Hidden in the Capitol by B. Ivy Woods

1

A Few Months Ago

“This has to be kept quiet.”

Evelyn “Eve” Jackson’s ears perked up at what sounded like a woman’s voice. The voice interrupted the reminders she was trying to create for herself after the congressional interview she conducted that day. She was walking back through the underground tunnels in the basement of Cannon House Office Building toward Longworth to where she had luckily scored a parking spot not too far from the Capitol. She slowed to a stop and strained to listen to the words spoken by a woman just around the corner. Normally she tried to mind her own business unless it was a story she was pursuing, because what better way to stay out of trouble? This time though, the urgency in the woman’s voice caught Eve by surprise. Who was she? Was she talking to someone on the phone or was this person with her? Was security still there? Were these people talking freely in front of them?

“Don’t you think I know that? No one will breathe a word of this, I promise you.” Eve’s question was answered when a smooth Southern drawl responded to the woman’s plea. She could hear the couple coming closer and decided her best course of action was to move back a couple of steps so she could still be within earshot, yet hopefully somewhat out of sight. She turned around and saw a cleaning cart. Eve had seconds to form and execute a plan. Her shoulders almost touched her ears when her shoes squeaked on the floor as she darted behind the cart, her mind unable to figure out how loud the noise was. Had the man and woman a few feet away heard or seen her before she reached the cart? She peered out and her shoulders relaxed as the man and woman came into view. They didn’t suspect a thing. It was two people having a conversation, just as she had suspected.

Eve squinted her eyes to get a better look at the couple. She could see only their profiles, but the woman looked familiar. The woman’s hair appeared auburn under the glow of the lights and was haphazardly thrown over one shoulder. She ran her hands through her shoulder-length hair, further disheveling it before she smoothed her hands down her dark green dress. The man next to her had perfectly styled blond hair, longer on top, and a well-fitted dark suit. When the woman turned her head in Eve’s direction, Eve ducked behind the cart. But she saw enough to identify the woman.

Kayla Harper was the communications director for Representative Anthony Blake. Eve interviewed the congressman about a month ago to talk about his reelection and what plans he had for the next year. They were entering the lame-duck session, which usually meant that few legislative items would get done while they prepared for the next congressional term.

She hoped the dark tunnel concealed her identity. She looked up and found a security camera above her head. Was it rolling and catching all of this? Eve peeped around the cleaning cart once more.

“This has the potential to ruin several lives.” Mystery man looked down and fingered his tie.

“Don’t you think I know that?” Eve couldn’t see the expression on Kayla’s face, but she noted the exasperation and quivering in her voice. “We need to figure out a way to keep this under wraps. After all, it’s been a secret for years.”

“True. This needs to stay buried in the Capitol.”

Kayla nodded and glanced around before walking away. Mystery man walked in a different direction and Eve waited a beat before standing up from her crouched position and leaving her hiding spot. When she was a few feet away from where the couple once stood, a loud bang startled her. Eve swung around and saw a janitor standing near the cleaning cart that she had just left. He gave her a small wave and she smiled before turning her attention back to where Kayla and her associate once were. Eve gave another smile to the security guard who was seated across the room and headed toward Longworth, debating what she should do with the information she’d overheard.

But what she didn’t know was that someone else was watching this entire episode unfold, deeper in the shadows. And it wasn’t the security officer that she had just said goodnight to.

* * *

A few days later,Eve was at the Green Hat waiting for Flint and Rae to arrive. They had wanted to get their friends and family together before the holidays. Eve thought this was a little weird, but maybe it was a last-minute smaller celebration for Flint’s big win. Liv decorated the room for the holidays, although most of the decor items were gold and white. That included the balloons that surrounded the bar and the table where snacks and hors d’oeuvres were stationed.

She was standing in the corner with Jules as Liv was busy running around trying to make sure that everything was in place.

“Here are pictures from the fundraiser we held last night.” Jules held her phone so Eve could see, and the two commented on some famous people they spotted in the photos.

“Looks like it was an outstanding event.”

“Probably one of the best we’ve held to date.”

Jules was still swiping through the photos when Eve felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. The air in the room changed drastically, alerting her that something was afoot. Eve knew he had arrived. She looked to her left and her gaze floated around the room until she reached him. There was no denying where his eyes were looking, or the warmth in them.

“Hey, Jules?”

“Yep?” Jules looked up from her phone.

“Can you hold my drink for a moment? I’m going to head to the bathroom.”

“Yeah, sure, no problem,” Jules said as she took the glass from Eve. Eve walked to the entrance of the private room that Flint and Rae had rented for their holiday celebration. She knew she would have to pass Kane to reach the bathroom. Just as she was closing in on the doorway, she glanced at him; he stared back at her. The warmth of his gaze had turned up several notches, but she refused to look away until absolutely necessary, because she had to look where she was going.

Her trip to the bathroom was quick and painless because there was no line and no one else was in there. As she washed her hands, she recalled flashes of what happened a few short months ago when she stood outside the bathroom and heard the confrontation between Rae and Cassandra. She shook the thoughts from her mind as she flicked droplets of water into the sink, trying to remove excess water from her hands before she headed over to grab a paper towel.

She tossed her head to the side, causing her short, dark brown strands to shift out of her eyes, and sighed. The mirror in front of her did nothing to hide the fact that she had bags under dark brown eyes from a lack of sleep. She would say that work had been keeping her up late, but it was more than that. The conversation she overheard ran on a loop through her mind.

Eve grabbed a paper towel, dried her hands and used the same paper towel to open the bathroom door before tossing it into the trash. She speed-walked back into the private party room, not stopping to see where Kane was or if he was still in the room. She found Jules, who was now joined by Liv, who was finally finished with party prep. The trio waited for the couple of the hour to arrive so they could ring in the holiday a little early.

* * *

Eve was still riding highfrom celebrating Rae and Flint’s announcement. They were engaged! After about an hour and a half, the party seemed to be winding down although very few people had left. Eve stretched and checked her phone.

Her eyes widened as she questioned the message she was seeing. Her stomach dropped into the bowels of hell.

Eve,

Whatever you thought you heard was a misunderstanding. Forget it now, before it’s too late.

The email was unsigned.

She reread the message three times before declaring that what she was seeing was real. Her eyes drifted up to find out who the email was from but instead found a series of letters before and after the @. Without a doubt, it was a spoof account. Almost no chance of her being able to find out who the sender was. That further cemented the worry in the pit of her stomach. She looked up and was thankful to see one of her best friends standing nearby.

“Rae?”

Rae swung around and their eyes connected.

“Hey, what’s up?” Rae paused before she asked, “Is everything all right?”

Eve felt her hands shaking but could do nothing to control it. “I’m n-not sure. This was just sent to my work email.” Rae scanned the email and almost dropped the phone.

“You’ve got to be shitting me.”

When the two looked up, they found Kane staring back at them with an eyebrow raised.

Neither woman said anything as Eve turned her back to Kane to talk to Rae privately.

“Maybe it’s a prank.”

“Eve, does this sound like a prank to you?” Rae stared at her friend in amazement. “Someone is trying to stop you from working on a story.”

Eve sighed and ran a hand through her pixie cut, causing her hair to stand even more on edge. Her mind raced as she tried to come up with a reason for the email.

“Look, I shouldn’t have brought this up. We’re here to celebrate you and Flint, not talk about an email that I got.”

“But your safety is important. Way more important than this surprise engagement party.” Rae reached over to hug Eve and when she pulled away, she asked, “Are you treading on thin ice with an article you’re working on?”

Eve took a deep breath and, just as she was about to respond, someone interrupted her.

“Is something wrong?”

Eve slowly turned around and faced the person who interrupted their conversation.

There stood Kane in all of his glory. Although Rae was standing there with Eve, Kane’s hazel eyes were trained on Eve. His gaze held a low simmer that Eve could only imagine would grow more intense if he saw the email she received.

“There’s nothing wrong. Even if there was, I wouldn’t come to you.”

Kane sighed. “I thought we’d moved on from what happened before, when I got you the press pass; you captured Cassandra confessing to Rae.”

“That was to help Rae and Flint, not me personally.”

“I—”

“Kane, everything is fine, okay? I can take care of all of this myself.” Eve turned her attention back to her best friend and returned the hug Rae gave a few moments prior. “I’m going to head out, okay? I have a few things to finish up and I should probably get home. I’m so happy for you and Flint. I’ll call you when I get home.”

Eve collected her coat and walked out of the room. The crisp weather did nothing to calm the sweltering heat pulsing through her veins. What she didn’t know was if that resulted from being near Kane again or if it was adrenaline because of the threatening email she received.