Cady Davenport is living the American dream…
At least she’s supposed to be. She’s in a new city, with a new job and even a new fiancé. But when her husband-to-be hits the road for the upcoming presidential election, Cady realizes she’s on her own—and that her dream life might not be all she’d imagined.
Until she finds herself thrust straight into the heart of the most influential inner circle in Washington, DC: the campaign widows. As friends, they’re an unlikely group—a fabulous Georgetown doyenne; a speechwriter turned mommy blogger; an artsy website editor; and a First Lady Hopeful who’s not convinced she wants the job. But they share one undeniable bond: their spouses are all out on the trail during a hotly contested election season.
Cady is unsure of her place in their illustrious group, but with the pressures of the unprecedented election mounting, the widows’ worlds keep turning—faster than ever—as they hold down the fort while running companies, raising babies, racking up page views and even reinventing themselves. And their friendship might be just what Cady needs to find the strength to pursue her own happiness.
|Publisher:||Graydon House Books|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.40(h) x 1.10(d)|
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This Is Totally the American Dream
One look at that endless spiral staircase and Cady knew this just wasn't going to work in heels. She craned her neck, following that epic skyward coil leading presumably to the Capitol Dome, as she slipped off her pumps and stowed them in her satchel. This called for pragmatism. "So, how many —"
"Twenty-six stories, give or take," the buzz-cut Capitol Police officer said, pulling shut the door onto the rotunda. Twilight descending from the windows above, tourists and lawmakers cleared out for the day, the grand, airy rotunda had been so Zen-like at this hour. With the creak of the door, though, they were now sealed inside the stark and claustrophobic hidden passageway of the staircase. "No elevators."
"Okay then," she said, squeezing the bouquet of glorious red roses in her hand. "Let's do this."
The plan had been a quiet dinner in Dupont Circle, near Jackson's place — their place now, their place — to celebrate her first day of work, but instead a sleek black sedan had arrived outside her office and whisked her here, to this officer be- stowing f lowers with a note that said only, "See you at the top. Love, Jackson."
She wondered why the sudden change. Jackson had said nothing in his texts, going silent after instructing her to get into the car. The officer led the way, and Cady began the climb in her tights. To keep pace, she hummed that quick, steady drumbeat of Rocky Haze's "Constitutional Rite," the catchy song that had been playing everywhere for weeks.
About eighteen stories up, her legs burning, she caught her breath: the twisting, turning path opened to a narrow catwalk, allowing her to glimpse the bottom of the rotunda, nearly making her queasy, before another passage sent them up again, deep into the webbed architecture of the dome. Metal beams and trusses extended out at all angles across the empty space in a way that appeared almost delicate. She didn't mind this long journey up, circuitous as it felt. Two days earlier, she had completed a similar odyssey and equally stunning feat: making the leap from New York to Washington ... and to Jackson. The months apart had felt as arduous as this climb, so much scheduling, traveling week after week unsure of where the relationship was headed but with the vague hope of reaching a summit at some point. And at long last, it had all culminated in her move to his city.
She replayed that moment in his apartment, trying now, as she had that day, not to be concerned. He just hadn't gotten around to making room, he'd said, he'd been "slammed" with work, when she arrived to find not a single drawer vacated nor any welcoming windows created among his dozen navy and black suits, his vast array of button-down shirts. No room anywhere, really, for anything of hers. But there would be time for the proper melding of the things, she'd comforted herself. And so she had simply, joyfully shoved her boxes and suitcases along the periphery of the one bedroom apartment like sidelined players waiting to be let into a game.
The time was right, pure and simple: she couldn't take it anymore, the distance, being away from him, shuttling along Amtrak's Northeast Corridor or worse, along I-95 in those cheap buses with the reckless drivers that dumped you at Union Station or Penn Station or Chinatown — just to see him for a brief weekend. The more time she spent with him, the more she wanted. She ached for a fulltime relationship, but it had been up to her to make it happen. As a Capitol Hill staffer, Jackson was firmly entrenched in DC now, and as a TV producer, she had more options, and Washington was still a great market, after all. She began looking sooner than she had admitted — these things took time — and finally she had gotten the job, which was a good one with a good title — Senior Producer at the local morning show Best Day DC — a step up.
Except for the pay cut.
She stopped and stood on her toes for a second, straining to spot the top, but it was too dark and winding to see anything other than more and more stairs.
She sighed and continued her ascent. She had fought hard, but the pockets just weren't as deep as they had been at New in New York. Her new boss, Jeff — who seemed just a few years older than her but dressed as though heading a tech start-up (hoodie, jeans, sneakers) — had promised to "reevaluate" once ratings improved. "There's no question you deserve more," he told her. "But between you and me, we just rebranded — aka cheated death — and things are a bit ... capped. ... until we see the expected. ... growth. You know? But we will, especially with a producer of your caliber."
That was another thing. The show wasn't quite the number one local morning show. Best Day DC might be two on a good day ... or possibly three. But she had felt sufficiently flattered by her new boss's confidence in her. So Jackson didn't need to know her salary details, or any of the reservations she had about leaving her old job and old life behind. From what she heard everyone had some kind of dirty little secret in Washington, so this could be hers.
Three hundred steps later, they finally reached their destination. She paused to catch her breath, smooth her long brunette bob, slip her shoes back on. When the officer pushed open the door to the viewing deck, the aggressive January wind roaring at them, she found Jackson across the way, leaning over the railing. At the sounds of their arrival, he spun around, cleared his throat.
"Hi! Hey!" he said, rattled, like he'd been caught shoplifting. "That was fast!" He ran his fingers through his short blond hair, then smiled that smile, the one she had fallen in love with. The one that got her every time. Even after three years together, Jackson Winfield still reminded her of that universally beautiful male model whose photo accompanied stories in glossy women's magazines advising "How to Get THAT Guy!"
"This is — wow!" She took a step forward and scanned the backdrop: all of Washington twinkled below.
"That's the idea," Jackson said. "Okay ... so ... Cady ..." He tested the words as though rehearsing and hopped up and down like he was gearing up for something.
"You okay?" she asked gently. He seemed unusually nervous, jittery even.
"Yes, better than okay." He nodded, definitive, ready, and smiled that gleaming smile again. "Okay, so —" he started, then stopped again. "Oh, hang on." He dug his phone from his suit breast pocket and handed it to the cop, who began filming.
Finally Jackson reached for her, setting the f lowers on the ground and taking her hands in his warm palms. He looked deep into her eyes in an important, vital way, not just a should- we-go-to-Lauriol-Plaza-or-Kramer-Books-for-dinner? way. The Washington Monument shone behind him in the distance. "I had a whole speech I was working on, but I'm no speechwriter.
So ... I love you ... will you be my running mate?"
"Your ... what?"
"You know, my running mate ... in life? Marry me?" he asked, kneeling now. His face stony, serious, aqua eyes glittering.
She stood there, hands to her mouth in pleasant shock, possibly having an out of body experience.
"Soooo —" he prompted her.
A gust of wind whooshed past, waking her up. "Oh! Sorry!" She shook her head, brain activity flickering again. "Yes! Of course! Yes!"
He kissed her in that perfect way of every film and book she had ever seen or read. And then he gently swept a lock of hair away from her face and sighed. "Now, just a couple quick things —"
"Oh?" she asked with a nervous laugh.
"No big deal — just, if anyone asks, we're supposed to say Carter was here with us," he explained. "It's, more or less, well, illegal to be up here without a member of Congress but —"
"But then what could be more fitting for us?" she interrupted, smiling as she recalled the last time they were up on a roof overlooking the city. "Breaking the rules is kind of our thing now." When she had been offered the job, they had celebrated by crashing a party at the Hay-Adams hotel, sneaking onto the terrace to gaze at the White House and breathe in the night air of the city they would take on together.
"Rule breaking, for better or worse." He grinned. "That's why I love you. So anyway, Carter would've been here but he's in Iowa —"
"Obviously." She smiled, then thought about it. "Ohhh...."
"Yeah, and so I'm f lying out tomorrow, just a few days, you know how it goes ... I'm sorry. You know I'd rather be here celebrating with you."
"C'mon, you know you're thinking this is totally the American dream," she teased. "Being indispensable. Staffing your boss, who happens to be a presidential candidate, on his first big campaign trip."
For a f lash it seemed like he might object, brows furrowing, but then he dropped the facade. "I know!"
"Congratulations," she said and meant it, shaking his arm, the proverbial pieces all falling into place for them both, and so swiftly. "It's something to celebrate, another thing to celebrate."
He kissed her. "Thank you, I'm glad you feel that way," he exhaled. "Because there's one last thing that's not the greatest but it'll be okay —" He paused for too long.
"You're kind of worrying me now —"
"I don't have your ring," he blurted. He sheepishly glanced toward the ledge and back at her: "Actually. It ... fell. Down ... there. ... somewhere."
"It ... wait ... it what?" She ran to the ledge, peering over as though she would be able to spot a lost diamond nearly thirty stories down. Instead, a postcard-perfect panorama of Washington winked back at her.
Wasn't That Just the American Dream?
If Reagan didn't wash her hair, she could shower in ninety-five seconds and dress in two-and-a-half minutes. As she tore off her plaid pajama pants and beat-up Georgetown sweatshirt, two identical wailing cries pierced the air, their pitches perfectly matched as only twins — or exceptionally gifted, though grating, a cappella singers — could. The girls shouldn't expect to see Reagan for another eight minutes; they were just trying their luck. (She nuzzled Natasha's and Daisy's matching halos of raven curls and whispered, "Good morning, lovelies!" at precisely 6:37 a.m. every day.) Ted's f light didn't leave until noon, probably later with the weather: just a confectioner's-sugar dusting of snow, nothing so remarkable for January, but enough to cripple Washington. He had plenty of time, he could greet the girls this morning.
Reagan bounded into the telephone-booth-sized shower stall, fast, fast, yanking the glass door shut with enough force to shake its frame, and pulled on the faucet. Old pipes squealing, no time to let the hot water crank, it felt like walking into an ice storm naked. "Mother fucker!" she shouted. As though in response, her phone began blasting that new Rocky Haze song, the one in which she rapped the Constitution. Reagan had forgotten to turn off her alarm. Why did she still set her alarm when the twins woke her daily at 6:24 anyway? As she pushed the door to step out, the cries crescendoing once more, the glass wouldn't budge. She shook it, again, again, and it was as though she had been vacuum-packed in there: the seal around the door's frame, which had been peeling for months — and which Ted kept promising to repair and she kept refusing to do herself on principle, one of the many things falling apart in their home — had gobbed up and gotten lodged. If she pushed too hard, the whole thing would likely shatter, it was that old.
"Fuck this motherfucking house!" she said to herself, not expecting to be heard. She couldn't even bang her fists against the glass, so she started to shout, "TED! TED! I'm trapped! In the shower! Trapped!" She imagined him singularly focused, returning emails over breakfast, reading headlines, making calls and finally whistling as he packed his bag and hopped in the cab that would pull up to the house right on time, no matter the snow, to whisk him to the airport and possibly to his place in history helping to elect our next president — well, now, wasn't that just the American Dream? — all while the children cried and she stood imprisoned in their shower. If all else failed, she told herself, she had been a black belt in high school for God's sake and could sidekick the hell out of that door if she wanted. But then she would just have to clean up all that damn glass. She just didn't have time today. They had a My Gym class to get to and it was the girls' favorite — "Music and Motion" — and she was not going to let them miss it. "TED!" she yelled again.
She didn't have the energy or patience for this. She'd stayed up all night writing a column and had sent it in minutes ago without bothering to reread. "Ugh," she grunted, then chanted to herself, head against the glass door, "Perfect is the enemy of the good, perfect is the enemy of the good." And who had said that? Besides Voltaire? Bill Clinton, right? Why couldn't she come up with lines that good? Work, parenting, she was doing everything wrong. The only part of motherhood she was completely acing was the constant guilt. Even her own mother had no patience for her self-flagellation. At least three times a week, her mother, a nurse, would FaceTime her at the end of her shift and tell her, always in Korean because she knew Reagan never spoke it otherwise, "You need some mom friends! You need a group of women supporting you!" To which Reagan would reply some variation of, "Ugggghhh, enough with you," in Korean and then usually tune out yet another of her mom's diatribes about the power of sisterhood.
Actually, now that she thought about it, kicking the door down could be kind of fun. Her heart revved up considering, the slightest adrenaline surge — or was that nausea? (She couldn't pull all-nighters like she used to.) Ted had clearly forgotten she could do stuff like that. She would show him what happened when home repairs weren't made in a timely manner. She was warming up to the idea when the bathroom door flew open. Ted strutted in like a chipper kangaroo, a grinning Natasha snuggled against his chest in one baby carrier and a giggling Daisy loaded onto his back in the other. He still wore his black track pants and hoodie from his early jog in the bracing cold, Bluetooth in ear, ice blue eyes bright: the image of work-life balanced bliss.
"Daddy to the rescue!" he called out, galloping like a horse. "What do we have here? Well, you've gone and got yourself into quite a pickle, haven't you?" He laughed. "Look at Mommy!"
She waved. "Good morning, lovelies."
The girls squealed and cheered, contentedly attached to Ted, as he fiddled with the door, inspecting the seal, picking at it, and jiggling the whole thing in its frame. (Somehow, observing this effort felt worse than just kicking the thing down.) The non-sleep-deprived Reagan would've already been laughing at the whole episode, but this one — the cold, tired, wet, naked one — put her hands on her hips and sighed. "Give me your cold, your tired, your naked. Give me a towel." With a pop, the door unstuck and Ted opened it proudly, the girls clapping as he tossed a towel at her.
"So I'm gonna need that ride to the airport after all."
The mailman arrived at the same time as the sitter, Stacy, their favorite My Gym teacher, fresh out of college but seemingly even younger. Reagan kissed Natasha's and Daisy's soft curls, snuggled their necks in that way that always made them both giggle, then left them playing with Stacy in their bubble-gum-pink bedroom.
She stole away to her room and tossed the much-anticipated package on the unmade bed. She lived a mile from the shops at Friendship Heights, two miles from Bethesda Row and four miles from Georgetown, but damned if she knew when she was supposed to have time for shopping. She hoped one of these rented cocktail dresses fit. At least she hadn't eaten in the twenty-four hours since being freed from the shower — too busy — though it wasn't like her. She feared she might be on the verge of another bout of the Norovirus. She barely slept, and her immune system had been shot since having the twins. Reagan sat at her desk, fired up her laptop and began read
Excerpted from "Campaign Widows"
Copyright © 2018 Aimee Agresti.
Excerpted by permission of Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
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