Chapter 21

Reluctantly, Tina pulled away from the kiss. I have to stop... while I still can. She backed up a step, so there would be some distance between the two of them.

Sam was smiling. "I knew that you..."

"It doesn't change anything," Tina said firmly.

The musician's heart was racing from the excitement of the kiss. Doesn't change anything? "You want me... but you don't think we should be together?"

Tina was trying to get her feelings under control. My instincts say run... Vivian says don't... my body says ravish her... my heart says she's special... "I'm not sure WHAT I mean." How did I ever get myself into this, anyway?

"I think I overwhelmed you with my emotions again. Can we sit down for a minute and talk?"

They went back to the couch and sat silently for a while, each of them reviewing the events of the evening in their minds.

I'm the one who recommended we talk and I haven't said a word yet. Sam snuggled against Tina's side and hugged her. But what should I say? It should be something simple... so I don't overwhelm her any more than I already have. "I like being with you."

Tina looked at the small blonde wrapped contentedly around her. You are so damn cute. "I like being with you, too."

Sam breathed a sigh of relief. That's a promising response.

"Want to see if there's anything good on TV?" Tina picked up the remote off the table.

"Okay." You're asking me to stay? Absolutely... positively... yes!

The women watched TV and Sam eventually ended up lying on her side with her head on Tina's lap. I could spend my life like this. It just feels... right.

Tina found herself stroking Sam's hair. I like... this. What is WRONG with me? I never thought I'd want anyone hanging around here. Maybe it's some kind of mid-life crisis...

"The band is playing this weekend." Sam turned so she was looking up at Tina. "Will you come?"

"Umm... if you want me to, I'll try. Where?"

"Saturday night, at the Beach Bar in Longboat Key. Do you know the place?"

"Yes, I know where it is."

The news came on and Sam realized it had gotten quite late. "I really should be going. You have work early in the morning." She ran her fingers through her hair to bring some order to it. "May I use the bathroom before I leave?"

"Sure." Tina got up and led Sam into the kitchen. She pointed out the bathroom and leaned against the counter to wait. Oh... yeah... I almost forgot! She opened one of the cabinets above the sink.

Sam came out of the bathroom. "Hungry already?" she asked teasingly.

"No." Tina held out a foil-wrapped object. "It's for you. A little something for the road."

"A Ring Ding?" Sam grinned and accepted the snack cake. "Thanks."

"You're welcome."

They walked to the door and stood there awkwardly, neither one sure how to end the evening.

"Thank you so much for dinner," Sam finally said. "It was very good."

"I'm glad you came."

"Really?" There was uncertainty in the younger woman's voice.

"Yes." I must be losing my mind. Tina ducked her head and kissed Sam lightly on the lips. But she's irresistible. "I'll walk you to your car."

"I'd like that." Sam's eyes were sparkling as she smiled at her friend. She wants me.


Lisa pulled into the driveway and saw Sam sitting on the steps to the garage apartment. Hmm... something must have happened last night. "Waiting for me?" she asked as she got out of the car.

"Yeah." Sam jogged down the stairs. "How was work?"

Lisa relayed the latest job gossip as they walked to the house and went inside. She put her purse and briefcase on the kitchen counter. "Do you want a soda?"

"Yes, thanks." Sam sat at the table.

Lisa got two diet drinks out of the refrigerator and took a seat across from her sister. "So... what's up?"

"Saturday night... I might want to do the new song we've been working on."

"You do, huh? I gather that Tina will be there?"

"She said she'd come..." Sam shrugged and examined the design on her soda can.

"But you're not positive?"


"What's going on, Sam?"

The blonde felt the tears start to form before she even began to speak. "I'm not sure. I know she likes me... but she has this idea that she's a bad influence or something. I really love her... and I don't want to lose her."

Lisa grabbed the box of tissues off the counter and placed it in front of Sam. "I have to be honest... I've had my doubts about this. However, I trust your judgment. If you love her, then she must be okay. And if Tina is as smart as I think she is, she'll know a good thing when she sees it."

Sam took a tissue and wiped her eyes. "Thanks, Sis."

They sat quietly for a few minutes. Lisa inconspicuously kept an eye on Sam until she was satisfied her words had sufficiently calmed the woman. "Hey... I have an idea." The older sibling looked furtively around the room, as if checking to be sure no one would overhear, before lowering her voice to continue. "Let's break into the ice cream and watch some VH-1 before the kids get home."

"Okay." Sam's face brightened at the suggestion. "Do you have any chocolate syrup?"

"Like you even need to ASK that."

Both women laughed.


Vivian stood in the doorway of Tina's office.

The accountant was sitting at her desk, staring at the computer screen. It was obvious, however, that her mind was elsewhere.

This is the second time today I've seen her like this. "Tina?"

Tina was startled when she heard her name. "Yes?"

"Are you all right?" The boss came in the office and sat down.

"I'm fine."

Vivian wasn't the least bit convinced and she wasn't leaving until she found out what was going on. "Is it Samantha?"

Tina took her glasses off and sighed. "Yes."

"Is something wrong?"

How much do I tell her? Tina fidgeted a little before answering. "She wants... a relationship. I don't think I can do... that." I don't know HOW to do that.

"Have you talked to her?"

"I tried... but... it didn't turn out like I thought it would..."

"You need to tell her what you're feeling." Vivian's voice was gentle. "I'm sure she'll listen. Samantha seems like a sensitive woman... she'll understand."

"I'm not sure I understand it myself."

Maybe you've never been in love before. "You will." Vivian stood up. "Follow your heart, Tina. You have a good one. It'll tell you what to do."

The dark-haired woman watched her boss leave the office. Just follow my heart? Is that supposed to be easy?


Sam had grown increasingly morose as the evening wore on. She's still not here and it's almost midnight. The band started the next number and the guitarist played mechanically while her eyes searched the audience in hopes of seeing her friend. She broke into a huge smile when she spotted Tina standing at the bar.

Lisa noticed her sister's sudden cheerfulness. Tina must be here... thank goodness!

Tina ordered a bottle of water. The band was playing a current top 40 hit and she hummed along with the tune. She paid for her drink and moved to the back of the room. Between her natural height and the raised stage, she had an unimpeded view of the band. For the next thirty minutes, she enjoyed listening to the music and watching the people dance. But she never let her gaze stray too far from the blonde on the stage.

Sam looked at the song list taped to her amplifier. We're almost to the end of the set. I need to do this... I CAN do this... She looked across the crowded room and made eye contact with Tina, who smiled. She has the most beautiful smile...

Lisa tapped Sam on the shoulder. "Do you want to do the song?"


Lisa went back behind her keyboard and spoke into her microphone. "Sam is going to sing one now. It's for someone special... and you know who you are."

Sam took off her guitar and moved to center stage. She adjusted the height of the microphone stand and nodded at her sister, signifying she was ready.

What's this? Tina's attention was riveted on her friend. She's going to sing? ... to someone special?

The band played the opening strains of the song and Tina recognized it immediately. It was one of her favorites that had been on the radio recently.

Sam started singing so softly, she could hardly be heard above the noise in the bar. It didn't matter. Tina knew the song word for word.

"Oh, the loneliness has always been a friend of mine
I'm leaving my life in your hands
People say I'm crazy and that I am blind
For risking it all in a glance
And how you got me blind is still a mystery
I can't get you out of my head
I don't care what is written in your history
As long as you're here with me"

All the other sounds and motion in the room fell away as Tina became totally captivated by Sam's singing. She looks so small...and not even an instrument to hold on to. She must be scared. Tina lifted her water bottle to take a sip and noticed her hand was shaking slightly.So am I.

Sam had been standing very stiffly and barely managed to sing the first verse. She relaxed a little during the chorus as her band mates joined in with the vocals. As the second verse started, she placed both hands around the microphone, looked at Tina, and sang with more strength.

"Every little thing that you have said and done
Feels like it's deep within me
Doesn't really matter if you're on the run
Seems like we're meant to be

I don't care who you are... where you're from
What you did ... as long as you love me
Who you are... where you're from
Don't care what you did... as long as you love me"

The singer dropped her eyes and studied her feet as the band played the short musical interlude between verses. She seems frozen in place back there. That could be good... or bad. Afraid to see any more of what Tina's reaction might be, Sam sang the final verse continuing to look down.

"I tried to hide it so that no one knows
But I guess it shows... when I look into your eyes
What you did and where you're coming from...
I don't care... as long as you love me, baby"

Closing her eyes, she poured her heart into the chorus. The last notes faded and
the audience clapped and shouted its approval. Sam opened her eyes, immediately looking toward the back of the room for one person she wanted to see... the one person she had sung for.

Tina was gone.

Sam whispered a quick message to her sister and hurried from the stage. She worked her way through the packed bar, went out the front door and briefly surveyed the vicinity. Seeing no sign of Tina, she walked up and down the aisles of the parking lot and was relieved to discover that the BMW was there. So... she's here somewhere. Sam went around to the back of the building. The wind was blowing off the water and she could hear the surf breaking on the shore. There was a low cement wall that ran along the rear of the property and the musician walked beside it. It's pitch black on the beach. If she's out there, I'll never find her. She peered into the darkness ahead of her at the last section of wall before a high fence intersected it. Her heart skipped a beat.

Tina was sitting there.

It so happened that the cement was precisely the right height to put the women at eye level.

"Hi." Sam stepped between Tina's legs and moved in close. "I'm glad you didn't leave."

"I needed some air... I was going to come back in a few minutes."

"It's all right. I'm just happy you're here." Sam kissed Tina tenderly.

Tina looked at the woman who had invaded her life in so many ways. What am I going to do with you?

Sam caressed the side of Tina's face. "Take me home."


"Take me home." Another kiss. "Please."

Tina felt her body heat up at the sensations caused by the kisses. She fought to maintain her self-restraint. "But... what about the band?"

"There are only two songs left. They won't mind." And it's not like they all don't know what's going on. They're rooting for me... even though I'll get teased unmercifully at the next gig. Sam smiled as she took Tina's hands. "May I help you up?"


They were silent during the short ride to Sam's apartment. Tina pulled into the driveway and turned off the car.

Neither woman moved.

Several minutes passed.

Sam unfastened her seatbelt.

Tina drummed her fingers on the steering wheel and stared out the windshield.

"So..." Sam grasped the door handle. "Are you coming up? Or should I say good night?"

Tina didn't look at the woman in the passenger seat. We both know what's going to happen if I go in there with you. An imperceptible shake of her head was her only reply.

"I guess it's good night, then." Sam got out and closed the door. I'm not going to ask again. The ball is in your court, Mellekas. She walked to the bottom of the stairs and looked once more at Tina, who remained motionless. Sighing, she waved goodbye before slowly climbing the steps to her apartment. Maybe she's just not ready... but I know she has feelings for me... I can see it in her eyes... and taste it in her kisses. Sam sighed again. Women.

The blonde unlocked the door and went inside. Going through her nightly routine, she got ready for bed. When she went into the living area to extinguish the lights, she glanced out the window and saw that the BMW was still parked in the driveway. What's this? She opened the door and found Tina sitting on the top step. "Are you all right?"

Tina stood and walked to the doorway. She looked at Sam, who was wearing an oversized Mickey Mouse shirt and gym shorts. "I need... want... you."

Sam moved back so Tina could come in. Geez...when she DOES say something... she sure knows what to say. The musician closed the door and locked it. She took Tina's hand and led her to the bedroom.

They sat on the edge of the bed.

Sam turned sideways, bending one leg under her body. She observed Tina's profile for a moment before reaching up to touch the crop of gray hair she adored so much. The contact caused Tina to face the blonde.

Sam leaned forward and kissed Tina with every ounce of love she possessed, hoping that she could convey with a kiss what her friend was not yet ready to hear. I love you.

Tina responded and eased Sam back onto the bed. By the time the kiss ended, they were both breathless. Tina was resting her weight on her arms, dark hair hanging down and brushing the sides of Sam's face. She gazed into green eyes that were open and honest. This is the kind of woman who only sleeps with people she's in love with. What am I DOING here?

Sam looked up at Tina's conflicted expression. "I want you. I know you want me. It's really very simple, isn't it?" She started unbuttoning Tina's shirt.

"No. It's not." Tina was fighting the overpowering urge to forget about talking and take the willing woman beneath her. It would be so easy.

Sam tilted her head a little to one side, watching the emotions flicker in Tina's eyes. "Tell me why it's not."

"You... sang about... love," Tina whispered."I... can't make any promises." But you deserve someone who can.

"I don't need promises. I want you... even if it's only for tonight." And I believe in us enough to know it'll be MUCH more than that.

"I'll... take you... and use you... for as long as it suits me...and..."

"I accept." Sam looked deep into the blue eyes mere inches above her own.

"That wasn't exactly a proposal."

"Close enough." Sam moved one hand up behind Tina's neck and pulled her in for another kiss.

Tina let the tight rein she'd been holding on her desire start to slip. She wanted Samantha... and wanted her badly. I've been honest. If she gets hurt, it's not my fault.

Sam saw Tina's eyes fill with passion. The woman's whole demeanor changed and the atmosphere became charged with sexual energy. Wow... just her looking at me like that makes me tingle all over."I believe you said something about taking me?"

Tina's voice turned deep and seductive. "Yes."

And she did.

Chapter 22

Something was tickling Tina's nose. What the heck is that? She slowly opened her eyes. She was lying on her side, pressed tightly up against the back of Sam's body. She had her arm around the smaller woman's waist and her head was resting just above the blonde's. Tina's breathing was causing the hairs to move... tickling her nose.

She carefully removed her arm from Sam's waist and rolled onto her back. It was dark outside and she looked at her watch to see what time it was. Mickey was waving at her on the luminous watch face. 4:00... Now what? This is when I usually leave. I can't do that to her... Propping herself up on one elbow, she looked at Sam.

The woman appeared even more youthful and wholesome in her sleep. Yeah... but she sure knows how to get what she wants. Who seduced whom last night? Tina reached over and trailed her fingers along the side of Sam's face. Something is different with this one.

Creeping carefully out of the bed, Tina buttoned up her shirt as she went into the living room. If I have to hang around here... what am I going to do? She spied the book, Tropical Storm, on the coffee table. There we go... a little reading material. I'll need my glasses. Tina tiptoed back into the bedroom, retrieved her keys from the nightstand, and went outside to get her backpack from the car. Quietly returning to the living room, she settled on the comfortable couch and began reading.


Sam felt cold. She turned over and pulled the covers up under her chin. The musician had just started to fall asleep again when she realized she was naked. No wonder I'm cold! Wait a minute...NAKED? She sat up with a jolt and looked around the room. The shirt and shorts she'd worn to bed were strewn on the floor. Tina was here. It wasn't a dream. She got out of bed and put on her shirt. Noticing that the keys were gone from the nightstand and afraid of what she might NOT find, she hesitantly made her way to the living room. Please let her still be here... Sam peeked around the corner.

Tina was sound asleep on the couch, glasses in one hand, Tropical Storm in the other.

Sam went over and tried to remove the glasses and book from Tina's hands without waking her. She placed the items on the coffee table and glanced back toward the couch. Tina was watching her with sleepy blue eyes.

"I'm sorry I woke you," Sam whispered. "Go back to sleep."

"Here." Tina patted the small area next to her. She shifted a little so she was on her side and Sam slipped into the space provided. Tina put an arm around the woman and pulled her close.

Their breathing slowed into a similar pattern and they drifted off to sleep.


Tingling in her left arm woke Tina. She blinked her eyes several times to adjust to the bright sunlight streaming in the windows. Sam was still asleep, curled up against her. Somehow, the accountant's arm had become Sam's pillow and it was protesting the lack of blood flow with sharp pins and needles. Tina tried to slide her arm out from under the blonde's head without disturbing her.

Sam mumbled several unintelligible words as her pillow disappeared.

"I'm sorry. My arm was asleep."

Sam turned, nestling against the tall woman and listening to her slow, steady heartbeat.

"Samantha, I need to get up." Tina's back felt tight from her cramped sleeping position on the couch.


Tina tried to stretch a little but found it impossible with the musician clinging to her. "Samantha?"

"Uh huh?"

"My back."

"Oh!" Sam's eyes popped open and she scrambled to get up. "I'm SO sorry!"

Tina tried to avoid the sudden flurry of arms and legs, but wasn't entirely successful. "Oomph!"

"Are you all right?"

"My back is a little stiff." Tina sat up and then slowly stood. "Nothing out of the ordinary."

"I can massage it for you. Come on." Sam took Tina's hand and tugged her toward the bedroom.

"That's not necessary. I'll just stretch a bit and it will be fine."

"It's all right for people to help you... it's all right for ME to help you, isn't it?"

"Umm... I guess so. But..."

"Good." Sam interrupted. "Then let me get cleaned up first..." She stepped into the bathroom. "I'll just be a minute. Okay?"

"Okay." Tina sat on the edge of the bed. How does she DO that? When I say no... that should be the end of it... but she somehow turns things around and the next thing I know... I'm agreeing with her!

A few minutes later, Sam came out of the bathroom with her hair combed, looking much more awake. "Would you like to take a hot shower first? To relax your muscles?"

"No, really, I'm fine." Tina stared down at her hands on her lap.

Sam looked at the complex woman seated in front of her. She wouldn't let me make love to her last night. And now this morning... she balks at a massage. Moving closer, Sam softly cupped Tina's chin and lifted it so she could look into those beautiful blue eyes. "It's only a massage. I promise."You can trust me.

The women held the eye contact for a moment.

Tina capitulated. "May I use the bathroom first?"

"Of course you can."

The accountant went into the bathroom and closed the door. After using the facilities, she washed her hands and splashed some cold water on her face. She smirked at herself in the mirror. This is what I get for not leaving. I have no clue what to say or do the next morning. She shook her head at her reflection. This woman has me all turned around. I don't like this confusion I'm feeling.

There was a new toothbrush, still in the box, on the counter. Tina opened it and brushed her teeth. As she looked around for the trash can to throw it away, she noticed Sam's lone toothbrush in the holder attached to the wall. Tina put hers in the empty slot next to Sam's. She crossed her arms and regarded the two toothbrushes. You know you'll be back, T. No point in making her buy another one for you. She combed her hair and ventured back out into the bedroom.

Sam was sitting on the bed waiting for her. "Everything all right?"

"Yeah. Thanks for the toothbrush."

"No problem." Sam began unbuttoning the woman's shirt. "Can we take this off?"

Tina started to assist with the buttons.

"Please. Let me." Sam gently removed Tina's hands. She finished with the buttons and slid the shirt off. Crawling to the middle of the bed, she smiled encouragingly. "If you'll lay down right here, we'll get started on making that back of yours feel MUCH better."

Tina lay on her stomach in the center of the mattress. Sam knelt with her legs astride the woman's hips and bent down to whisper in her ear. "I keep my promises... okay?"

Tina nodded her head slightly.

"Okay." Sam rubbed her hands together for a moment to warm them.Then, taking her time, she worked the tenseness from Tina's shoulders and upper arms. She moved to the mid-back and considered whether she should undo the bra clasp or not. She touched the material. "Can I? ..."

Another nod.

Sam released the clasp and pushed the material out of the way. She massaged the area thoroughly; pleased at the results she could feel under her fingertips. Scooting back a little to properly get at Tina's lower back, she felt the extreme tightness there. My goodness! Is it always like this? And she hardly ever mentions it. Having a difficult time getting at the muscles that were directly along the waistband of the jeans, the blonde crawled forward so she could whisper to Tina again. "Can we take off these jeans? I can't really get that tight area just below your waist." And they are not very comfortable to sit on, either. Sam looked at her shorts that were still on the floor. Maybe I should have put those on this morning, too.

Tina put her hands beneath her and raised her hips enough to unbutton and unzip her pants.

"Thanks." Sam got a hold of the waistband. "I'll get it." She pulled the jeans down past Tina's hips, careful not to pull the underwear off. Moving to the end of the bed, she grabbed each leg bottom and pulled until they came free of a pair of very long legs. Wow. What a body. Well...nobody ever said keeping promises was EASY. Returning to her previous spot, Sam resumed the massage.She worked hard on the lower section of Tina's back that was so incredibly tight. She continued until her hands and arms ached. Finally, exhausted, she lay next to Tina and pulled the sheet up over both of them. "Does that feel better?"

"Yes." Tina's voice was sleepy and Sam was happy with the results of her diligence.

They remained there, dozing, for a half hour or so. Tina woke up first. "Hmmm..." She began kissing Sam's neck. She smells so good. Her hands began roaming over the smaller woman's body. And she has the softest skin...

"Mmmm?" Sam was not quite awake.

"Good morning."

Oh my... there's that deep, sensual voice again. Sam felt her body respond to the exploring hands and the words spoken close to her ear. She opened her eyes. "Good morning." She kissed Tina and smiled. What a way to wake up!

Tina rolled Sam onto her back and leaned over her. "You're a special woman, Samantha Whitwell."

Sam chuckled. "And you're just figuring that out?" She kissed Tina again.

Both women had flushed faces and erratic breathing at the conclusion of the lengthy kiss.

"Listen... if we're going to do... this," Tina said decisively, "It has to be my way."

"I understand."I won't ask you for more than you're ready to give.

Tina gently positioned Sam's arms above her head. "Will you keep these here for me?"

Sam gazed into very serious blue eyes. "Yes." You can trust me.

"I..." Tina paused."I..." Another pause.

Sam tilted her head slightly to one side, trying to read Tina's expression. "I've been told to follow my heart."

"Really?"Tina looked thoughtful. "Me, too."

"Then I guess that's what we should do, huh?"

Tina slid a hand under Sam's shirt. "Know what my heart's saying right now?"

"Yes." Sam grinned. "I believe I do."

And Tina followed her heart.

Chapter 23

"Would you like cream or sugar?" Sam took two steaming mugs of water out of the microwave and put a heaping teaspoon of instant coffee into each cup.

"No, thanks. Black is fine." Tina was looking at the magnetic memo board attached to the side of the refrigerator. Hmm... important numbers. Mom, Lisa, aunts and uncles... various women's names... wonder who they are? Friends? Ex-lovers?

"Here." Sam handed Tina her coffee. "Want to sit in the living room?"


The women sat on the couch, sipping their drinks.

"So, what are your plans for today?" Sam asked.

"I'll probably do my laundry, run, read a little bit. The usual stuff."

"Ack. Laundry. I need to do that, too." She looks ready to bolt again. She gets very fidgety when she's nervous or uncomfortable.

"I... I guess I should be going." Tina got up.

"Okay." But I wish you'd stay.

They went into the kitchen and put their cups in the sink.

"Hang on just a second." Sam hurried out of the room.

Where's she going? Tina looked at the memo board again. There was a pencil hanging by a string and she picked it up. After a quick peek toward the opening of the kitchen to see if Sam was coming back yet, Tina jotted her name and number at the end of the list. She went into the living room, got her backpack, and stood by the door.

"Tina?" Sam called out as she returned to the front of the apartment. She found her guest at the door, poised to leave. "Oh, good... you're still here." She walked over and took one of Tina's hands. Rotating it so the palm was facing up, she placed something there, curled the woman's fingers over it and kissed the closed fist. "Whenever you want me... I'm yours."

Tina stared at the little blonde in front of her for a long moment before shifting her eyes to her fist. Slowly, she uncurled her fingers. There, resting on her palm, was a shiny brass key. The key to her house. Tina looked back at the musician's smiling face. "I... I don't... can't...

Sam threw her arms around the accountant and hugged her tight. As she had hoped, two things happened; the tall woman reciprocated the hug and it quelled any further objections.

"I... I really should go." Tina bent down and kissed Sam good-bye.

"Okay." Sam opened the door and they went out onto the landing.Tina descended the stairs and stopped at the bottom. She looked at the key in her hand again and then up at Sam.

"Bye." Sam waved before going back into the house. She closed the door and leaned against it. Whew... wonder what she thinks of that? Hearing the motor of the BMW start, she went to the window and watched the car pull out of the driveway. Please come back... tonight... tomorrow night... soon.

The phone rang and Sam picked it up. "Hello?"

"Well? You'd better get over here and tell us what happened!"

"I'll be right there."

Sam went down the stairs and across the walkway to her sister's house.When she entered the kitchen, Lisa and Mike were sitting at the table looking at her expectantly.

"WELL?" Lisa asked.

"Good morning to you, too!" Sam chuckled as she sat down. "Can't a person at least get some coffee around here?"

Lisa sighed. "All right." She prepared a cup of coffee and placed it on the table. "Now tell us... how did it go?"

"It went... pretty well." Sam felt the color rise in her cheeks. They just saw her car leave... they KNOW what happened.

"Pretty well? Is she your girlfriend now? I mean... are you officially a... couple?"

"This isn't high school, Lisa." Mike interjected. "Next, you'll ask if they're going steady."

"She's my little sister and I think..."

"EXCUSE ME!" Sam interrupted.

"Yes?" Mike and Lisa said in unison.

"We're dating. That's it. Okay?"

"Okay." Lisa answered contritely. "I can't help it if I worry about you."

"I'm a grown woman, Lisa!"

"You're right." Something is bothering her. "Really... I'm very glad to hear it's working out."


They all drank their coffee quietly for a few minutes.

"So." Mike cleared his throat. "Does she have a tattoo?"

"Michael!" Lisa scolded her husband and then looked at Sam, interested in hearing the answer herself.

"You two are something else." Sam shook her head at the couple waiting for the reply. "No, she doesn't." And there's not a tattoo in this world that would make that body look better than it already does... I like it just the way it is. "Now that I have answered all the... pertinent... questions, I have laundry to do." She got up and put her cup in the sink. "Thanks for the coffee, Sis."

"Sam." Lisa caught up to the blonde as she reached the door. "I'm sorry... I didn't mean to say the wrong thing. I'm very happy for you."

"Thanks." Sam hugged her. "I know you are."She released her sister from the embrace and walked back toward her apartment.

Lisa watched, concerned. Hmmm...she should be ecstatic... there's more to this than she's telling us.


Tina had been for her run, done two loads of laundry and taken a nap. She'd just finished dinner and was stretched out on the couch watching TV when the phone rang.


"Umm... hi. It's Sam."

"Hi, Samantha."

"I was about to put a frozen dinner in my microwave when I saw your phone number here." And you can't imagine how surprised I was!


"Well, I figured you wouldn't have put it here unless it was okay to call."

"It's okay, yes."

Silence ensued as each woman listened to the other breathe for several moments.

"You're not one for talking much on the phone, are you?"

Tina laughed. "No, not really."

Several more seconds of breathing followed before Sam spoke again. "I miss you already." Receiving no response, she continued, "I guess I just wanted you to know that. That's all."


"Good night then."

"Good night." Tina hung up the phone. She went to the table by the front door and picked up the key Sam had given her that morning. She paced back and forth before standing and looking out the window at the bay. The water was barely visible in the darkness, but the streetlights lit up the sidewalk and balustrade that bordered it. Several people were enjoying an evening walk along Bayshore Boulevard. Tina went back to the table and picked up her key ring. She added Sam's key to the others and looked at the shiny piece of metal resting alongside her well-worn keys.

Just follow your heart.

She grabbed her backpack and headed for the door.


Sam hung up the phone. That didn't go very well. She returned the frozen dinner to the freezer and got a beer from the refrigerator. Liquid dinner... maybe some popcorn later. Wandering into the living room, she sat on the couch and picked up the remote. She flipped through the channels, looking for something interesting to watch and eventually chose an old movie on a cable channel. Putting her legs up on the coffee table, she threw a light blanket over them, and settled in to enjoy the show.

An hour later, the blonde's stomach was rumbling. Time for that popcorn I guess. She stood up just in time to see the headlights of a car turning into the driveway. Who could that be? Sam went to the window and looked out.

It was a silver BMW.

She's here? I don't believe it! Sam backed away from the window and returned to the couch. She ran her fingers through her hair to straighten it. Oh my gosh... she came back.

There was a light knock at the door.Sam went over and opened it.

"Hi." Tina was standing there with a half-grin on her face and a small paper bag in her hand.

"Come in."

Tina did so and handed the bag to the musician. "Special delivery."

"It certainly is!"

"Ahem... I meant what's in the bag."

"Oh." Sam opened the sack. "This looks GOOD!" It was a hamburger from her favorite fast food joint. She hugged Tina. "I'm so glad you're here."

"Well... I guess I missed you, too." I'm definitely having some sort of mid-life crises... I sound like some lovesick kid. "Are you going to eat that burger or not?"

"Are you kidding? Of course I am." Sam led the way into the kitchen. "Would you like something to drink?"

"Yeah. A beer sounds good." Maybe a six-pack.

"I was just watching the end of a movie. Want to see it?"


The women went back into the living room and sat on the couch. Sam, in between bites of her hamburger, explained the entire plot and who each character was as they watched the last 15 minutes of the movie. Tina was amused at the animated way in which Sam told the story. Her whole face would light up as she'd say ... "and THEN..." before launching into the next bit of her description. She is so full of life... and somehow... when I'm with her... I feel more alive, too.

The show ended and Sam passed the remote to her guest. "Is there something you'd like to watch? Umm... are you staying?"

Tina reached in her pocket and pulled out her keys. She handed them to Sam.

"Why are you giving me these?" Sam glanced down and saw her key on the ring with the others. "Oh." She clutched the keys to her chest and looked at Tina. I love you. Afraid she might say it out loud if she sat there a second longer, she stood up. "I usually take a shower before bed. You can watch TV..."

The accountant pressed a button on the remote and shut the TV off.

"Or... umm..." Sam was getting warm from the way Tina was looking at her. How does she DO that? She could feel the sexual energy in the air.

"I could use a shower, too." Tina got up, pulled the fair-haired woman close and murmured in her ear, "Maybe it's MY turn to help YOU."She took Sam's hand and escorted her to the bathroom.

The BMW was parked in the driveway every night that week.

Chapter 24

Sam woke up and looked at the clock on the bedside table. 9:00? She turned over and hugged the pillow next to her, breathing in Tina's scent. She missed getting to see Tina in the mornings, but the restless woman told her she woke up very early anyway, so she may as well go home and get ready for work. Much to the blonde's delight, she found short notes left for her on the coffee table each day.

Have a good day. See you tonight.


Good morning! I'll bring dinner around 7.

Or, her favorite...

It was hard to leave this morning. See you later.

Sam had saved each one, tucking them away in a manila envelope in her desk. I wonder what she wrote today? The sound of children playing outside broke into her thoughts. Children? Oh! It's Saturday... Tina might still be here. She climbed out of bed, pulled on her pajama shirt and hurried into the bathroom to freshen up.

A few minutes later, Sam entered the living room and found Tina sitting on the couch, reading. "Good morning."


Sam joined Tina on the sofa and immediately cuddled against her. "It's nice to have you here in the morning."

"Uh huh." Tina resumed reading.

Sam looked at the Tropical Storm book in Tina's hands. "Wow. You're almost finished with that."

"Yeah. I've been reading a little every day before I leave."

"You know what?"

"What." Tina closed the book, unable to concentrate with the talkative woman next to her.

Sam pointed at the novel. "They remind me of us."

"Really?" Tina pondered that. "Maybe... but they're YOUNGER."

"Yeah," Sam agreed, "and RICHER."

"And... PERFECT LOOKING." Tina tossed the book onto the coffee table. "I mean... do real people actually look like that?"

Sam put a hand on Tina's shoulder and pulled herself up to a kneeling position. She straddled the woman's hips and sat on her lap, gazing into her face. "Oh, I'm sure there are a few who fall into that category." Like you, for instance.

Tina reached up to take her glasses off. "Samantha..."

"Wait... let me."Sam carefully removed the glasses and laid them on the end table next to the couch."Has anyone ever told you how absolutely sexy you look in these?"


"Words can not express..." Sam ran a finger along the side of Tina's face and under her chin. "... how beautiful I think you are." Sensing that Tina might interrupt again, she continued quickly, "In my eyes, there's NOBODY better looking than you... in real life OR in fiction."

Tina felt the heat rise in her cheeks. I CANNOT be blushing. Since when has flattery had any effect on me? She put an arm around Sam and pulled her close. Since I met this one... that's when.

Sam nuzzled Tina's neck. After a few moments, she moved so she was lying on the couch with her head resting on a strong thigh.

Tina looked down at the small woman. I'm in trouble here. She means too much to me already. Whatever happened to clear-cut, uncomplicated sex? "How come you're not in a relationship?"

Sam was caught off guard by the question. Tina had never asked anything about her past before, nor had she told Sam anything about her own. In addition to that, Sam was trying to wrap her mind around the concept that Tina didn't consider what they had as a relationship. I guess we haven't made as much progress as I'd thought. "What do you mean?"

"I mean... you're wonderful, caring, giving... and adorable. I would have thought someone would have snapped you up by now."

"I... I guess I never found the right person to settle down with." Until you. Sam deliberated for several moments before continuing. "I kind of thought my last girlfriend was what I'd always wanted... but I was wrong."

"How so?"

Sam sighed. I didn't think I'd end up talking about THIS today. "Umm... Kimberly was... is... a friend of Lisa's. At some point, the two of them were talking and the subject of gay people came up. Lisa said she had no problem with it and mentioned that her sister was gay. Kim, seeing that Lisa was open-minded about it, told her that SHE was gay. Well, Lisa thought Kimberly would be perfect for me, so she introduced us." Sam paused, collecting her thoughts. "Anyhow, we dated for a while and hit it off. Kimberly was everything I always thought I wanted in a girlfriend. She was attractive, fun, stable, domestic, had a good sense of humor... and she loved me very much. We were together for about three years."

"What happened?"

"I... broke up with her."


Sam considered the same question that Kimberly had asked her over and over. Why? "I... something was missing... I wasn't sure what it was... but it just didn't feel... right." Sam's voice was tinged with sadness. "I wanted it to work... I tried to convince myself that I should be happy. Then, last Valentine's Day, she gave me a ring. I should've been thrilled that this terrific person wanted to spend her life with me, but in all honesty, I couldn't accept it." Sam wiped a tear from her eye. "I never doubted that she loved me..." Her voice trailed off and she found it as difficult to explain it to Tina as it had been with Kimberly. Except now, Sam had the missing piece of the puzzle.

She wasn't you.

The women were quiet for a while, each one deep in thought.

Sam, feeling that turnabout was fair play, mustered the courage to ask, "What about you?"


"Yes, you. I would have thought a beautiful woman like you would have suitors lined up waiting for a chance to claim you. No one has ever captured your heart?"


Sam waited. I know you can tell me more than that. C'mon... open up a little bit.

"I was engaged once."

Sam waited some more.

"I guess I was doing what I thought I was supposed to do. You know... go to college, get a good job, get married, have kids." Tina shrugged.

Sam nodded, understanding those expectations completely.

"But it didn't feel... right. Kind of like what you said. So, I put the marriage plans off several times... and then the accident happened."

Sam took one of Tina's hands in her own. She kissed it and held it against her chest.

"I... fell apart for a while after that and he eventually got tired of waiting for me to pull my life back together. It was all my fault, really."

Pile on a little more guilt, eh? Sam was just about to ask another question when a loud clap of thunder boomed. She grabbed onto Tina and shrieked.

"It's just thunder." Tina laughed. More rumbling was heard as rain began pouring down.

Sam relaxed as the thunder receded. "I'm sorry. Sometimes storms scare me a little."

"It's okay." I like protecting you.

The rain persisted and the pair remained on the couch, listening to the drops tapping on the windows and roof.



"I'm really glad you came to the reunion."

"Me, too."

Sam sat up so she could look into Tina's eyes. "I've come to think of it as OUR reunion."

"Our reunion?"

"Yes. I mean... all those years ago, I watched you at track practice. Who would have ever thought we'd meet again and end up..." be careful " this?"

"Yeah... you sitting at the top of the bleachers, pretending to study, and..."

"WHAT?" Sam pointed her finger accusingly. "Are you saying you REMEMBER me from high school?"

Uh oh. "Umm... yes."

"Oh, you..." Sam pounced on Tina and started tickling her.

The accountant was trying to fight off the onslaught so she could retaliate. Soon, both of them were laughing and wrestling with each other all over the couch. Tina started to get the upper hand and she tickled Sam relentlessly. The musician wriggled free and ran. Tina chased her into the bedroom, tackling her just as she reached the bed. "Gotcha!"

"Yes." Sam was breathing heavily from the exertion of the wrestling match. "You most certainly do."

Tina looked into the sparkling green eyes of the woman lying beneath her. And she smiled.

There it is! That real smile that lights up her whole face... just like at track practice. "Tina?"


"In high school... at practice... sometimes your brother would talk to you. I always wondered what he said to make you smile."

Tina rolled onto her back and stared at the ceiling.

Sam snuggled next to her. I hope I didn't go too far by mentioning Steven.

A few minutes passed.

"He would tease me." The words were spoken so softly that Sam barely heard them.

"Tease you? About what?"

"Umm... mostly... you."

Sam propped herself up on an elbow so she could look at Tina. "Me?"

"Yes. He would say I was showing off... because you were watching." And he was right.

"I... that is... unbelievable. I didn't even think you knew I existed."

"He called you my number one fan."

"Well, he was right about THAT!" Sam kissed Tina's cheek before lying back down. She was stunned by the information she had just heard.

"He thought you were cute."

"Really? G'wan... now you're teasing ME."

Tina positioned herself over the blonde again. "No. It's true." She brushed Sam's bangs out of her eyes. "And I agree... you were cute... and you've turned into a beautiful woman."

Sam was astonished. I cannot believe this. I am never going to forget this day!

"I think he would approve of... us." He'd want me to be happy... and you make me happy.

Blue eyes were full of emotion and Sam glimpsed into the heart and soul of the woman she loved. She reached up and stroked the side of Tina's face. "You know I want to be the one to capture your heart."

"Yes... I know." Tina lightly ran her fingers up Sam's thigh.

"Are you going to let me?"

Tina kissed Sam's neck. "Hmmm... I..."

At that moment, grumbling sounds emanated from Tina's midsection. They both looked down at the offending stomach.

"I'm sorry. I've usually had breakfast by now."

"Oh! I don't have anything here. Do you want to go to brunch? We can go to..."

Sam's next words were smothered by a kiss.

"Maybe later." Tina said before kissing her again. Much later.

Chapter 25

Sam sat on Tina's lap and put her arms around the dark-haired woman's neck. "See? I told you this was going to be fun."

Tina nibbled on Sam's ear. "Umm hmm..."

"You'd better stop that." Sam grinned. "We have a job to do here..."

"Umm hmm..." Undeterred, Tina continued nibbling.

The doorbell rang and Sam leapt to her feet. "C'mon..." She pulled Tina up from the couch. "You have to earn that brunch I bought you."

"I think it turned out to be a late LUNCH," Tina corrected.

Sam opened the door.

A group of discordant voices shouted, "Trick or Treat!"

Sam distributed the treats and complimented the children on their costumes. She smiled at Tina as the tall woman closed the door. "You ARE having fun, aren't you?"

Tina wrinkled her brow as she pretended to give the question considerable thought. Sam had talked her into helping to pass out Halloween candy while Lisa and Mike took the boys trick or treating around the neighborhood. In between visitors, the women had spent the time cuddling on the couch. "Hmm... yes." Tina leaned down and kissed Sam while her hands roamed over the blonde's body. "I must say it's been quite enjoyable."

"Oh, you are so..."

The doorbell rang.

Sam picked up the bowl of candy as Tina opened the door.

"Trick or Treat!"

The couple looked down at a small girl who appeared to be four or five years old. She was dressed in a brown costume with a plastic sword strapped to her back. She held out her bag expectantly.

"And who are you?" Sam asked.

The girl straightened her shoulders and attempted to look fierce. "I'm the Warrior Princess. Yi, Yi, Yi, Yi, Yi!" Her little voice warbled. The girl's father, standing behind the child, rolled his eyes.

Tina looked at Sam and said, in her most serious tone, "I think you'd better give her the candy."

Sam complied and they watched as the girl and her father walked to the sidewalk. Tina closed the door and both women burst out laughing.

"Gosh, was she ever cute!" Sam exclaimed.

"Good thing you gave her that candy or we would've been in BIG trouble."

"I think you're right."

The door opened. "We're home!" Mike called out. Lisa and the boys followed him in with Beethoven.

"Look what WE got!" Aaron opened his bag and Sam looked inside.

Joshua went over to Tina and opened his bag for her to see. She knelt down on one knee and inspected its contents with interest. "Wow. You sure have a lot of candy here. Do you think you can eat it all?"

"Oh, yes! But you can have some if you want."

Tina chuckled. "That's all right..." She spotted one of her favorite candy bars. "Well...maybe that little Milky Way there..."

"SURE!" Joshua dug into the bag and gave the woman the requested candy. His eyes were sparkling. "Just for you, Tina."

"Thanks, Josh." She gave him a hug.

Sam was observing the exchange with amusement. She's so good with him. And Joshua is crazy about her. Heck, so am I.

"So, how did things go here?" Lisa asked.

"Fine. We had a steady stream of kids the whole time you were gone."

The doorbell rang and Beethoven barked.

"I'll take the dog upstairs with me," Mike said. "Come on, Batman and Robin. Time to get out of those costumes."

"All right," Aaron said. "Then can we eat some candy?"

"We'll see. Maybe one or two pieces after Mom and I check everything over."

The boys followed their dad up the stairs, chattering with excitement about the evening.

Lisa passed out candy to the children who had rung the bell. After closing the door, she turned off the porch light. "Whew! That's enough for me."

Sam laughed. "You love it and you know it."

"Yeah, yeah." Lisa led the way into the kitchen. "You two want a cup of coffee or something?"

"No thanks," Sam answered. "We're going to watch a video."

"Well, I appreciate the help tonight. It's nice when both Mike and I can go with the boys."

"No problem, Sis." Sam took hold of Tina's hand. "Ready to go?"


The women exchanged good-byes and Lisa watched as her sister walked across the yard, never releasing Tina's hand. She's happy... and Tina seems to adore her. Maybe this is going to work out after all.


Sam closed and locked the door after they entered the garage apartment. "Want me to make some popcorn?"

"Okay." Tina followed her into the kitchen.

Sam put the popcorn in the microwave and got two beers from the refrigerator.

Tina leaned against the counter. "I can't believe you've never seen the movie Halloween."

"I like Jamie Lee Curtis, but I don't usually watch horror movies." Sam shrugged. "Sometimes I get scared."

"We don't have to watch it... I just figured it being Halloween and all..."

"I think I'll be okay with you here."

The microwave beeped and Sam poured the popcorn into a large bowl. The couple went into the living room and got comfortable on the couch.

The blonde nestled against Tina as the video began. It wasn't long before she had her arms tightly gripped around Tina's waist and her face buried against a strong shoulder. She remained like that for the majority of the show.

Tina loved every minute of it. "It's over now."

Sam peeked toward the television set. The credits were scrolling on the screen. "Is he really dead?"

"Well, there are several sequels, so I don't think so."


"It's only a movie, Samantha."

"I know," she replied uncertainly.

"Ready for bed?"

"Oh!" Sam jumped up. "I have something for you." She dashed out of the room. A few seconds later, she returned with a purple gift bag.

Tina took the present offered to her. "I wasn't aware that Halloween was a gift-giving occasion."

"Well, it's not... but I wanted to get you this..." Sam put her hands on her hips. "Just open it, okay?"

"Okay." Tina moved the tissue paper aside and pulled out a large white tee shirt with Mickey Mouse on the front. She looked at the shirt and then at Sam. "Why are you giving me a ..."

"There's more."

Tina reached into the bag again and felt something made of very smooth material. She removed the item and laughed when she saw it was a pair of silk Mickey Mouse boxer shorts. "Boxer shorts? For me?"

"They're for pajamas. You don't have anything here and I just thought..." Sam paused, suddenly unsure about her decision to give the woman the gift. "So... umm... do you like them?"

"Yes... I think so." Tina stood up. "How about I go try them on?"


Tina headed toward the bedroom.

Sam turned off the television and brought the remnants of the snacks into the kitchen. Whew. She seems to like the pajamas. All the time she spends in this apartment... and she doesn't have a single personal item here. Maybe this will make her feel like something... some part of her... is here all the time. I hope she likes THAT idea because I sure do. The musician switched the kitchen light off and went into the bedroom. Tina was in the bathroom, so the blonde sat on the edge of the bed and waited.

After a few minutes, the door opened and Tina stepped out. "What do you think?" She spread her arms wide and looked down at her outfit. I can't believe I'm wearing this.

Sam was unable to suppress a huge smile at the sight. "You look..."


"No." Sam got up and hugged Tina. "Cute."

"Samantha." Tina sighed. "Sometimes I wonder about you."

"Only sometimes?" Sam stood on her tiptoes to kiss the taller woman.

"Hmmm..." What was I saying?

"I'm going to get ready for bed." Sam yawned as she went into the bathroom.

Tina got under the covers. I can't believe she bought me pajamas... and of all things... Mickey Mouse pajamas... guess I never was a Victoria's Secret kind of gal.

Sam came out of the bathroom, turned out the lights, and crawled into bed. She pressed her body against Tina's and ran her hands over the new clothing. "This feels nice."

"Yeah... I like them. Thanks."

"You're welcome." Sam rested her head on Tina's shoulder and threw an arm and leg across her body. "You know what?"


"I really like you being here."

"I think I already knew that." But for some reason, it feels good hearing it.

Sam yawned again. "I just really... like... you."

Tina kissed the top of the drowsy woman's head and stroked her hair. She listened as Sam's breathing became deeper. In moments, the blonde was asleep.

The accountant looked up at the ceiling. What a week this has been. Has it really only been that long since she sang to me at the Beach Bar and I brought her home? I haven't been able to stay away either... driving here every night...

Sam turned to lie on her side and Tina curled up behind her. This was their usual sleeping position and soon both of them were slumbering.




Stevie? Tina opened her eyes.

"Ti..." Sam tossed and turned in obvious distress.

"Shhh... it's all right," Tina murmured, "I'm here." She watched as Sam appeared to calm down. No more scary movies for you... I should have knownbetter...

Sam woke up with a gasp. "TINA!"

Tina grabbed the frightened woman and held her tight. "It's okay... I'm right here."

Sam was shaking. "I'm sorry... I had a bad dream."

"There's nothing to be sorry about. I never should have suggested you see that movie in the first place."

Sam relaxed in Tina's arms. "I'm SO glad you're here."

"Me, too."



"I need to stay awake for a few minutes. Sometimes, if I go right back to sleep, I go directly into the nightmare again."

"Okay." Tina propped herself up on an elbow and looked at Sam. "What were you dreaming about?"

"Someone was chasing me... and I was trying to get away... but it was like I was moving in slow motion... has that ever happened to you?"


"And I tried to yell for help... but no sound was coming out."

"I heard you." Tina trailed her fingers along the side of Sam's face. "You called me."

"I did?"

"Yes... really... I heard you." She leaned forward and kissed Sam gently before lying back down next to her.



"Do you ever have nightmares?"


It was Sam's turn to prop herself up so she could see her companion. "You do?"

"Yes." Please don't ask me...

"What are they about?"

Tina looked into the interested green eyes above her. Tell her... you can tell her... "About... the accident."

"Oh..." Sam picked up one of Tina's hands and linked their fingers together. "Do you want to tell me...?"

Tina shook her head.I don't want to... but I should.

"Okay." Sam lay back down and rested her head on the quiet woman's shoulder. I won't push you. She was just about to doze off again when Tina spoke.

"It was... Labor Day."

Sam didn't move... she barely breathed... afraid that Tina might not continue.

"I...I wanted to go running at the track. I called Steven to ask him if he'd go with me. He didn't want to... he was supposed to attend a cookout with his girlfriend later that day.

I told him I'd get him back on time... talked him into it...

everything was fine... we worked out and were on our way home...

it started to rain... one of those sudden summer downpours."

Tina paused.

Sam squeezed their still linked hands to reassure Tina that she was listening. You can do it... tell me what happened... I love you.

"I should have pulled over... it was raining so much I could hardly see. But I had promised to get him home...

we were on Fruitville Road... we were laughing because I was teasing him about his girlfriend... he was worried he was going to get in trouble if he was late...

then a car coming from the other direction swerved into our lane. I tried to pull out of the way... and we started skidding on the slick road..."

Tina's voice shook with emotion and Sam's eyes filled with tears as the distraught woman struggled to keep going.

"I... I couldn't get control of the car... it all happened so fast... we spun around in a circle before crashing into the culvert on the side of the road."

There was a prolonged silence as Tina gathered her strength to finish the story.

Sam was trying desperately not to cry. She needs me to be strong right now... crying is NOT going to help. She kissed their entwined fingers.

"We were both wearing our seatbelts, but we had been thrown sideways when we went into the ditch. I guess that's how I hurt my back...

but... Steven..." Tina's voice cracked as she said her brother's name. She was sniffling, but she managed to continue. "He... he had hit his head against the passenger window... I could only see that he was unconscious... I didn't know... I didn't know how injured he really was.

I couldn't move... my back... hurt so badly...

someone must have called 911 right away because the next thing I knew I was being pulled out of the car...

they put us in the same ambulance to take us to the hospital... I kept calling to Steven... trying to wake him up.

he... he didn't wake up.

He... never... woke... up."

Tina couldn't contain her grief any longer and she began to cry.

Sam put her arms around the weeping woman and pulled her into an embrace. She tucked Tina's head under her chin and whispered words of comfort as she caressed her.

It was several minutes before Tina's breathing evened out and she relaxed in Sam's arms.

Sam looked at the tear-streaked face resting on her chest. I don't imagine you've told that story to many people. Vivian was right. You WILL open up if I give you enough time.

And for you, Tina Mellekas... I'll make all the time in the world.

Continued in Part 6

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