Home > Virgin For The Fourth Time

Virgin For The Fourth Time
Author: Jeannette Winters

Chapter One


“I think requesting to meet in North Carolina was a bit dramatic,” Bennett Stone said as he sat down in the empty chair across from her.

Zoey Henderson wasn’t about to dispute that fact. Visiting Thomasville hadn’t been on her bucket list, never mind meeting Bennett here. Yet, when she left her appointment in New York yesterday, she needed time alone to think, to clear her head, and to process what the doctors had discussed with her. That wasn’t going to happen in Boston. So she took I-95 and headed south. The Florida Keys sounded like the perfect place to unwind in February. Although, when she encountered a major detour taking her off the main highway, she’d been too deep in thought to pay attention to which turn she needed to take. It was too late when she realized she was lost and eventually ready to give up.

Calling any of her brothers would have them swooping down to her rescue. That’s what she was trying to avoid. They didn’t know about New York. She needed someone she could trust, someone who understood confidentiality. Unfortunately, that also meant calling the one person her brothers didn’t want her around. I hope calling him wasn’t a mistake. The last thing I need is anyone finding out what’s going on. At least, not until I’m ready to tell them.

A strong gust of wind blew off her wide-brimmed hat, and her dark hair whipped in front of her face. As she struggled to pull the unruly strands back into place, she saw Bennett trying to retrieve it. Each time he bent to grab the hat the breeze took it away again. If she weren’t here to discuss a serious matter, one potentially regarding life and death, she could’ve enjoyed the sight much more.

When he handed it to her, he sat beside her instead of across from her. “What’s going on, Zoey? Are you in trouble?”

Over the last two years, they’d crossed paths several times. Today he was all business, which was the first time she’d seen that. In the past, he’d flirted with her. That was probably just to piss my brothers off. I get it, but damn, a little flirting would be nice right now.

One thing she did understand? No man wanted her. Most fathers would do anything to protect their daughter’s reputation, but her father was on the opposite spectrum of what was considered normal when it came to raising children or anything else for that matter. Why would I think Bennett would be any different than what he’d read? After all, it was in black and white for the entire world to see. Thank you, Dad, for making my life a living hell. Zoey tried to brush those thoughts out of her mind. She hadn’t asked him to meet her for personal reasons. If anything, she should be grateful for his strictly professional manner. Then why am I also disappointed?

“Trouble? No. But I need your help.”

He arched a brow as he watched her. Bennett made her feel uneasy. Most people asked questions, but he wasn’t like most. Instead, he studied her. She felt her pulse quicken as though she had something to hide. That was the truth. She did. Otherwise she wouldn’t have asked him to meet her in such a secluded area. Her brothers hired him for a reason. Bennett wasn’t the laid-back, easygoing guy he often portrayed. In fact, looking at him now she saw a powerful, intimidating man who made her question her judgment in calling him.

“Coming here to meet was probably a mistake.”

“Only because you’re here on business. Let’s keep it that way. Tell me what’s going on. Why do you think you need my services?”

“Do you question my brothers when they hire you? Or is it just because I’m a woman?”

“Hell, no. I’m not chauvinistic. I understand why your brothers need my expertise and my protection. You’re different. I can’t see you pissing anyone off enough that they’d want to hurt you.”

Is that the only reason my brothers hire him? There has to be more to it than all that delicious muscle he has to offer. My brothers aren’t fools. They surround themselves with the best. That’s why Bennett’s my only choice.

“You’re right. But I’m not a pushover either,” Zoey said firmly as not to appear weak. “Remember, these men you’re talking about are my brothers, and I can hold my own with them.”

“Yet you dragged me here. Why? Hmm. I’d say because you don’t want your brothers to know. Am I correct?”

Darn him. He’s good. I need him. “Can I count on your discretion?”

“I won’t tell them, but I haven’t said I’ll take the job either.”

“My money not good enough for you, Mr. Stone?”

“Money doesn’t determine who I work for. If I don’t like who you are or what you want me to do, then I won’t take the job. No matter how much you want to pay me.”

He almost looked as though she’d insulted him. Good. A man with integrity. Maybe he won’t tell my brothers. “Nothing illegal. But I need you to understand, no one can know what you’re doing for me.”

“Understood. So what do you need? Protection?”

She shook her head. “No. I need you to find my mother.”

Zoey could tell he hadn’t expected that request.

Bennett sat back and asked, “Wouldn’t one of your brothers know who she is?”

“No one has ever spoken about her. It was . . . forbidden, growing up. My father was a . . . difficult man.” Even now she couldn’t bring herself to speak badly against him. God knows she had many valid reasons she should, but that wasn’t her. Zoey held all her pain inside, never allowing others to see it and unfortunately never dealing with it either. Taking this step to find her mother on her own was significant in itself, and something she couldn’t afford to fail at. “We don’t even have a name or photo. When my father died, I searched everywhere, hoping to find a clue, but there was absolutely nothing to go on. For some reason, he didn’t want us to know who she was.”

Bennett didn’t question what she’d said about her father. She could only assume that meant one of her brothers had shared information, or lack of any, with him already. For all I know one or all of them are looking for our mother too and are trying to hide it from each other. We are that family that holds everything inside, even things we shouldn’t. It wouldn’t surprise me if Bennett was already on the payroll.

“I sense an urgency in your voice.”

Zoey snapped her head away. She wanted him to do his job, but she didn’t want him knowing exactly why she needed the information. “Isn’t it enough to want to know who my mother is?”

His voice was softer than she’d expected when he spoke next. “If it were just that, then you wouldn’t be here with me. So let’s start from the beginning and with the truth.”

“I just want to find my mother.” No matter how hard she tried to look him straight in the eyes, she couldn’t. She looked down at her hands that were clasped in front of her. “Okay. I need to find her. There are questions that I can’t answer, and I’m hoping she can.”

Once, again he watched her. Hiding anything from him was going to be difficult if not impossible.

“It’s personal, Mr. St—”


“Bennett, can’t you just take the job as is without asking why?”

“I could. But I won’t. Knowing why is the only reason I may take it. It sounds as though you need a private investigator instead of me.”

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