I had to hand it to Greer, she could put up a fight and shut down a conversation. I watched as she scheduled her Uber and then slid her phone back into her purse. She wouldn’t look at me. Her gaze was fixed down the street on what I assumed was the direction her car would be coming from.
“What am I supposed to tell Claudia and the DNC when I go back to the house without you?” It wasn’t that I was actually concerned, I just wanted to break the awkward silence that had fallen between the two of us.
“Well, Senator, I don’t give a shit what you tell them. Tell them you found me and played superhero seeing to it I got home safely or tell them you drowned me and threw me in the lake. Tell them whatever you want, it doesn’t matter to me.” Her tone was bitter.
I wanted to argue with her that it was a pond not a lake in the park, but I figured it was best to keep my mouth shut. The car pulled up, a little Toyota Prius, and she opened the back door and got inside. I could have been a gentleman and opened the door for her or even closed it. But I had a feeling she wasn’t in the mood for chivalry of any type.
She was texting as she got in the car so I had to anticipate she let Claudia know she was safe. She never looked at me as the car pulled away. I put my hands in my pants pockets and watched as the tail lights sped down the street before I turned to head back to the house. I quickened my pace and walked up just as Tucker and Lance were getting into their car to leave.
Patrick was standing in the doorway. “Claudia already left. It’s just you and me, boss.”
I slowly walked up the steps and into the house. I walked straight into the living room and over to the bar. I didn’t bother with ice or to ask Patrick if he wanted one. I just retrieved a glass from the cabinet and proceeded to fill it with whiskey. I didn’t care how many fingers it was, I knew I would be downing the glass and reaching for more.
“Slow down, Chris. You’re going to make yourself sick if you drink too much.” Patrick plopped down into a chair and threw his legs over the arm. He was obviously not worried about decorum but going for comfort. “So, you found her and it didn’t go so well, eh?”
I had the glass halfway to my lips when I turned to glare at him. “What makes you say that?”
“Well, Claudia got the text message from Greer saying you found her. You are over there slamming whiskey and let’s not forget you came back here alone. So, using my brilliant power of deduction, I sense that things didn’t go well between the two of you. Where was she?”
I downed the glass, pouring another and pouring one for Patrick, too, this time. I walked over and handed him his drink before depositing myself in the chair next to his. “She was in the park down the street. Just sitting on a park bench and staring at the pond. What did you guys agree to while I was gone?”
“No, not going there yet. Tell me what happened that brought you home in such a fantastic mood.”
“My sarcasm and sense of humor were lost on her. I told her I’d bring her back and she didn’t like that answer at all. She got huffy and accused me of expecting her to just follow me because I’d found her. Of course, I told her that was exactly what I’d expected and she needed to pull up her big girl panties and come on.” I took a slow sip from my glass, not wanting to drain it because I had become comfortable and didn’t want to get back up. “I think the kicker was when I accused her of orchestrating the entire girlfriend scenario.”
Patrick let out a loud belly laugh. He was laughing so hard he started to hyperventilate. I wasn’t about to help him. The bastard shouldn’t have been laughing at me. “Oh God, tell me you didn’t, Chris? Fuck. No wonder you two were arguing. You honestly believe she was behind this?”
“No,” I said, sheepishly. “I only said it to get a response from her and to get her off the park bench. I think she restrained herself enough to keep from slapping me, so I appreciate that.”
“You’d have deserved it. You heard Claudia say Greer dropped a bottle of wine and broke a glass when she found out she’d been nominated for this. You have seriously lost your touch since Bitsy has been gone.”
~ * ~
After Patrick left, I tried desperately to bury myself in work for a couple hours. I had several memos and other documents to read, but I had a hard time concentrating on any of it. I wanted to blame the glasses of whiskey that I’d quickly downed when I’d returned home. But I had to admit that it was more likely because I couldn’t quit thinking about Greer Hamilton and the fiasco in the park.
I was a little wobbly from the whiskey. I wasn’t one to drink during the day so slamming those down was not the best idea I’d ever had. I made my way up the stairs to my office but for some reason, I couldn’t concentrate. When we moved into this house, Bitsy had designed the office. Her signature touches were everywhere. From the books on the bookshelf to the pillows on the couch and the accent chairs. Typically, the idea of being surrounded by her while I worked from home never bothered me. In fact, I always embraced being in the room and feeling as if she was close. She made fun of me regularly that I only used three rooms in the house: my office, the bedroom, and the bathroom.
The rush of emotions I was feeling most likely had to do with the entire crux of the meeting that I held downstairs earlier. Finding a woman to replace Bitsy. Sure, this would all be an act to get me elected. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that it would mean I would have to forget my wife and what we had. I began to sweat and knew that working in the office would not be in my best interest today. Instead, I decided to push my own boundaries and elected to work from the kitchen table.
I’d lost track of time, I had no idea how long I’d been sitting there working. I just know that I glanced out the windows and realized the sun was beginning to set. I’d evidently worked through dinner and hadn’t even realized it. I decided to take a break and fix something to eat. Just as I stood and walked over to the pantry, I heard a faint sound at the front door. It sounded like a knock, but I wasn’t sure. So, I waited to see if the noise repeated itself. When it did, I walked down the hall and noticed a silhouette on the porch – it looked like a woman. I flipped the light switch to turn on the porch light. I could now see a woman with her back to the door, watching the street as if she was contemplating making a run for it. I knew before opening the door it was Greer Hamilton.
Although I was confused as to what she might want. Surely she wasn’t here to yell at me again. I took a deep breath, unlocking the front door before slowly opening it. As I did, Greer turned to face me. She looked, I’m not sure of the right word, embarrassed maybe. Although, I’ve got no idea why she would be embarrassed. She’d told me off and stood her ground. Taking control of her own situation was not something to be embarrassed over.
I didn’t say anything to her. Frankly, I was at a loss for words. She had changed out of the dress from earlier and had on a pair of well-worn jeans and a light pink, long sleeve, v-neck t-shirt. Her hair was still down and she was every bit as stunning as she had been when she stood in my living room, hours earlier.
“Hi.”She took a step forward. Greer was seemingly tentative, I could sense she wanted to speak, but she didn’t want to be forceful in any way. “Is there a chance you might let me come in and talk to you for a few minutes?” I saw her eyes widen as she took in my appearance; I still had my dress pants on, but my button-down shirt was no longer tucked in and I had an extra button undone at the collar. “Oh, sorry, I’m not interrupting something am I?”
I couldn’t help the smile that began to inch across my face. “No, I was working and to answer the lingering question, I’m alone.” Greer let out a sigh as if that was a significant relief for her. “Come on in.” I stepped to the side, holding the door opened to let her walk in the house.
As I shut the door and moved down the hall past her, I asked, “Do you want something to drink? I’ve got wine, beer, and bottled water.” I turned for her answer and she just shook her head. I gestured toward the living room. “Do you want to have a seat?”
Greer silently walked into the living room and took a seat on the couch. I took a seat opposite her in one of the accent chairs. I didn’t want to sit too close, but I sure in the hell wasn’t going to sit on the opposite side of the room. Her posture was straight and she kept her hands in lap. Although, judging by the way her hands were fidgeting, I could tell she was nervous.
“I’m sorry for how I walked away from you at the park.” She was looking right at me, her eyes piercing into my soul as she said the words. “Actually, I was rude from the moment I saw you at the park until I got in the car and pulled away. It’s been eating at me and I just felt I needed to apologize.”
I sat back in the chair and covered my face with my hands. If this wasn’t so damn serious it could be almost comical. I ran my hands down my face and sat up to look at Greer. “It’s okay. I tried to be funny and it went the wrong way. It was nothing more than a miscommunication and us not knowing each other well enough for you to get my attempt at humor.”
Greer bowed her head gracefully and smiled. I had to admit that she lit up the room when she did that. It warmed my heart and, for the first time in a long time, other parts of me were stirring as well. I leaned forward, resting my arms on my thighs and quietly cleared my throat. “Is that the only reason you’re here?”
Her head was still bowed and she shook it softly. “Tell me why you came all the way over here, Greer. You could have quickly sent me an email or called me to apologize if that was what this was about.”
She raised her eyes to make direct contact with me, “Are you opposed to having a girlfriend to run for President? Or are you just opposed to it being me?”
Now it was my turn to bow my head and break the eye contact. She wanted to go straight for the heart on this one. “Does it really matter?” I asked, quietly.
“Yes, Senator, it does.” It hurt just a little that she was still referring to me at Senator. I would have hoped that finding the courage to show up at my doorstep would have allowed her to at least use my first name. “I’m not really sure what the issue is between us, but I’d like to clear it up – once and for all.”
I raised my head to look at her. “Let me guess, you think I’d make an excellent candidate for President and you’re here to make sure I don’t throw away my shot.” My tone was sarcastic and probably harsher than it should have been. But at least Greer smiled.
“No one knows I’m here and I’d like to keep it that way for now. It’s fair to say that we have had our differences and today didn’t go the way either of us anticipated. So, I sort of figured if we talked, just the two of us, maybe we could hash things out one way or another.”
As I watched Greer speak, I could tell she was sincere. Her tone and her body language gave me the impression she wasn’t trying to play me or string me along in any way. What could it hurt to have this conversation? She’d taken a chance so why couldn’t I do the same?
“Ok, fair enough. But answer me this, do you think I should give into their demands and have a fake relationship?”
Greer let out a breath and sat back against the couch cushions. “Yes, I totally agree with their strategy.” She paused and I assume she was waiting for me to explode. But I didn’t. Instead, I just watched her and gave her the opportunity and freedom to say what she wanted.
“I get that it could be viewed as disingenuous and you’d have a fine line to follow. But what you could do for the country as President, would outweigh the deception. And you never know, you could end up developing feelings for the woman they put in the position and no one would ever be the wiser.”
“The woman they put in the position? Are you saying you won’t do it?” The way she spoke gave the impression that she was giving up on the charade before it even began. “I figured since you came for the meeting that you were on board with the entire plan.”
“Oh, I was until I realized they wanted me to whore myself out.” Greer slapped her hand over her mouth and I could tell she wished she could take those words back. “I’m sorry, I guess I forgot to use my filter.”
I let out a slight chuckle. “It’s okay, I knew you felt that way earlier. Although to be fair, I don’t think they intended to make you feel like a whore. I know I never looked at it that way.” Greer tilted her head slightly and looked at me with the unasked question in her eyes. “Be realistic, Greer. No matter who is being asked to play this role, this woman can’t keep up her regular job no matter how much she might want to. For all her good intentions, her career will have to take a back seat and she’ll have to help me campaign to win the Presidency. At the same time, she can’t put her life on hold, she’ll still have bills to pay and responsibilities that can’t just sit and wait for her to go back to work.”
“Exactly, so they pay me to be your escort. Call girl, escort, whore – it’s semantics but it is all the same thing.”
I shook my head at her. She was so hard headed. “Could you not think of it as you are an actress and this is your role? The DNC is paying you to play a part. No one said you had to sleep with me and being a whore and a call girl insinuates that sex would be involved.” Greer’s cheeks began to flush.
Silence fell over the room. It was true, no one had ever mentioned sex as part of the deal. And it wouldn’t be. I had no intention of actually falling in love with or bedding the woman who would take on this part. Even if it was Greer. I would be focused on winning the election. Once I became President, well keeping the country safe and dealing with the pressures of job would keep me busy, I’d have no time for a relationship.
Greer broke the silence; however, her voice was low as she asked her question. “Can I ask why you don’t like me? I’ve tried going back through every interaction with you and I can’t remember ever doing anything that would make you dislike me so much.”
While her volume in asking the question was low, Greer’s question slammed into me. She wasn’t rude or disrespectful as she asked. Instead, she appeared almost embarrassed to be asking the question. She truly wanted to know what she had done to incur my wrath. I had no place to hide and there was no one for me to deflect to. It was just the two of us in my living room and I had to speak up.
I blew out a breath before speaking. “I have a particular disdain for all lobbyists. It doesn’t matter if they are men or women, I just don’t like or trust them. I make my own decisions about legislation and don’t trust bills that are brought forth and paid for by special interest groups that feel the need to try and buy off those of us on the Hill to get what they want. I especially don’t like the lobbyists from the other side of the aisle.”
Greer sat up a straight and moved to the edge of the couch. “So, let me get this straight, you don’t know me or anything about me, but you’re judging me because of what I do and your perception that I’m most likely a Republican?” With a reservation, I nodded my head. “I appreciate your candor, Senator, but I must tell you that is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard in my life. Haven’t you ever been taught to not judge a book by its cover?”
She had me there. I was judgmental and I’m sure if my mother were here she’d tell me the exact same thing and throw in, for good measure, that I was an ass. I ran my hand along the back of my neck and gave Greer a smile. “You’ve got a point. I guess that’s why you don’t like me, then?” She didn’t immediately respond and I took that as her answer. “Greer, do you think you could do this? Knowing that, in my mind at least, you wouldn’t be viewed as what you’re expecting?”
This time Greer leaned forward and looked me straight in the eyes. Her stare was mesmerizing and I knew that I could absolutely melt in her gaze. “If you can be nice and treat me like a lady versus sneering at me and snapping my head off, I might consider it.” Her lip curled up into a smile and I could see that she was toying with me. “In all seriousness, Senator, in addition to apologizing for my behavior this afternoon, I wanted to discuss the plan that Lance and Tucker were putting together. I know we have a few issues between us, but I’d be willing to attempt to overcome them. That is if you are.”
“The idea of deceiving my voters just to get elected doesn’t sit well with me. To be honest, I’m not so hell bent on power that I think I’d be comfortable doing something that’s ethically questionable.”
“Is it just that or does it have something to do with the fact that you’re just not ready to move on from Elizabeth?”
There it was. Greer had sliced my chest open, reached right in and grabbed my heart. Instead of dancing around the subject, she decided to go right for the jugular and attack it early. I had to admit that I hadn’t expected her to do it and I certainly hadn’t expected her to do it so early in the conversation. My shock was surely registered on my face.
“I’m sorry.” Her tone was empathetic. “I read the stories about her passing when you were elected. I am truly sorry for your loss.” Greer got up from her place on the couch and moved to sit on the edge of the coffee table across from me. She placed her hand on mine and I swear I felt a jolt of electricity shoot through my body. “I’m going to assume that is why you reacted so abruptly last night when the suggestion was brought up. I’m also going to guess that it’s why you have such a strong reaction to me.”
I couldn’t move and it took me a minute to actually breathe. Greer was sincere and sweet; showing a side of her I hadn’t seen before and an entirely different demeanor from earlier in the day. “What do you mean?”
“Well, you have an intense dislike for me, as you say because I’m a lobbyist. So, the idea they wanted you to replace your beloved Elizabeth was one thing, but to have that woman be me, well that must have just been the final straw.”
Once again, I was not expecting Greer Hamilton to go there. Her insight was spot on, but I wasn’t sure I was ready to go there with her. The heat of her hand on mine and the look in her eye was bringing out feelings I wasn’t sure I wanted to have either. I quickly withdrew my hand from hers and she looked as if I wounded her.
“Um, sorry about that,” I offered. I meant it, I hadn’t intended to pull away from her so roughly. “I was actually taken off guard last night with the whole fake a relationship situation. The way I see it, I’m still married. I didn’t get divorced – my wife died and, had cancer not taken her, I wouldn’t be having this conversation. So to have people I’m not even friends with, just political acquaintances with, tell me I need to forget about Elizabeth and move on struck a nerve.”
I hoped the tale I was telling was working. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Elizabeth and actually still do love her. But I don’t pine for her at night. There are times I wish I had a woman in my bed keeping me warm and satisfied. And, if I’m honest with myself, there has been a time or two I’ve wanted that woman to be Greer. But I don’t ever act on those thoughts with any woman. I don’t need a scandal and I sure in the hell don’t need the distraction.
“Patrick tells me I need to move on. I guess I should, but I never anticipated hearing I needed to do it to win an election. You’ve got your concerns over being perceived as being a whore and I’ve got mine.” I wiped my hands down my thighs and stood up. Greer had to lean back to allow me the room to move. I moved to the back of the chair and leaned forward. “I don’t like the idea of lying to the voters. I understand politicians stretch the truth and lie to some degree every single time they speak to the constituents, but I wanted to be better than that.”
“Don’t you think that this could be an opportunity for you to open yourself up to the idea of a relationship? Potentially find someone you could share moments with?” When I gave her a questioning glare, she began to get flustered. “No, you misunderstand. I’m not saying with me, per se, I’m saying in general. You’ve been alone and haven’t moved on, so maybe having a created relationship for public appearances could give you an opportunity to get to know someone and open yourself back up to the idea of dating again.”
As much as I might have wanted to argue with her, Greer was making sense. She had a way of making me feel comfortable even in the face of an unreasonable and ridiculous situation. Maybe my true aversion to her was in our work environment. Because in my house, sitting close together like this, felt comfortable. In the time she had spent in my house this evening we had not argued. There had been no knock-down, drag-out fights. In fact, she had touched me and I had felt something. Maybe, if I put my pride and ego aside, I could make this work.
I raked my fingers through my hair and paced behind the chairs. I needed to make sure I was really okay with doing this. Internally, both sides of my brain were at war with one another. In my ear, I could hear Patrick telling me to man up and go for it.
“Greer,” I said her name as I turned and took a few steps toward her. She raised her eyes to meet mine and I felt my heart skip. “You made a compelling argument. I mean, just because I run doesn’t mean anyone will vote for me and doesn’t mean I’ll win, right?” She smiled and gently nodded her head. “So, I’ll take the chance and do it. But only on the condition that you do this with me.”
“What? Oh, no, I couldn’t.” She stood up and began to take a few step back. “No, it was just about getting you to agree to do this and to run. We aren’t compatible, remember?”
I rounded the chair and moved to stand directly in front of her. “Greer, you talked me into this, so I’m doing it. Now, my stipulation for going through with it is that you are my partner. So, do we have a deal?” I flashed a smile at her hoping it would seal the deal for me.
“I’m not sure we would be able to get along and I have my career. Well, I mean I want to get back to my real career,” her voice dropped off.
“What did you say? You’re real career? What in the world does that even mean?” I was baffled by her statement and had a hard time forming a coherent statement.
“See, this is what I mean about assumptions. I’m not a die-hard lobbyist. In fact, I hate my job.” I wasn’t sure I was hearing her correctly and my confusion was showing because she immediately addressed it. “I shouldn’t say hate, that’s a strong word. I dislike my job and it isn’t what I was hired to do. I see I’m only confusing you more. I’m a lawyer, business law not criminal. I was moved from litigation to lobbying by our managing partner and he is adamant that I stay where I am.”
I was confused. If she hated being a lobbyist why didn’t she just quit? There was more to this story and I needed to know what it was. “So, the idea of quitting never crossed your mind? Greer, there are plenty of firms in the metro area and I’m sure they’d love to have you.”
“It’s not that easy. I’m at one of the city’s largest firms if I quit they’ll ruin my career and I’ll never work in this town again. I don’t want to start over in another city – I’ve put too much hard work in here.”
I totally understood where she was coming from. Change was hard and stepping out of your comfort zone was especially difficult. She just walked me through the idea of change so it was time I did the same for her.
“I think I can help you. Taking on this role will give you exposure and will force you to take time off from being a lobbyist. In fact, when I win the election, you’d have to quit your job. When the time comes and you want to go back to work, they wouldn’t dare try to ruin you because you’d be the former First Lady.”
Greer stared at me with her mouth agape. I could tell that this part of the equation had never dawned on her.
“If you want me to take a leap you have to be willing to do the same. What are you afraid of? Certainly, you aren’t afraid of me?” I could no longer suppress a light chuckle
Greer pulled her shoulders back and looked me in the eye with a stern look on her face. She extended her hand and without a waiver in her voice said, “You have a deal, Chris.”