Stalked Part Four
David had watched the Deputy Communications Director climb into the limo which then pulled into the alley behind the Hotel Washington. David had watched the video over and over again couldn't believe she'd allowed Seaborn to touch her like that. Couldn't she see that all men like Sam wanted was a quick roll in the hay and then they were gone? "So that's where the bastard stashed her. Right across the street from the White House. Damn, I can't believe I didn't think of it." David Greer followed the motorcade at a discreet distance. He thought it was discreet enough. David knew he didn't have a hope in hell of beating the security at Camp David, so once he realized that's where the limo was headed, he turned back toward Washington. Following Seaborn had gotten him the information he needed.
"I knew Seaborn would lead me back to her," David congratulated himself for his own ingenuity. " Oh, Ainsley Beloved, don't worry, Seaborn won't separate us much longer. I'll come to you, darling. Then, we can be together!" It was all Sam's fault. Sam Seaborn had the nerve to try and separate David from his beloved. Well, Sam was gonna pay. He would pay dearly. Then Ainsley would be David's again.
David's rage and worry were all consuming as he frantically scoured the city looking for her. She was so innocent. No match for the charms of an experienced womanizer like Sam Seaborn. Well it wouldn't continue. David would have to find a way to bring her into the open and then scoop her up and carry her away from all this. David would never hurt her, but if Seaborn tried to get in the way, well, his safety was another matter. Seaborn was a first rate sonovabitch. David had watched the video over and over in disgust almost vomiting when he saw Seaborn wrap his arms around Ainsley's perfect waist. Seaborn had even prevented her from cuddling the baby kitten David had chosen for her. There was no doubt about it: Sam was trying to steal Ainsley! Sam Seaborn had actually touched Ainsley, had held her in his arms, had stroked her back! David had never allowed himself such liberties. Seaborn was as good as dead now. "Ainsley is too delicate for him. Besides, she's my fiancee. She belongs to me."
Abbey Bartlett watched Ainsley and Sam discreetly as they approached the main house for dinner. She saw that last kiss and almost blushed. And she was a doctor for crying out loud. "Jed," she called to her husband as he was busily lighting the barbeque and checking his tools, "they're back."
Over dinner Ainsley struggled to relax with the Bartletts. It wasn't easy but the setting, the food, and being with Sam helped immensely. They talked about various things. Why the President went to Notre Dame? (Because he'd considered the Priesthood.) Why Ainsley chose Smith? (Because she'd earned a full scholarship there.) Why Sam had gone to Duke for law school? (Because his dad had gone to Duke.) And why Abbey spent so much time away from the White House? (Because Abbey saw the role of the First Lady as the President's personal representative and he was a President who wanted to be with the people as much as possible.)
Josh and Donna arrived in time for dessert and coffee. Josh tried to raise the polling data but their host wouldn't hear anything of it. He told them that the President wasn't available and asked "What's next?"
Without a second's hesitation Abbey declared, "A campfire."
Sam and Josh bickered good naturedly over the construction of a good campfire.
"Remember boys, you have reputations to salvage on this subject," the boss said with great authority. "You almost burned down the White House, let's try to avoid Camp David suffering the same fate."
As the fire began to die down, Ainsley had an inspiration. "I feel like a banana boat."
"A what?" Josh asked incredulously.
"A banana boat. It's a banana, only you peel it all the way then you scoop out some of the fruit. That makes room for the chocolate chips and mini marshmallows that get stuffed in the crack. You wrap it in foil, put it in the coals and the chocolate chips and marshmallows melt and..."
"I'm in." Donna laughed. "Let's raid the kitchen!" Donna led Ainsley to the kitchen and the two women began scrounging for the ingredients. "So?" Donna asked suggestively. "You and Sam seem friendly tonight?"
"We are." Ainsley said not looking at her and blushing slightly.
"Details, woman, I want details."
"Spill it or I won't surrender the marshmallows," she replied holding the bag tightly against her chest.
"You're mean." Ainsley smiled at her though.
"I'm tough, not mean. I work for Josh - I have to be tough."
"Speaking of Josh..." Ainsley tried to deflect the conversation.
"No way - I also learned how to stay on topic working for Josh. No sugar fix until you tell me what's up."
"All right. Remind me to recommend you to the CIA for use in interrogations. Yes, Sam and I are friendly. Very friendly. More than friendly. But that's all you get."
"Is he a good kisser?"
"Incredible." She replied quickly with a catch in her voice. She glared at Donna. "But that's it. All you get."
Donna smiled. "Now was it so hard?" She teased Ainsley who blushed at the double entendre. "I meant difficult."
"You're bad!" Ainsley kept searching the cupboards. "Yes! Chocolate chips." She said excitedly upon discovering them. Ainsley's voice dropped slightly, "Donna, what if I said this could be the real thing for us. People are going to talk ..."
Donna hugged her friend. "And we'll all say we're happy for you. For both of you."
As the evening wore on the group fell into a comfortable silence. The couples sat close together watching the flames and night sky. Abbey and Jed retired first, laughing about how life seemed to run in circles. Often, when the girls were teens, and they were at the cottage with their family, Mom and Dad went to bed long before their girls.
A few minutes later, Donna poked Josh in the ribs, "OW, what did you do that . . ." then he looked at Sam staring intently at Ainsley. "Oh, well you guys," he said, "we're next. Good night. And Ainsley, when I get a sugar craving, I know the girl to call to satisfy it." Donna smacked him again. "Relax Donnatella, I was just being polite. It took me a while but I now know which woman will satisfy all my cravings." He kissed her deeply.
"Nice recovery Joshua," she said. "Good Night, guys." She said as she and Josh walked arm in arm to the house.
"Well that was interesting. When did they get together?" Ainsley asked Sam.
He smiled at her. "The Correspondent's Dinner. It had been brewing for some time though. You'd be amazed at how discreet they're being. Everybody always thought something was going on, but now that something IS going on, nobody notices the difference. I'm just glad Josh finally found the guts to take a chance at it. Now, you are sitting much too far away."
"I'm right beside you."
"I know, come here." He reached over and settled her onto his lap. "That's better." Sam caressed her hair and kissed the top of her head.
"So what did you tell Donna?"
"It doesn't take two of you to scour the kitchen for food. And I learned years ago that girls do things like that in groups so they can talk about the men in their lives. So, what did you tell Donna"
"More than she told me obviously."
"You told her about us."
"I told her we were friendly."
"Are we friendly?" He nuzzled her neck.
"I said more than friendly."
"She didn't push you further than that."
"Sam, we've talked, we've held hands, we've kissed a few times."
"You and Donna have kissed? I wish I'd been there to watch," he couldn't resist teasing her.
"Very funny. You know what I meant."
"I know what you meant." He kissed the tip of her nose. They sat looking at the stars and chatting idly. After staring up at the stars Sam started staring into her eyes. He leaned in for passionate kiss. "We should probably turn in too."
He walked her to her bedroom door where he kissed her goodnight. Ainsley felt her knees go weak and pressed herself up against him. Sam thought he'd be content to hold her close, to stroke her hair but he had never been so aroused by a simple kiss. "Sweet dreams, Ainsley." He crossed the hall to his room and shut the door.
As Ainsley got ready for bed, she couldn't help thinking about how much her life had changed in a few months. Last fall her career had been all consuming. Now, she could see herself building a life with Sam. And she liked the looks of that life. Her career would be part of it, so would his, but they would have something more than that. She knew a part of her should probably worry about committing to a man with Sam's romantic past but somehow it didn't matter. She knew above all things Sam Seaborn was a man of his word. He had a sense of honour and duty that superseded his own desire for pleasure. If he gave her his word, it would be enough. As her grandma would say, God put eyes on the front of her head to look forward not back and she realized that she really had no problem with Sam's past.
Sam stretched out on his bed and stared up at the ceiling. A part of him was on fire, a fire only she could help him put out. Sam had wanted women before - hell he'd had a few over the years. But not like this. As much as every fibre of his being wanted to cross the hallway and show her what he was feeling, he knew it was too soon. When they became lovers, and to him it wasn't an issue of if but rather when, he wanted her to be sure that for him, this was emotional not just physical. Oh, it was physical too. He'd have to take a cold shower before he tried to sleep - but this was more. Much more. Why didn't that realization scare him? A year ago it would have.
A year ago. Rosslyn. The gun shots rang out in his mind as he relived the experience. Then his mind fast forwarded from the scene of the shooting and he saw Donna, well it looked more like Donna's ghost, running into the waiting area at GW. He'd known for certain that night that she loved Josh. He'd suspected it for years, but he knew the minute she bolted into the waiting room that Donna's concern was not for a boss, it was for a man. And he realized that night, there was no one in his life who would have reacted that way. He'd never given enough of himself to someone to be able to expect that kind of dedication. He'd vowed to change that when he had time. He hadn't had time - but when he stood up for her with Joyce and Brookline he knew it wasn't professional. He'd given a part of himself to Ainsley that day - and he didn't regret it for an instant. He was going to be damn sure he didn't rush this. Just because they wanted the same things, just because they were looking for the same things, just because he knew he was ready to be with her, didn't mean she was ready to be with him. And he wanted her to come to him.
The rest of their weekend was spent negotiating policy, arguing constitutional implications and when they thought no one was looking, stealing moments alone together. Although none of the other weekend residents of Camp David formally acknowledged the change in the nature of their relationship, the blush of new love was undeniable. As everyone was making preparations to leave on Sunday night the President sent for both of them.
"Sam, Ainsley, have a seat," the President nodded toward two chairs. "I want you to know, Abbey and I are very happy you've found one another. I don't want to burst your bubble kids, but the Washington PD are at the gate."
Ainsley sighed and reached for Sam's hand. He took it and squeezed gently, "Thank you, Mr. President."
"Sir," Ainsley said, letting go of Sam's hand. "I can't begin to tell you how grateful I am for your support in all this. Everyone's been so..."
"Ainsley," the President smiled at her. "When you enter public life, you expect to sacrifice your privacy. What you've been through is entirely different and completely unacceptable." He stopped and slipped into Jed mode again. "My dear, I have daughters, and granddaughters, and I pray they never have to experience what you two have been through. In fact, when this is over, I want to review the federal stalking laws, make sure that law enforcement agencies have the tools to resolve this kind of thing."
The detectives arrived and were shown to the President's Camp David office. Leo also joined the group. After the pleasantries were exchanged and introductions made, Detective O'Connor explained the purpose of their visit. "Miss Hayes," O'Connor said. "We want you to know, the trail is cold. We've staked out your apartment, your office, looked into all your associates, and I'm sorry we've come up empty. We're no closer to finding this nut than we were two weeks ago when you went into hiding."
She stood to look out the window. Sam came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her. He placed a gentle kiss on her neck. "I'm sorry, honey." He could sense her anxiety and wanted to drive it away. "It'll be okay."
"What's next?" the President asked solemnly.
"Sir, we'd like to set a trap. Using Miss Hayes and Mr. Seaborn as bait."
Sam blew a fuse. "You want bait, guys, no problem, I'm your man. But Ainsley is staying tucked away safe until this bastard is behind bars."
She glared at him. "Just who the hell do you think you are? How dare you speak for me?! I've said all along this monster, whoever it was, he is not going to control my life." Her voice had gotten louder with each word. "GUESS WHAT SAM - NEITHER ARE YOU... Just because we're seeing each other doesn't give you proprietary rights to every aspect of my life."
Sam took a step back. "Well excuse me. I care okay?" He yelled back. "Sue me."
Their quarrel amused the President. He figured they'd been civil to one another, more than civil, for a number of days, so a flare up was long over due. Like he'd told Abbey, it would never be smooth sailing. "And here I was beginning to wonder if the Republican Sex Kitten still had her claws."
Ainsley heard his comment, she looked over and was suddenly struck by her lack of decorum. She took a deep breath and began, "Excuse me Mr. President I... "
Jed tried not to laugh out loud. He nodded to her calmly then turned to address the poor schmuck who was just trying to take care of the woman he loved, "Sam, I sympathize with your feelings but, I would wager that her ability to take care of herself is one of the things you find so fascinating about Miss Hayes. And as for you, Miss Hayes, we all may be liberal democrats and even though we support women's rights whole heartedly, Sam, Leo and I can't help ourselves sometimes. God created men like us with an inescapable sense of responsibility for the safety of the women we love. You'll have to forgive us and learn to live with it. It's not going to change." He turned to the detectives, "you were saying?"
"We want Miss Hayes to return to her normal life. Make it look like she's been away visiting friends these past few weeks, whatever. We think her return will force him to act."
"Why? Why the pretense?" Ainsley didn't follow.
"Because we can't even prove it's the same individual who's following Mr. Seaborn," Matthews replied.
Leo's patience was wearing thin. Even thinner than Sam's. "So gentlemen, we're waiting for a punch line here."
"We think that if the perpetrator sees Miss Hayes return to her normal routine with a credible explanation for your absence, he'll be comforted and the old pattern will resume. We want him to think you left for reasons other than him and that you're patiently waiting for him to reveal himself. We think he may be ready to reveal himself and try to make you see his interest is more than just friendship. We also want him to think the police are treating the case of harassment against Mr. Seaborn as a separate issue."
"I can do that," She replied but was terrified at the prospect. As angry as she'd been with Sam for trying to control things, she continued to seek comfort from his presence and reached for his hand. "I just don't see how it will accomplish anything."
"Gentlemen, how about another little scenario here?" Sam said quietly. "Miss Hayes and I have recently become a couple." He turned and smiled at her slightly. Neither officer looked particularly surprised which confused Sam a little. He continued. "Now, what's going to happen if he sees us in that capacity? Maybe he'll take a hint? If he does surface, I'll confront him and I'll tell him I know what he's been up to - I could warn him off, threaten him with prosecution.."
"Mr. Seaborn, it could be dangerous to suddenly shatter his Madonna like image of Miss Hayes - he could feel betrayed and try to punish her. Especially if that image is tarnished by someone he already resents as much as you. Furthermore, if you do see someone, under no circumstances are you to confront him. Our experts think our perp. is likely to become violent if you confront him - not back off." Matthews replied curtly. "I would also ask that you keep the changed nature of your relationship secret."
The chief of staff threw his hat in the ring. "With all due respect gentlemen, the White House Press room has been speculating about a personal involvement between these two for months. You picked up on it on day one too. Suffice it to say, it's not going to be easy to hide. Why not follow let them appear publicly together - we just make sure they're covered, in case our guy goes for the jugular? "
Ainsley nodded in agreement. "I want to flush him out and force his hand. This has to stop. I won't stay in hiding forever and as far as Sam and I are concerned we have nothing to be ashamed of."
Later that afternoon they returned to Washington. Sam walked her to the apartment door. He hesitated not sure if he could leave her there alone, especially knowing that the cameras and microphones were still in place. He'd wanted to take her back to his guest room or put her up at a hotel somewhere, or better still, keep her safe at Camp David with the US Army. As he kissed her goodbye, Sam held her close, "Remember, you're not alone. And Ainsley, you should know: this isn't casual. I think I'm falling in love with you. This may have all happened fast, but, Ainsley, it's real."
"It's real for me too, Sam." She wrapped her arms around his neck and held him close again. "I'll see you in the morning."
Ainsley set her suitcase just inside the door to her apartment. She knew the Secret Service detail was nearby but she couldn't shake the feeling of impending doom hanging over her like a cloud. She walked past the lamp which she knew had one of four cameras concealed therein. The police had alerted her to the location of the surveillance equipment so she could have a measure of privacy but all devices had remained untouched.
Glancing at her watch, she reached for the phone. She called her parents in North Carolina. Earlier, from a secure phone at Camp David, her parents had been brought up to speed and had agreed to help lend credence to her disappearance. They were understandably worried about her and it had taken a great deal to reassure them that she would be all right. During that call Ainsley had also confided in her mom about the changing nature of Ainsley's relationship with Sam. Her parents had promised to come to Washington when this was all over to meet him.
"Hi Mama," Ainsley said softly. "I hope I'm not calling too late?"
"Of course not dear," her mother replied. "George, grab the extension, it's Ainsley."
"Hello, Kitten!" her father drawled into the receiver for the sake of their audience. He had never called her that but used the nickname as instructed. "I take it you're done that special assignment for the Deputy Communications Director."
"Finally," Ainsley sighed deeply. "I thought tucking me away incognito was over kill but after spending a weekend in debates with senior staff at Camp David, I understand the need for secrecy. That's all I can say though."
"We understand dear," her father said laughing. "So, life is getting back to normal?"
"As normal as Washington could be." She paused. "Mama, Daddy, I need to tell you something. And I know you're going to be surprised so you just have to promise me you'll understand and be happy for me. Sam Seaborn and I have started dating."
"The man you made a fool of on Capital Beat?" Her father bellowed. "You're kidding right, darling?"
"George," her mother said. "Ainsley is a big girl now. Are you telling us this could be serious?"
"Mama, it's serious. I'm ready to look for a life partner. It may be Sam, but maybe not. It could be kind of complicated though. He's being pestered by some political terrorist right now."
"Ainsley!" her father roared. "I hope you're not in any danger Kitten."
"The police don't think so. They think it's just someone who doesn't like the education policy initiatives Sam's fronting. It's part of public life."
"Even so," her dad continued, "Promise me you'll be careful."
"I will." She said softly. "Mom, Dad, I just feel this over whelming need to settle now. Like I finally know who I am so I'm ready to share myself with somebody for the long haul..."
"That's wonderful dear." Her mother said. "I always knew you'd know for yourself when it was time to start a family."
"Ainsley dear," he said gently. "Politics isn't everything. I know you always thought I wanted a son to follow in my footsteps, but honey, you're a fine attorney and a wonderful woman. I couldn't be prouder than I am right now. You do what makes you happy. And if that means finding that special man who'll make me a grandfather - you just make sure you pick a good one. Hold out for the right one. I trust your judgement honey. If you think it's that pretty boy Democrat - that's good enough for me."
"Thanks Daddy, I love you. Good night, Mom."
Their efforts were a resounding success. As David listened to the conversation, a demented grin spread over his face. "I have to get to her before it's too late. Poor Ainsley, you've been taken in by that monster. Oh, Ainsley, Beloved, you're ready for me now? I won't keep you waiting any longer. I'll come to you. Soon. But Seaborn, he must be punished for bothering you my love. I'll take care of him, then come for you. I'll carry you away from all this. Make you mine. Give you the kind of life you deserve. It won't be long. I promise."