Award-winning author Mallory Kane's The Delancey Dynasty comes to a thrilling conclusion!
As the newest member of the Delanceys, Jack Bush isn't who he claims. Eloping with their youngest granddaughter, Cara Lynn, is only the first part of his plan. With that he'd gain access to the entire family and expose them for what they are. Then he'd move on. Except Cara Lynn has charms of her own. Their initial attraction, and their torrid love affair, make it hard for Jack to maintain his distance. Hurting her soon becomes the last thing he wants to do. But once the truth about his ancestral blood ties are revealed, every family secret will come crashing down around them. And he fears no one will escape unscathed .
About the Author
She has published 26 books for Harlequin Intrigue. She lives in Tennessee with her Renaissance husband and two very smart cats.
Read an Excerpt
Jack Bush looked at his wife of one month as she lifted her arms above her head to slip on the exquisite pink dress. It slid down over her breasts, past her waist and hips, draping over her slender curves and porcelain skin, and f lowed like a thick gleaming river past her ankles to puddle just slightly on the floor.
He tried to swallow but his throat was dry. He felt himself becoming aroused as her palms smoothed the satin. He stepped behind her and rested his hands on top of hers at the curve of her hips.
"Jack, I have to finish dressing."
"I know," he murmured as he kissed the little bump at the curve of her shoulder. He pushed the dainty strap away and slid his lips and tongue across to the curve of her neck, feeling triumphant when she took a long breath and angled her head to give him access.
"Isn't it fashionable to be late?" he asked.
"Not when the party's for us and it's at my mother's house."
"Ouch," he said. "Way to deflate the, um enthusiasm." Cara Lynn Delancey laughed and turned to him. She slid the strap back up onto her shoulder, pushed her fingers through her hair and shook it out, then she pulled her dress up and hooked her thumbs over the elastic band of her silk bikini panties, pushed them down and kicked them off. "I'm ready," she said.
Jack stared at her open-mouthed. "You're not really Really? At your mother's house?"
Her face was still creased with laughter, but two bright red spots stood out in her cheeks, revealing her embarrassment. "Haven't you been telling me I need to be less inhibited?"
He did his best to tamp down his desire by picturing her in baggy jeans and a stretched-out T-shirt, bent over her loom in her studio. That didn't help. She was sexy as hell in an oversize T-shirt, too.
He shook his head. "Okay. Let's go. But God help you if somebody steps on your dress, because those little straps will never hold up."
She shot him a worried look, then started toward the panties. Jack grabbed her hand. "We're late," he said with a meaningful look.
"Right," she said, sending a regretful glance back at the panties.
Jack couldn't believe his plan had worked. He was here, standing in the gigantic front hall of the Delancey family home, as an invited guest. No, he amended. Not as a guestas family.
He'd done it. He'd married Cara Lynn Delancey, and now he was about to meet the majority of the Delancey family for the first time, all in one place. So far, he'd only met her parents, one of her brothers and a cousin since he'd eloped with Cara Lynn a month before.
Tonight, all the names in his grandfather's letters were about to be attached to real people, and one of those people held the answers he needed. Someone in this room knew what really happened the night Con Delancey was murdered twenty-eight years ago at his fishing cabin on Lake Pontchartrain.
Jack looked around, trying to appear worldly and unimpressed, while inside he felt like a kid at Christmas. He was here, finally, surrounded by the infamous politician's children and grandchildren. This was better than his wildest dream.
Cara Lynn appeared beside him, slipping her hand into his and squeezing. Gritting his teeth, he tried to keep his expression pleasant as he did his best to ignore the soft warmth of her fingers tightening around his in nervous anticipation.
That was the hardest part of being around Cara Lynnmaintaining the delicate balance between appearing to be the loving bridegroom, totally in love with his beautiful wife, and his true mission.
"Jack, remember I told you about my great-aunt Claire?"
Jack did remember. Claire Delancey was Con's sister. According to Jack's grandfather, Claire could be holding the single most important piece of information he neededLilibelle Guillame Delancey's last journal. "Your aunt that lives in France? Sure."
"Well," she paused and Jack saw her lips tremble.
"She had a stroke sometime yesterday, and during the night she died. Mama just told me."
Claire Delancey dead? Jack's brain whirled. How was that going to affect his plan? Had vital information about Con Delancey's death died with his sister?
Cara Lynn lifted a shaky hand to her mouth. He looked at her. Her eyes were dry, but the glow was gone from their blue depths. "Are you okay?" he asked. "I know you loved her a lot."
She smiled sadly. "I'm going to miss her horribly. She lived in France for my entire life, but I've spent summers over there since I was ten."
"She was your grandfather's sister?" he asked.
Cara Lynn nodded. "And my grandmother's best friend."
"Oh, yeah?" He remembered. That was why his grandfather was sure Claire had important information about Con's death.
Cara Lynn sighed and Jack put his arm around her and kissed her temple. "I'm sorry," he said. For more than one reason.
"There's Mama. She's waving at us. Come on. Maybe the press is here and we can get that part of the reception over with."
Jack looked across the room at Betty Delancey, who stood with one hand on the back of her husband Robert's wheelchair. Next to her was a thin, dour man in a business suit who held a gray metal lockbox. Jack figured he ought to have a chain and a handcuff, or, given how tightly he was holding the box, maybe he didn't. He started to ask Cara Lynn who the guy was and what was in the box, but she pointed toward the tall front doors.
"Look over there. Do you recognize the man and woman coming this way? They're the co-anchors of a local news show. They're here to interview us, take pictures and do a write-up of our romantic elopement and, of course, the large reception my family is giving us tonight."
"News show? Really?" Jack stopped cold in his tracks.
"What's wrong?" Cara Lynn asked teasingly. "Are you camera shy?"
The words camera shy didn't even begin to describe what Jack was feeling. News show meant cameras, and cameras meant exposure. Jack was nobody in comparison to the Delanceys, but he knew that because of who they were, he would be in the spotlight for a few hours or days until the next society story came along.
His mother was in Florida, and he'd worked and lived in Biloxi for the past nine years. With any luck, none of his friends there would pay much attention to a two minute segment of society news from the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain.
"It's okay. I just don't like being thrust into the spotlight by surprise," he said. "I'll manage." He could tell his friends that he'd finally changed his name legally. They knew that he'd always wanted to get rid of the Francophied Jacques.
It took several minutes for the co-anchors to set the stage for the interview. Meanwhile, Jack saw the dour man with the box lean in a couple of times and whisper something to Cara Lynn's mother, triggering a shake of her head and a hand gesture that obviously meant something like just hang in there. It won't be long now.
"What's that box?" he finally asked Cara Lynn.
"I'm not sure, but it could be"
A man in a baseball cap with the TV station's letters on it waved at them. The way he was throwing out orders and waving his arms, Jack figured he was probably the director. "Could you two get over here please," he said, motioning them toward him. He proceeded to get them positioned just right for the video and still shots, then introduced Jack and Cara Lynn to the co-anchors.
Despite the fact that they appeared to be slavering at the idea of sinking their teeth into the youngest Delancey grandchild, Cara Lynn was gracious and polite. Jack had learned that about her as soon as he'd met her. She was probably the most compassionate person he'd ever known. Her condolences were never disingenuous, her delight never false, her disappointment never exaggerated or tempered. With Cara Lynn, if she said it she meant it.
The entire filming was over within about five minutes. The only thing either of the co-anchors had asked Jack was what it felt like to be thrust into such a large and famous family. Jack had given an innocuous answer and smiled for the camera. Then he was dismissed and the spotlight was on Cara Lynn and her parents.
"Okay, people," the man in the baseball cap shouted. "That should do it." He turned to Cara Lynn's mother. "We've already taken long shots of the house, so we're out of here. I'll send you proofs and you can determine how many of each you might like to have for your personal remembrances."
All the photographers and engineers and crew headed for the doors. Cara Lynn's mother looked around. "Are we just family and friends now?" she asked the tall, good-looking man standing on the other side of Cara Lynn.
"I think so," the man said. He took advantage of his height and looked around the large open hall. Then he walked over to Jack. "I think you've probably met just about everybody else by now. I'm Lucas Delancey, Cara Lynn's oldest brother. I've been outside keeping an eye on the TV crew." He held out his hand.
Jack shook it. "I'm Jack Bush, but I'm betting you already know that."
Lucas smiled. "Well, I am a detective," he said. "Excuse me." Lucas walked over to the middle of the room and called out. "Hey, everybody. My mother has a presentation to make to our lovely little Cara Lynn. Everybody want to gather around?"
"Now what?" Jack whispered to Cara Lynn.
"I don't know. Nobody ever tells me anything. They spend all their time 'protecting' me." She emphasized the word with air quotes. "All I know is my mother was determined to have a reception for us since we, and I quote, 'deprived her of the North Shore wedding of the season.'"
Cara Lynn took his arm. "Of course. Don't you know how much havoc you created in the Delancey family by sweeping me away to a hurried justice of the peace wedding and no honeymoon and worst of all, no media coverage?"
"Then I guess I apologize."
"Don't apologize to me. Why do you think I agreed to elope? Save the apologies for my mother."
Jack watched as she, like everyone else in the room, turned toward Betty Delancey.
"Hello," Betty said from the front of the room. "I want to thank all of you for coming."
Jack tuned out most of what Betty said. Instead, he paid attention to the man with the lockbox, wondering when he was going to open the mysterious container, and of course, what was inside it. His grandfather had always talked about Lilibelle Guillame Delancey's last journal, the one she'd written in compulsively for hours and hours during the days following Con Delancey's death.
He heard Lilibelle's name and turned his attention back to what Betty was saying as she began to explain why Cara Lynn had been left a special inheritance from her grandmother, Lilibelle Guillame.
"She was the youngest child and the only granddaughter," Betty said, "since at the time we all thought her dear cousin Rosemary was dead."
There were murmurs and whispers all around Jack. He couldn't, by any means, remember all the people he'd met tonight. After all, he knew that in addition to the eleven grandchildren and their spouses, there were other relatives and some close friends present.
Then her mother called Cara Lynn up to the front and gave a short, sweet speech about what a joy it was to have her as a daughter, while at the same time managing to sneak in a small admonishment about her having eloped.
"Your grandmother died when you were twelve. She always said that part of the legacy of the Delanceys was that there were very few girls born to the family. She wanted to leave something very special to her granddaughters. Rosemary, of course, received the mono-grammed Delancey silver service for twenty-four when she graduated from high school. And for you, Cara Lynn, she left you her journals. She wrote in them daily, starting when she was twelve years old. She also left you the contents of this box." Betty indicated the box.
The man holding the box set it carefully on the table near him and unlocked it.
"Come Cara, see what you have and show everyone."
Cara Lynn walked up and kissed her mother on the cheek. Then she stepped over to the metal box and lifted the lidand gasped aloud.
The murmurs and whispers started up again as some of the crowd pushed closer, hoping to get a first glimpse of the contents. She reached inside and pulled out a beautiful, pale beige leather-bound journal. The cacophony of voices increased when she held it up.
Beside Jack, a tall thin man gasped and muttered something under his breath. Jack glanced at him, but his attention was glued to Cara Lynn, or more specifically, to the journal in her hand.
"What is it?" a voice chimed in.
"Is that one of Grandmother's journals?" another voice called.
Cara Lynn opened the book and looked at the first page. Her face brightened with delight. "It is. I have the full set, so this one must be the last journal she kept, from the year my grandfather died."
Jack's heart leapt into his throat and he remembered his grandfather's words. On the day Con died, all she did was write in that book. The police were investigating the scene and questioning us and she just sat there and scribbled. She had to be writing down what happened. If I could just get my hands on that book, I know it contains the truth.
Jack looked around him, but he garnered no information from the peoples' reactions. Everybody seemed mesmerized by the sight of the journal.
Betty walked over and stood beside her daughter.
"But that's not all, dear, is it?"
Cara Lynn held the journal tucked under one arm and reached back into the box with her other hand. She pulled out something that was wrapped in what looked like an ancient, frayed piece of linen or cotton.
"Unwrap it, darling," her mother said, clasping her hands together in front of her, a look of unabashed anticipation and excitement on her face.
Jack held his breath just like a lot of other people in the room. He knew what Cara Lynn was holding.
"Mom, I'll hold it if you'll unwrap it," Cara Lynn said, apparently unwilling to let go of the journal. Betty carefully lifted each corner of the delicate-looking cloth and let it fall over Cara Lynn's hand. The slow reveal allowed the diamonds and rubies and sapphires and emeralds in the tiara to sparkle and shine to maximum effect.
Cara Lynn gasped, as did the entire room. Whether by accident or design, Betty had chosen the perfect place to reveal the tiara for the first time. They were standing under a huge crystal chandelier, which caught the reflections from the gems and turned them into thousands of multicolored sparks of light that danced across the walls and floor.
Cara Lynn turned the tiara so she could look at the large diamond in its center. The whispers and murmurs grew louder and louder until within a few seconds, the sound was deafening.
Jack himself was mesmerized, but not by the sparkly tiara, nor the journal under Cara Lynn's arm. He was caught by the open, unfettered joy on his wife's face.
"Oh," she said, clutching the journal more tightly and looking from the tiara out over the crowd of people, 80 percent of whom were related to her. "I can barely speak," she said breathlessly, her gaze sweeping across the faces until she met Jack's. The smile that shone on her face made him want to cry. "I've never been so happy as I am right now."