“Ahh, you learned Russian since we last spoke?” his voice was as familiar to her as if she heard it everyday. Cream and earth combined in ways that sent shivers down her spine and made her feel safe all at once.
“A few words,” she grinned coyly, her smile touching her eyes for the first time that evening despite being plastered across her face since she’d stepped from the car.
“A few words uttered in your tongue are a tome shouted in another’s. Tell me, how does an all American girl like you decide to bother with such a dirty,” the way he said the word implied more than it meant. This was dangerous. Too many powerful people could easily overhear but she found it hard to care. The continual tinkle of glasses and polite laughs were just the rustle of the wind, winding their way between the trees of the lonely grove that only she and him were standing in. She could practically feel his skin stinging her through the soft satin of her designer gown. “Sorry, I forgot what I was saying, I got lost in your eyes for a moment. Dirty language?”
“I find it rather cathartic. I like the way it sounds… in my mouth.”
“Russian tastes better than most. Agree?”
“Hello, President Bedehnski,” her husband’s voice straightened her back and curbed her smile. The grove was gone in just a few syllables. They were once again in the stately palace in France. “Pleasure seeing you again.”
The two men locked hands and clenched tightly. The pale beauty of her husband’s fair skin was a marked contrast against the tanned roughness of the Russian President’s.
“Yes. Good to see you,” Bedehnski let go first.
“How is Moscow?” her husband’s dazzling smile was as fake as he was, as practiced as every move he’d made since he was eighteen.
“It is surprisingly warm. Perhaps you should visit more often?” President Bedehnski relished in his taunt. The soft stubble on his face spattered with only the faintest white, reminded Sophia of a winter she spent in Wyoming when she was just a girl.
“Maybe cut back the amount of oil you sell, less pollution,” her husband laughed.
“Maybe just encourage tree growth in Washington, filter out the shit your politician’s breathe,” Bedehnski didn’t laugh, his face grew serious, turning her husband’s smile into a hard line.
“Mr President,” a man with a clear cable trailing from his ear appeared from behind the leader of the free world and guided him away from his wife and main opponent on the international stage, leaving them alone once again.
“He’s always this pleasant?” Demetri smiled like a man with a secret. Sophia felt her legs weaken at the lust in his eyes; she clutched the pearls, a gift from her husband, around her neck as Demetri placed his hand on her elbow. “You’re feeling faint?”
“No, no. No, thank you,” Sophia didn’t care enough to give the room even a cursory glance to make sure they weren’t being watched. The fire in his touch was more potent than anything she’d ever felt before. She felt like a woman, not just a trophy. She felt alive. “How’ve you been?” she managed to choke out in between the quivers released from her… well, you know.
“A loaded question if ever there was one. I’ve been at a loss, Madame First Lady.”
“Yes. I met a beautiful woman a year ago, almost to the day,” jealousy pulsed through her with hot, wanton abandon at his words. “But she is forbidden.”
“You think that is a safe thing to say to the First Lady of the United States?” realization dawned on her and relief had made her playful.
President Bedehnski’s features darkened with anger, his eyebrows furrowing like wild dogs as he stepped closer to the smell of her perfume.
“You think that is a safe thing to wear in front of the President of the Russian Federation?” she stepped back from him, his voice was guttural and raw, filled with passion and intent. It scared her. “I told you my favourite colour was lilac,” he nodded down the length of her purple gown, lingering for a just a second too long at her most intimate area, “and now you tease me so?”
“I was raised never to tease,” she caught him on the back foot and his eyebrows shot up at the implications. She was enjoying this far too much.
“And I was taught never to give myself to a woman that had already promised herself to another,” Demetri smiled sadly, all bravado swept away as Sophia realized she’d played too close to reality and shattered the mood. “Goodbye, First Lady of the United States.”
His shoes squeaked on the floor as his security detail flanked him on either side, his back disappearing into the maze of black suits and diamond earrings. Emptiness hollowed her out as he stole with him all the warmth in the room, leaving her shivering by herself.
An unassuming delegate from some country Sophia couldn’t remember began talking to her about trade rights along the Silk Road as frustration and regret settled into their usual places that had been usurped by flights of fanciful flirtation for only a moment. She had a job to do. And a husband to serve.
But she allowed herself one last indulgence. If she looked up from the Minister of the Interior or whatever stupid title this half-wit had attained and he was looking at her; she’d leave her husband right now and throw herself into his arms. She knew, didn’t she? That this wasn’t just sexual, it was something deeper. Woman’s intuition or divine intervention she didn’t know, all she was sure of was that she’d enevr felt this way before and she wouldn’t find this with anyone else, certainly not her husband. You couldn’t grow or buy or induce feelings like this. They were there or they weren’t. All she needed now was to know he felt the same. Superstition was all she had left to ask.
Steadying her breath, her old Texan father screaming bloody murder about what was proper and what was not in her ear, her eyes quickly found him. Despite the hundred or so other guests all dressed in their dazzling finery and suckling on the crystal glasses of power while mingling with other dickheads all raised to achieve the same goal – he was the first thing she saw. He stood a foot taller than anyone else, that was true, but that wasn’t why she found him so quickly. No. Her eyes were drawn to the irresistible look he was giving her.
She thrust her undrunk champagne into the hand of the woman before her and let her body do the rest. ‘This is going to be a fucking shit show,’ she thought calmly to herself. All thoughts of what was expected of her melting away under the onslaught of emotion that rumbled through her as Demetri stepped forward.
But a hand caught her elbow before she could reach out to him and turned it to ice where Demetri had set it ablaze. The furious face of her husband broke the façade he’d worn every time they’d been in public and let his hatred glare menacingly out at her as her dreams of finally being happy shattered in her heart.