Chapter One

Theresa Brown rushed onto the shuttle bus, panting for air. She grabbed the first available seat and tried to catch her breath after that mad dash. Why couldn’t she be like normal people? Wake up with the birds, enjoy a long eye opening shower, sit down to a nice little breakfast in a robe and slippers, read the morning paper, carefully dress, do her hair and make up and stroll out the door to watch the bus roll up to her? She saw the back end of a bus most of the time, and if she was lucky, caught up to it. Ah, the struggle of morning for a night owl.

She groaned as she saw the traffic jam before them on Memorial Bridge, wending its way into the nation’s capital. She glanced around, afraid to see fellow employees witnessing her harried entry to the bus. She was sure she looked like she had just crawled from under a log hastily brushed hair and a smear of blush across her cheeks, her dark fringy lashes spiky from her quick douse in the shower. What she refused to believe was that any glances her way were in admiration for her fresh and uncomplicated beauty.

Omani12Teri rushed through the D Street entrance of the State Department, flashing her identification badge to a frowning guard. She tapped her foot impatiently as she waited for the elevator, then slinked into her office, breathing a sigh of relief that the place was momentarily deserted. She sat down in her squeaky government-issue chair, grabbed the folder of morning cables, and tried to look busy.

In the evening, the bus home was overcrowded and stuffy. Teri tuned into the usual strain of conversations on the State Department shuttle that ran back and forth across the Potomac between the official Foggy Bottom building of the Main State Department and the State Annex offices in Rosslyn, near her Arlington apartment. She eavesdropped enviously on the prattle around her.

“George! Hey! How are you doing?”
“Chuck! Great to see you!! Last time was in New Delhi! What have you been up to?”
“I’m on the Country Desk now, rotating out to Bangkok next month. How is Cairo?”
“Pretty good. We’re here on home leave now.”
“And the family?”
“Ah, just great. The kids love it, little Andy is speaking Arabic like a native…”
“..Louise, how can you sit there and say your tour in Peru was a bore? Aren’t the Inca ruins fabulous? Machu Pichu…”
“…I’ll tell you what, Manila may be hotter than DC at this time of year, but not by much. At least we’ve got gorgeous beaches and scuba diving to take our minds off it in the Philippines…”
“…And then, the Aga Khan took one look at her…”

Teri sighed as she thought of the piles of papers and stacks of books on her desk, and then Bangkok, Cairo, Manila… would she ever be winging off to these fantastic places? Her bed wouldn’t hold so much attraction in the mornings in Thailand or Egypt. Aside from a Junior year in Paris, and an intense and whirlwind romance there with a handsome Greek that ended with bittersweet memories, she had few stamps in her Passport with which to begin an intriguing conversation, much less a memorable adventure. Why didn’t the glamorous life belong to her? Would such story book things ever be hers to recount?

The office secretary strolled by the door of Teri’s office.
“Do you want to go to a White House welcoming reception for the Sultan of Oman?”
Teri giggled. The Sultan of Oman indeed! She wasn’t even quite sure where Oman was on the globe. But then she fingered the papers on her littered desk and glanced at the drab walls of her cramped office.
“When?” she asked.Omani11
“Friday morning at ten.”
Teri pursed her lips and then grinned.
“Yea, OK,” Teri said and jotted it on her Government issue desk calendar, and turned back to the endless stacks of bureaucratic paper.

The few times Teri had ever been in or about the White House, a thrill always ran through her. She didn’t know what it was exactly. Perhaps the possibility of seeing the President pass by again, with a wink, as he had once before. She had been as giddy as a teenager for weeks after that chance “meeting” in the West Wing ground floor as the President whizzed by with his entourage, on the way to the barber. Or perhaps it was because this was the seat of the most powerful nation in the world. She needed to remind herself how lucky she really was to be here, to have a job.

She passed through the reception line, little caring about the Sultan of Oman, but glancing around to catch any famous faces: some she knew from State, some from the press, others glimpsed at from afar in official functions. One never knew who you might be able to schmooze or meet at these gatherings; networking was the official sport of young aspiring professionals in D.C., and a close second was meeting cute administration guys. She knew, however, that this reception had been short of bodies on this Friday before Easter, and that was the only reason she and several other fellow-underlings from State had been invited to welcome the leader of an obscure little middle eastern country that never figured on anyone’s radar screen. She had just looked it up that morning in the atlas in case someone actually asked her anything about it.
The first hand took hers and gazed at her name tag, as she was passed down the line of dignitaries and introduced to each, names meaning little except for the Secretary of State and some Senior White House officials. She clasped each hand with a firm grip, for which she had often been complimented. She was no jelly fish, woman or not, and knew that a handshake was a lasting impression. She smiled warmly at each face and clearly repeated her name “Theresa Brown. So good to meet you…My pleasure…”

As she approached the dignitaries from Oman, swarthy faces and dark reptilian eyes set her flesh crawling, and cast her thoughts back to Paris school days, and the masses of Middle Easterners celebrating freedom from strict Islamic social mores by pursuing every and any woman, and particularly the blondes like Teri. They had repulsed her then, and still sent a chill down her spine. Womanizers.

“Theresa Brown, His Excellency the Sultan of Oman” was announced. The older turbaned man nodded his head gravely, and she was taken aback to see an obviously lewd glint in his dark rimmed eyes as he took her hand and let his eyes sweep over her body freely. She frowned a little, and purposely gave his an extra hard squeeze, intended to be a reproach to his womanizing. But nothing showed in the mask like face except for the same lascivious glare. She moved down the line, trying to hide the small scowl in her eyes. Although he probably didn’t notice, she was purposely more solicitous to the next in line.

“Crown Prince Hamir, successor to the throne of Oman,” was announced to her. She looked up into the handsome young man’s face, not more than 10 years older than hers. She blinked and tried not to gape. The man was beautiful. He had an air of certainty and assuredness rare in one so young. She smiled warmly and replied very cordially “So wonderful to make your acquaintance, Your Majesty.” The Prince looked deeply into her eyes, his own deep set dark eyes partly amused, having noticed her reaction to his father. He lifted her hand and kissed it not so lightly, pressing her fingers into his full beard.

“The pleasure is all mine, dear lady.” He’d taken note of her name, and he wouldn’t forget.
Theresa withdrew her hand quickly as she felt her face go slightly pink. She hurried on down the line, sure that she had just held everyone up at that last encounter, and that the whole room was staring at her. But then she noticed that he was kissing the other ladies’ hands too.

She wandered over to the refreshment table, and stood with a few other aspiring young diplomats from the State Department. But she felt a strange pull. She slowly turned to see the Prince gazing at her intensely with those beautiful, liquid eyes. She determined to meet his stare with a bravado she didn’t feel, but when their eyes locked, he allowed a slight smile curve up the corners of his sensuous mouth, as he inclined his head familiarly. He slowly raised his glass of juice from across the room to her, as if toasting her. A tremor ran through her body like an electric current, down to the base of her belly, and she nervously looked away and fidgeted. What was that? And why was she feeling so tense? At least he wasn’t as repulsive as the others in his entourage. His skin had a bronzed glow with softer features, chiseled features and high cheekbones, actually very handsome if she thought about it. His full lips were formed in an engaging smile behind which showed perfect white teeth. His deeply set almond eyes sported long dark lashes, and seemed to always be smiling ever so slightly, like he knew a wonderful secret. She glimpsed his way again, and her heart started to race to see him resolutely making his way towards her through the crowd, only to be headed off by a pair of flirting women.
She calmed down a bit, confused over her mixed feelings of relief and disappointment. She turned and went to another more obscure area of the reception room, buried herself in the crowd, and avoided him for the rest of the reception.

Later that afternoon Teri sat back at her desk, deep in thought as she gazed out her window to the roof-top air conditioning units of the State Department. Why had she felt so panicky about the Prince, yet so intrigued? Why, she’d never see him again! Her thoughts were interrupted by the intercom. She picked it up.
“Call for you on 3,” The Secretary said. Teri pushed in the button for line 3, and spoke in her professional tone.
“This is Theresa Brown, may I help you?”
“Miss Brown,” an accented voice said on the other end of the line. She froze momentarily. “This is Hamir. We met this morning.” Her heart jumped into her throat, and there was a long pause as she tried to find her strong voice.
“Yes, I believe I remember you, Your Majesty,” she responded uneasily. “What may I help you with?”
“You may be so gracious as to accompany me to dinner this evening.”
Although Teri was surprised at the invitation, she didn’t let him know this. His question was more a command than a request. He was awfully self sure.
“I am afraid that is not possible Your Majesty” she managed to reply coolly, as if she routinely turned down dates from Princes. She wondered to herself why she declined so hastily and why he was even asking her. But something in her brain nudged at her to stay clear of this one.
“Ah, you are previously engaged?”
“Uh Yes,” she lied, realizing he knew very well she was lying, and felt very childish at being caught.
“What a pity. Well then, perhaps another evening, Miss Brown?”
“Well, I don’t… ” she was interrupted.
“I look forward to it most eagerly!” And the line went dead. He hadn’t even given her a chance to say no! The creep! What the hell was that?

“Hey there, that was some reception, huh?” a soft-spoken male voice intoned from her office doorway as she stared at the phone.
“Huh?” Teri looked up from her distraction over the call and saw Jim, a tall, gentle-natured colleague who seemed to be dropping by more frequently of late.
“Did you enjoy the White House reception? He asked again, in his normal reserved manner. He now felt like he had interrupted her, and was feeling awkward. She sensed this, and tried to shake off her pique over the phone call from the Prince.
“Oh, that,” she feigned amnesia over the very thing she couldn’t get out of her thoughts. “Well, not much different from any other, I guess,” she replied dismissively and with a bored tone.
“Well, I guess if you’ve seen one White House recpetion, you’ve seen them all,” Jim replied uneasily. There was an awkward silence between them, as if he wanted to say something else, but was cowed by the impatience on her face.
She felt badly. She knew she was giving him the brush-off, and he didn’t deserve it. He was a really nice guy, pretty good looking, and it was abundantly clear he liked her.

That was the trouble. The nice guys just didn’t seem exciting, there was no challenge, they didn’t stir her blood, never put her on edge like the “bad boys” did. And what had it gotten her? A string of cheating boyfriends, broken relationships, and heartaches. She had resolved after the last disaster to swear off men for a while, concentrate on her career. But now sweet-faced Jim stood there, and just as she was about to change her tone and demeanor, Jim lost his nerve, again.

“Well, I’m sure you are busy, I’ll catch you another time,” he said hurriedly.
“Jim…” Teri started, now feeling like a first class bitch for acting so flippant. He turned with a face that was hopeful, yet injured by her usual brusque treatment of his attempts at small talk. “I am kind of preoccupied now, sorry to sound so-so—well, we’ll chat later, OK?”
“Sure, see you around,” he said as he left quickly.
Teri put her head in her hands. Why couldn’t she like the guy? He was too nice!

As if echoing her thoughts, a friend of hers stepped into her office.
“Honey, what is with you?” Melissa whispered harshly while looking out the main office door.
“What now?” Teri groaned. This morning was getting to be too much.
“Jim Colton, perhaps the nicest and most eligible bachelor on the floor, not to mention good looking, LIKES you, if you hadn’t noticed. And you just shoo him away like he’s a pesky fly!”
“Oh, Melissa, stop it! I don’t need this lecture now! Besides, how do you know I shoo him away?”
“I heard it all from outside your door, Teri. What is your problem? Are you waiting for another creep like Dimitri, or Richard, or…”
“Stop!” Teri cried. She shook her head. “You know I don’t want any more heartache. That’s probably why I don’t even want to start anything right now, don’t you understand?” Give me credit already for turning a playboy prince down, she wanted to shout. Melissa just shook her head.
“No, I don’t understand. Fate is kind enough to deliver a true gentleman to your doorstep, all you have to do is smile and let him treat you nicely, but no! You’d rather wait for a bad boy to wine you, dine you, romance you and then jilt you and hurt you. I give up on you. Just throw all the nice guys my way, OK?” she said, as she left Teri’s office.
Teri could only sigh. What was her problem?

Later that evening she could not expel the Prince from her mind. For some reason, she couldn’t stay at home for fear of what? Being caught in a lie? It would be the best thing, for the Prince to somehow know that she had lied because she wanted no part of him.
Nevertheless, she went out to her car to just get out and escape her troubled musings. She thought she heard footsteps in the parking lot and turned in the darkness to look, and saw nothing. Jeez, now she was paranoid? When she reached the car, she fumbled nervously with the door key, and hastily slipped in the car, locking the door behind her.
As she drove off, she calmed down only a little, but realized now that she had to go somewhere. She showed up at the group house her best friend lived in, although she really didn’t care to be there, especially after seeing the cars parked outside the house. Teri groaned, but knocked at the door through which loud music blasted. A chill ran through her, despite the balmy night air. She glanced down the street to see a dark, long car paused at the corner of the next street, but then it drove off. What was a car like that doing in this neighborhood? She frowned at her jittery reactions, and let herself into the house.
“Teri! Hey! How ya doin?” a bleary eyed Annette said. Teri smiled wanly at the head of the household. How could they take this constant partying night after night? She spotted her best friend Deborah and her eyes grew sad. Hadn’t high school and college been enough to quench the partying thirst she thought?
“Teri! Sit down here!” Deborah slurred upon seeing her life long friend.
Teri shook her jacket off and sat on the couch next to Deb.
“How ya doin?” she asked, her eyes heavy with booze and pot.
“OK, OK…” Teri answered, conscious of the rest of the crowd’s attention on her now.
“Hey, how’s life at the White House?” Long haired, bearded Alex sneered. She looked contemptuously at the tangled unkempt beard, the earring in his ear, the grubby clothes, complete with chain attached to his wallet. She wondered if he ever changed clothes, he was always wearing the same thing. He couldn’t possibly drag a comb through the matted mess that went beyond his shoulders.
“I don’t work at the White House, Alex, I work at the State Department,” she explained impatiently for the millionth time.
“Oh, Okey dokey,” he laughed drunkenly.
Teri turned her attention back to Deb.
“You’ll never guess what happened today.”
“Hmmm?” Deborah replied as she squinted her already half closed eyes and dragged heavily on the joint passed to her. Teri sat back on the couch, letting the joint pass her, not wanting to even touch it. Deborah had already forgotten her. She spoke anyway, having to get it off her chest.
“I went to a White House reception for the Sultan of Oman.”
“What’s that?” Deb asked, trying really hard to focus.
“Oh, Deb, it’s like a King, of the country of Oman,” Teri replied impatiently. She really did need a new set of friends.
“Oman?” she repeated “Is that like in South America?”
“No, it’s in the middle east,” she replied tersely, acting like she hadn’t just looked it up in the atlas that day herself.
“Oh,” Deborah replied and gulped down a swallow of beer.
“Anyway,” Teri continued “his son was there, he’s a prince, the heir to the throne… well, I shook his hand in the receiving line, and then he called later to tell me I was going out to dinner with him! I don’t know how the hell he knew where to find me!”
“So?” Deborah asked impatiently.
“Deb, I merely shook the guy’s hand…”
“Well, that’s kinda cool he asked you out…”
“Well, I said no, of course.”
“Why? Isn’t he cute?”
“That’s not the point. He’s a creep, they all are. But now I get the weird feeling I’m being followed.”
“Get outta here Teri! You’re crazy!” Deb laughed.
Teri just sighed, realizing that Deb hadn’t really heard anything she said. She probably was crazy anyway. What would a Prince want of little Theresa Brown?

Later that night, as she was dozing off to sleep, the phone rang. She impulsively picked it up after the second ring.
“Hello?” her sleepy voice answered.
“Miss Brown?” The strong and now familiar accent returned. Her heart raced.
“Uh Cómo? Qué dijiste? No comprendo,” she tried to sound convincingly Hispanic.
“Miss Brown? Is that you?”
“Ah, está equivocado, no hay nadie aqui,” she gasped and hung the phone up quickly. It rang again incessantly. Each shrill ring racked her nerves, until she could stand it no longer and pulled the plug. She didn’t sleep very well the rest of that night, or the rest of the weekend for that matter.

First thing the next Monday, she spoke to her secretary.
“Annie, take messages for all of my calls, I’ll return them later. I’ve got too much to do today.”
“OK,” the secretary replied, looking at Teri oddly.
By 11:00 there where three messages from him. When she returned from lunch, there were two more. She ripped each one up angrily.
At 5:25 she walked out the door to grab the shuttle bus back across the river, the only bus she never seemed to be late for.
A man approached her from a large black Lincoln bearing diplomatic plates.
“Miss Brown, I will take you where ever you need to go,” the chauffeur tipped his hat graciously. She squinted at him.
“Who are you?” she asked, although she knew.
“I am the chauffeur for Prince Hamir. He has instructed me to take you any where you wish.”
“I’ll bet,” she said sarcastically, and turned back to go to the bus.
“But Miss, what shall I tell His Highness?”
“I have nothing to say to him” she threw over her shoulder, but then hesitated. “No,” she turned and looked at the car. “Is he in there?”
“No, Miss, regrettably His Highness has other engagements this afternoon, and couldn’t meet you. He wishes to offer you the services of the car.”
Her eyes registered momentary disbelief. What was going on here? This guy was relentless.
“Well, you tell ‘His Highness’ this: Doesn’t he take a hint? Tell him to bug off get lost! I don’t want him bothering me anymore!” She said vehemently, and turned to catch her bus, leaving the stunned driver standing there.

The next day she called in to the office from home. She couldn’t face another surprise, courtesy of the Prince. It was getting unnerving. No one had ever pursued her so relentlessly, at least no one she would be interested in. But that was the problem. He was exactly the type she would be interested in, the kind she always regretted. He looked very, very bad, and sadly, very, very sexy.
“Annie, tell the boss I’ve got a ton of editing work to do, so I’ll be working at home today. And please, if I get any calls, I don’t want any one to know I’m at home. I really can’t be bothered. I’ll call in for messages.”
“Alright Teri, but you already have two.” Teri was silent and tensed.
“Who?” She finally asked.
“Uh, Mr. Hamir. Both of them. He’s insistent.”
“Throw them away.” Teri ordered.
“But ”
“And throw away any others from him or save yourself the ink, just don’t take them.”
“OK,” Annie replied, hoping for an explanation.
“See you,” Teri hung up. As an after thought, she unplugged the phone. Well, that should finally get the message across to “Mr. Hamir!”

On Wednesday, when she walked into the office, she was tired and jittery. The day of silence from him almost put her more on edge than the attentions.
“Here are your messages, half of what you really got. And the Secretary wants to see you immediately,” Annie said in a somber and awed tone.
“Secretary? What secretary?” Teri asked impatiently.
“OUR Secretary, THE Secretary of State!”
Teri stared at the secretary momentarily, at a loss for words.
“What? Are you sure?” Teri frowned.
“The Secretary’s Office called yesterday afternoon, and wants to see you as soon as you are in this morning”
“Are you sure, Annie? Maybe someone was trying to play a joke,” Teri said, incredulous she’d be called to see the Secretary of State.
“I agree, it was curious, so I mentioned it to the boss. She told me to call and ‘confirm’ a time. I did, and it was to be as soon as you came in this morning, nothing else. I’ll tell you, Rachael is one interested boss, to know why you’re asked to the Secretary’s office. She’s out at a meeting now, but said she wants to see you as soon as you return.”
“Great,” Teri groaned. “I don’t even know where exactly the Secretary’s Office is!
“Top floor. Room 7224. Don’t forget your security pass.”
“Thanks,” Teri intoned flatly.

After passing through the double doors and clearing the heavy security on the seventh floor, she was told to have a seat when she entered the plush office suite of the Secretary of State..
A half hour passed, and she now was growing more annoyed than nervous.
“Excuse me,” she addressed the assistant seated at the reception desk, “Is the Secretary even here?”
“Well, actually, no. But the General’s been informed that you are here, and he’ll return soon,” she referred to the Secretary of State’s former military title.
“Well, actually, I’ve got a lot of work on my desk, why don’t you call me when he’s ready to see me.”
“Oh, no, Miss Brown, you are to stay here and wait for him,” the attractive assistant said firmly. Teri glared at the pompous political appointee, sitting at her huge elaborate desk.
“Do you know the subject of the meeting? Why am I here?” Teri asked.
“Sorry, I really don’t know anything.”
“I’m sure of that,” Teri muttered under her breath and sat down again reluctantly.

Two hours later she was still sitting, and fuming. This had to be some crazy mistake.
“Look, It’s almost lunch time. I’m sure that the Secretary hasn’t eaten yet either, so I’ll be back,” Teri said and stood to walk out.
“Uh, Miss Brown,” the Assistant began, then looked up to see the Secretary walk in.
“Sir! Miss Brown is here.”
“Oh, yes, just a moment,” he said as his entourage followed him into his office like the slavish servants they were, keeping their former general happy. He gave her a quick assessing scrutiny, and disappeared. Teri was beyond surprise now. She had always disliked the man, even though she had never before met him one on one, only in ceremonial reception lines, like the one the other day.
“He’ll be with you in a moment,” the young girl said. “Please sit down.” Teri groaned audibly as she sat down heavily. Her stomach was growling, she was bored and tired.
Finally, she was escorted into the grand inner office, elaborately and tastefully decorated with beautiful oriental carpets, fine paintings and table ornaments. Diplomas, citations, awards and Presidential letters and commissions plastered the walls, and there was perhaps a little too much of a military atmosphere for a Secretary of State.
“Miss Brown, very good of you to see me,” the Secretary said solicitously as he motioned to a chair, a man eager to get a task out of the way quickly and move on to more important affairs of State. Teri refrained from informing him just how long she had waited, wasting taxpayers’ money. She instead nodded in reply.
“Did you enjoy the little reception at the White House the other day? I take it you have a special interest in Oman? Glad you could be there,” he said in an off handed manner. Teri squinted her eyes slightly, beginning to think she knew.
“Well, then, on to the business at hand. It seems as though your presence at a dinner being given tonight for the Omani delegation is desired.”
Teri’s eyes flew open. The Secretary took her reaction for pleasure.
“Yes, yes, it will be very nice. It seems that Prince Hamir had the pleasure of getting to know you at the White House reception, and found you to be very informative and interesting on a number of topics that he finds very stimulating. He has been quite desolate over not being able to reach you personally, though he says he has left many messages,” he left his sentence dangle, as if there would be a reply. Teri remained mute, angry thoughts boiling in her head.
“But then he was quite embarrassed,” the Secretary continued, “thinking that he was being too forward perhaps ”
“Indeed,” Teri interrupted firmly.
” and being ignorant of Washington Protocol, he approached me to request that I transmit his message,” the Secretary said in a perturbed tone. “So, the function is at 8:00 tonight, black tie, and his car will pick you up at 7:30,” he said with finality, signaling that he now wished to move on to his other more important tasks. He turned to his briefing book dismissively, “Until this evening Miss Brown.”
“I’m afraid I can’t make it,” Teri said. The Secretary looked up at her, as if surprised she was still there.
“I beg you pardon?” he said in disbelief.
“I am previously engaged, and furthermore, I do not wish to spend my free time with the Prince,” Teri bravely replied, although she trembled. Stimulating topics indeed! she thought.
“Miss Brown” The Secretary began with the tone of one forcing patience into his voice, with the threat of all patience being gone in a matter of minutes, “I know you are not married, affianced, or even steadily dating anyone at the moment, and I know that you are no shy debutante when it comes to being a man’s escort.” He continued as her eyes registered surprise and indignity at a reference to her personal life, “and even if you were attached in some way, I want you to be there. Surely you can cancel your ‘previous engagement’ tonight for such an important invitation. It would not do for it to be refused,” he stated flatly. Teri was shocked that he was making it quite clear that she had not only crossed the line, but had no choice either. She obviously couldn’t explain her feelings of the pompous Prince to this chauvinistic ass. And what exactly did he know about her personal life? It was a little daunting, almost embarrassing.
“Sir,” she weakly objected.
“Miss Brown,” he leaned over his desk and gazed at her intently, with a fierce General’s stare. “Just who do you think I am? This is not a ‘blind date’ that I am setting up,” he said scornfully. “Surely I do not have to spell this out to you. It is a matter of diplomacy. An important dignitary has made a request, has expressed a desire to seek the company of one of our employees, and unless you meet with a fatal accident between now and then, I expect to see you there, smiling, attentive, and ever the gracious diplomat.” His remarks were nearly a threat.
Teri was tempted to ask “and what if I’m not there, then what?” but she refrained, as she didn’t want to hear the answer. She was silent.
“You need not act as though this is a fate worse than death, Miss Brown, I dare say you should consider it highly complimentary that you are being asked… uh given this assignment, and conduct yourself as a professional, and not a fickle school girl.” Teri’s anger was indescribable, but she felt more and more threatened, like a trapped animal. “I do not have the time to prep you, but it’s simple: engage the Prince in conversation, ask his opinions of their negotiations here, listen to what he has to say, and then report back here for a debriefing on Friday. Our Oman Desk officer will be at the reception if you have any other questions.”
“Debriefing?” Teri questioned.
“Yes, you will debrief myself and the Secretary of Defense, perhaps a few others. Until tonight then, Miss Brown.” He stated in finality and turned to the phone. The conversation was officially over.
Teri stared, speechless. The Secretary of State, the number 5 man in the chain of command for the US Government, was ordering her on a date. Unbelievable.
Teri rose silently and went to the door, wanting to pull it right off of its hinges.
“Oh, and Miss Brown, take the rest of the day off. Rest a little and take time to prepare for tonight. You appear quite edgy,” the Secretary said warningly. Teri grimaced at his transparent attempt to seem like a nice guy, sucked in the scathing remark that burned in her throat, and left.
She grabbed her jacket, shoved some papers from her desk into her briefcase, and swung her purse over her shoulder.
“I’m going home, per orders of the Secretary,” she announced to Rachael, her boss, as she passed by her office.
“What happened? What was that all about?” Rachael asked. Teri closed her eyes tiredly.
“It’s no big deal Rachael, I just have to go to a reception tonight because of a huge mistake I made to show up at a diplomatic reception a few days ago for some piss-ant little country. I’ll be in tomorrow. But this isn’t annual leave,” she said pointedly. “Take it up with Mr. Secretary if there’s a problem with that. Talk to you tomorrow,” Teri shot over her shoulder as she walked out the door.

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© 2013 by MB Allyn. All rights reserved


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