Tina woke gradually. The first thing she was aware of was the deep, steady breathing of her partner in the otherwise quiet room. The air still held the faint scent of candles and body oil. She realized she was on her stomach in the same position as she had fallen asleep. I was so tired I didn't budge all night. Opening her eyes, she studied the woman resting peacefully next to her. How does she always know what I need? Raising her head to look at the clock on the nightstand, Tina was astonished to see that it was almost 5 A.M. Over seven hours of sleep? And no nightmares. She rolled onto her back and stretched, relishing the feeling of relaxed muscles. That massage was worth a MONTH of cooking dinners.
She got up and moved about stealthily, even though it was unlikely any noise she might make would awaken Sam. Retrieving clean underwear from the dresser drawer, she smiled, remembering how excited the blonde had been when she'd found the small stash of clothing Tina had put there. It wasn't long before she had ME all excited, too. After washing up in the bathroom, she dressed quickly and returned to the bedroom. As had become her routine, she stood beside the bed for a minute, saying a silent prayer to anyone who might be listening, asking that Samantha be watched over and kept safe. She placed a feather-light kiss on the sleeping woman's forehead. I love you.
It was the beginning of what would be another lengthy day, but that didn't bother Tina. Knowing she would see Samantha that evening was more than enough to carry her through the ensuing hours. Stopping in the kitchen, she left a note and took the picture she liked so much from the refrigerator. She put a banana, multigrain bar and bottle of water in her backpack and exited the apartment, locking the door behind her.
The road was nearly empty as Tina drove north on Interstate 75. She listened to the radio, ate her breakfast and thought about what she wanted to accomplish at work. Daylight was breaking by the time the BMW pulled into the parking garage at Bayshore Palms. Tina took the stairs to the lobby and checked her mail, happy to find the extra remote control mechanism for the gate she had ordered from the Homeowner's Association. She rode the elevator to the fourth floor, let herself into the condo, and prepared for her morning workout. Examining the training chart that now hung on the wall in the study, she evaluated her progress thus far. The runner had recently increased her distance and it was going well. She made a decision to bump up the mileage again after the holidays.
She ran, showered, and headed to Exclusive Travel. As usual, Tina was the first one there, but soon the others arrived and the office was bustling with activity. Brenda and Vivian were busy going through the list of their client's holiday reservations, confirming with the hotels and airlines that everything was in order. This type of attention to detail had earned the business its reputation as the agency to book your travel with if you wanted an unencumbered trip. Tina had end of the year paperwork to contend with in addition to the large amount of payments in and out due to the number of clients traveling this year. At lunchtime, Brenda brought a sandwich to the accountant, who ate at her desk while she continued working.
Around four o'clock, Vivian knocked on Tina's door. "How's it going?"
"Good." Tina took off her glasses and leaned back in her chair.
"We'll start printing out the finalized itineraries tomorrow." The boss went in and sat down. "The envelope stuffing party will probably be Friday."
"Okay." Tina enjoyed the tradition Vivian had of closing the agency for an afternoon, pulling the blinds, and turning up the music. The women would kick off their shoes and get comfortable in the front office area. Then, they would match all the itineraries with the corresponding tickets, related brochures, maps and any other information the clients could possibly need. Three sets of eyes made sure everything was as it should be before the pre-labeled envelopes were sealed. The mound of mail went into a big cardboard box. Tina and Brenda flipped a coin each year to see who would lug the carton to the post office to get the envelopes weighed and mailed.
They would conclude with a drink, wishing their clients safe travels. From that point on, Brenda and Vivian's workload would slow down considerably. There would be a few calls from people with questions about their itineraries, or one or two last minute arrangements to be made, but the bulk of the holiday rush was over for them. Tina's days would still be very full, with all the accounting responsibilities that had yet to be completed.
"By the way, I just had a call from Samantha. She wanted to thank me personally for the New Year's trip."
Tina smiled at the mention of her partner's name and glanced at the snapshot that was taped to the computer monitor. "I talked with her about it last night."
"She told me where she'd like to go."
"Really?" Tina bent forward expectantly. "Where?"
"I'm not saying. She wants to be the one to tell you."
"Will she need a passport?"
"You'll not get any hints from me, so don't even try."
"Humph!" Tina crossed her arms and sighed.
"Well, I'm going to go home." Grinning at her sulking employee, Vivian stood. "Why don't you walk out with me?"
"I have reports to finish..."
"Samantha also said to tell you she hoped you'd be there soon. She's waiting for you."
"Oh? Umm... yeah... maybe I should escort you to your car."
Within an hour, Tina strolled into the apartment. Sam was sitting on the couch watching a talk show.
"You're home!" The younger woman turned off the TV and went to hug her partner. "You're early tonight."
"I heard you were waiting for me." Tina dropped her backpack and ducked her head for a passionate kiss.
Oh my! Sam tried to catch her breath. "Yes. I talked to Vivian today..."
"Mmm hmm." Still in the embrace, Tina started moving toward the bedroom.
Sam found herself being skillfully propelled backwards. "Where are we going?"
"I thought that's what YOU were going to tell ME."
"I... umm..." Sam felt the bed behind her legs and sat down.
Tina knelt in front of the blonde. "Where are we going for New Year's?"
"You said it could be anyplace I wanted, right?"
"Yes." Large hands slipped under Sam's shirt.
"I was thinking... this will be our first New Year's together, so it should be very special."
"I agree." Tina kissed a path along the woman's neck.
Sam was getting warm and her thoughts were beginning to wander almost as much as Tina hands, which had somehow already unclasped her bra.
"Are you going to tell me?"
"Oh... yes. I want to stay at your condo."
"W... why?" Tina's hands stilled and she pulled back enough to give Sam a questioning look. "Of all the places you could choose..."
"I want to be with you. Only you. Maybe curled up in front of a fire. Watching TV when the ball drops at Times Square. Having a glass of champagne and toasting to our future together. We can make love all night until the sun comes up. And then... I want to greet the new Millennium by seeing the first sunrise of my life... from your balcony... with you."
Sam paused, trying to gauge Tina's reaction, which seemed to be a mixture of bewilderment and surprise. "If you prefer something else..."
"No. It's just that you're passing up the opportunity to go anywhere in the world..."
"YOU are my world."
Understanding began to emerge in Tina's eyes. She's telling me I'm more important than the trip... than anything.
"So." Sam smiled at the loving look she was now receiving. "Does that plan sound okay to you?"
"Yes." Tina's voice deepened. "Especially the all-night part." She stood, simultaneously removing the blonde's tee shirt and bra. "But we're not teenagers..."
"My partner is in training for a marathon." Sam lay back on the bed. "I KNOW she has the stamina."
"Well, one has to train appropriately for specific... events." Tina perched above the musician and reached for the bottle on the bedside table. "I really like this body oil." She twisted off the cap and poured a small amount between Sam's breasts. Gentle fingers spread the liquid before soft lips followed the same trail.
"That... oh... feels... ohhh... goooood."
"Mmm. It tastes good on you, too." Tina picked up the bottle again. "I think this requires further... exploration."
Sam closed her eyes as some of the cool oil was applied to her belly. I made the right choice. It's going to be a New Year's we'll never forget.
It was quite awhile later that the women sat down at the kitchen table for dinner.
"This is fabulous!" Sam dug into the chicken parmesan Tina had made to have with the leftover spaghetti from the night before.
"Glad you think so." The cook ate her meal at a slower pace, getting more pleasure from watching her dinner companion's gusto than from the food on her own plate. "How did you persuade Vivian to go along with your New Year's idea?"
"Well, I did have to consent to her springing for a meal somewhere nice and she's going to have champagne delivered to us."
Tina shook her head in amazement. Two women who I can't seem to say no to and they get along like gangbusters. I'm in deep trouble.
The phone rang and Sam went to answer it. Bringing the portable receiver back to the kitchen, she gave it to Tina. "Lisa wants to talk to you."
Curious as to why her sister was calling, Sam listened with interest, gleaning not a single shred of information from Tina's series of one-word answers to whatever Lisa was saying.
"Ok. Bye." Tina turned the phone off and laid it on the table.
Sam immediately asked, "What did she want?"
"Hmm?" The dark-haired woman resumed eating her meal.
"Lisa... why did she call?"
Taking her time chewing a mouthful of chicken, Tina enjoyed the look of impatience on her inquisitive partner's face as she waited for a response. "One shouldn't ask too many questions around the holidays... there are lots of secrets..."
"All right." You are going to be SO easy to tease as Christmas approaches. "Joshua and I made a pact. Whenever I'm here at his bedtime, I'll go over and tuck him in. He told Lisa about it and she was verifying his story."
"That's very sweet of you."
A shrug. "He's a good kid."
"He loves you." Sam hesitated, deliberating whether or not to ask something she had often wondered about. "Does he remind you of Steven?"
Tina thought for a moment before answering. "I guess in some ways he does. Being around him brings back happy memories about Steven when he was little. But mostly, Joshua reminds me of you."
"Yeah. He's a lot like you." Blue eyes met green across the table. "So, how could I not... love... him?"
Sam smiled and said nothing, choosing instead to savor the word she knew was intended for her.
"Umm... speaking of the holidays... would you like an early present?"
Tina chuckled as she went to get her backpack. She returned to the table and instructed Sam to close her eyes and put out her hand. "No peeking."
"No peeking... I promise." The blonde felt an object placed on her palm and she closed her fingers over it. Her face scrunched in concentration as she tried to figure out what it was. "Can I look now?"
Sam looked down at the remote control. "Umm... thanks." She inspected the device more closely. A garage door opener?
Seeing that her partner had no clue as to what it was, Tina explained. "It's for the gate at the condo. You won't have to use the call box..."
"Oh! It's a wonderful present!" Sam went and sat on the woman's lap. "Thank you." A tender kiss further expressed her gratitude.
They cuddled quietly for a few minutes, basking in the love they felt surrounding them like a comfortable cloak.
"I still have room for dessert." Sam murmured, placing light kisses near Tina's ear.
"Mmmmm... Ring Dings?"
"Nope... something better."
"I didn't think there WAS anything better than Ring Dings."
Sam stood up. "Oh yes... MUCH better." She took Tina's hand and pulled her toward the bedroom.
And she was right.