Jude Deveraux first achieved national prominence with her epic Velvet series—set in medieval times—which introduced us to the strong, passionate men of the Montgomery clan. Since then, she has branched out, writing stories set in 19th Century Colorado, contemporary times, and even a few, like The Summerhouse, that send her protagonists traveling through time. While a great many of her romances follow the Montgomery family through time and across continents, perhaps the one true constant of Deveraux’s writings is her heroines: fierce, capable, and proud, they may be beautiful, but there’s strength in their blood, and they never settle anything less than what they deserve.
Stranger in the Moonlight
The big office sprawled across a corner of the sixty-first floor. Full-length windows went along two sides, offering breathtaking views of the skyline of New York. The other two walls had tasteful paintings chosen by a designer, but they gave no hint of the occupant. In the middle was a desk of rosewood, and sitting in a steel and leather chair was Travis Maxwell. Tall, broad shouldered, and darkly handsome, he was bent over papers and frowning.
Another damned merger, Travis thought. Another company his father was buying. Did his desire to own, to control, never end? When Travis heard the door to his office open, he didn’t look up. “Yeah? What is it?”
Barbara Pendergast—Penny to him, Mrs. Pender-gast to everyone else—looked at him and waited. She didn’t put up with bad moods from anyone.
Travis looked up at the silence and saw her. She was twice his age and half his size, but she intimidated the hell out of everyone but him. “Sorry, Penny, what is it?” She had worked for his father until just a few years ago. Together the two of them had gone from owning nothing until Randall Maxwell was one of the richest men in the world. When Travis joined the business, Penny decided to help him out. It was said that Randall Maxwell’s protests could be heard six blocks away.
Penny waited a moment to give the full weight to her announcement. “Your mother called me.”
“She what?!” Travis forgot about the merger as he leaned back in his chair and took a couple of deep breaths. “Is she all right?”
“I’d say she’s better than all right. She wants to divorce your father because there’s a man she wants to marry.”
Travis could do nothing but stare. Penny wore her usual boring, but expensive, suit. Her hair was pulled back, and she was looking at him over her reading glasses. “My mother is supposed to be in hiding, keeping a low profile. How can I protect her if she’s out in public? And she’s been dating?”
“I think you should see this,” Penny said and handed him a photocopied newspaper article.
It was from a Richmond newspaper and told of a fashion show for kids that had taken place in Edilean, Virginia, where his mother was staying, or more accurately, hiding. He scanned the article. Some rich woman had thrown a lavish birthday party for her daughter and there were some clothes designed by a Jecca Layton and—He looked up at Penny. “Sewn by Ms. Lucy Cooper.” He put the paper down. “That’s not so bad. Cooper is an assumed name, and there’s no photo.”
“It’s not bad unless your father decides to go looking again,” Penny said. “Her love of sewing is a dead giveaway.”
“What else did Mom say?”
“Nothing,” Penny said. “Just that.” She looked at her notepad. “To quote her directly: ‘Tell Travis I need a divorce because I want to get married,’ then she hung up. You know she thinks you, her precious son, makes the world spin on its axis.”
“My one unconditional love,” Travis said with a half grin. “Did she say who she wanted to marry?”
Penny gave him a look. Travis knew there had always been great animosity from his mother to Mrs. Pendergast. For many years, Randall left his wife and child home, but he never went anywhere without Penny. “Of course she didn’t tell me,” Penny said. “But to answer before you ask, I don’t think she would have been stu—uh, unwise enough to let this unknown man in on who she is currently married to. So no, I don’t think the man is after her money.”
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