Home > Just One Fling (The Kingston Family #9)

Just One Fling (The Kingston Family #9)
Author: Carly Phillips


Chapter One



Winter Capwell stepped into the penthouse, where she was meeting with Nikki and Derek Bettencourt, her heart pounding hard in her chest. She was about to reveal a secret she’d been keeping since she moved into Nikki’s building. Now it was time to come clean, and Winter was nervous as hell.

Asher Dare, Nikki’s fiancé, opened the door to the apartment he and Nikki shared, but Winter’s gaze went directly to the siblings waiting for her. Nikki, with her long, dark hair, and Derek, his hair a touch lighter, shared similar facial features. Including the green eyes that met Winter’s gaze, a hue so like her own.

“Hi, Winter. What’s going on?” Confusion etched Nikki’s face, along with concern.

Winter didn’t blame her. She and Nikki had spent a lot of time together after the former model had returned from Asher’s Eleuthera home, where she’d stayed after a devastating scandal. That had been where a twenty-one-year-old Nikki had coupled with Asher, the billionaire owner of Dirty Dare Spirits and the Meridian Hotels. But in all their time walking Winter and Nikki’s dogs, meeting for coffee, and getting to know each other, Winter had never hinted at hiding a secret. One that included Nikki and her brother, Derek.

Before Winter could answer, Asher spoke. “Winter asked to talk to you both privately, so I’m going to leave you alone. I’ll be in my office if you need me.”

“No, stay,” Winter said. If she’d learned anything about Nikki, the younger woman could handle Winter’s news but would want all the support she could get to process the information.

Nikki looked from her fiancé to her brother, who shrugged, obviously as lost as she was.

But Asher cut Winter a look that warned her if she hurt his fiancée, she’d answer to him. Nothing surprising there. It didn’t matter what Winter revealed, Asher would look out for Nikki, making it easy to see why she’d fallen for the brooding, protective man. Though Winter preferred his more light-hearted, sexy brother, Harrison. But now was not the time to think about her hot summer fling.

Asher rested his palm on Nikki’s back, and she leaned into him, proving Winter’s instinct correct in asking him not to leave.

“Let’s sit,” Asher suggested, for which Winter was grateful.

Her legs were trembling as much as her insides. He led them into the overly large family room, and they all chose their places, Asher and Nikki on one end of the soft, taupe-colored suede sofa, Derek in a black leather club chair.

Winter took the opposite end of the couch and tried to relax, but her leg bounced up and down, nerves consuming her.

“Okay, time to talk,” Derek said. “What’s happening here? Why did you need to see us?”

Nikki tilted her head. “Winter?” she asked, clearly wanting answers, too.

Winter swallowed hard and met their curious stares. “I wanted to tell you this a while ago, but first came your… scandal,” she said to Nikki, hating to bring up such a painful time. “And then the break with your parents. Then you and Asher got engaged, and I didn’t want to ruin your happiness. There was never a good time.”

Placing a hand over her stomach, Nikki drew a deep breath. “We’ve grown close, Winter. The fact that you’re a reporter made me uneasy at first, but you promised me you had no interest in me or my family as interview subjects.”

“And I don’t,” Winter rushed to reassure her. “But I do have another kind of interest.” She glanced down at her manicured nails, studying them instead of facing the duo just yet. “I’m just going to lay out the truth, but bear with me while I explain.” She rubbed her hands on her black leggings, gathering her courage. “Here goes. I moved into your building on purpose so I could meet and get to know you.”

“What the fuck?” Derek exploded, protective of his younger sister.

“You’d better keep going with the explanation,” Asher said, his jaw clenched tight, his hands clasped around Nikki’s.

God, Winter almost wished she had someone who cared enough to bolster her now. But that wasn’t the life she’d been given, and despite this news, it had been a good one so far.

“I was raised by my mother. No father in the picture. My mom always told me she didn’t know who he was, and because we were such a tight unit, I let it go. Mom was independent, and I was okay not knowing. Then…” She pulled in a much-needed breath. “About a year ago, Mom was diagnosed with cancer. Shortly before she died, she told me who my father was.”

It wasn’t easy to speak over the lump that rose in her throat whenever she talked or thought about her mother. They’d been so close, and the loss had been, and still was, devastating.

They sat in wary silence, waiting for Winter to continue.

So she did. “After the funeral, I was alone, and I couldn’t stop thinking about what my mother had told me. By then I was a reporter, and my desire to prove who my father was outweighed my mom’s wish for me to leave things alone. I started with one of those ancestry tests, just to see if it revealed anything. It came back, connecting me to…” She looked from Derek to Nikki. “Both of you.”

“Holy shit,” Asher muttered.

“I need to think,” Derek said, running an agitated hand through his hair.

Nikki blinked. “Wait, Derek. Remember that Christmas we bought each other one of those ancestry tests? We knew Mom would have a fit, so we sent them to your friend’s house and took them there?”

Derek nodded, and his furious expression eased a bit as memory lit his eyes. “Our mother wouldn’t want anything out in public or online that would call attention to our father, the senator, or impact his potential run for the White House.”

Yes, Winter knew all too well how badly Collette Bettencourt wanted to be First Lady and how far she’d go to make that happen.

“The test came back with the information we already knew about our ancestry, and I forgot all about it.” Nikki removed her hand from Asher’s grip and waved it in the air as she spoke, growing more excited as she recalled the connection to Winter’s story.

Derek leaned forward. “I checked off the boxes that would notify me if someone signed up who was related to us. But a couple of years later, my email was hacked, and I had to get rid of the account. I re-signed up for as many places as I could remember, but I forgot about the ancestry site.” He shook his head in wonder.

“But your names were listed,” Winter said.

Derek ran a hand through his hair and groaned. “And you found us. But I still want a DNA test as proof.”

“I figured you would.”

Derek’s demand wasn’t insulting. Winter wanted the same thing.

“I have a friend who’s a pediatrician,” he went on. “I’ll ask him to pull strings and get it rushed through the lab.”

She couldn’t expect to announce she was the illegitimate daughter of Senator Corbin Bettencourt, who represented NY State in the US Congress and hope to be immediately believed.

And she wasn’t finished with her story, either. “Umm, there’s more.” She figured she might as well air all her dirty laundry at once.

Derek placed his arms on his thighs and groaned. “Let’s hear it.”

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