And so it begins, she thought. "I got your message. What's up?"
"I can't ask my daughter out for breakfast?"
Rachel had learned long ago her father seldom requested her company unless he had some ulterior motive.
Sexton took a sip of coffee. "So, how are things with you?"
"Busy. I see your campaign's going well."
"Oh, let's not talk business." Sexton leaned across the table, lowering his voice. "How's that guy at the State Department I set you up with?"
Rachel exhaled, already fighting the urge to check her watch. "Dad, I really haven't had time to call him. And I wish you'd stop trying to---"
"You've got to make time for the important things, Rachel. Without love, everything else is meaningless."
A number of comebacks came to mind, but Rachel chose silence. Being the bigger person was not difficult when it came to her father. "Dad, you wanted to see me? You said this was important."
"It is." Her father's eyes studied her closely.
Rachel felt part of her defenses melt away under his gaze, and she cursed the man's power. The senator's eyes were his gift a gift Rachel suspected would probably carry him to the White House. On cue, his eyes would well with tears, and then, an instant later, they would clear, opening a window to an impassioned soul, extending a bond of trust to all. It's all about trust, her father always said. The Senator had lost Rachel's years ago, but he was quickly gaining the country's.
"I have a proposition for you," Senator Sexton said.
"Let me guess," Rachel replied, attempting to refortify her position. "Some prominent divorcee looking for a young wife?"
"Don't kid yourself, honey. You're not that young anymore."
Rachel felt the familiar shrinking sensation that so often accompanied meetings with her father.
"I want to throw you a life raft," he said.
"I wasn't aware I was drowning."
"You're not. The President is. You should jump ship before it's too late."
"Haven't we had this conversation?"
"Think about your future, Rachel. You can come work for me."
"I hope that's not why you asked me to breakfast."
The senator's veneer of calm broke ever so slightly. "Rachel, can't you see that your working for him reflects badly on me. And on my campaign."
Rachel sighed. She and her father had been through this. "Dad, I don't work for the President. I haven't even met the President. I work in Fairfax, for God's sake!"
"Politics is perception, Rachel. It appears you work for the President."
Rachel exhaled, trying to keep her cool. "I worked too hard to get this job, Dad. I'm not quitting."
The senator's eyes narrowed. "You know, sometimes your selfish attitude really---"
"Senator Sexton?" A reporter materialized beside the table.
Sexton's demeanor thawed instantly. Rachel groaned and took a croissant from the basket on the table.
"Ralph Sneeden," the reporter said. "Washington Post. May I ask you a few questions?"
The senator smiled, dabbing his mouth with a napkin. "My pleasure, Ralph. Just make it quick. I don't want my coffee getting cold."
The reporter laughed on cue. "Of course, sir." He pulled out a mini-recorder and turned it on. "Senator, your television ads call for legislation ensuring equal salaries for women in the workplace as well as tax cuts for new families. Can you comment on your rationale?"
"Sure. I'm simply a huge fan of strong women and strong families."
Rachel practically choked on her croissant.
"And on the subject of families," the reporter followed up, "you talk a lot about education. You've proposed some highly controversial budget cuts in an effort to allocate more funds to our nation's schools."
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