|posted on 27-Sep-2001 3:34:28 AM|
Rating: PG13, but if I finish it, expect NC17.
Category: AU Max and Liz
Summary: It's Liz's last chance at motherhood, and she plans on getting pregnant asap! All she needs is the perfect candidate.
Disclaimer: Own nothing related to Roswell in any shape or form. Dammit.
~~~ Washington D.C.~~~
Bad Luck. It came in threes.
Running late for her appointment, Dr. Elizabeth Claudia Parker managed to snag two pairs of stockings with her freshly painted fingernails, ruining both hose and manicure. “Dammit. So much for quick drying,” Liz muttered. “I should be working for Revlon instead of the government.” Grabbing a cotton ball, she began to rub her nails with polish remover.
Finally presentable in a dress of aqua silk, Liz ran into the den and hurriedly fed her mouse Stuart. Her best friend Maria swore he could say Elizabeth, but Liz just didn’t hear it in the small creature’s trilling. “Bye Stuart, Mommy’s late. Be good.” Stuart sang his goodbye at her retreating figure and the door slammed shut.
Outside the door of the Soho apartment she’d refused to give up, she watched the elevator groan to a stop. But the doors must be stuck again because all she heard was an ominous groan. Damn, damn, damn. More bad luck. That was number two. She ran for the stairs and cursed under her breath. She *hated* being late.
Proceeding carefully in the DC traffic, she braked in front of one of the many government buildings and watched a man mowing the grass. There was something soothing about it. Such a normal thing to be doing on a day without a cloud in the sky and gentle warm April breezes.
In the face of such normality, Liz took a calming breath and said aloud, “It’s not brain surgery. It’s just your basic visit with your gynecologist.” Saying it made her apprehension decrease. All she was doing was going for her yearly examination. No reason to be worried. Not at all.
Just then, the automated sprinkler system kicked in where the man had finished mowing. One of the sprinkler heads abruptly turned the wrong way and sent an arc of cold water into the traffic. Right through Liz’s open window, soaking the front of her silk dress. Great. Perfect. Bad luck number three. Rolling up her window, Liz grumbled, “This is going to be one of those days I should have stayed at home in bed.”
Dr. Martinis cheery nurse offered her coffee when she signed in, but Liz declined. The way her morning was going, it would spill all over the bottom of her dress. Besides, she was already nervous enough without the addition of caffeine.
“It’s going to be just a bit, Dr. Parker. One of his patients decided to go into labor this morning three weeks early. He’s on the way from the hospital now.”
A pregnant woman was sitting with her young daughter, and Liz watched the child with longing. Shy at first, the little girl peered at Liz from where she was sitting beside her mother. She had long dark brown hair and eyes rimmed with long lashes that would be the envy of her friends when she was older. Liz sat quietly and was surprised when the child crawled over to her with a book.
May I?” Liz asked the mother.
“Be my guest,” the woman sighed. “I’ve read it so many times that I could recite it backwards.”
For the next thirty minutes Liz and the little girl entered the magical world of Cinderella and evil step mothers and handsome princes. Jennie leaned against Liz, and Liz could smell the baby shampoo in her hair. Each time that Liz finished the book, Jennie’s brown eyes would seek her face, and she’d say, “Again. Read please?” Delighted, Liz hugged the little girl gently and with great longing. To have a child… a family. Jennie patted the book and Liz began to read again.
Two hours later, Liz sat in front of her mountain cabin trying to stop the flood of tears. Dr. Martin had been kind and had held her hand when delivering his devastating diagnosis. All the symptoms she’d been foolishly ignoring, attributing them to stress and exhaustion, had added themselves together to form a conclusion that she wanted desperately to deny.
She got out of the car and let herself into the small pine A-frame, her private haven, and only asset she had received from her failed marriage to Kyle Valenti. Inside, she punched in the number of her old family physician back in Roswell, NM.
He came on the line and said, “Of course I remember you Liz. I may not be in practice anymore, but I was doctor to two generations of Parkers. Now, what can I do for you?”
The kindly voice of Dr. Sanchez brought on another barrage of tears, and her words stumbled out. “My gynecologist t-told me this m-morning t-t-that he thinks I’m entering.. early meno-p-p-pause..”
Dr. Sanchez sighed. “Well, I can’t say I’m surprised. Nearly always runs in families. And Nancy reached menopause at thirty-one. I’m afraid that the women in your family don’t have a very long period of fertility. What symptoms have you been experiencing?”
“Missed periods, hot body flushes, night sweats,” Liz answered through tears. Why hadn’t her mother ever mentioned that she went into early menopause? If only she had known, she could’ve done something sooner. Her old doctor’s voice crackled over the phone as he voiced his agreement with the diagnosis Dr. Martin had made that morning. With her family history and her age of thirty-three, the symptoms couldn’t be written off as coincidence. Liz desperately clutched the phone.
“Now listen to me, Liz. Nancy handled it and I’m sure her daughter can do it, too. Just remember, you’ve still got time to have at least one child, presuming you can get a man to agree to it. If not, there’s always artificial insemination.”
Liz barely remembered to thank the doctor before hanging up. She was the last living member of the Parker family, and the thought of never having a child was devastating. She damned Kyle Valenti and herself for stupidly letting herself be talked into waiting to have children until they were “financially secure”.
Financial security had proved hard for Kyle to define. Apparently, fidelity was an elusive term as well. Through their raging arguments, he’d explain his rationale as trying to be certain that she was the “perfect woman for him.” Liz knew better and preferred the old fashioned word “cheating.”
They’d survived the first affair, but when it happened again she’d called it quits. What she should have done in the first place. Now, three years after the divorce, her biological clock was ticking loudly and apparently on its last legs. Dammit!
The only good thing to come out of their marriage was the tiny cabin tucked into the hills of Virginia. For a while, she had wondered how many of Kyle’s women had been ‘tested’ here, but she had soon given it up because it wasn’t the rustic cabin’s fault that one of its owners was a jerk. Okay, a big time jerk.
But today the cabin couldn’t work its magic and soothe her soul. She walked through the well worn path among the trees and came to the conclusion to take Dr. Sanchez’s advice. She could still have a child. All she needed was a man to agree to get the job done.
Problem was that after her divorce, she’d built walls around her heart to keep her from getting hurt again. No one had penetrated those walls, and she had no candidates to be the father of her child. Tears drying on her face, Liz locked up the cabin around three o’clock and left to meet Maria and Alex for dinner that night.
The weekly night out at Chili’s was a tradition that had lasted longer than her ill fated marriage. “Alex is running behind and said to start without him,” Maria said as she slid into a booth. “You look terrible. What’d the doctor say?” Friends since childhood, Maria worked as an aide to Alex in the White House. She was known for her ability to cut through bureaucratic bullshit and come out smelling like a rose. She would go far.
Liz ordered a double margarita for fortification; she was going to need it. Her best friends had known about today’s appointment, and while Liz didn’t want to avoid the subject, she preferred to wait until Alex showed up before she fell apart again. She could only say it once. Maria, of course, would completely understand what she was going through because of the hysterectomy she had been forced to have because of a malignant tumor in her uterus. Maria wanted to have children as badly as Liz, but where Liz stayed buried at the government funded lab, Maria went out on dates. Divorced men with custody were given extra points.
Alex finally arrived and Liz managed to spill her doctor’s diagnosis without too many tears. Liz sipped at the ice and salt and added, “He can’t tell me when it will happens, but if I want to get pregnant, I need to do so as quickly as possible.”
“So, what do you want to do?” Alex asked as he held her hand.
“I want to have a baby,” Liz sighed.
Maria traced a finger around the glass of her pina colada. “God, what a screwed up world. With the rising population numbers, one would think that infertility didn’t exist on this planet. But no, I had to go and get cancer, and you’re going into early menopause. You know, if I hadn’t gotten cancer, I would have children by now. With or without a husband.”
The waiter appeared with a glass of iced tea for Alex, who had an ironclad rule: no alcohol. He’d seen all too often the damage that could be done to careers in a careless instant. “Do you have someone in mind or are you going with artificial insemination?” It was unspoken, but the friends knew the father couldn’t be Alex. Not with the amount of scrutiny of White House staff. The Press would paint him as a gigolo, and there would go his career.
Liz considered. “It may sound strange, but I’d rather have sex with a stranger than be artificially inseminated. At least that way I would know what the father looks like, and Maria could help me run a little investigation to determine his family health history. Maybe find someone whose family is really fertile to counteract my stupid genes.”
Alex blanched. “You’re kidding. Right? Tell me you’re kidding, Liz. You can’t use government resources to investigate your potential candidates!” he hissed.
“Relax Alex! No one mentioned using White House resources,” Maria instructed. “Believe it or not, but there are private investigators who will do a little digging for a fee. Liz can go do this by herself if you’re worried that I might be recognized.”
Liz interjected, “Don’t worry about it; I’m a big girl Alex. I’ve got a doctorate in physics, surely I can handle a little internet seek and find.”
Maria sighed, “If I could afford it, I would adopt a child. Then if someone came into my life and we fell in love, everything would be perfect.”
Liz stared at her best friend as an idea formed. “What if I have a baby and you come to live with us? They say raising a child is hard work that requires two parents. We could split the midnight feedings and diaper duty and, most importantly, the bills. I could try to reassigned to a different project where I could do the majority of my work from home. And even if they didn’t go for it, I’ve got a pretty healthy amount of savings we could use if we got in a bind.”
After a moment Alex said quietly, “What about a third partner? I’ve got a townhouse with a tenant’s lease that’s up at the end of the year. I don’t need the income from it, and you could live there without having to worry about rent.”
Maria turned to him. “If we didn’t have rent, we could do it on my salary. Alex! You’re wonderful!!” She looked over at Liz. “What do you say that I pay the bills and you have the baby? You need to get a different job anyway because that lab is going to kill you. You could work from home and write amazing articles for Science Today.”
Liz thought frantically. It was true that she hated her job. Working fifteen hour days had been manageable in her twenties, but she would have thought that she would be finished with paying her dues by now. The government thought otherwise. But if she was published, perhaps she could get a job teaching when the baby went to school. “Okay,” Liz agreed and stuck out her hand. “You’ve got yourself a deal.”
Maria quickly got down to basics. “So, our housing and income are covered. Now the only question is: who’s going to ‘do the job’?”
During dinner, Liz, Maria and Alex laughingly constructed a possible list of paternity candidates. “First priority?”
“Someone intelligent,” Liz responded.
“Well that certainly narrows down the list. Male intelligence is an oxymoron,” Maria drawled.
Alex protested, “On behalf of the male species, I must disagree! There *are* men who think with the brain in their heads instead of the one in their pants.”
“Okay, what else?” Maria asked.
Feeling the margarita, Liz said, “Um.. he should be sexy. And tall. I hate being short. Fertility is a must. And he should respect women.”
Maria grinned. “Okay, I’ve got just the man for you. Brad Pitt.”
Liz blushed and added, “One other quality. Single. Married men need not apply. Besides, I like brunettes.”
Alex declared, “Well I’ve got the perfect candidate. Tall, dark and handsome according to the ladies in the office. He’s single and very healthy. There’s only one problem… he’s not entirely human.”
“Oh My God!” Maria squealed. “You’re talking about Max Evans! He’s definitely drool worthy, I can attest to that! His eyes are incredible, and there’s just something about him that makes you want to pour your troubles out to him.”
“What’s the king of Antar doing on Earth? Wasn’t he just here?” Liz asked as her heart beat in triple time. Who didn’t know about the young king who had been raised as a human? He had returned home to his planet and fought a massive war. Immerging victorious, he had negotiated a treaty between Earth and Antar which basically said that as allies, if one was attacked, the other would help defend that planet. Liz had always been fascinated by Max Evans, reading every article she could get her hands on. He just seemed.. perfect. Too perfect and she was anything but. He’d never go for her.
“Well, the official story is that he’s here to address Congress,” Alex replied. “But if you want my opinion, he’s here to see his girl friend.”
Maria abandoned the list. “Oh ick. What he sees in Tess Harding is beyond me. I mean, she’s gorgeous until she opens her mouth. Then it’s my way or the highway and damn the consequences. The National Rifle Association did well when they hired her as one of their lobbyists. That woman is as manipulative as any of the double talking politicians, and twice as tenacious.”
“Oh wonderful,” Liz quipped. “The run of bad luck continues. We find a suitable candidate, but he likes big chested malicious blond bimbos. That lets me out and before you even ask, no I’m not going to dye my hair Maria.”
“True,” Maria said solemnly. “You’d have to get a boob job first.”
Liz was drunk enough to pull out the shirt material covering her breasts and ask, “What do you think? Is it me?”
The three friends burst out laughing and soon discussion reverted back to children and their conception. Alex supplied a story about one of his colleagues who’d tried to adopt only to have the birth mother back out and keep the child. Liz said that she wanted to *have* a baby herself. She wanted a blood tie to her child; she didn’t want the Parker line to die out.
The waiter discreetly slid the bill on the table, and Liz drained the last of her margarita. “I hereby declare that I, Elizabeth Claudia Parker, have a child in my future,” she stated. “And that the three of us will help raise him or her, assuming I can find a father candidate.” And thus the Mommy Plan was decreed.
The bill was paid and Maria drove Liz back to her apartment. As she was about to climb out of the car, Maria tugged on her arm. “In the morning, you’re going to think it was the alcohol, but it’s not. I swear it. Don’t miss out on the chance at motherhood, Lizzy. Let’s put the Mommy Plan into action. I’ll call you tomorrow, okay? And just so you know, I intend to be quite stubborn about this.”
Liz gave Maria a huge smile and left the car to go up and have a nice chat with her mouse Stuart.
~~~ Antar, Royal Grounds ~~~
The thunderous pounding of hooves on ground startled birds out of trees and into the sky. Two figures burst forth from the Royal Stables at breakneck speed. Racing, they flew across lush grass and veered off the path to run along the edge of a steep cliff where the sea crashed into the rocks.
One rider with her hair in a braid looked back but didn’t slow and feminine laughter floated in the salty air. Challenged, the other rider bent closer to his horse’s neck and urged his mount on. If they had to race, so be it. He would win. Nothing else was acceptable.
The female heard them gaining ground behind her. She leaned down and called to her horse, Villandra. “We might not beat them in speed, but we’ll try to outwit them!” Abruptly, she veered toward a small grove of trees.
Challenged, the male laughed in delight at her cunning and pounded after her. “Zan, we can’t have them besting us! We’ll never hear the end of it!” The stallion recklessly charged the path, causing pebbles to spray. He was gaining on her, but she was riding in the center of the path which gave him no room to pass.
The path suddenly widened and trees fell away to reveal the same field of grass dotted with wildflowers. As they raced, they were nearly neck and neck and headed for a hedge. Then they were soaring over it, side by side. The stables came into view, and one rider began to pull away and take the lead.
King Maximilian Phillip Evans reined in and slid from his horse’s back with excitement still drumming in his veins. His sister, Princess Isabel Grace Evans was only a few seconds behind him, and her laughter rang out as she swung down.
“Must you be so competitive?! Really Max, I’m your sister, and you should let me win once.” Isabel tried to look put out. The effect was somewhat spoiled by the twitching at the corners of her wide mouth.
Max threw his head back and laughed, “And have your head get even bigger? I think not. As it is, the palace can barely hold it.”
Two grooms led the horses away, and the siblings stared at each other expectantly. Finally, Isabel couldn’t stand waiting any longer and asked, “So, will you do it? Please.”
Max started walking back to the curving staircase that led to the palace doors. “Isabel, I was just there last month. We’re not talking about driving down to Connecticut for the weekend. Every time we take the granolith away from the palace puts it at risk.”
“I know, but there’s the weapon smuggling issue that must be addressed. The citizens of Earth need reassurance that every possible effort is being made to stop the smuggling and retrieve the 845LGXs. They can’t defend themselves, Max, and they’re getting frustrated.”
As they made their way up the stone steps, Max sighed. “You’re right. But what the NRA has proposed needs careful consideration. I must be convinced that we have exhausted possibility of retrieval first. Yes, they have every right to have technology to defend themselves, but there are no guarantees that the technology won’t be used against them to start a war.”
“They could use implants like we do,” Isabel offered.
A guard made a small bow and opened the door. “Iz. We lived in the US. Can you honestly see its citizens allowing themselves to be implanted? They’d think it was too much like Big Brother, and from what I’ve seen of their military, it would be entirely justified. And that’s just the US.”
“But the implants are only activated when their LGs are stolen or missing,” she countered as they stopped outside the Library.
Max braced one arm on the door frame. “Correct. And we use the implants to send waves throughout the different Security Stations on the planet to activate the LG self destruction mechanism. Antar is united under a monarchy, which makes enforcing measures like these a simple matter of me signing a decree. Earth is a different matter. If the citizens wouldn’t accept the implants, there would be no way to activate the self destruct code.”
“Well that may be the case, but it doesn’t change the fact that LGs are already present on Earth. And being used. A war may start regardless, and you’re not giving people a way to protect themselves. They’re scared Max,” Isabel said as she unbraided her long hair.
Removing his arm, Max came up to his sister and reassured, “All of our citizens are being asked to go to their Local Council and get their individual LG numbers scanned. We have a list of every LG ever manufactured. We’ll compare the two lists, find the people whose guns are missing, and take them to Earth to send out a wave. The LGs on Earth will self destruct and everything will be back to normal. Well, as normal as Earth can be.”
Refusing to give up, Isabel asked again, “So will you do it? Will you go address the US Congress?”
Max looked away briefly and thought of Earth, the place of his birth. After several minutes he decided, “It will have to be next month, but only for a few days.”
“Oh, Max! Thank you!” Isabel exclaimed as a smile claimed her face.
Max chuckled, “You’re welcome sis,” and left to shower before his meeting with the Minister of Sector Four: Environmental Division. Unable to resist teasing her a little, Max called over his shoulder, “And I am *not* going to another one of those parties of yours.”
Isabel’s eyes danced. “Oh, I wouldn’t be too sure of that.”
Liz stood at the entrance of the Hamilton Room at the Hilton Hotel. The occasion was a fund raiser for pediatric cancer research, and the elite of Washington DC were in heavy attendance. Businessmen, lobbyists and members of Congress socialized in small groups. This was where deals were made and alliances were formed.
Alex had arranged an invitation and Maria beamed in approval. “Lots of very smart, very ambitious, and hopefully good looking men,” she commented. “Now go find someone suitable to mix DNA with and let’s get this Mommy Plan off the ground.”
Liz had laughed and agreed that it would be as good a place as any to start her quest. She had dressed carefully in a burgundy cocktail dress and pinned her hair up.
Her solo entrance did not go unnoticed, and soon Liz felt very nervous. It was one thing to talk about a potential ‘candidate’ but quite another to actually choose a real man to father her child. She spent the evening fending off the attention of two businessmen who were openly wearing wedding rings.
Gradually, she became aware of the scrutiny of a fairly attractive man, just a few inches short of being tall. He strolled up to her and charmingly scolded, “You haven’t been working the room. In fact, if you’ll pardon my saying so, it looks like the room is working you.”
“Actually, I’m about to leave. I need to get off my feet.”
He chuckled. “I’m Sean Winston.” He waited expectantly for her gushing reply, but when none came he offered, “I’m an aide for Senator Whitehall.”
Liz was saved from making a reply when Alex paused a moment with the Chief of Staff’s wife in tow. “I’ll be right back,” he said and continued directing the slightly tipsy Mrs. Maretti to the exit.
“You know Alex Whitman?” Sean actually seemed to be impressed.
“He invited me. He’s one of my best friends.” Liz watched him carefully.
“Are you sure you have to leave? I’d love to hear more about you.”
Suddenly her feet didn’t seem to ache quite so much, and she chatted amiably with him. Alex came by once more, “Only five more minutes. I promise.” Then he scurried away.
Sean spoke up. “There’s a cocktail party this Friday that I have to attend, and I don’t have a date. Are you free?”
Liz paused, took a deep breath, and said, “Actually, I’m free Friday.”
“He’s thirty-two, single and I think he’s interested,” she reported at the weekly dinner at Chili’s. “He asked me to dinner again, Thursday night.”
Alex took a gulp of iced tea and leaned forward. “According to a friend of mine, he’s a hard worker if a little too ambitious. He’s doing his best to work the parties so if Senator Whitehall doesn’t get re-elected, he can latch onto someone else. Very clever, but it hasn’t earned him many friends on Whitehall’s staff.”
“Mmm.. I got the same impression at the party last Friday,” said Liz. “I was mostly a pretty trophy for him to drag around while he sought out Whitehall’s campaign contributors. He can seem very genuine but then he’ll make a sarcastic comment and I wonder.” Sighing, Liz took another bite of her grilled chicken.
“Look, you’re not going to marry him,” Maria nudged.
“I know. But here I am checking out his genes, and he wants to start an affair.” Liz looked at her two friends. “Why can’t it be as simple as find a man, fall in love and get married? You know what I was thinking when he kissed me goodnight? That he had good teeth! I felt so guilty,” Liz lamented.
“Okay, do you want to have a baby or not?” Alex asked in an even tone. “That’s the real question here because you’ll have this same problem with other men.”
“I know, and I do want a baby.” Liz refocused her determination. “It’s too late for May, so I’ll have to wait until June. Assuming I ovulate, that’s the earliest I could try to get pregnant.”
“So we’ll do it in June,” Maria decided.
Liz nodded and tried to ignore the sinking in the pit of her stomach.
Over the next weeks, Liz went to dinners and parties with Sean. She would always skim the crowd for other potential candidates, but they all seemed to be cut from the same mold as Winston. Unfortunately.
It got harder and harder for Liz to keep Sean at arms length. At first her nervousness added to his interest. She was shy, how sweet. But it had soon worn thin, and Sean had finally asked her tonight if he had misunderstood the situation.
Instinctively, Liz knew that her answer would determine whether or not she would be able to try to use Sean to father her child. If he walked, she would have to try to find another candidate. Liz mentally reviewed the men she had met over the last few weeks, but none stood out as a better candidate. What was that saying about a bird in hand?
“If we start an affair, I want you to come with me to get tested. I’m a doctor and all too aware of the potential dangers of having sex with the wrong partner.” Sean backed away, but Liz held her ground. Her internet search had found his perfectly normal parents, younger brother, and childhood. But there still was the question of health.
Rubbing his face, Sean looked down for a moment, then back up at Liz. “I guess I can understand that. Okay, I’ll go get a blood test.”
Liz nodded. “Good. Thank you for being so understanding.”
“I *am* understanding,” Sean agreed then leaned into her. “To a point. Listen, Senator Whitehall has been invited to a ball for the Antarian Ambassador’s birthday. He can’t make it and chose me to go in his place, and I’m allowed one guest. How would you like to go? It’s being held at the Hay-Adams Hotel this Saturday. We could get a room and make a weekend of it.”
Liz swallowed against the sinking sensation in the pit of her stomach. It was now or never. She should be ovulating, and with a little luck, she’d get pregnant. Never mind that the thought of having sex with Sean turned her stomach. Focus on the baby.
“I’d love to,” she said quickly before she could change her mind. “It sounds terrific.”
Liz tried not to shudder as Sean smiled triumphantly and squeezed her thigh. “Great,” he murmured suggestively, knowing that he would finally get what he wanted. “Wear something sexy for me.”
Liz smiled weakly and nodded. If nothing else, it would all be over soon.
All too soon, Liz and Sean were checking into the hotel Saturday. Liz had a small overnight case along with a carefully packed, newly bought gown. Sexy, as requested.
After being settled into a large room, Sean excused himself to go shower and change. Liz walked over to where a complimentary copy of the Washington Post was lying on a table. Unfolding it, she sat down and read the headlines.
King Max Evans had addressed Congress yesterday, and there was the standard write up about the Antarian weapons smuggling issue. Liz sighed and traced her fingers around the image of him waving to a crowd of onlookers.
Highly conscious of the fact that she might be able to see the famous king in person, Liz reflected that at least there was one thing to look forward to. Who knows? If she was very lucky, she might actually be introduced to the object of her fantasies.
Lost in her dream world, Liz jumped when Sean breezed out of the bathroom wearing a tuxedo. “I need to take care of a couple of details downstairs. Why don’t I run along and let you get beautiful? Is an hour enough?” he asked.
“Why don’t I meet you downstairs?” Liz countered. She could guess at what Sean’s reaction to her gown would be, and she was determined to get to see the man who was the object of her fantasies. Perhaps then she could pretend it was he who would be sharing her bed instead of Sean.
“Mmm.. sounds perfect,” Sean replied and took her into his arms. “I just know you’ll be worth the wait.” He smiled at his double meaning and brought his mouth down on hers.
Liz forced herself to relax and open her mouth to his probing tongue. Liz didn’t feel anything remotely sexual, not even a mild curiosity for the man she had chosen to father her child. She felt him slide his hand from her waist to cup her bottom then grind himself against her. Slightly stiffening, Liz pulled away and said, “Your meeting. I don’t want to keep you.”
Liz nodded and watched him leave the room. She didn’t even realize she had been holding her breath until her lungs complained. Sinking down into a chair, Liz wondered how she was going to be able to pull this off.
An hour later, Liz made her grand entrance into the crowded room. She was wearing a cream gown with a slit up one side. At first glance, the color made it seem like she was wearing nothing at all. A fact Liz was all too aware of as indicated by the slight blush on her cheeks. Her hair was piled in artful disarray and pearls encircled her throat.
Making her way across the ballroom, Liz had the satisfaction of seeing Sean’s mouth drop open. All too conscious of the looks she was receiving from other men in the room, Liz smiled nervously as she took her place at Sean’s side.
“Wow,” he said possessively and tucked her hand in the crook of his arm as he went to work the crowd. Once again, Liz saw many of the biggest names in Washington D.C. She even got introduced to the surprisingly charming Vice President and his wife.
Alex found them and asked if they were enjoying the party. Liz opened her mouth to reply, but no words left her lips as her eyes got as big as saucers. Princess Isabel was standing behind Alex, grinning impishly.
“Mr. Whitman?” she asked and Alex turned. “I was told to find you if there were any problems.”
Alex raised an eyebrow and fought to keep a straight face. “Yes, your royal highness?”
“We seem to have run out of tabasco. Would you please direct me to the kitchen?”
“Of course,” Alex said with a slight bow. “But first, let me introduce you to my good friend, Dr. Elizabeth Parker and her date Sean Winston.”
Isabel smiled at the woman with huge brown eyes. “It’s nice to meet you.”
Liz awkwardly curtsied and Isabel laughed. “Don’t do that around my brother. His head is already big enough as it is.”
Alex excused himself and escorted Isabel in the direction of the kitchen. “No tabasco?” he questioned in a low voice. “Surely you could have come up with a better excuse than that.”
Isabel glanced over at Alex and teased, “It was all I could think of on the spur of the moment. I saw you there with a beautiful woman and had to check out the competition.”
Alex chuckled. “You should know better. She’s a good friend and not my type in the slightest.”
“And what would your type be, Mr. Whitman?”
“Oh, I have a thing for beautiful blonds,” Alex drawled as they rounded a corner.
Isabel snorted, “You and my brother. Although I must say that your taste is much better than his. What he sees in that witch Tess Harding is beyond me.”
“Ah yes, I thought I heard her shrill voice. I’m surprised you invited her.”
“I didn’t. She’s Max’s date; his revenge for my planning yet another party,” Isabel said disgusted. She stopped outside the hotel kitchen and looked at Alex. “You know, I wouldn’t have to keep throwing these parties if you would date me openly.”
Alex sighed. “We’ve been over this before. Until the weapons smuggling issue is resolved, we can’t go public with our relationship. The NRA is just looking for a reason to accuse the President of dragging his feet and not issuing an ultimatum to the Antarian government. If it was known that a member of the White House staff was seeing the Princess of Antar…”
“I know, I know,” Isabel said. “But I’m giving you fair warning, Alex Whitman. The minute this issue is resolved, you and I are going public.”
After Alex had led the princess away, Liz scanned the crowd, trying to find King Max in the throng of well wishers. He was here. She’d hoped he would be but hadn’t been certain.
Hoping to give herself a chance for a more thorough inspection, Liz excused herself from Sean and went over to the buffet table. Glancing at the spread, Liz found a platter of luscious strawberries with a bowl of cream in the center. Unable to resist, Liz picked up a berry, dipped it in the thick cream, and brought it to her mouth.
Biting into the fruit, Liz felt a drop of the cream hit her bare chest. Hoping that no one would see, she scooped the small dollop onto her index finger and brought it to her mouth. Sucking the treat, Liz felt herself being watched and looked up. Into the wicked amber eyes of King Max Evans.