Chapter 1- Love at First Sight
Leo stood on the porch outside the Oval Office. Mrs. Landingham was dead and now he had to go in there and tell the President. Everyone else knew the President had MS, except her. Jed was supposed to be telling her now. Well, technically not everyone else knew. The senior staff and the White House council had been told. As far as anyone knew Donna was the only assistant who had been told. But in reality Leo had told Margaret the truth on the same night Sam figured it out, but there was no reason anyone else needed to know that.
Anyway, back to the task at hand. Leo opened the door and stepped into the Oval Office. "Excuse me sir."
The President was standing in front of his desk. "What can I do for you Leo?"
"There was a an incident tonight." Leo said, searching desperately for the right words and coming up painfully short.
He dropped the papers. "What did Cassie do now?"
Leo couldn't help but smile. "Nothing sir. It's Mrs. Landingham." He took a deep breath. "She was bringing her new car back here and there was an accident. She was hit by a drunk driver.... She's dead."
Jed leaned heavily against the front of his desk. "When did this happen?" He asked, shocked.
"Just recently. I'm not sure how long ago exactly."
Abbey appeared in the doorway. "Well I finally got the boys to bed. Are you...?" She trailed off when she saw them. "What's wrong?"
"Mrs. Landingham's dead." Jed replied, his voice still devoid of emotion.
"Oh my God." Abbey quickly crossed the room and wrapped her arms around her husband. Leo could see the most powerful man in the world beginning to break down in his wife's arms. He took this as his cue to leave.
When Leo got home he stood outside the door for a brief moment. After deciding that there was no good way to tell Margaret and he was just going to have to do it he went inside. Leo went upstairs stood silently in the doorway watching Margaret nurse the twins. "Sorry I'm so late." He said softly as he crossed the room to kiss her.
"It's ok. Karen was here most of the day."
"Your sister hates me." He sat wearily down on the floor next to the rocking chair.
"She doesn't hate you." Margaret corrected. "She just doesn't like you very much."
"That's much better." He replied sarcastically. For a moment he let himself believe they were having a normal evening. Leo looked up at her. "How do you do that?"
She looked at him strangely. "What?"
"Nurse both of them at the same time."
"It takes some careful maneuvering, but it saves a lot of time."
"Oh." He said distractedly.
Margaret gave him a concerned look. "What's wrong?"
He took a deep breath. "Let's get them to bed first."
Margaret sat down on the edge of their bed. "What's going on?"
Leo sat down next to her. "Mrs. Landingham was in a car accident tonight." He squeezed her hand. "She was killed."
"Oh my god." She looked at him, shocked.
He pulled her into his arms as she began to cry. "I know." Leo blinked back his own tears and held her tighter.
She is twenty-four when they meet for the first time, the candidate's daughter and the speechwriter.
Sam stepped into the governor's suite and looked across the room. He saw a woman standing in front of a large window, sunlight streaming in around her, lighting up her long golden brown hair. After a long moment she tuned toward him and smiled.
"Sam." Bartlet entered the room.
"Governor, CJ said you wanted to see me."
"Sam, this is my daughter Cassandra, she'll be working with us for a few months."
She walked toward him and held out her hand. "Cassandra Parker."
"Sam Seaborn. Nice to meet you Mrs. Parker."
"Please, call me Cassie."
"Sure thing, Cassie."
He'd felt it the minute she smiled at him, maybe it was love, or maybe it was lust. No, he was sure it was love. He'd never been one to believe in love at first sight, in fact, ever since Lisa had left him he'd given up on love entirely. Then he'd met her and his world had turned upside down, he saw her and he knew this was the woman he was meant to spend his life with. He knew that she was married, but that never stopped him, even though he knew it should have. He was old enough to know better, he should have known better. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
It began as he imagines many affairs begin, in a dark hotel bar. It was late at night, or was it early morning, he can't remember anymore. He'd been sitting alone in a booth, nursing a scotch when she'd approached him.
"Mind if I sit down?" Sam looked up into a pair of liquid brown eyes. He saw the governor's daughter staring back at him, looking tired and upset.
"No, go ahead." He motioned to the seat across from him. She sat down and folded her hands on the table in front of her. "Can I buy you a drink?" He asked awkwardly. Sam knew that spending time alone with this woman was a bad idea, the more time he spent with her the more he wanted her. He didn't understand how he could feel so much for someone he hardly knew, but he couldn't shake the feeling that he was falling in love with her.
"I'll have a glass of water." He called out her order to the bartender, who promptly brought over a large glass of ice water garnished with a slice of lemon. "Thanks."
"No problem. So what are you doing here so late?"
"My dad and I had another screaming match and I needed to clear my head."
He was curious about her problems with her father, he could sense the tension between them, everyone could. He vacillated between asking her about her father and minding his own business, finally settling on the former.
"It's the same fight we've had fifty times already, nothing new." Cassie leaned her head back against the wall and brushed her hair out of her eyes. Sam let his eyes wander over her; he followed her ruby lips, her dark eyes. He couldn't help but notice how sharply her collarbone stood out through the skin of her chest, he traced his eyes over it and down across the tops of her breasts, which spilled out of her tank top. God, she was beautiful, a little too thin for his taste, but still... He forced his eyes back to her face and his mind back into the realm of the possible. She was married, not to mention his boss's daughter.
He looked deeply into her eyes. "You have such sad eyes." He said, without thinking. "I'm sorry, that was out of line.... Wanna talk about it, your father I mean?" He stammered.
"No, let's talk about something else." She deliberately ignored his comment about her eyes, knowing all to well that he was right.
"Ok." He desperately searched for a topic. "How long have you been married?"
"Let's not talk about that either." She tried to hide the pain in her voice.
"I'm sorry." She leaned against the table, causing her breasts to push farther out of her shirt and into his line of sight. He took a deep breath, trying desperately to get his body to pump blood to his brain instead of where it was currently going.
"Not your fault, have you ever been married?"
"No, but I was engaged until about two weeks ago."
"Now I'm the one who's sorry." She smiled weakly. He was suddenly possessed by an overwhelming desire to touch her.
Sam folded his hands in his lap. "No problem. Let's talk about work. I read what you wrote for the speech next week, it was very good."
She smiled again, this time a genuine, grateful smile. "Thank you."
"You're really talented. Are you thinking about going into the field after you finish law school?"
"I don't know. My father keeps telling me I should get into politics, my husband is convinced I should be a trial attorney, but as for me I've been kind of leaning toward corporate law."
"That's what I used to do. I always liked it, that is until I found this." He made a vague gesture with his hands.
"What is it about my father that inspires so many people? You all gave up high paying jobs to sacrifice your lives for him. Why?" It was a question she had to ask, she had wondered about it her entire life.
"He's what Josh and I call 'the real thing'. He's going to make an outstanding president. We all see greatness in him."
"I'll have to take your word for it." She remarked bitterly. Cassie carefully studied his face, the clear blue eyes, the sharp line of his jaw, and those lips. She stared at his lips and wondered what it would feel like to kiss him, to taste the scotch on him. She stopped staring when he began to speak again.
"You'll see it." He replied confidently. "Do you have the draft of the speech for Tulsa?"
"Yeah, it's in my room. If you're done here I can get it when we go upstairs." She was embarrassed by the unintentional hint of suggestiveness in her voice and looked away from him.
For a brief second he allowed himself to imagine that she was inviting him to her room. He stood up quickly and threw some money on the table. "I'm done, let's go." He needed to get the hell away from her before he did something monumentally stupid.
The ride in the elevator was spent in total silence, neither spoke until they were safely inside her room. She kissed him the minute the door closed behind them.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" He asked hesitantly.
"Yes." He groaned softly as she slid her hand inside his boxers. He tangled his hands in her long hair as she took him into her mouth. After a long moment he gently pulled her head away and reached for her shirt as she pulled off his pants and boxers. She stood up and they kissed as she opened his shirt and threw it to the ground. Sam unbuttoned her jeans and slid them off her body along with her underwear.
Cassie kissed him roughly, pulling him onto the bed with her. He stared down at her for an instant before she wrapped her legs around his waist and he began to move. He captured her moans in a kiss that seemed to last forever. She clung tightly to him and pressed her face into his shoulder when she began to cry out. He paused for a brief instant to kiss her forehead. Then she tightened her legs and he began to move again, finding his own release as he buried his face in her hair.
Afterwards he pulled her into his arms and held her close. They laid in silence, the enormity of what they had just done hanging in the air around them.
The moonlight illuminated her body and he let his eyes wander over her smooth skin, that was when he noticed the scar on her abdomen. Sam laid his head on her bare stomach and traced white line with his fingers. "What is this from?"
"I had a baby."
"Really, I didn't know you had kids." He regretted it the instant he said it. Her whole body tensed up and he could feel her trying to roll away from him. "I'm sorry, if you don't want to talk about it I'll just shut up right now." He sat up, allowing her to roll onto her side with her back to him. He kissed her softly between her shoulder blades. "I'm sorry."
"It's ok. You had no way of knowing." She took a deep breath and reached for the blanket, pulling it around her body. "I had a son, Matthew. He died two days after he was born."
"I'm sorry." It sounded like a stupid thing to say, he was sure she'd heard it a million times already, but it was the only thing he could think of. She rolled into his arms and he dried her tears with his fingers.
Leo stood in front of his desk as the senior staff plus Donna, Larry, Ed, and Cassie gathered in his office. "You all know why we're here."
Toby spoke first. "Is the President going to run again? He's going on TV tonight, we have to leave for the funeral soon and no one knows if he's going to run again."
"I don't know. You'll be notified as soon as he decides. Come up with responses for both scenarios."
Cassie had been standing quietly in the back of the room, but Leo's statement caused her to speak up. "He'll run again."
Leo glanced at her and then turned his attention back to the group. "Like I said nothing's been decided yet."
Margaret appeared in the doorway. "It's almost time."
He glanced at his watch. "We need to get ready to leave. They motorcade will be ready soon."
They silently filed out of his office heading for the funeral of a woman they had all come to depend on.
"He isn't going to run again." Leo told the senior staff. "Go get ready for the press conference."
They all filed out, leaving only Toby lingering in the doorway. "You think he's going to run again."
Leo looked up at him. "Leave."
Toby stepped out the door, almost smiling to himself.
Soaked to the bone he stepped up to the podium. The President had had Leo tell the Senior Staff he wasn't going to run again. He had promised Abbey one term. He had James and Scott to think about, not to mention the girls. All he had to do was say no.
"Mr. President will you be seeking a second term?"
He'd heard the reporter's question, in fact he'd heard it twice. Jed opened his mouth to say 'no', but something inside him snapped. He glanced sideways at his rain-soaked staff and found Cassie watching him with an expectant look on her face. He couldn't do it; he couldn't walk away from this job while he still had the strength to fight for it. He turned back to the microphone. He slid his hands into his pockets and smiled as he gave the only response he could. "Yeah, and I'm gonna win."
And with those few words they were energized, they were back on top. Behind him Leo heard Cassie mutter, "I told you so" under her breath. He couldn't help but smile. She knew as well as he did that the President would never walk away from this job. They were going to have to drag him off kicking and screaming.
It was 2 am and Cassie and Sam were left alone in his office. Even Toby had gone home for the night.
"Yeah, and I'm gonna win." Sam repeated the President's words out loud to himself. "You knew. How?"
"I knew that no matter what he promised my mother, he wouldn't give this up. It's who he is. Ultimately, we can't change who we are." Cassie remarked vaguely.
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" He rubbed his tired eyes.
"It doesn't matter." She stood up and walked toward him, stopping to stand in front of his chair.
Sam got slowly to his feet. "Everything is going to hell now."
"I know." She nodded, turning her face away from him.
"You know what I mean, don't you?"
"Yes." She took a deep breath. "Maybe no one will find out."
"They always dig that kind of stuff up." He rubbed his eyes again. "Maybe we should tell CJ."
"No." She stated firmly. "Not unless we have to."
"Ok." Both their hearts were beating quickly, they could sense fear in each other.
He pulled her to him and kissed her roughly. She could feel one of his hands pushing up her skirt as the other pulled down her panties. Cassie sat on the edge of the desk and pushed down his pants, along with his boxers. Sam pulled her closer and began to move inside her. Lust mixing with fear.
Somewhere deep inside they knew it was only a matter of time before their past was brought into the light.
Their relationship is fragile, they both know that. She has lied, she lied to protect her father, and she lied to protect her husband. But most importantly, she has lied to Sam. She is beginning to live in fear of what will happen if that one lie is found out, the affair coming to light is one thing, this is another entirely.
End Chapter One...
Things Fall Apart - 2
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