***Law Offices of Adam Holloway, Bryan, TX***
Lizzie sat in her car, trying to work up her courage or giving those doubts time to change her mind. She was not sure which. This was crazzy. Of course, she could never marry someone just to forward their political career. Sure, those things happened, she supposed. But not for someone like her. She was too traditional for that kind of arrangement. Though even now, worldwide, arranged marriages were more traditional than love matches.
No, but this compromise could work. Give the man back his career, and allow her to right an injustice that was at least partially her fault. In the grand scheme of life, what were a few political dinners and campaigning alongside the man? She would probably have done that anyway. Other than the DWI, Adam Holloway had been the best District Attorney Sebida ever had. Fair and just, knowing when to show mercy and when to throw the book as they said.
“He’s probably in court or has a full schedule anyway,” she adjusted her mas and forced herself out of the car, up the steps, and into the reception area.
The same woman sat at the desk that she had barged past on her first visit. She tried to remember her name. Lizzie was sure that he said it. But she had been focused on… Well, something else. “I’m sorry, I forget your name. But would it be possible to see Mr. Holloway? It won’t take more than a couple of minutes. If he’s not in a meeting.”
Suddenly, she realized the futility of it all. She should have called ahead and made an appointment. Or simply left a message. Instead, she had driven almost an hour, wasting her precious time, for nothing.
The woman looked almost apologetic as she shook her head, “I’m sorry. Mr. Holloway isn’t in this morning. He has court. I can take a message or make an appointment for another time.”
Lizzie was debating which would be better. If she left a message, that would give him the option of just ignoring her, but maybe that was the best option. But before she could respond, the door opened, “Dad, as I told Rennie…” He stopped just behind her, “I’ll call you back in a bit. No, I’m not trying to avoid my responsibility as a Holloway.”
Was it her imagination, or did the man actually stiffen as he spoke those words? This was a bad idea. Like he said on Monday, he did not blame her. She had apologized, done her best to get the story retracted. That was all she owed him. So, why the damned butterflies? “I’m sorry. I probably shouldn’t have come.”
He shook his head, “No, it’s fine. You’re here now. We can talk in my office. Stella, hold all my calls. Yes, that includes my father and step-mother.”
Lizzie fought not to shiver at the feel of his hand on her lower back as he led her to the door. But she was certain she blushed as she dropped her head. Maybe she needed a new toy? She might be a virgin, but that did not mean she was completely celibate. Especially after beta-reading one of Mercy’s stories. Maybe that was the problem? She had been so tired lately that she did not have time for reading or…
He led her to the same chair that she had sat in before. She considered telling him there was no reason, that she would not be here that long, but she wasn’t confident her legs could hold out even a couple of minutes. Definitely needed more books. Maybe some of the short, hot, insta-love trashy ones. Those never took more than an hour to read and far less to… take care of business?
“I suppose it’s me that owes you an apology this time,” he sat in the leather chair behind his desk, but even the distance did nothing to cool her… Libido? She had one of those? If she did, this man seemed to ignite it.
“My father told me that Renata stopped at the diner to talk with you. I don’t know what my stepmother said, but please know I did not send her. I didn’t even know she planned to visit. Well, I suspected she might… That woman is a force of nature when she plays ‘the game’ as she calls politics. But I meant what I said, you don’t owe me anything. You did what you believed was right. I admire that. Even if I was on the receiving end of your righteous indignation.”
“More like my self-righteous. And you don’t owe me an apology either,” Lizzie giggled at the way they kept apologizing to one another and then apologizing for apologizing. She sighed, “Your stepmother made it plain that you were not aware of her visit.”
“That’s kind of Rennie. But it doesn’t excuse her….”
“No, it’s alright. Did they tell you what…”
“An arranged marriage for political expediency? Yes. Which is exactly why that apology is necessary. I’m sure that you have much more legitimate offers….”
This time Lizzie laughed out loud, “Actually, other than a couple of plow boys that think it would get them free meals at the diner, I don’t get many offers. Then again, with my baggage…” Why did she have to go there? That was not why she came here.
“Listen, you’re right. Marriage as a political alliance is archaic in the twenty-first century. But I do still feel bad about things. Maybe if…” Lizzie knew she was messing this up. “Would you like to go with me to my friend’s wedding tomorrow?”
He shook his head and scrunched his face, but it was so tough to read people’s expressions behind these dumb masks. And Adam Holloway had not removed his, even once they entered his office. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”
She drew in a deep calming breath and tried to organize her thoughts. Why was she so nervous around this man? “My friend Mercy Reynolds is getting married tomorrow. I know it isn’t the marriage that your stepmother wanted. But if you are considering running for District Attorney again, the wedding will be a high-profile event. At least as far as Sebida is concerned. It would give you a chance to….”
This was ridiculous. What had she been thinking, “I’m sorry. It was a bad idea.” She stood up, but he was around the desk quicker than she would have thought possible. He gripped her arm, though not very hard.
“No, I’m sorry….”
“Do you think we could go two minutes without one of us apologizing?”
He laughed, and the deep richness of it sent electrical currents skittering down her spine. “That might take some work, but I’m willing to try if you are. Reynolds? The woman that shot Kerr?”
“If you were trying to ask me as your date, I’d love to go. If for no other reason than to shake your friend’s hand,” he smiled as he said it, but Lizzie’s stomach tightened in knots.
Why else had she thought this man would want to go with someone like her? She was dowdy and plain. She worked almost sixteen hours a day. And had her brother to care for, perhaps for the rest of his life. But still, politics or meeting Mercy seemed such cold… But that had been her very argument for this man to attend with her.
“It’s a double wedding. Mercy’s older sister Laura is marrying….”
“Sebida’s new sheriff. Well, acting sheriff. Yes, if the offer stands, I would very much like to escort you. Like you said, it will give me a chance to get a better read on the situation…and the man I’d be working closely with.”
Lizzie almost felt let down more by his words. Though those had been her most persuasive arguments. “The wedding is at three tomorrow afternoon at the Methodist church. Their brother-in-law is the pastor there and will be conducting the ceremony. There will be a reception afterward. It’s more of a picnic with all the stuff that’s happening. The whole thing’s not very formal.”
“Should I meet you at the church? Pick you up at the diner? Or….”
“The church will be fine. I guess I’ll see you then….” She needed to get out of there. That knot in her belly was getting tighter. She almost feared she would cry. But that was ridiculous.
“Wait. Can I have your number? I mean, just in case one of us is running late or something?”
Lizzie nodded and rattled off her cell phone number. As she stood to leave, he once more fell in step behind her. His large hand resting on her lower back. They paused as he opened the office door, “I’ll see you then. I really do look forward to it.”
Lizzie hated these damned masks. They made it almost impossible to read people’s expressions. Did the soft crinkles in the corners of those striking eyes mean he was smiling? What color were his eyes anyway? They weren’t quite gray. They definitely had hints of green around the edges. It was an unusual combination. Like the man himself.
But it was just one date. And not even a real one at that. Lizzie had to keep things in perspective. An arrangement. An opportunity to right wrongs that she had wrought. That was all this was. Reconciliation.