On Tuesday, Daniel called an impromptu meeting in the War Room. The Insurance lobby was pushing hard on the Coverage bill and he wanted to talk to all of the members on the various committees that the bill would pass through to make sure they were all on the same page. They weren’t all available at the same time, so some aides came on their bosses behalf at various moments.
Isadora had spent a little time with one of the analysts from the Insurance committee, and the news wasn’t spectacular. The proposed bill was strongly worded, and didn’t leave much wiggle room for the insurance companies. The Senate could push it through, the Assembly companion was identical, but the chairs of two relevant committees on the Assembly side were leaning towards a couple of loopholes that the lobby demanded.
“Eddie,” Isadora began just before heading to the meeting, “I can take your report to Daniel, but if he or any of the others have detailed questions about it, I can’t really answer. Why don’t you sit in on the meeting with us just in case?”
“Ok, sure.” He grabbed his copy and a folder with his notes and they left his office together.
“I haven’t had the chance to ask,” she said as they crossed the Rotunda, “How are Norma and the kids?”
Eddie and Norma had met when he was a third year law student interning at the Senate. Norma was the manager of the Assembly page program at the time. Isadora always wondered how their paths had crossed, but it didn’t matter. They had one of the most romantic love stories of the legislature, everyone knew about it.
He smiled. “Everyone’s good. Thanks for asking. Our youngest started school this year, she was thrilled to be like her big brother and sister.”
“She’s starting school already? It seems like she was just a baby yesterday.”
His smile got bigger, prouder. “I know. Time is flying by.”
They were walking down the hall approaching the Majority Office when Isadora’s eyes met Karim’s. He was coming towards the office from the opposite direction, speaking with Andrea. Isadora’s heart skipped at beat and she had to look away. She tried to focus on Eddie again.
“And I heard that your son won an award?” She felt like her voice was a little shaky. She hoped not. And she had to work not to look at Karim again.
“Word gets around, doesn’t it!” Eddie said. “He did, it was for his science fair project.”
‘Word gets around’, she thought. You need to be careful. They’d reached the office door and went in just behind Andrea and Karim. The meeting had started and the room was quite full. Isadora motioned for Eddie to follow her closer to Daniel. Another member was speaking, so she was able to whisper to Daniel that Eddie was there just in case there were any questions that needed answering. As she straightened, her eyes met Karim’s again. He was near the corner just over Daniel’s shoulder. In the hallway, his eye contact had been brief, professional. But there, in the room the look he gave her was completely different. She felt a wave of heat rush over her and she could feel him inside her again. Her eyes fluttered only for the briefest second, and he seemed to understand the effect he was having on her. His lips turned up in just the briefest dirty little grin.
She looked away, focusing on the member who was speaking.
“Of course our overall goal is to protect our constituents. But, if we continue playing hardball, what’s to stop the companies from pulling out entirely? How is it in anyone’s best interest for there to be no insurance coverage for anything in the entire state?” Isadora wasn’t surprised to hear Sarah Paisley voice one of the lobbying firm’s arguments. She was up for re-election that year and her previous campaign had benefited from the support of several insurance companies.
“No one wants to play hardball,” Daniel answered. “But that argument is a little desperate. The money to be lost is far, far too attractive for all of the companies. The larger ones might accept the idea, but the smaller, local ones could easily go out of business.”
Sarah looked uncomfortable. “That is a large part of my concern. The money to be lost. For all of the parties involved.”
No shit, Isadora said to herself. She stepped back a little. The table was really for the members and she didn’t want to be too close. She didn’t want anyone thinking that she was inserting herself into their discussions. She wanted to look at Karim again, but she didn’t think it was very wise. She moved closer to one of the walls, settling by the door so she could take her phone out and check her emails.
Two more members arrived and their aides left. She was still checking and half listening when she realized that Karim had made his way right next to her. She couldn’t breathe. He was very still as well, looking at the members, completely ignoring her.
“Isadora,” Eric whispered, coming into the open door.
“What’s up?” She said, turning slightly towards him, Karim then at her back.
“Dwayne’s outside. He asked me to see if you’d come out to speak with him.”
“Right this second?” She tried to be as still as possible. Karim had moved even closer and she felt his little finger just barely graze her thigh.
Eric answered her question. “He said it’s about the coverage bill. Said it’s kind of important.”
She sighed. Less with annoyance than because of the way Karim was softly stroking the back of her leg. She shifted position, moving just out of his reach.
“Oh.” She said to Eric. “Thanks.”
Her heart was racing and she was actually a little grateful that Dwayne had given her a reason to leave the room.
Later, once Daniel was satisfied that the members would hold their position, Isadora sent Karim a text.
-Sorry. Couldn’t help it. Needed to touch you.
-Right there, in front of everyone?
-No one noticed. But I’m sorry if I upset you.
-You did. But you don’t have to apologize. Didn’t say I didn’t like it.
-Still enjoying the discomfort then?