The visit from Chris and the confrontation with Joanie made it difficult for me to concentrate on my work. I stared at my computer, unable to decipher the words and phrases that filled my screen. I knew that I should’ve called Claudia, or at the very least texted her, but I didn’t know what exactly to say. I’m sure Lance and Tucker had already delivered the news that Chris and I were dating. It wasn’t like I would be telling her before the story broke. Reaching out to her would most likely cause an argument followed by awkward silence. While my brain waged war with itself about what to do, the decision was made for me when my phone rang. I could see from the caller ID that it was Claudia.
I picked up the phone and didn’t have to say anything before I heard the purr of Claudia’s voice. “I hear you made amends with the Senator last night. Decided to finally give into your attraction to one another, I guess?” There was a biting tone of sarcasm and anger in her voice. I could tell she was holding back versus completely lighting into me. However, I had a feeling that before the call was over that would happen as well.
I cleared my voice before starting to speak. “Chris and I were able to talk last night and clear up a few misunderstandings.” I kept my answers, along with my tone, very guarded. I didn’t know what her intentions were with this call and I didn’t want to play into any plans she might have to cause trouble. Without knowing her motives, I didn’t want to dive into a discussion regarding any sort of dynamic between Chris and me. While she was supposed to work on his campaign, I didn’t know if that was still the plan or if she was out for revenge since she was cut out of this relationship setup. “I wouldn’t say we gave into any sort of attraction, though.”
“What would you call it then? I mean, the Senator called Lance this morning to say that the two of you were seeing one another. So, which one of you is lying?” Claudia’s tone became more clipped with this statement, she was being rude. I had a feeling she would be angry because she’d been left out of the conversation, but this went a little beyond that.
I let out a sigh and rolled my eyes. As much as I didn’t like this, it was only the beginning. I would end up replaying this type of conversation with everyone in my office or on the Hill that knew of my verbal sparring with Chris. Not to mention, I could only imagine what my family would say once they found out. Then again, Chris might be the perfect type of boyfriend in their eyes. I just had to hope that what I was about to say to Claudia would sound believable and, right now, I wasn’t convinced I could do it. “Neither one of us is lying. Last night I went back to his house to apologize for my rude behavior earlier in the day. We talked and realized that we had a few things in common and had a few misconceptions about one another. While we had misgivings about the arranged relationship, we agreed that we had a mutual interest in one another and decided to see how it played out.”
“You’re telling me nothing happened between the two of you last night?” I could tell she didn’t believe me.
“Nothing happened. I did give him a hug when I left, he gave me a kiss on my cheek, but that’s it. No wild passionate affair and no sex. We’ve agreed to begin seeing one another, simple as that.”
“But what about the arrangement? He needs to be in a relationship to run for President.” I could tell she was agitated with this point. I figured it had something to do with the fact that she was part of the team that came up with the idea in the first place.
“We both had concerns over that arrangement and you’re more than aware of them. Hell, half of Georgetown is probably aware of them. He doesn’t want to lie and I’m not going to be a whore, simple as that. We decided that if we were going to be linked together it was going to be real and because we’re dating. So, we agreed to begin seeing one another. Yes, the convenience of it is for his campaign and we wouldn’t have started this if it weren’t for that, but we’re doing this for real.”
“Oh, how noble.” Claudia spat back at me.
I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to react, so I bit my tongue and kept quiet.
“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” For the first time since our conversation started, Claudia’s voice began to soften.
I wondered if she had been trying to put me to the test with her comments earlier and now she figured I had passed.
“Honestly, no I don’t and I’m scared to death. I’ve agreed to begin seeing a man that, while I’m attracted to him, still scares the hell out of me. He’s powerful, Claudia, and he’s planning on running for President and I’m not entirely sure I’m strong enough to handle that.”
I was met with silence. I wasn’t sure if she was just judging me outright or trying to figure out what to say next. I hoped that I had sounded sincere and she believed what I was saying. After all, there was a line of truth in what I had said. I wasn’t sure what I was doing or if I was strong enough to handle the spotlight of a Presidential campaign. The only thing I did know was that Chris and I were solely responsible for what was going to happen between us. Real or not, we wouldn’t have our strings pulled by any outside forces. For us, that type of control did mean something.
Claudia finally broke the silence, “Can we talk about this tonight? Joanie and I were both worried about you last night, so I think we are both owed an in-depth explanation of what’s happening.”
“Joanie and I talked earlier and she asked the same question. I mean, she wanted to know if we could get together tonight. We can get dinner and talk this evening.” I said goodbye and hung up the phone. I could feel the dread for the night forming a knot in my stomach. It was one thing to weave my story to Claudia over the phone, it would be quite another to do it face-to-face.
~ * ~
I skipped lunch and tried to bury myself in work after my conversation with Claudia. I had no idea what the current time was, I was totally lost in the stack of papers on my desk when Joanie stuck her head into my office to tell me she was leaving. It was only then that I glanced at the clock on my computer and realized it was after five.
“How long are you staying here tonight?” she asked.
“Um…I’ll probably be here another half-hour. I need to wrap up a few things first.”
“Ok! Claudia will be late, too. She’s gonna stop and pick up dinner on her way home. Just figured I should give you the heads up.”
“Great, thanks. I’ll stop and pick up a bottle of wine on my way home,” I responded back to her. I knew we had at least one bottle of wine at the apartment, but I had a feeling we would need more than one bottle tonight.
Joanie waved and turned to leave. She left the door open on her way out which was a blessing. Honestly, I think she did it because she knows I get easily creeped out being alone in the dark, empty office after hours. It isn’t that I’m afraid of the dark, but there are always weird and spooky sounds in the building, it just freaks me out. I would love to work late into the night when I know I won’t be bothered but I almost have an anxiety attack every time I try it.
There was an added benefit to the door being left open – I’d be able to see if anyone was lurking about. That was important because I figured this would be a good time to call Chris. I knew he said he would call me later, but I didn’t want him to call when I was in the middle of talking with Joanie and Claudia. I didn’t want him throwing me off my game. Ok, I don’t really have ‘game,’ but I was trying to at least stay focused. I pulled his contact information up on my phone and hovered over the send button for a few seconds before mustering up the courage to press it. The phone rang several times, I was preparing to hang up when I heard the call connect.
Chris was out of breath as he answered the call, “Hello!”
The sound of him heaving to catch his breath should not have been a turn on. But it was. I suddenly had flashes of what he might have been doing to leave him breathless. Or, better yet, what we could do together that could leave him that way. I began to wander into the recesses of my mind where I could envision Chris naked and hovering over me. Our bodies glistening with sweat. His blue eyes staring into mine as he moved in and out of me. Suddenly, I could feel my entire body flush and a rush of warmth in my lady parts. I was torn out of my reverie by his smooth voice.
“Hello? Greer, are you there?”
“Um…yeah, sorry. I think I zoned out for a second.” I could hear Chris chuckle on the other end of the line and I could only hope he wasn’t able to figure out what I had been thinking. “Did I catch you at a bad time?”
“No, I was in Patrick’s office and had left my cell in my office. So, when I heard your ringtone I took off running. I caught you right before you would have gone to voicemail.”
I was trying to wrap my head around what he had just said to me. “My ringtone? You gave me a personal ringtone?” What was that supposed to signify?
“Sure did. I wanted to make sure I knew when you called. That way if I’m in a meeting I can prioritize answering your call over anyone else.”
“Did you end up giving me the Darth Vader death march?”
“No, more like a nuclear warning siren.” He started laughing again and I realized I loved the sound. My body came alive at the sound of it, I was bound and determined to make sure I could hear that sound on a regular basis. Not to mention the feelings it stirred. I could only imagine how his face would light up and he would smile. I’m pretty sure his eyes would sparkle, too. Damn, when did I suddenly become aware of the feelings that this man could induce?
“I’m kidding, Greer. I just have a melodic ringer that was already on my phone set for you. I didn’t mean to freak you out.”
I quickly responded, “No, that’s fine. I guess I was just trying to imagine the warning siren going off in your office. Should I let you go so you can finish up with Patrick?”
“Nah, I can talk to him later; he can wait. So, to what do I owe the honor?”
I started to panic. Had he forgotten we were going to talk later? Or worse, had I misunderstood? My mind began to spin out of control with worry that I was jumping into this with two feet instead of dipping my toes cautiously. “You’d said we would talk later and I’ve got plans tonight. So, I thought I’d call you now when I had some time alone.”
Now it was Chris who was quiet. I honestly wished I could read his mind at this moment. “We did say we’d talk tonight. I guess I lost track of time. I take it you’re getting grilled by Claudia tonight?”
“Yeah, her and my roommate, Joanie. They want details and I’m pretty sure they think there’s something juicy to tell.”
“Not yet there’s not, but how about letting me take you to dinner tomorrow night? That’d give them something to talk about.”
Holy shit! He had just asked me on a date!!! I shouldn’t have been surprised; we were in the process of telling people we were dating anyway. But this was almost official and it was a little scary. I was tentative when I answered, “Are you sure? Wouldn’t you rather start with something like lunch?”
“Who says we can’t do both? If we’re going to make this believable, we need to go out and be seen together.”
He was right and I knew it. However, I couldn’t help but freak out at the idea. Days ago, there had been an intense dislike between us, now we’ve fallen into a companionable situation that I can’t really explain. He had started tearing down the walls that I’ve had up and making me feel things that I didn’t think were remotely possible.
“Okay, let’s do lunch tomorrow, then we can go from there. Want me to meet you somewhere?”
“I’ll text you tomorrow morning to set up the specifics. But anticipate that our lunch discussion will include dinner plans. Good luck with the firing squad tonight, you can tell me all about it tomorrow.”
Chris and I hung up and I couldn’t help but feel as if I was on cloud nine.
~ * ~
When I entered the apartment, Claudia was just unloading the dinner containers on the dining room table. I had two new bottles of wine and made a bee-line for the refrigerator to get them to chill. I went ahead and removed the bottle that had been in there for a few days since it was nice and cold. I didn’t care if white wine would go better with dinner or not, I was ready for a glass, and this was cold.
“Does anyone want wine?” I asked as I sat the bottle on the counter and began reaching for glasses. Claudia and Joanie laughed at the ridiculous question, so I relaxed a little and started opening the bottle. As I poured, I was joined at the counter and I couldn’t help but worry as to what might be coming next. I wanted to be laid back and unconcerned over what might transpire but these two women, my friends, could do damage to my career and to Chris’s if they thought anything was out of place.
“I’m surprised you’re here with us tonight instead of out with your man.” The condescension in Claudia’s voice dripped from each word. She was going for the gusto early on. “What did we do to rank so high tonight?”
I took a measured sip of my wine before answering. “Joanie asked me to come home tonight so we could talk about yesterday. And, if you recall, you asked if we could talk when we spoke on the phone. So, if my two best friends ask me to come home to talk, it’s what I do.” I maintained eye contact with Claudia as I raised my glass to take another drink.
“Did you have to change plans with the Senator for tonight?” Joanie asked tentatively.
“His name is Chris,” I responded tersely. “And no, we didn’t make plans for tonight other than to speak by phone. Before you ask, this isn’t my fallback plan and I’m not settling to spend the evening with you. I wanted to get with the two of you so we could clear the air.”
“When are you planning on seeing him again?” Joanie asked. It was apparent she was getting curious.
“Tomorrow, we made plans to go to lunch. Look, we’ve only just started exploring this idea of dating so don’t have me rushing off to get married yet.”
Claudia began to chuckle. “You have to admit it though, you two would make an attractive couple. Just tell me, Greer, could you feel his eyes on you during the meeting yesterday? You had to have known he couldn’t stop looking at you.”
My eyebrows shot up. “What?! I had no idea, well, I mean, it was hard to miss when he was standing over me at one point. But I mean overall, no I didn’t realize it. Are you sure?”
“Girl, it was obvious to those of us in the room. If we had any doubts, they were taken away when he left to go looking for you.” Claudia paused for a moment, most likely for effect, before continuing. “When you walked out, Patrick was concerned and wanted to know if anyone was going after you. Chris exchanged words with Lance and Tucker, then he left. We all knew he was going to look for you.” Claudia paused again, this time she reached for her glass of wine. She took a long sip and eyed me carefully as she did so. I think she was waiting for me to react, but I held my emotions in check. “Chris probably wasn’t even on the steps of the house when Tucker said he had been waiting for Chris to kiss you when you stood up to him. He said even his calloused soul could feel the sexual chemistry between the two of you.”
I almost choked on my wine. I started to cough and I knew that my face was turning red. I almost couldn’t catch my breath. All the while, Joanie was looking back and forth between Claudia and me. She was trying to process what was going on and had questions. So she asked. “What exactly did he say to you when he found you?”
I was back to breathing normally and took an extended pause before I answered. “I was sitting on a bench and he sat beside me. He told me that he was there to take me back to the house. I asked if he expected me to go with him just because he found me and he said yes. As you can imagine, that didn’t sit well with me. He told me to pull up my big girl panties and follow him, said it was ridiculous for me to act this way when the arranged relationship was my idea anyway.”
“Whoa! I’m sure that set you off? Why would he think you came up with the notion? It was all me.” If I hadn’t known any different, I’d think Claudia was angry that she wasn’t getting the credit for her own idea.
“Yeah, it set me off, alright. I have no idea why he thought it was my idea and I told him I was offended. All through our argument, I kept calling him Senator, he told me I should call him by his first name, Chris. I said that was too personal and it would only be professional between us, so he would always just be Senator Evans to me.”
Joanie’s hand flew to her mouth, she was in shock. As she removed her hand, I saw the massive smile on her face. “I’m sure that crushed his ego!”
“He said it hurt to hear me say that. I chalked his comment up to him just being a dick. I stormed off and scheduled an Uber and he followed me out of the park. He wanted to know what he was supposed to tell you when he got back to the house,” my gaze was fixed on Claudia, “But I told him I didn’t care and left.”
“I had left his house by the time he made it back. I didn’t know how long he’d be gone and I wasn’t sure I wanted to deal with him again.” Claudia admitted, sheepishly. “He’s a nice man and I like him, but he was riled up, Greer. I think the two of you pushed each other’s buttons pretty hard.”
I picked up my wine glass and made my way around the counter. My stomach was beginning to growl and since the food was out, I wanted to take advantage. Claudia and Joanie followed me and we all took our respective seats at the table and began to dive in.
Joanie picked up her fork and before taking a bite asked, “What made you go back to his house? I mean, if you were so angry when you were at the park, why subject yourself to anything further and go to his house? It makes no sense to me.”