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What’s your dirty little secret?
For Xavia Kennedy it was freedom. Escape from a pastel painted life ruled by an American dynasty and headed by a formidable foe. One wanted to escape. Her family. X has a plan. Get serious and get the hell out of Bean Town. Away from the pretty people and boring as hell lives.
Then she met him. Smooth talking and gorgeous. All it took was a dim hall.
He called their hook-up a mistake.
No problem. She walked away without a name, just an impression. That was the hottest sex she’d had minus the actual sex. After one Nantucket party too many, Xavia ends up cutting bait and heading to D.C. She hops aboard the crazy train as the newest intern to Bennett Stone.
Or Senator Stone as he’s known on the Hill. He’s more than Cosmo’s sexiest congressman. He’s complicated. A mystery.
Ben doesn’t date. He’s got his own dirty secrets.
But where X is concerned, there’s one he’s willing to share.
If she agrees to his terms.
In his bed, it’s way. All she needs to do is learn to stop arguing.
Impossible when she finds out the connection they share runs too deep to put aside, and she begins to fear the secret under the secret that’s left unsaid.
Everybody Uses Someone.
AT THE CURB, I park and get out of my car, whistling and
waving to Jon exiting South Station. “Hey oh! Let’s go. We’re
running late.” We’re headed to Nantucket. A three-hour drive to
my grandparents’ end of summer cookout before they close up
their home and head back to Manhattan.
As I go to move past him, he grabs me and crushes me within
his arms. “Not too late for a hug!”
I squeal and thump him on the back, scrunching my eyes shut
at missing him so much. “You’re a nut.”
“I miss you, Xavia. Terribly.”
“Then why do you stay away so long? A train ride. Not too
“Girl, that rail runs in both directions,” he mocks me. “You
need to come to D.C. more often. I’ve got a job. You’re the
“Student, yes. Free—not even close,” I retort, escaping from
his grasp as I take shotgun.
Jon flips me off as he stalks around the hood of my car,
humming under his breath. Once inside, he opens his messenger
bag, and laughs devilishly. “Then help me, help you.”
“What have you done?” I ask, eyeing him suspiciously, wearily.
My best friend has a propensity to believe in the impossible and
does the outlandish at the drop of a hat.
“You’re welcome, Ms. Kennedy,” he says, handing me a
manila envelope. There’s three copies, and a telephone number.
Your contact is Nora Swan. Call her!”
I shift my glance from him to the envelope, knitting my brow.
I’ve got a contact? That you’ve arranged…dear mother of God.”
“Follow through on this one and you’ll thank me. Fuck, will
you thank me!”
“Clearly, we see the world differently,” I mutter, opening the
envelope and removing a stack of neatly stapled documents. “A
U.S. Senate internship application? Ah no!”
“Button your lips and read,” he commands me as he puts the
car into gear.
I hate driving and when he’s in town, he’s behind the wheel,
but right now I’m rethinking that one. I want to do anything
besides give this application an iota of my attention. I may not
know what direction I want to take when I graduate and
everyone’s good intentions, suggestions, connections…are
strangling me—regardless of how well-meant.
“I’m so not going to D.C. Especially not to the part near
Capitol Hill. It’s enough to have to deal with the political leeches
we’ll soon see at Gran’s.”
“Oh but you are,” he replies. “This is ‘mission get your ass in
gear’ and get the hell out of Dodge. You’re drowning here and
besides, I’ve got it going on. Just need my wingman.”
“Correction. That’s wingwoman. I’ve got a vagina to prove it.”
“Sweetheart, I’m not the one who needs reminding of that
fact. Another of the myriad of issues we’ll address. One-by-one.
I’ve got you in my sights. But back to the app you’re holding.
Nora is expecting your call. She’s crazy, on the verge of bridge
jumping with her boss. Bennett Stone.”
I glare at the application. Exhaling, I scan the page, and stop as
stare at the photograph of the gorgeous and unforgettable man
at the bottom of the page. “Shit!” I hiss.
“What’s wrong?” Jon glances over at me. “Do you know him?”
Yeah, I know the man or rather his mouth. Don’t forget his
hands, his cock, and his ability to torment me for seven weeks, and
two days. But who’s counting!
“Know him?” I can’t find the words to admit this is the guy
from the club.
Back in June, I’d told Jon that I met someone—more than
met; that I’d relapsed into my old ways. He didn’t crucify me—
But if he finds out…that guy was—is—a congressman… a
What will my friend think? He’s gone to all this trouble.
“Hello?” he says, lowering the music.
Steeling my features, I dodge diving back into the pool of my
shame at having lost my head in a dark hall. Instead of coming
out with my dirty little secret, I seal my lips, refusing to divulge
the truth. For weeks, I was clueless about that wolf from the club,
but now I know. This gig is for the world’s most incredible kisser,
going by the name of Senator Bennett Stone.
My nightmare. An unforgettable mistake.
“No. No. Of course, I don’t know him!” It was true. I didn’t
actually know him. He was a drive-by suck my lips off kiss. The
guy I had the craziest, hottest sex with in my life. Minus the sex!
“Great. Then take a look.” He fishes out a magazine as he
Now, it all makes sense. Why Stone seemed so familiar. I stare
at the cover and mutter, “He’s that politician featured on the
cover of Rolling Stone last spring.”
“The very same brilliant hottie. Shit, if he was gay, I’d go
intern for him.”
“Okay Einstein, why would one of the hottest senators want
me on his team? He’s a front runner, and probably has scads of
interns—cough chicks—lined up to do his bidding. This seems
like a… mistake.” The word pulsates inside my mouth and I recall
what it was like to kiss Senator Stone pushed up against a wall
with his fingers fisting my hair.
Jon shakes his head. “The good senator isn’t like that. Stone is
strictly business. So much, he just sent his team packing. This
player is the real deal. Not only is he killer in the looks
department, he’s a Harvard graduate, and the lowdown is the
White House is fast-tracking him. And you have connections
from working on the Gazette that he can use. You two are alike.
Stone was a little bit of a rebel rouser and stepped on some toes
prior to law school.”
“And Mr. Pretty Face needs my help?” I narrow my eyes at
“Absolutely! Independents straddling the fence are prime
targets. A Harvard camp you’ve got an in with, and one I put out
feelers to—they’re also waiting for your call. All you need to do is
set the wheels in motion. Get him a student talk on campus.”
“You mean like what Clinton pulled off? Are you on
medication?” It was true that I had a cache of connects from an
internship I’d done at Harvard, writing a column for the Gazette,
but I wasn’t into politics. “What’s so special about him—aside
from being gorgeous, popular, privileged?”
“That pretty face has got presidential candidate written all
over his political agenda. And not just his. There’s talk coming
from the Vice President’s office. She’s running next year.
Looking for her own Veep, and there’s a huge betting pool at the
Post that Stone will be her running mate.”
So the man with panty-dropping looks any male model would
kill for is more than a pretty face. I scan the application with his
photograph and motto. ‘Get committed.’ Whoa, that sounds like
double entendre. As I stare at the senator’s face, the skin over
my body tightens. So much, a flash of heat doesn’t just creep up
my neck—it flares. Stop acting ridiculous.
Refocusing, I read the possible staff positions available on the
subcommittees Stone chairs. A slew. Everything from war reform
to the environment, education, and foreign trade. Jon has talked
about getting me to D.C. as a Capitol Hill climbing fool,
nonstop during the summer. My last year at Boston College, and
I’ve done my stint of resume padding internships already.
“Another tuck-n-roll, and for Mr. Popularity. I don’t know. You
do realize I’m still in school.”
“Shut your pie hole. You’ve got enough credits to graduate
and this will help you. Get your feet wet and then you can pick
and choose where you want to be, come graduation. Need I
remind you for the umpteenth time, it’s time to cut bait and run?
Grace and Stan Stillman are just waiting to get their hooks in
you. Are you going to let them?”
“Fuck that noise! I’m not accepting my grandparents’ help.
How can you even kid about that shit?”
“Because if you don’t have a plan in place, they’ll turn you into
Monica and Janice. Is that what you want?”
“My cousins are idiots.” I shake my head, thinking about my
family’s ability to put a strangle hold on my career choices. Being
connected to the Kennedys and Stillmans is a fulltime task of
warding them off. Overbearing brutes have nothing on Gran and
Pops in how they try to commandeer everyone’s future. After
entering Boston College, I’d sidestepped their entrapping
attempt to tell me what to do and when to do it.
Unlike my two cousins currently ensconced in Midtown
banking. It wasn’t that Janice and Monica were vapid—they were
brainiacs for all their suck-up ways. But categorically, they lacked
spine to chart their own course by falling into the fold. That fold
being my grandmother’s archaic view of life as the Stillman
matriarch along with her ability to meddle 24/7, and now my
cousins were junior execs on Fifth Avenue with a choke collar
around their necks.
I shake the envelope like it’s the enemy. “And how is this any
different? Instead of Gran’s meddling, I’ll be beholden to yours.”
“Shush. I listen to what you say, when you talk about
hightailing it out of here when you’re done with school.
Someplace fun and exciting—someplace happening. You can’t
argue that D.C. isn’t just up your alley. I get nothing in return
except you being near me.”
“Christ on a cracker,” I declare. “I’m not a political junkie like
“XS, c’mon.” He softens his voice. “You pretend not to like
politics because of your grandparents but you do have an
opinion. Why not learn what the hell goes on behind the
scenes—isn’t that your thing? Don’t let your pride get in the
He’s playing dirty. Using my obsolete nickname: X or worse
‘XS’ short for Xavia Stillman. A reminder I don’t need, tagging
back to some of my high-flying days where I was one hot mess of
excess. Rebellious with a razor sharp ‘R’ before graduating high
school and I’d been close to stumbling into several dens of
iniquity and catastrophe. Without asking, my grandparents
stepped in, twisted a few arms, and had me accepted to Boston
College, nixing my dream to attend UCLA. Far, far away from
One call and my applications to UCLA, along with a slew of
other schools were denied or waitlisted. Without a choice, I
stayed in New England and vowed never again. Since entering
BC, I got serious, taming my partying ways with one goal of
graduating and leaving Bean Town. Yet going polar into the
library stacks during grad school has been a trip into the land of
oh-so-boring, and it’s the end of summer.
The end of my little freelance grind at the Globe as a reporter,
and I’m so cagey that I’m actually looking forward to the start of
classes next month. But a backstage pass, a ticket to the behind
the scenes…I’m not convinced. Skeptically, I shrug. “I don’t
know. You’re really over-the-top on this one.”
“Precisely. And it’s a good thing. What have you got to lose?”
He looks over at me, quirking his eyebrow, and then abruptly
ruffles my hair.
Besides my mind—but, he’s got a point.
Groaning, I roll my eyes at him and exhale. “Fine. I’ll think
about it. Operative word: think.” I read through the application
and yeah, Jon’s recreated my college experience, and then I read
the references he’s listed. Grace and Stan Stillman. Patrick
Kennedy. “Name drop much? You’re nuts to put them down.
What if Stone’s office calls my grandmother?”
“It’s not crazy to mention your family. Besides, look at the
I read the numbers and although I don’t recall my stepfather,
Patrick’s number off the top of my head, the one listed for my
grandparents is— “You listed your telephone number. Are you
“Not in the least. I’m leveling the playing field. If Nora calls,
I’ve got you covered and your family will be none the wiser.”
“And for Pat? Whose number is this?”
“Roderick’s. He’s ready.”
“Your brother is going to pretend to be Patrick Kennedy?”
His brother was a Marine and just returned from active duty
with a case of PTSD so bad he was in rehab.
“He’s good with it. Right now, Rod’s doing his program, so
he’s got the time. It’ll give him something to do other than sit
around the V.A., smoke pot, and do group therapy.”
“This smells of all kinds of crazy,” I say, shoving the
application back into the envelope.
“So it’s worked in your favor. I’m a little leery about mine.
Luck I mean.”
“An opportunity has nothing to do with luck! It’s about
working your connections. You’ve got an untapped skill.”
“Oh yeah and what’s that?”
“Charisma. When you choose to use it. God, do you know
how many people would kill to have your looks, your
connections, and that elegant charm that you were born with?”
I inhale. “It feels more like a curse, if you want to know the
“Fuck, Xavia. Don’t squander what you’ve got. I work my tail
off to get where I am. We could be closer and I wouldn’t have to
keep coming back here to check up on you!”
“I hear what you’re saying.” I grimace, looking at the one
person who’s always been there when I needed him, but this is a
dilemma and obviously, he doesn’t know how bad.
Down in D.C., Jon has worked a gig for the last few years as a
hotshot journalist. And it’s true, he’d be free of babysitting me—
able to devote more time to his career. Yet unconvinced that I
can dive headfirst into a Bennett Stone internship, I open the
browser on my cell. Since I’m not about to tell Jon my secret, I’ll
need some ammunition to argue my case, and start to google the
senator with hot rough lips and demanding hands.
During the drive to the island, Jon and I discuss D.C., Hill
internships, his experiences being in close quarters with
congress… Everything except what I’m not telling him—that I
basically let the good senator feel me up against a wall.
Exasperated and not able to out argue Jon, I ask, “How often
would I have to see him?”
He presses his fingers to his forehead. “I don’t know. Depends
on if you’re in his inner circle. Given this is a short gig, I doubt
much. When Stone calls a meeting, but there are scads of interns
plus all his senate staff. I wouldn’t sweat it. Besides, you of all
people have years of hanging with powerful men. What’s running
through your head?”
“Nothing!” I train my focus forward, wondering what the hell
he’s about to drag me into as we pull up in front of my
GRAN’S ‘COOKOUT’ is anything but hotdogs and
hamburgers. Waiters wearing white gloves circulate, carrying
trays of champagne splits with plastic funnels, tumblers of what I
guess to be Scotch, and margaritas given the sloshing neon liquid
and salted rims. Several men in black suits and sunglasses
circulate at the perimeter—dead giveaway that guests from the
Capitol are probably lurking about.
Gran comes over, arms raised and I press my cheek to her
smooth face, inhaling L’Air du Temps. She takes hold of my arm
and steps back, “Xavia, let me look at you. All grown up! Where’s
Ah. Let the games being. An innocent statement, but what
she’s really doing is assessing me, acquiring ammunition for later
when she quietly addresses a list of concerns I’m so certain she
possesses. The list gets longer and longer the closer I am to
graduating. She’s ready to launch and all I have to do is acquiesce,
let her and my grandfather make a few calls. Not gonna happen.
“Mom is flying to Seattle. Last minute. But, how are you?” My
best line of defense is always to answer her, and pose the next
question. Steer the conversation, charting the direction.
Journalism 101, baby.
She releases me and smiles pleasantly. “Oh you know. It’s the
end of the season and I always get a little sad. We’re closing the
house next week…”And here it comes. The invitation for brunch
or lunch. “I’d like you to come down for lunch next week.”
Bingo! My move. I don’t answer her. “You remember Jon?” I
ask on redirect.
“Hello, Mrs. Stillman. Great party. The clams are delicious,”
he replies amicably. Jon’s so smooth and why not. He comes into
contact with every type of political and business bigwig. Crud,
maybe he’s got a point of getting the hell out of Dodge.
“Thank you,” Gran replies and pauses, giving him her little
stare. She believes that Jon and I are secretly dating, and secrets
don’t sit well with my grandmother unless they’re hers. “Still
working in D.C. at the Post?” she asks him icily.
“I am,” he replies. The tension is palpable and I won’t have
Gran browbeating my best friend, so I whip out a cutting
question. One sure to displease.
“Where’s Aunt Bridget? I saw her heading upstairs. Is she all
right?” I ask to off-balance Gran, knowing full-well that my aunt
is inside, more than likely banging the hell out of one of the wait
staff as she does every year. Aunt Bridget’s libido is the bane of
my grandparents’ Nantucket colony life. Each summer, a huge
chunk of change is exchanged along with whispered messages
from their attorneys in settling house staff complaints. My aunt
stirs up the gossip—I’ll give her that. We’ve all heard Gran
preach that Stillmans don’t do scandal. They certainly pay
enough to ensure the truth is locked away.
“Oh you know Bridget, doesn’t like the sun or the heat,” Gran
replies, casting a worried look toward the upper balcony.
“Princess,” Pop calls out, approaching our huddle with a drink
in hand as he smiles and waves to the guests around us. The ice
from my grandfather’s glass tinkles and he motions to a waiter for
a refill. Hugging me, he laughs out a rumble as I’m surrounded by
his spicy aftershave and the whiskers of his waxed handlebar
mustache, tickling my cheek. I can smell he’s well into his third
bourbon and coke. At least. Pulling away from me, he glances
over to Gran. “Grace, the Kennedys and the president just
I stiffen at the mention of my stepdad’s family, but Gran’s face
lights up and she laughs—or snickers really. Zero is how many
shits I could give that the president is here. Well, at least that
explains the dark cloud of Secret Service agents. “Stan, I’ll go
greet them and pave the way. Please join us in two minutes. Two
minutes, my good man,” she repeats her direction.
“Yes, Commandant.” Pop salutes her and winks at me.
“Xavia, come find me in a bit. We need to chat.” She gives me
her semi-stern grandmother face, then squeezes my arm, and
I exchange looks with Jon as a waiter brings him a beer and
mentally roll my eyes as Grans scurries away. Christ, what has she
got up her sleeve?
“Having a good time?” Pop inquires, taking out a
handkerchief, then wipes the beads of sweat off his face and
down his neck. “It’s hotter than last year. El Niño…am I right?”
“Yes and yes,” I reply.
“Mr. Stillman.” Jon smiles as he shakes Pop’s hand. “Get any
fishing in this year?”
My grandfather looks over at Jon thoughtfully and then
frowns. “Not a bite. Well, nothing worth remembering.”
“There’s always next year,” Jon concedes, holding his beer to
Pop twirls the ice in his glass. “That there is,” he agrees vaguely
and pats my arm. “I’d better get going on my mission. Can’t keep
your grandmother waiting. Someone will want to stop and talk as
I make my way. You know how it is.” For once, I see a glimmer of
dissatisfaction in my grandfather’s eyes. Or maybe it’s just the
heat. His skin is red and he’s sweating…profusely.
“Are you feeling all right?” I ask suddenly.
“Right as rain. Except for this blasted heatwave.” He tweaks
my ear and raises an eyebrow. “Your cousins are here. Go over
and talk to them. Let them tell you about their recent moves and
wedding bell news. You’re graduating and need to start thinking
about a career path as well.”
My stomach twists as I spot my cousins across the pool. The
ones who have fallen in line, earning six figures while working at
Citibank. The same two who live in Midtown and Monica is
engaged to some hard-hitting CEO with a rock the size of a
boulder on her finger.
Nice, charming, well-ordered lives.
I could hurl.
As I scan the crowd, my gaze hits upon another cousin. Not
the exact one Pop referred to. Talk about the blackest of sheep.
Colin. He’s more leech than sheep.
“Sure thing,” I say, nodding my head and all the while I’m
thinking nope. Midtown plastic cousins or parasitic cousin—
they’re all a no-go. I could rock the boat and point that out, but
why? I’m ready to dive into the bay beyond the stone seawall.
Strip naked and swim so far, so fast as to be free of this charmed
and caged life everyone here leads.
Pop disappears in the throng of vanilla-colored people and I
turn to Jon, exasperation souring my tongue. He has his beer
tipped back, and empties it. He’s no wisp of a man, standing six
foot with a muscular body, tattooed arms that run from his wrists
to the edge of his white polo, and plenty of girls around us, give
him the eye in that we can tell you’re gay but hot. Like maybe in
their bed, he might just decide to bat for the other team.
“What are you drinking?” He pushes a wayward strand
behind my ear as only he can do when I’m steaming, not from the
heat but being around my family for more than six minutes.
“Not enough,” I reply when I snag a waiter. “Pardon me.”
Jon gives him his order. “Heineken and she’ll have…”
I look down at the waiter’s tray, surveying my choices. What
the hell? I lift a tumbler and sniff. “This is fine.”
The waiter bows and Jon shakes his head. “Why do you care
what anyone here thinks? Your eyes keep ogling the champagne.”
“Because,” I say, “I refuse to fit in!” Then I lift my glass, and
smile. I’ve never had the pleasure of Scotch before. Plenty of the
men are drinking it, so I knock back a gulp…that tastes like
lighter fluid in my book. Oh shit! I clasp my hand over my lips.
What the hell did I just suck into my mouth? I shiver as the
liquor sits idly on my tongue.
“What’s wrong?” Jon asks, eyeing me with concern. “Are you
going to be sick?”
Okay, either I can spit this shit out or down it. My gaze flashes
around the party, all the pretty, pretty people that talk genteelly
with their summer whites and boat shoes on. Crap, spitting out
the Scotch is a faux-pas to the extreme, and I forcibly make my
throat muscles work. But fuck! Swallowing is no better and I
gasp, then start to hack as Jon claps me on the back. With tears in
my eyes, I follow up with, “No. I’m pretty pissed and want
another of those!”
TWO HOURS later, I’m scrounging through my purse, blindly
looking for my keys. I’ve done my duty and stayed the
perfunctory time period Mom requested, and I as meander,
weaving around people without making eye contact, my sandals
slap across the patio pavers until I see Jon talking to a tall man,
wearing a tight pair of Nantucket Reds.
“Excuse me,” a Secret Service agent says.
“Yes,” I reply, looking over his shoulder. Both Jon and the
other man laugh, their heads bowed together for a second. I
recognize Jon’s companion as one of the executives from
Manhattan…some high-powered attorney I believe, and the more
my memory starts to reconnect, I also recall said attorney has a
wife and kids.
“The president would like a word with you, Ms. Kennedy.”
“With me?” I swing my gaze to the agent, wondering what
President Gabriel North wants with me. This has to be Gran’s
doing. Ten to one, she’s twisting North’s presidential arm,
seeking some favor. Ah, yes and oh no!
“The president is waiting in the library.” He juts his chin over
toward the house. “Come with me.” He turns to leave as if I’ll
just happily totter along.
“Pardon me, Agent.” I cross my arms over my chest, waiting.
The man stops talking into his cell, telling someone to ‘hold
“I can’t right now. Please tell the president, I’ll catch him
later.” I arch my brow, pressing my lips together, and nod.
The agent peers over his glasses, his dark eyes widen, and he
looks like he’s thinking what to do. Well, while he’s trying to
figure how to keep his job, I’m done playing games, and walk past
him with a stony, “Good evening.”
I march over to Jon and his buddy. Both guys glance at me
and then exchange a look between them—protracted and I
understand. Immediately. I smile at Jon. He’s found a hook-up
and in my giddy-I’m-leaving state, I semi-shout his name to grab
his attention. “Time to split.”
“More like splitting from the Secret Service. What the hell
was that about?” Jon asks. “Who’d you piss off now?”
“Just Gran plotting,” I scoff.
“Xavia, nice seeing you again. It’s been a while,” the tallblond-and-married attorney states, extending his arm to me.
I can’t recall his name, but I reach out and squeeze his hand.
“Same. Sorry to greet and run, but I’m heading off calamity.”
“No problem,” he replies.
I smile at both of them and then focus my eyes on Jon. “So,
are you up for leaving?”
“More than ready.” Jon says and grins over at his new friend.
Now, I shift my focus directly to Jon, trying to catch his eye
and nonverbally ask if Mitch is coming with us, but my BFF’s so
hung up on the blond hunk in front of him, he ignores my
“Need a lift back to the city?” I ask Mitch, taking the ‘bull’ by
Jon’s eyes widen and he shakes his head, leaning next to my
ear and whispers, “I’m riding back with him.”
“You’re not seri—”
He jerks my arm, squeezing, and I want to laugh and ask him
if he’s bonkers, but he gives me an I’ll-kill-you-in-your-sleep stare
to silence my unwelcomed imitation of a dumbass. Stiffening, I
feel a tendril of something foreign tighten around my throat—
and wonder what’s come over me. I don’t want him to leave with
Am I jealous of Jon?
Of the blond hunk?
Of them together? In a bed?
Fuck, I think am.
“Absolutely ready. After you,” Mitch pronounces and his
smile widens gregariously. He sets his drink down, and I start to
trek toward the front of the house.
I want to bolt away and I hate feeling like this. In lieu of
leaving through the gargantuan downstairs where I’m sure Gran
is holding court in the living room by this time, I head for the
“Wait up, Xavia,” Jon calls, and I realize, I’m practically
fleeing like my feet are on fire.
I slow my gallop, stepping onto the grass, and take a breath,
glancing over my shoulder, and our eyes meet. I force a smile to
my lips for Jon’s benefit when he and his friend join me.
“Chica?” Jon comes up to me, his eyes wide with concern.
My stomach pitches. I’m acting selfishly. “You know how it
is…seeing the exit. I can’t leave fast enough.”
“Then call Nora,” he whispers before he steps back next to
I inhale gazing into his dark eyes. “I’m thinking…remember? I
need to do some research.”
We walk around the side of Gran’s home, toward the garden
entrance. Together we stride over the pavers, in between the
manicured lawn, and neatly trimmed hedges. I walk silently as
Jon and Mitch whisper. Flanked by their low chatter and secret
laughs, I feel alone and wrap my arms around my middle.
I follow the trail until we come to the circular drive, trying
not to eavesdrop on their conversation but all the while, I can’t
wait to escape being the third wheel. Once outside and facing the
winding row of car upon car down the driveway, I shrug. “Hey,
I’m going to go get my own ride. The queue is too long.”
There are several other couples waiting along the front steps
for the two valets huffing it back and forth.
Jon places his hand on my shoulder. “You okay to drive?”
My cheeks feel numb as I try to keep up the pretense of
smiling. I assess my level of intoxication—not too bad. “Yeah.
I’m fine, just hot. Pop is right about the heat.”
His brow creases. “I can always ride back—”
“No,” I whisper stubbornly. Jon has always been there for me.
“Go have some fun. Lots and lots of screaming, hair-pulling fun.
You deserve it. No excuses. Call me tomorrow.”
Both men give me that surprised expression as if their
connection is covert—which it isn’t to someone like me. I’ve
learned to read nonverbals in assessing my sources as a writer—
I’m all eyes when it comes to seeing below the surface.
“Catch you tomorrow. We’ll talk strategy on getting you
intimately hooked up in D.C.” Jon says with a wink. We hug,
kiss, trade another ‘Bye.’
Alone, I walk to my car, scanning the night sky and wonder
where’s my doorway to change. Glancing back over my shoulder
as I approach my car door, there’s Jon laughing again with his
new friend. New connection. That’s a lesson worth learning.
New connection. New possibilities.
I level my shoulders and think, what the hell? Maybe a little
Hill climbing in D.C. is just the ticket. Tomorrow, I’m going to
call Nora and see what’s the deal with Senator Bennett Stone and
his unforgettable… persona.