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"Vive la Revolution. Again."
Brady Marshall looked up from the text he was sending to see his father's chief of staff standing at the window overlooking Constitution Avenue. "What now?"
"A protest, but at least it's a small one. Maybe fifty people or so." Nathan shook his head. "Don't they have something better to do on a Friday morning?"
Nathan was a pessimist, a victim of too many years of D.C. politics. He was a good chief of staff in that Senator Marshall's office ran efficiently and smoothly, but he'd lost sight of the mission long ago. After this election, Brady would have to have a long talk with his father about the possibility of some fresh blood. "Maybe they paid attention to that 'engaged citizenry' part of their high school Civics class and decided to use this beautiful fall day to exercise their First Amendment rights to show their displeasure with.. " Any number of things. "What's the protest about, anyway?"
"Does it matter?"
"Yes." Brady moved to the window, too. He couldn't hear the crowd, of course, but even from here he could see they were animated and engaged. "If I'm going to run that gauntlet, I'd like to know if they're upset over a recent policy vote or just my leather shoes."
"Why would you go out there?" Nathan went to his desk and opened a drawer.
"I'm meeting a friend on The Mall, and the shortest path is right through the middle of that group."
Returning to the window, Nathan lifted a small pair of binoculars to his eyes and focused on the crowd below. "I can't really tell for certain, but I'm betting tree huggers based on the signage."
"You keep binoculars in your desk?"
Nathan shrugged. "Came in handy today, didn't they?"
I really don't want to know. In this case, ignorance was most likely bliss. "Look." He stepped away from the window and started to gather his things. "The senator needs to look all of this over before we meet with the new consultant on Wednesday. If he wants to actively involve himself with strategy, that is. Otherwise, I'll take care of it."
Although this was his first time to officially spearhead a campaign, he'd been stumping for candidates his entire life, it seemed. He didn't particularly enjoy the daily grind of actual politicsand no matter what the speculations might be, he had no intention of ever running for the Senate seat his family had held for over forty yearsbut campaigns, on the other hand
Campaigns were a challenge.
Nathan nodded as Brady opened the door to the outer offices and waiting area. His father's staff and interns went about their business, greeting him as he made his way past. The waiting area was mostly empty, with only a few people waiting to see various members of the staff, and they were all actively staring at the young woman standing at the reception desk and speaking earnestly to the secretary. He stopped to see what was so engaging.
"Ma'am, you have to have an appointment." Louise's voice hit the perfect tone of patience and understanding while firmly standing her ground at the same time.
"I know, and that's why I'd very much like to make an appointment. I'm available at the senator's convenience." The woman had to be new at this. Not only did she not know there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell she'd get an appointment with his father, but it was also rather hard to take her seriously, dressed as she was. The form-fitting T-shirt belted over a long, free-flowing skirt, the tribal-looking jewelry and a riot of short brown curls held back from her face with a multicolored headband
Brady would lay money she was with the tree-huggers protesting outside. But if anyone seemed meant to carry off the cute-hippie look, this woman was it. She was slightly built, without looking fragile, with a profile that fell just short of elegant. She looked wholesome, fresh and perfectly suited to that particular fashion trendall the way down to the Birkenstocks on her feet.
A collection of bracelets on her arm jangled as she punctuated her words with her hands. "As both a constituent and a spokesperson for the People's Planet Initiative, I'd like to offer the senator the opportunity to work with PPI and our members. Now is the perfect time for Senator Marshall to adopt a more aggressive stance toward environmental legislation and position himself as a leader in"
Louise interrupted the torrent of words simply by holding up a hand. "Miss.?"
"Breedlove," the woman supplied. It was a rather traditional name for someone so nontraditional. He'd been expecting her to say something like "MoonChild."
"Miss Breedlove, this is a very busy week for the senator and his entire staff. There simply isn't time for anyone to meet with youregardless of the merits of your organization's goals and mission," Louise qualified with a patient smile. "If you would like to contact ussay next week, through the proper channels?we'll see about finding the appropriate member of the senator's staff to help you."
The woman's lips pulled into a tight frown. She'd finally realized she wasn't going to get much more than a polite brush-off. He felt a little bad for her. Having your passion slapped down by reality for the first time always hurt. "I see. May I leave some information for the senator to look over?"
Louise smiled now that she'd won. "Of course." As Miss Breedlove rummaged through a battered canvas bag, Louise directed her attention to him, and the smile turned apologetic. "Brady, I'm sorry, but I won't have my hands on the information you requested until tomorrow."
"No problem," he assured her. "We both know he's not going to look that over until ten minutes before the meeting anyway."
"Very true." Louise took the sheets of paper from Miss Breedlove as he left the office and the door swung closed behind him.
Louise was one of the loyal staff who'd worked with Granddad before he retired and stayed on when Dad won the seat. Brady had actually been surprised by her decision, since her years working alongside his family made her privy to much of their less-than-lily-white laundry. But, in the end, she'd put aside her personal dislike of Douglas Marshall the man for the sake of Douglas Marshall the senator and the greater good.
Just like he'd done.
"Mr. Marshall! Mr. Marshall, wait, please!"
He turned to see Miss Breedlove hurrying down the hallway at a near trot. Uh-oh. The elevator doors opened to an empty car, and the manners ingrained in him by Nana wouldn't allow him to step in and let the door close in her face.
"Thank you," she said as the doors closed and she tried to catch her breath. The quick run down the hall had added a touch of color to her cheeks and caused some of her hair to slip out of its containment to fall over her forehead. She was wearing little or no makeup, and her bright green eyes met his evenly. "Mr. Marshall," she began, "I'm with the People's Planet Initiative"
"I'm sorry to interrupt, but I'm the wrong person for you to talk to."
"You're Brady Marshall, right? Senator Marshall's son."
"Yes, I am. But I'm not part of his office staff."
"I know. You're his campaign manager."
Miss Breedlove had done her homework. Brady wasn't sure if he should be impressed or slightly wary. "And as such, I have no control over his office calendar. I can't help you get an appointment with him."
"But you could listen to me, at least."
Since his good manners had him trapped in an elevator with the woman, Brady simply didn't know how to get around it. Not that Miss Breedlove was giving him a chance to.
"If Senator Marshall would embrace the mission of PPI, stand with us in our efforts, PPI's members could become valuable additions to your efforts to win his reelection. Our members are active and engaged in their communitiescommunities all over Virginiaand have a strong Internet presence. You know how valuable grass-roots support is."
Thankfully the doors opened on the first floor at that point, giving him the chance to dam the flood of words. "Louise has your information, and should your agenda prove"
"We don't really have an agenda," she interrupted, and as he tried to move away, she trotted to keep up, talking the entire time. "We simply have a mission to make this planet a better place for all who inhabit it."
"That's admirable." Be noncommittal. He pushed open the doors to the outside and blinked at the sunlight.
Miss Breedlove was right behind him. Still talking. "With Senator Marshall's help"
Ah, damn it. He'd walked right out in the direction of the protestors. With Miss Breedlove still talking a mile a minute in his ear about the "mission" of PPI, he watched as the protestors took note of her and then focused in on him. A second later, three broke away from the crowd and intercepted them on the steps.
Good Lord, he did not feel like dealing with this today.
"Mr. Marshall, if you'd just give me twenty minutes, I'm sure you'd agree that PPI's goals" Miss Breedlove began, only to be interrupted by one of her people this time.
"The planet cannot continue to be exploited by this and every other government" a man in a green T-shirt roared.
"We cannot stand idly by" another woman added.
Brady tried to rein in his temper and exasperation as he cut them all off. "I appreciate your passion. And I'm sure you know that Senator Marshall has long enjoyed the endorsements of several prominent environmental groups for his strong support of conservation and other 'green' initiatives. But as I've told Miss Breedlove, I'm not the person you need to be talking to."
"I think you are," she said quietly as she placed her hand on his arm. Those big green eyes were earnest and engaging, and something about it nearly sucked him in. "Your familyas a wholewields great influence and could really make a difference."
His family's influence. Yeah. That jerked him out of the depths of her eyes. "I'm very sorry, y'all, but I'm late."
The man in the green T-shirt stepped closer. "I'm sorry, too."
Before he could process Green Shirt's meaning, Brady felt something cold land on his wrist, followed immediately by the bite of metal into his skin. "What the" He lifted his arm, only to lift Miss Breedlove's arm as well.
They'd been handcuffed together.
Green Shirt leaped down the remaining few stairsshouting something about a talking tree?and was swallowed by the crowd.
"Kirby! Come back!" she shouted, pulling at the metal on her wrist and jerking his wrist painfully in the process. "Unlock these things!"
The crowd went wild at that point, chanting and singing, somehow energized by the sight of their spokesperson shackled to another human being.
This is ridiculous.
Thankfully security arrived at the moment. In their excitement, the protesters had come too close to the building and needed to be pushed back to the proper distance. One of the officers, whom Brady had known for years, laughed as he walked over and saw his predicament.
"Did you want to be handcuffed to this lady? Should I be escorting you elsewhere?"
"Very funny, Robert. Just unlock the cuffs."
Robert leveled a stern look at Miss Breedlove. "You do understand that restraining someone against their will is a serious offence?"
Her eyes widened, and she tried again to slide her hand through the metal cuff. "I'm just as much the victim as he is. I didn't cuff us together."
"Can we sort out blame later?" Brady lifted their joined hands in Robert's direction, only to lower them quickly when he noticed the gathering crowd with cameras at the ready. "Maybe inside?"
Robert nodded, and pointed them back toward the doors.
The farcical nature of the situation was only exacerbated by the way Miss Breedlove tried to put as much distance between them as the handcuffs would allow, including contorting her hand into the most uncomfortable-looking position to avoid touching his. It didn't quite work.
Being handcuffed to this woman had at least accomplished one thing: she wasn't talking anymore.