Cover image for Scandalous
Hill, Donna (Donna O.)
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Kensington Publishing Corp., 1995.
Physical Description:
318 pages ; 18 cm
General Note:
"Pinnacle Books".
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
X Adult Mass Market Paperback Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Tiny beads of moisture clung to Vaughn's nude body as though unwilling to relinquish the hold of her satiny ebony skin. She stepped out of the shower and padded into her bedroom, allowing the warm spring breeze to finish the work her towel had missed. Sitting on the edge of her bed, she took an almost sensual pleasure in languidly smoothing scented body oil over her damp skin. It was one of the few luxuries she allowed herself. With her grueling schedule as assembly woman for the State of Virginia, Vaughn Hamilton found that leisure time was a rare commodity. Completing the ritual, she stood in front of the full-length mirror, critically assessing her reflection. As a young girl, she'd always been overly sensitive about her dark complexion. Her father, on the other hand, had always called her his "ebony princess." But back in the old days, ebony was not the thing to be. And the old chant "the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice" didn't ease the pain from the taunts she'd received as a child. She'd grown up longing for the fair skin and long, silky hair preferred by society. As a result, she'd tried to overcompensate in every other area of her life by being the very best at everything she did, as though that would somehow make people overlook how dark she was. Fortunately, with maturity, she'd grown to be proud of her ebony coloring and had long ago dismissed the notion that to be light was right. She angled her chin toward the mirror--her profile side--a flicker of a smile tugging at her full lips, revealing deep dimples. All in all, hers was a pleasing face, she mused, and her long, shapely body only added to the total picture. She strove hard to keep it in top shape, from the food she put in it, to the clothes she put on it, to the rigorous exercise regimen she adhered to devoutly. As a result, her small, rounded breasts were high and firm to the touch. Her narrow waist was the envy of her few close friends. Her rounded hips and tight thighs tapered down to striking "showgirl legs," as her mother would call them. She took a long look at her body. But then a shadow passed across her deep brown eyes, darkening them to an almost inky black. Her long, slender fingers lovingly, almost reverently, stroked the blade-thin faint scar. She turned away from the reflection as the mists of her past swept over her. It was always there--mocking her, reminding her. How often had her mother tried to persuade her to have it removed by plastic surgery? "No one need ever know, darling," her mother, Sheila, had said. Vaughn exhaled a deep breath. She needed to know. She needed to be reminded--every day of her life. But for now she'd push those thoughts behind her, she decided with finality. She jutted her chin forward. Tonight she had to be focused, refreshed, and full of energy. Tonight was the beginning of a new direction in her political career. She couldn't let anything interfere with that, especially ghosts from the past. This was a night she'd dreamed of for years. A shimmer of doubt creased her brow. Hadn't she? Or was it her father's dream? Momentarily she squeezed her eyes shut. At some point her father's, Judge Elliott Hamilton, great aspirations for her had become her own, driving her relentlessly--to the exclusion of everything and everyone else. Regardless, she was a politician and she loved the job. "It is my dream," she said aloud, "and I'm going to capture it." If there was ever any doubt, it was too late now. There would be over two hundred guests awaiting her arrival at her parents' estate in Norfolk. There was no turning back. Meticulously, Vaughn continued preparing for the evening ahead. Every notable person in Virginia's political circles as well as many renowned business people would be in attendance. Her father's friends. Although she'd made a name for herself as Virginia's assemblywoman, she couldn't honestly say she'd made an array of friends in those circles. At least, not the kind who could push her over the election hurdle. That was her choice. She had very firm views that she refused to compromise. As a result, there were many of her male counterparts who'd be more than happy to see the "iron maiden" fall on her opinionated behind. Especially Paul Lawrence, her subconscious voice whispered. It's over, she reminded herself. He'd gotten what he'd wanted from her, and it was over. She inhaled a shuddering breath as visions of their brief but tumultuous relationship rushed through her. But as her bid for Congress loomed large, her father had insisted she surround herself with these people of influence. He had arranged for this first of many fundraisers. As much as she disliked the elbow-rubbing and gratuitous smiles, she knew that it was just one of the steps necessary to achieve her goals. Driving the two hours to her parents' home, she felt the beat of her heart quicken as the Jaguar brought her closer to her destination. Her hands unconsciously gripped the wheel. She could almost hear her mother's words of disappointment when she arrived, once again, without an escort. That, too, was her choice. The life she'd chosen did not allow room for a relationship. Not now. Or maybe she just hadn't met a man willing enough or strong enough to withstand the pressures of the life she led. At least, that's what she told others. But the reality was, a husband and a family were not in the cards for her. That choice had been snatched away from her long ago. And sometime during the countless lonely, sleepless nights, she'd resigned herself to that fact. Putting her trepidations aside, Vaughn eased the Jaguar into the private garage behind her parents' hundred-plus acres of property. Her father had purchased the palatial estate on the anniversary of his tenth year on the Superior Court bench. There, Vaughn had always felt like a fish out of water, alone and confused in the countless rooms and winding hallways. It was no wonder that when she was gratefully out on her own, she'd chosen a simple two-bedroom townhouse in the heart of Richmond, surrounded by houses and plenty of neighbors. Even now, at thirty-six, she still had an overwhelming sense of being swallowed whole each time she walked through these ornate doors. Fortifying herself with a deep breath, Vaughn walked determinedly toward the house. As she approached, she could hear the faint strains of a live band. Daddy had spared no expense, she thought, with a slow shake of her head. She bypassed the front entrance and went around to the back door, which opened onto an enormous kitchen. The crowded room was bustling with activity and overflowing with mouthwatering aromas. At least a dozen waiters and waitresses, and the cooks and the chef, were jockeying for position. In the midst of it all stood her mother, directing traffic and giving orders in her distinctive southern modulation. Sheila inspected a tray of hors d'oeuvre a tiny Asian waitress carried, then nodded her approval. Sheila looked up and her chestnut brown eyes rested lovingly on her daughter. "Vaughn, sugar." She crossed the space with outstretched arms and enfolded Vaughn in a tight embrace. Sheila whispered in her ear, "It's not proper for a lady to make her entrance from the back door." Sheila felt Vaughn's body tighten as Vaughn tried to contain a chuckle. Sheila pulled her head back to look into Vaughn's gleaming eyes. She pursed her lips in displeasure at her daughter's faux pas. But Vaughn's humor was contagious, and Sheila's lips trembled at the edges as she struggled to keep from smiling. She kissed Vaughn's cheeks and slipped her arm around her daughter's tiny waist. "Listen baby," she added in a stage whisper, sounding more like the girl who'd grown up in rural Georgia than the woman who now played hostess to political dignitaries. "Our days of entering from the kitchen are long over, and don't you forget it. Anybody see you doin' some mess like that gonna set us back fifty years!" Instantly, both women broke out into deep, soul-stirring laughter, the kind that reminded Vaughn of the way she and her mother had often laughed together before... everything had changed. Exiting the kitchen, Sheila peered over Vaughn's shoulder. "You came alone?" The question, which was more of a commentary, made Vaughn cringe. Her smile slowly dissolved. "Yes, Mama. I came alone," Vaughn conceded on a sigh. Sheila's perfectly made-up caramel-toned face twisted in a combination of annoyance and disappointment. "Truly, child, I just don't understand you. You're beautiful, important, intelligent..." "Mother, please, not tonight," Vaughn snapped, in a low, sharp voice. Briefly she shut her eyes. Then, on a softer note, she added, "Please, Mama. I really have enough on my mind." "Well, never mind," Sheila said, with a toss of her expertly coiffed auburn head, her diamond stud earrings twinkling in the light. "There'll be plenty of eligible men here tonight. You can believe that." Her brows lifted in emphasis. Sheila took her daughter's hand and guided her out of the kitchen. "Hopefully, one of them will meet the insurmountable standards you've set for yourself." And fill the emptiness that shadows that wonderful heart of yours, she added silently. Vaughn dutifully followed her mother into the main area of the house. Momentarily, Vaughn's breath caught. The huge hall, which could easily hold a hundred people, had been transformed into a glittering ballroom. The crystal chandelier glowed brilliantly with soft white light. The antique tables that braced the entry arch to the dining hall overflowed with fresh flowers. The black and white marble floors were polished to an "I-can-see-myself" gloss. Beyond, in the dining hall, small, circular tables covered in pale rose linen cloths were topped with single tapers that lent the room an iridescent glow. On one side of the room, long tables were covered with exotic fruits, huge bowls of fresh salads, and cold seafood. On the other side a bar had been set up, complete with two fine bartenders. Maybe this single thing ain't all it's cracked up to be, Vaughn thought wickedly. "Mama, everything is beautiful," Vaughn enthused. Sheila beamed with pride. "I'm glad you like it. Nothing is too good for you, sweetheart." She gave her another quick peck on the cheek. "Make yourself comfortable. I'm going to find your father. The guests have already begun to arrive. And do mingle," she ordered, over her shoulder. Before Vaughn could respond, her mother was off in a whirl of sequins and diamonds. With no other choice, Vaughn wandered over to the bar and requested a glass of white wine, the only drink she could pretend to tolerate. With her wineglass in hand, she strolled over to the terrace. The doors were wide open, allowing the fragrant scent of cherry blossoms to waft through the night air. She inhaled deeply as snatches of conversation drifted to her ears. Her pulse raced. She turned toward the voices and her heart slammed painfully against her chest. There, not ten feet away, involved in what appeared to be an intimate conversation, were Paul Lawrence and a woman who seemed to hang onto his every word. Vaughn's hand trembled and she nearly spilled her wine. How long had it been since she'd seen him? Not long enough. She should have known he'd be here tonight. She couldn't let the sight of him rattle her. Just because their relationship was over didn't mean he'd drop off the face of the earth, as she'd prayed he would. There was no way Paul would miss the opportunity to rub elbows with the politicos who'd put him into the district attorney's office...even if it meant they'd have to face each other again. Vaughn stood as still as stone, the old fury rising in her like molten lava. "I hope that's champagne you're drinking." Vaughn's tense expression was transformed into one of serenity, her outrage slipping off like discarded clothing. Slowly she turned toward the sound of the familiar voice, an easy smile of welcome deepening the dimples in her cheeks. "Daddy." Elliott Hamilton embraced his daughter in a tight hug. But her attention was swiftly diverted to the figure that stood behind his broad frame. It took all the social training, she'd endured over the years for her to keep from staring. Elliott released his daughter and stepped to her left, possessively slipping his arm around her waist. The movement steadied her and gave her a perfect full-figured view. Her mouth was suddenly dry, Paul all but forgotten. "Justin, I'd like you to meet my daughter, the next congresswoman from Virginia. Vaughn, this is Justin Montgomery." It seemed as though everything happened in slow motion. First, there was that smile of his, which made his dark eyes sparkle and crinkle at the edges. Then, the strong arm that reached out, his large hand open and welcoming, waiting to envelop hers. When Vaughn mindlessly slipped her hand into his, her brain seemed to short-circuit. A rush of electric energy raced through her arm, exploding in a wave of heat that radiated throughout her body. "It's a pleasure, Ms. Hamilton," he was saying, in a voice that vaguely reminded her of the ocean, deep and soothing. The sudden explosion of heat that erupted in Justin's gut stunned him with its intensity. He felt himself being helplessly pulled into the depths of her brown eyes. He'd seen her before. Countless times--glimpses in restaurants and at public meetings, and in newspaper photos and television ads. But he'd never had the opportunity until now to meet her face to face. She had a natural charisma that was impossible to resist. Before tonight, she'd been but an image that he'd admired. The real thing was an entirely different story, one that left the usually unflappable Justin Montgomery totally off center. Vaughn found her voice and quickly recovered her manners. "Pleased to meet you, Mr. Montgomery." The name struck a familiar chord in her brain, but she couldn't seem to get her thoughts to focus with him staring at her as if he could peer beyond her facade of calm. The corner of his full mouth, traced by a fine mustache, inched upward in a grin. "I've heard a lot of good things about you, Ms. Hamilton." "I'm sure my father's been exaggerating again." She gave her father a feigned glance of reprimand. Elliott Hamilton held up his palms in defense. "Honestly, sweetheart, I wish I could take the credit." He smiled benevolently. "But since Mr. Montgomery just arrived, I haven't had a chance to launch into my re pertoire of accolades." Vaughn's eyebrow arched in question. Her gaze swung back to Justin. He shrugged nonchalantly, his dark eyes flickering over her. "Word gets around." They both realized then that they still held hands and self-consciously released their hold. Elliott gently patted Justin's back. "If you'll excuse us, Justin, Senator Willis and his wife have arrived. And my wife is waving to me frantically." Excerpted from Scandalous by Donna Hill All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.