I watched as Gray played with his son and smiled. It was adorable really, how he scooped him up and span him around, Michael giggling all the while. Melissa looked on disapprovingly.
"There's no stopping him Melissa, you knew that when you married him." Sam laughed, obviously trying to get Gray's wife to lighten up. She pursed her lips, but sighed and shrugged her shoulders.
"I guess. It just makes me the bad guy." With that she wandered off to continue her conversation, throwing glances back at Michael and Gray all the while.
Michael screamed in mock terror as his dad chased him and ran towards Sam.
"Aunty Sam! Aunty Sam save me!" My heart twisted at the sudden revelation that Sam was, for all intents and purposes, an aunt. I'd seen pictures of Michael in the flat before but Sam had just described him as 'Gray's son.'
Sam picked Michael up and swung him away from his father.
"No fair Mikey, Aunty Sam knows I can't take her in a fight." Gray pretended to sulk.
"Mikey, have you met Cara yet?" Sam grinned at him as he clung to her, legs wrapped around her waist and arms around her neck. His little afro bounced with every movement and he grinned shyly at me with a smile that was missing two bottom front teeth.
"Hi Mikey." I smiled and waved.
"Mikey, Cara is my partner. My girlfriend. Do you understand?" Sam asked. He nodded.
"Does that mean she's my uncle?" He asked, a little puzzled look on his face. "Because my Aunty Claire has my Uncle Henry." Sam chuckled but glanced nervously at me. Gray saw the look and looked at me too. I didn't know what to say.
"Cara is a girl Mikey." Gray intervened. "She can't be an uncle."
"So... is she my aunt?" The little boy asked, his brow furrowed in concentration. For a five year old he was pretty clever. Sam was still looking at me questioningly. It felt like some big step in our relationship, like if I was his aunt that meant I had an extra commitment.
"Mikey, Cara..." Sam began but I interrupted.
"Well Mikey, Aunty Sam and I love each other very much. If you would like to call me Aunty Cara you can. If you don't want to, you could call me Cara. We can be friends, either way." I smiled shyly.
"Ok." He grinned. Then he became distracted. "Daddy I want a lollypop!" He cried and Gray chuckled.
"Alright kid, let's go get one." Sam put Mikey down on the floor and he grabbed his dad's hand, following him through the people to get an ice-cream from the freezer inside. I glanced at Sam, not really knowing what to say.
"So do you two want to get married now or...?" Liam put in, breaking the awkward moment. Sam laughed and took my hand. Everyone went back to chatting.
"That was nice of you." She said, smiling. "You didn't have to, if you weren't comfortable."
"Why wouldn't I be?"
"Well, you know we haven't even been dating a year yet. You might feel that was a little fast."
"No. I think that was cute. And yeah, it took me by surprise, but why would I not be happy doing something that proves I'm committed to you?" I kissed her, stroking her cheekbone with my thumb.
"I love you." She muttered, smiling.
"Damn really? I was hoping there was a return policy under a year." I teased and received a slapped arse. "Spanking in public boss?" I gave her a smirk and earned a chuckle that made all my muscles clench delightfully.
"You wait till we get home." She whispered.
"You two really are never going to stop are you?" Jak's voice broke through our private bubble.
"Never." Sam replied, raising her eyebrow. "At least I hope not."
"You're the one who's old." I teased. "You'll start getting tired before me. Forgetting things, going grey..."
"If you're not careful I'll be going fifty shades of grey." She whispered in to my ear and I blushed scarlet.
"What did she say?" Liam howled as he saw my reaction.
"Nothing I'm repeating with children around." I replied.
"The kid's in the house." Jak grinned.
"I was talking about you and your child-like mental state." I shot back grinning. He pretended to be mortally wounded before grabbing another beer and returning his attentions to Ali. Megan and Anna were curled up happily laughing, while Liam was leaning against the back of his chair in lazy contentment.
"Ready to meet my other friends?" Sam asked, stroking my hand with her thumb as she held it.
"Go for it." I smiled.
We broke the party up at about ten. Most people had work the next morning, and Sam was catching a mid morning train and wanted sleep.
Michael was carried sleepily out by his dad, who stopped to say goodbye.
"See you soon Sam. Nice to meet you Cara, keep your girl out of trouble won't you?"
"I'm afraid I'm normally the one getting her in trouble." Gray laughed.
Michael lifted his head sleepily from his dad's shoulder.
"Night night Aunty Sam." He muttered. Sam gave him a kiss on his forehead and wished him sweet dreams. I smiled, feeling that weird feeling in my stomach again. "Night night Aunty Cara." Mikey whispered. Awww, my brain thought.
"Sweet dreams Mikey." I smiled, ruffling his hair softly. Gray winked at me and carried his son away. Melissa followed, smiling tiredly and saying goodnight to the both of us. Sam waited till she was gone before kissing me on the side of the head.
"You are so sweet."
"He's a cute kid." I replied, resting my head on her shoulder gently for a moment before I had to say goodbye to some other people.
"Cara, gorgeous, well done for this." Lexi gave me a hug and held me at arms length for a moment. "Sam, for once you've done well." I blushed.
"Hands off Lexi." Sam warned jokingly. "She's all mine."
"Trust me, I'm not breaking this up. You haven't looked this happy in a long time. Night babe." She kissed me, and then Sam, on the cheek and waited for Myra to say goodbye.
"Cara, make sure you call me about modelling. Sam, see you when you get back. I'll price up the paintings ready." She grinned.
"And don't sell any till I've looked." Sam laughed, giving Myra a hug.
"Well, that's the lot." Jak said, his arm around Ali. Everyone had gone.
"Best help clear up." Sam said, rolling up imaginary sleeves.
"No, you go home you two. We've got it." Anna said, her hand in Megan's.
"We can't leave you with this." I protested.
"It's your last night together for two weeks. Bugger off." Anna replied, giving us both a light shove.
It turned out they weren't letting us argue, so we thanked them and left, hand in hand.
"It wasn't that big of a deal." I smiled, swinging our entwined hands gently and happily.
"Not just for tonight. For everything."
"You're being soppy." I teased.
"Everyone in love should be soppy now and then." That shut me up and I smiled, happy. We walked the rest of the way, smiling, chatting about the evening and what I'd thought of Sam's friends. We talked about Megan and Anna, Jak and Ali, how Liam needed someone...
"Home at last." I cried, taking off my coat and hanging it up.
"Alone at last." Sam replied, doing the same. I grinned.
"We can't do anything though." I said, innocently. Her brow furrowed.
"Your boss might hear, and I'm afraid she'd spank me again." I bit my lip.
That last night before Sam went away was perfect. I remember in a happy haze, warmth, pleasure, Sam's breath on my neck, her hands in my hair, running over my body, her lips against mind. I remember her tongue, I remember the moment she lay breathing against me, taking in the scent of me.
"What are you doing?" I murmured as she lay against my chest, breathing lightly.
"Memorising your smell."
"What?" I giggled. "Why?"
"So that I'll be able to pretend you're with me while I'm away." She replied, kissing me gently.
"You can take one of my t-shirts. So you can have a bit of me in bed with you."
"Maybe I should take your pants then." She teased softly. I rolled my eyes and pushed her gently.
"But then I'd be wandering around without pants on." I replied smugly.
"We can't have that. Not when I'm not here anyway." She chuckled softly, kissing my neck.
"Mmm?" She replied sleepily.
"I love you."
I held on to Sam tightly, a tear escaping my eyes.
"I'll miss you."
"Hey, don't cry." She said, looking upset herself, wiping the tear from my cheek. "I'll be back before you know it."
"I know. I'll just miss you. I love you."
"I know. I love you too. And I'll phone you every day. I have your t-shirt, so you're with me remember?" I'd packed it for her this morning.
"Ok." I gave her a kiss. "You're going to miss your train."
"Shit. I have to go. I love you." She gave me a last, desperate kiss, stroked my cheek and then climbed on board. I waited, watched until I saw her appear at a window as the train pulled away. She waved, blowing a kiss. I blew one to her and waved until the train had disappeared. My cheeks were wet with tears.
"Ugh, what's gotten in to me?" I sniffed to myself, wiping my cheeks free of the drops. Then I headed out of the station. I'd promised Anna I'd go and see her; we were going to have a chill day with films and snacks to take my mind off Sam going. Megan had said she'd leave us be - she didn't want me feeling like a third wheel. I'd protested but secretly I was glad. I liked her, but I didn't want to be sat with a couple while my girl was heading away for two weeks.
It felt like she was going away forever.