Thriller Kay Hooper Rebel Waltz

ISBN 13: 9780553590562

Rebel Waltz

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9780553590562: Rebel Waltz

New York Times bestselling author Kay Hooper tells a timelessly seductive tale of a romance touched by the paranormal and of a woman who opens a door to the unknown and finds a stranger with an irresistible invitation....

With its antebellum setting and gallant history, Jasmine Hall was more than just a business for Banner Clairmont. The lovingly preserved plantation-era inn had been home to the Clairmont family for generations. But the realities of modern real-estate had made it time to sell even the most priceless treasures. So it was hardly with a great deal of enthusiasm that Banner led real-estate speculator Rory Stewart around the property. How could this stranger—whose southern charm and universal good looks made it impossible to entirely distrust him—have any idea of Jasmine Hall’s true value? Yet what was Banner to make of the fact that Rory had seen the ghosts that never showed themselves to outsiders? Was he destined not only to save the Hall but to live there? Was his fate entangled with hers? Or was she banking too much on an old family legend ... and wishful thinking?

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About the Author:

Kay Hooper is the award-winning author of Blood Dreams, Sleeping with Fear, Hunting Fear, Chill of Fear, Touching Evil, Whisper of Evil, Sense of Evil, Once a Thief, Always a Thief, the Shadows trilogy, and other novels. She lives in North Carolina, where she is at work on her next book.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One


Spanish moss hung from the towering trees, draping branches, shadowing the drive in coolness. It should have looked gloomy, but didn’t, somehow. Sunlight filtered through the leaves and moss to create a mosaic on the hard-packed ground.

 Rory stood leaning against the opened car door, gazing around and noting that Nature had been allowed to encroach on what had once, probably, been stunningly beautiful land. The woods were now thickly grown with brambles  and nearly impassable; the distant pasture, although obviously still cultivated for hay, was surrounded by a once-white three-rail fence that looked more imagined than real; a gazebo nearly invisible beneath years of ivy strove valiantly to remain standing; and the driveway was packed dirt with not a trace of gravel or pavement, but many a deep rut. 

His cool gray eyes measuring, Rory calculated what it would take to restore the land. A riding path through the woods, he mused, and a footpath and benches for guests in need of shaded solitude. The old gazebo torn down and another constructed. The stables weren’t visible, but probably they, too, would need a major overhaul. 

He thought of the other plantations he’d purchased and converted into resort-type hotels, then looked steadily up the tree-lined drive to the house. Outwardly, it was in better shape than most of the few remaining privately owned plantations. It possessed wide, shallow steps, a veranda extending along two sides, solid white Doric columns, and the landscaping near the  building had been kept up. Red brick mellowed by time was decorated here and there by climbing ivy. The shutters appeared to be in good repair and there were no broken windows in sight. Although heaven only knew what rotten floor-boards and moldy draperies awaited him inside inside . . . Jasmine Hall’s noble owner had never allowed cameras inside the place, so Rory hadn’t the faintest idea what he’d find.

 Sighing, he got back into the car and continued up the drive. He’d stay two weeks, as invited, he decided, to look the place over and find out if old Jake Clairmont was really serious this time about selling Jasmine Hall. 

Twice before, the crusty old man had spread the word, only to back out gleefully when Rory and others had expressed interest in buying. The second time had been in Charleston, nearly a year before. The third time, six weeks ago, no one but Rory had taken the bait. And he was still vaguely surprised and slightly suspicious that he  had been promptly invited out to visit the estate. He frowned as he parked the car in the graveled area near the house and got out, wondering if Clairmont had been foxy enough to have weeded out less interested parties by offering to sell the first two times and then retracting his offer. 

It put Rory on guard, his keen business sense wary of an attempt to drive up the price. Although, of course, the place was priceless. Pushing the thought aside, he went up the broad, shallow steps and made use of the shining brass knocker. He had to use it three times, the third time with considerable force, before the heavy solid-oak door finally swung open. And in that moment Rory experienced the somewhat bewildering shock of a man whose entire attention was quite forcibly ripped from all thoughts of business.

 She was an antebellum Southern belle, complete from the raven hair dressed in ringlets to the silk slippers peeping from the hem of her hoop skirt. The gown was emerald silk, off the shoulders  and breathtakingly low-cut, and the faint rustle of each movement announced the presence of at least a dozen petticoats. Her face was heartshaped and delicate, each feature finely drawn by an appreciative artist. She seemed young, perhaps in her early twenties, although the costume might have been deceptive. 

And Rory thought dizzily that Scarlett O’Hara had a rival here in green eyes and an impossibly tiny waist. 

“Whatever you’re selling, we don’t want any.”

 If her voice was soft and drawling, her tone at least was thoroughly modern and more than a little impatient. And there was faint surprise in her eyes as she stared up at him, a tiny frown of puzzlement on her forehead. 

Rory pulled himself together with determination, leaving his questions for later. “My name’s Stewart–Rory Stewart. Mr. Clairmont is expecting me.” 

“Oh.” Sea-green eyes looked him up and down thoughtfully–and with faint hostility?– before focusing on his face. “You’re early; we weren’t expecting you until tomorrow,” she said abruptly. Rory ignored the rudeness. “I finished my business in Charleston this morning and decided to get an early start. Unless that’s inconvenient, Miss–?” 

“Clairmont. Banner Clairmont. Jake’s my grandfather.” 

Uncomfortably aware of the measuring green eyes holding that slight animosity, Rory reminded himself sternly that Scarlett O’Hara had been a lady only skin deep . . . and sometimes not even that. “If it’s inconvenient–?” he repeated steadily. 

“No. No, I suppose not.” She stepped back, gown rustling, and allowed him into the foyer. “Come in.” 

Rory’s second shock came upon entering the house. He was experienced in detecting attempts to camouflage decaying old mansions with paint and paper in order to have them fetch a higher price, and knew full well that most southern families never sold out until they simply could not afford the upkeep of their mansions. He had assumed Jake Clairmont to be in that majority, after seeing the condition of the property surrounding the house. 

But Jasmine Hall was fully restored and absolutely beautiful.

 He stood in silence, staring about him, his innate love of these historic old homes nearly overpowering him as he saw the foyer as it was meant to be and probably had been a century before. 

The wide twin staircases flanking either side of the vast foyer, polished wood gleaming and thick carpet deeply red and spotless. The sparkling chandelier. The antique tables holding priceless vases and figurines. The Old Masters hanging on the walls. The marble floor dotted here and there with intricately woven rugs. 

A myriad of thoughts crowded Rory’s mind. The old man was toying with him; he couldn’t mean to sell this treasure. If he could afford to maintain it in this prime condition . . . It would cost the earth if Clairmont were serious. But . . . dear Lord, wouldn’t he love to own this! He’d mortgage practically everything he possessed to have this house. And no resort hotel here. No, this was a home meant to hold a family. But there was no way he possibly could justify the expense; it was impractical and impossible and . . . and damn Clairmont for the tormenting old devil he was!

 Only then did Rory snap out of his trance and realize that the “old devil’s” granddaughter had been watching him steadily. He fought to hide what must have been hunger in his eyes, turning to her and waiting politely for her to lead the way. He was faintly surprised to observe that her animosity had vanished, to be replaced by a speculative curiosity, but she gave him no opportunity to probe it. 

“This way,” she said, gesturing for him to follow as she headed across the foyer to a set of huge, beautifully carved double doors. She flung one of them open, rustling into a room revealed to be a library as beautifully restored as the foyer and announcing with a hint of mockery in her soft voice. “You have a visitor, Jake.” 

Rising from a leather wing chair by the fireplace, Jake Clairmont set aside the book he’d apparently been reading and immediately came forward with hand outstretched to greet Rory. He was a benign old man in appearance, tall and slender, with a full head of silver hair and the slightly leathery skin of a man who’d spent most of his life outdoors. His lean body was hard and still powerful though he was in his sixties, and he moved with certainty and grace. The mild serenity of his expression was belied by the acuteness of his vivid green eyes.

 Quite suddenly, Rory remembered overhearing from the lips of one of Clairmont’s closest friends that Jake was half hawk and half shark, and that the only living soul capable of making him bow to another’s wishes was the granddaughter he adored. 

“Rory! Glad you could make it, my boy. Welcome!” 

The “my boy,” Rory reflected musingly,  would have been patronizing from anyone else’s lips; from Clairmont it sounded entirely natural and amiable. Suspicious, Rory wondered what the old shark was up to. “Thank you, Jake,” he responded mildly. “It’s good to see you again.” “You’ve met Banner, I see.” Half statement, half question.

 Glanc...

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