Read Ever After Online

Authors: Jude Deveraux

Ever After

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Ever After
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2015 by Deveraux, Inc.

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

B
ALLANTINE
and the H
OUSE
colophon are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

L
IBRARY OF
C
ONGRESS
C
ATALOGING-IN
-P
UBLICATION
D
ATA

Deveraux, Jude.

Ever after : a Nantucket brides novel / Jude Deveraux> pages; cm. — (Nantucket brides trilogy)

ISBN 978-0-345-54185-7 (hardcover : acid-free paper) —

ISBN 978-0-345-54186-4 (eBook)

I. Title.

PS3554.E9273E94 2015

813′.54—dc23

2014037774

eBook ISBN 9780345541864

www.ballantinebooks.com

eBook design adapted from printed book design and title page photo by Karin Batten

Cover design: Lynn Andreozzi

Cover photograph: Claudio Marinesco

v4.1

a

Prologue

H
allie couldn't find the packet of papers she needed to give her boss. She remembered putting them in a big white envelope, then slipping it into her tote bag. Although the bag was in the trunk of her car, the envelope wasn't in it.

As she stood in the mall parking lot, she went over everywhere she'd been that morning. To the pharmacy to pick up her stepsister's favorite hair conditioner, to the dry cleaners to get the skirt Shelly had stained. And she'd stopped by the garage to ask yet again when Shelly's car was going to be ready so she could run her own damned errands.

Hallie took a breath to calm herself. There were also six plastic bags in the trunk—all of them full of her stepsister's clothes, unopened bills, shoes, and beauty products—but none of them contained the envelope full of papers.

She closed the trunk and turned away. Too much! she thought. It was all getting to be too much for her. Since Shelly had returned six weeks ago, everything had been chaos. Hallie was a morning person; her stepsister liked to stay up all night. Hallie needed quiet to study for her exams; Shelly didn't seem alive unless some machine was emitting noise. The car Shelly had driven back from California was in such bad condition that she'd wanted to have it towed away. “I'll just borrow yours,” she said, then left the room before Hallie could protest.

But then Shelly had made it clear why she was staying. She wanted Hallie to sell the house and split the money. The fact that Hallie's father hadn't changed his will after he'd married Shelly's mother made no difference. Shelly said that
legally
the house might not be half hers, but it certainly was
morally
.

“He was my father too,” Shelly said, tears in her thickly lashed eyes. As a pretty little girl, she'd perfected the look of sadness that made people give her whatever she wanted. When she grew up to be an even prettier young woman, she saw no reason to stop using her looks to manage people.

But Hallie had never fallen for her act. “Cut it out!” she said. “It's
me
, remember? Not some casting director you're trying to seduce.”

With a sigh, Shelly sat up straight and the tears instantly ceased. “Okay, so let's talk about
you
. Think what you could do with your half of the money. You could travel, see the world.”

Hallie leaned back against the car and turned her face up to the sun. It was spring and the trees of New England were bursting into bud.

Her stepsister's attitude of here's-something-else-you-can-do-for-me wore a person down. Shelly's incessant talking, badgering, pleading, and at times anger made Hallie want to throw up her hands and call a Realtor. She'd shown on paper that if she sold the house, by the time she paid off the mortgage she'd
had to get to buy a new roof and repair the plumbing and electrics, they would barely break even. But Shelly had just waved her hand and said houses in L.A. sold for millions.

But in the last two weeks Shelly had been calmer, almost as though she'd given up. She'd been asking Hallie about her work as a physical therapist, saying, “What would you recommend for a man with a torn-up knee?”

“Describe the injury to me,” Hallie said, and Shelly had read about it from an email she'd received. Pleased by her stepsister's interest, Hallie had outlined the lengthy rehabilitation the man would need.

Although Shelly wasn't forthcoming with the details, Hallie assumed that her stepsister had a friend who'd been injured. Whatever the reason, it had been nice to have some relief from Shelly's relentless pursuit of her goal. Hallie began to think that her life was at last coming together. She'd finally finished her coursework, passed her exams, and received her Massachusetts physical therapy license. And next week she was going to start a job at a small local hospital.

She glanced at her watch. She had just enough time to run home to get the papers and make it to the office before Dr. Curtis left for the weekend. As she drove, she thought it was exhilarating to imagine having a whole new life. New career, new job, new
world
. Only it wasn't actually new. Her job was close to the house she'd lived in all her life, and she'd be working with people she'd gone to school with. And her stepsister also planned to stay in the area. “You're the only family I have left,” Shelly said. Hallie knew that meant her stepsister would be at her house for every holiday, weekend, and catastrophe in Shelly's very dramatic life.

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