Author’s note: I went a little over the word limit with this one, and I’m not sorry. 🙂
Ask someone what an angel looks like, and they’ll often say, “Glowing porcelain skin, mesmerizing blue eyes, luxurious blonde hair. They’re so beautiful, you can’t take your eyes off them.”
That pretty much described Rowen. I noticed him at a political fundraiser in Washington, and after that, he was the only one in the room. He talked to people, smiled, and mingled with ease and grace, and everyone he came in contact with tried not to gawk at him.
I was a short Jew with dark curly hair who sometimes looked pudgy, though I wasn’t. I had a five o’clock shadow by two in the afternoon, and my clothes sometimes look slept in, though they weren’t. I’d been called cute and funny, but my real strength was my intelligence.
He wouldn’t know that, though, because when the angel finally got to me, my tongue lay in my mouth like a dead thing.
“Hi.” He stuck out a hand. “I’m Rowen Walsh.”
He fucking glowed, and I was dumbstruck. I managed to shake his hand and worked to unstick my tongue before he decided I was an idiot and moved on.
“You’re Levi Hoffman, right? I’ve been told you’re the president’s best speechwriter.”
“Yes, but if that gets around, the other writers will feel compelled to hang my underwear from the White House flagpole as punishment.” What the fuck was that? What did I just say?
But he laughed, the blue eyes twinkled, and I suddenly wanted him fiercely. It seemed love at first sight did exist.
His gaze dropped to my crotch, then rose again. “What kind do you wear? I’m trying to picture that.”
“Plaid boxers, of course. Very hip right now.”
His chuckle had a dirty edge, and a chill went through me. “Oh, what a falling off was there,” I muttered. Fuck, did I say that out loud?
He must have had hearing like a cat, even with the conversations going on around us, because he bent down—he was about five inches taller than me—and said, “Why are you quoting the ghost from Hamlet?”
“You weren’t supposed to hear that, but I was thinking of the Ali MacGraw reading of the line to preppy lawyer Ryan O’Neal in Love Story.”
He straightened and looked at me as if seeing me for the first time. “One of my favorite movies,” he said smoothly. He had the best smile, and his lips were incredible.
I wanted to plunder them. Plunder? What did that even mean?
Okay, I knew what it meant, but why was I thinking that about this guy who looked like he was about eighteen? His skin was perfect. I couldn’t see a pore anywhere. Not a line, not a wrinkle. Flawless. And intimidating as hell. I abruptly wished I’d changed my shirt. “I’m hungry. Want to get something to eat?”
Two years later, we were still together. Sort of. I lived in NYC, and he lived in Washington, DC, and we didn’t see each other nearly enough. I was busy writing books, and he was stringing words together so a president could entrance and impress the country.
When he invited me to the White House Halloween party for staff and friends, I took the train, writing on a laptop all the way down. A security person named Rose took me to a small private room, where she instructed me to don the costume lying on the couch while she waited outside.
I texted Levi: If I’m going as King Arthur, does that mean you’re dressed as Guinevere? Because that would be hot.
When have I ever been that predictable? Hurry up.
What about my stuff?
Give it to Rose. She’ll take good care of it until we leave.
Twenty minutes later, I was being escorted to the East Room in the Executive Residence, which was already populated by cowboys, vampires, sexy witches (male and female), several adult Baby Yodas, and even a Bezos in space. Cobwebs and bats hung from the ceiling, and dry ice fog billowed from the bar area. Appropriate spooky music played from hidden speakers.
“Have fun,” Rose said and left me.
I was moving toward the bar when a short suit of armor stepped in front of me. I squinted. “Levi?” There were narrow eye slits in the headpiece. “How the hell can you see in that thing, much less breathe?”
“With great difficulty.” His voice was muffled. A sword hung from a belt around his waist, and he put a hand on the pommel. “This costume reminds me of when I went trick or treating as a kid and tripped over low hedges in the dark. Always lost half my candy.”
I snickered. “Why this and not Lady Guinevere?”
“I wanted to be different. I am the only man in armor at this party.”
“With good reason.”
We were the quintessential example of opposites attracting; I withheld parts of myself from most people while he embraced them, full of passion and curiosity. I lived in my head, he journeyed to the stars. He never bored me, and he could always make me laugh. He was my safe harbor.
“Are you going to wear that all night?”
“Only until I faint or lose five pounds. You wouldn’t believe how much I’m sweating in this thing.”
“I knew you’d be hot,” I joked, and he punched me lightly.
After everyone had seen his armor, he removed the headpiece, and half an hour after that, we said goodnight, picked up my things from Rose, and went to his apartment.
After we’d stripped off our costumes—I had to help him with his—he insisted on taking a shower. I pulled a wrapped box from my overnight bag and laid it on the living room table in front of the fireplace.
When he returned, wearing a T-shirt and baggy sweatpants, curly hair still damp, there was a fire in the grate and two glasses of wine on the table.
He eyed the gift. “Is that for me?” I nodded. “What a coincidence. I have one for you, too.” He sat next to me on the couch and opened the box. Inside was a pair of plaid boxers, and under that, a DVD of Love Story. Turned out he didn’t own either of them.
“They’re very hip right now,” I said and leaned over to kiss him.
“You can put them on me later.” He sat back, lifted one hip to dig into a pocket, and pulled out a ring box.
My heart stopped, then beat really fast. “Levi?”
“It’s time, don’t you think?” He opened it. Two narrow faceted silver rings were inside. “One for each of us. I wanted them to be made of fairy dust and morning dew, but practicality won out.” His eyes met mine. “Want to get married sometime?”
It was perfect. He was perfect. “Sure.”
We put the rings on each other, then toasted and sipped our wine.
His lips were next to my ear. “One question, though. NYC or DC?”
I put down my glass and straddled him. “We’ll talk about it later, okay?”
“Sure.” He smirked at echoing my response to his proposal.
It had started snowing, and the cold wind rattled the window glass, but wood crackled in the grate, and his arms around me were warm.
He would always be my safe harbor.
Genre: contemporary love story
Word count: 1230