Abbey's words burned in Jed's brain as he walked away.
"So you can have the bed tonight, all to yourself."
Then she had given him that hateful, hurtful smile, searing him to the core.
"But you won't be alone, will you, Jed? You'll have your dreams...your very special, secret dreams."
He had wanted to fire a retort at her that would sting as badly as her words had ripped at him.
Jed saw himself in his mind's eye, standing cool and composed to deliver his line. "Don't be so sure I'll be alone, Abbey,
and don't be so sure it will be a dream."
There would have been a tiny moment of victory as he watched her flinch under his comment, but the victory would have been
empty. So, he stopped himself and the words remained unsaid. After all, someone had to exercise some self restraint, and,
apparently, it was going to have to be him.
Jed lay flat on his back in the bed, his eyes closed. Her fingers and lips were sliding over his body; her hair was like
silk brushing over his face, then his chest, then his thighs. With teasing touches that electrified his flesh, she left a
fiery trail of sensation in her wake. She moved lower down his body, her lips and tongue caressing his most sensitive spots.
He could feel himself getting harder as she pushed him to the brink. He bit the inside of his lip to keep back the cry which
threatened to erupt as she tormented him and kept him in a twilight zone of unbearable pleasure that bordered on pain. How
many times had she done this tonight? And she always stopped at the exact second that he was ready to explode.
Then he actually did cry out as she pulled back once again. Why wouldn't she just finish?
He heard her give a soft laugh as she moved back up his body and touched her lips to his with the softness of a butterfly's
"You are very, very mean," he said, his voice thick with passion.
"Absolutely wicked," she agreed.
"What is it you want from me?" Jed whispered, wanting now to please her as much as she had pleased him.
She sighed and rolled over onto her back. "Anything you want to do."
He took that as an open invitation. His hands covered her breasts and his mouth claimed hers in a punishing kiss, his tongue
parting her lips and invading the sweetness beyond. She moaned, thrusting her breasts against his hands, and he knew exactly
what she wanted. His mouth left hers and settled on a nipple, teasing it to taut arousal, then sucking with gentle persistence
until she cried out. That was his cue to move to the other side and deliver the same treatment. When Jed finally lifted his
head from her breast, he could see the look of wanton satisfaction on her face.
"More, Jed, more," she whispered urgently.
He moved his hands over the silken skin of her ribcage, then down to the curve of her hips. He caressed her thighs and
finally slipped one finger between them to stroke the sensitive knot of nerves hidden there. She was warm and moist to his
touch. Moaning softly, she arched against his hand, searching for more intense stimulation.
"More," she said again.
Jed was more than happy to comply. He poised himself above her, ready to finally let his body claim hers and push them
both over the edge into ultimate ecstasy. Lowering himself slowly, he ached with anticipation of the heat he would feel as
her body welcomed him.
But it didn't happen. Abbey suddenly placed both her hands flat against his chest and pushed him away. She moved to the
far side of the bed, laughing softly.
This ridiculous teasing had to stop.
Then her laughter changed, becoming sharp and derisive. Abbey's voice was full of malice when she spoke. "Really, Jed,
how stupid can you be? I told you I didn't want Rachel's leftovers."
He couldn't breathe. Abbey had finally pushed him too far. She was killing him. His heart pounded furiously as anger and
panic overwhelmed him. He gasped for air and there wasn't any...
Jed woke abruptly with his face pressed flat into Abbey's pillow, inhaling the scent of her perfume and little more. He
sat up and tried to breathe normally, but it was a few minutes before he had sufficient oxygen and his heartbeat slowed to
Beads of perspiration ran unchecked down his neck and chest. He was hot and sticky and his body ached with unfulfilled
arousal. Sudden fury washed over him as he decided that it was all Abbey's fault, and not just because she had tantalized
him in his dream. With her tormenting words that afternoon, she had set up the idea that had given birth to the dream.
He looked at the clock and saw it was 2:15. Jed wanted to pick up the phone to call Abbey in Atlanta and berate her for
ruining his opportunity for a decent night's sleep. He seriously thought about it. Maybe she was dreaming of someone too,
and she would be wakened by the ringing of the phone, rudely ending the pleasures of her dream and sending her into frustration.
That would be okay. He wanted her to feel as bad as he did.
Jed actually reached out to pick up the phone before he realized how childish his actions were. Dropping the phone, he
shook his head in dismay. What had become of his better judgment?
He went into the bathroom and turned on the shower full force. As he stood under the icy spray, he tried to shock both
his body and his mind back to reality. And the reality of the situation was pretty daunting. He had huge problems with Abbey,
and all of them were certainly much more important than the frustration she had dealt him in a nocturnal fantasy.
Jed had cut her off when she had come to see him before leaving for Atlanta. Was it possible that she had intended to say
something else, and his cold withdrawal had provoked her instead into a malicious outburst?
He shivered, icy water running over his body and icy fingers of fear stabbing his heart. Somehow, they had to find a way
to make things right again.
Jed had climbed back into bed, chilled to the bone from his shower, and, as warmth finally crept back into his body, sleep
finally slipped over him as well. After managing to catch a few hours of uninterrupted sleep, he rose to a busy and demanding
work day. Nothing seemed to go right, starting with the very first meeting of the day . It ran late and caused the whole schedule
to be off. Then, early in the afternoon, Fitzwallace requested an urgent briefing in the Situation Room to discuss some new
surveillance information on Qumar. It was an intense, lengthy meeting and, when it was over at last, Jed told Charlie to scrap
the schedule for the rest of the day. There was no way he could catch up.
That left him free to walk the halls of the West Wing to see what was going on with his staff. Leo had been in and out
of the Sit Room during the afternoon, juggling the meeting with his other commitments, but now he was nowhere to be found.
Jed was also unable to find Josh, Toby or CJ in their offices. Then he remembered that they would all probably be in the Roosevelt
Room for the weekly campaign strategy meeting with Bruno. Having found from previous sessions that all they ever did was argue
anyway, he usually skipped these meetings, but today he had time to attend.
As he entered the room, he realized that the gathering must be about to break up, because people were milling around talking
or standing in little groups.
Leo saw him and walked over immediately.
"Mr. President," he greeted him. "Is there anything I can do for you?"
"No, Leo. Fitz and I just got finished making the world safe from Qumar, at least for a day or so. I just thought I would
drop in and see how the strategy meeting was going."
"We're all done here, Sir. Nothing really new, just a little last minute tweaking of ad placements and stuff like that."
Jed's eyes roved around the room. Josh was talking and Donna was making notes. Toby and CJ had their heads together over
a file. Ed and Larry were standing before the flip chart at the front of the room, arguing about something. On the far side
of the room stood the last group, comprised of Bruno and Rachel Hartman, talking to some man he didn't know. He was surprised
to see Rachel. Hadn't she told him she was giving up her consulting position on the campaign?
"Who's that?" Jed asked, tipping his head in the general direction of Bruno and his group.
"Who?" Leo followed the direction of Jed's gaze and replied, "Oh, that's Mike Watson. He's the new DNC consultant who's
replacing Rachel. She brought him in today to transition."
Jed walked off and started to work his way around the room, avoiding Ed and Larry, pausing to tease Josh and Donna, and
stopping for several minutes to answer a question for Toby. He could see out of the corner of his eye that Rachel kept turning
her back to him.
That was silly. She must know that she wasn't going to get away without talking to him. He knew that he had given her the
wrong impression...well, maybe she had actually gotten the right one, but, deep in his heart, he knew he would never have
pursued it. He should let her know that they could remain friends, without any awkward feelings.
When he finally reached their group, Jed kept his greetings very low key.
"Bruno," he said, "I understand everything's under control, except New Hampshire. You're going to fix that, aren't you?"
Bruno raised his eyebrows and grinned mockingly. "Well, those are your people, Mr. President. Maybe I should be asking
Jed nodded, then he turned to Rachel with a brief, "Hi, Rachel, how are you?", and finally he addressed the new consultant
from the DNC, a nondescript man in his mid-thirties. "Hi, I'm Jed Bartlet. Leo tells me you'll be consulting for us after
Rachel leaves. It's nice to meet you."
Mike Watson responded appropriately, his eyes bugging with excitement at actually being in the presence of the President.
Jed continued to talk to him, but most of his attention was on Rachel and Bruno, who had taken a step away and resumed their
discussion of new initiatives to be dealt with in his second administration. Assuming there was a second administration.
Finally he broke into their conversation.
"You two seem to have a lot of ideas about what I need to do. I overheard you talking about health care reform and I'm
interested in pursuing that further. I think we should set up a meeting to discuss some of these proposals and how to get
everyone on board with them."
Bruno seemed pleased at the suggestion. "I would really like to do that, Sir, anytime you want, but Rachel is leaving today
to supervise the final campaign strategies for the major races in New York. So it will probably have to be just you and me."
And that suited Bruno just fine. Sharing credit for ideas wasn't his style at all.
"That's fine with me," Rachel said, glad that she could avoid the meeting. "I can draft a memo on the issues and brief
Mike. He can sit in with you." She might not want to be there, but she wasn't going to let Bruno walk all over her.
Mike looked thrilled at the prospect and Jed actually felt bad because he was going to burst his bubble.
"I have some time this evening. If the two of you could meet with me later...say, in the Residence about eight o'clock?...then
we could get this out of the way before Rachel goes back to New York. And we can do it over dinner."
Both Rachel and Bruno knew that, even though Jed had politely phrased his request as a question, there was really no doubt
that the meeting would take place, when and where he wanted. They both voiced there agreement with the arrangements, Bruno
glad to have the opportunity to talk to the President without Leo or Toby around, and Rachel feeling like a bulldozer had
driven over her. She had been very clear about her desire to limit their contact, and he was forcing her into this. But this
would be the last time, she assured herself, and, with Bruno there, it would be all business.
Leo watched the President as he talked to Bruno and Rachel. Jed seemed perfectly at ease, not like an ardent lover anxious
to grab his mistress and find the nearest bed. He had known all along that Abbey had it all wrong. She was probably just a
little jealous that Jed's old girlfriend was working on the campaign, and that wasn't an unreasonable response. But it really
looked like all business to him.
And, after today, Rachel would be back in New York working on another assignment. That was the only part that puzzled Leo.
Working on the Bartlet campaign was a plum appointment, and Rachel surely must appreciate that. She had been a valuable addition
to their team and there was no real reason for the DNC to move her. Her talents were better used in a national campaign than
on local races. The only conclusion that Leo could draw was that she had asked to be reassigned.
And that left unanswered the question as to why...
Rachel had told him that she was simply tired of being away from home so much, but, with less than a month until the election,
there was an end in sight to the travel. Surely she could have handled it for that length of time. Maybe it was something
else. Perhaps there was an undercurrent between Rachel and Jed that he had missed and she was uncomfortable with it. Possibly
Jed had asked her to go.
Leo had been so preoccupied with his thoughts that he hadn't realized that he had taken several steps through the room
and was now close enough to overhear their conversation. His eyes narrowed slightly as he heard the President ask Bruno and
Rachel to join him in the Residence for a dinner meeting.
No matter how innocent of wrongdoing Jed was, and Leo still felt sure that he was indeed innocent, it was sheer bad judgment
to have Rachel in the Residence. That would only add fuel to the fire Abbey was building. But, Leo reminded himself, Bruno
would be there too.
Nothing could possibly happen.
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