The Perfect Candidate – Chapter 12

Greer Hamilton

I had the weirdest vibes meeting Lance Bishop and Tucker Nash.  I couldn’t tell if they were genuine or if they were laying on the pleasantries a little thick.  But I’ll admit that after a few minutes with them it all seemed genuine.  Maybe I was just on high alert because I was beginning to second guess my decision to attend this meeting.  I think I was transferring the FUD factor for the Senator over to Lance and Tucker and judged them a little prematurely.  As we reached the top step, the front door opened and the familiar face of Patrick O’Neill was there to greet us.  

I’d had several conversations with Patrick in my attempts to meet with the Senator, in the past.  He’d always been cordial and polite. I’d never had the confrontations with him that I’d had with his boss.  Sometimes, it’s hard to believe they can be best friends when they’re polar opposites regarding personality.  

Patrick stood to the side, opening the door wider and welcoming us all into the house.  I made sure I was the last one to enter.  Patrick took that as the perfect opportunity to lean in and whisper into my ear, “I’m glad you joined us today, Greer.  I’ll warn you, though,  Chris is really dead set against this idea of an arranged relationship.”

I forced a smile back at Patrick.  “Good, that makes two of us.”

Patrick stepped away from me and directed everyone into the living room.  I couldn’t help but look around and noticed that, while the house was tastefully decorated the home was, it seemed to be void of life.  There were no vibrant colors.  No family photos.  No personal effects or accolades on the walls.  Hell, the Senator didn’t even have a dog or a cat.  For the briefest of moments, I felt sorry for him.  

As if on cue, Senator Evans walked in from the adjacent dining room to greet us. He was wearing black dress pants and a crisp white button down shirt that was rolled up at the sleeves to show off his forearms.  His shirt was unbuttoned at the collar and he was not wearing a tie.  This was the most ‘casually dressed’ I had ever seen him, and I had to admit he looked stunning.  It took a minute for me to remember to breathe.

“Good morning.  I’ve made coffee if anyone would like some.”  the Senator announced, immediately commanding the space as he entered the room.  

Patrick made a move toward the dining room. “I’ll get it and bring it in here.  Why don’t you all get situated and I’ll be right back.”

I was nervous and tried to stay back and blend into the scenery.  As everyone started to take seats, I moved to the far end of the couch.  As luck would have it, I sat at the opposite end of the room from where Senator Evans was seated.  

Patrick had just come back into the room as the Senator started to speak.  “First, let me apologize for my abrupt departure last evening.  The discussion of my marital status and the suggestion of an arranged relationship took me by surprise.  I’ll admit, I could have handled the situation better and maintained my composure.  So, I’m sorry.”  

Everyone in the room nodded and seemed to not only acknowledge, but accept his apology.  No one bothered to look my way.  With my presence, it was understood that I was aware I had been apart of the previous night’s  discussion.  However, it would have been nice for him to at least acknowledge that his outburst had had more to do with my name versus the suggestion as a whole.

Tucker Nash spoke up while reaching for a cup of coffee.  “We’re glad you decided to call us back and relieved you want to give this further consideration.  But we want to make one thing clear, Chris, we are maintaining our position that we put forward last night.  We want you to run because we think you have a legitimate shot at winning the nomination and ultimately the election.  But we want you to be in a relationship for the campaign.  It will broaden your appeal and make you appear as a solid candidate.  It will also force everyone to listen to your platform versus trying to pair you up socially and play off of you being a bachelor candidate.”

As Nash spoke, I watched the Senator for his reaction.  His nostrils flared, I could tell he was fighting to maintain his composure.  I guess the DNC figured they might as well go for broke early on.  I didn’t care for their strategy, but to an extent I understood it.  If this was going to be a definite no-go for the Senator, then why waste time discussing a platform and campaign strategy?

“I can’t help, but think it will look odd if I’m suddenly dating when I announce I’m running for President.  Don’t you think everyone will see through the charade?”

“Senator, if I may speak freely.  We have a plan we’d like to suggest.”  Claudia said as she sat up and pulled her shoulders back.  She was showing she was in control and not in the least bit phased by his position or the ridiculous nature of the conversation.  “We think it would be best for the ‘relationship’ to begin now.  We’re far enough out from the convention that we don’t need to announce your intention to run just yet.  This would allow for things to progress organically.  Leak information that you’re launching an exploratory committee for a potential candidacy and, all the while, you could be seen in public with your girlfriend.”

Claudia paused for effect and looked around the room to see if anyone had any objections.  When no one challenged what she was saying, she decided to move forward.  “We would allow an appropriate amount of time to pass, let the press ask questions about your exploration into running and build interest.  Then we make a formal announcement where you throw your hat in the ring.”

“I’m assuming my girlfriend would be at this announcement?”

Claudia’s posture relaxed, she crossed her legs and became more comfortable on the couch.  “Yes, she would be at the announcement, but not on the podium.  The spotlight should be on you and you alone.  However, since you would have been photographed with her previously, it will generate buzz that she was at the announcement.  No formal reference will be made to her at all during your speech, but her appearance will lead to questions on the campaign trail and in the debates.”

Senator Evans stood from his chair and stretched his six-foot-three frame to his full height.  He started to pace around the room and I could almost see the wheels turning in his head.  He said nothing, just walked from one end of the living room to the other.  All eyes in the room followed him.  On his next pass, he didn’t turn.  Instead, he walked in my direction and stopped in front of me.  I kept my eyes down, not wanting to make eye contact with him.  Even though I was not looking at him, I could feel my temperature rise and my face begin to flush.  It was safe to say that the man made me nervous.

Without preamble, he spoke, “I’m not convinced she’s the right person for this role.  Why exactly did you select her?”

Tucker Nash cleared his throat and spoke up in my defense.  “She’s smart, Chris.  Greer’s a lobbyist with credibility and key relationships with members of the House and Senate that will be beneficial as your campaign moves forward.  She will have the ability to help you get attention to your platform and issues and will be able to help you get things done.”

Lance Bishop once again reached for his coffee.  “Greer, I’ll apologize in advance for being blunt.  It doesn’t hurt your cause that she’s damn attractive, Chris.  The two of you make a striking couple and will easily be labeled as a modern day John and Jackie.”

If it was possible, I was blushing more than I had been five minutes earlier.  I didn’t expect to be called attractive and certainly did not anticipate being compared to Jackie Kennedy.  I didn’t think the comparison was warranted, but I could understand what they were trying to achieve.  I could tell the Senator had not taken his eyes off of me and he made no effort to move from in front of me.  It was fair to say I was starting to freak out.

I shifted my seat on the couch so that I would be able to look at Lance and Tucker.  “Gentlemen, maybe you could explain in detail what you have planned for this arranged relationship.  Regardless of who the woman is, maybe if you provide the Senator with an outline of your plan, it will help him feel more comfortable with the proposal.”  

I glanced over, catching Claudia’s attention and she immediately knew what I was trying to accomplish.  “That’s a great idea.”

Tucker took the reins and began to speak.  “Chris, our idea would be to match you with a woman who was willing to participate in this arrangement.  We’d ask you both to sign a non-disclosure agreement so that the details of the arrangement would never be made public.  We certainly don’t want this to ever come back and be a problem for either of you.”

Lance broke in to finish off the line of thought.  “During the campaign, you would date and appear at public functions as a couple.  You would give the appearance you are in a committed relationship that is heading toward marriage.  Around the time of the election, you would get engaged.  Keep in mind the timing is negotiable.”  Lance reached for his coffee cup and took a sip. Allowing the pause to let what he had said to sink in.  “Should you win the election, we will have a wedding at some point.  Should you lose, given the appropriate amount of time, you can split.  You can even blame the election and rigors of the campaign trail as the cause of the split.”

Patrick, who’d been quiet to that point, spoke up.  “You said this would be mutually beneficial.  I guess it benefits Chris because he gets the boost for the election.  But what’s in it for Greer?  Or the woman who’s selected?”

Tucker was enthusiastic to give his answer.  “This is a great opportunity for the woman we select.  She’ll become a household name and have an opportunity to work on a Presidential campaign.  She’ll have the ability to help deliver the message of the platform for the election and push for change.  Not only that, when you win the election, she’ll be the First Lady of the United States.   Of course, to help you get there, Chris, she’ll have to quit her job and devote all of her time to getting you elected.”

Tucker’s words struck a chord and it wasn’t a good one.  I tried to tamp down any anger that I was feeling and remain calm as I interrupted his commentary.  “Excuse me, you’re saying she has to give up her career to focus solely on getting the Senator elected?  What about her own career and what she’s giving up?  What about her own obligations?   You can’t expect her to just quit her job and still cover her rent, bills, and expenses can you?”  My voice was rising and I had a feeling I was dramatic, but the attitude here was awfully chauvinistic.  “How can you expect a woman to give up who she is for a man she isn’t in a real relationship with? I mean, you do realize that some women enjoy their careers and being independent, right?”

I noticed that Patrick was smiling at me.  Lance was as well and he leaned forward.  “I understand, Greer, and it would be a hell of a sacrifice we are asking from this woman.  That’s why we’d want someone who had passion and empathy and her own set of values.  One who had her own platform that was in line with the Senator’s so they could work together on issues.  In that spirit, she wouldn’t be giving up as much.”  He watched to see if I understood what he was saying.  I got it, he wanted someone who could be a partner for the Senator and not just arm candy.  Someone with an agenda of her own.  “As far as her obligations, we would help with that.  Part of the contract terms would be that the DNC would provide a stipend to cover her expenses.”

Before I could stop myself, the words came flying out of my mouth.  “So you’d make her a whore and the DNC would be her pimp?”

With those words the Senator let out a laugh.  Not just a snicker, but a full out belly laugh.  “Wow, don’t hold back your thoughts there, Hamilton.”

Maybe my comments were out of line, but I’d had enough.  I stood up and faced off with Senator Evans while I knew everyone in the room held their breath.  “Listen to me carefully.  I’m not sure if you’ve ever understood this or not, but my last name has a history and a legacy behind it.  On principle alone, I would not allow myself to be diminished to the ranks of a whore for the DNC just to get someone like you elected to the highest office in the land.  I have too much self-respect and I value the office of the President too damn much.”

I turned, Lance and Tucker were staring at me with their mouths and eyes wide open.  I looked at Claudia and unleashed my tirade on her.  “If you picked me because of my family name and because you thought it would help Evans, so help me I’m done with you.  He hates me for some reason and I told you that, but you still brought my name up for this ridiculous plan.  It was a mistake for me to come here and I’m over this entire scenario.”  I started to walk out of the room but turned around for a parting shot.  “The sad thing is, I would have been a good candidate for this.  I’m smart and I can hold my own.  If Evans had ever given me the time of day instead of discounting me as a brainless lobbyist, he might have realized that.  Good luck finding someone to put up with him.  God knows I’ll have enough of a time dealing with him on the Hill.”

I had my hand on the doorknob when Claudia ran into the hallway.  “Greer, you can’t just leave, you rode here with me.”

“I can and I will.  I’ve got two feet, Claudia.”  I didn’t turn around and I didn’t slam the door.  Instead, I let the door softly click behind me as I exited and walked down the front steps.  I didn’t let the tears fall even though they were threatening.  It’s not that I was going to cry because I was upset.  No, the tears were because I was angry with myself for letting all of this get to me.  

I had been on board with what Lance had said.  But my mouth had let the words ‘whore’ and ‘pimp’ come out and then when Evans laughed, I hadn’t been able to control my anger.  I went from being a heartbeat away from agreeing to date Senator Chris Evans to having a freak out in his living room and practically telling him to fuck off.  

~ * ~

I’d walked several blocks when I took a detour and settled on a bench in a small park.  My feet were killing me and I had no idea where I was or if I was even walking in the right direction to go home.  I would have pulled out my phone and seen about calling an Uber or Lyft for a ride, but, for now, I wanted to just have some time alone.  The argument in the living room of the Senator’s house had gotten out of hand.  

The proposition, as Lance and Tucker described it, wasn’t a bad one.  The idea of helping the campaign of a Presidential candidate you believed in was intriguing.  Being able to help while you played the part of his girlfriend so it would make him look better was not that horrible of an idea.  Sure, it was deceptive and unethical, but potentially, if the two parties could get along and make it believable, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.  I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with the man, but maybe we could at least be friends instead of enemies.  

I was a strong enough woman to admit that Senator Evans was attractive.  Hell, who was I kidding?  He’s gorgeous.  I’d never admitted to anyone that I feel that way or that I loved to listen to him speak.  He had a rich timbre to his voice and, while he didn’t have a strong Bostonian accent, it would come out from time to time.  For all of the charm I could find in the man, he had a major fault – his ego!  He was so damn full of himself and it drove me crazy.   

I had no idea how long I had been sitting in the park as I didn’t look at my watch or my phone.  I felt someone sit on the bench beside me, but I didn’t turn to see who it was.  I figured it was someone from the house that had come out looking for me.  I guessed they wanted to make sure I didn’t talk to anyone and spill the beans about what they were planning.  Ha, as if I’d want to admit to being a part of their convoluted plan anyway.  I said nothing and waited for the person who sat down to speak, instead.  Imagine my surprise when I realized it was the Senator himself.

“You know, Ms. Hightower is extremely worried about you.” His voice was low, but I could tell he was trying to be respectful and polite.  I didn’t respond.  In fact, I didn’t even acknowledge that he was sitting there.  “To be fair, we were all a little worried when you didn’t come back and you didn’t end up at your apartment right away.  She called your cell and you didn’t answer and your roommate hadn’t heard from you.  I think she’s afraid you’ve been kidnapped.”

“I just needed some time alone to think.  I’ll go home when I’m ready.” I turned my head to look at him and found he was staring straight ahead.  He was sitting close, but not too close.  He was wearing a pair of sunglasses and had slipped on a worn leather jacket over his dress shirt.  There was no denying that he was a handsome man.  “How did you find me?  Don’t tell me I’ve got a tracking device on me or something?”  

He let out a laugh, “No tracking device.  It was sheer luck.  I took one direction while Patrick, Lance, and Tucker went off in other directions.  Ms. Hightower is at the house in case you came back there.  I figured since you were wearing heels you wouldn’t walk too far.  I guessed that you’d stop in the park.”

I couldn’t hide the smile that began to creep across my lips.  The fact that he was giving careful consideration as to where I might be was endearing.  I wasn’t about to fall for and melt for the man, but I could at least appreciate that he was putting on a good act for the rest of the team.

“So, are you ready for me to walk you back to my house?  I think Ms. Hightower has the car waiting to drive you home.”

My smile quickly faded and I couldn’t help the sneer that replaced it.  “Don’t tell me that you think because you found me that I’ll just fall at your feet and let you drag me back to your place?  You’ve got some nerve, you know.”

He chuckled softly. “Of course I do.  You left, I found you, case closed.  Come on, Greer, pull on your big girl panties and come back to the house.”

He was trying to be funny, I knew this, but I was not in the mood for it.  He stood from the bench and I remained seated.  He had taken a few steps and when he realized I wasn’t falling in line, he turned back to face me.  That’s when things got a little more intense.

“Get up, Greer, and come back to the house.  You can’t sit out here and pout and you sure as hell can’t act all indignant about this situation when you’re behind it.” I exploded off of the park bench and attempted to get into his face.  Keep in mind that I am significantly shorter than the Senator and we literally can’t see eye-to-eye.  There was no mistaking the fact that I was angry.

“You think I have something to do with this?  You think this was all my idea?”  I threw my hands in the air in complete and utter disgust and began to pace away from him.  I then made a sharp turn and marched back to him.  “You listen to me, Senator.  You hate me for some stupid reason that I can’t really put my finger on so you have to be insane to think I would want to whore myself out to you.  In fact, I am offended that you would even suggest that!”

“You keep repeating that, but I’ve never said I hate you.” His voice was low and I almost didn’t hear him.

“What did you say?”

“I said I don’t hate you.  I may not be your biggest fan, but I wouldn’t use the word hate.”

“Oh, well that makes me feel so much better.” I scoffed, unable to hide my sarcasm.

“You know you don’t have to call me Senator all the time.  My first name is actually Chris.” He smiled and put his sunglasses up on top his head.  At that moment I could have sworn his eyes began to twinkle.  He was trying to break the mounting tension and keep our disagreement from becoming a spectacle.    

“No, I intend for this,” I said as I waved my hand between the two of us, “to remain professional at all times.  Therefore, you are Senator Evans and nothing more.”  I walked past him and pulled up the Uber app on my phone as I walked out of the gated area of the park and approached the curb.

“What are you doing?” He asked as he began to look over my shoulder.

“I’m scheduling an Uber and getting a ride home.  Our conversation is over.”

“What am I supposed to tell Claudia and the DNC when I go back to the house without you?”  He actually seemed somewhat confused and, for a brief moment, I felt sorry for him.

“Well, Senator, I don’t give a shit what you tell them.  Tell them you found me and you played superhero and saw me home safely or tell them you drowned me and threw me in the lake.  Whatever you want, it doesn’t matter to me.”

As my car pulled up to the curb, I opened the door and got in without saying anything else to Senator Evans.  While I wanted to go home and pretend that nothing had happened, I decided to do the honorable thing.  I texted Claudia to let her know the Senator had found me, but that I had ordered an Uber to go home.  The Senator would be coming back to his townhome alone.  I didn’t wait for her response.  Instead, I powered off my phone and enjoyed the remainder of my ride in silence.

 

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