Authors: Mallory Monroe
DUTCH AND GINA
A SCANDAL IS BORN
All rights reserved. Any use of the materials contained in this book without the expressed written consent of the author and/or her affiliates, is strictly prohibited.
AUSTIN BROOK PUBLISHING
This novel is a work of fiction. All characters are fictitious. Any similarities to anyone living or dead are completely accidental. The specific mention of known places or venues are not meant to be exact replicas of those places, but are purposely embellished or imagined for the story’s sake.
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As soon as the First Lady cut the ribbon at the new battered women’s shelter in southeast Washington and the small crowd of employees began applauding, the even smaller contingent of reporters assigned to follow her began hurling questions.
Only the questions weren’t about the ceremony, or the shelter, but about Dutch and Gina’s two month old baby boy.
“Mrs. Harber,” one of the reporters shouted before the crowd could even stop applauding, “why are you hiding your baby from the American people?”
At first Gina continued to smile.
It had been a long road for the shelter and she was happy for them now that their big day had arrived.
But when she realized what the reporter had actually asked, she was unable to hide her puzzlement.
“Excuse me?” she asked the reporter, her hand straightening the African-styled bracelets on her wrist.
Why was she “hiding” her baby?
Why in the world, she wanted to know, would he make such an odd accusation?
But the reporter wasn’t about to back down.
He knew his accusatory question would get a reaction out of her, it would have been political suicide if she hadn’t responded, and that was exactly why he asked it.
“Why are you hiding your baby from the American people?” he asked again.
“Since the day he left that hospital in Newark and the president had him so wrapped up that we couldn’t get a good look at him, there’s been no video or even a photo released.
Don’t you think the American people deserve to see the First Child?”
“No, I do not think anybody
to see my child,” Gina said, barely able to shield her contempt.
The two members of her staff accompanying her, Loretta “LaLa” King and Christian Bale, looked warily at each other, both wondering how in the world could they initiate preemptive damage control before any real damage could be done.
And the reporter continued to hammer away.
“So what you’re saying, ma’am, is that you don’t believe the American people are deserving?”
“Don’t entertain them, G,” LaLa, who also happened to be the First Lady’s best friend, whispered in her ear.
“What I’m saying,” Gina said, unable to back down from any challenge, “is that our child has nothing to do with the American people.”
“But how can you say that, Mrs. Harber?
You, your husband, and that child are the First Family.
The American people have a right to know everything there is to know about the First Family.”
“The president signed up for this,” Gina made clear.
“By marrying him I signed up for this.
But our child didn’t sign up for any of this.
Her big brown eyes began looking beyond the reporter for a different journalist who wanted to ask, she prayed, a completely different question.
“But don’t you think that’s the point, Mrs. Harber?” the same reporter managed to ask.
“Because you and your husband decided to become a political family, your child is a story whether you like it or not.
And you and the president should bring him out so the American people can get a good look at him.”
“We disagree with you,” Gina said firmly, to end it.
The next question did indeed come, and from a different reporter, but as soon as it was asked Gina, LaLa and Christian all knew that it, not the ribbon cutting ceremony nor any of the previous questions, would be the lead story on every nightly newscast.
“Isn’t it true, Mrs. Harber,” the reporter asked, “that the president isn’t your baby’s daddy, after all, but your baby is really Roman Wilkes’ child?
Isn’t that why you’re hiding that baby from the American people?”
It was so loaded with such an over-the-top accusation that Gina couldn’t help but laugh and shake her head.
These people crazy
, she said to herself.
“Yeah,” she said aloud, her voice dripping with disdain, “that’s the reason.
You’ve really got me now.
You’ve figured it all out.
The whole scheme.”
Even LaLa had to smile at that one.
That’s how you handle jerks like these, she wanted to tell the First Lady.
Some of the reporters even laughed at the joke too.
But just in case there were more questions to come of that same silly variety, LaLa and Christian didn’t take any chances.
“Thank-you all very much,” LaLa said to the reporters as she and young Christian turned Gina away from the DC press corps and back to the shelter employees, none of whom had accusatory questions to ask; all of whom were thrilled to death to be in the presence of the First Lady of the United States.
The President of the United States, Walter “Dutch” Harber, and his point person on
, former Florida Senator Crader McKenzie, stood near the Rotunda on Capitol Hill and shook hands with the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
It was to be nothing more than a photo-op after a long and contentious meeting, with all three men vowing to work together to ensure passage of some form of comprehensive immigration reform.
They also vowed to keep their disagreements to a minimum.
“We have work to do on behalf of the American people,” Jed Brightman, the Speaker of the House, said.
“We don’t have time for games.”
Dutch found it a little off-putting that the Speaker would make such a comment, since he and a small group of more conservative, blue-dog democrats like him were the ones holding up reform legislation to begin with, but he smiled anyway, shook the Speaker’s hand with the cameras clicking, and then agreed to take a few questions on the bill itself, or any other related issue.
Of course the DC press corps always exercised their freedom of the press and rarely asked what was expected of them.
This evening on Capitol Hill was no exception.
The questioner wasted no time.
“What is your response, sir,” she asked, “to the explosive allegations involving the First Lady and famed Defense Attorney Roman Wilkes?”
It was an odd question to say the least, and most people would have asked for clarification, but Dutch was an old hand at DC-styled gotcha games and therefore kept his cool.
He stood there tall and elegant, his hands in the pants pockets of his tailored-to-perfection suit, his intelligent green eyes sharp and focused as he stared out at the red-meat press.
He had no clue what that reporter was referencing, but he also wasn’t about to rise to her obvious bait.
“The reason I’m here,” he said, “is to ensure that Congress gives due-diligence to my upcoming White House conference on immigration reform.
It’s a priority of my administration and that’s why I asked my old friend, former Senator Crader McKenzie, to act as my surrogate on this vital matter.
And now that we’ve met with Speaker Brightman, Senator McKenzie and I are pleased that the Speaker has committed to join us for this grand undertaking.
It’s long overdue and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus is right: we can’t wait any longer.”
“But what about the First Lady, sir?” another reporter shouted out.
“She admitted that Roman Wilkes, her former lover, is the father of her child.
She admitted that you are not the father.
Can you comment on that, sir?”
Dutch was so thrown by the allegation that for the first time in a long time he literally didn’t know what to say.
Was this some kind of sick joke?
He knew it had to be, on every level he knew it had to be, but how could they have even invented such a tale?
“Thank-you, Mr. President!” Allison Shearer, the president’s press secretary, nervously shouted out in the customary way of ending the reporters’ access.
Dutch and Crader McKenzie were then ushered away by staffers.
Both men slid into the awaiting presidential limo with a kind of bewildered,
what was that about
look on their faces.
Allison slid in also and sat on the opposite seat.
She had two cell phones in her hands as she frantically tried to get more intel.
Max Brennan, the president’s chief of staff and his best friend since childhood, was already seated in the limo, opposite Dutch and Crader, trying frantically too.
When Max finally got off of the phone, he was shaking his head.
“Why does she keep doing this?” he wanted to know.
“What’s happened?” Dutch asked.
“There was no live feed at the ribbon cutting ceremony she attended today, and they don’t have the recorded tape yet, but the buzz is all over cable news.”
“And what buzz is that?” Dutch was trying his best to keep it together.
Max let out a harsh exhale.
“Apparently a reporter asked the First Lady if Roman Wilkes was the father of her baby boy.
And she, according to press reports, said yes.”
“Bullshit!” Dutch said pointblank.
“That’s according to press reports, Dutch,” Max said.
“I’m just telling you what every cable news channel is reporting right now.
You know how
Gina can be.”
Crader McKenzie looked at Max.
Crader was a no-nonsense tough guy around the president’s age who didn’t mince words; an average-height, muscularly-built man with brownish-blonde hair, movie star good looks, and piercing blue eyes that brook no debate.
He was a hard charger to his core who hailed from the rougher dens of America rather than those polite, New England, old money parlors and morning rooms from Dutch and Max’s past.
And a man like Crader was never comfortable with the liberties a man like Max took with the president.
He knew the president and Max were childhood best friends and had that old connection going strong, but right was right in Crader’s eyes.
And some flunky from way back like Max Brennan was all wrong.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” he asked the chief of staff.
“Where do you get off speaking in such a negative way about our First Lady?”
“I don’t mean any disrespect,” Max prefaced his comments, “and the president knows I don’t.
But his wife is very out-spoken and oftentimes she’ll mix it up with the press when it’s advisable not to.
And in my view she has been around here long enough to understand that.”
“That’s not for you to determine,” Crader made clear.
“Who the hell cares about your view?
You’re just the help.
Dutch is the President of the United States.
He’s the man in charge, not you.
It’s none of your gotdamn business how his wife is or what she’s prone to do or not do, that has nothing to do with you.”
“What are you jumping all over me for?” Max asked, equal parts embarrassed and angry. “I was just stating facts.”
“Then keep your facts to yourself.
Dutch doesn’t need to hear’em.
He knows his wife better than you’ll ever know her, so shut the fuck up and just do your job.
And nowhere in your job description does it give you the license to speak derisively about the First Lady of the United States.”
Max had heard how Crader McKenzie was a bulldog; a man who didn’t know what finesse and diplomacy meant.
And for that very reason many staffers, including Max, were opposed to Dutch’s selection of him as his point person on immigration.
But Dutch was firm.
He needed somebody who could stand toe-to-toe with that wayward Congress and the powerful Speaker of the House, and Crader was the only man he knew capable of fitting that bill.