My face crimson with embarrassment, I want to crawl under the seat when I realize that the flight attendant is speaking to us. Vinny, on the other hand, finds us being caught acting like two horny teenagers amusing. “Sorry, she just can’t help herself sometimes.” He shrugs and gives her the dimpled smile. “I’ll make her go back into her seat.”
“Vinny!” I smack his chest and mock glare at him as he winks at the flight attendant.
Once we’re checked into our hotel, Vinny seems more like himself. Without asking, he orders a bottle of the wine that I drink and a platter of fruit from room service. I consider arguing with him again about making decisions for me, but then I realize how the conversation will end. Do you want wine? Yes, but that’s not the point. Are you hungry for a little fruit? Yes, but that doesn’t mean you had to order it for me. So I settle on picking battles where I want a different end result.
“So you never told me about the interview you’re doing tomorrow. Is it anyone I’d know?” Vinny asks.
Freezing in place, panic overcomes me. Lying has never been my strong suit, but lying and guilt combined isn’t a combination easy for me to mask on my face. I’m grateful that my back is to him when I’m forced to respond.
“Ummm…I doubt it, just some Senator.”
“Senator huh?” Vinny comes up to stand behind me as I unpack my toiletries. I stop breathing, half expecting him to tell me he knows what I’m up to. Wrapping his arms around my waist, he nuzzles my neck from behind. “Is he young? Should I be jealous?” He kisses his way up to my ear.
His warm breath and light nibbling cloud my thoughts, I stand unmoving, not quite sure how to respond. Vinny nudges me playfully for an answer. My response comes out a bit too defensive, “Ummm…no, he’s old enough to be your—”
Lucky for me, we’re interrupted by room service knocking at the door. “Do you mind getting that, I need to wash up,” I ask.
“Sure.” Vinny swats my ass playfully as I practically run to the bathroom. Looking at myself in the mirror, I douse my face with water, desperate to clear my head. After a few minutes, I regain my composure enough to venture back into the bedroom and I’m surprised when I find room service still here.
“Would you mind signing an autograph for me? I’m a big fan. I’ve seen all your fights. I’m even going to the exhibition tomorrow.” The coquettish young server sways back and forth. She’s cute, in a Midwestern cheerleader type of way.
“Sure. What do you want me to sign?” I’m pretty sure he didn’t even mean the question suggestively, yet I watch as the girl’s cheeks turn pink.
Removing a piece of hotel stationary from the drawer, I walk over, interrupting their conversation. “Here you go.” I hand the girl the paper and smile. It’s a sugary smile, the type that other woman can instantly read and know the true meaning hidden beneath.
Vinny looks at me curiously before taking the paper and scribbling his name.
The little tart bounces up and down excitedly, taking the autograph from his hand before turning back to me, reading my face, and taking the hint. “I’ll see you Saturday, Mr. Stone.”
I have a full glass of the already uncorked wine poured, before Vinny even gets back from seeing her out. Popping a strawberry into my mouth, I smile and raise an eyebrow. “She was cute.”
“Oh yeah? Not my type. Guess I didn’t notice.” He takes two grapes from the platter, tossing one into his mouth, and gently slips one between my lips.
Sipping my wine, I decide I probably don’t want to know, yet I can’t stop myself from asking, “So what is your type, Mr. Stone?” I mimic the server in response.
Vinny takes my wine glass from my hand and sets it down on the cart. Wrapping his arms around my waist, he pulls me close to him. “I only have one type.”
“And that is?”
I roll my eyes, but down deep, I love his response. He kisses the tip of my nose and pulls me close to him in an unexpected, tender hug.
“What do you want to do tonight?” I ask, content in just staying right where I am for the next three or four decades.
“Whatever you want.”
“Really?” I pull back to look him in the face.
“Sure, as long as whatever you want entails staying in this room and me inside of you.”
Yet another decision I choose not to argue about.
“Morning.” Vinny’s gravelly voice tells me he hasn’t been up for long either. I snuggle closer to him, our legs and arms still tangled, my head resting peacefully on his chest as I listen to his heartbeat. Inhaling deeply, I dread the thought of getting out of bed and getting on the roller coaster of a day I have planned.
Vinny trails his finger up and down my naked back, lightly tracing figure eights. The motion soothes me, makes it even harder for me to get out of bed. He does that to me, makes me want to close the door to the outside world and forget it even exists. Especially today. I want to stay in the little bubble of this room, feeding each other fruit and drinking wine between trysts.
The alarm on my phone goes off too soon and I groan as I reach over, turn it off, and begin to climb out of bed. A strong arm pulls me back down. “Where are you going?”
“I have to get in the shower, my appointment is at ten and I need to meet the photographer a half hour before that.”
“Give me that mouth.”
“But I haven’t brushed my teeth.”
“Then give me something else to kiss. I’m laying here looking at you naked, if you don’t make it fast, you’re definitely going to be late.”
Kissing him chastely on the lips, I jump out of bed before he can pull me back, even though I’d much rather stay in bed and have him make me late.
Paul Flanders, one of the dozens of staff photographers from the Daily Sun Times, and I arrive at Senator Knight’s home. Brick pillars hold two large wrought iron gates in place. A camera mounted on top of one of the tall pillars pivots in our direction as we slow to the waiting intercom.
“Can I help you?” A man’s voice booms from the little box, mixed with static.
“I have a ten o’clock appointment with Senator Knight. My name is Olivia Michaels, from the Daily Sun Times.”
“Hold your ID up to the red x on the box.”
Fishing out my license, I do as instructed and watch as the camera moves again. A moment later, the gate opens. “Drive to the top of the hill, park in front of one of the garages.”
One of the garages? A long road surrounded by manicured green lawns leads up to a stately home looming at the top of the hill. I park the car and look around at the stunning view. Built on a peak, the spectacular storybook home is perched on the top, offering a bird’s eye view of the city of Washington, D.C. off in the distance.
“Not going to be hard to find a place to recreate the Kennedy compound feel at this place,” Paul jokes as we stand in front of the intimidating, towering, white double doors, waiting to be greeted.
The doors open and I’m surprised to find Senator Knight standing before me. A home like this, I half expected a butler in a full suit with tails to greet us with a fine British accent.
“You must be Miss Michaels and Mr. Flanders. Please come in.” Senator Knight smiles and extends his hand to greet us individually as we enter.
Wearing a navy blue sweater and khakis, he looks casually elegant. I find myself staring as he speaks. I’m barely inside, yet I’m already searching his face for telltale signs of Vinny’s lineage.
Luckily, the Senator and Paul spend a few minutes discussing places that Paul can shoot on the grounds. It gives me a chance to take in his face without having to participate in the conversation.
His pale blue eyes are strikingly beautiful, contrasting starkly with his deep tan skin. There’s no mistaking that the color is almost an exact match to Vinny’s, but there’s something vastly different too, although I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is.
Standing to his side as he points Paul in a direction outside, I’m able to take in his profile. What I see almost stops my heart. The same rugged, squared jaw line, frames a strong face, one I’m intimately familiar with. It almost makes me uncomfortable to see it on someone else, makes me feel exposed for some reason. The two men exchange words and then Paul heads outside to photograph the house, leaving Senator Knight to turn his attention back to me.
“Miss Michaels, I’ve met many of your colleagues at the Daily Sun Times, but I don’t believe we’ve had the pleasure of meeting before.” He smiles, it’s a practiced smile, one that reminds me he’s shaken hands and kissed babies campaigning for votes a good portion of his life. “I’m actually quite certain we haven’t met before, I’d remember meeting such a beautiful young lady.”
“Ummm…thank you.” I think? “I’m new at the Daily Sun Times.”
“Well I hope this will be the first of many interviews. I have a long history with some of the reporters at the Sun. I feel like I watched a few of them grown up over the years.”
Smiling pleasantly, I lie through my teeth, “I’d like that. It’s an honor to meet you.” My background research taught me he likes to impress women. Young women. The more awe struck I could appear in his presence, the more he would talk.
“Why don’t we go into the library?” It’s a question, but he isn’t waiting for a response. He motions for me to follow and leads me down a series of hallways. The big house is beautiful, architecturally stunning, yet cold, almost sterile. We settle into a beautiful library on two couches positioned facing each other. It’s not incredibly large in perimeter, but the room spans two floors. A small staircase leads up to a gangway that traces the outline of the room, allowing visitors to reach books on the second floor.
“You like the library?” Senator Knight smiles, watching me take in the room. I don’t have to feign awe in here, the room is beautiful, every journalists dream.
“It’s stunning.” I look up and down the countless rows upon rows of beautifully bound books, spanning at least twenty feet high, if not higher. “It’s absolutely exquisite, such simple classic beauty.”
“Yes, yes, it certainly is. Beautiful.” I turn back to Senator Knight, finding his eyes roaming my face and, for a second, I’m not sure if he’s still talking about the library.
Burying my head in my bag to hide the pink that I feel rise on my face, I take my time to dig out my notepad, paper, and recorder, hoping the heat cools as quickly as it rose. “So, Senator Knight. I was hoping to get some background, set the tone for the story. Show the readers your climb to the top.” I smile, clicking on the recorder in front of me.
“Whatever you want. I’m an open book.”
Sure you are. “You’re originally from Chicago. Did you choose to go to law school locally to be close to your family?”
“Great question. There are a number of reasons why I chose Loyola, but yes, being close to my family was important. Family is at the heart of every success story. There was really never any other choice for me. I attended Loyola undergraduate, and their catholic values just connected with me so strongly. It brought me closer to my faith and family life. So when I was given the opportunity to attend law school there, I jumped at it.” He smiles and winks. “Plus, I met my college sweetheart there.”
Didn’t take long for the good Senator to get his strong family values and religious beliefs in, did it? I get the feeling this man could weave the two into a response to just about any question. Politician oozes from him as soon as the recorder clicks on. Like an actor in front of the camera, he comes to life. Quick, someone hand him a baby to kiss.