Bipartisan Banterby Elizabeth
Rating: PG - my kids have seen/heard much worse & they're 9 and 11. Some adult situations but no skin. [Archivist: I say PG-13, but I like to err on the side of caution.]
Sam Seaborn bolted upright in his bed. "Not again," he muttered reaching for his glasses beside the clock. It was four a.m. and he had just awoken from an incredibly vivid dream of her. Damn! Ainsley Hayes was haunting him. AGAIN. Oh sure, he knew he liked her. In spite of himself, in spite of the fact he usually hated blondes and Republicans, he liked her. But dreams featuring the woman had deprived him of a decent night's sleep for weeks now.
Sam's libido had a voice of its own. "Maybe if I slept with her, it would help." His rational mind took over. Hello? Where did that come from? His mind was racing as he flashed back to that moment in the hallway when he heard her voice warble the one and only time it had, "If I have to face another disappointment today," she was close to tears.
Sam's libido kicked in again. His gut instinct had been to gather her into his arms and kiss her. He'd never disappoint her. He'd never disappointed a woman. Sam couldn't believe he'd fired two intensely loyal, life long Democrats to just defend a short blond rigid Republican JUNIOR staffer. He hated Republicans. Well, maybe not all of them. He couldn't shake the image of her from his mind. He enjoyed their banter. She never let up on him. She challenged him. Every day, every step of the way, she challenged him. Ugh. "Harvard Law School" she'd said without rising to the bait today. She had done so just to one up him. He'd gone to Yale. He knew damn right well where she'd gone to school and that she hadn't studied baton twirling. He wanted the upper hand. He had wanted to get a rise out of her and it hadn't worked. Sam relived the rest of the conversation in his mind. "I won't get Republican juice on you." No Ainsley, I'll get it on both of us. I'll get your juices so . . . "
"Shit!!" Sam said, punching his pillow and then rolled out of bed. Sam headed for a cold shower. He'd stop at the gym to work out. He had to get this woman out of his mind. There were laws against the types of things he was thinking about doing with someone he worked with, weren't there?
On the other side of town, Ainsley stirred yet another teaspoon of honey into her herbal tea. She had long since given up the pretext of trying to sleep. All she wanted was a sugar fix. No, it wasn't. She craved sugar whenever she was around Sam. SAM! The most irritating, self righteous, liberal lunatic she'd ever encountered. Oh, he wasn't all that bad. His motives were good. He wanted to make the world a better place. She knew that. It was how he went about things that was all screwy. He was one of the few people who held their own with her intellectually. She respected the man's ability to debate. Sam's commitment, his dedication, his passion.
That still small voice in her gut that had been keeping her up for weeks whispered, "How dedicated do you think Sam could be to your passion Ainsley? Would he really be the master?" The spoon clanged on the side of the cup. She dropped it onto the saucer. Their battle over employee fraud had been one of their best. "You reversed my position." He'd said it over and over. Oh, she'd love to reverse the position. She'd love to allow herself to be under him for a change. Or on top. She couldn't do this any more! Her mind wandered back to the look on his face when she'd finally gotten through to him. He'd listened to her. He'd backed down and realized she was right and he was wrong. He hadn't said it that simply. But the look on his face said it. That day she had influenced the national policy on small business. She, Ainsley Hayes had done that. She should be satisfied. "Sam could satisfy you like you've never been satisfied before!!" Ainsley set her tea cup down and decided to take a shower and go to the office. Anything to get Sam out of her mind.
A few weeks later, Ainsley sat at her desk in the broom closet of an office she occupied in the White House basement. She would kill for a window. She really did have the ugliest office in the whole building. Her office was dark, stuffy and ugly. But it was in the White House. Serving her country mattered to her. She put up with it. She didn't think her day could get much worse till her cell phone rang. "Hi, Peter. Are we still on for the weekend? NO, it's all right. . . . . . I understand and I hope you're feeling better." She thought to herself "Peter, you really are a schmuck, aren't you?" Aloud she muttered, "now what am I going to do?" as she hung up the phone.
"Problem?" Sam said at her doorway. She always left it open - she needed the air circulation. Sam looked around.
"Nothing important." She flipped back.
"Okay, so what is it?" He didn't like the way she responded. She was lying.
"Nothing important!" She raised her voice slightly.
"So, if it's not important, you'll tell me, right." He started to raise his voice in response.
"Sam, it's none of your business." This time she was down right curt.
"I'm deputy communications director, everything that happens in this building is my business."
"It's not that important!" She wished he'd go away.
"So, you're saying it's mildly important?"
"UGH!! Fine Sam! There's a family party this weekend, for my parents 40th Wedding Anniversary and Peter Morris . . . "
"The schmuck from the hill that day?"
"Yeah, the schmuck from the hill." She looked down at her desk hoping the conversation would end now. He wouldn't let her off the hook so easily.
"What about the schmuck?" His tone was serious now.
"He promised to take me. It's one of those things you need a date for or your grandmother gets worried and starts trying to marry you off to every Dweeb whose grandmother she went to Grammar School with."
"He promised to take you and he's backing out? At six p.m. on Friday night." Sam couldn't see why anyone with a date with her would break it.
"He backed out." She shrugged it off.
Sam didn't buy it. "He backed out because of that scene on the hill?! The schmuck!"
"Sam, I know he's a schmuck. I called him a schmuck myself at the time."
"I'll take you." He said simply.
"It's my fault. The schmuck dropped out because you got the best of him in front of me. I owe you."
"How is this your fault again?" She had to cover up her pleasure at his offer.
"I was with you when you called him a schmuck, I'll take you."
"Because he's a schmuck." She tried to make it sound logical.
"Because I WANT TO" Sam had hoped he'd left that little voice in the shower this morning. But that was asking too much. "Because me taking you has to be better than some jerk grandson." He leaned onto her desk. "Tell me where and when."
"Pick me up at 2:30 Saturday afternoon. We have a four p.m. flight to North Carolina. Pack a tux for Saturday night. Casual for Sunday afternoon. We'll be staying with my sister." She looked relieved.
"I have to wear a penguin suit for this thing?" Sam smiled at her.
She raised her eyebrows. "And a bathing suit for Sunday afternoon. There's a pool party at my Aunt Grace's - also a command performance."
"Okay." He said simply. "I need you to do a summary of this for me." He dropped it on her desk and turned to go, " Ainsley, this time, don't reverse my position."
"Okay, but just this time." She called after him.
Sam couldn't believe what he'd just done. He didn't want to go to North Carolina for the weekend. "Yes you do." The damn voice said. Yes you do.
Ainsley sat down in shock. Sam Seaborn was coming with her to her parents anniversary party. She'd be spending a weekend with him. She would have him all to herself. He was her date? She was bringing a liberal democrat into a room full of ultra conservative republican insiders? She must be nuts. What had she done? But you want him with you don't you Ainsley? You've seen Sam in a tuxedo lots of times, yeah, but never in a bathing suit. Now that could be interesting.
The flight was routine. The usual up in Washington and down in Charlotte type of thing. They were about to hail a cab at Douglas airport when Sam heard a voice calling, " Ainsley, hey sis!" as a cute short blonde woman approached them. She had to be Ainsley's sister. There was no doubt. She got closer. She was a dead ringer for Ainsley. Except for the perky short haircut - he'd swear they were the same woman.
"Paisley, you didn't have to meet us?" Ainsley smiled hugging the woman.
"I had to escape - let the caterers do their thing back at the house. Where's useless? This is not useless. This is . . . " Paisley turned her back to Sam and spun her sister around pointed her thumb at Sam and mouthed "GORGEOUS"
Ainsley got flustered. "Paisley, I want you to meet . . a colleague of mine. Sam Seaborn. Sam, this is my sister Paisley Marshall. My twin sister."
"I figured that out. Even the twin part. Nice to meet you, Paisley. And what's this about useless?" Sam was confused.
"Useless? Oh him, That's my name for Peter What's his Face who usually gets taped to my sisters arm when she needs an acceptable escort. " She replied. Sam decided was going to like this woman. She would be fun. He smiled at Ainsley, "And here I thought we'd decided his name was Schmuck." Ainsley rolled her eyes. This had the makings of a very long weekend.
The Ford Explorer pulled into the driveway of an elegant old home in one Charlotte's most exclusive neighbourhoods. Paisley opened the front door and a maid met them in the foyer. "Carol, this is Mr. Seaborn. Would you please show him to the Guest Suite. I'll help my sister get settled in upstairs in her old room. Is my husband home yet?"
"Yes, Mrs. Marshall, he's in the library. He wanted to know if you were planning to have a light meal before the party this evening?" The maid asked.
"Yes, please, sandwiches by the pool will be fine. And something sweet for Ainsley. She's always hungry. Aren't you Ainsley? We probably have time for a dip before the party." Paisley was an experienced hostess.
"Sounds good." Ainsley laughed with her sister. Ainsley looked to Sam. "Once you get settled, I'll meet you by the pool and introduce you to my brother-in-law."
Sam nodded. He'd never seen Ainsley quite so relaxed. He was in for another surprises. A three year old ran through the house dripping wet, followed by a golden retriever barking with delight. Heedless of her linen travelling suit, Ainsley reached down and scooped the child into her arms. "Hey sweet heart, how's my girl?"
A nanny followed. "I'm sorry Mrs. Marshall, Miss Hayes. She heard the car and bolted in to see you. I'll take her and get her tidied up a bit."
"Not on your life! I'm going to do it." Ainsley replied. Sam stood stunned. Ainsley Hayes, a woman who ate senior White House Staffers for breakfast, was a sucker for kids. She tickled the little one and then set her on her feet.
"MAN?" the bundle of blonde curls said looking curiously at Sam. She was adorable. Sam liked kids - he even wanted a few. Someday.
Paisley laughed aloud. "I know Megan honey, you're not used to seeing Ainsley with a man." She muttered something to Ainsley that sounded suspiciously like, "not a real one anyway. Till now." She said clearly "This is SAM."
"Sam, I am." He said awkwardly as he held out his hand for her to shake.
"Sam I am?" Megan said. Then, as if she'd known him forever, she added "From Green Eggs and Ham?"
A grin started on Sam's face. It started out slow. Then it started to grow. "Sam I am." He said simply. He knelt so that he could look her in the eye. "And Megan, if you bring me that book, I'll read it to you before your grandparents party tonight." The child squealed in delight. He looked at Ainsley, "Even Democrats read their kids Dr. Suess." Sam climbed the stairs, following the maid. This was going to be an interesting weekend.
"Spill it." Paisley said when she and Ainsley dropped the overnight bags on the floor of Ainsley's childhood room. "Maybe I spoke too soon, maybe I should have offered you two the guest house?"
"PAZE!!" Ainsley said. "He's a colleague. He's a nice guy who agreed to accompany me to this party tonight so I wouldn't end up with a Mortimer Dweeb nephew of Grandma Ellen's Friend Irma."
"No way. He's not your usual window dressing type of date. That guy is hot. Even if he is the White House Deputy Communications Director." At her sisters dumbfounded look she continued. "Yes, I know who he is. I'm not that clued out of national politics. Close your mouth sis, the flies will get in. And, I'm also not clued out about the important stuff either. He likes you. And what's more - you like him. I hope it works out. See ya downstairs." Paisley left Ainsley alone with her thoughts.
Sam stuck his head out the door and headed back downstairs the way he came. He wasn't worried. He always impressed fathers and charmed mothers. It was part of being Sam Seaborn. So why was he nervous? He was . . . nervous. He was nervous dammit for the first time in years. He felt like a teenager on his first date. He asked one of the caterers (he hoped that's who it was) for directions to the library. Ainsley was waiting there for him nibbling on a chocolate chip cookie. Kiss the crumbs away. Oh shit where had that come from? He knew he hadn't packed that voice. This was supposed to be a friendly weekend. Yeah right. Sam was a goner.
Ainsley led him to the deck surrounding a picture perfect pool. "Greg, I'd like you to meet Sam Seaborn."
Greg Marshall held out his hand, "Nice to meet you, Sam. I hope you found everything you need? How about a beer."
"I'd love one, thanks." Sam replied taking a seat under the umbrella. "Lovely home."
"Thank you. It was Ainsley and Paisley's growing up. Once the girls were grown, the Judge and Mom Hayes wanted a place in town. So, we bought it from them."
The men exchanged small talk for a while before taking a swim. When Megan arrived at the water's edge carrying a book, Sam excused himself, dried himself off, pulled the munchkin onto his knee and read her story. "Ainsley," Greg said quietly, "keep this one." A member of the staff reminded everyone of the time and they all went inside to get ready for the formal cocktail party. As he walked into the house, Sam felt his arm wrap around her waist. He didn't remember putting it there. It just happened by reflex, it was a completely natural thing to do, it was as if he'd escorted her all his life. Oh, oh, you've got it bad Sammy Boy.
Ainsley felt a tingle where Sam touched her. It was a very pleasant sensation. It had been a pleasant afternoon. Very pleasant. A casual touch makes you tingle, Ainsley, how do you think it would it feel if Sam intended to make you tingle. UGH! You're hopeless Ainsley. Hopeless.
Ainsley took a deep breath and headed to the library where Sam was waiting. They'd go into the party together. Her father and mother were greeting guests as they arrived in the ballroom. "Hi Mom," she smiled giving her a kiss on the cheek.
"Ainsley dear, you made it. Your father and I are so happy you could come tonight. We know how hard it is to get away from Washington. Aren't you going to introduce us to your friend?"
"Mom, Dad, I want you to meet my . . . Sam Seaborn." Ainsley stumbled slightly. Her father raised a brow and then he smiled at her.
"Seaborn? From the White House staff?" He looked at Sam extending his hand in greeting.
"Yes sir, Assistant Communications Director. It's a pleasure to meet you, Your Honor. Your daughter talks about you regularly. And congratulations ma'am."
"Thank you, Sam. And please, I'm Deborah and my husband is Jonathon. Ainsley dear, you look wonderful."
"I hope we get a chance to talk later, Sam," Jonathon said quietly. "I'd like to hear how you and Leo McGarry managed to convince a life-long Republican to abandon her party, put aside her convictions and work for the enemy. It must be quite a story."
"I wouldn't mind hearing that story myself, sir. IF I knew who you were talking about. It can't be Ainsley because I've never met a more contrary woman in my life. Because she made an ass out of me on national television one Sunday morning, the White House Chief of Staff hired her. Ainsley also routinely bludgeons me over the head about White House policy." Sam didn't like the looks of this. He had expected to take some heat but not yet. They had just shaken hands for crying out loud.
"I do not." Ainsley started to defend herself then realized Sam had been defending her. And quite well. "I do, don't I?"
"Regularly. And I don't think it's just for the entertainment value."
"No, that's the only fringe benefit that comes with the job."
"I figured as much. But that's why you're an important part of this administration. President Bartlett like people to debate the issues with him. Make him think about all sides. You were hired to make us think, Ainsley. God knows I can't stop thinking about you. Excuse us," He smiled at her mother and they moved through the crowd. Ainsley accepted a glass of champagne from a waiter. So did Sam. She really was stunning tonight. So tell her you bonehead. Her deep blue gown was a perfect fit and highlighted her figure. The strapless bodice revealed the cleavage that Sam had always wondered about. Her business suits were so prim and proper. But tonight, with her hair swept up in a casual bun, her shoulders and neck were bare. Kissable. "You look wonderful," he said taking a sip of his champagne.
"Thank you," she said looking over the rim of hers.
"Your father is very proud. I can tell." Sam tried to reassure her a bit.
"That's why he declared war on my date?" She was still embarrassed.
"Your family calls that a war?" Sam made light of it. "In my family, that kind of exchange doesn't even qualify as a UN Police Action. I do have one question for you."
"Fire away." Ainsley replied.
"Am I the only Democrat in this room? I mean, the big "D" engraved on my forehead is showing right?" he tried to tease her to lighten the mood.
"Well, I guess it's better than an "L" for loser," she replied happily.
"Peter Schmuck has one of those, and you were planning to bring him instead of me. What does that say about you?"
"Don't push your luck Sam, or I will feed you to the Republican Sharks here tonight." She took another sip of her champagne. "Sam, do you dance?"
"Dance? As in right here and right now?" He was surprised. Do it, Stupid. You've wanted to feel her in your arms all day. Do it!! "Sure," he said putting the champagne on an empty tray and leading her to the floor.
By the time the third song had finished, Ainsley had completely relaxed in Sam's arms and they moved together as if they were one. She rested her head on Sam's shoulder and enjoyed the feeling of his arms around her. She had felt herself tingle when his hand casually touched her back earlier, but now, she wasn't just tingling. She was warm all over. He absently caressed the bare skin on her back as they moved together. She could dance with Sam all night.
"My turn, " a voice said tapping Sam on the shoulder. "May I?"
Sam took a step back. "It's up to the lady." He looked at a man he'd never seen before. "Ainsley?"
She looked pale. "Sam, this is Craig Williams. He clerks for my father. Actually, Craig, Sam and I were just about to step outside for a breath of air. Maybe later?"
Sam kept his arm around her waist and led her through the French doors onto a terrace. "Are you okay?"
He asked turning her to face him and keeping both hands on her waist. "Who is that guy?"
"Craig Williams, he clerks for my father." She still looked pale. She started to tremble. Her feeble attempt at their usual banter failed. Miserably.
"Okay. Now, who is he? Really?" Sam was getting upset. He'd only seen Ainsley flipped out once before, and that was over the dead flowers the junior staff clowns had sent her. He'd fired them. It was either fire them or beat them up. Firing them was the professional thing to do. Only tonight he wasn't here professionally. So he should beat the guy up right? He drew her closer to him. Holding her gently, caressing her hair tenderly, comforting her. This isn't just hormones, Sam. Your feelings are involved here.
Ainsley took a deep breath and pulled back to face him. "A year ago, before I moved to DC, I was getting calls at odd hours, gifts from an anonymous person, I had a feeling I was being followed. One night, I got home to my apartment, I wasn't alone there. I tried to fight him off, I managed to call for help but . . . He wore a mask. I never saw the face."
"This guy stalked YOU?! Did he hurt you?" Sam didn't expect this. He hurt you. If he tries it again, he'll have to get through me first!
"We never had any proof it was him. It was part of the reason I went to Washington in the first place. I just always wondered if it was him . . . I thought so for a while at first . . . Then I wasn't sure. I turned down a dinner invitation, but he just shrugged it off. Like it was no big deal. But, it's just seeing him again, hearing the voice. I was, I'm sorry, we should go back in." She took another deep breath then looked up into his eyes.
Sam stared intently at the woman in his arms. It felt so right to hold her like this. Before either Sam or Ainsley knew exactly what was happening they both closed their eyes and their lips met in a tender first kiss. He brushed his lips against hers so sensuously they were both shocked by the depth of their reaction to one another. As his lips moved over hers again, Ainsley felt her knees weaken slightly and she leaned more on his strong arms. Sam felt her lips part to allow him deeper access. His tongue met hers and this time it wasn't a battle of words they fought but a questioning caress they shared. Reluctantly they broke the kiss and rejoined the party hand in hand.
Whoa Sammy. What a kiss! You felt it didn't you. You could have kissed her all night. And all day tomorrow couldn't you? Her lips were incredible, weren't they? She fit perfectly in the circle of your arms. She's just the right size - made just for you. You want to kiss her again. You can't wait to kiss her again.
Sam kept this Craig guy at a distance all night. He had worked enough political fund raisers to know how to keep circulating in a room speaking to everyone except the one person with their own agenda. He made sure that as soon as Ainsley's dance with her father or with her brother-in-law ended that he was there with a glass of champagne. He steered her to the hors d'oeuvre table before Craig could get within six feet of her. They entertained her father and his friend's with tales of their legendary conflicts and banter. She had won out on the small business fraud thing. He made sure her dad knew she mattered in the White House. Even if her office was an old broom closet. As the evening went on, it became apparent to her father that it wasn't just the White House that Ainsley mattered to. She mattered to this young man. Jonathon watched them together closely and concluded he mattered to her too. As the party drew to a close Sam realized he would have enjoyed the evening thoroughly if he hadn't felt like one of the president's Secret Service Agents on a special assignment. Shielding her had been exhausting. NO, it doesn't matter. You enjoyed just being with her. And that kiss was worth working the room.
Ainsley always knew Sam was the protective type. He couldn't help himself - he had a knight in shining armour thing going. Rumour had it he had saved CJ's life the night of the assassination attempt. It was kind of cute in a Neanderthal way but it embarrassed him too. Oh, Ainsley he can kiss though! You've got to find out if that was a fluke or if he can kiss you till your toes curl. She couldn't hold the protective thing against him. And he'd been so good about making her feel like she was contributing at the White House. He only told stories that made her look good. He didn't say anything about meeting the president in a bathrobe or asking for the last muffin. He was sweet. He was . . . Sam.
They bantered meaninglessly up the stairs as Sam walked Ainsley to her room. "I can't believe you ate the last shrimp," he laughed at her. "When you knew I wanted it. Well, at least you asked if you could."
"I always ask before I take the last one, it's good manners."
"Ainsley, you've got great southern belle manners with everyone else. How come you never use them on me?"
"All right Sam," she said quietly when they reached her bedroom door. "I'll use them on you." She wrapped her arms around his neck. "Those lips, can I have those please."
"I thought you'd never ask." He pulled her back into his arms. This kiss was different from the last. Their first kiss had asked a question. This one conveyed raw need. A desire rooted deep in his heart. He felt her running her fingers through his hair. He pulled her closer to him. She felt his hand on her bare back running up her spine. The tingle turned to a wave of pleasure as he caressed the back of her shoulders. He traced kisses along her jaw and along her neck. He returned to her lips once again.
"Sam," she whispered as she felt her toes begin to curl and a desire to press even closer to him. She wanted more than this kiss. She wanted to . . .
He leaned his forehead against hers. "Good night, Ainsley." He whispered thickly. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Sam?" she looked up inclining her head slightly. He couldn't help himself. He had to kiss her again. This time when he broke it he took a step back. He had to put some space between them. "Good night."
Ainsley leaned against her bedroom door. And let out a sigh. Yes, Ainsley, Sam can kiss you till your toes curl. Now what?
Sam hurried down the hall to his room. He stripped off his tux and jumped in an ice cold shower. One thing was for sure. He wasn't going to get any sleep tonight. He wrapped a towel around his waist and grabbed his cell phone.
"Yeah, it's Josh here." Josh answered on the first ring.
"Sam, what are you doing calling at this hour?"
"I just kissed Ainsley."
"Beg pardon? Sam, we must have a bad connection here, it sounded like you said."
"I did. I kissed Ainsley tonight. Twice. No three times. It was great Josh, no it was better than great. I want to kiss her again. Josh, are you there?"
"Don't blow this one, buddy. It could be the real thing. You did good tonight."
"You did. Good night, pal." Josh hung up.
Paisley tapped on Ainsley's door. "You still up?" she asked carrying two mugs of hot chocolate and some oreo cookies. "Ainsley? Planet earth to Ainsley, come in please?" She giggled at her sister stretched out on her bed wearing Baby Doll pajamas.
"PAZE, oh, Paisley, I never would have believed it. My toes curled." She was so cute and giggled like a school girl.
"Ainsley, you had toe curling sex in my house and I didn't even hear you scream?" Paisley feigned shock.
"Of course not." She replied prissily. "I meant when Sam kissed me goodnight tonight."
"Oh, he kissed you." Paisley said almost tonelessly.
"Yes, twice. No three times. Just kissed me. PAZE, Sam and I are colleagues." She sounded a little confused.
"He just kissed you. Ainsley, honey, are you sure he's not gay?" Paisley was almost afraid to ask.
"Come on, good looking, liberal Democrat, in his early thirties, single but he likes kids. Does he have an ex wife or steady girlfriend hiding somewhere?" Paisley was serious.
"No ex anything as far as I know. He's been too focussed on his career. Wall street lawyer, then President Bartlett's campaign. He's always at the White House till after 10, and on weekends. I doubt there's a girlfriend anywhere."
"Till now. Maybe. Sis, I just don't want to see you get hurt." Paisley was worried.
"PAZE!! I'm a big girl."
"Have you told him?" Paisley asked simply.
"Told him what?" she replied with feigned innocense.
"You know, that you're, um...." Paisley searched for the word.
"A virgin. No, I haven't and it's not a dirty word."
"If you say so." Paisley responded gently.
"Just because none of the guys I've known have been able to understand that I wanted to wait for marriage doesn't mean Sam won't.".
"I'm your sister I've heard the speech. Has Sam?" Paisley smiled tenderly at her sister.
"It could make a difference - where the attraction goes." Paisley wanted to help.
"Look at him Ainsley. I'm sure it's not something he'd have to pay to get. Women have probably been lined up around the block for years. Come on he's teeny bopper heart throb gorgeous for crying out loud."
"Paisley, you're jumping the gun here. Tonight was our first date for crying out loud."
The two women drank their hot chocolate in silence until Ainsley's cell phone rang. "Hello?" she said puzzled that someone would call her so late.
"I just wanted to say good night again." Sam's voice was soft on the other end of the line.
"Sam, you're down the hall for crying out loud! You could come say good night in person." She laughed at him.
"No, I can't" his tone was serious.
"Why not?" She was whispering too.
"Because then - I'd have to kiss you again. God, Ainsley, I have never enjoyed kissing anyone the way I love kissing you." He continued to whisper.
"You love kissing me?" she asked not quite believing what she heard.
"I do." He said simply.
"I love kissing you, too."
" Ainsley - I'm afraid it wouldn't stop there. This is your sister's house. If I walk down that hall, I'm not leaving your room till morning."
"Till afternoon, Sam."
"Good night Sam." She whispered.
"Good night, Ainsley."
Ainsley hung up the phone and turned to her sister. " Goodnight, Paisley."
The following morning Sam found his way to the kitchen where the Marshall family was eating breakfast. "Sam, how's it going?" Greg said motioning for him to take a seat.
Paisley passed him a basket of muffins and the coffee thermos. "Sleep well?" She asked with a gentle smile.
"Yeah," he replied. He'd thought of Ainsley until he dozed off, then he dreamed of her. All in all, it hadn't been a bad night.
"Greg, you promised Megan a swim before Gram and Gramps party." Paisley said brightly.
"I did?" Greg looked confused.
"You did." Paisley and Sam said in unison. They raised their eyebrows at one another. Greg took a hint.
"Paisley, I have some questions for you, about Ainsley. But I don't want her to overhear them." He wanted to know about Craig. He sensed the sisters were close and maybe she could fill in the blanks.
"Jog much Sam?" She asked getting up from the table.
"Let's go." He said.
They were about a quarter mile out when she slowed to a quick walking pace. He fell in beside her. "I know my sister may seem like some tight ass Republican - but she does believe in what she's doing."
"I couldn't agree more. She's very committed. And she's not a tight ass. Not once you get to know her. And, I won't be taking advantage of her either, if that's what you're worried about. I have feelings for her. Stronger than I've had for any woman in a long time. This isn't casual for me. I don't have time to waste on meaningless flings. I want more than that."
Paisley broke into a run. "Okay." She said simply.
"That's it?" Sam looked shocked. He'd taken worse last night. And that was business.
"That's it." She replied simply.
"Now I have a question for you. Craig Williams. Did he rape her?
"No, not that I know of. She was worried he'd try though." Paisley remembered the terror in Ainsley eyes back then.
"Why didn't she report it? Was she afraid of scandal - because the guy clerks for your father?"
"She was afraid she was overreacting. Dad thought she was."
"Overreacting? God, what century does your family live in? If she was being stalked by this guy it's hardly her fault."
"It may not have been him. She's not very experienced, Sam."
Sam didn't buy that. "She has lots of experience. She's served on countless committees, lobby groups, fund raising." Then he caught on. "You're talking relationships now?"
"Yeah, I am." Paisley replied. She didn't want to breach her sister's confidence. But she sensed Sam needed to know.
"There must have been some men at some point. I mean she's a beautiful woman." Sam sounded confused.
"She drove them all away. Saying her career was more important. She couldn't compromise very well and demanded the best of everyone 100% of the time. Nobody measured up."
"Sounds familiar." Sam muttered. He was guilty of the same thing. "Somebody must have hurt her?"
"She won't let anyone get close enough to do that." Paisley paused. "We're talking no experience here, Sam. NONE."
"None?" Sam caught on. Finally
"Nobody. Ever." Paisley looked him in the eye.
"She's twenty-six?" He couldn't quite believe what he was hearing.
"Twenty-seven, next week." She continued to hold his gaze.
"Nobody?" He was incredulous
"Nobody. It's important to her. So if you can't live with that, scram. TODAY before she gets in too deep."
Sam broke into a sprint. Could he handle this? I mean, kissing her was . . . He wanted to . . . God, he wanted her more with every breath. He kept running. She wasn't frigid. He could tell. He could feel it. She wanted him too. He knew when a woman wanted him. But she wanted commitment. Upfront. What's the matter Sam, are you afraid you're too much like your old man? One woman won't be enough for you,is that what you're afraid of. One woman would be enough it was Ainsley! Sam reached the Marshall house a full two minutes before Paisley. He waited for her. "Thank you. For telling me. And I think you should know. I"m not going to try to change her." He smiled ruefully, "I couldn't if I tried anyway. But, I respect her too much."
They travelled to Aunt Grace's barbeque with Greg, Paisley and Megan. Greg would drop them at Douglas in time for their 9 p.m. flight.
Sam reached for Ainsley's hand as they entered the back yard which had stairs going down to the Atlantic Ocean. Ainsley absently caressed the top of Sam's hand with her thumb. Ainsley had worn her bikini under her sun dress and had packed what she'd need for the flight in her handbag. Aunt Grace cheerfully directed the men to the pool house to change and sent the ladies inside. "Briefing notes?" Sam asked Greg when they meandered out to the pool deck."
"Yeah, Uncle Gordon's hands wander to any butt in range - even his nieces. PAZE won't get within three feet of him."
"And Ainsley would like to knee him right?"
"She has. Didn't help. Cousin Mark will try and sell you a mutual fund, and under no circumstances let Aunt Gladys play the guitar."
"Got it. Thanks."
"If you really want to do Ainsley a favour today, don't get caught kissing her till her toes curl," Greg smiled at him. "Get a look out first."
"Are you volunteering?"
"That's what friends are for." The two men shook hands and joined the party.
Sam's mouth went dry. The bikini she'd chosen wasn't the same as yesterday's modest one piece. He could have handled that. Today, she wore a pale beige bikini, don't turn around and show me a thong, please, oh God, it is a thong. She had the roundest, most perfectly tanned, cutest bottom he'd seen in a long time. And Sam had seen his fair share of bottoms in his day. He felt himself start to harden. I hope that pool isn't heated. I better not embarrass myself here.
Ainsley smiled and waved at him. Suddenly he felt Greg and three other guys grab him and push him into the deep end of the pool! The water was a welcome balm to his libido. But she had looked hot. He came up sputtering and Greg offered him a hand out of the water. Sam grabbed Greg's hand and pulled it with all his might. The other man tumbled into the water too. Greg laughed, "Sorry, family tradition, newest boyfriend gets pushed in first."
"No problem," Sam said hauling himself up out of the water and grabbing a towel. He walked over to Ainsley. "You knew that was going to happen didn't you?"
"I suspected as much, yes."
"Well, just so you don't think I'd let you get the upper hand.": He reached around and lifted her into his arms, carrying her to the water's edge.
"Sam, don't you dare? Sam so help me if you drop me so help me I'll. . ." Sam did. In she went. She came up sputtering and laughing. Her nipples had hardened against the beige fabric and he got a great view of her breasts. Sam jumped into the water, splashing her, and playing together in the water. They laughed as they supervised Megan in her water wings. Feeling water logged Ainsley climbed up the ladder affording Sam yet another great view of her derriere. I want her. I have to have her. I'm gonna die if I don't touch her soon.
He walked over to Greg. "Remember earlier?"
Greg looked up at him with a quizzical look. "Earlier?"
"That thing friends do?"
"Now. Before I explode."
"Okay. You pull her from Mom and Aunt Grace and I'll lay down half an hour's cover fire."
Ainsley smiled as Sam and her brother in law approached the table where she was sitting with Aunt Grace and her Mom. "You promised me a walk on the beach before we leave North Carolina. Remember, I'm a California guy, so I know beaches. This beach had better be as impressive as you said."
"It is. And I can do that." Ainsley replied. "Just remember, the Atlantic isn't for surfer dudes."
"No, just beach bunnies."
"I'm nobody's bunny."
You've got the tail for it, babe. "I never said you were." Sam and Ainsley walked down the stairs and along the beach. He felt her hand in his, the surf pounding against his ankles, the ocean air in his lungs. He'd never felt more alive. "Thank you. This has been a great weekend. I haven't felt so relaxed in, well not in a long time. Thank you."
"You're welcome. I don't know what I did, but coming home has the same effect on me too."
"You affect me. Even more." Sam drew her into his arms and bent in for a deep tender kiss. He'd wanted to do this all day. And all night too. Ainsley wrapped her arms around his neck and dove into the kiss. Being pressed up against Sam made her nipples harden again through the thin fabric. His hand wandered to cup her derriere, he caressed it gently, pulling her even harder against him. He felt himself hardening as he kissed her neck and shoulders. His hand sought her breast. She moaned as the desire to feel him even closer consumed her. When Sam pulled back he thought his heartbeat would drown out the sounds of the surf. "We'd better get back." He whispered reluctantly.
"Sam, let's walk a little further." She wasn't ready to share him yet.
"No, Ainsley." He took her hand and headed back toward the stairs to the house.
"Sam, it's early."
"No, Ainsley. If we stay down here much longer, it will be too late. Because I'm going to forget where we are and I'm going to throw you down on that sand and make love to you right now." Sam wasn't kidding.
"What makes you think that's not what I want you to do?" She looked him in the eye.
"Because, it's not enough."
"What's not enough."
"Just because I have the means, the opportunity and the ability to rationalize my behaviour doesn't make it the right thing to do."
"We're not talking employee fraud here, we're talking about making love. And who says that it won't be enough?
"I say." He started to climb the stairs slowly.
"Who have you been talking to?"
Sam exploded. "Myself - ever since I met you. Non-stop. I have been talking with myself!!! Arguing with myself, and you, at least five times a day. At first I thought if I bedded you - it would get you out of my system. Now, I'm afraid if I do bed you I'll never be able to get enough of you! So, I'm not going to even try until I know I can spend the time it would take to do it right. Candles, flowers, dancing, a romantic dinner or concert, champagne, and time. Uninterrupted, undistracted and as much time as I need to get you just as addicted to me as I intend to get to you! Now, we have to get back to Washington."
"Sam, there's something you need to know."
"Ainsley, trust me, there's a lot about you I need to know. I need to know everything. I need to know how your breasts feel in my hands, how you taste, how you look when you're about to climax, how your voice sounds when you scream my name in passion. Believe me, I Ainsley, I intend to find it all out. Just not here in a rushed half hour."
"Sam, I'm, it's just, I've never . . ."
"How could you know?"
"There's a V tattooed on your forehead."
"It's better than an L."
"Or a D." She paused for an instant. "Paisley, it was Paisley! She told you. I'm going to kill my sister."
"No you're not."
"Because she loves you."
"She breached my confidence to a man I introduced to her yesterday!"
"The man she spilled her guts to happens to be in love with you. That makes it okay."
She stopped in her tracks. "You love me?"
"I love you." He kept climbing.
"And you're okay with that."
"I can't do anything to change it, so I guess that means I'm okay with it."
"You don't intend to debate me about this?" She stood one step above him, so they were eye to eye.
"Republicans are full of preconceived notions when you enter into a family values debate. I have no intention of getting started on one right now."
"This isn't a family values debate. And you can't be in love with me."
"Maybe it's not a debate. But I can be in love with you. I am in love with you Ainsley."
"I'm not hearing this. I don't believe this."
"Believe it. The really nice thing is - you're in love with me, too."
"With you. That's funny."
"Hysterical, but it's true."
"Okay." She said simply.
"Good." He replied.
"We're done here?" She whispered.
"Not yet." He pulled her up to him and kissed her gently. "At least we're done for now."
"What happens when we get back to Washington?" She asked breathlessly.
"We take it slow and easy. And I take a lot of cold showers."
"What if I don't want you to take cold showers."
"They're all I'll have time for until the next recess. Then, you and I are going to California. I met your perfect family. You get to meet my highly dysfunctional one."
"Sounds fair. Then what?"
"Then you decide if you're willing to spend the rest of your life with a liberal democrat."
"And you have to decide if you're willing to marry a conservative republican?"
"I've already decided to marry a certain conservative republican."
"You've also decided unilaterally that conservative republican needs more time to make up her mind about that liberal democrat. That's awfully self righteous of you."
"Yes. She does need more time."
"What if she doesn't."
"Need more time."
"Then instead of going to Washington, I'll fly her to Atlantic City tonight and marry her. On the spot."
"Okay." She kept climbing the stairs. He grabbed her arm.
"Ainsley, you'd marry me tonight?"
"Yes. If you asked me to. But I'd rather marry you with our friends and family present than elope. But if you want to elope, we can elope today. That's fine." She was smiling at him.
He broke into a full grin. "To be honest. I'd rather have a small formal wedding in a few weeks.
"Okay." She kissed his cheek. "That sounds nice."
They reached the top of the stairs. He pulled her close to him and kissed her on the forehead. "I better talk to your Dad."
"I'll come with you."
"Some things even liberal democrats do alone."
"Not for long though." She said sexily.
"I meant asking your dad for your hand. Not using mine."
"Don't tease me right now - I'll blow this."
"No you won't. You're the master Sam, you're the Master."
Sam was surprised. The asking permission thing went much better than he expected. He pulled her Dad aside and said, "I want to marry your daughter Ainsley." He was blunt. Upfront about it. He hoped it would help. Earn the judge's respect. The judge took a deep breath.
"Good thing. My daughter Paisley's already taken. Do it soon, son, long engagements are a waste of time." He patted Sam on the shoulder.
"That's it?" Sam stood stunned.
"You love her. She loves you. Yes, I think it's probably a little sudden. Then again, I asked for Deborah's hand two days after I met her. Her father thought I was an idiot but he knew I loved his daughter. Based on your politics, we've established you're an idiot, but you do love my daughter. That's enough for me. Shake my hand and we'll be done here." Sam took the hand offered to him.
Monday morning Sam met with the whole senior staff in Leo's office as was their custom. He lagged behind when everyone else left. "I need to see the President." Sam said simply. "Just for a minute. Sometime today."
"May I ask why?"
"No, we just. . .
"Sam, who is we?"
"Me and someone else."
"You and who else."
"You and Ainsley want to see the President."
"Just for a minute."
"And you won't tell me what it's about."
"I cant. I mean if I do, it wouldn't be right. You see there must be some protocol thing that says you tell the president news like this first."
"You two are getting married?"
"How'd you know?"
"You and Ainsley light one another up like Christmas trees. Josh gave me a heads-up on the weekend. A little sudden isn't it? What did her Republican Federal Judge Father say about it.?"
" He was amazing. Supportive actually."
"Sam, I need to ask you one question. Man to man here." He paused. "Are you nuts?"
"About her? Yes. To be getting married to her? No."
"Okay. I'll get back to you with a time."
Sam nodded and left the Chief of Staff's office.
Ainsley was waiting in his office. "Did you ask?"
"Leo said he'll call me. I'll call you. We'll see him together."
At about 10 p.m. Sam's phone rang. Leo spoke crisply. "The President can see you now. In the residence living room. Bring Ainsley."
"Thank you." He put down the receiver and walked to her office. She took a deep breath and straightened her dress. Sam grabbed her and kissed her senseless. He pulled back before he took her on the desk of her broom closet office. That was close. "Thanks Ainsley, I needed that. I've wanted to do that all day."
She straightened her dress yet again. You look fine." He said.
"I'm going to see the President of the United States in the Oval office. I want to look better than fine."
"No, you're not . . .going to the Oval Office. You're going to see him in the Residence living room."
"Okay? Why the residence living room?"
"Because that's where he is and where he said he could see us."
The residence living room lights were out. Sam was confused. So was Ainsley. "Mr. President?" he asked stepping into the room.
"Congratulations!!" The room was full of voices and the lights flew on. The entire senior staff was gathered. "Sam, Ainsley, Leo said you had something to tell me?" President Bartlett smiled.
"Why are we the only ones who were surprised by this news?" Sam asked.
"We've been betting on it for months, Sam. Ever since Ainsley whipped your butt on TV," Abbey Bartlett smiled. "So, have you two set a date?"
Everyone stood when the President got out of his chair and kissed the bride to be's cheek. He stunned her with his next sentence. "Would you like the rose garden for the ceremony?"
"The rose garden?" Sam was stunned.
"Sure - I think a June wedding in the White House Rose Garden sounds. . . "
Ainsley dove in, "like a great honor. Thank you Mr President."
Sam smiled at her and passed her a glass of champagne. It amused him that she was still really star struck about working in the White House. "Yes, a great honor, thank you sir."
"Friends," the President said. "I ask we drink a toast to Sam and Ainsley. Living proof that bipartisanship can work. In some things any way."
"Sam and Ainsley." Everyone replied taking a sip.
The next six weeks were torture but worth the wait. Their wedding night arrived and finally they were alone. Sam arranged for the hotel room to be filled with roses. Candles stood in groups of three. They cast a soft light around the room. His bride was beautiful. She appeared in their room wearing a beautiful black lace peignoir set. "Sam?" she whispered as he looked up. He had taken off his shirt and had stretched out on the King size bed in the center of the room. He felt a lump in his throat. Sam stood and crossed the room gently taking her in his arms. "I love you Ainsley," he said kissing her gently. He ran butterfly kisses along her throat and behind her ear.
"Sam" she whispered as her fingers wound up through his hair, "don't you think."
"No thinking tonight Ainsley. Tonight we just feel."
And they did.