A torrid affair in college that neither can forget. And now that they both work on Capitol Hill, sparks fly once more.
Brandon Jefferson Wingate comes from a family with political clout and money. Yet when he’s bested at the only game he knows by a novice to the world of “Politricks” Brandon begins to question if holding an elected office is his true calling.
Kenya Paul is his former classmate and the girl who broke his heart. And now that Brandon has won a seat in congress, he must cross paths with the woman that got away, only to become a thorn in this right leaning politician’s side, and a constant ache in his heart.
Big Nu University, 2006
Brandon Jefferson Wingate had never lost an election. Never. Ever.
But as the votes were counted for Newburgh’s collegiate student body class president, Kenya Paul was declared the winner and Brandon was the loser.
“Let it go Austin,” Brandon said, switching from ripping apart his victory speech to scrambling to come up with a decent concession speech. First he’d have to phone Kenya to congratulate her. Second, he’d have to find out if she’d even accept his call.
“What the hell, how could she beat us?” Austin said, looking like a darker, hipper version of Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory. “All she had were the black kids who don’t even make up two percent of this school.”
Brandon gave Austin a grimace that clearly said cut it out, but Austin was fired up. Campaign central was their fraternity house, the same one that had sponsored pep rallies, theme contests, keggers and BYO parties on Brandon’s behalf.
“You can play Mister PC all you want, but she had outside help,” Austin grumbled. “She’s female and she’s a lesbo, so all of them probably voted for her. Add in the Asian kids” ─ he nodded in the direction of an Indonesian frat brother ─ “No offense Sareesh. But that still doesn’t account for the votes she needed to overtake you. I mean, according to our most recent poll you were up by over 10 points.”
Brandon wasn’t fully listening but he got Austin’s insinuation. “Dude, back off. There’s nothing worse than a sore loser.”
“It’s not right, man. Besides, it’s un-American. Kenya’s not a name, bro. It’s part of a continent. Who votes for someone named Kenya to lead their graduating class?”
“The same people who voted for a guy named ‘Austin’ for junior class vice president last year, that’s who.”
“Ha ha. Real funny.” Austin’s brow dipped in suspicion. “Who are you calling?”
“Kenya. I’m conceding the race.”
“No!” Austin grabbed Brandon’s wrist, and a tug of war over the phone began. “Don’t do it! If you’d only let me dig up more dirt on her-”
Brandon strong armed his phone away from his childhood pal, warning Austin to back up. Ever since they’d shared a juice box and conservative political views in a middle school lunch room, both of them were practically inseparable. Austin dubbed himself the brains behind Brandon’s beauty, as their teaming up resulted in Brandon winning the student council presidency all through high school. Losing his battle to wrestle the phone away, Austin gave his friend the thumbs up sign, then stuck a finger down his throat as if he knew Brandon’s discomfort at making this call. Needing somewhere quiet and without the distraction of sad eyed supporters, Brandon retreated to his room. He punched in Kenya’s phone number again, waiting until a throaty female voice answered before explaining why he was calling. “Hey there, it’s Brandon. I’d like to congratulate you on your win.”
Oh, he’s Mister Smooth, Kenya Paul thought. He didn’t sound the least bit crushed at losing. Kenya didn’t bother to disguise her satisfaction as she raised her voice. “Thank you. But I owe it all to my dedicated, hardworking team. They’re the ones who deserve the credit.” In the background applause and hoots greeted her answer.
“So, what’s your secret?”
“Now that you’ve thoroughly kicked my ass I wonder if you’ll let me in on your secret of success,” he said. “I thought I’d pretty much pressed the flesh with just about every student on campus, but you managed to snatch victory out of defeat.”
Kenya knew he was referring to the last poll, where a sampling of over five hundred students had given him the race. As her fingers wound around a lock of her Afro, she tugged on her hair. “You didn’t speak with everyone. There were lots of students, especially the ones commuting daily who’ve never heard from you or your campaign manager. You guys also forgot about the special interests groups and students who want the campus to promote diversity. Some people are tired of the status quo. Then again, maybe your people didn’t get out and vote because they assumed you had it locked up.”
That last part stung, and he grudgingly conceded that it was probably a truer reflection of how his team had botched this race. Low voter turnout. They’d been busy planning a victory party when they should’ve wrapped up votes. So for the first time in the four years he’d attended Newburgh University or Big Nu, he wouldn’t hold an elected position. For his senior year, Brandon Jefferson Wingate would just be a regular student.
“Don’t sell yourself short,” he told her. “I think you and your team had a message that the student body was ready for. I’m going to learn from this. Sometimes losing is just the thing to show you how to win next time.”
After thanking him, Kenya told her team that he was on the phone. Though she tried to muffle their comments with her palm, he could still make out words like “elitist asshole” and “Repug.” After another uncomfortable silence, he congratulated her again, then said his goodbyes. “Guess I’ll see you at the auction.”
“Sure, bye . . . wait- what? What auction?”
“The annual Big Nu auction, where the president of the senior class gets bid on,” he said. Now he wondered how Kenya’s team had missed telling her about the annual Red and White auction.
With a palm still over the phone, Kenya hollered out, “What’s this ‘auction’ thing?”
Someone came back with, “It’s for charity. Been going on since the dawn of time around here.”
Kenya’s campaign manager, Morgan “Mo” Garrett stopped what she was doing to shout, “It’s bullshit and it sets women back decades-”
Another female voice announced, “But it’s for charity! So I wouldn’t blow this off.”
“She’s not doing it.” Mo’s hands were on her hips and she had a look in her eye that anyone who’d ever tangled with the fiery redhead was familiar with. Conversation over.
“Hello, I’m standing right here, ladies,” Kenya said. With her large, wild afro and bohemian style of dress, Kenya’s win was a big departure from the endless preppie males who’d held the position of senior class president.
Mo made the call sign, her pinky and her thumb raised against her ear. “And you’re also still on the phone.”
“He can’t hear us,” Kenya assured her. Mo’s brow rose in disbelief, so to humor her Kenya went straight to the source. “Tell her you couldn’t hear us. Wait a sec while I put you on speaker.”
“I couldn’t hear a thing,” Brandon said. “But something tells me the Red and White auction isn’t going over too well.”
“What’s the red for?” Mo demanded, walking toward the direction of his voice. “Don’t answer that because I already know. It’s for the blood of all the brave Southern soldiers who died during the war. The Civil War. And the white represents the white race. So tell me ‘Massa Wingate’ why would a black woman show up at a slave auction?”
“Why Mo, I’m surprised at you,” Brandon countered. “Didn’t I already school you on what the Red and White auction is all about?”
Mo’s pierced top lip curled in a sneer.
“Kenya, if you’d care to know the history of the occasion, then stay on the line,” he said, relishing this chance. “The Red and White auction is a fundraiser. Each year the money goes into scholarships geared to students who have a high GPA but can’t afford our tuition. Some of the money goes back into the community, for things like the local food pantry and several shelters for abused women and the homeless. And while it does have a connection to the Civil War, its only because during that war the auction was a way to raise the necessary funds and the morale of local residents who were not only starving, but were widows and orphans. The very first auction ever held had former slaves attending because many of them couldn’t find a place to live or any food.”
That part gained him a disbelieving snort, as Mo shouted, “Oh there it is, the black slave card. I’m still not hearing anything to make it worth her time.”
Brandon ignored Mo’s dig. “I hope you’ll attend, Kenya. The senior class president of Big Nu has been auctioned off every year.”
There was silence, and then all hell broke loose. Between Kenya and Mo loudly arguing, Kenya hastily told him that she had to go. “Thanks for the info. Bye.”
He managed to get out a quick parting shot before she hung up. “If you need anything, please know you can count on me. I really want to see you succeed. And you too, Mo.”
“Sure you do, lover boy,” Mo shouted, cutting through all the ruckus. “And tell Austin he can kiss not only my ass, but the entire LGBT community on campus. He’s an intolerant prick and you need to cut him loose.”
“Awww, does someone need a hug? I’ll tell Austin to give you one the next time he sees you. Wait, I’ll call him to the phone so that you two can kiss and make up.” The phone went dead and Brandon chuckled. Sparring with Kenya and Mo over the past few years was something he looked forward to. When he left his room and headed back to the frat house living room that doubled as campaign central, the party was already going strong.
“Hey, hey hey!” Austin said, handing him a beer. “What’s that smile all about? Did Kenya break down in tears and admit she can’t handle the job?”
“No, but there’s trouble in paradise.”
“No shit?” Austin leaned in closer, wanting to hear all the juicy details.
“Yeah. This year’s Red and White auction will be very interesting,” Brandon said, just before chugging down his beer. “And I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
END OF EXCERPT
~~~~~Copyright 2015, 2016~~~~~