My body was humming as I walked away. The kiss on her temple had been light, I just couldn’t help myself. I could still smell her shampoo, her perfume and the thoughts of her were consuming me as I started to walk back to the Capitol. I hadn’t wanted to walk away, but if I’d stood there a moment longer, I knew couldn’t trust myself and what I might have done. I hadn’t gone to lunch with her expecting to have these feelings. No, lunch was supposed to have been an opportunity to get to know her better and to just let people see us together in public.
What lunch had taught me, though, was that Greer Hamilton would be easy to fall for. I’d been wrong about her from the very beginning. I’d never realized how warm and intelligent she was. I’d known she had a sharp tongue and could easily bite back at the opposition, but that was who she was for work and not the core of the woman she was. Knowing what I’d just walked away from, my afternoon in the office would be shot to hell. All I’d do was think about her and countdown to when I saw her for our dinner date.
Date…that was a scary word. I hadn’t dated in years and I wasn’t sure if I could pull this off. Bitsy had always told me she’d thought I was romantic, but I had been in it with her for the long haul. I’d never imagined I’d lose her and have to start over. And I certainly never expected to date a woman and need to make it look real all the while keeping my feelings out of it. Greer had told me, in the kitchen the other night, that she wasn’t looking for love or a relationship; her career was important. We’d agreed; no feelings, this would be a business transaction. That sounded so harsh, thinking about it now. The problem was, I wasn’t sure I could keep the emotion out of it.
Greer wasn’t aware that I’d watched her as she’d entered the restaurant. I could tell by looking at her that she’d been nervous. She’d shifted her stance, it had been subtle, but I’d been watching her so closely that I’d noticed it. When the hostess had started walking her towards our table, I’d looked down at the file folder I’d spread out on the table. I hadn’t wanted to make her more uncomfortable by staring at her. Instead, I’d tried to exercise every bit of self-control I had and appear ambivalent to her arrival. I’d become so nervous that I’d ended up reading the same sentence over and over.
Greer and I were both entering this ‘relationship’ with our eyes opened. However, we were both concerned about the deception we would be committing when it came to our friends and family. We’d promised each other that we wouldn’t share our plans with anyone; it was best to let there be plausible deniability. That and the fact that we didn’t want anyone to be in our secret and have them decide to unleash a vendetta by splashing our details across every newspaper front page in the country. Our plan would provide an opportunity for my Presidential campaign and Greer’s escape from being a lobbyist. We’d have to worry about what it would mean for us if I won the election. Doing this on our own terms meant that we’d be able to keep the DNC out of our private life; meaning we wouldn’t have to fall in line with their dog and pony show.
The deception was going to be the worst part. Specifically, the deception when speaking to our families. While we each had the advantage that our parents didn’t live in D.C, I had the issue of my brother-in-law being local. Patrick liked Greer and I knew that. However, he’d also heard me rant about her in the past and might be leery of my sudden decision to start dating her. Although, he had told me, repeatedly, that if I were to move on, she was the woman I should go after. He had some sort of radar to always know where she was in the room when we are all attending the same event. Patrick would point her out to me or make comments about how she looked. I’d told him, in the past to go after her, but he’d always said she was the perfect woman for me. I’d laughed him off every single time. Come to think of it, maybe he would just think all my prior protesting was nothing more than repressed feelings and think nothing more of it. Greer and I would just have to be at the top of our game to make Patrick believe we were blissfully happy every time he was around. Seriously, how hard could that be, right? I could already sense I was in trouble.
Then there were my parents and the calls I knew I would have to make, but didn’t want to; especially the one to my mother. That was because I’d have to cover two subjects that my mother was very vocal about. First, telling her I was dating again would initially be met with skepticism. Keep in mind, she’d never been a fan of Elizabeth and had always felt that we’d been destined for divorce, so my mother had never seen me living happily ever after with Elizabeth. She’d said we looked good together, but that it had been just a façade, that we hadn’t really fit and that we had no foundation.
When I got around to telling her about Greer, she would be worried about the type of person Greer was and would ask a million questions. However, in the end, Lisa Evans would be happy that her son was getting back into the dating world. Her happiness would be short-lived, however, when then I announced I was going to run for President. I would be met with silence while she fumed and tried to keep from blowing her stack! My mother hated politics. She hated that it ruined her marriage and that my father had left her for his mistress, Lady Justice. My brother and I had lived with our mother while dad had served his role in the Senate and stayed in D.C. We had been whisked back to Boston and raised there, out of the DC loop and the political tidal wave. She had not been happy when I’d told her of my intention to go after my father’s seat. It had driven a wedge between the two of us because she’d known I’d be lost to her in the Senate halls. While my running had pushed my mother away, it had brought me closer to my father. She would see this as another opportunity for me to drive her away and would think I was doing it only to please Mac Evans.
My father, Robert McKenzie Evans, or Mac as he was known to his friends, had been a United States Senator for 20 years. Give or take; hell, I’d quit counting how long he’d been there. I’d just known, as a child, that when the Senate had been on vacation, he’d come back to Boston and I’d get to see him. As I’d aged, my father had been less interested in spending time with me. He hadn’t known how to handle older children. At least, he hadn’t until I’d graduated college and had announced I was joining the Marine Corps. That had made him stand up and take notice because now he could refer to me in campaigns and say he was the proud father of a Marine. I won’t even go into the mileage he’d gotten out of my addition to the SEAL team. Dangerous and top-secret missions had made him an advocate for the military. He’d gotten himself placed on the Intelligence Committee so he’d have eyes and ears on the missions I had been running. I’d like to think it had been to make sure I’d been safe, but I had a feeling it had been so he could potentially use that information in a campaign or presser if he’d needed it. He’d been tickled pink when I’d moved over to the CIA to work as an analyst. I remembered him telling me that this experience would benefit me one day.
That “one day” had been a few years later when Mac Evans had wanted to step away from the Senate. He had been ready to retire and he’d wanted me to run for his seat. I hadn’t been sure about it, but he’d told me I’d been a shoe-in. That was when my relationship with my father had blossomed; when my political ambitions had started to grow. He’d never voiced an opinion on Elizabeth, but I knew he would have one on Greer. And he would throw his support behind me dating and staying in the public eye with ‘my girl’ so it could benefit me in the race. He knew how the political wheels turned. He’d had already warned me, though, not to run for President. In his opinion, the real work was done in the Senate and the House and the President did nothing more than endure battle after battle. He’d told me that you just couldn’t ‘win’ as the President and it was a thankless job that would leave me stressed out and unable to sleep.
When push came to shove, I knew both of my parents would support me. I’d just have to listen to them encourage me to rethink my decision before they caved and offered their support. Although, that road to getting them to support me would be long and bumpy if news of what I was planning to do were leaked before I talked to them. So far, I’d been lucky; my dinner with Lance and Tucker had not made the rounds through the gossip mill. And no one had seen them at my house, so that was beneficial as well. Right now, I wasn’t a blip on any radar screens, so I was safe – or, at least, I hoped that was the case.
I’d been so lost in my narrative that I hadn’t realized I was back on the grounds of the Capitol building. I stared up at the daunting staircase that leads to the front doors of the building and, for a moment, wondered if I should take the easy way out and go through the door on the side street. The advantage to the side door was avoiding the crowds of people who were there to sightsee. In the end, I choose the front steps. I wanted to see the faces of the people who were entering this building for the first time and taking in the rich history, experiencing the awe and wonder of what they were surrounded by. I appreciated walking in the steps of the men and women who had forged our great country and had shaped our history. Today I was taking in the sights with a new perspective.
I looked at the statues and artwork that remind us of what we had gone through to get to this point in our history. You couldn’t know where you’re going unless you knew where you’d been. Not all our nation’s history was fairytale material; we’d had dark days that we had lived through as a nation. But we’d overcome them or, at least, we were still trying to make ourselves better because of it. This was why I looked around and hoped that one day, I would be an integral part of that history. I wanted to be remembered in this building as a Senator, but also as the Commander in Chief.
I shook the thought out of my head and started up the stairway to the hallway of my Senate office. I rounded the corner at the top of the stairs and had gone halfway down the hall when I saw Senator Andrews walking in my direction. This was fate intervening, I knew; she was one of the people I needed to speak with. Senator Andrews smiled and, when she reached me, she came to my side and looped her arm around mine.
“Well, fancy that I’d run into you in this hallway, Senator Evans. I just left your office, Patrick told me you were at a lunch appointment.” Adeline smirked, as if she knew a secret, then patted my arm. “So, tell me, did you enjoy your lunch with Ms. Hamilton?” I was sure the shock registered on my face. I couldn’t believe that Patrick had given up who I’d had lunch with. “Yes, Patrick told me you were dining with the attractive young lobbyist. He was absolutely giddy, could barely contain himself. Said he didn’t know if it was business or pleasure, but he was thrilled nonetheless. So, tell me, is Ms. Hamilton the young woman you mentioned when you phoned the other night and said you wanted to talk?”
I spoke through gritted teeth. “Can we not talk about this out in the open hallway?”
“Oh! So, there is something to talk about? Well, sure thing, Senator, let’s go to my office since it’s closer.”
We walked the short distance to Adeline’s office and I held the door open for her. As we entered the suite, I looked around and noticed Mary seated at the desk immediately to my left. “Senator Andrews, will you give me just a moment?” I noticed Adeline was already at the door that leads to her private office. Adeline nodded and I turned my focus back to Mary.
“Mary, would you be so kind as to call Patrick and let him know where I am?” I figured this would help me avoid answering uncomfortable questions from Patrick regarding what had happened over lunch, but it would provide him an update as to my location. Plus, he would never turn down the opportunity to talk to his lady friend.
“I’d be happy to, Senator Evans.” Mary reached for the phone and began to dial as I moved to Adeline’s door and entered her private office.
I closed the door behind me and stood in the middle of her office, not quite sure what to do next. Adeline was leaning against her desk just observing me. “Mary’s making the call for me,” I volunteered to break the awkward silence. I appreciated that I could call Adeline Andrews a friend. However, this graceful woman was a gun-toting, conservative Republican from the deep south and the complete opposite of every member of the Evans family from Boston. She was a best friend to my father and I’d always considered her a second mother. She’d taken me under her wing when I’d come to Washington and I knew I could talk to her about anything, but that didn’t mean she didn’t scare me to death. I could tell I was about to be cross-examined by the former District Attorney of Oxford, Mississippi.
As Adeline opened her mouth, there was a soft knock on the door and Mary opened the door. “Senator Evans, Patrick has been notified, he said your calendar is clear for the remainder of the day.”
“Thank you, Mary.” With that, she backed away and closed the door.
“Why don’t you have a seat, Christopher?” Adeline’s voice was stern, she’d always called me Christopher when she was trying to make a point. This made me nervous. I sat down in the oversized, uncomfortable chairs across from her desk. “Why don’t you tell me about this curious little lunch date you had with Ms. Hamilton. I’m sure there are a few things that are interesting about that lunch, don’t you?”
I shook my head. “I don’t know what you’re referring to, Adeline.” I preferred to play dumb, I had absolutely no idea where she was going with this.
“With the whispers of a potential Presidential run, are you dating her because you want to or because the DNC thought it would be a good idea?” There was a playfulness in Adeline’s voice as she said the words, but she was taking a strike at getting some answers.
“Um….what? What in the world are you talking about?” My brain had shut down, there was no way for me to form a coherent or smooth sounding response to the Senator.
Adeline began to laugh as she pushed herself from the front of her desk and made her way around to her chair behind it. “Oh, calm down, Christopher, I’m having a little fun and I can see you’re starting to sweat. I’ve heard a few rumors bouncing around, although no one has any…what do you call it?”
“Receipts,” I chimed in.
“Right, receipts. There are a few Senators on both sides of the aisle, mind you, that are a little nervous about these rumors. So, are the rumors true? Are you running for President?”
“Where are these rumors coming from, Adeline?” There was a wave of nausea rolling through my stomach. I sincerely hoped I could fight it off. When I’d talked to Lance and Tucker, it had been discussed that our conversation and my potential candidacy would be kept quiet. What had gone wrong and who’d talked?
“You should know by now, my dear boy, that I’ve got eyes and ears all over the place.” Adeline crossed her arms on her desk and leaned forward. “You evidently had dinner the other night with Lance Bishop and Tucker Nash, speculation is the discussion was about a Presidential run. The question is, did they call you or did you call them? Because there are some serious ramifications if they called you.”
I leaned forward in my chair, it was becoming more uncomfortable by the second. “They called me, but it’s not what everyone is thinking.” I was going to have to lie to Adeline; damn, I hated this. “They wanted my opinion on the current candidates who’ve declared and who they could count on me to support. Lance Bishop thinks I’ve got some sort of influence and could impact the race. I did ask him, while we were talking, what would happen if I tossed my hat into the ring.”
I could tell that Adeline was watching for some sort of body language to say that I was lying. While she might have been a tough-as-nails prosecutor, she seemed to have forgotten I had been a Navy SEAL. I could lie and not give away any indication that I was doing it.
“Are you thinking of running, Christopher?”
“I’ve considered it. C’mon, Adeline, you know the current Democratic candidates are less than ideal. I’d be an idiot to stand by and watch one of them ruin the party and the country. Hell, we’d be handing the Republicans the White House and, if I’m honest, I’m not really happy with your candidates, either. I’m a wild card, though. I’m not convinced I’d have a snowball’s chance of actually winning.”
Adeline waited for a beat and then sat back in her chair. “You know I’d love to believe you, Chris, but I’ve got my doubts that you’re giving me the whole truth. What I’ve heard is that they approached you and want you to run. They want you to launch an exploratory committee and gauge your chances before you officially announce. What I don’t know and, what I’m most curious about, is how this circles back to Ms. Hamilton.”
I pushed myself out of the chair and started to pace around the office. Adeline knew me well enough to realize this meant I had something on my mind. I walked when I was nervous or needed to think. She’d watched me do it in countless closed-door meetings. It was actually a joke among some of my peers. To her credit, though, she said nothing and just let me walk. I started waging war in my own brain over telling her the truth. I needed to talk to someone I could trust and, while logic would have you think it’s a member of my family, I felt as if they would need plausible deniability should shit hit the proverbial fan.
I stopped in the middle of the office and faced Adeline. “Are there recording devices in your office?”
I was met with raucous laughter. “Honey, Watergate taught me to never record someone without their knowledge. Hell no, I’ve got no devices in here. Say what you want.”
I took one more lap around the office before leaning against the back of the chair I’d been sitting in earlier. “You can’t repeat this, Adeline. I swore I wouldn’t tell a soul so you cannot tell anyone, I mean it.” Adeline nodded, I knew this meant she would do as I asked. I raked my fingers through my hair and started to second guess my decision to do this. “Fine, Lance and Tucker approached me. They don’t like the candidates running and they fear for our chances in the election; they want me to consider running. They told me if I was interested in doing it they could guarantee donors to back me and I’d have the support I’d need to get nominated.”
“Okay, but why you? Don’t get me wrong, you know I adore you, but what made them pick you over any other Senator out there?”
Her question stung at first, but it was valid. “My background, I’m a Marine veteran with a stint in the CIA. I’ve got a war record, you know that always plays well with voters. The only concern they had, they actually told me it was an issue that I needed to rectify, was the fact that I’m single.”
“You’re not single, you’re a widower. That’s a significant difference.”
“Yeah, well they want me in a relationship so I’m perceived as stable.”
I could see Adeline flinch when I said those words. She understood what I’d gone through with losing a spouse. It wasn’t something you just immediately recovered from. Well, I mean, some people could, but I hadn’t been one of those people.
“I’m trusting you told them to go to hell, right?” That right there was one of the reasons why I loved this woman.
“I didn’t, no, not at first. I’ll admit that I let them give me their rationale on why this would be a good idea. They gave me this bullshit line about me being handsome and how, if I’d run without being in a relationship, there’d be too much focus on who I was dating and not on my platform. They said it would be distracting and since we wanted people to focus on what I stood for, it was best that I was in a relationship.” I started to pace again, but Adeline didn’t intervene. I think she was shell-shocked at the audacity of the DNC and what they were suggesting to me.
After three or four passes, I stopped and looked at Adeline again. “I stormed out when they suggested I date Greer Hamilton. When they suggested her, it hit me wrong. I mean, we’ve spent months fighting with one another and snipping back and forth. All I’ve ever known about her was that she’s a lobbyist and a Republican, two things I can’t stand.”
“I’m a Republican and you like me,” Adeline interjected.
I thrust my hands down into my pants pockets. “You’re different.”
“Oh, you mean you’re in no danger of falling in love with me, right?” Adeline teased and I could feel my face start to flush. “About a week ago, you told me you didn’t have feelings for Greer and I challenged you on that. Are you telling me now you’d like to reconsider your position, Senator?”
I knew Senator Andrews was mocking me, but I couldn’t argue with her, she was right. “Fine, I’ve always been attracted to Greer. Patrick keeps telling me I pick fights with her because I’m afraid to show my true feelings for her. We fight at every opportunity, including when the DNC brought her to my house to discuss a relationship arrangement. She stormed out of the house, I tracked her down, and we argued again. It’s like a vicious circle for us.”
“I think that just means there’s a lot of fire and chemistry between the two of you. Are you afraid if you entered into a fake relationship with her that you might end up having real feelings?” I didn’t answer her. Instead, I walked back around and sat in the uncomfortable chair again. “Oh, my! That is the issue, you’re scared you might end up liking her, and you have that unresolved issue of Elizabeth hanging over you.”
“Elizabeth’s dead, Adeline, I’d say she’s resolved.”
“No, she’s unresolved because you’ve never allowed yourself to move on. You still view yourself as married and this is your stumbling block.”
“Yeah, well, anyway. Greer came to my house and ended up apologizing for her actions. I apologized as well and we ended up spending the night together.” Adeline raised her eyebrows at me. “Evening, we spent the evening together. Get your mind out of the gutter. We talked and got to know one another. I realized she’s not a Republican and she’s only a lobbyist because her boss is making her do it. We’ve got quite a few things in common and I could actually see myself falling for her.”
“I don’t think you could fall for her, I think you’ve already done it. So, you’re dating so you can run for President?”
“Sort of. I mean, we decided to ignore the plan the DNC wanted us to follow; we didn’t like the conditions. Plus, Greer thought it made her out to be a whore. I didn’t like the idea of the DNC being in my private life or my bedroom. We’re doing this on our terms. I get a girlfriend on my arm to help with the election and she’ll be able to leave her job working for Preston Miller without getting a black eye in the DC legal community. We can make everyone think we’re real.”
“Neither one of you is doing this because you have feelings for one another?”
I shook my head. “No, we’re each doing this because we will get something out of it. It’s mutually beneficial and no one knows about it but me and her. Well, and now you.”
“Do you want to fall in love with her?”