John had put the no phones rule in place from the start. It was odd at first, like a missing limb and feeling a strange obligation to be present with people. The drinking helped and when he passed a thick joint, his staff smiled and they relaxed.
It was useful to talk off the record. He listened more than he spoke, but all the staff enjoyed the warm purity of his attention. When he spoke, his voice was low and cultured. Cassie, the speech writer enjoyed how he spoke like that all the time. She told him too, and he chuckled as he lifted the tumbler of scotch to his lips.
‘I curse like a sailor, Cassie, just not in public.’
She giggled and leaned forward, squeezing her thighs together beneath her pencil skirt as she blushed, aware of the blood rising in her throat.
‘What’s your favourite swear word?’ she said.
Harry glanced around the room, nervous. There was always the fear of someone recording.
He raised his hand and nodded.
The room fell silent before Cassie giggled and put her hand over her mouth. The laughter was like crystal being rung. She giggled so hard it became difficult to breathe. It wasn’t made any easier when he leaned forward and put his hand on her forearm. He had big, strong hands and she stared at them before another ripple of giggles bubbled up in her.
‘Cassie, are you okay?’
She nodded, took deep breaths and took the bottle of water, turning her head.
He sat back, but she held onto the contact for a second. He gazed into her eyes and smiled at her before returning to a conversation about Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, and the room thrived like a fire being lit.
Harry came over to her as she stood by the window, a tumbler of scotch in his hands.
‘This is where I remind you you work for him.’ he said.
Cassie curled her upper lip and pulled away from him, shaking her head.
‘I’m not stupid.’
Harry, with perpetual shadows underneath his eyes and a permanent scrub of beard smiled and shook his head.
‘It’s why I’m saying it. You’re not stupid, he is.’
Cassie sneered and raised an eyebrow
‘That’s disgusting Harry, on so many fucking levels. I wouldn’t put myself in that situation at all.’
Harry passed her the scotch.
‘We’ve got a tough six months left out here. We’re fighting against a lunatic fringe pumped up by internet tough guys and actual fucking nazis being listened to. He’s not the one, but he’s a one, do you agree?’
She nodded. Despite everything she’d felt the swell of admiration when he spoke. His policies were solid, innovative in ways endorsed by smart and popular people.
‘Harry, I will not fuck my boss.’
He chuckled and shook his head.
‘I’m your boss but no, that’s not good for anyone. We need to be going in hungry for the next round and I can’t have attachments to bring us into question.’
She took a good gulp of the scotch. It stung, but she liked the sharp sting of it in her sinuses and the warm bubble of intoxication as it blew up in her like a slow explosion. Her eyes watered as she handed back the glass.
‘I’m a good soldier Harry.’ she said.
He smiled and walked off. She looked after him, reaching in her jacket for her cigarettes before she felt his hand on the upper part of her arm. The shiver passed, brief and sharp like a sweet cramp.
Harry was two weeks too late. She had gone to him. They had been working on a speech about their economic policy. She put out her terms. He sat back, furrowed his forehead and laid his palms on the arms of the couch. He smiled.
‘Come here.’ he said.
Cassie was 5’7″, threw weights around and punched out her neuroses into other people who were doing the same thing in return. She launched herself at him and snarling with a want as bright as flame.
They took great pains to be stupid in controlled doses, the hunger building between them until he pinned her to the wall of his suite, fingers on her throat and hand in her panties. Cassie had seen the king in him, but behind closed doors, she knew the lover and the warrior.
She wanted him to succeed. If it took him away, she would decide what she wanted. This was not a job to her, and it had not been for sometime.
It was a mission. Cassie was not in this for the prestige of being seen with him. What she possessed was unique to her, a quiet surrender stroked and cajoled in moments of prolonged ecstasy.
‘Thirty minutes.’ she said.
He liked her to sleep over. They had exquisite slices of time before she would wake up, go back to her room and shower the musk of his sweat away. Cassie carried the delicious ache with her in her hips through the long days which followed. It waned, replaced by the anticipation of when they would be alone again.
Harry was a good general but Cassie could not explain it to him. It was a state of feeling, a primacy she could not contain. If he had turned her away, she would have continued to work for him. She had articulated it to him, willing to risk rejection but offering an arrangement which would suit them both.
She counted the time down, her heart racing in anticipation as she waited.