Ashika Chandiramani had just been through the worst two weeks of her life. Her affair had been splashed across every rag in the country and she was properly humiliated. The career that she'd fought so hard to preserve was currently slipping through her fingers.
However, that humiliation and loss was no match for the pain she felt over the betrayal of Scott Foster. Despite her better judgment she'd trusted the wanker. They had looked into one another's eyes and promised to sound the alarm if either campaign chose to go nuclear. Ashika struggled to understand Scott's motivation.
Did he release the photos so that his bastard Labour candidate would win the election? Or did he release the photos to punish her for lying to him? She couldn't help but wonder if Scott would have made a different choice if only she'd been honest with him the morning she returned from London.
But never mind that. Neither of those options mattered any longer. She had no desire to ever see his face again. Ashika heaved a sigh as she finished packing the last of her clothing. It was time for her to return to London, to what she wasn't altogether sure. There was no way that she could work for James now. She would have to start all over and that was a prospect that scared her tremendously.
A heavy knock could be heard on her hotel room door.
Ashika walked to the door and opened it. "Yes?"
Scott Foster stood in front of her with a bouquet of orchids in his hand.
"Do you really think flowers say that you are sorry for screwing my reputation and my campaign to hell?" Ashika asked, frowning at Scott.
"No, I don't imagine that flowers would heal that festering wound. I've come to explain my actions. I've been trying to call and message you for the last week. You haven't answered," Scott said in a steady voice.
"Why should I?" retorted Ashika.
"I did not send the photos to the Gazette. I wouldn't have done something like that to you. Not even for the sake of the party. Everything just sort of got out of hand."
"Am I to believe that they just materialized on the editor's computer? Or perhaps you accidentally sent them and this was just one huge cock-up?"
Scott said, "No, I am not asking you to believe in flights of fancy. I am asking you to believe in me. I am a plunker. Everyone that truly knows me knows that. I'm a selfish prick most of the time."
"You won't hear me arguing with you there. I've got a car coming to pick me up. Whatever you've come here to say I'd like for you to say it and then leave me alone…permanently," Ashika demanded.
She walked away from the door and went back to packing her belongings. She hated looking at his stupid face. Ashika wanted to be furious with him. Perhaps beat him about the ears with something heavy. But the truth was she had missed seeing his face. She had enjoyed hearing his voice on all of the messages he left.
Scott closed the door to the hotel room and walked inside. He set the orchids on the bed and had a seat next to Ashika's suitcase so that she'd have to make eye contact with him as some point. "I did not send the photographs to the Gazette. I received them at headquarters from a courier. I admit that I was angry that you lied to me. My pride was a little dented. I also knew that winning the election would help secure my job. I was having a crisis and so I enlisted the advice of my brother, Danny."
Ashika stopped packing and stared at him. Danny worked for Jo Porter and he was no fan of hers or James Northcote. It probably didn't help that weeks earlier they'd poached a speech from Danny and used it to tear Jo apart. Jo was humiliated and Danny could have lost his job in the process. "Danny sent out those photos?"
Scott nodded solemnly. "Labour means everything to him, but that seat means even more. Danny was young when our father died. My father the politician is all he really remembers of him. Losing to a Tory was just more than he could handle. If I was campaigning against anyone else I would have released the photos myself. I held back because of you. I held back because of how I feel about."
"And he hates James Northcote," Ashika said, and sighed. She had a seat next to Scott.
"That isn't the only reason he sent those pictures to the Gazette. Danny was angry with me. After a particularly nasty run in with a Russian client I turned to the drink and coke to steady my nerves. I shagged a bird that Danny's had his heart set on for months. She told him about it while I was away tending to the election…and falling in love with you."
Ashika's head snapped in Scott's direction when he mentioned falling in love. "You've fallen in love with me?"
"I had from the moment that we had our first meal together. You were so much more interesting and intriguing than the normal birds that come my way. You had a brain in your head and that was nice," said Scott.
"Why didn't you just come to me when you first received the bloody photos? I would have told you the truth."
Scott glanced at Ashika and shook his head. "I had a hard time figuring out why you hadn't told me the truth to begin with, Ashika. If the relationship was over you could have told me the truth. I was hardly a saint myself."
"I don't know why I didn't tell you the truth. It would have been easy enough but I just didn't. I felt guilty about lying to you to begin with. It was stupid."
Scott looked thoughtfully and then said, "The real question in all of this is who actually sent those photos to me? They did so anonymously so you can believe that it is not a Labour party member. They would have printed up a very large banner to pat themselves on the back for such coup."
"I've had my suspicions from the very beginning about the identity of my saboteur. I found some very juicy information on a particularly powerful politician in the Tory party. He resigned because I let it be known that I'd expose him for the liar that he truly was," said Ashika.
Scott grimaced as he wracked his brain trying to remember Tory members that resigned in recent history. "Are you talking about George Mason?"
Ashika nodded in assent. "They very same."
"A sex scandal was it?" asked Scott.
Ashika scoffed and blithely quipped, "He should be so lucky. Mason was in bed with a company that handled their disputes by sending out hit squads to assassinate entire families in Colombia. I went to him discreetly instead of giving the information to James."
"James would have taken the scorched Earth approach and cut Mason off at the knees. There would have been protestors outside of his house. I'd imagine there would have been some sort of panel inquiry into his business dealings. Mason would have never recovered from that sort of publicity," said Scott.
"I was naïve. I thought you could have a political career without being a complete bastard. I was wrong and I paid the price for it," said Ashika.
"You can't think that way. You did the honorable thing because you are a good person."
Ashika yelled, "I am good person without a bloody job, Scott!"
"Reviving people's floundering careers is sort of my specialty. If you want to get back on the political scene I can help you make that happen."
"Are you trying to make amends?" asked Ashika.
Scott reached out and cupped her chin. "I suppose that you could call it that. Do you think that you can forgive me?"
Ashika looked into his eyes and her lips turned up into a small smile. "I think that I can."
"Do you think that you could fall in love with me, too?" asked Scott.
Ashika nodded unable to find her voice for the moment. "I already have, Scott."