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Chapter One

 

 

Jackson Stone’s entire life had been a goddamn lie, and in a matter of minutes, he was about to confront the truth, along with the fact that he had three brothers he hadn’t even known existed until two weeks ago. He was still dealing with, and sorting through, the shock of learning the details surrounding his birth and illegal adoption, and he had no idea if his three siblings—one of which was his twin—were even aware of his existence.

He was about to find out, but ultimately it didn’t matter if they knew of him or not, because facing his brothers was something he had to do. If anything, Jackson hoped meeting them gave him some kind of closure. He’d spent the past thirty-two years feeling like an outsider in his own family and wondering why his father—or rather, the man who’d raised him—had always favored his younger son while blatantly ignoring any attempt Jackson had made to win Paul Stone’s affection and approval.

But now that Jackson had discovered the truth about where he’d come from, his father’s rejection made so much more sense to him. Unfortunately, his entire childhood had been a mind-fuck, and nothing had been as it seemed. Even as an adult, the emotional damage his father had inflicted during those younger, formative years, combined with his ex-wife’s betrayal, made it difficult for Jackson to let anyone close. The few people he trusted implicitly, he could count on one hand, and he doubted that would change anytime soon.

He pushed those thoughts from his mind and rolled his tense shoulders just as the navigation system announced that he’d arrived at his destination—a bar named Kincaid’s that was located in a less-than-desirable neighborhood in Chicago. He turned his Porsche into the parking area behind the building, his gleaming dark gray sports car glaringly out of place next to the few older vehicles in the lot.

Not wanting to risk getting the paint scratched or dinged, he parked his car in the farthest row, away from everyone else. The 911 Carrera was his baby, a gift to himself when he’d made partner at Schmidt and Kramer, the architect firm where he’d worked the past eleven years. Yeah, he was a bit obsessive about keeping the Porsche in pristine condition, but considering he’d worked his ass off to be able to afford such an indulgence, he didn’t mind going out of his way to protect his investment.

Sliding out of the low-slung car, he straightened to his full height and engaged the alarm system, then glanced at his watch. It was three thirty in the afternoon, a half hour before the establishment opened. He was hoping that by arriving early he’d be able to catch Clay, the brother who owned the place, and his twin, before the bar started letting customers in for the evening.

As he approached the old, dated building, out of habit he found himself eyeing the place from an architect’s perspective. He was used to working on urban designs, corporate buildings, and sophisticated and luxurious structures, but the modest bar that had probably been built in the 1980s fit the blue-collar neighborhood. The place looked clean and well taken care of and appeared as though it had been recently treated with new wood trim and a fresh coat of paint.

He didn’t know much about the Kincaid brothers, just the basic information he’d enlisted a private investigator to provide so he had an initial point of contact and could introduce himself to the men. Names, ages, marital status, and place of business was what Jackson had asked for, and that’s all he’d been given. The PI had offered to deliver an in-depth background report on all three men, but Jackson had declined. He wasn’t looking to blatantly invade their privacy. If the situation were reversed, he wouldn’t appreciate his entire life and past being scrutinized by a virtual stranger or conclusions made about his character based on information provided by a third party.

He reached the front entrance to the bar. The hours of operation stated they didn’t open until four, but figuring the employees arrived earlier, he pulled on the iron handle anyway. His nerves ratcheted up a notch as the door opened, bringing him one step closer to meeting his brothers. Uncertainty and anticipation mingled inside him as he entered the vacant lobby.

He was a confident, successful, and respected businessman, but there was no way of knowing what kind of reception he was about to receive. His stomach pitched at the possibility that his siblings might not want to have anything to do with him, or make it clear that he didn’t belong.

Yeah, the fucking story of my life, Jackson thought as he forcibly shook off the mental and physical anxiety trying to take hold. Exhaling a deep breath, he moved toward the sounds coming from the main bar, where the lighting was dimmed. He caught sight of a young woman setting out a garnish tray at the service area, who absently glanced his way as soon as he came into sight, immediately pegging him as a customer.

“I’m sorry,” she said, giving him an apologetic smile as she added a stack of napkins to the counter. “But we don’t open until four . . .”

As he stood there, her gaze skimmed over his Armani suit and up to his face. A look of utter confusion creased her brows, and he was pretty sure he knew why. Her boss and his twin, Clay Kincaid, obviously wasn’t a business suit kind of guy, and that was throwing her off, along with similarities Jackson must share with his brother. With a tilt of her head, she took in his short cropped hair and studied his features, and when she finally met his gaze, he couldn’t hold back the amused smile that tugged up the corners of his lips.

Her perplexed expression turned to one of unmitigated shock as she realized he wasn’t her employer. Exotic eyes, a stunning shade of bright azure blue, widened, and she shook her head wildly in disbelief, causing long, dark strands of her silky-looking hair to brush back and forth across her shoulders.

“You’re not Clay,” she blurted out.

“No, I’m not,” he confirmed in a low, husky voice as he caught sight of a small diamond piercing above her sensual upper lip. “I’m his twin brother, Jackson Stone.”

“His twin,” she repeated, still staring at him, her tone soft with awe as her disbelief gradually morphed into curious bewilderment, along with a noticeable flicker of fascination. “Holy . . . shit. Clay has a fucking twin.”

He chuckled, enjoying her unfiltered response. Found it refreshing, actually. He was used to polite, sophisticated women. The kind who tended to be sweet, prim, and proper in his presence and a catty bitch behind his back. This beauty in front of him was edgy and direct, and damn if he didn’t find the straightforward combination sexy as fuck.

 
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