthorne’s elbow.

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