Home > Devil's Cut (The Bourbon Kings #3)

Devil's Cut (The Bourbon Kings #3)
Author: J. R. Ward

Dramatis Personae

 

Virginia Elizabeth Bradford Baldwine, also known as Little V.E.: Widow of William Baldwine, mother of Edward, Max, Lane, and Gin Baldwine, and a direct descendant of Elijah Bradford, the originator of Bradford bourbon. A recluse with a chemical dependency on prescription pills, there are many reasons for her addiction, some of which threaten the very fabric of the family.

William Wyatt Baldwine: Deceased husband of Little V.E. and father, with her, of Edward, Max, Lane, and Gin Baldwine. Also father of a son by the family’s now deceased controller, Rosalinda Freeland. Also the father of an unborn child by his son Lane’s soon-to-be ex-wife, Chantal. Chief executive officer of the Bradford Bourbon Company when he was alive. A man of low moral standards, great aspirations, and few scruples, whose body was recently found on the far side of the Falls of the Ohio.

Edward Westfork Bradford Baldwine: Eldest son of Little V.E. and William Baldwine. Formally the heir apparent to the mantle of the Bradford Bourbon Company. Now a shadow of his previous self, the result of a tragic kidnapping and torture engineered by his own father. Edward has turned his back on his family and retired to the Red & Black Stables.

Maxwell Prentiss Baldwine: Second-eldest son of Little V.E. and William Baldwine. Black sheep of the family, who has been away from Easterly, the historic Bradford estate in Charlemont, Kentucky, for years. Sexy, scandalous, and rebellious, his return to the fold is problematic for a number of people in, and outside of, the family.

Jonathan Tulane Baldwine, known as “Lane”: Youngest son of Little V.E. and William Baldwine. Reformed playboy and consummate poker player, he is in the throes of a divorce from his first wife. With the family’s fortunes in turmoil, and embezzlement rife at the Bradford Bourbon Company, he has been forced into the role of family leader and must rely now more than ever on his one true love, Lizzie King.

Virginia Elizabeth Baldwine Pford, known as “Gin”: Youngest offspring and only daughter of Little V.E. and William Baldwine. Previously a rebellious contrarian who thrived on attention, she has been the bane of her family’s existence, especially after having had a child out of wedlock and barely graduating from college. She has just married Richard Pford IV, the heir to a liquor distributing company and fortune.

Amelia Franklin Baldwine: Gin’s daughter with Gin’s one true love, Samuel T. Lodge—although neither Samuel T. nor Amelia is aware of his parentage. Previously a student at Hotchkiss, she is returning to Charlemont to continue her schooling close to her family.

Lizzie King: Horticulturist who has worked at Easterly for nearly a decade and has kept its gardens nationally renowned showcases of rare specimen plants and flowers. Now engaged to her love, Lane, she is fully committed to him and their relationship—however, she is not into his family’s drama.

Samuel Theodore Lodge III: Attorney, sexy Southern gentleman, stylish dresser, and pedigreed, privileged bad boy, he is the only man who has ever gotten through to Gin. He has no idea that Amelia is his daughter.

Sutton Endicott Smythe: Newly elected CEO of the Sutton Distillery Corporation, Bradford Bourbon Company’s biggest rival in the marketplace. In love with Edward for years, she has excelled professionally, but stagnated in her personal life—in large measure because no one compares to Edward.

Shelby Landis: Daughter of Jeb, a thoroughbred racing legend who mentored Edward when it came to horses. A hardworking, strong woman, she takes care of Edward—even when he doesn’t want her to.

Miss Aurora Toms: Easterly’s head chef for decades, capable of serving up soul food or Cordon Bleu cooking with a strong hand and a warm heart. Suffering from terminal cancer. Maternal force in the lives of Lane, Edward, Max, and Gin, and the true moral compass for the children.

Edwin “Mack” MacAllan: Master Distiller of the Bradford Bourbon Company. Cultivating a new strain of yeast, he is racing against time and limited resources to keep the stills running. Has recently met the love of his life, but is worried about the future of the BBC.

Chantal Blair Stowe Baldwine: Lane’s soon-to-be ex-wife. Pregnant with William Baldwine’s illegitimate child. A beauty queen with all the depth of a saucer, she is threatening to expose the paternity of her unborn baby as a way to get more money from Lane in the divorce proceedings.

Rosalinda Freeland: Former controller for the Bradford Family Estate. Committed suicide in her office in the mansion by taking hemlock. Mother to Randolph Damion Freeland, eighteen, whose father was William Baldwine.

 

 

ONE

 


Easterly, the Bradford Family Estate, Charlemont, Kentucky

 

There was someone trespassing down in the garden.

In the lazy, hazy Southern night, beneath the flower-tasseled fruit trees, and between the saucer-sized tea roses and the squads of trimmed boxwood hedges, a figure was inside the ivy’d walls, moving over the brick paths, heading for the back of the mansion like a stalker.

Jonathan Tulane Baldwine squinted and leaned closer into his bedroom window. Whoever it was . . . they were in a crouch and sticking to the shadows, and the efficiency with which they chose their way suggested they knew what they were doing and where they were going. Then again, it wasn’t that hard to find a twenty-thousand-square-foot white birthday cake of a house in the dark.

Turning away from the wavy old glass, he looked to his bed. Lizzie King, the love of his life, was deeply asleep in the pillows, her blond hair gleaming in the moonlight, her tanned shoulder peeking out from the silk sheets.

Funny, these moments of clarity, he thought while he pulled on a pair of boxer shorts. As he considered who it might be, and came up with nothing good, he realized without a doubt that he would kill to protect his woman. Even though she could take care of herself, and he felt like he was relying on her now more than ever . . . if anybody tried to hurt her?

He would put them in a grave faster than his next heartbeat.

With that resolve, he went silently across the Oriental rug to an antique bureau that had been in his family since it had been made in the 1800s. His gun was in the top drawer on the left, under the rolls of finely woven socks he wore with his tuxedos. The nine millimeter was compact, but it had a laser sight, and it was fully loaded.

He disengaged the safety.

Letting himself out into a hall that was long as a city street and appointed with all the grace and formality of the corridors in the White House, he kept the weapon down by his thigh. Easterly had twenty or so family and guest bedroom suites under its prodigious roof, and as he passed by doors, he counted who was inside—or should have been: His younger sister, Gin, although not her new husband, Richard, who was away for business; Amelia, Gin’s sixteen-year-old daughter, who had yet to go back to Hotchkiss for finals; Jeff Stern, Lane’s old college roommate and newly appointed CEO of the Bradford Bourbon Company. And then of course, Lane and Gin’s mother, Little Virginia Elizabeth.

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