Loose Endsby Allison
Disclaimers: None of these characters belong to me, except for Ainsley's family, sort of. And I'm not making any money doing this.
The sound of the latch turning over made Ainsley jump. She glanced at the clock as she headed for the living room and commented as the door swung open, "You're earlier than I expected."
Sam gave her a rueful grin as he took off his jacket. "Want me to go away and come back in an hour?"
"Yes, please." She draped his jacket over a chair and leaned up to kiss him. "Hi."
"Hi." His hands stroking over her shoulders, he looked over her into the apartment and asked, "Family back at the hotel?"
"Yeah," she confirmed, pulling away with a bit of a sigh. "They left a half hour ago."
"Damn, just missed them. And I was so looking forward to having the 'I'm sleeping with your sister' conversation with two men who could beat me to death with my briefcase."
Ainsley laughed, which did not make him feel any better. "You still might have your chance," she commented. "I said I'd drive them to the airport in the morning."
"Right." He sank onto the couch. "What happened this morning?"
"After you left?"
"Yeah." He patted the space next to him and made a frustrated face as she went to the kitchen instead. "Where are you going?"
"Did you eat dinner?"
"No," he replied after a moment's thought.
"I didn't think so. I saved you chicken."
He closed his eyes momentarily and grumbled, "Forget the chicken, come here."
Her head peered out of the kitchen, her statement softening a fraction at the sight of his weary posture. "You need to eat. I'll just be a minute, it's still mostly warm."
"Women," he groaned, turning his face into the cushions. By the time she returned to his side he looked asleep. She set the warmed plate on her coffee table and stroked his hair back from his face gently. "Sam?"
"Yeah," he said as if they'd been carrying on a conversation.
"Was it that bad a day?"
He opened his eyes and took in her worried statement. "Not really. Where's the chicken?"
She handed him the plate and a fork. "Eat."
"Sit," he returned. When she had seated herself next to him he asked again, "What happened this morning?"
Ainsley rolled her eyes, but she looked slightly amused. He took that as a good sign. "Well. My mother immediately asked if you had spent the night. My dad basically told her to shut up. She told him she had a right to ask . . ."
"So essentially they forgot the conversation was about you." He took a bite of chicken and yelped. "Ow! You said you were going to *warm* it!"
She grasped his wrist and pulled his fork over to her so that she could blow on the food. "There. All better. Yes, for a merciful but brief time they yelled at each other instead of me. Then my mother remembered what we were talking about."
"I said you had."
"Spent the night," she repeated impatiently. "Ryan wasn't saying anything, because of course he knew all along. Oddly enough, Dad wasn't saying anything either."
Sam grimaced around his fork. "Yeah, that's actually not so weird."
Her eyes widened slightly in recognition. "I wondered. What did you talk about?"
He shook his head. "You first."
"All right." Watching his plate carefully, she settled herself against his shoulder. "Patrick wanted to know if I had asked you to stay over."
"As opposed to?"
"I don't know, you forcing yourself on me, I guess."
Sam set the fork down on his plate with a clatter. "I don't want you to take this the wrong way, but your brother's seen 'Oklahoma!' a few too many times."
"Musical theatre isn't exactly Patrick's taste," she commented dryly. "Shall I continue?"
"By all means." He looked more worried than his words implied, and she gave him a little smile and squeezed his thigh.
"Obviously I told him I was fine - I told him we stayed over a lot, and that it was completely mutual. He couldn't object to that much, he's used to it."
Sam's brow furrowed. "Huh?"
"I've never mentioned that Susannah dates - well - she tends to -" Ainsley grinned. "She's slept with half the guys in town."
Sam nearly dropped his plate altogether. "You're kidding."
"I'm really not."
"And your father hasn't beat them up?"
She frowned, trying to put into words a complicated family situation. "Susannah and I are - different."
"Shut up," she said good-naturedly. "She's the baby, so originally she got the whole protective thing from the brothers and Dad. She also got to do whatever she wanted, because most of it we had already done first and they started to get complacent." She sighed and leaned her head against his shoulder. "The thing is, real early on - like sixth grade - Susy was going to the movies with groups of kids and going to parties and whatnot, and it was pretty clear that she was handling guys much better than I ever had." She smiled and rolled her eyes again. "Much better. She knew how to - let's put it this way. We both went to my senior prom."
Sam's eyebrows lifted. "She was - a freshman?"
"Yeah. She got asked by a senior."
"Was he . . . I don't mean to insinuate anything, but . . ."
"No," Ainsley replied. "Not that time. That, in fact, was something else we both did in the same year. Only difference was that I was twenty-two and there was only one after him - before you - and she was nineteen and there were several after that one."
Sam leaned forward to set his plate on the table and then arranged himself around her on the couch. "Where did she go to school?"
"Anyway. She brought guys home all the time, and I of course never did - *what* are you smirking about?"
He was definitely smirking. "I'm the first guy you introduced to your family?"
"Oh, dear God," she groaned. "Do you want the rest of the story, or do you want to gloat?"
He kissed the top of her head, unable to wipe the smile off his face. "I can do both at once."
With a dramatic sigh, she continued, "So they came to the conclusion that Susy knew what she was doing . . ."
"Or who," Sam commented, and Ainsley smacked him.
". . . And that I hadn't learned to manage myself and still needed their protection," she finished.
"Has that impression changed?" he asked seriously.
"I would hope so," she replied.
"So you convinced your brother this wasn't an abusive relationship - then what?"
"Not much. We went to breakfast . . ." Ainsley turned and kissed his shoulder, but not before Sam saw the blush that she was trying to hide.
"What?" he asked, sensing a good story.
"You're withholding evidence, Counselor."
She blushed even redder and said, "My mother wanted to know if you were any good."
It was a good thing he had finished eating, because he nearly choked on the air at that point. "She did not."
"She really did," Ainsley groaned.
"No, I mean she couldn't actually have said that."
"No, what she said was, 'So, Ainsley, is it at least worth sleeping with him?'"
"You have to be kidding me."
"Verbatim. Not in front of the boys, fortunately - she followed me to the bathroom."
"What could you possibly have told her?"
She looked up and grinned. "Fishing for compliments?"
"That hadn't occurred to me, but - now, yeah."
Swinging her legs over his lap, she said near his ear, "Obviously I said that you were an absolute sex god capable of turning me into a writhing, screaming mass of naked ecstasy."
Several silent seconds later he said, "Okay, that's not really what you said, right?"
She shook her head. "There are times when I wonder about you, you know."
"You didn't -"
"Sam, I believe I would die before I said that to my mother."
"That's good, because I believe your mother would die if you said that to her."
"Probably." She captured his chin in her hand and pulled him down to face her. "I said that sleeping with you was everything it should be and more, and that you treated me the way other women dream of being treated."
He gave her a soft kiss and asked, "What did she say?"
"She said you looked flexible and athletic."
He paused. "You're joking again, right?"
"Holy God, Ainsley."
"The bathroom inspires bizarre confidences, Sam, never forget that." She took one of his hands between both of hers before asking, "What did my dad say to you?"
"He said he had the right to know that you were safe. I agreed."
Ainsley winced in embarrassment, but asked, "And?"
"I told him about Lisa. That got me the sympathy vote, I think. Then I - I don't know, actually. I basically delivered a speech."
"No, it was good, I think. I said that I loved you and that I stayed over because I didn't sleep well without you."
Ainsley quieted, but her hands tightened on his. "What did he say?"
"He said that short of your becoming Catholic and going into the convent, he was glad you were with me."
She breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank God. The Jefferson Hayes seal of approval is not easy to come by."
"I got that." He bent and kissed her again, then tilted her head back and bit lightly on her chin - he'd done it once in the heat of the moment and she'd loved the way it felt. "So. We're fine."
"We are indeed." She pulled out of his arms, ignoring his efforts to keep her there. "You wanted to watch CNN at eleven, and I have ice cream."
"What kind?" he asked, still with his petulant face on.
"The kind with all the coffee and chocolate."
"Ainsley, it's eleven PM. I've had that stuff - neither of us is ever going to sleep again."
She raised both eyebrows, one hand on her hip. "How much exactly were you planning on sleeping tonight?"
His eyes widened and he choked out, "Get the ice cream."
"My family's flight isn't until noon."
"Get the ice cream."
She laughed and went back into the kitchen.
Several hours later - during most of which Sam couldn't get the phrase "writhing, screaming mass of naked ecstasy" out of his head - he lay with his body curled protectively around her, stroking tiny circles on her bare shoulder. The weekend and its many conversations had brought a worry of his to the forefront, and he finally asked, "Ainsley?" He almost hoped she would be asleep and give him an excuse not to ask this.
No such luck. "Hmm?" she asked quietly.
It took a moment to decide what exactly he wanted to say. "I've been wondering something."
"It's just that I've been burned before, and . . ."
She rolled over and tucked her head under his chin. "What?"
"If - I'm not asking at this moment, so I don't want you to feel pressured, and I don't want this to be a thing that we worry about, but - if I were to - ask you to marry me - you know, at some point in the future - would you think about saying yes?"
There was a deadly moment of stillness, and then her hands snaked up through his hair and she pulled him down for a kiss. "You're worried I wouldn't want to marry you?" she asked against his mouth.
"A little," he admitted.
"I'm not Lisa," she whispered.
"I really know that."
"Good." She released him and settled back down, running her hands over his chest. "And the answer is yes. If you were to ask me at some point in the future, I would think about - you know what, screw it. I would say yes."
"But you shouldn't let that worry you, or start thinking that now I want you to propose tomorrow. I'm just saying, if the time was right and you did ask, I would say yes."
"Okay." He hugged her close and nestled his cheek against her hair. "I can definitely handle that."