by Marzee Doats

CATEGORY: Sam/Ainsley, Sam POV. Post-ep for 18th and Potomac.
SPOILERS: Specifically 18th and Potomac, with allusions to Two Cathedrals and minor references to Bad Moon Rising and Bartlet's Third State of the Union.
DISCLAIMER: The West Wing and its characters are the property of Aaron Sorkin, Warner Brothers, and NBC. No Copyright Infringement is intended.
ARCHIVE: Please ask first.
FEEDBACK: I'll take it!
THANKS: To Crystal and Allison for the beta and reassurance.

Monday Night

Leo dismisses us all with the admonishment to eat something and return at nine. He calls Josh back, but the rest of us scatter like cockroaches suddenly exposed to daylight. It's Washington, D.C. Do you know how many cockroaches we have here? This place is built on a swamp, and I've been spending most of my time down in the basement lately.

I head for my office, more to get out of the way than with any set purpose. I don't really know what to do with a ninety-minute break, but I know I can't face food. We've been living on greasy take-out and caffeine for three days now, and I don't have enough antacid left to counteract what I've been putting in my stomach.

Cathy glares at me as I pass her desk, handing me a stack of phone messages without speaking. I glance through them, but there's nothing that can't wait. I kick the door closed behind me and, not bothering with the light, drop into my chair. There's something on my seat though, and I lever myself up enough so that I call pull the offending object out from under me.

It's a plain manila file folder and I almost toss it away except I notice the attached note. 'We never did get to talk about the Kensington suit. Just a little light reading if you're interested. Hope you're having a better day. - A.'

She's signed with the same flourishy 'A' that she used on the note she left me Friday night. It reminds me of the beginning of a star, the way they teach you to draw one in grade school. It's adorable, actually, just like Ainsley, and it's new. She's left me notes before of course, but she's always signed her full name. This is new and comfortably familiar.

The note, unfortunately, also serves to remind me that I haven't called her yet. In my own defense, I've been busy and she seemed to anticipate that in her note. 'Call me when you can,' she wrote, and I have to say, I've been severely lacking in opportunities these last three days. We've been too busy yelling and arguing all weekend, spending more time together than we have since the campaign. But, of course, we can't staff this out, can't send email or memos or leave phone messages with each others' assistants, so that leaves us no option but yelling and arguing while we try to salvage something from this mess.

Now though, I have an eighty-five minute reprieve. I need to call her. I want to call her.

I search through my rolodex, looking for Ainsley's home number. After I dial, I reach for my cell phone and add the number to its memory. The phone's still ringing at her apartment when I finish, and I'm tucking the cell phone back into my pocket as Josh bursts through my door.

"Cathy said you weren't busy," he announces. "And Leo said to go get dinner, so c'mon, let's go."

"Actually, I am busy," I tell Josh, covering the phone's mouthpiece with my hand. "I'm on the phone."

Josh gives me a disgusted look. "You're not on the phone, you're phoning and waiting for someone to pick up. That's not on the phone. It can wait," he insists. "C'mon."

"Not this call," I answer obstinately just as Ainsley's machine kicks on. I listen to her message, smiling at how she allows a little more of her southern drawl to bleed through than she does when she's at work. She did that, too, with me on Friday night. Adorable Ainsley.

The answering machine beeps at me, and I leave my message. "Hi, it's me, Sam. Calling you, which you invited me to do, though I realize I'm a little late. Anyway, you're not there, so I'm gonna try your office. I really wish I knew your cell phone number," I lament, realizing that most likely she's somewhere between the White House and home. I wanted to talk to her now, before I let this go any longer. "Okay, that's it," I conclude. "'Bye."

"Great," Josh declares. "You can go to dinner now."

"No, I can't," I contradict, tapping the hook button to cut the phone connection.

"C'mon, Sam," Josh wheedles, throwing himself down in my guest chair. "I don't want to go to dinner by myself."

The phone in my hand begins to emit the howler tone, and I throw the receiver back in the cradle, annoyed. "Take Toby, Josh," I advise. "Go bother C.J. or Donna, I don't care. I can't go, I've got things to do."

"I can't go out with them," Josh tells me, leaning forward to rest his arms on his legs. "C.J.'s still in a bad mood, and Toby ... Toby told Donna about the thing."

Okay, I've got to admit, he's intrigued me there. "Toby told Donna about *the* thing?" I demand. "Why would he do that? He hasn't told Bonnie or Ginger. I can't tell Cathy. Margaret and Mrs. Landingham don't know."

Josh is resting his head in his hands now, and it muffles his response. "I know."

"So, why would he tell Donna?"

He lifts his head, blinking rapidly. "Three guesses, but if you need more than one you're stupid," he tells me, stretching his arms behind his head.

Oh, right. Josh's thing. I almost laugh at that, though. Toby tells Donna about the President because he's worried about Josh maybe going around the bend when I thought it was obvious that C.J. and I are the ones doing our darnedest to get there first. Maybe he's given up on us, though. We're the ones that don't believe this is salvageable, whereas Josh seems to think we can pull it out and take on big tobacco this week, too. Toby must be shoring up the battlements, working on the one he can trust. So much for Batman and Robin.

"Well," I decide, shrugging, "She was gonna find out sooner or later."

"Sure," Josh answers, exhaling through his nose. "Why aren't you dialing?" he asks, gesturing expansively at my phone and my hands, folded together on the desk. "Make the call, and we'll get out of here."

"Private call, Josh," I inform him with a pointed look. Just get out, would you? "And, I'm not going out to eat with you," I continue. "I'm not hungry."

"Oh, God. Ainsley Hayes," Josh says, straightening in his chair. "You're calling Ainsley Hayes," he accuses, squinting at me in disbelief.

"Yes, as a matter of fact I am," I answer. I don't even consider lying. I know that in politics you sometimes have to lie, but I've given it up for now. I will be discreet, I will be tactful, and I will force myself to be polite with the First Lady when I'd really rather do nothing more than yell, but I won't out and out lie. When Cathy asked me this morning where I was going, I said 'elsewhere'. On the slippery slope to lying, I suppose, but not a lie.

"Damn," Josh mutters, collapsing back into his chair. He shakes his head at me. "And, here I was hoping I'd just imagined it."

"Imagined what?" I ask, reaching for a legal pad. The last thing I want to do at the moment is write something, and it's not like I have a writing assignment I'm allowed to work on in my office, either, but I'll fake it if there's a chance Josh might go away. Still on that slippery lying slope, I think.

He leans forward, balancing his elbows on the edge of my desk. "Ainsley Hayes calling me on Friday night to say she'd tucked you into bed, and that I was your designated wake-up call," Josh explains. "Please tell me that you did not tell her," he pleads.

I take off my glasses, tossing them on top of Ainsley's file folder. My eyes are tired. I caught about two hours of sleep last night before the Joey Lucas meeting, and maybe three hours the previous night, but otherwise I've been up pretty much since Saturday morning. I'm tired, and I don't need to be explaining myself to Josh, not about this.

"No, Josh," I start, speaking softly and enunciating carefully, "I did not tell Ainsley anything about the President except that he has a tendency to ad-lib which, given that she works here, she probably already knew. I'm not saying she doesn't know that something's up," I continue. "Ainsley's a smart person, and it's not as if she didn't hear some things. But I didn't tell her," I repeat.

He looks conflicted, and I expect him to question 'some things', but in the end, Josh surprises me. "You didn't tell her," he repeats, nodding. "Fair enough. You didn't tell her. That's good. But, that still doesn't change the fact that she went *home* with you," he points out, drumming two fingers on the desktop impatiently.

"Yeah, Josh," I agree, mustering the most sarcastic tone I can manage, "She went home with me. But she didn't *go home with me* go home with me," I tell him, making sure my meaning is clear. Josh -- all of them -- can think what they want to think about me, but really, does Ainsley Hayes strike anyone as easy?

"Josh, she drove me home because, frankly, I think she was afraid I'd wrap my car around a telephone pole if she didn't," I tell him, rubbing my eyes. "So, yeah, she went home with me, and she made sure I ate dinner, and we talked, and then, when I fell asleep on her -- at about, what? Ten-thirty? -- she called you."

"Sam," Josh groans, throwing himself back in his chair, "You can't have a thing with Ainsley Hayes right now."

"Why not?" I contradict, allowing myself to get angry. "Look," I start, glaring at Josh across my desk, "I like her and --"

"Sam, I like her, too," Josh interrupts, raising his voice over mine. "She's my favorite Republican," he says, though his tone clearly betrays how much of an oxymoron he thinks that is. "I'd go as far as to say she's the White House's favorite Republican. But, she's a Republican!" Josh lurches to his feet, arms flailing as he emphasizes his point. "And, in two days," he exclaims, "Even most of the Democrats are going to hate us!"

I look away because I know he's right. When I'm being honest with myself, I fear Wednesday not only because we don't still don't know what the President is going to say or because we're starting to realize that it might not really matter what he says, but also because I figure Ainsley might end up hating us -- me -- over this. I wouldn't blame her if she did, but I'm hoping she won't.

"Josh," I protest, "She works here, too, and this is gonna affect her just as much as any staffer. So, if in two days she's still willing to work here.... Hell, if she's still willing to talk to me ...." I let that thought go for the moment, as I reach for my glasses. I put them on back on carefully, stalling for time. "If she doesn't leave in disgust," I declare, "Then I don't think the Republican thing is going to matter so much."

Josh considers this for a moment, finally conceding the point with a slight nod. He falls back into the chair sighing. "You like her."

"I like her a lot," I agree.

"She disagrees with you all the time," he reminds.

I nod, smiling slightly at the thought. "Yeah, well, so do lots of people. You get used to it, you know?" Josh nods again, and I add, "Besides, sometimes Ainsley and I don't disagree."

Josh snorts, rolling his eyes as he holds his hands out wide in the universal sign for giving up. "Well, okay then," he sighs, sliding out of his chair. "It's your ... whatever." He pauses, his hand on the doorknob. "Since you don't want to go out, I could get Donna to order us in something light," he offers. "Sandwiches, maybe?"

I consider the offer for a moment. It's shaping up to be another long night, and I should have something. "I could go for a tuna on rye," I concede finally. I pick up the Mylanta bottle I abandoned on my desk shortly after the Joey Lucas meeting broke up this morning, weighing it in my hand. Half a dose left, maybe. "With pickle relish," I decide. "But dill, not the sweet kind," I continue, and Josh gives me a look that pretty much questions my sanity. "Just tell Donna a Sam tuna sandwich," I say. "She'll know what to get."

"Better her than me," Josh grumbles, opening the door with a yank. "One Sam tuna coming up."

I watch as the door snicks closed behind Josh, then reach for my phone, punching in Ainsley's extension, surprised when she answers on the second ring. "Ainsley!" I declare, "You're still here. Or rather, you're still there. In your office." Okay, that probably sounded really stupid. I'm going to venture a guess that that geography problem I have when speaking with beautiful and intelligent women is getting worse. "Hi," I mutter.

"I am, in fact, still here," Ainsley agrees warmly. "Hi, Sam."

"Hi," I repeat, sinking back into my chair. The sound of her voice, its unique cadence, soothes me in a way I can't explain. "Are you -- Do you need to get home?" I ask, letting my head fall back. "Or, do you possibly have a moment?"

"Well, I do have an unconscionable amount of laundry waiting on me," Ainsley says, "But, as I truly loathe doing the laundry, I believe I could be convinced to do nearly anything else."

"Okay, great," I answer. "I've got a meeting in a little bit, but I'm actually free now, and since you don't need to --"

"Sam, would you like to come down here?" she asks interrupting my babbling.


"Well, then," Ainsley murmurs huskily, "Come on down."

* * *

I find Ainsley's door propped open, a habit she got into over the winter when the humidity level in her office was comparable to that of a Brazilian rainforest. With the advent of spring, Maintenance has turned down the boilers and the weather in her utility-closet-turned- office has normalized, but a habit is a habit, I guess. I hover in the doorway for a moment, watching Ainsley as she skims through a law book, ticking off paragraphs with a pencil. "Hey," I call out finally.

Ainsley looks up, smiling. "Hey, Sam," she returns, her voice warm and lilting as she speaks my name, somehow drawing it out into two syllables. "You can come in, you know," she tells me when I make no move to enter.

"Okay," I say, taking a few steps into the office. There's music playing, something classical that I can't really identify, and Ainsley reaches to turn it off. "Don't," I request, "It's nice. Soothing." I think I could use a little soothing.

She laughs a little self-consciously then nods. "Okay," Ainsley agrees, settling for turning the volume down some.

I stop where I am, suddenly unsure of what I'm doing here. I want to be here, true, but it's not really fair to Ainsley. Friday night we connected in a way I certainly wasn't expecting, but that I'm smart enough to appreciate. I liked Ainsley before of course, and I'd even entertained a stray thought or two about taking our strange little friendship further, but I never expected it would actually happen. Now that it has, I'm already wondering if it can last.

Whatever we've started here, I've also dragged her into the gravest of potential scandals without her knowledge. On Friday I was still processing the President's revelation, was still raw with my own sense of betrayal and anger, and she was there for me, handling everything I threw at her admirably. I was still reacting then. But now, should I be doing this? What right do I have to pursue Ainsley, no matter how much I'd like to be with her, when I can't even hint to her about what is going to happen?

"Sam?" Ainsley is somehow at my elbow, and I am unable to mask my surprise. She frowns at me sympathetically, and reaches for my hand. "You look tired," she tells me kindly, stepping around me long enough to kick the doorstop out of the way, and push the door closed. "Come in. Sit," she fusses, leading me to a chair.

I am tired. Earlier today -- I'm pretty sure it was earlier today -- C.J. was ranting about someone telling her that she looked tired. It was during one of our many breaks to allow Josh to step out for a call, and C.J wouldn't stop going on about it. She was incensed, really, and I have to say I don't get it. What's to be upset about when someone notices that the day, your life, the things happening around you, have taken their toll? I am tired, and I like that Ainsley notices.

"I've been pretty busy," I concede as I slump comfortably into the guest chair. Ainsley perches herself in front of me on the edge of her desk, close enough that her leg brushes my knee. "A long day," I add vaguely because, after all, there isn't anything else I can tell her. "I'm sorry I didn't call you."

"You just did call me, Sam," Ainsley reminds me, trying not to smile. "Providing an excellent excuse for the continued avoidance of laundry, I might add."

"Yeah," I agree, "But I mean I'm sorry I didn't call you earlier. That I waited until tonight." I watch Ainsley as I try to apologize, and I can tell she isn't nearly as disturbed by my not calling as I might expect -- as I might hope. "I would have called earlier," I start to explain, "It's just that --"

"You've been busy?" Ainsley supplies. "Sam, believe me, please, when I say I really wasn't expecting you to call." She smiles, and it is enough to take the sting out of any accusation I might read into her words. "It would have been nice," she concedes with a shrug, "But you had your meeting, and I assumed, correctly it appears, that would necessarily take precedence over anything else."

"Oh," I answer brilliantly. This does not happen to me. I piss women off because I get caught up in work and then I forget and don't call them. They do not forgive me with a shrug and a smile. "Well, okay," I say, still wondering what the catch is here. "That's awfully tolerant of you."

"Yeah, not bad for a Republican, huh?" Ainsley asks, and I do believe she's teasing me.

I'm a little surprised -- it's not like there's been a lot of joking going on around here lately -- but I try to get into the spirit of things. "Wait a minute," I return, "You're a Republican?"

Now she's positively smirking. "A blonde Republican girl that nobody likes," Ainsley retorts. "Or, so I've been told."

"Oh, yeah," I acknowledge, cringing slightly. "See, I was sort of lying there." I shift forward, sitting on the edge of my seat as I reach for her hand. "'Cause I for one like you," I say, not quite able to meet her eye. "Plus," I add, coughing to cover my sudden nervousness, "Josh says you're his favorite Republican, so you know, there's two."

I look up just in time to see Ainsley blink hard in reaction. Then though, she smiles at me, her forehead wrinkling in consternation. "I'm Josh *Lyman's* favorite Republican?" she asks, her tone somewhere between amused and incredulous. "That's unquestionably odd."

"Actually, it's supposed to be a compliment," I tell her, squeezing her hand.

"Well, okay, if you say so," she acknowledges with a soft chuckle. "And, it's okay that you didn't call," she repeats, turning serious. "I know how it can be around here," Ainsley says gesturing to the books and photocopied journal articles spread out on top of her desk. "You don't need to apologize to me for your job."

I can't help but cringe once again at her choice of words. Wednesday is fast approaching, and I'm pretty sure I'll be apologizing for my job then. Every time I say that, ever time I say that we've done something wrong and that it's important to admit that, and yes, to apologize, C.J. practically bites my head off. But it's true; we do need to apologize. Now, as I sit here holding Ainsley's hand, I just hope she'll give me the opportunity to at least explain my part in all of this.

I start to say something -- I don't even know what -- but the phone rings. Ainsley throws me a smile, and extracting her hand from mine, reaches behind her to grab the receiver. "Ainsley Hayes," she answers.

She motions for me to stand up, and I do, offering her my arm to steady herself as she hops down from her seat on the desk. "Yes, of course," Ainsley answers her caller as she circles around to her chair, stretching the telephone cord over picture frames and a stack of law books. She seats herself and reaches for a legal pad, nodding along with whatever the other person is saying.

"I am only at the beginning of my review, sir, Mr. Babish," Ainsley answers a moment later. "However, I believe that I have found strong precedence in a series of recent rulings out of the Seventh Circuit --"

Something on Ainsley's desk catches my eye, and I find myself only half-listening to her end of the conversation. I pick up the nearest photocopy and read the journal abstract, finding words I am now very familiar with floating across the page: 'voluntary disclosure' ... 'assumed confidentiality' ... 'employee versus employer rights' ... 'medical record'. Shit. I reach for the next article, and it's more of the same. Oliver Babish I realize, a sudden, heavy weight settling in the pit of my stomach, has Ainsley researching occupational medical privacy case law.

I shouldn't be surprised. He told us yesterday that he was going to do this. He said he needed specifics, that he couldn't do enough on his own, and that he couldn't wait until his staff was told before putting them to work. We all disagreed. Hell, we all hated the idea, and Leo and Babish practically got into a yelling match over it.

"You've got Pat Burnes and Sam," Leo had insisted when Babish pushed the issue. "We're not gonna go public figuring out how to go public, Oliver," he'd thundered, pounding his fist on the table. "This can wait for --"

"No, it can't," Babish had contradicted loudly, his voice flat and emotionless. "It can't wait. I need my people on this. Pat's a family lawyer. His expertise is wills and trusts," he'd reminded. "Seaborn's not a lawyer right now, and you need him here for strategy and pretty words. You want me to do my job here, Leo?" he'd asked, not waiting for an answer. "Well, don't get in my way then. I need research, and there's an office full of lawyers here we pay to do it."

In the end, none of us could argue with Babish because he was right, even if we hated it. We did need the research, and he needed the help, so he got his way. He promised that assignments would be narrow in scope, isolated, and couched as special, confidential projects to keep the staff fro discussing their assignments with each other. It was hardly reassuring, but we didn't have much choice. And, I have to admit, I never even considered the assignment Ainsley would pull.

I glance at her and she smiles at me absently, still talking, still flipping through her notes to read back pertinent points. I watch her, and I wonder if she knows, if she has taken all these little pieces she's been given and solved the puzzle.

She heard me yelling at Toby, but I honestly don't recall what I said. I interrogated her about lying, but did she put two and two together, or was she too busy trying to take care of me? She's smart. I told Josh that, and it's absolutely true. She knows about the meeting on Saturday, she knows how close I came to losing it on Friday night, and now she's the White House's new expert on medical privacy law. What are the chances that she hasn't figured something out? She wouldn't know it was M.S. specifically, but she could very well have realized there's an illness. She could have deduced that it threatens the Presidency.

"Yes, sir, I will, I assure you." Ainsley's words penetrate my brain, and I realize her conversation is coming to an end. "Thank you, that is appreciated," she concludes then hangs up the phone. "Sorry about that," she says, smiling at me across the expanse of her desk. "Mr. Babish assigned to me, this morning, a research assignment, and has asked now that I prepare a presentation for our staff meeting on Wednesday."

The Wednesday staff meeting, of course. According to the timeline we developed today, Wednesday morning is the drop dead date for informing White House staff of the President's condition. Certain key staff will be told tomorrow, during the afternoon and up through the evening, and everyone else, from junior analysts to Housekeeping will know by nine A.M Wednesday. Babish will be telling his own people just about the time the rest of us start to leak the story to the media and break the news to Party bigwigs.

"Congratulations," I say, mustering more enthusiasm than I would have thought possible. "He must like your work," I tell her, attempting to return her smile.

Apparently, though, I don't fool Ainsley. "Are you all right, Sam?" she asks, frowning again.

"Not really," I admit. Which is funny, too, because I've actually come to peace with this whole M.S. situation over the last few days. I don't really see a viable way out, but I'm committed to Bartlet. Of course I'd be lying if I said I hadn't considered leaving; I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a draft of my resignation sitting on my laptop. But, I realized sometime yesterday, between fighting with Toby and fighting with C.J., that I'm not going to abandon my post. I'm in this with the President, no matter what happens.

The problem is, I want to be in this with Ainsley, too. There's something there, some potential something that I don't want to lose, but I don't see how it can be avoided, either. I hope, I suppose, that she will end up surprising me, and there's precedent for that at least - - lots of it. But -- and this is the crux of it -- I don't really know if she even feels anywhere near the same way I do.

"Ainsley, there are things...." I start to tell her then stop. I meet her eye across the space that separates us, and I have the sudden impulse to close some of the gap. I pull my chair up as close to the desk as I can get, bashing my knees in the process. I then reach for Ainsley's hand, as is fast becoming my habit, and she places it in mine.

"But, there will probably always be things," I say continuing my train of thought. "As long as these are our jobs, there will always be things."

"Sam --" she starts, but I cut her off.

"Ainsley, I don't know what the rules are," I hear myself confess. "I don't know where we stand, what we mean --" and then my cell phone rings.

We both groan, though Ainsley also looks like she wants to laugh. "Answer it," she tells me, waving a hand in the general direction of my coat pocket, her frustration obvious.

"Right," I agree fumbling for the phone. "Sam Seaborn," I answer.

It's Josh. "Sam you need to come back," he tells me.

Something about the flat tone of his voice causes the hair on the back of my neck to prickle. I check my watch, surprised to see that it's only eight-twenty. "Josh," I argue, "The meeting isn't --"

"This isn't about the meeting," he interrupts tersely. "Look, Sam, just get up here. We're having a different meeting, and you need to come up here now. Leo's office," he instructs before cutting the connection.

"Right," I answer even though he won't hear me. I punch 'end' and fold the phone closed, weighing it in my hand for a moment before tucking it back into my coat. That was brusque, even for Josh. A cold chill runs up my spine, but I shake it off and glance at Ainsley. "My meeting's been changed."

She nods. "You have to go," she guesses, pulling herself out of her seat. Silently, she moves around the edge of the desk, stopping next to my chair. Ainsley holds out her hand to me, and I take it, rising as well.

She stares at me for a long moment, and I realize she is trying to make a decision. "I haven't changed my mind since Friday, Sam," Ainsley declares finally, and I'm confused for a moment before I remember what we were talking about before Josh's call. "That's where I stand," she tells me, and then she kisses me.

Her hand is cool against the back of my neck, her mouth warm and firm against my own. She is most definitely kissing me. We kissed on Friday, too, but those kisses never really got beyond the chaste, experimental stage, and well, this one does. We fight one another at first, teeth and tongues clashing, noses bumping. But, this makes a perverse sort of sense to me because Ainsley and I started out fighting, and we learned to get past that -- some of the time -- too. Quickly we get the hang of it, we start working together, and for a moment I can't help but lose myself to the taste and sensation of Ainsley Hayes.

All too soon, she pulls away. "You need to go," she tells me, and I'm gratified that at least she seems to be having the same trouble breathing that I do.

"I do," I agree even as I drag her back into my arms, tucking her head against my shoulder. "I'm sorry."

I feel Ainsley trying to nod, and she tells me, "It's fine, Sam. You have to do your job. Besides," she sighs, "I would have to throw you out anyway. Mr. Babish was rather vocal regarding the urgency of my research."

"Right," I say, staring over Ainsley's head at the neat piles of material on desk. What she's doing is ultimately just as important as what I'm doing right now, and she's going to know that soon. Oliver Babish will be explaining the situation to his staff in his blunt, unemotional way in just about thirty-six hours and then she will know exactly what she's been working on.

But, I decide, Ainsley doesn't deserve to find out that way. She deserves to hear the truth from me, not from Babish. I'm going to have to speak with him, and there will very probably be yelling, but I'm going to be the one to tell her. If she hates me, if she quits her job, at least she learns the truth from me, and I owe her that. After everything that's happened between us, I definitely owe her that.

"Ainsley," I start, releasing her reluctantly, "I'm gonna call you."

She steps back, looking up to meet my eye. "When you can," she tells me.

"Tomorrow. I will call you tomorrow," I insist, doing the calculation in my head. The difference of eight or ten hours won't matter. Ainsley's got too much integrity to go outside with this. Tuesday night versus Wednesday morning will not be an issue. "It might be late, but I'm gonna call."

"Okay," she agrees with a nod. My cell phone trills again, and Ainsley snickers. She steers me to the door, holding it open for me. "Go away," she orders sweetly.

I give her a hard, quick kiss as I retrieve my phone. "I'll call you," I repeat as I step out of the office, and she smiles. "Sam Seaborn," I answer.

* * *

The end for now.

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