Foyle opened the door and saw the man with the gun on the other side. Instantly he slammed the door shut again, and turned back to Sam.
"Plan B," he told her hurriedly. He was grateful that she was a smart young woman who could grasp things quickly because she didn't stop to ask questions, she simply turned on her heels and hurried back the way they'd come.
Foyle heard the door open behind them, then felt the stairs under his feet vibrate as the first shot slammed into the wood. Silencer, then, he thought as they rushed back up the stairs and into the hotel. Not really surprising in the circumstances.
The second shot smashed into the light, and Foyle couldn't help feeling a modicum of relief that the gunman seemed to be a poor shot. He put his hand to the small of Sam's back to encourage her to keep going as they entered the hotel proper.
Unfortunately, the third shot wasn't so wild and Foyle grunted as something, a bullet he realised, stung his left arm just below his shoulder.
"Christopher!" cried Sam, horror on her face.
"Keep going," he ordered her, as he clutched at his arm and saw his hand come away bloody. "Damn!" He gritted his teeth against the pain, ignoring the shocked cries from the other guests, and the landlady's dismayed shout, and hustled Sam back into the street.
"Not the car," he told her as she automatically headed towards it. There wasn't time to get in, get it started and make a good getaway. They'd have to remain on foot and hope to lose their pursuer.
"Christopher, you're bleeding," protested Sam.
"Just a graze," he told her, and he'd certainly had worse, particularly during the first War, but he could see she was uncertain.
"Samantha, we have to keep moving," he said, desperately.
He wasn't sure if it was his use of her full name, or just her common sense reasserting itself but she gave a nod, and they pelted down the street away from his car, then ran around the corner. Foyle snatched his hat from his head, not wanting to lose it and leave a clue as to their direction behind.
The two of them made their way to one of the old bomb shelters, and hurried down into the darkness, pausing at the bottom of the stairs, both to catch their breath and to listen for sounds of pursuit.
Foyle heard the door above them opening and he reached out to clasp Sam's hand, gently pulling her closer. They squeezed into a niche in the brickwork, and he felt her press her body against his own. He swallowed, hoping his thumping heart wasn't going to give them away since it seemed so loud in his ears. He wrapped his uninjured arm around Sam, holding her tightly and prayed for a miracle.
Footsteps approached their hiding place and Foyle realised he could feel Sam's heart beating against his chest. He rested his chin on the top of her head and closed his eyes, thinking that if he did have to die, he'd rather not have got Sam killed as well.
Then, to his surprise, he heard another pair of footsteps, much softer than the first, then a quiet noise, as of a gun with a silencer being fired. There was a thump, then a man fell to the ground a few feet from where he and Sam were clinging together in the dark. He heard her gasp in surprise and he tightened his arm around her for a moment, then let go.
"I think it's okay," he said softly, his lips brushing against her silky hair as he spoke in her ear.
After a moment she eased away from him, turning towards the man who lay dead. "He's dead, isn't he?" she asked, sounding shaky but not hysterical.
"Yes he is," Foyle answered. He moved around her and looked back towards the door; he wasn't sure, but he thought a hand was raised in salute to a hat, and he lifted his own hat in acknowledgement.
He turned back to Sam and found her tearing a strip from the bottom of her slip. "What - ?" he began, surprised.
"We need to bind your arm," she said, her firm tone making it clear she wouldn't brook an argument.
"Very well." He let her help him out of his jacket and waistcoat, then sat patiently as she knelt beside him and her quick, deft hands secured the strip of material around his upper arm, over the top of his shirt.
"That should hold until we get you to the hospital," she told him.
He opened his mouth to protest, but she forestalled him. "Please Christopher," she said, and since he could hear fear in her voice, he agreed, albeit reluctantly.
She helped him to put his waistcoat and jacket back on, then placed his hat on his head. "Thank you," he said sincerely. Before he could get to his feet, she wrapped her arms around him. Startled, he put his good arm around her. "You all right?" he asked worriedly.
"Yes. I'm sorry, it's just – " She broke off and he heard her swallow a sob.
"It's all right," he assured her. "Post-combat adrenaline fatigue can leave you feeling very flattened." He shifted into a slightly more comfortable position on the old bench where he'd seated himself while Sam had carried out her first aid, then cuddled her closer. He sought for something to distract her until she stopped shaking.
"You called me Christopher," he observed.
"I – Sorry," she said.
"No need to apologise," he said. "It's not often anyone calls me that these days. It's usually 'Foyle' or 'sir'." He rubbed her shoulder with the tips of his fingers, trying to soothe her tremors. "I like it, though."
"Good." He felt her shift against him slightly. "You called me Samantha," she said.
"I did," he agreed. "I like your full name."
"I like yours too," she told him.
He felt her lift her head from his shoulder and was about to ask her if she was feeling any better when she leaned forward and kissed him softly on the lips.
"Oh!" he breathed, surprised. He felt as if someone had lit a fire inside his body as she deepened the kiss, and he didn't hesitate to kiss her back.
She shifted to sit on his lap and he felt a surge of arousal. "Sam," he began, feeling a bit embarrassed.
"Shh, Christopher," she said softly. "We just had a very close encounter with death, so let's remind ourselves of what it means to be alive."
He didn't argue, he just tightened his arm around her and accepted her heartfelt kisses.
* * * * * *
They emerged from the old bomb shelter about ten minutes later, both a little dishevelled, although they'd done no more than kiss and cuddle.
"I'd better get you to the hospital," Sam said as they made their way back to the street where Foyle had left the car.
He noticed that she sounded subdued, and he wondered if she was regretting her forward behaviour. He stopped beside the passenger door and began fishing for his keys. "And then we're going to have some tea and talk," he told her, passing the keys to her.
She nodded, then accepted the keys and opened the driver's door. They got into the car and Sam pulled away, preparing to take him to the nearest hospital. Foyle watched her from the corner of his eye as she drove, and noted that she barely looked at him. He was sure then that she was, at the very least, embarrassed by the fact that she'd kissed him first instead of waiting for him to make the first move, and he knew he'd have to reassure her. First, though, he needed to get his arm seen to because it was beginning to feel very painful now.
* * * * * *
When the doctor let him go, Foyle stepped back out into the waiting area and spotted Sam straight away. She was seated in a chair, her left arm propped against the wall, and her head leaning on her arm. He crossed the room to her and took her hand in his free one.
She jerked out of her doze and gazed up at him, creases from her sleeve marking her cheek.
"Oh sir, I am sorry, I didn't mean to go to sleep."
He frowned, wondering why she'd reverted to calling him 'sir'. "It's all right, Sam. And you don't have to call me 'sir', not any more."
She ducked her head but he could see a blush colouring her cheeks. "Sorry Mr Foyle." She got to her feet, then seemed to take in for the first time, the fact that his arm was in a sling. Her eyes widened, so he hastened to reassure her.
"It's all right, Sam. It's just a precaution, to remind me to be careful of my arm for the next few days. The bullet's out, and they cleaned and stitched the wound."
"Oh. Good. I'm glad. So it's not too serious then?"
He shook his head. "I had far worse when I was in the first War."
She nodded. "Where to now, sir – I mean, Mr Foyle."
"Tea at the Ritz," he said firmly.
"But – " she began, looking shocked at this profligacy.
"My treat," he told her. He placed his hand in the small of her back and guided her through the waiting room, then out to the street.
She drove them to the Ritz, and they were admitted to the tea room, then shown to a table in a quiet corner. Sam glanced around herself several times as they waited to be served.
"I've never been in here before," she whispered.
He smiled. "So I surmised."
She blushed and dropped her eyes to stare at her hands, which were knotted in her lap. The waiter came and Foyle sat patiently as the man unloaded their tea things, a plate of sandwiches and another of cakes.
"Tuck in," Foyle said after the waited had left and Sam sat gazing at the loaded table with an air of disbelief.
"Shall I pour?" she asked, glancing across at his arm in the sling.
Once the teacups and saucers were distributed, and Sam had helped herself to some of the cucumber sandwiches, Foyle felt safe to broach the subject that he suspected was troubling his young friend rather more than it was troubling him.
"Samantha." He waited for her to look up and smiled at her. "You did nothing wrong this morning." She blushed, and looked back down at her plate, so he leaned across and put his fingertips under her chin, lifting her head gently. "I mean it," he said softly. "If I'd had any objections to anything you did, don't you think I would have told you? When I have I ever hesitated to make it clear to you that I felt you'd overstepped your bounds?"
"Never," she said softly.
"Then you should feel no shame, regret, or embarrassment for kissing me." He shifted his hand to cup her cheek and leaned closer to speak into her ear. "I enjoyed it very much, and would like to do it again – quite soon in fact."
He heard her choke back a laugh and rubbed his thumb across her cheekbone, then leaned back into his seat again.
She looked up, her eyes full of mirth. "Yes, thank you Christopher."
"That's quite all right, Samantha. Now drink your tea."
She gave him a mock salute, then picked up her cup and saucer, and he grinned at her, suddenly feeling twenty years younger, despite getting shot.
* * * * * *
After tea, they went back to the hotel to collect Sam's case. The landlady accosted Foyle with complaints about the shooting, but he referred her to the War Office, and she fell silent in surprise.
Sam then drove them back and forth across London so that Foyle could deal with various matters, including seeing Brigadier Wilson. He insisted that she remain in the car and for once she didn't voice any protests; he rather suspected that their experience of the morning had shaken her more than she'd admitted.
Finally, Foyle told Sam they could head back to Hastings. "Are you willing to drive me over to Brighton tomorrow?" he asked, as she pulled back out into the traffic.
"Of course sir," she said brightly, then winced. "Sorry. Yes I can, Mr Foyle."
He looked over at her. "What happened to Christopher?"
She blushed very prettily and gave him a sideways glance. "I – I wasn't sure if that was appropriate."
"Well Samantha, you kissed me, and I kissed you, so Christopher seems far more appropriate than 'Mr Foyle'." She glanced at him again and he could see questions in her eyes. "Sam, I meant it when I said I wanted to kiss you again, so unless you've any objections to a personal relationship with me, Christopher is quite all right with me."
"I don't have any objections," she said quietly. "I – Uh. I should probably tell you that I've been harbouring feelings towards you for some time." She kept her eyes firmly on the road, but he could see she was biting her bottom lip.
"I know." She shot him a startled glance and he chuckled. "Did you think I hadn't noticed?" he asked.
"Well, yes," she answered, her tone plaintive.
"Samantha, you forget, I'm a detective. I'm trained to notice and observe."
"You never said anything," she said, a little heatedly.
"No, of course not," he said quietly. "You were in my employ, and I was responsible for your welfare as your superior. If I'd said or done anything, acted on your feelings and mine, in some way, it would have been improper and inappropriate. You'd have lost your job, and I'd have lost my career."
"But you didn't say anything when I told you I was leaving Hastings," she said.
"No, I didn't," he agreed. "But you didn't say anything before you left." He shifted around in his seat so that he could look at her more easily. "I was very aware of the age difference between us, and I decided that it was down to you to say or do something because I didn't want you to feel coerced. When you didn't, and you told me that you were leaving Hastings, I decided that I didn't have the right to speak up. For all I knew, you'd changed your mind."
"I didn't," she said quietly. "I don't think I ever could change my mind, or change how I feel about you." She looked over at him. "I think I've been in love with you almost from the first time we met."
"But you stepped out with other men," he observed, neutrally. He was fairly sure he knew why she had, but he wanted her to confirm it.
"I did step out with other men, yes. I thought, at first, that my feelings for you were just a silly crush, like the time I fell madly in love with my mathematics teacher at school, when I was fifteen." She bit her lip again and he could see that she was rather embarrassed by this admission.
He reached over and touched her on the arm. "Go on."
"But all the time I was seeing Tony, and Andrew, and Joe, I couldn't stop thinking about you. And when – when they kissed me, I used to imagine it was you."
He winced slightly at this, hoping that his son Andrew, at least, had had no inkling of the direction of Sam's thoughts.
"And although I soon realised it wasn't just a crush, I also knew it was impossible, because you were my superior, and it would be totally inappropriate for you to get involved with me."
"I'm not your superior now, though," Foyle observed.
She flashed him another sidelong glance. "No you're not." She licked her lips. "I'm glad you're not. And while I'm not glad that you got shot, I am glad we got the chance to talk about this."
"So am I," he assured her.
They drove the rest of the way in silence, Sam concentrating on the journey as it grew darker, and Foyle dozing.
* * * * * *
"We're here Christopher."
Foyle woke at Sam's words, then groaned slightly as he realised he'd become stiff sitting in such an awkward position.
He felt Sam's hands on his wrists and opened his eyes to see she was looking at him in concern.
"It's all right, Sam," he said. "Let me just see if I can work the kinks out of my muscles."
She bit her lip, then nodded, her eyes fixed on his as he wriggled around in his seat, until he was facing forwards again.
"You'd better stay with me, tonight," he observed. "I don't want you driving back over to Sir Leonard's tonight."
She seemed to shudder. "Thank you. I admit, I'd rather not stay there on my own, not now." She got out of the car, then moved around the front to open his door and help him out onto the pavement. "Got your keys?" she asked.
"Yes. Give me your case while you go and park."
She nodded, then reached into the back seat and took out both their cases. She carried them up the steps to his front door and set them down as he unlocked it.
"I'll be five minutes," she said.
"I'll put the kettle on."
She grinned, then hurried down the steps as he picked up their cases one at a time and carried them inside the house.
* * * * * *
True to her word, Sam was back in five minutes, and Foyle let her into the house, before turning back towards the kitchen. "Come through, the kettle's about to boil."
He heard her close the front door as he moved into the kitchen and across to the counter where the teapot stood waiting for the hot water.
He warmed the pot, then made the tea and carried it over to the tray that waited on the table with cups, saucers, teaspoons, the milk jug and a sugar basin.
"You'd better let me carry that," Sam observed, smirking at him.
"Well I did consider carrying it myself," he retorted dryly, eliciting a giggle.
She scooped up the tray and headed to the sitting room, and Foyle followed, thinking how nice it was to have her back in the house again.
They settled themselves on the sofa together, the tea tray on the low table in front of them. Foyle couldn't resist sliding his right arm around Sam's shoulders and regretted the fact that he didn't have both arms free at present.
"This is nice," she said, snuggling into his side.
She looked up at him. "Don't you think it's nice, Christopher?"
She sounded anxious, so he smiled reassuringly, then ducked his head to kiss her firmly. "This is nicer," he said.
She laughed, then kissed him back, rather more intensely. The steeping tea was soon forgotten as they indulged themselves in lengthier and lengthier kisses until they were both breathless. Foyle pulled back, then rested his forehead against Sam's.
"Yes, Christopher?" She sounded content, he noticed, and was reminded of a cat he'd once owned: yes, Sam was practically purring with pleasure.
"Will you marry me?"
She sat up straighter and looked at him. "You really mean that," she said, her tone wondering.
"Of course I mean it," he said. "I don't go around asking women to marry me willy-nilly!"
She giggled, stuffing her fist into her mouth in an attempt to control her laughter. Foyle raised an eyebrow, wondering what was so funny.
"Sorry, sorry," she gasped, once she could speak again. "I just had this image pop into my mind of you going around asking random women to marry you."
He huffed and she said contritely, "Sorry. I didn't think that you did go around asking women to marry you willy-nilly, but – " She rubbed a hand over her mouth. "I wasn't quite expecting you to ask me," she explained.
"Why not?" he asked. "You surely didn't think I was going to have an affair with you?"
"No. You're not Andrew." She put her hand on his knee. "This is all rather sudden, that's all."
He looked at her, biting the inside of his cheek as he thought. "If you don't want to get married yet, that's all right," he told her. "If you prefer, we can wait until I get back from America."
"No, I don't want to wait that long. I've waited five years, already." She shrugged. "I'm being silly."
"No you're not," he assured her. "I do understand that it seems rather sudden, but we have known each other for five years, and we've no real reason to wait any longer. I would much rather you came with me to America as my wife than as my driver."
"Very well then, Mr Foyle, I would be delighted to marry you."
"Thank you Miss Stewart." He leaned in to kiss her again. "When?"
Sam laughed. "As soon as it can be arranged," she answered.
"I'd like your uncle Aubrey to do it, if he's not too busy," Foyle told her. "And that way, your father can still give you away."
"I think they'd both like that," she said, looking pleased by the suggestion.
"Good. I suggest we go and see them both at the weekend, then." She nodded. "In the meantime, what about some dinner? We could go and eat at – "
She interrupted. "I'd rather eat in, if you don't mind, Christopher. I'm happy to cook."
"If you're sure?"
Sam smiled. "I want you all to myself tonight." She gave him a demure look as she said this, but he wasn't fooled for a second.
"Minx." She laughed delightedly, and he laughed with her.
There was no doubt about it, Samantha Stewart was going to keep him on his toes, but he didn't care. She made him feel so much younger: during the war, he'd felt like a really old man a lot of the time, but he was sure that Sam's sunny disposition and youthful eagerness would counter-balance those feelings.
"Come on, then, Samantha, let's see what's in the pantry."
He stood up and held out his hand, and she took it eagerly, then stepped closer to wrap her arms around his neck.
"Thank you, Christopher." She kissed him and as he responded in kind, he hoped that Sam's uncle Aubrey would be able to marry them soon.