Madam President, page 39
"You're sure it's okay? You don't need a Band-Aid or anything?" Lauren wanted to see for herself, so she captured Dev's finger. She studied it carefully, finding only a small red scratch, which she promptly kissed. "They just like sleeping under my bed 'cause it's so nice and quiet."
A sexy smirk overtook Dev's face. "I can change that right now, sweetheart."
Lauren rolled her eyes and laughed, feeling a sudden heat in her cheeks. "Sorry, Devil. I've got a meeting with Wayne in fifteen minutes. And you've got one with the Secretary of Transportation in ten. I'm surprised Liza hasn't been here looking for you already. Not that I'm not tempted. Because I am." More than you know, darlin'. Her eyes twinkled.
Dev poked out her lip, then smiled when Lauren leaned in for a kiss.
"But," Lauren diverted her kiss at the last second, denying Dev's lips and giving her a playful peck on the cheek instead, "can I have a rain check?" She laughed again at the look of shocked outrage on her lover's face.
"Later," Lauren promised, earning an instant smile. She turned back to the puppies and gazed at them affectionately, even the ones who had inherited Gremlin's dislike of the President. "Let's get this over with, so I can stop feeling like Cruella DeVille."
"Well, then get your little fanny under there, Mighty Mouse, and dig the little beasties out. I think you'll fit more easily than I will." The President sat back on her heels. "Then I can take them and make the coat."
"That's not even close to funny, Devlyn." But Lauren giggled anyway as she scooted her upper body under the bed and pulled out two reluctant puppies. "Hello, my little demons." She lifted them both up and gave them sloppy kisses, receiving an enthusiastic face-licking in return.
"Well, eeewww!" Dev grimaced as she watched the scene unfold. "Hurry up and put them in the box, and I'll take them to their new vict... I mean owners. Heh, that's another perk to being President. You can give away really ugly puppies, and people have to take them." Dev wrinkled her nose and pointed at Lauren's mouth. "And if you think you're gonna get another kiss from me, you'll need to, at the very minimum, brush your teeth. With bleach."
Lauren jerked her chin towards the door. "Out! Before I decide to keep them all," she drew out the last word, watching with satisfaction as blue eyes widened perceptibly.
"Going," Dev squeaked as she shuffled towards the door, trying to keep hold of the jiggling puppy crate.
Lauren puttered around her room for a few moments before taking Wayne's video call. She pulled out some hand-written notes, and her publishing agent's secretary brought Wayne on the line.
"Hiya, sweetheart," he said affectionately.
Lauren smiled. "Hi, Wayne. How's life in the Big Apple?"
"Eh." He moved his hand in a teetering motion. "Could be worse. Could be Cleveland. How are you?" He wriggled eyebrows liberally dosed with gray. "Been doing anything lately you'd like to tell your old buddy Wayne about?" He gave Lauren his best wishing look.
Which had never worked on her anyway.
"God, Wayne, why do I work with you again?" Laughter bubbled up inside Lauren when the man patiently began listing all his virtues, which, in actuality, didn't take very long. "Okay. Okay." She held up her hands in defeat. "I get the picture."
Wayne continued unaffected. "And when you're finished slumming with the President of the United States," he grunted, "don't forget to give me a call. Some people still appreciate a charming yet rugged man."
"Wow. Rugged and charming?" Lauren crossed her arms over her chest and tried not to laugh as both eyebrows edged their way up her forehead. "Uh huh. I'll be sure to call you, Wayne," she drawled.
Wayne blew out a disgusted breath. "No, you won't." He clutched his heart. "But I'll love you anyway." His face grew serious. "Even when you mess with a winning formula."
Lauren worried her lower lip. She'd figured this was coming. "You didn't like it?"
"Oh, I liked it." He threw his hands in the air. "Hell, I loved it. But it's not a good idea, Lauren."
Her eyes went round and innocent. "What's not a good idea?"
"Lauren." Her name came out a low, raspy growl.
"You need to quit smoking."
"Don't change the subject." He shook his head ruefully. "It's dangerous ground. Your Adrienne Nash books are bestsellers, for Christ's sake. Why you would jeopardize that now, is beyond me. Well? I read the draft. I can't stand it, and I have to know!"
Lauren's eyes widened a little. Geesh. "Well, I don't think I'm exactly jeopard-"
"No. No," Wayne said irritably. "Not that." He rested his chin on a fist. "Are they or aren't they?"
Ohhhh..."Adrienne Nash and her new partner are friends," Lauren replied a little defiantly.
"That's obvious. But I want to know if Adrienne is shaggin' her lovely, new sidekick. Sometimes I think yes, sometimes I think no."
"That you think at all is beyond me," Lauren mumbled.
"Well?" he insisted.
Lauren sighed. "I'm not sure." Her face grew pensive. "Let's just say I'm strongly considering it."
"Well, don't," he said flatly. "I've got the numbers right here, and the gain isn't worth the risk."
"I sent you the first rough draft five days ago. And you've already done market research?!" she asked incredulously, slipping off her glasses and setting them in her lap.
"Please." He rolled his eyes. "Ye of little faith. When Adrienne still had no boyfriend after your second novel I ran the stats." Wayne picked up a stack of computer printouts and waved them in the air. "You've got an 89% female following. Of that number, a third would pray for your immortal soul and stop reading outright if Adrienne took a female lover."
"They can go to hell," Lauren snorted.
Wayne tossed the papers back on his desk and 'tsked' the writer's shortsightedness. "But only after buying the book." He pointed to the stack. "A third of the readers say they don't give a shit who she sleeps with, as long as she's getting some. Then again, they also indicated that if Adrienne came out as a lesbian, they weren't sure whether they'd keep reading. By the way, they want the bad guy from your first book to come back."
"Come back?" Lauren's brows drew together. "I drowned him. He's dead! He can't come back!"
"Fic-tion," Wayne reminded in a singsong voice.
Lauren slumped back in her chair, looking completely bewildered. "My readers are idiots?"
"Ahem!" He shot her a pointed look, and she reluctantly quieted. "The last third approve of the idea, but insist on graphic sex scenes. Our research shows that their attention will wane if they don't get one at least every 63.4 pages."
Lauren's face dropped into her hands. She closed her eyes and groaned. "Oh, God."
"That's a start, sweetheart!" he praised. "But how about adding a 'Take me now!' right after that?"
Sunday, October 10th
They entered quietly, going wholly undetected as three sets of socked feet tiptoed stealthily across the floor. The Secret Service could take lessons from the Marlowe children. This morning, the game plan was to pounce on their unsuspecting mother before she woke up. On the rare occasions when they were out of bed first, this had become a tradition of sorts. They usually ended up in her bed for a while, telling stories or discussing their upcoming day. It was a fun time that both mother and children enjoyed.
Ash noticed immediately that something was different this morning and shushed her brothers as she pointed at the extra lump in their mother's bed. She stopped and studied her mom, who was snoring lightly. Then she moved to the other side of the bed to find Lauren. A wicked grin curled the little girl's lips, and she dropped to her knees. Ashley crossed her arms and rested them on the edge of the bed. She propped her chin on her wrists and kissed Lauren's nose, barely touching the skin.
Her brothers fought hard to stifle their giggles.
Lauren's nose twitched as she was slowly drawn from a blissfully deep sleep. Another kiss and the blonde woman scowled, instantly aging features so youthful in slumber. Pal
Still half asleep, Dev rolled over to see what was causing the commotion next to her. "Lauren? Sweetheart?" She pushed a stray lock of dark hair from her eyes, trying to focus. "What's wrong?"
Lauren snatched up the sheet to cover her nakedness. She was only partially successful, and her befuddled mind couldn't quite understand why Dev's children were all standing in front of her giggling hysterically. "I... I don't know. I woke up, and these eyes were right in front me!" Lauren rubbed her own eyes in confusion, her voice still hoarse from sleep.
"Uh huh." Dev pushed up on her elbows and glanced past Lauren, quickly figuring out exactly what had happened and not buying her children's 'Who me?' looks for a moment. "Yup. Morning raid." She sighed. "I probably should have mentioned those before." She glanced apologetically at Lauren and helped tug up the sheet again, this time covering the crucial areas.
"All right, you little monsters." Dev glared at her children. "Everyone turn around and look at the wall. Lauren and I need a minute to wake up."
"Aww, Mom!" Three whining voices joined forces.
"Don't 'Aww, Mom' me. Do it." She made a spinning motion with her hand, then nudged Lauren's shoulder once they were no longer being watched. "You okay?" she asked quietly
"I guess." Lauren suddenly realized that the children had just caught her naked in bed with their mother, and she flushed from head to toe, her red skin causing her fair eyebrows to stand out in vivid relief. "Oh, God, Dev, this is bad, right?" she whispered, clearly upset as she unconsciously tightened the sheet around her. "This is bad. Bad. So not good," she babbled, pulling up the comforter as well. "I should have gone back to my room last night. I fell asleep-"
"Sweetheart, this is not bad; at least not for them. I promise. True, we need to get you some-"
"Right." The older woman nodded. "But they're fine. They adore you, and this won't kill them." Dev wanted to hug Lauren, but she didn't think this was a good time to get physical with her. "They come wake me up once in a while, and we all snuggle. From now on I'll make sure they know they have to knock."
"But nothing," Dev said seriously. "I love you and won't sneak around to be together. I'll have a talk with the children." She softened her voice. "You know I love it when you stay with me at night." Unable to stop herself, Dev reached out and grazed Lauren's bare shoulder with the back of her hand. She sighed at the feeling of soft, warm skin. "We'll make some changes so this doesn't happen again, okay? They have to learn to respect your privacy, too."
Lauren glanced uncertainly at the children who were talking among themselves. They giggled and punched each other periodically, and she thought she heard the words 'boobie' and 'naked'. Oh, God! she groaned inwardly. Lauren turned back to Dev and gestured between them with a quick hand. "Isn't this the kind of thing that turns kids into serial killers and stuff?" She was half teasing, but this was painfully awkward for her, and she fought the urge to simple bury herself under the blankets or bolt from the room. A grown up she could have dealt with. Hell, what could be worse than Dev's own mother walking in on them at the cabin? It didn't matter that it was purely innocent. Janet didn't know that. But this... this was different. These were kids!
Dev had to bite her lip to keep from laughing as she reached to the end of the bed to fetch her robe. "No." She handed it to Lauren. "It's a lack of honesty about things like this that turns them into serial killers. Lauren, they've seen me naked before." Dev decided to tease Ashley, so she raised her voice. She waited until Lauren had slipped into the robe before she said loudly, "I was naked and in a swimming pool when I gave birth to Ash, for heaven's sake." She grinned when the little girl whirled around and narrowed brown eyes at her. Dev shot the small brunette a 'serves you right' look and ordered all the children to turn around and apologize to Lauren.
"We're sorry," they muttered, pointedly looking at Dev and not Lauren.
Dev tilted her head towards her lover and turned up the heat in her glare. "What was that, kids? And to Lauren, not me."
"Sorry, Lauren." This time the voices were clear, and the blonde woman was presented with three contrite faces.
Christopher bravely spoke up. "We didn't mean to scare you."
"S'okay, kids." Lauren smiled to make sure they knew she wasn't angry with them and was instantly greeted with three relieved sighs. "It just takes my brain a few minutes to wake up." Her eyes flicked back to Dev. "And let's not talk about giving birth, shall we?" She shivered at the thought of all that gore. "I'm still traumatized from watching Princess have those puppies."
"And Ash was probably just as ugly!" Chris exclaimed, to his brother's delight. Both boys began laughing.
"Was not!" the little girl shouted back, punching Christopher hard on the arm.
"All right, guys, that's enough," Dev snapped. "Go into the living room and give Lauren and me a minute or two. We'll meet you out there."
"'Kay." Ashley rousted her brothers towards the door, but ran back to Lauren's bedside before leaving herself. "I really didn't mean to scare you. Sorry." She grinned tentatively. "We like it when you're here. You can sleep over as much as you want."
Lauren couldn't help but smile. She reached out and smoothed Ashley's sleep-tousled hair. "Thank you, honey. I'll remember that." She cupped the little girl's chin and tilted her head so that they were looking eye to eye. "And I'm sure you were a cuter baby than Grem's puppies." She stuck out her tongue and scrunched up her face. "Barely."
Ashley giggled and gave Lauren a hug, "Mom says I was the most beautiful girl baby. And she never lies."
Lauren gazed fondly at Ashley. "I know, sweetie."
Ashley pulled away when Dev cleared her throat and jerked her thumb towards the door, reminding her eldest that she was supposed to be vacating the room.
"Gotta go." Ashley giggled as she ran out to meet her brothers. "You were uglier than me, Chris! There are pictures to prove it."
Lauren laughed and shook her head, thinking that she should have guessed Devlyn would have such a precocious daughter.
"Oh, yeah," Dev sighed, leaning back against the headboard and opening her arms to Lauren. "It's happening."
"What's happening, darlin'?" Lauren sank back into Dev's embrace, sighing contentedly. Surprisingly, she already felt a lot less embarrassed. She would make sure it didn't happen again, and Dev seemed okay with it. The kids seemed to consider it more funny than traumatic. Of course she was a little traumatized, but she'd get over exposing herself to three munchkins.
"You're turning into a mom," Dev said with an air of finality. She brushed her fingers through Lauren's hair. "You'll know the process is complete when you're cleaning 'fudgesicle-face' with a napkin wet with your own spit."
"Ewwwwww!" Lauren moaned. She buried her face against Dev's warm skin, then laughed. "That particular aspect of motherhood is something I will never experience, Madam President."
"And the other aspects?" Dev felt her heart skip a beat. "I'm sort of a package deal." She held her breath and waited.
Lauren pulled back to look at Dev's face. "I know, honey." She smiled reassuringly and laid her hand over Dev's heart. The pounding under her fingertips sent a pang through her own chest. "Everything else I take one day at a time."
"It scares the hell out of you, doesn't it?"
"Pretty much. But not as much as it did before." Her gaze softened, and she found herself wanting to kiss Dev in the worst way. Lauren leaned forward and gently brushed her lips against Dev's, savoring their warmth and her lover's tender, heartfelt response.
The darker woman hummed into the soft mouth pressed against her own, returning the kiss with her whole heart. "Thing
Lauren licked her lips and grinned happily. "Things are already great."
* * *
Dev knelt down, tugging on Aaron's jacket as she zipped it up. He was about to protest again when she raised a finger to silence him. "It's chilly out today. You're wearing a jacket."
"Or you can stay home today while Lauren, and your brother and sister and I, go to the zoo. You choose, son."
He lowered his head, then looked back up. "Yes, ma'am. I'll wear the jacket."
"I kinda figured." She nodded and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. She glanced up at Lauren, who was standing next to her wearing a grin. "And where's your jacket, missy?" A playful brow quirked. "I'll be happy to take you to your room to get it, if you need me to."