Miss you more. Waiting.

Since she had a few more days off before she had to go back to work, she made sure she was waiting in her father’s home office at the end of the next day. Nathaniel arranged for the private security company to take her.

Her father hugged her. “Dena. Darling. How lovely of you to stop by.”

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She pulled away from his arms. His hugs always felt fake to her. Almost as if he’d read a book on parenting and was just following the rules.

Get tree for Christmas. Check.

Hug child. Check.

Threaten daughter’s lover. Check.

He frowned when she pulled away. “What brings you by?”

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She looked around the massive office with the huge wooden desk and the faint smell of cigar smoke. She hated this room. Hated that every detail of it was focused on making the person behind the desk look big and the person on the other side feel small. When she was little, she wasn’t allowed to enter it, and she’d imagined it a magical place where laws were made and the country’s problems solved. Then she’d grown up and realized its only purpose was to stroke her father’s ego.

“I’ve been out of town,” she said in reply to his question. “Jeff’s father had cancer, and I went to help. He died a few days ago.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, of course.” He spoke with no emotion noticeable in his voice, though he winced when she spoke Jeff’s name. “But glad you’re back home where you belong.”

She didn’t even know what to say to that.

Her father didn’t seem to notice. Or else he did and just didn’t care. “I have to say, I am disappointed you’ve taken back up with Jeffery Parks. If I’ve taught you nothing else, you should know appearance is everything. Especially if you’re looking to be elected into the judicial branch. That man will be seen as a handicap. Honestly, Dena, he didn’t finish high school.”

“He got his GED,” she said through clenched teeth.

He waved as if shooing away something unpleasant. “GED. Please. I raised you better.”

He said something else, but blood pounded in her head so loudly, she didn’t hear it. Her plan had been to have a reasonable conversation with her father, but it didn’t appear that was going to happen. She smacked her palm on top of the wooden desk so hard a pencil holder fell over.

“Let me settle something,” she said, interrupting whatever her father had been going on about. “Jeff Parks is the best man I know. He’s smart. He’s honorable. He’s hardworking. And he’s honest. Frankly, that’s a hell of a lot more than you are.”

“You will not come into—”

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She shocked herself by snapping her fingers, a move Jeff had made numerous times. Her father must have been shocked as well, as he suddenly fell silent.

“I am not finished,” she said. “You will not interrupt me.”

He looked at her with ire but remained silent. She straightened her spine. If her dad wanted to play dirty, she would respond in kind.

“Certain—let’s call them classified—conversations have been brought to my attention over the past few days. The fallout of which could be very damaging to a political career. Especially for someone short-listed for the vice presidency. Are you with me so far? Nod ‘yes’ if you understand.”

“For crying out loud—”

She slapped the desk. “I said nod!”

He nodded.

“Good. Now, I might be just a lowly attorney, but I have connections you wouldn’t believe. I’ve helped a lot of people, and I’m not afraid to call in favors. Not only that”—she smiled sweetly at him—“but I’m prepared to lie. I’m prepared to make up shit so rotten you’ll be headlining the gossip rags for years. You’ll be the punch line of every late-night-show joke. I’ll lie my ass off and it’ll work. Know why?”

He shook his head, his face ominously expressionless.

She planted her hands on top of the desk and looked him straight in the eye. “Because the American public loves a scandal, and they like nothing more than to see pompous rich assholes fall off their pedestals.”

With those words, for the first time ever, she saw fear in her father’s eyes.

“Here’s the deal,” she continued. “I love Jeff, and if he’ll have me, I plan to spend the rest of my life with him. He’ll be the father of your grandchildren, if we’re lucky enough to have kids. So I’m going to walk out that door, leaving you with the knowledge that if one hair on Jeff’s head is hurt, I’ll call a press conference faster than you can say ‘impeached.’ Are we clear? If so, nod your head.” He opened his mouth, but she shook her head. “Best not.”

He nodded.

“Excellent.” She straightened up and brushed her palms as if wiping something off. “I’m glad we had this chat.” As she walked to the door, she looked over her shoulder. “Oh, and one more thing. You can screw the judicial branch. I have no intention of ever being a judge.”

Chapter Fourteen

Present day

If there was one thing Jeff hated, it was being late. He demanded punctuality of his employees, clients, and the submissives he played with. He himself made sure he arrived to appointments at least five minutes early.

Unfortunately, driving across the country had a way of throwing obstacles in your way. Especially, it seemed, when you were trying to get home in time for something. He’d hoped to make it back to see Dena before tonight’s play party. To be frank, he wasn’t in the mood to go to it, but Nathaniel and Abby were spending the weekend in Delaware and no one was comfortable with Dena being by herself. Plus, Dena had said she wanted to be there to offer support to Julie, who was doing her first public demo. There was no way he’d be in the same city with Dena and not see her, so it looked like he was going to a party.

He only wished someone had told the traffic.

“Come the fuck on,” he said, once more coming to a stop in the middle of the interstate.

He glanced at the clock on his dash. From the way it looked, he’d have just enough time to stop by his house and take a quick shower. Even then, he would be a little late to the party. Which meant no time to talk to Dena beforehand.

With a frustrated sigh he used his voice command to call her.

“Hello,” she answered with a smile so evident in her voice, he could almost picture it.

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