Authors: Cynthia Dane
When Romance Prevails
THE DARK HORSE TRILOGY
When Romance Prevails
THE DARK HORSE TRILOGY, #3
Copyright: Cynthia Dane
Published: 22nd December 2014
Publisher: Barachou Press
This is a work of fiction. Any and all similarities to any characters, settings, or situations are purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval system, copied in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise transmitted without written permission from the publisher. You must not circulate this book in any format.
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The world was as bleak as the day before, and the day before that. Funny. The sunlight had seemed to completely disappear those past few days. Weeks. Months. How much time had passed since Kerri last welcomed the sunlight on her skin?
Her bed was her only warmth for many weeks.
Weeks? It’s been weeks?
Twelve weeks. Three months. For normal people, the scandal that she was dating her father’s rival’s son would have died down by now. But with Election Day only a month away, the fervor was stronger than ever with the media and the common man.
It had all happened so fast. The debate at the university. Hunter sitting across from Kerri in his balcony. People asking the same tired old questions. And then that reporter claiming to have pictures of them together. That was when all hell broke loose and Kerri was carried off to her family’s car before the media could descend. The last thing she remembered from that great hall was her father jumping across the stage at Terrence Hall. If only that had been the biggest PR nightmare!
Kerri saw those pictures eventually. They popped up on TV, on the internet, and even on the news. Grainy black and white things of them holding hands and leaning in close to each other at that supposedly private restaurant. Then the reporter followed them to their hotel and took shots of them going in and coming out later.
Kerri getting into Hunter’s car. Altogether, it was too damning for anyone to ignore.
And Kerri couldn’t deny it. Not anymore.
Since that day everything changed. She hadn’t seen Hunter in three months. Kerri had barely seen anyone outside of her parents.
They’ve trapped me in here.
She once joked to Hunter that her mother would put her under house arrest. That was true now. Too true. Kerri wasn’t allowed to leave the Governor’s Mansion without an escort, usually her mother. They had long confiscated her phone. Her! A grown woman!
If she had the strength to fight it, she would have. Pack up her things and get out of there as was her right. But she didn’t have the strength anymore. Not with her parents arguing at the dinner table. Not with her father pulling her into his office that first night and giving her the verbal lashing of her life. “What did they do to you?” he demanded, his carefully composed demeanor coming apart as he pulled off his tie and threw his weight around. Raymond Mitchell was not known for his quick movements, but that night was an exception. “How could you do that to this family? To me? I have worked my ass off to get where I am, and you think you can just tear that down for one boy! Of all boys!
What did he do to you?”
Raymond didn’t need his daughter to tell him. The tabloids speculated enough. Even the interns giggled whenever they saw Kerri. Whispers of “I bet he has a big dick” and “What a lucky girl!” filtered through the halls of the mansion. The most damning one to Kerri’s soul, however, was the snide “Damn whore ruining everything,” uttered by more than one person. Somehow Kerri doubted that Hunter received this kind of treatment.
Thinking of him always planted a spike in Kerri’s heart. Naturally, she thought of him constantly. Like that moment, as she curled up in bed and buried her face in her pillow, the same one she and Hunter shared that first night they met.
Kerri did not tell her parents about that night. She refused to, as some things were too sacred. Not to mention it would make her home life even less bearable. A guard at her door. Patrols outside her window. If a man could just get into her room on a night like a fundraiser…
Never mind that I was the one who let him in.
Kerri pushed herself beneath her covers and pulled the pillow over her head.
There was a knock on her door. Someone opened it, and from the clicks of heels Kerri knew it was her mother without even looking.
“Dear Lord, look at you.” Brenda walked past her daughter’s bed and stopped in front of the windows. Light streamed through as she opened every curtain with a grunt in her throat. Groaning, Kerri turned away from the windows and pressed her face harder into her pillow. She didn’t want to see the sunlight today. “What’s going on with you? Get out of bed! This isn’t healthy! You should get dressed and let me take you out for brunch. We can get whatever you want. Oh, apple pancakes would be delicious. I only had a grapefruit and toast for breakfast, so I’m…” Brenda walked up to bed. “Well, come on! Get up!”
“No thanks.” It was the first thing Kerri said all day, and it was trapped in her pillow.
“You’re going to just spend the rest of your life in bed? What will that achieve? You need to move on from this boy already.”
Finally, Kerri pulled her head up and glared at her mother through sleep-encrusted eyes. “It’s not just about him. I’m being kept prisoner in this house. I…” Oh, what was the point? Kerri flopped back into her pillow and sighed. Her mother would never understand.
Brenda remained at the side of the bed for another moment. When she departed, it was with slow, gradual steps as if she were dodging a sleeping bear. “Don’t make it sound like I don’t care about you. I care about you too much, if anything.” The bed jiggled as Brenda sat down on it. “I only want to protect you. I know that the moment I let you go you’re going back to that boy. Then what? The media corners you. I know how it is. They’ll tear you apart and make a mockery of you. I won’t even tell you some of the things I’ve heard about your reputation. This isn’t just about your father. This is about your safety as well.”
“If I can’t see him, then I don’t want to be here. Let me go to damn Italy then.”
Not often did Brenda look so forlorn as she gazed upon her daughter. Suddenly she looked her age: wrinkles crowned her forehead, and crow’s feet pecked at her eyes. “I would love to, but there isn’t any money for it. There hasn’t been for quite some time.”
For the first time that day Kerri sat up. “What do you mean there is no money?”
“That’s what I mean. We’ve been scraping by these past few months. I don’t know how much money your father is spending on this campaign… he must be going full speed because of what happened. Both your father’s and Hall’s names went down in the polls, but they are still neck and neck. Your father will do anything to remain governor. He says he’s taking out all our money for that. So I’m sorry baby, but there isn’t much I can do for you there.”
Of course. It would be too convenient. Packing some bags and heading out somewhere to be alone for a while. Far away from the media, her parents, and her heartache.
I hate campaigns. I hate elections. I hate this life.
Kerri felt a tear at the corner of her eye and brushed it away before her mother could see.
I want Hunter.
He knew how to sweep her away and make her feel like the royalty her parents claimed she was. His tender caresses, his gentle kisses, and the passion he exhibited when the time was right. Kerri’s boyfriend – the man she hadn’t seen in months – was the only one who could mend her broken disposition now.
But she was a prisoner here. Now, and who knew for how much longer.
The chaos in the Hall house was unlike anything Hunter had ever seen before. More volunteers showed up every day to make phone calls, stuff envelopes, and go door to door in the name of Terrence Hall. The downtown campaign headquarters overflowed to the point where stragglers were sent to the house. Hunter couldn’t walk two steps outside of his room without bumping into someone he had never met before.
Not that he spent much time at home these days. Now he was more likely to sit around the downtown headquarters or go for a drive to clear his head.
Would rather be with Kerri.
His father hadn’t taken kindly to the revelation, let alone the swing Raymond Mitchell had sent his way. Terrence talked a lot about suing the governor, but Philip the campaign manager pointed out how bad that would be for his image. Both of them glared at Hunter whenever he went by.
“Son, you play a dangerous game.” Terrence said that first night after the debate. He held an ice pack to his forehead, even though no bruise would ever be seen there. “Going after Mitchell’s daughter takes some serious balls. But how about we just keep those balls in our pants, huh? Get me my phone. We’ll finish discussing this later.”
They never did finish discussing it. But Hunter heard his father mumbling to his advisor here and there about how much more difficult things would be now that Hunter was painted as someone who seduced the enemy.
Kerri is not the enemy.
She was his girlfriend, and he was desperate to see her.
So desperate that Hunter had spent the past three months trying to figure out how to get to her. Of course he called her multiple times, but they never went through anymore.
They must have taken her phone.
The bastards. Treating her like she was a grounded teenager. He wrote her letters but they remained unanswered. Some even came back as return to sender. And he even drove up right to the mansion one day, only to be turned away by the security guards. No shock there. They knew who he was.
For all Hunter knew, Kerri wasn’t even in the same country anymore. But if she weren’t, then surely she would have contacted him the moment she was away from her family’s men.
I wish I had gotten her E-mail address.
They probably took her computer too.
“Oh, Hunter.” It was Ronnie, intercepting him in the hallway. “Your father asked me to tell you that we’re having dinner with a donor tonight. You’ll be there, right?”
She asked it so tentatively, as if Hunter would blow up at her.
Hunter heard those nuggets shortly after Ronnie let slip that she knew about the relationship. “You knew about this?” Terrence had shouted from his office one night. “You knew about it and didn’t see fit to put a stop to it? I’m surrounded by idiots!” Ronnie had become more skittish ever since.
“I’ll be there,” Hunter said. He waited for his mother to leave. “What is it?”
“He also says that he wants to see you. Now.”
The way she said it implied that Hunter would not like what his father had to say.
I’ll deal with it.
He straightened his jacket, set his jaw, and walked downstairs to his father’s office.
He should have seen it coming. After all, his father was not the most subtle man in the state, and Raymond Mitchell would sputter about it all day if given half the chance.
Terrence was all smiles that day as he sat on a couch with a glass of brandy in his hand. Across from him was an older gentleman with a young lady at his side. A lovely young lady with straight blond hair, rosy cheeks, and a certain finesse that said she was bred and read well. She grinned the moment she saw Hunter come through the door.
“Hunter!” Terrence got up and clapped his hand on his son’s shoulder. The brandy sloshed in his glass in a desperate attempt to make a great escape. “You remember the Carters, right? Distant relatives of ol’ Jimmy, I’m pretty sure.”