By K. Stoley
<small>DISCLAIMER: <small>This story may not be suitable for all readers as it contains mature adult subject matter. (Nothing too graphic, as I believe half the fun of any story is using your imagination), but if two women in love bothers you, you might not want to read this story. </small> It is also advisable to read Second Chances to get a full understanding of the characters and their background.
<small>Constructive criticism and chats welcomed by email@example.com.
Sydney lay by the pool letting the warmth of the sun soak through her tired and battered body. She relaxed as she listened to the soothing jazz CD that Sam had turned on. Rolling over onto her back she winced at the pain from her ribs and wryly thought, 'Moldano may be gone, but he's definitely not forgotten.' Sighing she thought about the past few days and all that had happened. 'I guess if that was the price I had to pay to get Sam back into my life, it was well worth it.' She always smiled now when she thought about the petite blond with green eyes.
Sam silently exited the house with drinks in hand and noticed how relaxed Sydney seemed. Sam couldn't help but wonder what caused the smile on the tall brunette’s face. ‘It's been a long time since I've seen her so happy. I hope that smile has something to do with me' she thought.’ Grinning, Sam couldn't resist the opportunity to sneak up on the sleeping woman. She quietly placed the tray of drinks she was carrying onto the table and grabbed an ice cube. Slowly, she crept up behind Sydney’s lounge chair and dropped the cube down the top of the sleeping woman’s bathing suit. As the cold ice met hot skin, Sydney jumped and screamed as she desperately tried to dislodge the offending object. Sam burst into laughter as she backed away from the frantically dancing woman. Finding her efforts futile as the melting ice cube grew smaller and smaller, Sydney looked up at Sam and growled, "Oh, you're going to pay for that!"
Sam swallowed hard as every muscle tensed in anticipation of flight upon seeing the dark woman advancing on her. Sam knew that she was no match for those long legs and instead, attempted to talk her way out of the situation. "Now, Sydney, come on...you know I was just trying to help. I didn't want you to get over heated or anything" she mischievously grinned.
"Oh, so you were just being a good little scout and only doing your duty right?" Sydney asked menacingly as she continued to stalk the young woman. Sam knew that she was in big trouble and her only salvation was to put the pool between her and Sydney. Quickly turning, Sam sprinted off and had almost made it to the far end of the pool when she felt hands grab her from behind. Suddenly, the wind was rushing beneath her feet and she was soaring over the edge of the pool, splashing down in the middle of the water. Sputtering Sam broke the water's surface and she felt strong arms hold her from going under again. "Are you alright?" she heard and opened her eyes to look directly into two very blue and very concerned eyes. The closeness of those eyes instantly stilled any thoughts of anger as a familiar tingling began in the pit of her stomach.
"I'm fine." Sam purred and wrapped her arms and legs around the older woman's body. Sydney quickly adjusted to the extra weight and held the young woman as she treaded water to keep them afloat. "Comfortable?" Sydney asked smiling.
"Quite" Sam responded kissing the tip of the other woman's nose. Sydney leaned in and nuzzled the younger woman's neck working her way across to her lips. Moaning, Sam parted her lips and met Sydney’s exploring mouth. As the kiss deepened the pair slowly slipped beneath the surface of the water. Down under the crystal water there was no sound except for the rapid beating of two hearts. They continued their descent until they reached the bottom of the pool. They remained at the bottom, neither one wanting to be the first to break the kiss. Finally, they were unable to hold their breath any longer and together pushed off the bottom and surfaced gasping.
"I see you two are still trying to kill each other," called an amused voice from the side of the pool. They looked over and saw a determined redhead with her hands on her hips waiting for an explanation.
"Gwen!" Sam blurted out embarrassed and stuttered, "We were just....well...um. You remember Sydney." Sydney nodded trying hard to keep her face expressionless but, there was no hiding the twinkle in her eye.
"Yes, I do. So, have you two worked things out or is this some mutual drowning ritual?" she asked. Sydney turned her head to hide a smile and Sam smacked her on the shoulder. "You're not helping you know," she whispered as they struggled to untangle themselves and swim to the side of the pool.
Grabbing their towels Sam and Sydney made their way to the patio where Gwen was waiting. Sam gave Gwen a brief hug and sat down pulling Sydney into a chair next to her. “When did you get back?” Sam asked.
“Just a few moments ago,” Gwen responded. “Can I assume that you two have worked things out finally?”
“You could say that,” Sam answered looking over at Sydney with a grin.
“Well, I for one am happy that you’ve both come to your senses.” The redhead exclaimed before turning to Sydney and eyeing the marks on her face. “Have you resolved your other problem yet?”
“Pretty much,” Sydney answered. Sam reached over and grasped her hand adding, “there’s still one more issue that needs to be faced.”
Sydney nodded sadly, “Day after tomorrow.”
Gwen watched the interaction between the two women and realized that this was still a sensitive issue and didn’t pursue it. “So, are you two free tonight for dinner? I feel like going to Antonio’s tonight and don’t want to eat alone. It’s my treat?”
Sam looked over to Sydney who shrugged her indifference and answered, “I haven’t been there in ages.”
“I know last time I was in there he asked about you two.” Gwen replied thinking ‘yes and you’d be surprised at what you can learn when you least expect it little one’.
“ Sure, we’ll go. I’ve never been one to pass up a free meal.”
“Good. Why don’t you two go dry off and get ready. We can get down there before the crowd.” the redhead decided.
Sydney pulled out the only two pair of pants that she owned and frowned. She had temporarily moved into the beach cottage until she rested and could get her things out of storage. Sam had made her agree to stay at the house until everything with Abrams was resolved. Tomorrow, there would be a formal hearing to decide whether charges would be filed against the detective. Sydney knew that her testimony was the key to which way the proceedings would end and right now, she wasn't sure what her testimony would be. She just knew that after tomorrow that chapter of her life would be over, she needed to find something different to do with her life. Something that wouldn't put Sam in danger again.
Looking back at the garments she held in her hand, Sydney decided on wearing her khaki's because they looked the dressiest. She couldn’t remember the last time she had bought new clothes, other than jeans. There hadn't been much need to dress in anything other than jeans in the last two years. Sighing, she slipped on the pants thinking, 'these will just have to do'. She realized these were the pants that Sam had bought her just before she had left and smiled that they still fit her. Looking over the meager supply of shirts, she opted for the white oxford button down that had come with the pants. Dressed, she made her way back to the house where Sam and Gwen were dressed and waiting.
"You look nice. Someone with taste has been buying your clothes I see." Sam replied with a wink and grin. Sydney rolled her eyes thinking, 'leave it to her to remember every little detail.' Gwen just shook her head at the two of them and led the way out the door.
"Who's driving?" Sam asked as they looked between Sydney and Gwen's cars. Gwen answered first, "He is!" The two women looked down the driveway to see a limo pulling up. "This is a celebration and we needed a designated driver." Gwen explained as the driver opened the door and the three women piled into the back of the automobile.
"What are we celebrating?" Sydney asked curiously. Normally, she wasn't one to like surprises, but lately, Sam had been showing her that they weren't all bad. Sam looked over at a grinning Sydney and bumped her with her shoulder knowing exactly what the tall woman was thinking. Sydney looked down and winked at the blonde in recognition of their shared understanding.
"Many things! To begin with, the two of you getting back together and, the almost resolution of Sydney's problem. The rest will have to wait until later." Gwen's cryptic reply left Sam and Sydney looking at each other puzzled. Sydney leaned down and whispered in Sam's ear, "What’s she got cooking?" Sam shrugged her shoulders and looked past the intent blue eyes at her aunt, who just hummed and looked out the window innocently. 'This should be interesting, very interesting.' Sam thought.
Upon arriving at the club, they were escorted through the crowd waiting for tables to a private area set in the corner surrounded by three half walls and lots of foliage. Antonio's was a popular club noted for its atmosphere and great food. It was a favorite among the young and middle aged alike as a gathering place to see and be seen.
Sydney was leery of all the attention they were getting and looked over at Sam with her eyebrow raised. Sam just raised her shoulders in answer with a confused look of her own. The only one of the group who didn't seem to notice all the fawning of the staff was Gwen. She just took it all in stride, smiling and talking to everyone like they were old friends. After the three were seated, the wine steward brought champagne and Gwen waited until everyone's glass was filled for a toast.
"I want to offer the first toast. This is to the two of you who have been through hell for the past two years and have managed to find your way home once again. Especially, for Sam who has finally overcome her fears and decided to live again……Cheers!" Gwen offered and Sam and Sydney took a sip of their champagne still very much confused.
"Gwen…..?" Sam's confused voice began to question what was going on but was quickly cut off by her aunt.
"Wait! I'm not finished." The redhead lifted her glass again and waited for the two women to join her. "And my second toast is to the new owners of this restaurant. Salute!" Gwen finished her announcement by downing her glass of champagne and holding it up for a refill, which was readily done by the waiter waiting by the side of their table.
Sydney and Sam looked at Gwen than at each other, their glasses still held in mid-toast. "What?" Sam blurted out being the first one to regain her speech.
"I hope you two don't mind, but I happened to find myself the owner of this establishment and, to be honest with you, I wouldn't know the first thing about what to do with it. So, I went to my lawyer today and had it deeded over to you two." Gwen answered calmly sipping her champagne as though what she had just said was everyday conversation.
"Huh?" Sydney replied nervously looking over at Sam for explanation. "But why?" Sam asked unable to think of anything more to say.
"Did you tell me once that it was a dream of yours? I'm not mistaken am I? Didn't you two once discuss this possibility?" Gwen asked looking at the stunned woman questioningly. She knew very well that this had been a silent dream of the two women. Sam had once confided in her about this very thing, and she now knew that the partner the young woman had referred to was Sydney. This and the fact that she had a long talk with the previous owner of the club, who just happened to be fond of a certain pair that used to frequent his establishment and pester him with a million questions about running a club like this.
"But, we can't just accept this." Sydney stammered in place of Sam's sudden silence. She looked over into green eyes and saw the tears beginning to form in them. This indeed had been a dream that they had discussed. It was a plan for them to get away from the dangers of their current profession and to settle down. Sydney knew her way around a kitchen and how to manage a staff, it was how she had put herself through college. Sam's background in college had been accounting and she had always helped her uncle with his business finances up until the time she had met Sydney and formed their partnership. It made perfect sense for them to team up together in a venture of this kind, but the one thing that had stopped them was the money. A venture of this magnitude would have taken capital that they just didn't have, but they had been saving for just this day up until the time they had split up. Sydney sent Sam her share of the business profits the day Sam had told her she was leaving and didn't want to see Sydney again. Sydney left her share in the bank, unwilling to do anything with it. But, even jointly, it would not have been enough to purchase this club.
"Of course you can." Gwen answered simply and turned toward Sam, "Listen, I promised your uncle that I would take care of you. When you came to live with us two years ago, he knew something had happened. I think he knew more about the two of you than I did. I remember coming home one evening to find him shouting on the telephone at someone. Later, I found out it was your mother. He would never tell me what the argument was about, but I have a feeling now that had something to do with the two of you and your breakup. It wasn't long after that, that you moved in and spent the next two years like the living dead." Gwen paused to finish her champagne and her glass was promptly refilled.
Sam looked down blushing at Gwen's synopsis of how she had cowardly hidden from life instead of confronting it. Sydney leaned over and grasped the blonde's hand and gently squeezed it in support. As much as it had hurt her when Sam walked out of her life, secretly she had understood what it would take for Sam to stand up to her family. Now, she also knew that soon Sam would have to face that challenge once again. Sydney just hoped that they were both stronger this time. As the two women fell silent in their own thoughts, Gwen quickly broke them of any thoughts of fleeing again and finished what she had to say.
"Everything started to fall in place this past week after our little discussion the night before I left." Gwen touched Sam on the arm to get her attention. "I spent the weekend piecing together everything I'd seen and heard over the past two years and it all became clear to me. I may not have a total picture of what happened between you two and Sam's family, but I knew enough to conclude that this was what your Uncle would have wanted me to do. He was upset with your mother for destroying something once and now, I want you two to have a chance at a new start. You both will still have to face Sam's parents and only you two can decide the outcome of that, but now you have a chance to make your own way and it won't matter what your parents say or do. They don't hold the power anymore that they like to threaten you with. I want you to know that there is life out there and I think you should grab it and hold it tightly."
The tears began to trickle down Sam's face as she listened to her Aunt and she wished her Uncle could be here now so that she could thank him. Looking over at Sydney, she saw her lover's eyes sparkled with unshed tears and turned to be engulfed in her arms. Sydney held her tightly and looked at Gwen with gratitude. Gwen winked at the woman in understanding and quickly sipped her champagne to quench the dry burning she felt in her throat.
Sam leaned back and wiped her eyes and looked at Sydney, in an unspoken acknowledgement of the hurdle they had left to cross. Sydney winked and kissed Sam lightly on the lips whispering, "We will cross that bridge together this time." Sam nodded and hugged Sydney tightly again before pulling away and turning toward her Aunt.
"Thank you." Sam simply offered to Gwen and hugged the woman tightly. "Just make me proud, both of you." Gwen looked from Sam to Sydney and both women nodded tearfully in reply.
Dinner that night was a joyous affair as the three women put their collective heads together with plans for their new venture. Sam and Sydney both relayed the fact that neither had been able to spend the money they had saved two years ago and, with renewed hope, planned the changes they could make to the Club with this money.
After they had dined and enjoyed way too much food and drink, they took a tour of the kitchen and then moved up to the office. Sam and Sydney made observations of things that could possibly be improved upon and as the three women sat looking down over the club drinking more champagne, they talked about the exploits of Sam's Uncle. Laughing and drinking champagne that flowed like water all evening, they finally stumbled out to the limo grateful that no one had to drive home. They all knew that they would be sorry in the morning, but tonight they were celebrating a new venture and a new life.
The next morning Sam rolled over with a groan and bumped into a warm body who matched that groan with one of her own. "Am I dead?"
"No, but if you feel like I do, I bet you wish you were." A hoarse reply whispered next to her ear. Sam tried to pry an eyelid open to look at Sydney, thankful that the room was darkened by hurricane shutters. She knew there was no way she could look at any sunshine at the moment without being sick. Sydney lay on her side facing Sam and reached out to touch the young woman. Feeling warm skin, she slipped her arms around the body and pulled it closer to her. The movement caused both of them to groan, but they quickly molded into a comfortable position holding each other contented that they didn't have to move if they didn't want to, and right now, it was the farthest thing from their minds as they drifted back to sleep.
Sydney awoke to the hum of the A/C and a chill on her backside. Peeking out to look around her, she realized that Sam had rolled away from her hogging all the covers and leaving her shivering in just her T-shirt. Tugging on the sheet, instantly brought the sleeping woman back around to face her and loosened the covers so that Sydney could pull them around her chilled body. Sam murmured and sidled closer toward Sydney waking when her warm body touched Sydney's chilled one.
"Ooh, you're cold." Sam complained sleepily.
"Gee, I wonder why? You took all the covers!" Sydney replied her voice husky from sleep and the morning after effects.
"Oh poor baby, come here and let me warm you up." Sam consoled her lover and pulled her into her arms. Sydney readily accepted the offer and molded her body around the smaller one. "Ahh, that's better."
"Do you have any idea what time it is?"
"Nope." Sydney's simple answer and close proximity let Sam know that the woman didn't care either. She opened her eyes and looked down at her lover who was resting on her shoulder. She smiled and placed feather light kisses along the side of Sydney's face. Looking up at the bedside clock, she saw that it was well past noon and grinned. Her headache of earlier was gone and she wasn't feeling half-bad after last night's celebration. The sleep had done her good. Leaning down she began to kiss Sydney's face again trying to wake the woman up.
Sydney lay quietly, without letting Sam know that she was fully awake and let the sensation of the blonde's lips trail over her skin. She loved when Sam would wake her like this and lay still reveling in the moment.
"I love you." Sam whispered in her ear and the heat from her lover's breath sent a chill through Sydney giving her away and she rolled over onto Sam and looked down at her.
"You do huh?"
"Yep, I do." Sam smiled up into blue eyes and sighed. She couldn't remember ever being happier than she was at this moment.
The day was spent in relaxed abandon by the pool resting for tomorrow's ordeal. On more than one occasion, Sam had glanced at Sydney to see a saddened look on her lover's face and knew instantly what she was thinking about.
That night in bed, Sydney was unusually quiet as the two women lay idly waiting for sleep to claim them. Each lost in their own thoughts, Sam lay with her head nestled on Sydney's shoulder as the woman held her tightly. She could hear the racing of her lover's heart and knew that Sydney's thoughts were probably running equally as fast.
"Hey, worried about tomorrow?" Sam leaned up on an elbow to look down at the reclining woman. Sydney looked up with a half smile and nodded in reply.
"You just have to testify about what happened, right? Abrams doesn't expect you to lie for him, just to tell the truth. He said he was prepared to face the outcome, right?" Sam asked straightforwardly, knowing the conversation that took place between Abrams and Sydney when they had visited him in the hospital.
"Yes, you are right on both accounts. I guess I'm just nervous." Sydney answered honestly, but her heart was still torn over what she would be doing to her friend. Even after his betrayal, she wasn't ready to condemn him.
Sam and Sydney walked up the steps to the building slowly. The hearing was a closed affair before the judge. This was a preliminary hearing to see if there were grounds for dismissal from the police force and/or criminal charges to be filed. Technically, the only proof of a connection between Detective Abrams and Moldano was Sydney. There had been no evidence of any corruption on the part of the detective and no trace of any money ever-changing hands. Abrams was two years from retirement and his only crime, outside of almost getting Sydney killed, was to turn his head at Moldano's activities of late.
Abrams sat in the panel room waiting for the proceedings to start. He had been in the hospital for only two days and his arm, in a sling, was still sore. He was on medical leave at the moment, but he knew that after today it would be much worse. He had time to think over the past few days of how he had gotten himself where he was today. He had allowed greed to grab hold and betrayed someone he considered like his own child, if he had ever stopped working long enough to have one. He had known Sydney's parents growing up on the same street as his kids. He always kept a low profile in their lives and had supported Sydney from a distance when she and her parents all but stopped communicating. He had known about Sydney's reasons for turning away from their plans for her life, but he had not even told her mother when she had asked him about Sydney. He stood by Sydney at their graves when the accident took her whole family. After their deaths, she had looked upon him as an Uncle, the only family she had left. He could not forgive himself for what he had done and he didn't want Sydney to forgive him either. He wanted her to tell the truth and he was ready to pay for his crimes, he deserved to be punished.
Sydney and Sam were the last to arrive and Sam waited outside the closed doors as Sydney was escorted into the hearing. Sydney took the seat indicated to her by the officer, sitting behind the table where Abrams and his counsel sat. She could tell by the slouch in Abrams shoulders that he had resigned himself to his fate. He didn't turn when she came in although she knew he was aware of her presence. Her mind was a rage of betrayal and hurt from the man she had considered her only family. She couldn't get her thoughts past the question of how far would he have let things escalate if Sam hadn't been involved? If she hadn't stepped in and begged him to stop, would he have stopped? Her heart wanted to scream yes, but her mind questioned this simple belief.
Sydney sat warring with herself until the hearing started. Lined up in front was a panel made up of high-ranking officers and Legal Affair directors. The first to present their side were those trying to make a case from Legal affairs. They could not point a finger at any specific wrong doings and were expecting Sydney's testimony to be the deciding factor. Next, Abram's representative talked about his exemplary record and the fact that he was nearing retirement. He could not dispute any claims against the Detective because there were no hard set accusations or proof of the man doing anything, but his job. Through the whole proceedings Abrams kept his eye lowered and on one occasion his counsel said something brusque to him about it. From what Sydney could make out, Abrams just looked at the man and shrugged and looked back down at his hands again. If ever a man looked guilty of everything and anything, Abrams looked liked that man.
It finally came time for Sydney to tell her story and she was escorted to a table next to Abrams' where a microphone was placed to record the proceedings. All her questions and jumbled thoughts came to a jarring halt when she sat before the row of expectant faces. She looked over at Abrams and for the first time since she had visited him in the hospital, she looked him directly in the eye and began to tell her story.
Sam paced outside of the closed doors for what seemed like hours. After about two hours, the door opened and Sydney flushed and shaking came hurrying out.
"Let's go." Sydney shortly replied and moved toward the exit with Sam practically running to catch up with the woman's longer legs. Sam didn't have an opportunity to ask anything further and just followed Sydney as she rapidly walked toward the car. Finally, stopping at the car she heard running footsteps from behind them and turned to see Abrams sprinting over toward them.
"Wait Sydney!" Abrams barked out angrily as he approached. The tall woman continued to unlock the door and proceeded to open it until the Detective pushed her aside and slammed it shut.
"What do you want now?" Sydney demanded angrily pulling away from his touch. She paced agitatedly by the side of the car making Sam nervous and she quickly came around and grabbed Sydney's arm instantly halting her movements. Sydney looked down into green eyes and felt a calming stir deep within, taking a breath she turned to face Abrams and waited.
"Why?" Abrams asked, he didn't know what more to say. He couldn't understand why she hadn't told them everything. What she had said was the basic truth, but she didn't tell the panel all the details and they had no recourse but to dismiss the hearings and any pending charges against him. She had spared his life and he needed to know why.
"Why?" Sydney parroted the question as though she didn't know what he was talking about.
"Yeah, why didn't you tell them? After what I did to you, you didn't say a word about it?"
"I told them what they needed to know." Sydney's reply was simple, but it didn't satisfy the Detective. He knew that there was more she needed to say.
"But, you didn't tell them everything."
"Why should I? You betrayed me not them." Sydney spat out as her anger and hurt began to surface. Sam could feel the tension in the woman's body and stood silently waiting for Sydney to clear her soul and find some closure.
"What I did was wrong, you should have let them punish me." Abrams ran a shaking hand through his thinning hair and looked up at her again. "I will never forgive myself, but you could have at least gotten some satisfaction from making me suffer."
"I don't think I could have done that." Sydney's resolve and anger waned and she looked over at Sam whose eyes were wide and worried. "I don't think anything they could have done to you would compare to what you are already doing to yourself."
Abrams didn't say anything, but just stared at the young woman who seemed so wise for her young years. She was right, there was nothing they could have done to him that would compare to what he would have to live with the rest of his life.
"Just tell me one thing?" Sydney hesitated asking her question, but she needed to know the answer. "Would you have let Moldano kill me if Sam hadn't intervened?"
Abram's eyes teared as he looked up at Sydney and without a doubt or hesitation he shook his head. "When I hung up the phone after telling Moldano about your planned visit to the warehouse, I saw myself for what I had become. I realized that I had given you a death sentence and I couldn't let that happened. When I was confronted by Sam and Moldano, I'll admit for a split second I was scared and had second thoughts….that was when I knew that I loathed myself and everything I had come to be and, no matter what, I would have rather died in that warehouse than to have anything have happened to you. I know you probably don't believe me but, right now….I wish I had died in that warehouse. I am constantly haunted by the look I saw in your eyes when you finally knew it was me."
Sydney looked down at her feet as the tears slowly ran down her cheeks. She realized she didn't hate him, she never did, even after all that had happened. Taking a deep breath and wiping her face she looked up at the torn man. "It's funny, even after everything that has happened, I think I understand. I don't even hate you."
Abrams breath caught in his throat at Sydney's somewhat admission of forgiveness. "I won't ask you to forgive me of something I will never forgive myself, but I will do everything in my power to try to make it up to you and make things right again."
Sydney nodded and Abrams looked at the two women steadily before turning and walking away. Sam knew they were talking about more than understanding and didn't say anything but turned to pull her lover into her arms and just held her. After a few moments, Sydney pulled back and smiled down at Sam. "Hungry? I am, let's go to our Club and get something to eat."
"Our Club…hmmm, I think I like the sound of that. Lead the way my dear!" Sam laughed and opened the car door for Sydney before running around to get into the passenger side. Sydney slipped behind the wheel, taking Sam's hand in hers she drove toward Antonio's.
Sydney's healing of body and spirit didn't happen overnight, but she was slowly getting back to the old Sydney that Sam had fallen in love with. The happy women immersed themselves in their new venture and spent most of their time at the Club. They had hesitated renaming it as business continued to be good and everyone recognized the name Antonio's, so they decided not to mess with a good thing. The subtle changes they made throughout the Club were welcomed enthusiastically by the patrons and the women decided to throw an opening night bash.
They chose Sunday night for their private party and invited their friends and those that were frequent patrons of the club. All in all, they had a full house and everyone was gathered around having cocktails before dinner. Sam and Sydney mingled among their guests occasionally catching each other's eye and winking in silent acknowledgement. At one point, Sam lost track of Sydney and walked around looking for her to make sure everything was okay. The crowd was too thick for her to see over them and she moved toward an open space near the corner next to a potted palm to try to get a better look. As Sam neared the tree, she was pulled from behind into a concealed alcove. Sam began to struggle nervously in the darkened space, but knew that all she had to do was call out and there would be help.
"Hey, I just wanted to congratulate you! How about a kiss?" The voice was low and sultry and Sam’s senses were still reeling from the surprise, out of breath she stopped struggling and smiled.
"I don't know is my girlfriend watching?"
"Would it matter?" The voice asked tauntingly.
"Not if you are good kisser." Sam replied turning to face her captor. She couldn't see the face in the darkness, but there was no denying the arms that held her. She would have recognized them anywhere, any time.
"Ooh, still living dangerously I see. I thought you had mellowed out now that you are a respectable business owner."
"Who said anything about being respectable. Now are you going to kiss me or do I have to find someone else to do it?" Sam replied sassily and rubbed her body against the one that held her.
"Hang on to your knickers honey, they’re about to be rocked!" The voice retorted and Sam instantly felt warm lips brush lightly across hers before they connected with a solid pressure and the blonde could do nothing but respond. As the warm tongue lightly outlined her lips Sam moaned and the kiss deepened. Sam could feel the blood rushing to her head and a dull roar in her ears signaled that she needed to breathe. The kiss ended with both women breathless and Sam whispered, "Wow!"
"Oh yeah!" Sydney replied and lightly kissed along Sam's neck raising Goosebumps down her spine.
"Do you have any idea what you do to me?" Sam asked smiling against Sydney's chest and lay listening to the quickened heartbeat.
"Hopefully, it’s the same thing that you do to me." Sydney responded with a chuckle. "Are you having fun tonight?"
"I am now!"
"Too true, but I guess we should get back to our guests. I was just missing you and needed to touch you." Sydney let go of Sam and began to lead her out of the alcove.
"Anytime love, anytime at all you feel the need just come and get me." The blonde replied saucily as she walked in front of Sydney.
Sydney reached over and goosed the firm cheeks in front of her and whispered in her ear, "Count on it."
The warm breath against her ear caused another set of Goosebumps to race down Sam's spine. She shivered in delight and with a huge smile greeted new friends that had just arrived. Sydney snickered and moved off to see how things were coming in the kitchen. She wanted tonight to be perfect for Sam.
Sydney made some final adjustments and made sure that the special bottles of champagne that she ordered were chilled and ready to be brought over to their table. Her favorite waiter, Andrew was assigned to the head table and she asked him to put the roses out now and make sure that they were in front of Sam's seat. She had been planing her own little celebration for this evening. Even though she had been living in the guesthouse behind Gwen's house for the past month, and most of that time Sam stayed with her, she wanted to make it official and ask Sam to live with her. Sydney wanted to get a place that was theirs together, but if Sam wanted to stay at Gwen's Sydney guessed that would be all right too, as long as they were together in every sense of the word.
Coming out of the kitchen Sydney walked past the private area that held the head table and satisfied that everything was in place, turned to find Sam. Sam stood near the entrance with her back to Sydney talking with some guests. All of a sudden she saw Sam's back stiffen and her attention was drawn to the front doors. Coming into the Club uninvited, were Sam's parents. Sydney didn’t even know that they knew anything about the Club. The tall woman quickly looked around and found Gwen, catching her attention she quickly went over to the redhead.
Gwen could tell that something was wrong and looked around for Sam, but couldn't find her. She worriedly watched the agitated woman walking toward her.
"What are they doing here?" Sydney indicated toward the front door where Sam stood rigidly watching her parents give their coats to the check room attendant.
"I don't know…. I didn't tell them." Gwen replied quickly wanting Sydney to know that she had nothing to do with their appearance here tonight. "I think you had better go over and help Sam."
Sydney nodded and quickly made her way through the throng arriving at Sam's side just as her parents entered the room and noticed them. Sam felt a warm hand touch her back and remain there and she let out the breath she had been holding.
"Are you okay?" Sydney asked quietly as she kept her arm on Sam's back reassuringly. Sam nodded and looked up into blue eyes gratefully. "Together remember?" Sydney replied to the fear she saw etched in the pale face. Sam closed her eyes momentarily and took a deep breath before responding. "Together!" The two women turned toward the approaching couple and greeted them straight on.
"Mother….Dad…how nice of you to join us. You remember Sydney…" Sam's voice held hint of unease and Sydney quickly pressed her hand closer to the woman's back in silent support.
"Well, Samantha you can't imagine how surprised we were to hear about this venture of yours. I'm sure the lack of a formal invitation was just an oversight on someone's part." Sam's mother, Rita Logan, overdressed as usual, scanned the crowd over her daughter's shoulder as she moved to briefly hug her. Except for the barb about the invitation, she totally ignored Sydney's presence. Sam's father, Walter, stood stoically behind his wife and made no motion or comment to either of the women. Sydney could tell that he was neither happy to be there or to see his daughter. Sydney knew from past experience that Sam's father totally disapproved of a relationship between her and Sam and now, it looked like he was all but turning his back on his daughter. Sydney had wished that Sam's mother would do the same thing, but she enjoyed tormenting them way too much to do anything as sensible as ignore them.
Sydney decided to take the bull by the horns and spoke up without moving toward either of Sam's parents. '"Well, it's nice that you could find your way here even without the invitation."
Sam cringed at the blatant barb, and although she hated confrontations with her parents, she knew that this time she had to stand up for what she wanted, no matter what. Plastering a smile on her face, she looked at her father, who looked away, and replied, "Won't you join us at our table tonight?"
"Is that woman sitting there too?" Her mother replied and Sam bristled when she thought her mother was referring to Sydney until she noticed the direction she looked. Gwen, stood over to the side chatting with friends, but Sam could tell she was keeping a watch out of the corner of her eye. Smiling, Sam turned back to her mother. "Why, yes of course."
"Well if she is sitting there too, then I would rather not." Rita’s response left no doubt that she was waiting for her daughter to say that she would make alternative arrangements for the redhead. Sydney thought, 'Hell no!', but before she could offer her comments on the subject Sam spoke out surprising not only Rita, but Sydney as well.
"Oh, that's too bad. Why don't you have a drink and mingle while Sydney and I find a table for you and Dad." Sam turned and took Sydney's hand and led away one astonished woman. "Close your mouth honey, I told you I had already made my choice." Sam continued to lead the way as her knees quivered and when the two women reached the kitchen, she was grateful that Sydney had swooped her up in her arms because she wasn't sure she would have been able to remain standing much longer.
"Baby! I can't believe you just did that. I am so proud of you!" Sydney crushed the quivering blonde to her and held her until she felt Sam calming and her shaking subside.
"They almost ruined my life once, I'm not giving them a second chance." Sam replied determined to keep her promise to herself this time. She knew that in this life chances are taken or you live with regret, and she wasn't going to regret another thing in her lifetime. "I love you and I'm in this for the long haul."
"I love you too." Sydney murmured and kissed Sam in front of the kitchen staff. Embarrassed when they realized their surroundings they looked around and noticed that no one seemed to mind their presence one bit. Smiling, Sydney looked down at Sam and shrugged her shoulders and asked, "So where are we going to seat them?"
"How about with the Stigler party?" Sam's lips curved up mischievously as she looked out at Sydney. The twinkle in her eyes alerted the taller woman to her meaning and she laughingly replied, "Ooh, you are bad, but I love it!" Sydney knew full well that given the opportunity, the Stigler's would forget to stop talking even after you begged for mercy. The best part was that they loved to talk about themselves. 'Should be perfect conversation for Rita.' Sydney thought sarcastically and followed Sam out of the kitchen to relay the happy news.
"I'll go take care of my parents and you see if you can't get everyone to take their seats for dinner." Sydney nodded at Sam's plan and moved toward the dance floor where the band was setting up for later.
Sam's mother could hardly wait for her daughter to return before lashing out at her. "I can't believe you are associated with either of those women. Gwen is bad enough, but now, you have that woman hanging around again. What, almost getting you killed last time wasn't enough to learn your lesson?"
"Mother, let's not start anything tonight okay? This is supposed to be a happy occasion. Are you sure you don't want to sit at our table?" Sam tried to avert a major blowout tonight. She knew that it was coming and soon, 'just not tonight in front of all these people.'
"No, just because you choose to associate with those two, I don't feel that your father and I should be forced to." Rita was adamant about her decision and couldn't believe that her daughter would side with strangers against family. 'We will definitely need to have another talk, I can see this, these outside influences have to go, we didn't raise her to be like this.'
"Okay, if that is your decision. I've put you at table twelve then, we are going to be serving dinner soon, so you might want to make your way over there now." Sam replied smiling up at her parents. Her father looked her directly in the eye and Sam knew that he knew that something was up. Sam averted her eyes and looked out over the room toward Sydney who was trying to get everyone's attention.
Sydney stood on the stage with the microphone nervously. She hated speaking in front of people, but the task had fallen upon her ever since Sam's parents came through the front door.
"May I have everyone's attention, Please?" Sydney waited as the crowd hushed to a murmur and turned their attention toward her. "Thank you. Dinner is going to be served shortly so I'd like to ask everyone to find their table and take their seats. Thank you." Sydney waited a few moments and watched as everyone did as instructed. Turning she looked over at the members of the band and said something causing them to chuckle in response. They traded comments back and forth and when Sydney turned back toward the room, Sam could see that she was visibly calmer.
"I'd like to thank you all for coming tonight to our grand re-opening of Antonio's." Sydney paused as a round of applause broke the quiet of the room to the news. "We hope that you will continue to enjoy coming here and meeting old friends and making new ones. We haven't really changed much because we figured why mess with a good thing." Sydney smiled as a ripple of laughter and clapping broke out over this comment. "And if, for any reason, you are not satisfied or have any complaints, I'd like to introduce the person to whom they should be directed…..Sam." The room broke out into a roar of laughter as Samantha made her way toward the stage. Sydney could see by the look on Rita's face, that it was going to be a bumpy ride tonight.
Sydney stepped down from the stage and gave Sam a hand up and turned over the microphone to her grateful to be out of the limelight.
"Very funny!" Sam retorted into the microphone as Sydney made her way toward the kitchen. "Actually, my partner here will take all complaints in regards to the kitchen. I, on the other hand, will take all the compliments!"
After the titters of laughter subsided Sam turned away from the retreating figure of her lover and back to the audience. "Seriously though, we are thrilled that you could all come out tonight and celebrate this night with us. This is a dream come true for us and we are glad that our friends and family could be here to celebrate with us. So, if there is any way that we can make your visit's to Antonio's more enjoyable, please let us know." Sam smiled as the room applauded and noticed Sydney moving toward her, catching her attention she nodded enthusiastically.
"And now, it looks like dinner is about to be served, so sit back, relax and we hope you enjoy the meal and the rest of the evening. After dinner the dance floor is open so everyone get out here and have a good time!" Sam replaced the microphone and stepped down off the stage to join Sydney and Gwen at the table.
"What's the matter, you mother think we got cooties or something?" Gwen asked sarcastically nodding toward the table that Rita and Walter were seated. "Ooh, I see they are with the Stigler's, should be loads of fun!"
"Serves them right." Sydney replied under her breath to the redhead. The two of them shared a snicker before looking over at Sam. Sam's expression was less than joyous and the women quickly sobered their attitude.
Sam’s eyes narrowed as she looked at the two women who instantly stopped giggling at the look on her face. Sam fought to hold her face blank as she replied dryly, "At least I didn't put them with the Harrisons!"
Sydney and Gwen looked at Sam and their eyes widened in surprise before both women burst out laughing, causing the surrounding tables to look in their direction. The Harrisons had to be the most colorful of the guests assembled here tonight, especially after a few too many drinks. But, they were two of Antonio's most regular and favorite patrons. The couple's antics and bawdy comments would get better as the drinks flowed and the evening wore on.
"Ooh, that would have been too much!" Gwen choked as she wiped the tears from her eyes and tried to gain some semblance of order. She could see Rita and Walter looking over at their table with disdain, which caused the redhead to tap Sydney on the knee and nod her head in their direction. Sydney looked over at the looks on Sam's parents' face and replied, "Does the term anal have any meaning here?" That was all it took for the three women to renew their fit of laughter.
The rest of the party went along extremely well and everyone seemed to be having a good time, including Sam's parents. They mingled with many of the guests that they knew. Sam passed by the bar and saw her father in deep conversation with another gentleman and when he looked up and caught Sam's eye he smiled. Sam wasn't sure what the smile indicated, but it made her shiver in response. She thought berating herself, 'maybe he is trying at least to make peace.' Sam shook off the feeling and smiled in reply before her father looked away back to his conversation.
The Club was closed on Sunday's, which was just fine for Sam and Sydney as they nursed hangovers from the festivities. Monday morning, bright and early, both women were at the Club to supervise the clean up and to pay for deliveries for the week. The kitchen was on track and ready for the lunch crowd when Sydney made her way upstairs to the office. Sam hadn't noticed her arrival and sat staring at the computer screen. Sydney knew, by the way she chewed the end of her pen, that something was wrong.
Lightly placing her hands on either shoulder Sydney brought Sam back to the present. "What's up?'
"Do you remember when we went over the liquor order?"
"Yes, why?" Sydney asked pulling up a chair next to the blonde.
"Do these figures look right to you?" Sam turned the monitor so that Sydney could get a better look at the order tally.
"Let's see, 2 cases of Scotch, 3 cases of Vodka, okay……yes, that looks like what I ordered?" Sydney looked up at Sam with an arched eyebrow for an explanation.
"Okay, now look at the total cost at the bottom of the bill." Sam handed Sydney a copy of the bill she had received for payment due now.
"What!? That is twice the price we were quoted!" Sydney threw down the bill and pulled the keyboard toward her and punched in a few commands. "Here is the pricing we were quoted. This must be some mistake!"
Sam looked at the screen and nodded. "I know, so I called the supplier and guess what?"
"He said the quotes were not good unless they are in writing and that they have had an overall increase in delivery from the manufacturer."
"That's bullshit!" Sydney replied, "So, you are saying we are screwed because he won't honor his word to us?"
"Eloquently put, but true nonetheless. Also, get this! Future deliveries will not be made until past bills are paid in full. I guess the new policy is not to extend us credit either." Sam threw the bill down on the desk in disgust.
"You mean that snake had the audacity to come to the party Saturday, drink and eat his fill and then pulls this stunt?" Sydney stood up and paced running a hand in frustration through her hair.
"He was here Saturday?" Sam hadn't known which suppliers Sydney had invited. She had left that decision up to her since she was the one who had to deal with them on a regular basis.
"Yeah, he was the balding guy in the gray tweed who didn't leave the bar all night. Probably, drank a good portion of the what he delivered!" Sydney's response was cutting and sharp. "I say we pay him off and find another supplier."
"I agree with finding another supplier, definitely a cheaper one because this bill puts us over the top. We don't have enough cash to cover anything else this week." Sam's voice was heavy with concern.
"Don't worry everything will be okay. I promise. We will get through this. Right now I'm going to make some calls and find us a new distributor." Sydney left the office and headed down to the kitchen where she kept her paperwork in a little back office. She liked her private little corner away from everything and it also gave her and Sam space so that they weren't always up each other's backsides all day and night.
Sam sat in the office paying the bills one by one and when she had finished, there was exactly $24.18 cents left in the checking account. 'Not a good way to run a business.' Thinking about Sydney's comments brought back the memory of her father and that smile when she saw him in the bar at the party. She felt something should be clicking in the back of her mind, but she just couldn't get a hold of it. Sam quickly shook off the negative feelings and went back to work. The rest of the day was spent figuring a budget for the Club so that they would know exactly how much they needed each week. By the weeks end, Sam was exhausted from juggling deliveries and payments until the receipts could be totaled and deposited each morning. She had written a couple of checks she hoped would not clear until the receipts were deposited the next day. Heading down the stairs to the kitchen to find Sydney, Sam cut through the almost deserted bar passing its only occupant who sat on a stool at the bar. It was still early for the usual Saturday night crowd and as she passed the young man, he turned and called out to her.
"Excuse me. Do you work here?" The blonde, blue-eyed man asked. When he smiled Sam could see he clearly had dimples and noticed that wasn't beyond using them to try to charm the ladies. 'Don't bother honey.' Sam thought chuckling to herself.
"Yes, you could say that." Sam offered smiling warmly in reply.
"Good, do you know where I could find Samantha Logan?" He asked smiling shyly. 'Oh, work it baby! Work it!' Sam almost laughed out loud at the young man's approach.
"Well, it just so happens that you are speaking with her." Sam stood leaning against the bar rail waiting to see what he would do next.
The young man reached into his pocket and pulled out a thick envelope and handed it to her. "I’m sorry, but this is for you, consider yourself served." He quickly turned and exited the Club leaving a surprised Sam staring at the envelope he had thrust into her hand. 'Oh God! Now what?' Ripping open the envelope, she began to read and her heart dropped on to the floor. She leaned heavily against the bar breathing deeply to avoid a panic attack.
"Can I get you anything Ms. Logan?" Jim the bartender offered looking at the pale woman.
"No, I'm fine, thank you." Recovering enough energy to walk to the kitchen, Sam went in search of Sydney.
Sydney could tell something was wrong the first glimpse of the Sam's pale face. She didn't say anything but lead her to the back to her office. Pulling the woman into her arms she soothed the slumped shoulders.
Sam leaned her head wearily against Sydney's strong shoulder and sighed. Pulling back she handed the taller woman the papers and moved to sit down behind the desk in the tiny office. Sydney perched on the edge of the desk and began to leaf through the documents.
"What the hell is this about a lien?" Sydney asked when she had finished looking at all the legal mumbo-jumbo that took up five pages. She was convinced that most of these documents could be condensed to one paragraph, but lawyers just loved to hear themselves talk.
"It seems that when the new addition was built it went two feet over onto the property next door. This wasn't a problem until the property was recently purchased. Did you take a look at the name of the holding company?" Sam replied defeatedly. Somehow she had known that things were going along too smoothly and this fairy tale would end too soon.
"It's your father's!"
"So, just what the hell does all this mean?" Sydney was pacing in front of the desk still looking at the sheaf of papers angry and confused.
"It means my father can either make us pay rent or demand that we move the club off his property." Sam explained wearily. She knew what her father's intent was and she also knew that she had to do something about it. They had worked too hard for her to let him destroy another of her dreams, but more importantly Sydney's dream. 'My family has hurt you enough and I won't let this happen again, no matter what I have to do.' Sam thought sadly of just what that promise might entail.
"So we're screwed!"
"Colorfully put, but not quite accurate. There is something I can do." Sam replied trying to keep her voice light and upbeat. Sydney looked at Sam and began to worry at just what Sam was saying, but before she could comment the telephone rang.
Sam quickly grabbed the phone relieved that she had postponed the inevitable for at least a few more minutes.
"Oh, hello mother."
Sydney's back stiffed and she watched Sam from the doorway, very interested in the telephone conversation. Sam didn't look up at Sydney as she spoke to her mother. She needed to concentrate on exactly what she said to her mother and couldn't help but be distracted by Sydney's penetrating blue eyes.
"I think you are right mother, we do need to sit down and talk and resolve some issues. Yes, I agree, things can't continue the way there are." Sam replied quietly watching Sydney out of the corner of her eye motioning 'no' and shaking her head vehemently. She refused to look up and acknowledge her for fear that she wouldn't have the courage to continue with what she needed to do.
"Breakfast tomorrow morning will be fine, we are closed on Sunday." Sam paused and listened to the voice on the other end before closing her eyes and adding, "Yes, I understand perfectly. I will see you then." Sam replied and rang off the phone, her mother had made it clear that the invitation was for her alone. Sam slowly put the receiver down without looking up at the agitated woman standing in front of the desk.
"I can't believe you are doing this. You are going to go there and make some sort of deal!" Sydney exploded in anger and hurt. Sam instantly looked up and saw the hurt and betrayal reflected in Sydney eyes. Sam stood up and leaned on the desk for support.
"You don't understand Sydney, this is the only way to resolve this problem and save the club. I have no other choice, but to do this alone." Sam tried to explain that she had to confront her parents on their terms.
"So much for our partnership then huh? Was this all for nothing? Just a whim?" Sydney asked throwing her hands up in the air. Her anger quieted to a dull ache in her chest that made it hard to breathe. She couldn't believe that Sam would fold at the first sign of trouble and run back to her parents. She hadn't even discuss any other possible solutions with Sydney, but just made up her mind and that was it.
"You don't understand if I don't do this, we have lost everything we have ever dreamed of having." Sam eyes pleaded with Sydney. A knock at the door forestalled any further comment by Sydney as an employee stuck his head in telling the brooding woman she was needed at the delivery bay. Sydney nodded and without looking back at Sam, she walked out the door quietly replying, "I think we already have."
Sam's legs went week and she sat down stunned at Sydney's parting reply. She waited for awhile and when Sydney did not return, she made her way out of the kitchen toward the front of the club. The dinner crowd was beginning to get heavier and the waiter, turned greeter, looked at her with relief. "Reservations are getting backed up."
Sam nodded and took over so that he could go back to his tables. The evening wore on as Sam went through the motions of her job with a smile plastered on her face until she heard a familiar voice.
"Cheer up honey...nothing can be that bad!"
Sam started and looked up into green eyes before responding. "Gwen! I didn't expect you tonight? I don't remember seeing your reservation, are you meeting someone?"
"I'm sorry I didn't realize I needed one." Gwen replied glancing in confusion over Sam's shoulder at Sydney's approach.
"No, of course not, you never will." Sam stuttered embarrassed with herself for the way she must have sounded. "We keep the back booth open for just that reason. Are you meeting someone here?"
"Yes, me." A low velvet voice spoke from behind her and Sam turned to see that Sydney had approached without her knowledge. Sydney grabbed two menus and began walking away leaving Gwen no choice but to follow her. She quickly kissed Sam and told her that she would talk with her later. Sam watched her lover lead her aunt toward the back alcove and thought sadly, 'You went to Gwen instead of me. Well, maybe she can get you to understand where I have failed.' Turning back toward the next approaching group she tried to focus her attention on the task at hand, but she couldn't help sneaking looks over at the secluded table.
Sydney ordered a bottle of wine brought to the table and the two women sipped it as they waited for their dinners. Gwen watched Sydney watching the blonde out of the corner of her eye and could tell that she was hurting.
"So, tell me again, what's going on with you two." Gwen set her wineglass down and turned to Sydney to get her focus her attention on the conversation instead of Sam.
Sydney mapped out the current problems with finances, delivery changes and now the lien on the property by Sam's father, and finally got down to what the real trouble was. "Sam's just rolling over and letting them take over again. Gwen, I don't have it in me to go through all this again. I will walk away from this place before I do that."
"Walter needs to keep his nose in his own business and stop interfering in everyone else's lives. I'm not sure of what I can do to stop this lien, I wish I had known about the property next door, I would have bid against him just for the fun of it!" Gwen was visibly angry with Sam's father, but she knew she needed to focus on one crisis at a time. "Do you think that Sam's going to go back to them to stop him from closing the club?"
"What else can I think. She say's it's her problem to take care of and since there is no other way around the lawsuit, except paying the fine and rent, which we certainly can't afford, we close!" Sydney replied hotly. Before Gwen could respond the waiter served them their food. They ate quietly as Gwen thought about what she could possibly do to stop what was obviously happening. Money was no problem for her, but she knew that Sydney and Sam wouldn't accept anymore help from her. She had to think of something else. Sydney sat quietly and moved the food around her plate without really eating much. When Gwen thought Sydney had played with her food long enough, she pushed her plate away and turned back toward the raven-haired beauty.
"Have you two actually talked about what Sam is planning or are you just jumping to conclusions?"
"Talk, what talk. Sam said this is what I'm doing, no discussion, no questions, end of story!" Sydney replied folding her hands across her chest in an attempt to shield her bruised heart.
"Okay, maybe it's not as bad as it seems. Let me see what I can do." Gwen replied unsure if there was anything she could do to fix the problem, but she knew that she wouldn’t let these women part again without doing everything and anything she could.
"No, thank you, but that’s not why I invited you here to night. I think this time everything is in Sam's court. She has to make the decisions as to what she really wants, and if it isn’t me, I'd rather know now than later." Sydney stood up and laid her napkin on the table softly and briefly looked with watery eyes at Gwen before looking away and mumbling, "I have to get back to the kitchen now. I just wanted you to know what was going on."
Gwen reached over and touched her hand lightly. "Don't give up just yet." Sydney nodded and looked away again and asked, "Could you do me a favor?" Gwen nodded warily and waited for the request.
"Would you mind taking Sam home tonight? I've got some things I need to go through so I'll stay and close up."
"Sure, no problem. You will be coming home right?" Gwen wasn't sure what exactly Sydney had in mind, but she knew they didn't need her to pull a disappearing act.
"Yes, but late. You might suggest that Sam stay up at the house tonight. She has to be at her parents early…I don't want to wake her up when I come in." Sydney's explanation wasn't the total truth and Gwen knew it. "Okay, I will." She could see the need for space between the two for now, but she also vowed that it wouldn't be for long if she had anything to do about it.
Sydney hesitated saying anything further and nodding to Gwen, she made her way back to the kitchen. It was late and the crowd had already thinned to a few in the bar. The dining area already showed signed of set-up for the next day. After putting in an order for Tiramisu to be delivered to Gwen's table, she rolled up her sleeves and got into the physical work of cleaning up the kitchen. The workers looked at each other surprised, but no one said anything as the boss worked side-by-side with them. Their surprise quickly turned to concern as they tried to keep up with the woman as she worked off her pent up frustration and anger.
Sam awoke to her alarm blaring and groaned. She hadn't gotten much sleep that night as she had lain in bed waiting for Sydney to return home, but must have fallen asleep before she had heard the car pull in the driveway. Showered and dressed in sweatshirt and jeans she hurried to the garage and backed her car out. She drew in a relieved breath when she saw Sydney's car parked off to the side of the driveway. She had wanted to wait for Sydney in the guesthouse, but Gwen had told her to give Sydney some space until she was sure of what she was going to do. On the ride home from the Club, they had talked and by the time they had reached the house, Gwen was upset with Sam too. She too thought Sam was giving in to her parent's pressure. With an empty ache in her chest she drove toward her parents house. Arriving right on time, she patted the papers in her pocket and entered the house. She was shown into the dining room where her parents were already gathered waiting.
"You're late!" Her father called in a cold greeting.
'Yeah, good morning to you too!' Sam thought sarcastically, but kept a steady face and in greeting replied, "Mother, Father." Taking her seat she ignored her father and looked directly at her mother when she spoke to her.
"Is this how you dress to go out in public or is the outfit for my benefit?" Rita's voice cut through the pleasant morning like a butter knife through rubber. Sam didn't miss a beat or change her expression and replied, "Yes, this is how I normally dress on my day off."
"Figures!" Her father retorted getting a glaring look from his wife for interrupting her. Focusing her attention back on her daughter she shook out her napkin and placed it on her lap. "I guess you forgot that we dress for meals in this house." Any comment Sam could have offered was stalled by the arrival of breakfast. Actually, she hadn't much thought about what she was wearing and decided to just let the conversation pass. Rule number two was that they didn't discuss anything until after breakfast. It wasn't polite to talk while you were eating. 'Yeah, might give me indigestion!' Sam thought sarcastically as she picked at her food. Somehow she didn't have her usual appetite this morning. She was beginning to wonder if she hadn't made a mistake in coming here this morning. Maybe there was way to come to a resolution and she would just have to stand up or given in. Sam made a show of eating for her parents and when her father pushed his plate away, that was the signal for the battle to begin.
"When were you going to tell us about your so-called business venture?" Walter asked as he wiped his mouth in disdain as if something had left a bad taste. 'Must be me.' Sam thought sarcastically before she replied to her father.
"I didn't think you would be interested." Sam answered sincerely. When she had moved to her uncle's house, her father had all but stopped talking to her.
"Samantha, I won't have that attitude in my house. My brother may have encouraged you to turn you back on your true family and become a disgrace, but I refuse have you talking to me in that tone of voice." Walter pointed his finger at his daughter to emphasis each word.
"Excuse me?" Sam looked at her father and wasn't sure whether to laugh in his face or spit in it.
"There is no excuse for you! But, then again what can I expect living with that woman!" Walter replied with disgust and brushing off an imaginary piece of lint from his sport jacket.
Sam bristled at the comment until she realized that he meant Gwen and not Sydney. Smiling innocently, her eyes twinkled with mischief and she replied, "Oh yes, God forbid, I actually saw what it was like to see two people in love."
"I doubt it! More like two crazed weasels in heat!" The controlled fury in his voice was just begging to break free. "He made a fool of himself."
"Well, if loving someone is making a fool of oneself, them I'm all for it!" Sam answered too quickly.
"You would be, your deviant lifestyle is a pure indication of your lack of regard for everyone, especially your own family. After all we've done for you, this is the thanks we get. I can promise you this, I won't be bailing you out of another situation, like I did the last time." He father replied, smugly folding his arms across his chest in some sense of victory.
Sam wanted to wipe that look off his face. She bit her tongue until her eyes watered, but the pain pushed just her over the edge. Pulling the papers from her pocket the threw them on the table in the direction of her mother and replied, "Just who the hell do you think you are God? You sit there, high and mighty, and talk about family loyalty. Then you judge and condemn me and go and sue me to try to ruin my business! You are a hypocrite in the worst way!"
"Samantha don't speak to your father that way, apologize this instant." Rita demanded.
"Why should I? Does he show me any respect? Or does the truth just hurt too much?" Sam looked at her mother in exasperation and pushed the papers across the table at her.
"Give those papers to me! I told you to watch your mouth young lady. You can just leave right now! You are no daughter of mine!" Walter tried to grab the papers, but Rita was too quick for him and she picked them up and quickly flipped through them.
She looked up through narrowed eyes and in a clipped voice confronted her husband. "So Gwen was right!" It was the first time that Sam had actually heard her mother refer to Gwen by name.
"I didn't want to believe anything that woman had to say and I even hung up on her the first time. She tried to tell me you had done something like this, but I called her a liar."
Walter hadn't wanted his wife to know about the lien because he knew she would react this way, but it was the only way to get his errant daughter to see the facts of life. Life was hard and the sooner she learned that her family was her only protection and came home, the better.
"It's just business Rita, you wouldn't understand." Walter was not happy with his wife interfering and was disgusted with the whole affair, he couldn't believe that any daughter of his could turn out this way. He looked at his wife skeptically wondering if maybe if there was more to this thought.
"Walter! You can stop right there before you say something you will regret. We will certainly discuss this later! There are more important things to consider right now!" Rita replied effectively cutting off her husband and setting him back in his chair angrily brooding, but he knew enough to keep his mouth shut for the moment. Rita looked at her husband in disappointment, but quickly focused her attention back toward Sam.
Rita had questions and she wanted answers to them first. "I see that Sydney is back and I take it that you two are partners again."
"Yes we are mother, in every sense of the word." Sam confirmed and turned when her father began to grumble sarcastically under his breath. Rita turned a warning look back at her husband and he snorted, but went silent.
Sam's back stiffened and she came to the conclusion that no matter what, she was leaving this place today and they could do what they wanted to her, it didn't matter anymore. She was through trying to make them accept her. She didn't need them nor with the constrictive security net they were constantly trying to trap her with.
"I just can't understand why you persist to live like this, don't you care what effect it is having on your family. Do you know that people are talking? If not for propriety sake, think about your future. You can't possibly want to live your life this way?" When Rita saw that she was having no effect on her daugther she changed tactics in an effort to get her attention. "How can you possibly go back to that woman, especially after all that happened the last time she was around? I thought we had resolved this issue. Do you remember how she almost killed you?"
Rita had such high hopes for her only child, it hurt her to see her dreams dashed and torn before her eyes. 'What did I do wrong to deserve this from my child?'
Sam shook her head sadly and stood realizing they would never change and this was how things were always going to be. She had been wrong to think she could change them. She realized for the first time in her life that the only thing that she could change was how she reacted to everything. Her own actions were the only thing that she had absolute control over.
"I'm sorry that you can't see how happy I am now. I've lived the past year in a self-imposed coma, I didn't feel and I didn't care, but now, I feel alive again. You and Father can do whatever you think is necessary to stop me, but I will never be able to live my life in the manner you think appropriate. You can bankrupt me financially, but never again emotionally. I will see this through with Sydney and we will start again, no matter how many times it takes. I am sorry you can't understand about love mother. It must be miserable to go through life without it." Sam looked at her father pointedly on that last remark and left the room in the stunned silence of her parents. When she walked out the front door she knew it was for the last time. She headed to her car on shaking legs and quickly got behind the wheel and took a deep breath. She had effectively cut herself off from her family and hoped that she had not ruined her chances with her new family. She knew that Gwen was upset with her and, more importantly, so was Sydney. She didn't want to know what life would be like without her ever again. A rap on the window startled her out of her thoughts and she turned to roll down the window and face her mother.
"I couldn't let you leave like that. I want you to know that no matter what happens, you are my daughter. I'm beginning to realize that my dreams for you are not necessarily yours for yourself and that, is something that I must come to terms with. I don't know if I will ever understand or accept your choices, but I do know that choices are just that…choices you must make for yourself. Sometimes the choices you make are the only ones that you can under the circumstance of that time. You can only hope that the ones you do make, you will not regret later in life. Living with regret is what is a miserable existence. Good-bye Samantha….Don't worry about the lawsuit, your father won't be pursuing it. " Rita took one last look at her daughter and turned back toward the house. She had another battle ahead of her and this time; she would be the victor.
Sam's shook her head to clear her scrambled thoughts and wondered if she had just heard what she thought she heard her mother say. Backing the car down the driveway, she pulled it forward and turned toward home. 'Home...Let's just hope I haven't destroyed that too.'
Sydney awoke late to the warmth of the sun flooding her room. It was unseasonably cool and too chilly for a swim so she decided to shower and walk into the village to the coffee shop. Donning a pair of jeans and a sweater she carried her shoes and began walking down the beach toward the strip where the hotels and restaurants began. The fresh air was invigorating and she reached the boardwalk and stopped to put on her shoes before crossing the street to the coffee shop. As she neared the outside tables, she spotted a familiar blonde who smiled up at her as she neared.
"Funny meeting you here." Sam called out as Sydney approached her table. Sydney grinned and sat down facing the blonde.
"How long have you been here?" Sydney asked noticing that Sam didn't have anything in front of her.
"I just got here, I went by the house but you were already gone. I guessed and drove here. I just parked the car and came in here while you were putting your shoes on across the street." Sam pointed toward her convertible sitting out on the side street.
"I think you know me too well." Sydney replied smiling and standing up to go to the counter. "Do you want a cup or coffee or anything?"
"Yes, a latte' with Irish Crème and a baguette, no a scone, mmmm both!" Sam replied unable to make up her mind.
"Didn't you go to your parents for breakfast?" Sydney asked laughing lightly at Sam's affinity for food.
"Yes, but you know I can never eat when people are staring at me." Sam replied grimacing at the thought.
"Oh, what fun that must have been." Sydney commented before entering the shop to get their order. She returned a few moments later juggling two coffees and an assortment of pastries. "I thought since you couldn't decide, you might want to share one of everything. I promise not to watch you." Sydney sat down with a chuckle placing everything in the middle of the table before turning to look out over the ocean. She felt a touch on her arm drawing her attention back toward Sam. "I don't mind when you look at me, actually I kind of like it." Sam admitted uncertain of the response the admission would invoke.
"Oh, you do huh?" Sydney replied leaning her elbows on the table and stared into green eyes intently.
"Oh yeah…" Sam murmured and did the same, elated that she could once again lose herself in blue. After a few moments, Sam blinked and asked softly, "So, are we okay?"
"Depends on what you have in mind?" Sydney replied taking bite of the scone and looking down in concentration on her food. She wasn't sure what Sam had to say, her heart raced in her chest and she knew it wasn't from the caffeine.
Sam took a sip of her coffee and broke off a piece of the baguette. Holding it hesitantly without taking a bite she replied, " I was wondering what you were doing for the say….the rest of your life?" She quickly shoved the bread into her mouth to stop her hands from shaking.
"What are my options?" Sydney's body began to relax slightly and she toyed with Sam now that she was fairly sure of what the blonde was trying to say, but still not wanting to jump the gun too soon. After everything that had happened in the past, she didn't think she could handle another surprise.
"You want options, huh?" Sam paused and took a deep breath before answering. "As I see it there are only two, one you spend it with me or, two I spend it with you." Sam knew she needed to make the first move so this way there was no doubt as to what her intentions were, and yet she left just enough play in the words for Sydney to bow out gracefully if that was what she wanted. She held her breath waiting for the answer, hoping that she had not destroyed all hope of a life together.
"Well, then I guess I will have to chose…ummm…option three." Sydney replied seriously and watched a look of confusion infuse Sam's face. "I want this to be an equal partnership in every way." Sydney explained as she placed her hand over Sam's and held it. She could feel the slight tremor in the blonde's hand and smiled as it matched what was happening inside her chest at that very moment.
"I'm glad because I'm not letting you go, no matter what happens today, tomorrow or forever." Sam answered a little breathlessly, it had been hard enough to swallow the bread, let alone breath at the same time. She could feel her heart racing and it's beat pounded loudly in her ears. She took a sip of her coffee to wet her dry throat and to calm herself down.
"Finished?" Sydney's eyes did not waiver from the unfocused green one's in front of her. Finally, they blinked into focus and Sam replied, "Huh?"
Sydney smiled and squeezed the hand she was holding. "Are you finished with your coffee? Would you like to go for a walk on the beach?"
'Whew!' "Yes!" 'Be still my beating heart!' Sam's thoughts were in a jumble as they tried to keep up with her racing heart.
"Yes to which?"
Sydney chuckled and collected their cups and napkins and went to discard them, turning she saw that Sam was still seated at the table confused. Sydney walked back toward her smiling, coming up behind the blonde she leaned down and whispered in her ear, "Ready?"
If Sam's heart could have leaped any higher at the warm seductive voice in her ear, they would have had to surgically remove it from her throat. Her whole body quivered in response. Taking a deep breath she stood and steadied herself against the table. She looked up to reply to the tall raven-haired woman and saw the glint of humor in her eyes. Sam realized that Sydney was having fun at her expense, instantly her body calmed back to its normal self and she smiled thinking, 'Oh baby, two can play this game!'
"Oh I'm ready, but the question is, are you?" Sam asked in a deep husky voice, her green eyes darkening with seductive promise.
It was Sydney's turn to catch her breath as the tables were turned on her. "Uh…of course."
"We shall see." Sam replied and walked ahead of her out the door. Her hips swaying just a bit more than usual and when she tossed her blonde hair back over her shoulder, Sydney was lost. Taking a deep breath she followed the blonde wondering, 'Just what have I started?'
It was late in the season and as they walked back down the beach, they found themselves alone and Sam put her hand in Sydney's as they continued walking along the water's edge.
After they had walked for awhile in silence, Sydney couldn't help but let her mind wander back to the reason for their fight and looked down at the shorter woman next to her. "So, do you want to talk about what happened this morning?"
"Well, let's just say that given the choices offered, I think I chose wisely." Sam replied and leaned up to kiss Sydney lightly on the lips.
"You had to chose, huh?" Sydney knew that their play on words was an easier way for Sam to talk about all that had happened this morning. They both had a bad habit of using humor to mask their emotions, neither that comfortable with expressing them fully.
"Not really, because in the end I knew there was really no choice to make. I can't and won't live my life in the mold that they have built. I am not that person and I never will be, so I closed that door behind me for good. I told them that no matter what they tried to do to us, that we would continue to pick ourselves up and go on together." Sam smiled up at Sydney and knew that indeed when one door closed another opened. She knew without reservation that this was her open door.
"That must have been hard for you." Sydney knew exactly what Sam had given up and she wanted to know if Sam really had considered everything or had reacted in haste to the situation. Sydney knew it wasn't the money that Sam clung to, but the safety net her family had always provided her.
"It's funny. I thought it would be, but it ended up being the easiest thing I have ever done in my life. What would have been hard would be to try to live up to their ideals and dreams. I have dreams of my own and I want to see them through, no matter what the cost." Sam pulled Sydney to a stop and stood looking up at her. She knew Sydney was asking a question more than making a simple statement. "What I did, I did for me and not because of some whim or spiteful anger at my parents. I don't believe in paybacks, I believe that in the end, what goes around comes around and well all pay the price for what we do on this earth."
Sydney nodded and whispered, "I just had to be sure there would be no regrets."
"The only thing in life we regret are the chances we never take. Are you willing to take a chance with me?" Sam looked up questioningly. This was the moment of truth for both of them, it was either a commitment here or a parting, but now was the time to decide.
"Yes, no matter what I'm here to go the distance with you." Sydney replied and leaned down to kiss Sam, but was interrupted by the voices of a family as they crested the top of the sand dune and ran down onto the beach next to them.
Sam looked up at Sydney and smiled at the frown on her face from the intrusion. "Let's go home." Sydney nodded and side by side they walked back home.
Sydney gazed at the ceiling fan as it went around slowly swirling cooler air around them. Sam lay against her shoulder, her soft breath tickling against her neck. Sydney purred when the tickling was replaced by soft kisses and Sam moved to look down at her.
"What are you thinking?" She asked softly as she rested her chin on Sydney's shoulder. Eye to eye Sydney looked deeply into green and smiled. "I was wondering what we should do about living arrangements." Sydney had to admit that she liked the idea of having the current amenities at their disposal. The two had spent the warmer afternoon alternating between frolicking in the pool and running back to the guesthouse to make love.
"Gwen did offer us the use of the carriage house in back, if we want to live there." Sam replied and waited to see what Sydney's response would be. Gwen had first offered her the use of the apartment when she had first moved in, but then her Uncle had taken sick and died, and Sam had never moved out of the main house after that. Gwen had offered them the use of it again the night of the club opening. There hadn't been much time to tell Sydney about the offer and then she hadn't been sure if her lover would accept the offer. Sam was afraid that Sydney would see it as being in her family's debt or something, but she really had liked the cottage when Gwen had first showed it to her.
"There is a house out back?" Sydney asked surprised and lifted her head slightly to look at Sam.
"Yes, the yellow building behind the pool house." Sam answered smiling and hoping, 'At least she didn't say no right off the bat.' "Do you want to go look at it?"
"Sure." Sydney answered trying to sound nonchalant about the request, but curious. "I just thought that was storage, but now that I think about it, it did have a deck out back facing the ocean. I had thought that strange for a storage barn."
"Come on, let's go look at it. I'll run and get the key." Sam was up and pulling on her coverup, omitting the wet bathing suit that lay near the door where it had been hastily discarded earlier. Smiling she picked both her and Sydney's wet suits on her way out and hung them on a deck chair to dry.
Sydney watched Sam's exuberance when she mentioned the carriage house and quickly dressed and met the blonde near the pool. They exited through a little gate next to the pool house and came out onto a narrow driveway. Sydney hadn't realized that the other drive had gone round back of the house this way. They followed the drive until it opened up onto a little courtyard and. Sydney could see the garage doors in front of them with steps to the right, which they took to the second floor. Sam unlocked the door and walked through leaving Sydney to follow her. Sam walked quickly to the doors leading to the deck and the ocean. She knew that the view would be the clincher for Sydney. Throwing open the doors, the fresh air and light from the ocean side came flooding through the slightly musty apartment.
"There is a two car garage under us and up here are the living quarters. I think at one time it use to be the chauffeurs apartment. There are two bedrooms, a kitchen, full bath and living room. Not huge, but I think it's perfect." Sam rattled on as she led the way from room to room. Sydney followed and noticed that the furniture looked too new to be an old chauffeur's quarters and remarked on it.
"Looks like it's been remodeled fairly recently." Sydney quirked an eyebrow in question at Sam. "Just what are you up to my little minx?'
Sam smiled guiltily before answering. "Well, Gwen offered me this cottage when I first moved here and had it remodeled and updated for me. Before I could move in my Uncle took sick and I just stayed up at the main house ever since."
"Oh, I see." Sydney replied and walked out onto the deck. Taking a deep breath she leaned on the railing and looked out over the ocean thinking. 'Hmm, I could get use to this view every morning, not to mention every sunset.' She felt arms wrap around her from behind and she pulled Sam around to hold her in her arms. Kissing the blonde's forehead, they remained in each others arms looking our over the sparkling ocean.
"So, would you like to live here?" Sydney asked Sam softly keeping her gaze directed out over the rolling waves.
"I asked you first." Sydney replied jokingly and lightly squeezed the woman in her arms.
"Yes then, I think I would…with you." Sam answered nestling her head against Sydney's chest in contentment.
"Then, so would I." Sydney kissed the top of Sam's head before releasing her and taking her by the hand down the stairs to the beach. The beach in front of their cottage opened out onto a private stretch of beach, both sides lined with a stone jetty so that the only way onto the beach would be to come up from the ocean. The property was pretty much defined and protected as far as these barriers were constructed.
"Yes, I think I could like this very much!" Sydney replied pulling Sam in for a deep and affirmative kiss.
Walking back hand in hand, they followed the drive down to where it branched off from the main driveway and then turned to follow the main one up back to the house. They entered the main house and Gwen met them in the kitchen.
"So, what have you two decided?"
"We'll take it!" Sam chimed happily.
"On one condition." Sydney added and the two women turned to look at her hesitantly. "That Sam and I pay all the utilities for the apartment and rent to you." Sydney ended looking directly at Gwen. "You've done too much for us already."
Gwen saw the pride in Sydney's eyes and saw the need she had to be the one to take care of Sam, smiling Gwen closed the deal. "Agreed. You pay the utilities for the place and $300 a month in rent to me. You will have to get the phone turned on, I've never had it done. The water and electricity were never turned off."
"Fine, we can do that. Thank you." Sydney relaxed a little now that this was over and flashed a smile at a slightly surprised Sam.
Sam watched the interaction between the two women and remained silent. She let them make the decision on this one and was just happy that it had been resolved amicably. She had been surprised when Sydney had requested they pay rent, but secretly, she was proud of her lover for doing it. Sydney never ceased to amaze her and that was one of the things she loved about her. Even though they would both be paying the rent, it made her feel secure to know that someone had still wanted to take care of her.
True to her words, Sam's mother had the lien removed from the club and things were getting back to normal. It has been a month since she had last spoken to her mother or father. Sam was just glad to see this week coming to a close as she hurried to get to the bank before they closed at noon. It was Saturday and she wanted to get the weeks receipts deposited so that Monday morning Sydney could pay for the incoming deliveries. Tomorrow they were going to finish moving in. They had each taken turns throughout the month sneaking away from the club to do some of the cleaning and painting while the other covered at the club for them. They were so busy these days that Sunday was the only day they were able to take time off together. Sydney promised that soon they would be able to hire a manager so that they could have more time together.
Standing in line at the commercial window, Sam decided to withdraw some money from her savings account to purchase some deck furniture on her way back to the club. She grabbed a slip and hesitated in filling it out. She was unsure exactly how much money she had left in the account. She new it was pretty close to depletion now that her monthly stipends from her family stopped. She also knew that needed to keep a closer watch on her money. It has been so easy before, the money had always been there, but at a cost she wasn't willing to pay anymore. She liked working with Sydney and even, lately when times had been hard, they seemed to always make it through some how. It was finally her turn and she pushed the pouch over with the weeks receipts and waited for the teller to check it over and produce a receipt.
"Can you tell me how much is left in this account?" Sam pushed across the withdrawal slip where she had written her account number.
"The balance in that account is 2,150.46." Sam looked up at the teller confused and then realized that her stipend was still being deposited. "Are you sure?"
The teller looked back down at her monitor and replied, "Yes, a deposit of $2,000, was made yesterday, the 30th."
"Thank you." Sam replied wondering what she should do about this turn of events.
"Did you want to make a withdrawal?" The teller asked pushing the slip back over toward Sam.
"Oh yes, sorry. I want this transferred to my checking account." Sam filled out on the amount of $150 and returned the slip back to the teller. A minute later and she was headed out the door and went straight back to the club. She slipped into her office and dialed her parents' number. Sam breathed a sigh of relief when her mother was put on the line.
"Samantha, is something wrong?"
"I am fine mother. I'm calling because I went to the bank today and realized that father is still depositing a stipend into my account. I'd really appreciate all you help in he past, but I'd rather you didn't give me any more money. The club is doing fine and I can take care of myself from now on." Sam tried not to sound offensive and kept her voice light and level.
"Trust me Samantha your father would love nothing better than to stop that money, but it isn't his choice. It is a trust fund from your grandmother and there is nothing we can do about it. The trust stipulates that you receive so much per month until it either runs out or you pass on." Rita was secretly happy that Walter hadn't found a way around this trust. She still wanted to feel assured that her daughter would have some resources of her own. She didn't want finances to be the reason that she stayed with Sydney.
"Oh, I didn't know that." Sam chewed her lip and considered what she would tell Sydney and how the woman would take this bit of news.
"Samantha? Is everything all right?" Rita was concerned at the silence she heard from the other end of the line.
"Oh yes, I am sorry mother, I was just thinking. How are you doing?" Sam decided to keep her relationship on good footing, especially with her mother. Her father, well he was another story and she didn't really care to talk with him much these days.
"Your father and I are fine. How is everything at the club?" Rita had been tempted on a few occasions to frequent the club, but wasn't sure how her daughter would accept her appearance.
"Great actually. We are going to be looking for a manager soon to help run things so that Sydney and I can take more time off." Sam answered and then weakened and added. "You and father should come to dinner sometime. You know you are always welcome."
"Thank you, I might just take you up on that one of these days. Well, I have to ring off now, I was just leaving for a 1 PM tee-time at the club."
"Okay, good luck with your game." Sam hung up the receiver and wasn't sure if she wanted to kick herself for making the offer. "Oh well, not much I can do about it now." Getting up, Sam went in search of Sydney to see what she was up to. She knew she had to tell her about the trust, but decided that could be done later when they were settled in their apartment.
Sam dragged Sydney through the furniture store like a kid in a candy store. Sydney just sighed and hoped the torture would be over soon and she could get back to the house to relax. They had finally gotten everything finished and moved in and now all Sydney wanted to do was to relax on their deck for the rest of the afternoon. Of course, telling Sam her desire, is what prompted this shopping expedition for patio furniture.
"I still don't see what is wrong with the stuff that we have now?" Sydney complained as Sam proceeded to sit in every chaise lounge and chair that she came to, and the selection was vast.
"Because it's the old pool furniture that came over with the Pilgrims!" Sam replied exasperated that Sydney didn't share her enthusiasm for shopping.
"Then I guess they made things to last back then." Sydney whispered sarcastically under her breath. Sydney looked down at the price tag on the set that Sam seemed to favor. Its cost was just about what they had cleared last week at the club. "Jeez, at a reasonable price too I bet!"
"Do you like this set?" Sam asked wiggling comfortably on the chaise lounge and flashing up her sexy green eyes. "There is room for two on this one."
"For these prices, we should be able to fit all of the Miami Dolphin's on it!" Sydney retorted showing the red price tag to the blonde.
Sam hesitated slightly at the mention of the cost, knowing full well that she had ample funds to purchase the furniture. She just wasn't sure how she would be able to pull this off without telling Sydney about the trust.
"You are just sore that you are missing the game today. It won't kill you for one Sunday to do something other than watch football!" Sam replied testily, angry more at herself for not having the courage to tell Sydney about the money, than at the woman's attitude toward the furniture.
"Yeah well, either way….we can't afford this." Sydney answered back and stuck out her tongue.
"Ooh, put up or shut up darling!" Sam purred in response to Sydney's flippant attitude.
"Let's go home and I will!"
"As soon as we get the furniture we can." Sam replied bullheadedly and moved to find a salesperson.
"Sam, we can't afford this set! It's as much as we brought in for the entire week. What are we going to do for things, such as utilities and food?" Sydney pulled Sam back towards her and tried to reason with the impetuous blonde.
"We can always eat at the club." Sam offered smiling up at Sydney coyly. "Anyway, I still have money left."
"Left from what?" Sydney asked looking down at Sam. Instantly, she noticed the evasiveness in Sam's response, the blonde looked everywhere but up into Sydney's eyes.
"From my account." Sam answered lamely and moved to turn over a few more price tags, but not really looking at them. She was just biding time and didn't really think she would be hiding anything from Sydney for very long.
"No! I don't want anything that came from your father!" Sydney replied emphatically and turned to walk away. She certainly did not want to start out their relationship being supported by that man. She did not want anything related to him and she certainly did not want his hands outs. If they couldn't earn it, Sydney did not want it, especially at the cost he would extract.
"Wait!" Sam ran after Sydney and caught up with her before she exited the store. Pulling her back toward a deserted corner of the store behind some bedroom furniture, she knew she had to explain everything to Sydney and right now.
"It's not from my father, the money never has been from him." Sam paused and looked up into blue eyes to see if Sydney was even listening to her. The taller woman's eyes were a dark cold blue, but she saw a flicker of movement to signal that she has at least part of her attention.
Blue eyes looked down skeptically and unsure Sydney's voice quivered slightly before she caught herself. "Then, where DID it come from?" Sam noticed it right off and put her hand on the taller woman's arm and held it there. There was still so much fear and uncertainty that lie beneath the surface between them and Sam knew that it was her fault. Now, was not the time to be playing games with Sydney. Sydney deserved the truth and, more importantly, she needed the truth from Sam.
"I found out yesterday from my mother that it is a trust that was set up by my grandmother. I get $2,000 every month for as long as I live or it runs out."
Sydney shook her head negatively and answered, "I can't believe you are still taking money from your family."
"I thought the money had stopped, but when I went to the bank yesterday and found that a deposit had been made, the first thing I did was call my mother. I phoned to tell her that I didn't want, or need their money anymore. That is when I found out about it being from my grandmother. I should have known that if my father could have found a way to stop it, he would have. All these years he made me believe he was the one giving it to me out of the generosity of his heart." Sam looked up at Sydney pleading with her eyes for understanding and not anger or dismissal.
"But Sam, we can take care of ourselves. After everything they have taken from us, it's too much to ask me to accept anything from them." Sydney looked into sad green eyes and knew she was being childish. Afterall, it was Sam's money from her grandmother and had nothing to do with her father. She paced back and forth between the dressers and finally threw up her hands in the air.
"Okay, okay, but only if you spend it on yourself. I don't want anything from that money, understood?"
Sam smiled up and squeezed the arm under her hand relieved. "Thank you."
Sydney nodded and began to pull Sam toward the exit. "Wait! We have to get the furniture first!" Sam pulled back on Sydney's arm and motioned for a salesperson to come over.
"Didn't we just have this discussion?" Sydney stood exasperated and slightly angry as she resisted Sam's tugging.
"You said to spend it on myself. I am, I want that furniture so that we can sit together and watch the sunset. It's purely a selfish reason because if I don't have this set than I can't hold you in my arms when we do watch the sunset. I told you the chaise could hold two remember?" Sam explained her little deception innocently and grinned. She knew that she had Sydney dead to rights and no matter how much she complained the taller woman knew she had been had. Sydney rolled her eyes and relaxed letting the blonde pull her toward the desk. Sam wasn't finish conniving yet and managed to get the salesperson to agree to have the furniture delivered that very afternoon.
Riding home, Sam leaned over and kissed Sydney on the cheek. "What's that for?"
"For letting me have my way on this one." Sam answered softly. She knew that Sydney had given up a lot of ground with the trust situation, and she was happy that she had been able to do that for her. Sam knew that it would be a long road for her to gain Sydney's full trust without a glimmer of unconscious thoughts creeping in causing Sydney to hesitate.
Sydney grunted in reply as she pulled the car onto their driveway and drove past the main house to the carriage house. "If I'm lucky, I can still catch the fourth quarter of the game and the day won't be a total loss!" Sydney quickly exited the car before Sam could take a swipe at her and ran up the stairs to their apartment.
"Ooh, paybacks my dear. Just remember, paybacks are a bitch!" Sam called out and ran after her through the opened door. Sydney flipped on the television as Sam pushed her backward onto the sofa. Between kisses and nibbles they managed to watch only five minutes of the game before things proceeded to get serious and the game was quickly forgotten.
Relaxing in each other's arms, Sam rested her head against Sydney's chest as her body drifted on the light roll of her lover's breathing. She loved listening to the strong heartbeat in the chest beneath her ear. Snuggling closer, Sam shivered slightly from the chill of the afternoon breeze on her cooling flesh. Sydney pulled the blonde closer to her, wrapping her arms tightly around her trying to use her own body heat to keep her warm.
"We should get up and get dressed, they will be delivering the furniture soon." Sydney whispered huskily into Sam's ear. Sam tingled at the feel of the warm soft breath against her skin and murmured her response. "Mmmm, not just yet."
Sam shifted herself on top of Sydney causing a tingle to run through the tall woman. Sam lifted her head and kissed the woman beneath her light and teasingly on the lips.
"Watch what you start." Sydney warned as Sam chuckled and moved her hands lower. "You might get a surprise!"
"Promises, promises!" Sam murmured between kisses and shrieked when Sydney flipped her over and became the aggressor. She leaned down and caught Sam's bottom lip between her teeth and lightly tugged.
"Is that a challenge I hear?" Sydney growled and proceeded to nip at Sam's neck as she ran her hand down the smooth flesh.
"Think you can handle it?"
"Watch me!" Sydney growled and began her assault of Sam's senses. She could feel the blonde's breathing begin to increase which acted as a catalyst to her passions. Neither woman heard the approach of the delivery truck until the blaring of its horn in the courtyard just about caused Sam to knock Sydney onto the floor as she jumped. Laughing and scrambling for clothes, they tried to dress quickly before they heard the knock on the door. Disheveled and breathing hard, Sydney jerked open the door wide and startled the deliveryman. Stepping back, he looked at her and then at his clipboard.
"Is this 501 Beach Road? You expecting a furniture delivery today?" He asked hesitantly looking first at Sydney and then at Sam as she poked her head out the doorway smoothing her disheveled hair.
"Oh yes!" Sam replied enthusiastically. "It goes on the balcony in back. It might be easier to walk around and up those stairs than to bring it all through the house." Sam pointed to the path around the carriage house that led to the beach.
"Yes ma'am." He moved back down the stairs to help his partner unload the furniture and proceeded to take it around to the deck and set it up. Something was amiss, but he'd be darned if it was any of his business he thought and reminded himself. 'Just do the job and get on my way.' When the task was completed and all the necessary signatures received the two men disappeared as quickly as they had arrived leaving the two women looking down at their new furniture.
"It looks good, doesn't it?" Sam asked smiling happily.
Sydney nodded and looked out over the ocean at the setting of the sun. Smirking, she lay down on the recliner and looked up coyly. "Well?"
"Well what?" Sam asked cautiously. She wasn't quite sure what her raven-haired beauty was up to, although she did look mighty inviting reclining back on the chaise.
"Well…you are the one who wanted this furniture to watch the sunsets together. Are you going to test it out or what?" Sydney replied scooting over for Sam to join her on the chaise.
"Ooh, but of course!" Sam wiggled her way into Sydney's arms and they lay together looking out over the water and watching what little sunset there was to offer on the east coast "I bet the sunrise is more spectacular."
"Well, we will just have to find out won't we?" Sydney replied and hugged Sam closer to her. "We have everything we need now." Sydney relaxed against the cushion holding Sam in her arms and finally relented her negative stance, 'I guess this trust fund isn't such a bad thing after all.'
Sam looked down at her seating chart and reservation list to plan the evening's arrangements. It was Saturday night and, as usual, they were booked solid. It was like choreographing a dance each time Sam had to figure out the seating chart. She liked to plan ahead during the quiet before the storm of diners arrived. The bar area was quiet of patrons, but the band was already setting up and tuning up for the evening's entertainment. Sam had to admit that Sydney had chosen well when she booked this group. Humming to herself, she continued working until she felt a presence in front of her and looked up. To her surprise, Detective Abrams stood before her slightly nervous at what his reception would be.
"Detective Abrams!" Sam called out surprised and stepped around from the desk. She knew that Sydney would certainly be happy to see him again. "We haven't seen you in ages. How are you?"
Abrams relaxed and returned the smile allowing Sam to hug him briefly. He wasn't sure if either woman would want to see him, most of all Sydney, but he needed to put the past behind him and worry about the future. "Is Sydney around?"
"Yes, she is in the kitchen. I'll go get her….is everything all right?" Sam was suddenly feeling strange about Abrams sudden appearance and something told her it wasn't all a social call.
"Can you get her and then we can all sit down and talk and catch up with things." Abrams smiled and tired to alleviate the fear he saw reflected in the blonde's green eyes. "It's okay, don’t worry about it."
'Now, I am worried!' Sam hesitated and waited for the sinking feeling to leave her, but it didn't. 'Every time someone say's don't worry, I worry!' Motioning to their back table she offered, "Have a seat and I'll go get Sydney. Can I bring you anything?"
"Yeah, I'm off duty so a draft would be great." Abrams replied and kept the smile on his face as he moved toward the table in the alcove. Sam placed the order with the bartender and asked him to take it over to the table before she hurried toward the kitchen to find Sydney. She found the woman in her office going over the week's orders.
"Hey babe." Sydney smiled and called out when Sam entered the office. Her smile quickly disappeared when she noticed Sam's demeanor. "What's wrong?"
Sydney walked around the desk to meet Sam and waited for the blonde to respond. "Detective Abrams is here."
"Great!" Sydney sighed relieved. Sam didn't have to worry about his visiting. Sydney had already forgiven him and was actually looking forward to talking to him again.
"It might not be so great. I think he has something on his mind and he said he wanted to talk to us." Sam was leery about the reason for the visit and her enthusiasm was waning.
"Okay, where is he?" Sydney walked ahead of Sam out the office door and headed to the main dining room with Sam in tow. "At our usual table."
Sam followed Sydney, grateful for the woman's hand in hers, it always made her feel safe.
"Hey Abrams!" Sydney called out as they neared the table. "Long time no see!"
"Yeah, it's been awhile Syd. You two have a nice place here." Abrams waved his hand at the room before taking another sip of his draft. Sydney had done well for herself and he was glad to see that she was out of the Investigation business. It was safer for her and he wanted to make sure it stayed that way, which was why he was here today.
"So, is this a social call or is something wrong?" Sydney asked lightly as she pulled out a chair for Sam and took the one next to it. She looked across at Abrams who grinned at the gesture and frowned at him in response.
"Yeah, don't let it go to your head. I can still kick butt with the best of them." Sydney replied to his unspoken jeer.
"I've never doubted that for a moment." Abrams replied chuckling. 'Still the old Sydney, some things never change.'
Sam looked from Sydney to Abrams and back again thoroughly confused at their conversation, and decided to sit quietly and not let her ignorance be known rationalizing it 'must be a private joke.'
"So, what’s up?" Sydney sat back calmly, her days of squirming over her relationships and the knowledge of them to others was over. She didn't care who approved and who didn't, it was her life anyway.
Abrams turned serious and held his mug in both hands, just staring at it. An errant thought came to him that he was glad they used mugs instead of those prissy little glasses some of the upscale places were using these days. It was just an excuse to raise prices and lower quantity if you asked him, of course, no one ever did. Shaking his head, he knew he was stalling the inevitable and pulled his thoughts back to the present and looked up at Sydney. "Do you remember Moldano's brother, Ricky?"
"Yeah, he was up at State doing 5 to 10 for armed assault." Sydney replied sitting up straight, she didn't like the sound of this conversation. 'No, not one bit.'
"Well, it seemed some bleeding hearts on the parole board believed his story about being reformed after only 3 years and he is being released tomorrow. I came over as soon as I found out. They send us a list of everyone getting released or paroled in the State and it just hit my desk." Abrams paused in his explanation and watched Sydney for her reaction. He could see the tension etched in her face and her jaw was clenched tightly before she relaxed enough to speak slowly trying to control her voice.
"So, what does that have to do with us? They never were big fans of each other."
"Yeah well, you know the saying, 'blood is thicker than water', and word has it that Ricky isn't too fond of you for killing his brother. He was bragging that he would pay you a visit when he got out. Funny, those bleeding hearts never hear that stuff!" Abrams snorted at the injustice of the justice system. He had seen more than his share of bad people get away with just about everything in his career as a cop. It made him sick, but he kept trying to focus on his job and keep putting them away, and not think about the futility of the whole system.
"Sydney, what do we do?" Sam's voice cracked with the worry that Sydney knew would be there. Sydney reached over and took her hand her hers and held it on her lap.
"We wait to see if it was just prison bravado or what. There isn't much we can do." Sydney replied and grinned slightly. "Don't worry, it will be alright. I'll bet he was just showing off for his pals behind bars. He isn't going to want to do anything to jeopardize his parole and be sent back to finish out his full sentence." Sydney looked up at Abrams and flashed him a warning not to say anything. Abrams looked back at her with a look that said, 'who do you think you're kidding?', but kept his mouth shut and looked down into his empty mug.
"Is that right?"
Abrams didn't realize that Sam was addressing him until Sydney kicked him under the table. "Huh??"
"Is it true that he was probably just bragging and has no intention of coming after Sydney?" Sam's fear was just beginning to peak and after Abrams lapse of attention, she was just about positive that they were trying to hide something from her.
"Yeah, it's a possibility." Abrams replied and looked at Sydney seriously. He wasn't going to lie about this, no matter what. Sydney rolled her eyes and turned to Sam to reassure her again.
"No!" Sam spoke out and put a hand up to still any further talk from Sydney. "I'm not some stupid child that I need you to shield me from the truth. Now, we both know that the possibility of his coming here is real and I won't have you walking around trying to do this all on your own."
"She won't be on her own." Abrams spoke up causing both women to turn in his direction. "I'm going to personally see to that. You may not like it, but you two have just developed a shadow."
"See, we have our own security force. What more do we need." Sydney replied dryly, but didn't argue the fact with Abrams. For Sam's sake she hoped the added security wouldn't be needed.
Sydney watched the rearview mirror and smirked when she spotted Abrams as they turned the corner. It wasn't like he was hiding from her or anything, but he never could tail anyone worth a darn. Sydney could lose him easily of she had wanted to, but it would defeat the whole purpose of him being back there. She knew that Sam was worried about Ricky Moldano, and to tell the truth, she wasn't really happy either.
Ricky was a young hothead out to make a reputation for himself. He had grown up in the shadow of his brother , but still had yet to prove himself to others. Sydney just didn't want him making a name for himself at their expense. It had been three days since he had been released and Sydney knew that if he were going to strike, it would be soon. Without giving herself away to Sam, she kept her eyes roaming from mirror to mirror in constant vigil. She kept her head facing forward and only moved her eyes briefly between each mirror.
"Everything look okay back there?" Sam's voice came out of the quiet suddenly causing Sydney to jump. "Sorry."
"No problems so far." Sydney smiled at Sam sheepishly at getting caught. She thought she was pulling one over on the blonde, but she should have known better. Sam had always been better at casual observation.
Sydney turned into the driveway and watched as Abrams drove past the driveway and down the street. He had followed them home and now was headed to his own. Sydney pulled the car into the courtyard, but stopped short of putting it into the garage. The hair on the back of her neck stood on end. 'Something's not right.' She sat for a moment surveying the area trying to figure out what was bothering her. Recognizing what it was, she softly called over to Sam, "Stay here for a minute."
Sam's first instinct was to bristle at the order, but Sydney's mannerisms spiked a feeling of fear in her and she quietly nodded as she looked up at their darkened apartment. Instantly, Sam knew what had alerted Sydney. They had put a timer on a living room lamp so that they wouldn't have to enter a dark house.
"What are you doing?" Sam finally whispered as Sydney began to get out of the car.
"I'm coming around to your side, just wait for me to open the door." Sydney closed her door and walked around the car, trying not to alert anyone watching that she was aware of anything wrong. She tried to act casual and make it look like she always opened the door for Sam. Her senses couldn't pick up anything or anyone near, but the light being out had her warning sirens screaming. Sydney opened the door and stepped back allowing just enough room for Sam to get out of the car, but yet be shielded between it and Sydney.
"Stay behind me, okay?" Sydney looked down for Sam's acknowledgement. Sam's look told Sydney that she wasn't thrilled with the helpless role she was being thrust in to, but gave the taller woman the light nod she was waiting for. Sydney grinned in apology and turned to go up the stairs to the apartment leaving the car out in the courtyard. 'Just in case we have company, no sense in getting cornered in the garage.'
Sydney cautiously tested the front door and found it locked. She unlocked it and pushed it open before crossing the threshold. She sniffed the air for any unusual scent as she stepped into the darkened apartment. One hand softly ran along the wall and the other held Sam's hand as they made their way deeper into the apartment. Coming to a doorway, Sydney snaked her hand around the wall and felt a switch and pushed it up. The kitchen was instantly illuminated in light and she blinked to adjust her eyes to the glare as it flooded into the living room. Her heart sped up in anticipation, but there was nothing unusual in the room. Making their way through the other two rooms and flipping on lights as they went, the women found the apartment empty. Still something just didn't seem right to Sydney and when she went to the lamp with the timer, she understood why. Lying next to the lamp on the end table was the light bulb from the lamp. Picking it up, it was cold and when she screwed in back in, it instantly lit up. Sydney looked over at Sam questioningly, but when she saw her eyes widen in comprehension of the silent question, she shook her head emphatically. Sydney nodded without sound, neither woman was really interested in breaking the silence just yet. Looking around, they didn't see anything missing or out of the ordinary except for light bulb. Sydney began to relax slightly and slipped out of her jacket throwing it over onto the chair and headed toward the kitchen.
"I could use a drink, want one?" Sydney's voice echoed in the small room and Sam's heart skipped a beat. She quickly followed Sydney into the kitchen, unsure of why she still felt the need to stay close to her. Sydney opened the refrigerator door and quickly closed it. It had been open long enough for her to see that someone had left them a present. She looked back at Sam who was standing behind her and was relieved when she saw that Sam hadn't seen inside the refrigerator. Turning, she pulled Sam into her arms to forestall any further explorations in to the refrigerator. She kissed Sam lightly on the cheek and murmured, "Why don't we just go take a shower and get some rest?" Nuzzling Sam's neck, she hoped the blonde would agree so that she could get them both out of the kitchen. She closed her eyes, but could still see the raggedy fur and long tail of the rat that lay on the shelf. They would have to throw everything in there away now.
Sam wasn't sure what had inspired Sydney all of a sudden, but the idea of curling up safely in bed next to her lover was an excellent idea. Sydney let Sam walk ahead of her into the bedroom and left all the lights still burning. No way did she want to be in the dark with that thing still in the refrigerator, dead or alive. Sydney shivered at the thought of having to touch it, but knew she had to get rid of it before Sam saw it.
"Why don't you go first." Sydney offered and saw the slight hesitation in Sam's body. She knew Sam would rather she took one with her, but Sydney didn't think it was wise for both of them to get caught with their pants down, so to speak. "It's okay, I'll stay in the bedroom until you are finished and then I'll take a quick shower and we can get some sleep."
"Okay, just don't go anywhere. I still feel creepy." Sam admitted to Sydney and left the door to the bathroom open as she took her shower. Normally, as soon as they arrived home, Sam would head to take a shower and Sydney would either join her or relax in front of the television in the living room. Tonight, neither one had any desire to be apart, let alone when taking a shower.
Sydney heard the light knocking on the door to the patio and hesitated. When they started up again, she went to the closet and pulled down the locked box and retrieved her weapon. It seemed it was time she started carrying it again. Cautiously holding the weapon down at her side, she pushed the blinds apart slightly and saw the figure illuminated in the security light. Letting go the breath she was holding she quickly unlocked the French doors and opened them up.
"That's what I was about to ask you. I came around on my rounds and saw every light was on, everything okay?" Abrams stood in the doorway looking around the small apartment and then back at Sydney.
"It's seems okay now, but go look in the refrigerator." Sydney followed Abrams into the kitchen and related how the light bulb was lying on the coffee table removed from the lamp and then she found the present. Abrams opened the refrigerator door and Sydney got a better look at their little friend. She hadn't noticed that its head was barely attached until Abrams grabbed it by the tail to pull it out. Hesitating, he turned to Sydney and noticed the gun in her hand. "It's already dead." Chuckling he looked around and held up the dead rodent. "Where is your garbage pail?"
Sydney opened the doors under the sink to retrieve the black-lined bucket and thrust it to him, not wanting to get too close to the precariously dangling rodent.
"Seems like you got your first house warming present. Any guesses who the donor was?" Abrams grinned over at Sydney as he tied the black bag closed and took it with him. Sydney slipped the gun into her pocket feeling foolish and followed him to the front door.
"It looks like everything is secure outside. I'll hang around out there a bit more, but I don't think he will be coming back tonight. This confirms what we thought, we better keep our eyes open from here on in, and…you might want to start carrying that again." Abrams nodded toward the bulge in her pocket.
Sydney nodded, "That’s a given after tonight. Thanks for taking care of the trash. I didn't want Sam to see it."
Abrams nodded and slipped out the door and down the steps. Sydney watched as he crossed the lighted courtyard and disappeared around the corner of the pool house. Making sure all the doors were locked, she headed back to the kitchen and began to throw food items into a clean garbage bag. Hearing the water shut off in the shower Sydney ran to the bedroom just as Sam was coming out of the bathroom. The tall woman quickly jumped onto the bed and grabbed a magazine, trying to appear nonchalant. Sam looked at her curiously, but didn't say anything as Sydney got up went to take her shower. Passing by she lightly kissed the blonde on the lips and proceeded into the bathroom.
Sam picked up the magazine that Sydney had left lying on the bed and shook her head, now she knew for sure that Sydney had been up to something. Cosmopolitan was certainly not Sydney's magazine of choice. "I wonder what she was doing?' Cautiously, she headed out to the kitchen and saw the full garbage bag sitting in the corner and opened the refrigerator. "Strange time to be cleaning out the refrigerator." Sam poured herself a glass of cranberry juice and drank it before heading back to the bedroom.
Sydney came out of the shower to find Sam curled up in bed already asleep. She put on her robe and slippers and padded back to the kitchen to throw out the garbage. She tied off the bag and headed down the front steps and put the bag into the canister and closing the lid tightly. Tired, she made her way back to bed and crawled in beside Sam and pulled her close. Wrapping her arms around the blonde she pushed the sight in the refrigerator out of her mind and fell asleep.
Things went on as usual for next week with the exception that Sydney jumped at every loud noise and spent most of the night prowling the house. Her lack of sleep was finally beginning to take it's toll and when Sam found Sydney sound asleep on the couch in her office, she pulled a throw over her and left orders that no one disturb her.
The Friday night crowd was pouring in as usual and Sam was busy trying to keep up with reservations and seating the patrons. She looked up over the waiting guests that overflowed the bar and waiting area. It was going to be along night, she was 20 min. behind in reservations and had to turn others away without reservations. The front doors open and in walked a group of men and the leader headed confidently to the desk.
"A table for my friends and I, and nothing near the kitchen." The man was in his early thirties, cocky with vaguely familiar dark looks. He looked her over thoroughly without any hesitation or attempt to hide it. His smile and attitude told of someone use to getting what he wanted when he wanted it.
"Do you have a reservation?" Sam asked briskly. She did not like his arrogance, nor his attitude. The dark man looked over at his friends and chuckled before looking back at Sam. He looked directly into her eyes and replied, "I don't think I need one."
Sam stiffened at the audacity of jerk and replied with a terse smile, "I'm sorry, but we are booked solid tonight. I can't seat you without a reservation."
"Well, maybe you should check your book again. The name is Moldano, Ricky Moldano. I think you knew my brother." Ricky looked sharply at the blonde and did his best to intimidate her.
Sam's breath caught in her throat and now she knew why he looked familiar to her. Taking a deep breath to calm herself down, she kept her eyes level with his and did everything in her power not to flinch or show fear. "We are still booked solid and I don't have any openings this evening. If you would like to book for tomorrow night, I'd be more than happy to make the arrangements."
Ricky Moldano leaned over the desk to get closer to Sam and whispered harshly, "Big mistake little girl. Do you know who I am?"
Sam looked and forced a smile on her face and replied, "No, I happy to say I have not had the privilege of your acquaintance."
The dark man's eyes narrowed and he sneered at Sam, but took on a lighter tone for her friends benefit, "Then you don't know what you are missing."
"So you say." Sam replied in a dull tone, belaying the quivering in her stomach. She wished that Sydney were here right not, but knew that if she had been, things would be worse than they were right now.
"Now, about that table…"
"I think you mean for tomorrow night, don't you." Sydney's voice came low and seriously from behind Sam causing the blonde to jump slightly and Sydney put her hand on her back to calm her.
Ricky Moldano stood up trying to stretch her 5'6" frame to its full height, but still falling short of the raven-haired beauty behind the desk. "So, you must be Sydney. My brother spoke of you before his passing." His voice was low and menacing, but Sydney didn't flinch or show any emotion whatsoever on her face.
"Highly, I'm sure." Sydney's voice was laced with sarcasm as she stared the man down.
"But, of course. He had the same high regard that I do." Ricky's cocky demeanor was beginning to grate on Sam's nerves, but she held her peace and let Sydney handle the situation.
"Well, then the feelings are mutual." Sydney smiled a tight smile and looked down at the reservation book. "We can squeeze you in tomorrow at 5 PM, but I'm afraid that is about all we have open at the moment." Sydney knew that offering a reservation that early was another put down for the man in front of his friends. She also knew that she shouldn't be baiting him, but she would be damned if she was going to play games like she did with his brother. 'Look where that had gotten her,' she though. 'No, this time, we are going to push the issue and get this resolved quickly.' She would just have to be extremely cautious and watch out for Sam this time.
"Another time perhaps. You can count on it." Moldano turned and walked away with his friends in tow. Sydney could tell by his stride that he was one unhappy camper. 'Well, too freaking bad!'
Saturday night was quiet with no hint of trouble. Around 10 pm Sydney left the kitchen to check on Sam and maybe catch a quick bite with her. She stopped short when she saw Moldano sitting at a table with three other men. Approaching the desk, she leaned down to talk into Sam's ear. "How did he get in here?"
"One of the other guy's made a reservation yesterday. We had a cancellation and when he called I didn't know it was for him!" Sydney could tell that Sam was agitated and put her hand on the woman's arm.
"Its okay, just let him eat and he will leave. No big deal." Sydney looked sincerely into Sam's eyes and smiled trying to reassure her of something she herself did not feel. "What do you say we take a break and have some dinner together?"
Sam smiled up at Sydney thankful that her lover could sense hen she needed her. "Sounds good."
Sydney led Sam toward their table in the back. Sam said down sighing, it felt good to sit down for a bit. She had been on her feet all afternoon and evening. "Tired?" Sydney asked looking down into green eyes.
"A bit. You look exhausted." Sam could see the circles around Sydney's eyes and she knew they were from more than just being overworked today. Her nightly prowling had lasted almost the entire night last night.
"I'm okay." Sydney smiled and looked out over the room, glancing quickly at Moldano's table. The men were enjoying themselves and drinking quite heavily. Sydney knew that if they kept up, she would have to do something about them.
"Sydney, you need to get some sleep." Sam's worried voice brought Sydney back to the conversation at the table and she looked over grinning. "Don't worry, I'll be fine."
"You won't be if you keep this up. Think about it, if anything happens how affective are you going to be if you can't see straight?"
"You are right. I promise, tonight I won't get out of bed once." Sydney tried to reassure Sam and she knew she had a valid point.
"I can arrange that!" Sam whispered sexily and looked over at hooded blue eyes and widened.
"Ooh, incentive, just the ticket!"
The two women continued their light sparing until one of the waiters came to the table caring a bottle of champagne. Sydney looked up quirking an eyebrow questioningly.
"The gentlemen over at that table asked me to bring this to you. What do you want me to do?" Alex was one of their best employees and he was also the most in tuned with what was going on. He looked over at the men at the table with veiled disgust before looking back at his bosses.
"How about pouring it over his head?" Sam offered lightly and smiled when Alex chuckled in response.
"Works for me, but why waste a good bottle?" Sydney replied grinning, "No, why don't you just take it back and tell him we said, 'no thank you'."
"You got it!" Alex replied cheerfully and made his way over to the other table. After relaying the message, Moldano waved him off and Alex took the bottle back to the kitchen before returning to take his bosses.
"He wasn't very happy when I told him you weren't interested in his gift. I can't repeat what he said, my mother doesn't like me using that kind of language." Alex smiled widely causing the women to laugh.
"Well, that's taken care of what shall we eat tonight?" Sydney looked over at Sam while Alex went to get their coffee.
"What's the specialty tonight?" Sam asked Sydney, neither one needed a menu as they had it memorized by now.
"It's not on the menu!" Sydney replied huskily and leaned over to look at Sam over the candlelight.
"Hmm, I think I'll have that for dessert." Sam smiled back at Sydney and winked. "But, I'll need something to sustain me until then." Alex returned with their coffees and set them down and waited for their orders.
"Okay, how about seafood fettuccini. I happen to know the chef at this place and it is excellent. I highly recommend it." Sam nodded her agreement and Alex quickly headed to the kitchen to get their food.
The meal was enjoyable and they discussed the candidates they had interviewed throughout the week for the manager position. Sam had to admit she was excited about the prospect of having time free with Sydney. She was beginning to feel like they ate and breathed the club and only went home for a few hours of sleep each night. Sunday's were there favorite time to lounge around and just be together, but lately Sydney was becoming restless with not having time to do anything more than watch television.
"What do you say on Sunday, we forego watching the football game and go out somewhere, just the two of us." Sydney suggested as they finished their coffee.
"Sure, what did you have in mind?"
"I don't know, just something to get us out and about." Sydney replied trying to come up with some suggestions. "We could go to a movie, or…"
"What about going up to the Sunfest?" Sam suggested. She had heard the advertisement for the festival for the past month. They use to go every year, until they broke up.
"Yeah! That would be great. It's been forever since we've gone to one." Sydney was excited about the prospect of going to the Festival, held every year. "I wonder who the entertainment is this Sunday. Doesn't matter, it will be fun anyway."
"Maybe we can get some pictures to hang in the house too." Sam smiled at the thought of shopping. She loved any kind of shopping. Looking over at the look on Sydney's face she just chuckled and said, "Deal with it!" This was one passion that they did not share. Sydney would be happy to order from a catalog than to have to actually go shopping. It was a chore to get her to go to any store except the grocery store. Sam had a feeling it was because Sydney feared she wouldn't get her snacks if she didn't go too. Both women were chuckling over their ongoing shopping joke and didn't notice Ricky until he was at the table.
"Good evening ladies."
Sydney looked quickly and her eyes narrowed when they met the snake's brother's eyes. Sam's hand quickly went to Sydney's knee to keep her calm and not make a scene.
"I don't want to intrude on what is obviously a private moment. My brother didn't exaggerate when he spoke of you two." Ricky smiled, but the smile never reached his eyes and Sydney kept her focus on his dark eyes and never broke the connection.
"Can I help you?" Her tone of voice reflected her dislike of the man and she made no attempt to hide that fact.
"No, not at all. I just wanted to stop by and tell you how much I enjoyed myself this evening and that you will be seeing me again soon. I have been busy taking care of my brothers business, but I soon I will have a message from my brother for you." Ricky chuckled lightly and turned to walk back toward his friends. His bravado showing in each step he took.
"I can't believe him, he just threatened us." Sam voice was barely a whisper.
"Yeah, but he made one big mistake." Sydney replied steadily.
"Huh?" Sam looked at Sydney confused and the look on the tall woman's face sent shivers down her spine.
"He told us."
"Sydney you can't go back there. This is crazy." Sam paced back and forth in front of the woman. Sydney sat sprawled in the overstuffed chair in their home waiting and watching the blonde go back and forth.
"What other choice to do I have. I'm not going to sit here and hide until one day he decides to make his move. I've got to strike first and he all but told me where he could be found." Sydney tried to reason with Sam and she knew that the woman's fears were not unfounded. What she planned on doing bordered on ludicrous, but what other choice did she have? The only thing she could hope for is to have the element of surprise on her side. She had called Abrams and he was on his way over. She knew better than to go in alone and she didn't want Sam anywhere near that factory again.
A knock on the door interrupted any further conversation and Sydney got up to answer it. Opening the door wide, she stepped back and let Abrams in.
"You ready?" Abrams stood near the door looking at Sydney and Sam and then back to Sydney with a questioning look on his face. Sydney shook her head no and replied, "Yes, I'm ready."
Sam threw her hands up in the air and sighed. "I give up! You are both crazy, but if you think I'm going to sit here and wait while you go traipsing down there, think again. I'm coming too!" Sam gave Sydney a challenging look that made the taller woman stop in her tracks and think for a moment.
Abrams waited hesitantly as he watched the silent exchange between the two women. He already knew what the answer would be and hoped that Sydney did too.
Sydney looked into green eyes and realized the truth. If she were ever to get over the past, she would have to let Sam be her partner and not her ward. Sam needed to stand on her own as an equal. "Okay, but you stay close behind me and do exactly what I say."
Sam nodded to the concession and went into the bedroom to get her things. Pulling the locked box from the closet, she retrieved her gun and loaded it. She put on her jacket and shoved the gun in the pocket and went back to the living room where the other two waited.
"Ready?" Sydney’s question went deeper than just the surface request and when Sam didn't hesitate to nod, Sydney took a breath and turned to Abrams. "Let's go."
The three of them piled into Abrams car and silently headed toward the factory district. They parked a block away so as to not announce their arrival. Before, exiting the car Abrams turned to the women. "I'm going to go around the front, you two go through the back way. The same way you did before, Sydney. I doubt Ricky knows exactly what went down the last time so it should be pretty safe."
Sydney nodded and turned to Sam one last time. "You can stay here and be ready to drive if you want."
"No! I'm going with you." Sam replied emphatically and the jut of her chin told Sydney that there was no dissuading the blonde. Secretly, Sydney was glad because she wasn't really ready to go into that building again alone. "Okay, let's go."
The three figures moved stealthily through the darkness toward the factory. At the back they split up and Abrams headed around front while the women moved toward the shipping area. Sydney looked up at the window she had crawled in previously and for some reason didn't want to make that trip again. Instead, she headed toward the loading dock and checked for another way in. Hearing the scrape of a door, Sydney quickly pulled Sam into the shadows and held her breath as the side door opened and a man walked out. He crossed the alley and quickly got into his car and drove off. Sydney and Sam waited a few minutes before coming out from behind the crates where they were hiding. Sydney leaned down to Sam's ear and whispered to her. "I just want you to know that I love you very much. Please be careful tonight." Sam turned and pulled Sydney's face closer until she could barely see the worried blue eyes and kissed her soundly, letting her know that she felt the same way. Sydney motioned toward the door the man had exited and they made their way from behind the crates and quietly toward the door. Sydney gently tugged on the door and held her breath when it proved to be unlocked. Pulling it slowly toward her, she took a peek inside and didn't see anything. Cautiously, she stuck her head around the corner and looked deeper into the factory. The loading area was deserted, but sounds could be heard coming from the front of the building. Sydney looked at Sam and nodded her head for the blonde to follow her. Sam acted as Sydney's shadow and followed her every movement and step. She kept a look out behind them to make sure that they were not being set up in a trap. Confident that things were okay, they moved slowly toward the voices.
They came up behind two opened crates and Sydney peeked inside. The boxes were loaded with coffee beans, but lying on top were bags of white powder. Sydney knew instantly that Ricky had taken over where his brother had left off and was importing more than coffee again. Moving to the next row of crates, Sydney stopped dead when she heard a familiar voice. She could feel Sam's breath on her neck and wished that the woman had stayed safely with the car.
"Why should I believe you?" Moldano's voice rang out angrily. "You are the one that betrayed my brother, you and those two little puntas."
Sydney and Sam watched from their hiding place as Moldano's men held Abrams by his arms. It looked like Moldano had already started working his revenge on Abram's as the man's face was cut and bleeding.
"Listen, you have me. I'm the one responsible for your brother's death. The two women were just pawns in the game, they had nothing to do with it." Abrams wasn't giving in under the onslaught of Moldano's fists. They had caught him off-guard when he entered the warehouse and now, he was willing to use his life to save Sydney's and ultimately, Sam's.
Sydney listed to the exchange and closed her eyes to the realization of what Abrams was trying to do. He was trying to negotiate his life for theirs and there was no way that Sydney was about to let that happen. "Of all the stupid, bull headed things. He still thinks he has a debt to repay. I'll be damned if I'm going him sacrifice anything, let alone his life!'
Sydney turned to Sam and motioned for her to move closer. Sydney whispered low into Sam's ear, she could barely hear the words, but when she did she moved to refuse and Sydney gripped her closer and pleaded. "You have to go. If we don't get some backup, we are all lost. We can't do this alone. I need you to come through for me this time. If I leave, then Abram's is totally alone and I can't do that. Please understand." Sam pulled back when Sydney released her and looked into the pleading blue eyes, she knew that Sydney was right no matter what fear she felt in her heart. Sam closed her eyes and nodded before opening tear laded green eyes for one more look. Sydney half-smiled at Sam and pulled her into her arms for a quick hug before pushing Sam back toward the way they had just come. Sam didn't look back but made her way as quickly and as quietly as she could. Once she slipped out the back door into the chilly night air, she shivered and took off at a run. She made it to the unlocked car and got inside and locked the doors. She picked up Abram's police radio and hit every button requesting back up until she reached someone. She gave them directions and made her way back toward the factory. She knew that she would have to wait for the police to arrive and show them the way before she could get back to Sydney. The minutes seemed to drag on as she waited and when a squad car finally arrived, she breathed a sigh of relief and explained to the officers what was going on. One of the officers headed around to the front as the other made his way to the back door when a barrage of shots rang out. Sam raced to enter the building only to be caught up in the arms of the police officer.
"No, stay out here. We will handle this." He ordered before he slipped through the door. Another lone shot was heard and Sam ran for the open door and slipped into the now silent building.
Sydney watched Sam as she made her way steadily back toward the rear of the building. When she could see the blonde no more, she turned toward the men in front.
Sydney surveyed the layout and concluded that there were three of them. She knew that she might be able to get one or two, but she would never be able to take all three. She also knew that she didn't have the time nor the luxury to wait.
"So, why should I make any deal with you. I have you and I can get the women too. Then everything that stood in my brother's way won't stand in mine." Moldano punched Abram's in the stomach for good measure and watched smiling as the big man doubled over trying to catch his breath.
Abram's gasped for air as his muscles spasm in pain. He knew that he would have to try another tactic, little brother was no better than the older. "Because I'm the only one that can make sure your little operation here doesn't get disturbed."
Moldano stopped for a moment to consider this fact and Abram's knew that he had scored a point. "You have to admit, until your brother went after Sydney, I did a good job of keeping his business running smoothly without outside interference." Abram's was willing to sell his soul once more if it meant saving Sydney and Sam.
"This is true. But, what guarantee do I have that you will not betray me like you did my brother?" Moldano lifted Abram's head back by his hair and glared into his face.
"You leave Sydney alone and there will be no reason for me to betray you. Your brother would still be here if he had only left her alone. It's the same deal I'm offering you. You leave the woman alone and I'll make sure you are taken care of." Abram's kept his eyes focused on the black pools before him and didn't flinch or blink until Moldano released his grip and stepped back.
"Hmm, I need more concessions than that, you see I already have someone willing to do what you are offering without the added baggage you have. So, you see I don't think I need your services any longer." Moldano stepped back and nodded toward his men. They simultaneously dropped Abram's and stepped back toward their boss drawing their guns.
Sydney didn't think, but just reacted and stood up behind the boxes. "Oh, I don't think so, you want me little man here I am." The three men whirled around to face Sydney and opened fire as they ducked for cover. Sydney hit one of the men square in the chest and continued firing at the other two. Abram's scrambled to retrieve the gun he had strapped to his leg and opened fire hitting one man from behind, dropping him where he stood. Sydney emptied her last bullet and felt a burning rip through her side. Grabbing herself she fell sideways out from the cover of her boxes and looked up at the smiling face of Ricky Moldano as he pointed the barrel of his gun into her face.
"This is for my brother, punta." Sydney closed her eyes as images from the previous time in the warehouse flashed through her mind and finally rested on a green-eyed blonde, and an instant thought flooded her, 'I'm sorry, Sam'.
A lone shot rang out and Sydney's eyes flew open to see Moldano's face twitch once before he fell forward, landing with a thud before Sydney. Still lying on the floor behind him was Abram's with his gun pointed at Moldano. He quickly got to his feet and made his way toward Sydney. "Where are you hit?"
"The side." Sydney gasped as the adrenaline rushed out of her and the real pain set in. "Stay still." Sydney nodded and closed her eyes trying to will the burning pain to ease.
Sam reached the scene just behind the officer and didn't see Sydney until the officer bent down to check on Moldano. Sam looked over and saw Abram's holding Sydney in his arms with a look that ripped Sam's heart in two. Sydney's eyes were closed and her face was deathly pale.
"NO!" Sam screamed and ran toward her lover and threw herself down on her knees to take Sydney into her arms. Abrams released Sydney to Sam, but kept pressure on the wound and called out to the officers as they began to flood the area. "We need transport." The one officer called back, "It's on its way already." Abrams nodded and looked over at Sam. "It's okay, she is going to be okay. It only grazed her side."
Sam looked from Abrams back to Sydney's pale face as blue eyes opened and a ghost of a grin appeared. "You ain't getting rid of me this easy!"
Sam cried out in relief and kissed Sydney's forehead as she held her gently until the ambulance arrived. Sydney fought with the need to be taken in one of the ambulances to the hospital, but finally relented and let the attendants to their job. Abram's sent an officer for his car so that he and Sam could follow the ambulance to the hospital.
All in all, Moldano and one of his men were dead, one other wounded, and three captured by police as they attempted to flee the warehouse when the gunfire erupted. Abrams would get credit for one of the largest drug busts in the county that would put him back in the good graces of his department. More importantly, Sydney and Sam were going to be alright and would not have anymore threats hanging over their heads. And, for what it was worth, Abrams had repaid a debt that Sydney never felt he owed. To Abrams, he would always be around if the two should ever need him, their friendship was for life.
Sydney's wound was cleaned and dressed and she was sent home with antibiotics to avoid infection. Sydney bit her tongue and let Sam mother her for two days before putting her foot down and returning to work. Sam continued to watch Sydney like a hawk, not letting her lift anything or do anything but the paperwork in her office. Finally, a week later as they lay in bed Sydney turned to face Sam. "We need to talk."
"What? Are you in pain?" Sam asked quickly, the concern etched clearly on her face.
"No…no! I'm fine. This is what we need to talk about. It's been over a week since this happened and you still act like any minute I'm going to keel over. What's going on?" Sydney pulled Sam into her arms and could sense the woman's reluctance. Tugging her chin up to look at her Sydney softly spoke. "Come on, talk to me."
Sam closed her eyes, trying to harness her emotions before looking into the blue eyes before her. She knew her actions had been wearing on Sydney's nerves lately, but she just couldn't help herself. Taking a deep breath she opened her eyes and looked into deep blue. "I'm sorry. I know I've been acting like a baby lately. I’m just so afraid of losing you, you're all I have."
Sydney smiled realizing finally where the problem was. "Hey, I'm fine and I’m not going anywhere. Besides, you are not alone. You have Gwen and, I think, you still have your mother."
"You must be joking! Gwen okay, but my mother?" Sam looked up at Sydney to see if she was serious or not. She saw the twinkle in Sydney's eye and knew that something was up. "Okay, give!"
"Well…." Sydney began playing light kisses on the end of Sam's nose and lips to prolong the agony for the blonde. When Sam began to squirm, she chuckled and continued. "I just so happen to know that a certain party made a reservation for tomorrow night."
"My parents are coming to the club?" Sam was almost speechless. She had invited her mother, but had never really thought that she would actually accept the invitation.
"I don't know about both your parents, but I do know that your mother called and booked for a party of six." Sydney continued her assault on Sam's face with her lips and teasingly nipped at her lips until Sam began to respond between sentences.
"Wow, tomorrow night, huh?" Sam murmured, her senses quickly succumbing to her lover's actions.
"Un-huh." Sydney replied before her lips were taken over by a very aroused blonde's. "Should be interesting."
"Just watch!" Sam replied and rolled over on top of Sydney.
"I meant tomorrow night." Sydney chuckled and let her hands run down the length of Sam's body.
"Oh yeah…that too!" Sam's reply was quickly lost in the heat of the moment and her parents were [tjg1]forgotten.
Sam paced nervously waiting the arrival of her parents. She had even dressed up for work that day and wore a simple black dress and heels instead of her usual informal attire of slacks and a sweater. The club was noted for it's casual dress, which is why it was such a favorite among the younger crowd, anything from jeans to business suits could be seen on any given evening.
Sam returned from seating a party to find her mother standing in front of the desk waiting with five other women. She looked around confused and finally blurted out, "Where's father?'
"I left him at home. He's such a stick in the mud. The girls and I have decided to have a ladies night out. Sam looked around at the smiling faces of her mother's friends and finally realized that her mother was dressed funny. Gone were her usual heels and pearls. Her mother actually had on a pair of jeans, designer jean, but jeans nonetheless. Sam couldn't remember the last time she had seen her mother dressed, so…so casual. Sam realized that she was dressed more like her mother tonight than her mother was. Her face must have registered the shock and her mother smiled. "It's the new me…what do you think?"
"I…I like it!" Sam replied enthusiastically and began to feel more relaxed in her mother's presence.
"Good! Because I think some changes are in order. Your father can either change with the times or he can stay home." Her mother smiled at her friends who all nodded enthusiastically in agreement. Sam grinned at the thought of her mother causing mass rebellion at the country club. She was definitely leading the sheep astray.
"What brought all this on?" Sam asked curiously. It has been too long since she had seen any spark of life in her mother and it was a bit overwhelming.
"Actually, you did my dear. Now, don't get me wrong. I still don't approve of your lifestyle, but I realized that a lot has changed since my day and you either change with it, or you grow old and stagnant. Honey, I'm too young and too pretty to become old and stagnant! You know your father wasn't always the way he is now. I hope he sees what he is becoming before it is too late for him too." Rita touched her hand to Sam's cheek and patted it tenderly. "Now, honey, why don't you show us to our table so the party can begin."
"Here...here!" The group chimed in and followed Sam and Rita to their table. Sam had made sure that she had saved the best table for her mother, but now she wasn't so sure if she wanted to put them in the middle of the room. She wasn't sure what these women were capable of tonight! Laughing, she introduced them to their waiter, whom they descended upon like a pack of love-struck teenagers. He looked back at Sam nervously and laughing, she told him, "Its okay, I don't think they bite". 'But then again…" she thought as she turned to go find Sydney.
Sydney and Sam sat in the bar watching the women have a good time. After dinner they had moved to the bar where the dancing was and were having the time of their lives, dancing with anyone who would ask and even each other.
"If their husbands could see them tonight, there would be mass coronaries all over the place. We'd have to have ambulances lined up along the curb!" Sam laughed and then placed a hand over her mouth and looked up at Sydney devilishly. "Maybe I should take pictures to show my father what it's like to be alive!"
"Sam, you are bad!" Sydney admonished and thew her arm around Sam's shoulder smiling. "And that's why I love ya baby!"
"To the bone...honey…bad to the bone!"