Apr 27 2016 12:10pm
The Girl from Summer Hill: Exclusive Excerpt
Enter Elizabeth Bennet. Chef Casey Reddick has had it up to here with men. When she arrives in the charming town of Summer Hill, Virginia, she leaves behind a demanding boss at a famous D.C. restaurant and a breakup with a boyfriend jealous of her success. Some peace and quiet on the picturesque Tattwell plantation is just what she needs to start fresh. But the tranquility is broken one misty morning when she sees a gorgeous naked man on the porch of her cottage.
Enter Mr. Darcy. What Tate Landers, Hollywood heartthrob and owner of Tattwell, doesn’t need on a bittersweet trip to his ancestral home is a woman spying on him from his guest cottage. Mistaking Casey for a reporter, Tate tries to run her out of her own house. His anger, which looks so good on the screen, makes a very bad first impression on Casey. Hollywood he may be, but he’s no sweetheart to Casey—and she lets him know it!
The plot thickens. Sparks fly—literally—when Casey is recruited to play Elizabeth Bennet opposite Tate’s Mr. Darcy in a stage adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Just brushing past Tate makes Casey’s whole body hum. As they spar on and off stage, Casey begins to think she’s been too quick to judge. Tate is more down-to-earth than Casey expected, and she finds herself melting under his smoldering gaze. But then Tate’s handsome ex-brother-in-law, Devlin Haines, who is playing Wickham, tells Casey some horrifying stories about Tate. She is upset and confused as she tries to figure out who and what to believe. As she finds herself falling for Tate, Casey needs to know: Is the intense, undeniable chemistry between them real, or is this just a performance that ends when the curtain falls?
Get a sneak peek at Jude Deveraux's The Girl from Summer Hill (available May 3, 2016) with an exclusive excerpt of a selected scene.
Act One, Scene One
Mr. Darcy is revealed
There was a naked man on Casey’s back porch. She would have called the police or, at the very least, screamed if he hadn’t been so damned beautiful.
Instead, without so much as a blink, she fumbled for the electric kettle and poured boiling water over the loose tea leaves in the silver strainer. Quite a bit of water missed the mug, went onto the granite countertop, and ran down to the tile floor, but she didn’t notice.
It was so early that it wasn’t yet daylight, and she hadn’t bothered to turn on the kitchen lights. But then he’d turned on the porch lights, and in the misty morning, as she looked through the screen door, it was almost as though he were on a stage.
He’d dropped his T—shirt and sweatpants on the stone path, then, totally nude and facing Casey, he walked up the three steps, his full male glory in view. He came straight toward her, as though he meant to enter the house.
Casey had just woken up, and when she first saw him, she thought she was still asleep and having the best dream of her life. Not only was his body beautiful, but so was his face. Hair, eyes, beard stubble, truly luscious lips. His skin was a dark golden color all over, and he had long, sleek muscles. His hair was long, down his neck, and in the overhead light it was so black that it seemed to glisten almost blue.
When he got to the porch, he didn’t open the screen door and come inside. Instead, he turned so she had a glorious view of his side.
Lord! Pecs. Abs. The curve of his backside, thighs like an Olympic skater’s.
Casey managed to blink a few times. Surely she was asleep. Surely he couldn’t be real.
He seemed to be doing something to the wall, and seconds later it started raining. That made sense. The deity who controlled the heavens should look like this man.
But, no, it was an outdoor shower that seemed to be attached to her little guesthouse. She hadn’t noticed that it was there—-for the few months she’d been in town, it had been winter. But yesterday had been so warm that she’d opened every door and window to let out the heat of her cooking. When she at last went to bed, the kitchen had been so hot that she’d just hooked the screen door and left the room open to the breezes.
She picked up her mug of tea and sipped it while she watched him lather himself with soap.
There was a tall stool near her, and without taking her eyes off him, she felt for it and sat down. As he ran his hands over his body, she was even more sure that she was dreaming. And she was just as sure that if she took her eyes off him she’d wake up.
She watched him soap his legs, and between them, then he moved upward. He had such trouble reaching the entire width of his back that Casey had thoughts of slipping out of her pajamas and joining him.
“Could I help?” she’d ask. He wouldn’t say a word. He’d just hand her the soap and she’d get busy.
Of course, she could use some cleaning too, so he would do her back. Or front. Or wherever he wanted to.
Maybe it was the way it was dark where she was sitting and so very light where he was that made it all seem like a movie. She sipped her tea and watched him, dreamily smiling at the scene.
She’d been working in the kitchen until midnight and it was very early now. Kit said he wanted the food at the playhouse by eight, and she took that to mean he wanted it set up and ready to serve. Last night she’d called her brother Josh to ask if he’d please, please find some tables for her. “Use sawhorses or tree stumps, whatever your great manliness can find,” she’d said in the voicemail she left for him. “Just so I have a place to put all this food. Kit said he’s expecting half the town to show up for the auditions. Double please? I’ll save you some of those cream—filled doughnut holes you like so much.” She said the last in a voice as cajoling as she could make it. Considering that she’d been on her feet for fourteen hours, she wondered if she sounded more pathetic than persuasive.
But looking at the beautiful naked man was making up for yesterday. He was rinsing off now. He reached up to the showerhead on the wall, pulled it down, and began spraying water over his entire gorgeous body.
Casey held the mug of tea to her lips, frozen in place. All she could do was stare. His long hair was wet, plastered to his skull. His profile showed his strong features—-and something about it seemed familiar.
He turned off the water, then looked around for something.
He needs a towel, she thought, and it ran through her mind that she could open the door and hand him one.
When he stepped toward the house as though he meant to enter, her heart seemed to stop. She was more fully awake now and she was aware that she’d just spied on a man taking a shower. Not exactly a polite thing to do. She certainly wouldn’t like it done to her!
When he put his hand on the door handle, Casey’s heart started pounding. She didn’t dare move or he would see her.
He dropped his hand and went down the steps, picked up his sweatpants, and put them on—-and she let out her breath. He would never know. Good!
But as he reached for his shirt, her cellphone rang. It had been charging and she’d forgotten it was on the counter. It kept ringing as she reached for it, then she fumbled and hit speakerphone just as it went to voicemail.
“Hey, little sis, I used a broadsword to cut down a couple of oaks and hacked out some tables. But I also borrowed a couple from the church. If you want me to pick you and your kettles up in my truck, let me know. If I don’t hear from you, I’ll see you at eight.” He hung up.
Casey hadn’t moved, nor had she taken her eyes off the man. When the phone rang, he’d dropped the shirt and turned to look at the door.
She was almost sure he saw her. She had on her white pajamas, the ones her mom had given her with the print of the dish running away with the spoon and the cow jumping over the moon. Too young for her, and they clung much too tightly to her curvy figure, but they were oh so comforting.
It had grown lighter outside and she knew she was probably visible inside the dark room. But maybe not. Maybe she could sneak upstairs and pretend she hadn’t seen him.
As quickly as she could, she put her mug down and slid off the stool.
But she wasn’t fast enough. He bounded up the steps and reached the door in seconds. When he tried to open it, the inside hook held.
Thinking she had a reprieve, Casey took a step toward the living room, but a sound made her turn back.
The man, naked from hip bones up, put his fist through the screen and unfastened the hook.
Okay, now she was scared. This man was big and he looked furious. She glanced at her cellphone but it was between her and him. Her little house was set in eleven acres of garden and woodland. If she screamed, no one would hear her.
“Did you get it all down?” He stepped closer to her.
His voice was deep—-and menacing. Maybe if she ran she could reach the front door and get out. But then what? The only house nearby was the big one, and it was empty.
She put her hands into fists at her sides, took a deep breath, and faced him. Minutes before, his size, the muscles, the sheer masculinity of him had been enticing, but now they seemed threatening. She didn’t think she could escape him, but maybe if she didn’t back down he’d go away.
“I live here,” she said. “You’re trespassing.”
He stopped only three feet away. “Like hell you do! Who do you work for? Where is it?”
Casey took a step back. What a voice he had! Loud and deep. And what he was asking was thoroughly puzzling. “I work for myself. I cater and do private parties.”
He took another step toward her. “And this is a sideline? Where are you hiding it?”
Confusion was replacing her fear. “What is ‘it’? What do you want?”
He picked up her cellphone, the charging cord falling away. “Please tell me you didn’t use this! I think I deserve better than a mobile phone.” He put the phone back on the counter, then turned, his eyes roaming up and down her.
Casey knew she was looking far from her best. Who wanted a gorgeous man to see her wearing pajamas that were perfect for a five—year—old? And her hair was a rat’s nest of tangles and probably full of flour and raspberry jam. She’d collapsed last night, not bothering to shower.
Maybe it was pride, but all sense of fear vanished. She put her shoulders back. “I don’t know who you are but I want you out of my house. Now!” She grabbed her phone. “I think the sheriff would like to hear about a man stripping on my porch and tearing out my screen to get inside my house and threatening me. Unless you want to be in handcuffs, I suggest you leave immediately.”
He stood there staring at her, saying nothing, but looking shocked. He opened his mouth to say something, but then closed it. Turning, he left the house, the door slamming behind him.
For a few moments, Casey stood where she was, her nails cutting into her palms as she watched him leave. He didn’t stop to pick up his shirt but kept going, turned right, and moved out of sight.
Excerpted from THE GIRL FROM SUMMER HILL by Jude Deveraux Copyright © 2016 by Jude Deveraux. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Learn more about or pre-order a copy of The Girl from Summer Hill by Jude Deveraux, available May 3, 2016:
Jude Deveraux is the author of forty-three New York Times bestsellers, including Ever After, For All Time, 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.