Madam President, page 32
The sound of Dev's low moan and the sight of her in that black, fitted dress, head thrown back, eyes closed, was more than enough to send every single drop of blood in Lauren's body stampeding south. "Sweet Jesus," she muttered, licking suddenly dry lips. "You really are trying to kill me, aren't you?"
Dev opened her eyes and marched over to the writer, who was now perched on the arm of the couch. She bent down and brushed her lips against Lauren's, teasing the tender skin around her mouth with nips and little licks. When they were both breathing raggedly Dev pulled back and swallowed hard, nearly undone by her own game. "Nope. I'm not teasing you at all," she lied blatantly, walking toward the dresser on slightly wobbly legs.
Lauren whimpered. "I repeat: liar." She smiled at Dev's responding chuckle. "I hate to do this to myself, Ms. Tease. But I'm afraid I'm going to need someone's help with these buttons. Emma was around when I got dressed earlier." Lauren shifted, showing Dev a row of tiny pearl buttons that worked their way from the top of her buttocks to her mid back. "I can reach them all, but they're teensy tiny and murder on my nerves. Would you mind giving me a hand?"
It would be my pleasure! "Now who's teasing whom?" Dev moved in behind Lauren and very slowly began unbuttoning her dress. "But remember, my dear," she swept Lauren's hair off of her neck and leaned in to taste the skin there, "I don't lose gracefully." She gently undid each button, letting the back of her fingers graze over baby soft skin that hadn't been touched that way in far too long.
"Devlyn." Lauren groaned, her eyes growing hooded. Her blood began to pulse hotter in her veins, even though she knew this was Dev exacting her revenge at her request to undo the dress. Unfortunately, her body didn't seem to care. "Be nice," she ground out. "You... um... said something about sweats."
"Sure did." Dev nuzzled the writer's neck for just a second more before giving it a little nip and undoing the last button. She ran her hand up Lauren's bare back before turning on her heel and heading for her bathroom. "You know where I keep them. Help yourself." Oh, God, I need a cold drink of water... poured over my head.
Lauren took a deep breath. She cracked open her eyes and watched as Dev disappeared into the bathroom. "Evil. Just plain evil," she whispered.
A big part of Lauren wanted to follow Dev into the bathroom. With the slightest push she suspected they'd end up in bed together. But Dev seemed content to play and tease, going forward steadily, but very slowly. Lauren could do that. She hoped. A moment of doubt assailed her, and she laughed at herself, certain that once her body's blood flow directed itself back towards her brain, she'd be okay.
The blonde woman was rolling up the sleeves on one of Dev's sweatshirts when the President exited the bathroom wearing a navy blue, fleece robe. Gone was her dress, make up and jewelry. The hair around her face was slightly damp, and she looked comfortable and content.
In the time Dev had been in the bathroom, Lauren's body temperature had managed to drop to normal. In fact, that, combined with the White House's powerful air conditioner, and Lauren was surprised to find herself fighting off a chill. She dressed, smiling as the soft material warmed her skin. In truth, she plain enjoyed wearing Dev's sweats. For one, they were Dev's and smelled different than her clothes did, despite the fact that, like Emma and the Marlowe family, she used the White House's laundry service. The second reason was it really ticked Michael Oaks off when he saw her sharing things with the President. She smirked inwardly. Bite me, you anal retentive prick.
Dev looked at Lauren and told her with a gesture to turn around as she pulled another set of sweats out of the dresser. The writer dutifully turned and faced the door, but peeked over her shoulder just as Dev disrobed.
"Eyes front, Strayer," Dev teased while pulling on her pants.
Lauren squeaked as her head snapped forward. But she'd already gotten a nice look at an absolutely marvelous backside. Her mind strayed to their time in the Marlowe cabin in Ohio. Oooo...this is like a sexy puzzle that I get to put together piece by piece. And at the end... oh, my. An enormous smile curled her lips at the delicious thought.
The strong hands on her shoulders startled her out of her thoughts. "Still want that root beer?"
"Uh huh." Lauren nodded, before turning around. Chapter Six was all about how to use food...stop it! Just stop it! You'll drive yourself insane.
Dev's bedroom was large and spacious, and they settled in a sitting area on a large, padded sofa, cuddled close together. They'd done this many times before, especially when Dev had something on her mind and just needed someone to talk to. Both women were comfortable with it, and it spoke of their growing camaraderie and intimacy as friends. Lauren pulled her legs up and leaned her head against Dev's shoulder.
She sighed as the familiar weight of Dev's arm settled around her. "The play was wonderful. Thank you for taking me out tonight."
"Oh, it was my pleasure. Trust me. I'm glad we've gotten to a point where we can go out in public. The Press is going to go nuts. But I'm hoping it will be short lived. The conservatives will be up in arms. We'll take some heat and be called nasty names. But if we keep our heads down and stay low, the storm will blow over."
"I trust you, Devlyn."
"Glad to hear it, Mighty Mouse."
Lauren's eyes strayed to the mantel where a photograph of the Marlowe children was proudly displayed. She smiled at the sight. They had been so sweet, trying to cheer her up after her mother's suicide. Especially Ashley. They'd made her cards and showered her with drawings for her room. But in her heart Lauren didn't really think it was fair of them to equate the loss of their mother with hers. She'd had 31 years to get to know her mother and failed. These sweet children were robbed of that chance all too soon. "Tell me about Samantha, Devlyn," Lauren was surprised to hear herself ask. "You don't talk about her much."
Dev tensed briefly and unconsciously pulled Lauren a little closer. "She was a political science major when we met in college, and she was three years older than I was. David and Beth set us up, and we kind of fell for each other right away. We dated for about a year before I proposed. And soon after, we had a commitment ceremony." Dev began stroking Lauren's arm with her fingertips.
She glanced at Lauren, who looked genuinely interested, so she reluctantly continued.
"Eight years after that, as soon as it became legal in Ohio, we had a short civil service. But we were already married in our hearts. We had three kids, and I loved her very much." A bittersweet smiled edged its way onto Dev's lips. "You two would have been great friends." She shrugged. "I don't think there's really anything else to say."
Lauren frowned and shifted in Dev's arms until they were facing each other and she could look into Dev's eyes when she spoke. "I think you're wrong. I think there is a lot to say about someone who was obviously so important in your life."
Dev shrugged again, dark brows drawing together. "I guess there is. I just wouldn't know what to say."
Quiet and unseeing, Devlyn stared at the far wall for so long that Lauren decided to change the subject. She opened her mouth to speak when Dev's low burr pierced the silence of the room.
"Sam was the only person I ever trusted enough to give myself to completely. She held who I was in the palm of her hand and the core of her heart. She intrigued my mind, challenged my soul, and soothed my body and spirit. When she died, I was sure I had lost those things forever." She looked at the woman in her arms and smiled softly. "But I think I may have found them again."
Soothed her body and spirit? Jesus. I thought you didn't know what to say! Lauren tried to smother the bolt of jealously that lanced through her at those words. You asked her, Lauri. Now suck it up and live with her answer. You knew she loved her like that. But somehow, it was different hearing it from Dev's own lips.
The smaller woman unconsciously pulled away from Dev.
"Oh, God, I'm so sorry." She closed her eyes. Too much, fool! That was too much! "I didn't mean... I mean... I didn't want you to be hurt or upset." Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Dev moved forwar
Lauren moved her hands through the shadows and wiped away Dev's tears with gentle fingers. "I didn't mean to upset you. I'm the one who should be sorry, not you. I want to know about her." She turned painfully open, gray eyes on her friend. "That was just a little hard to hear. It caught me off guard. But it was beautiful, and I'm so glad you had that... and have the kids." She smiled weakly and cupped Dev's cheeks. "I'm the one who asked you about her, right? So it's okay. I promise," she whispered. Lauren leaned forward and softly kissed Dev's wet cheeks, tasting the salty remnants of tears.
Thank God. "I don't want to make you feel any less special or important in my life. And I certainly don't want you to feel like you're competing with her, because you're not." Dev took a deep breath. In for a dollar... Since we're already talking about Samantha, I might as well go all the way. If she's going to think I'm a complete idiot, she might as well have all the facts. "Okay, I'm going to confess something that very few people know about me. Remember when Beth asked me that sex question during our game at the cabin?"
Lauren blinked, trying to follow what appeared to be a radical change in subject. She gave a slow nod. "Of course."
Dev shrugged, a little embarrassed. "Well, I told you that I'd only been with one person. So that was obviously Samantha."
Lauren nodded again, still confused. "I assumed that."
"Well, not only was she my one and only. Umm... we waited."
The writer looked at Dev questioningly. "For permission?" she hazarded wildly, not having a clue as to what Dev was trying to say.
Dev frowned. "Permission? Why would we need permission from anyone? We were both grown women. No, we waited until we were married. Well, I was waiting; she was complaining to mom," Dev tried to joke. I have never felt so incredibly ridiculous in all my life. She rubbed her hands on her sweats, wishing she didn't sound so backward. So old-fashioned. Lauren was outgoing and adventurous. There was no way in hell she could find this attractive in a potential partner. "I don't know why. I was young, and it's something I didn't - I still don't - take lightly." Dev stopped and braced herself, praying Lauren wouldn't laugh.
She didn't. Instead, her mouth formed a tiny 'O'. "Wow," she finally muttered. Dev had just made several things very clear to Lauren, although she still wanted to shine a light on a few fuzzy parts. "So is it like a religious or a moral thing? I-"
"No. Just a 'Dev is a nut' thing. I don't just want sex, Lauren. I want it all. I want to make love and be in love with the person I'm with. I don't think I could fully enjoy the physical side thinking that there was nothing more to it."
Lauren sudden straightened. "Is that how you feel about us?" She blinked stupidly. "Like there's nothing more to it?"
"No!" Dev blurted out a little louder than she intended. "That's not it at all. I just wanted to explain. You know I like to tease and play and all. And I love that we can have fun that way, without pressure or expectations. But that doesn't mean there isn't more behind it. Especially when it comes to you, Lauren."
Lauren smiled tentatively, enjoying the fire behind Dev's words.
"My mother, of course, thinks I've lost my mind and all but told me to take you and ravish you." She smiled back at Lauren reflexively. "And don't think I haven't thought about it." Dev groaned, "Because I have. A lot. More than a lot." She swallowed hard. "I haven't tried anything more because my emotions for you run so deep that I can't bear the thought of taking advantage of you. Does that make any sense to you at all?"
Pale brows shot skyward. "No! What in God's name are you talking about? Taking advantage of me?"
Dev sighed. Of course it doesn't. "Sweetheart, I just wanted you to know that you mean so much to me that I want to be really careful. You and the kids are the most important things in my life, and I don't want to rush or take chances with any of you." She dropped her hands into her lap. "My mom says I need to lighten up." She smiled self-deprecatingly. "I'm just not sure I know how. I want to go slow. I want to be careful. I care about you too much to do anything else. This is the way I've always been."
"There's nothing wrong that way, Devlyn." Lauren gently reached out for Dev's hand and smoothly intertwined their fingers. "It's really very sweet." And I am hopelessly in love you.
"Face it. It's old-fashioned, and I know I sound like a complete fool. But I want you to know how much you mean to me." Devlyn gathered her courage and looked Lauren squarely in the eye. She drew in a deep breath. "Lauren, the reason I'm saying these things to you is that I want you to understand how important you are in my life." Dev swallowed hard. "I care for you very, very much. Over the course of the last few months I've definitely realized that I'm totally in lo-"
An alarm rang out, causing both women to nearly jump out of their skins. "Madam President," a rapid, unfamiliar male voice spoke over the rarely used intercom system, "we need you in the Situation Room. Code One."
"Damn!" Dev leaned forward and kissed Lauren quickly. "I've got to go. We'll finish this as soon as I can, I promise." Dev was off the couch and to the front door before Lauren could say a word. As the door closed she could see Dev being surrounded by advisors and heard the word 'bombing'.
* * *
The Situation Room was buzzing when Dev pushed open the heavy door. The men and women in the room were in various states of dress that ranged from Michael Oak's khaki pants and pressed polo shirt to the director of the FBI's jogging shorts and academy sweatshirt. Everyone who was seated immediately jumped to his feet. "At ease." God that was annoying, especially when she knew there were far more important things to deal with.
"When did the last one go off?" Blue eyes flickered to a large screen displaying a map of the Unites States with five areas lit up in bright red. To the left of the screen, were five live holographic images of the sites with a city name hovering directly above them.
The Secretary of Defense and the National Security Advisor entered the room with David hot on their heels. Dev turned to face them. "Buckle up, ladies and gentlemen, it's going to be a wild night." She shook her head and pointed to the map. "Five bombings from coast to coast, all within the last hour."
"Military or terrorist?"
"My guess is terrorist," Secretary of Defense Brendwell jumped in. "Our military checks are already coming back negative. Though we've still got about 20% to go."
David ran a hand through his short, disheveled hair. "Foreign or domestic?"
"We don't know yet."
David glanced around the room. "How and why?" He tossed his briefcase on the table and began rolling up his sleeves. When no one answered his question he barked, "Anyone?"
The Director of the FBI cleared her throat. "We don't know, sir. No one has come forward to claim responsibility."
"Yet," David clarified. "You don't know yet."
Dev winced at the live image shots of several firefighters heading straight into the billowing flames of one of the buildings. "Get Press Secretary Allen out of bed and get her over here. We're going to need a lot of damage control on this. And where in the hell are the Directors of the DEA and ATF and the Secretary of the Treasury!" Dev yelled as another paper listing the exact bombing times and locations was placed in her hands. "And somebody find me a pair of socks or something!"
"Everyone is on their way, Madam President," came the answer from the back of the room.
"Okay, what do we have here?" Dev pointed to the screen, but looked at a young man to her left. He wore a U.S. Army uniform.
"In reverse order of attack; a post office in New York City, an IRS building in Atlanta, a federal courthouse in Dallas, a junior high school in Portland, and a shopping mall in San Diego."
"We're just starting to get casualty reports now, ma'am. But there are reports of dead or wounded coming in from each of the sites or adjacent buildings." The young man reached over and picked up the ringing phone next to him.
"David!" Dev whirled around to find her Chief of Staff in the jostling crowd. "Not good enough! We need this contained now!"
"We're on it, Dev!" his voice called back even though she never saw his face.
"Wake up every damned staffer we have if you need to. I want every piece of information available. Get me the mayors of the cities in question, and the governor of each state, on the phone."