Madam president, p.26

Madam President, page 26


Madam President

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  "I dunno. I couldn't hear very well because one of my ears was pressed up against..." She pointed at Dev and flushed a bright red. "You know!"

  "Oh yeah. I know." Dev sighed and took a tentative step forward. "Trust me. My mother was not upset. There's no reason for you to be, unless you're upset that you were in bed with me." Which, you moron, she probably is. Jesus, Dev, what the hell did you do last night? "I'm umm... I'm sorry if I did anything out of line, Lauren. I never meant to hurt you. To be honest, I'm not even sure how we ended up here together. But if I hurt you or upset you-"

  Lauren raised her palms. "Hold it." Dev's parents are not your parents, Lauri. Relax. She's not upset. Her mother didn't freak out. They won't be mad at her and nobody's going to come in here brandishing a shotgun. With effort, Lauren allowed some of her tension to slip away. "You didn't do anything. You were having a nightmare and I came in to see if I could help." She smoothed out the bottom of her T-shirt as she approached Dev. "I was worried. You didn't wake up when I shook you, so I climbed into bed and you calmed right down. I... umm... I guess I feel asleep," she admitted bashfully.

  Dev smiled. "You came in to help me with a bad dream? That was very sweet of you. I've been having trouble sleeping lately. Apparently you... uh...well, we both slept like babies last night. Thanks for staying. I know it must have been hard for you." Please tell me it wasn't. Please, please, please.

  Lauren looked up shyly. "Hard?" She laughed. "Ummm... that's not exactly how I would describe it, Devlyn." She reached up and fingered a lock of dark hair.

  Dev took Lauren's hand, kissing it very gently. When their eyes met, a smile spread across her lips. "You know what, Lauren Strayer?"

  Lauren shook her head ‘no' and gazed up at Dev from behind pale lashes. "What?"

  "I really want to kiss you right now. Do you think that'd be all right? Or are you afraid my mom will come back in?" She gave the shorter woman a lop-sided grin and inched a little closer, taking a deep breath and stroking Lauren's cheek with the back of her hand.

  Lauren's eyelids drooped slightly when she felt the warmth of Devlyn's body come to rest against hers. Her heart began to pound and she lifted herself up onto tipped toes. "Who's mom?"

  Dev slid her arms around the smaller woman and barely brushed her lips over Lauren's. Then, on impulse, she sighed and decided to show Lauren exactly what she felt. The kiss was slow, and patient and as loving as she could make it.

  Lauren whimpered quietly when Dev gently requested more, which she gave without hesitation.

  The writer felt Dev thread her fingers in her hair and pull her closer, deepening the kiss. Oh yeah, this is good in so many ways. Lauren's thoughts slowly moved from how good the kiss was to what else might be worth trying. Every blessed thing I can talk her into trying, she decided, as soon as I can figure out what that might be.

  When they finally broke apart, Dev smiled and brushed her thumb over Lauren's lips. "So soft. Now I have another question for you."

  "Yes," Lauren sighed dreamily. "Whatever it is, as long as I continue getting kisses like that, the answer is yes."

  Dev straightened and gave Lauren a bright smile. "All right. If I'm going to take you out, then the least you can do is pick the place."

  Lauren blinked. "Are you asking me on an honest to goodness, real live date?"

  "Yes. And you can't back out now," Dev teased. "You already said yes."

  A playful expression overtook Lauren's face. "Oh, I wasn't going to back out, Devlyn Marlowe. I'm holding you to your offer." She put her finger on her chin and pretended to seriously consider Dev's question. "Wherever we go, will there be a team of Secret Service agents lurking in every corner?"

  "Yup. Unless you have some kinky fantasy that I'm not aware of that requires several agents."

  "Ha! Wouldn't you like to know," Lauren shot back, stealing another small kiss. She hummed as they separated. "I should go get dressed." The smaller woman turned on her heel and moved toward the bathroom. "You don't have to take me anywhere, Devlyn. We can spend time together at home for all I care. So long as it's together."

  "Actually, I would like to know," Dev called after her. "Now we get to go downstairs and face the family. Not to mention David and Beth. You ready for that?" Home? Did she just say home? Go ask her, stupid. No. Wait. One thing at a time. Ask her later.

  Lauren turned around as she pulled open the bathroom door, the wood floor made her toes cold, but she felt warm inside. She cocked her head to the side. "We do it together right?"

  Dev nodded.

  "Then I'm ready if you are."


  July 2021

  Thursday, July 1st

  DEV RUBBED HER temples. The men and women in the cabinet meeting waited for her to say something. Finally, she looked up and smiled. Even in a few months, this group had learned that this particular smile was not a good thing. "Fine," she said on a low and determined breath. "Since we don't seem to be getting anywhere talking to each other, let's try it the old fashioned way."

  "With a lot of screaming and yelling?" Secretary of Agriculture Montgomery joked, trying to relieve some of the tension.

  "That's definitely another option." Dev smirked. "But I'm thinking more in the line of progress reports. These should be simple summaries of what you're currently working on. I want them from your sub-committees too. And do me a favor?" Dev pinned Transportation Secretary Diovanni with annoyed eyes. "Read over what your assistants are going to prepare for me to see, before you send it. I'm holding you to the contents of these reports, ladies and gentlemen. I'm tired of trying to pry information out of you people. It's like trying to brush a tiger's teeth. I've already been shot; I'm not gonna lose an arm too."

  David smirked, nearly choking on his juice. He raised a fist to his lips, coughing slightly as Dev turned her head to give him the ‘look'.

  Dev continued speaking as she glanced at her agenda. "Now that the peanut gallery has been heard from, are there any questions?" She looked at each face around the long table. "Comments, concerns? Criticism can be left with the woman who runs the shredder," she said wryly as she stood up.

  "Seriously, ladies and gentlemen, we're doing good work here. But we need to open the lines of communication a little more. I'm not trying to purposely torpedo all your programs. But without the proper information, I can't make an informed decision. I'm assuming that our next meeting will be more fruitful?" She tilted her head and waited until her question was answered with a round of affirmative, if slightly grumpy, murmurs. "Good." She buttoned her blazer and handed her notebook to Liza.

  The room cleared quickly, leaving behind the President, David and Liza. Dev shook her head. "I swear," she mumbled, "you'd think I was working against them instead of with them. I can't believe I actually gave those people their jobs." She turned to her personal assistant. "How does my schedule look?"

  "You're fifteen minutes ahead of schedule, Madam President."

  "You're kidding? Let's fly to Paris for lunch!"

  David laughed. "Madam President, are you always so sarcastic?" Translation: do you have to be a smartass every second of the day?

  Dev smiled sweetly. "Is that a rhetorical question? Those are so annoying." Dev pushed in her chair and headed for the door.

  Liza hurried after her. "The gift you ordered for Ms. Strayer's birthday arrived, Madam President. It's in your office if you'd like to go inspect it."

  "Oh, good! God, I hope it's something she's going to like." Dev tugged on the sleeves of her blazer. "Not like I have time to return it and get something else."

  "She's going to love it," Liza confirmed. "They're beautiful texts. First editions of Dickens aren't easy to come by these days."

  "Tell me about it." Dev rolled her eyes as they turned the corner and headed down the corridor towards the executive offices. "Took me weeks to find mint quality and put these together. Let's just hope she likes them."

  "She'll be fond of them because they're from you. Not just anyone
gets birthday gifts from the President of the United States."

  "The President isn't giving them to her." Dev looked at her assistant and wiggled her brows. "You coming to the party?"

  Liza chewed her lip nervously. "Are you sure Ms. Strayer won't throw me off the balcony?"

  "Nah. She's over that whole Casey thing."

  "Really?" Liza asked hopefully.

  "Umm nope." Dev laughed. "But I'll keep her occupied." She suddenly stopped walking and glanced around conspiratorially. She leaned close to Liza. "Why did you set her up with a woman? How did you know she wouldn't freak out? Lauren hadn't ever mentioned a sexual preference that I'm aware of."

  It was all Liza could do not to laugh. "Have you ever seen the way she looks at you, Madam President?"

  Friday, July 2nd

  Dev stood in front of the full-length mirror. She studied her reflection critically. "So what do you think?" The tall woman turned to face the four pairs of eyes that had watched her through the last three changes of clothing.

  Emma clucked approvingly. "Devlyn, you look fine. Of course, you looked fine in the blazer, the skirt, the sweater and the blue jeans."

  "Yeah, but I think the slacks are the best. Not too formal, not too informal." She smoothed the sleeves of her silk, rust-colored blouse.

  Emma snorted and rolled her eyes. "You're going to a movie in the private theater. You could go in your bathrobe if you wanted."

  Blue eyes full of affection and exasperation glared at the nanny. "Do you mind if I want to impress her?"

  Emma glared back. "I hate to break this to you, Devlyn, but if you haven't impressed her yet what you wear tonight isn't going to make any difference at all."

  "I didn't need to hear that! You're supposed to be giving me an inspirational pep talk!"

  "Okay, look back at that mirror."

  Dev dutifully complied.

  "Now repeat after me: I'm good enough. I'm smart enough. And, doggone it, people like me!"

  Dev whipped her head around and narrowed her eyes at the older woman. "Why do I put up with you again, Emma?"

  "Because you love her," the children chorused the familiar answer.

  "Oh, yeah," Dev mumbled. She noticed Ashley had moved from her sitting position and was now lying on her bed with her head on her arms. Her posture was undeniably dejected.

  The President walked over and sat down next to her daughter, rubbing her back. "Hey, Moppet?"

  "Yeah?" Slightly sad eyes looked up at her.

  "What's the matter?"


  "Aww, c'mon. I know my girl better than that." She straightened her daughter's bright blue T-shirt. "What's wrong?"

  "Does this mean you don't love mommy anymore?" the little girl asked earnestly.

  Dev's chest constricted painfully at the unexpected, blunt question. For a moment she had to remind herself to breathe. "No, I-" She swallowed hard and started again. "You know better than that. I'll always love mommy, no matter what. And that doesn't mean I can't be very fond of Lauren. I want to see how she feels about me."

  Christopher popped up next to Dev. "She likes you, Mom."

  "Oh, she does, huh?" Dev asked, kneeling down to her son's level.

  "Uh huh." The boy nodded. "A whole lot."

  "How do you know this, pal?"

  He just shrugged one shoulder. "Dunno. She always won't let Gremlin eat you, and she smiles at you."

  Dev snorted. "I may just eat him!"

  "Nooooo!" the kids cried, laughing hysterically when their mother turned her hands into claws and began licking her lips in an exaggerated fashion. "Maybe Lauren just thinks I'm silly. Besides, she smiles at you guys too."

  Christopher grinned broadly and stuck out his little chest. "I know. She likes me a lot too."

  "Chris is right, Mom!" Aaron climbed up on the bed next to his sister, propping his chin on his fists and adding his voice to the choir. "She likes you."

  "Are you just buttering me up because you want me to ask Lauren about letting Grem sleep with you?" Dev teased, tweaking the nose of her youngest.

  "Nuh uh!" Aaron laughed as he rolled away from Dev's pinching fingers.

  Dev turned serious eyes back to Ash. "So, you don't like the idea of me and Lauren maybe seeing each other?” C’mon, Ashley. Please don't be that way. This is hard enough for me without having to worry about how you guys feel about her. I know you're crazy about her!

  Ashley shrugged noncommittally.

  Dev pushed off her knees and perched on the bed alongside the dark-haired girl. "Wasn't it you who said that I shouldn't be lonely?"

  Ashley sighed. "Yeah."

  "Well, what if Lauren could keep me from being lonely? That would be good wouldn't it?"

  The girl's brows furrowed. "I guess it would."

  "Ashley, your mommy wouldn't want me to spend the rest of my life alone. And I really think that she'd like Lauren."

  "Really?" Ashley seemed to brighten with this news.

  "Oh, yeah." Dev nodded enthusiastically, knowing it was the truth. Sam would definitely approve of Lauren. She was an intelligent, beautiful woman, who seemed to love her kids, and she wasn't afraid to challenge or support Dev, depending on what she needed. What's not to love? "Don't you agree, Emma?" Dev turned slightly pleading eyes on the nanny.

  Emma smiled. "Most definitely." The older woman knew she was confirming this for Dev as much as she was for her daughter.

  * * *

  Lauren pulled her hair back. She had finally settled on the fourth outfit she'd tried on: a pair of loose-fitting, brown trousers, flats, and a sheer, crème-colored blouse. She inserted two small, silver, hooped earrings into her ears and set her glasses on the table. Then she dusted her cheeks with a light coating of earth-toned makeup and carefully applied her lipstick. Now it was time to argue with the hair. "Up or down?" She turned to Gremlin, who was lying on the bed.

  He lifted his head and looked, then flopped it back down on the comforter and closed his eyes.

  "Thanks so much for that invaluable input, buddy."

  The writer turned back to the mirror and let her hair fall free around her shoulders. "Down. Definitely down." She pulled it back once again and grinned. "Of course, up has its advantages too." Lauren turned back to the dog and presented her neck. "Does this say, ‘I'm a toy; chew on me'?"

  Gremlin yawned.

  Lauren dropped her hair again and used her fingers to try and give some order to the wavy, fair locks.

  She glanced down at the clock, knowing Dev was due at any moment. I wonder what we're going to do. Lauren laid her hand on her belly and chuckled as what had to be thousands of butterflies danced in her belly. "Why am I nervous?" she asked her reflection as she dabbed a touch of perfume behind her ears. "It's just Devlyn. I see her every day."

  The blonde woman knew they wouldn't be leaving the White House, but she also knew Dev was a romantic at heart and would make their first official date together something special. "Now, as long as no one declares war anywhere, we'll be all set."

  The knock on the door sent her stomach jumping, and she sucked in a deep breath. Calm down! You've seen her nearly every day for the past seven months. You've even seen her half-naked. A slightly lecherous grin twitched at the corner of her lips. Okay, that's not what I should think about if I want to be calm.

  Setting her perfume back down on her dresser, Lauren took one last look in the mirror, reluctantly admitting to herself she really didn't have time to try a different outfit. "Okay." She nodded to herself. I’m ready. Better answer the door before she leaves. Then again, it's not like I couldn't track her down. She only lives down the hall.

  Lauren opened the door, and Dev stood before her. She held a single, pale rose, which appeared even more pristinely white as it stood out against her dark blouse. She held the flower out, and gave Lauren a gentle smile. "Ms. Strayer? I'm Devlyn Marlowe, your date for the evening. By the way, I do not work in the morgue."

  A million things ran through Lauren'
s mind at that moment, but the only thing she could think to say was, "That's the best damned pick up line I've ever heard." She took the rose and pressed the fragrant petals to her nose as she looked into Dev's eyes. "Hi," she said softly.

  Effortlessly charmed, Dev smiled back. "Hi."

  Dev fought the urge to nervously shove her hands into her pockets. "I believe we're supposed to drop your furry little companion off with my children. They told me they're supposed to dog sit tonight. For some reason they don't think that little... I mean, Gremlin, can spend anytime alone now."

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