Disclaimers: Mine, mine, all mine! *insert evil laugh here*

Sex: Duh!! J

WARNING: I do NOT give permission for this story to be reposted in ANY changed form: change of character names, title storyline, etc. That is considered stealing and I will seek legal action.

Note: For my precious Sebastian “Bubba” : September 1999 – March 2010. I love you with all my heart, my baby boy. Thanks for coming back to see me.

If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com .


Lost And Found


Kim Pritekel



Part 3

Sam had to admit she was a bit overwhelmed by the plans that were spread out over the desk in Claire's office back at Creation Mayhem. She glanced up at her boss with a doubtful look, Claire didn't see as she was too busy rattling away all the details as she pointed them out.

“Claire?” Sam said finally.

“See, and I'm thinking that for this little building here, we can,“ Claire realized she'd been spoken to. She glanced up at Sam. “Huh?”

“Just to clarify here: you're saying you want to build – with fine woodworking details, mind you – an entire miniature village by Christmas?”

“Yeah!” Claire said, eyes aglow with excitement. “Haven't you seen those little towns, all the buildings made of clay – see, at least we're not going that far – that you can buy a piece at a time, and then set them up on a credenza with the fake snow and mirror for an iced over pond with all the little figurines?”

“Of course I've seen those. My grandmother used to set one up every year.”

“Great! Then we're on the same page.” Claire began to roll up the plans.

“Don't you think this is a little ambitious, Claire?”

Claire glanced at Sam. “Not really. The client asked for something spectacular for his very spectacular Christmas gala, so,” she shrugged, “spectacular is what we'll give him.”

Sam blew out a breath but nodded. “Okay. Spectacular it is.”

After two days of intense planning for the massive project, Leon helped Sam move into her new quarters at Claire's warehouse, Claire called to the store to help out, as another employee had quit, leaving them high and dry. The space Sam was to stay in was massive with ten foot ceilings and wood plank floor. The walls were brick, and a couple support poles were placed strategically around the massive room, which looked more like a large New York loft than a six hundred square foot space in an old warehouse.

After all of Sam's belongings were moved in – the room already furnished with a bedroom set, sitting area with a couch and easy chair, as well as a fully operable kitchen area – Leon looked around, hands tucked into the pockets of his baggy jeans. “Damn, dude,” he said, followed by an impressed whistle through his teeth. “You made out.”

Samantha plopped down on the bed, exhausted from a long day of work and then moving. “Yeah, this will definitely do. I really appreciate your help today, Leon: moving and getting the truck back to Joe.”

“No prob, though I'll miss you on the site. Glad you'll be sticking around for a bit, though.” He walked into the kitchen area, checking out all the appliances and opening the fridge.

“Well, I'll be around at least through the rest of the year, unless we finish this project sooner than that.” She flopped to her back, staring up at the ceiling high overhead.

“Man, this chick must make out like a fat cat at her business,” he observed, standing in the middle of the space with hands on hips.

“She works hard,” Sam said, not betraying Claire's confidences about the inheritance she'd received. Even so, she figured Claire had to be charging up the wazoo for such large projects as they were about to embark on, so figured Leon may not be all that far off the mark.

“I better get.” Leon headed for the door, followed by Sam, who walked him toward the main door of the warehouse. Standing next to his car, he stopped and looked at his friend. “So, since you're staying around for a bit, I'm gonna see you at the party Friday night, right?”

Sam groaned and rolled her eyes. “ Leon ….”

“Don't ‘ Leon ' me, woman. You said you were gonna go.”

Sam studied him, seeing the hurt in his eyes. She blew out a breath and nodded. “Fine.”

“Besides, I don't think John's supposed to be there, so…”

“Well, that's a plus,” she muttered, running a hand through her hair. “Yeah, I'll drop by.”


Sam's ears were buzzing from the buzz of the table saw which she'd been using all week to cut the various pieces of wood parts Claire had drawn out for the first set of buildings. The one she had finished moments before was the church, so it would be one of the taller buildings standing at about four feet tall, the steeple rising to just under five.

She raised her protective glasses and leaned back against the wall, water bottle in hand. Claire was on her hands and knees a few feet away, carefully measuring and drawing out the lines to be cut for the next set of buildings.

As Sam watched her, her gaze traveled to Claire's denim-clad behind, noticing that it was a pretty damn nice one. Her eyes darted away as Claire sat back on her haunches, stretching her back and rolling her head around her shoulders.

“God, this is back breaking work,” Claire sighed, blowing out a breath and pushing to her feet with a groan.

“Amen, sistah.” Sam grabbed Claire's water bottle. “Think fast.”

Claire easily caught the cold projectile, raising it in a grateful salute before she spun off the cap and took a long drink. “Oh, that's good,” she sighed, looking around at the progress they'd made over the past few days. “I wonder how many trees we killed this week?” she murmured absently.

“Lots.” Sam finished off her water then tossed the empty bottle into the recycle bin a few feet away. “So, Miss Slave Driver, do you work weekends, too?”

Claire glared at the title then sighed. “We'll see if I can stand up straight tomorrow,” she muttered, groaning as her back cracked.

Sam grinned, crossing her arms over her sweat and wood chip-smeared tank top. Suddenly it hit her that it was the night of Leon 's party, and she knew if she didn't go, he'd be pissed at her forever. As she watched Claire adjust her back, she suddenly decided to see if she would go with her. “So, what do you do around her for fun, anyway?” she asked casually, figuring it best to ease into the conversation.

Claire glanced at her. “What do you mean?”

“What do you mean, ‘what do I mean'. I mean, what do you, Claire Hobbs, do around here for fun? You know, fun!” she danced around making a fool of herself for a moment to make her point.

Claire gave her a strange look, shaking her head. “I certainly don't dance around like an organ grinder monkey.”

Sam rolled her eyes. “You are absolutely no fun at all.” She was ready to give up on the invitation.

“That is not true!” Claire proclaimed, hands on hips. “I'm plenty of fun.”

Sam spat out a bark of laughter. “Ha!”

Claire glared, eyes turning to ice.

“Prove it. You come with me to Leon 's party tonight and prove to me that you're not the stick in the mud that I believe you are.”

Claire waved her off, finishing her water and tossing the bottle into the recycle bin. “That's nonsense,” she muttered, walking away.

“See?” Sam called out after her. “I told you!”

Claire stopped, back to Sam for a long moment before she turned around, fire in her eyes. “Fine. I'll go with you to your stupid party and prove you wrong.” With that, she stormed out of the room, leaving a very satisfied Sam behind.

“Easy as pie,” she grinned, heading to her apartment.

Thumpa thumpa base could be heard from outside the house as Sam led the way inside. Claire followed, tempted to grab handfuls of Sam's shirt and hold on for dear life, as she was nervous as hell. Bodies were everywhere, dancing, talking, making out, and most drinking.

“Sammy!” an inebriated Leon slurred, pushing his way through the crowd until he reached the blonde, who was startled by his exuberant hug. He glanced behind her, seeing Claire. “Hi. I'm Leon .”

“Claire,” she said softly, taking his extended hand, eyes bulging when he yanked her by the hand until they were in a brief, though tight embrace. Claire glanced at Sam only to see the blonde grinning with a shrug.

Sam headed through the throngs, thinking Claire was behind her. Somehow over the music she heard her name. She turned to see Claire stuck behind a group of very drunk people. She marched through them and grabbed Claire's hand, glaring at the group who parted for them. She didn't let go of Claire's hand until they'd reached the couch and found a place to sit.

“You okay?” Sam asked, leaning over and nearly shouting into Claire's ear to be heard over the music. At the nod she received – though she could see how pensive Claire's expression was – she sighed, wondering if perhaps she'd made a mistake by inviting Claire, who may just be entirely too uptight for anything like the party. Her gaze landed on a makeshift bar. “Be right back!” she yelled then hurried over to it.

Claire sat where she was, feeling a wave of terror flash through her when Sam left the couch, disappearing into the throngs of moving, bumping bodies. Her heart was pounding, her palms sweating. She hadn't been to a party like this in fifteen years, and felt horribly out of place. To her massive relief, Sam returned, handing her a plastic cup of… something.

“Try it,” Sam said, raising her own plastic cup and clinking it against Claire's.

Claire sniffed it, a sweet – though very alcohol-heavy – scent reached her nose, making her wince. She glanced over at Sam, watching as the blonde tipped the cup back and down a goodly amount of the drink in a few short gulps. Claire didn't want to offend, so she took her own drink, immediately pulling away from the cup as the strong drink burned down her throat, making her eyes bulge.

Sam burst into laughter at Claire's reaction to the drink, made strong on purpose. She wanted her boss to let loose and have a good time. Personally, she wasn't sure if Claire had had a good time within the past decade. “Party hearty!” she exclaimed, against raising her plastic cup in salute.

Claire, still reeling from the pungent drink, raised her own cup then took another sip, her body reacting much like a kid taking a cupful of bad cough medicine. She tried to glare at a laughing Sam, but the alcohol was already beginning to affect her head, making her giggle instead.

“Oh shit, this will be fun,” Sam enthused, grabbing Claire's hand again. “Come on, you. Let's dance before you become boring again.”

They weaved their way through the crowd, trying to find some space amongst the pulsing bodies around them. Finding what she was looking for, Sam stopped and turned to the brunette, noting the dull shine in Claire's eyes. Oh boy.

Claire was trying to find the beat of the music, as she'd never been one to dance. In truth, she didn't have a clue how to! She was surprised when she felt Sam's hand on her hips, tugging her closer.

“Lemme show you,” Sam said, feeling the effects of the drink, but not nearly as much as the puritanical Claire. She tugged the taller woman closer to her until their bodies were nearly touching. She wanted Claire to loosen up and enjoy herself. “Spread your legs a bit,” she instructed, glancing down to see if she was being obeyed. “Yeah, there ya go. I'm going to show you how to grind.”

“Grind?” Claire asked, not a clue what Sam was talking about. She got the idea when suddenly one of Sam's legs was between hers and one of her own legs was between Sam's. She looked wide-eyed into Sam's grinning face.

“Chill!” Sam exclaimed over the music, about to wring her boss' neck. “Just let go, man. Feel the music; let it work through you.”

“I hate this kind of music, though,” Claire protested.

“I do, too, but that's not the point when you're dancing. Just let the beat guide you.”

Claire tried to take the words to heart and began to concentrate on “letting go”. That had never been a strong suit for her, but she hoped she could managed it tonight. The drink she'd consumed would certainly help in that realm.

Sam grinned as she saw the transformation in Claire: her shoulders fell a bit, her eyes turning more into oceans as opposed to icebergs. In short, she was letting go. She moved a bit closer, her hands resting on narrow hips. “There ya go,” Sam complimented, moving her own hips with Claire's.

Claire met Sam's gaze for a moment before looking away. She was so afraid of seeing disappointment or disapproval in those green eyes. Instead, she'd seen joy and encouragement, which in truth had been nearly as difficult to face. She rested her hands on Sam's shoulders, not sure what else to do with them. As though Sam had been reading her thoughts, her hands were taken in warm ones and placed on Sam's own hips, Sam's hands returning to Claire's.

“There you go!” Sam complimented. “You're getting it!”

Claire grinned, such an unfamiliar expression for her. She stopped thinking and simply allowed her body to follow the beat of the song, regardless of how obnoxious it was. She realized it didn't matter as her body moved with Sam's. As they danced, she studied Sam, realizing just how truly beautiful she was. Her green eyes held more depth than Claire had ever given them credit for or attention to. Her short blonde hair complimented her personality so well, giving her a reckless, carefree look. Even so, Claire knew that wasn't the case with Sam: in fact, Sam was one of the most compassionate, caring people she'd ever met.

Sam watched Claire as Claire watched Sam. She saw a strange transformation that seemed to take over Claire's face: her blue eyes softened, her mouth curving up into an easy smile and her body becoming more fluid. The whole change made Claire far more beautiful than any human being had the right to be. Sam was drawn to that, seeing a light in Claire that she'd never seen before or even dreamed that her boss was capable of. She used the heavy beat of the song to move her body closer until they were nearly breast to breast, her hands coming dangerously close to Claire's ass.

Claire felt the softness of Sam's hair as her hands moved their way up along strong shoulders to Sam's neck. She could feel her body relaxing more and more by the minute, by the beat. She grinned, feeling more free than she could remember feeling. She also felt more buzzed than she could remember feeling in a long, long time, but that didn't matter. Her grin was matched by Sam's. which made Claire's grin grow.

Sam felt herself getting lost in Claire – to her utter shock and somewhat dismay – when she felt someone move up behind her, attempting to grind against her ass. She glanced over her shoulder, stomach falling when she saw John's grinning face. Sam tried to move her and Claire away from him, but he followed.

“Hey, baby,” he said, large hands finding Sam's hips as he grinded himself a bit harder into her.

Sam wanted to vomit when she felt the beginnings of his hard on. “Do you mind?” she asked, stopping her dance and turning to face him, her back to Claire.

“What? I was just tryin' to dance with you two lovely ladies.” He grinned at Claire, who stood behind Sam, glaring at him. “Hey, baby.”

Claire said nothing, feeling beyond angry at what this yahoo had interrupted – which was what? – and because he made her feel extremely uncomfortable.

“Leave us alone, John.” Sam took a menacing step towards him, her drink giving her a bit of liquid courage, as well as she was feeling very protective of the woman who stood behind her and had a hand on her shoulder. “ Not interested.”

John's expression took a turn for the angry and dangerous. “What, so you're dancin' with some ho, I'm supposed to leave you alone?”

“'Some ho'?” Sam repeated, her anger rising to a level that would not be good for John and his manhood. “'Some ho '?” she repeated, her voice rising in volume.

“Sam,” Claire whispered behind her.

Samantha ignored her. “I'll show you a ho.”

Without a thought, Sam turned and wrapped a hand around the back of Claire's neck, pulling her down until they met in a savage kiss, Sam forcing her tongue into Claire's mouth.

At first Claire pushed against the unexpected intrusion with a hand to Sam's upper chest, but within moments of understanding, that same hand moved up into soft blonde hair, her eyes sliding closed as she returned the kiss with the same fierce passion that Sam thrust upon her.

John watched, his mouth falling open in shock. Angry and feeling humiliated, as some people nearby had begun to watch the interaction, he stormed off into the crowd.

Neither Sam nor Claire noticed his absence as the kiss continued for several more moments until finally the kiss came to a natural, gentle end.

Sam was nearly knocked off her feet by the kiss, her heart pounding in her chest. To hide her response, she turned, fully expecting to go off on John to alleviate her confusion. To her surprise, he was gone. Shit . She turned to face Claire, whom she figured would be preparing a sucker punch, or at best a wicked slap. Instead, she faced a woman who refused to meet her gaze, her cheeks flushed and lips swollen and wet.

Finally, Claire met Sam's gaze, her blue eyes soft and the deepest blue Sam had ever seen them. “I'm sorry,” the blonde murmured. “I was trying to-“

“Don't apologize, Sam,” Claire said, her voice soft. Somehow Sam actually heard it above the music. “I understand what you were doing.”

Relieved, Sam shoved her hands into the back pockets of her jeans, unsure what to do next. Finally she smiled shyly up at Claire. “Guess maybe we should head out before John tries to make more trouble.” With Claire's simple nod, they wove their way out of the crowded party, Sam not bothering to find Leon to tell him goodbye.

Silence reigned in Claire's car as Sam drove them home, Claire not trusting herself after the alcohol she'd had at the party. Instead, she sat in the passenger seat looking out her window at the night beyond. No matter what she tried to fill her mind with, her thoughts kept going back to that kiss. She had to fight herself to not bring her fingers up to her lips, which still buzzed with the intensity. She hadn't been kissed in more years than she could remember, and was still a bit shell shocked, no matter how much she understood why it had happened in the first place.

For her part, Sam was fighting down the nausea in her stomach, so afraid that once things sunk in with Claire, she'd be out of the warehouse and on her ass in the blink of an eye. Unbeknownst to her, she was just as shocked and preoccupied by the memory of the kiss as the woman sitting quietly next to her. Something had happened in that moment: suddenly, Claire went from being a bitchy, closed off anomaly to being a gorgeous woman who was very human and very sexy.

She glanced across the cab of the car, which was an eerie green from the light of the dashboard instruments. She could see Claire's profile and studied it for a moment before turning her attention back to the dark road ahead.

The silence was killing Claire, which surprised her. She glanced over at Sam, studying her profile for a moment before turning back to the long dark road ahead. What was it about Samantha that made her question her own actions and reactions? She certainly wondered what was going through Sam's mind at the moment.

“So,” Claire began, her sudden voice like an explosion in the near-deafening silence. “Do you know that guy?”

“Who, John?” Sam asked, sparing a glance to Claire, who was looking at her. “The guy from the party?”

“Yes. John.”

“No. He's a friend of Leon 's and I've had an issue with him before.”

Claire digested what she'd just been told before speaking again. “He seems like a bit of an ass.”

“That's what I'm thinking. At another party, Leon tried to set me up with him – without telling me, of course. So, I guess John thinks he's got some sort of hold or something. Kinda creepy.”

“I guess so,” Claire agreed.

Silence reigned again until Sam spoke. “Again, Claire I'm sorry. I just didn't know any other way to get the guy to back off. I had a bad feeling in my gut-“

“I understood it then and I understand it now, Sam. Don't worry about.” More silence. “Have you ever kissed a woman before?”

Sam was admittedly shocked by the question, but she held that shock inside. “A couple times. A few make out sessions at a party or whatever, but nothing major.” She glanced at Claire. “You?”

Claire's burst of laughter startled them both. “No!”

Sam smiled, flicking her turn signal as she turned on Claire's street. “Well, I guess tonight was far more of an adventure for you than I thought.”

Claire smiled with a nod. “I suppose so.”


Sam lay in her bed, staring up into the darkness that was her ceiling. She'd never had such a high ceiling before and found it striking every time she looked at it. She couldn't help but imagine what it would be like to have some really cool mural painted on it. Too bad she was far from an artist.

Her thoughts wandered from art to her boss, who slept a floor above her. She'd not seen Claire since Friday night when they'd parted ways after the party. It was early Sunday morning, Sam having spent all of Saturday chilling in her apartment watching TV Saturday. She'd managed to shove the events of Friday night down into a part of her mind that she could ignore, but now, as she lay in her bed it wasn't quite so easy to keep them at bay.

Sam sighed, raising her arms until her hands cradled her head. What would happen once they began their work together again? How was Claire feeling about how things had gone Friday night? They'd parted easy enough, each offering the other a wish for a good night's sleep, and then going off in their separate directions. That was it; easy enough.

With a heavy sigh, Sam tossed her legs off the side of the bed and sat on the edge. A glance at the clock on the bedside table told her it was nearly four in the morning. She hated insomnia and knew that sleep would not be coming back any time soon, since she'd awakened forty-five minutes before.

She decided it was useless to lay in bed, so decided to get up and be productive doing… what exactly? She looked around her apartment, noting her TV: nah. Bookcase with a smattering of books: nah. Computer: nah. Unsure what to do to keep herself occupied, she padded in just a pair of panties to the bathroom – where she actually had a bathtub this time – and took a long, hot shower. The water felt marvelous against her tight muscles. That was one thing she was missing: a good workout. Working on construction sites, she didn't have to hit the gym as often, but now that she'd been working for Claire with far less physically demanding work, she felt like a bit of a slug.

After her shower she studied herself in front of the mirror. Her body was awesome, even she had to admit. Her musculature was defined and hard, covered by velvety smooth skin. She'd always had a problem when it came to dating guys. So many were intimidated by her body, feeling like they had to be in some sort of stupid competition with her or something. It wasn't like she was the female version of Arnold Schwarzenegger or anything, but she was built and could likely bust the balls of any man out there.

For the fun of it, Sam flexed in front of the mirror with a growl, laughing at her own silliness. “I need a workout.”

Living the life traveling that she had, Sam had learned various types of exercises that were extremely successful just by using her own body weight against her, as well as everyday objects. Feel great about her decision, she dressed to sweat – realizing how stupid it had been to shower before – and headed out into the workshop area to see what she could find.

Claire had been flipping through channels for the past hour and was tired of infomercials or re-runs of TV shows that weren't popular the first time, let alone a second go round at five in the morning. She was bored out of her mind and decided to head downstairs to let Lily play until her heart was content, as well as get going on some of the work she knew she and Sam had to start on the following day.

She and Sam. Eyes sliding closed Claire couldn't help but think about the kiss they'd shared at the party two nights before. It had been years since Claire had been kissed, and she certainly hadn't expected to be kissed by Samantha. The few times she'd allowed herself to think about it, a rush of heat ran through her body, nearly curling her toes with its intensity, and she just knew it had to be because it had been so long since the last time.

She totally understood why it had happened, so did her best to not let it leak into a personal aspect of her soul: Sam had done what she had to do to get an obnoxious – and potentially dangerous – man out of the situation. It had been risky, as John could have taken it the other way, as some sort of invitation.

With a heavy sigh, she turned to Lily who had raised her head, blinking sleepy blue eyes up at Claire. “Life sucks, little one,” she muttered, leaning down and placing a kiss on the kitten's soft head. “Big time.”

Claire slid out of bed and padded over to the bathroom where she did her business, including a shower, then dressed to face a new day. She fed Lily and grabbed herself a bagel to munch on as she made her way downstairs.

She stopped short when she heard music playing, the beat throbbing in the early morning. For a moment she was frightened, as she'd never known Sam to be up so early, but then realized the chances were slim to none that a burglar would announce his presence by blasting music.

As she rounded the corner that would take her into the main workshop area Claire stopped in her tracks, frozen to the spot. Dressed in only mesh shorts and a sports bra, Sam was doing pushups, alternating between two handed and one handed, grunting softly with each one. Her shoulders and back glistened with sweat, her bangs hanging down in her face, sweaty and stringy.

Claire couldn't take her eyes off her, bagel forgotten. As she continued to watch, Sam did a few more pushups then collapsed on her stomach, panting. After a moment, she reached her legs out in front of and behind as far as she could, groaning appreciatively at the stretch, then raised her upper body up on her hands, bowing her back as much as she could.

Claire's hungry gaze took in the muscles in Sam's shoulders and arms that bulged under the strain of the stretch, Sam's cleavage in beautiful display as her breasts were pushed up and together in the tight fit of the sports bra. Claire was about to sneak back into the shadows but Lily ran past her, pouncing on Sam's back, startling a yelp out of her.

“Hey, you!” Sam cooed, grabbing the furball in her hands as she flipped over to sit on her butt. “What are you doing down here, huh?” She nuzzled the soft fur of Lily's neck, her gaze finding Claire. “You're up early.”

Claire took a deep breath and stood up straight, forcing herself a look of disinterest into her eyes as she stepped further into the room. “I figured I'd get an early start this morning; a lot to do.”

“Yeah, there is.” Sam got to her feet, Lily still in her hands.

Claire's gaze scanned down the length of Sam's unbelievably beautiful body, a flush heating her skin as she quickly made herself look away.

Sam saw the entire thing and was stunned by it. If she wasn't mistaken, Claire had looked like she wanted to eat her alive for breakfast. She buried the thought, figuring she had to have been mistaken. “Well, let me get showered and something to eat and I'll join you.” She set the kitten down then turned off the music from the radio that was always in the workshop.

Claire watched her, suddenly deciding she didn't want their interaction to conclude. “Wait,” she said, her voice sounding desperate and breathy in her own ears. Jesus, what the hell is wrong with me?! Once she had Sam's attention, she gave her a weak smile. “How about I make us some breakfast? Beats this,” she held up her partially-eaten bagel, “and whatever you were going to eat, I'm sure.”

Sam raised a brow at that last comment – which she knew instinctively hadn't been meant to be bitch – and smirked. “Alright. Your place or mine?”

Claire found herself slightly flushed yet again and not particularly liking the feeling. “Be upstairs in twenty minutes,” she barked as she left the room, leaving a confused Sam in her wake.

Nineteen minutes and forty-four seconds later, Sam – freshly showered and dressed – was knocking at the outer door to Claire's home. Claire's living quarters were essentially like a penthouse suite: when stepping off the elevator there was a small “lobby” of sorts, and then the sliding metal door that led into Claire's home.

Claire pulled open the door, offering Sam a small smile before she turned to lead the way inside. Sam followed, tugging the door closed behind her. The place already was filled with the incredible smells of eggs, sausage, toast and breakfast potatoes. Sam was in olfactory bliss as she followed Claire into the spacious kitchen.

“Care for some coffee?” Claire asked, indicating the full pot of freshly-brewed coffee.

“Please,” Sam said, sliding onto a stool that was tucked under the counter of the cooking island. “Do you want any help?”

“Nope, thanks. I don't get to cook for someone else all that often, so it's a nice change,” Claire explained, flipping the sausage links over with a pair of tongs. She poured Sam's coffee and brought it over to her, along with a canister of sugar and cream. “I figured after a workout, you'd be pretty hungry,” she said, indicating the bountiful feast she was making.

“And you'd be right,” Sam agreed, fixing her coffee. “I hope you don't mind my using the stuff in the workshop. I usually have to improvise when I workout, so…”

“It's fine.” Claire leaned a hand against the counter and looked down at Sam from across the built-in stove top. “Why don't you just get yourself some weights or a gym membership?”

“Gym memberships are expensive, and it would be a real bitch to lug around a bunch of weights as often as I move.”

“Makes sense,” Claire nodded, removing the sausage links that were done and laying them out on a paper towel. “Maybe I can find some good deals on eBay or Craigslist, then you can teach me how to get my fat ass in shape.”

Sam scanned over what she could see of Claire's naturally gorgeous body, ending at shielded blue eyes. “Fat ass?” she asked, brow raised. “Hardly.”

“Well, I certainly don't have the incredible body that you have,” Claire said softly, turning to check on the toast, knowing full well it wasn't finished yet. She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, trying to get rid of the image that had suddenly poked its way through her consciousness: Sam dressed in the shorts and sports bra she'd been wearing that morning, her body moving in a slow, sultry dance as she had been Friday night. “Stop it,” she hissed to herself, baffled on what was happening and why the stupidest things were coming out of her mouth and to her mind.

Sam watched Claire, confused. She could tell something was going on with the brunette, but hadn't a clue what. It seemed Claire was bothered by something. She sipped her coffee, studying Claire's back, her gaze dipping to take in her boss' shapely ass of their own accord. She mentally chastised herself as she turned her attention back to her coffee.

Ten minutes later they sat at the table, each tucking into the wonderful breakfast Claire had prepared. If Sam could purr she would, the food was so good. She felt eyes on her and glanced up to see an amused Claire watching her.

“What?” Sam asked around her mouthful of food.

“Nothing, I've just never seen someone scarf down food so quickly in their life. I know you're not a starving bum off the street, so I have to wonder exactly how many calories you burned this morning.”

Sam grinned, swallowing the food she'd been chewing and then washed it down with a drink of orange juice. “Yeah, well I don't get food that tastes this good all that often. You are a kick ass cook, Claire.”

Claire gave one of the few genuine smiles she allotted herself each year, the brightness nearly blinding Sam. “Thank you.”

“Holy crap,” Sam marveled, staring at Claire. “You have so got to do that more often. Jesus, you're friggin' gorgeous when you smile like that!”

Claire didn't know what to say or do at such an enthusiastic compliment, and had to shove down the immediate angry reaction that was her comfort zone. “Thank you, Sam,” she said instead, her voice devoid of emotion as she studied her food.

Sam could tell her compliment had made Claire immensely uncomfortable but suspected it was far more because she rarely – if ever – got such compliments more than because she was offended in any way. She decided to drop it, but only after one more comment. “I now have a new mission in life.”

“I'm afraid to ask what that might be,” Claire drawled, sopping up her egg yolk with a piece of toast.

“As you should be. I, Samantha Reiker will make it my mission to make you, Claire Hobbs,” she pointed her fork at Claire, “smile like that again before the end of the week.”

Claire glanced up at her, amused despite herself. “You think so, do you?”

“Yes, ma'am.” Sam turned back to her nearly-finished food. “That smile is far too beautiful to hide behind a scowl all the time.”

“I don't scowl all the time, Sam,” Claire argued.

“No?” Sam challenged.

“No,” Claire said stubbornly, sipping from her juice.

Sam was charmed and showed it with a smile of her own. “Whatever you say, boss lady.”

“Well,” Claire sighed, leaning back dramatically in her chair. “At least you've got that right.”

“What? That you're the whip-holding boss lady?”

“Keep it up and you'll find out just how good I am with that whip,” Claire retorted.

“Ohhhhhh, kinky,” Sam purred.

“Not sure how kinky you'll think it when I'm done,” Claire said softly, her eyes taking on a predatory glint, which sent an unwitting shiver down Sam's spine.

Sam gave her a sexy little grin as she rested her elbows on the table, leaning forward slightly. “Bring it on, baby.”

That grin and the words behind it nearly left Claire breathless as she got caught in Sam's eyes, which wouldn't let her go. Feeling panicked and fight or flight, she decided it was wisest to leave the situation. She broke the spell, closing herself off as she cleared her dishes and carried them into the kitchen.

Sam was almost literally shaken from her mornings, immediately feeling the chill in the air. Surprised at her behavior – let alone Claire's – she gathered her own dishes and carried them to the kitchen. When she got there, she saw that Claire had set her dishes on the counter, where she stood leaning on it, back to Sam. Sam set her dishes down nearby unsure what to do or say. It seemed Claire was really upset.

“Hey,” she said softly, tentatively touching Claire's shoulder.

“I'm sorry,” Claire said, her voice choked. She refused to look at Sam. “That was inappropriate.”

“Claire,” Sam said gently, forcing Claire to turn to face her. She met Claire's gaze, which to her surprise was filled with fear. “Don't be afraid of me,” she said, sadness filling her. God, what has this woman been through? “I'm not going to hurt you.”

Claire tried to look away, but Sam's gentle fingers on her chin made her stay put. She looked into the kind, compassionate green eyes and it nearly made her cry. “I'm sorry,” she whispered, unsure what she was even apologizing for.

“Sweetie, we were just bantering in fun, just playing. There's nothing wrong with that, and certainly nothing for you to be sorry about.” Her fingers left Claire's chin, instead moving until her palm cupped Claire's cheek, her thumb rubbing in small, comforting strokes. “Don't be afraid to be yourself, Claire.”

Claire smiled weakly, hating herself as she felt the sting of emotion behind her eyes. “I'm not sure how,” she admitted, barely audible.

“Just let yourself go,” Sam said, moving her hands to Claire's shoulders, figuring it might be a little less threatening than the intimate touch of the face. She guess right as Claire seemed to relax a bit. “Tell you what: why don't we play hookie today – don't worry, I'm in good with the boss – and have fun. We can watch movies, take Lily for a crazy cat walk, we could-“

Claire felt overwhelmed by Sam's kindness and close proximity, and needed nothing more than to be alone. She stepped back away from the blonde with a weak smile. “Maybe we can do movies another time. I've got things to do around here.”

Sam was deeply stung, as she could almost literally see Claire's walls shoot up. She stepped back, nodding. “Okay. Cool.” She smiled bravely. “No biggie. Would you like help cleaning all this up?”

Claire looked around the messy kitchen, but shook her head. “I can get it, thanks.”

“Alright. Well,” Sam said, feeling like a fool for trying. “Catch you later.”

Claire watched her go, her heart pounding in her chest. She felt like the world's biggest asshole, but she didn't know what else to do. She just didn't have it in her to give Sam the friendship she seemed to be asking for. She sighed, running her hands through her hair. “I deserve to be alone,” she told the empty kitchen. “Totally fucking deserve it.”


To be continued


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