Her Secret, His Duty

By: Carla Cassidy

Chapter 1

“Impossible.” The single word escaped Debra Prentice’s lips in disbelieving horror as she stared at the three separate pregnancy tests lined up like little soldiers on her bathroom vanity.

Not one, not two, but three tests and each showing a positive sign. Undeniable results that her brain tried to absorb.

Pregnant. There was no question now that she was pregnant. She’d wondered about it when she was late with her period, but had written it off as stress. She’d been late in the past.

Pregnant. How was it possible? Even as the question formed in her mind, memories of a single night six weeks ago gave her the answer.

An unexpected encounter, too many drinks and a mad dash to a nearby hotel room where she’d found complete abandon with a man she had no business being with at all.

Her cheeks burned as she remembered the awkward morning after. Gazes not meeting as they both hurriedly dressed and then the humiliating ride in a cab from the hotel to her front door. And now this, the icing on a cake that should have never been baked in the first place. Pregnant.

A glance at the small clock in the bathroom forced a gasp from her. If she didn’t hurry she’d be late to work, and in all the years that Debra had worked as personal secretary and assistant to Kate Adair Winston, she had never been late to work.

She got up and tossed the tests into the trash, then gave herself a quick glance in the bathroom mirror. The slim black pencil skirt she wore didn’t display a hint of her current condition but the red tailored button-up blouse only emphasized the paleness of her face, a paleness that the results of the tests had surely created.

Her light brown hair was already attempting to escape the twisted bun she’d trapped it in earlier, but she didn’t have time to fix it now.

She left the bathroom, deciding that she couldn’t, she wouldn’t think about her pregnancy right now. She had a little time to figure things out, but right now she had to get her brain in work mode.

She pulled on a black winter coat and grabbed her purse, then left her two-story townhouse and headed for her car parked at the curb. There was parking behind the townhouse, but she rarely used it, preferring the convenience of curbside parking instead.

The January air was bracing, hovering right around the freezing mark. Thankfully the sky was bright blue and she didn’t have to worry about snow or sleet.

The townhouse was located just off Glenwood Avenue in the uptown district of Raleigh, North Carolina. It was Debra’s pride and joy, bought two years ago after years of renting. She loved the area, loved the fact that she could paint walls and hang pictures without getting a landlord’s approval. It was cozy and filled with all the colors and textiles she loved.

Once inside the car she checked the clock. It was just after seven, but she still had to maneuver morning traffic to get to North Raleigh where the Winston Estate was located.

Every morning in the capital city of North Carolina the morning rush traffic was bad, but on this Wednesday morning it seemed particularly heavy.

Or, maybe it was the racing of her thoughts that made the ride feel longer and more difficult than usual. Even though it was unplanned and unexpected there was no doubt in her mind that she would keep the baby. For her, that decision was a no-brainer.

She would just need to keep the father’s identity to herself for the rest of her life. She would let the people close to her assume that the baby was Barry’s, the snake-in-the-grass boyfriend who had broken up with her on the night she’d been in that restaurant bar, the same night she’d done something completely out of character.

But, there was no question in her mind who the father was because she hadn’t been pregnant when she and Barry had broken up and she was pregnant now. There had only been that single night of utter madness to account for her current condition.

She steered her thoughts away from the pregnancy as she approached her workplace. The impressive Winston Estate was located on two acres of lush, meticulously manicured grounds.

Built in 1975, the six-bedroom, nine-bath white-and-red brick house also boasted a beautiful swimming pool, a backyard area around the pool big enough for entertaining and a small guest house where Kate’s security, a Secret Service detail, worked from.

The front entrance boasted a large black iron gate that was opened only when security and Kate allowed. The entire estate was fenced in except for a side entrance through which staff and service vehicles came and went.

Debra turned into the access entrance and waved to Jeff Benton, part of the security team that kept Kate and her family safe when the former vice president was in the house.

Debra pulled into a parking spot specifically for staff and hurriedly got out of the car. She entered the house through a side door that led into a large, empty mudroom and then into the huge kitchen where at the moment fresh coffee and cinnamon were the predominant scents.

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