Ainsley had to dodge the paparazzi as she and CJ made their way to the hill. The benefit of being with CJ was she had a press secretary to do all the talking.
Ainsley smiled at eleven o'clock when Sam called. They stayed on the line till nearly two a.m. Just talking. Talking about where they went to school, their families. He told her about his dad, the other woman and the half siblings he hadn't met yet. She told him about her sister Jessica and her future brother in law Bill.
Sam could tell the sisters were close from the way she talked. "So, if she and this Bill guy have been together so long, and so happy, why get married now? I don't get it."
"It took a while for him to get his divorce from the monster he married in college. She took him for every cent he had. Then some. Everybody has a past Sam?"
"It was a long time ago Sam." Her voice was still tinged with pain. "And to be honest . . ."
"It still hurts."
"No, I it's more - well it's sad really. The whole thing was sad. Sad that I didn't see him for who he really was. We both wound up . . . I finally figured out what was going on in my third year at Smith. I mean we figured it out together but . . . it was kind of a blow."
"Ainsley? I'm totally lost here."
She sighed deeply. "The highschool quarterback, the debating team champion, the prom king to my prom queen well, he was gay, Sam. He tried so hard to 'live straight'. I thought we were, well, I thought we were waiting till marriage because, well he always said he respected me. And. Let's put it this way. We have more in common than you think my fiancee left me for another man too."
"Yeah. I guess we both would have been better off with golden retrievers than the people we were engaged to.."
"Ainsley," he said softly.
"It doesn't mean there was something wrong with you. You know that right?"
"Yeah, that's what he said too. He went so far as to say if there could have been anybody it would have been me. That didn't help Sam."
"Are you still in love with him?" Sam was afraid of the answer but he needed to know.
"I doubt I ever really was. I was young and chasing the traditional family values ideal. I still want that someday. I dated a bit at Harvard but with my course load it was tough nothing lasted more than a few weeks . . ." She fell silent.
"I wish I could kiss and caress that lingering tinge of doubt away right now." He said his voice very husky.
"I'll take a rain check."
"Yeah, I promise."
"That's good enough for me. I'll meet you for breakfast in the mess. I'll collect then. Good night, sweet heart."
Friday didn't go much better. Another day, another headline. The accompanying photograph was several years old. It was taken when she appeared in an amateur production of Jesus Christ Superstar which the director had chosen to set in modern dress. She had played Mary Magdalene and was costumed as an early eighties hooker. Basically it was a comparative photo essay of Ainsley and Laurie. The shot of her cleavage was very impressive. Sam had always wondered what was under those conservative suits she wore. Now he knew. She was hot. To make matters worse, Joyce and Brookline appeared on C-Span speculating that her affair with Sam had started months sooner than what was being reported.
"Relax Ainsley - you looked beautiful." He kissed her forehead and tossed the paper aside. "It was a stage production. The article even says that."
"Yeah, four pages behind the headline. Sam - why aren't there any embarrassing photos of you on the front pages?"
"The resurfaced picture of me and Laurie wasn't embarrassing?"
"You know what I mean! It didn't show you in barely there ragged cut-offs."
He tried humor. "I don't suppose you still have those shorts? It's a side of you I hadn't seen before." He slipped an hand behind her and stroked her back side with a feather touch making her tingle."
"I'm so tired of all this." Her arms wrapped around his neck, his hands went still. "NOT THAT. Keep doing that." He smiled at her and copped one last feel.
"Later. Besides, you're probably starving . . ."
"Hmm." She agreed releasing him. They grabbed some food and a table in the back corner.
"What did you leave out?" he asked noticing she hadn't touched her meal when he was almost halfway through. "Something else is up."
She sighed. She wasn't going to tell him but, "My dad called this morning. I thought I'd had him calmed down the other day but - he's really getting angry now. Somebody asked him what he wears under his Judge's robes."
"That's so cliche."
"He wasn't amused either."
"I take it that's not all that's - up his robe right now."
"No, it's not. He's upset for my sister Jess. Who by the way wants to kill me. Her quiet beach front wedding with just me and her fiancee's brother there - IS RUINED. Some jackass travel agent got her and I confused and tipped off some reporter in Charlotte. I mean we do look alike but this is ridiculous. It gets better - the reporter figured that because her fiances name is William Norman . . . "
" Wait a minute - my dad's name is William . . . Norman . . . Seaborn. Oh shit they think it's me?"
"Give the man a cookie!"
He could tell Ainsley was mad. The press could mess with her all they liked but they had no right to First Amendment her family up the proverbial whazoo. "Call Jess - tell her to go the airport with both sets of parents and I'll fly them to the Bahamas instead. My family has a vacation property there. The caretaker will pick everyone up at the airport. Your sister is still going to have her beach wedding - at my expense. I'm not about to let Lisa screw up everybody's love life. It'll be okay."
"How can you be sure there'll be room? I mean?"
"Ainsley, the main house has six bedrooms each with its own bath. There's a beach house with three bedrooms and a bunk house with two. Trust me, I have room."
"Sam, that sounds like a hotel not a house!" It finally dawned on her just how wealthy Sam was. "I never realized it. I mean, I always knew you had some money. Hell, my family has 'some' money. But we're talking Kennedy rich when it comes to you aren't we?" She was dumbfounded.
"Yeah, west coast equivalent anyway." He sighed. "Ainsley, simply put, I have more money than spit, okay? But we were talking about using my family's getaway property to help your sister." He was quiet for a minute. "Just get me a number of people so I can warn the staff and I'll fix this. I owe it to you and to Jessica. It'll be okay. I'll fix this. I promise. "
He kissed her forehead. "I Promise."
"That's good enough for me." They looked deeply into one another's eyes for a moment. For a long moment. The kiss that followed was their hottest yet. When it broke they both stepped back. It conveyed the message: it's only a matter of timing now.
Ainsley managed to smooth things over. Bill's family had been terribly hurt at first that he'd planned to elope but eventually came around. Especially when promised a weekend getaway in the Carribean. Sam called and warned the staff to expect the Hayes - Norman family. The bride and groom could have the beach house Saturday night and for as long as they wanted it.
"You wanted to see me, Mr. Babish?" Ainsley arrived at the Chief Counsel's office once she and Sam settled her family's travel arrangements and she ate something.
"Yes Ms. Hayes, please come in," he nodded for her to take a seat. He looked at her carefully for a moment taking her in. She sat perfectly straight waiting for him to speak. "I'm not sure what to say to you Ms Hayes. Frankly I expected more from you."
"In what regard sir. The hearings are going reasonably well all things considered . . ."
"Don't patronize me Ms. Hayes. I expected you would have exercised better judgement with regards to Sam Seaborn. Today the word around the wing is that he fired two guys shortly after you were hired. Did they threaten to expose your affair back then? How in the hell did Sam get Lionel Tribbey to cover it up?"
"Excuse me, Mr. Babish. Is this interview about my job performance, the status of the hearings or my sexual activities? Because, quite simply sir, I'm obligated to discus the first two items in that list with you. The answer to your last question is for the same statement I've been making all week. NO COMMENT. Off the record Mr. Babish - Joyce and Brookline are now and always have been full of it. Sam and I have only been romantically involved for a very short time. Now, sir, I would like to take this opportunity to formally advise you, as a federal employee I am right here and now officially signalling a 'RED LIGHT ' to this meeting and exercising my right to stop it immediately without fear of retribution from my superior. We both know that if you ever mention this matter again the White House could find itself on the wrong end of a sexual harassment suit and you Mr. Babish, not Sam Seaborn, will be the respondent thereto. Good day, sir." Rather than storming out and slamming his office door behind her, she calmly rose from her chair nodded politely and exited. Babish just shook his head.
She ran into Donna in the stairway.
Donna looked at her apologetically. "I'm so sorry I got you into this. Please believe me I never meant for this to blow up in your face. I admit - I wanted you and Sam to wake up and see that you'd be good together but I didn't for a moment imagine Lisa would . . ."
"It's not your fault Donna. And, as bad as things are . . . I wouldn't want to go back to the way things used to be with Sam - we'll get through this."
Sam's voice sounded from behind them. "I wouldn't want to go back either Donna." He placed a hand on Ainsley's shoulder. "I came looking for you. I hear Babish is licking his wounds. How's my little Blonde Republican Sex Kitten holding out?"
"She's looking forward to a cat nap on the beach with you as pillow."
Donna murmured, "I'll catch you guys later."
"We should leave for the airport soon. You booked onto the 2:20 flight too right, Sam?" She asked as they walked into the mess to grab a coffee together.
"Well, I . . ." He looked confused. "I hadn't planned on . . ."
She began talking very fast. Faster than usual. "It's our party but it's your house. My parents are looking forward to meeting you . . . I kinda lead them to believe you'd be there."
He sighed. "Then, I'll be there."
She got all embarrassed. "You don't have to . . . I shouldn't have assumed anything. 'Assume is a bad word - it makes an ass out of 'U' and 'me'. I just thought we could relax and avoid the glare of the flash bulbs for a while."
He took her hand on the top of the table. "I thought you'd want to be alone." She wouldn't meet his eye. He turned her to face him. She wasn't ready to say it, so he did, "I'd rather be alone with you too." He said it in a voice just above a whisper. "I'll tell Toby I'm gone for the weekend and we'll head out."