Virgin's Sweet Rebellion

By: Kate Hewitt

PROLOGUE

‘YOU KNEW.’ BEN CHATSFIELD stared at his brother Spencer and tried to suppress the sudden surge of rage that threatened to overwhelm him. His hands clenched into fists at his sides and words—angry, bitter words—bubbled to his lips. He swallowed them down. He swallowed it all down, as he always had, and gave a wry quirk of a smile, as if Spencer’s revelation was nothing more than amusing. ‘So. How long have you known?’

‘That I was illegitimate?’ Spencer’s mouth tightened and he gave a little shrug. ‘Five years. Since my twenty-ninth birthday.’

Five years. Ben blinked as he tried to take that in. For the past five years he’d been estranged from his brother, from his whole family, and for what?

For nothing apparently.

‘It’s a nice place you’ve got here,’ Spencer offered, and Ben didn’t answer. Spencer gazed round the relaxed yet elegant dining room of Ben’s flagship bistro in Nice, where he’d shown up out of the blue, walking through the tinted glass doors, his sunglasses slid onto his forehead, as if he were for all the world just another tourist.

Not Ben’s older brother, the leader of their Three Musketeers, once adored, always missed. When Ben had rounded the corner from the kitchen and come to a standstill, Spencer had smiled easily, as if they’d seen each other last week instead of fourteen years ago.

‘Hey, Ben,’ he’d said, and somehow Ben had found his voice and answered back, his voice clipped.

‘Spencer.’

And now his brother was telling him that he’d known for five years the secret Ben had discovered when he was just eighteen years old, the secret that had broken his heart and forced him to leave home, severing all ties with his family. The secret that had cost him so much, maybe even his own soul, and still Spencer just smiled.

‘It’s old history now, Ben,’ he said, and Ben could tell Spencer was trying to be conciliatory. Five years too late. ‘Water under the bridge. I always knew there was something that made Michael treat me differently from you and James, and I’m just glad I finally found out it was because he always knew I wasn’t his biological son. I’ve made peace with that.’

‘Glad you have,’ Ben answered. He kept his voice even despite the tangle of emotion that had lodged in his chest: regret and guilt, sorrow and happiness at seeing his beloved brother again, but one trumped all the others. Anger.

The old anger still burned red-hot, a molten river inside him, boiling over everything. So Spencer thought he could just stroll back into Ben’s life as if he’d never left. No apologies, no explanations, just a waving aside of fourteen years.

‘What are you doing here, Spencer?’ Ben asked, and his brother raised his eyebrows, looking slightly startled at Ben’s flat tone, the blunt question.

‘Aren’t you glad? It’s been a long time, Ben...’

‘You’ve known where I’ve been.’

‘You’ve known where I’ve been,’ Spencer countered. and Ben stared at him evenly.

‘I didn’t know that you knew the truth.’

‘Would that have made a difference?’ Spencer asked, his eyes narrowing, and Ben flicked his gaze away.

‘Maybe.’ Would he have come back into the Chatsfield fold if he’d known Spencer knew about his bastard birth? Hard to say. He didn’t have a lot of happy memories of being a Chatsfield. ‘So you haven’t actually answered the question,’ he told Spencer. ‘What are you doing here?’

Because he was realising, with another white-hot shaft of anger, that Spencer had only come looking for him because he wanted something from him.

‘I decided it was time to reunite the Three Musketeers,’ Spencer said. ‘James is in Nice too, just for the weekend, and he wants to see you. We can finally all be together again, Ben, for the good of The Chatsfield.’

The Chatsfield. The hotel empire that his father had lived for, that would have been Spencer’s legacy if he hadn’t been illegitimate. Except, of course, it was his legacy, because their uncle Gene had agreed to let Spencer step up as CEO after their cousin Lucilla had resigned. Ben had heard that much through the news at least. He tried not to read anything about The Chatsfield, but bits of news still reached him.