Home > Just One Taste (The Kingston Family #7)

Just One Taste (The Kingston Family #7)
Author: Carly Phillips


Chapter One



Nicolette Bettencourt woke up and reached for her cell phone. She set the ringer and notifications on silent at night and checked her email and texts first thing in the morning. As soon as she turned on her phone, the messages and notifications popped up so fast she couldn’t keep up.

She pushed herself up and focused on a message from her modeling agent, Amelia Mitchell: Open this and call me immediately. You’re all over the internet.

Nikki looked at the link to the biggest tabloid site, one known for breaking the hottest stories in celebrity and entertainment news, and her stomach pitched. Whatever it was, it couldn’t be good.

She clicked and studied the photo on the screen, trying to process what she saw. It was her bedroom, with the familiar chandelier hanging from the ceiling, the twin floral framed photos on the wall above the headboard, and the domed smart light on the right nightstand because Nikki found it difficult to wake up on workdays. What the hell?

Her pale pink duvet lay rumpled on one side of the bed, and then she took in the part she’d avoided looking at until now, the female lying asleep on the other side. Nikki tried but found it impossible to swallow. Heart pounding, she enlarged the picture, even though she already knew. She was the girl naked in bed, her ass exposed for the world to see. But how?

Nauseous, she scrolled lower only to find another photo of herself, her hair pulled up into a messy bun, her face visible as she slept on her back. Censorship bars covered her private parts but she was naked nonetheless. Shame washed over her and she started to tremble.

How had someone taken photos of her in her own home? Tears filled her eyes, and she glanced down at her nude body—because that’s how she slept… when she slept—and freaked out. She jumped out of bed, grabbed the silk robe slung over the footboard, and wrapped the material around herself, shaking as she tied the sash tight around her waist.

She felt exposed, violated, and utterly petrified.

She wasn’t ready to talk to her agent or anyone else for that matter. She scrolled through her phone, seeing her mother had called no less than a dozen times. Her parents would be furious, worried about how this would impact her senator father’s potential presidential campaign.

Any other twenty-one-year-old girl would call a friend, but Nikki didn’t have anyone she trusted completely. The closest person to her was Megan Cologne, another model. But Meg wasn’t the warm-fuzzy type, and Nikki needed someone to comfort her, not gloat. Meg was the gloating type.

Her doorbell rang and she froze. She couldn’t face anyone. Not now. Then she remembered the doorman would only let a select few people come up without calling. People she could handle seeing.

Pulling her robe tighter, she walked into the main area of her apartment and tiptoed to the door.

Someone banged again and rang the bell. “Come on, Nikki. Let me in.”

She let out a breath of relief and opened the door. “Derek!” She fell into her big brother’s arms, not bothering to hold back choking sobs.

“Come on.” He wrapped an arm around her and walked them inside, shutting the door and locking it behind them. “I don’t have to ask if you’re okay but how did this happen? How were pictures like that taken and exposed?”

She pushed herself out of his embrace. “I don’t know, okay? I admit I sleep naked but nobody’s been here!”

“No guys? Boyfriends or otherwise?” he asked.

She shook her head. “Not since Lance Freeman. That was six months ago.” Her ex-boyfriend was a photographer she’d met through her modeling career.

They’d been casual, and Nikki always had a hunch he’d been with her for the wrong reasons. Namely her family name and modeling connections. But she’d been lonely and he’d been there. Eventually, they’d argued more often than not and she broke up with him. He’d seemed to agree it was over and that was that.

“I’ll be right back.” She rushed to the bathroom and grabbed some tissues, blotting her eyes and wetting her face before rejoining her brother in the family room.

“Have you spoken to Lance lately?”

“No. I ended things and it was as amicable as a breakup could be.” She lifted her shoulders. “That was it. I swear to you I have no idea how anyone got in here while I was sleeping. And that had to be what happened, right?” She shivered at the possibility.

Derek’s scowl would scare anyone except her. Nikki knew he wasn’t angry at her, he was pissed at the situation and worried. “I’ll figure that part out.”

Her phone rang from the bedroom and she groaned. “Mom’s been calling nonstop. So has my agent. I didn’t look to see who else left messages. I just know I’ve been slammed with notifications, too. I don’t want to deal with any of it.” She grew queasy at the thought of people viewing those photos, yet she knew half the world had seen them by now. God, what if the pictures had been uploaded somewhere without the black bars covering her most private parts? What if she was truly naked online for the world to see? Nausea filled her at the violation that was even worse than the fact that Senator Corbin Bettencourt’s daughter was in the headlines again.

Derek put a calming hand on her shoulder. “Go get your phone and call Mom while I’m here. Then we’ll figure out our next move.”

Knowing he was right, she nodded. She walked to her room and picked up her cell, suddenly uncomfortable being in the bedroom that had always been her comfort space.

She returned to Derek, who’d taken or made a phone call of his own.

Her cell rang again and Mom showed up on the screen. “Might as well get it over with,” she muttered. Drawing a deep breath, she took the call. “Hello?”

“Nicolette Anne,” her mother cried out, her voice shrill, as she used the longer, proper name her parents preferred, refusing to call her Nikki, the shortened version she’d chosen. “How could you let such a thing happen? Do you have any idea how mortifying this is for your father and me?”

What about what how awful it is for me? Nikki wondered, not voicing the thought out loud. Her mother wouldn’t care. Thank God she had Derek by her side and always had.

Seeing he’d put a hand to his ear to block her voice while he spoke on his phone, she took a few steps away so they could each hear their respective callers.

“It’s not like I posed for the photo, Mother. Someone somehow took pictures of me when I was sleeping. They violated my privacy!”

“Come now. Do you really think I believe such a thing? You’ve constantly disappointed us. Between your grades in school and the issues with being on time for modeling shoots, your name in the papers when your contract details leaked–”

Nikki blinked, hating the tears her mother managed to bring out so easily. Normally she tried to be immune to the you’re a disappointment theme, but she was in a vulnerable place and her mother was using it against her.

“There were legitimate reasons for those things, too,” Nikki reminded her mother. But heaven forbid Collette Bettencourt acknowledged her daughter’s issues.

Nikki had inherited dyslexia from her mother’s side of the family, since her uncle suffered from it as well, and Nikki’s inability to read well had resulted in poor grades in school. Her mother had never allowed tutors because nobody could find out Nicolette wasn’t perfect.

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