The Gentlewoman

The Gentlewoman

Lisa Durkin

 

Three years after being viciously tortured and almost
murdered by her husband, Rory becomes a U.S. congresswoman. In Washington, DC,
she is immediately pursued by Congressman Dorn, a rich, irresistible and sexy
playboy with an ulterior motive for befriending her.

What starts as casual sex between Rory and Dorn quickly
becomes an explosive, passionate and very public love affair that endangers
them both when it stirs up a threat from her past. She alone must find a way to
end the harassment of a dangerous stalker and to survive a broken heart when
she discovers she has been betrayed by Dorn.

Reader Advisory: This story has graphic sexual language and
scenes—no closed bedroom doors (or other rooms) here!

 

An
adult contemporary romantic suspense
from Ellora’s Cave

 

The Gentlewoman
Lisa Durkin
Chapter One

 

He smiled as the lock clicked open. Lever tumblers usually
jammed when picked, but he was a professional. He let himself into her new
condo and looked around. Boxes were here and there waiting to be unpacked and
there wasn’t much furniture. It was rather impersonal, but she had just moved
in.

Anger coursed through him again. She had moved here thinking
she’d just forget it all and start a new life. He couldn’t make sense of the
audacity. He had waited and given it the requisite time, but he was done with
that now. She would be put in her place, permanently.

He moved around quietly assessing. Not too big or too small,
like her place in Cleveland. It reminded him of her, already smelled like her. God
he loved that smell. He looked around the kitchen, opening the refrigerator and
searching the contents. It was practically empty, just like the refrigerator in
her place in Cleveland always was.

He had watched her. For three years he had always watched
her, waiting for the time to correct things. He would have his way; it was a
certainty. Just as he must breathe air, he would have the outcome that was
promised to him. That he was forced to wait, he understood. But he hadn’t
expected this. After everything, after what she did, he hadn’t expected her to
ignore their fate.

He took a deep breath and brought his thoughts under control.
He was close now, and it would execute perfectly. He turned the television on,
pressing the arrow until C-SPAN popped up. The feed was live from the House floor.
He couldn’t see her, but she was there. He turned up the volume before
strolling into the first bedroom.

Her scent hit him harder, like a punch in the gut. Damn, he
would do her. He was rock-hard just thinking about it. He would punish her, do
her, punish her again before it was over, but he would get his fill.

He opened the closet door and perused the clothing. Not much
hung there, just her business suits. He felt the knife in his pocket. He’d like
to tear them all to shreds. He’d like to carve his initials into her stomach,
but he had to be patient.

He looked around the rest of the apartment, stopping to
check out the proceedings of Congress. Opening day, such bullshit. He leaned
against the chair and looked around at the boxes. When the time was right, he
was going to correct Rory Morgan’s mistake. He would teach her, permanently,
that he wouldn’t be fucked with.

He looked over the lip of the box closest to him. It
appeared to contain mementos and he pulled out a baby doll. He would teach the
bitch a life lesson.

 

Congressman Jackson Dorn sat forward just far enough to get
a glimpse without drawing attention. The new congresswoman was three rows in
front of him, on the opposite side of the aisle. He raised his eyebrows; her
photos didn’t do her justice. She was very pretty. All of a sudden he wasn’t so
annoyed with his assignment. Might be fun persuading her. He watched as she
looked around the House floor, like him, bored with the speaker. Her dark hair
was long and thick. He liked that.

He had been very excited when he and his committee members
had reviewed her file. Her story was perfect, useful. With her on his
committee, they would save the legislation that was so important to the president
and the Pentagon. He could get all kinds of things. Nobody would want to go up
against her and commit career suicide. Her appointment to Congress had been
manna from heaven. Her sexy mouth and mahogany hair were icing on the cake. He
averted his eyes and sat back as she turned around.

 

Rory spied her best friend-turned-chief of staff, Nicole, at
the back and tried to make a graceful exit. She hoped it wasn’t a faux pas to
leave before the speaker wrapped up his opening speech, but she was done. She
had heard enough about his traditional values and how he intended to lead Congress
to restoring America. He continually referred to his perfect family sitting in
the front row. Rory felt she was the only member of Congress here today without
family, another reason she was happy to be leaving the room.

“Are you enjoying yourself?” Nicole whispered when Rory
stood next to her.

“Oh, immensely. I’m surprised he didn’t bring Fido to round
out the picture.”

“They are shiny, happy all-Americans.”

“Yes,” Rory whispered. “Ten bucks says he’s busted tap
dancing in the airport men’s room before the session ends.”

Nicole turned and opened the door, hiding her smile.

“Let’s get started down the hall. Are you in the mood for
this?”

“Am I ever? Let’s get it over with. I have bigger fish to
fry now that we have appropriations problems.” She had been sent to DC to
ensure a shipyard that was in danger of being cut for lack of funding. Before
she could deal with that, she had to deal with the ever-present evil media.

Rory battled her rising anxiety while Nicole gave her the
same direction as always. “Smile, get your message out. Speak slowly and give
them a reason to want to talk to you again.” She stopped and whispered in Rory’s
ear. “Don’t let them dwell on the past. If they bring anything up about your
marriage or the abduction, reiterate how well you’re doing and what you’ll be
involved in here.”

Rory’s gaze held Nicole’s blue eyes. It irritated her that
she had to be reminded of what had happened three years ago. She wished people
wouldn’t bring it up anymore, although on some level it brought her notoriety
that kept her in the public’s memory. Thoughts like that were a sick sign of
her profession and her gut tightened.

They walked toward the media row and she wondered how bad it
would be. She lived in fear of her secrets becoming common knowledge. She was still
nervous over accepting this Congressional appointment, but she wouldn’t trust
anybody else with such an important job. Nobody cared more about her town than
she did.

It began as soon as she turned the corner. “Congresswoman
Morgan, Congresswoman Morgan, over here!” She headed to the nearest reporter.

“Congresswoman Morgan, how are you finding your first week
in office?” the reporter from CNN asked. This particular reporter wasn’t one of
Rory’s favorites, but she was with an important network.

“Good, we’re getting settled and unpacking. We came with a
few concerns that we want to start working on right out of the gate. Our
economic development and job-stimulus priorities are first on the block.” She
thought she sounded in control. “We’ll also be looking to strengthen our
support of schools and children’s services, as you know, always a priority for
me.”

“Tell us, Congresswoman, will you be serving on the Homeland
Security Committee or working on those issues?” Rory froze, her eyes darting to
the reporter, a Barbie-doll blonde.
Son of a bitch,
they don’t even
give you one minute
.

She took a deep breath, searching the area in front of her
for Nicole. She didn’t see her but noticed a man standing against the wall,
listening intently. He was very good-looking and stared right into her eyes. She
peeled away and refocused.

“Well, as you know, Ms. Roberts, I don’t yet have my full
range of commitments, but I’m not closed to any options that might render my
constituents better served.” Rory smiled sweetly at the bitch. She answered
more questions, gently steering the reporter to talk about her platform. She
spied an opening with the next network and moved down the line.

It went on and on. By the end, Rory was tired of talking,
dry-mouthed and pissed that every reporter had mentioned what happened to her
in some way. She moved down the hall to return to her office and recoup her
good mood.

Nicole spoke in a low voice. “You did well. They were very
impressed. I’m happy we practiced your responses.”

Rory flashed her steely gaze. “I’ve been reminded about it
enough for one day.”

“I’m just saying you did well. You know, if you’d agree to
an interview and get the whole story out there, people would quit wondering
about it.” This was their perpetual argument.

“I’m finished talking about it.”

As they approached the exit, the man who had been watching
her interview stepped forward and offered his hand. He flashed a beautiful
white smile and she flushed as she looked into baby-blue eyes set in a model-gorgeous
face.

“Congresswoman Morgan, I’m Jackson Dorn. I’ve been following
your appointment. Congratulations and welcome to Washington.” She shook his
hand, amazed at the warmth that radiated into hers. She stopped breathing as
she enjoyed the feeling of his warm skin.

She remembered the people and cameras around them and quickly
pulled her hand back. He was smiling down at her and she knew he had noticed
her flush. He was just so good-looking with his dark hair and perfect features.
He wore a nicely tailored suit that she could tell was expensive. It dawned.
Congressman Dorn, the rich playboy from Maine. Everybody knew his family had
more money than God and had been represented in the Congress since independence
was won. His ancestors had fought in the Revolutionary War and a great-great-great-grandfather
had signed the Declaration of Independence. She tried to regain her composure.

“Thank you, Congressman, it’s very nice to meet you. I
understand we have some of the same initiatives, even in our differing regions
of the country.”
Or not
.

“Yes, perhaps we can discuss it over dinner tonight? I can help
you to orient yourself with the ebb and flow of Washington.” He was still
staring at her. He must think she had been born on election night.

“Thank you for the offer, but I’m already so heavily
committed and I’m sure your time is scarce as well. It was nice to meet you,
good luck with your agenda.” She stepped back and walked away quickly. She
didn’t want anybody taking a photo of them together. She’d make her own allies
closer to home and within her party. She didn’t need the playboy for anything.

“Nice to meet you,” he called after her. She turned in time
to see his gaze rise from her ass.

“What the hell was that?” Nicole was incredulous.

“Playboy Dorn,” Rory murmured.

“I know who it is. I mean what was that all about? He asked
you out in the middle of the press!”

“He wasn’t asking me out; he was looking to join up. He
wants to be allies with the poor victim girl from Ohio. He must need something.”

Turning the corner out of the stairwell, they moved down the
hall to Rory’s freshman office on Capitol Hill. It wasn’t much, but she was
enamored with it. Her mood immediately improved as they entered. Her aides,
Michael and Liam, were on the floor of the outer office unpacking boxes and
connecting computers. The receptionist, Jill, was busy at her desk by the door.
This was her new environment. There was a short hallway to the left with a
kitchenette and restroom on either side. Farther down was Nicole’s office, and
the hallway dead-ended at Rory’s office door. It wasn’t bad. Maroon
indoor/outdoor carpeting and white walls were a reminder that this was a
government building. That was comforting to Rory because she had spent most of
her career, her life, in government buildings.

Nicole followed Rory into her office. “That’s it for you
today, so you’re on your own. I’m going home to the kids. Jim and I are going
to dinner tonight. What are your plans?”

“Reading and maybe some position writing,” Rory muttered,
trying to ignore her.

“Please go home and relax. You’ve been at it since we got
here last Saturday. It’s Friday night. Go out and have a drink and get some
dinner. I need you fresh Monday.”

“I’m fine, Nicole. I’m a big girl with a big job. I didn’t
come here to relax. I need to jump in with both feet.”

“You’ve jumped in and you’re in the lead. How much sleep have
you had this week?”

“Enough. I’m good on little sleep; you know that. Get out of
here and enjoy your family while you can. Stop worrying about me. This is my
life now.”

“Okay,” Nicole said. “But why do I feel like Washington is
another way for you to avoid life?”

“Don’t be ridiculous! I’m here to represent my district and
make our world a better place through brilliant legislation!” She smiled
brightly and batted her eyes until Nicole started to laugh.

“Just don’t forget to have a little fun. Congressman Dorn
looked like he was interested in more than political connections, if you know
what I mean. Nothing wrong with getting some of that.” She wiggled her brows.

“I’m not interested in Playboy Dorn, harlot. Your husband is
waiting for you.”

“Okay, Sunday for dinner, don’t forget. And get some sleep.
I need that pretty face to be fresh in front of the cameras. I’m not coming in
this weekend. I’m staying home and getting everyone settled. You should do the
same.”

“See you Sunday,” she said as Nicole closed the door. Her
new condo in Georgetown was a mess. She might as well take her work home and do
some much-needed unpacking. She certainly needed to get out from under the
boxes. She shoved papers, books and her laptop into her leather satchel and
looked around.

She blew out a quick breath and stepped up to the mirror on
the wall. She did look tired. She had worked hard this past week. It had been
nice to concentrate on something good. She closed her eyes and thought of her
dad. He would have been here for her. He would have been proud. God, how she
wished she could have him here with her.

She forced away that line of thought and headed for the
door. Everyone else had left, so she turned to lock the office.

“Oh, hello again, Congresswoman.” She jumped and turned to
see Playboy Dorn standing in the hall behind her. “I’m sorry to startle you!”

“No problem, Congressman. If you’ll excuse me, I need to
catch the Metro home.” She tried to walk past him. He walked with her.

“Do you need a ride? I have my driver picking me up out
front.”

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