Chapter 1 (Nhu & Jack)

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"Um, well, there are more reasons than that, but that's the primary one, yes." He blinked his eyes rapidly, likely running whatever little sob-speech he had through his mind, Nhu figured. He reached over, clasping her hand between his. His voice was as smooth as silk, a slight baritone rumbling in his chest, like a tomcat with a seductive purr. As they both knew, his voice happened to be Nhu's Achilles' heel.

"I treated you poorly, Nhu. I can't apologize enough for that. I want you to know that I'll do whatever it takes to make it up to you. It was selfish of me not to have thought of your needs." Nhu's smile never faltered as he spoke, but her eyes narrowed, a subtle movement that was in direct opposition to the seemingly innocuous gesture of her upturned lips.

"That sounds so lovely, Jack. But tell me, are you still spending your time — and your father's money — on that escort you hired?" It gave her minuscule satisfaction to see his handsome face pale at the mention of the word escort. Jack sat up straighter, immediately sliding into defense mode. He leaned towards her, the grim line of his mouth serious.

"She isn't an escort, Nhu. Belle is a professional image enhancer. There's nothing going on between us. Like I told you before, it's strictly business."

"You still haven't answered my question." She ignored the stab of betrayal in her chest, remaining steadfast in her interrogation. If she hadn't had her head in the clouds on the day of the exam, she would have danced rings around it. Nhu was born to fight for a cause.

"I don't know what else to say. My dad needs to make sure there aren't any questions about my sexuality. Not that he would have a personal problem with my sexual orientation, either way," He quickly amended. Nhu shook her head at the hypocrisy Jack obviously couldn't see. "He just wants to make sure we have all bases covered. You know, the fewer questions we have about family members, the better."

"I see." Nhu pretended to understand his distorted perspective until she remembered that she didn't need to appease him anymore. She owed this man absolutely nothing, and it slowly dawned on her that she never did. Her choice to constantly stroke Jack's ego and go along with his wishes had always been her choice, and starting now, she wasn't going to continue making the same mistake.

"Actually, no. I don't understand. If your dad was concerned about your relationship status, and you actually had a real girlfriend at the time, why didn't you just finally tell him about us? What made you think it was the better choice to create an illusion and deny our relationship?"

She studied him silently as he grappled to find the right words to appease her. He clearly wanted something from her, of that she was sure. She just had to wait to learn exactly what that was. This should be interesting, she thought.

"Babe — Nhu." He stuttered. "I love you. You know that, right? I feel so bad that I told you we hired Belle the night before your exam. I didn't think it was such a big deal because my feelings for you are what's real. I didn't think you'd want to be a part of this 'political circus'. You always call it that, you know? So until I know that you can actually be a politician's wife, how can you expect me to introduce you to society as the future President of the United States' potential daughter-in-law?" Jack leaned back with a heavy exhale, proud of his handiwork for turning tables. Nhu stared at him, jaw-slacked.

"Are you serious right now? You essentially just said I'm not the kind of woman I should expect you to marry. And why, pray-tell, shouldn't I be deemed as such?" She raised her eyebrows, the best tell in indicating how incensed she actually was. A moment later, she held up her hand and pushed away from the sofa, walking to the kitchen area to lean on the island. She turned her back to him while she tried to calm down. Even the idyllic sailboats bobbing in the Bay weren't enough to distract her. Nhu crossed her arms over her chest and nodded her head.

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