The Perfect Candidate – Chapter 14

Senator Chris Evans

In the recesses of my mind, I know why Greer Hamilton would be a good choice as my partner for this charade.  That doesn’t mean I have to readily accept them.  It also doesn’t mean that I should just accept the suggestion of the people sitting in my living room without providing some sort of pushback.  Besides, I already had a reputation on the Hill for being an ass.  I might as well live up to it.  I wouldn’t want to disappoint anyone in the room after all.

I figured my blatant questioning of why she was being considered would light a fire under her.  I thought she’d tilt her head and give me an icy stare before ripping into me.  To be honest, I was kind of looking forward to it, but she didn’t do it.  She didn’t move.  

My head turned as Tucker Nash spoke up to defend her.  He pointed out that she was an excellent lobbyist with key relationships and would be beneficial to the campaign.  He wasn’t wrong.  Greer Hamilton was a smart, educated woman who could hold her own.  I’d seen first hand how people are drawn to her and how she could work a room.  But they were missing that critical piece – the two of us were not on the same political wavelength.  Having a bipartisan relationship wasn’t going to get me elected.  Before I could interject and give my opinion on that, Luke Bishop decided to weigh in.

Where Tucker made his argument on Greer’s intelligence.  Lance made his regarding her physical appearance.  He pointed out the obvious, Greer was an attractive woman and she would be one hell of a compliment on my arm.  He went there again saying we would be a modern day John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy.  While that was a nice thought, it wouldn’t fit.

Greer was refined and beautiful and, don’t get me wrong, she would easily pull off a Jackie-esque role.  However, I was not a philandering husband who ignored the best thing I had at home for a secret tryst.  I hadn’t done it when I was married for real and I was sure in the hell not doing it in a fake relationship.  And for another thing, I was not nearly as brilliant a political mind as Kennedy was.

When I looked back at Greer, it appeared as if she was blushing.  Really?  Did she not know she was a beautiful and smart woman? I get it, I have been less than friendly to her on a regular basis but I can appreciate the fact that she was stunning.  She really was the perfect woman.  I mean, if your perfect woman was a brunette, opinionated Republican with perfect curves and a saucy attitude.

For a minute, I was afraid she could read my thoughts.  She started to shift in her seat and appeared to be uncomfortable.  Of course, Lance was piling on the compliments and I was standing there staring at her.  I guess that could start to make any woman uncomfortable.  I realized she was actually turning so she could face Lance and Tucker and doing her best to avoid me.

When she spoke her voice was low and breathy.  “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 couldn’t take my eyes off of her.   I heard Tucker clear his throat and spout off something about finding a compatible woman and signing an NDA.  I really wasn’t listening to him as he prattled on about this detail and that.  I probably should have been paying attention as it would certainly bite me in the ass later. But at this point, I didn’t care anymore.

I’m not sure what I had expected for this meeting, but it wasn’t quite this.  I guess I anticipated a formal meeting with discussion points and maybe even a presentation of some sort.  Hell, I wasn’t  even sitting any longer.  I was standing over the woman they want to set me up with and I couldn’t even see her face to read her emotions.  While her voice was breathy, I don’t think she was trying to be sexy.  I got the feeling that she was struggling to get air into her lungs.

I nodded my head and tried to give off the impression I was paying attention.  Patrick ended up speaking up and I tuned him out as well.  I finally relaxed my stance a little.  If I was honest with myself, I could do this and I could probably do this with Greer.  I mean, what harm was a lunch or dinner here or there?  They didn’t ask me to show PDA and didn’t tell me I had to sleep with her.  So, from where I stood, it wasn’t that scandalous and it certainly wasn’t illicit.  Imagine my surprise when I noticed Greer’s hands beginning to fist and she looked like she was ready to punch someone.

Words were exchanged and when I finally tuned back into the conversation, I heard things beginning to escalate.  Suddenly, Greer blurted out, “So you’d make her a whore and the DNC would be her pimp?”

I was shocked to hear her comments and actually laughed at the thought.  I’d never even considered that this would make a woman feel like a whore.  This wasn’t about sexual favors.  Hell, I’d want there to be no sex involved at all.  If I ended up agreeing to do this, it was all going to be for show.  When there was a crowd, I could pretend.  But when the cameras were gone and the constituents weren’t around, we would have separate corners and bedrooms.  “Wow, don’t hold back your thoughts there, Hamilton.”

Suddenly Greer was standing up and squaring off against me.  Evidently, my comment had sent her over the edge.  “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 had not expected that.  My mouth was wide open and I couldn’t even begin to form a response. It’s a good thing, too.  She wasn’t done and I knew better than to interrupt a woman on the warpath.  She turned to face Lance and Tucker and began to unload on them.  

“If you picked me because of my family name because you thought it would help Evans, so help me I’m done with you.”  She then turned to look at Claudia Hightower.  “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.”  She started walking out of the room but turned for a final 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 turned from the couch – yeah, I had never moved from where I had been facing her initially. Claudia took off after Greer in an attempt to smooth things over.  I looked at Patrick, Tucker, and Lance and realized we were all a little shell shocked.  A moment or two passed and then we could hear the sounds of Greer and Claudia arguing in the hall.  The next thing I know, the front door clicked shut and Claudia was walking back into the living room alone.

I moved back to my chair and took a seat.  I rested my elbows on my knees and looked over at Claudia who had taken her seat.  “Do you want to explain to me what in the hell just  happened?”

“I wish I could.”

“I guess she is a no for this relationship setup.”  Tucker chuckled as he sat back in his seat and ran his hand through his hair.  “That girl has some spit and vinegar to her.  Tell me, Claudia, how well did she take it when you told her this plan last night?”

“She took it about as well as the Senator.  Although, before she stormed off, she dropped a bottle of wine and crushed a wine glass in her hand.  She’s got a nice cut on her palm from the glass shards.”

Lance looked over at Claudia and then back at me.  “Why don’t you like her, Chris?”

“Actually, I think she said he hated her,” Patrick added in.  

“I don’t hate her.  She’s a smart woman, but she’s politically opposite of me and we just clash.”

Claudia’s lips curled upward.  “You base everything on your belief that’s she a Republican?”  She waited to see if I would respond, but I didn’t take her bait.  She turned back to Lance. “If he can’t be bipartisan in a relationship then the country would have no hope with him working with the other side of the aisle to get legislation done.  Maybe it isn’t the girlfriend selection that’s the problem – maybe he’s the wrong candidate.”

“Now hold on a minute,” I interjected.  I could feel my blood pressure starting to rise.  “I never said a thing about not being able to work with Republicans.  I do it all the time on the Hill and we get shit done.  So don’t give me that.”

“Fine, but you just said the reason you don’t like Greer is due to her politics.  Have you ever taken the time to get to know her?  Ever bothered to find out anything about her?”  Claudia’s eyes narrowed as she tossed her words at me.  I could almost feel the venom dripping from every word spoken.  When I didn’t immediately answer she just laughed and said, “I didn’t think so.”

There was an awkward silence that hung in the air.  Patrick finally broke in and asked, “Is anyone going after her?”

There was no response to his question.  He threw his arms in the air and watched as Claudia furiously texted.  A moment or two passed and she finally looked up and addressed us.

“I’ve tried calling her number and it went straight to voicemail and she isn’t returning my text messages.  So, I’m reaching out to her assistant, who also happens to be her roommate, to see if she can have any luck reaching her.”

Once again the silence in the room was deafening.  Patrick huffed out, “That’s fine Claudia, but is anyone going to leave this house and go looking for her?”  His tone was increasing in frustration and volume.

“I’m sure she just wants to huff down the sidewalk,” Tucker chimed in.  “She’ll blow off a little steam and then come back in.  You know women, they like to huff out and make a big show of things.”  Tucker could feel everyone staring at him.  Claudia was visibly angered by his statements and did a great job of holding her tongue.  “Sorry, Claudia.  Present company excluded, of course.”

Lance leaned forward, elbows perched on his knees with his hands clasped in front of himself.  “Chris, are you serious when you say you don’t think Greer is right for this?  I mean you do see her regularly.  What are your true objections here and don’t tell me politics.”

“Look can we move off of Greer for a second?”  I wasn’t ready to talk about her in detail.  I wasn’t sure I could quantify my feelings enough to sound remotely intelligent anyway.  “Table the girlfriend experience for a minute and give me your outline for an all out campaign.  What is your timeline?”

Lance looked back over his shoulder at Tucker.  I could tell he was trying to determine what he should be saying.  He then turned back to face me.  “Chris, if you can’t get on board with the girlfriend clause of the agreement, there won’t be a campaign.”

I was being held hostage over the plan to date for the sake of public relations  Patrick wasn’t saying anything, but the look in his eyes told me he was pleading for me to just play along.  I knew that I should.  Deep down I knew that it was important for me to keep my mouth shut and just nod. But that’s not who I am.

I slapped my hands on my knees before rising up out of my chair.  “I need air.  This entire day has not gone like I had anticipated and I need to get out of here for a minute and think.”  I turned and looked directly and Patrick.  When I spoke, I wanted it to be known I was speaking to him, but I didn’t care that everyone was going to hear me.  “I’ll keep an eye out for Greer while I’m outside.  I trust you, hammer out any deal you think is proper regarding my running without the girlfriend clause.  I’ll come around on it, but I need to think and get some of the noise out of my brain.”

Patrick nodded and I headed for the door.  I grabbed my glasses and jacket from the hall closet and then opened the front door and stepped out.  Like Greer, I didn’t slam the door.  I didn’t need to put an exclamation point on my statement.  Everyone in that room knew where I was coming from.

~ * ~

I had taken a right outside my door and walked around several blocks.  I was about two blocks down from my house when I realized I was standing at the entrance to the small park.  I’d come to this park before, I was familiar with it.  I just didn’t realize I was this close to the house because I had been so lost in my own thoughts for the last few blocks.  Checking my watch, I realized I had been gone about forty-five minutes, but I wasn’t quite ready to go back into the house.  Greer had been gone more than an hour already.  I hadn’t seen her when I was walking, but I had been keeping my eyes open just in case.  

This park has a pond and a few ducks.  The pond isn’t large but it provides a nice spot to stop and think.  I figured I’d go in and sit and stare at the water and maybe an answer to my problems would appear.  Bitsy used to tell me that the answer to your questions would appear when you needed it.  She was into that sort of thing and I’d always dismissed her.  But as I walked toward the pond, I saw a woman sitting on the bench staring at the pond looking for her own answers.  As I stepped closer, I realized that woman was Greer.  Maybe Bitsy was right about these things after all.

She hadn’t heard me walking down the path.  Before I made any noise to tip her off to my presence, I moved to the side and leaned against a tree.  I crossed my arms across my chest and just watched.  Greer didn’t move.  There was a slight breeze and I could see it blowing her hair, but her body wasn’t moving.  She appeared to keep her eyes transfixed on the water.  I turned to see what she might be looking at but the water was still.  No movement at all.  

I reached into my coat pocket to grab my phone.  I wanted to silence the ringer before someone called me and tipped Greer off that I was nearby.  I had already missed a text.  It must have come through when I was walking and I just hadn’t heard it chime.  Of course, it was Patrick wanting to know if I was coming back anytime soon.  He also said he had negotiated terms for me if I was interested.  I was interested, but not enough to turn and go back to the house without talking to Greer.  I quickly texted him back to let him know I’d be out a little longer.  

I moved quietly back to the path and over towards the bench where Greer was seated.  I didn’t say anything to her, I just sat down and looked out over the pond.  I waited a few minutes before I let her know that Claudia was worried about her.  I quickly covered that up by saying we were all worried about her location.  I didn’t want it to seem as if the men in the room had no feelings whatsoever.  

Greer told me she just wanted time alone and I could tell she had turned to look at me.  I didn’t make eye contact.  I wasn’t sure if I would lose my resolve if I had to look into her eyes.  

“How did you find me?  Don’t tell me I’ve got a tracking on me or something?”

I couldn’t contain my laughter at that thought.  “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 took a guess that you’d stop in the park.”

I didn’t want to tell her that no one had left the house.  It was better for her to believe we were all worried and everyone was looking for her.  I realized I was sticking my neck on the line and telling her a lie; however, it was one that I felt I needed to tell to account for my appearance at her side.  

“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.”  I couldn’t help but smile as I looked at her.  Greer was captivating and trying her damnedest to not cave in.  Not that it was an indication she had any feelings for me.  I could just tell she was stubborn and not ready to concede her position just yet.  When she opened her mouth, I realized I was correct.

“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?”

Wow, she had a fire in her belly.  I had barely spoken to her and she was still completely riled up from everything that happened in the house.  Her eyes were all lit up as she sassed back to me.  She had a flush of color creeping up her neck that I had never noticed before when she was angry.  There were a lot of things I was starting to notice and I was not sure if I was comfortable where it could lead.  So, instead, I tried to laugh it off and pretend I wasn’t being affected.

“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.”  

I stood from the bench and had taken a few steps when I realized she wasn’t following me.  As I turned to face her, I realized she was still on the bench and she was not amused in the slightest at my attempt at humor.  If she already thought I was an ass and wasn’t going to see I was trying to make light of the situation, I figured I’d just continue down the path.  After all, she already had a disdain for me, I certainly couldn’t make it worse.

“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 when you’re behind it.”

Ok, I could make it worse!  She exploded off of the park bench and lunged at me.  She wanted to be in my face about it but she barely came to my chin in those high heels she was wearing.  I had to fight to suppress a smile – knowing she wanted to stand eye-to-eye and it just wasn’t going to happen.  I didn’t move, I didn’t want to scare her into thinking I would actually lay my hands on her.  So, I just stood there and waited.  It didn’t take long.

“You think I have something to do with this?  You think this was all my idea?”  She threw her hands up and began to march away from me.  She then turned back around and came back to me.  “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 whore myself out to you.  In fact, I am offended that you would even suggest that!”

I took a step back and said, “You keep saying that, but I’ve never said I hate you.”  I didn’t yell at her.  In fact, my voice was calm and I tried to sound soothing.  I didn’t want to offend her and make it seem like I was talking down to her, but she had to know I didn’t want to fight.

Evidently, my voice was too calm and low because she immediately asked, “What did you say?”

I repeated myself to her that I had never said I hated her.  She scoffed and I could tell she didn’t believe me or was electing not to believe me.  I wasn’t sure how we once again got to the point of arguing and being in each other’s face.  It dawned on me that I had been calling her Greer, something I normally didn’t do.  I almost always referred to her as Hamilton or Ms. Hamilton.  But I liked the way her name rolled off my tongue.  However, she always stuck with calling me Senator.

“You know you don’t have to call me Senator all the time.  My first name is actually Chris.”  I removed my sunglasses and put them on top of my head.  I had decided if I was going to have this conversation, I wanted her to see my eyes.  I was hoping to convey that I was trying to change the temper of our discussion.  I didn’t want to yell or argue with her.  For once, I wanted to have a real conversation.

Her response was swift and I could tell that my efforts were futile.  “No, I intend for this,” she said as she waved her hand between the two of us, “to remain professional at all times.  Therefore, you are Senator Evans and nothing more.”

That hurt.  She walked past me and began heading out of the park and towards the curb.  I quickly followed her and noticed she was frantically working on her cell.  “What are you doing?”

She didn’t look up.  “I’m scheduling an Uber and getting a ride home.  Our conversation is over.”

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