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Sam and Casey had been meeting up now and then for a girl’s night together, sometimes dinner, drinks, or whatever caught their attention at the moment. After Jessica had settled in and become part of the group, they had invited her to come along. Jessie liked hanging out with them. It was something she hadn’t really done before, but she was finding that having close friends was something she liked a lot.
It hadn’t taken them long to figure out that Jessica was a little on the conservative side. Not that she was a prude or anything; she just hadn’t had much of a social life. Being a bookworm would do that to a person. Over the course of their last few get-togethers, Jessie had opened up more about her past, growing up as an only child, her struggles to fit in once people realized how different she really was. Sam and Casey had decided it was time for Jessica to have a little more fun, at least do something that wasn’t work-related.
Jessie gathered the notes she had made on her translations, organizing and putting them in the proper folders. Hearing the door open, she turned and saw Sam.
"Hey Jessie, you finishing up here?"
"Yep. Got as far as I’m going to get today on this, so I just need to put things up."
"Good. I’m leaving now. Casey said she’ll be at my place by 6:30, depending on traffic."
Jessie checked her watch. "Okay. I just need to swing by the store and pick up a couple of bottles of wine. You sure y’all don’t need anything else for supper?"
Sam shook her head. "We’re just doing finger foods, light stuff." Then Sam grinned from ear to ear.
"Yeah, and y’all are up to something, I know it," Jessica said, studying Sam.
"See you there," Sam said as she turned quickly and left, making her way down the hall before Jessie had a chance to ask anything else.
"Nuh uh, ain’t happening," Jessie said with a shake of her head.
"C’mon, just try it," Sam said, laughing.
"My body can’t move like that!" Jessie said as she watched Casey, leaning her head to one side as if that would help matters.
The three of them were having a good time. They met up at Sam’s place; Casey brought some of her wonderful hors d’oeuvres, Jessie had the wine, and Sam had picked up a veggie tray with dip. Amid the laughter and indulging in the food and drink, they slowly unwound from a long week of work. Sam waited until they were into the second bottle of wine before bringing up Casey’s newest hobby. With the intention of learning something fun and giving Daniel a surprise, she had taken up belly dancing, which she had mastered in a relatively short amount of time. It was actually American Tribal style, traditional belly dancing intermixed with Latino and modern dance moves. Sam had decided she wanted to learn, too, but wanted to have a partner in crime; hence her extra effort in getting Jessie semi-inebriated before cajoling her to join in the fun.
"It’s really easy once you get the basics down, Jessie," Casey said with a grin.
Sam wasn’t going to be deterred. She went and grabbed Jessie’s hand, pulling her to her feet. Over the next hour, Jessie learned the difference between hip lifts and drops, ribcage circles, different hip rhythms as well as fast and slow dance moves. Despite her original reluctance, she ended up laughing along with her friends, finding that Casey was right; once she got some of the moves down, it became easier to put them together.
"Okay, fine, I’ll admit it’s kind of fun," Jessie said as she caught her breath, plopping down on the sofa.
Sam laughed. "Fun, good exercise…"
"And it’ll definitely get a guy’s attention," Casey added with a grin.
"Well, that’s not something I have to lose sleep over."
"Nobody’s caught your eye, Jess?" Sam asked as she sat down next to her.
"I just don’t have time for a guy."
"That’s bull, and you know it. Casey and Daniel have done just fine, and they have the same kind of workload."
"Yeah, and they work together. They’re also a perfect match. My luck has been crap. The only guys I’ve managed to attract in the past want to ignore the fact that I’ve got anything between my ears, or are so damned intimidated they don’t even try."
Sam nodded. "I hear you there." She took a sip of her drink. "What about Altman?"
Jessica shrugged. "He’s all right. We’ve talked a couple of times. Nothing came of it."
Casey was going through her mental list. "Coburn?"
"Uh-uh. He’s a little too Rambo for my tastes."
Sam and Casey glanced at each other, then Sam said, "What about Cam?"
"Balinsky?" Jessie asked as she raised her glass to her mouth.
Jessica sucked some of the wine down the wrong way and immediately started coughing, grabbing for a napkin. Casey’s raised eyebrow was all Sam needed to know they were on to something.
After making sure she hadn’t spilled anything on her shirt, Jessie turned to find both women staring at her intently. "What?"
"You didn’t answer the question, girlfriend," Sam said.
Jessie opened her mouth, then closed it. "He’s okay".
"You’re blushing, Jessie," Casey said teasingly.
"Cam is kinda cute, you know," Sam said, grinning so much her dimples showed.
"And he’s got a really nice ass," Casey added mischievously.
"Well, he does. Not as nice as Daniel’s, but pretty close."
Sam couldn’t help herself. "There’s that, and he’s got nice, large hands. And you know what they say about guys with large hands."
"Samantha Carter! Have y’all lost your minds? I work with the man, for goodness sake!"
Both Sam and Casey started laughing at the distinct Southern accent that had slipped out. "Hey, Daniel and I work together, no problem there."
"And you’re not military, so you don’t have to worry about the non-frat order."
Jessie played with the stem of her glass. "Well, yeah, that’s all fine and good, but I don’t think he’s interested. He’s nice, has cracked jokes now and then, but there’s been no sign of anything beyond that. Besides, I’m sure he has plenty of women to keep him company, if the rumor mill is right."
Casey shook her head. "Just keep in mind, girlfriend, rumors are just that—rumors. Cam’s been busy with work, and I haven’t heard anything about him dating anyone recently."
Sam and Casey were nice enough to let it drop, but decided amongst themselves later to keep an eye on things and find out first if Cam was seeing anyone, and second, if he was interested in Jessica. And with the evening winding down, they made a promise to get together at least once a week to practice the dancing until Sam and Jessie got up to speed.
A month later, they all met up at the dance studio, The Desert Rose, where Casey had been taking lessons. Her instructor was an older woman, her long silver hair pulled back into a simple ponytail. Laugh lines at the corners of her eyes gave away a sunny disposition. Casey had explained about Sam and Jessica learning from her, but she wanted Colette to give her input.
"Colette, these are the friends I wanted you to meet. Sam, Jessie, this is Colette Ledoux."
Colette smiled warmly during the introductions. "Casey has told me much about you both. I am so happy you decided to stop by."
"Colette has been kind enough to offer some professional advice on our dancing."
Both Sam and Jessie were a bit nervous. They had started out with this just for fun, but after a certain point Casey became insistent that they meet at the studio.
Colette could tell they weren’t really comfortable. Reaching out she took both Sam and Jessie’s hands in her own. "There is no reason to be nervous. We are here to have fun, no? It will be just us in the back studio, and we won’t be disturbed." With that Colette went and locked the front door, flipping the sign to Closed.
Casey led them back, passing a couple of rooms that looked like standard classrooms for dance. The one they entered was a bit different. The walls were lined with darker draped fabric, the lighting not as intense. It definitely had a Moroccan feel to it. Seeing the puzzled looks on their faces, Colette said, "This is what I call the ‘mood’ room. The other rooms are brightly lit, floor to ceiling mirrors on the main wall, for learning the dance steps and being able to see yourself replicate them. This room is used for fine-tuning a routine."
They all had worn comfortable clothes; loose cotton drawstring pants and T-shirts. Colette had them twist and tuck the shirts so their midriffs were bare, and putting on some music she observed while they went through the routine Casey had taught them. As the music faded away, Colette asked, "How long have you two been practicing with Casey?"
Sam and Jessie looked at each other. "Once a week for about a month." Sam said.
"No prior experience?"
They both said "no" in unison.
Colette looked at Casey. "If you ever need a job, I will hire you in an instant. They could easily fit into the intermediate class, if not actually start the advanced level." Turning back to Sam and Jessie, she said, "You’ve got the moves down; now we will polish, make it even better." She gestured to the room. "You remember I called this the mood room? That is what I am talking about when I say ‘polish’. The dance, you have to meld with the music, the sensuality of the rhythm, feel it in your body. When you do, you will convey it in the dance."
Colette pulled out some props and demonstrated how to incorporate them into the dance. Over the next half hour they worked on listening to Colette’s advice and adjusting the routine. Soon she was nodding her head. "Much, much better. Now, we will do it one last time, but before we do I want you to come with me." Going one room over, Colette turned on the light and went over to a large armoire. Looking at Jessica with a critical eye, she then proceeded to go through the armoire until she found what she was looking for. Assessing Sam the same way, she dug a little deeper, then pulled something from the back. Turning, she handed Sam and Jessie some folded garments. "Those are the dressing rooms. Change your clothes and then join us."
Sam and Jessie looked at the items in their hands as Colette and Casey left the room. "Well, this ought to be interesting," Sam said with a grin as they went to change.
It wasn’t too long before they were back. Colette smiled approvingly at the results. Sam was wearing a lined bra top in a pale pink lace with satin straps, the silk skirt a blush pink, and cut asymmetrically to show the legs better. It showcased her curves beautifully, yet maintained a bit of modesty.
"Colette, I don’t think this is the right size," Jessica said, trying to adjust the top of her outfit. Her skirt was a burnt orange silk, which rode low on her hips, cascading to midcalf. The top was silk, a mixture of cream and gold, with a tropical leaf pattern in black. A strand of black ribbon ran beneath the cups, and a thin band of fabric accented with beads connected the top part of the cups, effectively lifting her breasts up and pulling them closer together. The cups did not cover the entire breast, though; except for the ribbons, the middle of her chest was bare, the swell of her breasts accentuated by the pull of the top.
Colette laughed. "No Jessie, that is the way it is supposed to be. It is snug enough to keep the breasts contained during a dance."
"Looks more like making mountains out of mole hills to me," Jessie muttered to herself, to everyone’s amusement.
"The outfits are perfect. The pinks bring out Sam’s blond hair and play up her blue eyes. The more tropical colors of Jessie’s accent her darker hair and green eyes. Now, let’s go through the routine one more time."
Jessie was surprised to find that it was easier to get into the music dressed as she was now. It just felt right. Once she was sure the top was going to stay in place, she became more relaxed and the dance moves flowed much smoother than before. As the music ended, the smile on Colette’s face was all they needed to see to know they had gotten it right.
"Yes! Do you understand now what I mean about becoming one with the music? It makes all the difference between a mediocre performance and one full of sensual expression."
With matching grins, Sam and Jessica went to change their clothes, then found Colette and Casey at the front of the studio.
"I am so happy you both stopped by, and I hope you will consider coming here in the future for more lessons. It always helps in teaching others when one has excellent pupils like Casey and yourselves as examples."
Casey leaned over and hugged Colette. "Thanks for everything, Colette."
"We appreciate you taking the time to help us," Jessie said as she tried to give the costume back.
"No, no," Colette said, shaking her head. "Those are for you and Sam to keep."
Sam looked at Jessie. "Well, at least let us pay you for them."
She smiled. "No. Those are perfect for you both. I have had them for months, and they were never right for anyone. They would have just continued to sit on the shelf, gathering dust. Consider them as my gift to you. And I do sincerely hope to see you both here again."
After thanking Colette once again, the three of them made their way to the parking lot where they chatted for a minute before heading home. None of them saw the 1965 black Mustang fastback that pulled out of the adjacent parking lot after they left, heading back towards Cheyenne Mountain.
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