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A Price to Pay
By ANGELA WINTERS
DAFINA BOOKSCopyright © 2009 Angela Winters
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThirty-one-year-old Carter Chase was standing impatiently in the foyer of his family's famous and often photographed home, the fifteen-thousand-square-foot Chase Mansion in View Park, a suburb of Los Angeles. He was impatient for a couple of reasons. First, his parents, Steven and Janet, were late. Church let out at eleven and it was twelve-thirty. They had promised to be home by noon at the latest. Second, he was always impatient to see his baby girl, Connor, especially considering he only had another eight hours with her before her mother would come pick her up from his house.
Connor Chase, the newest addition to America's wealthiest and most famous black family, was born six months ago and Carter's life was changed forever. Only a few months earlier, he'd been knocked in the face with the reality that her mother, Avery Jackson, the woman Carter loved and had wanted to marry, was married to another man, and pregnant.
He was only temporarily jealous of the other man, college professor Anthony Harper, because he had little right to be. Carter understood that he drove Avery away trying to control her and keep secrets from her. He was wrong and deserved to have his heart broken, which she did when she left L.A. to live in secrecy with relatives outside Miami. But he'd never stopped believing he would get her back. And as much as it hurt that she had been with another man, he wouldn't pass judgment on her. He'd been sleeping with any woman he could get his hands on in the six months after Avery left California, just to stop thinking about her for a few moments.
But the pregnancy was another thing. He was certain that Connor was his from the moment he saw Avery's belly, but Anthony had convinced Avery to lie and say the baby was his. He'd conspired with a local doctor who owed him a big favor to create medical records to support the lie. The idea that Avery, the woman he loved with all his heart, was having another man's baby had floored Carter.
Being a Chase, a member of America's black royal family, Carter had always gotten everything he wanted. He'd had a charmed life, always able to win any contest and influence or buy his way out of whatever he needed to. He was an heir to an empire, Ivy League educated and in charge of his own successful law firm; not to mention having that whole tall, dark, and handsome thing in his favor. He was six feet tall with chocolate brown skin and hazel eyes. His smile and style added to making him one of the most eligible bachelors on the market, with his pick of the best women. Which was why everyone was surprised when he hung it all up for a middle-class girl next door, Avery Jackson.
But they just didn't know. He hadn't expected to fall in love with her at all, but Avery quickly became everything in the world to him. She was perfect in every way that mattered. She grounded him, made him feel like a king regardless of his last name or his wealth. Carter felt a connection to Avery that he hadn't believed could exist between a man and a woman. But he'd made mistakes to get her away from her first fiancé, Alex, and even more mistakes to keep her. Unlike the other women he'd dated, Avery didn't care about the money, the glossy high-life or the power. She didn't care about all the things that came with being a Chase, so for the first time in his life a woman didn't put up with his crap, and she had left it all behind.
Like with any other obstacle, as soon as Avery returned Carter was determined to win her back, regardless of her marital and parental status. And he'd almost done it. He'd gotten her to the point where she admitted she wanted him—loved him—but there was one problem. Avery actually believed in fidelity and the sanctity of marriage. She wouldn't cheat on Anthony and she wouldn't leave him even after the truth of Connor's paternity came out.
But he was a Chase, so there was always a plan B. It would take a lot of patience, but he would get Avery back. And although he had been angry with her when she finally told him that Connor was his, moments after giving birth, it only made him more determined to get her back. Now it was about more than the woman he loved; he had a family.
So while it hurt to see Avery with her husband, Carter knew it was only a matter of time before he'd have her back. Meanwhile, he took every moment he could to spend with his daughter, whom he loved to no end.
That was, he took every moment that he could get Connor away from her doting grandmother, Janet Chase.
"They're coming." Maya, the caretaker of Chase Mansion, stood at the archway between the foyer and the great room.
She looked tired, although Carter never really saw her do anything but cook. She always hired contractors to do heavy work, but he knew his mother loved Maya, who had been taking care of the Chase clan for almost fifteen years.
"I can hear the car, Maya. Thanks."
"Are you sure I can't get you somethin'?" Although she'd been in the country for more than twenty years, Maya's Caribbean accent was still very strong. "You know how she likes to stall when she has the baby."
"Not this time," Carter said. "I have to get going. I'm meeting Julia for lunch."
Carter noted that Maya rolled her eyes like she did whenever the name of Julia Hall, Carter's current girlfriend, was mentioned. Maya had loved Avery because Avery was kind and warm to her, while Julia maintained a clear class distinction in the very few times she even acknowledged Maya was there.
Carter smiled at the sound of his baby's voice. Before the front door even opened, he could hear her laughter and cooing.
Janet Chase, a woman of the best breeding, class, and social mastery, had always placed her family first. She was the image maker of the Chase name, and tough as nails when it came to her family. She was also a sucker for a grandchild, and her only granddaughter simply brought her to her knees. She hated giving her up, but as soon as she walked into the house, she could see from the look on her oldest son's face, that she wasn't going to get away with her stall tactics today.
"Don't start," Janet said as she handed the baby bag to Maya. "We tried to leave, but they wouldn't let us. Ask your father."
"Who is they?" Carter asked, delighting at the squeal Connor gave as soon as she saw him and reached out for her daddy. She was so stinkin' cute.
"Everyone at church." Janet reluctantly handed Connor over. "I tell you, she looks more and more like Leigh every day. She looks ridiculously cute in her new dress."
Janet spent an obscene amount of money on dresses for Connor. There were two other Chase grandchildren, twins by second son, Michael, but Connor was a girl and that took Janet's indulgence to a whole other level.
"You're not letting people, strangers, hold her, Mom." Carter gave Connor a big, fat kiss on her lips.
"Of course not." Janet smoothed out her cobalt blue, Diane Von Furstenberg cashmere wrap dress. She was a very beautiful woman, who still turned heads in her fifties because she looked at least ten years younger than she was, and she had an air of unattainability about her that men loved.
She turned to Maya. "Can you please serve lunch in the Florida room in about an hour?"
Maya nodded, handing the baby bag to Carter before leaving.
Excerpted from A Price to Pay by ANGELA WINTERS Copyright © 2009 by Angela Winters. Excerpted by permission of DAFINA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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