Cold Blast - Part 2

By Cathy

 

 

Mara plucked the chocolate bar the President had just unwrapped out of his hand, broke it in half and returned it back to him.

"I believe that is treason young lady."

"To charge me with treason Mr. President I'd have to be an American citizen. You will make yourself sick that was your fourth bar in fifteen minutes."

"My eyes occasionally fail me but I'm fairly certain that neither Abbey nor Mrs. Landingham are in this room so I'll do as I please."

"Fine don't come crying to me when you have a sick stomach or can't eat your dinner."

"Mara he's making me hungry hand over the goldfish." C.J. demanded.

Mara turned around and searched for her purse which was no where in sight. "I think my purse is still in Sam's office."

"I'll go get it for you now if you want." Sam offered.

"Leo?"

"C.J. No."

"Please." C.J gave Leo her best pout.

Leo grumbled and groaned before extending his open bag so C.J. could grab a handful. Sam and Toby stole a chip from her and she moved as soon as she noticed they were coming back for more.

"I've seen kindergartners share better you should all be ashamed. Sam go get my purse I'll share my goldfish with you and Toby."

"K" Sam smiled at Mara and was out the door in a flash.

"Cookie dear?" Mrs. Landingham asked as Sam passed her desk.

"I'll be back in a minute but sure thank you ."

"You're welcome Sam. Has Mara Whitford arrived yet?"

"Yes we are in a meeting now."

"Ah so the President is in there stuffing his face. He thinks I don't know why he is so happy to see Mara all the time."
"Nothing gets by you does it Mrs. Landingham? I must say that the President does seem to adore Mara for more than her food connections."

"Very little gets by me Sam. Oh yes she's a delightful girl after his own heart. He just knows she wouldn't refuse him."

Sam smiled and was on his way. Mrs. Landingham hit the intercom and waited for the President to pick up the line.

"Yes Mrs. Landingham."

"Sir what ever you've managed to eat thus far is all you are getting. You will spoil your dinner and you shouldn't be eating in there period."

"Yes Mrs. Landingham." The President hung up the phone. "I swear making my life miserable was not in her job description." He grumbled.

"You really were going to ruin your appetite. I'll join you though if maple something is on the menu for tonight."

"No apparently the executive chef was notified that the Prime Minister was highly allergic to maple products." Leo said giving Mara a knowing look.

"Hey if Toby can evoke the Presidents name for a military funeral I can evoke the Prime Minister's name to keep maple seasoned salmon away from my plate. So what if mine wasn't the noble thing to do. I get really cranky when I don't eat so it was really more a favour for my dinner companions than my palate."

"Is there anything you can't justify?" Toby asked with a slight grin.

"You mean besides Josh?"

"You've got to give her credit for consistency." Leo laughed.

"Mara do you really hate Josh that much?" C.J. asked.

"I swear if this goes beyond this room you will all pay but no I don't hate Joshua Lyman. In fact I'm sort of fond of him he takes me so well and doesn't hesitate to give it back to me. There is nothing I hate more than a spineless person and I think I've called Josh every name in the book but never spineless."

"Well I'll see you tonight Mara, I've got work to do. Sir?"

"You can go Toby."

As Toby exited the office he ran in to Abbey who was on her way in to say hello to Mara and stop Jed from pigging out on junk food.

"Toby."

"Hi Mrs.Bartlet."

"How long has Mara been in there?"

"Not long."

"Toby?"

"Three and a half bars but you didn't hear it from me."

"Thank you that will be all Toby."

Abbey swung open the door and noticed Jed had just finished opening another chocolate bar. She strode over to him, lifted it from his hands and took a large bite.

"Hey!"

"Oh Jed I know this can't possibly be your first one so don't even try that one on me. These really are quite good. Hello Laura Secord." Abbey said with a grin and approached Mara to hug her.

Mara hugged the first lady. "Hi Dr. B. You know you are the only person who would give me a chocolate store's name as a nickname."

"Actually it's your secret service code name too." Jed laughed.

"You see C.J. the real Laura Secord...."

"Press briefing got to go sir." C.J. quickly dashed to the door to avoid a half an hour lecture on Laura Secord Canadian heroine.

"Leo can you believe her?"

"No Sir I can't, got to go, work to do. See you Mara."

"See Mara if you ever need a room cleared in less than twenty seconds just ask my husband to speak."

Mara and Abbey started laughing while Jed attempted to look highly offended. Twenty seconds later he was chuckling and rose to put his arms around two of his favourite women.

"So when are you going back Mara?" Abbey asked.

"Monday morning, The Prime Minister is going back late tomorrow afternoon."

"Would you prefer lunch or dinner on Sunday?"

"Lunch."

"Why don't you join us for noon mass then and we'll come back to eat."

"Sounds great to me. How's Zoey doing? I sent her a rather long e-mail a few weeks ago and her response was got it, talk to you later."

"Busy with mid terms I think her last one is tomorrow. I'll summon her to lunch on Sunday."

"Please tell me I'm not sitting with a bunch of tired boring state dinner regulars."

"I wanted you at my table but C.J. claimed you before I could." Abbey replied.

The door opened and Sam walked in with Mara's purse slung over his shoulder since his hands were full of files Toby had asked him to give to the President.

"Interesting fashion statement Sam." The President quipped.

Abbey and Mara turned around to see what the President found so amusing. Mara smiled at Sam while Abbey shook her head and laughed softly.

"Thanks Sir but I think I a lighter brown would bring out the blue in my eyes better." He deadpanned.

"Oh Sam never lose that wonderful self deprecating sense of humour. I'll see you both tonight and Jed I am expecting you to eat every single morsel of your dinner so I don't suggest you eat any more junk food." Abbey gave her husband a warning glare and left.

"Thanks for the files Sam your co -workers all fled."

"Oh what were you about to give a lecture on?"

"Laura Secord Sam."

"I assume you mean the real woman not the chocolate store."

"I'm impressed Sam why don't you knock off early and let Mara give you a tour of the White House."

Mara laughed, slid her purse off of Sam's arm and put her arm around his back. "Come on Sam you might even learn something." Mara gave Jed a kiss on the cheek and escorted Sam to the door.

"Mrs. Landingham what's next?"

Mara walked Sam back to his office. "I'm going to go back and have a nap before I have to get ready. I'll see you tonight Sam."

"I'm sorry about earlier. It really was nice to meet you."

"It's already forgotten Sam and it was nice to finally meet you too." Mara picked her purse back up from the chair she had rested it on and was almost at the door when she stopped and spun around. "I almost forgot Sam these are for you." She pulled out the goldfish from her purse and tossed them to him.

Sam poured a handful out and handed the bag back to her. "I can't leave you without any. What if your car breaks down and you get hungry while waiting for a tow truck?"

Mara accepted the bag, waved bye and was on her way. He really is a sweet kid she thought remembering parts of C.J's description of Sam. She managed to miss most of the early traffic and stood in front of her hotel room door trying to find the card key. After she dumped the contents of her purse on the floor she knew she'd lost it and trekked back down to the desk hoping a different clerk would be on duty. She was out of luck.

"Hi I'm Mara Whitford from room18..."

"!2, yes what can I do for you Miss Whitford?"

"Well... umm .. it seems I've managed to loose my card keys again and I need replacements."

The clerk looked at Mara as if she was a five year old and shook her head. "I'll be right back." she came back a few minutes later and handed Mara two new cards. "Here we go hopefully you won't loose these ones."

Don't bet on it Mara thought and walked away with the cards. She left herself in to the room leaving her clothes in a pile as she shed them. She took a long hot shower, washed her hair and gave herself a mini facial. Mara decided she wanted a drink and picked up the card key and the ice bucket. She walked down a few doors and tripped on the metal lip on the ice room floor sending the bucket and card key flying out of her hands. The card key went sliding underneath the ice machine and Mara knew it was a lost cause. She filled the bucket of ice and pressed the elevator button grateful she put her robe over the sleep shirt she had slid in to.

The desk clerk saw Mara get off the elevator and stifled a laugh. In a robe and carrying a bucket of ice had to mean she locked herself out. "Locked yourself out Miss Whitford?"
"Technically yes. I tripped and the card key went flying under the ice machine so I can't get back in to my room."

"I'll go get you a new set." She returned moments later and held the cards in her hand. "You know we had a group of thirty grade eights here last week and not one of them lost a key."

"Well isn't' that special." Mara said sarcastically snatching the card keys out of the clerks hand. Six so far I might just break my record she thought on her way back up the elevator.

Mara knew the other key was useless since she was given two new ones and dropped it in the waste basket so she didn't pick it up later. She sat down on the edge of the bed and made herself a rum and coke. One of Mara's little secrets that only C.J. knew about was the fact that large gatherings terrified her. Small spaces she could deal with but put her in a ballroom with hundreds of other people and she felt as if the room was closing in on her. When Mara and C.J meet for the first time Mara was standing on the furthest fringes of the room nervously munching on her goldfish crackers to keep her mind off her setting. C.J. knew something was wrong when Mara didn't want to walk across the crowded dance floor of minglers to sit at C.J.'s table. Once the dance floor cleared Mara managed to cross the room to take a seat. A drink before an event and one as soon as she arrived helped to calm her nerves. When she finished the drink Mara gathered her accessories for the evening together and put the gold fish crackers, her lipstick and a tiny bottle of pills in to her whimsical purse. The purse didn't hold much but it was a definite fashion statement.

Josh and Sam were in mid sentence when both of their jaws dropped. Donna and C.J turned to see what was holding their gaze and more impressively silencing them. One look at Mara answered the question and C.J. noticed the usual din of conversation had completely fallen off and all eyes were centered on Mara.

"My God look at her." Josh exclaimed.

Donna leaned over and shut Josh's jaw with her finger tip. "Stop drooling. I thought you hated her?" Donna teased.

"I do but wow look at her."

"You know Joshua if I didn't already know you were an insufferable, insensitive idiot I'd be offended."

"I told you how great you look."

"No you said nice dress go get me a drink."

"To which you replied drop dead go get me one."

"Sam it's not polite to stare." C.J hissed knowing how much Mara hated being the center of attention in a crowd.

Sam couldn't help staring, his jaw relaxed to form a smile but he couldn't pull his gaze away from her. He was trying to decide what aspect of her dress he loved the most; the almost bare back, the thigh high slit, the deep red colour or how the dress clung to her body.

Mara was grateful to be holding Sam's gaze. She focused on his eyes and pretended he was the only one in the room as she was forced to cross a densely populated dance floor. She kept turning her purse from side to side to completely distract her mind.

"I love that purse." Donna whispered to C.J.

"Me too, leave it to Mara to find a unique purse like that one. I bet it's her favourite part of the entire ensemble."

Sam stood when Mara was a few feet away pulling out the chair next to him. Mara sat down quickly grateful to be out of most people's line of vision. Sam leaned over to whisper in her ear as he pushed her chair back in. "You are easily the most beautiful woman in the room. You look incredible."

Mara waited for Sam to sit back down before she leaned over to leave a kiss on his cheek. "Thank you Sam."

"Mara that is the most amazing purse can I see it?" Donna asked.

Mara grinned and handed over her black cat purse. It was a stuffed black plush cat, black tail with a white tip to match the white on it's face. The cat's ears were pink on the inside as was it's nose, A black and white gingham bow was tied around it's neck and two plush loops were sewn on to either side of the zipper that ran along the length of the cat's back. C. J took the purse off Donna when she was finished and started petting it.

Sam leaned over and scratched it's head."It's very soft but it's too dark for my eyes."

Mara and Sam exchanged a look and started laughing. Josh snorted to show his disgust. Not only was Sam going gaga over the dragon queen but the feeling seemed mutual and they were already sharing inside jokes..

C.J watched Mara and Sam in fascination as the chemistry between them was electrifying. She absentmindedly continued petting Mara's purse while gazing at Josh who was doing a slow boil. She leaned over to whisper in Donna's ear. "Before Deputy Downer, which by the way I think is a fitting name; anyway I digress: get his attention off Mara before he strangles her."

"How, they make a striking couple don't they?"

"Very striking and I don't want this evening to turn in to some wrestling match so just do something."

Donna leaned over and captured Josh's hand squeezing it until she gained his attention. "Do you really think I look great tonight Joshua?" She asked giving him her prettiest smile.

Josh felt the jolt the second her hand covered his. While he was in the hospital Donna's hand rarely left his and he missed her touch the second she walked out of the room . Even during his convalescence at home Donna would often reach out her hand to hold his while she briefed him on the happenings of the day. Josh felt his animosity towards Mara disappearing and turned to face Donna.. "Donna you look absolutely ravishing this evening. Beauty thy name is Donnatella." Josh realized he had vocalized the last part and quickly looked at their hands to avoid making eye contact.

"Thank you, Joshua you look very handsome tonight too."

"I do don't I?" Josh quipped and Donna laughed at the quick change in his demeanor that she dubbed the Lyman defense.

"So Mara where did you get that purse?" Donna asked.

"I picked it up at some boutique store in San Francisco. I can't remember the name but it was in Union Square. They had a pink poodle too."

Josh noticed C.J. was still petting Mara's purse and started to chuckle. "I think we need to buy you a kitten Claudia Jean."

"No the poor thing would starve to death I spend such little time at home. What gave you the idea I needed a cat?"

"Geez could it be the fact that you are petting a purse?"

"Oh." C.J didn't' have her usual witty comeback and stopped petting the purse. She rested the cat on her lap instead of giving it back to Mara as there was something oddly calming about stroking it.

Sam leaned over to whisper in Mara's ear. "If you remember where you got it let me know I'd buy one for C.J. for Christmas."

"I'll look in to it for you. Donna that necklace is beautiful is it an heirloom?"

"Somebody's I picked it up at a tag sale last year the chain was broken and missing a clasp so I had it fixed."

They were all served a green salad with raspberry vinaigrette and the conversations died off in favour of food. Mara breathed a sigh of relief when chicken Kiev was placed in front of her as the main course. Josh and Mara avoided talking to each other so dinner passed without any incidents. The band began to play and the Prime Minister got up to dance with the First Lady.

"Would you dance with me Donna?" Josh asked.

Donna's face lite up. "I'd like that Joshua."

Josh wrapped his arm around her back escorting her to the dance floor. Donna slid comfortably in to his arms and let him lead her around the dance floor. When the song ended neither of them wanted to move so they continued dancing .

"I'm telling you those two are in love with each other." Mara said quietly.

"Who's in love?" Toby asked.

"Hey Toby so you came over to sit at the children's table for a bit."

"Yeah I got tired of listening to facts about icebergs. Who is in love?"

"Josh and Donna but neither of them will admit it."

"That's a good thing since he's her boss."

"Oh come on Toby I know there must be a romantic in you somewhere after all you were married."

"I'm divorced Mara shouldn't that tell you something."

"Yeah that you were too busy trying to be a politician to nurture your marriage."

"Nurture? Mara how much have you had to drink?" Sam asked.

"A couple of glasses why?"

"I figured you had to be drunk to mention Toby and nurture in the same sentence."Sam said with a grin.

"Oh Sam underneath that gruff exterior Toby is a mushy teddy bear."

"Take that back now Mara." Toby ordered.

"Nope."

"Mara I'll have you deported if you don't take it back."

"Oh yeah he's a bear all right." Sam laughed.

"Sam shut up." Toby barked.

Mara reached over and hit Toby in the arm "Stop telling Sam to shut up."

"I'll stop tell him to shut up when he says something intelligent for a change."

"You ever hear the saying doth protest too much Toby?" C.J asked wondering why she was always in the center of arguments.

"On second thought I think there are a few things about icebergs I don't know." Toby walked away and headed back to his table.

Five minutes later Leo joined the table and sat down beside Mara. "All right what did you say to Toby that has him in a worse mood than normal?"

"Why do you always assume it's me?"

"Because it usually is Mara. I adore you but you are a little trouble maker." Leo said with a grin.

"All I did was point out that Mr. Grump is actually a teddy bear and he went ballistic on me."

"Ah that explains it. I take it Josh is on the dance floor to escape you too."

"No I had nothing to do with that. I think Josh just wanted an excuse to have Donna in his arms myself."

"Dance with me and we can investigate your theory."

Mara didn't' exactly want to be in the middle of dancers but she couldn't say no to Leo. "Sure."

She followed Leo to the dance floor and breathed a small sigh of relief when Leo kept her on the edge of the dance floor. She laughed and caught up with Leo and was able to keep her mind of her surroundings and enjoy herself. The President cut in on Leo towards the end of their second dance.

"You look fantastic Mara."

"Thanks Jed you look quite Presidential yourself."

"I hope so."

"Shouldn't you be dancing with your lovely wife?"

"Trying to get rid of me already?"

"No I just think you don't dance with Abbey enough."

"Well I don't' want to dance her senseless like Josh is doing to Donna."

"Jed would you get mad at me if I sort of tried to encourage Josh and Donna to explore their feelings for each other?"

"Hell no I've been wondering how long those two were going to keep dancing around each other before they realized they belonged in each others arms. I can't exactly interfere but you can."

"Yeah and if anything goes wrong then you can blame me."

"Yup I'll blame it on a cold blast from the North. Speaking of not acting on something I should point out that young Samuel has not taken his eyes off you all evening."

"Really?" Mara asked with a big grin.

"Really and he is heading this way and I don't think I'm the one he wants to take in his arms."

"I hope not. Go dance with your wife."

"Sir may I cut in?"

"Be my guest Sam. Oh Mara if you need my help with that other matter just ask."

"I will Sir thanks." Mara wrapped her arms around Sam's neck and smiled when he pulled her close. "I was wondering how long I'd have to wait to dance with you."

"I felt sort of bad about leaving C.J alone at the table but Danny just showed up. She's still petting your purse by the way."

"I'll only start to worry if she starts talking to it."

Sam laughed envisioning the look on C.J's face if she was caught talking to a stuffed purse. She turned red enough when he walked in on her talking to Gail.

"Donna what would you have liked to do tonight if you weren't here?" Josh asked.

"I don't know curl up with some popcorn and a good movie."

"Care to blow this pop stand and catch a movie?"
"Really?"

"Yeah I'll even let you pick the movie."

"Yes, my place or yours?"

"Yours is probably cleaner."

"Josh you are such a slob."

"I'm a guy it's in my genetic makeup."

"Whatever, let's say good night and split."

Mara noticed Josh and Donna leave the dance floor and Donna stopped by on her way out the door. "Night Mara and Sam."

"Heading home?" Sam asked.

"Yeah I have a headache and Josh offered to drop me off."

"Hope you feel better."

"Thanks Sam."

"Get Josh to give you a temple massage that always works for me."

"I think I just might do that thanks Mara."

Mara waited for Donna to leave and grinned at Sam. "If Donna has a headache I'm the Queen of England. She looks too happy to have a headache. Josh is taking her somewhere."

"You think?"

"I know."

Sam and Mara danced the night away until the President thanked everyone for coming and said good night at midnight. Mara collected her purse off C.J and let Sam walk her to her car.

"Sam I don't want the night to end."

"Me either how about we go for a walk? Have you ever seen the Jefferson monument at night?"

"Yes but I've never had the Sam Seaborn night tour."

Mara and Sam walked around for an hour sharing stories and generally getting to know each other. Sam offered to drive Mara back to her hotel. They were a few minutes away when Mara opened her purse and didn't see her card key.

"Sam I can't go back there I've lost 7 card keys today and I just know that clerk will still be on duty and snicker at me. Can I stay with you?"

"You lost seven card keys? You've been in town for what 8 hours?"

"I have issues with them OK."

Sam started laughing. "Umm sure you can stay with me."

At about the time Mara and Sam were pulling up to his place Donna was sleeping peacefully in Josh's arms on her couch. Josh didn't have the heart to wake her up and truth be told he loved having her in his arms all night long. He always woke up feeling like he'd slept for days and during the night Donna inevitably rolled over and snuggled up to his chest. There were definitely worse things in life than waking up with Donna Moss in your arms he thought just before he drifted off to sleep.

Mara had changed in to one of Sam's shirts and stood at the entrance to the living room. Sam was prepping the couch to sleep on and looked up at the shadow crossing his floor. Sam thought she looked more breath taking in his white shirt than the dress. Her long tan legs were on display and he noted that she left the top few buttons of the shirt open giving him a nice view of the swell of her breasts.

"Sam what are you doing?"

"Getting my bed ready, I don't expect you to sleep on the couch."

"Sam that's very sweet of you but I'm a big girl and I'm capable of staying on my side of the bed. You'd be more comfortable and I wouldn't feel so bad."

It's not you I'm worried about Sam thought wondering how he'd be able to sleep with her so close to him. "I snore." He lied.

"I'm a very sound sleeper so it won't bother me. My Mom always said a war could be going on outside and neither my Dad or I would wake up."

"K pick the side you want and I'll be there in a minute." Well I'm not getting any sleep tonight Sam mumbled to himself.

Mara surprised Sam by not picking his side of the bed. She had the covers up to her chin and barely moved when Sam climbed in to bed. He set the alarm and laid on his back, his hands clasped over his chest.
"Night Sam."

"Night Mara."

Fifteen minutes later Mara was using Sam's chest as her pillow and had her arms wrapped around him. Sam was gently playing with her long blonde tresses and surprised himself by actually falling asleep.

Mara heard his alarm go off and groaned. Sam couldn't move since Mara was almost completely on top of him. He brushed her hair off her face setting it behind her ear. Mara looked up and made contact with his chin.

"Oh yeah you really know how to stay on your own side." Sam quipped.

"I'm sorry Sam but you can't move you are very comfortable."

"I think I'm flattered but I really have to get to work. Come on you can get a few shots in with Josh before he has enough caffeine in him. You'll enjoy it."

"Not as much as I'd enjoy staying in bed with you." Mara murmured.

"Fine you can call the President and explain why you don't want to let me out of bed to come to work. If it's OK with him then we don't move."

"You don't play fair Sam Seaborn."

"Oh like you are playing fair right now. You look adorable and you are wrapped around me begging me to stay in bed with you. Do you really think I want to go to work now?"

Mara laughed and pushed herself up to leave a teasing kiss on his lips. "K you win we move."

Sam rolled them over on to their sides and captured Mara's lips with his. After several minutes of blistering kisses Sam untangled himself from her and slid out of bed. By the time he stepped out of the shower Mara was back in her dress applying lipstick. Sam got dressed quickly and skipped breakfast so he could get Mara back to her hotel to change. They shared the rest of her Goldfish in the car and Mara begged Sam to come in to the hotel with her to face the clerk.

"You help run the largest country in the world, the mention of your name strikes fear in the hearts of men and you are scared of a hotel clerk?"

"Yes she thinks I'm an idiot."

"Geez what would give her that idea it's not like you've lost seven card keys."

"That's not funny. Come on go ask for my keys." Mara dragged him up to the counter.
"Yes can I help you?" The male clerk asked.

"Yes I've misplaced my card key and I need to get in to my room. I'm Mara Whitford."

"Ah yes room 1812, Leslie warned us to have lots of keys ready for you." The clerk couldn't' help hid his smirk.

Sam started laughing despite the glare Mara was giving him. She wouldn't talk to him in the elevator and once she opened the door Sam took the key off her.

"I'll keep this safe for you. You need one of those neon coil things that you could attach to yourself. You know like the mitts your Mom pinned to your sleeves when you were little."

"Sam you are enjoying this too much. I swear if you breathe so much as a word of this to Josh you'll pray for death to come and snatch you away to save you from my wrath." Mara came out of the bathroom and smiled at Sam.

"Dear God you like every schoolgirl fantasy I've ever had."

"You don't like what I'm wearing?"

Mara was wearing a short pleated blue, white and green tartan skirt with navy tights and high heeled loafers. She wore a snug blue velvet boat neck top and had her hair pulled up into a simple ponytail.

"I love what you're wearing. How does anyone get work done around you?"

"We're in our third term Sam they are use to me."

"I would never get work done with you in the West Wing."

"Thanks Sam."

"Ready?"

"Uhuh let's go make Josh miserable."

 

Chapter 3

 

 

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