Abbey's smile grew wider as she listened on the phone and made quick notes. Finally, she said, "Excellent! Thank you very much, Admiral."
After she'd put the phone down, she sat for a couple of seconds, struggling – though without success – to control the broad grin that somehow would not leave her face. Her hand went to the phone again, intending to hit the button that would connect her to the Oval Office, but then she gave a half-laugh. No, she had to deliver this news in person – and witness his reaction. Quickly, she stood up and picked up the folder with the notes she had just written.
"Lilly, I need to go across to the West Wing," she said as she opened her office door.
"Do I have any free time this afternoon?"
Lilly started to open the diary, but Abbey had already reached the outer door. "Check for me, would you, Lilly, and see if there's anything that can be moved or cancelled?"
"Yes, of course."
The agents sprang to attention as she reached the elevator and those positioned in the east corridor did the same. Her heels clicked loudly on the parquet floor of the long corridor that looked out on to the Kennedy garden. But today Abbey had no time to glance even briefly at the formal beauty of the garden. Reaching the Mansion, she made her way through the Central Hall, relieved that the deep red carpet was now blanketing the sounds of her quick footsteps.
Finally, she reached the west colonnade and with a brief nod acknowledged the agent who had opened the door into Mrs Landingham's office for her.
Charlie was sitting at his computer and Abbey crossed the office to him. "Charlie!"
The young man rose immediately. "Good afternoon, ma'am."
Realising she was still grinning to herself, she tried to straighten her face. "Charlie, is the President free for a moment?"
"He's in the Roosevelt Room with the Far East Advisors. Would you like me to go–?"
Abbey shook her head. "No, no, no. Don't interrupt him." She smiled. "Korea might have more plutonium! Just give him a message for me, would you?"
"You'll wanna write this down."
Charlie reached for his pen and notepad. "Yes, ma'am."
"Your blood pressure is 120 over 80."
The young man looked at her in surprise. "How did you know that, ma'am?"
"I'm saying his blood pressure."
Charlie grinned. "Ah – is 120 over 80?"
Abbey nodded. "Yeah." She glanced down at the folder in her hand and listed several more facts which Charlie hastily scribbled down. Finally she ended with, "And prostate screens are fine."
She drew in a quick breath. "So – we can have sex now."
Charlie looked at her open-mouthed. "Okay – so that's not me and you, right?"
"Go!" Abbey said, stifling a laugh at his quick wit.
As Charlie hurriedly departed, Abbey perched herself on the desk, knowing that she was not going to have long to wait. Another smile came to her lips as she imagined Jed's reaction to Charlie's note.
Jed glanced round when there was a knock on the door. "Yeah, Charlie?"
"I'm sorry to interrupt, sir, but I have a message for you."
He'd already scribbled 'From the First Lady' at the top of the note as he had crossed quickly to the Roosevelt Room, knowing that the final sentence of the note would prompt an immediate reaction from his boss. Better if he didn't have to announce to the Far East Advisers who the message was actually from.
He handed the note to the President and saw his eyes travel down the writing. Charlie knew that his boss could move quickly when he had to – but even he was taken aback when the President pushed back his chair with such speed that it fell over. "I'm sorry, gentlemen, I have something extremely urgent to attend to–" then "Where is she?" he added urgently to Charlie who had withdrawn to just outside the open door.
"In my office, sir." Charlie winced as the President slammed the door of the Roosevelt room with a loud bang.
Abbey looked round as the door slammed and heard Jed's voice before she saw him. "Really?"
She grinned at him as he came into the office. "Oh yeah!"
"Good afternoon, Mr President," Mrs Landingham said from her desk.
"Good afternoon, Mrs Landingham," Jed said, hardly looking at her. All his attention was centred on Abbey who gave him a quick nod and suppressed a smirk at the eager look on his face.
Mrs Landingham went on: "Is there anything I can...?"
Jed turned to her briefly with a quick grin. "Go away right now!"
"You seem a little tense, Mr. President."
Abbey nearly burst out laughing at the way Jed already seemed to be going for the belt of his pants.
"Not for long, Mrs. Landingham," he said with another grin.
She put her hand on his arm. "Why don't we go inside?"
As he followed her into the Oval Office, Mrs Landingham started to follow him. "Sir, would you like me to inform Mr. McGarry and the advisors that they could–?"
But Jed had already slammed the door shut – and Mrs Landingham turned back to Charlie with a questioning look.
Abbey turned to him with a flirtatious smile. "BP 120 over 80."
Jed put his hands on her arms. "Who cares? It's been fourteen weeks!" Then he looked past her. "Do these curtains close?"
He was half way across to the windows when Abbey stopped him. She'd known he would be eager, but hadn't quite anticipated this. "Not here, Jed!"
He turned. "Yes – you're right! Where?" he asked breathlessly.
"How about our bedroom?"
Jed frowned. "New Hampshire is an hour and a half away by plane – I don't think I have that kind of time."
Abbey looked at him in mild exasperation. "How about our bedroom in the Residence?"
"Yesss!" Jed said with enthusiasm, coming back towards her. "We have a bedroom right here in the building. That was so smart!"
Abbey started laughing. "Yes."
He grabbed hold of her hand. "Let's go!"
She pulled him back. "Jed!"
He slapped his hand against his forehead. "Oh God – I hate plutonium!"
Abbey knew she had to calm him down. "We have to find time before six."
"What happens at six?"
"I have to fly to Cochran's Mills, Pennsylvania."
"Where the hell is Cochran's Mills?"
"Pennsylvania?" she repeated.
"Right," he said, struggling to concentrate now.
"So – you talk to Charlie. I'll talk to Lilly. We'll co-ordinate our schedules – and we'll find a free hour." She gave him her deliberately seductive look as she finished.
Jed reached out to put his arms round her waist and pulled her to him. "I don't think it's gonna take more than a couple of minutes – but I like your confidence!"
Abbey started laughing. "Just get back to work!"
His eyes locked with hers and she saw the combination of love and lust in them. "Can't we just close the curtains?" he asked.
"Let's get back to work," she laughed, but her words were smothered as he leant forward to kiss her.
She had to push him away before the kiss could turn into anything else, and then scooted quickly out of the office.
In total frustration Jed watched her go then heaved a sigh. How in heavens' name was he going to concentrate on anything now?
As he walked out of the Oval Office, he slammed the door shut and made his way back to the Roosevelt Room.
Charlie and Mrs Landingham exchanged glances. Mrs Landingham raised her eyebrows and Charlie nodded. "This is not going to be a good afternoon, Mrs Landingham."
"I think you're absolutely right, Charlie. Have a cookie, dear."