A/N: Yea, it's an update. I'm sorry this took longer than expected. I do appreciate every single review that came in for last chapter. Thank you, thank you, thank you, kittens I really do appreciate them oh so much. This is a nice long chapter that basically picks up where last chapter ended with Olivia Pope arriving on the scene. This chapter concludes with a very promising end. Hope you enjoy!
Special shout out to: xthesebonesx or some of you may know her as alpha-allison on tumbrl for making an awesome edit for this story! Thank you so much, luv, you make me blush;) Tried to use the edit as the image for this story but it cut off more than half of Bonnie's face. *Kanye shrug* what can you do. Still love it anyways.
Disclaimer: These characters are the creative property of LJ Smith and The CW. No copyright infringement is intended.
"If you hold sleep in high esteem then I should let you know that that relationship will be strained the more successful you become. The trick in this business is to never take anything personal. You're a crusader but you're not a zealot, but you'll definitely want to have the heart of one.
"You go to bat, war for your client but you leave the emotional baggage in the office, compartmentalize it because otherwise it'll run and tear you down and you'll be finished in less than a year's time. You ran a presidential campaign so it goes without saying you know how dirty people like to play especially when it comes to politics, but remember they can't come for you unless you send for them.
"Choose to represent people with a discerning eye and always, always remember to listen to your gut. The first reaction you have when listening to a potential client's story. Body language is also key. Do you they maintain eye contact, fidget while sitting, constantly touch his or her face or hair? We all experience nerves and jitters but not when we're telling the truth. If someone has a ready response for your questions, then more often than not they're guilty or at least hiding something that may backfire. Get the facts—first, gather your Intel, and poke holes in your own client's stories that way when you stand before the media you won't have to make things up as you go along. Always anticipate the unexpected because the things people do are typically unexpected."
Olivia paused to take a sip of her vanilla latte. A tiny smirk appeared on her face as she watched Bonnie scribble feverish notes. The two had met several years ago while Bonnie had been in law school and Olivia was a guest speaker at symposium on the significance of the Voting Rights amendment. The two had hit off during the reception that followed, exchanged information, and remained in touch off and on. If Olivia had to put a label on the nature of their relationship she wouldn't haul off and call them friends. She had few friends because it was best to keep your inner circle as small and discreet as possible so there wouldn't be any question of loyalty, but she did view the slightly younger female as a mentee and maybe even a sister in training.
Bonnie's hand was going numb from all the writing she was doing but she didn't want to leave out a single shred of advice that the Olivia Pope was imparting. Olivia Pope was something of a legend in the political world. Saving marriages, careers, reputations, and diplomatic relations while tailoring the current Governor of California for the presidency. The fact she was a woman, the fact she was a woman of color spoke deep to Bonnie's soul because she hoped to fill Olivia's shoes one day whenever her mentor headed into retirement which wouldn't be for some time.
"When it comes to your staff and yourself you have to be not only reputable and above reproach, but also fearless," Ms. Pope continued. "One weak link, one rotten apple will cause dissention among the ranks, and if you can't manage your own staff then no one will trust you to manage their crisis. But you also need individuals who will stand in your corner when you have to resort to less savory ways in order to pull out a victory that otherwise would have never happened. Getting your hands dirty while maintaining a squeaky clean façade will be the biggest challenge. Do you think you can handle something like that?"
Bonnie met Olivia's eyes over the bistro table. "Yes. I know this field can chew someone up and spit them out. I'm preparing myself for it."
"You can be prepared all you like, Bonnie, but this game is very unpredictable. The players change all the time and the rules as well. Things won't always be black and white, cut or dry. It's your job to keep that perception as a reality to the American public. People love angst in their romantic lives, but when it deals with their livelihood there is no fucking around. Give it to them straight. It keeps things honest.
"Now here's the most important piece of advice I can give you: never ever get into bed with your work."
Too late, Bonnie thought, but nodded her head nonetheless.
"The world will pardon your sins if you're a specific skin tone," and Olivia rubbed her finger against the sleeve of her off white blouse. "For us we get judged and examined more harshly and if you make one mistake your reputation is ruined, and you'll find that finding an ally is harder than getting a loan for a house. But if you do your business make sure no one ever knows about it."
Bonnie capped her pen and sat back against the seat. The afternoon was slowly dissolving into evening and it was the first time Bonnie became aware of the time. She looked at her watch and noticed she and Olivia had been talking—well Olivia had been doing most of the talking, for the last two hours.
Olivia glossed her doe-brown eyes over Bonnie. "Am I holding you up from something?"
Bonnie snapped to attention and slightly blushed. "No, we've been going hard for the last few hours, but we haven't exactly caught up."
"No, I guess we haven't. So how have you been? How are things at The White House? I saw the interview the President and First Lady did at his private home in North Carolina. He still looks miserable, by the way."
That was putting things mildly, Bonnie thought before answering. "I've done my part in making sure things remained orderly while the President goes through physical therapy. I told you that I've resigned from my temporary reinstatement and now I'm putting all of my focus on starting my agency. The First family…they're dealing with a lot."
"Hmm," Olivia murmured and, keeping her eyes on Bonnie drained the remaining contents of her latte. "I'm sure President Salvatore wasn't overjoyed to lose you…again."
Bonnie gulped and tried her best not to fidget in her chair but it was nearly impossible with Olivia probing her with those shrewd eyes. "He wasn't happy but he understands," she said and figured now was as good a time as any to turn the tables around. "How is the governor? I know he can't wait his turn to make a run for Pennsylvania Avenue."
A soft almost bashful smile split Olivia's already radiant face. Well, well, well, Bonnie thought almost smugly. Looks like she wasn't the only one caught up.
"Fitz is practically redecorating the West Wing."
"So it's Fitz now and not Governor Grant?"
The serenity that was on Olivia's face vanished and her eyes narrowed slightly. "The governor has been planning his run for president since he was in diapers. My question is: will Damon be running for a second term?"
"That you'll have to ask the President," Bonnie replied and tried to keep the edge out of her voice.
"Good thing for me I'll have the opportunity to do so at the Correspondents Dinner. You'll be there, right?"
Bonnie had yet to receive her invitation and she wasn't sure how she felt about that. Relieved or rebuffed. The dinner was in three weeks and invites were usually sent out months in advance since the guest list was a mix of who's who of DC politicos and Hollywood royalty. Bonnie still hadn't exactly figured out when movies stars started requesting invites to what used to be a stuffy and boring White House tradition.
"I'll have to check my calendar," Bonnie said.
Things grew deceptively quiet before Olivia spoke again. "You know, everything I told you is what you already know."
"Getting a refresher course never hurts."
"No it doesn't, but why does my spidey sense tell me that picking my brain about the crisis management world isn't the exact reason you wanted to speak with me?"
Bonnie allowed herself to be distracted by a passing couple holding hands. She quickly looked away from them. "What reason other than catching up would I have, Olivia?"
"That's a very good question. But I won't push if you don't feel comfortable…"
"You know I was attacked…in my home?" Bonnie said suddenly and then questioned why she was telling Olivia this. Since it was out now there was no going back. "It happened two weeks ago."
Concern engulfed Olivia's face, and her hooded brown eyes blinked in alarm. "Ohmygod, I'm sorry to hear that. What happened?"
Bonnie shook her head and with it the memories but they were forever stamped in her mind. "Some guy managed to get inside my building, ambushed me from the back. We fought…and I…"
"I don't need the gory details. Are you okay, Bonnie and I'm not talking physically?"
"I'm working through it."
"Are you talking to someone…?"
"You," Bonnie chuckled self-deprecatingly with an added shrug. "I've been keeping myself busy with work. I haven't given it much thought. I mean I do think about it, but I'm trying not to let it affect my day to day life."
"That's understandable but pretending a problem isn't there won't help get rid of it. You know I'm here if you need anything. If you want to crash at my place and binge on red wine and popcorn you're more than welcome."
"I know," Bonnie smiled.
"Did they catch your attacker?"
"They didn't have to. I…killed him."
"Oh," Olivia was honestly surprised. "Then he got what he deserved."
That line was delivered with a steely coldness that almost made Bonnie want to shiver. Yet it also made her side-eye Olivia.
Things grew silent once more. "How did the President handle the news?"
"I don't know what…"
"Its okay, Bonnie," Olivia interrupted.
"Your secret. It's safe with me."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
Olivia opened her purse and dropped a tip on the table. She checked her watch and then her BlackBerry. She had another appointment to get to, but she wasn't quite ready to leave Bonnie yet. Working with men hadn't blinded Olivia from noticing when a woman was harboring a massive secret especially one that could literally bring an entire governmental administration down. Despite feeling it wasn't her place to say anything, Olivia had learned from experience that when the ship was about to go down, don't hang on to the very end. Jump before it took you down with it.
"I know you two are close, friendly. You have his ear and he listens to you," Olivia informed. Bonnie gulped again. "Presidents depend on their press secretary but not to the length Damon did with you."
"Olivia, are you trying to insinuate something?"
"I'm not insinuating anything," Olivia held up her hands. "All I'm saying is, you're doing the right thing by getting out and cutting your losses. The last thing this government needs is another scandal," Olivia stared at Bonnie slyly.
"And I'm all about doing what's right," the former press secretary mumbled almost irritably.
Olivia smiled once more making her high cheekbones even more prominent. "Yeah, we do what's right even if it feels wrong. I'll tell Fitz you said hello and hopefully the both of us will see you at the dinner. I have to go, have another appointment. Call me if you need anything. I mean that, Bonnie."
"I will, Olivia and thank you so much."
"Don't thank you just yet. Who knows, one day we might be representing opposing clients," Olivia departed with a wink, but stopped and double backed. "Always wear your white hat tipped to the side."
"Will do," Bonnie laughed and watched Olivia stride down the avenue turning a few heads as her curls bounced against her shoulders. Sitting back against the seat, Bonnie wondered just how transparent she and Damon truly were. And here she thought she had been so careful not to let her feelings for the president leak out in any way. Damon pretty much failed when it came to bottling up his emotions so if Olivia Pope had a hunch about them, then who else did?
Not even one day out of The White House and already she was drawing speculation. Not good.
"Just two more laps, Sir."
Damon tuned out the cheerful sound of Dr. Fell's voice and concentrated on doggy paddling from one end of the pool to the other. The muscles in his arms were burning as well as his lungs. Damon was convinced he swallowed at least half of the pool in trying to keep his head above water, but he pushed himself to finish his torture session for the day. This would be his only time of recreation before meeting with his staff to handle business.
Ugh could someone smother him with a pillow in his sleep?
"Excellent, sir," Dr. Fell applauded and met Damon near the steps on the shallow end. She sunk down to her haunches, clicked off the stopwatch, and recorded his time and speed. Damon had improved his time from yesterday by two seconds.
Breathing heavily, Damon pulled his body up the steps to rest and slipped his swim goggles off. "What's my time?"
"Fifteen minutes and twenty-eight seconds. That's two seconds faster than yesterday."
"Whoopie," Damon faux cheered. "Break out the cake and champagne."
Meredith snorted. "It may seem like you aren't progressing that much but you've been doing really well, Mr. President."
Damon frowned at the formality. "Please, how many times have I told you to call me Damon?"
A slight blush settled over Meredith's cheeks. "It wouldn't be professional, sir."
"Gotdamit what does a man have to do not to feel like a title around here? Everyone knows who the hell I am and all I'm asking is that you call me Damon. Now is that so difficult?"
"I suppose not and if it'll help with your attitude…I'm sorry that didn't come out right."
Damon snapped his head at his doctor and then cocked a smile. "Do you know how long it's been since I've had a conversation with someone who didn't look at me as the leader of the supposed free world? Where I spoke with someone who didn't have to choose their words carefully? I'm a person just like everyone else. I just have more responsibility on my hands, but I'm still the same scrawny boy from New York who had a skin condition and couldn't pay a girl to talk to him at fourteen."
Meredith covered her mouth to contain her chuckles. She was having a hard time picturing Damon with a skin condition or being scrawny. Everywhere she tried not to look she saw nothing but chiseled muscle and perfect skin.
"You think that's funny?"
"Yeah," Meredith blurted. "No offense but I just find it difficult to see you as anything other than…my patient," she chickened out and went with a safe response. "I'm going to page Bill and have him tote you off to weight training. I know how much you love that."
Damon made a sour face but then shrugged. "Hey, doc?"
Meredith turned to face the president. "Yes?"
"How many HIPPA laws would you have to break to get a hold of Rosalie's medical records?"
"Why would I need to get a hold of her medical records?"
Hmm, maybe he shouldn't have advised Meredith to treat him like he was one of the guys. He needed information and she was in a position to get it, and he wasn't above throwing his weight as president around to get it. Besides, he had a deadline to adhere to. He told Bonnie he would prove he wasn't the father of Rosalie's baby, but that proof lied in her medical records.
"Can you check her records dating as far back as last summer? Look to see if there's anything…abnormal?"
Meredith's eyes narrowed. "Abnormal, sir? Are you worried about her pregnancy? I get updates from the first lady's obstetrician and Dr. Stallworth says that everything is fine. The baby is growing, and the First Lady is right on track."
"Could you just check again for my piece of mind? Rosalie is…and this might sound insensitive but she's up there in age and having a healthy baby at her age can be difficult."
Though the president was her patient specifically Meredith didn't think she'd have any problems getting her hands on Rosalie's records. However, she'd need a concrete reason to want access to them. Doctors conferred with other physicians when they were faced with a problem they couldn't make heads or tail of, but a doctor requesting to see the medical records of someone they weren't treating without proper authorization did violate patient confidentially.
"If it helps," Damon spoke up, "I'm appointing you as Rosalie's personal physician. I have the clearance forms…they just need your signature," he added a charismatic smile.
And that smile did nothing to placate Meredith's suspicion. "I guess I should thank you, sir," she muttered dryly and thought for a moment, "I'm also assuming that you want to keep whatever I find strictly between us?"
"You would be right," Damon winked. "I don't want Rosalie to worry, which she will if she knows that I'm curious about her health."
And speak of the devil and she shall appear wearing a canary yellow dress and cream open toe sandals.
Meredith said her hello and goodbye to the First Lady and quickly disappeared leaving the estranged First Couple alone.
Rosalie approached the edge of the pool and folded her arms on top of her protruding bump. "How was swimming today?"
"Fine," Damon answered listlessly.
"Has there been any feeling in your legs?"
Damon shook his head.
Rosalie attempted to smile encouragingly. "You'll get there one day. I have faith in you, Damon."
"I'm sure you do. Was there something you wanted?"
Sighing, Rosalie dropped the pretense of being the concerned wife. Since Damon wanted to treat her like her mere presence irked his nerves, she decided to make things brief. Her doctor had warned her repeatedly about keeping her stress levels down. Women in her age bracket pregnant for the first time were more susceptible to preeclampsia. And if there was one thing Damon was good at doing it was raising her blood pressure.
"I was thinking we could have dinner with Stefan and Lexi tonight and spend time with the girls. We haven't had a family dinner since Easter."
The idea of ragging on his little brother, mildly insulting his sister-in-law, and teasing his nieces was appealing, however doing such with Rosalie in tow gave him gas.
"All right," he agreed. "I'll leave you to set everything up." Thinking that was the end of their conversation Damon was prepared to do an additional lap in the pool, but Rosalie didn't budge from her spot. "Was there something else?"
Licking her lips, Rosalie took a step forward. "I heard that Bonnie resigned."
"And I'm sure you pissed your pants in glee once you found out."
Rosalie scowled at him—lethally. "Why do you speak to me like that, Damon? I'm your wife!"
"You don't need to keep reminding me of that one irritating fact, Rose. I know that. I was there when I asked you marry me. I was there when I put that rock on your finger."
"Why did you ask me to marry you if you were only going to cheat on me and treat me like I fucked up your life?"
"Let's not get into this now. I'm still technically in the middle of my physical therapy, and this is a conversation neither one of us needs to have right now."
"I love you so much, Damon," Rosalie murmured quietly. So quietly Damon almost didn't hear her. "And you don't even care. All you care about is yourself and what you want. When did you fall out of love with me?"
Rolling his cerulean eyes, Damon sighed heavily. "I'm sorry for making you upset. I don't mean to keep hurting you."
"I'm trying so hard to be a family and you're not interested."
"Because," Damon slightly raised his voice and it echoed throughout the indoor pool. "I have doubts. I've always had doubts about us, but I married you because at the time I wanted to, but I couldn't escape feeling like you had an ulterior motive the entire time."
Rosalie looked confused and insulted simultaneously. "What the hell gave you that idea? I never had an ulterior motive when it came to you, Damon."
"Okay great," he mocked. "We're not the same people, Rose we were back then. And I'm tired of having the same conversation with you. So let's just agree to be cordial."
"Rumors are already starting. People know you and I don't share a room anymore."
Damon tossed his hands up in the air. "Let them talk."
Rosalie pinched the bridge of her nose. Her body was warning her to wrap this up because Damon's attitude was rubbing her the wrong way. "This won't look good when you run for a second term."
"Hate to break the news to you with me in a Speedo but I'm not running for a second term."
Rosalie looked absolutely scandalized. "What?" she screeched.
To Damon's relief his physical therapy assistant entered the pool area with his wheelchair, towel, and robe.
"What do you mean you're not…" Rosalie censored herself and moved out of the way as Bill assisted her husband out of the pool and into his robe before displacing him in his wheelchair. "Damon we need to discuss this."
"Later," he said and then snapped his fingers for Bill to push him out of the room. "Call my brother and set up dinner."
Two weeks later…
The clink of glasses filled with champagne sounded and it was music to Bonnie's ears. She had just signed off on her office property and renovations would start in two weeks. She, with Jeremy's help had finalized their team of Titians in Suits, and already they had several clients and cases lined up. Word of mouth was a powerful thing and a little birdie in the form of Olivia Pope may have sent some business her way.
Smiling at her team for the first time in a long time Bonnie felt genuinely happy. "You guys, we are about to change the game of crisis management. This is your opportunity to do something great and important in the world and if you think it might be too much to handle, you should bow out now before the train starts rolling."
Several eyeballs looked around but no one said a word or moved a muscle.
"Enough of the serious shit," Jeremy said and picked up the bottle. "Let's celebrate."
"We should head over to Venue," Caroline Forbes suggested.
"What's that?" April Young a recent grad from William & Mary asked and received reproachful glares for it.
Bonnie smiled a bit and tossed an arm over April's shoulders. "Take it easy on her. She's from the country where people don't lock their doors. Venue it is, guys. Give me a minute to lock up things."
"I'll hang back," Jeremy offered.
"No, it's okay. Wait with the ladies downstairs."
Bonnie watched as everyone, apart from one person, depart from her new apartment. She turned to face Marcel du Pointe. Convincing him to join her team took a little more elbow grease. Though he had wanted a change from entertainment law, Marcel didn't exactly want to relocate from Atlanta to DC. He had family in the area he hadn't spoken to since he was a kid and had several uncles that typically stayed in trouble with the law. The last thing he wanted was word getting out he was local.
Bonnie crossed over the living room and stood beside him as he gazed out the window. "Are you still having doubts?"
"Is it written all over my face?" the caramel hued hunk with the slanted dark brown eyes shifted to face his new boss. "You know there's little I love more than the law and you tell me we're not practicing lawyers. I just want to be clear on what I'm getting myself involved in. Breaking the law to keep clients out of jail, or enforcing the law to make sure justice gets served."
"A little bit of both," Bonnie hunched a shoulder. "Marcel…this job is going to require being unscrupulous from time to time. But I won't ever ask you to do something you're not comfortable with unless it's absolutely necessary."
Marcel appeared to mull over her words before slowly smiling. He pushed a strand of hair behind her ear, and skimmed his thumb along her jaw. Bonnie felt her face grow hot.
The snap of a camera caught the moment from outside.
"All right," he said after a considerable pause. "Then I'm casting my doubts aside and I'll follow you, woman straight through hell."
"That won't be necessary but thank you for having my back."
"You helped my mom from losing her house when I wasn't in a position to do shit. Joining your team is the least I can do."
"And you made sure those pictures from that frat party were destroyed."
"I might still have one," he admitted sheepishly.
"Marcel," Bonnie snapped and he laughed.
"So," Marcel stuffed a hand in his pocket. "Are you seeing anyone?"
Bonnie let out a mirthless laugh and walked away from the window to collect her handbag. "I'm evoking a no fraternizing policy effective immediately."
"I'm not asking for me," Marcel said and then headed towards the door and opened it the second Bonnie stepped into the atrium. "I'm asking because if you are…your boyfriend might get jealous because you'll be spending more nights in your office than anywhere else."
"Well then…guess it's a good thing I'm single." Even though it was true Bonnie still felt like she lied. She flicked her eyes to her promise ring. Four months. Didn't seem long in theory but it was a lifetime to her.
Locking her apartment, Bonnie pushed those thoughts aside. She was going to have fun tonight and remember what its like to be a twentysomething career woman before her world became nothing but work, work, and more work.
Klaus didn't know how he got roped into attending this Salvatore family shindig which he should call farce. He liked Stefan well enough and was glad their encounters had been brief and cordial in the past. His wife Lexi, though easy on the eyes had a prickly personality mainly because she didn't suffer fools lightly and Klaus didn't like anyone to read him his rights. And the children, ugh, he didn't like ankle biters but had to say Stefan's two girls were well-behaved darlings yet deeply inquisitive—meaning nosey.
He watched from his corner of the living room as the wives complimented one another though Klaus did smile as he noticed that Lexi was clearly putting on an act. She didn't much care for the First Lady either and that pleased Klaus immensely. His wife was off somewhere freshening up her appearance though in his humble opinion there was nothing Greta needed to adjust. She was perfect just the way she was.
Klaus' musings were interrupted when Damon deliberately ran his wheelchair into his leg. If he weren't the President he'd give him a thorough tongue lashing. He still might and just blame it on the perfectly aged bourbon he was sipping.
"What is the point of all this?" Klaus pondered.
"Pretenses, Klaus," Damon replied. "And I think Rosalie just wants to try out her mothering skills on my nieces.
"Ah yes…and how are you dealing with your pending fatherhood?"
That question earned him a particularly nasty glare. "You know as well as I do that Rosalie ain't carrying my kid."
Klaus said nothing in retaliation. Merely smiled. "What's this I hear about you refusing to do a second term? Imagine my non-surprise as an irate First Lady came barging into my office demanding I either talk or knock some sense into your head. You've pulled many stunts during your first two years, and though I can't say this one takes the cake it does make one's eyebrows hitch."
"There's nothing to explain. Besides you know me. I'm just a barrel full of surprises."
"Yes, indeed," Klaus shifted until his back was to the socializing crowd. "Being chief of staff I have to concern myself with more than just you, Damon. There are a lot of peoples' careers riding on this decision and not only yours, but mine as well. With a change in administration it could mean everything we've worked so hard to achieve could be circumvented. Is that what you want to see happen?"
"No," Damon bit out fiercely. "And just because I run for a second term doesn't spell an automatic victory. I wear the suit, sign the papers, and make the speeches, but everyone behind the scenes runs this country. I'm just a formality and I doubt I'll be missed. I'm ready to move on with my life, Klaus. My real life and this isn't it."
Taking a deep breath Klaus studied his boss for a moment. "She really means that much to you."
"Do you even need to ask?" Damon countered. "I need you to set up something for me."
"Why are you two over here being anti-social? I thought I specifically said to leave work at the door."
Both men shifted their gazes to Lexi Branson-Salvatore as she placed her hands on her hips and gave them pointed looks of her own.
"Sorry, sis force of habit," Damon showed all of his pearly white teeth. "Is cocktail hour about over? I'm starving and you know how I get when I'm hungry. Plus, I can't eat anything past seven o'clock. Doctor's orders."
"Yeah, because I'm sure if you do, Gizmo, gremlins are going to pop out of your eyeballs. To answer your question, it's time to eat so roll your ass into the dining room. We have a high chair ready for you."
Damon rolled his head to look at Klaus. "Isn't she precious? Knows exactly how to make a man feel ten feet tall."
All Klaus could do was laugh and follow after Damon. He reached out his hand the second he spotted his better half and linked their fingers together. Klaus didn't question with whom Damon wanted him to set up a meeting with he already knew.
"Location," he said to the back of Damon's head.
"Some place discreet."
"What's going on?" Greta wondered.
"Nothing, love," Klaus kissed her temple. "Just business. Have I told you how ravishing you look tonight?"
"You may have mentioned it before we left the house and then in the car."
Klaus leaned down to whisper conspiratorially in her ear. "And I promise to tell you again later tonight but my lips might otherwise be busy," he pinched her bottom causing Greta to shriek and blush.
"Are you two behaving yourselves back there?" Damon wondered and slightly twisted his head to look over his shoulder but couldn't see very much due to his position.
"Hardly," Klaus bellowed. "Husbands should never behave themselves with their wives."
Damon grunted feeling that was a personal jab. If everything worked out in his favor he definitely wouldn't behave himself where a certain five foot four brunette was concerned.
Just as he suspected the dining room in the Governor's mansion was beautiful decorated; the table laid to perfection and ready to be photographed and showcased in Home & Garden magazine. Rosalie peered down at him and though her expression was unreadable it was the fire blazing in her amber eyes that told Damon she had an inkling of his inner thoughts. She seriously needed to get over herself.
Food was passed around as soon as everyone took their seats and a quick prayer was said. Rosalie daintily draped her napkin across her lap and began to chow down but stopped when she felt a kick in her belly.
"Ohmygod…he moved! The baby…I felt the baby move."
The women of course abandoned their plates and surrounded Rosalie, hands reaching out to touch her stomach, but she grabbed Damon's hand and placed it on the area where she felt the first kick. Damon's initial reaction was to snatch his hand away, but left it there and waited for something interesting to happen. After a moment or two something pushed against his hand. His eyes flew to Rosalie's and hers were washed with tears.
"That's our baby, Damon."
The President didn't comment. He didn't want to ruin this moment for Rosalie, yet he could say that a tiny piece of ice that surrounded his heart from Rosalie did melt, and he was happy for her. For women who yearned to be mothers this was a moment long time coming for his wife.
Klaus kept watch of the first couple as he sipped his wine. Would he still have to make arrangements for that meeting?
The following week…
She was early yet apprehensive about meeting a prospective client at nine o'clock at night on a Thursday. Only the really power hungry held meetings this late into the night, but Bonnie was trying to keep her focus on dollar signs because in order for her business to succeed she needed to start bringing in revenue immediately.
Her generous grandfather offered to cover the cost of her teams' salary for six months on top of what he loaned her to purchase her office space. When she explained the situation to Jeremy he held his own meeting with their staff and everyone agreed to work pro bono until they picked up their first major client. Win or lose, solve a problem or not they would get paid regardless. Bonnie didn't want her team slaving away with hardly any benefits, yet everyone claimed their personal finances were handled.
Still, it just didn't sit right with Bonnie and she was going to pay them something because it was not only legal but fair. And until the office was up and running she would be using her apartment as the base of operation until further notice though she would always meet clients at neutral locations.
Bonnie checked with the hostess of The Caucus Room to see if her client had arrived. He or she hadn't so Bonnie slipped off to the bathroom to freshen up and settle her nerves.
She had no idea why she was so nervous. It wasn't like she hadn't charged into situations blind before only knowing the bare minimum when it came to dealing with an adversary that had to be taken down. Maybe she was feeling out of sorts because of the phone call she received just this morning from an ominous sounding voice asking her to meet with a client in need of her services and expertise to handle a delicate situation. Bonnie had asked for a name but wasn't given one. She was only told she had been recommended by someone close to the President.
Bonnie had called Klaus to see if he sent more business her way but he had been indisposed, at least according to his secretary. Klaus always made himself available to her unless there really was a crisis that needed all of his attention. But Bonnie watched the news religiously and maybe to see if she might get a peek of Damon, so she knew no one had declared war or was holding Americans hostage somewhere; and there hadn't been any natural disasters so what the hell was going on?
Fluffing her hair and reapplying her lip gloss, Bonnie eyed her appearance for a second longer. She washed her hands, applied lotion, and then left the bathroom.
When she stepped out into the main dining area she noticed the few people who had been loitering around drinking and eating were gone. The entire restaurant had been cleared out. Was the place being robbed?
Bonnie looked for the hostess and she was nowhere to be found and right before she called out for someone to explain what was happening, that's when she noticed someone sitting at a table in the rear of the restaurant.
Even in the semi-darkness of the private establishment they couldn't do a damn thing to turn down the wattage of those eyes. Eyes that burned like embers in a fireplace. Eyes that could disrobe her within seconds of picking her out in a crowd.
Swallowing reflexively, Bonnie placed one foot in front of the other and before she knew it she was standing behind the chair opposite of the man she loved.
"So you're my client?" she asked.
Damon, dressed in a simple black T-shirt that showed off the wide and muscular expanse of his chest and those cut arms, shrugged. "I figured the only way you'd agree to see me was for legitimate business."
"What do you need?"
"I need you to sit down."
Bonnie snorted and remained standing. "This isn't a game, Damon. Do you know what this looks like?"
Leaning an elbow on the table the light from the votive candles made his eyes glow. "I know exactly what this looks like and how many times do I have to tell you, I. Don't. Care? Please sit."
Hesitating for just a moment, Bonnie finally acquiesced and took a seat. She placed her purse by her feet and crossed her ankles. "Do you really need my help with something or was this just a ploy to get me alone?"
"I do have a problem, Bonnie."
"What is it?"
"I realized I did something wrong."
"What did you do?"
"I…" Damon began and then switched gears. "I didn't tell you how beautiful you look. Plum is definitely your color."
"Thank you," Bonnie dropped her gaze to the silverware but her hand was soon covered with Damon's. Her eyes flashed to his face and the potency of love, lust, desire, passion, and raw hunger Bonnie saw displayed nearly made her swallow her saliva down the wrong pipe. "Mr. President you can't hold my hand in public."
"I beg to differ. We're alone. We don't need to hide or pretend at anything. Two of my trusted aides are having people sign non-disclosure forms as we speak. I was never here. They never saw me and if they squeal…hate to sound like Tony Soprano but it won't be a good day for them."
Bonnie unconsciously began to play with Damon's fingers. "So…is this a date?"
Damon graced Bonnie with a slow, lazy smile that turned her insides into goo. "It is."
"I thought we had agreed to a trial separation?"
"I don't recall agreeing to anything that involved the word separate," then he leered lasciviously. "Unless it has something to do with the lips of your…"
Bonnie cleared her throat pointedly and picked up the menu. If this was a date then she needed to eat, so who the hell was serving them, better yet cooking?
Damon chuckled and picked up his own menu but then sat it off to the side. He just wanted to stare at Bonnie while she was going out of her way to ignore him. Damon could never get over how beautiful she was. Perfect toffee skin, body like a comic book heroine, lips that could make his cock swell from her doing nothing more than smiling, bright viridian eyes that made him question her heritage background.
Who did she get those eyes from? Her paternal or maternal grandmother or grandfather? An aunt or an uncle? In asking himself these questions Damon realized there was so much he still didn't know about Bonnie. She practically knew everything about him though to be fair it had been her job to dig up all of his dirt and unearth the skeletons in his closet. So Bonnie had him at disadvantage. Many of their conversations had revolved around him, and the world at large, and occasionally Bonnie might drop a morsel of her past yet that was only after they argued over something trivial.
"Yes," she answered still looking over the menu.
"Who did you get your gorgeous green eyes from?"
Bonnie finally stopped perusing the menu and looked at Damon. A divot formed between her arched eyebrows at his unexpected question.
"My maternal great-great grandmother. Her name was Lucia Batiste la Croix born and raised in New Orleans in 1870. She was the illegitimate daughter of a French merchant and his Quadroon mistress. Her name was Josefina, and was born mute but learned to play the harpsichord and taught Lucia. They often entertained the rich.
"Now, Lucia, much to everyone's scandal back in those times was her father's favorite bastard child, and he left her a sizeable inheritance when he died. My history gets a little fuzzy on what happened to her but I believe she married a teacher and relocated to Maryland, and died after giving birth to her third child. It seems in my family every other girl born had green eyes. Well it skipped my grandmother but not my mom. Her eyes are a deep forest green."
"Are you close…to your mom?"
Out of nowhere two servers approached their table and sat down plates of beef tenderloin cooked medium rare with tomato and basil risotto. A crisp white wine was poured into their goblets and without saying a word they disappeared.
"I pre-ordered," Damon explained and picked up his fork. "Now back to my question."
"Oh," Bonnie unfolded her napkin and briefly looked over the food. Steam rose from the plate along with a mouth-watering aroma that made her stomach growl and clench in anticipation. Before she arrived Bonnie didn't have much of an appetite mostly because her belly had been filled with nerves and butterflies, but now knowing her "potential client" was Damon tension leaked out of her. Though they were alone it did little to ease her fear of being caught.
"My parents got divorced when I was ten. She moved away and I spent summers with her, and every other holiday until I turned seventeen. By then I was over shuffling from one household to another. She remarried, and I now have a step brother. My mom runs a successful landscaping business. It's nothing big, but it pays the bills."
"And your dad? I remember you said that he's a rep for a pharmaceutical company," Damon sliced into his tenderloin and popped it in his mouth.
Bonnie took a sip of wine before responding. "My dad is incredibly boring," she snorted. Damon chortled. "He travels all over the country and yet he doesn't really take vacations to see the country or the world. He goes bowling on Friday nights and its golf on Saturday, and he might pop in for a church service every other sixth Sunday," she smiled ruefully. "He's a sweet man but doesn't really do anything exciting or try new things."
"Was the divorce hard on him…on your mom?"
"I don't know. My dad has always been quiet. He doesn't really express himself so if he was heartbroken I couldn't really tell. But I guess in a way he was. He went from looking tired to looking dead. I used to go through old photo albums and there were so many pictures of my parents when they were younger, and they looked really happy. They met through a mutual friend in college, became instant friends, and a year after my dad graduated they got married. Then a few years later I arrived on the scene. I thought my family was happy but something was missing, and I could never place my finger on what it was. Now I know."
"Now you know what?" Damon stared at her directly.
"Passion. My parents respected each other and I know they loved each other, but they weren't passionate about each other. I don't know what happened. Whether it was just settling into a suburban life that killed their romance or they just grew apart," she shrugged. "I didn't try to get answers because I felt it wasn't any of my business."
"This goes without saying you don't want to end up like your parents," Damon postulated and licked his teeth.
Bonnie swallowed her mouthful of food and said, "No, who does? Who wants to love someone fiercely and then wake up the next day and feel like you married a stranger? I know your parents' marriage wasn't all that great either."
Damon lifted his brows and shook his head. "I would trade Giuseppe and Guilia's contemptuous borderline Ike and Tina Turner marriage for boring and uneventful any day of the week. My mother was high strung and high maintenance and my father was a pure blood Italian alpha male. Their personalities clashed like water and vinegar, but when they loved they loved hard, and through the fights, the infidelities, the miscarriages, they stuck it out because there was tradition there that neither one could walk away from. Plus, my mother was raised Roman Catholic and didn't believe in divorce."
Bonnie's jaw dropped a little. "Miscarriages? Your mother miscarried?"
Solemnly Damon nodded. "I would have had an older brother and a younger sister, but Stefan and I were the only children to survive. So my mother spoiled us rotten much to Giuseppe's chagrin. He felt giving us everything we asked for would make us weak so when he disciplined us he did so with a heavy hand. Believe me, if I knew the number to child protective services I would have reported his ass. Stefan got off lightly because he was such a brown noser, me…I committed murder on a daily basis," he grinned.
"No matter what…no matter how many times I made the Dean's list, or won trophies for this or that sport, not even graduating in the top ten percent of my class was good enough. Giuseppe wanted perfection," Damon shrugged sheepishly yet couldn't exactly mask the hurt in his eyes.
He stopped eating for a second as he was transported back to his cantankerous childhood. Damon never questioned if his father loved him; he knew that, but he also knew his father didn't like him. Giuseppe had commented plenty of times that Damon took after his mother, they were too much alike which translated into: you defy me constantly and never do what I say, but when you choose to it's at your own speed.
As a son, Damon did what he was supposed to do but that didn't mean he didn't raise hell along the way. Stefan was more their father's speed because Stefan was nothing short of a mini-Giuseppe.
If only the old man could see him now. President of the United States. Wasn't that the best revenge an insolent son could have against an insufferable father?
Bonnie observed as Damon relived scenes from his childhood. Though his eyes were vacant it didn't make them any less expressive. Sliding her chair back, Bonnie stood and then moved over to the seat that was closer to Damon. When he blinked and realized she moved he cupped the back of her neck and pulled her forward, resting his forehead against hers, but he didn't kiss her.
Damon would give anything to marry Bonnie, make her his wife, and watch her belly swell with their child, and be a far better husband to her than his dad was to his mom, and he was being to Rosalie.
"I know your father would be proud of you, Damon. You've accomplished so much, and it hasn't been easy, but not even Giuseppe could find fault with your success."
"You don't know the late Giuseppe Salvatore…the man could find fault with God. But I think he would have liked you. My mom would definitely love you."
Bonnie placed a quick and simple kiss to Damon's lips before sitting back against the padded chair. "And I'm sure I would have liked them, too mostly for the simple fact you exist."
"Damn," Damon whispered and nearly felt himself swoon like a girl. "How you make this broken man feel like a king."
Bonnie flashed him a smile and moved back across the table, "Finish your dinner and then take me home."
His spirits were lifted. After seeing Bonnie home and kissing her until both of their lips were numb and swollen, Damon's renewed energy to getting the lower half of his body in motion quadrupled.
Clutching the parallel bars, Damon pushed his body forward. Dragging one leg after another while holding up his weight with his arms was excruciating. There was nothing in front of him aside from his vision of Bonnie waiting for him at the finish line with that shy smile on her face. For her, he would do this. For himself, he would do this. To laugh in the face of Giuseppe's ghost, he would do this. There was more to him than just a pretty face, killer smile, and hot body. He was a Salvatore, he was a brother, he was a man in love, he was the leader of the country, and gotdamit he would walk again.
There were voices cheering him on but Damon honestly wasn't listening. If he were running a race against a slug the slug would definitely be in the lead because he felt like he was going absolutely nowhere. His arms burned, the tendons in his neck were extended because of the constant grimace he was sporting on his face, and sweat poured from his head and drenched his chest and back making his shirt stick to him. But he wouldn't give up. He ignored the burning pain of the bars that dug into his hands as he shuffled forward.
White-hot pain stung and ricocheted through his upper torso, yet Damon mustered on. Just walk, that's all you have to do and it's so simple. Tell your body what to do through your mind. The mind controls the body and you control your mind. He replayed Dr. Fell's advice over and over again as he made one tiny hobble after another.
He was getting closer now. Bonnie was right there, in his mind's eye of course, but she was in reaching distance. Just a few more steps to go and it would be over and he could collapse in her arms.
Arms trembling, knuckles white from his hard grip on the bars, teeth digging unmercifully into his bottom lip, dead legs like weights was tugging him down. Yet Damon couldn't stop. He kept going until finally he ran out of bars to hold on to.
"Fuck," he cursed and then promptly keeled over on the pads waiting below.
People surrounded him, clapping excitedly at his progress. Dr. Fell's face came into view.
"Congratulations, sir…you walked!"
Damon held up the thumb sign prior to his eyes rolling into the back of his head.
"Ma'am…you have a package," Rosalie's assistant announced.
"Thanks…I've been waiting a long time for this," the First Lady slipped the box out of her assistant's hand and failed at containing her smile.
A/N: Damon is still kind of, sort of paralyzed. He's getting movement and some feeling back into his legs but he's still got miles to go. I decided in this chapter I wanted Bamon to learn a little more about each other though they've known one another for 3 years, however, their conversations were typically geared towards running the country, and maybe sometimes delving into personal matters but not really hitting on anything too deep. Oh, and to clear something up, Olivia won't be joining Bonnie's team, but she will be there as a shoulder of support when needed. Trust this won't be the last you see of Ms. Pope. And what exactly is in that package that just arrived that Rosalie has been waiting on? Answers are coming. Thank you guys for reading. Reviews are love. Until next time, love you!