Flirting with Scandal (Capital Confessions #1)
The author of I See London sets her sights on Washington, D. C., with a sexy new series about three sisters, the secrets they keep, and a powerful blog with a knack for exposing scandals...
Jackie Gardner knows all about dirty little secrets. The illegitimate daughter of one of the most influential senators in Washington, D.C., she grew up surrounded by the scandals and shadows of politics. Now that she's landed an internship with a powerful political consulting firm, she's determined to launch her career and take this city by storm.
William Andrew Clayton was born for politics. He knows the drill: work hard, play discreetly, and at all costs, avoid scandal. At twenty-six, his campaign for the Virginia State Senate is the first step to cementing his future. It's time for him to settle down, to find the perfect political spouse. He needs a Jackie Kennedy, not a Marilyn...
When Jackie meets Will in the bar of the Hay-Adams Hotel, sparks fly. But the last thing Will needs is to be caught in a compromising position, and an affair with a political candidate could cost Jackie her career. When what began as one steamy night, becomes a passion neither one of them can walk way from, they must decide if what they have is really love, or just another dirty little secret...
Flirting with Scandal by Chanel Cleeton has it all. A sexy hero, strong heroine, delicious romance, sizzling tension, and plenty of breathtaking scandal. I loved this book!
- New York Times bestselling author Monica Murphy
Scorching hot and wicked smart, Flirting with Scandal had me hooked from page one! Sizzling with sexual tension and political intrigue, Cleeton weaves a story that is as complex as it is sexy. Thank God this is a series because I need more!!
- New York Times bestselling author Rachel Harris
Sexy, intelligent, and intriguing. Chanel Cleeton makes politics scandal-icious.
- USA Today bestselling author Tiffany King
Chanel Cleeton knocked it out of the park with Flirting with Scandal. The banter was refreshing, the political storyline captivating, and the sexual tension was through the roof. Smart, emotional, romantic, and sizzling hot--this book is fantastic!
- Christina Lee, author of the Between Breaths series
Chanel Cleeton delivers again! Featuring a strong heroine, a steamy romance, and juicy dose of political scandal, Flirting with Scandal is completely engrossing. Clear your calendars--you won't be able to put this one down!
- Brenda St. John Brown, author of Swimming to Tokyo
An emotionally satisfying page turner, deliciously steamy and set against a complex political backdrop that yields satisfying plot twists and a hefty dose of scandal.
- Lia Riley, author of Upside Down
"Flirting with Scandal is an intriguing read with the scandals and dirty secrets that go hand in hand with politics."
- Fresh Fiction
"Flirting with Scandal is forbidden office romance at its finest..."
- Life with 2 Boys
"The sexual tension between them snap, crackled and popped and I couldn't wait for the big payoff. These two had chemistry in spades."
- Kimberly Faye Reads
"Chanel Cleeton has done it again, once again weaving a beautiful and exciting world full of passion, intrigue, and emotion. Flirting with Scandal was an incredible story of politics, following your heart, and learning who you are in the midst of the overwhelming chaos around you."
- Typical Distractions
FLIRTING WITH SCANDAL CHAPTER ONE
Bachelor Alert! William Andrew Clayton is running for the Virginia Senate. While this blogger hasn’t had the pleasure of debating politics with him, I’ve heard he’s seriously fine. Ladies, hurry while he’s still single . . .
—Capital Confessions blog
When I was a kid, my mother used to take me to brunch at the Hay-Adams Hotel. When I got older, our outings usually involved a slinky dress and the bar. But when I was younger, before the slinky dresses and overpriced drinks, I thought the Hay-Adams was magic.
We would sit at a corner table, and my mother—perfect hair and makeup, elegant dress that cost more than our monthly food bill—would point out the powerful men who walked through the D.C. hotel’s hallowed halls.
I was too young to understand that the tall man with the funny-looking hair was a senator, or that his companion was a congressman, but I knew there was something about them. Something that made my mother sit up in her seat and take notice when they walked by. Something special.
When I asked her who they were, she would smile and say, “They’re kings and princes—like in your books.”
She would tell me stories about them—some were good, some not so good, but they were all powerful. And by the reverence in her voice, seven-year-old me realized that was the something special, the thing that made them different.
I was eight when I first saw my father—at brunch at the Hay-Adams.
We were sitting at my favorite table, right near the chandelier. When I looked up, the light reflected off the ceiling in dazzling sparks. In my best dress and shiny black Mary Janes, I felt like a princess.
Suddenly my mother’s head jerked up, her lips pursed in a tight line, her gaze trained on a table across from ours.
“Who is that?” I waited for her to tell me one of her stories—how he was a bad king or something scandalous. But what she said instead stunned me into silence.
“That’s your father.”
Other people had fathers. Mine had been more of a myth. I knew he’d existed at one point, but then he’d left, never to return again. Except here he was, in my hotel. Eating brunch a few tables away. I’d found him.
I stood up and headed toward him, my Mary Janes clicking against the hardwood floors. Behind me I heard my mother’s voice—urgent and shrill—“Jacqueline”—calling me back. I ignored her.
My father sat at the table with three other people. They all stopped eating as I approached, and four pairs of eyes stared at me.
There were two girls—one had pretty brown hair, she looked to be a few years older than me; the other girl was blonde like me, her hair a few shades darker than mine. She looked about my age. A woman sat at the table with them. Her hair was cut in a sharp bob, so different from my mother’s long tumble of waves. Her gaze traveled over me and dismissed me, but it didn’t matter. Not when all of my attention was focused on him.
Like most of the men who came here, my father wore a fancy suit. He was tan, his teeth a bright white. He had my hair, blond, and my eyes, blue. Or maybe I had his. Because staring into his face, I saw myself.
His gaze flickered from me to my mother. I waited for him to speak, for him to acknowledge me somehow, for him to realize who I was—that I was a part of him—but he didn’t do any of those things. Instead he turned, looking away, his attention back on the two beautiful little girls at his table.
I stood there, struggling to find the words, trying to tell him I was his daughter, that I’d found him, but my voice failed me. A slow heat spread across my face, tears filling my eyes as embarrassment rushed through me like a wave carrying me away.
“Don’t you ever do that again,” my mother hissed in my ear, pulling me back. “He’s a very important man. No one can ever know he’s your father. Ever.”
“But I found him,” I whispered, through tears. “He was lost and I found him.”
“He has his own family. He didn’t want to be found.”
That was the day I stopped believing in bullshit about kings and princes.
“You want another?”
I stared down at the nearly empty Jack and Diet Coke. “Sure. Why not?”
“It can be that bad, love.”
“I fucked up.”
Hank grinned. “You and everybody else in this town. Just spin it. Isn’t that what you do best?”
I downed the rest of my drink, offering him a weak smile. Hank was my favorite bartender at the Hay-Adams. I didn’t come here a lot, the drinks way too overpriced for my college student budget, but I liked to come once in a while. Hank had been serving me drinks going back to the days when I drank Shirley Temples. In a fucked-up way, this place felt like home.
I needed to come tonight. Needed to remind myself of why I wanted to get into politics in the first place. Needed to drink off the epically bad day.
If a senior staffer had made the mistake I did, they would have been given a serious warning. For a college senior—a lowly intern—to make the mistake, well, let’s just say I was terrified I’d be fired tomorrow. My big D.C. career, over before it even started. Let’s not even add in the sad embarrassment of potentially being fired from a job I wasn’t even getting paid for.
“Haven’t seen your mom in here in a while,” Hank commented.
“She’s in the Caribbean with a congressman.”
There were few secrets in D.C., and my mother was basically a legend. She was a groupie’s groupie, except politicians were her rock stars, and elections her sold-out concerts at Madison Square Garden.
“He’s a good guy.”
I smirked, not surprised Hank already knew who I was talking about. Discretion wasn’t exactly Janie Gardner’s forte.
“Sure.” We both knew my mom wasn’t with him because he was a “good guy.”
I leaned over the bar top. “Give me something good, Hank. Anything. I’m desperate here.”
You wanted to know the real D.C. dirt? Bartenders saw it all.
“Let me think.” He grinned, leaning closer, my coconspirator in scandal. “Guess who’s having an affair with a page?”
“Senator Michaelson. Old news.”
“There are rumors of an inquiry on campaign finance.”
I laughed. “Brian at Yellow Bar already told me that one.”
It was pretty hard to stump a girl who’d grown up on political scandals as bedtime stories.
Who wrote this trash? A high school girl? It was supposed to be a political blog. Sure, it tended to focus on the scandalous and occasionally steamy, but reducing my campaign to a few words about my looks pissed me off. Nothing about the issues or the good I could do my district in Virginia.
It was bad enough that I wasn’t a native son, my ties to the state limited to my grandfather’s legacy. I’d spent months trying to convince my prospective constituents that they could trust me to represent them, and in a few sentences, some blogger had diminished me to little more than a candidate on a reality TV dating show.
The blog had been a thorn in my side from the beginning. Not that I was alone in that. Half of D.C. had been caught with their pants down in Capital Confessions over the past few months. It was just another headache in a long line of them. I needed a drink and a moment of peace where I didn’t have to hear the words, “polls,” or “demographics,” or “election.”
I glanced down the length of the bar, struggling to catch the bartender’s attention. It was busy tonight, even for a Monday. Busy enough that bartenders were slammed filling drink orders. One guy on the end was engaged in conversation with a girl—
Okay, fair enough, I would be, too.
To borrow a phrase from Capital Confessions, the girl was seriously fine. More than seriously fine. If I were going to use my own words to describe her, I would have gone with totally fuckable.
She was tall—legs for days, showcased by a black skirt short enough to show them off. She was tan, her skin the perfect canvas to highlight shockingly blue eyes, and long, straight blonde hair. She leaned across the bar, and her tits thrust forward in her shirt, and my mouth went dry, my tongue all but hanging out.
She laughed at something the bartender said, the sound low and sultry, winding its way through me like a siren’s call, breaking through all of the D.C. noise.
She was the kind of girl you noticed, and by the smile on her lips, she knew it. She raised her glass to her mouth, draining the liquid in one gulp, and then she turned and our gazes collided. Everything around me disappeared except for her.
She didn’t shy away. I liked that. Liked the challenge that flickered in her eyes as she met my gaze head-on. She looked young, younger than I’d expected, and there was something vaguely familiar about her—like I’d seen her around before, and yet if I had, I would have remembered.
Her lips curved slowly, widening into a blinding, megawatt smile. Christ. Her eyes sparkled with the kind of mischief I’d been warned about my entire life, and I could practically hear my mother’s voice in my head telling me, “This one looks like trouble.”
I couldn’t afford this shit, not with an election in a few months. Girls who looked like they could chew you up and spit you out—and make you like it—were to be avoided at all costs. Especially during an election year.
And yet I moved down the bar, my feet carrying me toward her. At the end of the day, I was running for the Virginia Senate, not dead.
“Incoming,” Hank whispered, stepping back with a wink.
I barely heard him.
The guy walking toward me had all of my attention now. I’d noticed him across the bar; it had been impossible not to, but he was something else in motion.
I loved men. Strange for a girl who’d grown up without a father and with a revolving door of “uncles.” But I did. I loved the way they moved, the sound of their voices, the touch of their hands. This one moved with a casual grace that suggested an athletic background—lacrosse, maybe, or hockey—something preppy and something with a stick.
He was tall, six feet or so, dressed in a navy suit and a crisp white dress shirt. He was impeccable and yet . . . his silver tie was just a bit askew, as if he’d been tugging at the knot. His dark blond hair was a bit tousled, like he’d been running his hands through it. He looked older than me, mid-twenties maybe, and then our gazes locked and I stared into the most shockingly green eyes I’d ever seen, and stick a fork in me, I was done.
Maybe today was starting to look up.
He stopped in front of me, forcing me to tilt my head up to meet his gaze. For a moment we just stared, sizing each other up. He grinned and suddenly his whole face transformed. It was an endearing, blinding, “trust me” kind of smile, and I was pretty sure with a smile like that he could have anything he wanted. Even me. Especially me.
Wow. His voice matched the total package. It was crisp and cool, with a touch of New England that made me think of summers in the Hamptons, and polo matches, and things that never seemed sexy until now. Somehow he made “hi” sound like an invitation. Or maybe it was the way his gaze traveled down my body and back again like a hot caress.
I took another sip of my drink before giving him my full attention. I needed the moment to calm the fuck down. I was just tipsy enough to feel flustered and reckless enough to want to play. Dangerous combination.
I turned in my seat, re-crossing my long legs. My skirt hem crept up and his gaze trailed back down.
I flashed him another smile like a one-two punch. “Hi.”
He leaned forward, his arm propped on the empty seat next to me. “I’m Will.”
He looked like a Will, or perhaps more accurately, a William. He was the kind of guy who should have Roman numerals after his name. Everything about him screamed old money, prep schools and yachts, and aunts with nicknames like “Bitsy.”
I didn’t offer a last name, liked him better for doing the same. Thanks to my mother’s legacy, my last name was one I hesitated to drop in this town. But then again, something about him didn’t quite fit here. He didn’t look like he was from D.C., like he’d been raised on political intrigue and scandal like I’d been. He was still shiny and new. I liked that.
His eyes narrowed, the easygoing expression wiped from his face, covered by something shrewd, and I wondered if I’d misjudged him after all. There was more there—more than just a nice face and a hot body.
“You look familiar.”
Years of practice kept my smile from slipping even a notch. “Familiar” could mean a lot of things.
“Really?” I affected a bored drawl. If I’d learned anything from my mother, it was how to make men work for it.
“I’ve seen you around.” He rattled off a list of events, half of which I’d been to, while I used the opportunity to size him up. I realized I’d seen him around, too—at parties, a lecture at Georgetown. He was familiar and yet he wasn’t—I’d seen pieces of him—an elbow here, his face in profile there, a laugh heard across the room, a smile meant for someone standing behind me, perhaps.
Given the events he’d listed off, he was somehow peripherally involved in politics, although given the nature of D.C. that wasn’t surprising. Still. It should have been enough to warn me off. There was a reason I usually gravitated toward musicians and artists.
“Can I buy you a drink?”
I flashed him a smile, upping the wattage to lessen the sting. “I buy my own drinks.”
He looked thrown. They always were, but on him it was kind of cute.
“You can sit, though.” I gestured at the seat next to me.
He hesitated. “Is the buying-your-own-drinks thing what you use to give guys the polite brush-off, and now you’re just offering me the seat because you feel sorry for me, or do I actually have a chance here?”
I laughed. The buying-my-own-drinks thing went hand-in-hand with the paying-for-my-own-meals thing. I knew guys thought it was weird, but if they had a mother who lived her life having her way paid by men, they’d understand.
“Why don’t you sit and see?”
Flirting with Scandal is out now!