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Gabrielle Ashe stormed out of Marjorie Tench’s office and practically knocked over a secretary in doing so. Mortified, all Gabrielle could see were the photographs‑images‑arms and legs intertwined. Faces filled with ecstasy.

Gabrielle had no idea how the photos had been taken, but she knew damn well they were real. They had been taken in Senator Sexton’s office and seemed to have been shot from above as if by hidden camera. God help me. One of the photos showed Gabrielle and Sexton having sex directly on top of the senator’s desk, their bodies sprawled across a scatter of official‑looking documents.

Marjorie Tench caught up with Gabrielle outside the Map Room. Tench was carrying the red envelope of photos. “I assume from your reaction that you believe these photos are authentic?” The President’s senior adviser actually looked like she was having a good time. “I’m hoping they persuade you that our other data is accurate as well. They came from the same source.”

Gabrielle felt her entire body flushing as she marched down the hall. Where the hell is the exit?

Tench’s gangly legs had no trouble keeping up. “Senator Sexton swore to the world that you two are platonic associates. His televised statement was actually quite convincing.” Tench motioned smugly over her shoulder. “In fact, I have a tape in my office if you’d like to refresh your memory?”

Gabrielle needed no refresher. She remembered the press conference all too well. Sexton’s denial was as adamant as it was heartfelt.

“It’s unfortunate,” Tench said, sounding not at all disappointed, “but Senator Sexton looked the American people in the eye and told a bald‑faced lie. The public has a right to know. And they will know. I’ll see to it personally. The only question now is how the public finds out. We believe it’s best coming from you.”

Gabrielle was stunned. “You really think I’m going to help lynch my own candidate?”

Tench’s face hardened. “I am trying to take the high ground here, Gabrielle. I’m giving you a chance to save everyone a lot of embarrassment by holding your head high and telling the truth. All I need is a signed statement admitting your affair.”

Gabrielle stopped short. “What!”

“Of course. A signed statement gives us the leverage we need to deal with the senator quietly, sparing the country this ugly mess. My offer is simple: Sign a statement for me, and these photos never need to see the light of day.”

“You want a statement?”

“Technically, I would need an affidavit, but we have a notary here in the building who could‑”

“You’re crazy.” Gabrielle was walking again.

Tench stayed at her side, sounding more angry now. “Senator Sexton is going down one way or another, Gabrielle, and I’m offering you a chance to get out of this without seeing your own naked ass in the morning paper! The President is a decent man and doesn’t want these photos publicized. If you just give me an affidavit and confess to the affair on your own terms, then all of us can retain a little dignity.”

“I’m not for sale.”

“Well, your candidate certainly is. He’s a dangerous man, and he’s breaking the law.”

“He’s breaking the law? You’re the ones breaking into offices and taking illegal surveillance pictures! Ever heard of Watergate?”

“We had nothing to do with gathering this dirt. These photos came from the same source as the SFF campaign‑funding information. Someone’s been watching you two very closely.”

Gabrielle tore past the security desk where she had gotten her security badge. She ripped off the badge and tossed it to the wide‑eyed guard. Tench was still on her tail.

“You’ll need to decide fast, Ms. Ashe,” Tench said as they neared the exit. “Either bring me an affidavit admitting you slept with the senator, or at eight o’clock tonight, the president will be forced to go public with everything‑Sexton’s financial dealings, the photos of you, the works. And believe me, when the public sees that you stood idly by and let Sexton lie about your relationship, you’ll go down in flames right beside him.”

Gabrielle saw the door and headed for it.

“On my desk by eight o’clock tonight, Gabrielle. Be smart.” Tench tossed her the folder of photographs on her way out. “Keep them, sweetie. We’ve got plenty more.”