Jude Deveraux The Mulberry Tree

ISBN 13: 9780743499859

The Mulberry Tree

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9780743499859: The Mulberry Tree

She had a perfect life. Then she got a real life....
For nearly twenty years, quiet, unassuming Lillian Manville has devoted herself to her self-made billionaire husband -- and enjoyed a luxurious life of splendid homes, trips, jewels, and clothes. But when James Manville dies in a plane crash, Lillian's grief is compounded by a shocking mystery: all that Jimmie has left to her is an old farmhouse in tiny Calburn, Virginia. Now, Lillian's unexpected circumstances are leading her to a made-over life in Calburn, an exciting businessŠand a sweet new love with a handsome local man. But will she have the courage to unveil the truth surrounding a past scandal and the loss of her husband? The answers may be as close as the mulberry tree in her yard -- and Lillian must dig deep within herself to Wght the secrets and lies that threaten to uproot the past she cherished and the future she treasures....This lush bestseller shines with the passion, intrigue, and warmth that is Jude Deveraux at her best.

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About the Author:

Jude Deveraux is the author of more than forty New York Times bestsellers, including Moonlight in the Morning, The Scent of Jasmine, Scarlet Nights, Days of Gold, Lavender Morning, Return to Summerhouse, and Secrets. To date, there are more than sixty million copies of her books in print worldwide. To learn more, visit JudeDeveraux.com.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

He needed me.

Whenever anyone -- usually a reporter -- asked me how I coped with a man like Jimmie, I smiled and said nothing. I'd learned that whatever I said would be misquoted, so I simply kept quiet. Once, I made the mistake of telling the truth to a female reporter. She'd looked so young and so in need herself that for a moment I let my guard down. I said, "He needs me." That's all. Just those three words.

Who would have thought that a second of unguarded honesty could cause so much turmoil? The girl -- she had certainly not attained the maturity of womanhood -- parlayed my small sentence into international turmoil.

I was right in thinking she herself was needy. Oh, yes, very needy. She needed a story, so she fabricated one. Never mind that she had nothing on which to base her fable.

I must say that she was good at research. She couldn't have slept during the two weeks between my remark and the publication of her story. She consulted psychiatrists, self-help gurus, and clergy. She interviewed hordes of rampant feminists. Every famous woman who had ever hinted that she hated men was interviewed and quoted.

In the end Jimmie and I were portrayed as one sick couple. He was the domineering tyrant in public, but a whimpering child at home. And I was shown to be a cross between steel and an ever-flowing breast.

When the article came out and caused a sensation, I wanted to hide from the world. I wanted to retreat to the most remote of Jimmie's twelve houses and never leave. But Jimmie was afraid of nothing -- which was the true secret of his success -- and he met the questions, the derisive laughter, and worse, the pseudo-therapists who felt it was our "duty" to expose every private thought and feeling to the world, head-on.

Jimmie just put his arm around me, smiled into the cameras, and laughed in answer to all of their questions. Whatever they asked, he had a joke for a reply.

"Is it true, Mr. Manville, that your wife is the power behind the throne?" The reporter asking this was smiling at me in a nasty way. Jimmie was six foot two and built like the bull some people said he was, and I am five foot two and round. I've never looked like the power behind anyone.

"She makes all the decisions. I'm just her front man," Jimmie said, his smile showing his famous teeth. But those of us who knew him saw the coldness in his eyes. Jimmie didn't like any disparagement of what he considered his. "I couldn't have done it without her," he said in that teasing way of his. Few people knew him well enough to know whether or not he was joking.

Three weeks later, by chance, I saw the cameraman who'd been with the reporter that day. He was a favorite of mine because he didn't delight in sending his editor the pictures of me that showed off my double chin at its most unflattering angle. "What happened to your friend who was so interested in my marriage?" I asked, trying to sound friendly. "Fired," the photographer said. "I beg your pardon?" He was pushing new batteries into his camera and didn't look up. "Fired," he said again, then looked up, not at me, but at Jimmie.

Wisely, the photographer said no more. And just as wisely, I didn't ask any more questions.

Jimmie and I had an unwritten, unspoken law: I didn't interfere in whatever Jimmie was doing.

"Like a Mafia wife," my sister said to me about a year after Jimmie and I were married.

ard

"Jimmie doesn't murder people," I replied in anger.

That night I told Jimmie of the exchange with my sister, and for a moment his eyes glittered in a way that, back then, I hadn't yet learned to be wary of.

A month later, my sister's husband received a fabulous job offer: double his salary; free housing; free cars. A full-time nanny for their daughter, three maids, and a country club membership were included. It was a job they couldn't refuse. It was in Morocco.

After Jimmie's plane crashed and left me a widow at thirty-two, all the media around the world wrote of only one thing: that Jimmie had willed me "nothing." None of his billions -- two or twenty of them, I never could remember how many -- none of it was left to me.

"Are we broke or rich today?" I'd often ask him, because his net worth fluctuated from day to day, depending on what Jimmie was trying at the moment.

"Today we're broke," he'd say, and he would laugh in the same way as when he'd tell me he'd made so many millions that day.

The money never mattered to Jimmie. No one understood that. To him, it was just a by-product of the game. "It's like all those peels you throw away after you've made jam," he'd say. "Only in this case the world values the peel and not the jam." "Poor world," I said, then Jimmie laughed hard and carried me upstairs, where he made sweet love to me.

It's my opinion that Jimmie knew he wasn't going to live to be an old man. "I've got to do what I can as fast as I can. You with me, Frecks?" he'd ask.

"Always," I'd answer, and I meant it. "Always."

But I didn't follow him to the grave. I was left behind, just as Jimmie said I would be.

"I'll take care of you, Frecks," he said more than once. When he talked of such things, he always called me by the name he'd given me the first time we met: Frecks for the freckles across my nose.

When he said, "I'll take care of you," I didn't give the words much thought. Jimmie had always "taken care" of me. Whatever I wanted, he gave me long before I knew I wanted it. Jimmie said, "I know you better than you know yourself."

And he did. But then, to be fair, I never had time to get to know much about myself. Following Jimmie all over the world didn't leave a person much time to sit and contemplate.

Jimmie knew me, and he did take care of me. Not in the way the world thought was right, but in the way he knew I needed. He didn't leave me a rich widow with half the world's bachelors clamoring to profess love for me. No, he left the money and all twelve of the expensive houses to the only two people in the world he truly hated: his older sister and brother.

To me, Jimmie left a run-down, overgrown farm in the backwoods of Virginia, a place I didn't even know he owned, and a note. It said:

Find out the truth about what happened, will you, Frecks? Do it for me. And remember that I love you. Wherever you are, whatever you do, remember that I love you.

J.

When I saw the farmhouse, I burst into tears. What had enabled me to survive the past six weeks was the image of that farmhouse. I'd imagined something charming, made of logs, with a stone chimney at one end. I'd imagined a deep porch with hand-hewn rocking chairs on it, and a lawn in front, with pink roses spilling petals in the breeze.

I'd envisioned acres of gently rolling land covered with fruit trees and raspberry bushes -- all of them pruned and healthy and dripping ripe fruit.

But what I saw was 1960s hideous. It was a two-story house covered in some sort of green siding -- the kind that never changes over the years. Storms, sun, snow, time, none of it had any effect on that kind of siding. It had been a pale, sickly green when it was installed, and now, many years later, it was the same color.

There were vines growing up one side of the house, but not the kind of vines that make a place look quaint and cozy. These were vines that looked as though they were going to engulf the house, eat it raw, digest it, then regurgitate it in the same ghastly green.

"It can be fixed," Phillip said softly from beside me.

In the weeks since Jimmie's death, "hell" could not begin to describe what I had been through.

It was Phillip who woke me in the middle of the night when Jimmie's plane went down. I must say that I was shocked to see him. As Jimmie's wife, I was sac...

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