Madam President, page 31
"Yeah," Dev agreed flatly. "Real sweet."
"Looks like Grem's gonna be a daddy." Lauren smiled at the President. "I guess that makes you an aunt."
"Wrong! They are all yours." Dev enunciated each word carefully. "Grem is yours, and he got her pregnant. Have fun, 'grandma'. My mother has disowned the little tramp, and I certainly don't want them."
But the sparkle in pale blue eyes gave Dev away. She wasn't too mad, and Lauren knew it. She moved closer to Dev and rose up on tiptoe, giving Dev a tender kiss on the cheek. When she pulled away she could see a definite softening in the President's expression. "Don't be mad." She kissed Dev again, this time on the chin. "How can you be angry at true love? Please."
Dev fought to hold onto her indignation and anger, but they were melting faster than snow cones on the Fourth of July. "Tease," Dev grumbled petulantly. She made one last ditch effort to maintain her angry pose and failed miserably. Again.
"Uh huh." Lauren's expression was unrepentant. She threaded her fingers together at the fine nape hairs of Dev's neck and kissed her in earnest.
For a long, breathless moment, both women forgot about the dogs at their feet.
Devlyn licked her lips when they separated. "Nice."
Lauren grinned. "Mmm hmm..."
Gremlin's happy groan drew both women's attention back to the crate. Lauren scratched her jaw speculatively. "Well, think about this, Devlyn. The kids can finally have their own dog."
"Oh, no!" Dev shook her head vigorously. "We're not taking even one of the demon spawn from hell. Cerberus and his mate can just find homes for their evil seed elsewhere."
Lauren glanced down and made a face. "They are going to make some... er... ugly puppies."
"You're being kind."
"My mom says any day now, so I hope you know something 'bout birthin' puppies, Scarlett. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have an appointment with the Secretary of Health and Human Services."
"That's great. Will you pick me up a food stamp application?"
Dev laughed and shook her head. "Spoken like a true Democrat. And, no, I will not. But I will gladly pay to get them sterilized."
Gremlin chose that exact moment to start howling even louder. Princess, however, remained conspicuously silent.
"Hush," Lauren scolded her pooch. Then she stuck out her tongue at Dev. "Spoken like a true Emancipationist."
"I prefer Emancipator."
"Oh, is that so?" Lauren grinned and crossed her arms.
"Oh, absolutely. Because, my lovely," Dev reached out for Lauren. Speaking in her deepest, sexiest voice, she said, "I can set you free."
Lauren leaned forward until her forehead was resting against Dev's chest. She sucked in a deep breath. "God, I love it when you talk dirty."
Both women began to laugh.
Friday, August 13th
Dev pushed herself away from her desk and tossed her pen down, clearly upset. God, everything about this made her sick.
Special Prosecutor Miller leaned forward eagerly in his chair, causing it to squeak as he braced his forearms on the desk. His eyes took on a predatory glint. "We need to make a statement to the nation."
Dev's jaw worked. "How many times do I have to repeat that this isn't about the nation. It's about a fifteen-year-old boy!"
"A fifteen-year-old who tried to assassinate the President!" David closed his eyes and shook his head. He just knew Dev was going to react this way. "Madam President, I'm sorry, but I agree with Special Prosecutor Miller on this one."
"Better watch out, David. The A.C.L.U. is gonna want your membership card back for that."
Miller squared his shoulders. "This is a serious issue, Madam President."
Dev's face went stone cold. "You don't need to remind me of that, Mr. Miller."
David broke in, hoping to forestall an argument. "He was old enough to buy a gun on the street, plan the crime for weeks, sneak in the weapon without being detected by the Secret Service or any other damned security, and shoot you three times. Those aren't the actions of a child, Madam President."
"Our briefs are ready. Our position is strong. I'm certain we'll win," Miller said confidently.
"This shouldn't be about winning and losing. You're talking about putting someone who is too young to shave, and spends more money on pimple medication than gasoline, into a maximum security federal penitentiary for the rest of his life."
"With all due respect, Madam President, my job is to prosecute." Miller braced his large hands on Dev's desk and stood. He'd had about all he could take. Every step of the way the President had insisted that he justify not only his office's investigation methods, but his tactical decisions as Special Prosecutor. If this was how Devlyn Marlowe was acting now, she'd be testifying for the defense by the time the case went to trial! The man stepped around the side of the desk, and Dev rose to her feet to meet his challenging stance. "My job isn't to do what's best for Louis Henry. He's got three attorneys who are safeguarding his rights very nicely, thank you."
"That's enough, Bill!" It wasn't that David disagreed with him. But he could see that Dev was about to boil over. And arguing wasn't going to get them anywhere.
"I agree that Louis Henry is dangerous and should be kept in jail for as long as possible. I'm reminded of it every time I look in the mirror." She reached up and traced the fine scare that ran along her left temple. "I just think that a federal penitentiary is the wrong place for him now. Certainly we can find something else."
"Would you excuse us for a minute?" David gestured towards the door with his head. "I'd like to speak with the President alone for a moment."
"Of course." Miller stepped away and marched angrily out of Dev's office.
Dev settled back in her chair, tapping her fingers on the soft leather. "You're gonna yell at me aren't you, David? I can tell. The veins in your neck are all bloated, and your voice has that little squeak to it. Beth was right. You are in the heart attack danger years."
David grunted with frustration, not wanting to smile at his friend's joke. He did not want to say what he was going to say next. Sometimes my job just sucks. "It will make you look weak by not going after Henry with both barrels."
Dev drew in a quick breath.
The Chief of Staff held up his hands. "Hold your horses, Devil! And for once let me finish."
Her mouth snapped shut.
"Every political talk show in the nation has already speculated as to why we haven't made this move sooner. The Republicans started grumbling three weeks ago. Now, even the more conservative Democrats are joining in. You're pushing a crime bill that includes your DNA legislation right now. It's not the time to appear soft on crime!"
"I'm not through. I know you don't like Miller. He's aggressive and arrogant, and he's very damned good at his job. But this time he's right, Dev. Louis Henry belongs in prison. Not some juvenile detention center. I really believe that, separate and apart from the political implications."
Dev crossed her arms over her chest and lifted her eyebrows. "Can I say something now?"
"Uh, yeah." David rubbed the back of his neck with his palm.
"If this is only about the boy, and not about my crime package, then why the little speech?"
David shrugged. "You pay me to tell you the political reality of things. This time, what's best for you also happens to be the best thing for the case. You need to trust your people."
Dev couldn't take David's brown eyes boring into hers, so she got up from her desk and moved over to the window, gazing out at the clear blue sky. She gave herself a mental kick in the ass and then spoke. "I just hate this, David. I can't stop thinking about my kids. It's like his prosecution has struck some sort of nerve or something. I can only imagine what Louis' parents must be going through. No, wait. I can't imagine that."
"And you feel guilty for going after him because right now it's going to help you."
"Yes." Dev turned to face her best friend, at a loss
"And that I should back off."
"And to let Miller make his motion, and let the court decide whether Louis Henry should be tried as an adult."
"And enjoy the political benefits without guilt."
Dev sighed heavily. "These conversations are always so enlightening, David. Let's have one again real soon."
David chuckled. "I'm sure we will. Well," David clapped his hands together, "I suppose I should get him."
"I suppose." Dev smiled when, instead of heading for the door, David joined her at the window and put his hand on her shoulder. "You do realize that Liza is probably going to buzz me sometime in the next thirty seconds. I'm already running late for my next appointment."
"Well, it's not like you to waste even a few seconds when you could be picking my brain. So, what earth-shattering thing do you wanna know?"
A broad grin shaped David's lips. "Where exactly is Lauren's tattoo."
Saturday, August 14th
Dev was grinning like the Cheshire cat when she offered Lauren her hand and gallantly helped her out of the limousine. "You know it's official now, don't you? The Press will be all over us again." She linked arms with Lauren, and with exaggerated slowness, began walking her towards the White House steps. They stopped often and took a wide path to the house, letting the evening breeze rustle their hair and dresses.
Lauren leaned into Dev, gripping her bicep with her other hand. "After an evening like tonight, Madam President, the Press can go to hell. I don't care what they write about us."
Dev laughed at Lauren's spirited reply. "Don't go giving them carte blanche, or they'll be relentless."
"And they aren't usually?"
"Good point. When Sharon does a Press recap about tonight, she'll mention that you were my date for the evening. There won't be anymore denying it. Are you ready for that?"
The answer came more easily than she thought it would. "Absolutely." Her integrity as Dev's biographer would come under heavy fire. But hadn't it already? Devlyn would stand by her, and she knew in her heart that she was up to that challenge. What she felt for Dev, how she felt about herself when they were together... it was worth the hardship.
Yes! Dev wondered if her cheeks would sustain permanent damage if her grin grew any wider. She was so proud at the moment it nearly hurt. But she tucked the feeling away as one of the most important in her life. "Are you tired? Could I buy you a nightcap?" Dev wiggled her brows. "I happen to have an incredibly expensive brandy hidden in my room."
Lauren looked up at a sky full of a million twinkling stars. But tonight she didn't envy their position in the heavens. Tonight, things right here on Earth were pretty damned magical. They'd gone to dinner and the theater. The food had been fabulous, the performance had brought her to tears, and the company had been better still. The Secret Service had been there, as always, but ever since Dev's shooting she found it hard to resent their presence. Lauren laughed to herself. Maybe I'm just getting used to this whole crazy life. No - not 'getting used to', just doing a better job of accepting the realities.
Despite the fact that this had been Lauren and Dev's first public event as a couple, when a normally reclusive rock star had shown up at the performance, to Lauren and Dev's delight, he'd received most of the attention. Lauren suddenly wondered if that was really dumb luck, or the machinations of a certain lanky brunette who was known to pull out all the stops when she really wanted something.
"I'm feeling nothing but wonderful right now, Devlyn." She bumped hips with the older woman. "I'm not tired at all. And I'd love to have a drink with you. But before I do, there's something terribly important that you should know."
"And that would be what, Ms. Strayer?" Dev removed the silk scarf from around her neck and draped it over Lauren's shoulders, allowing her fingertips to linger. "Don't tell me you have a jealous boyfriend who's going to show up tonight, and who I'm gonna have to punch in the nose?"
Lauren grasped Dev's hand and lifted it, examining her long fingers in the moonlight. "Have you ever actually done that?" she asked curiously. "Punched somebody, I mean?"
"Well, maybe once or twice... but I swear only when that person deserved it."
"Tch." Lauren's gave Dev's arm a little pull but didn't let go of her hand. "I don't know whether I believe that or not. I've never seen you so much as lift a hand to the kids. And you haven't pummeled the Secretary of Defense senseless, not that he has very far to go." While Devlyn did have the Devil's own temper when provoked, a gentle - even sensitive - woman lurked underneath. Lauren wondered what it would take for Dev to get mad enough to resort to violence.
Dismissing such serious musings, the writer sucked in a deep breath. The late summer air was still warm and humid. And the aroma of fresh flowers floated on the breeze. She almost regretted taking the last few steps into the White House and out of the evening air. "What I wanted to tell you, was that I hate brandy. Always have. Don't suppose it would be possible to get something complicated, like a perfectly aged, frosty mug of root beer?"
"Hmmm..." Dev pretended to think. She nodded. "Yeah, I think I can handle that order. Or at least the kitchen staff can. Maybe we'll make it two, and I'll throw in a little ice cream in mine."
"Ooooo... you've finally hit upon my idea of decadence, Madam President." Lauren smiled her greeting to several cleaning staff members who were polishing the staircase railings with practiced hands and gossiping about their favorite soap opera couples. She lifted the hem of her dress as she ascended the stairs, easily navigating them in high heels but wishing she were in sneakers nonetheless. "Should I change first?"
"Hmm, tell you what. You come with me, and I'll loan you a set of very baggy, Presidential sweats if you'd like. That's what I'm changing into." Dev turned her head and whispered into Lauren's ear. "There's only one thing more comfortable."
Lauren shivered at the feeling of Dev's hot breath tickling her ear. "If you say something with the word 'naked' in it," she paused to fan her cheeks, "I'm going to jump your bones right here in the hallway. I swear I will, Devlyn."
"And this is a deterrent exactly how?" Dev laughed, tightening her grip on Lauren's hand. "You have such a dirty mind. So I guess I'll just have to make sure I don't say naked until we actually get to my room. Wouldn't want to give anyone a show."
"Now, now, Ms. Strayer." Dev's voice held a solemn but teasing note. "Have I done anything to make you think I would be anything but a very private and very passionate lover?" She waited until a lovely, pink blush crept slowly up Lauren's cheeks and greeted her words. Damn, she's adorable. Wish I knew what she was thinking.
Lauren swallowed hard. Okay, you started this. Don't chicken out now. "Honestly, Devlyn, I'm not sure. You haven't given me any clear signal one way or the other when it comes to..." She bit her tongue, then whispered, "You know." There. That was clear as mud.
Over the past two months the women had kissed. A lot. A whole lot. But things hadn't progressed beyond that. For the most part, Lauren was grateful. It had given her time to come to terms with certain truths about herself, and about what any romantic relationship with Devlyn would really be like. The taller woman was amazingly patient about the whole thing. Or absolutely terrified. Lauren couldn't tell which. But she was never rushed. Never pushed for more. The problem was, Lauren really wasn't nearly as patient as Dev. And as her anxieties about a more intimate, physical relationship with Dev lessened, her libido began to squawk. Loudly.
Then there was that damned book! There were only so many times a woman could read The Joy of Lesbian Sex before needing to try some of those things out. Lauren's mental picture of her and Dev d
"What does 'you know' mean?" Dev tormented more. "No, no, I'm not sure what you're referring to at all." She chuckled wickedly as they turned down another corridor. "Skiing, knitting..." She opened the door to her private suite and turned a single standing lamp on. It cast the women in long shadows, but was more than enough to see by.
"Is that any way to address the President of the United States? Tsk, tsk, little girl. I may just have to spank you for that." The door wasn't even shut yet, and Dev was kicking off her high heels. One sailed all the way across the room, hitting the wall with a dull thud. "Yuck. No wonder I never wear those. I don't know how you even stand those short ones you're always wearing. Ahhh, that's soooo much better," she moaned throatily as she closed her eyes and wiggled her toes.