Walker was making reservations with the hostess when he got a text from Sam. His stomach clenched thinking she might be canceling. ‘I’m running about 15 minutes late and I didn’t want to worry you.’
He let out a sigh of relief. When he’d seen Drake, he was afraid he would fabricate some emergency to make her cancel. He quickly texted her back. ‘It’s okay, I’ll be waiting – just let the hostess know you’re with me’.
He looked up at the now very impatient hostess. “My date is running late, it’ll be about 30 minutes before she arrives. Can we get a table in the corner away from prying eyes. Samantha Murdock is my guest, so I would like to be discreet.”
When he told her who was joining him, she looked him up and down like she didn’t believe him. “Right, and who are you?”
“A guest in this hotel and a very good friend of Ms. Murdock, so I need as private a table as possible.”
She rolled her eyes like she still didn’t believe him. “Mister,” she said and looked at the guest registry, “Kerns, this hotel has famous guests all the time. I assure you, it won’t matter where you’re seated, you and Ms. Murdock will be left alone to enjoy your dinner.”
”I’m sure you’re right, however we would like privacy.”
She sighed dramatically. “I’ll see what’s available.”
A wanna be actress, he assumed. “How much?”
“Pardon?” she asked, so Walker shoved her a hundred dollar bill into her hand.
“I see,” she said, “please, have a seat and enjoy the music while I get your table ready. Champagne or wine, Mr. Kerns?”
“Neither, sparkling water would be nice though.”
When she came back, she guided him into a private table. He positioned himself so he could watch for Sam to arrive.
It seemed like forever, but when he finally saw her he caught his breath and his heart rate sped up. She was absolutely stunning, just like the star she was. She walked in oozing confidence in a sexy black dress, cut low but not too low and tight enough to show off her curves. He was drooling, but he knew he could only look and not touch. So damn unfair when that ass-wipe Drake gets to touch her all the fucking time. He quickly pushed that thought out of his head. This is our time and I’m not sharing it with the likes of him.
Sam finally saw him and her face lit up with a beautiful smile that warmed him from the inside out. It wasn’t unlike the ones she gave him that last week they spent together. Unsure whether or not she would welcome a hug, he stood to greet her but didn’t move into her space. He couldn’t help the words that escaped. “God, I’ve missed you,” he whispered, “you look amazing.”
”Oh Walker,” she sighed, “it really is you.” She reached out and touched his face as if ensuring he was real. He stood still, afraid to move, until he couldn’t stand it any longer then laid his hand over hers and pressed it onto his cheek, inhaling the soft scent of her perfume and relishing the warmth of her skin on his face.
The waiter cleared his throat, breaking the spell they seemed to be under so they stepped apart. “Allow me miss,” he said as he pulled the chair out for her while Walker sat back down. Once they were seated he quickly took their order and left them alone. The hostess was right, they had modicum of privacy.
”I still can’t believe you’re here,” she said with that same heart warming smile, “you must be missing work.”
How did I forget how beautiful she is, he wondered as he tried hard to focus on her words and not stare at her. “It’s okay,” he managed, “I can easily work remotely if I’m needed, but Sam, I couldn’t work at all knowing you might need me. I had to see with my own eyes that you were okay, and now that I have, I want to convince you to take a chance on us.” Clearly that was the wrong thing to say when her expression became guarded.
”Walker, I’m still not sure this is a good idea. You live so far away and can’t just jump on a plane whenever you want. How can there be an us like that?”
“I’ll move here Sam, I want to be here for you, not to make decisions for you, but to support your decisions, to help you through the bad days, and most importantly to celebrate the good ones. Because Samantha I know there will be good ones, lots of them if we’re together. That last week before you left, it was the best week of my entire life. That’s love Samantha, not dependency. I just want you to be happy and seeing your beautiful smile makes me feel whole, even more so when I’m the reason behind it.”
“I agree,” she said, “that week was amazing, but Walker, this is all way too fast. I don’t really know that much about you, yet you know everything about me, including all the horrible stuff.”
“Sam, you’re not horrible, I know the real you, who you are when you’re not trying to live up to unrealistic expectations. I understand why you did what you did, and how easy it must’ve been to fall down that slippery slope. If you’ll let me be a part of your life, you won’t need to rely on alcohol or drugs to numb the pain, because I’ll be there celebrating your wins with you and helping you through the not so good times. And if you won’t let me, I might just stalk you anyway, because clearly I can’t seem to stay away from you.”
”Walker the Stalker huh?” she said, then laughed. “You really are a sweet man.”
Walker sucked in a slow breath. ”Well, I have a confession,” he said.
“You don’t have to tell me anything,” she said quickly, “it’s okay, really, I wasn’t trying to pry.”
Fuck, I was going to teller her I parked outside her house, he thought, but she’s expecting more, and rightly so. It’s time to come clean. “I want to tell you why I ran.”
“No, let me do this, for us and any future we might have. You deserve to know my demons, especially since I have a good idea what most of yours are.” He inhaled deeply and closed his eyes for a second to gather his thoughts. “I was engaged to my college sweetheart and we were driving to a couples shower, it was raining hard. The sad thing is, the weather matched her mood and we were fighting over some trivial crap about the wedding that I don’t even remember now. A car lost control and jumped the median, headed straight for us, but I was looking at her and didn’t see it until she screamed.” He shuddered thinking about it. “It was too little too late and I broadsided them flipping their car, I should never have taken my eyes off the road. Sam, they died on the scene.”
“Oh Walker,” said Sam softly when he paused to take a breath and compose himself. He’d never forget that day as long as he lived.
Walker continued. “Julie delayed the wedding indefinitely after that. I needed her, yet she pushed me away, blaming me for ruining her fairytale wedding. Eventually, I accepted that we were done and I had to get away from everything that reminded me of my failures, so I just packed what little I needed and moved in with my best friend – to escape.”
He looked up and her eyes were sparkling with unshed tears. Sam shook her head slowly. “You know Walker, it wasn’t your fault. They were in the wrong lane.”
“I should’ve been paying attention, instead I was arguing with Julie over stupid shit that didn’t even matter.”
“Walker, I don’t think your awful, if that’s what you’re worried about. Bad things happen that are out of our control …”
Walker slammed his fist down on the table. “But it wasn’t … if I’d only been paying attention…”
”Stop beating yourself up,” Sam whisper-yelled, her angry tone forcing him to look up, “it was an accident. Period. Me – falling down the stairs – was an accident. Yes, both might have been preventable if we weren’t thinking we were indestructible, but that’s what makes you grow Walker. You rise above your mistakes and learn from them. Just like you told me. You jump back into the muck with your head held high and take control.”
A slow grin covered his face as he listened to her impassioned speech, throwing his own words back at him. “I’m Walker Kerns and you better not fuck with me,” he said grinning at her. “Damn, I love you.”
“What?” she asked.
“Shit, that just slipped out. I mean, I do, who doesn’t love you, it’s just a figure of speech, I know you aren’t ready to hear that, so can we just pretend like it didn’t happen?” Oh god, I’ve really messed up now, he thought, she’s freaking out.
She looked down, not meeting his eyes. “ Walker, I don’t know if …”
“It’s okay Sam,” he said quickly, “please, forget it, I understand it’s too soon. You’ve been through some bad relationships, so please, don’t worry. Besides, when I tell you that I love you, you’ll be ready to hear it. For now, I’d much rather see you smile and actually, there is one more thing.”
She looked up and blew out a breath. “Whoa, so that was already a whole lot of confessions,” she said lightly and gave him the smile he longed to see, “I’m not sure I can handle much more.”
Walker huffed a humorless laugh, glad the tension was gone but needing to be completely honest with her. “Please don’t hate me for this, but I need you to know … I was actually parked outside your house when I called, hoping when you found out I was here, you would beg me to come inside. After the way our conversation went, I decided neutral ground would be better, ‘Walker the Stalker’ wasn’t far off.”
“How long were you there?” asked Sam and bit her bottom lip waiting for his answer.
Crap, she’s angry, he thought, rightly so, but if I want to earn her trust, I can’t lie to her. “I left when Drake arrived,” he admitted, “it took every ounce of my willpower to leave. Actually, when you got home, I realized how stupid I was behaving so I started the car to leave, but my phone rang, and well, I couldn’t drive and have an emotional conversation with you, so I stayed.”
Sam sighed deeply. “Oh Walker, I wish I would’ve told you it was you I had fallen for, but we were too far apart and haven’t know each other that long.” She smiled softly. “Drake only came over to make sure I was okay, and grill me about who I had a ‘date’ with. Mom keeps sending him over because I told her she wasn’t welcome, and he’s been nothing but sweet. Sorta reminds me of you in a way.”
“Drake and I have nothing in common.” He spit the words out like they tasted bad. “I care about you Sam, Drake on the other hand, I’m pretty sure he just wants one thing and that’s sex.”
She sighed softly before responding. “In all honesty, he has come on to me – a lot – but when I shut him down, he doesn’t keep on. He does keep trying the next time though. Again – sorta like someone else I know.”
Walker wasn’t surprised that Drake hadn’t taken no for an answer. I want her because I’m in love with her, he just wants another fucking notch in his bedpost. The thought made him sick. “Sam, please don’t compare me to that womanizing asshole, I read up on him. He loves ’em and leaves ’em.”
“If you believe everything you read Walker,” she said softly.
“You’re defending him?” he said before he realized what she was trying to say. She was also the subject of nasty gossip.
“Yes,” she said, suddenly looking very sad, “I am. Maybe meeting you was a bad idea after all, things are just too different here in the Valley. There’s always going to be nasty gossip. It was nice to see you Walker, I should probably leave now, let you go back to Newcrest and finish starting over with someone less complicated.”
Fuck, fuck, fuck. “No, please stay Samantha,” he begged, “my pride got the better of me without knowing all the facts. One of my many flaws, along with stalking you and jumping on planes because I need to see you.”
Her shoulders slumped and she sat back in her chair. “Okay, I guess I can’t let this meal go to waste, but Walker, just so you know if Drake hadn’t been there, the tabloids probably would’ve had a very different and much worse story. The fight with Mom was terrible and I was very upset when I ran out of the studio.”
“I wish I could’ve been here for you, that just sounds terrible. I’m really sorry you’re having issues with your mother.”
“Issues is putting it mildly, but I don’t want that to spoil the rest of our dinner. If I haven’t told you, I really am very happy to see you. I’m sorry things got so weird.”
“I’m happy to see you too, and that makes the weird okay in book,” he said relaxing. “But you’re right, tonight’s been an emotional roller coaster to say the least, so let’s try something a little lighter. Tell me about the gossip on the set and I’ll tell you the gossip about your little brother and that feisty little sister of yours.”
“Oh Paige, I miss her. And Tyler? Tell me he’s finally dating Veronica.”
Chuckling, Walker told her about the adventures of Veronica and Tyler, painting his apartment and their ski trip. In turn, she told him some of what was going on on the set, carefully excluding her mother and Drake. They continued to make small talk and dinner was over before Walker was ready. They ordered dessert, but neither one ate it, it was simply an excuse to prolong their conversation.
The waiter finally brought the check and Sam grabbed it. “Let me pay,” she said.
This is exactly what I was worried about, he thought. ”Sam, I don’t need, nor do I want your money, that’s not why I’m here. I invited you to dinner, so my treat.”
”Walker, you were sweet to me before you knew ‘who’ I was, so I know it’s not about the money, however since you’re paying for a room, flight, rental car and hotel, dinner is on me,” then she grinned and added, “besides, we didn’t get wine so it’s really cheap.”
Walker grinned at her tenacity. “Then who am I to fuck with Samantha Murdock? The check is yours my dear, and by the way, it’s a suite, not a ‘room’.” The words escaped before he could think about them. He would’ve loved nothing more than to ask her to come up but knew they weren’t there yet. Hell, they still had to get back to where they were before she left, however he could feel his heart bursting with hope.
She gave him a seductive smile. “Living the high life huh? Big expense account?”
He took her hand to walk her to the door and it just felt right. “Actually yes,” he said in response, “if this deal I’m working on goes through, it will most definitely be a write off. Regardless, I would’ve paid double, it’s been more than worth it to see you again Samantha.”
They stopped at the lobby doors while they waited for the valet to bring her car around. “How long are you going to be here? I would really like to see you again before you go, maybe you can come all the way inside my house this time,” she said teasing, “instead of parking down the street.”
Walker laughed, grateful she was making light of his idiocy. “I’m going to be here as long as I need to be. How is tomorrow evening at your place? I know the way.”
Sam laughed a real laugh and it made Walker’s heart soar. Her car arrived signaling an end to their evening. She grabbed his hand and squeezed it as she backed out the door. “I’ll call you when I leave the studio tomorrow evening. Bye for now, Walker the Stalker.”