The flight to San Francisco was a short one and the gals were a little giddy upon arrival, having had two additional mimosas before the plane landed. They were met outside the baggage terminal by a limousine, just as Alex had requested and whisked off to the Marriott to unload their suitcases and get settled in.
Alex was recognized immediately at the front desk of the hotel and welcomed. She signed in and arranged to have a rental car delivered to the hotel garage for the time of their stay. The bellboy took their luggage and showed them to the room. He opened the door onto a beautiful suite overlooking the Bay.
Samantha's eyes lit up like a child's experiencing Christmas for the first time. She went directly to the window and looked out. "It's beautiful, Alex. And look," she continued as she scanned the room with her eyes, "There's a fruit basket, flowers and champagne. You must be a very important guest here? First we get picked up in a limo and now this! We've stayed at some fairly nice places on family vacations, but we never got amenities like this!" She continued into the other room. "Oh, look a Jacuzzi tub in the bathroom! This is going to be great!" She looked over at the dark-haired woman who was standing by the door smiling at her.
"I've probably been here enough times over the last ten years to have bought this suite. But, it is nice to be appreciated, isn't it." She beamed at Sam. "Come on, let's get settled in. I need to give Sonny a call and let him know we've arrived. He expects to see me a little before noon. Do you want to join me or stay in the room and rest up for your shopping trip this afternoon?" The taller woman asked smiling.
"Why don't I just stay here and get all our stuff put away and check out the hotel. I'll just be in the way at your meeting and feel like a third wheel." The smaller woman answered.
"Sounds like a deal to me. When you get hungry just dial up for room service or if you want to, go down to any of the eating places. I've already arranged for either one of us to be able to charge anything purchased in the hotel to the room. I should only be a couple hours, the gym isn't far from here," Alex concluded as she picked up the phone and dialed her client.
"Hi, Sonny. We're here and all in one piece." She waited smiling as Sonny went through his little song and dance about how happy he was she was here and how he couldn't wait to meet her new friend. When she had about enough of his gibbering, she interrupted with, "Sonny, I'll be there in about 15 minutes. We can continue then. I have to take Samantha shopping this afternoon, so the sooner we get started the sooner I can get back here." She waited for his response, said goodbye and hung up the telephone.
"Okay, I'm all set. How 'bout you?" she asked Samantha.
"Sure, I'll be just fine. I've got plenty to keep me occupied until you get back." Sam answered.
"I hope you can shop quickly. We'll only have about four hours to shop before we'll need to get back here and get ready. Knowing Sonny he probably has an eight o'clock reservation. He prefers late dining."
"No problem, I'm not that fussy when it comes to clothes. I'm not a real shopper's shopper." Samantha smiled over at Alex. "You go ahead and do what you need to. I'll be just fine." She added as she walked over to where Alex was standing and gave her a hug. "Thanks for bringing me, Alex. This is going to be a marvelous few days. I just know it."
Alex hugged her back and tilted up her face to give her a kiss. "I know it too, Sweetheart. I'll make sure of it." She said as she hugged her one last time and started out the door. "Make sure you keep this locked, you're not in Laguna now," was the last bit of advice she gave before closing the door.
Samantha looked after her and sighed then spun around the room barely able to contain her happiness. "Hello, Frisco, Hello." She sung to the window. "I won't leave my heart here, but I'm sure I'll make many pleasant memories."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Alex walked into Ray and Sonny's establishment, Eternally Buff, and went directly over to the receptionist. "Hi, Tommy. It's been quite a while. Have you been keeping those two in line?"
"Hi, Alex. It's good to see you! What did you do to your hair? It looks fabulous on you. You look great, girl, something must be going you way." The young man said with a friendly handshake. "You want me to buzz Sonny or you want to just go on in?"
"I'll just go into the office. He always makes such a fuss -- it gets embarrassing. Is Ray here, also? I need to see the two of them together this time," Alex said.
"Yes, I think he's upstairs. Do you want me to have him meet you in Sonny's office?" The receptionist questioned.
"No. That's okay, I just wanted to make sure he was in the building. I think we will all be going up to the second floor. I'm here to check out the new climbing wall specs." Alex informed him.
"Oh. Okay, Alex. It's really good to see you," he said as he picked up a ringing phone and waved her on.
Alex knocked gently on Sonny's door but didn't wait for an answer. She opened the door and spotted her favorite client sitting with his back to the door doing what he did best, talking on the phone. He spun his chair around to admonish whoever it was who had entered his private domain without permission, until he saw Alex standing in front of his desk looking down on him, a crooked half-smile on her face.
"I'll call you back later. Gotta go. Important business just stepped into my office. Bye." He quickly ended his telephone conversation.
"My God, Girl. What have you done to yourself?" He almost screamed. "You cut off all your hair!!! Turn around. Let me see." He kept on as he motioned for Alex to give him a better view of the entire haircut. "I have to say that it suits you just fine. You are one lucky girl, Alex, being able to wear that mane of yours any way you choose." He giggled, patting his slightly thinning head of blond hair. "So, did you come alone or do you have someone waiting outside for me to meet?" He questioned his old friend.
"Samantha stayed at the hotel," Alex answered. "She wanted to wait until this evening to meet the two of you. I'm afraid she doesn't know what she's getting herself into, hanging around with me." Alex smiled at her friend. "So, shall we go take a look at this new endeavor of yours?" she asked with an upturned eyebrow.
"Sure, sure. Ray's upstairs right now with one of the representatives of the company your firm subcontracted to do this for us. We talked to Marge first, but you know we would much rather have your input on such a large investment. Ray wants it to take up the entire length of one of the walls and he wants to put in a skylight on the ceiling." Sonny went on. "But, let's just go on up and we can all talk there." He grabbed Alex's arm and strolled with her out of the office and over to the elevator.
Ray was upstairs talking to another man when they arrived. He glanced over and saw Alex and Sonny walking in his direction and did a double take. For all the years he had known Alex she had never changed her hairstyle; it had always been long and flowing and down to the middle of her back. The gorgeous six-foot-tall woman walking beside his lover had a completely new look. He didn't think any hairstyle would look bad on Alex, after all she was one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen, but he was pleasantly surprised to see that this new look was even more stunning than her old one. On top of that, there was a difference in her walk today, a lightness that he was not used to seeing. She actually looked happy and he had not seen that look on her face for more than three years. He smiled broadly at the two people approaching him and waved them on over.
"Alex, you look marvelous," Ray began the conversation as he gave his friend a hug. "I love your new hair cut, it really fits you," he continued. "I hope you had a good flight up and thanks for coming on such short notice." Then he turned his thoughts to business. "So, has Sonny filled you in on all that has been going on up to this point?"
"Hi, to you, too. Thanks for the compliment. The trip was very smooth. And yes, Sonny has pretty much filled me in. It looks like you have things clearly mapped out up to this point. What exactly do you want me to look at and why the urgency, Ray?" Alex asked.
"It's just that this is such a huge endeavor, Alex. I want to make sure we have everything right and your opinion has always been crucial. You know what you're doing and we want to make sure that we are doing the right thing. So, why don't we all go down to the office and hammer the details out until I no longer have this empty pit feeling in my stomach when I think about this change," Ray said. He turned to the other man and said something about seeing him again in the morning then the three friends went back downstairs to Sonny's office.
After they had been hashing over measurements, equipment and costs for almost two hours, Alex told her friends that she really needed to get back to the hotel. "I'm not alone, remember?" She started, "I told Samantha I would be gone only a couple hours. We really have to do some shopping for tonight. Sonny, what do you think about taking her down around Union Square, there's a Neiman Marcus in that area if I remember correctly?"
"Yeah, Neiman Marcus is there and so is Saks and Macy's. You should be able to find something out of all of those, unless this new little sweetie is hard to please." Sonny chimed in.
"Sonny, don't get catty. I don't think Samantha will be hard to please at all. In fact, I'll probably be the one who is hard to satisfy," Alex said smiling at her friend.
"Now let me get our schedules coordinated before I take off." She turned to Ray and asked, "You'll need me here at what time tomorrow? And how long do you think it will take?"
"I'd say be here right after breakfast and we can probably let you go by lunch time. Then we can do the same thing again on Friday and everything should be . . ."
"Wait a minute," Alex interrupted. "Sonny told me I would only be needed for two days. I promised Samantha I would take her sightseeing all day Friday."
Ray gave Sonny a look and Sonny in returned shrugged his shoulders and gave Ray a weak smile. "Okay. I see how this is playing out." Ray went on, "Alex, I really need you here Friday. Everything should be in place and we will need to go over the finishing touches. I have the people all set to be here all three days starting at eight o'clock sharp so that it can all be completed by Friday. But . . ." He stopped in mid-sentence as Alex was giving him a look that would have dropped anyone other than a friend dead in their tracks.
"What's the big deal, Alex? Why don't you just let Sonny change your flight back home to Sunday night instead of Friday? I know your people can't be working on your clinic over the weekend. That would give you two extra days to do your sightseeing excursions. Does your friend have pressing business down in the Laguna that can't wait until Monday?" he asked.
"Ray, I don't know. I have to talk this over with Samantha. First I asked her to come up here on the spur of the moment and now you want us to stay another two days. I can't keep changing plans on her without first asking her opinion." Alex sighed.
"Oh, come on girl," Sonny chimed in, "If she can't be flexible with you she can't be much of a keeper."
"Watch that mouth of yours Sonny, you're already in deep shit. Don't make me come over there and do something we'll both regret." Alex said giving him a look that made him rustled through the papers on his desk looking busy.
"Alex, don't get so touchy. You know how Sonny is." Ray interjected. "But wouldn't it be nice if we could all go out Saturday night and just relax? You know like we used to -- have some fun. We could go down on Polk to some of the bars or go to Castro.
"Hey, guys, go easy. Samantha's just come out. Castro might be a little too much for her this first weekend," Alex started to protest.
"Nonsense, silly girl." Sonny came back into the conversation. "We'll find a nice little drag show to take her to and loosen her up. It will be a scream. Come on, Alex. For old time's sake. We haven't seen you have a really good time since you dropped that bitch Nikki years ago."
The sound of Nikki's name turned Alex's blood cold. No one had mentioned her to Alex since the breakup - it just wasn't talked about. The fact that she wasn't jumping down Sonny's throat at this very minute was a big step forward. She thought about their suggestions and it really did seem like a waste to go back to Laguna for the weekend when they were already up here in San Francisco. She was sure that Samantha would love the idea and so decided to say yes for the both of them.
"Good!" Sonny said putting his hands together. "Now, we'll see the two of you at 7:30 tonight. We'll pick you up at the hotel."
"And where is it that we are going?" Alex wanted to know.
"I have reservations at this marvelous restaurant called Mecca. You'll just love it. It's very 1930's and has this unique oval bar. The food is Mediterranean and it tastes great. It'll be fun." He beamed at her.
"Okay, Sonny, 7:30 it is. You know where we are. We'll be ready. At least I'll be ready. I don't know how Samantha is at being on time." She smiled at her friend, turned and walked out the door.
It didn't take her long to get back to the hotel. She stopped in the lobby gift shop for a little something for Samantha then went on up to the suite.
Alex tried the door before using her key, a habit she had gotten into from all the time she spent on the road. Satisfied that the door was locked she used her key and went inside.
"Samantha," she called as she opened the door, so as not to scare the other woman. "It's just me. I'm back."
"Hi, Alex." Came the reply from the other room. "I'll be right there."
Samantha came into the living area and directly over to Alex to give her a hug. Alex walked over meeting her half way and held out a single lavender rose. "A gift from my heart," Alex smiled as she handed the rose to Samantha.
"It's absolutely beautiful Alex. I've never seen a lavender rose before. Thank you." She took the gift and gave Alex a hug and kiss in return. "I'll have to find a vase for this," she continued as she turned and walked toward the kitchen. "I missed you today, but kept myself pretty busy. I put all our stuff in the drawers and closet. Then I went down and checked out the gift shops, the pool and the gym. This is a really nice place." She looked over at Alex and smiled.
"I'm glad you had enough to keep you occupied," Alex said. "I hope the time went by quickly for you. It flew for me. All of a sudden I looked down at my watch and it was time to leave. I was right about dinner. The guys are going to pick us up at 7:30. Sonny made reservations for 8:00." She walked over to Samantha and put her arms around the smaller woman's waist. "So, are you ready to go do some serious shopping?" she asked.
"Yeah, I'm ready. Do you need to freshen up or anything before we go?" Samantha asked looking into sparkling blue eyes.
"No, I'll shower when we get back. Did most of the clothes hang okay or do I need to have the suit pressed off?" Alex questioned Samantha.
"I think it looks fine. It was one of the first things I hung up. Nice suit," Samantha answered.
"Thanks." Alex told her looking down at the smaller woman she was holding. "Now, if I can just let go of you we can be on our way." She leaned down and placed a gentle kiss on Samantha's lips. "If we stand here much longer, you will be going to dinner tonight in shorts." Alex said then grabbed Samantha's hand and started toward the door.
Samantha picked up her purse from the couch as they passed and they were on their way to Union Square.
They made it back from shopping with plenty time to get ready. Alex had been right about Samantha being easy to please. They had looked at a couple dresses, but each time Alex found something wrong with them. She was, by her own prediction, more difficult to satisfy. There was nothing in Neiman Marcus that she liked so they walked over to Saks. They had barely entered the evening wear department when Alex spotted the perfect dress for Samantha. Sam took a look at the price tag and balked as Alex took it off the rack.
"I'm not even going to try something on that costs that much!" Samantha frowned at Alex.
"Oh, please," Alex pleaded. "It's you," she said making little pleading gestures to the small blonde standing with her hands on her hips. "Come on, humor me."
"Oh, okay," Samantha grunted as she took the dress from Alex's grasp. "I'll try it on, but I know I won't like it and neither will you." She finished as she walked into the changing room.
When she reappeared, Alex's face lit up, hers eyes opened wide and she let out a soft, slow whistle of approval. "Samantha, this is definitely the dress for this evening." She smiled at the vision before her. Samantha was standing there in a shimmering metallic knit, the color of which was about two shades lighter than the green of her eyes. The dress was ankle length with a side-slit that showed her shapely thigh. The neckline was softly scalloped and there was an added accent of embroidery on the front and the shoulders of the dress. The finishing touch was a matching shrug.
"Look in the mirror," Alex motioned to Samantha. "Tell me you don't like what you see."
"I already have looked, Alex. I looked in the dressing room." Samantha countered. "I think the outfit's wonderful and I love the way it looks, but it costs too much!"
"No, no, no!" Alex insisted. "My decision. The company's paying so don't worry your pretty little head over it. It's a done deal, Sam. The dress is yours. Now all we need to do is get you some shoes and stockings and we can head back to the hotel." The look on Alex's face was a clear signal to Samantha that there would be no more discussion.
Samantha started toward Alex to give her a hug and stopped just as she was about to put her arms around her.
"Samantha, this is San Francisco." Alex smiled at her. "You want to hug me, come here, hug me." And she took Samantha into her arms for a short 'you're welcome' hug.
"Damn," Sam said, "I would have thought nothing about hugging Suzanne or one of my other girlfriends but when I started toward you I had this funny feeling come over me. I don't know why . . ." She searched for the right words.
"Don't worry about it. California is a lot different from most of the other states especially where gays are concerned, and San Francisco . . . well . . . everyone knows we run the show here." Alex laughed at her embarrassed lover.
"Listen," she continued, "I need to go over to the jewelry department and get the catch on my watch tightened. You go ahead and change and I'll meet you over there. We can pay for the dress at any of the counters." She turned and walked away while Sam went back into the changing room.
They had passed the jewelry counter when they first entered the store, on their way to the dress department and a necklace had caught Alex's attention. She had gone back over and purchased it when Samantha went into the changing booth for the first time. It was a medium sized yin/yang (the Chinese symbol of the combination of cosmic forces that together bring about balance and all that is meant to be in the universe) in the shape of a heart. One side was done in black mother-of-pearl with a small white pearl inlay and the other side was done in white mother-of-pearl with a small black pearl inlay. The entire symbol was framed by tiny diamonds and it came with a silver chain. She hadn't had time to look at the dangling earrings that matched it, but she had told the clerk to have them ready because she would be right back. While Samantha was back in the dressing room changing, Alex examined and paid for earrings then slipped them into her pocket with the necklace. She smiled to herself, knowing that Sam had yet to see how much a part of her life this symbol actually was.
The transaction was quick and by the time Samantha came out and over to her everything had been bought and paid for except the dress. The next stop was the shoe department where they found a nice pair of clear sandal-strap heels and a purse to match. Alex was feeling very contented, having found everything they had come for and then some. Samantha was still trying to lose her feeling of guilt for the price of the outfit they had just purchased. They got back into the car and drove to the hotel. Everything had been accomplished in just under three hours, which gave them a little over two hours to get ready to meet the boys.
"That was really fun, Alex," Samantha said as they closed the door. "But you spent too much money. I've never spent that much on one dress, a pair of shoes and a purse. Are you sure it's covered in your expense account?"
"I'm positive and you are going to be absolutely stunning tonight. Sonny will be green with envy. No more talk about the cost of the ensemble. Deal?" Alex smiled at her lover.
"Deal." Samantha agreed.
"Now that that's settled . . . Shower or bath?" Alex asked lifting an eyebrow and smiling.
"Well . . . the tub is big enough for the two of us, want to conserve water?" Samantha asked with a gleam in her eyes.
"You do know we have to be dressed by the time they get here, don't you Sam?" Alex answered her.
"Yeah, I'm just suggesting a communal bath - saves time, saves water." She grinned as she carried her packages into the bedroom.
"It might save water, but I know for a fact that it will not save time." Alex stated as she followed Samantha into the other room. "I'll start the water while you hang up your dress so it doesn't wrinkle." She grabbed some of the bath gel that was on the counter in the bathroom and poured the fragrant liquid into the tub. By the time Samantha came into the room Alex was already in the tub covered in bubbles. "Care to join me?" she questioned seductively, lifting her left eyebrow and smiling her crooked smile.
"Most definitely," was the answer she received as the small blonde took off her clothes and climbed in next to her lover. "This feels wonderful," Samantha said as she let the bubbles slip through her fingers.
"This feels even better," Alex began as she put her arms around Samantha's waist and pulled her closer to her.
Samantha was facing Alex and she placed her legs around Alex's waist, sitting on her lap in the warm fragrant water. She put her arms around Alex's neck and smiled. "I can't remember when I have ever been so happy, Alex."
Alex looked into sparking green eyes and smiled. "Me too, my love." She drew Sam even closer and softly kissed her on the lips then nibbled on her neck and ear. She whispered softly. "Tonight my love, this city belongs to you. Anything you want to do we will. Anything you desire will be yours." Her hands moved slowly from Samantha's waist around to her buttocks as their bodies continued to touch. "I can't seem to get enough of you, Samantha," Alex whispered as she moved her hands around to caress the firm breasts that were covered with bubbles. "I want to make love to you right here," she continued as she placed one arm around Sam's back and brought her to sit on her lap sideways. She used her other hand to stroke the curly mound above her lover's folds and then let her fingers find their way inside to tantalize and tease.
Samantha put both her arms around Alex's neck and buried her face in the broad shoulder. She let out a soft moan and they kissed. "Alex . . . oh . . . Alex," was all that Samantha could say as she tightened her arms around her lover.
"I know, Samantha." Alex assured her as she felt the hardness of her lover and increased her speed and touch. After a few minutes Samantha tightened her legs and Alex could see her nipples harden. It was then that she shifted the position of her fingers and entered her lover, rocking her gently in the water until she reached her peak.
"Alex, every time you make love to me it seems to get more intense. I never knew I could feel so complete. And it keeps getting better. I am so blessed to have found you," Samantha sighed.
"No, Samantha. I'm the one who's blessed. I'm going to make you so happy you will never want to leave me," Alex said as she hugged the small blonde close to her body. "Never."
It hadn't come to their attention before but sitting there they began to notice that the water had begun to chill. The women looked at each other and laughed. It was definitely time to get out of the tub and get dressed before their company made an appearance at the door and they were still sitting in a tub of deflated bubbles.
It was 7:30 exactly when there was a knock on the door. If for nothing else, Sonny was known for being punctual. Alex was the only one completely dressed so she answered the door. Before leaving the bedroom she gave Samantha a quick kiss on the cheek. "You look absolutely beautiful, just as I said you would, Sam." She complimented the blonde beauty standing before her.
"You look quite gorgeous yourself, Alex." Samantha answered as she lovingly gazed at Alex who stood before her in a dark pin-stripped reefer with pants and vest to match and a white silk blouse. "I'm a little anxious about meeting your friends."
"Don't be, Samantha. They will love you. They're really nice people," Alex affirmed.
A second knock was heard along with, "We know you're in there. Have you decided against company?" It was Sonny's voice and Alex could hear the laughter in it as she quickened her pace to the door.
"Come on in and don't be so snippy," She grinned at her friend as she invited the two of them in. "I told you I would be ready. Samantha is just putting on the finishing touches and she'll be right out."
"I hope she hurries," Sonny started, "I've been trying to picture what this new little cutie of yours might look like. I forgot to even ask you today. We were so busy with business. So, I just had to wonder through my imagination the rest of the afternoon."
"Behave yourself when she comes out, Sonny," Ray chimed in. "We don't want to scare the poor dear off before we even get a chance to know her, now do we?"
"Oh, Ray." Sonny said as he tapped his lover on the chest with one long finger. "You know I wouldn't do anything to upset Alex's new love. I'm just anxious. It's been a long time since we've been able to socialize with Alex without her being a third wheel." He finished and spun around grinning broadly at Alex who stood there shaking her head and smiling. This was going to be one Hell of an evening she thought to herself. Sonny was in rare form tonight.
It was at that point that Samantha decided she could stall no longer. Her stomach felt like she had swallowed a dozen butterflies and they were all inside flitting around. She took a deep breath, put on her best 'glad to meet ya' smile and ventured out of the bedroom and into the living area to meet Alex's old acquaintances.
Alex saw her begin to make her entrance and walked over to give her some support by placing an arm around her waist. "Boys, I would like you to meet Samantha Riley. Samantha, the handsome one over there with the dark hair is Ray. He's the brains of the partnership. The beauty standing beside him with his mouth slightly agape is Sonny. Sonny, close your mouth and say, Hi." Alex concluded.
"You certainly are a looker." Was the first thing out of Sonny's mouth. "Alex, the wait has definitely been worth the outcome," he continued as Alex sent him a 'that's enough, Sonny,' look.
Samantha could feel the blood rushing to her face and ears as Sonny proceeded to walk over to her and take her hand. Alex stepped back knowing full well she had to give Sonny his little inspection or there would be no living with him. "Here, girl, give us a spin and let me take in the entire picture," Sonny said as he spun her gently around to get a better view of both her and the new outfit. "Do you talk, walk and do all the other things dolls do today?" he said smiling at her.
"Sonny, I told you to behave." Ray scowled at his partner. "You're probably scaring the poor girl."
"Ray, I'm only kidding with her. It's my way of saying welcome to the family." Sonny went on as he gave Samantha a peck on the cheek and let go of her hand. "We are going to have a great time tonight, Samantha. I am so very glad to meet you and so is Ray, aren't you Ray? You just put yourself into comfort mode, girl, and get ready to party."
Samantha had realized by now that Sonny was only trying to put her at ease. Dealing with gay guys was a talent not readily forgotten. College memories quickly flooded Samantha's thoughts and she remembered fondly why she had always had such a good time when she was surrounded by her gay male friends. She let her mind slip back into that bantering mode and gave Sonny a flippant retort.
"Why -- Sonny," she started, smiling at the unsuspecting queen, "You'd better believe that I do much more than simply walk and talk. I was specially designed to fulfill Alex's every desire."
"There ya go, Sonny," Ray said, cracking a smile at Samantha's appropriate response, "Looks like you may have just met your match in the quick comeback department."
Alex, not at all expecting Samantha to volley with a statement like that, cleared her throat and tried not to look embarrassed. She was feeling slightly as though she had just been placed under a microscope and was not liking the feeling at all.
"Are we going to stand here all night talking or shall we get going? Isn't anyone hungry?" Alex said to stop the conversation before it continued any further.
"Let's get going." Sonny agreed, "We just might make it there in time for our reservations. Samantha you will love this place," he smiled over at his new friend.
"Wait a minute, I almost forgot something," Alex smiled as she reached into her pocket. She turned to Samantha and had her close her eyes. "This will just take a minute." Reaching over Sam's neck she gently placed the diamond studded necklace on her lover's neck as she bent down and kissed the nape. "I know you will be the balance in my life, Samantha," she whispered into the small blonde's ear. "Go ahead, open your eyes."
Samantha put her hand on the necklace and looked down. She looked back up at Alex with tears in her eyes. "Alex, I don't know what to say. It's the most beautiful necklace I've ever seen." She threw her arms around her lover's neck and kissed her passionately without a hint of reserve. "Thank you, Alex."
Alex just beamed at her and handed her the small box containing the earrings. "I think you might want to wear these in place of the ones you already have on. I think they will go with the necklace."
"Oh, Alex." Samantha began as she opened the velvet box. "Earrings to match." This time a tear managed to fall as she looked back up into Alex's sparkling blue eyes. "I don't know what else to say. I . . ."
"Well, I do." Sonny exclaimed. "I say let's get to the restaurant before they let our table go. And I want a good look at the 'costume stuff' as soon as we get our orders in." He smiled broadly at Alex and winked at Samantha as he put his arm in Ray's and started to walk out of the suite.
Samantha put the earrings on and excused herself for a second while she went and took a quick look in the mirror and refreshed her makeup. Alex shooed the boys out the door with the promise that they would be along directly.
Alex went into the bathroom and put her hands on Samantha's shoulders. "I took one look at that today and knew it had been made to be worn around your neck. I love you, Samantha." Alex turned her around and they tenderly kissed.
"Thank you, Alex. I adore both the earrings and the necklace. I love this symbol. It matches the ones on your stained glass doors in Laguna. Balance -- that's what soul mates do for each other. Each one contributes what the other lacks. I love you, too." Samantha replied.
"Come on. We mustn't keep the boys waiting any longer. Sonny will be beside himself if they give away our table."
Alex put her arm around Samantha's shoulder and the two women started to leave. As they came out of the bathroom, Samantha looked out the window and noticed that once again something wonderful had happened to her at sunset. "Alex, just look at that gloaming. It's as beautiful as the ones in Laguna. You always seem to be doing something special for me at sunset. I suppose that will always be our special time.
Dinner was exactly what Sonny had promised. They started off with appetizers then went directly into the Mediterranean-style main course, superbly accented by the Far Niente Chardonnay from Napa Valley. Sonny insisted that they at least try one of the "just-desserts" and Samantha made a comment about not being able to still fit into her dress if she did. Of course, Sonny got his way and they ordered two of the choice desserts, which they all shared. It was getting close to 11:00 when Ray decided it was time to bring everything to a close. "I've got a very early morning with those workers on the wall. What do you say we call it a night?"
Sonny, feeling his wine and not wanting to be left out of the planning committee chimed in with, "Where do you girls want to start out on Saturday night?"
This immediately got him an "I'm gonna kill you!" look from Alex which he winced at as he put his fingers up to his mouth and put his head on Ray's shoulder.
Samantha had caught the question, the look and the response. "Am I missing something?" she asked.
"No, Samantha. You're not missing anything," Alex started to explain. "It's just that these two clowns over here decided that it would be better if we stayed the entire weekend and got in some more sightseeing and visiting. Ray needs me to be at the gym on Friday for a few hours as well as tomorrow and I had told him that I promised Friday to you." She glared again at Sonny for having to explain all this in a restaurant instead of in the privacy of the hotel room. "I'm sorry, Sam, it slipped my mind this afternoon when we went shopping and then we were otherwise occupied." She gave Sam a small smirk then continued. "I was going to ask you when we got alone together tonight, but now I don't seem to have that option." She sighed as she finished with her explanation.
"Now that it's all out in the open," Sonny started as he got over his reprimand, "what do you think about staying until Sunday, Samantha? We can have such a good time Saturday night. A little dinner, a little dancing, a little drag show. Then we can all go to a fabulous brunch on Sunday before the two of you take off back to your own little beach town." He grinned over at Alex who was still giving him a cool attitude. "Come on, Sammie, tell Alex you forgive her for not asking sooner and tell me it's a marvelous idea!"
Samantha looked at Sonny and burst out laughing. "How could anyone say no to an invitation like that?" She countered his question. "Alex most definitely is not in trouble and it seems since we are already here that it would be foolish to go back any sooner than Sunday, with such a generous offer." She giggled and Alex gave her a short hug and kiss on the cheek.
"Okay." Ray added. "Now that the extended trip is settled, do you think maybe we could get home so I can function tomorrow at work?"
"You can be such a stick in the mud, Ray." Sonny teased him. "We'll get these girls home tonight, but Saturday we are going to watch the sun rise over the bridge if I have to put caffeine in all of your drinks myself." He laughed as they all got up and headed for the car.
"Ray," Alex began, "I would appreciate it if you would just drop us off at the Wharf. I want to show Samantha around a little while it's not teeming with tourists. We'll either walk home or get a cab."
"Sure, no problem," Ray said. "We'll drop you off at Pier 39."
The trip to Fisherman's Wharf was a fairly short one and the gals got out of the car after thanking Ray and Sonny for a lovely meal and evening. They decided that they would all meet at the gym in the morning, including Samantha and that they would discuss Saturday's agenda over lunch. Alex and Samantha waved goodbye to the guys and then turned to each other.
"Okay, here it is the famous Fisherman's Wharf." Alex began, "We can just walk around and you can take in all the sights, sounds and smells your little heart desires. This is ideally not the best time to come here but I wanted to get in a least a little tour of something each night. This of course is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city so it's a must see for the first-timer." Alex smiled at Samantha and put her arm around the smaller woman's shoulders. "A few of the little shops here stay open until midnight. Why don't we find one and get you some comfortable shoes?"
Samantha agreed that having some walking shoes would be a good idea. She put her arm around Alex's waist and gave the taller woman an affectionate squeeze. "This is the perfect ending to a beautiful day, Alex. Look at that carousel over there. I guess it's one of the things that stays open late."
They passed by a few closed shops and a few open ones as they walked toward the carousel. Finally one of the shops looked like it might carry what they were looking for. They went inside and purchased a pair of sandals for Samantha and one of those throwaway cameras.
"Samantha, why don't you get on the carousel and let me take a picture," Alex said as they approached the twirling array of true-to-life animals standing beside those of fable. There were horses, camels, goats and unicorns to name a few, all elaborately decorated. There was even a chariot of Neptune and of course the band organ music.
"No. Why don't we both get on and ask the ticket person to take a picture of both of us," Samantha suggested. "It will be the first picture of us together."
"I'm not one for getting my picture taken," Alex said.
"Oh, Please, Alex. For our scrapbook," Sam pleaded, batting her eyes and smiling.
"How could anyone say no to a face like that," Alex laughed as she purchased the tickets. They walked over and handed the attendant their tickets. "Would you please take a picture of us after we get on?" Alex asked the man.
"Sure, no problem," was his response.
The two women got onto the carousel with Samantha sitting on the unicorn and Alex standing beside her. The attendant took their picture and the ride commenced. By the time the music stopped they had decided it was getting rather late and Alex just wanted to walk over to the Alcatraz Cafe & Grill where Samantha could look out and see The Rock and the Golden Gate Bridge all lit up.
Small talk was the mainstay of their conversation as they walked toward the cafe, filling each other in on likes and dislikes and generally getting to know each other a little better. With the comfort zone between them it seemed as though they had been friends for years, friends who had finally decided to become lovers and not the mere strangers they had been only a few days ago. When they reached the cafe, Samantha was as impressed with the view as Alex knew she would be, but the hour was getting late and they did have an early morning ahead of them. Alex decided a cab would be the most expedient way of getting back to the hotel without completely exhausting themselves and she was very adept at getting cabs.
Alex looked at her watch as they entered the lobby and relayed to Samantha that is was already one o'clock.
"That was a full day," she said smiling as Samantha leaned against her in the elevator. "Getting a bit tired?"
"Probably more than a bit," Samantha answered. "Do you realize we slept very little last night and are going to sleep very little again tonight? I have plans for you, my sweet," she finished as she leaned back looking up at Alex.
As the doors to the elevator opened onto their floor, Alex placed a kiss on her lover's and murmured, "Weíll see."
They opened the door to the suite and Samantha headed for the bedroom to change. She stopped in front of the mirror to admire the necklace and earrings once again as she took the earrings off. "Alex, these are so beautiful. You've done so much for me in the past couple days and I've done nothing in return."
"Don't be foolish," Alex began from the other room as she walked over to stand in front of Samantha. She took the smaller woman's head in her hands and tilted Sam's face toward her. "I've been wanting you for as long as I can remember. To cherish, to spoil and to love." The dark-haired beauty's eyes misted over as she continued, "I truly believe, especially after finding that jewelry, that you are my Destiny. You have brought joy back into my life, Sam, something I thought I would never truly have again. All the changes I have made in my life have been for the better since I bought the warehouse and you, my lovely, are the piece de resistance. You are the final piece in my life that was so sorely missing. You make me whole and I am sure we will find that we balance each other as our love grows." She bent down and kissed Samantha tenderly and held her close. "We've had quite a busy couple of days, why don't you get ready for bed. I need to check the messages left at the desk and will be right in." Alex smiled tenderly at the small blonde holding her out at arms length, taking in how beautiful she looked even at this late (or early) hour.
"Don't you be long, Alex. You told me earlier that I could have anything that I desired and . . . I desire you." She smiled as Alex let go of her hands and walked back into the living room.
Samantha went into the bathroom, took a quick shower and came back out in an ivory negligee. She went into the top drawer of the nightstand where she had put her purchases from earlier in the day and began to change the mood of the room. She had bought two small vanilla candles and holders from the gift shop downstairs and a card. She had already filled out and signed the card so she placed it on the pillow next to hers. She thought she would wait until Alex went into the bathroom and then light the candles.
Alex, in the meantime, had gone into the kitchen to retrieve her messages. She hoped they were of no importance but thought better about letting them wait until morning. The first was from the security people who were in charge of the silent alarm system she had installed. The man was saying that there had been a break-in. They had gotten to the warehouse as soon as the alarm was tripped but that the car in the garage had been vandalized and he wanted to know what she wanted him to do about it besides call the police, which he had already done. She was glad Samantha was in the other room and didn't hear the statement. She would have to call first thing in the morning, find out the details and try to get the car fixed before they got back on Sunday. She decided not to mention it to Sam, no sense marring her trip.
The second was from the supervisor in charge of the climbing wall and he was calling to tell her that everything she had wanted done had been completed and that the wall was definitely safe now.
The last message was just a quick "Hi" from Sonny who just had to tell her that he thought Samantha was just what she needed in her life and that he was glad they would get a chance to know her better. He's so Nellie when he's drinking. She thought to herself. Hell, he's Nellie when he isn't. I think that's why he's one of my favorite people. He's always just himself.
She threw off the unsettling feeling about the break-in and vowed to make sure her security system was updated when she got home. The garage was supposed to have been monitored just like the rest of the warehouse. She couldn't understand how someone could have gotten in before the security people had it handled.
She didn't bother to make any notes because she didn't want Samantha to see them. She decided to take care of everything in the morning and then forget about it until they got home. Nothing was going to put a damper on the rest of this mini-vacation with Sam. Turning off the kitchen and living room lights, she made her way back into the bedroom.
"I'll just be a bit, Sam," she told her lover, "I'm going to take a quick shower."
Samantha waited until Alex closed the door then she lit the two candles and placed one on each of the nightstands beside the bed. The room took on a soft glow and Samantha was pleased with the effect. She laid down on the bed to wait for Alex to come back in.
Alex couldn't have been more than 10 minutes in the bathroom. When she opened the door, the room was filled with the fragrance of vanilla and the soft light from the candles flickered across Samantha's face. Alex walked over to the bed and was just about to say something to Sam when she realized that the woman on the bed was sound asleep. She had set such a beautiful scene but was too exhausted to play it through to the end. Alex walked over to the other side of the bed, saw the card on the pillow and opened it.
The drawing on the card was of a small lake beside which stood a gazebo surrounded by wildflowers. The inside had been blank but now held a personalized poem in small neat printing.
The pool of life reflects it all, what was before, what is to be
The ripples are the times of strife. The calmness, life's serenity.
And as you gaze - one person there - remains from mid-life til your end
A lover in the truest sense, but more than lover, she's your friend
She'll stand beside you - wait and see
The two of you shall have tomorrow
She'll ride the crest of all your waves
And if they break, she'll share your sorrow
Reflected in the pool's design
Your image, intertwined with mine.
With Love, Samantha
With eyes filled with tears of joy, Alex looked over at her sleeping beauty. She quietly extinguished each of the candles then pulled down the covers and crawled into bed next to Samantha. As she lay down, Samantha turned in her sleep and ended up in the position she seemed to favor most with her head in the crook of Alex's shoulder and her arm around Alex's waist. Alex gently kissed her on the forehead and whispered, "Goodnight, my Destiny. Perhaps tomorrow you will fulfill your desire but for tonight, may your dreams be sweet."
Go on to Chapter Seven