Pam Leighton is a smart, ambitious, and sexy aide to a handsome Washington lobbyist named John Duke. For the last two years, she's also been his lover. It's an open secret that his glamorous and social-climbing wife, Catherine, tolerates—to a point.
After the President nominates Duke for a cabinet post, Catherine sees her opportunity and delivers an ultimatum: either fire Pam or get ready for a very public, very ugly divorce. Duke's sharply honed political instincts tell him exactly what he needs to do. In one abrupt, brutal meeting, Duke ends the relationship and fires her from the job she loves. But Pam is not about to go quietly: A powerful New York publisher is offering her big money for what could be the ultimate Washington tell-all. But when people around her begin dying, Pam realizes that finishing the book may be a matter of life and death—her own.
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About the Author
DIANA DIAMOND is the pseudonym of a critically acclaimed mystery and thriller writer. She is also the author of The Trophy Wife, The Babysitter, The Good Sister, The Daughter-In-Law, The First Wife, and The Stepmother.
Diana Diamond is the pseudonym of a critically acclaimed mystery and thriller writer. She is also the author of The Trophy Wife, The Babysitter, The Good Sister, The Daughter-In-Law, The First Wife, and The Stepmother.
Read an Excerpt
The Other Woman
By Diana Diamond
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2006 Diana Diamond
All rights reserved.
Pam Leighton should have seen it coming. She knew when John Duke was named a candidate for a position in the administration, he would have to tidy up all the messy corners of his life. She was one of those messy corners.
It wasn't that she was naive. Pam was a reasonably bright college graduate with an advanced degree in economics who held down a responsible research post for a Washington trade association. She knew that married men who wandered from home were usually on short leashes. Deep down she understood that John Duke would never leave his wife, Catherine, no matter how sincerely he claimed that they were no longer in love. Love meant different things to men at different stages of their lives. Maybe his romantic feelings for her were stronger than his feelings for Catherine, but that didn't mean he wanted to leave his wife. Pam had always understood that if push came to shove, she would be the one pushed aside. It was just that it was hard to believe. Hard, because her two-year affair with her boss wasn't the typical affair.
Pam wasn't a kept woman. She earned her money and paid her own rent. The only thing she depended on John Duke for was affection. Their relationship wasn't centered on the bedroom, even though it might have been. Pam was a very sexy woman, on the cusp of thirty, when youthful attractiveness softens into mature interests. Her coloring — dark hair with blue eyes — looked like it was the result of the mating of an English stallion and an Italian mare somewhere back in her bloodlines. Her skin tone, high cheekbones, and full lips came from her Mediterranean heritage. Her straight nose and sharply cut jawline were inherited from Nordic raiders. Her figure was a bit too curvaceous for a runway model, but without the bounce that draws applause from construction workers. There was just enough flow in her movements to turn heads on the street, and to raise eyes over the tops of restaurant menus.
But she wasn't a sex toy. She had no drawer of transparent nightwear, nor were there leather outfits hanging in her closet. She slept in pajamas, or in nothing at all, depending on the occasion. Her bathrobe was terry cloth, her underwear white cotton, and her bras unpadded. When John came to her apartment, she was as apt to smell of a lemon fish marinade as of an exotic Parisian fragrance.
In their typical evening together, they worked side by side in the kitchen, generally sipping the wine intended for the saucepan. They shared a lively conversation over dinner and often fell asleep in front of the television. On weekends, when he was in town, they sat around in pajamas passing sections of The Washington Post back and forth before they settled down to the crossword puzzle.
Some evenings, they worked together. The Electric Energy Institute's real business was lobbying government officials to make sure that no legislation hostile to the electric utilities, or regulation distasteful to their executives, would ever be passed. Pam often needed guidance on exactly what politically attractive conclusions her research should yield. John would sometimes ask her advice on a recalcitrant senator. How big a donation was he looking for? How many votes could he deliver?
What they shared wasn't that much different from any marriage between urban professionals. Much more than just casual sex, their affair was a commitment of time, interest, and affection, from which intimacy flowed naturally and guiltlessly. It truly seemed that it would last forever.
They had to be discreet, of course. In the Electric Energy Institute offices, they exchanged greetings in passing that held no hint of affection. "Good morning, Pam!" "Good morning, John," when they met in the lobby. "I'll have those figures you asked for this afternoon" and "Thank you, Pam," when they interacted in the office. If they found themselves at the same table in the cafeteria, they invited others to join them. They never booked luncheon reservations at the same restaurant.
When they had an evening out together, it was never at a fashionable downtown restaurant or at one of the Georgetown clubs. As director of the institute, John was immediately recognizable by most senators, congressmen, and their staffers, as well as power industry executives. As the institute's top researcher, Pam would be recognized by most second-level Washington officials and many of the executives of the institute's sponsoring companies. Both of them were well known to the lobbying industry, with its offices stretching for block after block along K Street. Within hours after their appearing together in the District, it would have been universally acknowledged that they were an item.
Instead, they would often travel north to Baltimore, where they could get lost in the crowds at the harbor. They could drive west to Leesburg, where the county was exploding so rapidly that no one knew anyone. Or they might head south to Charlottesville and join the chaos of student revelers. When business called for them to travel together, they would find separate rooms in the hotel, even though one of those rooms would go unused. Or if Pam was joining John in a major resort city, they would book separate flights on different airlines. The subterfuge bothered neither of them. It was accepted as a necessary arrangement in their relationship, just as a husband might put up with a two-hour daily commute.
Over the two years of their relationship, there had been several close calls. One time, at a resort in the Bahamas, John had excused himself from the dinner table only to run into the president of a sponsoring company in the lobby. While the two men shared a drink at the bar, Pam had slipped away, leaving two untouched dinners behind. They had checked out in the middle of the night. On another occasion, Pam had seen a man from their office at an airport gate where John's flight was arriving. Suggestively, she had led him off for a cocktail. For weeks after, her colleague had hinted around the watercooler that she was hitting on him. Only once had Pam and John been caught red-handed, when they glanced across the aisle of a theater and saw a congressman they both knew staring back at them. Fortunately, the woman with the congressman was from an escort service, and both couples silently agreed not to acknowledge one another.
Pam had been delighted when John told her that his name was in play for a position in the new president's cabinet. He had modestly dismissed the implications. "Lots of names get kicked around. It's no big deal." But it was a big deal. The incoming administration was pro-business, particularly favorable to energy producers. The new Secretary of Energy would be responsible for turning the industry's wish list into public law. More important, she knew that John wanted it. Instead of courting important men, he would be the one being courted. The position would be his entry into public life, with all its social and financial perks. The repute that came from rubbing elbows with the president would lead to book advances, speaking fees, maybe even a university chair. All heady stuff for a man who was a paid flak for a stolid industry.
Pam knew that John would go through a detailed vetting. The new president's team would scrutinize every detail of his life, looking for breaches of the law or of public morality that could embarrass the administration. Ideal candidates had been unceremoniously dumped because the family maid was an illegal immigrant, or because they didn't pay a nanny's Social Security. A vice presidential candidate had lost out when it was discovered he had seen a psychiatrist. A Supreme Court candidate had been rocked by charges of sexism. More than likely, they would ask John about the state of his marriage.
He would have to tell them about her, because there was every chance that they would find out anyway. From the day his name came up, detectives had probably been following him. A panel truck full of radio equipment was probably homing in on his cell phone calls. More than likely, someone at the post office was watching his mail. But even when he told them, Pam didn't think their affair would be critical. Hadn't presidents carried on affairs in the White House? Weren't congressmen balling their interns? By comparison, her relationship with John was proper and discreet.
He had a lovely wife who presided over a household in Connecticut to which he frequently returned. She was the daughter of a politically connected family that had made its fortune in shipping, running molasses and hardware to the Caribbean, and bringing back rum and slaves. Two of her forebears had served as state representatives to the United States Congress, and two recent presidents had dined with members of the family while campaigning in the state. One of her cousins, Benjamin Porter, was the majority whip in the House. She was known to politicians of every stripe, and Pam had no doubt that her influence had been critical of John's selection for a cabinet post. Catherine was at his side in all his official photographs and joined him at important functions, always smiling at him adoringly even though they had separate bedrooms. She was the woman who would be at his side when he was sworn in, and she would be photographed with the president's wife. She was the perfect companion for his public life.
He also had a mistress, who was invisible to the outside world. She had no desire for notoriety, was content to live backstage, and would never do anything to embarrass his wife or jeopardize his public image. She was a perfect companion in his private life. It all worked very well, so why should the administration's inquisitors be concerned? Surely they had more incendiary issues to deal with.
He came to her apartment on a Monday night after spending a weekend in Connecticut, gave Pam a distracted kiss, and opened a bottle of a modest wine they both liked. He put the bottle on the table that Pam had already set, went to the stereo, and slipped in a jazz CD. Then he eased onto the sofa almost as if he was afraid of crumpling a cushion.
"How was your weekend?" she called from the kitchen.
"Okay," he answered unenthusiastically.
Pam knew something was wrong. John always clung to her when he returned from home, demonstrating how much he had missed her. By now he should have poured the wine, toasted to her beauty, and then plunged into the food preparation, taking every opportunity to brush against her.
"Sure. There's always a problem."
She dried her hands and stepped out of the kitchen. The table was close to the front door, across from the kitchen counter. He was sitting at the far end of the room, tapping his fingers on the armrest in time to the music. She lit the candles, her signal that dinner was ready. "Anything you want to talk about?" she asked as she poured the wine.
He got up heavily, showing none of the zest he usually brought to their table. "No ... well ... there is. But not now. It will keep until after dinner."
They began silently, John plainly lost in his thoughts and Pam wondering what dreaded topic was hanging over them. She couldn't take the tension.
"What do you think?" she said, gesturing toward the fish she had served.
"Wonderful! What did you marinate it in?"
His eyes were glazing over before she finished listing the ingredients, but she went on with the details of preparation, trying to keep the conversation alive. "Delicious," he interjected when he realized she had stopped talking.
She tried another tack. "How was the flight?"
"Uneventful," he said without glancing up. "The best kind."
"Did Catherine pick you up?"
"No, she was busy. I took a limo."
"What was she busy with?"
"The usual nonsense. Nothing important."
Pam wasn't going to give up. There had to be something they could talk about. "Let me tell you about my weekend," she started, but she was cut off by the clatter of his fork falling onto his plate.
"She knows," John said, breathing out the words rather than saying them. "Catherine knows about us." He reached for his wineglass and drained it.
"So?" Pam asked. It wasn't a frivolous question. They had often speculated that his wife might already know of their affair and, if not, that she would probably find out. Both of them assumed she would live comfortably with the arrangement, or perhaps demand a divorce. Whichever, it would be a quiet and dignified resolution. Catherine wasn't into scenes.
"So," he answered softly, "she wants this ended."
Pam set her fork down and pushed her plate aside. She felt a cold chill of fear and a knot tightening in her throat. She couldn't even pretend to eat. "How does she want it ended?" she managed.
"Just ended! She doesn't want me to see you anymore." He refilled his glass and then tried to pour a bit into Pam's glass. His hands were shaking. He looked up at her, but he couldn't hold eye contact.
"What do you want?" she asked, even though she could already guess his answer.
"What I want doesn't matter. It's what I have to do." He seemed distraught, on the verge of tears.
"What do you have to do?" she asked. He half-turned away from her. "Do you have to give me up?"
He nodded. "That's Catherine's price."
She didn't understand. Price for what? What was John's wife holding over his head?
"Her price for my nomination to go through. Catherine has connections all over the government. If she makes it known that she would rather not have me burdened with the demands of public life, the administration will find a more available candidate. Christ, the only reason my name came up in the first place is that the new people are trying to suck up to her family. They'd love to get her cousin in their pocket."
He jumped up from the table, went to the stereo, and snapped off the jazz combo. Then he sat down on the sofa, this time heavily, as if he were falling into a great, black hole. Pam followed and took a chair across from him. "If I understand you, I'm not sure that I'm being dropped because of Catherine. It sounds more as if I'm losing out to a job in the new president's cabinet."
He shook his head slowly. "Catherine isn't giving me any leeway."
"No," Pam corrected. "It's your ambition that isn't giving you any leeway. You want the job more than you want me."
"That's not true," he wailed. "You know I love you. But Catherine has me by the short hairs." He was up on his feet and pacing in front of her. "I think she knew about us from the beginning. She's been biding her time, playing right along with us, just waiting for the moment when she could crush me like a bug. Now she has it. She pushed my nomination just so she could dangle it over me."
Pam caught his arm and turned him toward her. "If there's no nomination, then she has nothing to dangle over you. Call her right now and tell her you've decided not to join the administration. You'll still have the institute, and we'll still have each other."
"It's not that simple," he answered curtly. "Catherine could make one hell of a scene."
"And drag her illustrious family through the tabloids?" Pam reminded him. "Catherine will never let that happen. She'll accept the present arrangement or arrange a very quiet and dignified divorce. Either way, we'll still be together."
She looked toward the telephone, and his eyes followed. But when he saw the handset on the end table, he turned his head away. "Damn it! It's not just a phone call. It's a lot more complicated."
That was true, Pam thought. She had never been able to explain why she was in love with John, or why their relationship was the anchor of her life. She couldn't expect him to explain why a short- lived position in the executive branch would be such an aphrodisiac for him. Sometimes people, or places, or titles, or opportunities simply became irresistible. Few people could explain all the choices that had shaped their lives, so it wasn't fair to demand an explanation.
"What are you going to do?" she asked sympathetically. She was trying to help him focus rather than demanding an answer.
"I don't know. It's all so sudden. A few days ago I had everything. Now I'm afraid that I'm going to lose it all."
"Is there anything I can do to help?"
"Just bear with me for a while." He reached across the table and touched her hand.CHAPTER 2
Pam understood why he wouldn't stay the night. She was even grateful. How could they lie together while each of them was thinking how they were going to live apart? Lovemaking would be artificial. Conversation would be distracting. Sleeping together guiltlessly was a mark of their commitment. Now the commitment itself was being debated.
She was completely unnerved, unable to find a comfortable position in bed and too distracted to read or watch television. For the first hours of the night she wondered what arguments John was having with himself.
She couldn't picture him in his bedroom because she had never been above the ground floor of his town house. She had been in his living room, dining room, and kitchen when he had given small parties for the staff of the institute. On those occasions, caterers had passed cocktails and canapés for exactly an hour, then served dinner at his long colonial table. Pam had blended in with the other staffers, respectful of her boss and clearly one step down from him in the business pecking order. But often she had found herself glancing toward the stairs, wondering how the second floor was furnished, and what kind of bed he slept in when his wife was in town.
She had guessed a four-poster, probably one with a canopy over the top. The facades of all the homes on his Georgetown street were Federal, pretending to have been built in time for the Adams administration. The interior furnishings were generally colonial, usually with a copper kettle hanging over a seldom-used gas log. John had added to the illusion by hanging prints of the Founding Fathers in elaborate frames. So it was reasonable to assume that there was a washstand with basin and pitcher in his bedroom, perhaps even a long-handled bed warmer resting near the upper fireplace. The four-poster seemed a given.
Excerpted from The Other Woman by Diana Diamond. Copyright © 2006 Diana Diamond. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
now she running 4 the office, to be the next boss ! / or the first woman to run things in the world!
As usual - Diana Diamond presents a book you can't put down! I love all the twists and turns. I wish she would write some more books - she's a great writer!!!!!
I love Diana Diamond but this book was too slow and predictable.Also, Pam is supposed to be savvy and intelligent yet she continues to depend on strange men throughout this novel. She gets involved with several and takes all they offer. Come on, where is she an equal, modern day woman?
Pam Leighton works for the Electric Energy Institute lobbying group that works to make sure no legislation inimical to the power companies is passed. The head of the corporation is John Duke who is Pam¿s lover and has been for two years. When John is being considered for a cabinet post as the Secretary of Energy his wife says she will support him using her political connections if he severs all ties to Pam and makes sure she leaves Washington D.C.------------ Pam moves to New York where she plans to write a tell-all book about the lobbying industry. She has the evidence to back up every claim she makes which makes certain Washington power brokers very nervous. They want the publication of the book stopped and they use all sorts of methods to intimidate Pam into giving up getting her book published. When a good woman dies because she helped Pam, the writer becomes even more determined to write her book even if she has to go to outrageous lengths to keep from getting killed.---- THE OTHER WOMAN is a fascinating relationship thriller that has readers guessing who is spying on Pam and reporting back to the power brokers. The audience feels pity for John Duke, who broke many laws as chairman of the EEI not because he an evil man but because he is a weak person who allows his ambition and wife to make choices that destroy his happiness. Diana Diamond has written a novel that shows the ugly and illegal relationships between lobbyists and elected officials that come straight out of news headlines.------------ Harriet Klausner