Walker woke to the sun streaming through the windows and let out a long sigh. He’d had a million things running through his mind as he finally drifted off into a restless sleep. The one that had him the most nervous and the happiest was that Sam agreed to see him at her house tonight. On the other hand, talk of the accident had caused feelings of overwhelming guilt to resurface. He felt a cold chill roll down his spine remembering. He’d done so well since he’d moved to Willow Creek and started working with Paul, and even better once he met Sam. When he was with her, she dominated his thoughts.
Thinking of working with Paul reminded him of his other plans for today. He sat up and pondered that dilemma. How do I convince Paul to buy the agency in the Valley now instead of waiting for it to potentially go through bankruptcy? If he waits, it’ll be tied up in court for months, even a year or more and I need to be out here now.
Being separated was harder than either of us realized, we need each other, even if Sam doesn’t understand that yet. If I’m not here, Drake will keep pushing and could easily slip in and make a serious move on her. She already looks to him as a protector and confidant. If I’m here, she’ll have me and won’t need that slime ball and we can eventually pick up where we left off. At least she was giving all the right signals that she would be willing to do that. After tonight, I should know for sure.
Walker sat down with his coffee to think, his mind still working overtime coming up with different scenarios. Damn, what I wouldn’t give to have Veronica working for me in the Valley, he thought, but knew that wouldn’t happen. There’s no way she’d move away from Tyler, or would she? Maybe for the right amount of money she might, but then Sam would be furious if I try to lure her to Del Sol Valley now that she and Tyler are dating. Regardless, I need to convince Paul to buy the agency first or it’s a moot point.
It he neeed to just call Paul and tell him what he wanted. Thinking about it wouldn’t make it happen. He looked at the time on his phone and dialed Paul’s number. Twenty minutes and a cold cup of coffee later, Walker hung up, only slightly closer to a deal. Paul wasn’t at all excited at the prospect of spending more to acquire the soon to be defunct agency, but understood the logic that another company could do exactly what they wanted to do if they waited for them to file bankruptcy. Plus they stood to lose most of their clients if it went that far and that’s really what they were buying. Now he just had to wait for Paul to get his father’s buy in. Hopefully that would happen today or no later than tomorrow. In the mean time, Paul told him to get an appointment with the CEO of AAA Advertising and try to feel him out.
Later that afternoon ….
Sam took a deep breath as she watched Walker walk up the to the front porch. I can’t believe he flew all the way here not knowing if I’d even see him, if he only knew how many times I picked up the phone to call and put it down afraid of his reaction.
“Hi Walker!” she said, smiling so big her cheeks hurt. “Come in!”
He stepped through the door and kissed her cheek. “Hi, was I late?” he asked looking confused.
“No,” she replied embarrassed, “I guess I’m just a little excited to have company. What’s in the bag?”
“Ah. Well, since we aren’t having wine with dinner, I brought desert instead. And flowers for you.”
“You brought me flowers?”
“You aren’t allergic are you?” you asked.
She laughed. “No, I love fresh flowers, it’s just I can’t remember the last time I got flowers that didn’t have to do with work. These are much more special. Come have a seat at he bar while I put them in a vase.”
“Wow! That view is amazing,” said Walker when he walked by the picture windows in the back room.
“It is great isn’t it?” she called out over her shoulder as she filled the vase with water, “I guess I’ve just gotten accustomed to it, but it’s nice to see it through someone else’s eyes.”
“There we go,” said Sam and sat the flowers on the bar, “they’re very pretty, thanks again. Well, I hope you’re hungry, I have steaks, salad and a baked potatoes.”
“How did you have time to cook?”
“I cheated, I ordered delivery. In fact they delivered it right before you got here so it’s still hot if you’re ready to eat.”
Walker laughed. “Yes, I’m starving. Can we maybe sit outside? The weather is amazing and we can enjoy the full view.”
“Of course. That would be perfect.”
Once settled and they began to eat, Walker got a serious look on his face, worrying Sam. “Sam, can you tell me what’s going on with you and your mother?” he asked, “that’s if you are okay sharing, maybe I can help.”
Sam breathed a sigh of relief. While her mother wasn’t a pleasant subject, the subject of their relationship was even scarier. Over dinner, Sam explained everything, all the way through the horrible argument and the slap.
“So you see why I let Drake take me out of the studio,” she explained, “I was about to have a major breakdown.”
Walker didn’t say anything and Sam begin to wonder if she’d gotten too comfortable with him and said too much. She could see his jaw clenching so she knew he was affected by what she told him. “I should light the fire pit,” she said to ease the tension, “it’ll be dark in a few minutes and it gets chilly, especially up here in the hills. Or, we could just go inside.”
He looked up and offered a tight smile. “I’d rather stay our here, the sunset was nice and I’d like to see the lights of the city after dark.”
“That works. Why, don’t you light it while I take the dishes in the house.” He seemed to be happy to have something to do so she gathered the remains of their dinner and went inside.
When she stepped back outside to join him, the sun had completely disappeared and the lights of the city were glowing brightly. Walker was sitting on the couch gazing out over the glittery horizon. He still looks upset, she thought, I totally ruined our evening. “I already feel the chill,” she said as she motioned to the fire and sat next to him, “this is much better.” He smiled but it didn’t reach his eyes. Maybe he’s just nervous too, I hope that’s all it is.
“Sam, did your mother ever apologize?” he asked.
So maybe not nervous, but clearly still thinking about her mother. Sam shrugged. “Not really,” she said, “but she did look – stricken I guess is how to describe it – when I left with Drake. And she approached me yesterday and again today to talk, but I keep putting her off – to see you. Actually, that’s why she sent him to check on me yesterday. Anyway, I did promise her again we could talk tomorrow. I really can’t put her off another time … plus Drake threatened to tell Ragnar what happened so I need to clear the air.”
“Good, you need to talk, that would help, but why would Drake get involved? It’s none of his business.”
“He thinks he’s protecting me.”
“No, there’s more to that story than his benevolence. He doesn’t strike me as someone that does something out of the goodness of his heart. What did he ask for in return for his silence?”
“Dinner … and dancing,” she added realizing Walker was right. She huffed out a humorless laugh. “I told him it was blackmail, but he was sweet, and I had a halfway decent time. Walker, when I got back home, I didn’t think I needed anyone, but when that happened -“
“You did need someone and he was there,” said Walker dryly, finishing her thought. “So now he thinks you are going to run to him for everything. He’s worming his way into your life by pitting you against your mother. You have to tell her what’s going on, take away his ammunition. He’s just driving a wedge further and further between the two of you, to what end, I’m not sure.”
“I’ve repeatedly told him I’m not interested. God, I need to fix this mess.”
“They way you fix it is to work things out with your mother, if that’s what you want to do. Sam, can you forgive her if she’s contrite?”
“I didn’t think I could at first, but I know she’s hurting too. We just need to figure out how to co-exist.”
“So what are you going to do then?”
“I’ve already promised to talk to her tomorrow, I’ll just ask her to come here and maybe we can come to some sort of understanding, hopefully without dragging Drake into it. I don’t want her to know what he said because she’ll try to retaliate against him in some way and we don’t need that drama on the set.” Sam shivered thinking about talking to her mother.
“Hey, you cold?” he asked, noticing the chill that ran through her.
“A little. Probably more a feeling of dread than anything.”
“Come here, I’ll warm you up.” Walker put his arm around her tucking her into his side. “Better?” he asked clearly holding back a smirk.
Sam laughed. “Yeah, just like high school, I’m surprised you didn’t yawn to put your arm around me.”
Walker threw his head back and laughed. “I hope I’m smoother than that by now. You sure your shiver wasn’t just a ploy to get closer?”
“Not entirely, but maybe a little,” she teased and winked at him.
“Seriously Sam, I’m only 30 minutes away so if things start to get ugly tomorrow, text me and I’ll come right over to run some interference.”
Sam sighed softly and leaned into his embrace. “Thanks for listening,” she responded, “and making my choices more clear. It feels like things are already better since you got here. It’s nice, this is nice, sitting here with you. You’ve opened up a whole new way of seeing the world for me. I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you too,” he said and chuckled softly. “Veronica told me I was as grumpy as a Murdick in heat. She actually said Murdick in reference to your father.”
“Ouch, he was a dick that night, sorry. He just wanted to be sure I was okay.”
Walker looked into her eyes, all the playfulness gone. “I promise to always be here for you, if you’ll let me,” he said thickly.
Their closeness was affecting him as much as it was her. She looked into his eyes, silently asking for a kiss. He leaned closer then abruptly pulled away. What the hell?
“I’m sorry Samantha, I’m going to have to leave or else I’ll get carried away and we’ll wind up doing something I’m not sure you’re ready for.”
“Walker, the one thing I am sure of right now is that I’m not ready for you to leave, please stay a little longer. Honestly, you’re all I could think about all day and it was surprisingly a good day. Being with you makes me happy, and I haven’t really been happy since I left Newcrest. And today, I realized it’s not because of where I am or what I’m doing that makes me happy, it’s who I’m with.”
Walker’s face softened at her after her confession. “I’ll stay, but Sam, I don’t want you to think I came all this way just to seduce you. I don’t want you to do anything you’re not ready for, and I don’t want to become another one of ‘Samantha’s Victims’. I’m in this for the long haul, if this is just lust, I can’t do that.”
Sam shook her head slowly. “No, no Walker, it’s not just lust, I know what that is, believe me, but I’m not gonna lie, there is definitely a healthy amount of lust in the air, but it’s much more than that. I can feel it in my heart, you’ve helped me more than you know.” Then she snorted a laugh. “Maybe too much. I might’ve gone a tad overboard with Mom. Perhaps that’s why she flipped out, I should’ve snipped away the apron strings gradually, instead of chopping them off with a hatchet. But I needed to set myself free. Do you understand?”
“I do,” he whispered then lowered his lips to hers just as the doorbell rang.
Sam immediately got angry. “Damn! If that’s mom or Drake I might just kill someone!”
“Hey simmer down girl,” said Walker, “if it is, you can introduce me. But, be nice okay, you don’t want to poke a sleeping dragon. You can stand up for yourself without attacking her.”
“God Walker! I thought you were on my side.”
“Hey, I’m just being real here.”
The doorbell rang again. “Well, whoever it is isn’t going away. Let’s go get this over with.”
“Yep, it’s Mom,” said Sam when they made their way inside to the front door. “I’m so sorry Walker.”
“Don’t be … I’m fine, just answer the door.”
“Oh God,” whispered Sam, “Ragnar is with her … something bad must’ve happened.”
“I’m here, it’s going to be okay,” said Walker calmly.
Sam threw open the door, her heart pounding in her throat. “Mom, Ragnar, what’s going on? Why are you here?”
“Samantha, is that any way to greet your parents?” asked her mother as she pushed her way into Sam’s house.
“Samantha, is everything okay with you?” asked Ragnar in his rough voice that always made him sound angry. “Mari said you cancelled dinner plans at the last minute and were being evasive about rescheduling. She was worried so we tried to call but you weren’t answering, so we came to check on you.”
Sam let out a relieved breath. “Ragnar, I’m fine. A friend of mine came in from Newcrest, so we had dinner together. That’s all. I turned off my phone so we wouldn’t be interrupted.”
Sam motioned for Walker to join them. “This is Walker Kerns, Walker, my mother Maribel and stepfather Ragnar Odinssen.”
After they exchanged pleasantries, Ragnar asked, “What brings you to the Valley Walker?”
“I’m looking into relocating here Mr. Odinssen,” he replied respectfully, unlike how he had stood up to her father’s inquisition.
“Why?” asked her mother eyeing him suspiciously.
“Mother!” exclaimed Sam.
“Yes, good question Mari,” interjected Ragnar, “I’m interested as well. What is it you do that would bring you here for work?”
Sam could see Walker bristle, but he worked to contain it. “I’m in advertising,” explained Walker, “there’s an agency here that’s on the verge of bankruptcy and I’m hoping we can buy them out. I’m with Buchanan Creative Labs better know as BCL Advertising, they’ve been expanding and have had their eye on the Valley for some time. Taking over an existing agency will make it easier to enter the market here.”
“I see,” said Ragnar, “and what do you do? Exactly?”
“Ragnar, please,” said Sam embarrassed for Walker.
“We just need to be sure he’s not a gold digger honey,” said her mother as she eyed Walker up and down.
“Mother!” exclaimed Sam at her wits end, if he thought her father was bad, this was a million times worse. Walker would leave her and never look back.
“I assure you both,” said Walker calmly, “I’m not in need of Sam’s money.”
“Right,” said her mother sarcasm dripping from that one word, “I saw what you drove up in.”
“It’s a rental,” said Walker slightly defensive. Sam could tell her mother was starting to get under his skin, just like her father had before.
“And your point?” asked Maribel.
“Okay, Mom, that’s just rude and now it’s time to leave. Ragnar, I’m fine, really. I’ll be at the studio tomorrow with bells on, so you can take Cruella here and leave unless there was something else.”
“How dare you!” snapped her mother.
“Mother, I told you we could talk tomorrow. It’s still to-day.” She ground out the last part for emphasis. “So please, leave and let us enjoy the rest of our evening.”
“There’s nothing else Sam,” said Ragnar, clearly over the Sam and Mari show, “you seem to be in good hands with Walker here, come on Mari, let’s leave them alone.”
“Of course darling,” said her mother with false gaiety, “I look forward to our dinner tomorrow Sam, and don’t you try to back out on me again, he can wait.”
“I promise, after work we can have dinner here, now I’ll see you both tomorrow on the set.” Suddenly, she had a last minute thought. “Oh, Ragnar,” she called after him, “do you mind if Walker comes to watch filming tomorrow?”
Ragnar turned around frowning. “He’d need to sign a non-disclosure agreement.”
“That’s okay Sam,” said Walker, “some other time, I have meetings tomorrow.” He must’ve noticed her face drop so quickly added, “But before I go back, I promise to make time, just get the paperwork and I’ll be happy to sign.”
Sam breathed a sigh of relief when they finally left and she was pretty sure Walker did too, because when the door closed, he looked at her in shock. “Holy shit Sam, do you think you can reconcile with her after the way she just treated you with me and her husband here? Cruella was appropriate.”
Sam sighed, accustomed to her mother’s manipulative ways, and flopped on the couch. “She’ll try to push Ragnar, but gives in quickly when he pushes back, but you can see he also indulges her up to a point. He depends on her and I’m sure he must love her to put up with that.”
“Well, you be sure to call me tomorrow if things get heated. She lost control and slapped you, what’s to say she won’t get violent again? She is trying hard as hell to manipulate and control you and you need to put a stop to it, but Sam don’t use the same tone of voice you did tonight, she just feeds into it. Try to stay calm and detached, stick to the facts.”
“I really think that slap was a one time thing and she won’t do it again. She’s never ever touched me like that before, she’s more the passive aggressive type.”
“I hope you’re right,” he said and chuckled. “I can’t believe you called her Cruella, you have to stop baiting her if you want to smooth things out.”
“It just slipped out, I just can’t with her, it’s so hard to keep my cool when she pushes every single one of my buttons.”
“Just don’t let her know she’s getting to you and above all stay calm. That’ll disarm her and give you the upper hand. Now, I think it’s time for me to go, I really do have a big meeting tomorrow and I have a little homework to do first. Walk with me to the door?”
He stood up and held out his hand so Sam reluctantly took it, not wanting him to leave. “Do you think we could grab breakfast in the morning before I have to be on the set, I could use another pep talk, or is your meeting in the morning?”
One side of Walker’s mouth turned up and his eyes twinkled. “Sure, what time?”
“7:00 at your hotel? It’s on the way.”
“Okay, how about I order room service and we can eat in my suite. Just call me when you get there so I can come down and get you.”
“That sounds nice. Thanks for listening and the advice.”
Walker reached out and ran his finger down her cheek, sending wanting chills down her spine. “Always,” he said then stepped into her space and kissed her, pulling back just as it started to get heated, leaving her practically panting wanting more. “Bye Samantha,” he whispered, “tomorrow.”