The Bargain:Vargas Cartel Series, Book 1(2)

By: Lisa Cardiff

Admittedly, we didn’t have an earth shattering, yell from the rooftops love affair, but we were comfortable in each other’s lives; we had similar goals, and I loved him. Evan wanted to follow his father into politics, and I wanted to find a job working in foreign policy. I dreamed of working in the State Department, and with my connections and my master’s degree, I could make it happen. I had already secured an internship when I graduated this spring at the American Foreign Policy Council.

“Shit,” I said under my breath. Tonight was the fundraiser for his dad. Evan’s dad was a second, soon-to-be third term Senator of Nevada. Before entering politics, Evan’s dad owned a casino, so he has connections to people with deep pockets. The D.C. fundraiser probably wasn’t necessary, but in politics a well-funded campaign almost always translated into a winning campaign.

Evan stopped walking. “Don’t tell me you forgot, because we both know you never forget anything.”

“Maybe I did forget. There’s a first time for everything,” I lied, looking down at my simple black wedges. Of course I didn’t forget. I methodically planned every hour of every day right down to the most mundane detail, like when I planned to exercise, study, and eat. I reviewed my schedule for the next day every night before I went to bed. Nothing was a surprise.

I realized planning my life with such precision likely meant I had some sort of obsessive disorder, but it gave me control over my life, something I didn’t have much of as a kid. Growing up, my mom selected my clothes, my hairstyle, my friends, and my enemies. She arranged my play dates and planned my meals and snacks so that I never exceeded my allotted caloric intake.

I lived my life as her puppet until the day I left for college. Now I ruled my life with iron control and absolute clockwork precision, so she didn’t have the chance to slide back into my life and make decisions for me.

Wrapping his hands around my upper arms, he turned my body to face him. His eyes narrowed and his mouth pressed into a thin line. “Really, Hattie? Do you expect me to believe that you forgot? Let me see your phone.”

I lifted my head, meeting the irritated stare of his chocolate brown eyes.

“I put it in my phone, but Eric called in sick with a family emergency, and I agreed to cover his office hours.” Eric was in the same graduate program as Evan and me. His mom had cancer, and it had been a rough year for him. I covered his office hours at least once a week to give him more time to help her.

“Eric always has a family emergency,” Evan snapped, folding his arms across his chest.

“I know, but his mom has a chemo treatment today. I had to help him. She can’t go by herself.” It wasn’t too late to call him and cancel. He’d find someone else or he could reschedule his hours, but I didn’t want to add to Eric’s stress. He had all he needed and more.

“Don’t be mad.” I lifted onto my toes and brushed a kiss over his lips. I didn’t have to look at his face to know he was pissed. Attending a fundraiser for Evan’s dad was a big deal, but I had been dreading it for the last month. My parents would be there, and that meant my mom wouldn’t hold back when the time came to judge my clothing choices, my hair, and my behavior. Like always, she’d go on a tirade about Evan and me having a big future in politics and I needed to dress and look the part. A chill raced through me at the thought of enduring another confrontation with her. I wished she’d back off and leave me alone for once.

At least Evan asked me to move in with him when we started graduate school, and I escaped the prison of living at home. I could’ve rented my own place after college, but I didn’t like living alone. My parents didn’t provide much companionship, but being alone would have been infinitely worse.

“I’m not mad.” He brushed his thumb over my lip. “But I have to admit the events are more tolerable when I have you on my arm.”

“Oh please.” I rolled my eyes. “You barely talk to me at those events. I could give you a cardboard cutout of myself, and it’d be just as effective.”

He chuckled, flashing his bright white smile, and one of his hands slipped to my lower back. “No. I’d notice when I ended up with a bunch of paper cuts.”

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