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Authors: Carly Phillips

01 - The Heartbreaker

BOOK: 01 - The Heartbreaker
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Also by Carly Phillips

 

The Bachelor

The Playboy

Special Acknowledgments

These acknowledgments are for the most special people in my life, who show it every single day.

 

To my family, the people closest to my heart. Phil, Jackie, Jen, and Buddy, for living with me through the madness that followed
The Bachelor
’s
LIVE with Regis and Kelly
pick and loving me anyway, and to my parents for raising me to believe all things are possible. I love you all.

 

To Janelle Denison, a best friend who feels like family and who weathered the ups and downs along with me as if they were her own. You’re special, unique, and I’m lucky to have you in my life. I’m more grateful than you’ll ever know!

 

To Shannon Short, a best friend with wisdom beyond mine, who’s able to see through the forest when I can’t, who guides me when I’m confused and nurtures my ambition with common sense and reason. You’ll be beside me when we’re old and infirm, our Louis’ in one hand and our memories of Mets and monkeys to keep us laughing.

 

To Theresa Meyers, for not laughing when I said, “Let’s send
The Bachelor
to Kelly Ripa,” and for your tireless and never-ending
support. You’re more than a business associate, you’re my
friend
.
Everything happens the way it’s supposed to
. Words to live by.

 

To Julie Elizabeth Leto, who understands plot and my lack of it and who can change the direction of a story in one simple phone call. You’re extraordinary, my friend. Thank you!

 

And last but certainly not least:

To Kelly Ripa, wonderful actress, savvy talk show host, and a woman with vision. Thank you for picking
The Bachelor
for your book club and for changing the course of my career, and thus my life. I wish you only good things in return.

CHAPTER ONE

C
hase Chandler walked out of the gate into Dulles International Airport and inhaled deeply. Each breath of air outside his hometown of Yorkshire Falls, New York, presented true freedom. At last.

“Hey, big brother!” His youngest sibling, Roman, pulled him into a bear hug. “Welcome to D.C. Good flight?”

“The best kind. Short and on time.” Chase hiked his duffel bag over his shoulder and started toward the exit. “How’s the wife?”

A ridiculous smile settled on Roman’s lips. “Charlotte’s amazing. Getting bigger by the day. My kid’s growing inside her,” he added, as if he hadn’t reminded them all of Charlotte’s pregnancy one hundred times before. “One month to go.” He rubbed his hands together in obvious anticipation.

“Just recently a wife and kid was the last thing you wanted. We had to toss a coin to decide which of us would give Mom the grandkid she wanted so badly. Now look at you. A husband and soon-to-be dad, and happy about both.” Chase shook his head, amazed and pleased with the changes in his little brother. The kid was settled and happy, which made Chase happy. He’d done his duty by his family.

Roman shrugged. “What can I say? That was before. Now I’m a changed man.”

“Before you grew up, you mean?” Chase winked and his brother chuckled.

Both men knew Roman had fought long and hard until he concluded that marrying Charlotte wouldn’t mean giving up his foreign-correspondent lifestyle, merely trading it in for something more fulfilling. Now he had a job with the
Washington Post
as an op-ed columnist, a wife, and a family.

“You have no idea what you’re missing,” Roman said, not missing a beat. “A woman to come home to, a warm body in bed, and someone who loves you unconditionally.”

Like religious fanatics, both Roman and Rick, his middle sibling who’d also recently gotten hitched, had begun to preach the benefits of marriage. Chase wasn’t buying it. “Trust me, I can live without it, thank you very much. If I get that lonely, I’ll find myself a dog.”

His dreams didn’t include a wife and family. His brothers, as much as he loved them, had been a handful to raise. He didn’t need little rugrats of his own. From the time he’d turned eighteen and his father had unexpectedly passed away, Chase had been the male parent and role model. He’d taken over as publisher of the
Yorkshire Falls Gazette
and helped his mother raise his brothers—both jobs he’d never resented. Chase was not one to look back. And now, at thirty-seven, he was free to move on with a life of his own and grasp the dreams he’d put on hold. Starting with this trip to Washington.

He walked around a slow-moving couple and headed for the sign marked P
ARKING
G
ARAGE
. He glanced at Roman. The dim-witted gaze hadn’t dulled and Chase grinned. “I guess I can call Mom and tell her you’re strutting around like a proud papa.”

“Don’t bother,” Roman said, falling into step beside him. “When we’re not in Yorkshire Falls, she checks in once a day with Charlotte by phone.”

Chase nodded. That was his mother, Raina, meddling and proud of it. “Well, I couldn’t be happier for you.” He patted his brother on the back.

“And I’m glad you’ve left the paper in someone else’s hands and decided to put yourself first for once.”

Chase answered Roman with a grunt. After all, the kid was right. Not once in the years since he’d taken over had he abdicated responsibility for the
Gazette
.

“The car’s parked in the lot.” Roman gestured in the direction they needed to go and Chase followed, nearly tripping over a young kid who’d decided to play tag.

“Thanks for picking me up,” Chase said, noticing that the wayward kid had been corralled by his parents. Roman and Rick had been eleven and fifteen, respectively, when their dad passed away. They’d been old enough to take care of themselves and Chase hadn’t had to deal with their toddler years. Thank God. Their late teens had been tough enough.

“How’s Mom?” Roman asked.

“What do you mean?”

“Her . . . ah . . . health.”

“Stuttering for a reason?” he asked.

Roman picked up his pace but remained silent. Chase could almost see his brother’s brain churning to come up with a reply. A few months ago, Chase had rushed his mother to the emergency room with chest pains. Later, she’d told her sons she’d been diagnosed with a serious heart condition. Though they’d spoken to the doctor, confidentiality had prevented them from finding out anything more than what Raina had told them. Her three sons had danced around her bedside, making sure she took care of herself. Since she’d curtailed all activity, Chase hadn’t thought to question the diagnosis further, until he began to notice inconsistencies in his mother’s behavior. Too much color in her cheeks for someone with a weak heart. Too much swigging of antacids. The more recent prescription drug to treat gastric reflux, which if left untreated could have severe consequences. And running up and down the stairs when she thought she wouldn’t be caught.

As a newspaperman with damn good instincts, he began to
suspect blatant manipulation. He also suspected his brothers, who seemed less concerned with their mother’s health lately, knew something he didn’t.

“Rick and I need to talk to you,” Roman said.

“About Mom’s fake heart condition?”

Roman stopped in his tracks, causing one woman to nearly bump into him and a man to dart around him, cursing as he passed. “You know?”

Chase nodded. “I do now.”

“Shit.” Roman met his gaze. “We were going to tell you.”

Chase ran a hand through his hair and groaned. He didn’t give a damn that they were in the middle of the airport blocking pedestrian traffic. He’d been itching to confront Roman on this and was damn glad to have it off his chest. “Any reason I was left out?”

“I discovered the truth just before Charlotte and I got together for good. Rick figured things out more recently. If he could’ve come to D.C., we’d have told you this weekend.” He held his hands out in front of him. “What can I say?”

“You don’t owe me an explanation. Mom does.”

Roman raised an eyebrow. “You don’t know why she faked being sick?”

“Explanation’s the wrong word. I know she did it because she wanted grandkids. She wanted us to feel so bad we’d do her bidding. I get that. But she damn well owes us all an apology.”

“If it makes you feel any better, her antics have seriously curtailed her social life. She and Eric haven’t been able to go dancing, date, do any of the things she’d like to do.”

“Small consolation.” Chase rolled his shoulders to release the tension. “What do you say we forget about the family problems this weekend and just have fun?”

“Sounds good to me. We’ll get you settled at the hotel, have dinner with Charlotte, and tomorrow you’ll get your first taste of D.C. politics. Let’s get the hell out of here.”

“No argument from me.”

Roman started for the elevators leading to the parking garage and Chase joined him. “I’m not surprised Senator Carlisle’s going to run for vice president,” Chase said of the story that brought him to town.

Roman nodded. “Me neither. The man’s political perfection, even on a second marriage.”

Fortunately for Chase, Jacqueline Carlisle, the senator’s deceased wife, was born and raised in Yorkshire Falls, giving Chase the link to his hometown that led him to D.C. “With the current V.P. too old and unwilling to run again, our president needs a newer model. Someone with shine and polish.”

“U.S. senator Michael Carlisle from New York,” Roman said.

“Yep. I did research on the man. After Jacqueline, the first wife, died, Carlisle married her college roommate and best friend. Madeline Carlisle raised the senator’s first daughter, Sloane, then later Madeline and the senator had twins, Eden and Dawne.” Political perfection, as Roman had said.

“Ever see photos of the senator’s oldest daughter?”

Chase shook his head. “Just a glimpse of the twins or a grainy background shot. Why?”

Roman laughed. “I just think you’ll like what you see. Elevator’s this way.” He pointed left.

“From a professional standpoint, I like everything about the Carlisles.” Because barring scandal or stupidity, the high-profile, good-looking senator was on his way to the presidency. And Chase intended to use his local connection to make one helluva journalistic splash.

Roman laughed. “You do realize that when I asked about Carlisle’s daughter, I wasn’t talking about work?” He rolled his eyes. “Of course not. You’re always on top of things, always the professional.” He sobered. “You know, I learned from you.”

The pride in his voice made Chase feel like a fraud. Roman had accomplished more in his lifetime than Chase ever had.

“And you’re right,” Roman said, oblivious to Chase’s inner
thoughts. “This story gives you the perfect opportunity to break out of small-town coverage. With the right angle, you could get picked up by one of the bigger papers.”

At his brother’s words, Chase’s adrenaline began pumping in a way he couldn’t remember experiencing, not since he’d stood at his father’s funeral and buried his dreams. But patience and family loyalty had paid off. Chase’s time had finally come.

The elevator doors slid open and they stepped inside. “It just so happens, I have that right angle. The one that’ll put you ahead of the other guys following Carlisle’s scent. Want to know what I didn’t tell you on the phone?” Roman asked.

“Sure.” Chase dropped his duffel to the floor and glanced at his brother, his body humming with anticipation.

“Charlotte is friendly with Madeline Carlisle. She was a customer in her lingerie store here in D.C., but they’ve become friends. Good friends. Madeline doesn’t give many interviews, but I can get you an exclusive, one-on-one with the senator’s wife.”

Roman’s eyes gleamed with excitement and Chase’s anticipation heightened, the thrill of a big story tantalizing him, arousing and heightening all his instincts. “Roman?”

His brother glanced up. “Yeah?”

Chase wasn’t a man comfortable or good at expressing his feelings. His brothers were used to his long silences. They understood him better than anyone. He inclined his head. “Thanks.”

Roman studied him through hooded eyes. “I’d say I owe you this one, but you’d probably haul off and deck me. Let’s just say you’re damn good, you deserve it, and leave it at that.”

Chase nodded. “Fine by me.”

“Last thing,” Roman said as the elevator door reopened and the dark parking garage appeared. “D.C. isn’t just good for political intrigue. It’s got its share of willing women as well.”

Chase frowned. “I thought you were happily married.”

“I am. But you, big brother, aren’t.”

 

Sloane Carlisle attempted to pair her beloved fuchsia minidress with a staid black jacket, then cringed at the result. A Betsey Johnson original was meant to be seen, not covered. With regret, she relegated the outfit to the back of her closet along with the rest of her retro wear. She couldn’t possibly put on such an outrageous color, short skirt, or bared-back halter. Not tomorrow, the day her senator father would announce his decision to accept the presidential candidate’s offer to be his running mate in the next election.

BOOK: 01 - The Heartbreaker
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