Madam president, p.23

Madam President, page 23


Madam President

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  It lasted a long sweet moment, not stopping until tentative tongues had reached out and tasted what both had been wanting for so long. Finally, Lauren began to pull back, slightly breathless. But Dev surged forward and nipped at her bottom lip, tugging it into her mouth in a move that earned a gasp and then a low, sensual groan. But the high intensity of the moment quickly shifted when Dev began nipping and teasing with her teeth until both women were laughing.

  This time it was Dev who began to loosen the fingers she had threaded in Lauren's hair, but before she could pull completely away, Lauren exacted her revenge by surging forward and passionately kissing Devlyn into insensibility. Her initial fears had melted away and now she acted on pure instinct, letting the rightness of the moment sweep them both away and easily deepening the kiss. She swirled her tongue around Devlyn's until the taller woman began to whimper. Yes! Lauren’s mind cried. This is what she wanted. It was the desire and hunger that lurked behind every touch, every innocent glance and tender gesture. And now she was tasting it.

  Lauren felt her body responding, as much to the sounds she was evoking from Dev as the wonderful touch she was receiving. Her belly was beginning to clench as a combination of rampant hormones and adrenaline sang through her blood.

  When they finally parted, she drew in a deep breath, slightly dumbfounded and more than a little giddy. Lauren happily smiled and Dev's face immediately flushed a bright red. The younger woman laughed.

  "That was... um..." Dev searched for the right words with slightly wide eyes.

  "That was wonderful, Devlyn, and I wish we would have done it ages ago."

  Dev was nodding before Lauren could finish her sentence. She sighed with relief, still a little tongue-tied from the effects of the mind-blowing kiss.

  Lauren smiled again, finding Devlyn's bashfulness, mixed with pleasure and a good dose of nerves, utterly charming. "I think, considering that I'm the one who's never done that before... with a woman, that is, that I'm the one who is supposed to be scared witless." She reached up and with the very tip of her finger traced the delicious mouth that was already beckoning her back with its softness.

  Dev grinned then bit her lower lip. "You would think that, wouldn't you?"

  The pilot's voice came over the loud speaker, informing the plane's passengers that they were making their final descent into Port Columbus International airport and that they were advised to buckle their seat belts.

  Devlyn stood up and pulled Lauren up with her. Together they moved to two seats side-by-side that they could buckle into.

  "I think we've got some things to talk about on this trip, Lauren," Dev said seriously, but her twinkling eyes gave away her utter delight with the turn of events.

  Lauren couldn't stop from beaming as she happily settled into her seat. "I think this is going to be one hell of a vacation."

  * * *

  As they traveled toward Dev's family home. Lauren was struck by the familial feeling that pervaded the back of the limo. Emma and Amy sat across from her and Dev. Ash was sound asleep with her head in Emma's lap, Christopher was slowly nodding off in Amy's arms and Lauren looked down at the little boy in her own lap. She couldn't resist placing a tender kiss on Aaron's forehead as he slept in her arms. Even Gremlin seemed content to nap on the floor of the limo, only rolling over occasionally to offer a growl. He had taken to waiting for Dev to growl back. Which she always did.

  Dev reached into her pocket and took out a small bottle of pills. She dropped one into her palm and replaced the cap. Taking a bottle of water from the holder, she was about to take a drink when she caught the look that Emma was giving her. "What?"

  "Do you need that?"

  "It's ibuprofen, Emma. Nothing serious." She glanced sideways at Lauren and felt compelled to offer an explanation. Her gaze dropped to the bottle where she fiddled with lid. "Umm... This is not something that ever went public, but after Samantha was killed," she hesitated and then finished in a rush, "I had a small problem with sleeping pills." She chanced a look up at Lauren, whose eyes held no censure. "But I don't anymore."

  "I'm glad you don't anymore," the writer said softly, gently bumping Dev's good shoulder with her own. Lauren grinned when Dev dropping her free hand down, wrapping long fingers around smaller ones. Devlyn was so different from anyone else she'd ever met. She was always brutally honest about herself. Even though this was something that she'd managed to keep in the family, she knew that if someone asked Dev about it, she'd tell the truth.

  But Lauren had already promised herself that she wouldn't print a single word that would hurt Devlyn or her family. It didn't hurt that she really hadn't uncovered anything that could be truly damaging. She prayed she never would.

  The writer watched as Dev closed her eyes and rolled her shoulders carefully. Then the President's head sagged forward. Lauren's face showed her concern. "Tired?"

  "No. Praying."

  Twin eyebrows disappeared behind fair bangs. "Praying?"

  "Yeah. Praying that my dad doesn't let my mom cook for us."

  "Amen," Emma and Amy said at the same time. Over the years, both women had been subjected to the offerings of Janet Marlowe. The woman was sweet as could be. She loved her husband and Dev more than life itself and cooking was a hobby she'd enjoyed since childhood. Unfortunately, her skill level had also stayed the same as it was in childhood.

  Dr. Frank Marlowe, Dev's father, had always had a cook. Luckily for Dev, that didn't change once he got married. But her mother still felt the need to jump in and ‘help' the cook every once in a while. Especially when she had guests.

  "Oh, come on." Gray eyes rolled. "It can't be that bad." Lauren looked at each face. "No one is that bad a cook." Okay, I am. But at least I don't make other people eat it.

  "Well, let's just say I'd rather eat some more of that shrimp from my ill-fated date with Candace Delaney than be subjected to my mom's cooking. I love my Mom. Don't get me wrong but..."

  "Oh my God," both Emma and Jane finished simultaneously, shuddering with revulsion.

  Lauren laughed, causing Aaron to fuss a little. She immediately clamped her lips shut and cuddled him closer to her. Kids weren't nearly so scary when they were unconscious.

  Dev looked over at Lauren and grinned, lifting her pinkie and wiggling it at the writer.

  Lauren stuck out her tongue in reply but she knew Devlyn was right. Boy, am I wrapped by each and every member of the Marlowe family, or what?

  Two hours later and they were all standing in the entryway of the Marlowe family home. Lauren hung back with Emma and Amy, watching Frank and Janet welcome their daughter and grandchildren home. She desperately wanted to snap off a few photographs but she resisted the urge, not knowing how Mr. and Mrs. Marlowe would react. Lauren looked on uncomfortably as Janet Marlowe, who looked like a shorter, salt and pepper-haired version of Devlyn, wrapped her arms around her daughter and wept openly.

  Frank Marlowe stood back with one grandson in each arm, wearing an indulgent smile for his granddaughter who was wrapped around his waist. He was tall and slim, with a thick head of white hair, a neatly trimmed beard and mustache, and generous mouth.

  "Oh, baby!" Janet Marlowe put her hands on Dev's cheeks. "I'm so glad you're home." She frowned when she got an up close look at the fading scar on her daughter's face. "Are you really okay?"

  "Mom, I'm fine. You know me, too stubborn to..." Dev stopped when she realized what she was about to say. She remained prudently silent while her mother stepped back and examined her from head to toe. "I swear to you, Mom. I'm totally intact."

  "I'll be the judge of that, young lady," Janet snapped peevishly. But her eyes instantly softened. "You looked so tired when we called. I don't know why you wouldn't let us come up there and let me take care of you."

  "I have a whole house full of people who-"

  "They are not your mother," the small woman huffed, poking the President in the chest.

  Lauren tried to stifle a giggle but failed.

Janet looked over and made eye contact with Lauren. Ah, the infamous Lauren Strayer. She lifted a brow.

  So that's where Devlyn gets it. Lauren tried to look properly castigated as she lowered her eyes.

  "Ah, Mom, Dad, you remember Emma and Amy." Dev directed her parents to their other guests. The greetings were quick and everyone's attention was soon back on Lauren. The younger woman began to visibly squirm under Janet and Frank's appraising, parental stares. She turned pleading eyes on the President that screamed, ‘help!'

  Dev almost smiled at the look of unveiled panic on Lauren's face. "And this," Dev extended her hand to the writer and tugged her forward, "is Lauren Strayer. She's writing my biography, as you know. She's going to want to interview you both. So could you try not to tell her all of my embarrassing stories at once please?"

  "But I wouldn't mind a few," Lauren jumped in.

  "Oh, I'm sure I could come up with a thing or two about Stinky here," Frank offered with a wink. "Nice to meet you, Ms. Strayer. Welcome to our home."

  "Please call me Lauren. And thank you, Mr. Marlowe." The writer was just dying to know where in the hell ‘Stinky' fit in here. She was definitely going to set aside some time to hear that story.

  "Then you, young lady, should call me Frank." He smiled charmingly.

  Lauren nodded and grinned back. Frank's Southern accent was even more pronounced than her own. "Thank you." She took a deep breath and faced the one she knew really counted here. "It's very nice to meet you, Mrs. Marlowe. Devlyn has told me a lot about you."

  "It's nice to meet you, Lauren." The small woman took the writer's proffered hand. Lauren just knew she was being sized up and she straightened her shoulders and made sure she gave a proper handshake. Nothing wimpy would do for Janet Marlowe. "And call me Janet. Mrs. Marlowe was my mother-in-law. God rest that evil bi-"

  "Mom," Dev gritted out.

  Janet smiled innocently. "God rest her soul."

  * * *

  David, his wife Beth, and Lauren were simply howling with laughter. Tears were streaming down their faces as their eyes darted between Dev's flaming cheeks and Frank's shit eatin' grin. Janet was trying not to burst into laughter by busying herself with the coffeepot that had just been placed on the dinner table. But her slender shoulders were shaking.

  Frank Marlowe looked properly satisfied as he leaned back in his chair. He had done every father's duty and regaled his audience with the time that Dev took off her diaper in the middle of a family dinner party.

  Devlyn narrowed her eyes at her father and mumbled something from behind the napkin that she was holding firmly against her face. Lauren wasn't sure, but she thought she heard the words ‘air strike'.

  "So," Lauren sipped her water when her laughter finally died down. She fanned her cheeks. "Tell me, where did Stinky come from?"

  Dev looked up, her eyes wide, and she clamped a hand over Lauren's mouth. She eyed her father warily. "You did not hear that. She did not ask that question. You did not hear that."

  Lauren licked the offending palm, causing Dev to jerk it free. The writer nodded wildly before Dev could recover from yelling ‘ewwwww' and wiping her hand on her jeans. "Yes, he did!"

  Frank laughed low and evil. "Well, Devil here, was about, oh, fifteen I think..."

  "OMIGOD! Kill me now, he's gonna tell her." Dev slumped in her chair and began to moan for mercy.

  Frank snorted and then happily ignored his daughter. "Anyhow, she went out on this camping trip with a bunch of her friends. Seems our little Devil and a young lady friend of hers decided to go skinny-dipping in the pond."

  Lauren's eyebrows nearly launched up off her forehead. She turned to Devlyn. "Skinny dipping? Oh my, Madam President. Who knew you had such a naughty streak?"

  Dev glared at her father. "Well, if this makes it into my biography, the entire world will!"

  Lauren patted Dev's knee and refocused on Frank and made a quick gesture with her hands. "Go on. Go on."

  "Apparently, everything was going along pretty well until one of the chaperones heard them splashing around and giggling in the pond and decided to check it out. The girls must have seen the flashlight, because they got out of the water, grabbed up their clothes, and started back to the camp, running buck nekkid through the woods...."

  Dev groaned and slumped a little more. Was it really possible to die of embarrassment? David was pointing at her and laughing hysterically. Yes, she decided, it really was.

  Lauren clamped her hand over her mouth. She tried to imagine a Dev wet and naked, running through the woods. Oooooh... How much would I pay to see that? Hell, I'd take out a loan. Her face suddenly colored and she shook her head slightly to clear it of its decidedly lascivious thoughts. "Gotcha. Nekkid," the word slipped out effortlessly, "teenaged Devlyn, streaking through the woods." She waited expectantly for Frank to continue, not sure which she was enjoying more, Frank's yarn, or the mortified look on the President's face. "Is there more?"

  "Uh huh." Dev's father nodded. "Her friend made it back okay, and never got caught." He stared at Dev and pursed his lips. "Officially, that is." Then he laughed. "But Devil here, wasn't so lucky. Her nekkid a-" He stopped abruptly and cleared his throat. "Backside, I mean, stumbled into a den. A den containing one very protective Mama skunk and four little baby skunks, all scared witless by the dripping wet human that had woken them. You know what spooked skunks do, Lauren?"

  Lauren burst out laughing. Then she wrinkled her nose at Dev. "Oh yuck, Devlyn."

  Dev recovered long enough to scratch her cheek and flip Lauren the bird at the same time before she tossed a napkin at her father. "Thanks so much, Dad. There goes any shred of dignity I had left in Lauren's eyes."

  David and Beth looked at each other. "We heard you puked on her, Dev. There was no dignity left."

  Dev covered her face with her hands. "Was this visit really my idea?" she groaned.

  "Yes!" the room chorused.

  Frank continued undeterred. "It took two weeks, and thirty gallons of tomato juice, before we could be in the room with her without our eyes watering. And that's where the name Stinky came from."

  Lauren felt a pang of sympathy for Dev who was still hiding her face. Once the writer managed to get her laughter under control, she reached out and gently rubbed Dev's back. Lauren leaned over and whispered, "If it makes any difference, I've always thought you smelled great."

  Dev whispered back without moving her muscle but Lauren could hear the smile in her words. "It makes a difference."

  Sunday, June 13th

  Lauren munched on a piece of toast and sipped her juice as she stood on the porch of the house in the morning sun. This was a beautiful place, and the fact that the Secret Service had been ordered to set their perimeter several hundred yards away made it feel cozy and safe. She could only wonder what it would be like in the cabin they would go to later in the day. The writer actually liked the main house.

  Dev had let her sleep in this morning. Although to be fair, since the shooting she'd gotten to sleep till 6:30 A.M. while Dev was undergoing her physical therapy. But her daily sessions had been switched to three times per week and Julio had even given her this week off ‘for good behavior'. Dev thought it was a therapeutic break for her muscles and Lauren decided she didn't need to be enlightened.

  She had woken to a soft summer breeze blowing in her window, the sound of children laughing and playing, and the smell of bacon cooking. Oh yeah. Throw in sex and Lauren would swear she was in heaven not Ohio. She let that thought rattle around in her head until she had a dull ache in her lower belly and points more southerly. Lauren imagined Dev leaning over her and... Enough! She forced herself out of bed and padded toward the bathroom. Time for a shower. A very cold shower.

  After her shower, Lauren towel-dried her hair and ran a comb through it before brushing her teeth and moving out onto the large back porch. She leaned against the house, watching Dev's mother and father playing with their grandchildren. Gremlin was right in the middle of the
chaos, romping, barking, and chasing a stick that Frank would toss out onto the lush green lawn every minute or so. You little flea bag. You'd never fetch for me! Traitor.

  Amy and Emma where seated at a picnic table enjoying their breakfast. Lauren smirked. They were gossiping, by the looks of it. She'd catch up with them later.

  Lauren had seen David and Beth walking hand in hand toward the woods. The only person that was missing was Dev. She slipped her hand into her pocket of her denim shorts and took another sip of her tangy, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice.

  The blonde woman looked up when she heard a soft clomping sound coming toward her. Her breath left her lungs in a quick whoosh when she got a good look at the noise's source. And who was riding him. Dev was sitting atop a beautiful quarter horse, wearing tight fitting black jeans and chaps that were barely visible because they blended into the dark denim. A loose, light-blue chambray shirt that matched the color of her eyes was tucked into the jeans, and well-worn boots covered her feet. Her thick, ebony hair hung in a single braid that trailed down the middle of her back. Lauren sighed. It was truly enough to make any Tennessee girl swoon. Okay, maybe not any girl. But it did wonders for Lauren. To the writer, the President looked absolutely delicious. I'm gonna need another shower.

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