Sam opened her eyes, squinting in reaction to the brightness in the room. The French doors were ajar and she could feel the gentle breeze that accompanied the light pouring through. I wonder where Tina is? She pushed the covers back and sat up. Hearing voices outside, she listened for a moment. Hmm... that's Aaron and Josh... they must be playing. Wait a minute... the blonde cocked an ear toward the sounds drifting in from below ... is that Tina?
Curious to see what was going on, she hurried to the balcony and looked down into Lisa's yard. Her two nephews were trying to dribble a soccer ball past Tina and score a goal. The lanky woman was running back and forth as the boys kicked it to each other. Suddenly, Josh made a feint and went around Tina. He passed the ball to Aaron, who scored. The children jumped up and down, shouting with excitement.
Tina slapped high fives with the boys. "Okay. It's MY turn." She positioned herself at the area designated as mid-field and started dribbling. Aaron and Josh ran to her and tried to steal the ball. Amid much giggling, pushing, and shoving, the boys got it and kicked another goal. They cheered again. Tina laughed heartily.
Sam smiled. She's like a big kid sometimes. And it's so nice to hear her laugh... she doesn't do that often enough. After quickly dressing, the musician jogged down the stairs. She waved to her nephews and their soccer buddy. "Hi, guys!"
"Hi, Auntie Sam!" Aaron and Josh chorused.
"Hi." Tina grinned at the new arrival. "Wanna play?"
"Are you sure there's room in this game for one more?"
"YES!" The boys exclaimed.
"How about Josh and I take on you two?" Tina suggested.
"We can beat them, Auntie Sam," Aaron said with assurance.
Sam crossed her arms and scrutinized the opposition. "I'm not as confident as you are about that, but we'll give it our best try, okay?"
A rousing game ensued. Finally, with the score tied, Tina made a break for the goal. Sam, unable to steal the ball from her, grabbed the tall woman around the waist. Aaron got a hold of one leg. Tina fell to the ground and Sam started tickling her. Josh jumped onto the pile and joined in. All of them were laughing and attempting to tickle each other when a voice of authority spoke.
Everyone instantly stopped. They looked up to see an older version of Sam standing there, glaring at them.
"Mother!" Sam scrambled to her feet.
"What in the world are you doing?"
"We... we were playing soccer," Sam replied, running her fingers through her hair nervously.
The rest of the group stood up.
"Hi, Grandma!" Aaron ran and hugged his grandmother.
Josh wrapped his arms around Tina's thigh and leaned against her.
"Mom," Sam could not, would not, hide the pride in her introduction. "This is Tina."
Neither of the women offered a hand or said anything. An uncomfortable few seconds passed.
"Aaron... Joshua." Mrs. Whitwell said sternly. "Go in the house."
"Yes, Grandma." Aaron started toward the patio.
Joshua didn't move.
Mrs. Whitwell pinned the smaller boy with a look of displeasure. "I said go inside."
Tina felt the arms around her leg tighten. She bent down and spoke softly to the youngster. "Josh, I need to have breakfast. How about I come and get you after that and we'll take Beethoven for a walk? Just you and me."
"Yes, I promise. Now, go on in the house, okay?"
"Okay." Joshua slowly let go of Tina's leg and did as he was told.
"Mom!" Lisa came rushing outside. "How are you?"
"I dropped by to discuss our plans for Thanksgiving and I find..."
"Well, come on in." Lisa took her mother's arm and began leading her to the back door. "Would you like some coffee?"
"Yes. That would be nice." Mrs. Whitwell glanced back at Sam. "I'd like to talk to you, too."
"I'll be right there," Sam said dejectedly. She sighed as her mother and Lisa disappeared into the house. "I dread the holidays. Every year it's a fight."
"Is there anything I can do?"
"No. I have to deal with it. But having you here... makes it easier."
"I was leaving to get some stuff to make breakfast when I saw the boys playing. I'll go now if you want. How does bacon and eggs sound?"
Sam gave Tina a quick hug. "It sounds wonderful."
"I'll be back in a little while." Tina removed her car keys from her pocket. "Good luck with your mom."
"I'll need it." Sam took a deep breath and headed into the house.
Tina pulled into the driveway. Well, the car is gone... so Grandma must have left. She gathered the plastic grocery bags, climbed the stairs, and entered the apartment. Seeing no immediate sign of the homeowner, she went into the kitchen and put the food away before wandering into the bedroom. Ah... there she is.
Sam was sitting in one of the lounge chairs on the balcony.
"Hi." Tina relaxed into the unoccupied chair. "You okay?"
Without a word, Sam got up and moved over to sit on Tina's lap. She laid her head on the taller woman's shoulder.
Tina put her arms around the uncharacteristically quiet blonde. Geez... her mother certainly knows how to push her buttons.
They sat in silence for a bit, Sam apparently needing the closeness and Tina glad she was there to provide it.
The accountant's stomach grumbled loudly.
"I'm sorry." Sam started to get up. "You're hungry."
Tina gently pulled the woman back down. "It's all right. I can wait."
"No... really... I'm fine." Sam looked into blue eyes that radiated anger. "Are you mad at me?"
"No, not at all."
"It's just that you look... kind of mad."
"I'm angry that your mother upsets you like this."
"I won't be speaking to her for quite some time. So that shouldn't be a problem."
"Oh." Whatever happened... it must not have gone well.
"Now... moving on to a more pressing topic." Sam lightly brushed her lips against Tina's. "Didn't I hear you say you were going to cook breakfast this morning?"
Hmm... she doesn't want to tell me about it. "Yes."
"Okay." Sam tried to get up again, but found herself held securely in place.
"Wait." Tina gazed deeply into sad green eyes, allowing Sam to see how much she cared. Then she kissed her...ever so tenderly... much differently from the passionate kisses the younger woman was used to.
"Sometimes," Sam murmured, "you know just the right thing to do."
"Not often enough, Samantha." Definitely not often enough.
"You're doing fine." The blonde grinned as Tina's stomach growled again. "And it seems that making breakfast right now would be an EXCELLENT thing to do."
The women enjoyed a leisurely meal, sharing the Sunday paper and reading aloud when they saw something interesting.
"Look at this." Sam turned the page toward Tina. It was an advertisement for a musical.
"This is where I'm working next weekend. The orchestra is playing the music."
"At the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center?" Near my place.
"Yes." Sam folded the paper and laid it down. "It makes for a long weekend, though. The play is performed Friday night, twice on Saturday, and a Sunday matinee. I won't be home all that much... but you have the key... if you want to come over..."
The ringing of the phone interrupted and Sam answered it. "Hello?" Her face broke into a smile as she listened to the caller. "Let me have you talk to her." She handed the phone to Tina.
"Hi. This is Lisa. I have Joshua here. He's under the impression that you're coming to get him... to walk the dog?"
"Yes. I promised him I would. Is he ready?"
"You might say that. Hang on... here he is."
"Are we gonna take Beethoven for a walk?"
"Sure." She grinned at the sound of the boy's excited, high-pitched voice on the phone. "Do you want me to come over now?"
"All right. I'll be there in a minute."
Tina hung up. "Well, I have a hot date with the young man next door."
Sam put her arms around Tina's neck and kissed her. "As long as you come back to ME... I guess it's okay."
"You can count on it."
They heard Beethoven barking outside.
"I need to go." Tina ducked her head for another kiss. "I'll be back soon."
Sam watched from the landing as Tina and Josh walked down the driveway with Beethoven in front of them on the extendable leash. As they turned at the sidewalk, Josh reached up to hold Tina's hand. Sam's heart swelled at the sight. Mom can disapprove of me all she wants... I will NEVER be ashamed of loving you.
Going back into the apartment, Sam raised the windows to let in the cool, fall air. Then she went to the kitchen and washed the dishes from the delicious breakfast Tina had cooked. Next, the bedroom was straightened and the bed made. Returning to the living room, Sam heard someone talking outside. Peeking out the open window, she saw Tina and Josh sitting on the bottom steps. Beethoven was lying on the ground, panting.
The musician could clearly hear the conversation.
"Tina? It's good to like people, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is."
"I like you."
"I like you too, Josh."
"Aaron says you like Auntie Sam."
"Of course I do."
The boy thought for a moment before speaking again. "Grandma... she doesn't like you."
"But... Mom always tells us to be nice to people." Joshua sounded confused.
"Your mom is VERY smart."
"Yup! And, I think... people who are nice... we should love them. Mom says love is important." He looked at Tina. "My mom and dad love me."
"I'm certain they do."
"Aaron says Auntie Sam loves you."
Inside the house, Sam's eyes widened in surprise. Guess it's time to have that chat with the boys Lisa and I have talked about.
Argh! Tina was completely flustered by the child's unexpected statement. Aaron talks WAY too much. She industriously tightened the laces on her sneakers while trying to come up with some sort of response. "Umm... well... what do you think about that?"
"I think you're really nice."
Whew! "Thanks, Josh. That means a lot to me."
"Can I bring Beethoven in by myself?"
"Sure." Tina stood, ready to assist if needed.
"Bye, Tina!" Joshua took the leash and started across the walkway. "C'mon, Beethoven!"
The animal dutifully trotted after the child.
"Bye, Josh." Tina watched as he and the dog got safely inside the house. She sat back down on the steps with a thud. What am I getting myself into? This woman has family... and these nephews... there's more to this than just the two of us. I don't think I'm ready...
The door above her opened.
"Hi." Sam sat next to Tina. "Did you have fun walking the dog?"
"Yeah. Joshua is a pretty neat kid."
"I think so, too. Though, as his aunt, I'm more than a little biased."
"I... I'm afraid he's getting attached to me."
"Why would you be afraid of that?"
"I don't want to hurt him. If... something... happens with us..."
"If at some point something happens and you aren't part of his life anymore... he would be sad. BUT... he'd have happy memories of the time you spent together." Sam turned to face Tina and lowered her voice. "Umm... it's the same for me. I wouldn't trade the last few months for anything in the world. I'll never forget how I've felt... and how happy I've been. No matter what happens in the future... no one can take that away from me. It's in here." Sam placed a hand over her heart. "If later, things...change... I'd feel lucky that I got to experience it for a little while... even though I'd be terribly hurt." Devastated might be a better word.
"How do you always make everything seem so... positive?"
"Well... life isn't perfect... but it helps to try to hold on to the good things... and let the other things go."
"I... I have happy memories of Steven... but the accident..."
"Some things you might never be able let go of... but you can learn to live with them."
Tina nodded. "You're helping me... learn."
Sam's face lit up. "I am?"
The women sat in silence for several minutes.
Sam, feeling that Tina had had as much personal discussion as she could handle in one sitting, decided to change the subject. "It's almost time for the football game." She stood and reached for Tina's hand. "Don't you want to watch it?"
"Come on, then." Sam led the way up the stairs and into the apartment.
As she walked through the doorway, Tina looked back at the spot where she'd last seen Joshua. You're right Josh... people who are nice... we should love them.
Vivian poked her head into Tina's office. "Good morning!"
"I brought you some coffee." The boss placed a large cup on Tina's desk before settling into a chair.
"You're welcome." Vivian watched her friend remove the plastic top from the coffee and take a sip. "How are you doing?"
"You seem tired. Are you still driving back and forth to Sarasota?"
"Tired... but happy?"
"I... guess so."
"Tina," the older woman's voice had a no-nonsense tone, "it's all right to be happy."
"Maybe I'm just not used to it. It feels... strange."
Vivian chuckled. "You've denied yourself for too long. It's about time you allowed yourself to enjoy life again."
"How did YOU do it?" Tina leaned her elbows on the desk, looking at her boss with interest.
"Enjoy life again?"
"Well, when I lost Dominic... I tried to think of what he'd want me to do. And even though it was very difficult at first... I pushed through... one day at a time. I still think about him every single day, but I know in my heart he'd want me to go on living a full life." She paused. "It isn't easy, though."
"I can understand that."
"Most importantly... I had a wonderful friend who helped me through the worst of it." Vivian looked fondly at the woman across from her. "That helped a lot."
"I didn't do anything."
"Ha! You don't fool me for one moment, Tina Mellekas. You never took another trip after Dominic died. You hovered around me like a mother hen... and Lord help anyone who upset me in any way."
"I haven't even mentioned the half of it... and you know it."
There was a brief silence.
"All right." Tina conceded. "Maybe I helped a little."
Tina cleared her throat. "You were telling me about Dominic?"
"Yes. What I want you to realize is... I was married for 32 years and I wouldn't trade in a minute of it. But I'm telling you... if I get a second chance... I'm going to grab it. And he would approve." Vivian looked at Tina with solemn hazel eyes. "Chances like Samantha don't happen every day."
"Okay." The boss stood up. "I guess I've lectured you enough for now." She started to leave.
Vivian waved her hand as she left the office. "Anytime, dear."
Tina grabbed her backpack and rummaged through it until she found the piece of paper she was hunting for. She picked up the phone and dialed the number that was written in large print. The writing is even big enough so I don't need my glasses... Samantha thinks of everything.
The familiar, sleepy voice made Tina smile. "Hi. Umm... I found your phone number in my backpack. I figured you wouldn't have put it there unless it was okay to call."
Sam laughed. "It's okay. Yes." I put that in there days ago. Wonder when she found it?
"What are you doing?"
"I'm lying here hugging your pillow."
"Oh... I didn't mean to wake you."
"It's all right. I have a lot of things to do today before I leave for work."
"That's what I wanted to talk to you about." Tina played with a paper clip.
"Yeah." The paper clip had been unwound and now the accountant was tapping the straightened piece of metal on her desk. "I... if you want to... you can stay at my place tonight... well, tomorrow night, too... I only live about ten minutes from the Performing Arts Center. It would be much easier for you."
"Are you sure it's okay?" You've waited until Friday to ask me. This must be something you've been thinking about all week.
"Uh huh." Tina picked up another paperclip and began unwinding it.
"Then I'll see you tonight."
"I..." I wish I could tell you I love you... without being afraid I'd scare you away.
"Oh... umm... I should be there sometime between 10 and 11:00. Is that all right?"
"I'll be looking forward to it." Tina's voice had become deeper.
"Me, too." Sam suddenly felt warm. "Bye, bye."
"Bye." Tina hung up the phone and stared at it for a long time.
Tina held the condo door open. "Hi there."
"Hi...ugh..." Sam struggled to get through the doorway with her large duffel bag and the garment carrier she was holding.
"Do you think you have enough stuff?" Tina teased as she took the bag and shut the door.
"More than enough." Sam made a face. "It's a pain having to keep these work clothes on hangers."
"But," Tina grinned, "the end result is SUCH an attractive outfit."
"Ha, ha." Sam looked down at her black tuxedo pants, white shirt and black vest. "I suppose it could be worse. Thank heavens they don't make me wear a skirt."
"Let's put your things away."
They went into the bedroom and Tina opened the closet so Sam could hang up the garment carrier.
"Umm... I don't know where you want to put that stuff." Tina pointed at the duffel bag she had placed on the floor.
"Right there looks perfect." Sam ran her hand through her hair. "I really need a shower. Would that be all right?"
"Sure." Tina turned on the bathroom light. "I put some extra towels in here for you."
Sam walked into the large bathroom. "Wow... a walk-in shower." She slid the door sideways and looked inside. "Cool."
"Let me know if you need anything."
"Besides you?" Sam hugged the tall woman.
Tina stiffened slightly at the contact. "Yes."
"Okay." Uh oh... she's tense... better be careful.
Sam took a shower and put on her pajamas. She went into the living room where Tina was watching the news on television and sat on the couch close to, but not touching, the accountant. "So, how was work today?"
Okay... you don't want to talk. Sam didn't attempt any further conversation. After yawning a couple of times, she leaned her head on the armrest of the couch and, in no time at all, fell asleep.
Tina looked at the sleeping blonde. You're so patient with me. You back off when I need it...somehow you seem to know what I'm feeling. She reached over and swept a piece of still-damp hair off Sam's face. And such a beautiful woman... with a pure heart... what is it you see in me?
Picking up the remote, Tina turned off the television. She took the blanket
that was draped over the back of the couch and placed it on the slumbering
woman before carefully squeezing into the space behind her. Sweet dreams,
Samantha. Listening to the musician's steady breathing, Tina felt herself
beginning to relax. This feels... right. It was her last thought
before drifting off to sleep.
"Ow..." Sam woke up with a crick in her neck.
Sam felt, as well as heard, the low sound from Tina, whose body was pressed closely against her back. "My neck," she mumbled groggily, "I slept on it funny."
"Hmm..." Tina began kissing the area in question. "Is that better?"
More kisses to the affected region had Sam feeling MUCH improved. She turned to face the woman she loved and caught one of those rare unguarded moments... when Tina's defenses were down... and her eyes reflected her heart and soul.
They both held the eye contact... drinking in the emotions that were flowing from one to the other.
"Let's go to bed." Sam suggested, still gazing into sky blue eyes.
"Good idea." Tina gave Sam a long, passionate kiss. "A very good idea."
They got up from the couch. Tina placed an arm around the shorter woman's shoulders and Sam leaned against her as they walked to the bedroom.
Sam's heart was filled with joy. She loves me. She may not be able to say it yet... but I saw it in her eyes.
She loves me.
Tina had been watching the woman next to her for a while. Her view was unobstructed because the blonde had pushed the covers off herself during the night. Sam was lying on her back, with one arm bent over her head and the other one extended to the side. Her face was turned slightly toward the person who was observing her.
You are something else, Samantha Whitwell. You ingrained yourself into my life before I knew what hit me. And now, I can't imagine living without you. Do you have any idea how much that scares me?
Unable to restrain herself any longer, Tina reached out to touch the peacefully sleeping woman. She lightly trailed her fingers along Sam's thigh, over the small rise of her stomach, and up between her breasts to the base of her throat. She retraced the path several times, delighting in the softness of the skin she felt beneath her fingertips.
"Mmmmmm..." Sam stirred a little.
Tina pulled her hand back guiltily. Don't wake her, T. You kept her up half the night... at least let her get some sleep.
Sam felt warm. She lay in a half-awake state for a few moments, getting her bearings. This is an extremely comfortable bed... and that warmth I feel... it must be heated, too. Then, as she had become accustomed to doing each morning, she rolled over to reach for her bedmate's pillow. Bumping into a very solid object, she opened her eyes.
Tina was propped up on an elbow, smiling at her. "Good morning."
Sam blinked several times. "Hi."
"Yes." Sam pushed Tina backwards and sprawled across her. "I LIKE you being here beside me in the morning."
"Me, too." There I go agreeing with her again. I have never agreed with anyone so much in my entire life.
Sam rested her head on the taller woman's chest, listening to the steady beat of the heart below her ear.
"How's your neck?" Tina asked. "I turned the heater on after you fell asleep. I thought it might help keep it from tightening up again."
"Oh, it's fine. Thank you." Sam patted the mattress with her hand. "This is a wonderful bed."
"Yes, it is. I like it a lot."
"I like YOU a lot." Sam heard Tina's heartbeat rapidly increase and the smaller woman was suddenly flipped onto her back. "Whoa!"
Tina looked down into surprised green eyes. I'm going to agree with her again...what the hell... "I like you a lot, too."
Sam was taken back at the unexpected disclosure. You said it out loud... you're really trying. Now, if I can break past those last few barricades of yours...
"Samantha?" Time to change the subject.
"When did you get this?" Tina touched the tiny rose design just inside the blonde's right hipbone.
Sam frowned and moved her hand to try to cover the tattoo.
Tina stopped her, taking the hand and bringing it to her lips so she could kiss it. "We don't have to talk about it if you don't want to."
I knew that sooner or later she was going to ask. "I was in college. A bunch of us were partying one night and we all decided to do it. I don't know what the heck I was thinking." She shrugged. "It was one of those things that seemed like a great adventure at the time... but later..."
"You don't like having it?"
Sam thought about it. The tattoo had become such a part of her over the years, she couldn't envision NOT having it. "I... I don't know. My family wouldn't be happy if they knew."
Tina bent down and kissed the tattoo. "Is it okay if I really like it?"
"Yes." Tina ran her tongue along the outline of the rose before kissing it again. "I most definitely do."
"Why?" Sam felt her body immediately respond to the kisses. You make me feel soooo good.
Tina moved back up so she could look into the blonde's eyes. "Well, first of all, it's part of you."
Sam smiled. Mellekas... you DO know what to say...
"And secondly, it shows that maybe... just maybe... my all-American girl has a bit of a wild side."
"No." Sam gently caressed the side of Tina's face. "Am I your girl?"
It was only a couple of seconds before Tina answered, but it seemed like an eternity to Sam.
"I think so... yes." Do relationships always take so much damn effort? No wonder I've avoided them. "How about some breakfast? Then I thought we might go for a walk on Bayshore before you have to leave for work."
Sam was ecstatic. She said I'm her girl! All right... don't overreact and scare her. Trying to sound casual, she replied, "That would be nice."
The women got out of bed. Sam picked her shorts up off the floor and started to look for her shirt. "You know, I can't seem to keep my clothes on when I'm around you."
"Ahem." Tina was standing at the foot of the bed, dangling Sam's pajama top.
"Not that I MIND." The naked woman walked over and reached for her shirt.
"Let me help." Tina turned the clothing right side out. Sam raised her arms like an obedient child and the accountant put the shirt on her. "I'll go start breakfast."
"Okay." Sam headed toward the bathroom. I could get used to this... oh, yeah.
"It's such a beautiful day." Sam commented as they walked along Bayshore Boulevard. Noticing that many of the people on the wide sidewalk acknowledged the pair as they passed, she asked, "Is everyone always so friendly?"
"Well, most of these people are out here every day. You start to recognize each other after a while."
"Do you run every day?"
"I try to, yes." Tina pointed to a bench tucked between a pair of palm trees. "Would you like to sit for a few minutes?"
The women sat close together and looked out at the calm water.
Sam entwined her fingers with Tina's. "Thanks for breakfast."
"I think you're spoiling me. Normally, I only have coffee in the morning."
Tina shrugged. "It's not a big deal." But you SHOULD be spoiled a little.
"I... I'm really glad you invited me to stay with you this weekend."
"Me, too." I'm going to make myself run an extra mile every time I agree with her.
"I'm going to miss you today. I wish I didn't have to work."
"Me..." Oops... close call there. "I mean, what are you going to do for dinner?"
"We have about three hours in between performances. We usually go somewhere to eat and hang around downtown."
"You can come back here if you want. I can make something for dinner."
"Oh! I'd like that very much."
"How about chicken? Baked potato?"
"That sounds wonderful!"
"All right then, let's finish our walk. You need to get ready for work."
The women started back toward the condo.
"You make me happy."
Tina looked at the blonde, who was practically skipping along beside her. Hell... what's another mile... "You make me happy, too." The tall woman inwardly groaned. If this keeps up, I'm going to be in the best shape of my life.
I can't wait to see her again. Sam parked her Toyota and walked quickly to the elevator. She pressed the call button and waited impatiently. I've got three hours and I don't want to waste a second of it. She was just about to sprint for the stairs when the doors opened. Finally! Humming a tune as the car ascended, she sighed heavily when it stopped at the lobby.
Mrs. Burns stepped into the elevator. "Hello."
The elderly woman skimmed through the stack of mail in her hand before looking closely at Sam. "Aren't you Tina's friend?"
"Yes." The blonde was watching the numbers of the floors light up as they passed each one, willing the elevator to move faster.
"Are you going to be blaring that music over there again?"
"No, I don't think so." I should have taken the stairs.
Mrs. Burns tried to repress a grin as Sam nervously looked everywhere but at her.
The bell sounded as they reached their destination.
Sam allowed the older woman to exit first, and then she rushed past her down the hallway to Tina's condo. As she raised her hand to knock on the door, it opened.
"Hi." Tina looked concerned. "Is everything all right? It's been a few minutes since you called for me to let you through the garage gate."
"The elevator took forever!" Sam went in and waited for Tina to close the door. "But... yes." She reached up and put her arms around the accountant's neck. "Everything is all right... now that I'm here."
Tina gazed into glimmering green eyes. What is it that touches my heart so deeply when you look at me that way? She bent down and kissed Sam. Whatever it is... I don't want to lose it. "C'mon. I need to check on dinner."
The women walked to the kitchen and Tina peeked in the oven. "It's going to be about another thirty minutes or so. Would you like something to drink?"
"Sure. How about a soda?"
Tina got a diet soda and a bottle of water from the refrigerator. "Want to go out on the balcony for a little while?"
They sat at the small metal patio table, sipping their drinks and watching the water.
"Look at the boats!" Sam pointed toward the horizon. "This is such a wonderful view."
"Yes. I like it."
"How long have you lived here?"
"About two years."
"And Vivian owns it?"
Tina shifted uneasily in her chair.
"I'm sorry. It's none of my business. I was just making conversation." But I want to know everything about you.
"It's all right." Tina took a sip of her drink before continuing. "Basically, I've refused to take any of the raises I've been offered over the years. As compensation, Vivian allowed me to travel quite a bit and picked up the tab for it. When I stopped taking trips, she practically forced me to get the car and this place. So, it was kind of a compromise."
"Sort of unusual... an accountant who doesn't care about money."
"I guess so."
"Then again," Sam flashed a big smile at the woman across from her, "you are anything BUT typical."
Tina rolled her eyes at the remark. "Let's go inside. I should get back to work on dinner."
"I'm going to change my clothes. Even if it's only for a couple of hours, I'd like to get out of this uniform."
Tina headed to the kitchen while Sam went to change.
"This is much better," Sam said a few minutes later as she walked through the living room and sat at the counter that overlooked the kitchen. She felt very comfortable in her gym shorts and the Florida State tee shirt she had found hanging on the hook on the back of the bathroom door.
Tina turned from the stove and whistled at the sight of the blonde. "Awesome shirt."
"Is it okay to wear it? I didn't think you'd mind..."
"Yes. It's okay," the dark-haired woman said as she approached Sam. "As a matter of fact, I find it very appealing." She traced the lettering on the front of the shirt. "Maybe not as appealing as the thought of me helping you take it off..." She slid her hands under the fabric and lightly rubbed the soft skin she found there.
Sam felt her body reacting to the words and physical contact. She lost herself in the intense blue eyes locked with her own.
The kitchen timer dinged.
"Dinner is ready." Tina removed her hands from beneath the shirt. She smiled at the flushed face looking back at her. I can't seem to keep my hands off of you. And the way you respond to my touch... She couldn't resist leaning in for a lengthy kiss. "Why don't you put the radio on while I get the food?"
"Food?" Sam tried to focus. "Radio?"
Tina had already moved back into the kitchen. She grinned from the other side of the counter. "Uh huh. It's time for dinner. Would you put on some music?"
"Oh... okay." Sam went over to the stereo and turned it on. She adjusted the volume so that the music could be heard, but not be too loud to hinder conversation. And we don't want to offend Mrs. Burns, do we? Returning to the kitchen, she took the dish Tina handed her. It was filled with strips of boneless chicken breast and a large baked potato. "This looks good!"
"I have vegetables here. Would you like some?"
"Umm... what kind?" Sam looked into the small pots on the stove. "Corn is all right. I could eat a little of that."
Tina added a tablespoon of corn to the blonde's meal. "Well, it's a start."
The women ate dinner and Sam talked about the play, describing the storyline as well as adding information about the various performers.
Tina was thoroughly entertained with the lively chatter.
At the conclusion of her report, Sam sat back in her chair and looked at her empty plate. "That was terrific! Thank you."
"No problem. I enjoyed cooking it."
"Let me help clean up." The musician picked up both plates and went into the kitchen.
They had rinsed the dishes and were putting them in the dishwasher when Tina heard the familiar bass line of one of her favorite songs.
"Bum, bum.... bum, bum, bum... bum, bum, bum... bum, bum, bum..."
"Do you hear that?" She grabbed Sam's hand and brought her into the living room. She turned up the stereo. High.
"It's too loud!" Sam protested. "Your neighbor..."
Tina started singing...
"I've got sunshine on a cloudy day
When it's cold outside, I've got the month of May
I guess you'd say, what can make me feel this way
My girl, my girl, my girl... talking bout my girl... my girl"
The taller woman pulled Sam close and they swayed to the music.
"I've got sooo much honey, the bees envy me
I've got a sweeter song, than the birds in the trees
Well... I guess you'd say, what can make me feel this way
My girl, my girl, my girl... talking bout my girl... my girl"
During the musical interlude, Tina twirled Sam under her arm and back again several times. As the final verse began, she pressed against the smaller woman from behind and wrapped her arms around her. She bent her head down so she could sing softly in Sam's ear.
"I don't need no money, fortune or fame
I've got all the riches, baby, one woman can claim
Well, I guess you'd say, what can make me feel this way
My girl, my girl, my girl...talking bout my girl... my girl"
The music faded and the beginning of a commercial boomed through the speakers.
"I'll turn that down." Sam reluctantly left her partner's embrace and lowered the volume. Mrs. Burns is going to have a few choice words for me, I'll bet. She turned back toward Tina and smiled. But it's worth it. "You're a good dancer."
Tina looked down at her feet. "Yeah... well... I thought... umm... you might like that song..."
"Oh, yes." Sam noticed the faint blush on Tina's cheeks. You are so adorable. "I like it very much... and even more now... because we danced to it... and you sang to me."
Tina's hands found their way under the Florida State tee shirt again. "So, when do you need to be at work?"
"Mmmm..." Tina began nibbling on a tasty pink ear.
Sam felt her body temperature immediately start to rise. "The conductor is a real stickler for promptness. I can't be late."
"Hmmm... just enough time..."
Mrs. Burns heard a door slam. What on earth? She opened her own door and looked out into the hallway just as two women went running by. One was tall and dark-haired, the other short and blonde. The little one was trying to put on her vest as she ran. They were noisily urging each other to hurry as they raced toward the elevator. When pressing the call button did not produce an instant outcome, they shouted in unison, "The stairs!" Another loud slam was heard as the door was shoved open with such force that it hit the wall behind it. The women's footsteps thundered down the stairwell.
Mrs. Burns shook her head. Well... that young woman seems to have worked a bit of magic on my reserved neighbor. And that music! She must have had her dancing over there again. She smiled as she closed her door.
"Thanks." Sam took a hefty drink from the beer that Tina handed her. She groaned as she sat down on the couch and kicked off her shoes. "This has been a LONG day."
"Well, what happened? Did you get there on time?"
"Yes. I got to my seat just as the lights were dimming."
Tina was relieved. "Good." Lifting Sam's legs onto her lap, she began to massage the exhausted woman's feet.
"Oh, that feels heavenly!"
A few minutes passed. Sam appeared to be dozing off, so Tina removed the beer from her hands. "I think it's time for bed. Let's get you out of those clothes."
"That's what got me in trouble in the FIRST place," came the mumbled reply.
Tina chuckled as she stood up. "Come on."
"Okay." Sam yawned, then slowly got to her feet. "You know what?" She put an arm around Tina's waist and they walked toward the bedroom.
"I'm really going to need some help with my shower tonight."
"You think so, huh?"
"Yeah." Sam sat on the edge of the bed. She took off her vest and started fumbling with the buttons of her shirt.
Tina knelt down in front of the sleepy blonde. "Here, let me." Her large hands took over the job of undoing the buttons.
Sam's thoughts wandered. That night at my apartment... taking a shower with me... letting me touch you... granted, not as much as I WANTED... but the most you have allowed...
Tina, having finished her task, looked up and was surprised to see a very sad face. "Are you all right?"
"I... maybe it's just that I'm tired." Sam felt tears spring to her eyes. Don't cry.
"What is it?"
"I... you..." A tear escaped and rolled down her cheek.
"Hey..." Tina tenderly wiped the moisture away with her thumb. "Tell me what's wrong."
"Nothing. I'm tired ... and a bit more emotional than usual... coming up on that time of the month..."
"I see." More emotional than usual? As if you're not emotional enough on a daily basis. "Tell me what's upsetting you."
"I... I need... you." Sam threw her arms around Tina's neck. "Tonight... I need to be close to you... touch you... I don't know why... but that's what I'm feeling."
"Umm...okay." Tina's heart was pounding so loudly she was sure the musician could hear it. "Let's have that shower then." She pulled back from the hug, got up, and began undressing.
Sensing the nervousness in the air, Sam sighed. "Don't worry. I mean closeness... not sex." She took her shirt off. "I'm WAY too tired for that anyway."
Tina went into the bathroom and turned on the shower. She got two large towels from the linen closet and placed them on the counter.
"I'm sorry." Sam stood in the doorway. "I'm sure I could've said what I meant better than I did." Receiving nothing more than a shrug in reply, she walked the couple of steps necessary to close the distance between them. "I KNOW I can express myself better than that." Rising up on her tiptoes, she kissed the woman soundly.
Tina felt her entire body respond. How is it that she can kiss me so gently... so softly... and absolutely drive me wild? "Umm... if you keep that up... you won't be getting to sleep anytime soon."
"You're probably right... and I really AM too tired."
The pair stepped under the warm jets of water. Tina slid the door closed. Sam chose a bottle of bath gel from the assortment of soaps on the shelf. "Should I use this?"
"You can pick whichever one you want."
"I like this one." Sam squeezed some gel onto her hands and began spreading it on Tina's shoulders. Looking deeply into blue eyes, she continued with a delicate touch along protruding collarbones and full breasts. She leaned forward to place a kiss on Tina's heart. I love you.
Tina closed her eyes when she felt the feather-light kiss. She fought to maintain control over the sensations pulsating throughout her body. Relax... she needs this tonight... and maybe I do, too.
Sam applied more gel to her hands and systematically washed the rest of the beautiful woman. She took great pleasure in touching the smooth skin and feeling the firm muscles lying just beneath the surface. This is turning out better than I expected. She's more relaxed than last time... and letting me do whatever I want. "All done." She rested against Tina, the warm water and physical exertion having made her even drowsier than before. "I'd do your hair for you, too, but I'm not tall enough."
Tina bent down for a quick kiss. "Now it's my turn." She picked up the bath gel that Sam always used. "I'm glad you brought this."
"Yes." Tina loved the golden-colored soap. It had a slight hint of perfume, which mixed perfectly with Sam's natural body scent to create a wonderful aroma. "See the color?" She held the clear plastic bottle at arm's length. "It's like sunshine... that's what I think you smell like... I mean... if sunshine HAD a smell."
"That's so sweet." That romantic side of yours seems to be sneaking out a lot more often lately.
"Yeah... well." I can't believe I told her that. "Let's get you cleaned up." Tina used a generous amount of gel and washed the small woman, occasionally kissing the soft skin she encountered along the way. She shampooed Sam's hair and her own. After rinsing them both thoroughly, she turned off the water.
Sam opened the shower door, grabbed a towel and used it to rub her hair before she wrapped it around her body. Tina took the other towel and did the same for herself. They combed their hair and brushed their teeth in companionable silence.
Tina reached for her pajamas that were hanging on the door hook.
"Tonight, I want my skin against yours... without clothes. Can we do that?"
"Umm... I don't like sleeping without something on."
"Just for tonight... and you can put your pajamas on after I fall asleep... please?"
"Seeing as that should be in less than five minutes... I guess I can go along with that." Tina hung their towels on an empty hook.
"Good... let's go then."
As soon as they settled into the bed, Sam sprawled on top of Tina. "Mmmm... this is nice."
"You're welcome." Tina lightly ran her fingers up and down Sam's back.
In a matter of moments, Sam was sound asleep.
Well, I don't think I can possibly get any clothes on with you draped all over me. Tina pulled the sheet up to partially cover them. She stared at the ceiling. What am I going to do? I have to talk to her... soon. I should've done it tonight, but she was so tired. Tomorrow... I'll have to do it then... and it isn't going to go well at all.
It was a long time before sleep overtook her.
What a beautiful day. Tina sipped her coffee. Better enjoy it while I can. All hell is going to break loose when I tell her about...
"Good morning." Sam walked onto the balcony, placed her cup on the patio table, and sat down. "The coffee brewing smelled so good, I had to get up and have some!" She looked out at the morning sun reflecting off of Tampa Bay. "Wow. That's really pretty."
They drank their coffees quietly, enjoying the view and each other's company. In need of a refill after awhile, both women got up and headed into the kitchen.
"Tina... I really want to thank you again for last night. I don't know what got into me..."
"It's all right."
"Can we talk for a minute?" Sam sat on a stool at the counter.
Uh oh. "Sure." I need to talk to you, too.
"I... it's important for me to tell you." She looked down at her hands in her lap. "I don't usually throw myself at women like I have with you."
"I know that, Samantha."
"But... I bet that happens to you all the time... you're so beautiful..." And I want this to be different.
Tina put a hand under the blonde's chin and tilted her face up so she could make eye contact. "You're not like anyone I've ever met."
"That night in the bar at the... our... reunion. Did you want me?"
Tina paused before answering. Tell the truth. "Yes."
"But you didn't say... or do... anything."
"Because if I had, I would have taken you... used you... for no other reason than I was bored." Thank goodness, somehow, I knew you were too special for that.
"Do you really think I would've slept with you that first night? What kind of woman do you think I am? I have NEVER..."
Tina bent down and interrupted the indignant woman's speech with a passionate kiss.
"Well... " Sam felt the tingling caused by the kiss spread throughout her body. "It's unlikely... but even if that DID happen, I believe we would still be here... together... today."
"Are you kidding? I would have taken what I wanted and been long gone."
Sam reached up to touch the side of Tina's face, feeling the warmth of the skin there. Her body reacts just as much as mine does. Sliding her hand behind the dark-haired woman's neck, she pulled her down for a long, gentle kiss.
"Umm... okay... maybe you're right."
The women looked into each other's eyes, both of them smiling at the admission they'd extracted from the other.
Someone knocked on the door.
"I'll be right back." Tina strode across the living room. Who the heck could this be? She opened the door and was greeted by several members of the Homeowner's Association. She stepped out into the hall to answer a few questions they had for a survey they were taking.
Sam went to over to the coffee pot and refilled her cup. The phone rang and while she considered whether she should go get Tina or not, the answering machine clicked on. She grinned as she heard Tina's voice telling the caller, in the briefest of terms, to leave a message. Nope... she's definitely not one for chatting on the phone. The machine beeped and a woman began speaking.
"Hi, Tina... it's me."
At the sound of the sultry voice, Sam put down her coffee. She walked toward the answering machine hesitantly, staring at it as if she could see the caller if she looked hard enough.
"Just reminding you about tonight."
Tina came back inside the condo and immediately froze.
"I really missed you last time, though I'm SURE you'll be able to make it up to me tonight. See you soon."
The caller hung up.
The answering machine reset.
And the silence was deafening.
Continued in Part 7
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