Authors: Kim Law
Also by Kim Law
Caught on Camera
Sprinkles on Top
Turtle Island Novels
Ex on the Beach
Hot Buttered Yum
Two Turtle Island Doves (A Novella)
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Text copyright © 2015 Kim Law
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Published by Montlake Romance, Seattle
Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Montlake are trademarks of
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Library of Congress Control Number: 2014913870
To Paula Jenkins. Thanks for the title! I miss seeing your happiness every day.
ANDS DOWN, THAT
was the best ass she’d ever seen.
It was even better at fifteen times magnification.
Catherine Davenport Carlton leaned over the kitchen sink, resting her elbows on the faucet handles to steady her arms, and gripped the binoculars a little tighter. She bit down on her lower lip as she watched. The jogger was heading in the opposite direction—exactly as he’d done the last two mornings—and if recent events were any indicator, he’d be heading back up the beach and passing by her rental within the hour.
Cute Butt rounded the bend in the distance and disappeared from sight, and Cat straightened from peering through the window like a stalker. She pursed her lips as she thought about how she’d spent her mornings since she’d arrived in Maine. She really should stop ogling her neighbor.
But then again, maybe she should just get up the nerve and cross their backyards to introduce herself. Then she could ogle up close.
She grinned at the picture that brought to mind. What was an escape from reality without a summer tryst thrown in to take her mind off things?
Shaking her head at her unladylike thoughts, she dumped berries and protein powder into the blender and topped it off with yogurt and flaxseed. Her one true ability as a “cook” was a healthy breakfast smoothie—which, combined with daily yoga, barely kept the width of her hips in check. Then she went back to thinking about her neighbor.
She couldn’t have an affair. Even if she wasn’t in the last place she’d ever consider having a fling, it had been over four years since she’d been naked with a man. Nineteen years since she’d been naked with anyone
than her late husband. She wouldn’t know what to do with her neighbor if she caught him.
Of course . . . it
supposed to be just like riding a bike.
there alone for three more weeks before her kids would show up.
She turned off the blender and grabbed a glass, reminding herself that she wasn’t that adventurous. Not these days. Maybe she had been nineteen years ago when she’d seen that
naked man. Only, with him at fifteen, he hadn’t exactly been a man. They’d both been only kids—but she
been willing to take a few risks back then.
Which had turned out like shit.
Her teenage tryst was the reason she’d chosen Maine as her getaway destination. Or rather, what had happened
of Brody was the reason. It was time to find closure. To figure out a way to forgive herself.
But she was also here for an escape. From her job as well as from her kids.
Her kids were great. Truly. They were her life. She loved them more than she could have ever imagined possible. But she’d been a single mother for four years now, and she needed a break.
And then there was her job.
She closed her eyes and rubbed a finger back and forth across her temple. Running her family’s foundation wasn’t easy. She was good at it, yes. Actually, great at it. She’d perfected the art of showcasing herself and her family in only the best light years ago. But she’d grown antsy over the past months. She wanted . . .
. Or maybe she wanted less.
A family legacy started by her great-great-grandfather, the Davenport Foundation served many organizations in the Atlanta area, as well as all of Georgia, and Cat had been director for the last five years. Only this year had she hired someone to share the load with her. But what she was finding was, the more the other woman did, the less Cat wanted to do. Yet Cat was a Davenport. Maybe it was no longer her legal name, but it would always be who she was.
How could she be any less?
And did she want to?
These were questions she hoped her time in Maine would answer. Not to mention, she now had to wrap her head around just who her family really was. They were supposed to be the revered Davenports. Upstanding, moral greatness representing the United States in one way or another for over a century.
They did no wrong.
Only . . . they had. A lot.
Her own secret flashed brightly in her mind. She’d believed for almost nineteen years that she was the only Davenport to risk tarnishing the name.
The flame of anger that had been churning inside her since her recent conversation with her brother grew brighter. Given the truth about her family that she now knew, her mother could have lessened her guilt all those years ago. All it would have taken was a few simple words.
Yet she hadn’t done it.
The reality was, she’d only made Cat feel more guilty.
Cat peeked out the kitchen window again at the still-quiet stretch of beach running past her rental, grateful for her in-laws. They’d been able to fly to Atlanta a few days earlier than planned so she could go ahead and get away. They were all staying at Cat’s house now, but the kids had Disney World to look forward to, then another week at their grandparents’ Florida condo before returning home, and eventually up here to Maine. It was time to introduce them to the town the Davenports had once called home.
This wouldn’t be a one-time-only trip, either. She intended to resume her long-ago ritual of summer breaks on coastal Maine. Becca and Tyler deserved that.
And she deserved to move on from the past.
Of course, they all had to survive her mother’s and father’s pasts first—which she hoped stayed buried.
She rinsed out the blender as she thought about what the next few months might bring.
Her mother was running for reelection for her Senate seat in the fall, and her opponent’s family was known for slinging mud. Congressman Harrison was looking for dirt. And it seemed he had his pick to choose from.
Lies, secrets, and illegitimate brothers. All his for the taking.
All he had to do was find them.
Cat ground her teeth together as she grabbed her smoothie and cell phone and headed to the deck, remembering at the last minute to take the binoculars as well. Her kids would be calling soon to wish her a good morning.
And then her neighbor would be making his way back down the beach.
Since family values had been blown out of the water, she figured she might as well embrace the new peeping-tom side of herself. Why worry about maintaining high morals when no one else around her did?
Twenty minutes later, as Cat sat at a bistro-size table on the overlarge deck, her eyes glued to the blue-gray waves beyond the sand, her cell finally rang. She took the last sip of her smoothie and reached for the phone.
It would be Becca. At seven years old, Becca was the oldest and was very similar to her mother in that she took pleasure in making sure things got done. She and Tyler were supposed to call every morning after they got up. Thus, Becca would wear her grandmother out until that happened.
Cat relaxed into her chair as she answered. She’d rarely been apart from her kids, and though she would enjoy the extended time away, she couldn’t help the sudden feeling of being alone in the world as she sat there, eleven hundred miles from everyone who meant anything to her.
“Hello, sweet girl,” she answered, making sure she emoted nothing but happiness.
“Hey, Shortie,” her brother’s deep voice said into her ear.
Cat jolted upright at JP’s words. She was still mad at him for keeping her in the dark about the family secrets. He’d been trying to reach her for days but she’d ignored his calls. “What are you doing calling me from my house?” she asked.
“I had to. It was the only way to get you on the phone.” When she said nothing, he added, “Come on, Cat. You have to talk to me.”
No she didn’t. He’d lied to her for months. It infuriated her.
Of all her family members, JP was the one she was closest to. She’d thought they’d had a bond. He was
supposed to keep things from her.
Especially things that could potentially drag their whole family into a scandal.
But most importantly, he was not supposed to keep things from her.
“Don’t hang up,” JP said, clearly sensing that she might do just that. “I needed to make sure you’re all right.” His voice took on a brotherly concern that she knew well, which only irritated her more. “I dropped a lot on you the other day,” he added. “Are you okay?”
“Of course I’m okay,” she snapped. “I just don’t want to talk to you. I’d think not returning your calls would have sent that message. Now put my daughter on the phone.”
“I will as soon as we finish. Plus, they’re eating right now. I made them French toast.”
Oh . . . her stomach growled, even though it was full of fruit and flaxseed. JP’s French toast was the best.
“I’m sure their grandmother would have made them breakfast,” she muttered. Though JP’s food was still ten times better than anything Colette Carlton was likely to make. JP had once hired a celebrity chef to train him.
“Of course she would have, but I wanted to see them before they left town. Plus, Becca bribed me into cooking.”
Cat could picture her blonde-haired, blue-eyed daughter doing just that, and another pang of loneliness engulfed her. Unlike the middle-child tendency to always try to smooth things over that Cat couldn’t seem to shake, her daughter often took another tack. That of bribery to get what she wanted.
“What did she do?” Cat asked, her tone easing, but only because she was thinking of her child. “Threaten to tell your new wife that you like to play with dolls when she’s not around?”
JP chuckled, assuring her that Vega already knew all his secrets, and the happy sound of his voice softened Cat’s heart. Her brother had been through a lot in his life, and even though she was mad at him, it didn’t lessen her love.
Nor her gratitude.
He’d been the perfect uncle over the years, making sure both of her kids had a father figure in their lives after her husband, Joe, hadn’t returned home from Afghanistan. It had meant more to her than she would ever be able to express.
Which only added to her frustration now.
She managed the foundation. She managed
her mother and JP—in one form or another. She cleaned up the family messes. Why in the hell was she suddenly relegated to a need-to-know basis?
The slight made her want to say
to both of them and go do her own thing.
And that was the real issue.
She was a mother, a sister, a daughter, a Davenport. She would someday be the final caretaker for her in-laws. But she couldn’t remember the last time she’d simply been Cat.
She caught herself straightening her spine as if someone might see her and think she wasn’t prepared for whatever was thrown her way. Of course she was prepared. She was always prepared.
“I also called because I wanted to tell you about today’s headline.” JP spoke softly, as if trying not to be heard. His tone yanked Cat’s mind out of her seething, and a pinch started in the dead center of her shoulder blades.
“What’s happened now?” she asked. She closed her eyes and pictured herself relaxing, the stress easing from her body.
The fact that the Harrisons had begun snooping into Davenport business had been the impetus for JP to come clean about what he’d learned last summer. He hadn’t wanted Cat to be caught unaware, he’d said. Therefore she’d learned that their older brother, Bennett, was not a biological Davenport.
And that they also had an illegitimate younger brother who
Then there was the whole payoff thing both her parents had been involved in with the mother of the eight-year-old. And oh, by the way, JP was now funding the kid’s private education.
Cat could not understand how any of that had happened. This was not who they were!
“The tabloids ran a story today,” JP began, and a dull pounding started just behind her left temple. She squinted against the pain. “They suggested that Mom got the Senate appointment last year because of her relationship with Governor Chandler.”
“She did not!” Cat argued. There was no way her mother had slept her way into the Senate, no matter what family scandals she might have kept hidden. “Did they happen to have any facts to back it up?”