I had a hard time concentrating for the rest of the afternoon. My mind kept going back to my conversation with Preston Miller and his decision to move me up in the lobbying chain. Part of me was excited about the opportunity. It meant that hard work was paying off and I was getting attention for my efforts and being given an opportunity to advance. But it was also a letdown. I didn’t want to be a successful lobbyist, I wanted to be a successful litigator. I could quit, move to another city and start over but it wouldn’t be the same. There was prestige working for this firm and I enjoyed the pace of living in DC. Leaving Rothschild and Miller to move to a smaller firm somewhere else to start over was just not appealing. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place.
I had to sit through several meetings regarding the legislation and the target list. There would be other lobbyists attending the event tonight; however, I was the lead on this legislation so I was running point. I would be responsible for securing the new votes while several of the other lobbyists in attendance would make sure the votes we had were still locked down. Feeling as if I had accomplished all I could, I left the office to go home and get ready for the evening.
One of the advantages to having Joanie as a roommate was that she could sympathize when I had a rough day. She knew when to leave well enough alone or when to let me vent about what I was dealing with. The bonus to having her as a roommate was being friends with her sister. Joanie’s sister, Cora, was the fashion director at an upscale boutique in Georgetown. One of those boutiques that get designer gowns and sells them at ridiculous prices. The kind of stores where the wives and mistresses of those on Capitol Hill would shop.
When the store has dresses that didn’t sell, they mark them on clearance and Cora snags the best ones for Joanie and me. We don’t care that they might end up being ‘last year’s’ style. We just love that we get them for 80% off the rack rate. I’ve rented gowns off the internet as well if I have enough notice on an event. I really have no shame. Looking the part is expensive and I just don’t want to spend a ton of money to look like I spent a ton of money.
If I’m going to spend a ton of money, I’ll do that on shoes. Those I wear every day. I’ll even spend good money on fancy suits since In need to dress to impress. But spending a ton of money to have a closet full of evening dresses. Nah, I’ll buy them cheap or I’ll rent. I am careful not to wear the same dress to any events. There are always photographers at these things and heaven forbid you ever show up wearing the same thing twice.
I am excited to wear tonight’s dress. I’ve been holding onto this one for a while, just waiting for the perfect night. It’s a blush Badgley Mischka dress with a boat neckline and a dramatic low draped back. I got this dress from Cora for a little bit of nothing. I was lucky that it was an odd size that didn’t sell, but it fit me perfectly. It hugs my curves and the embellishments at the hips are subtle and not in the least bit flashy. Everything about this dress screams classy. That was my plan for tonight. I am not using my body to get votes, I am using my brain and the specifics of this legislation. I just have to hope that the silver strappy heels I am wearing don’t have me twisting my ankle and falling into the arms of a Senator.
I go with a light dusting of makeup to give me a natural look. I hate the whole made up look and it never goes well for me, anyway. I had an idea of how I wanted my hair to look but couldn’t make it happen. So, Joanie has agreed to help me style it. We have gone for a partial updo with cascading curls.
I grab my clutch and give a final spin for Joanie to check my look. “You look dazzling,” she said with a bright smile, “Knock ‘em dead.”
I head out the door and to the waiting limo that the sponsor has sent for me. I’m running a little behind but there is nothing wrong with arriving fashionably late.
~ * ~
I had nothing to worry about regarding the time, the chauffeur knew a few shortcuts and had me at the hotel with time to spare. I started to second guess my decision to come to this event alone. I figured it would be easier to work if I didn’t have to worry about a date. However, truth be told, I hated walking into an event alone. I felt as if all eyes were on me and they were judging me for my decision to be solo.
Tonight’s event was in the grand ballroom of one of the glitzier hotels in DC. As I walked in I noticed the low lighting and the soft music. There was a string quartet sitting in the far corner of the stage. There were at least a hundred tables set up with ten or twelve seats at each one. Fresh flower centerpieces stood tall on every table. The decorations were understated but elegant and the room could almost have been mistaken for a wedding reception.
What gave it away that it was a normal DC event instead of a wedding were the paid escorts, they stood out so easily. So many of the men in DC thought they were sneaky by hiring escorts. They figured no one would be the wiser, but in reality, it was well known. Most politicians, lawyers, and businessmen didn’t want to bring their wives to these events, so they hired someone to be their date. They were hired to keep their mouth shut and to look pretty. It was disgusting. But don’t get me wrong, if there were some good looking male escorts, I’d be partaking in it to keep myself from showing up alone.
I started to mingle with the crowd as I moved toward my assigned table for the evening. I was not given a table near the front, but I wasn’t relegated to the rear of the ballroom, either. Instead, I was put at a table that would put me right in the middle of the action. I would assume that my position with Rothschild and Miller had something to do with this spot. Maybe there were some advantages to my role after all.
I let out a sigh of relief when I noticed the place cards for those I would be sharing the table with. I would be seated with several Senators and Congressmen that I was familiar with and had a good rapport with. In fact, two of them were on my target list. Now I was starting to wonder if Joanie had a hand in my seating arrangement. I was not complaining.
My seat was on the outside of the table, close to the walkway and what would be dance floor later in the evening. I would usually complain about a spot like this. It’s vulnerable and my back is to the action. However, I knew that once dinner was over, I would be standing and mingling and my spot would be prime. I sat my clutch down on the table, it wasn’t holding anything valuable. I had my purse stolen in college so I had learned the fine art of concealment. My ID, bank card, health insurance card, and apartment key were tucked into a small pouch that I kept in my bra. If there were ever a chance of getting lucky, I’d slip into the powder room to freshen up and slip the pouch into my clutch. Viola! Embarrassment averted.
My cell phone did not stay in my clutch. I kept it in my hand at all times. It was the nature of the job to be wired for calls at all times, no matter what. I turned to head toward the bar at the back of the room and ran into a solid mass. I stepped backward, letting out an “ugh” from the hit. But when I looked up to see who I hit so I could apologize, I drew in a sharp breath.
Before I could say a word, he was barking at me. “Do you think you could watch where you’re going?” His tone was sharp and there was no regard as to whether I was hurt or not.
I didn’t move, at least not for a minute while I tried to compose myself. Then I quickly scanned over him to see if he had been holding a drink that might have spilled. Dear God, he looked amazing. Damn, I needed to quit thinking like that! When I realized he was not holding a drink and seemed to be dry, I barked back at him. “Actually, I believe that you need to watch where you’re going. You walked into my personal space so you’re the one who would owe me an apology.”
He just stared at me before letting out a grunt in disgust. There was a muffled laugh behind him, “I think she’s got you there, Chris.” He turned and shifted his stormy glare at the offender and the laughter immediately stopped. “Or, maybe not,” the man replied.
He glared back at me, no apology provided, but no witty retort, either. He began to walk off and the man who had been standing behind him nodded his head and smiled. When they were clear of me, I realized I was shaking profusely. The man is so damn intense. His blue eyes were clouded over and stormy, getting me worked up in more ways than one. Simultaneously I wanted to slap him for being rude and kiss that scowl off of his lips. I had seen him dressed up before, but tonight he looked different. He had never made me have feelings like this before. Damn him!
I looked down at my phone and quickly type a message to Joanie. I figured if I started to chat with her it would allow me to refocus.
“Lord Evans just ran into me, literally. Told me I should watch where I’m going.”
It took less than a minute for Joanie to respond. That didn’t surprise me in the least, she loves these events because she knows they stress me out and I will text her throughout the night.
“Lord Evans? Did he say, Greer, I am your daddy!”
“Oh shit, stop it. I don’t have a daddy kink and that’s just wrong! I’m thinking Voldemort not Vader!”
I could almost hear Joanie laughing across town. Suddenly my desire for a drink had lost its appeal. Oh, I needed alcohol but I needed to get drunk and since I had to work, it wasn’t an option. No, drinking away the Evans encounter would have to wait until later. Besides, the night was only just starting and I was sure he would find some way to piss me off again before the night was over. I elected to sit back down and take in the crowd, people watch and get an idea of who was here and plot my strategy for the night. I knew that my best approach would be to mingle after dinner when everyone had a few drinks in them and a full stomach. They would be open to listening and striking a deal because they weren’t watching for the food to be served. I also knew that several Senators could be swayed to dance and I could hold them captive for conversation for a few minutes.
I scanned the room and found that Senator Evans had moved to the bar at the far end of the room. I quickly averted my eyes so that I didn’t make eye contact. I just needed to make sure I kept out of his line of sight all evening. I could do this. As I moved to scan the other side of the room, I noticed one of the Senators who was assigned to my table heading in my direction.
“Well, Ms. Greer Hamilton, I am so happy to see that they’ve placed you at our table this evening,” the boisterous voice of Senator Boyd Johnson from Texas rang out. I moved close to greet him and he encased me in a bear hug. I’ve worked with Senator Johnson on several bills and we get along wonderfully. He isn’t on my target list for tonight, though. He is already firmly ensconced in my corner.
“Senator, I’m so happy to see you this evening,” I turned to face his wife and gave her a hug as well, “Eleanor, it is so nice to see you. Tell me, did you two have anything to do with me being placed at your table?”
“Ha, I wish I could take credit for that. I’d like to find out who’s responsible and thank ‘em properly.” Senator Johnson scanned the room, “Quite the crowd here tonight. Tell me, Greer, how many votes are you needing?”
“Technically, four but I’m shooting for six to be safe. There’ve been some changes to the bill and I’m worried votes might have flipped. Have you heard anything?”
“No, but we can start poking around. I guess you have a hit list for tonight? Who are you focusing on?”
I had to smile, Boyd knew me well enough to know how the game was played. “I have ten names on my list. Let’s see, Meyers, Tennyson, Pearson, Pendleton, Stewart, Bryson, Conners, Kelly, Henke, and of course, Evans.”
Boyd could not hold back his laughter, “Well you have Stewart and Henke with us at the table so that should be easy enough. We can get them on our side, they just like to play hard to get. You can probably get Conners and Pearson because they were on the fence the last I heard. Are you going to even attempt Evans?”
I gave Boyd the evil eye, “Are you serious? The man ran into me earlier and gave me a death glare. I’m surprised I didn’t spontaneously combust.”
Eleanor glanced back and forth between her husband and me, “Are you two talking about Chris?” Boyd and I both nodded in response to her question. “He’s a nice man, Greer, what don’t you like about him?”
“It’s what doesn’t he like about me? I’ve tried to speak with him several times, Eleanor, and each time he brushes me off and acts like I am beneath him. I think he’s arrogant.”
Before I could say anything further, the rest of our table began arriving and I needed to calm my blunt speak. While I was comfortable speaking that way in front of Senator Johnson and his wife, I didn’t have that comfort level with the other Senators. And it would have been highly inappropriate to talk about another Congressional member so freely. Especially if my words were less than glowing.
As we sat down to dinner, our conversation was light and we stayed away from any powder keg issues. Instead, we talked about non-controversial subjects such as books, movies, and music. While we all had differing opinions, we didn’t end up in any shouting matches and we knew it wouldn’t hurt any of the political conversations we would need to delve into later. If anything it helped to forge better relationships with Senators Stewart and Henke which would benefit me in future negotiations.
By the time the mingling and dancing started, Stewart and Henke were firmly planted on my side of the fence. Senator Stewart also let me know that he was friends with Senator Tennyson and he would be happy to go and talk to him and grease the skids for me. All I would need to do would be to sweep in and charm him before the end of the night and he felt I would have that vote as well. If that were true, I had three votes.
I stood, thanking everyone for their scintillating conversation and prepared to go and mingle. Eleanor walked up to me and whispered in my ear, “You look beautiful so you should take advantage and at least approach Chris. He’s not as bad as you make him out to be, Greer. Give the man the benefit of the doubt and realize he’s under pressure.”
I smiled at Eleanor and thanked her for her encouragement. Then I promptly walked in the opposite direction of where Senator Evans stood. I was going to do my best to stay away from him. I had successfully mingled throughout the room, not just going after those Senators on my target list, but reaching out to the votes I already had to make sure everything was still good. I danced with several Senators and Congressmen and found that I was actually enjoying myself. In fact, I had not taken to texting Joanie, for which I would hear about when I got home.
By my count, I had secured my four votes and had actually received what appeared to be six. However, I was getting ready to leave when Stewart motioned for me to join him and Senator Tennyson. As promised, Stewart had already started talking to Tennyson and I was wrapping up the deal when low and behold, my nemesis approached.
Evans extended his hand to Frank Stewart, completely ignoring the fact that I was having a conversation with Senator Tennyson. “How are you, Frank? I’ve been trying to find an opportunity to speak with you all evening.”
Frank smiled and tried to step to the side to allow me some time with Tennyson. The problem was just as he did that, Evans hijacked that conversation as well. “Hey Grant, good to see you. I actually need to speak to you as well. We have this new security bill coming up that will be going through the Intelligence Committee, I wanted to see what your thoughts were on it.”
Grant and Frank both looked back over at me as they realized Evans had complete disregard for my presence. I touched Grant on the shoulder and told him I would reach out to him later. I mouthed a goodbye to Frank and backed away from the conversation without acknowledging Senator Evans.
~ * ~
I let myself into the apartment, it was almost midnight by the time I got home, and I was exhausted. Although I was also furious which would keep me from being able to sleep. I tried to open the door quietly, but it didn’t matter, Joanie was sitting on the couch, wrapped in a blanket and watching TV.
“I’m highly disappointed, Hamilton. Where were all the live texts giving me the blow by blow of this shitty party?”
I threw myself on the couch next to her and grabbed the nearest pillow, clutching it to my chest. “I actually had a fairly decent time.” I know that my voice didn’t sound convincing and she would call me on it.
It didn’t take long before she did. “Let me guess, you had another run-in with Senator Palpatine?”
I couldn’t contain my laughter, “We’ve moved on from daddy kink to overlord?”
“I think it fits, right?”
“Well, he isn’t old and wrinkly, but yeah, it fits,” I turned to look at Joanie, never letting go of the pillow, “I was talking to two Senators and he just walked right up and interrupted. He spoke to Stewart and Tennyson as if I wasn’t even standing there. I’m telling you, Joanie, he hates me for some reason and I’ve yet to figure out what it is. Have I ruined his agenda or some shit?”
“Maybe he’s hot for you and you get him all worked up,” Joanie said with a maniacal laugh.
“Yeah, right, I’m sure that’s what it is,” I couldn’t contain the sarcasm in my voice.
“Um, Greer, you’re clutching that pillow a little tight. Is that so I can’t see your nipples poking through your dress because you’re hot and bothered talking about Evans?”
I tossed the pillow at Joanie’s head and stormed into my bedroom, slamming the door behind me.