Read an Excerpt
Just when I thought there were no surprises left when it came to you, you had to show me I was wrong, didn't you, Dad?
Several states away, in a prestigious law firm in Beverly Hills, California, high-powered attorney Dylan Kelley was watching the same news broadcast as his much-loved uncle Donald.
Biting off a curse, Dylan aimed his remote at the huge flat-screen TV on the opposite wall and terminated the broadcast. The screen went to black and, for a moment, silence ensued.
Dylan shook his head in dazed disbelief. So much for his father's straight-arrow image.
"You really outdid yourself this time, Dad," he muttered under his breath, anger beginning to set in and take a firm hold.
He wondered if either of his brothers or his sister, Lana, knew about this latest turn of events. Worse, what if his mother had caught this bulletin? She was a strong woman, a woman who had, over the years, slowly constructed walls and barriers around herself. He'd been a witness to that, watching the walls as they came up, holding her in.
Holding everyone else out.
He realized now, as an adult, that she'd done it to protect herself against being hurt. As if she somehow knew that this was in the offing.
Had she suspected? Did she know? He felt incredibly bad for her, incredibly angry at his absentee father for having done this to her.
Dylan sighed, sitting back down at his desk for a moment. For just a split second, his knees felt weak. If he felt like this, how must his mother feel?
Just goes to show you, he thought. Fairy tales were just that, fairy tales. They had no bearing on real life. The press and people in general had called his parents' marriage a real-life, magical fairy-tale. Years ago, he'd stumbled across an old article in a magazine, an interview with his father written when Hank had just been starting out on his political risehis eye even then on a very lofty prize.
His father had freely admitted, apparently with pride, that he had married an exceedingly rich woman who supported him in every way, eager to make him happy, eager to give him his heart's desire, no matter what it was. Along the way, she'd also given him the perfect photo op family.
Dylan took in a deep breath as he closed his eyes and remembered being trotted out with his brothers and baby sister, all perfectly groomed, him wearing a suit he'd hated at the time, to stand around his father and mother, big smiles pasted on all their faces for the camera that froze their supposed happiness forever in time.
Or at least long enough to generate a favorable impression with the voting public. His father had been the family-values candidate.
He wondered if his father saw the irony in that now.
Agitated, Dylan dragged his hand through his thick, dark hair, remembering that the creation of those family portraits provided almost the only occasions when he actually got to see his father. The rest of the time, Hank was busy traveling, glad-handing potential constituents up and down the length and breadth of California, professing his undying willingness to work until he dropped for the good of the people of "this glorious, sun-kissed state of ours."
And the voters had believed him. Believed every single word. They'd sent his father to the United States Senate, confident that he would represent them to the best of his ability, which was definitely good enough for them.
Who his father wound up representing, apparently, was himself, Dylan thought darkly, his mind going back to the jarring news story expounding on the fact that his father was being investigated on charges of illegal activities and criminal misuse of campaign funds.
One of the newscasters, looking properly shocked, said that there were allegations the missing campaign funds had been spent on setting up his mistresses, one of whom was said to be currently pregnant.
Damn it, Dad, what the hell were you thinking? Didn't you just once think about this getting out and hurting Mom? Dylan demanded silently.
He hadn't seen his father inwhat? Six months? A year? More?
He'd lost track. The last few times he had been the one to seek out his father, who never just showed up to see how his son was doing or how life was going for the family in general. His father was always too busy to take the time to stay in touch.
And now I know what you apparently were too busy with, Dylan thought angrily.
Well, if the prosecutors had their way, he was still going to have to go to his father in order to see him. And this time it would be because his father was incarcerated.
How the mighty have fallen.
"What the hell were you thinking?" he repeated, this time out loud, addressing a man who was not there.
Who hadn't been there, even when he was, for a long, long time.
Dylan looked at the framed photograph on his desk. A photograph of the whole family taken for a Christmas card some four years ago. His eyes narrowed as he focused on the handsome older man in the centerhis father's usual position.
"If I had half a brain, I'd just let you stew in your own juices and go on with my life. Just like you'd do for me and the others if we needed you." He had no doubt of that. What little fatherly love Henry Kelley had available went to Lana, because she was the youngest and the only girl.
And Lana had always worshipped him and defended him, no matter what. God only knew why.
Lana could probably find a reason to defend their father now, Dylan thought.
He leaned back in his chair, rocking slightly, thinking. If he went with his first inclination, if he just continued with his life and did nothing, in effect, he would be no better than the man who had earned his disdain.
Worse, because he knew better, knew how this kind of behavior affected the person on the receiving end. Ultimately, if he turned his back on his father now, he'd somehow wind up hurting his mother, who still, he suspected, deep down in her patrician heart, loved his father no matter what. She was that kind of a person, even though she tried not to show it.
Dylan frowned. When the final analysis was in and all was said and done, blood was thicker than water and that still meant something to him, if not to his father.
But he wasn't going to do this for his father. He was going to do it for his mother. And also to prove to himself that he was a better man than his father apparently was.
Added to that, Dylan thought as he began to throw a few things into his briefcase and get ready to go to his father's Beverly Hills office, the family reputation was at stake here. He had no doubt that if his father went down, the stain would mark all of them.
It didn't matter that the rest of the family had little or no interaction with the man. The shame of his conviction, if it came to that, would be something they would all have to bear. And while his father might have done things to merit the ostracization, he, his brothers and sister and especially his mother, had not.
"You really don't deserve anyone in the family coming to your aid, old man," Dylan muttered under his breath as he left his office. "You really don't."
But he knew he was bound to do it anyway.
* * *
If this was fifty years agoand a romantic comedy, Cindy Jensen added cynicallyshe would have been referred to as a Girl Friday.
"As well as a Girl Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday," she said out loud.
However, in this modern world, the official title she bore was Chief Staff Assistant to Senator Henry Thomas Kelley. In reality, she was far more than that. She was his confidante, his mother, his cheerleader, his secretary. In effect, his walking, talking point of reference for almost everything under the sun, plus his gofer and, last but not least, his general smoother-outer of ruffled feathers.
She did a far better job of it than the pretentious fool the senator had hired as his press secretary, she thought grudgingly.
Too bad that with all those various job descriptions she hadn't found a way to be his private conscience as well, because, Lord knew, as she had found out a couple of days ago, the man certainly needed one.
While she believed very strongly in his political agendaif she hadn't, she wouldn't have been here, wouldn't have given her all to work her way up his teamshe absolutely hated this other side of him. The side she'd unwillingly had confirmed for her via a news bulletin. The side that, in truth, she had come to suspect whenever the senator had asked her to clear some time for him from his calendar and been more than a little evasive whenever she'd asked him why he needed that time cleared for him. He'd mutter something about having an appointment he couldn't break and flash that thousand-watt smile of his, once again charming his way out of the situation.
Well, his charm had certainly failed the man this time, she thought.
Feet of clay. That was the term for it, she recalled. The family-values crusader had feet of clay.
The realization cut through her like a knife.
The phone on his desk rang again for the umpteenth time. It had been ringing off the hook all morning, ever since the story had broken about the senator having to go to the L.A. courthouse regarding an investigation into his campaign funds, and suddenly mistresses mistresses of all things!had begun crawling out of the woodwork.
Ever since that bulletin had burst on her, her tiny, optimistic visions of this world the senator inhabited and she was working toward promoting had been crushed.
God knew she had few enough optimistic things to cling to. Her private life, well, that was a complete washout, but she had clung to her professional life, viewing it as her one saving grace, telling herself that at least what she was doing had merit for the country and she was going to have to find comfortand ultimately validationin that. She sure knew she wasn't going to find it on the home front, not with the bastard in designer suits she'd had the misfortune to fall in love with and marry.
No, she hadn't fallen in love with him, she'd fallen in love with the image he'd projected. Fallen in love with a man who didn't exist. The one who did exist had had a foul temper and swinging fists. Fists that, she was ashamed to admit even to herself, had made contact. And she had taken it. In the beginning.
But after a spate of time when she'd blamed herself for causing his outburstsjust as he blamed hershe'd come to her senses. She'd realized that none of this his outbursts, his out-of-control temper, his reasons for losing itnone of it was her fault. That was when, with the senator's support, she had called the police.
It had been the first step in reclaiming her life, her very soul. And except for the curve she'd discovered she'd been thrown, a curve she now lived with every day, she pretty much had reclaimed it. Reclaimed it by throwing herself into her work, striving to make Senator Henry William Kelley the next popular candidate for the presidency of the United States.
It had seemed only right, because he'd been there to take her side, to encourage her not to allow her ex, Dean, to mistreat her. The senator had been the father she'd never really known.
And now this.
It was safe to say that the senator's chances of gaining the presidency had pretty much been blown to hell. Much the way her faith in him had been.
Damn, it just wasn't fair! Just how blind could she have been to miss this red flag? How deluded was her state of mind to see a hero where an old-fashioned scoundrel stood?
How could he? How could he?
"This can't take away from what he's accomplished, Cindy, it can't," she told herself fiercely, conducting an argument that was mostly in her head.
The man was still a good senator, still a man who had the interest of his country foremost in his heart, if not his mind. Still the man who had helped her. She had to remember that. Moreover, she had to do her best to remind the public of all his good points.
Just because it had been discovered that the senator had the personal morals of an alley cat didn't mean that he couldn't do great things for the people who voted for him.
"But it sure does rock the boat," she ground out angrily.
The next moment she jumped as the door opened. She'd left orders not to be disturbed because she had damage control to do.
Who was ignoring her instructions?
And then she had her answer. Kind of.
A tall, well-groomed and quite handsome man who looked to be in his early thirties walked into the senator's office. His chiseled features were complemented by straight, dark hair, worn slightly long, and his piercing, intelligent blue eyes.
Here was a man who got by on his looks first, then made use of anything he had in his arsenalif necessary, she thought.
Well, whatever he did, he could do it somewhere else. He was trespassing as far as she was concerned.
"You're not supposed to be here," she snapped at him angrily, recovering from her initial surprise.
Dylan looked around. Was she the only one in the office?
"I heard you talking to someone," he said. She stared at him. It almost sounded like an accusation, Cindy thought. Who the hell did he think he was?
"Even if I were, that doesn't give you an excuse for barging in," she informed him, expecting him to offer some apology and then leave.
He did neither. Instead, he remained standing where he was, looking around the office again, as if he expected someone to pop out of the shadows.