Jude Deveraux portrays the power of a woman set on a bold course for true love -- and the glory of fulÞlling a magniÞcent promise.
Handsome plantation owner Wesley Stanford would barely recall the poverty-stricken young girl named Leah Simmons who adored him from afar years agoŠ.Now, in an unexpected twist of fate -- a chance encounter on the Virginia riverfront -- he will become Leah's reluctant husband. Determined to forge a new life in untamed Kentucky, Wesley discovers that the bride he hopes to abandon is passionate, proud, and brave -- and may be the woman he cannot live without.
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December 31, 1984
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Excerpt from River Lady by Jude Deveraux
The rain enclosed the little tavern, darkening it so that the lantern's golden light made eerie shadows on the wall. The late fall sunshine that had warmed the morning was gone now and the tavern was almost cold. Behind the tall oak counter washing pewter mugs was a woman, pretty, plump, clean, her soft brown hair caught in a white muslin cap. She hummed as she worked, smiling now and then and showing a dimple in one cheek.
The side door, not the door for patrons, opened and in a gust of cold, wet wind a girl slipped into the room, pausing for a moment until her eyes adjusted to the light. The barmaid looked up and, with a frown and a little click of disgust, hurried forward.
"Leah, you look worse every time I see you. Sit down here while I heat a toddy for you," the plump woman said as she pushed the shivering girl into a chair and went to set the poker in the fire, all the while surreptitiously studying her younger sister. If possible, Leah had lost weight. Her unfleshed bones seemed to poke through her dirty, mended dress; her eyes were sunken, the skin under them blue, her nose sunburned and peeling. There were three bloody scratches running the length of one side of her face, and a long bluish-green bruise on the other side.
"He give you that?" the barmaid asked in disgust as she jabbed the hot poker into the mug of flip.
Leah merely shrugged and eagerly put her hands out toward the hot beer and molasses drink.
"He give any reason for hittin' you?"
"No more 'n usual," Leah said after drinking half the contents of the mug and leaning back in the chair.
"Leah, why don't you--?"
Leah opened her eyes and gave her sister a hard look. "Don't start on me again, Bess," she warned. "We've been through this before. You do what you must and I'll take care of me and the kids."
Bess stiffened for just a moment before turning away. "Layin' on my back for a few clean gentlemen is a lot easier 'n what you have to do."