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There's a very distinct difference between being professional as a public figure versus completely acting the part. The way I was with the people of the nation was all genuine, if slightly reserved. Everyone needs their moments of privacy, of course, but I didn't come as far as I did without having a genuine need to help people and want to look out for their best interests.

When it came to my meeting with President Grant Thomas, none of that was the case. I knew how he belittled me on the campaign trail and in the media, and if I had to be honest, I was slightly shocked he even agreed to this sit down in The Oval Office. He never quite did do anything according to protocol, and his respect for women was severely lacking. Even his concession speech made digs at my gender and my apparent lack of know-how to get the job done. Our disdain for one another was more than mutual, and that's why I found my heart in my throat when Roman pulled us up to the security check of the White House.

In the handful of times I had been around Mr. Thomas, I had felt the same, and if anything, winning the presidency made me feel worse. Grant was a sore loser, so I was well aware that his patience for me was running out. We'd both smile and shake hands for the media, of course, but I knew how to read men like him, and I knew how much losing to a woman had his blood boiling. I was used to the pit in my stomach around him, but it seemed that now having secured my place, and the place for the future of America, that pit was taking shape and growing into quite a rock in my gut. I hated that I had to have this luncheon with him to begin the transition, but it was necessary to get all the information I could so I could move us forward after Inauguration.

"Roman, you absolutely, under no circumstances, are going to rescue me in any way today. Okay? Please remember what we talked about." I almost whispered the command to him after we were waved through security. I didn't want to make this request, especially after last night, but I had to in order to keep the bullshit out of Grant Thomas's mouth. Having to remind Roman of the talk we had just minutes prior made me feel like I was stomping on his heart all over again.

Last night, and even in the early hours of this morning, our connection intensified. Whether he was on top of me, behind me, or powering into me from underneath, Roman's gaze held mine. He studied my features, admired and was vocal about my beauty and strength, and considered our joining a solidified bond as a couple, and as a team. I could see it written in the crease of his brows, the hunger in his sapphire eyes, in the strong beat of his heart. Telling him now that he couldn't help me felt like I was cutting him, and it killed me to do so.

Roman slowed his approach to the North Portico and rested his elbow on the console of the SUV, his hand resting up, a silent request for mine. I placed my palm in his and he immediately closed his grasp on us and held tightly for a second. He held my gaze in the rearview once more as he leaned over to press his lips to the back of my hand and left them there as we parked the truck. It was a silent plea to be careful, not to let down my guard, and to know that he would be where I needed him the most.

"I'll make it up to you later" I vowed and Roman's grip tightened. He removed his sunglasses with his free hand and I noticed immediately the fire and lust he had burning there for me. My core ached as warmth flooded me, some of the unease I was feeling about this day suddenly dissipating. Without a word, Roman released me and left the car in order to come to the back seat and open my door for me. I gathered my papers into my leather briefcase and exited the car.

Coming around to the stairs, I noticed Grant and his wife, Cora, flanked by a security detail and descending to greet me and my team. As usual, the media wasn't too far off and remained poised and ready for photo ops. Tessa came to my side with Simon and Roman following not too far behind, and the rest of the crew Roman had designated for this meeting. I went ahead of everyone and extended my hand to offer my greeting. Grant clasped it first out of sheer protocol, and I instantly felt filthy. Roman had held the same hand just seconds prior and the last thing I wanted was for his touch to feel contaminated by the man in front of me. Still, I hid my disgust and made sure to add some strength to my shake. He could think me a weak and subservient woman all he liked, but he'd be dead wrong.

"Welcome, Miss James. So nice to see you again" he barely tried to his snicker as he scrutinized me, a thin attempt at a smile (or was that a snarl?) curving his lips.

"Thank you so much for having me. I can't wait to get to work" I beamed in return. "Cora, lovely to see you." She greeted me in turn and embraced me warmly. Unlike the president, I held a certain fondness for the First Lady and didn't have to fake my affections. Cora was almost the polar opposite to Grant. She was gentle, kind, and came from a strong and patriotic family. She cared for the public as best she could under her husband's thumb, and if anything, the only reason he didn't completely run this country into the dirt was due to her voice of reason. Still, she had that appearance of a Stepford wife and made a picture-perfect first lady. I had to keep in mind that as much as I liked her, at the end of the day, she got in bed with the enemy, so I had to be just as calculating and formal with her as I was with her husband.

"I'm so glad you came. You're looking well, Abigail. Practically glowing! It looks like your win is agreeing with you. Congratulations. Please, come inside. We have lunch prepared and you and Grant can talk privately" Cora guided me up the step, wrapping her arm around my waist. I looked to my team, my focus lingering just slightly on Roman. He nodded once and I knew he had my back. I looked to Tessa and saw Grant giving her a generous perusal and felt ill all over again. I noticed Simon didn't care much for the way the Commander in Chief was ogling her either and made a note to ask her about him when we were alone. Until then, I knew Tessa would be able to hold her own. She indulged Grant as best she could and we made our way inside.

Time to get this show on the road. 

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