He walked back in the door, this time in a suit and clean shaven. He brought a single gardenia from Mrs. Reynolds' garden with him.
Madeline came out from the hallway in a silky red dress with matching shoes and handbag. She smiled at him and it widened when he gave her the flower, offering his arm.
She took it, inhaling the sweet scent of the gardenia's petals and the wafting smell of aftershave and beer. He opened the door for them and they got into his new car.
"Thank you for the flower, Sam. It's beautiful."
"You're very welcome, Maddie. I do have a sensitive side."
"You must have some side to be able get this car. Mrs. Reynolds bought it for you, didn't she?"
"What do you do to your women?"
He laughed and got a wicked twinkle in his eye. "Wouldn't you like to know?"
They drove off to a cozy restaurant on the waterfront. It wasn't that big, so reservations were required. Luckily, he knew the guy that owned the place and scored a table for two by the window.
The sun was setting behind the ocean, and the candlelit lanterns that hung from the ceiling and sat on the tables seemed to make the place glow. People were slow dancing in the open space in the middle of the floor to old songs by crooners and big bands. Madeline took it all in, cracking a winsome smile at the cheap, Cupid cutouts spinning next to the papier-mâché lighting.
Sam pulled her chair out for her, working the chivalrous charm he had acquired over the years. He sat across from her and tried to keep the laughter inside at the expression of awe on her face.
"Look at that view! I can see myself in the water we're so close!" she exclaimed. "This is incredible! I can't believe you brought me here."
"What can I say? I've got connections, baby. This is the best table in the house."
"It is. You're being so good to me today. No wonder these women buy you things. You're so thoughtful, more than Frank ever was. And romantic! I must say I'm impressed. I haven't seen this side of you."
"I'm just getting warmed up."
"Does that mean I'll be seeing all of you by the end of tonight?"
He chuckled. "You're something else, Maddie."
"I know. You're something else yourself."
They ordered and he saw her staring at the people dancing with a look of longing on her face. It was the same look she gave Michael or Fiona when she wanted to guilt them into something. It always worked. Tonight was no exception.
"Let's dance," he announced, taking her hand and sweeping her across the floor.
Slowly, they started to move about in easy motions. He could dance. She didn't know why that surprised her. He could make things explode, put them pack together, and save a man's life after he'd been shot way more than once. Still, it caught her off guard that he knew just how to move his feet and keep her just close enough with a tender touch.
"Where'd you learn to dance like this?" she finally asked.
"Oh, back in the day I was sort of forced into dance lessons."
"Yeah. How'd you know?"
"You got 'the look' on your face."
"Like you're sad…hurt…missing someone. I get the look when I think about Frank sometimes."
He nodded and gazed out of the window, away from Madeline's prying eyes. She kept them on his features, studying him.
"You loved her," she stated. He turned and looked back at her.
"Yeah, I did."
"Have you ever loved anyone else like you did her?"
There was a pause. He thought about it and drawled carefully, "No. I haven't."
"Not even Veronica or Mrs. Reynolds?"
"I stay away from real feely-type stuff. It's not a good idea in my line of work. I care, but I can't get too close."
She smirked, a bit disappointed. "You sound like my son. Is what you do really that complicated?"
"You purposely don't want to fall in love again? What kind of life is that?"
He breathed cautiously. Her interrogations could produce more information than the KGB could get. "It's easier to avoid getting too involved. Keeps me safe in more ways than one. Romance is something that takes you over and makes you lose all judgment in the field. You need that or you can wind up shot or worse."
"Romance makes you lose your judgment more than all of the beer you guzzle?"
"My liver is used to the abuse."
"But your heart isn't?"
A moment passed where they stopped moving and merely gazed into the other. He cleared his throat and kept moving, deflecting with an attempt to lighten the mood. "I think I just figured out where Mike gets his talents for information collecting. You'd be some spy."
She smiled sadly. "I don't feel like giving up on love just yet."
"Who said I gave up? I just said it's easier if I don't."
"What would you do if you found someone and started to fall in love?" she thought aloud.
"I can't say."
"Would you let yourself love her or would you try not to?"
He felt flustered and uncomfortable under her gaze. One thing he loved about spies was that they didn't pry into your personal matters. Michael never pressed him too hard if he was adamant that he didn't want to talk about it. Fiona would, but she could only stand to hear a little bit before having to give her opinion. Madeline, on the other hand, would push and push and push until there wasn't anything left to push out of him.
"I don't think that will happen," he finally said, smirking confidently.
"You can control who you love or when you love them. It just happens. Or maybe I'm being a silly romantic…"
"Not silly, no. If you think you're gonna find the right guy, then you'll find him."
"But you won't find the right woman?"
"I can't even tell you what I'm going to eat for breakfast tomorrow. I don't like to think on all the big stuff before it happens. You have to be ready for anything, but you can't bank on it. Life's crazy like that."
"I say you'll love again."
"Okay then. I say I won't. Wanna make this interesting?"
"What do you have in mind?"
"I don't fall in love by, let's say, next Valentine's Day, you have to buy me a six pack and take me out to dinner on you."
"Alright, but if you do, you have to take a yoga class with me and replace my blown up figurines."
"It's a deal."
A fast paced song started to play and he pulled her closer. "Now let's mambo, baby."
Silence grew between them and they only danced. First, a mambo followed by a tango. Then, a waltz. Finally, they merely swayed to the classic love songs.
The food arrived at their table and they ate, talking, laughing, and gossiping like they always did. They went outside on the deck for a brief moment so she could get a smoke in. He stood next to her. The smell of her cigarettes had become a familiar scent, one that was almost comforting. He'd worry about secondhand smoke lung cancer later.
"Would you look at that moon," she muttered softly, motioning to the full orb in the darkening sky. "It seems so much brighter here than out my kitchen window."
"You should see it from the middle of the ocean. The sky is covered in a bunch of tiny little dots. They sparkle and twinkle something fierce. You wouldn't know it, but there are stars up there. Can't see it from the city lights, though."
"Really? There are that many stars out there?"
"Wow. I can't even imagine…"
"Yeah. It's incredible. Say…we should go out there sometime."
She smirked, folding her arms over her chest. "Aren't you too busy for that?"
"Na. We could find the time. It'd be a vacation. We'd get a boat and just go. I'd make Mike and Fi come too. They work too hard. Or play too hard. Whatever it is they do…"
"That sounds like fun."
"It does. Just get away from it all."
He noticed that she looked cold, so he draped his jacket over her shoulders. "Mike would kill me if you got sick 'cause of me. We can go back in if you're too cold out here."
"No, I like it. It's nice out."
"That it is."
She pulled his jacket closer around her and they stood in silence, looking up at the sky. It was comfortable silence, one they were happy to stay in for some time. After awhile, they went back inside. They finally left after Sam told the waiter to add their meal to his tab. He drove them home and then insisted on walking her to her door. She gave him the jacket back once they reached the stoop.
"That was lovely, Sam. It really was."
"I'm glad you enjoyed it too. Goodnight, Maddie."
He started to walk away, but her voice stopped him. "Sam."
"Thank you for being my Valentine."
A grin spread across his face and she shut the door. He looked at the house for a moment and sighed, "No. Thank you."
Happy Valentine's Day! This story could possibly continue into a full blown "Mam" (Madeline/Sam) romance. Should it? Ideas for if it does? I love my readers and I love input. I hope your day Valentine's treat you right today! Thanks for reading :-)