“Just think about it. There’s plenty of time.”
“All right, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.” She didn’t like turning him down when he seemed so set on the course of action, but she didn’t think she could make it work.
The topic shifted away from Justin’s new projects as they finished their meal, but her mind was running a thousand miles a minute. She wished she had more time.
Justin picked up the tab even when she insisted that they split it. He just laughed and paid with a business credit card. They walked out together and he offered to drop her off at the paper, which she declined. It was a short distance, and he had to prepare for his meeting with the university.
She reached the newspaper without remembering anything about the walk. Massey had already left for the day, but Savannah was still milling around the office. Liz waved as she plopped down into the seat across from her.
“Lost in thought?” Savannah mused, typing away at her computer.
“Yeah. Just thinking about something I was talking to a friend about,” Liz told her. “Did Massey get through the reports for Monday?”
Savannah laughed. “Hardly. I don’t even want to look at the in-box.”
“Great,” Liz said, as she began working.
People filtered in and out of the office throughout the remainder of the afternoon, but Savannah was a constant presence, sneaking downstairs to get coffee and commiserating about the amount of work left over. Someone turned the television on at some point, but Liz didn’t even bother to pay attention to it. She dissected news venues daily in her classes.
But Brady Maxwell’s voice snapped her straight to attention. God, how long had it been since she had heard his voice? It had been blissfully quiet up until his induction into Congress at the end of January, and she had managed to avoid him entirely by keeping her TV turned off.
Her eyes followed his chiseled features, those dark brown eyes, the curve of his smile, and the assurance in his black suit, crisp button-down, and blue tie. He was without a doubt the most attractive man she had ever laid eyes on, and she couldn’t stop staring. She swam in a mist of emotion that clouded her brain, keeping her rooted to the present, but still trapped in his penetrating stare . . . as if he could see her right now.
Then he was gone, his speech over, and the news outlet flashed a series of pictures of him with the same girl over and over and over. The same skinny brunette she had seen in the green gown on New Year’s Eve. He wasn’t pictured with anyone else.
Her heart stopped beating. Who was this girl?
Brady’s press secretary, Heather, appeared next, standing on a stage, answering questions to a press room in D.C. The clip only showed one question, though.
“Ms. Ferrington, can you comment on Representative Maxwell’s bachelor status? He has appeared several times with the same woman, and as we all know, it’s not common for the Congressman to stick to just one.”
The crowd laughed lightly, but Liz just cringed.
Heather smiled. She had been prepped for the question, no doubt. “Representative Maxwell has no comment but to say that whatever relationship he has with Miss Erin Edwards is business of his own, and he would prefer to keep his personal life personal, ladies and gentlemen.”
Liz felt as if her eyes might pop out of their sockets. That was perfectly planned—a stunt by the campaign to spotlight his new relationship. Was it just a ploy, though? It didn’t sound like Brady, but Christ, what did she know about Brady Maxwell?
All she knew was the name that was going to be on everyone’s lips from here on out: Erin Edwards.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Earth to Liz. Earth to Liz,” Savannah said a moment later, waving her hand in front of Liz’s face. “Are you alive in there?”
“What? Oh, yeah, sorry. Zoned out, I guess,” Liz muttered.
“Happens. I was just about to get out of here. Are you finished?” Savannah walked back to her desk and grabbed her purse.
Liz stared at her computer blankly. Well, she wasn’t going to get any work done now. “Yeah, I suppose I am.”
She started packing her bag up while her mind worked overtime. Who the hell was Erin Edwards? The girl could be a stunt, but Brady had said that he wouldn’t ever let Heather go that far. She couldn’t pick someone for him to date . . . for him to marry. He agreed to be set up for events out of convenience, but that was where he drew the line. How had they met? Did he still think about Liz?
No, it clearly didn’t matter.
“Is he dating that girl?” Liz blurted out before she could stop herself.
Savannah turned back to face her. Her face was a mask in indifference, and if Liz hadn’t worked with her every day for the past seven months, she wouldn’t have known the other girl was uncomfortable with the question. Liz knew Savannah didn’t like to talk about her family, but she needed someone to tell her whether what they were showing on the news was a false trail . . . or if Brady really had moved on.
“Liz . . . you know I can’t talk about it. It’s a conflict of interest if I tell you and then you write about it. Sorry.”
“No, I know,” Liz said. She sighed and looked away, hoping Savannah didn’t notice the heat rising in her face. “I wasn’t planning to write about it. I mean, no offense, but right now he’s old news, with the campaign being over and him a freshman congressman. I was merely curious.”
Damn. How had she kept her tone neutral? Brady Maxwell was never old news. He was so hot that she could put him in any paper and make people read about him, but she didn’t, because most of the time it just hurt too much. And really, he had just gotten into office, so there wasn’t much to cover. Either way, she just hoped she could convince Savannah.
“None taken,” Savannah said with a laugh that told Liz she was relaxing. “I will tell you, though, it’s so weird having my dad and Brady in D.C. now. I always knew Brady would get there, but I’m not used to him being gone.”
“Yeah, I bet that’s hard,” Liz said. Savannah’s father was a sitting Senator in the U.S. Congress, and Brady had followed in his footsteps right into the House of Representatives. She knew they were all close.
“It is sometimes. I know you’ve heard some of his speeches about not wanting to leave North Carolina, and that’s not him spitting bullshit. He really did want to stick close. He made sure to still spend time with me, especially after Clay left,” Savannah told her.