ONE.

wash

She found him sitting on the sofa in his study.

“There you are!” She joined him, though they both knew it wasn’t proper. “I’d wondered where you’d disappeared to.”

He didn’t want to explain that dancing with her — as much as he really loved dancing — was stirring him; that her touch on his shoulder was too welcome; that the way she looked at him inspired a twitch in his loins that was not at all presidential. From the way she was looking at him, eyes shining, he knew his face betrayed him regardless. She ran her fingers over the scars on his face. He slapped her hand away. Was this foreplay? She hoped so.

“What are these from?” She asked, ignoring his obvious attempt to deflect her attention.

“I had smallpox.”

“Really?” Her eyes lit up. He supposed he should’ve been disgusted by that reaction, but he was charmed. He was always charmed by her. It annoyed him.

He didn’t answer for a moment, instead letting her eyes follow him across the room as he left her on the sofa. He pretended to be fascinated by the marble on the fireplace. He was usually fascinated by the marble; he loved fine things, but that wasn’t exactly the point right now.

“Yes really. In Barbados. I was 17.”

She followed him to the fireplace, her shoes clacking offensively on the wood floor. She could sense he was on the verge of opening up to her, finally, and she gently ran a hand along the back of his neck. He shivered involuntarily.

“I didn’t know you had smallpox,” she offered, somewhat lamely.

“I don’t really talk about it. Especially not in the company of ladies.” He was weak under her touch, he noticed, but hoped his firm tone would convey his message of rigid adherence to his many many principles.

If anything, it made her bolder. She kissed his cheek, her hand now tracing his jaw. He stiffened, and snatched it away.

“We should get back to the party. I’m sure my absence is conspicuous.” His hand tightened around her wrist.

“I’m sure it is. Mr. President.”

“You mock me.”

“To your very face.”

He bit back a smile. “You’re dangerous.”

“Are you afraid of me?”

He laughed, “I’ve never been afraid of anything.”

She grinned, aware this wasn’t hyperbole. She knew his brush with death at Fort Necessity wasn’t nearly as dangerous as standing in this room with her, while polite society continued their celebration a room over, but still, she thought, he should fear her a little.

“You’re hurting my wrist.”

He let go, “I didn’t mean–”

“I didn’t say I didn’t like it.”

His instincts begged to play along, to take her fragile wrist again, to push her roughly into the marble and leave bite marks on her neck that would easily cost him another term as president. (Assuming he wanted one. He had precedents to set and two seemed like a good limit). Instead, he collected himself, and left her standing at the fireplace. He imagined she would follow him to the sofa. She didn’t. He stood, awkwardly, frustratingly aware he couldn’t sit until she returned. She recognized this power play, and a most unladylike look crossed her countenance.

“Ah yes all your rules for civility,” she smirked.

“They’re good rules.”

“They’re boring rules. Make you sound insufferable.”

George frowned, “It’s important to be a gentleman.”

Now she returned to his side, positioning herself much closer to him than was appropriate. Her lips grazed his ear.

“Not always,” she whispered.

His baser instincts fought to take over, as blood rushed to his cheeks and to his pants, the buckskin tightening. He inhaled sharply. How was it possible, he chastised himself, that he could command an entire army, but lost all sense of reason and control around one woman? Self-control was his thing. She was still so close, looking up at him, daring him to make the next move. He coughed. She laughed.

“Miss,” he barely choked out the word.

“Oh, I get it. You’re so proper. Wouldn’t want anyone knowing that their president had such proclivities. Imagine the papers if anyone got word of you taking me here, on this chaise, in the president’s mansion.”

“It would be a scandal.”

“Oh it would be very very bad,” she paused. “If anyone found out.”

They kissed then, and it was wrong and yet, he thought, better than winning any battle. Images flashed across his mind: the icy water of the Delaware, the icy winter of Valley Forge, the icy warning he’d been forced to give the Senate to ratify the Jay Treaty. His life had been one of such sacrifice, and a dizzying concern with perception. He’d earned this moment unbidden on this couch with this woman. He deserved to tease her neck with his lips, to graze her soft skin with his ivory plus human bone and absolutely not wooden teeth.

“You’re thinking too much, Mr. President,” her hands were now fumbling with the buttons on his breeches.

“It’s not dignified,” he breathed, but the battle was lost, it was like Long Island only absolutely not.

The buttons were undone now and the flap fell open. He realized he had precious few seconds to maintain any level of dignity because once her hand found his executive branch he would be powerless, and completely at her mercy. Anyone who assumed women had no power in this new republic had simply never experienced the joyful surrender to the fairer sex’s practiced touch.

She was stroking him now, and it was lost; he had no room to argue about whether this conduct was worthy of the president. He knew on some level it wasn’t, here he was the leader of the nation grunting in the parlor of the executive residence. What was worse was that she knew he was struggling; she met his lidded gaze knowingly, taunting him to stop her, aware he was past the point where he would.

“Should I stop?” She asked.

It was a pointless question.

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