Ever After (Nantucket Brides)

ISBN 13: 9781472211453

Ever After (Nantucket Brides)

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9781472211453: Ever After (Nantucket Brides)

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER · Jude Deveraux’s eagerly awaited third novel in her blockbuster Nantucket Brides trilogy continues the spellbinding saga of the Montgomery-Taggerts, set on an island steeped in beauty and unforgettable romance.
 
Life is anything but perfect for Hallie Hartley, a young physical therapist who has given up nearly everything—even her love life—for her beautiful blonde stepsister, Shelly. Though Shelly’s acting career has never taken off, she has certainly perfected the crocodile tears to get what she wants—which all too often means Hallie’s boyfriends. When Hallie arrives home early from work one fateful day, she makes two startling discoveries that will turn her life upside down: Not only has a mysterious relative left Hallie a house on Nantucket, but Shelly has been trying to steal it. Desperate to put her troubles behind her, Hallie impulsively flies to Nantucket.
 
New trouble, however, has already settled into Hallie’s guest room in the form of her newest client. Hallie is told that wealthy, young James Taggert has injured his leg in a skiing accident. Assuming that the devastatingly handsome man has led a charmed life, Hallie is surprised by Jamie at every turn throughout his recovery. His attentions draw her out of her shell—but he has a dark secret, and is tormented by nightmares that only her presence can keep at bay. She suspects there’s more to his injury than he’s letting on.
 
On this gorgeous island rich in history, magic is everywhere, even in Hallie’s own backyard. As Jamie’s relatives arrive for a wedding gala, something wonderfully unusual is in the air. There’s an aura of romance—enhanced by a pair of matchmaking ghosts and a colorful island legend. In their own little corner of the world, Jamie and Hallie unravel the timeless secrets of their own hearts, and a very special story of True Love destined to last forever after.

Praise for Ever After
 
“Wondrous . . . a lovely tale of love, healing and hope.”—Fresh Fiction
 
“A sweet, idyllic love story . . . a romance in the most classic sense.”—RT Book Reviews
 
“Filled with family, friends, ghosts and the magic of love, Ever After is sure to please longtime fans of Deveraux, as well as new readers.”BookPage
 
“[A] sexy, lighthearted romp.”—Kirkus Reviews
 
“Thoroughly enjoyable.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
 
Praise for Jude Deveraux
 
“A new Jude Deveraux novel means a very late night turning the pages straight through to the delicious end.”—Susan Elizabeth Phillips

True Love
 
True Love, with its star-crossed lovers and twisty plot, evokes everything that makes Nantucket so special—the history, the atmosphere, the secrets, and the magic.”—Susan Wiggs
 
“Destined to be an instant romance classic . . . will haunt you long after you read it.”Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

For All Time
 
“Deveraux takes us to a place where dreams are made. . . . A page-turning time-travel romance that captures your imagination from the start and keeps hold till the very last page.”—Fresh Fiction

“A beautifully written story with a refreshing old-romance feel . . . Fans of Deveraux will be delighted.”—RT Book Reviews
From the Hardcover edition.

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About the Author:

Jude Deveraux is the author of forty-two New York Times bestsellers, including Moonlight in the Morning and A Knight in Shining Armor. She was honored with a Romantic Times Pioneer Award in 2013 for her distinguished career. To date, there are more than sixty million copies of her books in print worldwide.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

 

 

boston airport

 

 Even the sight of the private jet she was to take to the island of Nantucket didn’t cheer Hallie up. The interior was tan leather and dark wood, beautifully elegant, and she and Jared were the only passengers. She hoped that the trip would distract her from her thoughts. Before a few hours ago she would have sworn that her stepsister was incapable of doing something so treacherous, as well as illegal. The forged passport, the planned meeting with the famous architect, and the contract signed in an imitation of Hallie’s handwriting all ran through her mind.

 

On the way to the airport she’d asked Jared how he’d first contacted her, and he said he’d sent an overnight package. Hallie’s guess was that Shelly accepted delivery, opened the envelope, read the contents, and decided to take what wasn’t hers.

 

Hallie thought about what would have happened if she hadn’t returned home unexpectedly. Would she have come home from work to find an empty house and a note from her stepsister saying she’d decided to leave town? How long would it have taken her to find out about her stolen inheritance?

 

When they were on the plane, Jared made sure she was belted into a seat, the thick folder of papers on her lap and a glass of champagne beside her. As soon as they were aloft, he stepped away to make some calls, and Hallie started reading about why she’d been left property by a stranger. It seemed that she had an ancestor, Leland Hartley, who had been married to Juliana Bell, whose family—including her sister, Hyacinth—originally owned the house. At the sight of her own unusual name, her interest was piqued. Was this her ancestor? But, no, poor Juliana and her sister had died before either of them had children. Leland Hartley had returned to Boston, remarried, and had one son. Hallie was descended from him. Henry, the man who’d willed the house to Hallie, was descended from the Bell side. He had no immediate family so he’d left everything to Miss Hyacinth Lauren Hartley, aka Hallie.

 

Henry had composed a genealogy chart that traced Leland down to Hallie. She unfolded the long paper and read the names and dates. There was her mother’s death when Hallie was four, and her father’s remarriage when she was eleven. It ended with the death of her father and Ruby—Shelly’s mother—in a car accident when Hallie was in her second year of college and Shelly was still in high school.

 

Jared returned to his seat. “Do you understand about the inheritance?”

 

“I think so,” Hallie answered. “But I’m not a blood relative of Henry Bell.”

 

“I know,” Jared said, “but on Nantucket we take relationships—however tenuous—seriously. And by the way, Henry left his house to you specifically, not to your father. No matter what your stepsister claims, she has no right to it. I was sincere when I said that if you want to take legal action for her attempted theft, I’ll pay all costs.” He took a breath. “I’m especially sorry that I helped put a patient in the house without your actual permission. Shelly had given her permission in your name, of course, but now I know she isn’t you. If you want me to send him away, just let me know. I’ll make a call and he won’t be there when we land.”

 

“Thank you,” Hallie said.

 

She looked down at the folder. In the back were some medical notes about her patient, James Michael Taggert, nicknamed Jamie, but they were brief and not very informative. But then Hallie had heard everything before when Shelly was quizzing her about her injured friend. Hallie didn’t want to imagine what would have happened to the man without proper care.

 

Mostly the papers were about the excellent financial terms being offered to her for rehabilitating this one young man. She’d be able to make her mortgage payments on the house her father had left her outside Boston as well as put food on the table in Nantucket.

 

When she glanced up at Jared, he seemed to be hard at work, either with the papers or tapping out messages on his phone. At one point he said, “My wife, Alix, says hi and that she very much wants to meet you.”

 

“Me too,” Hallie said, and wondered what his wife was like. He was famous, so he probably had married some elegant blonde who spent all his money maintaining her beauty.

 

It was at lunch—perfectly cooked chicken and salad served by a young woman attendant—that she asked Jared who owned the jet they were on. When he said “Jamie’s family,” Hallie nodded. It looked like her patient was indeed some rich kid. He’d gone skiing, probably in some exotic locale, and torn his knee. Since his family could afford anything on earth, he was being given his own private therapist. Jared had told her that his family had even put in a private gym for the rehabilitation work. No being one of many for him!

 

“What’s this guy like?” she asked. “I mean his personality.”

 

Jared shrugged. “He’s a distant cousin of mine, but I don’t really know him. I’ve dealt with his father. I only saw the boy from a distance. He seems to always be surrounded by his family.”

 

Hallie nodded and thought, Rich and spoiled. Everything always handed to him.

 

“There’s still time to call,” Jared said.

 

“I think I’ll give it a try and see how it works out.”

 

They talked about the physical therapist job Hallie was due to start at a small local hospital, and she told Jared that she’d call and turn it down. Since they had a waiting list, she didn’t feel guilty about it. He said he’d have his super-efficient secretary take care of it for her, and she thanked him.

 

“You’re taking all of this very well,” Jared said. “With great sportsmanship.”

 

She smiled at the compliment. A lifetime with her stepmother and Shelly had taught Hallie how to hide her emotions.

 

When they landed, in spite of her bravado, Hallie began to feel nervous about what was coming. While it was exciting to think of the adventure before her, it was also terrifying. At twenty-six years old, she’d lived in one house all her life, had gone to college nearby, and had been about to accept a job that was close to her home. She was leaving behind people she’d known since she was born—and that included Braden. She reminded herself that it was her choice whether or not this was permanent.

 

In the little Nantucket airport, she stood to one side and waited for Jared to finish talking to people. Whereas the experience of flying on a private jet was awe-inspiring to her, it didn’t seem to be unusual on the island. In fact, three other privately owned jets had arrived at nearly the same time, and Jared and Hallie’s flight had needed to wait for permission to land. Jared was talking to passengers from the other planes, to the baggage handlers, to the pilots, and to a man who seemed to be the manager of the airport. As far as Hallie could tell, he knew every person within sight. This was certainly different from Boston!

 

Abruptly, Jared turned from them and walked quickly to Hallie. “Come on, let’s go. A tourist plane is landing.” He sounded as though a tsunami was about to hit. He put his hand at her lower back and ushered her out of the airport into bright sunshine and the clean, salty air of Nantucket.

 

It wasn’t until they were in Jared’s truck that reality began to hit Hallie. The vehicle was old and beat-up, and something about it seemed real. The world of the leather-upholstered BMW Jared drove and the private jet was too foreign to her to allow her to think clearly. But now she was grasping the truth of all of it. She was on her way to a house she’d never seen but that belonged to her. And for the time being, she was going to be living with a young man she had never met.

 

As they drove from the airport to the downtown area, Hallie marveled at the houses they passed. They were nearly all clad in untreated wooden shingles that had turned a beautiful, misty gray. It was almost as though she were traveling back in time, to when Nantucket was known for its whaling. It wouldn’t have surprised her to see men in jackboots carrying harpoons over their shoulders.

 

Jared drove down a frighteningly narrow lane and stopped in front of a small two-story house with a pretty blue door. The house had pink roses growing up a trellis and lushly green bushes along the front. “This is it?”

 

“Yes,” Jared said as he opened the truck door for her. “You like it?”

 

“It’s like a fairy tale.”

 

Jared shrugged. “The roof is good and I had the windows repaired. Later I want to check some foundation cracks.”

 

Hallie smiled at him. “Spoken like an architect.”

 

He opened the front door for her. “You think I’m bad, wait until you meet my wife.”

 

As she stepped inside a little entryway with a staircase in front of her, she didn’t reply. The house was beautiful! It had a feeling of age and memory and coziness that she’d never felt before. “This is mine?” she whispered.

 

“It is.” He was pleased by her reaction. “Why don’t you have a look around while I find Jamie?”

 

Eyes wide, Hallie only nodded in agreement. As he went through the door to the right, she climbed the stairs. At the top was a small landing with open doors on opposite sides, both of them leading into large, furnished bedrooms, each with its own bathroom. Behind them was a little sitting room with a big window looking out to the back.

 

Since the house had belonged to a lifelong bachelor, she was surprised that it looked warm and inviting down to the smallest details. The wallpaper was of pretty woodland flowers, and the antique beds were draped in soft blues and greens, with big downy pillows against the headboards. The window seat had cushions of pale pink and peach, and tassels were on the curtain tiebacks.

 

She went to the window and looked down into the garden—and gasped. Since the front of the house had very little land, she was shocked at what was in the back. There was a big square area, with branches leading off both ways to form a T-shape. There were several huge old trees, and flower beds were outlined. That the beds were nearly empty made her long to get her hands on them. Unbidden, the thought came to her that with Shelly and her mother out of the picture, this garden would never be in danger of being bulldozed.

 

She wondered where she could find the workshop with the gym that Jared had spoken of. Pushing the window up, she looked out to see past the tall fence that surrounded the entire garden.

 

When she heard voices, she pulled back from the window. Walking together were two people. One was a small, older woman and facing her was a man on crutches—and he was close enough that she could see he was beautiful. Not like some model out of a magazine, but in the way of a man who turns and smiles at you and your knees go weak. He had thick black hair, a stubble of whiskers over a strong jaw, and lips of such softness they made Hallie dizzy.

 

When the man smiled at the little gray-haired woman, Hallie could see lines at his eyes. She guessed that he was at least thirty. As for being short, he wasn’t under six feet, and the “stocky” looked to be about two hundred pounds of pure muscle. He was wearing a long-sleeved shirt that couldn’t conceal the curves of the powerful muscles underneath. Below that were sweatpants that draped over heavy quads, and she could see the outline of a big leg brace beneath.

 

That’s who I’m to work on? she thought. But that couldn’t be! Jared had said he was a “kid” and “short and stocky.” But that certainly didn’t describe this man!

 

Hallie moved back to lean against the wall. To say that he was her type was an understatement. She’d always liked athletic, muscular men.

 

“This is a problem,” she whispered. Her teachers, first in massage school and later in physical therapy, had repeated over and over the importance of professionalism. A therapist was never to get personally involved with a client. She’d been warned that some of them would flirt and tease. With her massages and later in her many student sessions, she’d found out that was true. But it had been easy to laugh those guys off. She’d been so concentrated on her work that she’d thought of little else. Besides, she wasn’t particularly attracted to any of them.

 

But this man, this Jamie Taggert, was different. She saw that her hands were shaking, and she could feel beads of perspiration on her upper lip.

 

“Control!” she said as she pushed away from the wall. She took a few deep breaths to calm herself, then went through a bedroom to get to the stairs.

 

At the bottom were two beautiful old doors. One was locked, but the other one led into the living room. The ceiling was fairly low, with great overhead beams that spoke of the age of the house and added to the calm, peaceful feeling of it. A wide, deep fireplace was along the wall, with pretty windows on the far side. The couch and two big chairs were soft and comfortable looking. They had been moved to the far end to make space for a narrow bed and a desk.

 

As Hallie looked at the bed, she wondered how a man with shoulders like his could sleep on it. Did his feet and arms hang over the sides? The thought almost made her giggle.

 

On impulse, she went to the desk. It was old and scarred from many years of use. On top of it were a few neatly stacked paperbacks—murder mysteries written by men—and a big leather date book with a matching pencil holder.

 

Hallie sat down on the little wooden chair, and after a quick glance about the empty room to make sure she was alone, she opened the date book.

 

What she saw made her gasp. Inside were large, glossy photographs of Shelly. On top was one of those professional-looking head shots. Shelly just out of the shower was beautiful, but fully made up, her hair swept to one side, a seductive little smile on her perfect lips, she was a stunner.

 

Beneath that were composites of other shots. There was Shelly riding in a convertible, her hair tousled, her face turned up to the sun. It looked as though it had been taken on a movie set. Another one was of Shelly in a red silk blouse, open to show her black bra, on what looked like a stage. There was a photo of her holding a bar of soap to her cheek. An ad, maybe?

 

The last picture was a full-length shot of Shelly in a bikini. All five feet eleven of her, not an ounce of fat anywhere, long blonde hair pulled into a high ponytail, and looking like the all-American girl. Every man’s dream.

 

Hallie leaned back in the chair, feeling like she’d just deflated.

 

In all the turmoil of what was turning into a very long day, it hadn’...

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