Having known this woman all my life, I know she’s leaving something out, but I’m not going to press. I’m on the verge of telling her I’ve got everything under control and she should go home and get some sleep…when I stop myself. Ever since Sunday night when I told Addison she didn’t have to go to the inauguration, I’ve wanted to go back in time and take it back. Not having her there tomorrow doesn’t feel right. Not at all.

She’s the most important part of my life and I want her standing beside me. I want everyone to see how proud I am to have her beside me. Being together means enduring the obnoxious questions from reporters and avoiding them can’t become a pattern. No matter what they say, we should be able to look one another in the eye and know the truth.

“There is something, actually.”

My mother sits forward. “Oh?”

“Yeah.” I look at the framed picture of Addison and me, sitting near the phone on my desk. It was taken mere minutes before I was inside of her for the first time and damn, I have to admit the photo is pretty indecent, but there’s something about her eyes that continues to draw me. She’s nervous. Breathless. Blissful. My memory of the night is wrapped tight in lust and the sensation of being caught off guard. Addison, though…her attraction to me isn’t catching her off guard at all. More like that night was the culmination of it.

“Elijah?”

“Sorry.” I cough the rasp out of my voice, but the spike suddenly lodged in my chest stays right where it is. “Addison was planning on staying home tomorrow. The sudden press coverage has been a lot for her to handle, but they’re not going anywhere. We’ll get through tomorrow, she’ll see it can’t touch us…and after that, facing them will be easier. She needs to be there. I need her there.” I gesture to the paperwork on my desk. “I’d bring her myself, but I’m going to be here until the ceremony. And she needs to feel welcome by more than just me.”

Color appears in her cheeks. “You’re asking me to bring Addison Potts to the inauguration?”

Something about the way she says Addison Potts drives the spike further into my chest. But I ignore it. My mother and father are cut from the same cloth—old school to the bone. To them, the scandal with Addison’s mother could have happened yesterday, it’s so fresh. But I’ve witnessed them with Addison. They see the same extraordinary woman I do. It’s only a matter of time before they set aside their doubts and accept her.

If they can’t do that, then I’ll demand it.

“At the very least, please encourage her to come. She already knows I want her there. Having it come from you might have more of an effect.”

“Encourage her.” One hand lifts to pat her hair. “I can do that.”

“Can you?” I ask slowly, wondering if I’m making a mistake.

Her nod is more of a shrug, but it’s an agreement.

I slide a finger across the screen of my phone and send Addison’s contact information to my mother. “Thanks, Mom. This means a lot to me.”

When I’m alone again in the office, my gaze strays back to the picture. To the girl sitting on my lap with so much naked vulnerability written on her face, I have to reach out and touch her, tracing my fingers over her lips. “Everything is going to be fine, Goose. Just have faith in me.”

*

Addison

Elijah didn’t come home last night.

Sometime around midnight, I got a text message.

Working through the night. Sleep tight, sugar. I’m thinking of you.

Over the last week, we’ve started talking more and more about his projects, the gazillion irons he has in the fire, so I knew going into yesterday, he might spend the night at the office. But that was before his mother and Naomi’s mother dropped a house on me. All the insecurities I managed to keep at bay after the market encounter are running amok and I can’t corral them, no matter how hard I try.

I’m pacing in front of the television, watching the coverage of inauguration day. There’s an hour to go before the ceremony and God, I don’t feel right dressed in leggings and a hoodie. Every time the camera pans through the gathering crowd, I notice the patriotic dresses and pressed suits. None of them know Elijah as well as I do, yet they’re present on one of the most important days of his life. And I’m here. With granola crumbs stuck to my clothes.

I stop pacing and take a deep breath. There’s no one keeping me here, is there?

No, there isn’t. I have a nice dress upstairs that can pass for posh in a pinch.

My feet remain cemented to the ground.

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