The Senator's Wife
- 1 -
The events leading up to the destruction of Sloane Chase’s carefully ordered world had already been set in motion. She just didn’t know it yet. She was tired and irritable, thanks to the Category 5 argument their houseguests had subjected them to late last night. She yawned as she walked into the kitchen and saw Robert, her husband, standing at the counter, pouring himself a cup of coffee.
“Good morning,” Sloane said as she rose on tiptoe to kiss him.
“Good morning, gorgeous,” he said, pulling her closer. “I made coffee.” He poured her a cup and handed it to her.
“Thanks.” She took a long sip. “What in the world is going on with Whit and Peg? I thought they’d never stop yelling.”
Robert raised his eyebrows. “I know. Did you notice how hard Peg was hitting the wine? They were at each other’s throats all evening. Something’s not right between them.”
Sloane nodded. “I’m glad we’re heading back to DC today. This is not how I envisioned spending our last weekend at the beach.”
A loud shriek made them both freeze. Peg’s voice rang out. “You’re a lying son of a bitch!”
Sloane and Robert exchanged a look. “What’s going on now?” Sloane whispered.
They moved to the hallway just as Whit came running down the stairs, with Peg close behind him.
“I’m not going to talk to you while you’re like this,” he said as he swept past Sloane and Robert. The next thing they heard was the slamming of the screen door to the beach.
“Don’t you dare ignore me!” Peg screamed after him, her face red and eyes wild.
Robert blocked her from going any farther. “Peg, hold on, you need to cool down. Let me go talk to Whit.”
She collapsed into Robert’s arms, sobbing. “I hate him!”
Robert gave Sloane a helpless look.
“Peg, why don’t you and I go talk?” Sloane put her arm around the woman and, with a nod to Robert, indicated that he should go after Whit.
Sloane led her to the kitchen and poured a cup of coffee, letting the silence sit between them as Peg took a sip. Robert’s first cousin Peg had not been herself lately. She was an attractive woman who’d always taken care with her appearance, but this past weekend she had shown no interest in how she looked and had been drinking heavily.
Finally, Peg spoke. “Everyone thinks he’s so wonderful.” She put the cup down and looked at Sloane. “You have no idea.”
Sloane had sensed that things hadn’t been great between them the last few months, but Peg’s open hostility was something new.
Sloane put a hand on her arm. “What is it?”
Suddenly Peg jumped up from her chair. “I need a drink.” She grabbed the wine bottle on the counter and poured some into a glass.
Sloane watched in distress. “What are you doing? It’s barely eight o’clock. That won’t help anything.”
Peg lifted the glass to her lips and took a large gulp, then poured more and drank again. She put the glass down on the counter and looked at Sloane with eyes full of fury.
“I hate him. He’s a pig and a bastard.”
“What’s going on, Peg?” Sloane took her hand and led her back to the kitchen table, where they sat, Peg still clutching the wine bottle.
She raised it to pour another drink and wrenched her arm away when Sloane tried to stop her. “I’ll drink if I want to!” Peg slammed the glass down. “He’s nothing but a liar and a cheat.”
“What are you talking about?”
“He’s screwing that bitch. Been screwing her for months.”
Sloane raised her eyebrows. “Who?”
“You look surprised.” She gave a bitter laugh. “He’s discreet, I’ll give him that. But all those late nights, the weekends at work. All bullshit.”
“We’re both married to senators, Peg. Those late nights and weekends come with the territory. You know that. Senate sessions run long, votes run over. Everyone in DC works those crazy hours. That doesn’t mean someone’s having an affair.”
Peg’s eyes were cold. “That’s true for Robert. He would never look at another woman. He worships you, so how could you possibly understand? But Whit’s different. I know he’s been sleeping with Madelyn Sawyer for over a year now.”
“What?” Sloane knew the woman, as did anyone who was anyone in DC. Madelyn Sawyer was a barracuda—smart, rich, and powerful, with a voracious appetite for equally powerful men. But surely Peg was wrong. She’d always been jealous, and having a husband who looked like Whit didn’t help. He was fit and toned, with thick dark hair and a face that looked as though it had been sculpted by one of the masters. Robert, blond and blue-eyed, was good-looking, but Whit was startlingly handsome. Journalists seemed unable to resist mentioning his “movie star good looks,” as trite as the expression was.
“Are you sure about this?”
Peg leaned forward, so close that Sloane could smell the wine on her breath. “He denies it, but I know he’s lying, and I’m going to prove it. And when I do, Whit is going to be one sorry son of a bitch.”
Sloane sighed, wondering if Peg, who seemed to revel in discord, could be mistaken. She’d been a witness to Peg’s jealousy and possessiveness over the years and had often wondered how Whit was able to put up with her. On more than one occasion, Peg had caused a scene at parties when she’d had too much to drink and thought Whit was paying too much attention to another woman—even if he was just making polite small talk. “Maybe it’s not what you think. Madelyn and Fred Sawyer have both been supportive of Whit’s Senate campaigns. Maybe that’s all it is. I’ve never seen them together, and I’ve never heard one word of gossip to that effect. Don’t you think Robert would know if that were going on? The two of them are so close.”
Peg huffed. “I know what I know. And besides, Whit wouldn’t be foolish enough to tell Robert. I may have been wrong in the past, but this time I can feel it in my gut.” She took another long swallow from her glass. “After my parents died, things got worse. I know now, he only married me for my money.”
Sloane frowned. Everyone had been surprised when Peg’s parents left their millions to charity through the Giving Pledge, but for Peg it was the final cruel act of parents who had been cold and disapproving, and for whom she could never measure up. Robert had always looked out for his ill-treated younger cousin and took on the role of Peg’s protector. He was always there, and when she and Whit became engaged, Robert had been both pleased and relieved. But even after Peg was married and seemingly settled, her father never stopped referring to her as the drama queen of the family. And when she failed to produce a grandchild, her parents had essentially disinherited her.
“Sloane, are you listening to me?”
Peg scowled. “He was furious when I took the little money they left us to buy our house, so you know what he did? He took the insurance money we got for Dad’s World Time watch that burned in the fire and bought himself that damn Porsche. Without even asking me.”
“I’m sorry you’re so upset. Why don’t I ask Robert to talk to Whit? In the meantime, try to put it aside for now. It won’t do you any good to keep accusing Whit with no proof. Maybe you two should consider seeing a marriage counselor.”
Peg closed her eyes and put her head in her hands. Then without saying another word, she stood up and walked out of the room, leaving Sloane shaken. Peg had always been overly fond of her wine, and on many of the weekends she and Whit had been guests at the beach house, Peg awakened with a hangover. Whit had confided to Robert that Peg’s drinking was getting worse, that she was becoming increasingly argumentative and combative. Had her drinking reached the point where she’d become paranoid, convincing herself of things that weren’t true? But what if it was true? Sloane would keep her eyes and ears open to any hint of gossip about Whit and Madelyn. As much as she liked and respected Whit, she wouldn’t dismiss Peg’s belief out of hand. How awful it must be, though, to live day to day in such a troubled marriage.
She walked to the sunroom and stood, looking out at the beach as Robert and Whit walked back toward the house, Whit’s face animated and his hands gesturing. Robert was nodding as he listened. She couldn’t hear what Whit was saying, but could tell from his body language that he was disturbed. Before they might notice her watching them, Sloane returned to the kitchen and began loading the dishwasher, when the sound of a ringtone got her attention—it was coming from Whit’s phone sitting on the counter next to her. She glanced over and drew a breath when she saw the name on the screen: Madelyn Sawyer.