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I’m annoyed by the way he just answers for her, and irritated with her for just sitting there, chewing on her forkful of chicken instead of responding. “Why don’t you let Kate answer for herself?”

The Senator glares at me, a dark look passing over his face. “Kate just answered for herself.”

Ella looks uncomfortable. She's not good with these kinds of situations. “Katherine,” she says. “I know that your mother was a special woman, and I’m not trying to step on anyone’s toes here. I’m --”

“Seriously,” Katherine says, tossing me a look of annoyance that makes me regret even taking up for her at all. “It’s no big deal. I mean, it is a big deal for you guys. I’m happy for you. But I’m an adult. We’re all adults here. People remarry all the time. I wish you nothing but happiness.”

“Thank you, Kate,” the Senator says.

I send Kate a text.

Liar.

She looks down at her phone and back up, pointedly ignoring me. “Ella, if there’s anything you need me to do for your engagement party, please let me know.”

A broad smile crosses Ella’s face. “Thank you, Katherine,” she says. “That’s so kind of you. I think actually my stylist is going to bring dresses to the house next week to do fittings for the wedding, and I’d love to ask her to send over something for the engagement party as well. Unless you had something else in mind.”

Kate nods. “Sure.”

“Oh, she mentioned she was redoing your wardrobe,” Ella says, looking at me. “She said you asked Caulter to set it up.”

Kate pauses, her napkin on the corner of her mouth. “She did, did she?”

“I’d have been happy to set it up for you,” Ella says. “I’m pleased Caulter was able to. She said something about summer wear, dresses and that kind of thing.”

Kate coughs into her napkin, and I’m not sure, but I think she might be laughing.

“She could use more dresses for the campaign,” I say. “It’s more...functional. For the campaign, I mean.”

I watch as color rises to Kate’s cheeks, but the Senator interrupts, saving her from scrutiny. “That’s thoughtful of you, Caulter,” he says. “Absolutely. Dresses. More feminine, appropriate for the setting.”

“Yes.” I nod. “Dresses would definitely be very useful.”

Kate coughs again, this time harder. Yeah, I’m pleased with myself.

“Caulter, do you know who in the world left that barrel out in the back?” the Senator asks. I think Kate might choke on her bite of food this time.

I shrug. “No idea,” I say. “Probably the gardener.”

“Ridiculous,” he says. “You really can't get good help these days. We’re back to DC tomorrow, but the engagement party is Friday. Ella, the planners and all of that will be taking over the house for the next two days, I assume?”

“Tomorrow morning,” she says. “You and Katherine will need to direct things, Caulter. No parties.”

I look at her, mock innocent. “Have I gotten into a single bit of trouble since I’ve been here?” I ask. “Have I been out to a single party?”

Ella narrows her eyes at me. She doesn’t trust me - reasonably so. The part about parties is true, though. I’ve not been to a single one since I’ve been here. I’ve not put my dick in a single girl, either. Except Kate, of course.

“Not that I’ve seen in the newspapers,” she says.

“Leave the young man alone,” the Senator says, gesturing toward me with his fork in hand. “He’s cleaned himself up, and has behaved quite responsibly since we sent them out here. I told you, Ella, it’s all about boundaries. Rules. If you give children rules and expectations, they will conform. Caulter here is a perfect example of that.”

I have to clench my fists as I listen to him talk about me as if he’s talking about a preschool-aged child or a dog. “Yes,” I agree. The old Caulter would have lifted up the end of the antique table we’re sitting at, and sent dishes flying, before storming out of the room and driving off in my mother’s hundred-thousand-dollar car. The new Caulter, the one fucking the Senator’s daughter, is cool, calm, and collected. “You know, I think it’s really due to Kate rubbing off on me.”

Kate coughs more violently this time, and the Senator looks at her. "Are you catching a cold?"

“So you and the hot step-brother,” Jo says. “Dish.”


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