by Elizabeth

Rating: PG13 -- language and mature situations
Spoilers: All the Ainsley episodes

Part 1

Ainsley rolled over and reached for the ringing phone. It was 2:00 a.m. and she had almost managed to doze off. "Please, not again," she thought, praying it wasn't going to be another one of those nights.

"You do look beautiful in blue satin," the raspy man's voice whispered at her and laughed before the line went dead.

"Go to hell, you son of a . . ." she said angrily slamming the receiver down. She tried the last number redial feature somehow knowing she would hear 'the last number to dial your line is not available.' Unfortunately, technology could be predictable. She lifted the receiver back up and dialled the police. "Sgt. Graham please," she held for a few seconds and then continued, "Sergeant, this is Ainsley Hayes, he's . . . he's called again." She looked down at her blue satin pajamas. "And somehow, I think he can see me." After hanging up, she went into her bathroom and changed into jeans and a T-shirt, deciding in the process she wasn't even going to try to sleep. On an impulse she grabbed the blue camisole and tap pants and threw them in the trash. "Why is this happening?" Ainsley asked herself in tears. "Why?"

The next day Ainsley was sitting at her desk rubbing her eyes when a package arrived for her. She ripped it open and couldn't stifle a scream. The cryptic message was pieced together from newspaper letters. "I LIKE RED EVEN BETTER!" A pair of baby dolls identical to the ones she'd worn to bed last night was inside. Only these were red and torn to shreds.

Sam Seaborn stormed down the hall toward her office ready to tear a strip off her. He'd left three voice mails this morning asking her to contact him ASAP. She hadn't returned the call yet and it was nearly 10:30 a.m. He needed the information for a meeting on the Hill at 1:00 p.m. He was annoyed. Was she avoiding him? He really didn't think that was it: they had developed a relaxed working relationship recently. He'd found her to be an insightful attorney and her counsel had proven invaluable over the past few months. He'd even found the guts to tell her that just the other day. So why hadn't she returned his call? They'd even been friendly enough to grab lunch together several times in the Mess. It was friendly, more than friendly. Sam wouldn't have called it dating but it felt like it was headed that way. He was watching the paper for a Gilbert & Sullivan that he could casually ask her to go to with him. He was intentionally trying to keep their relationship, or whatever it was developing between them, LIGHT. Had he done something a female would consider stupid yesterday? He racked his brain trying to remember but came up with a blank. The lights were on but her door was closed. Strange, she almost never closed the door. Sam reached for the handle and barged in ready to do battle. The two men in suits looked up startled by his presence. He didn't recognize them so it was unlikely they were White House Staff. Sam had a good memory for faces and he'd bet he'd never met these two before. He was dismayed by the snippet of conversation he'd overheard from the doorway.

"Miss Hayes, please think, usually a stalking victim has some knowledge of her stalker. Is there an ex boyfriend, someone you've turned down lately, someone you see casually every day . . ." one of them asked?

She was losing her cool. "I told you, six weeks ago when this started . . . I have no idea who this could be. I honestly don't know." She was close to tears.

"Somebody care to fill me in on what's going on here?" Sam demanded from the door. He fought an impulse to gather her into his arms and comfort her. "Ainsley, who are these men?"

"Detectives O'Connor and Matthews," O'Connor replied, showing Sam his ID. "And you are?"

"Sam Seaborn Deputy White House Communications Director." He focussed his attention on her. "Ainsley, what's going on?"

"Sam, it's nothing for you to be concerned about . . . "

"Ainsley, there are two Washington Police Detectives at the White House. In your office. That fact concerns me. Now, I want to know why." He didn't like the look on her face.

"Mr. Seaborn, how would you describe your relationship with Ms Hayes." One of the cops asked.

"Professional." He snapped at the officer. He didn't like the implications of what he'd overheard, "Ainsley?" Sam prompted her gently. His tone had softened considerably and his previous anger all but vanished. She wouldn't meet his eye.

"For the last six weeks," Detective Matthews said, "Ms Hayes has been receiving calls at very odd hours and some disturbing correspondence. I don't suppose you'd know anything . . . "

Sam glared at him. "No, this is the first I've heard of it." He turned to Ainsley, "which, considering the amount of time we spend together is a bit strange. Don't you think?"

"Sam, my personal life isn't important to the White House. Besides, I always felt safe at work." Ainsley still wouldn't meet his eye.

"The word 'felt' is past tense Ainsley, so what's changed today?" Sam asked. Now he was even more worried. He gently guided her face to meet his gaze. He didn't want her to be unable to face him. Ever. He wanted her trust. She sighed and then nodded to the Detective who showed Sam the evidence bag and explained what had been reported over the past six weeks. Sam couldn't believe she hadn't told him about it. "I'm ordering you Secret Service protection."

"SAM!" she thought that was overkill.

"This has been going on for six weeks? Some lunatic is stalking you, dammit. Other than calling in these guys what have you done? You haven't told any of your friends so we can keep an eye out . . . walk you to your car at night . . . support you . . . try to help you."

"Sam, this is the White House. It's the safest place in the world to work." Now she wished she'd told him sooner. She knew he had a protective streak but with everything that had gone on lately in his personal life she'd been reluctant to involve him in her problems. She wasn't naive, she knew he was aware of the intense chemistry between them too but neither one of them had been in a rush to pursue it. They had mutually, silently decided to let things develop slowly. Considering the fact that their professional lives were all consuming, it made sense not to rush things.

"Probably." He agreed. "But we're not taking any chances . . . " He turned to the officers. "I'm sure you can appreciate the White House would want you to exercise discretion, but, the Washington PD will have our full cooperation." He reached across her desk for the phone and dialled Leo's extension. "Margaret, I need to see Leo. Now."

Half an hour later they were in the Chief of Staff's office. "Why is this the first I'm hearing about this?" Leo said quietly. He didn't like this one bit. He looked at the two detectives.

"Up until this morning all Ms Hayes reported were nuisance phone calls and anonymous letters. There was no perceived threat until today."

"No threat? Somebody is obsessed with a young woman enough to anonymously send her flowers, perfume and intimate apparel and you guys don't find that threatening?" Leo was getting ugly. For her part Ainsley just hung back by the door. Sam stood very close but not touching her. Leo turned to Sam, "you ordered Secret Service protection I hope."

"Oh yeah." Sam said quietly. "And Donna's getting a room at the Hotel Washington, I don't want Ainsley taking any risks by going to her apartment alone. I'll go with her to help her pack."

"Sam, is all this really necessary?" Ainsley's voice was shaking. He turned to her. All of her was shaking. This time he couldn't help himself, he gathered her into his arms and held her close.

"Ainsley, with all the policy initiatives you and I have been working on lately you're privy to information a number of groups would like to get their hands on. We can't ignore the possibility of a political agenda here too. We can't risk anything happening to you." He was telling the truth. Well, a half the truth anyway. His brain kicked in a translation subroutine: "We" replaced "I" and the policy initiative stuff is just smoke. The facts hit him hard: He cared. He cared more than he was willing to admit even to himself.

Ainsley closed her eyes for a moment and felt herself relax in his embrace. "Sam? I didn't want this to affect my job. I don't want to give this guy that kind of power over me."

Sam said very quietly. "I understand. But sacrificing your safety isn't an option either." He was relieved she'd been able to find comfort in his arms, it felt so natural to hold her there, and now he tried to cheer her. "Come on, I'll buy you a Fresca and a donut then we can get your things from home." He glanced over to Leo and the two police officers. " We are done here, aren't we?"

Leo nodded affirmatively. As soon as Ainsley and Sam left he spoke again. "Detectives," he began, "The White House will not interfere in your investigation in any way. But, as a courtesy to the President, I want you to formally clear Mr Seaborn first. I understand you'll have to consider him a suspect especially when it's apparent he does care about her and she's oblivious to that fact. But I'm telling you now, he's not responsible for this. For everyone's sake, do it quickly so you can get on with locating the real lunatic."

"We'll begin interviewing Ms. Hayes' White House colleagues immediately." O'Connor replied. "Mr. Seaborn described his relationship with Ms Hayes as professional? What would your description be?"

"That would be my understanding of the nature of their association at this time." Leo McGarry was a consummate politician after all he'd had almost forty years practice.

"Mr. McGarry, is Mr. Seaborn in the habit of hugging all his staff?" O'Connor pressed the point.

"If he hadn't, I was going to. Gentlemen, I'll clear a meeting room for you." Leo knew this was serious. Just as he sensed Sam's feelings were.

Clearing Sam Seaborn took less than half an hour. "There goes the prime suspect," O'Connor said glancing at phone records and documents from the White House Travel Office. "Now what?"

"We dig." The other man said simply. "We look at all her habits, all her associates, past boyfriends, previous employment, hell, it could be the pizza guy. We dig."

Sam drove Ainsley to her apartment and waited in the living room while she packed some things. One Secret Service Agent waited in the lobby while the other stood guard in the hall. Sam glanced around the apartment, a converted loft with beautiful big windows and slat stair case separating the living spaces from the elevated bedroom area. The furniture was comfortable looking - over stuffed recliners and love seats combined with a glass coffee table and colourful cotton throws. It was cozy, warm and completely different from the formal antiques he'd expected to find in some century old stone house. He felt something warm and soft brush up against him. A beautiful Persian cat was purring madly and he reached down to pick it up. "What are you going to do about your cat?" He said rubbing the top of the animal's head.

"What cat - I have allergies?" she replied from the other room, then reappeared at the top of the stairs. She saw him holding the animal and dropped her suitcase. "Sam, that's not mine. How did it get in here?"

Sam immediately took a better look at the animal and the bow on its neck. He called the agent from the hall and handed the animal to him. Sam pulled out his cell and dialled Detective O'Connor's number. "It's Sam Seaborn. Miss Hayes has received another 'gift'. Yeah, the Secret Service Agent is checking it out now. He and I have both touched it. Somebody sent it her a cat."

The Agent removed a gift tag from the animal and passed it to Sam. Sam read it and tried to control his rage.

"What does it say?" Ainsley whispered from across the room.

"Nothing the Pulitzer Committee will have to consider." Sam snapped. Furiously, Ainsley crossed the room and grabbed the note. Like the others it had been cut from newsprint. "Ainsley, don't - please just let Agent Samuels deal with this until the Washington PD gets here . . ."


"He's . . ." her voice was barely above a whisper and all the color had drained from her face. "Sam, he's been here, in my home, my God . . ."

"We're leaving." Sam said. He wrapped an arm around her waist and reached for her bags. He opened the door of his BMW and stashed her suitcase in the trunk. Sam drove quickly to the Washington Hotel and got her checked in under the White House ID number. Agent Samuels would wait at her apartment for the Police. "I promise you Ainsley, this nut, he's not going to hurt you. We'll find him and he's not going to hurt you." Silently adding, "Because I won't let him."


The next morning, David Greer confidently strode into the Chief Counsel's office. "Keep your cool Davey old boy," he repeated over and over to himself. "You'll find her." He wasn't going to panic. He'd been terribly disappointed last night. And Ainsley had never disappointed him before. He had wanted to see her smile when she picked up their kitten and cuddled it for the first time. The purebred had set him back quite a few bucks but Ainsley was worth it. She was a purebred herself. She was worth whatever it would take for them to be together. He continued to pat himself on the back about the kitten. It had been a great idea, the ideal way to bring them closer together. David knew what women wanted. And all women had a soft spot for animals and children. He knew that's all they ever really wanted.

Once she got tired of this career of hers, he'd be there to sweep her off her feet. Then, they would fulfill their destiny. She was his. But she wasn't ready to admit that yet. But she would be soon. Any day now. Soon she'd realize she needed a big strong man to take care of her. He'd be there and he'd take care of her. He knew the first time he saw her that she was his destiny. He'd never forget that day.

She was wearing sweats but they couldn't hide her beautiful figure. So diminutive yet undoubtably strong. She was the star student in the self defence course he'd been teaching at a community center. She had to miss the first class but stayed late to catch up. Ainsley worked out there regularly so was in excellent condition but not too muscular. Just the way he liked a woman. When the course was finished, he decided to test just to make sure she was the real thing. She'd passed with flying colors. He would never allow her to be hurt but he had to make sure in a real life situation she would be able to handle herself. And did she ever! Using what she'd learned in class, she'd taken down the thug he'd paid to follow her one night. David had expected to have to step in to rescue her but it hadn't been necessary. His arrival had distracted her and the 'perp.' got away but she'd protected herself and her property admirably. She was his star pupil. And she'd proved she was worthy of being his partner.

She was all class and there was something about her that brought out a possessive streak he'd never known he had. He'd met 'the one'. Ainsley haunted his thoughts during the day and visited his dreams at night. She must be his other half and wasn't like the other women he'd known. When the class went out for drinks when the course was over he'd been impressed by her genteel manners and charming laugh. She was beautiful and their philosophy of life meshed perfectly. He remembered how she looked when she told him she wasn't ready to pursue a relationship right now. She told him she wasn't in any great hurry. Opportunities presented themselves all the time but she always politely declined them. Her last boyfriend had been pushing her to take their relationship to the next level and she wasn't prepared to jump into bed with anyone. Ainsley had said she would know when the right man came along. Her body, her mind, and her life would be forever connected to that man and to her that meant she wasn't going to date until she was ready to offer that level of commitment to someone. It wouldn't be fair to the man. Or to her. Her innocense and her purity had branded his soul that night. He would never be complete until she gave herself to him like that.

Taking the White House job had been the only mistake he'd ever seen her make. He never understood that. They were all liberal democrats for crying out loud. And they'd never really accept her. But if anyone could convert them it would be Ainsley. She was so good to everybody, even people who'd been so mean to her when she started working here. David had no idea why she was so tolerant of Seaborn's stupidity. Sam Seaborn was the worst of a bad lot. Seaborn had dated a call girl for crying out loud. He remembered how Ainsley had chuckled at the jokes about him. David always surfed the net for sex scandal jokes and told them at class. David never found the situation funny, he thought the jerk should resign and spare the White House embarrassment but the guy sailed through the scandal with his career intact. Seaborn would never understand a woman like Ainsley. His lot deserved the whore's he courted, not the southern belle. Real men like David deserved the belles.

"Hi, Agent Greer," the Chief Counsel's assistant greeted him. "More documents from the FBI?"

"Yup, I'd have never believed a White House Counsel would have been interested in this stuff, but what can I say? Hey, I tried dropping these directly to Ainsley but her office was locked. She around?"

The secretary hedged. "Actually, Mr Tribbey has her on a special assignment. She won't be at the White House for a while. But I'll get them to her."

"She out of town?" he asked as casually as possible.

"Mnn" the woman mumbled. Her phone rang and she reached for the documents then the receiver. David was angry. He'd learned nothing. Did that mumble mean yes or no? He'd have to view the video from the hidden camera in her apartment. Maybe it would give him a clue to her whereabouts.


Part 2

The police investigation dragged on for more than two weeks and Ainsley struggled to find some peace of mind. It was difficult to do because the police insisted everyone close to her keep irregular hours in case the stalker tried to find her through them. The Chief White House Counsel sent her files to work on and she was able to communicate with the office by phone, fax and modem from the hotel room. She couldn't help but be amused by the fact that the Hotel Washington suite she occupied seemed closer to the Oval Office than the steam trunk pipe distribution venue. The suite was also much better lit and had a much more stable temperature. Still, she would have given anything to return to work in her own office. She was feeling like a caged animal.

The White House staff had taken turns bringing her documents to work on if they were too sensitive to trust to an outside courier. Today, it was Donna's turn. Ainsley was relieved to see a friendly face. She and Donna weren't exactly close but were becoming friends. "Donna, I'm going stir crazy. I'd give anything for a walk in the park."

"I wish there was something I could do. This would drive me nuts too."

"Nobody will tell me anything either." Ainsley flopped in a chair.

"What do you mean?" Donna asked taking the seat beside her.

"Sam keeps dodging me when I ask if there have been more notes or if the guy tried to call since I moved out. If not, then maybe it's over. Maybe he gave up? Maybe he thinks I moved back to Charlotte? Maybe I can get out of here and he's out of my life . . . why are you looking at me like that?"

"Because that's wishful thinking and you know better. Okay, . . ." Donna took a deep breath. "I got out voted on this. Ainsley, they didn't tell you because . . ."

"Because Sam's got a knight in shining armour thing going but he's afraid I'll notice?"

"Sort of. Well, he's only like that when it comes to you."

"Yeah right." Ainsley laughed, not believing it for a second. She tried her lawyer voice. "Donna, being left in the dark robs me of any sense of independence and self control I have. Please, this maniac has tried to do that and I won't let him. Please don't tell me my friends are doing the same thing. Spill it."

Donna hesitated but understood where Ainsley was coming from. "Well, the day after you were checked in here, somebody smashed up Sam's windshield and threw tomato sauce all over the front seat."

"What?" She couldn't believe it. "He loves that car!"

"The police think, because of the timing, it was a warning to Sam: keep away from you."

"He hasn't said a word. He hasn't been by since the first day but I've talked to him several times a day, he didn't say anything . . ."

"Sam didn't want to make you feel worse. And he wants to be here. He pumps everyone for information about you as soon as they get back. Ainsley, we all care about you, and well, the police believe that if this guy was watching your apartment, he probably viewed Sam as a potential rival. In case the perp. has staked out the White House waiting for you, the police don't want to risk making him more angry if he tailed Sam and found him coming to see you."

"This is insane. But it explains why Sam hasn't come by himself . . . I kind of miss . . . Donna, would you do me a favour?"


"Can you drop by my apartment and? . . ."

"Anything but that."


"The police sealed your apartment after . . ."

"After the cat thing?"

"Yeah the cat thing, that's it." Donna wasn't quite convincing.

Ainsley was nobody's fool. "You're lying."

"Beg pardon?!" Donna tried to sound hurt.

"About the after the cat thing, well it's not really lying, but you're not telling me everything."

"How can you tell?"

"It's a lawyer thing. I can tell when somebody isn't telling me the whole truth."

"Can you teach it to me? Hey, why didn't you become a trial lawyer then or a DA if you can tell when people are lying?" Donna tried to deflect the conversation but Ainsley wouldn't fall for it.

"Because for the most part, criminals aren't really evil people - they're just incredibly stupid or self centered. Or they're lousy liars. I have a very low tolerance for stupid people and for liars. Now don't try to skirt my question. Why did they seal my apartment?"

"The cat thing?"

"No because something happened after the cat thing in addition to the car thing, now what was it?"

"Oh the other thing."

"DONNATELLA MOSS, tell me what the hell happened after the cat thing!" Ainsley finally lost her cool.

"Sam didn't want to worry you, he thought it would be best if we just dumped piles of work on you and . . . "

"Kept me in the dark about my own life? I won't give up control of my life to anyone not even Sam Seaborn!!! DONNA, TELL ME. AND DO IT NOW!"

"Please Ainsley, I promised I wouldn't . . ."

"DONNA, this is my life not Sam's. Now, either I'm going out that door and across the street to yell at Sam myself, or your going to tell me what happened at my own apartment."

"He sent a package to your apartment that night. With a heart in it . . . It was a cow's heart. "

Ainsley started to feel nauseous. "Let me guess, because I broke his heart?"

"He said he'd tear Sam's out if you didn't tell him to get lost."

Ainsley stood and stared out of the window. She could handle this lunatic's obsession with her but she felt so guilty drawing Sam into this mess. It was her problem not his.

"Seeing Sam comfort me, it made him even more nuts. He went after Sam to punish him for being my friend."

"Yeah, it looks that way. But Ainsley stop blaming yourself - he's nuts - you didn't do anything to encourage this." Donna placed a comforting hand on Ainsley's shoulder. "Sam didn't want you to know because well, he was worried that you'd be upset that you involved him."

"Donna, I didn't want to involve anyone. Maybe I should resign and go stay with my parents for a while?"

"The police are doing all they can. And you shouldn't have to run away!"

"Oh, but it's okay to ruin my friends lives with this too?"

"So, Sam's a friend." Donna said smiling the way only a confidant can. Maybe she could distract Ainsley by talking to her about Sam. Donna had been expecting them to start dating for weeks. She couldn't help thinking that Sam and Ainsley would make a cute couple.

"Donna, Sam is my boss." She didn't want Donna to get the wrong idea.

"Technically Lionel Tribbey is your boss. Sam just dumps work on you because he thinks you're the best lawyer in the White House." Donna wouldn't be distracted.

"Except for himself of course."

"No, I think he knows you're better than him. He's content to be a speech writer and policy adviser now. Nobody turns a phrase like Sam when he's in the swing."

"He does have a way with words - even if he's a little long winded sometimes."

"But he's easy on the eyes. And dresses better than Toby or Josh ever could. That makes up for it."

Ainsley laughed. "His problem is that he knows it. But there is no denying he's as good looking as he thinks he is. I could never figure out why he needed a prostitute."

"He didn't know she was a call girl when they met. For her it was personal not business when she was with Sam. Let's face it - it's not like she ever charged him to spend time with her. Besides that's been over forever. And he hasn't dated anyone for months."

"Isn't he seeing Leo McGarry's daughter?"

"No!" Donna muttered under her breath, "Ugh, the gossip chain is no where near as efficient as it was on the campaign trail." She shook her head. "Sam and Mallory went on one official date, then the thing with the um, well, the hooker, came up and they avoided each other and they haven't even really talked since the shooting. Mallory's with some jock now. Basketball, no Hockey player. Anyway, Sam's available and he likes you. He more than likes you. I think you two should go for it."

"Donna, I'm trapped in a hotel room . . ."

"Ainsley, there are worse places to be in this world than trapped in a hotel room with Sam Seaborn."

"Look around Sam's not here. For that matter he's never given me any indication he'd want to be here."

"Ainsley, are you totally clueless? The guy fired Joyce and Brookline because they sent you dead flowers; he set up the Gilbert & Sullivan welcoming committee; he, personally, is on the detectives case every day; he pumps everyone for information the second we get back from seeing you . . . He's got it BAD"

"You're crazy." Ainsley whispered. "Sam is just a nice guy who thinks he sees a damsel in distress and thinks he has to rise to her defence. "

Donna took Ainsley by the shoulders. "He cares about you. And what's more, I think you care about him too. You may think the protective stuff is old-fashioned but you're also flattered. You should be. Sam only tries to take care of people he cares about."

"Like you took care of Josh when he was hurt." Ainsley decided to take a turn at Donna.

"That's different."

"Oh how?"

"That's my relationship. And we're talking about yours and you should act on your feelings."

"Donna! If that's not the pot calling the kettle black!"

Donna's pager beeped before she could reply. "I've gotta go. Ainsley, think about what I said."


A few minutes later, Donna appeared in Sam's doorway. "Sam . . ."

"She phoned the second you left the room! Donna, we all agreed not to tell her because it would upset her . . ."

"She deserved to know." She crossed the room and perched on the edge of his desk. "Sam, she's feeling really out of control right now. Information is power. I know your heart is in the right place but please don't keep her in the dark anymore." She noticed Sam's dishevelled appearance. "What did he do today?"

"Today's treasure was a dead rat on my front porch."


"I tripped on its head which he kindly left on the second step."

"Ew!! What did the police say?"

"They followed somebody around two a.m. but lost him in the alley." Sam was getting tired of all this. But for him, the most difficult part was not being able to see her. Talking to her by phone wasn't cutting it for him. Sam knew that going to see her was impossible. So he picked up the phone. As usual she answered on the first ring.

"Ainsley Hayes," she simply responded.

"I know you're mad at me. I know you've got every right to be." His voice was soft and tender, contrite and sincere. He knew she'd know he meant what he said but, he wanted her to see his face. He also knew as hard as this was for him it was worse for her. "I'm sorry, I had no right to try and keep you in the dark. I just wanted to shield you, to protect you. I can't explain it. I didn't mean to smother you." He paused, then continued, "when this is finally over, please, I want to stop tip toeing around one another and pursue this, whatever, this is, wherever it goes. I want to take a chance on us being more than friends."

"Sam . . . me too," she whispered softly. "I'd give anything to see you right now."

"It's too risky, I won't . . ."

"Sam, it would be worth it." Her voice was barely above a whisper. "I . . ."

"I'll find a way . . . somehow, soon. I need to see you too. I'll find a way. Donna said she told you why I haven't been by myself."

"Sam, is there any news about this nut?" She wanted to hope it would be over soon.

"Ainsley, as long as he's chasing me, he isn't looking for you. To me, that's the only good news here. The cops say they're closing in and it won't be long. You're safe there at the hotel."


Part 3

Meanwhile, in the Oval Office, Leo was bringing the President up to speed, "No sir, the Washington PD still hasn't caught the guy. He seems to have focussed his attention on pissing off Sam rather than finding Ainsley,"

"Sam? Why?"

"He thinks Sam's the boyfriend."

"Is he right?"

"With those two, who knows, sir?" Leo smiled. "It's got them both pretty wound up though."

"It's possible for Ainsley Hayes to be even more wound up?" the President dead panned.

Leo smiled. "Yes, sir. I'd like to see her and Sam decompress though. At this rate there's bound to be an explosion any time. Or one of them will get careless and try to see the other."

For a brief moment the President allowed himself to just be Jed. He had always had a soft spot for Sam. Jed respected Sam's talent and his drive but it was more than that. He genuinely liked the young man. A part of 'the President' still felt partly responsible for the break up of Sam's engagement during the campaign. Although Sam had never explained the reason for Lisa's departure in detail, Jed believed that Lisa had always been a poor choice for Sam. Jed thought she was a shallow young woman who preferred being on the arm of a 500 dollar an hour Wall Street Lawyer to supporting a politician who, according to the polls, was fighting an up hill battle. Had she bet on Sam, she would have been on his arm at State dinners and meeting world leaders. But she bailed. In the end, the Bartlett campaign hadn't exactly won by a landslide: but they won. "Too bad Lisa, you bet on the wrong team!"

Jed had only met Ainsley Hayes once, but he liked her. And he could always tell about these things. Jed liked how she challenged Sam, how she pushed him to be the best he could be, how she set him on fire. Jed knew it was exactly what Abbey did for him: Abbey was Jed's soul mate. Abbey was the one person who knew him. She knew that when the President of the United States closed the bed room door, he needed to be just plain, old Jed Bartlett. The President would bet the farm that Ainsley Hayes was the one person with whom Sam Seaborn could be Sam. Jed just wondered how long it would take Sam to realize it. "Get them both to Camp David Friday afternoon." President Bartlett was one of the few people on earth who could make an invitation a command performance. "What's next?"

Friday at lunch time, Ainsley followed the agents through the kitchen areas of the hotel into the waiting limo. Inside the car Sam was waiting for her. They both hesitated for a moment as she climbed in. "He looks tired." It was the first thing she noticed about him. Well, it was the second thing she noticed. The first thing was how kissable he looked.

"Camp David?" she asked.

"Camp David. The whole senior staff is going to be there for a policy making retreat. At least, that's what CJ announced at this morning's briefing."

"And is that true?"

"It's partly Committee to Reelect Stuff."

"Then why was I invited? I'm a Republican, remember?"

He pulled back slightly. He was amazed. "You wouldn't support the President's reelection campaign?"

"I didn't say that - I asked if you all forgot that I'm a Republican?"

"No, I just assumed you'd like to keep your job. You've said you respect President Bartlett." He hadn't expected, well, no, he hadn't thought even thought about her plans for the upcoming election. Maybe she would oppose Bartlett's reelection?

"Sam, I just want to know why I was invited?"

Sam took a deep breath and covered her hand with his. "The President respects people who disagree with him. It prepares him for public debate. When he's making up his mind about a policy, he wants the best people he can find around the table voicing opinions, quoting information, fuelling discussion, so when he decides where he stands he knows he's explored the whole thing from all sides. He considers you one of his people. And, he wants you to sit at that table with the rest of us."

"It would be an honour to sit at that table with all of you." She was stunned at how easily that came out. "Sam," she whispered. "President Bartlett is one of the finest men I have ever known and I want to help keep him in the White House."

"Ainsley, you may not fully understand how strongly I feel. I want to have the XXII nd amendment repealed. I could live the rest of my life quite happily if President Bartlett was the permanent resident of the White House."

"I know you could, Sam." Then she laughed. "And sorry Sam, but well, I would have a problem with doing that. I'd have to actively campaign against that. Only because the XXII nd amendment prevents America from accidentally becoming a monarchy. Even if I might concede that President Bartlett would make a decent monarch, it's not in the best interests of the ordinary people of any given country to be ruled by one." She was goading him.

"Yeah." He laughed. "Okay, I'll give you that one."

"Sam, I've missed you." She smiled at him. I felt so good to just be with him again.

"I missed you too." He wrapped an arm casually around her shoulder. He ached to kiss her but . . . Ainsley rested her head on his shoulder and snuggled in slightly. She turned to look back up at him. Their eyes met first and then their lips. Sam's lips were gentle but firm as they brushed against hers for the first time. Her arms wrapped around his neck as she allowed his searching tongue access to hers. Sam's tongue traced hers sensuously and his hands found her hair: it felt like silk. He thought as his fingers found the clip holding it back from her face. When they finally came up for air, Ainsley kept her head on his shoulder.


"Jed," Abbey Bartlett took her husband's hand. "You're matchmaking again, aren't you?"

"Well have I ever been wrong?" he replied.

She laughed out loud. "Well, let's see, you set up Lizzie with her husband. You said after knowing him for two weeks that Charlie was perfect for Zoe. And my sister is finally divorced from the jerk you and only you, begged her to dump before it was too late. Okay, so you do have a knack for this kind of thing."

"Thank you." As an afterthought he added, "Hey, how come you didn't mention you and me?" They stood before the stone fireplace at Camp David obeying their unspoken rule: while they were alone at Camp David their personal lives were their focus. Guests always travelled separately. Until their guests arrived: it was like the old days when Jed and Abbey slipped away to the cottage.

"Because I knew, you were the one for me, first. I just let you think it was all your idea."

"Bullshit. You were with that jock Mark What's-his-face and I snatched you away from a life of monotony with a moron - in the nick of time I might add."

"To give me a life of security guards, late night phone calls and a medical career on hold indefinitely?" She was joking.

He wasn't quite sure. "Has it been all bad?" He hoped it hadn't but Jed could be just as insecure as the next guy.

"Let me see. On the plus side I have three wonderful children, two grandchildren and a passionate loving husband. I think it balanced out to the positive quite nicely. But, back to Sam for a second, I thought you wanted to see him with Mallory?"

"She's still too bitter about Leo's career. She'd never be truly happy with a politician. Leo marriage to her mom ended before his tour in Vietnam, she hated his second wife, and her stepfather. She blames Leo for everything that's remotely wrong in her life. Sam would be so good to her but Mallory's got too much baggage to be good to him. And God knows, he deserves it. Those two, it's not the right fit. Now," he said rubbing his hands together, "Ainsley, she's the one for Sam!"

"Jed, stop and think for a minute. Politically, morally and philosophically, all your successful matches, including you and me, were always tightly meshed from the get go." She paused, "Sam and Ainsley?"

"Philosophically I think they do mesh. They're going to the same place, they're just taking different roads to get there. It will never be boring or smooth sailing but they're ging to make it. Give it time."

"Excuse me sir," Charlie said, passing POTUS a note. At the Presidents nod, Charlie left the room.

"Their car is at the gate. Before it reaches us, I need to ask you something, Abigail. Have I told you I love you today?"

"No, but you can show me exactly how much tonight!" She said kissing him gently.

Thanks to the motion and warmth of the car Ainsley had dozed off on the ride. Sam shifted his weight slightly to jostle her awake. "Hey sleepy head, we're almost there," he whispered softly.

"Ohmigosh Sam, when did I . . . I'm so sorry. You should have woken me up sooner . . . should I have been reading something . . . getting ready to do something?"

"No problem, now, take a deep breath, we're clearing Camp David security. Josh and Donna won't be along until later tonight - he was waiting for some numbers from central polling. Toby, CJ and Leo will arrive by chopper in the morning."

"So, how come we're the only ones coming up so early?"

"So you can meet President Bartlett and learn to relax around him a bit. Let's face it your previous introduction was full of the stuff legends are made of." She rolled her eyes. He continued before she could make a comment blaming him for that. It was his fault. He just didn't need to be reminded. "You need a chance to talk to him informally, to learn to see him as a person not just the office. And Ainsley, he wanted to give you a chance to be outside someplace where he could guarantee your safety. We all know you've had cabin fever lately."

"Sam, are you telling me tonight is purely social?"

"Pretty much, yeah. At least till Josh and Donna get here but yes it's just social."

"And you didn't tell me this sooner . . ."

"Because the President didn't tell me until this afternoon and you looked so peaceful while you were asleep just now I . . . "

"Sam, how long till we reach the end of this driveway?"

"Another five minutes, why?"

"Shut up Sam." She leaned up and kissed him deeply. They broke the kiss as the car slowed to pull in front of the entrance.

A short time later, once they were settled into adjacent guest rooms, Sam tapped on her door. For the first time in weeks, Ainsley was completely relaxed. She'd changed into jeans and a blouse, pulled her hair up into a ponytail and was looking forward to being with Sam. She opened the door to find that he too had donned jeans and a Duke University shirt. He looked incredibly sexy. "Ready for that walk?" he asked.

"Whenever you are." She smiled at him. "You've been here before I assume?"

"Yeah." He took her hand and kissed it. In the distance they saw the Bartletts also holding hands and going for a walk along the trails. The Secret Service detail followed at a discreet distance. "The Bartlett's usually spend Friday evenings alone when they come to Camp David. They decompress together. Walk, talk, laugh, just reconnect with one another. Leo says that as long as the President and the First Lady are in sync, all's right with the world."

"Sounds like my mom and dad." Ainsley said wistfully as they walked hand in hand in the opposite direction the Bartletts had taken. After a while, she asked very softly, "Sam, what do you want? I mean, the future, I know we both said we'd work on the reelection campaign but where do you see yourself past that. I mean, after President Bartlett's second term." Suddenly her voice changed in shock, "did I really just say that like it was a given? Three years ago I would have had to check into a mental hospital if I heard my voice saying that."

"Bartlett's second term?" he laughed. "You know, if on behalf of the whole Republican Party, you would like to just concede now, we could save the tax payer a bundle . . ."

"Sam, you're really scaring me today! First a monarchy, now a coup d'etat?" She turned and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Maybe you should kiss me again before you say another unconstitutionally crazy thing."

"I really do like the way you think sometimes Ainsley." He said softly leaning in to do just that.

They kept walking along the trails at Camp David, laughing, and talking. The fresh air felt wonderful as did the opportunity to unwind. They bickered and debated social issues but both knew the attacks weren't personal. Sam enjoyed the afternoon tremendously. She didn't change his mind about anything, although she did make him think. He loved that about her. "I promised Mrs. Bartlett we'd be back at sunset," Sam said as they reached a large rock by an artificial pond. "They're barbequing dinner," he said as they perched on top of the rock and his arm wound around her shoulder again. She cuddled in.

"The President and the First Lady are having us for a barbeque?"

"No, POTUS and FLOTUS aren't. Ainsley, think of it this way: you've been invited to dinner with our boss and his wife. Our boss likes to barbeque - but bear in mind that he can only cook steak one way: Well Done. Trust me on that." They both laughed. "Now does that sound so intimidating?"

"I guess not. I'll try to think about him that way tonight. I'll try." She knew it wouldn't be easy.

"Good, now, I'm amazed you let me get away with it." He observed playfully.

"With what?"

"Not answering your question earlier. I mean, hey, if you want me to get in the habit of dodging your most serious questions by kissing you, believe me, I'm more than willing . . ."

She gave him a gentle peck. "I figured I'd tie you down later . . ."

"That sounds intriguing . . . " he couldn't help himself - teasing her was just too much fun.

"Sam Seaborn you have a dirty mind!" She cut him off completely embarrassed by the direction the conversation had taken. He took her hand and pulled it up to meet his lips. He stood silently looking at her, drinking in the sight of her still perched on the large stone. "Sam, would you mind, seriously, answering my question?"

He took a deep breath. "I was building up to that: Ainsley, I'm not looking for a fling - I was never any good at the singles scene or bar hopping. Yeah, I've been involved with other people but, I was involved. I'm not a casual type of guy. I've always wanted a relationship with a future in it. And I want a life outside my job - if that's possible. I want somebody who'll understand that some days I won't have a life outside the job. Washington is insane. At best my current job security could be described as eighteen months with the American People having an option to renew for four more years. And it's going to be a fight to get them to renew. I also know that the Vice President may not have a lock on the nomination four years after that. Plus, to be honest, he thinks Toby and I are idiots. Toby especially, me, I think he's undecided about. So there's no guarantee I'll be working for him and I sincerely doubt that even if I was I'd be in the inner circle."

"The Vice President won't win, even if he's nominated." She said it without a moment's hesitation.

"Ainsley, how partisan of you?" he couldn't believe she'd just said that.

"Sam, that's not what I meant. The Vice President isn't, well, he's not President Bartlett. Look at his approval rating. I sincerely doubt he'd carry his home state after beating up the oil industry. That made him look two faced and like he can't be trusted by his friends giving a major boost to his opposition? But it's more than that, he's not the Real Thing and the American People know it."

"And the President is the real thing to you." It was a statement not a question.

"I disagree with his approach. I think he likes big government and he thinks that spending money is the answer to everything, but, he's the real thing. Once I knew that, I knew I had to work for him." She stood and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Sam, before we head back, there's one more question I need to ask you. It may matter someday, and this is awfully presumptuous, but, Sam, if we decided, we wanted to be the somebody each other was looking for, are you going to ask me to stop being Republican?"

"Are you going to ask me to stop being Democrat?" He tried to hide behind the same question.

"It not all you are Sam, but it's a big part. But honestly, no, I couldn't ask you to be somebody or something that you're not. Neither one of us would be happy then."

"I won't ask you to be somebody you're not either." He replied without hesitation. "I like who you are."

Ainsley decided not to mince words. This was important. "Is being with me going to impede your chances?"


"Sam, if you run, and don't doubt it, you're star candidate material Sam, you could be a player in your own right." She turned away from him, "Being with me may hurt your chances."

"Ainsley, that's the most ridiculous thing I've heard for a long time. I've learned a lot working for President Bartlett. Most of all," he reached for her and she looked up at him, "I've learned you can't do what it takes if you've got nothing to come home to at night." He paused and added ever so softly, "Thank you."

"For what?"

"For knowing it's out there and we have to talk about it. We have to keep talking about it. I want to be sure we can talk about everything. Anything. Anytime. Including the fact that the reverse would be true. You'd make a great candidate too." He held her quietly for a moment, content to feel her close, "I guess what it boils down to is: I'm looking for a real partner, Ainsley, and I'm not stupid. I know that to have the kind of a partner I want, I'll need to be the same kind of partner for her. Am I scaring you?"

"No. Well yes, maybe a little. I'm not use to thinking you're an insightful kind of guy. But that's what I'm looking for too - a real partner." She was glad they'd talked. If this, whatever this was, was going to have a chance, they'd have to continue to be honest with one another. He held her for a few minutes and then gave her a butterfly kiss.

"We have to head back." She said softly. "Sam, will the boss care if I like my steak medium rare?"

"Trust me, Ainsley, you just said well done."

"No, I didn't!"

"The boss is a lousy cook. It's going to come well done!"

"Oh, in that case, I'll ask for it rare then it will come medium."

"You catch on quick!"

"I try."

"Ainsley, I've gotten used to the fact that you're very trying."

She playfully swatted him and then wrapped an arm around his waist. "Sam, slow down a second." She reached down and pulled off her sandals and walked barefoot in the grass. She sighed deeply feeling the earth beneath her feet. "I was beginning to wonder if I'd ever feel anything but carpet beneath my feet."

"She looks so young," he thought for moment seeing her like that. "Come on babe, the boss will be waiting."

"Okay, Sam, this has been a wonderful afternoon. Thank you."

"Ainsley," he pulled her back into his arms and up against him. He pulled the elastic from her hair letting it fall loosely around her shoulders and ran his fingers through it. Leaning in for a deep kiss, he whispered, "don't thank me. Just be with me."


Part 4

David had watched the Deputy Communications Director climb into the limo which then pulled into the alley behind the Hotel Washington. David had watched the video over and over again couldn't believe she'd allowed Seaborn to touch her like that. Couldn't she see that all men like Sam wanted was a quick roll in the hay and then they were gone? "So that's where the bastard stashed her. Right across the street from the White House. Damn, I can't believe I didn't think of it." David Greer followed the motorcade at a discreet distance. He thought it was discreet enough. David knew he didn't have a hope in hell of beating the security at Camp David, so once he realized that's where the limo was headed, he turned back toward Washington. Following Seaborn had gotten him the information he needed.

"I knew Seaborn would lead me back to her," David congratulated himself for his own ingenuity. " Oh, Ainsley Beloved, don't worry, Seaborn won't separate us much longer. I'll come to you, darling. Then, we can be together!" It was all Sam's fault. Sam Seaborn had the nerve to try and separate David from his beloved. Well, Sam was gonna pay. He would pay dearly. Then Ainsley would be David's again.

David's rage and worry were all consuming as he frantically scoured the city looking for her. She was so innocent. No match for the charms of an experienced womanizer like Sam Seaborn. Well it wouldn't continue. David would have to find a way to bring her into the open and then scoop her up and carry her away from all this. David would never hurt her, but if Seaborn tried to get in the way, well, his safety was another matter. Seaborn was a first rate sonovabitch. David had watched the video over and over in disgust almost vomiting when he saw Seaborn wrap his arms around Ainsley's perfect waist. Seaborn had even prevented her from cuddling the baby kitten David had chosen for her. There was no doubt about it: Sam was trying to steal Ainsley! Sam Seaborn had actually touched Ainsley, had held her in his arms, had stroked her back! David had never allowed himself such liberties. Seaborn was as good as dead now. "Ainsley is too delicate for him. Besides, she's my fiancee. She belongs to me."


Abbey Bartlett watched Ainsley and Sam discreetly as they approached the main house for dinner. She saw that last kiss and almost blushed. And she was a doctor for crying out loud. "Jed," she called to her husband as he was busily lighting the barbeque and checking his tools, "they're back."

Over dinner Ainsley struggled to relax with the Bartletts. It wasn't easy but the setting, the food, and being with Sam helped immensely. They talked about various things. Why the President went to Notre Dame? (Because he'd considered the Priesthood.) Why Ainsley chose Smith? (Because she'd earned a full scholarship there.) Why Sam had gone to Duke for law school? (Because his dad had gone to Duke.) And why Abbey spent so much time away from the White House? (Because Abbey saw the role of the First Lady as the President's personal representative and he was a President who wanted to be with the people as much as possible.)

Josh and Donna arrived in time for dessert and coffee. Josh tried to raise the polling data but their host wouldn't hear anything of it. He told them that the President wasn't available and asked "What's next?"

Without a second's hesitation Abbey declared, "A campfire."

Sam and Josh bickered good naturedly over the construction of a good campfire.

"Remember boys, you have reputations to salvage on this subject," the boss said with great authority. "You almost burned down the White House, let's try to avoid Camp David suffering the same fate."

As the fire began to die down, Ainsley had an inspiration. "I feel like a banana boat."

"A what?" Josh asked incredulously.

"A banana boat. It's a banana, only you peel it all the way then you scoop out some of the fruit. That makes room for the chocolate chips and mini marshmallows that get stuffed in the crack. You wrap it in foil, put it in the coals and the chocolate chips and marshmallows melt and . . ."

"I'm in." Donna laughed. "Let's raid the kitchen!" Donna led Ainsley to the kitchen and the two women began scrounging for the ingredients. "So?" Donna asked suggestively. "You and Sam seem friendly tonight?"

"We are." Ainsley said not looking at her and blushing slightly.

"Details, woman, I want details."


"Spill it or I won't surrender the marshmallows," she replied holding the bag tightly against her chest.

"You're mean." Ainsley smiled at her though.

"I'm tough, not mean. I work for Josh - I have to be tough."

"Speaking of Josh . . ." Ainsley tried to deflect the conversation.

"No way - I also learned how to stay on topic working for Josh. No sugar fix until you tell me what's up."

"All right. Remind me to recommend you to the CIA for use in interrogations. Yes, Sam and I are friendly. Very friendly. More than friendly. But that's all you get."

"Is he a good kisser?"

"Incredible." She replied quickly with a catch in her voice. She glared at Donna. "But that's it. All you get."

Donna smiled. "Now was it so hard?" She teased Ainsley who blushed at the double entendre. "I meant difficult."

"You're bad!" Ainsley kept searching the cupboards. "Yes! Chocolate chips." She said excitedly upon discovering them. Ainsley's voice dropped slightly, "Donna, what if I said this could be the real thing for us. People are going to talk . . ."

Donna hugged her friend. "And we'll all say we're happy for you. For both of you."

As the evening wore on the group fell into a comfortable silence. The couples sat close together watching the flames and night sky. Abbey and Jed retired first, laughing about how life seemed to run in circles. Often, when the girls were teens, and they were at the cottage with their family, Mom and Dad went to bed long before their girls.

A few minutes later, Donna poked Josh in the ribs, "OW, what did you do that . . ." then he looked at Sam staring intently at Ainsley. "Oh, well you guys," he said, "we're next. Good night. And Ainsley, when I get a sugar craving, I know the girl to call to satisfy it." Donna smacked him again. "Relax Donnatella, I was just being polite. It took me a while but I now know which woman will satisfy all my cravings." He kissed her deeply.

"Nice recovery Joshua," she said. "Good Night, guys." She said as she and Josh walked arm in arm to the house.

"Well that was interesting. When did they get together?" Ainsley asked Sam.

He smiled at her. "The Correspondent's Dinner. It had been brewing for some time though. You'd be amazed at how discreet they're being. Everybody always thought something was going on, but now that something IS going on, nobody notices the difference. I'm just glad Josh finally found the guts to take a chance at it. Now, you are sitting much too far away."

"I'm right beside you."

"I know, come here." He reached over and settled her onto his lap. "That's better." Sam caressed her hair and kissed the top of her head.

"So what did you tell Donna?"


"It doesn't take two of you to scour the kitchen for food. And I learned years ago that girls do things like that in groups so they can talk about the men in their lives. So, what did you tell Donna"

"More than she told me obviously."

"You told her about us."

"I told her we were friendly."

"Are we friendly?" He nuzzled her neck.

"I said more than friendly."

"She didn't push you further than that."

"Sam, we've talked, we've held hands, we've kissed a few times."

"You and Donna have kissed? I wish I'd been there to watch," he couldn't resist teasing her.

"Very funny. You know what I meant."

"I know what you meant." He kissed the tip of her nose. They sat looking at the stars and chatting idly. After staring up at the stars Sam started staring into her eyes. He leaned in for passionate kiss. "We should probably turn in too."

He walked her to her bedroom door where he kissed her goodnight. Ainsley felt her knees go weak and pressed herself up against him. Sam thought he'd be content to hold her close, to stroke her hair but he had never been so aroused by a simple kiss. "Sweet dreams, Ainsley." He crossed the hall to his room and shut the door.

As Ainsley got ready for bed, she couldn't help thinking about how much her life had changed in a few months. Last fall her career had been all consuming. Now, she could see herself building a life with Sam. And she liked the looks of that life. Her career would be part of it, so would his, but they would have something more than that. She knew a part of her should probably worry about committing to a man with Sam's romantic past but somehow it didn't matter. She knew above all things Sam Seaborn was a man of his word. He had a sense of honour and duty that superseded his own desire for pleasure. If he gave her his word, it would be enough. As her grandma would say, God put eyes on the front of her head to look forward not back and she realized that she really had no problem with Sam's past.

Sam stretched out on his bed and stared up at the ceiling. A part of him was on fire, a fire only she could help him put out. Sam had wanted women before - hell he'd had a few over the years. But not like this. As much as every fibre of his being wanted to cross the hallway and show her what he was feeling, he knew it was too soon. When they became lovers, and to him it wasn't an issue of if but rather when, he wanted her to be sure that for him, this was emotional not just physical. Oh, it was physical too. He'd have to take a cold shower before he tried to sleep - but this was more. Much more. Why didn't that realization scare him? A year ago it would have.

A year ago. Rosslyn. The gun shots rang out in his mind as he relived the experience. Then his mind fast forwarded from the scene of the shooting and he saw Donna, well it looked more like Donna's ghost, running into the waiting area at GW. He'd known for certain that night that she loved Josh. He'd suspected it for years, but he knew the minute she bolted into the waiting room that Donna's concern was not for a boss, it was for a man. And he realized that night, there was no one in his life who would have reacted that way. He'd never given enough of himself to someone to be able to expect that kind of dedication. He'd vowed to change that when he had time. He hadn't had time - but when he stood up for her with Joyce and Brookline he knew it wasn't professional. He'd given a part of himself to Ainsley that day - and he didn't regret it for an instant. He was going to be damn sure he didn't rush this. Just because they wanted the same things, just because they were looking for the same things, just because he knew he was ready to be with her, didn't mean she was ready to be with him. And he wanted her to come to him.

The rest of their weekend was spent negotiating policy, arguing constitutional implications and when they thought no one was looking, stealing moments alone together. Although none of the other weekend residents of Camp David formally acknowledged the change in the nature of their relationship, the blush of new love was undeniable. As everyone was making preparations to leave on Sunday night the President sent for both of them.

"Sam, Ainsley, have a seat," the President nodded toward two chairs. "I want you to know, Abbey and I are very happy you've found one another. I don't want to burst your bubble kids, but the Washington PD are at the gate."

Ainsley sighed and reached for Sam's hand. He took it and squeezed gently, "Thank you, Mr. President."

"Sir," Ainsley said, letting go of Sam's hand. "I can't begin to tell you how grateful I am for your support in all this. Everyone's been so . . ."

"Ainsley," the President smiled at her. "When you enter public life, you expect to sacrifice your privacy. What you've been through is entirely different and completely unacceptable." He stopped and slipped into Jed mode again. "My dear, I have daughters, and granddaughters, and I pray they never have to experience what you two have been through. In fact, when this is over, I want to review the federal stalking laws, make sure that law enforcement agencies have the tools to resolve this kind of thing."

The detectives arrived and were shown to the President's Camp David office. Leo also joined the group. After the pleasantries were exchanged and introductions made, Detective O'Connor explained the purpose of their visit. "Miss Hayes," O'Connor said. "We want you to know, the trail is cold. We've staked out your apartment, your office, looked into all your associates, and I'm sorry we've come up empty. We're no closer to finding this nut than we were two weeks ago when you went into hiding."

She stood to look out the window. Sam came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her. He placed a gentle kiss on her neck. "I'm sorry, honey." He could sense her anxiety and wanted to drive it away. "It'll be okay."

"What's next?" the President asked solemnly.

"Sir, we'd like to set a trap. Using Miss Hayes and Mr. Seaborn as bait."

Sam blew a fuse. "You want bait, guys, no problem, I'm your man. But Ainsley is staying tucked away safe until this bastard is behind bars."

She glared at him. "Just who the hell do you think you are? How dare you speak for me?! I've said all along this monster, whoever it was, he is not going to control my life." Her voice had gotten louder with each word. "GUESS WHAT SAM - NEITHER ARE YOU . . . Just because we're seeing each other doesn't give you proprietary rights to every aspect of my life."

Sam took a step back. "Well excuse me. I care okay?" He yelled back. "Sue me."

Their quarrel amused the President. He figured they'd been civil to one another, more than civil, for a number of days, so a flare up was long over due. Like he'd told Abbey, it would never be smooth sailing. "And here I was beginning to wonder if the Republican Sex Kitten still had her claws."

Ainsley heard his comment, she looked over and was suddenly struck by her lack of decorum. She took a deep breath and began, "Excuse me Mr. President I . . . "

Jed tried not to laugh out loud. He nodded to her calmly then turned to address the poor schmuck who was just trying to take care of the woman he loved, "Sam, I sympathize with your feelings but, I would wager that her ability to take care of herself is one of the things you find so fascinating about Miss Hayes. And as for you, Miss Hayes, we all may be liberal democrats and even though we support women's rights whole heartedly, Sam, Leo and I can't help ourselves sometimes. God created men like us with an inescapable sense of responsibility for the safety of the women we love. You'll have to forgive us and learn to live with it. It's not going to change." He turned to the detectives, "you were saying?"

"We want Miss Hayes to return to her normal life. Make it look like she's been away visiting friends these past few weeks, whatever. We think her return will force him to act."

"Why? Why the pretense?" Ainsley didn't follow.

"Because we can't even prove it's the same individual who's following Mr. Seaborn," Matthews replied.

Leo's patience was wearing thin. Even thinner than Sam's. "So gentlemen, we're waiting for a punch line here."

"We think that if the perpetrator sees Miss Hayes return to her normal routine with a credible explanation for your absence, he'll be comforted and the old pattern will resume. We want him to think you left for reasons other than him and that you're patiently waiting for him to reveal himself. We think he may be ready to reveal himself and try to make you see his interest is more than just friendship. We also want him to think the police are treating the case of harassment against Mr. Seaborn as a separate issue."

"I can do that," She replied but was terrified at the prospect. As angry as she'd been with Sam for trying to control things, she continued to seek comfort from his presence and reached for his hand. "I just don't see how it will accomplish anything."

"Gentlemen, how about another little scenario here?" Sam said quietly. "Miss Hayes and I have recently become a couple." He turned and smiled at her slightly. Neither officer looked particularly surprised which confused Sam a little. He continued. "Now, what's going to happen if he sees us in that capacity? Maybe he'll take a hint? If he does surface, I'll confront him and I'll tell him I know what he's been up to - I could warn him off, threaten him with prosecution.."

"Mr. Seaborn, it could be dangerous to suddenly shatter his Madonna like image of Miss Hayes - he could feel betrayed and try to punish her. Especially if that image is tarnished by someone he already resents as much as you. Furthermore, if you do see someone, under no circumstances are you to confront him. Our experts think our perp. is likely to become violent if you confront him - not back off." Matthews replied curtly. "I would also ask that you keep the changed nature of your relationship secret."

The chief of staff threw his hat in the ring. "With all due respect gentlemen, the White House Press room has been speculating about a personal involvement between these two for months. You picked up on it on day one too. Suffice it to say, it's not going to be easy to hide. Why not follow let them appear publicly together - we just make sure they're covered, in case our guy goes for the jugular? "

Ainsley nodded in agreement. "I want to flush him out and force his hand. This has to stop. I won't stay in hiding forever and as far as Sam and I are concerned we have nothing to be ashamed of."

Later that afternoon they returned to Washington. Sam walked her to the apartment door. He hesitated not sure if he could leave her there alone, especially knowing that the cameras and microphones were still in place. He'd wanted to take her back to his guest room or put her up at a hotel somewhere, or better still, keep her safe at Camp David with the US Army. As he kissed her goodbye, Sam held her close, "Remember, you're not alone. And Ainsley, you should know: this isn't casual. I think I'm falling in love with you. This may have all happened fast, but, Ainsley, it's real."

"It's real for me too, Sam." She wrapped her arms around his neck and held him close again. "I'll see you in the morning."

Ainsley set her suitcase just inside the door to her apartment. She knew the Secret Service detail was nearby but she couldn't shake the feeling of impending doom hanging over her like a cloud. She walked past the lamp which she knew had one of four cameras concealed therein. The police had alerted her to the location of the surveillance equipment so she could have a measure of privacy but all devices had remained untouched.

Glancing at her watch, she reached for the phone. She called her parents in North Carolina. Earlier, from a secure phone at Camp David, her parents had been brought up to speed and had agreed to help lend credence to her disappearance. They were understandably worried about her and it had taken a great deal to reassure them that she would be all right. During that call Ainsley had also confided in her mom about the changing nature of Ainsley's relationship with Sam. Her parents had promised to come to Washington when this was all over to meet him.

"Hi Mama," Ainsley said softly. "I hope I'm not calling too late?"

"Of course not dear," her mother replied. "George, grab the extension, it's Ainsley."

"Hello, Kitten!" her father drawled into the receiver for the sake of their audience. He had never called her that but used the nickname as instructed. "I take it you're done that special assignment for the Deputy Communications Director."

"Finally," Ainsley sighed deeply. "I thought tucking me away incognito was over kill but after spending a weekend in debates with senior staff at Camp David, I understand the need for secrecy. That's all I can say though."

"We understand dear," her father said laughing. "So, life is getting back to normal?"

"As normal as Washington could be." She paused. "Mama, Daddy, I need to tell you something. And I know you're going to be surprised so you just have to promise me you'll understand and be happy for me. Sam Seaborn and I have started dating."

"The man you made a fool of on Capital Beat?" Her father bellowed. "You're kidding right, darling?"

"George," her mother said. "Ainsley is a big girl now. Are you telling us this could be serious?"

"Mama, it's serious. I'm ready to look for a life partner. It may be Sam, but maybe not. It could be kind of complicated though. He's being pestered by some political terrorist right now."

"Ainsley!" her father roared. "I hope you're not in any danger Kitten."

"The police don't think so. They think it's just someone who doesn't like the education policy initiatives Sam's fronting. It's part of public life."

"Even so," her dad continued, "Promise me you'll be careful."

"I will." She said softly. "Mom, Dad, I just feel this over whelming need to settle now. Like I finally know who I am so I'm ready to share myself with somebody for the long haul . . ."

"That's wonderful dear." Her mother said. "I always knew you'd know for yourself when it was time to start a family."

"Ainsley dear," he said gently. "Politics isn't everything. I know you always thought I wanted a son to follow in my footsteps, but honey, you're a fine attorney and a wonderful woman. I couldn't be prouder than I am right now. You do what makes you happy. And if that means finding that special man who'll make me a grandfather - you just make sure you pick a good one. Hold out for the right one. I trust your judgement honey. If you think it's that pretty boy Democrat - that's good enough for me."

"Thanks Daddy, I love you. Good night, Mom."


Their efforts were a resounding success. As David listened to the conversation, a demented grin spread over his face. "I have to get to her before it's too late. Poor Ainsley, you've been taken in by that monster. Oh, Ainsley, Beloved, you're ready for me now? I won't keep you waiting any longer. I'll come to you. Soon. But Seaborn, he must be punished for bothering you my love. I'll take care of him, then come for you. I'll carry you away from all this. Make you mine. Give you the kind of life you deserve. It won't be long. I promise."


Part 5

Ainsley sighed deeply as she hung up the phone. She'd give anything to hear Sam's voice right now. Or better still, to feel his arms around her but they'd agreed that their relationship should appear casual for now. After spending the night tossing and turning in a red nightgown, she arrived at her office in the White House. She reached for the ringing phone and smiled as she heard Sam's voice.

"Are you all right? How did it go? Do you think he'll buy it?" Sam hadn't slept worth a damn either.

"I hope so. I was just going to grab a coffee at the mess."

"I'll meet you there." He wanted to see her and had asked security to notify him when she arrived at the building. When he saw her and sat at the table with her it was all he could do not to gather her into his arms and kiss her breathless. She felt the same way. Their time at Camp David had spoiled them. They'd managed to steal moments together between sessions, something that would be impossible at the White House. But at least they would be in the same room for a few minutes. He'd make it enough. It would have to be.

Margaret walked toward them. "I'm glad I found you. Mr McGarry needs you both in his office." They got up and followed her, both disappointed that they weren't even going to be able to share a cup of coffee together. When they reached Leo's office Margaret motioned for them to enter. On Leo's conference table was a pot of coffee, some Danish, a few muffins, and some fresh fruit. "Leo will be back from breakfast at the Residence in an hour. He said he'd see you then." Margaret smiled at them and gently patted Sam's shoulder on her way out. As soon as the door was closed Sam pulled her into his arms and kissed her like a starving man tackling a buffet.

She whispered softly. "I am so glad to see you."

"Me you too." He said just as softly still planting butterfly kisses on her head which was resting gently on his shoulder.

"So, did you get a welcome home present last night?" she asked softly. When he hesitated, she added. "The truth SAM"

He sighed. "Actually, no. The surprise came this morning - the guy really hates my car. Today it was slashed tires. But, forget it." They sat together shaking their heads. "It'll be over soon, babe."

"I hope you're right." She muttered. She hadn't touched her coffee or the breakfast tray.

"Ainsley, honey, there is a huge array of sugar sitting out here, how come you're not eating?" Sam was confused.

"I have a craving for something else." She said simply pulling on his tie and bringing him closer to her. Sam's lips met hers with enthusiasm. He would have to thank Leo for this gift of time together. His friends had been incredibly supportive of both of them throughout this ordeal.


Several weeks passed without incident. It was as if 'Sonovabitch', (the nick name was courtesy of Toby), had fallen off the face of the earth. In spite of this, Sam stayed on high alert. One night, they grabbed dinner in a nearby hotel dining room with Josh and Donna. Sam couldn't shake the feeling that someone was always watching. Somehow. Somewhere. Josh and Sam went up to the bar to order while the girls grabbed a table. Sam didn't take his eyes off her.

"Relax Sam," Josh said quietly. "The Secret Service has your back."

"It's not just that - I can't help myself. I love looking at her. I love how it feels to just be in the same room with her. Listen to me, I sound like a love sick teenager."

Josh grunted then changed the subject. "Sam, It's been two weeks and not a word from this guy. Is there any evidence that he's still around?"

"Other than the live cameras and mikes in her apartment and the knot in my gut?"

"The last one is good enough for me." Josh said as they each grabbed a pair of steins and headed toward the girls.

Donna and Ainsley sat chatting happily. But Ainsley was blushing slightly. Donna looked like the proverbial cat that swallowed the canary. Ainsley kissed Sam's cheek when he sat beside her.

"What was that for?" he said wrapping an arm around her and settling in close.

"Do I need a reason?"

"Never." He leaned in for a real kiss. Ainsley kissed him with abandon. Her hands found his hair and her tongue met his with a tenderness and passion that given their surroundings surprised Sam. Desire flooded him like a tidal wave. He wanted her. He needed her. He loved her.

"Would you two get a room?" Josh joked as the kiss went on a little longer than he and Donna were comfortable watching.

"Maybe we should?" Ainsley whispered against Sam's lips.

Sam looked at her stunned, afraid to hope. "Ainsley, don't joke about that okay?" He paused. Her face was absolutely sincere and almost shy, "Ainsley, you're not joking?" She shook her head no.

"Joshua," Donna said, "Dance." She pulled him away from the table. Josh's mouth was hanging open.

Ainsley nodded, "we should get a room." She hesitated shyly, "That is if, well if you'd like to."

Sam reached into his wallet and threw some money on the table for their share of the cheque. Then he got up hurriedly taking her hand. They crossed the lobby and booked into a lovely suite with a view of the Capitol dome. He wrapped her in his arms and held her close. "Ainsley," he whispered softly. "I . . ."

"Kiss me Sam, kiss me." She whispered. "I need you, Sam." Sam brushed his lips against hers so tenderly it took her breath away. He caressed her with his fingertips making her tingle. When she moaned softly in the back of her throat, he eagerly pressed her even more tightly against him so that she could feel his arousal. Sam was thrilled when she took the initiative deepening the next kiss. When she pulled back for a breath, he kissed her neck and as she leaned back allowing him easier access he scooped her up into his arms. He stepped inside the bedroom door, closing it with his foot and then he carried her to the bed. Setting her down gently beside it, he whispered softly, "are you sure? Ainsley, I don't want to start something you're not ready for."

"Make love to me, Sam." She was breathless. "Please, make love to me?" she whispered and then reclined back. Kneeling on the bed, she held her arms out to him.

Sam didn't need another invitation - he'd been able to think of nothing else for weeks. He took both her hands and kneeled in front of her. Sam had wanted to be with her for weeks. Probably since the first time he laid eyes on her. But definitely since he watched her smile as they sang Gilbert & Sullivan to welcome her to the staff. Slowly, Sam began opening her blouse kissing each millimetre of flesh he exposed. He tenderly stoked her breasts through the white lace bra. "Slow," he thought to himself. "I have to take this slow."

"My turn?" she asked tentatively and he rested his hands on her shoulders to allow her to remove his shirt. She quickly disposed of his undershirt so her fingers would savour the feel of his skin without any barrier. His arms and chest were strong and looked like they had been delicately chiselled by a master carver. Ainsley loved having the freedom to kiss and nibble him as tenderly and lovingly as he had just done for her. She kissed her way up his neck until their lips met again in a searing kiss.

Sam continued to stroke her breast through the bra as their tongues duelled tenderly. Finally he unhooked the bra and tossed it on the floor beside them. She was so beautiful. He took a nipple into his mouth and she gasped as he lapped at her for the first time. Ainsley ran her fingers through his hair and whispered his name. Sam was determined to make this a night she would never forget.

"Sam," she said reaching for the closure of his slacks. She could see his desire for her and felt her own readiness for him. She'd never felt like this before. She'd never wanted to be with a man like this before. She moaned as he reached inside her lace panties and stroked her intimately. "Oh, God Sam! Please, whatever else you do, don't stop touching me like that!"

Suddenly Sam realized what she was saying. "Ainsley?" he pulled back to cup her face in his hands, "baby are you saying what I think? . . ."

She kissed his hands and then covered them with her own. "I can't tell you what I like because I've never done this before. . ."

Sam took a deep breath and then kissed her passionately. "I have protection in my wallet. And as long as you're sure you want to do this, I promise, we'll find out together and it will be wonderful, for both of us."

Sam and Ainsley spent the night discovering one another's tenderest places. It was all he promised and more. Whatever Ainsley secretly feared she may have lacked in experience, she more than made up for with enthusiasm: Sam tender words, gentle caress and finally fiery response to her touch told her that. Afterwards, as she lay cradled against him, he whispered softly, "you are so beautiful, you know that?"

"I feel beautiful." She replied softly. She shyly started to ask, "Sam, I hope, well, I hope you weren't disa . . ."

He kissed her before she could finish the word. "I hope you weren't going to say disappointed! Lady, I've never felt like this in my life. You are, without a doubt, the most wonderful woman I have ever met. Ainsley, I have to admit though, I'm curious. I mean, you're a vibrant, brilliant, beautiful, make that incredibly beautiful woman and yet . . ."

"Nobody had bagged me yet?" she giggled at him.

"That's not the statement I was going to use." He laughed back at her. She began to tickle him. "Okay, okay, maybe, for a split second the word 'bagged' crossed my mind. I'm a speech writer for the most powerful man in the world, I should be able to come up with something classier than that! Initiated, oh shit that's no good either."

"Sam, you're wearing your writer's block face! Remember you can't hide it from me. I can always tell." She teased him.

"What I want to say, is . . . " He stopped to kiss her. "I am honoured it was me you chose to be with. And I just hope you won't regret what happened here tonight. I'm just afraid to ask, you know, why now, why me?"

"Sam," for a second he thought there were tears in her eyes. "Sam, it's really not that complicated. It's very simple. I've never been in love before. So making love didn't feel right until . . . now . . ." He looked at her in awe. "Ohmigod, I'm scaring you this time."

"No," he said simply, pulling her beneath him again. "You're not scaring me. I'm glad you were brave enough to actually say it. I've never been in love before either. Yeah, I've been in lust with a woman, even tried to convince myself it was love before. I enjoyed the drama when it was all brand new but, but this, THIS is different." He brought her hand between them and kissed it. " Ainsley, it's no secret that I've been with women other than you, but I just realized something. Tonight, for the first time, I actually made love to a woman. Believe me, honey, there's a huge difference." Sam caressed her face tenderly. "I love you, Ainsley Hayes - I love you." He kissed her.

"Sam, I love you too." She caressed his neck, loving the softness of his hair between her fingers. "What happens tomorrow?" she asked softly.

"Tomorrow, when we face the real world, we know we'll always have each other. The rest can take care of itself."

Sam settled Ainsley into the crook of his arm and held her as she fell asleep. He stared alternately at the top of her hair and the ceiling. In a matter of months his whole life had been turned upside down. A fact that should scare him but he welcomed it. Sam dozed off thinking about a proposal.


David Greer looked around the renovated loft with a satisfied smile. It had taken a great deal of effort but he'd done it. He wanted her to feel at home when he claimed her his own. He'd managed to duplicate her loft apartment in every way. The renovations had taken all his time for the past month. Everything was identical to the most minute detail. He looked across the room to the piece de resistance: the bridal gown for their mock wedding was displayed perfectly on the mannequin. He couldn't wait to see Ainsley in it. She would love his grandmother's dress. With its high collar, long sleeves and chapel train his grandmother's gown oozed class. Ainsley would love the pure silk and lace. The gown and his bride would be perfect! Oh, they'd have a real wedding later but he knew Ainsley would never give herself to him without making a vow before God. And Seaborn wouldn't back off until he saw her marry someone else. He knew that taking her in front of Seaborn would make Ainsley nervous but it couldn't be helped. Virgins were always nervous - that was the price a man had to pay for purity. But she'd come around in time and if he was lucky she'd come to enjoy sex rather than see it as a wifely duty. But Seaborn would have to see for himself that Ainsley was David's - and David's alone. When Seaborn saw with his own eyes how she'd be giving herself to the man she loved, he'd back off. And if he didn't, well, David knew she kept a gun in the bedside drawer. He'd been thorough. It was there in his new loft too. And David was man enough to use it.

It had been a month since he'd seen her outside the hotel with Seaborn. Going to dinner with another couple seemed harmless enough. She had giggled all the way through the National Zoo. Everything seemed innocent enough. But he doubted Seaborn would be content to just date her for long. He was keeping her out later each time they went out. Concerts, state dinners, any excuse to be with her seemed good enough for Seaborn. Seaborn even took her to a Democratic fund raiser. Laughable as that was. That's when David decided he needed to act. It had taken some time, but he was ready for her now. He was ready.


Sam looked at her sleeping beside him. In the month since they'd been lovers, he'd come to realize how much he loved to watch her fall asleep in his arms and how much he hated waking her and taking her home to that fish bowl. She cuddled closer and he kissed her forehead. "I love you, Ainsley," he whispered knowing his words would lull her back to sleep. He'd watch the time.

Sam lost himself in thought marvelling at the differences she'd made in his life. Even when he was with Lisa who he'd been damn close to marrying, sex for him had been about doing it. Doing it with great finess and pride in his technique, but it was definitely about the 'Doing'. With Ainsley it was all about 'Being'. It was about how much he loved being with her when she smiled up at him in ecstasy, it was about being there to hear her whisper his name tenderly, it was about being completely hers and knowing she was being completely his. She had changed his life. He had been transformed from a simple human doing now he was a human being. He used to fill his life doing all the right things for all the right reasons. But now, he'd discovered he wanted to be the best he could be at everything: his job, his relationships, his lovemaking. It was a subtle difference but he had her to thank for it.

His thoughts darkened. It had been six weeks since the stalker made any contact at all with either one of them. The Washington PD said the cameras still tested 'live' but there was no way to trace the signal. The PD were ready to give up and close the case. Sam wasn't. He wanted this moron caught so that they could get on with their lives. Sam knew Ainsley had stopped looking over her shoulder and wanted to believe Sonovabitch had just gone away. Sam couldn't help thinking it was ironic that, for once, she was being the idealistic one. She honestly wanted to believe Sonovabitch had faded into the woodwork when he saw how happy Sam's love had made her. But Sam didn't buy it. He knew Sonovabitch was out there. But where?

He was sorely tempted to let her stay the night but the police still wanted them to keep up the appearance that things were still light. It was the only thing keeping him from buying her a ring and setting a wedding date. They'd reached an understanding that a proposal and wedding were on the agenda as soon as this Sonovabitch was out of their lives. Even though he knew they had to get up he wanted to linger a while longer. It would be so wonderful waking up beside her tomorrow morning but he couldn't throw caution to the wind. But damn, it was tempting. He caressed her cheek tenderly and whispered, "I'll drive you home babe." Twenty minutes after they got in the car, neither was sure what hit them.


Part 6

Sam came to first with a throbbing headache. "Ainsley," he said in a gravelly tone. "Ainsley?" He struggled to reach her but realized he couldn't. He was secured to a chair in her loft bedroom. "For God's sake, Ainsley, sweet heart, answer me." Sam took a look around. His first reaction was that they were at her place but that just didn't fit. Just outside her bedroom window there was a street lamp that should have been casting a shadow but the light was evenly distributed. He could see a star scape so he knew it was still night but his instincts told him they were like rats trapped in a maze. Someone was playing mind games with them.

"Sam?" She whispered softly. "What's happening?" She struggled to sit up but was tied hand and foot with silk scarves.

"I'm not sure. Are you all right?"

"Yeah, just dizzy. You?"

"I'll live. Can you move at all?"

"Not really. Sam, I'm scared. . ."

"Me too. Honey, hush, I hear someone coming."

A new voice sounded from the corner of the room. "Ainsley, good you're awake, Kitten."

Neither Sam nor Ainsley knew who the man was at first. Ainsley tried to listen and place the voice - it was vaguely familiar but she couldn't place it. When she saw his face she gasped. "David?" she said incredulously. "Thank God. I didn't realize you were working the case too! This guy could be back . . ." Then she clued in. "My God, it was you. All along, the notes, the calls , the gifts, the things you did to Sam, it was YOU?"

"I had to get your attention darling." Ainsley didn't like the crazed look on his face and visibly cringed when he caressed her cheek.

"Keep your hands off her, Asshole," Sam yelled. He was struggling to free his hands. David decided to do something he'd wanted to do ever since he'd seen Sam touch Ainsley all those weeks ago: he slammed his fist into Sam's jaw. Sam winced in pain as David kept on punching. He knew just the right spots to hit to put Sam's lights out without inflicting permanent damage. Several punches later, mercifully, Sam passed out.

"Sam?!!" Ainsley screamed. She panicked when he didn't answer right a way. David leered over her and kissed her neck.

"Don't worry, Kitten," David said, "he'll be fine. He'll get the message when he sees what I have planned for us."

Ainsley pulled at the bonds at her wrists. "Please David, I'm sure you never wanted to hurt anyone. Just, set me free and you can leave. I'll take care of Sam and . . ."

"After I went to all this trouble? No darling," his voice was crazed. "It's time Sam Seaborn learned you belong to me."

Ainsley decided to appear to play along. "David, now, Sam's not too bright sometimes. Maybe you'd better untie me. I can convince him, that, well . . ."

"NO!" David screeched at her. He caressed her face. "He has to see to believe it."

Ainsley fought to control her tears. She had to stay calm. She was their only chance. Where the hell was the cavalry when you needed them? Weren't the Secret Service supposed to be monitoring the signal too? Not just following them? Couldn't they see what was going on?

David must have read her mind. "The two friends that Seaborn had watching you aren't going to come bail him out now, Kitten." David shattered her hopes. "They won't bother anyone ever again."

She nearly lost it. She took a deep breath. "Ainsley, come on it's up to you. You've got to stay calm. There's got to be some way out of this." She pulled at her wrists again. She knew, ironically from the class David taught that she couldn't allow herself to be so vulnerable. "David, please, these are so tight." She whispered softly. "I need you to loosen them a bit."

"I'm sorry Kitten," he said simply. "But I can't do that till you promise you'll forget all about Sam Seaborn. Let's pretend he isn't even here."

"Who isn't here?" She winked. "I promise." she managed to lie convincingly.

"There's a girl." He replied. He set her free and pulled her into a sitting position. "See what I brought you?" He nodded toward the dress and mannequin.

Ainsley gulped. "It's . . ." she wanted to say hideous when she saw the bridal gown. She gulped again. "Is that for me?" She had to keep playing along.

"Try it on." His tone made it clear this was not a request.

Ainsley wanted to vomit. "NOW? Of course now. Silly me." She replied instead. "David, I need to warn you though, I may take a while to change - especially into a complicated gown like this." She decided to try to buy herself and Sam some time. It worked.

"Ainsley, Kitten, relax." David's voice was full of love and understanding. She could tell that in whatever world he was living in, he was being the perfect 'husband'. She had to stifle the urge to panic. "The ceremony isn't scheduled to start for an hour. You have lots of time."

She forced a smile. No, she didn't have lots of time. By her guess, she had less than an hour. "Ceremony? David, I'm not sure I know what you mean." Time, she thought, I have to stall for time. She paused. "We haven't even had a real date yet, marriage is a huge under taking."

"Kitten," David said almost mystically, "we've been everywhere together. We've been to fund raisers, to the zoo, to dinner lots of times. . ."

"I see your point." David had probably been everywhere she'd been with Sam for weeks. She glanced over to Sam who seemed to be coming around. Thank God. "David," she was struggling to think on her feet, "can we finish this conversation tomorrow? I think I'd feel better if we talked tomorrow. We could get together at lunch time. I have to be at the White House at 8 am and Sam even before . . ."

"Forget Sam!!" He roared.

Ainsley took a step to block his path so David couldn't take another swing at Sam's helpless form. Ainsley ached to doctor the bruises which had formed on his face, one eye in particular looked badly swollen. She was worried that David would hurt him even worse. "David, on second thought, would you be an angel and get me a glass of ice water while I put on that beautiful gown." She had to stall. This was like her worst nightmare coming true. She had to protect Sam.

At her submissive behaviour his anger vanished. "Of course Kitten, I'll get it." David walked past Sam as if he weren't even there.

"Ainsley?" Sam said weakly. "Run dammit. Save your . . ."

"Sh. My God, Sam, please, please, pretend you're still out. He's watching, I can't help with the ropes just yet. Please, please play along.? She whispered very quietly. As much as it broke her heart to leave his side, she walked over to the gown and fumbled with the openings to remove it from the mannequin. She tried to stop her fingers from shaking, she had to appear confident. As much herself as possible. Well, no, as much the person David imagined her to be as possible. He came up behind her.

"Here we are Kitten," he said in that sickeningly sweet voice.

Ainsley accepted the glass and took a sip hoping the water would calm her nerves. When she finished she said, "David, would you help me with this. These buttons are so tiny and I'm just so . . ."

"Excited," he finished her sentence for her.

Her mind replied 'revolted' but she kept her cool. He lifted the gown from the mannequin and passed it to her. "David, turn your back." She tried giggling but wasn't entirely successful. Sam pulled at the ropes wanting more than anything to reach her. Sam knew that this drama was just building up to her ultimate rape and his murder. He had to stop this nut. And he had to do it soon.

David heard the movement. In a rage he crossed the room and slapped Sam so hard the chair tipped over. Ainsley screamed. "David, please, I need you. I've got the gown on. You said it yourself - please, I need your help getting ready David!" Giving Sam one more kick he crossed the room. As before David went from violence to docility in a matter of seconds.

"David," Ainsley struggled to keep her voice calm. "Isn't it time for the ceremony to start? I can't wait to see what else you planned for us." She used her sweetest Southern drawl.

"That's more like it." David turned. He'd flipped to docility again as if she'd thrown a switch. He seemed to explode when she defied him but once she resumed a subservient role, he was peaches and cream. "Have some more water honey, your throat still sounds dry." She finished the glass and passed it back meekly. David's ever changing behaviour was getting easier to predict and it proved what they both had suspected about the stalker: the guy was nuttier than pecan pie.

David blabbed non stop. He rambled about his future life with Ainsley. He talked about buying an old stone house in the country with lots of room for dogs and horses and of course for the five or six kids he expected would happen along. Ainsley kept him talking. She asked him about his favourite colours so she could think about decorating that farm house. After all they'd need everything: dishes, linen, curtain, why just about everything.

The skin on Sam's wrists was raw from struggling against the nylon cord. He couldn't believe Ainsley was able to keep this guy so distracted. Usually Ainsley chatted non stop but she was letting this guy do all the talking. He could tell she was running out of ideas. She was going to have to appear in that damn dress sooner or later. The Sonovabitch had also proven repeatedly he wasn't stupid. Sam tried to check out their surroundings from his vantage point on the knocked over chair. It looked like they were at her place. He glanced at the shoe tree rack beside him. This afternoon she decided to leave her tennis shoes at his place. He'd watched her put them in the closet. So why were they on the rack? That sealed it - they definitely weren't in Kansas anymore.

Ainsley was surprised when the dizziness returned. She felt her knees weaken.

David smiled at her. "I love being the only man who can make you swoon, Kitten," he said like he was her knight in shining armour. He lifted her and carried her to the bed once again securing her hands to the headboard. He didn't bother with her feet this time. "The water, oh God, why did I drink the damn water?" Her head continued to spin and she thought she could hear David's voice in the distance but she couldn't make out the words.

Sam could. And he didn't like the gist of what he was hearing. The guy was pledging to love honor and cherish Ainsley til death. And Sam had a feeling that event was scheduled for the not so distance future. Sam had to stop this. NOW!

"Look Asshole," Sam yelled hoping it would distract him. "I take it that's the only way you can get anywhere near a bed with a woman."

That distracted David all right. "This is all your fault Seaborn." David railed at Sam. "You did this to her. You turned her against me. If it weren't for you she would never been reluctant like this."

"You're real sure of yourself aren't you David? Seeing as you never had the guts to ask her out! Let me guess: you were afraid she'd give you the brush off." By now Sam had almost worked his hands free. Just a few more minutes . . .

David stalked across the room ready to kill Sam with his bare hands.

Sam almost had the knot. "If I can just get this, I should be able to take him. Please God, I just need a few more seconds."

Ainsley began begging for help. "Please, please, not like this. Please, God please, I need to know the man I love is all right. Stop this please." Every fibre of her being wanted Sam. She struggled against the restraints but her limbs wouldn't obey her foggy brain. "Somebody please stop this!"

Again, David turned at her voice. "Ainsley Kitten, Sam has to see us make love for the first time, he has to see you belong to me. You understand don't you?" His response to Ainsley was predictable. It was as if there were three separate realities in David's life. In one, David was trying to kill Sam Seaborn and kept getting interrupted. In the second, David was having a romantic honeymoon with his beloved Ainsley. Sam just hoped that David wouldn't return to the third reality until Sam could free himself and Ainsley. If David did return to Sam's reality before Sam was free then Sam and Ainsley would be dead. David sat down on the bed again and began caressing her gently. "It's all right darling, you don't have to be afraid any more. I'm here." David brushed the tears from her face. "I'm going to show you just how much I love you Kitten. The man you love is right . . ."

Sam finally had use of his arms and dove for David. Both men tumbled to the floor. Sam smashed David's head against the bedframe. David, caught of guard, took several seconds to respond. David's fist slammed into Sam's gut. Sam coiled over but managed to grab David and again slam his head into the bedframe. David slumped against it.

Sam climbed up and tried to untie Ainsley's arms. Neither Sam nor Ainsley noticed as David slid under the bed. Sam managed to free one wrist when Ainsley screamed "Sam, Look . . ." then the bedside lamp connected with Sam's skull. Ainsley tried to roll away from an enraged David. She had to reach her bedside table. Her gun. Her last hope.

David's vision was blurry from the repeated blows to his head. Ainsley kicked at his groin. The long full skirt absorbed much of the blow but she did connect enough to weaken him. Ainsley reached into the drawer enough to wrap her fingers around the barrel end.

"BITCH!!" David screamed realizing what she was trying to do. He slapped her. She winced in pain but managed to keep her fingers on the barrel of the weapon. Sam groaned and tried to knock David off balance but the back of his head was covered in blood. Sam succeeded enough that Ainsley managed to grab the weapon. Using the butt end she slammed it with all her might into Sonovabitch's skull. He fell to the floor with blood oozing from his forehead.

Ainsley worked her other wrist free. She had to help Sam. "Sam, please Sam, answer me. We have to get out of here. Sam!?!"

"I'll be okay." he whispered. "Babe, who is this guy?"

"I'll fill you in later. I think he's down for the count. I hit him with the end of this." She had the gun.

Sam sighed in relief. "Still, we have to get out of here, get help."

Ainsley wrapped Sam's arm around her neck and helped him stand. Leaning on her, they made their way to the living area. He nearly fell down the small flight of stairs but she managed to keep him balanced. She eased him onto her couch and tried calling 911. "No dial tone." Ainsley was confused.

"Ainsley, none of this is what it looks like. We're not at your place." Sam said very weakly. He obviously needed a doctor. "Honey, leave me and get help."

"I'm not leaving you. Sam, I think I'd know my own apartment."

"Ainsley," his voice was weak, "you're supposed to think that. But little things like the view. In all the time we've been here, it hasn't changed. It should be daylight by now. Look, a star scape. And they haven't moved. Look at the duct work. You said you painted it to match the ceiling - it's shiny. Look harder."

He was right. Why hadn't she noticed? She was thinking out loud. "We have to be inside a bigger building. He's faked all this too." Ainsley was feeling more like herself. She reached down to help Sam walk again.

"Ainsley, listen to me. I think . . . he broke a rib. You said it yourself - he's down for the count."

"I'm not leaving you." She was in tears. She couldn't leave him like this. What if David did come to?

"I'll be okay. Hurry."

She tore a sleeve off the dress and applied pressure to the worst gash on his head. "I have to stop the bleeding."

He pushed her hands away. "Go, I'll be okay, just . . . I love you. GO."

She nodded but set the gun down on the couch beside him. She reached the false door of the apartment when Greer appeared at the top of the stairs. "Sam!!" She screamed.

Sam grabbed the gun, stood weakly and took aim. David found that funny. "Go ahead Seaborn, you won't do it." David took another step toward Sam. "Your kind doesn't even know what to do with a . . ."

Sam fired. David's reflexes brought his hand to the chest wound and he looked down at his hands. He fell to his knees and then head over heals to land in a clump at the foot of the stairs. David seemed amused by the whole situation. He looked first at Ainsley then at Sam. He started to crawl toward her. Ainsley ran to Sam's side. For his part Sam stood there stunned then reached for her. He gathered Ainsley up against him and held her tight. David Greer gasped, "Why, Kitten, why?" Those were his last words.

The SWAT team kicked down the door. Detective O'Connor took in the scene before him. "You're a little late, guys!" Sam squeaked out as the detective removed the weapon from Sam's hand.

"We traced you to the building and then followed the shot to find you." He placed a hand on Sam's shoulder. "The paramedics are here, Mr. Seaborn. They'll want to check you both out." A medic asked each of them to lie on a stretcher.

"No, " Ainsley said cryptically. She was still supporting some of Sam's weight. She turned to face him, keeping her arm around his waist. "It's time to walk away from all this." She was still in shock but he understood what she was saying.

"Damn straight." he replied. The medic smiled and helped them walk outside to a nearby ambulance. They saw Greer's body being loaded into another. Ainsley rested her head on his shoulder. He kissed the top of her head.

"It's really over now." She said distantly.

"Yeah." He replied simply. "Now we get our lives back." He kissed the top of her head.


A few weeks later Sam and Ainsley were stretched out on deck chairs at the President's summer cottage. The Bartlett's had insisted they take some time off alone together and the First Family's cottage had been perfect. It was secluded, the press had pursued them relentlessly despite CJ's best efforts. Sam had enjoyed teaching the basics of sailing on the quiet lake. Ainsley loved it. It was the perfect blend of physical exercise and inactivity. Fishing however, was not her cup of tea. She was reading a book while he focussed on the fish.

"Pass me the tackle box," Sam called to her casually.

Ainsley shrugged. "Sam, you checked the line when I went in to get the iced tea five minutes ago."

"Just pass me the tackle box okay." He commanded. He'd promised her a fresh fish dinner but she had a feeling they'd be having burgers from the cottage freezer. He fumbled in the box for a second. She chuckled and shook her head. She turned back to her book.

"SHIT," he barked as he fell off the end of the dock.

She burst out laughing. "Samuel Norman Seaborn - you really are a clutz you know that. I'll get the burgers out - they'll need to defrost."

"Yeah, you better. I scared away the fish. Give me a hand, will you?" She reached out to him to pull him up and he tugged on her. In she went. She came up sputtering. "Ainsley, as long as your wet anyway, help me find your engagement ring . . ."

" My what?" she asked not quite sure she'd heard him correctly. He dove under without responding.

"Your engagement ring. I put it in the damn tackle box this morning. I wanted to give it to you last night but I lost my nerve." He was treading water as he spoke.

"You didn't lose your nerve Sam, you got distracted . . ." She giggled. They'd made love under the stars last night after sharing a bottle of champagne on the beach. She had been sure he was going to pop the question then but he hadn't. In fairness, it had been the most romantic evening they'd ever shared.

"Dive woman," he said and they both went under. They saw the glitter simultaneously and reached for it together. They came up kissing and swam to the ladder. Ainsley hadn't expected Sam to be off beat or funny when he proposed. After all, there were times when he needed her help to find the funny. But it seemed fitting somehow that he'd be a bit of a clutz. It was one of the things she found most endearing about him.

He took a deep breath, "Well. I'm not distracted now. Ainsley Hayes, would you please do me the great honour of agreeing to be my wife?"

"Sam!" She was all misty eyed. "OH Sam." If he'd been trying to catch her off guard and speechless he'd succeeded. "Sam!!"

"Ainsley, please say something, anything. Other than my name.


Sam slid the ring onto her finger. He pulled her to her feet then they walked arm in arm back to the cottage where they got distracted . . . for the rest of the day (and night).


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