Burke Benton glanced at the family surrounding him. A family he’d longed to know all of his life. A group who hadn’t known he existed until recently.
In some ways it was still surreal, to sit among all four of his half-siblings. But here they were—the twins Zander and Duke, his only half-sister Betzy, and James, the youngest, save Burke himself.
They were there to discuss a very specific topic—Burke. His secret relation to the famous Benton family, to be exact.
Secret. The mere word made Burke cringe. It had him thinking of his recurring nightmare. One where Burke stood on the stage of a random TV game show, looking dumbfounded as an exuberant host announced him.
“Meet Burke Benton. Billionaire orphan who moved from Manhattan to California in hopes of knowing his late bio father’s kids—AKA, his very own half-siblings and the only family he has left."
A shimmering curtain parted on the other side of the stage as the host announced the next guests.
“Now meet more billionaires,” he said with a laugh. “The famous Bentons. A family with absolutely no need for a tag-along who could bring down their family name with secrets they’d like to keep secret.
“Will Burke weasel his way in and get the family he’s always dreamed of? Or will he head back to Manhattan and live a life of solitude?”
A life of solitude did feel like the alternative. Of course, the family had been gracious and welcoming, he could say that much, but there was a reason Burke’s newly purchased LA penthouse was collecting dust. A reason he’d stayed in one outlying town after the next, flipping properties under his former name, Burke Richards. It was a reason that Lorraine, the family’s paternal grandmother, was about to address.
Unlike those seated at the table, Lorraine stood at the head before a whiteboard. It was her office, after all. A very large office connected to the woman’s popular bridal shop. With its dangling chandeliers, white marble round table, and matching leather chairs, it was suited for a queen—rather fitting for the powerful billionaire widow known for her business savvy, generous heart, and fierce loyalty.
“Burke,” the woman said with a grin, “I speak for all of us when I say that we’re thrilled you’ve decided to move to LA. I’ve been hoping you might for some time now.”
Burke nodded. “Thank you.”
“I know I’m glad,” Duke blurted. “I’ve finally got some decent competition on the golf greens.”
Zander, Duke’s twin, rolled his eyes.
Lorraine cleared her throat and turned back to Burke. “But you’ve expressed a certain reservation about being in the public eye, which is why you haven’t moved into your penthouse yet. Your concern centers around the fact that—while the public is very familiar with our family—they don’t yet know that you exist. You worry about rumors starting.”
Burke nodded, knowing he wasn’t the only one in the room with that concern; who wanted to reveal their deceased father’s deepest secrets?
“I’m sure it’s because of Mom,” James said. “She’s paranoid about people knowing that she and Dad were separated.”
“Yes, but they worked things out and stayed together,” Betzy pointed out. “That’s an admirable thing.”
“People won’t assume they were separated,” Zander said. “They’ll figure Dad stepped out for no reason. I know it was wrong regardless, but still…” He stopped there and shook his head.
“That’s where my concern lies too,” Burke admitted. “I know that your parents were on the outs when my mom got together with Jonathon. I know he felt awful about the fact that she became pregnant and he…he was still raising a family in LA.” Burke dropped his gaze to the table for blink, running his thumb along the marble edge.
Jonathon Benton had gifted Burke his first million on his eighteenth birthday—something he’d done with all of his kids. Likewise, he’d written Burke into his will, leaving him one billion dollars, in fact; that had to count for something.
“When I moved here,” Burke continued, “I wasn’t thinking about the complications it could bring. The questions and rumors that would rise when some mystery Benton brother strolled into LA.”
“It’s a valid concern,” Zander, the more serious-natured twin, said. “But we don’t want you to feel like an outsider, man. You’re one of us. You shouldn’t have to hide out in all those Podunk towns for our benefit.”
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