The Syndicate
by Ashblonde

Part 1

"What do you do?" he asked with interest, sipping his gin and tonic.

"I manage graphic communications for a congressional campaign," I gave my canned answer with a sticky sweet sparkle.

"Whose campaign?" he smiled, moving a step closer to me.

You're adorable, I thought to myself, and I'm about to give you information that you'll love... too bad it will ruin your chances at getting in my pants. "Congressman Davis," I stated nonchalantly.

The knowing grin on his face was unsurprising. "Nice! Davis is a great guy," he exclaimed, as if he played golf every Wednesday with the Congressman.

Freedom Party networking events were such a bore, but I couldn't help but make eyes at him. He was a great looking kid with his adorably patriotic face and fresh, chubby cheeks. He had a nice spare tire around his waist too. I thought briefly about how lovely it would be to help him add a few more inches around said waist, but I knew that wouldn't happen. I learned a long time ago not to lead on young and innocent bystanders.

Sure, I'm young too, but far from innocent. I have a naive facade: bright, perky, and blithely charming. With my button nose and bleach blond hair, I fit the preconceived notion of what it is to be an enthusiastic member of the young Freedomists. But looks are deceiving.

The reality is that only a handful of people in the world know what I actually do. But I don't like the words that get thrown around for it... "Mole" sounds so mousy and unglamorous. "Spy" sounds too pretentious. The work I do is part of an underground movement that we informally call the Syndicate. We go about our business, doing straightforward tasks for the Freedom Party. Yet in reality, we're covert agents reporting back to the other side: the Equality Party.

We feel passionately about the goals of the Equality Party and are willing to achieve them by any means necessary. Not to mention that spying is a whole lot more painless than violence and rioting. We're totally detached from the main organization and most elected officials in our Party have no idea that we even exist. Streamlined and decentralized, we never leave tracks or a paper trail. In fact, we often become part of the Syndicate without even realizing that it's happening.

As a college freshman at the University of Roxboro, as soon as I walked into my first meeting with the young Equalitarians, I was invited to a private meeting and enlisted. It was easy to get sucked in by more exciting work than cold-calling voters or stuffing envelopes. Our initial tasks were harmless fun, like surreptitious phone calls and spoofed email contact. They pulled us into unethical areas slowly and methodically until we were too far along to blow any whistles.

The truth is, I fell in love with playing pretend and got a thrill every time I successfully conned someone. Posing as a bubbly, wide-eyed young woman allows me to enjoy the sweet irony that I'm underestimated due to my looks, but using them I can affect outcomes in ways they never imagined.

I was lured further into a life of political espionage by a boy who had me wrapped around his finger. It was supposed to be Jason, the handsome, charismatic guy who led me to an alternate meeting room. He was the ladies’ man who usually pulled attractive young idealists into the fold. But it was Brian, a brilliant, baby-faced political wunderkind who truly seduced me into the sub-organization with his intellect, eloquence and soft, round body.

Brian and I had a very exciting but secret affair. Sexual undertones had been building for months between us before the opportunity came along to ignite the spark. It was a late night in January, while we were alone planning the infiltration of a mayoral campaign. There was a full-blown blizzard outside and I was going to have to stay at his place across campus from my dorm. I took my jeans and sweater off, down to my tight t-shirt and panties and stretched out on his bed. His eyes grew wide when I patted the bed and said, "Are you going to keep me warm tonight?" He came over next to me and the kissing gave way to groping and all kinds of body exploration.

I was even more thrilled when he finally stopped letting his delicious fatness keep him from making love to me with confidence and dominance. But we were careful to never let these lustful interludes be known. The Syndicate's ban on sexual relationships is totally inflexible. If a relationship soured, say a lover was cheated or spurned, it could jeopardize the whole operation.

We carried on for two years and all the while he piled on quite a bit of weight, which I loved infinitely. He sometimes joked that his weight was a good cover for our relationship because no one would think a princess like me would hook up with a fat boy like him. I fought him on that notion, but nonetheless, everyone around us seemed totally unaware.

As our relationship got deeper, he began to hold real power over me. He was my mentor and had a tendency to closely manage my life. I naively accepted it back then, but looking back I realized that he was often controlling and made me feel very reliant upon him for every decision I made.

After graduation, Brian went to work in media relations for a Senatorial campaign. It was a great opportunity for him, but it meant he had to leave our college town and go legit. It was a very difficult separation for me, because I had depended on him far too much.

By the time he landed the press secretary position with the newly elected Senator, he had seemingly disconnected himself from the Syndicate. We met for lunch nearly a year later and he had become almost thin and very conceited. Our disastrous reunion made me feel very lonely. Not only had I lost my first lover, I had lost the desire to give my heart to anyone. If someone I thought I knew so intimately could leave me feeling that disappointed, whom could I ever trust?

But putting up with Brian's condescensions and then losing him altogether may have made me tougher in the long run, and even better at what I do. Trust can't really exist in my world anyway. Given what I have become, I really don't think I even trust myself. I just seem to live day-to-day with no plan other than my current assignment. Ironically, it feels like the safest place to be.

Part 2

With Brian no longer in my life, Jason took over as my mentor and pushed me to continue with the Syndicate. After graduation, I joined the national operation for the Freedom Party candidate. It was there that that I really learned to become another person. I had to constantly manage my true feelings among my campaign peers, many of who believed outrageous and extreme things. It was a major test, but I passed it with glowing references.

Unfortunately for my real allies, it was a successful election for the Freedom candidate. But the contacts I made there got me a regular job with a congressional campaign office in need of graphic design talent. With a frequent biannual election cycle, it was a full-time position, perfect for building trust and digging deep into their strategy.

In the three years since graduation, I had fended off the attentions of many low level staffers and kept my heart off the market. There was no room in it for romance with some misguided reactionary, however fat and sexy he might be. But it was so much more tempting when a man was not only lovely to look at, but also the man in charge. And I hadn't anticipated was how attractive a politician could be.

Congressman Dan Davis was an up-and-comer for the Freedom Party based in Newport. He was held in high regard for his ability to employ impassioned rhetoric and yet still get more decisive work done. I had seen photos of him and already knew that he was plump and nice on the eyes. But once I was introduced to him in person, it was hard to deny that my crush on him was growing.

I detested the irrational positions that would come out of his mouth, but he was a very intoxicating speaker. Young for his position, he was a mere 34 in a sea of aged politicians. He had great eyes, a nice head of black wavy hair and a perfectly inviting mouth for oration. His only political liability was his expanding waistline, which he hadn't seemed to bother with. His nonchalant confidence was very exciting to me and I had to work hard to contain it.

In my first months working for the campaign, the Congressman only occasionally came to the headquarters office where I worked. It was early in the campaign cycle and he was still spending most of his time at his congressional office. But when he'd breeze through, his belly undulating in time with his quick stride, I repressed my desires and averted my eyes. I was still infiltrating the local organization, building trust and trying to stay under the radar.

As we approached the campaign onslaught, he was still expanding, little by little. But my boss, the campaign communications manager, didn't like it one bit. After the Congressman would leave, Thomas would expel his frustration to the entire room, "How the hell am I supposed to get that porker re-elected?" The room would quiet to a hush, but Thomas would continue his tirades. He was an astute political advisor and Dan seemed happy to have Thomas on his team, despite his blatant criticisms of the Congressman's increasing body mass.

My job became wonderfully ironic. As the graphic designer, one of my assignments was to edit photos of the congressman to make him appear slimmer. It was a task that I found as phony as my identity. On the other hand, I adored spending time mousing over his chubbiest parts, trying to mask the growing evidence of his indulgences.

By February the campaign was picking up a lot of momentum and Dan was spending extra time at our campaign headquarters. I had exchanged modest pleasantries with him but we had no real conversation. However, I was noticing his eyes on me more and more with each passing day.

Finally one morning, after he'd strolled past my desk with an engaging smile, his assistant walked over to me and said, "Congressman Davis would like to see you in his office." I had been pouring over a piece of campaign literature touting absurd family values propaganda and realized my smirking over the content could have been a little too revealing. Hopefully neither he, nor anyone else had noticed.

I walked nervously into his office, wondering if I'd blown my cover. Then again, I worried about that every day, so my paranoia was nothing new. "You wanted to see me?" I gave him my sweetest smile.

"Sit down, Ms. Stewart," he welcomed me with a pleased look on his face.

"Call me, Nora," I smiled and took a seat across from him behind his large desk. Nora Stewart was my Freedomist name. As soon as I took my first steps inside the enemy's world I was no longer Eleanor Gray.

"Well, you can call me Dan, but behind these doors, only, Nora. Out there I'm Congressman Davis, and you're Ms. Stewart," he set the rules with a winning smile and an adorable double chin. Thankfully he didn't give me any time to respond because I was feeling the sexual tension already mounting.

"Your boss has a great strategic mind but his management style leaves something to be desired," Dan acknowledged Thomas' boorish behavior. "So I wanted to let you and everyone on his staff know how much I appreciate the work you all do," he leaned back confidently and I could see his belly heaving over his pants.

"Thank you," I said with a cautious smile.

"And," he continued, smirking, "I especially appreciate the Photoshop work you do," he patted his belly. I was tingling all over.

"It's Thomas' suggestion," I started to say. I didn't want him to think I felt it was needed.

"I know, Thomas wishes he could get an actual 50 pounds off of me," Dan laughed.

I smiled, thinking that he was probably closer to 100 pounds away from being acceptable to Thomas. "I wouldn't worry about it," was all I could think to say.

"Why not?" asked Dan, standing up and buttoning his suit coat over his belly. I was momentarily disappointed he covered up his blue button-down shirt, which was straining to keep his flab contained.

I wasn't in a position in the campaign to advise the candidate, and it was not part of my mission either. My instructions were to remain mid-level and observe, not shift strategy. "It's not my place to say one way or the other. Thomas is your campaign manager, so he must know what's best for you."

"Aw, come on now, Nora, I know you have an opinion in there somewhere," he prodded. "I promise I won't tell Thomas a thing. Besides, a wise leader considers every angle, right?"

"I suppose," I agreed. I figured what I was going to say was more about weight issues than strategy, and I just couldn't keep my defense of his pleasing portliness inside any longer. "I just think that it's unnecessary," I shrugged.

He cocked his head, genuinely surprised. "How so? You don't think the average voter would like their elected representative to be more fit and healthy?"

"You seem pretty healthy to me," I blurted and continued, "The average voter will see you on the news, and maybe in person. They'll see how you really look, and then all of those leaflets and mailers will look false. You risk giving the impression that you're trying to hide something," I realized I was dangerously close to advising him on campaign strategy, but I didn't care. I was caught up in defending his fat form.

"Hmm..." he thought for a moment. "You know, given the hours you spend trimming my fat, this is job security," he shook his belly and I could feel my neck get warm. "You could talk yourself out of a job here," he laughed.

"I'm not worried, Congressman," I smiled and flirted, not being able to resist my urge to turn him on, "I think you might like having me around either way."

"Dan," he reminded me of his first name, as if to remind me that we were behind closed doors and our flirting was fair game.

"Dan," I smiled and crossed my longish legs, watching his eyes on them as he moved slowly across the room behind his desk.

"You know, Nora, you might be onto something. I'll talk to Thomas."

"Please don't tell him it was my idea," I pleaded, "I don't think he likes me as it is."

"Now, that I can't understand. How any man couldn't be enchanted by a beautiful, intelligent young Freedomist like yourself is beyond me," he flirted back. I should have bristled at being referred to as a young Freedomist, but I liked that I seemed to be getting under his skin.

I stood up and I saw him examining my body. I paused, looking into his eyes, imagining him putting me up on his desk, struggling with his belt under his belly, finally dropping his pants and making me feel the power of his weight. His eyes smoldered back into mine.

"It was nice talking to you Congressman," I shifted back to my professional mode, turned and slowly walked out to give him a long view of my curvy behind.

That afternoon I sent a text to Jason requesting a meeting in code, "#^#."

"Black's" he responded from one unknown phone number, and "22.5" which was 10:30pm, from another phone number.

Part 3

I pulled my hair up into a baseball hat, threw on my loose fitting jeans, baby pink hoodie and went out.

"I love it when you wear the sloppy look," Jason teased me. I grinned. He was a snake, but we were on the same team and I appreciated his experience and shrewdness. He had very good looks and had no misgivings about using them to his advantage. I always felt that he wanted to have something more with me, but it was no problem for me to remain objective because I wasn't physically attracted to his angular frame.

"So, there's a development I need some direction on," I started with a sly smile.

"Our tubby congressman has the hots for you, doesn't he?"

"Well, he hasn't made a pass at me yet," I admitted, "But he sure gives me his eyes."

"I can't say I blame him," he flirted.

I filled him in on campaign details and the politics within the campaign. The district had a Freedomist leaning electorate, but the Equalitarians had a shot if they put a strong candidate up against the Congressman. That didn't appear that would be the case this year, so I questioned Jason about it again, "Why so much effort here?"

"I know it looks like a lost cause, but in a couple of years, the Equalitarians will have a stronger candidate. Not to mention the changing demographics... Consider this valuable grassroots work on the front end. You know this is an important district that could swing under the right conditions, so hang in there."

"Fine, I am having a little fun with the Congressman anyway," I submitted.

"I can see that," Jason laughed. "I knew you'd like him."

"What made you think that?" I was suddenly curious.

"His size is perfect for you." Jason said bluntly. I must have looked confused because he continued, "Your relationship with Brian? You think that was a total secret?"

"Yeah," I admitted, there was no sense in lying anymore, "I thought we did a good job of it. Apparently not..."

"Most people didn't know, but I did," he was smug now. "I was surprised you'd go for him, but when you hooked up Big Mike, the trend was apparent. College hotties like you aren't normally throwing themselves at obese guys. It's obvious what you're into."

I was a little more than shocked and I'm pretty sure my jaw hit the table. Big Mike was a popular bartender on campus with whom I had a friends-with-benefits arrangement with, but it wasn't common knowledge. He was well known for making strong drinks but even more for his tall and round frame. When Brian left I was miserable, but Mike was so satisfyingly rotund that he made my body very happy. Still, it was obvious I had been watched more closely than I had even realized.

"Come on, Ellie," he used my nickname from college, "you think we entrust our foot soldiers with this kind of responsibility without at least knowing who you're associating with?"

"Man, Jason, I knew you kept tabs on me, but it's creepy to have it come back to me like this," I was still a little stunned.

"Don't worry, I didn't judge you for it. In fact, it made placing you in the Congressman's campaign an easy decision. You're a convincing flirt with the fat men." I could tell he was enjoying this.

"So there's a black tie fundraiser this weekend," I changed the subject nonchalantly, not wanting him to see how much he ruffled my feathers.

"Ah, your chance to mingle with the upper echelon of idiots," he laughed. "Be prepared for a night of ass grabbing by a bunch of over-privileged jerks. Dress sexy and make eyes at the Congressman. I want to see if he's open to new experiences."

That comment was his green light to further test the Congressman's morality. Jason was big on bringing down elected officials via sex scandals. However, my job was not to get into an affair with him. In fact, emotional or sexual involvement with the enemy was prohibited. I was the test bait. If a politician made a pass at one of us, that was the opening the Syndicate needed to put a professional whore in place. It was too risky to have our identities compromised, so they hired out high priced call girls for that job.

"I'll see you in a couple of weeks," he stood up and headed out the door. It was clear that Jason wanted me to start turning up the heat.

Part 4

The cab dropped me off at The Duke Society, a private club for the well-heeled and wealthy. I checked myself in the lobby mirror for lipstick on my teeth and flyaway hair but all was perfect. I took off my red satin wrap and checked it at the coatroom. It was show time.

I knew I was supposed to make the Congressman weak, so I had chosen my favorite cocktail dress for this particular night. It was a black, silk dress with a dainty design of asymmetrical fire-red posies on the upper bodice. The cut was Asian-inspired, close fitting against my chest. But the sexiest part was the open back, which revealed the toned curve of my bare neck down to my sleek waist.

I had swooped up my light curls into a playful updo and wore dangling ruby earrings to match my fire engine red lips. My legs were bare down to my black patent four-inch pumps that gave me an even sexier walk. If Dan could resist me looking like this, then he was truly a devoted husband who couldn't be tempted. I intended to find out.

Thomas was looking angry as usual, reprimanding a staffer for mixing up the place cards. I approached him and when he looked up and saw me, he was momentarily speechless. He quickly regained his composure and snapped at me, "Don't spend too much time around the Congressman looking like that," his compliment was backhanded. "We don't need the speculation."

Thomas was a jerk, but he was a smart jerk. My look was striking and would undoubtedly make tongues wag. Still, I wasn't there to make Thomas comfortable. My aspirations were more devious. I mingled in the room, working my way closer to the cluster of suits that surrounded Dan. He finally caught my eyes and looked at me like he was going to devour me.

I smiled playfully back at him and took the arm of a powerful contributor who had flirted with me while visiting the congressman's office a few weeks earlier. I struck up conversation with him, trying to seem very interested in what he had to say about a new tax incentive for reducing carbon emissions.

Predictably, Dan couldn't resist stepping in between us. "Mark!" he greeted him, "How's the golf game coming along?"

Mark seemed almost agitated by Dan's interruption. He wore no ring and was trying to charm me into a date. "I'm pretty rusty these days... spending way too much time on boneheaded ideas like carbon taxes," he hinted, smiling at me like everyone was in agreement with his righteous indignation.

"Well, I keep hammering at those lunatics in Congress that want to suffocate good companies like Inpro," Dan supported the 'big business' party platform. All I could think of was the rest of us suffocating on Inpro's pollution, but I just smiled and nodded like a good girl.

"So, tell me Congressman, how did you manage to land such a beautiful staffer?" Mark was really laying it on.

"I'm lucky to have a lot of great people working for me," Dan totally avoided giving me specific praise, but he glimpsed down at my legs like he wanted to see under my dress.

As we chatted, I glanced across the room and my eyes landed on a marvelously large man. He was talking to Thomas and looked briefly at me but looked immediately away. Yet I couldn't stop myself from studying his face and drinking in his body. He stood quite tall, and brought the dark and handsome along with him as well.

His eyes were steely and intense, set in a classically masculine face. He seethed with the good looks of a classic movie star, but he was softened by an abundance of fat blanketing his frame. His shoulders were broad and strong, and his middle barreled out even farther to a wide body, which was covered by the navy pinstripe suit he wore.

Some men have a powerful presence and he was no exception. Not powerful in the way Dan was, but more intimidating and distant. I knew right away I couldn't approach him like I could other men, but I felt compelled to try. As I gazed in his direction, plotting a way to get closer to him, Dan looked in the same direction, saw the same man, and interjected, "You'll have to excuse me, I have a meeting."

Dan ambled quickly across the room to talk to Thomas and this Mr. BigSexy, and I watched as they both seemed to be vying for his good graces. I figured he was very wealthy or very well connected. Either way, he was probably someone I could never get too involved with. I sighed, wishing he'd look in my direction, but he stayed focused on the conversation he was having with my bosses.

They finished their discussion with Thomas leading the Congressman toward the main ballroom for the dinner. Mr. BigSexy headed out toward the coatroom near the empty registration table where I was starting to clean up. My heart jumped as I watched him walk straight ahead, his fat swaying him just a bit, avoiding eye contact with me. I was desperate to get his attention but he remained aloof.

"Leaving so soon?" I smiled toward him as he brushed past me.

"I'm not a contributor," he seemed impatient, barely glancing at me.

"I'm Nora Stewart, I work for the Congressman," I offered my hand, hoping he'd stop and open up a little.

"That's nice for you Ms. Stewart, but I'm late for another meeting," he continued walking without extending his hand.

He was still close enough for me to try, so I gave it one last chance and stepped in front of his path so he had to look at me, "It was nice to meet you, Mr.?"

He paused, and for a split second, he looked into my eyes like he was going to say something more, but then just scowled, "You'll find out soon enough." And with that he walked out. I gazed longingly at his wide backside as he hailed a cab, squeezed his body into the backseat and rode off into the night.

I was stunned. I had really tried to lay on some charm and sweetness but he saw right past me. Most men in the world of big business and politics adore the attentions of an attractive young woman, and the fat ones were rarely an exception. But Mr. BigSexy didn't think me any more interesting than the carpet he walked on or the door he just opened and closed.

I returned into the ballroom and did my job, handling the contributors with sparkling conversation and polite flirtations. I maintained surreptitious glances and inviting looks at Dan throughout the evening and could see he was falling into my web. But all the while I kept thinking about Mr. BigSexy and his cool rebuff.

Part 5

The following week I was back in the office. With the election cycle in full swing, we were all working longer hours. It was fine by me; I didn't have anything else on my agenda besides accumulating information and turning on Dan.

I was meeting with another staffer to review literature from a rival candidate when Dan's campaign assistant came over to me, "The Congressman would like to see you. It will be short, he has a 1:30 meeting."

I checked my watch; it was 1:10pm. At least I'd get a few minutes to flirt with him. I knocked and he called to me, "Come on in, Ms. Stewart."

I opened the door and saw a mostly eaten salad on his desk. I guessed that he wanted to look like he was trying to watch his weight, but I knew he ordered his salads with breaded chicken, cheeses and rich, creamy dressings. He wasn't going to lose much weight on that diet, which made me quite happy.

He was looking at his computer screen and then looked up at me. "Have a seat," he smiled while I closed the door. "Thanks for your help at the fundraiser the other night. Everything went off without a hitch."

"I do my best," I tried to be modest.

He smiled, "Your best is pretty damn fine. That dress you wore... I had a lot of contributors asking me about you."

I smiled back, "How do you mean?"

"Well, let's just say that you could name your job working for one of many powerful men in this city," he explained, leaning forward. It may have been my salacious imagination, but his belly seemed to dip down a bit more than the week before.

"So that's all it takes? A tight dress? Pretty hair?" I challenged him.

"No, but with your talents, it sure can't hurt. Now, don't get me wrong, some people find success without the right look," he patted his sizeable, soft abdomen.

"I like that look," it was time for me to get bold. "I'd vote for you based on appearances alone." Lord knows I wouldn't vote for him based on his views, but it was nice to praise his chubby body.

"The fat candidate?" He looked surprised.

"Absolutely," I wasn't holding back any more. "You fill your big shoes well," I smiled.

He stood up, came over and sat down in the chair next to me. His belly poured out over his lap again. I kept my eyes on his face, but his big, wonderful body was so close to me that I started to feel flushed.

"You're an interesting woman, Nora, but very confusing," he admitted.

I licked my lips, rested my elbow on his desk and leaned in toward him, "What's to be confused about?" My flirtatious body language was obvious.

"Why do you look at me the way you do," He murmured, as I continued to pull his eyes into mine.

This was my opportunity, so I leaned in farther and kissed him. It was a short-lived moment of bliss. He turned red, stood up abruptly and took a few steps away. Had I made my move too quickly? "Sorry, Congressman, that was out of line, I just couldn't help myself," I retreated with demure eyes.

"No, Ms. Stewart," he turned back to look at me. "It's just... it's hard to keep my mind off... you're so attractive..." he stumbled over his words. I had never seen him so flustered. My power over him was surging.

"Dan," I walked over to him, touched his arm and put my other hand on his love handle, "don't be worried, I'm not saying anything to anyone about this." I kissed him again, pressing my body into his softness. He kissed me back this time, letting me caress his flabby side.

I checked my watch. It was just shy of 1:30. "You have a meeting," I stepped away and walked toward the door. As I opened it, his assistant was on the other side of the door, with Mr. BigSexy standing right next to her. My jaw dropped.

"Ms. Stewart, this is Grant Winters, our new Communications Director," Dan introduced my new boss matter-of-factly.

I must have looked shocked because he then elaborated, "Thomas will take over Media Relations, still working directly for me." That was an odd arrangement, but my guess was that Thomas threatened to walk if he was demoted.

"Welcome, Mr. Winters," I extended my hand with an open smile. His good looks continued to mesmerize me. He wore a gray blazer with a surprisingly hip blue-gray argyle vest over a white button down shirt. To my delight, his full softness forced the white shirt to peak out the bottom of his perfectly shaped belly, looming over his chinos. I was tingling all over imagining how he looked underneath his sexy clothes.

"Nice to meet you," he offered with a firm handshake, but no emotion.

I thought about reminding him that I tried to meet him at the fundraiser, but that seemed like something I didn't want Dan to know about. I needed to build more trust with the Congressman that I only had eyes for him. But deep down my eyes were bigger for Grant. Sure, Dan was hot, yet I had easily attracted him. Grant was hot, distant, mysterious and fatter. Mystery was my emotional Achilles heel, and fatter drove me wild.

"Grant will hold a meeting later today for his staff," Dan explained.

"Great," I smiled, "See you then," I reverted to my perky facade. I went back to my desk, excited but confused and concerned. I needed to know more about Grant. I texted Jason right away and coded it urgent.

The meeting with Grant included the creative staff: two copywriters, the advertising manager and me. I could see that the others were intimidated by his brusque style, but I wasn't. I wanted to believe that that deep down inside of his well-built walls, he was a chubby pussycat and I just needed to figure out how to coax him out.

He kept the meeting short and didn't say much. At least, I didn't learn anything more about him. He still barely acknowledged my existence. I had my work cut out for me if I was going to get my arms around his body for some kind of sexy tryst. In the meantime, I planned to take a perverse thrill in watching him waddle around the office.

After the meeting, I hit the gym for kickboxing and spin class, and then went to meet Jason. We had agreed to meet at a different place than the last time. With a change in leadership in the campaign, I didn't want there to be any suspicious patterns in my behavior.

"So it's jock night?" Jason loved to point out my wardrobe changes.

"I went to the gym," I informed him, "which I'm sure you already knew."

"You're not under surveillance around the clock or anything, don't be so paranoid," he scoffed.

"Paranoia is survival," I countered. "Speaking of which, should I be paranoid about my new boss?"

"New boss?" he was actually confused. It was rare that Jason didn't know what was going on before I did. I gave him everything I had on Grant, which wasn't much. He hated being caught off guard, even more than I did. "Describe him," Jason demanded in a concerned tone.

"He's pretty tall, about 6'3" I'd say... dark hair, probably in his early 30s... good looking..."

"How do you mean good looking? Like pretty boy or tough guy?" He asked unexpectedly.

I was a little surprised he cared about that. Perhaps he was being a little jealous? "Definitely tough guy; he's very aloof. I'm not sure how to handle him yet," I admitted.

"Anything else about him that stands out?" Jason wouldn't relent and I couldn't hold back from the most obvious attribute that described his appearance.

"He's big," I whispered self-consciously, considering his teasing about my fixation on fat men the last time we met.

"Like he could demolish a rugby team?"

"No, like he could demolish a buffet table." It was a lame joke, but I couldn't help myself. After all, he was obviously very well fed, and I had been having fantasies about his appetite for days

"Oh, how nice for you," a knowing smile spread across his face, "like the Congressman?"

"Bigger," I divulged honestly.

"This is getting good," he was having fun with it.

"Don't get too cute, Jason. This guy seems like a shark. I'd take him very seriously or he'll eat us alive."

"Sounds like he already ate a few others," he was really amusing himself. I felt worse for starting the fat jokes.

"Jason, for a smart guy, you sometimes surprise me. All I'm saying is, do not underestimate him because he's heavy. He makes me nervous so you should get your intelligence on this guy soon."

"Fine, done. I'll get back to you," he winked at me, stood up and left.

Part 6

A few uneventful days passed before I had to run to the printer to pick out some invitation stationary for another fund-raiser. Since I was going out, Thomas asked me to drop off some paperwork at Dan's congressional office, which gave me a chance to snoop at its contents. The envelope didn't contain any earth shattering news, but it allowed me the opportunity for a few minutes alone with him away from the lurking eyes at campaign headquarters.

I walked in and closed the door. "How are you today?" I asked him sweetly, slinking toward his side of the desk.

He stood and embraced me, his big abdomen pressed into my midriff, "Hey gorgeous," he spoke softly.

I kissed him, "This made my day," I admitted and traced my hands around his generous waist. I wasn't lying. I loved getting close to him.

"So," he stepped back, "what do you think of your new boss?"

"He seems very smart," I didn't know what else to say. My feelings about Grant were so mixed up.

"I think he makes me look thinner," Dan laughed.

"Is that why you hired him? Because I could just keep Photoshopping you," I poked his belly playfully. As much as I wanted to get lost in playing with his belly, I needed to find out more about Grant. "Really, I don't know anything about him... what's his resume like?" I stroked my fingers along his fleshy arm. It was nice to use my feminine wiles for getting information as well as making him hard.

"Honestly, I don't know much myself. He's not big on talking about himself. But he comes highly recommended from one of the state bosses, so I'm happy to have him on board." Dan was thriving politically at a fairly young age because he towed the party line. If the higher ups sent him someone, he was going to make it work. "I know he was successful in a congressional campaign out west. They tell me he's diabolical."

"Hmmm, sounds interesting. I'm looking forward to his wisdom then," I was compelled to be satisfied with that information for now. So Grant remained very mysterious... damn him.

I gave him one more kiss and teased him more, "This is incredibly wrong. Your campaign office is one thing, but I really need to get out of here. Think of the poor tax payers," and with a sly wink I brushed my hand along his soft behind.

"You make me absolutely crazy," he grinned. "When can I see you away from the office?" He was moving closer to the dark side.

"I'll think about that," I responded. I wasn't sure just exactly how far I was going to let our affair go, or how long I could sustain a flirtation without giving him more, but there was a strong part of me that really wanted to see him naked.

The following week Grant called individual meetings with each of us. I wanted to get office-sexy for our meeting so I wore an electric blue silk blouse with a herringbone pencil skirt and my favorite knee-high black boots.

I waltzed casually into the conference room. Grant was already there, standing over several tri-folds and mailers I had designed, spread out on the table.

He wore a well-fitting navy suit matched with a maroon tie. His white button down shirt billowed out a bit to allow his padding to hang over his pants without too much restriction. His tie was just right, the way it came up a bit short against his surging belly. I absolutely squirmed watching him reach down and pick up one of the recent pieces I had worked on.

"Your work is pretty good," he spoke without much emotion, barely glancing at me.

"Thanks," I smiled and sat down.

"This won’t be long, Ms. Stewart," he continued, as if to imply that I shouldn't take the time to sit.

"Nora, please," I requested he use my first name.

"I'm especially impressed with this one," he ignored me and pushed another pamphlet over. It showed the Congressman, almost svelte, speaking to a group of veterans. I had done a lot of touching up on that piece.

 "Well, we've scaled back a lot of the retouching lately," I started to explain.

"Yeah, I noticed," he slapped down a recent mailer that showed the Congressman at his fullest. My guess was that Dan was inching up toward the pleasingly high 200s. I couldn't tell if Grant was annoyed with the edits or lack thereof.

"I suggested to the Congressman that perhaps the excessive editing was a little dishonest," I offered up.

"You think?" He seemed more perturbed.

"Actually, yes, I think," I became direct. I didn't have to let him push me around verbally. Besides, I knew I was good.

"So do I," he softened to my boldness. At least I knew I could get a little assertive with him. "Besides," he continued, slipping his hand in his pant pocket, further revealing the bulky curve of his blubbery midsection, "I'm here to make him look slimmer." And with that dry comment he looked up at me to see my reaction.

I wasn't going to shy away from it. "Funny, the Congressman told me the same thing," I smiled, glancing over his big body.

He didn't respond, just gathered up the folders and paperwork on the desk. "Thank you for your time, Ms. Stewart."

"It was no problem, really, I hardly gave you any time at all," I smirked. "Is there anything else? I mean, do you want to discuss your vision for the campaign? What you'd like me to focus on?"

"My vision is to win, and I'd like you to focus on that... pretty simple," he stated frostily.

"Sounds like a plan," I muttered. I was even less impressed with his managerial skills than Thomas' but who cared? I would just enjoy the view while he was around and keep Jason informed about my mischievous relationship with Dan.

I left Grant's office and grabbed my mail on the way back to my desk. A plain, square envelope dropped out onto the floor in front of me. I picked it up, opened it and found a map printout showing all of the motels a few miles away from our office. Instinctively, I looked up toward Dan's office and saw him looking at me from his doorway across the room with a greedy look on his face.

While he continued to watch me, I wrote, "too obvious," across the page, sealed it back up and placed it in his mailbox. I glanced back at him and winked with a smile. He was going to be hard to resist. I was now officially his prey and he wasn't the kind of man to back down from a challenge.

Part 7

The following morning, I found another square envelope, this time with a web page print out from the Grand Eastern, a posh downtown hotel. A note in Dan's handwriting was scrawled across it, "Today, 3pm. Tell the front desk you're opening a meeting room for Senator Harmon and they'll give you a key." I stuffed the note in my purse and made an entry in my calendar. This was my opportunity to find out one way or the other whether the Congressman was the cheating kind.

Hours passed like days while I waited until 2:45 to leave for the hotel. Checking myself in the mirror in the ladies room, I decided that I looked like a politician's wife with a headband in my hair, my soft pink and black belted sheath dress and matching pink pumps. At the same time, I was pretty sure that Dan didn't care what I wore as long as it ended up on the floor.

I did as instructed and was given a key to a meeting room on the third floor. I constantly surveyed my surroundings to make sure no one was following me. I unlocked the door, turned the knob, and peeked into the room. It was empty, so I set my bag down, smoothed my dress and waited. My heart was pounding with anticipation.

After a minute or two, there was a knock and Dan peeked in, "You're on time," he smiled, walking in and closing the door.

"I try," I was nervous but I couldn't let it show. I still wasn't sure how I was going to play this.

"Is this awkward for you?" he asked, surprisingly apprehensive himself.

"It's weird, I guess. I've never done anything like this before," I played the innocent, knowing he'd eat it up. It was partially accurate though; this was the first time I had blatantly seduced an elected official. My previous experience involved beguiling campaign insiders to get information. I'd never gone this far with a man of his stature.

"Neither have I," he seemed relieved. I figured that actually might be true. He was very convincing and didn't have a good poker face around me. But he definitely had premeditated this liaison.

He walked over to me and stood close enough to kiss me. I ran my fingers along the length of his tie until I reached his protruding tummy and brushed my hands along the broadness of it. I adored the way a cotton dress shirt felt when pulled nice and taut against plenty of luscious blubber.

He attempted to suck in his gut, "You really seem to have a thing for my belly."

"You're observant," I leaned into kiss him. His exhale forced his flab right back into my hands.

"Seriously?" He questioned me while I brushed my lips along his.

"Mmmm hmmm," I confirmed with my hands now cuddling his love handles.

"It's not the power thing you like?" He pressed into me.

"Naw, men in power are a dime a dozen. I only fall for big handsome men who have a nice round shape," I wobbled his belly a bit. At least I could be honest about something.

Dan pulled me close and kissed me harder. It felt good. Everything else aside, the deception, the undercover hassles, I was truly enjoying this encounter in the moments that I could. He put his hands under my dress and pulled it up to reveal my panties.

"You are a naughty boy, Dan," I teased him, unbuttoning his shirt. This wasn't going to go all the way, but at least I was going to see as much of his bare body as I could.

He continued to feel my legs, moving his hands inside my thighs. I wanted so much to get lost in my own sexual gratification, but I knew at some point soon I'd have to put a stop to his advances. I couldn't break the Syndicate rules this time; the stakes were too high.

Just a little longer, I thought to myself, as I opened up his pinstriped button down shirt to his undershirt and untucked it quickly. His belly bounced out and I relished the sensation of his soft skin, jiggling against my fingertips.

You're an incredible woman," he whispered.

"You're an incredible man," I responded. It wasn't creative, but it fed his hungry ego. We kissed for several minutes, enjoying the mutual attraction. His hands ran along my breasts and waist. My hands wandered his flabby torso in search of his budding rolls.

Then he put his fingers inside my panties to pull them down. If I let him go any farther down there I wouldn't have the strength to stop myself. I was already way too turned on.

"Wait," I pulled away, "Dan, this is wrong..."

He looked at me with surprise and agitation.

"You have too much to lose," I tried to soften the blow, "You've built up a great career already and your family..." I trailed off. I actually felt bad about that. His wife was a cold fish, but I imagined the picture of his two little girls in his office and that did bother me.

I could see that he was getting angry. It was a terrible thing to do, get him so excited and then shut him down, just as he was getting to the really good part. He didn't say anything for a few moments.

"I'm sorry. You have to believe me, I would really love to have this happen, but I think about your little girls, Emma and Gracie..." I said their names out loud, just to get him thinking straight.

"You're right," he stared at me coldly, buttoning his shirt up and tucking it in. I took a guilty pleasure in watching him struggle to get his pants buttoned around his belly and adjust his weight over his belt.

"I hope this won't affect our professional relationship, Dan," I tried to smooth things over, "I really like working for you."

He looked flustered, like he didn't want to discuss it, but then words poured out, "Honestly, I can't do a thing about it either way. I can't fire you, and I don't really want to; you're a talented young woman. But it's going to be hard to work around you," he bitterly spoke and walked out.

Tears welled up in my eyes. I felt honest remorse, which was not something I was used to feeling. I had led him on. He was so obviously in need of a woman's sexual attention and I just took that pleasurable hope away from him. Not to mention that I had my own pent up desires that were begging to be released.

I had done my job, though. Dan was open to new experiences... the kind of experiences that could bring the opposition a public relations nightmare, which was my ultimate goal. Now I had to report back to Jason. I didn't feel guilty about that. Whatever the Congressman did with another woman was his responsibility, not mine.

And of course, Jason salivated over the dirty details. He was going to give it a couple of weeks before sending in a hired girl to compromise his morality, and get there in a way that I would not be connected to.

I also told Jason that I didn't want to leave the campaign yet. I actually liked the regular routine and I was continuing to learn more about Freedomist strategy and the chain of command. But more than that, my unrequited crush on Grant left me bewildered and I still wanted to crack his code.

Jason relented and left me in place. My mission was now to continue digging up information about the campaign, party and whatever I could find on Grant.

Part 8

Dan started spending more time on the road making appearances around the region, and far less time in the office. He would smile and say hello in passing, but things had obviously changed between us. He was also eating lighter and had a regular routine at the gym now. Thomas was thrilled that the Congressman had embarked on a new effort to lose weight, but I sulked as I watched the pounds slowly melt off.

Fortunately, pounds were not melting off of Grant. He was as plump and handsome as ever. I continued to try to exchange niceties with him but he was usually either too busy or grumpy to acknowledge me. I was starting to give up hope that he'd ever even talk to me like I was a human being, much less let me get close to him.

Nonetheless, it was a daily treat to admire his delicious shape, studying how he filled out his attire and fantasizing about what he might look like stripped of said attire. I imagined cornering him in his office, unbuttoning his lowest buttons, slipping my fingers into his shirt and whispering things into his ear about how round and sexy he had become. A big man like you should be worshipped, I thought to myself as my imaginary fantasies played out.

One hot summer day, I was working on a tax issue mailer and Grant called me into his office. It was only the third time in the three months since he'd been hired that he'd called me in. He wanted to discuss what the copywriters had done to one of my recent flyers. "I heard that you're a better writer than the people we actually pay to write."

My heart leapt a little. It was nice to finally hear him acknowledge something positive about me. "Who's been spreading rumors?" I smiled, but seriously wondered. That old paranoia...

He ignored my question and continued, "I think this is a little awkward," he pointed at one of the paragraphs about tax incentives as I studied his strong face. He was so nice looking, even when his body was hiding behind his desk.

His hands were big and thick too. I got lost in thinking about what he might do to me with those fingers inside my thighs... "Ms. Stewart, are you here with me?"

"Yep, of course, let me rework that and get back to you," I got back on track.

I glanced up behind his desk and noticed that he had a framed poster print of a nineteenth century painting I loved. Liberty Leading the People, I pointed at it, acknowledging the piece.

He pushed back his chair and looked the same direction, giving me a wonderful opportunity to check out his broad, blubbery belly resting casually in his lap. He looked back at me, slightly surprised, "You know Delacroix?"

"Yeah, that's one of my favorites," I sighed. "I went to Paris last year and saw it. The colors are really amazing in person." It was a bold poster to have up in one's office, considering a woman's breast is revealed in the painting. "Plus, her rack is hot," I joked, smiling at him with a wink.

He finally chuckled, "Modesty is not her strong suit."

I giggled, relieved that he actually had a sense of humor buried under his frosty exterior. "Seriously, though, it's very daring that you'd put that up here. I think people have forgotten what freedom really means," I risked making political conversation with him. "People have lost their ability to think," I stopped myself from any further proselytizing, realizing I was slipping into rhetoric reserved for Equalitarians.

"I totally agree, Ms. Stewart," he nodded and his eyes relaxed a little from their usually hardened position.

"Nora," I reminded him again with a smile.

"Nora," he conceded, smiling back.

I lost myself in his eyes for a moment and then snapped back, "Okay, Mr. Winters, I'm on this," I patted the leaflet he had handed to me.

I walked out feeling really good. I had connected with him for a moment in an almost honest way. I so much missed that sense of realness with another person. But it tore at my heart a little to know that I wasn't allowed to be real with Grant, however fleeting that flash of honesty was.

He was pleased with my written work and continued to give me additional projects, including reviewing letters, press releases and even speeches. We started spending more time together in his office too, which I loved. He was usually all business, but I think he appreciated my occasional comedy to lighten things up. Still, he remained mysterious, never revealing much about himself or his past. He would direct the conversation back to work every time I tried to pry.

Jason was frustrated with the lack of information on Grant as well. He was frustrated about everything related to this campaign. Apparently, his plan to catch the Congressman in a compromising situation had not been a success yet. The first girl he sent in couldn't get Dan to take notice. Posing as a member of the press, she was supposed to get him alone for some fun, but he didn't take the bait.

Then Jason upped the ante. He sent a high society call girl from the Ukraine to flirt with the Congressman, acting as a foreign exchange student studying comparative political systems. Her striking good looks easily got her into the right doors, but so far he still hadn't responded to her overtures in the slightest.

"Something has got to give, Ellie," Jason warned me, "You need to come up with some new dirt for us or we're going to have to look at putting you into a more viable situation for letting your talents shine."

"Just let me see this one through," I urged him, "I have so much time and trust vested, it would be too hard for someone else to start over now."

"Just keep on that Winters dude," he instructed me. "Something about that guy is way too unknown."

I would love to get on that Winters dude, I mused to myself, realizing that Grant was the only bright spot in my sinking career. So I focused my energy on making him happy and looking for some kind of breakthrough.

One Saturday evening in August, I was working late, but everyone else was gone. Grant peered out from his office, "You're still here?"

"Yep," I smiled without explanation.

"Oh," he looked around the office. I admired his face; he was so damn handsome. "Where's everyone else?" he asked. My eyes drifted down along his body, further studying his voluminous profile.  My stomach felt woozy with desire.

"I guess it's Linda's birthday so they're celebrating at Jonie's," I informed him with indifference in my voice, attempting to mask my anxious feelings. Jonie's was the bar around the corner and Linda was one of the event managers who dabbled in copywriting.

"We weren't invited?" He smiled, crossing his arms across his broad chest.

"I was," I slipped before I could think.

"I guess I shouldn't be surprised I wasn't," he smirked, "I'm not high on her list." It was true; Grant was tough on her. He was tough on everyone, though. At least he acknowledged it.

"I don't think she likes me either," I admitted. "You've been giving me a lot of the writing she'd like to do." Linda had more passion than talent. I found it amusing that she actually believed in the propaganda we were putting out there, yet I was better at writing it.

"I think she's jealous of more than that," he shared. I wasn't used to him sharing anything.

"What?" I was caught a little off guard.

"From what I hear, she thinks you've used your looks to get special treatment from the Congressman," he spilled.

"Really," my wheels turned. I was annoyed that I was unaware the whole office had discussed Dan's attraction to me. I was also surprised to hear Grant indulge in office gossip.

"Nora," he rarely used my first name, even when we worked alone in his office, "You're a smart woman, don't play dumb. You get treated well by every male in this office."

"Not you," I blurted as I felt my frustration with his cold distance boil over a little.

By the way incredulous look on his face, I could tell he didn't expect me to say that. "Are you really so insecure that you need me to fawn over you too?" He responded defensively.

I was rather stunned by how blunt he was, and how wrong he had me. "That's comical," I scoffed. "Especially when you're the only one around here whose opinion I actually care about." Just then I realized that I had been way too honest. And I knew that kind of honesty could jeopardize my assignment. I grabbed my laptop and bolted out the door.

I took Sunday off and tried to forget the uncomfortable exchange that went down with Grant the night before. There was no denying it had left me a little unsettled. Not only did I slip in revealing some feelings for him, it was obvious I had further cemented his opinion that I'm a self-centered airhead who's desperate for approval.

Nothing could have been further from the truth, though. I didn't think I needed anyone's love or acceptance. Nobody knew the real me anyway, so anyone who might love me was in love with someone else. I had always been fine with that. But it didn't stop Grant's words from ringing in my head... Are you really so insecure?

Part 9

"Mr. Winters is traveling for a few days, he'll be back next week," I was told by our intern assistant. I felt an odd mix of relief and disappointment. I wasn't sure if he would treat me differently after our weird exchange a few nights earlier, or if he would pretend like nothing ever happened; but that didn't stop me from missing his heavyweight handsomeness around the office.

I obsessed all week about Grant and it caught up with me. I was going to miss a deadline if I didn't finish the mailer that was due to the printer the next day. I went in on Sunday when I knew it would be quiet and I could just focus.

I walked in, saw Grant's office door open and panicked. Before I could turn around and shoot back out the door, he poked his head out, "Oh, hello Ms. Stewart," he seemed unruffled, dressed like it was any other work day, clean and fresh shaven in his coat and tie.

I, on the other hand, was au naturale with my hair pulled into a tousled ponytail, no makeup, and wearing my lavender spandex yoga top and pant set. I had hoped to stop by the gym on the way home, so I figured it would be a hassle to get made up and dressed for work. Now I wanted to kick myself for forgetting that Grant was a workaholic every day of the week.

"Um, hi," was all I managed to eke out in response. I promptly dropped my newspaper on the ground and nearly dropped my coffee too.

He stood against his doorway with his arms crossed and an amused grin on his face, "You're casual today."

"I didn't expect to find anyone else here this morning," I admitted, picking up the paper self-consciously.

"Huh," he noticed the paper I was reading, "The Citizen?"

"Just keeping tabs on the enemy," I deflected his curiosity. The Citizen was an apologist rag for the Equalitarians, but its slant was right up my alley.

"Good thinking, Ms. Stewart," and with that he went back into his office.

I fired up my laptop and dug into the project I needed to finish. I didn't like the grammar, so I figured I'd better run it past Grant. I was still a little self-conscious about my body revealing attire, but I was always happy for the opportunity to talk to him in his office.

I knocked at his door. "Come in," he called out.

I leaned in, "Sorry to bug you, but I wanted your opinion on this," I pointed to the text. He had his suit coat off so I could observe his bulk resting fully around him in his chair. He really had a sexy shape with his nice balance of broadness and soft flab.

"Yeah, I agree that's not right," he scribbled some ideas down and handed them to me. He was brilliant; there was no doubt about it.

"That was fast," I gushed, "I guess I can see why you're in charge of communications."

"Can I get your opinion now?" He ignored my praise, stood up and walked over to a map of the district on a corkboard mounted on the wall. Watching his body move never got old for me.

"Sure," I smiled, "although I don't know if I'm really a strategy girl," I played dumb. I figured I probably knew more about the district than he did, considering my exposure to both parties' research.

"We're working on quantifying the 'hot button' issues by region so the Congressman's speeches are more targeted. We've done the polls and focus groups, but I need a reality check on the data at this point... you know, anecdotal insight."

"My anecdotal insight?" I was momentarily surprised and flattered. That didn't seem like an angle that Freedomists used in their strategy anyway; they were always stats oriented. Grant was obviously not as dogmatic as I had assumed.

He handed me color coded pins to place where I thought certain issues were most important to voters by region, wanting to compare it with his quantified research. I placed them logically according to obvious demographic trends, skewed to Freedomist ideology, to cover my tracks.

He walked back over and stood next to me, eying my work. I glanced along him sideways and got a full view of his belly hang. I shivered with desire thinking about gently cupping and massaging his softness. Reaching up and placing more pins, I realized he was getting his own show. My top was cut a little short so when I raised my arms my own bare waist was in full view. I imagined his big hands on my body, hoping that he liked what he saw.

When I was done, he grabbed his own pins and placed them according to his data. Most of our pins lined up, but there were a few key places they didn't and he began to press me, "Why on earth would you think that the 8th Ward would care about immigration?"

"There's a growing population from Goorland there," I reasoned. There wasn't anything new about that trend, both sides knew the changing demographics on the lower east side of town.

"I really don't think they're a factor here," he argued, his tone getting arrogant.

"Seriously?" I questioned him.

"The data doesn't suggest they're a significant voting bloc," he continued. "Really Ms. Stewart, I thought you were more up on this district," he mocked me.

I got angry, "You can go ahead and do whatever you want, but you're lost in myopia if you believe there's nothing transitional going on in the 8th," I let my emotions get to me. I was supposed to be a dumb follower but Grant had me off my game and riled me up. "And would you call me Nora for crying out loud?"

He looked at me, sort of stunned that I would take the boss to task like that. Then he smiled and softened, "You're feistier than you lead on."

Damn he's cute when he smiles, I thought. "I'm sorry Mr. Winters, it's just been a tough week," I tried to revert back to my nice-girl character. I went to hand him the rest of the pushpins when they dropped all over the floor.

"Ugh, I'm a klutz, sometimes," I was quick to get down on the floor to pick them up. He surprised me by getting down on his knees and helping. I noticed that his size didn't make it easy for him so I tried to stop him, "Just let me get them."

"I realize I'm a big guy, but I can handle bending over," he snapped back sarcastically.

"I didn't mean you couldn't, I just..." I was speechless. I hated the idea that he would think I didn't respect his amazing body.

We didn't say anything then for a few moments. I found myself moving closer to where he was on the floor. He glanced at me, looked down and then looked back up. I caught his gaze, leaned into his space and kissed him on the lips. I felt pure electricity through my body when he started to kiss back, but almost immediately he pulled away and heaved himself up on his feet.

I looked up at him, but he didn't look at me. He glanced at his watch, "I have a lunch meeting, I have to go. He walked over to grab his briefcase. I stood up, feeling like an idiot. He had just totally rejected me and I felt mortified. Without saying anything, I walked out of his office, grabbed my bag and left.

Fighting back tears, I headed over to the gym and kicked the crap out of the heavy bag. After a couple of hours I was exhausted, but I knew I had to finish my project. I went back to the office, grinded out the draft and slipped it under Grant's door for final approval.

When I came back to the office on Monday, I found his note on it with an "okay" of approval. I felt emptier than ever. After the move I made on him and his awkward departure, that one scribble of his handwriting seemed to sum up his regard for me: just "okay."

Grant was out for a couple of more days, and all I heard was he was at a "high level party meeting," nothing more. I started to experience a general malaise that I hadn't ever felt before. My work seemed pointless and like it going nowhere and Grant clearly wasn't interested in me. Finally, I texted Jason to meet; I wanted out of this campaign.

Part 10

While Jason was supposed to be working on finding me something new, I caught a nasty flu bug and stayed in bed for a few days. I didn't care, though. Between the futility of trying to thwart an imminently successful campaign and having to accept Grant's rejection, I was fine just letting the world move on without me.

But I didn't expect the shock I got when I returned to the office the following week. Grant had been hired away from the Davis campaign to manage the operation of a high-profile Independent candidate running for Senator. Immediately, I researched his new campaign and found out the headquarters was a good 45-minute train ride away in Brighton. Part of me wanted to jump on that train right away and track him down, but then I remembered his general disregard for me and couldn't bear another letdown.

It was late September and the primaries were over. The Congressman was all but re-elected and now saving his war chest for the next campaign. There was very little work left for me to do, so in addition to my gloominess over Grant, I was bored at work. I had to get out on my terms and I told Jason that I was going to give my notice.

"It's no longer a good time to try and slip into a new job," he advised me. He was right. Anyone who joined a campaign a month or two before an election was always viewed with suspicion and never given any kind of access.

"Then I'm just going to take some time off, you know? Get a legit job waitressing or something like that," I told him as assertively as I could. It was a little scary out there without backup though; I wasn't sure how to be myself in an honest job.

"Okay Ellie, just keep in touch. In the meantime, I'll work on finding you something in the next cycle." He seemed surprisingly fine with my decision, but I think he sensed I was burned out and that he would lose me forever if he pressed me. Burnout wasn't uncommon in our risky business.

I knew I needed to deliver my resignation in person and not burn bridges. However, with Grant gone, I no longer had a boss. I decided to go and see Dan directly at his congressional office. I didn't have an appointment and his assistant coldly snubbed me. I handed her my letter of resignation to give to Dan and walked out. Within ten minutes, my cell phone rang.

"Nora, please turn around and come back here. Let's talk about this," Dan's voice was on the other end.

"Your assistant didn't think I was important enough to see you," I taunted him.

"She was just doing her job," he reasoned. "Besides, she's been trying to protect me from all of the admirers I have. You wouldn't believe it lately," I could hear his voice beaming through the phone.

I turned around and trudged back up the long cascade of steps to his office. I could leap up those steps like a gazelle with my running shoes on, but I hated doing them in my Gucci peep toe pumps. They were sexy, but they were not meant for government buildings. I painfully made it back up to his office. At least I got to smile triumphantly at his assistant while he greeted me in.

"I want to thank you," Dan sat down and folded his hands across his tummy, drawing my attention to his recent reduction. I couldn't tell whether he was showing off his weight loss or hiding it from me.

"For?" I raised my eyebrow skeptically. He hadn't spoken more than a sentence or two to me since our ill-fated liaison at the Grand Eastern.

"For getting me back on track," he looked at me intently.

"Oh," was all that came out of my mouth. At first I didn't know quite what he meant, but he had changed. The visual evidence was apparently only part of the story.

"You forced me to realize what was important to me," he continued with a smile of satisfaction.

"And what was that?" I asked, wishing he would stop being smug and say what he really meant.

"My family, my career, my health," he enumerated, like he had been coached on talking points.

"I'm not sure how I did that for you," I acted uncertain, but I figured out where he was going.

"Absolutely, Nora," he leaned forward, "you reminded me how important those things are. I realized how close I had been to losing it all just for a roll in the hay with you."

"It would have been nice," I grinned, keeping it light. I was being honest though. There was no more need for me to flirt with him, but the bigger version of the Congressman with his thick hands on my bare behind was still a lovely memory.

"Don't you start that now," he smiled but took a serious tone, "It took a few weeks for my anger at you to wear off."

"I'm not starting anything, Dan. I totally respect your resolve and think it's great you've put things right for yourself," I humored him. "And I probably deserve some of that anger, but I never meant to upset you. I was just really attracted to you and I didn't get those feelings in check until we were in the middle of it."

"Literally in the middle of it," he gently scolded me.

"I know," I was sheepish to a fault. I honestly did still feel a little guilty, but knowing that I was just doing my job for the party seemed to conveniently ease my conscience.

"I can't help but think about what it would have been like," he became a little less pious.

"Oh," I smiled wickedly, "you know I think about it." I couldn't help but still flirt with him; we had a natural chemistry.

"Except now I'd have more energy," he patted his hand on his smaller belly.

"Maybe so, but you know I prefer more to love. I would have had all the energy you needed," I teased him.

"You are a unique woman, Nora, no question," he smiled. "So why don't you stay around to keep reminding me how good I have it?"

"It's time for me to move on to something new," I started to say.

"Damn! Did Winters hire you away? That bastard did say that you were the only one with any talent on his team," he muttered.

"No, he didn't hire me away," I protested. And then I realized what Dan had just said, "He thought I had talent?"

"Yeah, I was starting to wonder if he had a crush on you too," he said nonchalantly, without realizing how much I longed to hear those words. So much so, that I didn't think I was hearing him right.

"Seriously? He barely spoke to me most of the time, and he was pretty negative when he did," I was baffled.

"Grant's an insensitive crank Nora. But deep down, he liked you, I could tell," Dan confirmed. "Then again, what's not to like," he scanned his eyes down my legs with a wanting grin. Once a flirt, always a flirt, I thought to myself.

Thankfully he didn't pay attention to my giddy reaction to the news that Grant may have actually liked me, which was not surprising since Dan was always about Dan. Recognizing that, I turned the conversation back on him. I knew Jason would kill me if I didn't get some inside information about why his hired girls landed flat on their face trying to seduce him. "So what's this about admirers?"

"You started something, Nora. Or maybe it was the diet? I don't know, but there was a gorgeous girl from the newspaper coming onto me...  Now I'm being hounded by this exchange student, and exchange students didn't look like lingerie models when I was in college," he shook his head with a hint of self-satisfaction.

"So it wasn't such a bad thing that we put a stop to our mischief," I joked. "You've had plenty more opportunities to enjoy yourself now."

"Hey, I already said I was reformed. Besides, those girls don't hold a candle to you," he buttered me up.

"I thought you said they were gorgeous," I reminded him of his words.

"Yeah, sure," he smiled. "But you were different from any other woman I've known. You were so genuine, the way you looked at me," he paused, "and touched me," he explained, almost in a whisper. I found it profoundly ironic that he thought I was more genuine than other women given what I had been doing in his campaign.

"I never wanted to admit this, but I wasn't feeling really great about myself and my weight," he continued. "For once it was nice to feel that kind of physical attraction. With other women it's always been about my personality, or power, or status. You came on to me like no woman ever has and there was nothing like that feeling."

I was kind of surprised by his admission. He was genuinely a good-looking man who just happened to have some extra weight on his body. I was sure that he had been lusted after by other women on his way up the ladder.

"You're incredibly sexy Dan," I told him candidly, grabbing my bag and standing up to leave. "I'll always think of you that way."

 "Good luck, Nora," he stood to shake my hand.

I pulled him close to my body for a final hug, "Thanks," I rubbed his still-plump waist. There was nothing more to say. I turned, and with a glance and a smile back at him, and walked out.

Part 11

The very next day I found myself on a train to Brighton. I had no plans to see Grant, but I was irreparably drawn to him. I walked for hours up and down the streets, hoping I would casually run into him.

It was a ridiculous notion. Brighton was a city with a hundred thousand people. Even at his rotund size, Grant would still be lost in the lunch crowd bodies walking down the street. I grabbed the afternoon train back home to Newport and moped.

The next morning I did the same thing, taking the 9am train to Brighton. I stepped off the train and took a deep breath. How many times was I going to do this until I checked myself into an asylum? I walked down the same streets again, looking in store windows and wondering what I was going to do with my life.

I found myself heading down the block where Grant's new campaign office was located. I walked past the entrance as my heart pounded. I imagined he might look out the window, see me walk by, and come racing out the door after me to tell me his life was miserable without me. But with each step I took, there was no tap on the shoulder, no touch on my arm... just a sea of nameless faces on an unfamiliar street.

I came to the end of the block and there was a small corner deli. I was craving some cold caffeine and peered through the window to see if it was open. But all I saw was a young woman behind me, reflected in the glass window.

I turned around to see who she was, but she wasn't there. I turned back and realized it was actually my reflection in the window. I honestly had almost forgotten what I looked like. Since the day I kissed Grant and he rejected me, I had begun to disassociate with Nora and separate her bleach blonde Barbie image from my true self. And I started to wonder if maybe the whole heartbreaking debacle had somehow translated into this feeling of loss. It was at that moment that I knew I was in love with him. How else could someone take a part of me with him like that?

When I came out of my dazed realization and glanced down the street, I saw a very big guy waddling down the street toward me. I looked away, looked back, blinked, and he was gone. I figured that my muddled mind was continuing to play tricks on me. Just wishful thinking, I thought to myself.

I turned back to the window, caught my reflection again, and then saw a much larger figure behind mine. I was snapped out of my self-reflective stupor by a wonderfully rich voice, "They have good sandwiches."

Looking toward the voice, I saw that I hadn't been dreaming. Grant stood next to me with a charming, smirky grin.

"Oh, uh, hi, Mr. Winters," I stuttered. I hoped he hadn't seen me gazing at myself in the window. He had already suspected I was a narcissistic, self-involved bimbo. And I was in love with him, of all the luck.

"You can call me Grant now," he smiled. He seemed less grumpy than I was used to. And he was even more handsome than when I last saw him that awful Sunday a few weeks before. His hair shone in the autumn afternoon sunlight and face was open and sweeter.

The fog suddenly lifted from my brain. Grant was like an anti-depressant. When he came close to me I felt alive again. "Oh, uh, sorry... Grant," I smiled sheepishly.

"It's just that you always asked me to call you Nora, I thought it was funny that... oh whatever," he tried to explain but my shocked and vacant expression probably further cemented his opinion that I lacked any real substance. "So what are you doing in Brighton?"

I hadn't even thought of what I would say if I ran into him. Several years of living the undercover life should have trained me to think on my feet, but it didn't help me in that disorienting moment. "Um," I stammered, "I was hoping I would see you," letting the truth spill right out of my mouth.

He cocked his head, "Really?"

"Yes," I smiled, without more explanation. It was too late to backpedal but I didn't have to elaborate and incriminate myself as hopelessly in love either.

He continued to look at me with a bewildered look on his face. "We're you going to get lunch?" I asked, pointing into the deli.

He nodded, "Yeah, I was just going to grab something quick," he started to explain.

"I'm starving, you mind if I come in with you?" I asked, hoping I wasn't totally intruding on his busy schedule.

"Not at all," he opened the door and waved me in like a gentleman.

"What's good?" I asked him.

"They're known for their corned beef, but that might not be your thing. I like the club," he paused, looking more at the menu, "and the BLT is good too." It was very cute that he was already well versed on the menu. I glanced down his body, blissfully noting that he obviously hadn't been missing any lunches either.

 "I'm more of a turkey girl," I admitted.

He smiled knowingly, "You look like more of a turkey girl."

"And what does a turkey girl look like?" I queried this oddly personal remark.

"Well, you don't look like you eat a lot of fatty foods," he laughed.

I felt shivers down my spine at his use of the term 'fatty.' "I can hold my own," I joked, knowing that it wasn't true.

He glanced down at my body with a friendly grin and walked up to order for both of us. I reached in my purse and he put his hand out to stop me, "My treat."

"Thank you," I smiled up at him. He seemed quite different than the tough guy I was used to seeing at the campaign office.

"It's the least I could do," he said, "I know I wasn't easy to work for."

"I didn't mind," I assured him. It was true. I suppose I would have been miserable if I were actually a young Freedomist struggling to move up in a competitive environment, but I didn't have that pressure. Not to mention that Grant was so physically my type that he could have treated me like complete garbage and I still would have enjoyed watching him lumber around the office.

He apparently recognized that I wasn't easily intimidated, "You never lost your cool, Nora, I'll give you that. You'll do well in this business with your nerves of steel. Davis should give you the Communications Manager job," he was suddenly heaping more praise on me than I could have ever imagined. I felt like falling out of my chair, but I stayed unaffected.

"Actually, I just quit the campaign," I informed him.

"What?" his face turned to shock. "Why would you do that? He's about to win in a landslide...are you crazy?"

"I must be," I shrugged my shoulders with a smile.

"Honestly, Nora, what is this about? Did he make a pass at you?"

"No, no, nothing like that, I'm just ready for a change," I told him a white lie. "But what about you? You did the same thing, leaving before enjoying the victory party."

"This opportunity was too good to pass up. I like getting exposure in other camps," he admitted, referring to the independent status of his new boss.

"Does your guy have a shot?" I asked.

He shrugged his shoulders, "The two parties are slinging mud like crazy in this one. If that continues, the voters could really latch on to him. But I keep hoping for a scandal to make my job easier," he smiled.

"If you like, I could put on a sexy dress and go see what turns up," I joked, getting imprudently close to revealing my true identity.

"I have no doubt you could," he smiled bigger.

"Are you flirting with me, Grant?" I challenged him with penetrating eyes.

"I wouldn't dare," he fired back, soberly. "Anyway, I wouldn't want to ruin a chance at hiring you."

Just then our order came up and he grabbed the tray, leading us to an open table. I followed behind him, admiring his generous width. I could feel my toes tingle watching him move through the other customers, and making room for his big body at the table.

"You think I'm here for a job?" I asked him as we sat down.

"Sure," he grabbed his sandwich, unwrapped it and took a big bite.

"No, not really," I admitted. Sure, it would have been nice to work with him again, but I couldn't take his professional distance any longer. I wanted to be with him under more primal circumstances.

"I need a good staff writer," he offered without hearing me. "I know, the pay is terrible with an Independent, but it would be good experience for you. You'd make new contacts, and be exposed to a different electorate, different issues," he took another bite of his sandwich.

"I'm thinking of going to the private sector," I stopped him.

"I don't have as many contacts there," he remained all business.

"Grant, I'm not here for your mentoring or professional courtesy," I stopped him. "I just wanted to see you."

He had the blankest look on his face, like he didn't know what to do with this information. He took another large bite, almost finishing his lunch. I had barely eaten any of mine. He looked at my sandwich and then back at his empty plate, "I guess I'm a fast eater," he looked uncomfortable, shifting in his chair.

"No, I'm a really slow eater," I shrugged, admiring his handsome face.

"And you think you can hold your own in the meat eating department?" he teased me, making me giggle.

Then his face changed to a more serious look. He was quiet for a moment, looked around the room, as if to see if anyone was listening, and leaned in closer to me, "Nora, I'm a really busy guy... I need you to be straight with me. What are you looking for here?"

He wasn't getting it that I was into him. He was so used to everything being about politics that it didn't seem to occur to him that I was looking for something more personal. So I just put it out there, "Would you like to have dinner with me?" I blurted. His face went blank again, so I continued, "I mean, like Friday or Saturday, or whenever? I know you're busy..." I over-explained to fill the void left by his non-response.

"Um, I'm not sure what I have going on," he stammered, "I'll have to get back to you."

Then my earnestness turned quickly to frustration. I had been on the wanting edge for too long with him and my words came out faster than my wits. "Really? Grant? You don't know what you're doing this weekend? I know you've got a campaign to run, but the next several night's events should be set by now." He didn't say anything, with only his blank look to leave me twisting in the wind.

In my exasperation, I continued, "You know, if you are so damn brilliant with what the rest of the world wants, why can't you see what I want?"

"Ms. Stewart," he turned cold to me, like that first night I tried to talk to him at the Duke fundraiser, "It was nice to see you again." He stood up, his face reddening and he started to walk out.

I followed behind him, out the door. "Grant, stop, please," I grabbed his very soft upper arm.

He whipped around and looked at me with his steely eyes, "Don't tangle with me Nora, it won't end well," he hissed.

"What?" I exclaimed, "I hang on to your every word. I was on my knees trying to kiss you. Now I follow you here like a puppy dog and you can't give me the dignity to just come out and tell me that you're not attracted to me?"

"Not attracted to you?" he nearly yelled right there on the street. A few people passing by looked at us with curiosity. He lowered his voice, "I wish it were that simple."

"It really is that simple. I am attracted to you. Are you attracted to me? If yes, great, let's have dinner. If no," I sighed, "I'll be disappointed...very disappointed..." I choked up a little and then cleared my throat, "but I'll leave you alone. Simple, isn't it?"

And then with a twist of the knife, he turned away from me and walked down the street, faster than I had ever seen him walk. My heart dropped as I watched him move heavily down the crowded sidewalk; it sunk so deeply that I thought I felt it stop.

But as quickly as I had lost all hope, he turned back around and started toward me, even more quickly, exhibiting an uneasy look on his face and a luxurious jiggle throughout his midsection. Before I could feel any more excitement or despair, he was in front of me. "We can do dinner Saturday night. I have to make an appearance at a fundraiser beforehand, if you don't mind."

Sadness turned to elation and my heart swelled up, "Yes, of course, I don't mind at all!"

"The fundraiser isn't formal," he explained, "Independents don't run in the same circles as Congressman Davis' contributors do. Not that I would mind that dress you wore at the Duke, of course" he corrected himself with a sly grin.

"I'll tone it down a little," I giggled. I was happy to know that at least he had paid attention to what I looked like that first night I saw him.

We agreed to meet near the newspaper stand at the Brighton train station at 6pm, and go to the fundraiser from there. I went back home to Newport that afternoon feeling like a new woman.

Part 12

I got off the train and rode up the escalator with gargantuan butterflies in my stomach. When I made it to the main concourse, I saw Grant through the crowd of Saturday evening socialites. He looked polished in his single-breasted charcoal suit and cornflower blue tie. He didn't pick me out of the crowd right away, which gave me a few moments to check him out. His hands were clasped underneath his belly, framing his breadth while his legs shifted with what looked like nervous anticipation.

I was just a few steps away from him when he noticed me, "Hi Grant," I smiled.

"Wow, um hi," he stammered, "You changed your hair, I almost didn't recognize you."

"Yep," I stroked my grown up new hairstyle. I decided to leave my bleach blonde look behind and adopt a more sophisticated style in golden blonde with woven lowlights. I felt less like a college girl and more like a glamorous vamp. I styled it into a soft wave that tumbled onto my shoulders.

"You look stunning," he gushed, allowing himself to be a bit more human with me, perhaps now because I didn't work for him anymore. I wore a violet wrap dress that clung around my waist and flared out in a feminine swingy style. The hemline was just above my knees, showing off my legs.

"You look pretty handsome yourself," I returned the compliment.

He seemed to blush and ran his plump fingers through his hair, "I got my hair done too." It looked a little spikier on top and was adorably trendy, offsetting his strong, masculine facial features and soft jowls so nicely.

"I have to stop by the campaign office to sign off on a couple of budget requests. Do you mind?" He asked thoughtfully.

"Not at all," I smiled. My first instinct was to welcome the opportunity to snoop, but I quickly remembered that I was out of that game if I wanted to build something real with Grant.

He unlocked his office door but I lingered out in the main office to respect his privacy. He called out to me anyway, "You can come in here, Nora."

I walked in and he was already sitting at his desk. "I'm going to be a few minutes... there are a couple of more things I have to deal with. It shouldn't take too long." He was writing a note with a very perturbed look on his face.

"Some things never change," I taunted him.

"What do you mean," he looked up at me confused.

I turned and strolled along the wall in his office studying the impressive contents of his bookshelf. "You're not happy with somebody's work, I know that frustrated boss-man when I see him." I looked back at him and caught his eyes on my body.

"Was I terrible to you?" he asked.

"No, I liked your challenges," I walked toward him and stood behind his desk once again admiring his print of Liberty Leading the People, hung now in his new office. He turned around in his chair and watched me as I continued, "And I liked your style," I set my eyes down on him and his broad body. "Tough guys can be terribly sexy."

And there was that uncomfortable and dumbfounded look on his face again. But he was so enticing, sitting there with his buttoned down belly hanging out of his open suit coat, inching down between his legs. I decided to give him another try at a kiss. I leaned down, put one of my hands on his big thigh, the other hand on his soft cheek and gave him a gentle kiss on the lips.

He kissed back, and thankfully he didn't pull away. He let go of whatever was holding him back and let me kiss him. I didn't have the courage yet to let my hands freely roam his body, but I enjoyed feeling his heat anyway.

After a few moments of nearly losing my consciousness in kissing bliss, he stopped, "Nora, I really should be at the fundraiser by now."

I brushed down my dress with my hands and got my composure, "You're right," I smiled coyly at him.

He stood up, buttoned his coat around his big body and walked me out. "The hotel is a mile away on the other side of the viaduct," he explained, "So we need to grab a cab."

He hailed a taxi, helped me inside, and then got himself in. I loved watching him work his weight into the cab. His effort and movement exhibited his weight so beautifully. I managed to keep my eyes up on his face though so he wouldn't feel self-conscious. I still didn't know how he felt about his bulk. He had made a few self-deprecating jokes, like it was no big deal, but also had seemed apprehensive when I touched him.

He pointed out some buildings and sites as we made our way to the fundraiser. He was sitting so close to me with his leg against mine. I was getting even more turned on by watching his body bounce in time with the bumps on the road so I leaned into him and gave him another soft kiss.

Once again, an uncomfortable look came over his face, "Nora," he stopped.

"Gra-ant," I pouted, teasing him for being so serious. "Fine, I'll lay off and pretend like its all business between us," reassuring his private nature.

Before he could respond, we were at the hotel. Grant paid the driver and walked me into the ballroom where the fundraiser was already underway. There were hundreds of people there, far more than I expected. It was huge for an Independent and I was amazed.

He leaned in to my ear, "I can see you're surprised."

"Yeah, all of this with no party backing? I'm impressed," I admitted.

"We've got a shot," he seemed pretty happy with himself.

"They brought in the right guy to do it," I praised him.

He looked at me with beaming pride in his eyes. I noticed that he was really starting to enjoy my professional admiration, but still had no idea how to manage my physical attraction to him. I wasn't going to give up either. But in the meantime I kept my hands off of him while he introduced me around the room.

It was a genuinely enjoyable event, because I didn't have to pretend to be anyone or fake positions on issues I didn't agree with. I didn't say much and enjoyed everyone's conversation... totally surreal and refreshing.

After a couple of hours, he pulled me aside, "Are you hungry?"

"Yes, I'm famished," I was fairly hungry, but more than that, I wanted some time alone with him.

"I've made my appearance, so let's get out of here and grab something," he offered, touching my arm and leading me out.

Grant walked me down a few blocks to a small, dimly lit Italian restaurant. "Winters for two," he told the hostess. That he made a reservation at a romantic place made my heart pound. Grant had never shown any softness of emotion, so even his smallest overtures were a very big deal to me.

He ordered a bottle of Sangiovese and the waitress brought out bread. I immediately went for a piece, which allowed Grant to partake and devour the rest. I never saw him eat at the office, but the couple of times we'd shared a meal since, he was showing himself to be a good eater; something I obviously appreciated in a man.

We talked about the Davis campaign, and shared some laughs over the more strange personalities there. After dinner we ordered coffee, when he surprised me with a question, "Did you have an affair with him?"

"Who?" I was not expecting that question.

"Davis," he spoke softly.

"What? No!" I reacted. I wasn't sure how to play this. I didn't have an all-out affair with Dan, but something did happen between us.

"He was obviously after you," Grant was blunt, "But I thought it was just wishful thinking on his part until I heard some staffers making cracks about it in a meeting."

"Really?" my face was hot.

"It seemed to be common knowledge," he offered matter-of-factly.

"It's a lie," I was angry, "I never had an affair with him. Yes, he flirted, and there was... mutual attraction, but we did not..." I didn't know what more to say. How could I sit there and tell Grant that I purposefully led Dan on or that Dan had gotten as far as getting his fingers in my panties.

"Mutual attraction?" He asked.

"Dan is attractive, and I probably let our flirtation go too far, but..." I choked up, not knowing what more to say about it. I felt tears starting to form in my eyes.

"This is making you upset, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to ambush you," Grant apologized, "I just don't know how to read your intentions."

"No, I get it," I resolved to keep my eyes dry. "You think I used Dan and now I'm using you," I brushed my fingers through my hair in frustration. "And all I can say is that I had a lapse in judgment when I let things get personal with Dan but we never... You are... this is different..."

"What do you mean?" he pushed me, with apprehension in his eyes.

"I've told you and shown you several times how I feel," I was flustered, "I just don't really know what words to say anymore. I don't know what more you need to hear to understand how attracted I am to you."

He shook his head, "You're just interested in the game, Nora, don't you see? I'm just trying to figure out whether you even realize it."

"You couldn't be more wrong, Grant. From the beginning, you've been mistaken about me in every way. And I've tried so hard to prove to you that I'm not a bimbo, I'm not a user, I'm not looking to get ahead, and I don't need a job from you..." I choked up again.

He sat there silently not knowing what to say. And then after a minute he spoke, "Nora, I'm not a nice person. I went out of my way to be tough on you. I'm not powerful. And I'm not a good-looking guy... I've gotten far too fat, so what could you possibly be attracted to?"

"Yeah, you were tough on me, but I just considered it to be part of the job. And despite what you think, I really don't care about power." Then I softened my tone, "And, you are very good looking... and you're definitely not too fat," I let months of unrequited desire pour out of me, "You are amazing and I'm in love with you." There, I said it, feeling a vast weight lifted from my shoulders.

Yet all I got was another blank look from Grant, and I couldn't take any more of those from him. I got up and ran toward the door. His outward indifference was just too much to take anymore.

With tears streaming down my face, I made it out to the curb to hail a cab when I felt my arm pulled and Grant was in my face. He brushed a tear from my cheek with his thumb, grabbed me by the waist, and pulled me around the corner. Hidden from the world, he gave me the biggest, most passionate, body enveloping kiss; the kind I had only dreamed about with him until that moment. I looked at him, stunned by his commanding takeover.

He smiled and looked down and back up at me, "Sorry," he whispered.

"Don't be sorry, that was amazing," I rubbed my hands along his thick sides and finally got a good feel for his amazing, buttery soft body.

"It's getting late, I should get you home," he offered, taking my hand and walking back to the corner to hail a cab. Grant rode the train with me back to Newport and walked me to my apartment building.

"Do you still live in Newport?" I asked him as we walked into the lobby.

"I never did. I've got a place in Fairview," he pointed back in the direction we came from. Fairview was a stop on the way back to Brighton.

"It was nice of you to go out of your way to take me home then," I smiled. "Coffee?" I pointed toward the elevator.

He looked surprised, and then told me, "I'd better get back tonight, I have some meetings early tomorrow."

"Okay," I tried not to push him. "Can I ask you something though?"

"Sure," He said cautiously.

"Why is it that every time I say or do something to show you how interested I am in you, you get cold or turn me down?" I put it too him bluntly.

"I'm trying, here, Nora," he shook his head, looked away and then back at me, "just be patient with me."

"I'll be nice," I played with his coat lapel and sulked playfully. I wasn't quite sure why he needed so much patience, but I didn't want to ruin the end of the evening with another war of words. "So when can I see you again?"

"What are you doing Monday night?" he asked smiling.

"Nothing," I beamed.

"There are no campaign events that night. Do you want to have dinner again?"

"Yes, I'd love that." I was thrilled. "Although let me cook for you. Do you mind the ride back here?" I asked

"I'd like that," he smiled, kissing me lightly on the lips, "Thank you for a nice evening." And with that he turned around and walked out.

That night I couldn't sleep, planning Monday night's menu and thinking about how sexy Grant looked, riding next to me on the train with his legs spread wide on his seat, brushing against mine while his belly jiggled in time with the motion of the train. I hadn't felt this excited since Brian and I were in the early madness of our affair. Except this time it felt like something real and meaningful, not just some doomed college romance.

Part 13

Grant rang my bell at 8pm. He was always prompt. I laughed to myself about how rigid he was in the Davis campaign with schedules and punctuality. I had already made sure to put away any books or papers that might incriminate me as an Equalitarian. It was one thing to live a phony life out in the world, but it was harder to try to be someone else in your own home.

And in the back of my head, I had been agonizing over this. I knew that I felt so strongly about my political beliefs, it would be impossible to change my values so entirely, even for Grant. But I had worked so hard to get this far with him; I couldn't bear the idea of telling him I was a fraud. Perhaps I could convert to being at least a moderate Independent and open my mind to another way of viewing the world. I just knew that my feelings for him were true and that's all that mattered, right?

I opened the door with my nerves on edge, "Hi Grant," I smiled big. He was wearing his usual professional attire, but a little bit brighter today with his suit's trendy shade of sand with a red-orange tie. And of course, it fit very well around his chubbiness. I figured he must spend a fair amount of time at a good tailor, because the cut and fit of his suits were always perfect for him. Then again, I appreciated it even more when he opened his coat up to reveal the lush landscape hiding underneath it.

I was more casual with my mauve body-hugging short-sleeve cardigan, gray palazzo pants and silvery wedge sandals. It wasn't flashy, but it was flattering and understated. I was afraid that if I dressed too sexy he would freeze up again and I wanted him to feel more comfortable around me.

He smiled and looked around my place, "This is nice," he offered a compliment.

"It's not much," I conceded anyhow, "but I like the location."

"Safe neighborhood," he nodded, "good demographics," he winked.

"Yeah, it's great for running, or walking or whatever, and it's close to the park," I babbled from nerves.

"You're quite an athlete," he nodded again, pointing to my bike and inline skates that were leaning against the wall.

"No, I'm terrible at sports, I just like being outside, I guess," I tried to downplay my athleticism. It was usually hard to convey to big men that I preferred them fat and yet I liked my own body lean, so I was usually self-conscious of talking about my fitness interests.

"I suppose I should probably get outside more," he laughed patting his belly. I was relieved he could joke a little about his size.

"You look great," I countered anyway. Before he could say more on the subject I handed him a glass of Cabernet and told him to have a seat while I finished preparing dinner.

"I decided to show you I can hold my own with red meat," I teased him as I set a plate heaped with rib roast, potatoes, parsnips and gravy in front of him.

"Wow, I haven't had a home cooked meal like this in ages," his eyes were big.

"When I was a little girl, my grandmother told me that her roast recipe was so extraordinary, when I cooked it for someone special, it would make him fall under my spell," I winked at him.

"Oh really," he looked skeptical but amused.

I nodded with a confident smile.

"So how many times has it worked?" he challenged me.

"This is the first time I've ever made it," I admitted to him.

"I'm honored then," he truly seemed touched, which wasn't a side of him I was used to.

While we enjoyed the food and wine, we talked about college, work and current events. But I had to be so careful about what I revealed to him, and I got the feeling he was keeping the same shields up. He was a natural at remaining mysterious, even in the face of intimate conversation.

When I started to clear the table he stood up to help me.

"It's okay, you digest, I can do this," I reassured him.

"No, I'd like to help," he took off his coat and rolled up his sleeves. I could see more contours on his magnificent body and felt another surge of desire for him. His big size had always been apparent, but I longed for more of the luscious details.

My place didn't have a dishwasher so we hand washed together. We shared a slice of domestic bliss with me passing him wet dishes while he dried them with a towel. We were on the last of the cleanup when a big dollop of bubbly soap flew from a pan, landed square on his tie and dripped down over his fullest breadth. I instinctively took a towel to him to wipe it off and found my hand in some very soft territory.

He grabbed my hand away from his belly and looked intently into my eyes with a combination of surprise and caution, "Nora..."

"What?" I smiled, slipping my free hand along his other side, assessing the shape of his love handle. His body was like a magnet for my hands, I couldn't stop myself from exploring his curves.

He grabbed my other hand with a nervous smile, "What are you doing?"

"Trying to get you close enough to kiss me again," I purred.

He pulled me close to him and laid a nice one on my lips, but he held my hands down along my side so I couldn't roam his chub. Then his own hands traveled down my body, feeling the slope of my back to my waist and over my hips. "Mmmmm," he murmured, letting me know he appreciated my form.

"Come on," I took his hands, walked him into the living room and pushed him onto my couch. I kicked off my sandals and climbed on his lap to make out with him more intently. His belly settled underneath me like a big body pillow and I gave him a mix of sweet and passionate kisses.

I paused to undo his tie and he helped me along, loosening and removing it. He unbuttoned the first button on his shirt and I became extremely excited that he was going to take it off without any fuss or objection. Unfortunately he hesitated, so I attacked the next button myself. He continued to kiss me until I got to the third button down. Again, he grabbed my hands, "Nora..."

I pulled back with a dejected sulk, "Why are you always holding me back from showing you how much I want you?" I finally demanded, "Is it a religious thing?"

He rolled his eyes with a smile, "No."

"Do I have bad breath?" I teased.

"No," he laughed.

"Do I turn you off?" I had to exhaust the possibilities.

"Not at all," he became more serious, brushing my cheek with his hand, "You're a gorgeous woman." I loved hearing him say that to me.

I unwrapped the belt on my cardigan, unbuttoned it and slowly took it off, revealing my lacey pink bra, which gave him a good amount of cleavage to view. "Is this okay?" I asked him, continuing the line of questioning.

"Yes," he whispered quietly, getting obviously turned on.

I stood up in front of him, unzipped my pants, took his hands and helped him push them off of my hips. They slipped down to the ground, leaving me only in my bra and panties. I climbed back onto his expanse and nestled into him while he warmed me with caresses from his big hands.

"Now," I asked him, "Are you going to be a gentleman and join me or let me feel like an almost-naked fool?"

He smiled and shook his head, but dutifully unbuttoned the rest of his shirt, moving all the way down to his pants. He pulled it out from its tightly tucked arrangement, allowing more of his belly to jiggle free from the constraint of his belt line. He was still wearing an undershirt, but it was very tight to his body and gave me yet another new glimpse into the size of his rolls and texture of his soft fat.

"You never cease to turn me on, Grant," I sighed, kissing him and tugging his undershirt from his pants. I was near Nirvana when I quickly got my fingers on his warm, plush belly. Electricity shot through me in the realization that the long-suppressed fantasy of getting my hands on his bare body was finally happening.

Then, as soon as my hands traveled under his belly to his belt buckle, he took my hands again. "Nora..."

"It's great that you're regularly using my first name now," I joked, ignoring his hesitation and getting very excited over the fact that his chub was somewhat in the way.

He gently grabbed my hand away from his belt and belly again, "You don't have to do this," he whispered.

"But I want this," I brushed my free hand along his silky side. It was obvious he wasn't entirely comfortable with my hands on the fattest parts of his body, but I was determined to wear him down. "Just let it happen, Grant," I whispered, "It's going to be wonderful, I promise."

He relented to my words and allowed me to get his pants off while giving me another one of his powerful kisses. I paused to appraise him, glancing down and running my fingers up his broad back. He was so round and delicious in just his blue plaid boxers. I took his hand and led him to my bedroom.

There was just enough moonlight though my window to let me see his full body definition. I lay down on the bed and asked him to crawl in with me. "I've wanted this for a while," I admitted.

He looked at me with skepticism but I didn't care. I removed my bra and his eyes grew wide. He paused to admire my body, "You're body is... exquisite," he complimented me and ran his hand up my leg, across my taut tummy and over my breasts.

I leaned sideways to reach his body the same way, stroking him along his full, yielding belly, and then under it to reach his manhood. It was more evident than ever just how big he was... bigger than any man I had been with before. And when I tried to get him to put some of that incredible weight on top of me, he resisted, "Nora, I'll hurt you."

"You wouldn't," I objected, but he didn't move himself onto me. "Fine, have it your way," I smiled wickedly, climbing on top of him and landing on his broad cushion of a body. I inched off my panties and pulled his boxers down too. "I'm all yours," I offered, feeling nearly light-headed in anticipation of having him inside of me. He had his hand on his belly to stop it from shaking, but I took it away, "It's amazing... let this happen," I kept whispering to him with reassurance.

And he finally did, let it happen. It was like he had been holding back a locomotive that he unleashed and made me senseless in ecstasy. I now understood what it was to be addicted and Grant was my drug. As soon as he finished, I was fantasizing about what he had just done to me. I wrapped my arms around as much of him as I could and fell asleep, snuggled into his sumptuous body.

When I woke in the middle of the night, I caught him getting dressed but pretended to still be asleep. I peeked while he managed his clothing around his wide frame. I so enjoyed watching a big man dress himself. He looked like a warrior, adorning himself with his body armor before going into combat.

In Grant's case, his battle was coming up quickly. Election Day was just a week away, but I desperately wanted some of his time too. He was turned away from me, working on his tie when I spoke, startling him, "When do we get to do this again?"

He turned to me, "I'll call you," he appeased me with a smile.

"You'd better," I drew the sheets around my nude body and got up to kiss him goodbye.

Part 14

I spent most of the next day dreaming about the night before, hoping Grant would call. I was in deep; there was no doubt about it. No one had ever taken me so completely out of the game like this.

He finally called me around 3pm. "Can you meet me tonight?"

"My place or yours?" I asked, giddy with anticipation.

"Mine's too cluttered with campaign paraphernalia. Yours okay?"

"Absolutely," I was high all over again. "What about dinner?"

"I can't get there until after nine," he sighed.

"That's fine," I would gladly starve waiting for him.

"I'll bring take out," I could hear him smiling through the phone.

My bell finally rang at 9:15 and Grant was at my door looking sexy with a wry grin on his face and a bag of food under his arm. I took the bag from him, put it on the table, and then pulled him into me for some wonderful kissing. Our locked lips quickly turned into passionate rubbing, grabbing and fondling. By the time his hands got between my legs, I was on the verge of ecstasy.

I wore a gauzy white camisole and a short denim tennis skirt to make his work simple. Of course, I enjoyed peeling every piece of well-made clothing off his imposing body and having my way with him on the couch while dinner sat waiting in a bag on the table.

I was still on his cushioned lap kissing him when I heard his stomach grumble very loudly, "Sorry," he apologized, "I haven't eaten much today."

"Oh, no, I'm sorry, we should eat!" I felt badly. A man of his size needed nourishment, especially after all of his wonderful, sexual efforts.

"It's okay," he chastised himself, "I won't waste away."

You'd better not, I thought to myself, digging into the bag, "How did you know that Orchid is my favorite restaurant?" The smell of curry and basil wafted into the air.

"I remembered overhearing you get excited about their green curry," he smiled.

"You paid more attention to me than I thought," I winked at him.

"Not that I admit to anything inappropriate, but it was hard not to," he confessed, standing behind me, kissing my neck and brushing his hands down my sides.

"Mmmmmm," I murmured, enjoying the way his belly felt pressed against my back, "Thai food, smooth talk and neck kisses... you are too good."

Looking disheveled from our frenzied sex romp, we filled our plates, grabbed chopsticks and sat down on my couch. I admired the way his well-fed tummy drooped between his legs while he held his plate above it and ate with gusto. I sat next to him, curled my legs underneath me, picked at my own plate and enjoyed the view. He effortlessly turned me on with his size, shape and appetite.

We continued to enjoy each other’s' company and he had dropped a lot of his formerly gruff pretenses, but there was a still a sense of guarded privacy between us. I had a secret I knew I had to keep if I intended on being with him for more than a few hot nights.

After dinner we made love again, but we took it slower, taking the time to savor the way, in their delicious contrast, our bodies worked together. And in taking it slow, Grant seemed to become more accommodating to my erotic fascination with his bulges and rolls. He stayed most of the night, surrounding me in his strong, chubby arms.

"I've never felt happier," I admitted to him in a dazed post-coital whisper. The feeling of our naked bodies intertwined made me feel a sense of joy, comfort and pleasure all converging into a single indescribable feeling.

"Seriously?" he smiled skeptically.

"Seriously," I sighed, my hands scaling his warm, ample contours while the heat of his touch trailed along my legs.

"I used to dread you coming into my office," he blurted.

"I tell you how happy you make me and you tell me you dreaded me?" I was playfully perturbed and gave a handful of his belly flab a teasing pinch.

My bold grabbing of his fat caused him to squirm a little, but then laughed and kissed my shoulders. "I was afraid you would see how attracted I was to you. You were so confident and... you'd stare at me with those eyes... I struggled with being strong around you."

"You put up a hell of a front," I recalled the many months of helplessly and hopelessly wanting him. "But you didn't need to... all you ever had to do was give in, grab me and kiss me."

"It never crossed my mind that you would have welcomed that kind of attention from me," he admitted.

"Even after I kissed you?" I was incredulous. "And after I asked you out? I don't know if I could have been more obvious," I acknowledged my vain attempts at seducing him.

He heaved a sigh, "I'm still wondering if this is for real."

"It is, Grant," I kissed his lips softly, "more than you can imagine." I cuddled into him and wrapped my legs around his. I knew there were the pangs of guilt and irony in my words. It was real! It felt real on a level I had never experienced before. But I also felt the ache of knowing my life had been one big lie. I just needed to keep that lie at bay.

I spent most of the night awake while he slept, thinking about how I could smoothly transition from double-crossing spy to the perfect girlfriend. As my fingers lightly caressed his rolling roundness and I squeezed into his space, I had a plan all worked out in my head for ditching the Syndicate, moderating my headstrong opinions and getting into a new line of work.

Grant left to catch the early train back to his place before he had to go to work. He was going to be tied up with campaign events for a couple of nights before returning back to my waiting arms. We shared three more nights of sexual bliss, yet we didn't bother talking much about his campaign, my future, or anything past the time we were spending together. The marvelous sex and take out dinners were just too perfect to let concerns outside of our little bubble burst it.

Then, Election Day came and dragged on while I waited to hear from Grant. His candidate lost, but took enough votes away from the Freedom Party candidate to allow the Equality candidate to win. I was secretly pleased with the result, but I didn't offer my thoughts to him about that.

He finally came over at midnight that night. Once again we took an unhurried pleasure in each other’s bodies, and lazed in bed together through the following morning. He left me at noon to tie up loose ends with his campaign staff in Brighton, letting me know he'd call me later.

About an hour after he left, I was jerked back to reality by a series of texts... "Tonight" "22" "Blake's"

Part 15

I was disappointed that I didn't hear from Grant before heading out to meet Jason. I had spent the afternoon agonizing over how I would tell Jason that I wanted to leave the Syndicate. It wasn't like I was a slave to the cause, but we had a lot of history and trust built up. So much was at risk in our organization that the stakes were very high for getting in or out.

When I walked into Blake's, Jason was waiting for me in the lobby. It was a dimly lit bar, so he took my hand and led me through the maze of high walled booths to a hidden corner of the room. That's when I got the shock of my life. My ex-boyfriend Brian was there, looking self-satisfied. And sitting next to him was Grant, looking into my eyes with the same stunned reaction.

I went numb trying to process what was going on. I felt light headed and my ears started to ring. Jason saw that I was faint and helped me sit down. "I knew this was a dumb way to go about this," he muttered at Brian.

Grant jumped in angrily, "What the hell is this?"

I was frozen. "Ellie, are you okay?" Jason asked.

"Elllie?" Grant demanded.

"Eleanor," Brian smugly clarified.

I managed to finally find words, "Is this some kind of joke? Why are you here?" I directed my mounting anger at Brian.

"Ellie, just calm down, take a deep breath," Brian's patronizing style hadn't changed.

"Don't tell me to do anything," I would always be bitter about the way he tried to manage me.

"We're all on the same team here," Jason interceded, "Let's not lose sight of that."

"On the same team?" Grant and I exclaimed at the same time.

"I didn't know until last week," Jason stated flatly, as if I would be happy with the news that Grant was a member of the Syndicate. "But once we realized you two were hooking up, we had to have a meeting."

I looked at Grant. He was seething and he wouldn't look back at me. "Grant, did you know this?" I asked him in an attempt to make sense of our mess.

"Obviously not or it never would have happened," he spat out, still not looking at me. I felt the pain of my heart cracking in two. "You screwed up," he shot at Brian.

"I didn't know she was there until you were already in," Brian tried to set himself up as blameless. Reality was finally sinking in to me that Brian hadn't ever left the Syndicate, and Grant was one of his deployed operatives.

"But you knew while I was still in there and you kept it to yourself," Grant wouldn't relent. "You knew who she was, and you let me... I fell..." he stopped, unsqueezed himself from behind the table and stormed out.

I jumped up to run after him but Jason grabbed my arm and pulled me back while Brian reasoned, "Just let him go, he'll cool off."

As much as it pained me, I knew they were right, at least partially. For now I had to let him go, but I wasn't sure he would ever cool off. I was feeling my own anger as well. "I'm so done with all of you," I threw at them with venom.

"Come on, Ellie..." Jason started to plead with me.

"I really thought he would resist you," Brian interrupted him, looked intently at me, digging a deeper hole in my heart.

"No way, Ellie's the master," Jason shot back, in some lame attempt to flatter me. "She owns it."

"But the guy was made of ice. I thought he was way too cold for anyone to crack, even Ellie," Brian made me feel even worse. "But she certainly has a way with the fatties," he smirked.

I was nauseous that they were talking about us in the third person, like we were pawns in a game, so I ran outside for air. Brian came after me, "Ellie, please, don't be angry," he took a more caring tone, brushing the tears off my cheek.

I looked up at him. He was still very attractive and had put a little weight back on, but I had lost so much respect for him. "You played me, Brian, how am I supposed to feel?"

"Before you point fingers, you broke the rules, you know, getting involved with him," Brian interjected.

"So what? You and I broke the rules once too," I countered.

"No one is innocent here so just take a step back and think about this," he fell right into his arrogant style. "It was never going to last. For all you knew, he was a Freedomist sympathizer. How were you ever going to make that work? Were you going to shut your brain off for the rest of your life? Be his pretty little housewife? It's really for the best that you know everything now so you can move on without him," he defended his position like it was a campaign speech.

He was right about one thing, I had been deluding myself in playing make believe with Grant, but his logic didn't put my heart back together. I was still a mess inside; and on the outside as well. I turned away from him to stifle a sob when he turned me back around and hugged me. I instinctively accepted it, until he spoke again, "Ellie, you know we were good together."

"No we weren't," I pulled away from him, "It was always a struggle to be who you wanted me to be."

"What are you talking about? I was lucky to get a girl like you," I knew he was referring to his formerly fat physique.

"That's superficial crap, Brian," I disagreed. "You always played the weight card to act as if I had some power over you, when the opposite was true. You constantly got me to do what you wanted and treated my opinions like they were rainbows and kittens."

"Come on, let the past be the past. We can start over," he bushed his fingers through my hair and put his finger under my chin to look at me, "Damn, Ellie, I didn't think it was possible for you to get more beautiful, but you found a way." Then he leaned into kiss me.

I pulled away, "Brian, what are you doing?"

"Even if we had our issues, you have to admit, the sex was incredible," he tried to kiss me again. There was a time that we were great together in bed, but our history wasn't helping his cause now.

"Brian, you just destroyed my relationship with the man I'm in love with, and now you're hitting on me? Are you insane?"

"You and I make sense, Ellie, we believe in the same things," he held my shoulders. I raised my eyebrow at that; I wasn't so sure we did anymore. But he kept trying, "I'll even put more weight back on for you," he shook his modest belly, "I know what you like," he forced me into a kiss again.

It was bad enough that he had treated me like his little doll, but to physically coerce me made me feel totally violated. I pushed him away and ran at lightning speed back to my apartment. I knew that he only wanted the dutiful girl I once was, not the independent woman I had become.

Jason texted me a few times that night, but I heard nothing from Grant. At some point I stopped crying and fell asleep.

The next day, I woke up wishing that it had all been a bad dream, but when I looked in the mirror and saw my red, puffy eyes, I knew it wasn't. I wanted so desperately to curl up in Grant's arms and feel good again, but that was a pipe dream now. I tried to analyze how I would talk him into giving us another chance, but every logical scenario I played out in my head ended with him painfully rejecting me.

The calls and texts from both Jason and Brian continued. I tried to contact Grant but he was totally unresponsive. The following day I finally agreed to meet with Jason. I couldn't even imagine seeing Brian again without rage pumping through my veins.

"You look like crap," Jason sat across from me at a picnic table in the park near my place.

"Thanks," I moped. I put my sunglasses on to hide my pained eyes.

"I know you're upset with us but I honestly didn't know everything going on with you until the meeting the other night," he said. "I didn't even know who he was until a week ago. I felt awful when I found out you were actually in love with him."

"You didn't know? Obviously you guys were watching us," I was skeptical.

"Brian knew it. After you took off, he admitted that he had pictures of you and Grant on the street. He said the way you looked at him, he knew."

"Bastard," I muttered.

"Ellie, we're all in the game. You signed up for this too, so you've got to own your part of this mess and let go of some of that anger," Jason reasoned. "Besides, I can't blame Brian for wanting you back," he reverted to his smooth talk technique with me.

I half-smiled at him, "Enough with the charm already."

"You know I tease you, Ellie, but you're a remarkable woman. I was always a little jealous when you were with someone new. But I wasn't willing to grow man boobs," he laughed, rubbing his lean torso in jest, "So I knew we'd never happen."

"Jason... always with the fat jokes," I sighed.

"I try to find the humor in life, something you should do more," he was trying to cheer me up in his own way.

"I'm not coming back, Jason. I'll be out of the apartment at the end of the month." I wasn't sure where I was going but I knew I couldn't rely on the Syndicate for my backing any longer.

"I figured as much," he sighed, "but Brian will still try to keep you in. He thinks that any woman who could break a guy like Grant could go very far in our line of work."

"I didn't break him," I became upset at the mention of his name, "It was love."

He sighed more at my passion for Grant, but continued, "Just so there are no hard feelings between us, I have something for you." He reached in his pocket, pulled out a piece of paper and pushed it across the table to me. "You didn't get this from me. And I'll deny it and throw you under the bus if you tell anyone you did."

I unfolded it and saw an address scribbled on it, 2367 Harlow, #788. I knew that Harlow was a main street in Fairview. "Is this what I think it is?"

"Fairview," he confirmed with a smile, "Take your best shot."

I hugged Jason and thanked him for giving me a new chance at Grant.

Part 16

I sat on my bed looking into my closet, agonizing over what I would wear when I went to see Grant. I didn't want to dress in something that reminded him of Nora. I wanted to look good for him, but that was such a "Nora" thing to do. I had to re-introduce myself to him as Eleanor and I didn't know her so well lately.  I decided on a white fitted button down shirt, dark rinse jeans and brown riding boots. It was a sunny but chilly autumn day, so I threw on my belted brown pea coat and headed out to catch the 5:15pm train to Fairview.

When I got off the train, I was well past nervous and pretty much on autopilot. As I was walking down Harlow Street, I realized I couldn't have described a single person I had seen since I left my place. Normally I was hyper aware of everyone around me at all times, but I had been so altered by my heart.

I followed the half-mile walk to Grant's place with my mind blank over what I was going to say to him. When I got to the door and rang the bell, everything I wanted to tell him suddenly flooded my brain and I panicked. Maybe I could do this tomorrow?

And then his door opened; there stood Grant, looking big and handsome as always, but different. I had never seen him in jeans or sport a five o'clock shadow before. His casually delicious look made me even weaker in the knees as I noticed his untucked plaid button down shirt barely covered the droop of his expansive belly. I tugged hard at my coat belt, pulling it tighter into my waist, just to keep my hands to myself.

As soon as he saw me, he looked down, "Now is not a good time, Nora. Or Ellie, or whatever your name is."

I took a deep breath for courage, "When is a good time?" I insisted.

"Honestly, I don't think any time would be a good time for this," he kept his eyes down.

I reminded myself that I was there, at his door, risking it all, because he meant everything to me. I wasn't going to back down easily and just walk away. "If you're going to tell me you never want to see me again, you'd better look me in the eye to do it," I raised my voice,

He looked around outside the hallway and pulled me into his place, "I thought you would have learned a little more discretion by now," he snarled at me, with his eyes now intent on mine.

"I don't care anymore," I told him, glaring right back.

"Apparently you didn't care before either," he lashed out with obvious anger.

"What does that mean?" I returned his anger with my own.

"When you thought I was a Freedomist, you didn't try to conceal our relationship at all. You were so obviously using me," he accused me.

"If I were using you, I would have never seen it through," I argued back. "You know how the game works... you and I were not about that."

"You mean the way you operated on the Congressman?" He was still burning over my liaison with Dan.

"That was part of my job," I shot back, "What would you have had me do, host a tea party for him?"

"Our relationship is built on so many lies," he shook his head.

"We were both blindsided here, Grant. You're acting like I'm the guilty one. How was your charade any different than mine?"

"Because we were motivated by different things," he glowered at me with more anger.

"Oh, really? And what was my motivation? I'm curious," I indignantly set my hands on my hips. As much as I wanted him, I wasn't going to let him tell me what was in my head or my heart.

"I was an easy target," he shrugged his shoulders, "I was the desperate fat guy with all the information, right?"

My chest felt tight as my anger transformed into another kind of frustration I knew all too well. This was going to be about his weight. "You mean that through all of this you still didn't believe me when I told you how I felt? How I still feel about you now?" I ran out of breath and tears welled up in my eyes.

But he just ignored my words and stuck with his perception of things, "It's as much my fault as yours, I guess. I let this happen. Being as big as I am usually keeps me insulated from this kind of drama. I wanted to believe that you were actually interested in me, so every time you pushed me for more I just suspended reality a little longer," he calmed to a whisper.

"Do you really think I could fake this? Those nights we spent together?" I instinctively moved closer to him, "It was incredible with you. Our bodies fit so well together. And the way you looked at me while we made love, I know you felt it too," I closed my eyes and the tears that had been welling up in my eyes streamed down my face.

He looked at me helplessly without speaking. He was so obviously conflicted... almost pained by my words. He took a deep breath and then he begrudgingly whispered, "I did."

"And why would I be here now, trying to get you back, if it was only part of some stupid Syndicate plan?" I pressed my case.

He shook his head like he knew that what I was saying was true but he still couldn't process it.

"Grant, please, believe this, if nothing else, I'm in love with you. I don't even know your real name, but I'm miserable without you."

He paused, swallowed hard and reached his hand out to shake mine, "Grant Sumner."

"Eleanor Gray," I shook his hand. It felt so good to finally feel his warm touch again.

He then turned and paced. Watching him move slowly across his big open room was a thing of beauty. He ran his hand through his jet black hair, "Something still just doesn't add up," he murmured.

"What?" I was anxious from the emotional rollercoaster of our conversation.

"Eleanor, you're a beautiful woman. Believing that you would want me, no strings attached, makes me feel like such a huge fool, I just can't get past that. No one else would believe it, so how can I?"

"Honestly, Grant, besides being brilliant and capable, have you ever looked in the mirror? You're incredibly handsome, you have beautiful eyes... and kissable lips," I smiled coyly.

He turned a little red and gave me a sheepish grin, "Thanks."

Then I mustered the courage to express my attraction to his size, because that was obviously where his insecurities were well entrenched, "And I adore your body, Grant. You turn me on like no man has ever before." He turned redder, and his smile transformed into nervous bafflement, but I nodded anyway in unspoken reassurance. I could see that his understanding of my attraction to his size was going to be a long-term project.

He changed the subject by diving deeper into admissions about what was actually going on in his head during our mutual masquerade. "I left the Davis campaign because of you," he whispered. "It was getting so hard to control how I felt about you. When you kissed me I had to get out."

I was still surprised that he had developed feelings for me while we were still in the Davis campaign, as it had always seemed so unbearably one-sided. I had no idea that he had struggled with the same intense yet confounding feelings. "The job with the Independent wasn't the only reason?"

"Not exactly; we knew that a strong Independent could throw the election to the Equalitarians but Brian had someone else in mind for that job. When I told him that I needed to get away from the distraction of you, he changed course... and now I know why Brian was all too happy to get me away from you."

"The distraction of me?" I folded my arms across my body. I was a little hurt by his terminology.

"I wasn't supposed to fall for anyone, least of all a Freedomist," he winked, "but you were persistent."

"I wasn't supposed to either, Grant, but I couldn't help myself. I fell for you before I could even figure out that it was happening. By the time I found you in Brighton, I was done for," I acknowledged my crush.

"Yeah, that day," he rolled his eyes and smiled, "I couldn't believe I was sitting there offering you a job after I had just gotten away from you."

"You make me sound like I was a disease," I was laughed nervously at his backhanded compliments.

"Something like that," he flashed a smirky grin.

"I left the campaign over you too, you know," I admitted.

"But I was already gone," he was confused.

"That was the problem," I explained. "I was done with Davis, his weakness was already exposed. But I stayed as long as I did because of you."

"Was I a target then?" he asked.

"I wanted to figure you out so badly," I acknowledged my initially clandestine interest in him. "But it became less about politics and more that I just wanted to get closer to you. When you left, I was crushed. It wasn't because you were a Syndicate target, it was because everyday I hoped that would be the day you would call me into your office, grab me and kiss me," I got close enough to him to caress his chubby side. I was no longer able to resist taking pleasure in the way his body felt.

He put his arms around me and gave me a kiss that said we were more to each other than the duplicity that originally brought us together. And with that kiss, he pulled me further into his big body, showing me how much he still wanted me.

He picked me up, took me to his bed, and confidently moved over me. He took total command while I watched his plump fingers unbutton my blouse, unzip my jeans, strip me to nakedness and consume my body with his own. I was bewildered by the irony that for all the time he acted tough, his physical confidence wavered; and now, the emotional risk of revealing his feelings for me actually enhanced his sexual prowess.

After we made love, I lay in his arms with his body totally enveloping mine. "When we were in the office working together, I used to think about this. I would imagine what it was like to be naked in bed with you," I whispered. "But you didn't even want to kiss me," I reminded him that he had rejected me.

"It wasn't just the kiss that scared me off. You were so naturally beautiful that day; like you are now," he stroked my cheek and rubbed his hand along my waist the way I wished he had when I was pressing pins into his congressional map. I beamed with joy at his honesty and sweetness.

"But you were the strong one, keeping me at bay," I giggled. "You really got me fired up about that immigration data."

"You know I was testing you," he admitted.

I nodded, "I know that now. Did I answer like a good Freedomist?"

"You answered like an independent thinker, which made me like you even more."

"And yet you were still an operative, sworn not to complicate your mission with some pushy girl."

"It wasn't just a Syndicate thing," he sighed. "I was frustrated with the whole situation. I couldn't have you for so many reasons."

"What reasons? Once I left the campaign, I was fair game. You were with an independent candidate and I was getting away from politics altogether," I reasoned.

"You have to understand, Eleanor, I do what I do for the Syndicate by summoning every last shred of confidence I have. The only advantage to being this heavy is that I seem to intimidate people and keep them at a distance. You threw me off... Around you I just felt like a big, fat oaf."

"You are not an oaf," I kissed him, letting my fingers settle into one of his side rolls.

"But the big and fat can't be denied," he grimaced.

"And that's a good thing," I ran my hands around his soft nakedness. He seemed to be more accepting of my touch as he began to understand that my feelings for him were genuine and unconditional.

"So... now I have to tell you something else," Grant interrupted our Zen-like moment.

I raised an eyebrow at him. What now? I thought to myself, wasn't everything already out on the table?

"I was offered a job in Kensington, working for the Governor," he shared.

I was stunned. Kensington was nearly a thousand miles away. But working for an Equalitarian governor in a high profile city not only gave him a chance to go legit, it put him on a fast track for a national position. "Wow," I was excited for him, "that's a great opportunity." I was immediately thinking about how easily I could move there to be close to him.

"And you'll be offered a job with Senator Michaels," this news quickly cooled off my dreams.

"You mean with Brian?" I cried out. My blood turned to ice. Brian was pulling the strings again and wanted me to be his pretty little puppet.

"You don't have to be a genius to see what he wants," Grant observed bitterly.

"He wants me back, I know," I acknowledged miserably. "I won't do it. I can't work for him."

"It's a pretty smart plan, actually," Grant was resigned in his tone, which made me ache. "It's all or nothing; if either of us decline, we're both out."

I was speechless. The terms were severe. If I refused to work for Brian, Grant would miss out on an amazing opportunity. And if I took the job with Brian, I would probably never see Grant again. I kept scanning my brain to figure a way out of Brian's proposal but all I could feel was helpless.

"He's more connected than you realize, Eleanor," Grant could see me working out the scenario in my head. "He believes that you still love him and all you need is some incentive to go back to him. He just got me a job as insurance."

"I don't love him," I was dejected. "I don't want to be in the same city with him, much less work for him. But Kensington is too good for you to pass up, isn't it?" I conceded.

"Yours is a great opportunity too, you know," Grant suggested like he was offering condolences. I was crushed that he seemed to be accepting our fate, especially while his belly was so intimately rubbing against me while we faced each other in his bed.

"Is this what you want?" I asked him pointedly, still not sure exactly what either of us was thinking anymore. "I have to know that in your heart, this is really what you want."

He sighed deeply and shook his head.  "No, Eleanor, it's not."

"Grant," I pleaded with him, wrapping my arms around his substantial circumference, "Tell me what you truly want."

"I want to believe in something again," he whispered. "That sounds clich´┐Ż, I know, but I don't want to work for the party anymore. And I don't want to wonder what might have been..." he stopped himself.

"I feel the same way," I smiled, lifting his face back to mine. I had always been so attracted to his cool distance and mystery. But at this moment he was so beautifully vulnerable that I fell another step deeper in love with him. 

He paused to look at me with a sweet and loving gaze. But then he gave me a playful grin and rolled over on his back with his hands folded behind his head. "Then it's a good thing that I've been offered another job."

My heart pounded and a knot reformed in my throat, "Are you trying to make me crazy with all of this? I can't take any more surprises," I pounced on his soft chest, causing a jiggle to erupt throughout his sexy torso.

"This is a good one," he rolled himself back towards me and rubbed my arm, "At least, I think it is."

"Please tell me it doesn't involve you moving a thousand miles away from me," I pleaded.

"Not quite that far," he reassured me. "I actually made some great contacts with the Independents; they want me to run a new campaign in Eastport."

I was elated for him. Eastport was a progressive, diverse city on the coast and a big opportunity to do well with an independent candidate. But even better, it gave him the chance he needed to break free from the Syndicate and still do what he does best: win elections.

"What about Brian?" I cautioned him, imagining how he might react when he doesn't get his way. "He could blow this for you if I don't go with him."

"I'm not worried," Grant confidently said, "I have much more dirt on him if he doesn't let this go. He may love you, Eleanor, but he loves himself more."

"He's usually smart enough to cover his tracks," I was skeptical.

"Not once it became about you," Grant smirked. "He lost focus; made mistakes... and I caught them."

"I don't want to ruin him, Grant, I just want to get out." I had mercy for Brian even though he didn't quite deserve it.

"I have one more thing to tell you," he started to say.

"Now what?" I was exasperated. What more could he spring on me?

"About this campaign in Eastport... I need a smart writer who knows their way around both Freedomist and Equalitarian strategies."

"That's a pretty special skill set," I hoped he was saying what I think he was saying.

"I could only think of one candidate," he winked, "and she's incredibly beautiful too."

"I hate her," I joked in a vain attempt to conceal my excitement that Grant wanted me to join him.

Then he became serious, "Eleanor, I don't know what you see in your future, but if you want the job, it's yours."

"Does that mean you want me to come with you to Eastport?" I needed total clarity of his intentions considering that I was under the influence of his intoxicating chub nestling into my body.

"Do you want to work for me?" He paused and then sheepishly smiled, clarifying his question, "Do you want to be with me?" He asked, like I hadn't already said I did in fifty different ways.

I nodded with a big grin, "I've learned more about myself in the last couple of weeks than I did in several years with the Syndicate. I can't live that lie anymore. I want to be proud of what I do and who I share my life with."

"I love you, Eleanor," he finally said the words that I'd wanted for so long to hear him say.

"I love you, Grant," I wrapped my arms around as much of him as I could. No more Nora, no more Ellie... I was finally free.


© 2015 Ashblonde / Ashley B