"Damn it, Ashley, be reasonable," Michael swore as he raked his hand through his hair.
"Reasonable? You've got to be kidding. I've never lied to you. From the beginning, I've made it abundantly clear I'm not interested in being involved in your political life. Why do you refuse to believe me?" Ashley shook her head in despair.
"I agreed to campaign on your behalf because I believe in you, Michael. I know if you're elected, you'll be a great president. But not once have I said I would give up my job and follow you to Washington. It's not like I'm going to change my mind at the final hour. I've said it from the beginning, and you and your campaign team need to deal with it. The public should know that I'm not part of the package. I feel dishonest every time I appear on stage with you. When are you going to let everyone know the truth?"
Ashley watched Michael's jaw stiffen. After more than two decades of marriage, she knew the signs of his anger every bit as well as he knew hers. She could read his facial expressions and body language like a road map. He didn't vocalize his displeasure or anger to the public or those he worked with; it wasn't his nature. Usually only his family saw his emotional side.
"You realize your decision could harm me politically and could hinder my ability to be an effective president. I'm not asking you to give up your career. I'm just asking you to put it on hold while I'm in office. I know that's asking a lot. I know how dedicated you are to your career and how you love the museum. Other First Ladies have had careers they loved, but when their husbands entered politics or were elected, they stepped up to serve their country right along
"Michael, this isn't about duty to my country. I never offered to serve, you did. I've never liked politics, you do. I love you and I want this for you because I know you'll be an amazing President. But, all of this is your dream, not mine." Ashley touched his arm, trying to bridge the gap growing between them. "Please, tell your team the truth. The longer you wait, the more likely someone will find out, and the press will have a field day."
"I can't believe you aren't going to change your mind. We've reached crossroads where we've held differing opinions, but you've always compromised for the good of our marriage and for our family's sake. If I'm elected, maybe you'll see things in a different light."
Ashley shook her head. "Not this time. You're making a mistake if you think I will."
Michael sighed and tried to smile at his beautiful, but very stubborn wife. "We should get back out there. The results should be announced anytime. Otherwise, they may begin to suspect we've been in our room for more than a break," he teased.
"Before we go, I want you to know, if this country is as smart as I think they are, you will be the next President of the United States. I'm so proud of you. I wish I could be what you want me to be, but I just can't. I've said it repeatedly throughout the years – politics is a dirty field of play, and I want nothing to do with it.
"Now, let's go see if things are still going in your favor." Ashley stopped him before he opened the door to the outer suite, "Honey, I really do want you to win. I've always been your biggest supporter."
Coming September 2013!
"The Reluctant First Lady" is available for pre-order now at these online retailers: