Monday, June 2
Freakish or not, Carey Benton adored Monday mornings.
She gladly left the still-gray summer morning to descend deep into the Eastern Market Metro station with other industrious "Hill Rats." A mix of students, lawyers, and lobbyists, most of them wore business dress similar to hers. Most of them looked sleepy, even grumpy at the new workweek. But Carey didn't feel sleepy.
Hearing the echoing rush of an approaching train from the platform ahead, she sped her step. After two long, quiet days, she was about to ride back to the heart of the free world.
And after two days, Carey would see Matt Tynan again.
She knew better than to base her day-to-day happiness on any man; she was twenty-five, not thirteen! And she certainly shouldn't stake it on someone like Matt, even if he was the closest thing to male perfection she'd ever known. He was ten years older than she was. He was a charming slut-puppy. Worse, he was her boss.
But those, rationalized Carey as a Blue Line train squealed to a stop, were reasons not to pursue a romance with the President's top troubleshooter. She had no such delusions... so why not enjoy the scenery?
The doors slid open and she merged into the crowd to board, excited, alive... happy. Plexiglass windows reflected the train's interior back at her. She faced a workday of at least ten-hours, probably longer, and she was happy. How many women could say that?
She noticed her reflection in the train window--tall and slim in a modest linen suit, long brown hair... pulled back? Embarrassed, Carey quickly tugged the pink scrunchy from her long brown hair and pocketed it.
Ponytails were for Kansas City, not the White House.
* * *
"WDCN traffic and weather every fifteen minutes," blared Matt's shower radio over the massage-strength spray. Matt, ducking to rinse shampoo out of his hair, groaned. Then he spit, because he was brushing his teeth while showering.
To keep the schedule he had, a man had to multitask.
Not that he had anything against traffic or weather. But it got in the way of the real news, and it meant he was running late. For him, anyway. He liked to get into the West Wing as early as possible, especially on Mondays.
He'd be more efficient if he brought dates back to his condo instead of getting a hotel room, he mused, opening his mouth to catch the pulsing water, then spitting again. It would save a significant step in his morning commute.
He killed the water, dropped his toothbrush back into its cup, slid open his frosted-glass shower door and grabbed a towel. He had good reasons not to bring women home... not his high-rise apartment seemed particularly homey. He'd long ago determined not to never mislead women that he was offering more than he ever had or ever would.
Matt loved women, and he really loved sex. But he avoided commitment at all costs. As his father and grandfather proved, men in his family weren't any good at it. Why mess up someone else's life to prove otherwise?
Without the shower, the radio screamed out its prediction for muggy weather. Matt toweled his hair, swiped on some antiperspirant, then grabbed his electric razor. As he strode into a bare bedroom, a second radio detailed the usual crises for the Beltway over the razor's whine.
God, Matt loved Mondays. They were like the whistle at the start of a game. His game. Now came the real stuff.
Bond market--bad. Stock market--worse. April's World Bank Heist hadn't ruined the economy but, despite White House cautions against fear, panic still might. Small banks had begun to fail and corporations were downsizing, all on President Stewart's watch. Matt listened intently while he shaved and, with his free hand, scooped socks and briefs out of the drawer of his bureau and tossed them onto the neatly made bed...neat only because he hadn't used it since the maid came on Saturday.
His date had been particularly friendly, but he should've come home last night, no matter how late it was.
Or start bringing them home with you.
Matt imagined the hassle of trying to get any woman, much less an heiress, dressed and out of his apartment before the sun had actually risen. He chuckled with dark humor as he finished shaving. Right.
National news--iffy. He ditched the razor, yanked on his underwear, and stepped into the walk-in closet for the rest of his clothes. Nobody in their right mind could blame the President either for the floods in the southwest or the latest rumors about secret genetic research labs...but this was DC. Matt's job as a troubleshooter, aka advisor, included worrying about people outside their right mind, and he needed a plan to deal with them before he hit the office.
Button-up shirt. Charcoal slacks and jacket. Tie.
International news--not great. The Heist had hurt the European Coalition even worse than the States, making for cranky allies. The government of Rebelia still dominated the old Eastern bloc, its dictator too dangerous to be ignored. Combing his damp, dark hair as he walked, Matt stepped into his shoes en route to the bathroom and silenced the shower radio. His return trip took him past the bureau for his wallet and keys, but he hesitated inside the bedroom door until he heard the magical announcement--"a word from our sponsors." Then he switched that radio off, too.
He had four minutes to get down to his car before anything else important would be said. He caught his mobile phone out of its charger on his way into the kitchen, flipped it open, and said, "Florist."
While the ringing started, he squinted woefully into the refrigerator's barren interior. Damn.
He shut the refrigerator while the florist's answering machine picked up. On his way out, he identified himself, asked that a dozen pink roses be sent to his date's hotel room with the usual note, then thumbed the "end" button as he locked the door behind him. Okay, so he didn't encourage commitment. That didn't mean he had to be an ass.
And asking his staff to do his romantic follow-ups for him would be way out of line. It wasn't like Carey Benton couldn't; Matt had never had a more competent assistant. And it wasn't like she wouldn't.
In fact, Matt suspected that Carey would do more for him than any boss should rightly ask...though that might be wishful thinking. Still, some things a man shouldn't delegate. Just the temptation to delegate was probably a bad sign. He'd liked the heiress just fine... but Matt still felt relieved to be heading back to the office.
On the elevator to the parking garage, he called ahead to the drive-through bagel shop and placed his order. He even remembered Carey's favorite pecan cream cheese. He reached his Volvo and turned on the radio just in time for the next announcement of "WDCN traffic and weather every fifteen minutes."
* * *
Was it Monday?
Unable to sleep, Violet Vaughn Hobson sat up in bed for a long while, then stood and wandered to the window of her second-story, generic downtown motel room. She drew the curtains to look out at the unnaturally white, still-lit Washington Monument, half-visible in the distance. Traffic seemed busy out there. She supposed it must be Monday.
She shook her head, frustrated with how time was beginning to blur for her. She was aging, sure, but hardly old. Yet so much had happened....
After twenty years of silence, Violet's bizarre past life had resurfaced. It began in April, when she recognized the preternatural brilliance behind the World Bank Robbery as that of her stolen son, Gideon--the youngest of her and Henry Bloomfield's five precious experiments. Then she saw that financial wizard Jake Ingram had been hired to head the task force investigating the robbery, and she recognized her oldest son as well. Jake hadn't known it at the time, but his genius was just as preternatural--and just as dangerous.
Since then, Violet had contacted Jake and convinced him of his fantastic origins and his danger. Only a few days ago, he'd located his twin sister, now called Gretchen. And Gretchen was newly married!
Married as their scientist parents--both sperm donor and surrogate mother--never were. In love....
Two down, three if you counted Gideon. Two to go.
A lifetime had passed since Henry's murder, since Violet had tried to buy their children's safety by sending them off to new identities and new lives. But the past was crashing back, full of mistakes and guilt and love....
It had been love, hadn't it?
How much precious time had Violet wasted, adoring her older employer from afar? How much of their lives had been misdirected into their job? And why--
Violet's eyes abruptly focused on a man across the street, looking up at her window. She stepped quickly behind the drapes. Was he watching her?
After a minute of steady breathing, to calm her racing heart, she peeked out--and was relieved to see the man wave at a clearly different window, then head into a café. He was no enemy spy, trying to use her to get to the children.
But spies were out there, all the same.
Violet's twenty years of peace were clearly over. The past was back with a vengeance. She must focus on the future. She had too much to do before any of her and Henry's children--whom the press in ignorance had dubbed the Extraordinary Five--would be safe. She had too much to make up for.
But sometimes Violet still woke early and, instead of making plans, simply wished she could go back in time. She wished she could change things so that her own love story could have ended more happily than it did.
But some wishes never came true.
Read The Player by Evelyn Vaughn
August 2003, from Silhouette Books