Reggie stared at the embossed invitation and didn't know what to do. She had no business going, but the curious part of her had made her keep the invitation rather than merely throwing it away. Clint probably would have picked it out of the garbage had she thrown it away because he wanted her to go to the party.
Ironic that Mark Sway, now Anthony Cameron, and his family had settled not all that far from Memphis in Lexington, Kentucky. She had received a handful of cryptic phone calls from Mark over the past seven years, but they really had not spoken since he had left Memphis with his mother, now Debra, and brother, Ricky, now Scott.
Little Ricky had recovered just fine once they'd gotten to Phoenix. He would be starting his second year of high school this fall. Dianne had gone on to graduate from college on the six year plan and had a good and stable job as a counselor for abused women and children. Reggie couldn't think of a more fitting job for the woman honestly and was glad that, however small, she had a hand in getting her to where she was today. Reggie knew the Sway's had been on a road to ruin living as they had been seven years ago.
Reggie buzzed into Clint on the interoffice intercom. "Clint?"
"Yes, Reggie," the quiet and rather shy secretary replied.
"Mark on my schedule that I will be gone Friday and Monday." She could almost hear his shit-eating grin crawl to his lips. "I will be on vacation, but will have my cell phone with me if you need me."
"Done and I'm glad to see you're taking some time off. You deserve it. You have a couple of appointments, but I'll reschedule them for either this Wednesday or Thursday or next week."
"Thanks, Clint, you are the best," she said sweetly, taking her finger off the button that controlled her end of the intercom. She swiveled around in her chair to look out the window. It was going to be another muggy Memphis day. Clint was right, though, she deserved some time off. She had not really taken any time off since graduating from law school eleven years ago.
She had wanted to after everything with the Sway's and Jerome Clifford, but had needed to keep busy to keep her mind off Mark and his family. The not knowing would have slowly killed her had she taken time off.
Reggie stood in front of her hotel room's bathroom mirror looking at her reflection. She was dressed in a stylish green silk tank dress. It was fitted, emphasizing the curve of her breasts and hips before falling just above her knee. At almost sixty years old she probably had no business wearing such a dress, but she had bought it for this day and she was going to wear it. Besides, as she looked at her figure, she thought she still looked pretty damned good, especially considering all she had been through.
Her naturally curly deep auburn hair had proven difficult to tame today and so she was wearing it down. Some gel and other hair products helped calm the curls down a bit, but it was still curly. She touched up her lipstick and then glanced at her wristwatch as she twisted the lipstick tube down, capping it once again. It was time to go. The rest of her make up was simple, she had a good complexion and a pair of bright green eyes that did not require her to wear a lot of make up.
She hoped she was not taking a risk going to Mark's graduation today. Seven years had passed since Jerome Clifford's death and much had changed since then. Reverend Roy had run for the Senate spot vacated by the late Boyd Boyette and won. He had kindly kept Reggie, off the record via blind copies, abreast of the Sway family over the years. The pair exchanged Christmas cards every year. Reggie was always impressed when she received his and it was actually signed by him not by some intern or factory line embossed.
Word had it he had his eyes on the Louisiana governor's spot next. Reggie would not doubt that he would win that spot. Hell, Reggie had to admit after following his career rather closely once she had gotten to know the man that she would vote for him if he were running in Tennessee.
She entered the high school gymnasium as discreetly as she could. The last thing she wanted to do was stand out. She had thought on what to tell anyone should they ask who she was there to see graduate and decided she would find out first which child they were there for and just name someone else. Reggie was old enough to be Mark and Ricky's grandmother, and would not mind claiming to be that except that she would be afraid of jeopardizing their safety.
Taking a seat near the top of the set of bleachers where she fidgeted nervously with her hair. The commencement ceremony program was in her lap. She felt someone sit down next to her and she sat up straight, nervous. Here it comes, she thought. The gymnasium was not even full enough to warrant anyone sitting right next to her. She closed her eyes and said a little prayer that it not be someone who recognized her. Luckily for Reggie, her picture and association with the Sway / Boyette situation had been left out of the papers, but there were still a few who knew.
"Why, Miss Love, what a surprise finding you here," said a familiar voice despite seven years having passed since hearing it up close and personal. She had heard it in sound bytes on the news over the years.
She turned to face him. "Why Roy," she drawled politely. It had driven then US Attorney J. "Reverend" Roy Foltrigg absolutely crazy that Reggie had called him by his name when they first met. So the dig served two purposes, a little teasing as well as not causing any attention to them. His last name was too well known whether she used Senator or Mister to not stand out. "You are the last person I expected to see here."
"I could say the same about you, Reggie. It seems we both were among young Anthony's honored guests."
"It would seem so." She reached over and straightened his tie, offering him a smile as she looked into his eyes. She laid the palm of her hand against his shirt front. A similar gesture to the one she had done the very last time she had seen him in person. "So are we the divorced grandparents?"
"I don't know that anyone would believe we are divorced, Reggie. Not if you touch me like that."
"Why, Roy, that touch? I was just being polite and straightening your tie. I take it you're here without an entourage, so didn't have anyone to make sure you were fit as a fiddle when you left your hotel room."
He placed his hand over hers and lifted it from his shirt front. He kissed it politely before laying their joined hands against his leg right at his knee. Reggie glanced at their joined hands, making no effort to pull away or separate them for now.
Senator Foltrigg was dressed impeccably in a double-breasted suit that had been tailored to fit his tall form perfectly. The white shirt with thin navy stripes was nicely pressed and the collar was lightly starched, just enough to stay looking crisp throughout the day. The navy tie with tiny burgundy spots on it was silk and probably the only thing about his ensemble that was obviously expensive. Even his dress shoes were like any other man's black dress shoe.
"So, how have you been, Reggie? You're looking good."
She shook her head slightly, but she could not deny his compliment felt good. "Just fine, Roy. You? Keeping busy I'm sure."
"Oh you know it. What are you doing after the commencement ceremony?"
"Well, there's a party at Mark's house. I have not decided whether I should go."
"Well, I was counting on your being here. I assumed if I had been invited you had been as well. Maybe you would like to have dinner with me."
"Is this business or personal, Roy?"
"Strictly personal, Reggie. I have had no reason to come to Memphis I'm sorry to say."
"I know that. Your business is in D.C. now."
"Yes, it is. I miss Louisiana, Reggie," he admitted.
Reggie opened her mouth to say something, but was stopped short by the graduation ceremony beginning. She had brought a camera and hoped Roy would not think her a sap for taking a picture of Mark as he received his diploma. She really didn't care and to be honest, she was happy that Mark was graduating today. Reggie had an idea that had the events that happened seven years not occurred, Mark Sway's life would have taken a very wrong turn. He had gotten out, escaped relatively unscathed and so far as she could tell had walked the straight and narrow since leaving Memphis.
The ceremony was too long, but Roy's hand stayed joined with hers for the ceremony's duration. Reggie wondered a time or two if any of his constituents knew that Roy was here. Would reporters find out and take their picture? That was just what Roy Foltrigg needed, his picture taken with a fifty-nine year old divorcee who was a recovering alcoholic and who still worked in the same piece of shit, simple office she was working in ten years ago.
It was her past, combined with her lack of sophistication, that forced Reggie not to accept Roy's telephone calls after he had left Memphis. He was persistent at first, though never stepped outside the boundaries of professionalism. He had sent flowers once he had won the Senate seat, but the accompanying card merely thanked her for her help. He might not have won if Mark Sway had not ventured upon Jerome Clifford that fateful day. She hated to admit it, but she still had that small florist's card. She was a sentimental person and it was not as if she received flowers with a personalized card from United States senators every day.
She glanced around the high school's gymnasium and was glad Roy was here with her. She was glad that she had bought the dress she was wearing for this occasion, too. Even dressed down, Roy Foltrigg was intimidating. Neither of them stood out, most looking at them would probably in fact believe one of the graduates was their grandchild.
Reggie did have a grandchild, three of them, two boys and a girl. She had seen each of them once at the baptismal ceremonies and that was the extent of her involvement with her son or daughter's families. They were at least to a point now where they exchanged cards around holidays and talked periodically over the telephone.
Reggie was unwilling to push either of her children too far and they seemed unwilling or uncertain themselves about how to go about bridging the gap between them. They had come over the years to see their father for the scumbag he truly was, but just because they knew now that Reggie had not been entirely in the wrong did not mean the past was easily corrected - or forgotten.
Forgiving was not the issue for her children. Reggie had found forgiving far easier than forgetting. Hurtful words cut deep and created wounds that seemed to fester at the most inopportune times. Like now. Reggie felt the warmth of Roy's hand joined with hers and knew despite accepting his dinner invitation that after today they would go back to their respective lives. For Roy's sake, Reggie could do no other than that.
After the commencement ceremony, Reggie and Roy made their way out of the gymnasium. The school had air conditioning, but when you pack that many people into a room together it did not do much good. Reggie was grateful for the slight breeze once outside. The comfortable hand holding she and Roy had engaged in during the ceremony had ended almost as soon as it was over. Reggie knew better than to expect anything like that from him standing out here in a group of people where anyone could notice who he was on a moment's notice.
Chances were slim, she realized, that anyone in Lexington would have a particular reason to notice him. The Boyette case had not received as much national attention as it had in both Memphis and New Orleans. And there were many people who did not recognize congressman from their home state let alone those from other states.
She felt his hand at the small of her back and turned her attentions from Mark to the man beside her. She tucked a few strands of hair behind her ear and smiled at him, turning slightly into his touch. "Why Roy, you certainly are throwing caution to the wind."
He looked at her and Reggie saw his blue-gray eyes very clearly. She saw no reservation in them, which made her curious. Why was she so worried and he was not? "What's there to be cautious about? Aside from the two of us being here at all, that is."
Perhaps he had gotten too confident or comfortable with his senator's seat and was forgetting for a moment he had ambitions to run for governor someday soon. "Being seen with me here. Someone might snap a picture of us and later, when they have it developed, realize who we are."
"I highly doubt that, Reggie, since we aren't standing anywhere near any graduates. We won't be able to talk to him here anyway," he said, inclining his head in Mark's direction where he stood with his friends. "Why don't we go get a drink before the party?"
"I already accepted your dinner invitation, I am not sure if accepting an offer of drinks is overly wise, Roy."
"Aw, Reggie, it's just a drink and you don't have anyone else to spend your time with until the party starts."
"Well, since you put it that way, I suppose going with you is acceptable. But you do know I don't drink, right?"
"Of course, that was horribly thoughtless of me, Reggie. I didn't mean anything by it."
"I know, Roy, I was just making sure. I assumed you had me thoroughly checked out seven years ago, but I didn't want you surprised when I ordered a Diet Coke."
"I wouldn't have it any other way, Reggie."
"Well, let's get that drink, Roy."
She looked in Mark's direction. "He's fine, Reggie. I have a feeling he knows you're here."
"We're here, you mean?"
"I think my invite was a joke, Reggie. Yours, on the other hand, was not."
"Then why did you come, Reverend?"
"I thought that part was rather obvious, Miss Love. I knew you would not be able to stay away."
"You came all this way for little ol' me, Roy? Why do I find that hard to believe?"
"I cannot answer that question for you, as I have yet to figure out the way your mind works, Reggie. I had hoped I would have had the chance to, but you have cut me off at every pass. So here I am, neutral territory, you are Reggie and I am Roy."
"You will always be who and what you are, Roy. Being here today does not change that."
"Let me worry about that, Reggie."
"I can't help but worry about it, Roy. I won't be responsible for destroying your career."
"I think you underestimate yourself, Reggie," he said, his hand at the small of her back pressing her into motion. "I don't think you could destroy much of anything. Hell, I'm a Senator in part thanks to you. If that is your idea of destroying my career, I invite you to destroy it some more."
He walked her to her car, opened the door for her as she slid in. "Where are you staying the night, Reggie?"
"Roy, I've agreed to a pre-party drink and dinner, nothing else."
"Miss Love, get your mind out of the gutter. I was merely going to offer to follow you back to your hotel and drive you." She felt the heat on her face following Roy's charming smile. Dear Lord, she was blushing like a girl not an almost sixty-year-old divorced mother and grandmother.
"That would be nice. Does that mean the Senator is here alone?"
"The Senator is alone, Reggie. This was one meeting I wanted to conduct without eyewitnesses."
"Were you afraid I would turn you down?"
"I was a little, yes. I am unaccustomed to being on unsure footing."
"I will just bet you are. Everything's already done for you, all the work, by the time you get everything. It was that way even when you were US Attorney I bet."
"Yes, for the most part. I spent about fifteen years up until we met doing as little as humanly possible to actually put my law degree to use."
"Shame on you."
He bowed his head and then raised it, and Reggie caught her breath. He looked very much like the cat that had eaten the canary, complete with smug and pleased grin on his face. "I did what I do best, Reggie. I won't apologize for that."
Reggie slid out of her car and tugged on his necktie, drawing his face down closer to his. She kissed him lightly, her lashes dropped in a coy manner as she drew away from the brief touch of lips. She would dwell later on why she had done such a thing. "I never asked for an apology, Reverend Roy. It's one of the things I admired about you when we met."
"Really," she said with a wink, releasing his tie and taking her seat once again in her car. "I'll see you at my hotel in a few minutes then." His hand on the door handle, he paused in closing her door. "Did I say something wrong?"
"No, I just realized I don't know which hotel you're staying at."
"Good, that's not too far from where I'm staying."
She was tempted to ask which hotel he was staying at, but she was unsure if he made the statement to get her to ask or not so refrained. "I'll see you in a few minutes." She drew the door closed and then as an afterthought rolled her window down. "Oh and Roy?"
"Yes, Reggie," he said already having taken a few steps away from her car.
"Don't make me wait, I might just go on to the party without you."
He smiled and shook his head slightly. "Well, we wouldn't want that now would we. I'll be right behind you, Reggie."
Reggie and Roy had just made their appearance at Mark's graduation party. Roy had ordered a Diet Coke to go with Reggie's drink by the same name. She had maintained that he did not need to be a teetotaller on her account but he had insisted. Normally, Reggie would have been put off by such a gesture, men who did that were normally in some subtle way being condescending rather than just respectful. She had one man she had gone to dinner with suggest that she was not strong enough to resist the temptation of seeing him with a drink in her hand.
The motto "one day at a time" still held true for Reggie. There were days that she had to take it one second at a time, but she had been sober for over seven years and counting. She was not about to succumb to the temptation because a date was having a drink.
Reggie was surprised that Roy remained by her side once they had gotten to the party. She had expected for some reason that they would go their separate ways until they were ready to go to dinner. Roy had been talking about one of the cases he had worked on after the Boyette case before he had won the Senate seat vacated Senator Boyette when Reggie felt a light tap on her shoulder.
"Hey Reggie, I knew you'd come."
Reggie turned to face the boy who had worked his way into her heart finding a young man instead. "Why, Anthony, I wouldn't have missed it for the world."
"Sorry," she said with a light laugh.
"It's all right." The eighteen year old young man turned his attentions to Roy and Reggie could not resist smiling. "Sir," he said with a respectful nod.
Roy offered Mark his hand, which Mark took with confidence. Gone was the street kid Reggie had seen evidence of years ago. Standing before her was a confident young man who seemed to have taken advantage of the gift he had been presented with. He was dressed nicely, his hair was shorn in a military high and tight style accenting his beautiful eyes. And they were beautiful, though Reggie knew he would not like to hear that.
"You can call me Roy and thanks for the invitation, young man. I'm not quite sure what I did to deserve being included but I appreciate it."
"You're welcome, Roy. You and Reggie, well I wanted you both here. Mom agreed with me. It's because of you both we're here, and probably because of you both that I even graduated high school. I'm going to college in the fall."
"That's great," Reggie said with pride. "Where are you going?"
"University of Kentucky here in Lexington."
"That's great, son. I'll bet your mother is proud of you. Do you have any idea what you want to study?"
Reggie grew curious when she saw Mark's face turn red.
"Yes, sir. I was thinking of studying to be a lawyer." Reggie must have had the same look of surprise on her face as she saw on Roy's because Mark shrugged as if embarrassed. "Well, I got to thinking about you, Reggie, and all you did for me compared to the lawyer that Mom got for her divorce. And I realized that maybe just maybe I could be a good one like you."
"I think you will make a fine lawyer, Tony Cameron. A fine one."
"You already have two people on your side, Mark. And if you need anything from me, please don't hesitate to call. You have the number."
"Oh say when it comes time for you to have an internship and you decide you might like to broaden your horizons outside of Kentucky here, you let me know. I would put in a good recommendation for you. I've followed your school work, and I have to admit you have impressed me."
"Thank you, sir."
"No need to thank me, you did the work I'm just complimenting you on your efforts. You have had a lot to overcome and it seems you have done it."
"How is Scott doing," Reggie said, spotting Ricky talking to some kids that seemed to be his age rather than Mark's.
"He is doing real well," Mark said, his eyes following Reggie's to where his brother stood. "I won't lie to you and tell you it was easy going from the time we left, but once things started to get better it was full-speed ahead."
"Good. I'm glad to hear that. I have thought of all of you a lot."
"I know you have, Reggie, and it got me through some tough times." He stepped toward her and hugged her and Reggie lost it in that moment. Tears spilled from her eyes and she clung to him like there was no tomorrow. She had been so worried about him even before he had left Memphis. She was glad to know her worrying had been for nothing, but it did not erase the fact that she had worried.
Mark pulled away then and offered Reggie a smile. She picked up on the embarrassment there, that even years later they still had whatever connection it was that they shared. She imagined his having hugged her in public and in front of his friends was behind the embarrassment more than anything else. "I'm going to get back to my friends now, Reggie. Thanks for coming." He turned and offered a confident hand, not faux confidence either, to Roy. "Thank you too, sir, for everything."
"You are welcome, son. I am happy to know my efforts did not go to waste."
"No, sir, I would not have felt right letting them go to waste."
"Carry on. Reggie and I are going to have dinner. So we will say good bye now. It's best that way."
Mark offered them the cute but cunning smile he had bestowed upon them both frequently seven years ago and Reggie wondered if this had been a set up from the beginning. "Have fun," he said before turning to walk away.
It had been a long time since Roy had enjoyed a day as he had this one. Here for the day he was just a man, not Senator Foltrig or that blessed Reverend Roy nickname that still followed him despite years away from the US Attorney's office.
Dinner had been more enjoyable than Roy had thought it would be. He had expected brief bits of conversation interspersed with uncomfortable silences more prevalent than the actual talking. With Reggie being a recovering alcoholic they did not have the benefits of spirits to loosen their tongues. He did imbibe in a glass of wine with dinner, but otherwise he had abstained from drinking.
It had not taken too long to catch up, they had both stayed in touch enough over the years to know about one another. Their version of staying in touch had been reading newspaper clippings, court dockets, and the exchange of stale Christmas cards that might have struck some people as odd.
Reggie had cut Roy off at every pass when he had tried to initiate a relationship between them. He had never been completely satisfied with her brush offs and if this day had shown him anything it was that he had been right in being suspect of her excuses. Even her secretary seemed mystified the few times Roy had called her office and caught Clint when Reggie was not in the office herself.
They had taken dinner in his suite. He had suggested it not to position them within close proximity to his bed but to give them both the chance to continue enjoying the evening without risk of his being recognized.
He had just returned to the sofa after getting her another Diet Coke. He set the glass on the coffee table in front of the sofa before taking a seat next to her. Her head was cocked slightly to one side, one hand at her hair, fingers intertwined with the auburn locks Roy had years ago grown curious about the texture of. What he would give to gain some insight into what made Reggie Love tick. Today, he had his foot in the door but he knew as soon as they went back to their respective lives it would be slammed in his face once again. He needed to know how to prevent that.
"So tell me, Reggie, how a man like myself can get penciled into your appointment book?"
"Well, Roy, once I'm back in Memphis I don't know that you could."
"I suspected you were going to say that. Do you mind telling me why? And please don't hand me the line about mixing business with pleasure or hiding behind lawyer ethics, seven years has gone by. Hell, most people would think we were more than careful letting this much time go by."
"Most people would advise you to stay far away from recovering alcoholic women who already have one failed marriage under their belts and the loss of their children on their conscience."
"Is that what this is about? Your alcoholism? Reggie," he started and then stopped. He turned so he faced her, a foot resting over his knee and he looked at her. Sure, she was a little rough around the edges, but no more than he was and no more than most people by the time they reached their age. She was sharp and a survivor on top of being pretty despite what she had been through.
"That's not the only reason, Roy, no. But yes it is a large part of it. I did not want to be the thing holding you back and I did not want to be traded in yet again for a younger model when you realized one was out there without the skeletons in the closet I have."
"I don't want younger, Reggie. I'm too old for children of my own, I want a woman to be by my side yet at functions I know can hold her own. I don't want an arm decoration and I don't want someone who I can control either."
"Roy," she started to say. He stopped her, though, silencing her with a kiss. A hand rested against her cheek and he drew her toward him, into the kiss. She could argue as much as she wanted to verbally, but this is where he suspected he would trip her up. They liked one another damn it. There were elected officials who had substance abuse problems, Roy's having a wife with one would not interfere with his career.
He was not going to spout off to her here and now about his plans for marriage, but that was his ultimate goal and had been for seven years. That had been the most frustrating part of her repeated rejections, he had known from the moment he first saw her and realized she had bested him and his highly paid team that he had wanted her. She had even rejected his job offers, and he had offered her any position he could think of she might be able to fill in his efforts to tempt her first to Louisiana and later to the District of Columbia where he was now. Of course, if all went well he would be headed back to Louisiana as governor soon.
Her arms went around his neck and he felt as if a weight had been lifted from his chest. If she had rejected his advances here like this he would have felt stupid for completely misjudging her. He rarely went out on a limb, not liking unknown factors making up part of any equation.
"Roy," she whispered as she pulled away from his kiss. Her arms stayed around his neck, though and he remained there, within the warmth of her embrace.
"I did not invite you up here for this, Reggie."
"I know you didn't, Roy. We shouldn't be doing this, though. It can't be good."
He looked at her sharply, met her eyes with his, hoping she could see that he was genuinely confused. "What is not good about this, Reggie? You made me feel alive seven years ago in a way I had forgotten was possible and you still do it now."
"You go back to D.C. tomorrow, Roy. You go back to being Senator Foltrigg. Meanwhile, I head back to Memphis to the same small, cheap office you saw seven years ago with the same cheap coffee maker and the same cheap furnishings. Our worlds are entirely different."
"You'd fit in just fine in my world, Reggie."
"I might, but the problem is I just don't know that I have it in me again. I was a doctor's wife, you know, and I lost too much of myself."
"I'm not asking you to change any part of yourself, Reggie. You make it sound as though I'd tell you to quit practicing law."
"I could just see it now, me taking on a case that goes against what you stand for. The media would have a field day with Senator Foltrigg's radical girl friend."
"So long as you were abiding by the law they would have little to stand on, Reggie. You're a lawyer, a good one, the kind that is in it to help people like young Mark Sway. You're not in the career to get rich quick. I would have nothing to be ashamed of, and neither would you."
She ran a thumb along his jaw and he smiled slightly. "Don't hurt yourself on that gristle there," he quipped, knowing his five o'clock shadow was a few hours beyond that by now. She laughed and he was glad to see her smile, to be the one responsible for making her laugh.
His eyes fell closed when he saw she leaned toward him. He was expecting a kiss instead she kissed his jaw where her finger had just touched. "I have never seen you like this, Roy."
"Not perfectly coiffed. I'm not sure if I should take a picture and sell it to one of those rags or not. Someone ought to pay top dollar for a picture of you with stubble on your chin."
"I hope not, they have bigger fish to fry than me."
"I beg to differ," she drawled in a voice that Roy had years ago associated with silk sheets, French champagne, candles, soft music, and hours of lovemaking. He couldn't offer her three of the four things, but he would be more than willing to give her the hours of lovemaking if she were of the mind.
"Beg to differ about you," he said, his voice sounding raspy even to his ears.
"You're a pretty big fish, Reverend Roy."
He groaned softly, tilting his head back as he did. "If you knew how much I detest that name."
"But it suited you so well," she drawled and he knew then that she was teasing him, baiting him and he had risen to it just as she had anticipated he would. She placed another kiss on his jaw this one closer to his ear than the last one had been.
Roy slid his arms around her and hoped he was not being too bold by sliding them both so they more reclined on the sofa than sat on it, with his body on top of hers.
"Did I mention I like this dress you've got on?"
"No, you didn't."
"Well, I do. The color suits you very nicely."
"Thank you. It's nice to know I didn't waste my money on it and I don't have to bring it back and make the saleswoman lose her commission on me."
"You bought it for this weekend?"
"Yes, I did. I wanted something new and nice."
"You succeeded. Was it for Mark or did you suspect I might be here?"
"Why Roy," she murmured like a gentle caress against his ear. "Are you suggesting I dressed with you in mind?"
"The thought had crossed my mind. I did, dressed with you in mind I mean."
She laughed, a cross between a throaty, seductive laugh and a giggle that sounded rather strange coming from her but it was charming nonetheless. Her hands found the collar of his button down shirt and she unfastened the two smaller buttons that held his necktie in place. "You did a bang up job, Senator."
"Why thank you, Reggie. Don't tell anyone, but I'm lucky to be able to coordinate things anymore, I've had someone to do it for me for so long."
She flipped his collar up along his neck and unfastened his necktie, sliding it slowly from around his neck. He felt the pressure of the silk as it slid off his neck. "You mean you had to dress yourself this morning?"
"I did," he said with a light laugh. Why he was laughing as her fingertips worked at unfastening the buttons along the length of his shirt. He was not ashamed of his body, he was still rather lean and fit for a man his age. He had an undershirt on beneath the shirt, but there was something about this woman seeing him so exposed and vulnerable that gave him pause.
"My, my," she said, placing featherlight kisses along his neck and lower to his collarbone as she opened his shirt front as each button was undone. He reached to remove the shirt from his trousers, but she pushed his hands away and undid the last few buttons herself, spreading his shirt open and running her hands along the length of him from abdomen to his shoulders and back down again.
He removed his glasses and set them on the table at the side of the couch before seeking the warmth and comfort of another kiss. If they were younger, youths or just starting out he would be worried that this had moved too fast. But they were both capable, intelligent adults, and seven years was not fast as far as Roy was concerned.
Reggie was not sure what had come over her, she certainly had not agreed to dinner in his room expecting it to lead to this. Somewhere in the back of the mind was the hope that if she let this happen, broke the rules and made love to Roy Foltrigg it would get him out of her system and her dreams once and for all. Sure, she had dated over the years, had had sex over the years, but this man continued to loom over her in her mind.
It had been years since she had necked with someone on a sofa. She had almost forgotten what it felt like to have the length of a man's body pressed against her with clothes still on. Her hands worked his shirt over his broad shoulders and off his arms, so at least one of them no longer wore all their clothes.
He kissed too well. She had thought somehow that because of the build up and the expectations that he would disappoint her. He was lazy in general, she knew the reason he had so many assistants. He had not wanted to do any work, so she had expected his lovemaking to be performed with the same lazy disinterest he had performed his job. She was glad to have her expectations fall short of the reality.
His hand found one of the hair combs she wore and slid it out, running his fingers through her hair. She had a weakness for her hair getting attention and she deepened the kiss when she felt him touch it. Her hands went to his waist once more, tugging the undershirt from out of the waistband of his trousers and pushing it up along his torso. Her hands felt the light dusting of hair along his chest, not a lot but Reggie had never minded a little chest hair.
She broke the kiss and looked at him. He seemed to sense she wanted to look and he drew back, his hands on either side of her supporting his weight against the couch. His chest hair like the hair on his head was graying, his face showed signs of age, wear, and maybe some overexposure to elements like sun and wind but it was a handsome face in a rugged sort of way. She had been on dates that looks-wise would make Roy Foltrigg's face pale in comparison, but that mattered little to Reggie. It was the inside that counted more than anything else.
Some might have criticized Roy for what he had done to get the information out of Mark, but Reggie knew the man was just trying to do his job. In the end, he had come through and provided more for the Sway's than he really had to. A white house with a walk-in closet and starting out money were all that Reggie had stipulated, but she suspected there were things Roy himself was responsible for that she did not know about.
Those were the things that mattered to Reggie and why after tonight she would let him go once more. Even if tonight did not get him out of her system, she would walk away and let him find someone who could help rather than hinder his career.
Somehow, Reggie was unsure quite when it happened, they moved to his bedroom. The doorway between the two rooms stood open and a trail of clothes was visible leading from couch to bed. Roy had just removed her dress and she sat on the bed to remove her nylons. Even without the dress on, she was still less exposed than Roy was who joined her on the bed dressed only in his boxers. His fingertip ran the length of her spine causing her to shiver.
"Not particularly, no. It tickled is all."
"The lady has a ticklish spot. I never would have guessed."
"Why not?" She glanced at him over her shoulder when she felt the bed move. He had rolled onto his side and was looking at her thoughtfully.
"No reason. Just surprised is all. I guess I had never pictured what you might be like out of your business suits."
"Well, I did, but never got to the simple things such as ticklish spots, only erogenous zones."
"I have a few of both."
"Reggie," he said and Reggie smiled as she heard a catch in his voice. "Don't tease me."
"Who says I'm teasing, Senator?"
"Roy. I'm just Roy, Reggie. I'm not an attorney, I'm not a senator, and I'm not a man running for governor. I'm just Roy who wants very much to be here with you right now. Just like this."
"I feel the same way, Roy," she said, offering him a wink. "I was just teasing. Don't you know when a gal is teasing you?"
"I'm afraid the ones I'm around don't tease much."
"That sounds like a boring and mundane existence, you need some laughter and teasing now and then."
"Are you volunteering to fill that need?"
"For tonight I am, sure." She stopped him from taking the conversation further, beyond tonight by pushing him so he lay flat on his back and kissing him. She straddled him and without breaking the kiss reached behind her to unfasten her bra, tossing it aside and then pressing her bare breasts against his chest. The light dusting of hair tickled and stimulated her at the same time and she rubbed herself against him, both up top and between her legs.
Reggie woke to find Roy sleeping beside her and the sunlight trying to burst through the curtains. There had been nothing lazy about his lovemaking, and Reggie could say without lying that she was a sated woman at the moment. There was no need for embarrassment about what they had shared, but Reggie did clutch the top sheet to her nude body as she sat up in the bed.
Roy was on his stomach, one hand near his head and the other resting at her waist. As she sat up the hand settled at her hip. She felt him stir next to her as she drew circles on the back of his hand with her index finger.
She turned her head and offered him a smile as she saw one eye open. "Morning."
"Morning, Reggie," he said, rolling onto his side and propping his hand under the side of his head. "Did you sleep all right?"
"I did. I think you relaxed me."
"I hope so," he said with a wide smile. "Can you have breakfast with me?"
"I could. When do you leave?"
"I have a noon flight."
Reggie nodded her head, biting on her lower lip. "Back to D.C., back to the real world for us both."
"Our real worlds could include one another, Reggie. There's no reason they couldn't. If you have not noticed by now I genuinely like you and care for you."
"Roy. I'm not good for you. I'd only serve to bring you down. You're in the political arena where friends are not truly friends. They would turn their back on you the minute you said recovering alcoholic divorcee. Or for that matter, the woman that helped you get your Senator's seat. They might think you're gunning for bigger things."
"Well, I am, Reggie. I want to be governor of Louisiana one day, I told you that."
"I know you did." She leaned forward and kissed him on the forehead. "Can't we just have last night and go on? I'm no good for you, Roy."
"I don't want to go on, I don't want to pretend it didn't happen, and I don't want to pretend any longer that someone else will come along who takes my breath away as you do. I've had a good career, Reggie. I was a good State's Attorney and I am a good Senator, I'm fair and I'm not corrupt. I've been told I'm tenacious, but I don't view that as a bad trait necessarily. I think my feet are firmly planted enough that who my wife is would make little difference."
"Some would tell you, actually," he continued as if she had not interjected, "that I need a wife to stand a chance of winning the governor's seat. Folks don't take kindly to unwed men running their state for some reason."
"Let's back up a bit. Did you say your wife?"
"I did. What did you think I wanted from you, Reggie? An illicit affair, discreet meetings in D.C. and Memphis?"
"I didn't think you wanted to marry me. I mean, we don't really know one another, Roy."
"I know enough to know you would make me happy. At my age, don't you think I have thought on this? I would not hang up my bachelorhood for a bet I thought I was against the odds on."
"I am. You could open a practice in the D.C. area, bring your secretary with you, I know you are close to him."
"And Mama Love?"
"Having never met your mother, I can't speak on that, but if you found it necessary to bring her along, then so be it. I'm not willing to walk away from this, Reggie, turn away and go back to the way things were. I never gave love at first sight much weight in the grand scheme of things, I honestly don't know that I knew the meaning of the word love until you. Damn it, Woman, you had ruined me for any other before last night. Please tell me you'll at least think on it."
She did not know what to say, how to respond. A part of her screamed at her to say yes and a part of her, the logical part that wanted to protect him screamed at her to bow out gracefully. She had been in recovery and sober, not dry, for years now. Surely his constituents would see that, and as Roy had said there were political people who were coming out of the closet about many problems. Perhaps she could speak out about her problem, help others who had been in her situation to save them from experiencing a bottom as heart wrenching as hers had been. Everyone had to reach a bottom, Reggie knew that, but how long you stay drifting at that bottom is not written in stone.
"Yes," she said finally.
"Yes, you'll think about it?"
"No. Yes, I'll marry you. I accept." Reggie laughed lightly when she saw the surprised look on his face and the wispy look in his dark brown eyes. Eyes she had just committed to waking up to every morning.
"You're not kidding or just saying yes for now to get me off the subject?"
"No, I wouldn't do that to you. I've stayed away because I thought it was the best for you, for your career, and in the long run for me. I cannot go through another disastrous marriage. I'm barely on speaking terms with my children yet."
"I'm an honorable man, Reggie. I'm not going to cheat, I'm not going to leave you for someone else."
She touched his cheek lightly, caressing it with the palm of her hand. "I believe you. If I didn't I would not say yes."
"I just want you to know. I've lived most of my life in the public eye, I'm used to it."
"I guess we should get cleaned up then and get breakfast before you have to go."
"Uh, Reggie? Don't you think we need to decide when we're going to do this?"
"We can do that at breakfast, but I have to look at my case load, Roy, and see when I'll be free. At least I don't have a house to sell."
"I should go back to Memphis with you."
"Why," Reggie asked, gathering the sheet around her figure as she shifted on the bed to get out of it.
"To talk to your mother with you. I'm old fashioned enough to believe I should be there with you when you tell her the news."
"It's too bad we can't invite Mark to the wedding."
Roy laughed and sat up, Reggie could feel his eyes following her, trailing a path down the length of her back. "It is, but we can't. Coming to his graduation was one thing, but was still risky. There is no way we can get married without media attention."
"I know, I'd thought on that. I'm hoping that enough time has passed it won't be so bad. I'd rather not have reporters camped out at my office and house again."
"Aww, Reggie, but you're so photogenic."
"Unlike you, Reverend Roy, I do not crave the spotlight."
"I know and I hope you don't have to deal with it. I'll be sure and clear through you any publicity announcements that are made."
"Sure, I'm going to have to do something."
"I suppose," she said, hoping he was not proposing in order to get that publicity. She did not think he was capable of doing that, but he was a politician and it was in his blood. Roy Foltrigg did very few things without his image or his future in mind. If he just wanted a wife, there were other, more beautiful, younger, and more stable women to be had.
He placed a hand at the small of her back and kissed her shoulder. "Don't worry so much, Reggie. I'll change my flight to leave from Memphis and go home with you. I don't want to wait too long."
"We are going to have a wedding, though, right? I mean it wouldn't look very good if we got married by a Justice of the Peace."
"I don't really care about that, but this is my first - and only - wedding. I would like to have one, no matter how small or simple, I want to marry you in a church, by a man of the cloth with guests witnessing as we exchange our vows."
"You know you're getting a lot of baggage with me, two kids, three grandbabies. Of course I don't get to see them, but they're still a part of me."
"And I'll welcome them into my life, Reggie, if they want into yours. I won't push you when it comes to your family. I don't know all of the facts, but I do know that your ex was a louse who used the fact he had money and you did not to railroad you."
She looked at him, her eyes teary from the emotion packed words he had just said. "I know, Roy. I do know. I hope they'll come to the wedding."
He kissed her shoulder. "I hope they do, too, Reggie, if only that I know it would hurt if they did not."
"Okay, shower time. I need to take one so that you don't take back your proposal."
"I don't think there's anything you could to make me take it back. I've waited years to pop the question. I almost feel bad that I have no ring to offer you, but I really had not planned on asking you this weekend."
"I don't need one."
"I didn't say you did, I need to do it. I'd like to cross my t's and dot my i's to ensure this works. So that means you'll have to live with my being old fashioned about some things, like rings and ceremonies."
"I'll bear with it so long as you bear with my objecting here and there to things that I deem unnecessary."
"Of course. I would not have it any other way," he said, kissing her shoulder again. "Can I join you in that shower?"
"Sure," she said, offering him a smile. "Don't forget you have a flight to cancel."
"That's the nicest thing you could have reminded me of."
"Don't tell anyone, but I hate flying."
"Yes, me. I hate it, detest it."
"Now there's a surprise, the great one has a weakness."
"I'm not so great, and I have several weaknesses, that is just the major one. I travel over the road as often as I can. Luckily, I don't have to leave D.C. often."
She stood, letting the sheet fall back to the bed, feeling a little exposed but if they were really going to go through with this wedding he would be seeing her like this every day one day soon. "Cancel your flight while I get started. I am sure I will take longer anyway."
He leaned up and kissed her before reaching for the telephone to cancel his flight. "I'll have to call my assistant too, and let her know I won't be coming back tonight. So I'll be in as soon as I'm done taking care of business."
"I'll be waiting," she said with a wink before walking away, closing the door once she was inside the luxurious bathroom.
Not quite six months later on the Saturday after Thankgiving, Reggie stood in the church narthex once again a married woman. Her gown was a knee length ivory gown made of lace with beading and a satin underslip. Everything had gone perfectly. The red and white poinsettias for the Christmas season had provided a beautiful backdrop for some pictures.
They had greeted their guests, Roy's portion of the guest list had been longer than Reggie's was, and were now ready to take a limousine ride to the private country club their reception luncheon was to be held. Roy had insisted on a reception, and the luncheon was a compromise they had reached. Reggie had not seen, and still did not see, the point of a big dinner with dancing.
Roy had fielded the media well since their engagement had been announced in the Memphis and District of Columbia area papers. It seemed reporters were so focused, for now, on the way they had met and how long it had taken them to come to this end rather than on Reggie's past. She was grateful, not wanting that to cast a cloud over this day.
"Well, Mrs. Foltrigg, I think our guests will be waiting for us," he said as they placed their required signature on the last legal document to make them legally husband and wife in the eyes of the Memphis, Tennessee government.
"We're entitled to be late. It's our day."
"Yes, but we're not young kids, Reggie, we're old people, remember."
"We're not that old," she whispered against his ear before kissing his neck, careful not to get lipstick on his collar.
"No, we're not, but let's keep that a secret between the two of us. I don't need anyone thinking my newly acquired wife is going to lead to a heart attack and an early grave."
"Did I happen to mention how handsome you look dressed in your groom attire?"
"No, you didn't, but I could say the same to you. You look stunning. I have a feeling the presence of your children and grandchildren helped a bit."
"Yeah, just a little," she smiled, unable to keep the look of pride off her face. "It figures, we figure out a way to communicate regularly and I am going to up and move away from them."
"They're only a phone call and a plane ride away, Reggie."
"I know, but I missed seeing my babies grow up to be adults."
He kissed her lightly and drew her to him, his arms going around her providing her the comfort she sought. "I know, Reggie, and I'm sure it's hard. But you can only look to your future and their future and know that things are only going to get better from here. Besides, if things go well, we'll be living in the Louisiana's governor mansion before too long and you won't be so far away at all."
"Well, I guess we just need to make sure you get elected then, don't we?"
"My sentiments exactly. Let's go then and get to the honeymoon part of this wedding stuff. I've been looking forward to it for months."
"You're the one who wanted a formal ceremony."
"I know I'm a glutton for punishment, what can I say?"
He handed her into the limousine, sliding onto the seat next to her before he took her hand in his. "You were worth the wait, Reggie. I hope you know that. You've made me a happy man." He leaned toward her and nuzzled against her neck. "And in case I haven't said it outright or you just need to hear it spelled out right and proper, I love you, Reggie Love. You had me in the palm of your hand from the moment I saw you."
"I had no idea," she said her voice sugary sweet. "But I'm glad and I love you, too, Roy. I'm sorry I made you wait, but I wasn't ready for you then. I don't know that I'm ready for you now, but I'm far more ready now than I was then."
He brought her hand to his lips and kissed it. "I think we're both ready now, Reggie. It just took a rambunctious kid to make us see it."
"I need to send him a note."
"Oh we got a letter from him and a gift from his mom at my office"
"We did? What was it?"
"I didn't open the gift, but the card just said he was glad his push worked. It seems he was a smart boy even at age eleven and saw what was right in front of our noses."
"We can't see him again, can we?"
He was quiet and Reggie knew what the answer was. They had both taken a risk seeing him when they did in June, but now they both knew that someone in the Sulari crime family would be waiting for one of them to lead them to the Sway's. "No, Reggie, we can't. He knows he can call me anytime if he needs it, but we can not ever see him again. It's for the best."
Reggie sighed softly as she snuggled against him, getting comfortable in the curve of his arm where it joined his shoulder. "I know, I do. So long as you tell me from time to time how he's doing I can manage. I went seven years without seeing him, I can do it again."
"I know you can, Reggie. Knowing we're happy and together should make him happy. He's doing well in college so far, the dean says he's headed for the Dean's List this semester, so he'll do all right for himself. You helped see he would and he took what you gave him and ran with it. You should be proud of him not sad."
"I am." They rode in silence the rest of the way to the country club. The limousine came to a stop and the driver opened the door and offered Reggie his hand.
"Well, here we go," she said, glancing at him over her shoulder once she was on solid footing again.
"Here we go indeed," he said, buttoning his tuxedo jacket now that he was standing once again. He placed his hand at the small of her back. The flash of a camera flickered and Reggie heard Roy groan against her ear. "They must have followed someone."
"It's all right, they can't get inside." She offered him a smile that she hoped conveyed to him, and the camera, that she loved him and would never hurt him. She loved the feel of his hand at her back, a wordless offering of his support, but she sought out his arm with her hand and intertwined her hand with his. "Let's go eat, Reverend Roy. I'm suddenly anxious to get on with the honeymoon myself, just to get away from the cameras."
He laughed heartily, genuinely just as another flash flickered and Reggie knew that his happiness - and hers - had been captured for all to see. And Reggie for the first time in years felt truly happy, Roy had brought that to her. She hoped she could return the favor to him many times over.