Chapter 15 : It's Not A Date

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Raul

The anniversary party of Congresswoman Libby Knox turns out to not be the cozy affair I thought it would be. There had to be about a hundred and fifty guests present. Not a small party but not too big for the sprawling Victorian mansion it was held in.

I'm uncomfortably aware of Olivia walking beside me as I see a few guests raise their phones to snap photos of me. My assistant seems unbothered by the attention, which is a good thing. I don't remember Kate ever appearing in any of my paparazzi photos or a celebrity blogger's stolen footage of me, but who knows if someone someday decides that Olivia is worthy of coverage? I can see she's already turning a few heads, but it's hardly her fault she's attractive.

You're going on a trip out of town with a beautiful woman.

Marcus's warning pops in my head but I dismiss it. If I want his opinion, I'd have dragged him along with me on this trip.

"Raul, how nice to see you," Libby said, holding out her hands to clasp his. The congresswoman is in her mid-fifties, looking elegant in a grey Christian Dior closed-necked dress with billowing sleeves. "I'm glad you could join us."

"My pleasure, Congresswoman. Libby," I say. At her raised eyebrow, I turn to see what she's looking at and see Olivia standing a few steps behind me. "This is my assistant, Olivia Barnes," I explain.

She steps forward to shake Libby's hand. "It's such an honor to meet you, Congresswoman Knox," she says. "I know your daughter, Jessica, from college."

"What a small world!" Libby says, beaming. "Jess is around here somewhere. She'll be glad to see someone her age."

Later, over cocktails, I manage to have a moment with her out on the patio. It didn't take long for us to discuss the main points of the project. Her questions were few but there was no doubt she'd studied the specs for the factory complex we'd sent over to her office.

"We'll hash out the details tomorrow," she assures me. "I must say, this is rather exciting. Not a lot of clothing companies want to build local factories anymore."

"We're confident the new technologies we've developed will make it just as efficient as outsourcing manufacturing to China," I say. This was what I've been focusing on since I became CEO. "We're hoping to make use of the kids graduating out of Duke's engineering program. In fact, we'll take care of their student loans within a year of their employment."

It was in the proposal he'd sent to her office, but nevertheless she looks impressed. "I see you never do things by halves, Raul."

"I'm afraid not." I smile.

"Your marriage, for instance," Libby said. "That must have taken your family by surprise. So romantic."

I smile to keep from wincing. "Honestly, I surprised myself," I say. "I was even more surprised when Kate said yes."

"You've known each other long?"

"Five years. She was my assistant." At her raised eyebrow, I add, "I never date my employees but she and I ..." It surprises me how easily the lie rolls off my tongue. "We tried to fight our feelings but they wouldn't go away."

"Well!" Libby's eyes sparkle with mischief. "I have to say, there's nothing in your reputation that even hinted at this romantic side of you, Raul."

"I think the public sees what it wants to see. As a public figure yourself, I think you can understand."

She cocks her head slightly, as though it hasn't occurred to her how much we have in common. "I do, yes."

***

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