—Greensboro News & Record
“The always-funny Susan Elizabeth Phillips…has the heat turned up all the way for this one.”
—Detroit Free Press
The only four-time recipient of the Romance Writer’s of America’s prestigious Favorite Book of the Year Award, the incomparable Susan Elizabeth Phillips is one of America’s most beloved authors—and Lady Be Good is one of the perennial New York Times bestseller’s hottest, funniest, and most delightfully wild romance novels. The uproarious tale of a proper English headmistress hell-bent on destroying her reputation and a disgraced Texas athlete playboy determined to salvage his own, Lady Be Good is funny, sexy, and irrefutable proof of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s assertion that “Next to Tracy and Hepburn, no one does romantic comedy better than Susan Elizabeth Phillips.”
Related collections and offers
About the Author
Place of Birth:Cincinnati, Ohio
Education:B.F.A., Ohio University
Read an Excerpt
Kenny Traveler was lazy. That explained why he'd fallen asleep in TWA's Ambassador Club at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport instead of promptly meeting British Airways Flight 2193 at the gate. Pure laziness, plus the fact that he didn't want to meet Flight 2193.
Unfortunately, the entrance of a noisy pair of businessmen awakened him. He took his time stretching, then yawned for a while. A nice-looking woman in a short gray suit smiled at him, and he smiled back. He glanced at his watch and saw he was half an hour late. He yawned again. Stretched.
"Excuse me," the woman said. "I'm sorry to bother you, but ... you look so familiar. Aren't you"
"Yes, ma'am, I am." He tilted his Stetson and gave her a grin that still had a little yawn clinging to the edges. "And I'm flattered you recognize me outside the rodeo ring. Most people don't."
She looked confused. "Rodeo? I'm sorry. I thought you were ... You look so much like Kenny Traveler, the pro golfer."
"Golfer? Me? Oh, no, ma'am. I'm way too young to play an old man's game like golf. I like real sports."
"Rodeo. Now that's a real sport. Football, too, and basketball." He slowly unfolded all six feet two inches of himself from the chair. "When it comes to tennis, though, that's when things start getting iffy. And golf isn't something a real man wants to get too close to."
The gray suit hadn't been born yesterday, and she smiled. "Still, I seem to remember watching you win the AT&T and theBuick Invitational on TV this winter. I swear I thought Tiger was going to break into tears during that last round at Torrey Pines." Her smile faded. "I still can't believe that Commissioner Beau"
"I'd appreciate it, ma'am, if you didn't speak the name of the Antichrist in front of me."
"Sorry. How long do you think your suspension'll last?"
Kenny glanced down at his gold Rolex. "I guess that might depend on how long it takes me to get to British Airways?"
"Real nice talkin' to you, ma'am." He tipped his Stetson and ambled from the lounge.
One of his unhappy ex-girlfriends had pointed out that Kenny's amble was really the closest thing he had to a full-out run. But Kenny'd never seen much point in wasting energy anyplace but on the golf course. He liked to take things slow and easy, although lately that had been tough.
He ambled past the newsstand, refusing to look at the newspapers that were carrying the story of his recent suspension by acting PGA Commissioner Dallas Fremont Beaudine, a suspension that was taking place in the middle of the hottest winning streak in the history of professional golf and was going to keep him from playing in the Masters less than two weeks away.
He nodded toward a businessman who had that over-eager expression people frequently wore when they spotted his semi-famous face. He could tell the man was from the north because he said his name all-proper instead of pronouncing it "Kinny" like God's people did.
He kicked up his amble half a notch just in case the businessman took it in his head to relive Kenny's triumphant final round at Bay Hill last month. A big-haired, tight-jeaned woman gave him the twice-over, but she didn't look like a PGA fan, so Kenny figured it was his good looks had attracted her.
A former girlfriend had said that, if Hollywood ever made a movie of Kenny's life, the only star pretty enough to play him on the screen was Pierce Brosnan. That had sent Kenny right through the roof. Not because she'd called him pretty, which he could sort of understand, but her casting choice. He'd told her right then that the only way he'd ever let Pierce Brosnan play him was if they rumpled Pierce up first, got rid of that prissy foreign accent, then fed him enough chicken-fried steak so he didn't look like the first storm out of West Texas would blow him over. But most of all, they'd have to teach old Pierce exactly how God intended for a man to swing a golf club.
All the walking was making him tired.
He stopped to rest at a cart selling nuts and candy, bought himself some Jelly Bellys, flirted just enough with the Mexican cutie working there to convince her to pull out the banana-flavored ones. Although he liked his Jelly Bellys mixed up, he didn't like the banana, but, since it took too much effort to pull them out himself, he generally tried to talk someone else into doing it. If that didn't work, he just ate 'em.
The British Airways gate was deserted, so he leaned against one of the support columns, pulled a handful of Jelly Bellys from the bag, and tilted them into his mouth while he thought about things, mainly how much he wanted to wring the neck of a certain Francesca Serritella Day Beaudine, celebrity wife of the Antichrist acting PGA commissioner, and a woman who was supposed to be his friend.
"Just do this one small favor for me, Kenny," she'd said. "If you'll take care of Emma for the next two weeks, I guarantee I'll talk Dallie into cutting the length of your suspension. You'll miss the Masters, but"
"Now, how are you gonna do that?" he'd inquired.
"Never question my methods when it comes to dealing with my husband."
He didn't. Everybody knew that Francesa didn't have to do much more than look at Dallie Beaudine to melt him down, even though they'd been married for twelve years.
A high-pitched child's squeal, followed by a cheerful British voice, distracted him.
"Do let go of your sister's hair, Reggie, or I shall be quite cross with you. And there's no need to carry on so, Penny. If you hadn't licked him, he wouldn't have hit you."
He turned around, then grinned as he saw a woman barreling around the corner with two young children in tow. The first thing he noticed was her hat, a perky little straw number with a turned-up brim and a cluster of cherries bobbing at the center. She wore a gauzy green skirt printed with roses and a loose-fitting rose-colored top that matched a pair of trim little flats.
In one hand she clutched a young boy, along with a purse the size of Montana. In the other hand, she held a mean-faced little girl, an umbrella that was printed with more flowers, and a raspberry-red tote bag bulging with newspapers, books, and another colorful umbrella. Her light brown hair curled this way and that from beneath the brim of her hat, and whatever makeup she'd started out the day with had long ago worn off.
Which was probably a good thing, Kenny decided, because even without lipstick, she had about the sexiest mouth he'd ever seen. It was wide, with a plump bottom lip, and a top lip that held a distinct bow at the center. Despite her frivolous clothing, her jaw was firm. But her cheeks were baby doll round, the bones fine. Her nose was a little narrow, but not narrow enough to make him lose interest, because she also had an amazing pair of thick-lashed golden brown eyes.
He mentally redressed her in a tight top, short skirt, and a pair of stiletto heels, then added black fishnet stockings for good measure. He'd never paid for sex in his life, but he decided he'd be more than happy to throw a little extra cash her way if she ever decided she needed to earn something on the side to pay for her kids' orthodontics work.
To his surprise, she looked over at him. "Mr. Traveler?"
Fantasy was one thing, reality another, and as he gazed from her to the noisy kids, he got a sinking sensation in his stomach. The fact that she seemed to be expecting him indicated this could only be Lady Emma Wells-Finch, the woman Kenny had agreed to baby-sit for the next two weeks. But Francesca hadn't mentioned anything about kids.
He realized too late that he'd automatically nodded in response to her question instead of heading right out of DFW and straight for his Caddy. Except he couldn't do that because, more than anything, he needed to get back on the tour.
"Splendid!" She beamed. At the same time, she charged forward, skirts whirling, dragging the children and umbrellas, while her newspapers and magazines waved in the breeze and her butterscotch hair flew.
Just looking at her made him tired.
She let go of the little girl, grabbed Kenny's hand, and began to pump it. For a small woman, she had a lot of pump. "Delighted to meet you, Mr. Traveler." The cherries bobbed on her perky straw hat. "Emma Wells-Finch."
The little boy drew back his sneaker and, before Kenny could move, kicked him hard in the shin. "I don't like you!"
Kenny glared at the kid, thought about smacking him, then considered smacking Francesca instead, right after he gave her his opinion of low-down blackmailers.
Lady Emma turned to the kid, but instead of whalin' him like he deserved, she frowned. "Reggie, dear, take your finger out of your nose. It's most unattractive, isn't it? And apologize to Mr. Traveler."
The kid wiped his finger on Kenny's jeans.
Kenny was just getting ready to slam-dunk the little brat when a harried-looking woman came rushing up. "Thank you, Emma dear, for watching them for me. Reggie, Penelope, were you good for Miss Wells-Finch?"
"Perfect angels," Lady Emma replied, her tone so sincere that Kenny choked on the sour apple Jelly Belly that had been lurking in the corner of his mouth.
Lady Emma ended up pounding him on the back. Unfortunately, she pounded like she pumped hands, and he swore to God he felt a rib crack. When he got his breath back, the Children of the Damned had disappeared, along with their mother.
"Well ..." Lady Emma smiled at him. "Here we are."
Kenny felt dizzy. Part of it might have been his busted rib, but most of it was trying to get his mind to make the connection between all that upper crust British cheer and a face that should have a streetlight shining down on it.
While Kenny was recovering, Emma made an assessment of her own. As the headmistress of St. Gertrude's School for Girls for the past two years, in addition to having been a teacher there, as well as a St. Gert's student from the time she was six, she had grown accustomed to sizing people up quickly. It only took her a moment to conclude that this All-American cowboy was exactly what she neededa man with more good looks than character.
Crisp black hair curled from beneath the brim of a biscuit-colored Stetson that looked so at home on his head it might have been permanently attached. His navy T-shirt, printed with a Cadillac logo, displayed a more than respectable chest, and faded jeans molded to narrow hips and legs that were both lean and muscular. She noted the hand-tooled cowboy boots. They were nicely broken in, but she wasn't surprised to see that they didn't seem to have come close to a load of manure. He had a thin blade of a nose, strong cheekbones, a well-formed mouth, and straight white teeth. And his eyes. The color of wild hyacinths and marsh violets. Outrageous for a man to have eyes like that.
Her cursory inspection also told her everything she needed to know about his character. She saw indolence in his slouching posture, arrogance in the angle of his head, and the flicker of something unmistakably carnal in those half-lidded marsh violet eyes.
She repressed a small shiver. "Let's be off, then, Mr. Traveler. You're a bit late, aren't you? I do hope no one has taken my luggage." She extended her carry-ail for him to take, but she hit his chest instead. The Times fell out, along with the new biography of Sam Houston she'd been reading, and one of the chocolate bars her hips didn't need, but which she enjoyed nonetheless.
She bent to pick everything up just as he took a step forward. Her straw brim bumped his knee, and her hat flew off to join the pile on the floor.
She set it back over her unruly curls. "Sorry." She wasn't normally clumsy, but she'd been so distracted by her troubles lately that her best friend, Penelope Briggs, told her she was in imminent danger of turning into one of those "dotty, dear things" so beloved by British mystery writers.
The idea of becoming a "dotty, dear thing" when she was barely thirty depressed her unbearably, so she didn't let herself think about it. Besides, if everything went according to plan, that worry would disappear.
He didn't help collect her possessions, nor did he offer to take her carry-all when she was done, but how much initiative could one expect from a man who had been born so physically blessed?
"Let's be off, then." She pointed the proper direction with her rolled umbrella.
She had nearly reached the end of the gate area before she realized he wasn't following her. She turned to see what was wrong.
He was staring at her extended brolly. It was a perfectly ordinary brolly, and she couldn't imagine why he seemed so mesmerized by it. Maybe he was more slow-witted than she'd originally thought.
"You ... uh ... always point the direction like that?" he asked.
She glanced down at her floral brolly and wondered what on earth he was talking about. "We need to go to luggage claim," she explained patiently, jiggling the handle just a bit for emphasis.
"I know that."
He developed a slightly dazed look. "Never mind."
Once he began to move, she set off. Her gauzy skirt swirled around her legs, and a lock of hair blew across her cheek. She probably should have taken a few minutes to tidy up a bit before she'd got off the plane, but she'd been so busy entertaining the children who were seated across from her that she hadn't thought of it.
"Mr. Traveler, it occurs to me ..." She realized she was talking to herself.
She stopped, looked back, and spotted him gazing into the window of a souvenir shop. She stood patiently tapping her foot while she waited for him to join her.
He continued to stare into the window.
With a sigh, she marched back to join him. "Is something wrong?"
"We need to get my luggage."
He looked up. "I was thinking I might like a new key chain."
"You wish to buy one now?"
He sidled six inches to the left to get a better view.
"Mr. Traveler, I really think we should carry on."
"See, I've got this Gucci key chain a friend of mine gave me a couple years ago. But I don't much like things with other people's initials on them."
"You received this key chain a few years ago?"
She remembered a sermon she'd once heard about the way God sometimes compensated human beings who were born handicapped in one area by richly endowing them in another. Someone who was born with exceptional good looks, for example, might be dull-witted. A pang of compassion struck her, along with a sense of relief. His denseness would make the next two weeks so much easier. "Very well. I'll wait."
He continued to study the display.
Her arms were beginning to ache from the combined weight of her carry-ons. She finally extended her carry-all. "Would you mind taking this for me?"
He regarded it doubtfully. "It looks heavy."
"Yes. It is."
He nodded vaguely, then returned his attention to the window.
She switched the carry-all to her other arm. Finally, she couldn't stand it any longer. "Would you like some help?"
"Oh, I can pay for it myself."
"That's not what I meant. Would you like some help making your selection?"
"Now, see, that's what got me into trouble in the first place. I let somebody else choose my key chain."
Her shoulders had begun to scream in protest. "Mr. Traveler, we really have to be going now, don't we? Perhaps you could do this some other time?"
"I s'pose I could, but the selection might not be as good."
Her patience frayed. "Very well, then! Get the one with the cowboy on it."
"Yeah? You like that one?"
She forced her jaw to unclench. "I adore it."
"The cowboy it is." Looking pleased, he walked into the shop, paused on the way to admire a display of tea towels, then took forever to chat with the attractive young woman behind the counter. Finally, he emerged with a small package, which he immediately deposited in her cramped fingers. "Here you go."
He looked exasperated. "The key chain. You said you liked the cowboy."
"The key chain was for you!"
"Now, why would I want a key chain with a cowboy on it when I've got a perfectly good Gucci in my pocket?"
He took off down the corridor, and she could have sworn she heard him whistling "Hail Britannia."
Twenty minutes later, they were standing in the parking garage while Emma stared at his car in dismay. It was a large American luxury automobile, a late-model champagne-colored Cadillac Eldorado. "I can't possibly afford this."
He unlocked the trunk with a flick of his wrist. "Beg pardon?"
Emma did an excellent job managing St. Gert's finances, but a poor one managing her own. Since the old buildings were expensive to maintain, there was never enough money, and when the school desperately needed a new copying machine or piece of laboratory equipment, Emma had developed the habit of dipping into her own pockets. As a result, she was operating on a tight budget.
She couldn't quite hide her embarrassment. "I'm afraid there's been some mistake, Mr. Traveler. I have a limited budget. When I told Francesca I could only afford to pay my driver fifty dollars a day, she indicated that would cover your services. But it can't possibly be enough for the use of a car like this."
"Fifty dollars a day?"
She wanted to believe her head was pounding from jet lag, but she'd always been a good traveler, and she suspected her headache came from frustration. Communicating with this gorgeous fool was more difficult than dealing with her slowest students. Not only did he move like a snail, but he didn't seem to understand any of her instructions. Even after the incident with the key chain, it had taken her forever to get him to baggage claim.
"This is quite embarrassing. I thought Francesca would have discussed all this with you. You're expecting more than fifty dollars, aren't you?"
He lifted her two heavy suitcases into the boot with surprisingly little effort, considering that, only moments earlier, he'd acted as if carrying those same bags out to his car posed a major threat to his skeletal system. Once again, her eyes strayed to the well-developed muscles his T-shirt didn't quite conceal. Wouldn't a person actually have to expend energy to build muscles like that?
"I guess it depends on what all besides driving that fifty dollars is supposed to cover." He took her carry-all and tossed it next to her suitcase. Then he regarded her handbag. "I'm surprised the airlines didn't make you check that thing. Do you want it in the trunk, too?"
"No, thank you." Her headache had traveled from her temples to the back of her neck. "Perhaps we should return to the terminal where we can sit down and discuss all this."
"Too far to walk." He crossed his arms and leaned against the trunk.
As she considered how much to tell him, she gazed at the cheery April sunshine outside the parking garage and thought what a contrast it provided to her dismal thoughts. "I taught history before I became headmistress at St. Gert's, and"
"You really go around calling yourself that? A Head Mistress?"
"It's what I do."
He looked vastly amused. "For proper people, you British sure do have some racy job titles."
If another American had twitted her about this, she would have laughed, but there was something about his manner that made her get as starchy as Helen Pruitt, the chemistry teacher. "Be that as it may ..." She paused as the stuffy phrase echoed in her ears. She even sounded like Helen Pruitt. "I've spent the past year working on a paper about Lady Sarah Thornton, an Englishwoman who traveled through Texas during the 1870s. She also happened to be a St. Gert's girl. The paper's nearly done, but I need access to several of the libraries here to finish it, and since I have a break between the spring and summer terms, this seemed like a good time for the trip. Francesca recommended you as my guide, and she indicated that fifty dollars a day would pay for your services."
"As my guide," she repeated. "My driver."
"Uh-huh. Well, I'm glad to hear that's all you've got in mind, 'cause when you said services, I thought you might have meant something else, in which case fifty dollars wouldn't nearly cover it."
He still looked amused, although she didn't understand why. "There'll be quite a bit of driving. In addition to Dallas, I need to visit the library at the University of Texas, and"
"Driving? That's all you want."
It wasn't nearly all she wanted, but now wasn't the time to mention that she would also need him to introduce her to the seamier side of Texas life. "It is a large state."
"No. I meant no other services."
"What other services do you offer?"
He grinned. "Tell you what. I'll start you out with the basic package, and then we can talk about add-ons later."
With her limited funds, she wasn't comfortable with uncertainty. "I always think it's better to clear up things right from the beginning, don't you agree?"
"We're clear enough for now." He moved toward the passenger side of the car and opened the door for her to slide inside. "You're paying me fifty dollars a day to drive you around for two weeks."
"I have a list."
"I'll just bet you do. Watch your skirt there." He slammed the door, then got in on the other side. "You could save money, you know, by buying a couple of road maps and driving yourself." He shut his door and slid the key in the ignition. The spacious interior of the car smelled like gracious living, and the image of the Duke of Beddington sprang into her mind. She pushed it away. "I don't drive," she said.
"Everybody over the age of fourteen drives." With the barest glance over his shoulder, he backed out of the parking space, then headed toward the exit. "How long have you known Francesca?" He swung out onto the roadway.
She peeled her eyes from the Cadillac's speedometer, which, from her vantage point, seemed to be climbing at an alarming rate. She forced herself to pretend that it registered kilometers.
"I met her several years ago when her production company chose the grounds at St. Gert'sthey're quite lovelyto film an interview she was doing for Francesa Today with several British actors. We enjoyed each other's company, and we've kept in touch ever since. I'd planned to visit her while I was here, but she and her husband have temporarily moved to Florida."
Planes flew to Florida, too, Kenny thought. He was beginning to suspect Francesca knew exactly what a pain in the butt Lady Emma could be and that's why she'd deliberately dumped her on him.
"About your expenses ..." Lady Emma looked worried as she regarded his Caddy. "This is such a large car. The cost of petrol alone must be prohibitive."
A small crease formed in her forehead, and she began to chew on her bottom lip. He wished she wouldn't do that. It was the damnedest thing. She'd annoyed the hell out of him from the moment she'd first opened her mouth, and he swore to God the next time she pointed at something with her umbrella, he was going to break it over his knee. But seeing that moist two-hundred-dollar-an-hour mouth working away made him wonder how he was going to survive these next two weeks.
The idea popped right into his head and stuck there. He smiled. This was exactly the kind of thinking that had made him a champion on three continents. The best way to avoid killing her was to get her naked as soon as possible. Preferably in the next couple of days.
Moving in on her that fast would be a definite challenge, but Kenny didn't have anything better to do, so he figured he was up to it. He thought of the fifty dollars a day she was supposed to be paying him, then remembered the three million he'd be picking up in commercial endorsements this year and smiled to himself. It was the first time he'd smiled about money since his crooked business manager had landed Kenny in the scandal that had led to his suspension from the pro tour.
His smile turned into a frown as he imagined Francesca's amused reaction when Lady Emma had offered her fifty-dollar fee, and her even greater amusement when she'd decided not to pass that particular tidbit on to Kenny. It never ceased to amaze him that a stony-hearted, steel-eyed bastard like Dallie Beaudine couldn't control his wife better. The only woman who'd ever gotten the best of Kenny had been his crazy mother. But having her nearly ruin his life had taught him lessons he'd never forgotten, and he'd made sure no woman held the upper hand since.
He glanced over at Lady Emma with her butterscotch curls, baby-doll cheeks, floppy pink roses, and bouncing cherries. He'd been maneuvering women all his adult life, and he'd never yet let one of them forget her proper place.
Right underneath him.