Read The Gentlewoman Online

Authors: Lisa Durkin

The Gentlewoman (7 page)

Chapter Seven

 

She felt the car pull onto the gravel road leading up to
the farmhouse and remained still, too panicked to move. Any movement was
excruciating after the continued beating. There was a loud ringing in her ears
and a constant intense painful throb in her head from the repeated blows. Her
lips were swollen and bleeding and her left eye was swollen shut. She was
curled into a small ball in the corner of the backseat, desperately trying to
put space between herself and her husband. She didn’t know what to do. She
continuously wiped the blood from her nose and lips on the sleeve of her coat
and prayed that she would be able to save her father and herself.

The car pulled to a stop. Both Aidan and the assistant,
Lon she believed was his name, got out. She moved as quickly as she could. She
could see they were at the farmhouse. It looked deserted, no other people or
cars. Maybe he had been lying about bringing her father here. She frantically
glanced down and around in the car for anything she could use to defend herself.
Her eyes fell to the dashboard and the magnetic pen hanging from the glove box.
She threw herself forward to grab at it and thrust it into her coat pocket. The
back door opened and Aidan grabbed her by the hair. She cried out in pain as he
jerked her upright, walking her quickly across the large open space in front of
the house.

She heard the car start behind them and back down the
gravel drive. When the car reversed and moved forward down the lane, she took a
chance and clasped her hands together, raising them and swinging hard in
Aidan’s direction. She made contact with his head and as he loosened his tight
grip on her hair, she shot at a sprint toward the front door. Her breath came
frantically and she raced to the front door, grabbing for the doorknob. As
quick as she was, Aidan was on top of her in the next second, slamming into her
back and pressing her harder against the door. Forcing her left hand off the
doorknob, he jerked her arm behind her back. A loud primal scream escaped her
throat as he twisted her balled-up fist in his hand. The sound of the bones
snapping was loud and brutal. She fell to her knees, shocked and fighting to
drag oxygen into her lungs. She held her left arm while doubling over and
vomiting violently. When the heaving stopped, she kept her head down.

“That’s what you get when you fuck with me, cunt.” He
jerked her up by the hair. Unlocking the door, he pushed it open and shoved her
in ahead of him.

 

Rory woke with a jolt. Sweat poured from her body and her
breathing was frantic. She looked down and immediately released her left arm.
She rubbed her forehead. After a moment, she lay back on the pillow and tried
to still the trembling. Tears slid down her cheeks and into her hair. Finally
she let go, setting her sobs free. Her shoulders shook, her hand clasped over
her mouth.

After several minutes, she caught herself. “No…no,” she said
aloud. “That’s enough.” She pounded the mattress with her fist. She sat up and
wiped her eyes hard and took several steadying breaths. Steeling her spine, she
turned to the clock and saw that it was four a.m. Not willing to try for more
sleep, she swung her legs to the floor and got up from the bed. Still shaken,
she decided to make some coffee and use the time to read for work. Put her
overactive mind to better use than torturing herself by reliving the events
that created her.

The door opened as Jackson reached out to knock and Rory
stepped into the hallway, ready for their run. She closed it with a heavy slam,
watching to ensure it was fully latched.

“How are you this morning?”

“I’m fine, Dorn, how are you?” she asked halfheartedly,
zipping her jacket. She seemed distracted, and Jackson’s fears that he had gone
too far with her the night before surfaced with renewed vigor.

“Fine, good,” he said, straining to study her face as he
mindlessly mimicked her stretching. He didn’t want her to break off their
relationship, um, friendship.

Finally he decided to just have out with it. If this was
beyond repair, he’d have to face it.

“Rory, are you totally pissed at me for hitting on you last
night?” He straightened and stood stock-still waiting for her response. Her
head popped up from her knees and she looked him squarely in the eye. She was
looking paler than normal, but she was so naturally pretty that she took his
breath away.

A slow smile crept across her face. “You call that hitting
on me?” she said with an incredulous laugh. “Dorn, hitting on a woman is
normally like, ‘hey, babe, can I get your number?’.” She said it in a pathetic
attempt at a deep male voice. “What you did was a little more than hitting on
me, wouldn’t you agree?” She started jogging in the direction of the
university.

“Okay, I guess I wasn’t hitting on you,” he said as he
pulled up alongside her.

“No, you were trying to fuck me.”

He made a choked sound. “Okay, guilty. I’m sorry.”

She stopped dead in her tracks. Jackson halted and walked
the few steps back to her. She looked him dead in the eye with that steely gaze
he was quickly becoming familiar with.

“Are you sorry?” They locked eyes for a moment and Jackson
waited for more, mostly because he wasn’t sure he wanted to say how he really
felt. “I don’t require your apologies. As a matter of fact, I don’t want you to
put your hands on me again if you’re going to be sorry about it.”

Rory stepped forward and stretched up to her tiptoes as she
put her arms around his neck. She pulled his head down and kissed him. Jackson
waited a beat and deepened the kiss. It felt so good to have her in his arms
and to know that because she had initiated it, she actually wanted to be there.
His lips caressed hers and the feel of her made him hungry for more.

She looked into his eyes, holding his gaze. “Don’t ever
touch me if it’s something you’ll be sorry for later. And if you’re apologizing
because you think you’re coercing me into something that I don’t want to do,
stop that too. I don’t do what I don’t want to. I wanted your hands on me. I
liked them on me.”

He reached down and took her lips hard, crushing her beneath
him. Her words gave him such raw joy and relief. She wanted him, and she was
standing here on the street kissing him.

“I am very glad to hear that, Congresswoman. I want to put
my hands on you some more.”

Rory returned his smile. “Well we’ll see what we can do
about that. How about we have our morning run though?”

“You’re going to have to give me a minute here, Morgan…
Nope, don’t step back yet.” He laughed as she began to release him and he held
firm. He needed coverage from her until he brought things back under control in
his sweatpants. They both laughed as he kissed her.

 

The livery car made its way up to the Hill and rounded to
the entrance of the Rayburn Building. Rory and Jackson finalized their plans
for the evening. They would ride home together at about six and order dinner
before he would drive her to the airport. She had a ten o’clock flight to
Cleveland. Rory insisted that she could take a cab to the airport but Jackson
wouldn’t hear of it. If she was willing to explore the possibility of having at
least a physical relationship with him, he was going to take advantage of every
moment he could get with her. He cringed as he realized he dreaded her flying
out tonight, but he knew she had to take care of some business in her district.
She would be back on Sunday and would take a cab from the airport and join him
at his place, where his annual Super Bowl party would be under way. He was
fully aware that his happiness over his acquired relationship, friendship,
whatever this was with Rory Morgan, was not just about the business gains he was
seeking. For the first time in ten years, he wanted to be with a woman for more
than sex.

As promised, Landon had arranged lunch with Rory and as they
were being seated in the restaurant, Rory was re-thinking her car situation in
Washington. A lot of business was done in restaurants and she thought she might
feel better if she had her own vehicle. It felt as though she was under others’
constant transport: Jackson’s livery car, Nicole’s car, Landon’s car. As she
mulled it over, she mused about how it all came down to control. Control kept
the panic at bay, the demons in order.

She had been successful in shaking that dream this morning.
And she was following Nicole’s advice of giving things a try with Dorn. She was
amazed at how good it felt to let go and not fight her desire for him. It felt
good to embrace the comfort she found in being with him too, even if it was a
possible minefield.

As Landon finished ordering and they handed the menus back
to the waiter they got down to business.

“Well, my dear, the party was in full agreement with your
committee appointments. You now sit on Energy and Commerce, and Health and
Human Services.”

“Good, that’s good, Uncle Landon. Thank you for your
sponsorship.” She smiled and was truly pleased that had gone well.

“Well, it’s my pleasure. After all, I know your platform.
You are the right person for Ohio and the party.” The reminder of the debt to
the party was not veiled. She curled her lips into a slight smile as he
continued. “You have room for one more. Any ideas?”

“I’ve given it some thought. Appropriations couldn’t hurt.
I’ve recently learned it can be helpful.” She rolled her eyes.

“Yes that’s possible.”

“I saw Roy last night at the business meeting. We talked
very briefly. I’ll seek him out next week and see what his thoughts are.”

“That’s good.” Landon paused for a moment. “Rory, I know
you’re somewhat adamant, but what about giving some thought as to the
contributions you could make on Homeland Security one more time?”

Rory’s eyes shot to Landon’s. What the
fuck
was this?
She leaned forward in her chair and lowered her voice.

“I’m not
somewhat
adamant, Landon. I’m not interested
and I won’t do it. Some things I will not give in on. You tell whoever in our
precious party put you up to this that I’m not helping with whatever they need
on that committee.”

“Settle down.” Landon glared back with his own steely stare.
After a moment of shifting in their chairs and gaining control over their
tempers, he started again. “It was a friend from the other party. They want
stricter laws so Homeland can sharpen their teeth, make a bigger dent.” She
noticed his irritation over her strong reaction, as if her behavior was more a
betrayal than his trespassing on this topic with her. He continued in a slow,
deliberate tone. “You are the daughter of a fallen police chief from a large
city, one who was well known and loved. You have firsthand experience with
violent crime and the impact on the United States of foreign activity on home
soil. Of course it is logical they ask for your help, Rory.”

Rory refolded the napkin in her lap and looked up. Her gaze
was still hard and her hold on her anger was tenuous. She wasn’t stupid.

“Sharpen their teeth for what? Make a bigger dent on what?
What is this really about?”

He was quiet and they both took a second to regroup, sipping
from their glasses and looking around the restaurant. Rory knew she’d get an
answer and could tell from the stoic silence that it wasn’t going to be one she
liked.

“As far as I can tell, they need help getting both funding
and legislation passed that would allow law enforcement more flexibility when
investigating and dealing with international crimes.”

“What types of crimes?” she asked. She held his gaze. She
could feel the bile rising in her throat.

Landon had the grace to appear resigned and contrite for
what he was about to say. He sighed. “Several. But among them are drug
smuggling, weapons trading and human trafficking.”

The jolt that went through her body was as though somebody
had hit her with a stun gun. She mechanically turned her head and looked out
over the restaurant. It was filled to capacity with people talking and
laughing, enjoying their conversations over their expensive meals. She looked
at their faces. She looked toward the large floor-to-ceiling windows and raised
her face to feel the warm sunshine that shone through on this winter day.

And none of that was distraction enough to keep her eyes
from threatening tears and her anger from rising up in her chest so strongly
that she wanted to hurl something across the beautiful room. She clutched the
napkin in her lap and as the nausea rose again, she swallowed and closed her
eyes. When she opened them, she looked at Landon across the table. Her lips
pursed and released.

“They think that I’ll gain sympathy and deliver votes. They
expect me to talk about what happened.”

Landon looked back at her calmly. “I’m not sure what they
expect of you. I’m not even really sure what this legislation is about. I only
know what our party will expect you to do. Don’t forget who put you here.”

“The answer is no.”

“Don’t be so quick to turn it down. You have to think of
what our needs could be down the line. This type of request is an olive branch
that’ll be useful to us.”

“The answer is no.” She enunciated slowly. “Anything I need
I’ll find a way to get ‘ussss’ without serving on that particular committee,”
she hissed at him.

“Rory, be reasonable.”

“Reasonable? I am being reasonable. If the party who put me
here cannot stop short of asking me to whore myself out more than I already am,
I’ll be reasonable enough to quit.”

“Watch yourself,” he spat back at her.

“The answer is no. Nothing will be gained from my serving
there. It won’t be useful. I won’t be any good. They’re just looking to use the
‘poor victim girl from Ohio’ routine and you know it. I draw the line there. I
drew the line prior to even accepting the appointment to this seat. I won’t be
pitied. I’d rather be asked to fuck the entire House and Senate.” She glared at
him. “Who asked?”

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