Life Goes On
“Who’s the blonde?” Jason asked as he glanced at the young woman dressed more for the boardroom than the pit area of the local racetrack.
“That’s one of the old man’s design engineers. She’s the one that designed your new car. Name’s Sam Sinclair,” Mike replied as he checked out the car's interior.
“Why is she here?”
“The old man wants her here for your test drive.”
“How should I know? Now quit checking her out. Get out there and drive.”
Jason put on his helmet, adjusted the attached microphone so he could talk to the pit and climbed into the car. After strapping himself in, he started the car. Mike, his crew chief, finished giving the car a final once over and gave Jason the thumbs up. He pulled out onto the track and pressed the gas pedal to the floor. He picked up speed and was soon zooming around the track. As the speedometer edged towards 200 mph, the engine started making an odd sound.
“Hey, Mike,” Jason said in the helmet microphone.
“Yeah, Jase. What’s up?”
“Something doesn’t sound right. I’m going to make one more lap before I come back in.”
Jason finished his lap around the track and headed back to the pit area. After pulling in, he unbuckled his restraints, pulled his helmet off, and climbed out.
“What’s wrong, Jason?” Jack Pitney called.
“The engine doesn’t sound right, Mr. Pitney,” Jason called back over his shoulder. He popped the hood and started poking around. Soon Mike and two of the other mechanics joined him.
“Mr. Pitney? What are they doing to my car?” Sam asked as she walked up behind her boss.
“Jason said it didn’t sound right, Sammy.”
The young woman watched uneasily as the four men worked. It was the final straw when they started removing things. Sam removed her shoes, rolled up the sleeves of her blouse, and walked over to “her” car.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing? Move.” Sam grabbed a socket wrench and pushed Jason out of the way. She was oblivious to the three mechanics. After reattaching what they had removed, she made a few adjustments of her own. “There. Try it now.”
“If you’re finished playing Penelope Pitstop, can the real mechanics get back to work?” Jason asked sarcastically.
“Sure, do you know any?” she shot back. “I designed the car and oversaw its production. I know how to fix it.”
“Hey, Jason? She did fix it,” said Pete, one of the mechanics. He had climbed into the car and started it.
Sam gave Jason a look that said, “Told ya so”. She received one of his patented glares in response.
After Pete vacated of the car, Jason climbed in and headed back to the track to finish his test drive. I guess she did fix it he thought. After he returned to the pit at the end of the test, Mike stopped him.
“You should apologize to Sam,” he said.
“Yeah, I was kind of a jerk,” Jason agreed as he ran his hands through his hair. “Do you know where she is?”
“She was with the old man last time I saw her. I think they were headed back to the track office.”
“Thanks.” Jack Pitney was the owner of the racing team Jason had belonged to since he was nineteen, right after he left G-Force. That had been the worst time of his life. In the eleven years since, he had settled into life as a full-time racecar driver. Jack Pitney had probably saved his life and Jason owed him everything. He had even learned, for the most part, to control his temper and his mouth, the very things that had gotten him kicked off G-Force in the first place. Jason walked around to the track office. He could hear Pitney and a woman talking.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Pitney. He may be your best driver, but he’s a world-class jerk.”
“Give him a chance, Sammy. He’ll grow on you. Jason’s dependable and he respects the cars and drivers.”
Jason stopped in front of the office door, took a deep breath, and knocked. Apologizing was not his favorite thing to do, especially in front of his boss.
“Come in.” After seeing who had entered, Mr. Pitney said, “Ah, Jason, we were just talking about you.”
“So I heard.”
Sam looked slightly embarrassed, but she didn’t say anything.
“I came to apologize to Ms. Sinclair for being a jerk earlier.”
Mr. Pitney nodded and looked at Sam. “Apology accepted,” she replied. “But you’re still a jerk.”
Jason lifted his head and he could see the ghost of a smile on her lips. He gave a slight smile in return.
“Now that we’re all friends, how’d the car handle?” Mr. Pitney asked.
“Great. After Ms. Sinclair made her adjustments, everything went fine.”
“You can call me Sam,” she told him.
“See, Jase, she likes you. Not everybody gets to call her Sam.”
“Even fewer get to call me Sammy, Mr. Pitney.”
* * * * * * *
During the next few months, Jason got to see a lot of Sam as the car was being readied for the season. He was impressed with her ability to intuitively know what was wrong with an engine and how to fix it. He also learned from Mike that Sam no longer thought he was jerk. Why this revelation made him happy was beyond him.
Race season would be starting soon. Mr. Pitney informed his drivers and pit crews that they would be racing in the Center City 500. Jason had always avoided that particular race due to its proximity to Chief Anderson and G-Force. Sam would be going along since this would be the first time Jason would be driving her car in a race.
Jason tried his best to get out of going, but Mr. Pitney insisted. “I don’t know what your problem is with this race, Jason, but you’re going.”
“Everything will be fine. You’re the odds-on favorite to win.”
Jason needn’t have worried. The car performed flawlessly and he won with no problem. After the race, Mike, several members of the pit crew, and he were going to drive to Crenshaw, a small town 20 miles west of Center City. Mike and Pete invited Sam along. They ate dinner at a small pub and then went to a theater that showed old movies. It seemed to Jason that everywhere the group went that required sitting down Mike managed to maneuver everyone so that Jason always ended up next to Sam, not that he minded.
While watching the movie, Sam decided it needed livening up and started adding her own comments and dialogue. Jason added a few of his own comments. The manager didn’t find them particularly amusing and the two comedians soon found themselves standing on the sidewalk in front of the theater.
“And I was just starting to have fun,” Sam said.
As they discussed what they should do with the rest of their evening, a group of men walked up.
“Hey, darlin’,” a rather unpleasant man reeking of alcohol said to Sam. “Lose lover boy here and we’ll show you some real fun.”
“Sorry. Not interested,” Sam replied.
The man didn’t like her answer and grabbed her arm.
“I said I wasn’t interested,” Sam said angrily. She spun around and hit the man with a lot more force than one would expect from a woman her size. He collapsed to the sidewalk.
The man’s friends closed in around Sam and Jason. Jason moved quickly and took care of three of the men while Sam easily handled the other two. When they finished, the ground was littered with unconscious and semi-conscious men. Two police cars pulled up as the last man fell.
“Uh oh,” Sam whispered. Jason just gave her a grim smile.
Jason, Sam, and the six men were taken to the local jail; a small, two cell building. Sam, being the only woman, was placed in one cell while Jason shared a cell with their six new friends. This arrangement seemed to work at first, until the men started to awaken. They decided this would be a good time to teach Jason a lesson, except that Jason ended up being the teacher.
“That’s enough!” the sheriff yelled.
“I was just defending myself, sheriff.” Jason said.
“Yeah, I’m sure you were,” the sheriff replied as he opened the cell door. “Come on.” He led Jason over to Sam’s cell. “Even think of touching her, pal, and you’ll be sorry.”
Sam sat curled up at one end of the cell’s cot. Jason sat down on the other end.
“I’m sorry, Jason,” Sam said quietly.
“Well, it wasn’t like I had any other plans for the rest of the night. Did you make your phone call?”
“Yes. Mr. Pitney will be here in the morning. He wasn’t very happy.”
“I can imagine. If you don’t mind my asking, where’d you learn to fight like that?”
“I grew up on the streets. A girl needs to know how to defend herself. What about you? That was a pretty amazing show you gave back there.” Sam sounded impressed.
“Here and there.”
The night dragged on. Sleep didn’t come easily, so Sam and Jason attempted to make small talk. Morning finally arrived bringing a very unhappy Jack Pitney and a slightly amused Mike along with it. Mr. Pitney silently paid the two jailbirds bail. He remained silent as they signed for their belongings.
When they walked out of the jail, Sam broke the stillness. “Mr. Pitney, I take full responsibility. Jason was an innocent bystander.”
“Jason has never been an innocent bystander in his life,” came the heated reply.
Sam opened her mouth to say something else, but Jason put a hand on her arm and shook his head. “He won’t listen until he calms down,” he whispered to her.
“Has he had a lot of experience bailing you out of jail?” Sam asked quietly.
“Nope. First time.”
In the days that followed, Mike had a great time telling the pit crew how Jason had spent the night with Sam.
Mr. Pitney kept Sam busy, so busy that it was several weeks before Jason saw her again.
“Hi,” Sam said when she showed up at the track before a race.
“Hi,” Jason replied. “What brings you here?”
“I wanted to wish you luck.”
“You came all this way just to wish me luck?”
Sam shrugged. “I’m sorry I got you arrested.”
“Water under the bridge, Sam.”
Sam smiled before quickly kissing Jason on the lips. “Good luck,” she whispered. She turned and left the pit.
Jason stood staring after her.
“Hey, Jase? You gonna race anytime soon?” Mike asked as he walked by. “Jason?”
“Hmm?” he replied as he continued to watch Sam walk away.
“Car? Race? It’s gonna start soon.”
“What’s wrong with you? The race is gonna start in a few minutes.”
“Huh? Oh!” That brought Jason out of his fog and he finished getting ready.
Several hours later, Jason sat in the track bar with Mike and a couple of guys from the pit crew. He had barely touched the drink in front of him.
“What’s your problem, Jase? You’ve been in a funk since before the race,” Mike asked.
“It’s nothing. I just have a lot on my mind,” Jason replied.
“A lot? Or just one woman in particular?” He earned a glare in response.
Jack Pitney entered the bar with Sam and after locating his people walked over to the booth where the men sat. Mr. Pitney slapped Jason on the back. “Good work, Jason.”
“Thank you, Mr. Pitney,” Jason said as he slid over so Sam and Jack Pitney could sit down.
“Sit down, Sammy,” Mr. Pitney said as he motioned for her to slide over next to Jason.
Sam did as she was told. “Hi, Jason,” she said softly.
“Hey, Jase,” Mike said loudly. “Did you know that Sam is an amateur driver?”
“Amateur is the operative word, Mike,” Sam replied.
“Really? Why didn’t you say something before?” Jason asked.
“I’m nowhere near your league and I only race occasionally.”
“How did you get started?”
“When I started working for Mr. Pitney, some of the drivers thought I needed to know what it was like to get behind the wheel of a racecar, so they put me in a car, gave me a few pointers, and let me go.”
“Have you won any of your races?”
“She’s being modest,” Mr. Pitney said. “She’s won twenty-five of the thirty races she’s been in.”
“That’s great! Why don’t you turn pro?” Jason asked. He was impressed, something that wasn’t easily accomplished.
“It’s just a hobby. Small time races. No real competition.”
“I think Jason is right. You should try a professional race, Sammy,” Mr. Pitney told her.
“I don’t know, Mr. Pitney. I might like it too much and give up my design job,” Sam teased.
* * * * * * * *
The next thing Sam knew she was getting ready for her first, albeit small, professional race. Jason coached her every chance he got and Mr. Pitney listed her as one of his drivers. Sam’s biggest fear wasn’t losing the race or crashing into the wall; it was making herself look like a fool in front of Jason and Mr. Pitney. Mr. Pitney she should understand, but why should she care if she looked like a fool in front of Jason?
Thanks to Jason’s coaching and several major mistakes by some of the other drivers, Sam won. Mr. Pitney, Mike, and Jason met her at the winner’s circle. After she had been presented with her trophy, Mike picked her up, and swung her around.
“Hey, Jase, heads up!” Mike said as he tossed Sam over to the unsuspecting man.
“Whoops.” Jason caught her easily.
“Nice catch,” Mike called.
Sam hadn’t said anything, but gave Jason a slightly embarrassed smile that he returned.
“Jason?” Sam said quietly.
“You can put me down now.”
“Oh, right.” He set her down gently, never taking his eyes off her.
Sam blushed and let go of the death grip she had on his shoulders.
“Hey, you two. That’s enough of that,” Mr. Pitney said as he walked over to his newest winning driver.
Jason took a step backwards to put some room between himself and Sam. The sound of his rapidly beating heart pounded in his ears.
* * * * * * * *
Sam raced in several other professional races, even competing against Jason twice, but she was never able to beat him. She placed twelfth in one race, but managed to finish second in the other. She had also competed with him in several endurance races as his co-driver.
Racing still came second to her day job. She had been hired as a mechanical design engineer as Mr. Pitney continued to remind her. “I didn’t hire you to drive, Sammy. I hired you to be an engineer.”
“I’m sure I don’t need to remind you, Mr. Pitney, but you were the one that suggested I try a professional race.” One of the reasons Jack Pitney hired Sam in the first place, other than her design ability, was she wasn’t afraid to stand up to him.
“One race, Sammy.” He waved a finger in front of her face. “I didn’t mean every race you qualified for.”
“My professional career is over, Mr. Pitney. I’ll be a good little engineer and stay in the office from now on.”
Satisfied with her answer, he changed the subject. “So, what’s going on with you and Jason?”
Sam blinked at the question. “There isn’t anything going on between us, Mr. Pitney.”
“Don’t pull that with me, Sammy. I see how you two look at each other.”
“As long as they only look, dear,” Mrs. Pitney said as she walked into her husband’s office, “but I have noticed that Jason seems happier now than he has in the last twelve years.”
“Hello, Eileen,” Jack Pitney said as he kissed her on the cheek. “Don’t encourage them. Sammy doesn’t need Jason hanging after her like a lost puppy.”
“I told you, Mr. Pitney. There isn’t anything going on between us. Jason is just a friend,” Sam said.
“And I’m sure he’d like to be more than just friends.”
“Jack, that’s none of your concern. If they want to have a relationship, that’s their business. Keep your opinions to yourself.” Mrs. Pitney turned toward Sam and winked. “Besides, Sam works too hard. She needs to have a little fun once in a while and part of Jason’s problem is he’s lonely.”
“He isn’t lonely, Eileen. Women flock around him like seagulls on a garbage scow.”
“In case you haven’t noticed, he always goes home alone.”
“If you two will excuse me, I have to get back to work,” Sam said as she slipped out of her boss’s office. As she walked to her office, she thought about Jason. In the year and a half they had known each other, they had gone from fighting like dogs and cats to becoming friends. They kidded each other about everything, traded insults, and even went out to dinner once in a while; the few dates they had always ended at the front door with a kiss on the cheek. Sam found herself in her office without really knowing how she had gotten there. She closed the door and sat down at her drafting table, still thinking about Jason. They hadn’t seen each other in almost three weeks. Their last dated ended awkwardly. Sam had lost a bet and had to make Jason dinner. He had stayed to help her clean up the kitchen and ended up kissing her. They both got swept up in the kiss and if Jason hadn’t stopped it when he had, they would have ended up in the bedroom. Sam had been ready to throw him out, but he beat a hasty retreat of his own. It wasn’t the kiss that had frightened her, but her reaction to it.
Sam had never been much for dating and always felt that she didn’t need someone in her life. Her feelings for Jason had scared her more than she thought possible. When they were in a group, everything was fine. The problems arose when she was alone with him. Jason was always a gentleman around her and Mike had told her that Mr. Pitney had threatened Jason with dismemberment if he so much as laid a hand on her. Sam had tried to keep him at arms’ length, but her resolve was failing. After the kiss, Jason had made himself scarce. For the last three weeks, he had been racing on the European circuit.
* * * * * * * *
Nearly six months passed before Sam saw Jason again. She had just returned to her office after a meeting with Mr. Pitney and two of his other drivers. She had barely sat down at her desk when there was a knock at her door. Turning to see whom her visitor was, Sam was surprised to see Jason leaning against the doorframe. His hair was longer and he seemed thinner than she remembered.
“Hi,” he said as if he had only seen her yesterday.
“Hi. Welcome back.”
“Do you have any plans for lunch?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“You do now.”
“What if I don’t want to have lunch with you?” They easily fell into their old routine.
“Too bad.” After a few seconds, he added, “We need to talk about what happened.”
Sam regarded him for a minute. “That was six months ago, Jason.”
“I know, but I still owe you an apology. It seems like all I ever do is apologize to you.”
“I should be the one apologizing. I shouldn’t have reacted the way I did.”
“It was my fault. I had no right--,” his voice trailed off.
“It wasn’t your fault. I shouldn’t have let it go as far as it did.” Sam stood up and pulled Jason into her office, closing the door behind him. After making him sit down, she continued, “I should have said something to you about the way I felt.”
“I thought you felt that same way I did, but I guess I was wrong.”
“You weren’t wrong,” Sam said quietly.
“I said you weren’t wrong. I’m attracted to you and … I don’t know how to deal with it.”
Jason just sat looking at her, not knowing what to say.
* * * * * * * *
Endurance races are aptly named. It takes all of a driver’s (or drivers’, as the case may be) stamina to drive the grueling course laid out by the race planners. This particular race started at the southern tip of the Baja peninsula, wound up through southern California, across Arizona and New Mexico, into the western edge of Texas and Oklahoma, back across New Mexico and Arizona, and came to an end in Las Vegas, Nevada. Since the race rules called for two drivers, Jason asked Sam to come with him.
“Are you sure?” she asked.
“Sure of what?”
“Sure that you want to spend a week in an enclosed space with me.”
“Why not? It’s not like we haven’t driven together before. Have you developed some terrible personal habit that will drive me completely crazy?”
“Not that I’m aware of, but I’m not the one that it would drive crazy.” Sam smiled wickedly at him.
“Ha, ha. Very funny.”
“Besides, I have my virtue to worry about.”
“Your virtue?” Jason asked.
“Yes. My reputation may be ruined. You might try to take advantage of me or something.” She grinned at him.
“And get my neck broken in the process? No, thank you.” Jason was well aware that Sam was perfectly capable of defending herself against someone with his training, even though he had a slightly unfair advantage. He had been tempted to try something several times over the last two years, but he had too much respect for Sam. Even on the few actual dates they had ended with little more than a kiss on the cheek. Jason knew that Sam was attracted to him, but for some reason or another, she’d pull back if they started to get too close. The one time Sam had actually kissed him, or he had kissed her for that matter, they had come very close to getting carried away by the tidal wave of emotion. It had taken everything Jason had to keep himself from carrying her to the bedroom and making love to her.
“Earth to Jason.”
“Where were you? You looked like you were a million miles away.”
“I was just thinking about the race.” Good lie. Maybe she might even believe it.
“Uh huh.” No such luck.
“So, are you going to be my co-driver or not?”
“That’s it? Just ‘okay’?”
“What do you want, an ‘I will be extremely honored to be your co-driver’? Or maybe it should be ‘Thank you for allowing me this fabulous opportunity’? Or--”
“All right already. I get the picture.”
Sam smiled at him. “It’s just so easy to rattle your chain, you know that?”
* * * * * * * *
Sam and Jason had driven together several times before, so Jason knew exactly what he was getting into. The first endurance race he and Sam had been in brought back a flood of memories of Lucy and the African 9000 they had driven in when he was still with G-Force. Luckily, the race with Sam ended in a much happier way. Jason had learned that Sam could actually read a map and plot a course, carry up her end of the conversation without prattling on about nothing, and had no problem with the silences that lasted for miles. Some of the other drivers (mostly male) couldn’t do half of that. To top things off, Sam was a hell of a driver. She had a quiet aggressiveness about her driving, but not so aggressive as to take unnecessary risks, and she had good instincts. When asked about it, she would simply say, “I had a good teacher.” That teacher had been Jason. After Sam had won her first professional race, Mr. Pitney had taken Jason aside and asked him to take Sam under his wing and teach her everything he could about the world of racing, on track and off. Jason had agreed, but Mr. Pitney had warned him that if he tried anything with Sam, it would be months before they found all of Jason’s body parts.
The rules of the endurance race were simple: two drivers, one car, and a map. Check points were scattered throughout the course and at each check point, the driver had to get out, have the card stamped, and the other driver would then drive to the next check point. The reasoning behind this was to keep one driver from monopolizing the driving and ensuring that each driver would get some rest. There were also a couple of ‘black out’ areas along the course. This basically meant that as soon as the sun set in a particular area of the course, the drivers had to stop for the night, again ensuring that the drivers got some rest. It had been well documented that sleep deprived drivers made some deadly mistakes.
On the last day of the race, Jason and Sam were in the lead. They had passed their main rivals about twenty miles back when they had made the biggest mistake of their career and ended up in a ditch. Jason and Sam crossed the finish line in Las Vegas long before any of the other cars were in sight.
After being congratulated by Mr. and Mrs. Pitney, Mike, and the rest of their pit crew, Sam and Jason were left alone when the others loaded up the car and headed back home. Mr. Pitney had reserved a couple of rooms, hand them a couple of plane tickets, and told the two drivers to take a few days off and relax.
“Okay, now what?” Sam asked as she looked around.
“Well, we could get married,” Jason replied quietly.
“Okay,” Sam said. After a moment, she asked, “You were kidding, weren’t you?”
“No.” Jason had surprised himself by saying it in the first place. Sam just stared at him as if he had lost his mind. “I’m very serious.” Sam still didn’t say anything. “If you don’t want to, I suppose we could find something else to do,” Jason quickly added.
“Are you even listening to what you’re saying?” Sam finally managed to ask.
“Yes. I’m asking you to marry me,” Jason said slowly just in case Sam had trouble understanding.
“That’s what I thought you said.”
Sam thought for minute, and then said softly, “All right, if you’re sure.”
Now it was Jason’s turn to blink. “You’re saying yes?” He couldn’t believe it.
“If you wanted me to say no, why did you ask in the first place?”
“I wasn’t sure what you would say. Let’s go before you change your mind.”
Wedding chapels in Las Vegas are just about everywhere, if you know where to look. Even some of the hotels have one. You can even get married by Elvis if you want. Jason and Sam chose the more traditional route. No Elvis, no drive through, just a minister, and a couple of quickly purchased wedding rings. After the ceremony and signing of the marriage license, Sam and Jason went to the hotel. They had decided to take a shower and then go looking for dinner. After taking his shower and as Sam was taking hers, Jason stood at the window, overlooking the city, staring at the bright neon lights of the strip.
What was I thinking? he thought as he leaned against the window frame. “We can always get an annulment when we get home.” He turned when he heard the bathroom door open. Sam stood there wrapped in a white terry cloth robe, toweling her hair dry. “Hi,” he said.
“I’ve been thinking.”
“Uh oh. That’s a bad thing.”
“If you want, we can get an annulment when we get home.”
“Why would I want an annulment? Having second thoughts?”
“No, but I though you might.”
“Jason, I wouldn’t have said yes if I hadn’t meant it,” Sam said as she walked over to him. “Why did you ask me to marry you?”
He took a deep breath before answering. “I asked because--” He took another breath before continuing, “I asked because I love you and I wanted you to marry me.” He still wouldn’t look at her.
Sam stopped directly in front of him. She lifted his chin so he had to look at her. “Then what’s the problem?” Sam slid her hands around his head and pulled him gently to her. She kissed him deeply. Jason was a little taken aback by the depth of her kiss, but he was soon lost in it. He was more surprised when she pulled him towards the bed.
“Sam, what are you doing?” he murmured.
“Isn’t it customary to consummate a marriage?” she replied quietly.
* * * * * * * *
Jason awoke with a start. He looked down at the woman sleeping next to him and then at the bedside clock, which read 3:13 P.M. “Where happened to last night?” he wondered, and then he chuckled as he remembered exactly where it had gone. Sam had insisted on consummating their marriage. They could have had a contest to see which one of them had been the most nervous. Jason felt that he would have won hands’ down.
Sam rolled over to look at him. “Hi,” she said as she raked the hair out of her eyes.
“You still owe me dinner.” She snuggled closer to him.
“You could have had dinner last night, but you had other ideas.”
“I didn’t hear you complaining,” she said as she sat up. “We could have an encore performance.” Sam leaned toward Jason to kiss him.
“We’ve had several encores.” He kissed her in return. “Do you want dinner or not?”
Sam pretended to pout. “Fine, be that way.” She reached for her discarded robe and pulled it on, disappearing into the bathroom.
While Sam was in the bathroom, Jason’s cell phone rang. “Hello? Hi, Mike.”
After a quick shower, Sam returned fully dressed. “Come on. I’m hungry. I haven’t had a decent meal in over a week.” She stopped when she saw that Jason was on the phone.
“No, Mike. I’m not alone,” Jason said, grimacing at Sam as he did.
“You bastard!” Mike replied loudly enough for Sam to hear him across the room. “So where’s Sam? In the next room while you’re screwing around with a cocktail waitress?”
Sam walked over to Jason and took the phone from him. “Hi, Mike,” she said calmly.
“The one and only.”
“Oh, man. Let me talk to Jason.” Sam handed the phone to Jason.
After Jason got back on the phone, Mike told him, “Man, you are going to be so dead when the old man finds out that you’re sleeping with her.”
“Who’s going to tell him?” Jason asked.
“Not me. I’d have my head handed to me in a box if I said a word and I’ve got a family.”
“Goodbye, Mike.” Jason turned off the phone and looked at his wife. “Give me ten minutes for a shower?” he asked.
“If you’re nice to me, I’ll give you fifteen.”
“How nice do I have to be to get twenty?” She didn’t answer, giving him a wicked smile instead.
* * * * * * * *
After Jason’s shower, they went down to the hotel’s restaurant for dinner. In the two years they had known each other, they found that they really knew very little about each other’s respective pasts. Jason told her about being raised by Chief Anderson, but didn’t go into details about training for G-Force, and he was surprised to hear that Sam had been abandoned as a baby and grew up in a long and rapidly changing series of foster homes before becoming an emancipated minor at sixteen. She had to work three jobs just to survive, but had been smart enough to get a college scholarship and earned a degree in mechanical engineering and design. He was also surprised to find out that Sam had started working as an intern for Pitney Racing about the same time he had been hired as a driver.
“You mean to tell me that you’ve worked for Pitney Racing the same length of time as I have and we never met until two years ago?” Jason asked incredulously.
“I wonder why we never ran into each other before then?”
“I don’t know, but I knew you by your reputation,” Sam replied.
Jason shook his head. “No wonder you thought I was jerk.”
“You were a jerk, but now you’re my jerk.”
“Don’t mention it.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t.”
“So, what are we going to tell Mr. Pitney and the others when we get back?” Sam asked as she pushed the remains of her dinner around the plate.
“I don’t know, but I’ll be telling you goodbye,” Jason replied.
“What do you mean?”
“Mr. Pitney told me exactly what he’d do to me if he ever found out I had taken advantage of you.”
“You haven’t taken advantage of me. Actually, I’m the one that took advantage of you.”
“It was a mutual agreement, remember?”
They finished their dinner before going to explore the casino. “I didn’t take you for the gambling type,” Jason said as he followed Sam through the rows of slot machines.
“I only like to gamble if I win, which I never do. I’ll lose twenty bucks and quit.”
They played the slot machines for a while. Jason was winning, but Sam was true to her word. She lost twenty dollars right off the bat and quit. As they played and talked, they weren’t aware that they were being watched.
“Isn’t that Jason down there?” Keyop asked the man sitting next to him.
Mark looked up from the report he had been reading. “Where?”
“Right there, that last row of slot machines, sitting next to the blonde.”
“Figures he’d be with a woman,” Mark replied as he returned to the report.
“Let’s go talk to him.” Keyop started to get up, but Mark stopped him.
“I don’t think that would be a good idea, Keyop.”
“Why not? You don’t think he’s still mad, do you? Mark, it’s been thirteen years.”
“Apparently you’ve forgotten what happened when he left.”
“I’m not the one who kicked him off the team,” Keyop said. “He actually said goodbye to me and Tiny.”
“Hey, guys. What’s up?” Tiny asked as he sat down across from Mark.
“Jason’s here,” Keyop told him.
“Jason? Our Jason? He’s here? Where?”
“Right down there, next to the blonde.”
“Why are we sitting here? Let’s go talk to him.”
“Mark doesn’t think it’s a good idea.”
“Jason can hold a grudge, but don’t you think he’s gotten over it by now?”
“Would you two forget about it already?” Mark said with a tinge of anger. “He had every opportunity to contact us over the years, but chose not to.”
“Now who’s holding the grudge?” Tiny asked Keyop. “If you had been the one kicked off the team, would you have called?”
* * * * * * * *
As Sam watched Jason play the slot machines, she noticed three men watching them. “Jason,” she said quietly. “We have an audience.”
“What do you mean?”
“There are three men watching us. I think they’re more interested in you.”
“Where are they?” Jason hadn’t looked up from the machine in front of him.
“To your right, in the bar area, near the railing. They aren’t looking in this direction now.”
Jason looked quickly in the direction Sam had indicated. No! he thought. It can’t be them! Mark and Tiny were unmistakable. The other guy sort of looks like Keyop. Jason hit the cash out button.
“What are you doing?” Sam asked.
“Cashing out my winnings.”
“What about those men?”
“They’re probably just race fans.” Jason collected the coins. He cast a glance toward the bar to see if Mark and the others were looking this way. When they weren’t, Jason grabbed Sam’s hand. “Let’s get this converted and check out some of the other casinos.”
“Okay.” Sam was curious about Jason’s reaction, but she didn’t say anything else as she followed him to the cashier.
* * * * * * * *
Keyop looked over to where Jason had been sitting, but he and the woman were gone. “Well, we missed our chance. He’s gone.”
“No one says a word to Princess about this,” Mark said, but it came out more like an order.
“Why not? She has every right to know that Jason is all right,” Tiny said.
“She’ll just get upset.”
“Fine. We won’t say anything,” Keyop added. “What about the Chief?”
“I’ll tell him when we get back.”
“Like he wouldn’t already know,” Tiny said.
“What do you mean by that?”
“You know as well as I do the Chief knows exactly where Jason is at any given time. The guy can’t make a move without the Chief knowing about it.”
“As if Jason’s profession doesn’t have anything to do with that. His name is plastered all over the sports channels and the newspapers.”
“If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were jealous, Mark,” Tiny said.
“I’m not jealous.”
Keyop and Tiny shared a knowing look, but didn’t say anything. There had always been a rivalry, sometimes friendly, other times not, between Mark and Jason. After Jason’s departure, the rivalry continued, although now it was one-sided. The war with Spectra raged on for four years after Jason left. When Zoltar had been captured and the Luminous One destroyed, G-Force disappeared into the annals of history. Jason’s notoriety continued, much to Mark’s displeasure.
“At least he looked happy,” Keyop said.
“Jason was never happy unless he was in some sort of trouble,” Mark replied.
“I still say he looked happy.”
Mark didn’t say anything further and Keyop let the matter drop.
* * * * * * * *
Married life seemed to agree with Sam and Jason, but after three weeks, they still hadn’t told anyone. Mike just assumed they were sleeping together.
“You know, Jason, we probably should tell Mr. Pitney that we got married,” Sam said one morning, as she was getting ready for work.
“Why? I like my body parts where they are,” Jason mumbled into his pillow.
“I like them where they are too, but we still need to tell him. Then there’s that little matter of my name change.”
“You’re changing your name?” came the muffled reply.
“If you don’t want me to, I won’t, but it would make things easier.”
“If you do change it, be sure to let me know what you change it to so I’ll know what to call you.”
“You’re a real comedian, you know that?”
“I have my moments.”
Sam leaned across the bed to kiss her husband good-bye. He reached for her, but she pulled away. “Don’t even think about it. I’m late as it is.”
“Killjoy,” Jason muttered as he rolled over and went back to sleep.
It had been easier for Jason to move out of his apartment and into Sam’s than it would have been for her to move into his. Jason couldn’t be bothered with shopping so he just rented a fully furnished apartment. What? You thought he was going to live in a trailer for the rest of his life? Sam, on the other hand, had scrimped and saved for everything she had and bought the best she could afford, leaving her with a well furnished, if somewhat spartan, home. Just after they had gotten married, they talked about buying a house. Sam had saved most of her earnings as a mechanical engineer and Jason still had most of his combat pay from his time in G-Force as well as his race winnings. They managed to buy a small house that was about five minutes from Sam’s office and less than ten minutes from the track.
After Jason had gotten up and showered, he thought about what Sam had said before she left for work that morning. “She’s right. We can’t keep hiding what we did.” He finished dressing and went out to his car. He drove to the main office for Pitney Racing. After signing in, he rode the elevator up to the sixth floor where Sam’s office was located. Sam always left her door open when she was working, so when Jason got off the elevator he could see her sitting at her computer. She had a tendency to focus her complete attention on her work. He walked quietly into her office and kissed the back of her neck, trying not laugh when she nearly jumped out of her chair.
“What the--?” she yelped as she spun around. “Jason, what are you doing?” she hissed at him.
“I thought about what you said this morning. We need to tell Mr. Pitney.”
“Yes, before I chicken out.”
“You? Chicken out? Not going to happen.” She regarded him for a moment. “I’ll see if he’s in his office.” Sam turned toward her phone and dialed her boss’s number. “Hi, Mr. Pitney. Do you have a couple of minutes you can spare? I need to talk to you.”
They walked down the long hall to Jack Pitney’s office. Sam stopped in front of the door and took a deep breath to calm herself before knocking. After hearing a muffled “Come in”, she turned the handle and opened the door. Jason walked in after her and closed the door behind him.
“Sam? Jason? What’s up?” Mr. Pitney asked, a suspicious look crossing his face. “Is something wrong?”
“No, Mr. Pitney. Nothing’s wrong,” Jason said, glancing at Sam from the corner of his eye.
“All right, something’s up. What have you done and which one did it?”
“We got married, Mr. Pitney,” Sam blurted out.
Pitney’s eyes widened and his face turned red as he shot to his feet. “What?” he yelled loudly enough that the people in the next county could have heard him. “Anderson, what did I tell you would happen if you so much as laid a finger on Sam?”
Eileen Pitney chose that moment to walk through the door of her husband’s office as he started on a tirade that lasted a good ten minutes. “Jack, remember your blood pressure,” she told him sweetly when he finally stopped for a breath. She walked over to Jason and kissed him on the cheek. “Congratulations, dear.” Then she turned to Sam and gave her a hug. “It’s about time you two figured out what you were going to do.”
“Eileen, stay out of this,” her husband sputtered.
“Jack, listen to yourself. They got married and there isn’t anything you can do about.” Mrs. Pitney looked at her husband and waited until he returned to a more natural shade of pink. “Besides, what are they hurting? They got married, so what? They’re both over twenty-one and they didn’t need your consent. You’ll just have to deal with it.”
Sam and Jason looked back and forth between Mr. Pitney, Mrs. Pitney, and at each other. Mr. Pitney finally started breathing at a more normal rate. “Jason, if you even think of hurting her, you’re a dead man. Understood?”
“Yes, sir,” Jason replied quietly.
Sam remained quiet and tried to hide a smile behind her hand. She knew perfectly well what Jason was capable of and that Jack Pitney didn’t stand a chance of ever laying a hand on him.
Jack and Eileen Pitney talked back and forth about what Sam and Jason had done, evidently forgetting that the couple remained in the office. Jason took Sam by the elbow and led her from the office, quietly closing the door behind them.
Sam finally let out the laughter that she had been trying to keep in check. “That went better than I thought it would. I still can’t get over how docile you become when Mr. Pitney is around.”
“I respect the man, all right? Besides, who knows what would have happened if he hadn’t hired me. I owe him everything. If it hadn’t been for him, I never would have met you, would I?”
“You did all right before you met me.”
As the newlyweds walked back to Sam’s office, they didn’t hear the telephone call that Mr. Pitney made soon after their departure.
“Jack, you don’t have to do this,” Eileen said.
“I know, but I owe it to him. That was part of the agreement when I hired Jason in the first place.” Jack Pitney picked up the phone and dialed a number from memory. “Director Anderson, please. This is Jack Pitney.”
“It’s still dishonest. You’ve been keeping tabs on the boy since you hired him.”
“John Anderson insisted on it. I knew what I was getting into when I hired the kid. You know we do a background check on everyone we hire. Finding out about his previous job only made things worse.”
“That still doesn’t make it right.”
“John? Jack Pitney. No, Jason’s fine. I just wanted to let you know the kid got married.” He held the phone away from his ear for a moment before continuing. “That was my reaction too. No, no. He married one of my engineers. Her name’s Samara Sinclair. I can send you her background check if you want. I should have known something like this was going to happen, but what can you do? Like my wife says, they’re both adults. They didn’t say, but I’m assuming it happened when they were in Vegas three weeks ago. No, he doesn’t know about our talks. I don’t know if he suspects anything or not. Sam’s a good kid and she keeps him in line. I’ll keep you posted. Talk to you later, John.”
After he hung up the phone, Mrs. Pitney said, “You’re terrible, you know that? Jason hasn’t done anything in the thirteen years he’s worked for us, yet you feel you need to tell John Anderson everything he does.”
“When Galaxy Security found out we hired Jason, it was part of the agreement. You know that. We either keep tabs on him or they’ll drag him back and throw him in prison for the rest of his life.”
“Why would they throw him in prison? They’re the ones that fired him in the first place.”
“He’s dangerous, that’s why.”
“He may be dangerous, but he’s never gotten into any trouble since we hired him. Those two times that he and Sam were arrested don’t count.”
“What do you mean they don’t count?”
“It wasn’t Jason’s fault they got arrested either time. Sam took full responsibility. She’s the one that has a knack for starting fights with men twice her size. Jason was only trying to defend her.”
* * * * * * * *
Director Anderson (still called ‘Chief’ by his foster family) placed the phone back into its cradle after talking to Jack Pitney. He couldn’t believe that Jason had gotten married. He thoughts drifted back to a discussion the team had years ago. Somehow or other, they had been talking about marriage and Jason had adamantly said he would die before getting married. Apparently, the kid changed his mind over the years. Better to keep this to myself John Anderson thought. It would only upset the others. Thinking back to a discussion he had with Mark, Tiny, and Keyop regarding their business trip to Las Vegas a few weeks ago and the fact they had seen Jason and a young woman there only added fuel to Jack Pitney’s idea that the errant member of the family had gotten married at that time. The Chief just smiled to himself and gently shook his head. “I wish them the best of luck.”
* * * * * * * *
Sam rolled over and stretched. The first rays of sunlight had started to filter through the bedroom blinds. She reached out to touch her husband, but his side of the bed was empty. Sam turned to look at the bedside clock, which read 5:30 A.M. “I know he came to bed last night,” she muttered to herself. “He never gets up this early unless there’s a race.”
“There is a race,” came her husband’s disembodied voice.
“Yes. Are you going with me or not?”
“Have you ever known me to miss a race?”
“Then you had better get up. I’m leaving in an hour.”
Sam put her feet over the side of the bed and stood up. As she ran her fingers through her hair in an attempt to put it in some semblance of order, she saw a small jeweler’s box on the dresser. The card simply said ‘Sam’ and was in Jason’s handwriting. She picked it up and walked to the bathroom door. “Jason, what’s this?”
“This.” She showed him the small burgundy colored box.
“Apparently you’ve forgotten that it’s our third anniversary. Open it.”
“It’s our anniversary? I thought men were the ones that forgot stuff like this.” She opened the box to reveal a slender white gold band with ornate engraving and three small diamonds. She looked at her husband curiously.
He shrugged. “I thought you deserved a real wedding ring for staying married to me this long instead of that cheap one we bought when we got married.”
“Well, it’s not as if it turned my finger green or anything.”
When Sam made no move to take the ring from the box, Jason dried his hands, took the box from her, and placed the ring on her finger. “There.”
“Thank you,” Sam whispered as she stood on her toes to kiss him on the cheek. “Now hurry up. I want to take a shower.”
“You’re such a romantic,” he said dryly.
* * * * * * * *
The race was nearly over. As Sam ran around doing odd jobs for the pit crew, she noticed one of the security guards walk in with a woman with dark, shoulder length hair. The guard talked to Mike and left, but the woman stayed. When Mike walked by Sam, he told her the woman wanted to speak with Jason.
The pit crew let out a yell telling Sam that Jason had won. She took off to hug her husband. This had become a tradition. If she didn’t, he sulked. After all the necessary details had been attended to and Jason had successfully avoided the paparazzi, Sam jogged back to the pit with Jason driving along behind her. The pit crew descended on Jason to congratulate him and Mike told him he had a visitor.
With a suspicious look, Jason walked over to the woman. After a moment, a look of recognition crossed his face. “Princess?”
* * * * * * * *
Sam forced Jason to invite Princess to dinner that evening. Princess told Jason what everyone had been up to in the past sixteen years. She also tried to convince him to come back for a visit, but Jason refused to even consider the idea.
Sam was able to persuade Princess to stay with them for the night instead of going to a hotel. The next morning over breakfast, the two women talked about how Sam and Jason had met and gotten married. They also briefly discussed G-Force and the events leading up to Jason’s dismissal from the team. Sometime during the last three years, Jason had told Sam the story. After Sam and Jason had seen Princess off, they walked back into the house.
“Why won’t you consider going for a visit?” Sam asked.
“There isn’t any reason to go.”
“You were happy to see Princess.”
“Yes, but I have no desire to Mark and the Chief.”
“What about Tiny and Keyop? What kind of name is Keyop anyway?”
“It’s his name.”
Sam let the subject drop for the time being, but kept it at the back of her mind. Jason was going to race on the European circuit for a couple of months and she wasn’t going to be able to go with him due to job commitments. She didn’t want to start a fight with him before he left.
* * * * * * *
Sam sat at the airport with Jeannie, Mike’s wife, and their two little boys. The Pitney Racing team was coming home after two months in Europe.
“There’s Daddy,” the boys said. Jeannie had to catch them before they went through the security area. Sam tried not to laugh. Jeannie had her hands full when Mike was gone and Sam helped out when she could.
“You and Jason should have kids, Sam,” Jeannie told her as the dragged the boys back to their seats.
“Are you trying to be funny or have you lost your mind? Jason and I aren’t the parental type.”
“Why not? Jason likes to play with the boys and you like kids.”
“That’s because we get to leave them with you when we go home.”
As their wives were discussing having (or not having) kids, Jason and Mike walked from their gate to the luggage return to meet up with them.
“I’m glad to be home. I can’t wait to see Jeannie and the boys. What are you going to do, Jase?”
“I just want to go home, make love to my wife, and sleep for a week.”
Mike laughed. “In that order?”
“No, but we’d get arrested if we tried it the other way.”
* * * * * * * *
“Come on, sleepy head. It’s time to get up,” Sam said to her still sleeping husband. “Jason, come on. It’s almost noon. Even you don’t sleep this late.”
“Don’t you believe in jet lag?”
“You got plenty of sleep last night.”
“You mean I would have gotten some sleep.”
“If you didn’t, whose fault is that? You’re the one that barely made it into the house before attacking me.”
“I didn’t attack you. I haven’t seen you in two months. Can you blame me for missing my wife? Besides, you weren’t complaining last night.”
Sam climbed across the bed to where Jason was still laying and curled up next to him with her head on his shoulder. “Do you feel all right? You’re awfully warm.”
“I’m probably coming down with that damned virus everybody had.”
“You never get sick.”
“I get sick, just not that often.”
“Well, if you are sick, I suppose you can stay in bed. Just don’t start whining and expect me to wait on you hand and foot.” Sam moved to get up, but Jason pulled her back down beside him.
“You mean you’re not going to keep me company in my time of need?”
“Time of need, my foot. I’m not falling for that line, pal. Just go back to sleep.”
“Guess this means the honeymoon is over?” Jason rolled over to face her.
“We never had a honeymoon, remember?” Sam quickly hopped off the bed. “I have work to do. Go back to sleep.”
* * * * * * * *
A month after Jason came down with a virus, Sam woke up feeling like she’d been run over by a truck. Thinking that a shower might help, she climbed out of bed and barely made it to the bathroom in time. After driving the porcelain bus, she climbed back in bed. “Jason, next time you get sick, I’m sleeping in the other bedroom,” she mumbled.
“Oh, sure, blame it on me.” He rolled over and put his hand against her cheek. “You’re not warm. Maybe it was something you ate?”
“We had the same thing. If I’m sick, then you should have the decency to be sick too.”
“I’ll call work for you. Just stay in bed.”
During the course of the day, Sam wasn’t able to keep anything down. Jason started to worry and bundled his wife off to the hospital.
They lucked out and the emergency room was quiet. They didn’t have to wait very long for Sam to be seen by one of the doctors.
“Well, young lady, you’re seriously dehydrated,” Dr. Nambu told her. “I’m going to admit you for IV fluids. I also want to run some tests to rule out any more serious problems.”
Jason frowned. “Do you think it might be something other than a virus?” he asked.
“From what you’ve told me, no, but I want to be sure.”
After blood had been drawn for the tests, Sam was placed in a room. The anti-emetic she had been given helped somewhat, but Sam was still slightly nauseous. After a couple of hours of fitful sleep, Sam woke to a knock at the door. A short, dark-haired woman holding Sam’s medical chart walked in. “Hello, Sam.”
“Dr. Michaels? What are you doing here?” After seeing Jason’s confusion, Sam introduced him to the woman. “Dr. Paige Michaels, this is my husband, Jason. Jason, this is Dr. Michaels.”
“And I’m sure you’re wondering why I came to visit, Sam. Dr. Nambu saw my name in your chart and when the test results came back, he gave me a call. You don’t have a virus. You’re pregnant.”
It took a minute for the words to sink in. “I’m what? That’s impossible! You told me I’d never get pregnant without surgery and lots of drugs.”
“I also remember telling you that it would take an act of God. Apparently, God acted.”
Jason didn’t say anything as Sam and Dr. Michaels discussed the situation. Sam could tell a storm was brewing from the look on his face. Dr. Michaels continued asking Sam questions and scribbling things in her chart.
“While you’re being held captive, Sam, I want to do an ultrasound,” Dr. Michaels informed her. “We probably won’t see much this early, but I want to see what’s going on.” She went out into the hall and brought back an ultrasound machine. “Let’s see what we have.” She started up the machine and got Sam ready for the test. A small dark shape took form on the screen. “There you go, kids. Well, what do we have here?”
“What? Is something wrong?” Sam asked, her voice shaking slightly.
“See this shadow here? That’s the fetus. See this other shadow? That’s another fetus. Looks like you’re going to have twins, Sammy. God really acted this time, didn’t He?” When Sam didn’t respond, Dr. Michaels continued, “Don’t worry, Sam.” She patted Sam on the knee. “Everything looks fine. I’ll leave you two alone now. When you get home, call the office and make an appointment to see me in a couple of weeks. We’ll talk more then. Bring Jason with you.” Dr. Michaels collected her things and left, closing the door behind her.
The silence in the room was deafening. Sam’s mind was whirling a million miles a second and Jason refused to look at her. When he finally spoke, his voice was a low growl. “We talked about this, Sam. We agreed.”
“You heard what Dr. Michaels said. Apparently miracles do happen,” Sam’s voice was barely more than a whisper. The information was still sinking in. When Jason didn’t respond, she added quietly, “You make it sound like I did this on purpose. You can do what you want, but I’m going to have them.”
Jason didn’t say anything as he stood up and walked out the door. After the door closed behind him, Sam curled up on her side away from the door and cried. In the five years they had known each other, Jason had never made her cry, even when he ran off to Europe for six months. Maybe it wasn’t the fact that she was pregnant after years of being told she’d never have a child, but the fact that her marriage was over.
* * * * * * * *
Jason stalked through the halls of the hospital with a deep scowl on his face. Visitors and staff scurried out of his way. Everything that Sam and Dr. Michaels had said hung in his mind. He lost track of time as he walked.
“Should I report you for scaring the staff?”
He turned toward the voice. Dr. Michaels stood looking at him with her hands clasped behind her back.
“Don’t tell me. You’ve rechecked things and Sam is going to have triplets?”
Dr. Michaels smiled sardonically. “Sam told me you had a sarcastic sense of humor.” Her tone turned more serious. “You’re behaving childishly.”
“What do you care how I act?”
“You’re hurting Sam.”
“What do you mean?”
“Sam, for reasons I haven’t been able to fathom, loves you very much. If you don’t want a family, you two need to talk things through. There are options, several of which I don’t agree with, but there are options.”
“Sam has already said that she was going to have them.”
“Them? You sound like she’s going to give birth to monsters. You, Mr. Anderson,” Dr. Michaels pointed at Jason, “are just as responsible for this little miracle as Sam is. She’s good at a lot of things, but I’ve never met a woman that became pregnant by herself.”
Jason shoved his hands in his pockets and looked at the floor, but didn’t say anything.
“Come on, I’ll buy you some coffee. We need to talk about your issues.”
He looked up her. “What do you mean ‘my issues’?”
“Yes, you’re the one that’s having the problems dealing with this. Sam has already told you her decision. Now you have to decide what you’re going to do. Are you willing to lose your wife over this?”
“Good. Now be a good boy and let the mean old doctor buy you some coffee.”
* * * * * * * *
Several hours later, Jason found himself back outside Sam’s room. He and Dr. Michaels had talked at length about Sam and their future family. He had to admit the woman had a way about her that made you want to pour your heart out.
Sam had finally fallen into a light sleep, waking whenever the nurse stopped by to check on her. Sometime after the floor had quieted for the night, long after visiting hours had ended and the lights had dimmed, Sam woke up when her door opened and someone slid into the room. She turned enough to see Jason’s silhouette in the light from the hall before the door closed. He took a seat in the recliner in the corner of the room. “I didn’t think you’d come back,” Sam said.
“I didn’t mean to wake you.” Jason took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. I’m being an idiot.” His voice trembled slightly. “I don’t want to lose you over something like this.”
“There are worse things than having kids, Jason. After I found out that I couldn’t have children when I was eighteen, it never really bothered me. I hadn’t especially wanted to have any, but now --,” her voice trailed off.
“Yeah, I know.” Jason got up and walked over to the side of the bed. “Move over.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean move over so I can lie down.” Sam slid over in the bed as far as she could. Jason stretched out next to her and pulled her into an embrace. They stayed that way until the next morning.
* * * * * * * *
As Sam’s pregnancy progressed, the subject of calling Princess and going to visit the others reared its head. She didn’t want to badger him about it, knowing that if she did, he would dig in his heels and get even more defensive about the subject than he already was. In late October, Jason surprised her by actually bringing up the issue himself. “If we’re going to visit, then we better do it before you get too big to get on a plane.”
“Are you saying what I think I heard?” Sam asked.
“Yes. If you’re going to call, you’d better do it before I change my mind.”
Sam got her calendar out and made him pick a couple of dates so she could give Princess the option of choosing which worked better for them. Princess was shocked to hear from Sam. “I’ll get him there, but it’s up to you and the others to keep him there,” Sam told her. Princess chose a week in mid-November, the racing season had ended for the holidays and Galaxy Security was winding down as well.
* * * * * * * *
Jason didn’t say much during the flight. Sam knew that he was nervous about seeing everyone again after all these years. He had left under less than pleasant circumstances and could hold a grudge like no one else. Sam reached for his hand and gave it a squeeze. “Everything will be fine.”
“Says you,” came the surly response.
“Be nice. I know you can do it. Try not to pick any fights, okay?”
Jason took a deep breath and slowly released it before answering. “I’m only doing this for you, you know.” He placed his hand on her belly. The growing babies within kicked at him. Sam placed her hand on top of his. She was only fourteen weeks along, but looked bigger.
“I thought you were doing it to bury the hatchet with Mark and the Chief. Sixteen years is a long time to hold a grudge. Even I don’t hold grudges that long.” She got a sorry excuse for a smile out of him. “Don’t do it for me. Do it for yourself. They’re your family. I never had a family and I want our children to know yours.”
The plane angled up to the gate. Jason got separated from Sam and exited the plane before she did. He waited for her at the door. When she came up to him, he reached for her hand. Sam tilted her head and whispered to Jason, “There’s Princess.”
They walked toward Princess and the young man standing with her. Princess didn’t even get to say hello before her companion embraced Jason in a bear hug. Sam tried not to laugh at the expression on her husband’s face. As he tried to disentangle himself, Princess mouthed the word “Keyop”.
After disengaging the younger man, Jason held him at arms length. “Hello, Keyop.”
“How’d you know it was me?”
“I had help. Keyop, this is my wife, Sam.”
“Hello, Keyop,” Sam said.
“And the big guy trying to hide behind the pillar is Tiny.”
“Hey, Jason,” the large dark haired man replied.
The trip to the rebuilt Center Neptune was anything but quiet. Keyop and Tiny took it upon themselves to given Jason their version of the last sixteen years. Jason couldn’t get over how much Keyop had grown and noted that he had finally outgrown his stutter. Princess had noticed that something was different about Sam, but couldn’t figure out what that something was and Sam didn’t enlighten her.
After being issued visitor badges and guest quarters, the group went to the Chief’s office. Director Anderson and Mark were in a meeting, so they had to wait.
Sam seated herself on one of the couches so she could watch the fish as they swam by. Tiny attempted to make small talk with Jason, but he only received short responses. Finally, Princess had had enough. “All right, Sam. I know something is different about you and I want to know what it is.”
Jason gave his wife a sly smile and said, “You might as well tell her. They’ll find out as soon as you take off you coat.”
Sam didn’t say a word. She stood up, removed her jacket, and sat back down again. Princess’s mouth dropped. She managed to sputter, “You’re pregnant!” as well as a few other things. Princess hugged Sam and went after Jason, got a “Hey, none of that,” out of him, but hugged him anyway.
Tiny and Keyop started talking at once and kept it up until Mark and the Chief returned. “What’s going on in here? We could hear you all the way down the hall,” the Chief said.
“We’re going to be uncles,” Tiny told him.
Jason had slipped away from where he had been standing by the door and was now over by Sam. Neither of them said a word. Jason put his hands in his pockets and looked at the Chief and Mark.
“You must be Sam.”
There was an awkward silence until Princess walked over to Mark and whispered something to him. Mark took a deep breath and walked over to Jason. “It’s good to see you again.” He turned to Sam and introduced himself.
Jason didn’t say anything. “Why doesn’t everyone sit down?” the Chief suggested.
Jason sat on the arm of the sofa next to Sam and Mark sat next to Princess on the other sofa.
“Princess tells us that you’re a design engineer, Sam,” the Chief said.
“What do you design besides racecars?”
“If you’re interested in a change of scenery, we’re always looking for good engineers.”
Sam looked up at Jason, before saying, “I’ll keep that in mind, sir.”
There was more awkward silence until Tiny decided the party needed livening up. He started asking Jason more questions about his racing and what he had done since he left. Jason responded with as few words as he possibly could.
Finally, Sam stood up. “If you all will excuse me, I need to go for a walk.”
“Do you want me to go with you?” Jason asked.
“No. You stay here and talk to the others. I’m sure I can walk up and down the hall without getting lost.” She disappeared out the door.
“The doctors tell her to walk every few hours,” Jason offered.
“When is she due?” Mark asked.
Jason shrugged. “Who knows? Every time she goes to the doctor they give her a different date.”
“They can’t tell?”
“How should I know? They ask her questions and she answers them. They run a few tests. It’s all as clear as mud. Sam thinks it should be sometime in May, but they could come earlier.”
“She’s going to have twins.”
“Twins? Wow, you two didn’t fool around.”
“How do you think we got into this mess?”
Mark and Tiny chuckled. The Chief just shook his head. After that, things warmed up a bit. An hour later, Jason started to worry.
“She should have been back by now.”
“Maybe she went back to your room?” Princess suggested. “I’ll call out to the reception area. Maybe they’ve seen her.”
“I’m going to go looking for her,” Jason said.
“We’ll all look,” Mark replied.
They only had to open the door to find Sam. She sat on the sofa looking out the window as the fish swam by.
“I still think it looks like a giant aquarium,” she said.
“Where have you been?” Jason demanded.
“I went for a walk and then came back here. I thought you might talk more if I wasn’t around.”
“If you weren’t pregnant, I’d lock you up.”
“Like I haven’t heard that before,” Sam countered. They bantered back and forth for a couple minutes.
“Enough! It’s getting late. Is anyone interested in dinner?” Director Anderson asked.
Center Neptune only had a staff cafeteria, so the group returned to the mainland for dinner. Jason thought it was almost like old times. Keyop and Tiny really hadn’t changed that much. They still had to tell their stupid jokes. Sam ended up sitting between them. She laughed politely on occasion. Every now and then she would glance at Jason, but he just smiled at her, never saying a word. Sam shifted uncomfortably in her seat.
“Is everything all right, Sam?” Princess asked.
“The kids are just really active tonight. They’ll probably be rugby players.”
“Over my dead body,” Jason muttered.
Keyop asked, “What does it feel like when they kick?”
“Here. You can feel for yourself,” Sam said. She took Keyop’s hand and placed it on one side of her stomach. She then took his other hand and placed it on the other side.
Keyop didn’t say a word, but he had the silliest grin on his face. At least he did until Jason saw what was going on.
“Keyop,” Jason growled. “Take your hands off my wife.”
Keyop jerked his hands back as if they had been burnt. Everyone laughed when they saw a devious smile cross Jason’s face.
“Don’t worry, Keyop. He’ll have to go through me to get to you,” Sam told him.
“You should feel honored, Keyop. Sam won’t let just anyone touch her.”
“I could never figure out why people think that when a woman is pregnant, her belly becomes public property,” Sam grumbled.
Mark hadn’t tried to say much to Jason other than asking a few questions about his racing career. It was easy to see that Jason still harbored resentment toward Mark and the Chief, but he was attempting to keep the peace, even if only for Sam’s sake.
After dinner, the group headed back to Center Neptune for the night. After saying goodnight and going their separate ways, Mark and Princess watched as Jason and Sam went back to the guest quarters.
“He should have met her twenty years ago,” Mark said, “but she probably would have ended up dead.”
Princess slapped him. “Mark, that’s a horrible thing to say!”
“It’s the truth. Even when we were kids, all the women he ever said hello to ended up dead.”
“They did not.” Princess smacked him again. “She’s been good for him. I always felt that Jason just needed someone to love him. We had each other. Tiny and Keyop had one another to pal around with. Jason didn’t have anyone.”
“Like it’s our fault? He was always a loner. Why do you think the Chief was constantly sending him to a psychologist when we were kids?” He dodged out of the way before Princess could hit him again.
* * * * * * * *
Jason agreed to stay four days, but it was difficult. He and Mark had gotten into several loud arguments. Sam had gotten fed up and walked out. Mark finally swallowed his pride enough to apologize and Jason surprised everyone by accepting.
Princess drove them back to the airport. She hugged Sam and told her to keep in touch before turning on Jason. He was never much for hugging when he was a kid, but occasionally Princess could catch him unaware. “You keep in touch too,” she told him.
“I won’t make any promises.”
“At least call me when the babies are born.”
“I’ll add you to the list. Keyop insists that I call him every week with updates, but that’s not going to happen.”
“Your incorrigible, you know that?”
“Now tell me something I don’t know.” Jason and Sam’s flight was announced. They both waved good-bye before walking through the gate.
* * * * * * * *
As the next few months slipped by, Sam was able to force Jason to e-mail Princess on a semi-irregular basis. At one point, he even sent her a copy of one of Sam’s ultrasounds asking her if she could figure out how the doctors could make out a baby amidst the dark shapes.
In early May, Director Anderson attended a weeklong conference not far from where Jason and Sam lived. He wanted to stop by for a visit, but didn’t know what type of reception he would receive. After his last meeting was finished, he called Jason’s number and spoke with Sam. She told him that Jason was at a meeting with his sponsors, but should be home soon. “Please come, Chief. I know he’d like to see you before you leave,” Sam told him.
Sam gave him directions to the house and met him at the door when he arrived. “Hi, Chief. It’s good to see you again.”
“Hello, Sam. I take it Jason isn’t home yet?”
“No, not yet. He called a little while ago. His sponsors are having a fit that he wants to take time off when the babies are born.” She invited him into the house while trying to fight off the dogs that wanted to say hello to their visitor.
“When are you due?”
“Any time and it isn’t soon enough.” She looked miserable.
“How do you feel?” the Chief asked.
“Actually, I feel better now than I have all week. Can I get you something to drink?”
“Water is fine. Don’t go to any trouble on my account.”
A few minutes after Sam had walked out to the kitchen, Chief Anderson heard a soft “Damn.”
“Sam? Is something wrong?” he said as he walked towards the kitchen.
She stood in an expanding puddle. “My water just broke.”
“Are you having contractions?”
“Not at the moment. I guess I better call the doctor.” After speaking with the answering service, Sam dialed Jason’s cell phone. “Drat. He’s got it turned off.” She dialed another number. “Stacy? It’s Sam Anderson. Oh, everything’s fine. Can you get a message to Jason for me? Tell him it’s time and I’ll meet him at the hospital. No, I’m fine. Just be sure he gets the message. Thanks, Stacy.”
Chief Anderson said, “I guess we need to get you to the hospital. Where’s your bag?”
“In the bedroom at the end of the hall, by the door.” As the Chief retrieved her bag, Sam got a few towels so she wouldn’t get the seat of the Chief’s car wet. “I really appreciate this, Chief.”
Sam’s contractions started in earnest during the short drive to the hospital. After getting her admitted and placed in a room, Dr. Michaels arrived.
“Well, Sammy, this is it.” She looked around the room. “Where’s Jason?”
“In a meeting. Hopefully he’ll be here soon.”
“I thought that maybe all of the videos in Lamaze class had scared him off. How far apart are the contractions?”
“About three minutes.”
“When did they start?”
“In the car on the way here.” Sam clenched her teeth during another contraction.
“You never do anything half way, do you? Forgot your breathing, didn’t you?”
“No, I didn’t forget. It doesn’t really work, you know.”
Dr. Michaels chuckled before turning to Chief Anderson and introducing herself to him.
“I’m sorry, Dr. Michaels. This is John Anderson, my father-in-law.”
“Pleased to meet you. Jason never mentioned any family.”
“We’ve been estranged and only recently started speaking again,” the Chief told her.
Dr. Michaels shooed him out of the room so she could examine Sam. “Thanks, Chief. You don’t have to stay,” Sam told him.
“I’ll stay until Jason gets here.”
As the Chief waited in the hall, Jason walked up. “Chief.”
“The doctor is in with her now.”
“Thanks for staying with her. I really appreciate it.”
“No problem. I’m happy I was there.”
Dr. Michaels stuck her head out the door and told them they could come back in. “It’s about time you got here,” she said to Jason, who ignored her as he walked over to his wife. “This could take a while, so I’ll check back in a few minutes,” she said. “If you need anything, just let the nurses know.”
“Since you’re here now, Jason, I’ll be on my way,” the Chief said.
As the Chief turned to leave, Jason said, “Chief, would you stay? We need to talk.”
* * * * * * * *
What started out as a talk ended up as a free-for-all. All the pent-up wrong doings on both sides managed to find their way into the conversation.
“Do you think I didn’t know that Jack Pitney was keeping tabs on me all these years?” Jason said angrily.
“I needed to know that you were staying out of trouble, Jason,” the Chief replied just as angrily.
“Why? Where you afraid I was going to try my hand at world domination?”
“With your abilities and temper, it would have been easy for you to fall in with the wrong people.”
“I see you actually believed Zark's lies about me. Give me a little credit. I’ve been able to tell the good guys from the bad guys since I was eight and I was never as power hungry as everyone thought.”
“I know, Jason, and I’m sorry. I’m very proud of the man you’ve become.”
Whatever Jason was going to say didn’t get said. He just looked in disbelief at the man that had raised him.
“Would you two hold it down? I’m trying to give birth here,” Sam said from her vantage point.
Both men had the decency to look embarrassed. Chief Anderson placed his hand on Jason’s shoulder and said, “Tend to your wife. I’ll be around somewhere. We can talk more later.”
* * * * * * * *
After their twin sons made their appearance into the world and Sam had been settled into her room, Jason called Princess.
“Is everything all right? How’s Sam?”
“She’s fine. She fell asleep a little while ago.” He sounded tired.
“Are you daddy yet?”
“Yeah. God, it’s weird to say that. I’m actually someone’s father.”
“Well, what are they? I want details.”
“Both boys, one was just over 6 pounds and the other is about 6 and a half. Both are twenty-two inches long. Like that is really supposed to mean something to me. According to Dr. Michaels, they’re identical.”
“Did you get to see the Chief?”
“Yeah. I was glad he was there when Sam went into labor. I was a mess. He was the only calm one in the room. The doctor and the nurses were running around like idiots. He left just before the twins arrived. He may still be around somewhere. I’ll have to see if I can find him.” He covered the phone and said something to the room’s other occupant. “Sam wants to say hello.”
“Hi, Princess.” If Jason sounded tired, then Sam had to be exhausted.
“Hi, Mom! Congratulations.”
“How is everything?”
“Fine. Jason was a real trouper. He was a lot calmer than he lets on. Don’t tell anyone this, but he cried when they handed him the first baby.” There was a loud “Hey!” in the background.
“Tell him his secret is safe with me. You’re going to have your hands full with two boys.”
“I know. I’m glad they were both boys though.”
“Why is that?” Princess asked.
“Can you imagine what Jason would be like if they had both been girls? I pity the poor kid that wanted to take them out on a date.”
Princess laughed. “I can imagine.”
“I have to go now. I’ll talk to you later, Princess.”
* * * * * * * *
When the Chief returned from his trip, he looked a lot happier than anyone could ever remember seeing him. He called Princess to his office after he got settled.
“Did you have a nice trip, Chief?” she asked.
“Yes, I did, Princess. After my last meeting, I stopped by Jason’s house. Sam was home alone; Jason was at a meeting with his sponsors. Sam and I had a nice little visit, and then suddenly her water broke. She called the doctor and then tried to get a message to Jason, but he was still in his meeting. She hadn’t had any contractions before her water broke, but when they started they were only about four minutes apart. I took her to the hospital and waited with her until Jason arrived. I was going to leave when he got there, but he asked me to stay. I hadn’t been able to see it before, but he’s really grown up over the years.”
“Happens to the best of us, Chief. I talked to Jason this morning. He really appreciated your visit.”
“I’m glad I went. He and I had a long heart-to-heart talk while Sam was in labor.”
“I’m sure she loved that.”
“She played referee.”
Princess laughed. “Sounds like she gets a lot of practice. It will come in handy when the boys are older.”
“Yes, I suppose it will. Oh, by the way, Sam wants everyone, including Mark, to come for Thanksgiving.
“I’ll add it to his calendar. I’ll hog tie him if I have to.”
* * * * * * * *
The next six months sped by. Jason sent pictures of the babies to Princess, saying, “They look like all the other babies I’ve seen.” What he failed to tell her was what the twins had been named.
Thanksgiving quickly approached. Chief Anderson and the group formerly known as G-Force arrived on a Galaxy Security plane instead of a commercial flight. Sam met them at the airport.
“Where’s Jason?” Princess asked.
“Home with the boys.”
“He’s doing this willingly?” Mark asked.
“No, but he needs the practice and I needed to get out of the house.”
The Chief had rented a car. Tiny and Keyop rode with him while Mark and Princess rode with Sam. As they pulled into the driveway, Princess said, “You moved. This isn’t the same house as before.”
“We needed more room and I couldn’t climb stairs by myself when I was pregnant,” Sam replied.
Chief Anderson pulled into the driveway behind them. “I’m sure Jason is climbing the walls by now, ” Sam said. She couldn’t have been more wrong. When they entered the house, they found him laying on the floor reading to the babies, two big dogs, and a cat.
“Hi,” he said as he got up.
“Hi, how did it go?” Sam asked after she kissed him.
“Fine. We got along famously. That and they’ve all been fed, so they didn’t give me too many problems.”
“Jason,” Princess asked, “didn’t you only have one dog before?”
“My husband, the over-grown Boy Scout, found Shadow in a drainage ditch,” Sam said. At the sound of his name, the big black dog wagged his tail. “Another of his admirers.”
“What can I say?” Jason said smugly.
“If he gets anymore, I’ll have to start a newsletter.”
Tiny and Keyop got down on the floor to play with the babies. Both were miniature copies of Jason, down to the large blue eyes, and neither baby seemed overly impressed with their uncles. They turned around to look at Mark and gave him a look that reminded Princess of the look Jason used to give him when they were little and Jason was in trouble for something.
“Remind you of someone?” Princess whispered in Mark’s ear.
Sam and Jason went to the kitchen. “Is there anything I can help with?” Princess asked as she followed them.
“I don’t think so, Princess. Jason was busy while I was gone and took care of everything.”
“The kids were asleep and I put the dogs outside so I could get some work done,” Jason said.
A piercing scream came from the other room. They took off to see what had happened. Both boys were sitting in the middle of the room surrounding by four terrified looking men. “What happened?” Sam asked.
“Darned if I know,” Tiny said. “This one just decided to scream.”
Sam walked over to the child in question and picked him up, holding him at eye level. “Joshua Mark, what are you up to?” The baby just wiggled and started to laugh. “That’s what I thought, you little stinker.”
At the mention of the baby’s name, Princess cast a glance at Mark. His eyebrow went up, but he didn’t make any other indication of noticing.
“What’s the other baby’s name?” Princess asked.
“How did you pick the names?”
“We each made a list of the names we liked, edited each other’s lists, and then put all of the names in a bowl and just started pulling names out,” Jason said.
“Not really. It just saved a lot of arguing.”
* * * * * * * *
Jason and Sam had insisted that everyone stay with them during the visit. After dinner had been cleared away, Jason disappeared somewhere in the back of the house. He returned with a photo album. Princess recognized it as the one the Chief had when the members of G-Force were growing up, but no one could remember seeing it in years. Princess looked questioningly at the Chief.
“I brought that along during my last visit. I thought Sam might like to see some pictures of the five of you when you were kids.”
“Sam made a couple of additions to it,” Jason said as he handed it to the Chief. Everyone gathered around him as he opened the album. In the back were several new pages. There were pictures of the babies and there was a picture of Jason sitting on a hospital bed with his newborn sons in his arms. Apparently he hadn’t known he was having his picture taken. In it, he looked totally captivated, and slightly terrified, by his children.
“He didn’t know I was taking that picture until it was too late,” Sam said quietly. “I hope you don’t mind my adding the pictures to the album.”
“Of course not,” the Chief said. His eyes had grown misty. Princess looked up at Jason. He had picked up one of the babies and handed him to Mark, who looked like he had no idea what to do. The baby smiled at him and laughed.
* * * * * * * *
Later, after everyone had turned in for the night, Jason sat in the porch swing behind the house. Sam slipped through the sliding glass door with a baby monitor in her hand.
“I thought you went to bed,” Jason asked.
“I did, but I couldn’t sleep.” She set the monitor down and sat next to her husband. As Jason put his arm around her, she leaned against his shoulder. “I’m glad they came.”
“Me, too,” he quietly replied.
They sat in silence, gently swinging back and forth. The baby monitor sprang to life, letting them know the kids were awake. “So much for peace and quiet,” Sam muttered as she picked it up and walked back into the house. As she turned to go down the hall, she said, “Good night, Mark.”
“Night, Sam.” Mark had been sitting in the dark of the living room. He got up and walked out to where Jason was sitting. “How did she know I was there?”
Jason glanced over his shoulder at the newcomer. “It’s one of her many talents. Pull up a swing.”
Mark sat down next to him. He didn’t say anything a first, just sat swinging back and forth with his friend. “Jason, I want to say I’m sorry.”
“For kicking you off the team. I said a lot of terrible things to you before you left. Things I didn’t mean.”
“I needed to hear some of them, but it didn’t make it any easier.” He was quiet for a few minutes. “One good thing came out of it though.”
“Oh? What was that?” Mark asked.
“If I’d stayed with the team, I never would have met Sam.”
Mark smiled. “Yeah, I guess you wouldn’t have. Can you find it in your heart to forgive me?”
Jason appeared to think about it. “I suppose I can. But I’m not sure if you deserve it.”
Mark turned to look at him. Jason had a lop-sided smile that told Mark he had been kidding. Mark smiled back at him. “If it isn’t too much trouble, you mean.”
Jason laughed. “That too.”