Authors: Imani King
© 2015 Imani King
All Rights Reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locations is purely coincidental. The characters are all productions of the author’s imagination.
Please note that this work is intended only for adults over the age of 18 and all characters represented as 18 or over.
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September 7, 2016
Eight Weeks until Election Day
“How did you talk me into working for the Reynolds campaign again? I’m not this type of woman!” I laughed out loud as I followed Kelly Hernandez, one of the best campaign managers in DC. Connected, brilliant, and beautiful, Kelly had managed to pull me away from my steady job at The Washington Foundation for Internships—and onto the campaign trail. She grabbed my hand and pulled me up to the line in front of Rye, one of the hippest bars in the city. And the place where all the most connected politicians came to unwind.
you are the brand new outreach director for the Reynolds campaign in Virginia! The only candidate who stands a chance against Janice Howell! And an independent to boot! He’s
for starting so late in the race, but I just
he can win it.” I laughed and followed Kelly into the bar, her flouncing pink skirt leading me like a beacon into a new life.
“Damn, I’m never here for happy hour. Shit’s crowded, Kell.”
“That’s because of the news. People are hearing about this last minute addition to the Virginia race, and the town is all abuzz. We’ll grab a table and maybe
someone who knows something about what Greg Reynolds is doing. He
our brand new boss.” She grabbed me by the suit jacket and pulled me to a table near the window, motioning wildly for a server. As with every movement she made, Kelly was immediately noticed. A server came our way and threw two drink menus on the table before trying to run off to another customer.
“We’ll have two blackberry GNTs. Thank you,” Kelly shouted, reaching out to tap the server on the arm. He nodded, annoyed, and went off behind a busy bar lined with blue and khaki-clad lobbyists and perhaps even a congressman or two.
“Don’t you already know all the secrets there are in this city?”
“Well, the ones worth knowing, my dear Sonia.” She looked over my gray linen summer suit and gently tugged on my sleeve again. “You know, darling, on the campaign trail, you might need some new threads.” I laughed. She was never one to hesitate when it came to telling me about fashion. “I can call Carolina Herrara for a suit or two. Even a gala gown.”
“Kell, the last thing on my mind right now is my wardrobe. I just ran out of my office in the middle of the day—”
“Darling, it’s 5:30 in the afternoon. It’s hardly the middle of the day. Besides, your work days are about to get a whole lot longer, and a whole lot more interesting.” All around us, the bar was abuzz with chatter. I couldn’t make out what was being said, but I did hear the name “Reynolds” every few words, just as Kelly had predicted.
“I hear Reynolds has some kind of vendetta against Janice Howell,” Kelly said. “He’s desperate not to see her win. That much is clear from what he’s told me. It’s not just the politics with him, which is so curious. He really thinks she’s
, and that his bid is the only
thing he can do. He’s a billionaire from his family name, of course, and
in this town knows of him. There’s barely a picture of him on the internet. Unknown. But my connections tell me he can
, and we’re going to help him do it.”
“Oh my god, Kelly, what have I gotten myself into?” I wondered just how glad my boss would be if I waltzed back to the Washington Foundation that moment and went right back up to my hot, dark office.
“You’ve gotten yourself into an
election season.” The bored-looking waiter delivered our drinks, and I immediately started sipping, savoring the bubbles of the tonic and the slight sweetness of blackberries mixed with mint. The Southernness of DC sometimes amused me, even though I’d been raised as a Southern girl myself. The alcohol began its work in my body, loosening my muscles and taking away some of the anxiety I felt about the whole leaving-my-job situation. It wasn’t a thing I did. None of it was a thing I did — only for Kelly, the one politico I’d loved working with when we were both fresh, green, and canvassing for Obama’s first election. “Now just sip your drink, darling, and let all of your problems fade away. Tomorrow, we tackle the Reynolds campaign and meet with him in
. And while you’re sipping, listen to the golden gossip that’s falling all around us. It’s gold for the job we’re about to do… and that’s getting this
man in office.”
I did as Kelly said, angling my body toward the bar so that I could hear more of the conversations drifting around us. I nursed my drink, downing it a bit faster than usual.
I hear he’s the silent owner of Reynolds Metals. You know, the tin foil people. He had a billion dollar deal and…
Kelly winked at me. She’d heard the same thing. She waved at the waiter and he brought us another round of GNTs. I hastily finished my first, the alcohol buzzing in my body and seeming to heighten my senses. It was incredible, being here with this truly exciting, brilliant woman on the eve of our big break so late in the campaign season.
Janice Howell isn’t pleased. In fact, she’s fucking livid. There’s some kind of past there, and she knows that he can…
Yeah, she’s a beast alright, but she has the ear of the Minority Whip, and she gets shit done in the Republican Party when no one else…
“It’s all around you darling, the rich backstory that will make this campaign so special. I’d never in a million years thought that I’d get to work on something as exciting as this. And I was so surprised when Reynolds called
. I’ve worked on senate campaigns, but none as high profile as his. And none as contentious.” I sipped the sweet drink, probably far faster than I should have, especially for a lightweight drinker like I was. But it felt
. And Kelly was right. Reynolds and Howell were the talk of the town, and in a swing state like Virginia, the campaign was bound to get heated. The bodies at the bar were all leaning into each other, mouths whispering in ears, with occasional furtive glances thrown over their shoulders. Save for one.
Curious. A man sitting by himself at the end of the bar, just staring into his drink
. He had salt-and-pepper hair, broad shoulders, and a straight, firm jawline. There was something about his very presence that commanded, authority and respect. As I studied him, I saw the
contained in that firm, tall body. A shock ran through my system.
was such a handsome man sitting by himself, and just staring into his drink? There was no reason for it. A thrill ran through me as I watched him from afar. He turned, as if he could that someone was watching him. His midnight blue eyes cut through the crowd, focusing on me for one moment. First I’d quit my job, and then a
man— had noticed me. I gulped and looked back down at my drink. When I looked up, the man was looking at the bartender again.
“Fine, Kelly. You had me sold the minute you walked in today. You know I live for this.” My eyes darted over to the man in the corner again. Just what was he thinking when everyone else in here was talking about the Reynolds and Howell rivalry? Maybe he was one of those rare tourists that wandered into Rye and got lost in the politico crowd. Those eyes though… I hadn’t felt anything like that for
“I did. I did know it. I’ve been waiting for something like this.” The waiter cleared our drinks and brought us another round. I was beginning to feel lightheaded and pushed away the third GNT, running my fingers over the cool, water condensing on the glass. The bar was growing more and more crowded, and Kelly got up to stand at the bar, pulling me along with her. I gripped my drink and followed, lost in the swarm of gossip and pondering. The buzz in the air was nothing like what I felt at the Washington Foundation, not even during our own gala season. Yes, this is what I lived for. It was what I’d been
for. I glanced again at the man sitting at the end of the bar, taking another sip of my drink. Kelly had already inserted herself into conversation with two politicos who had no idea how important she was. She could put on the good girl glitz in a moment, and she already had them hooked. She’d have the whole campaign figured out by morning, and she’d probably have Janice Howell in her grip.
I set my drink down and walked towards the bathroom, flicking my eyes toward the man. His deep, midnight-blue eyes caught mine for a moment, and I felt that shock again. I put my hand over my heart and walked along to the bathroom, slamming the door behind me. Those eyes… something in them was deeply sad. But beautiful, just so beautiful. I fell against the wall and pulled my fingers through my hair, the black curls an unruly mass in my fingers.
Talk to him. Go talk to him. Kelly’s always on you about needing to get laid. And maybe you do…
My heart raced. This was definitely
what I’d come here for. I’d come to celebrate my new position with Kelly, and I’d come here to have a couple of drinks after the craziest decision of my adult life. Kelly, of course, was here for the gossip. There was plenty of that to go around. I couldn’t pretend I knew what I was doing when it came to listening to gossip. But hell, maybe this man was hiding something important.
Or maybe it’s just because you haven’t had a date in six months, Sonia. Maybe it’s because every guy you go out with is far more interested in himself than in anything you have to say. Maybe it’s because you haven’t gotten
in a year. Sonia, the good girl with no time for a man.
“Oh hell no, body, not now. I ain’t got time for you to act up and get all attracted to some man based on one glance.” Quickly, I looked at myself in the mirror. My deep brown skin was as flawless as ever — a trait I inherited from my beautiful mother — and there was still a twinkle in my eye. Even if my suit was boring, the whole curly-haired, round-faced thing always worked for me. Even in my least confident moments, I thought I was pretty cute. And hell, if I could just chat with a man… a real man for a moment. I’d be on the campaign trail for months, and right now, I could use a bit of a attention.
“I said hell no, Sonia. A
isn’t part of your
is the campaign trail to the White House in 2020, and you can’t have any silly man messing that up for you.”
Well, a one night stand isn’t exactly going to mess everything up, now is it? And a conversation surely wouldn’t. Not that you’d have a one night stand. Of course not. Not a good girl like you.
“Fuck it.” I strolled out of the bathroom with my head held high, the drinks working their magic on my confidence. With all the bravado of Kelly Hernandez, I waltzed up and pulled out the empty barstool next to the salt-and-pepper mystery man. I motioned to the bartender.
“I’ll get a gin and tonic, the one with the blackberries in it. And he’ll have another one of whatever he just finished.” Blue Eyes looked over at me, cocking a half grin. His stare… that grin. It sent a shock straight through me, making me crazier than the drinks or Kelly’s energy or the prospect of a brand new job changing the world. It was that moment of connection between a man and a woman that has been talked about since the damn dawn of time. Probably part of what got Eve kicked out of the garden in the first place. That taste… that thirst… that ache for more. More knowledge, more time, more
. And in those deep blue eyes, he promised the answers to it all. It was as if, for a moment,
all the sense had drained from my head. I was only a being of physical feeling, my eyes sweeping over the strong, handsome lines of his face, the loosened blue tie, the carelessly open shirt.