V.C. Andrews Willow (De Beers, Book 1)

ISBN 13: 9780671039905

Willow (De Beers, Book 1)

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9780671039905: Willow (De Beers, Book 1)
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All that glitters isn't gold....
Willow
Wealth. Extravagant parties. Celebrity status. These are things Willow De Beers could only dream of -- until now. After discovering deep family secrets in her adoptive father's journal, Willow bids farewell to her North Carolina college town and sets out in search of her birth family amid the ritzy glamour of Palm Beach.
Using an assumed name and pretending to conduct a study of one of the nation's wealthiest communities, Willow takes Florida's gem city by storm and quickly encounters Thatcher Eaton, a young lawyer who sweeps her off her feet. But as Willow spirals into a passionate love affair and becomes intoxicated with the lifestyle of the rich and famous, the dark truth about her birth family threatens her fabulous new life, pushing her to the brink of insanity....

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About the Author:

One of the most popular authors of all time, V.C. Andrews has been a bestselling phenomenon since the publication of Flowers in the Attic, first in the renowned Dollanganger family series, which includes Petals on the Wind, If There Be Thorns, Seeds of Yesterday, and Garden of Shadows. The family saga continues with Christopher’s Diary: Secrets of FoxworthChristopher’s Diary: Echoes of Dollanganger, and Secret Brother. V.C. Andrews has written more than seventy novels, which have sold over 106 million copies worldwide and have been translated into twenty-five foreign languages.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One: Saying Goodbye

I recognized the dean of students' secretary, Mrs. Schwartz, standing in my classroom doorway. She was shifting her weight nervously from one foot to the other and rubbing one palm against the other as if she were sanding down a block of wood. She gave each of my classmates a flashbulb smile as they entered, then quickly turned back to the hallway. I didn't know for certain yet, but I had a hunch she was waiting there for me. As usual, she was dressed in her navy-blue suit with her lace-trimmed white blouse and stiletto shoes -- practically her work uniform.

"Oh, dear," she said, reaching out for me as I approached. She seized my hand and drew me closer. "We have received a rather frantic call from your aunt Agnes Delroy. Apparently, she was unable to reach you at your apartment last night or this morning and has been burning up the telephone lines between here and Charleston," she ran on, obviously infected by my aunt's histrionics. Aunt Agnes often had that effect on people.

I could not tell her why I hadn't been able to receive Aunt Agnes's call. I had spent the night at Allan's apartment, and that wasn't anyone's business but mine. I was positive, however, that Aunt Agnes had been suspicious, especially if she had tried late in the evening, and had overdone her exasperation over failing to reach me. My father's fifty-one-year-old sister was the sort of person who expected that anyone she called or beckoned was just waiting to serve and fulfill her requests. She and I never got along, anyway. She never came out and said it in so many words, but she considered an adopted child somehow inferior, despite my achievements, especially a child whose mother was a patient in a mental clinic.

But even if my adoptive mother had given birth to me, Aunt Agnes would have been critical. I always knew she believed my father had married beneath the family. My adoptive mother came from one of those old Southern families that had lost most of its wealth but desperately clung to its heritage. That was not good enough for Aunt Agnes. Money, heritage, position in society, and certainly power were the pillars upon which she built her church, and if one was weak, the church would collapse.

My father tolerated Aunt Agnes rather than loved her as a sister and once told me that her husband, Uncle Darwood, probably had welcomed the Grim Reaper with open arms, seeing death as an avenue of escape, even though it wasn't any sort of pleasant death. He was a very serious closet alcoholic and had drowned his liver with all his unhappiness.

Talking about Aunt Agnes and Uncle Darwood was one of the few things Daddy and I could have a warm, loving time doing together, basking in each other's laughter, soaking in the warm intimacy of a private hour when we were just father and daughter, alone, almost discovering each other for the very first time. This was some months after my adoptive mother's death, which ironically was the catalyst that finally drew us closer. It was almost as if she had cast a long, deep shadow over Daddy and me, keeping us both hidden from each other most of the time.

"What's wrong, Mrs. Schwartz?" I asked, sucking back my breath and swallowing it down into my lungs, already burning with anxiety.

A few of my classmates lingered just behind her in the room, waiting to hear.

"Your aunt says your father's been rushed to the Spring City General Hospital and you should come as quickly as you can." She pressed her right palm against her chest. It was as if those words had been burning inside her and now she was relieved.

"Why? Has my father been in an accident?" I asked.

It was how my adoptive mother had died less than two years ago, rushing home in the midst of a winter storm that dropped tiny icicles as sharp and as deadly as tiny knives out of the grumbling sky. She was hurrying home to get ready for a charity event. The police said she misjudged a turn and spun in circles in her small Mercedes before she hit the guardrail and went over and over, down into oblivion. I was sure she died upset that she wasn't properly dressed for it.

I remember thinking how horrible it all was, but I also remember I didn't cry as any other daughter would have done. I didn't feel that wrenching in my gut that comes when someone close to you is ripped away, and I felt guilty about that afterward. I even considered that my lack of emotion was indeed evidence of some mental problem, that maybe she had been right about me all along.

"No. It's heart trouble, I'm afraid," Mrs. Schwartz replied, her face so dark with sorrow she looked as if she were already at his funeral. "She said you should get right there. I'm sorry, dear. I'll see that all of your teachers know why you're not attending classes."

There is a moment after you hear bad news when your body goes into rebellion. You've heard shocking words. Everything is processed in your mind, but your brain becomes like those change machines that keep sending your dollar bill back out at you because it's creased or torn or put in upside down. The bad news has to be reprocessed and reprocessed until, finally, it takes hold and sinks down through your spine, ordering your defiant shoulders and hips and legs to obey the commands and turn you around so you can leave.

My lungs seemed to fill completely with hot air, threatening to explode. I was sure I would be blown to pieces right in front of everyone. All I could do was hold my breath and bite down on my lower lip to keep myself from bursting into tears.

As I walked away, I heard Mrs. Schwartz's stilettos clicking over the floor behind me, building in rhythm like a drumroll, chasing me out the door and to my car in the student parking lot. Daddy had made me a

present of the car a week before I was to leave for my second year of college. My intention was to go into psychology myself and perhaps become a school psychologist. I wanted to work with young people because, based on my own experience growing up, I thought I could have the best effect on someone's life if I could get to him or her early enough.

When I arrived at my apartment, I played back my answering machine and heard Aunt Agnes's annoyed voice crying, "Where are you? Why aren't you home at this hour, especially when I need to talk with you? Call me immediately, no matter how late." Her voice trailed off with "I wouldn't think a college student could stay out this late."

I phoned Allan and told him the news. I knew he would still be at home. He had a late-morning class and then a full afternoon, including an important exam for which he had to study.

"I've already called for a cab to take me to the airport," I told him.

I hadn't, but I knew how he hated distractions whenever he had an exam. Still, I wished he would volunteer to come by and take me to the airport. It wasn't only because I didn't want to leave my car there. I wanted to be hugged and reassured before I boarded the plane.

Allan and I had been going together for nearly a year. We had met at a college mixer when I was a freshman. Barely eighteen at the time, I was hardly a worldly woman and, unlike most of my girlfriends, could easily count on one hand how many boys I had even cared to consider as boyfriends. I used to worry that I was incapable of a serious relationship, but the truth was most of the boys I had known always seemed immature to me. Maybe I was too demanding, expecting somehow to find a younger version of my father: serious but not solemn, confident but not arrogant.

Allan seemed that way to me the first time I met him. Besides being a very good-looking man with a strong, masculine mouth, a perfect nose in size and shape, and strikingly dark blue eyes, Allan had a sureness about him, a steady focus that caused him to stand head and shoulders above the young college men around me who were still very obvious and insecure. Their laughter gushed like broken water pipes. Their courage came from beer and whiskey and shattered in the morning with the light of reality. Like vampires, they avoided mirrors. If they were so disappointing to themselves, I thought, what would they be to me?

"Good," Allan said. "Call me as soon as you find out what's happening," he added, hurrying me off the phone, which was a great disappointment to me, even though I knew he was doing it to get back to those books and notes and pursuit of his career. Sometimes, I wished I were competing with another woman. At least then I'd have a fighting chance.

"Okay." My voice cracked even over one simple word. I was already in a tight ball. Still, I managed to throw together a carry-on bag and call for the taxi.

I had to fly to Columbia, South Carolina. It wasn't a long trip, but the next scheduled flight wasn't for another hour and a half, and I found that nothing I did, read, or looked at on television in the airport calmed me down very much. If I glanced at my watch once, I glanced at it twenty times. I was still far too numb to take note of any of the people around me, the activity and noise. Finally, I heard the call for my flight and went to the gate. My heart was thumping.

Daddy's heart had given him trouble? How could this be? He was only fifty-nine. I knew of no warnings, but I also knew my father was capable of hiding something like that from me. I had no idea yet how much he did hide, how much of a man of secrets he had been.

As childish and unrealistic as it was, I simply saw my father as invulnerable, someone so strong and so powerful that he was beyond the reach of ordinary tragedy and illness. It would take the act of some supernatural being, some wicked mythological god, to bring him down into the real world where mere mortals lived. I couldn't recall him ever being seriously ill. Except for an occasional cold, he seemed above it all. Even with a cough and a cold, he managed to go to work.

Everything he did in his life was always well organized, methodical, measured. For as long as I could remember, he ate the same things for breakfast: half a grapefruit, a mixture of oat and wheat bran cereals with strawberries, a cup of coffee, and, occasionally, a slice of four-grain bread. On weekends, he substituted the homemade date and nut bread Amou prepared, and on special occasions, he had her cheese and mushroom omelet with pieces of fruit cut perfectly to frame it on his plate.

Everything that was his in our house was kept in its proper place. I doubted that I would ever meet or get to know a neater man. He used to joke about himself and say he was obviously an obsessive compulsive. If the pen and pencil holder on his desk was moved an inch to the right or the left, he would notice. Amou was terrified whenever she went in there to clean, afraid she would move something and disturb him.

For exercise, Daddy took long walks on our property, for we had one hundred fifty acres with wooded paths, two rather large ponds, and a stream that twisted itself over rocks and hills to empty into a larger stream that fed into the Congaree River. He walked twice a week, and the walks lasted exactly two hours. I could adjust my watch around his walks, in fact.

As far as I knew, my adoptive mother never walked with him. He liked walking alone and told me once that he did a great deal of his creative thinking on those walks. I would have thought the wildlife and the scenery would have conspired to keep him from doing much of that, but my father seemed to have the power to turn off the world around him at will and fix his mind on whatever he wanted to focus on at the time.

Certainly, no one was better at ignoring my A.M. She would rant and rave about something, and most of the time he would stare at her, nodding at the proper moment, never changing his expression much more than occasionally lifting one of his dark brown eyebrows as a sort of exclamation point. He always promised to do whatever he could about the problem. Sometimes he did do something, but most of the time the problems either solved themselves or simply wilted and dropped from the branches of my A.M.'s tree of complaints.

Physically, Daddy wasn't intimidating. He was only about five-foot-ten, and he was always slim. He looked like a tennis player, and that was indeed the only actual sport he had played in college. His power lay in his eyes; when he fixed them on you, you would swear he was taller, bigger. I imagined that, especially for his patients, it was like being caught like a fugitive in a spotlight, unable to break out of it no matter how you twisted and turned in hopes of escape.

His eyes weren't set too deeply, nor were they extraordinarily large, yet they were always what my friends and other people who met him recalled most vividly. I used to laugh at my girlfriends, who were actually more than intimidated; they were afraid of him. They believed he could see into their thoughts since he was a famous psychiatrist.

I was always very proud of my father, but having the chief psychiatrist of a world-famous mental clinic as my father did put pressures on me that other girls my age could never even begin to understand.

Daddy was a handler. He rarely raised his voice or chastised me as would the parents of my friends. Now that I intended to become a student of psychology myself, I understood his techniques. My childhood relationship with him was built on questions, questions he wanted me to answer immediately or search inside myself to find the answers to, even at the ripe old age of four.

"Why is your mother angry at you, Willow?"

"Why do you think we're displeased with what you've done, Willow?"

"Why am I upset with what you've said to your mother, Willow?"

I could paper the walls of my memory with his questions.

My girlfriends worried about my father's psychological expertise from another point of view.

"How can you get away with anything?" they complained to me. "Your father would know immediately if you lie to him or cook up some phony excuse."

"I don't lie to him," I said, and they shook their heads at me with pity drooling from their eyes and lips, as well as some worry that I could get them into trouble. "However," I added, "I can fool my mother and often do."

That they not only understood but appreciated. It was as if getting past your parents was the initiation we all had to undergo to become full-fledged teenagers.

Somehow, lying to my adoptive mother on occasion didn't weigh too heavily on my conscience. Either the lies were too light or my conscience was too thick, whereas lying to Daddy would have been like stepping on a paper-thin sheet of ice.

Often, I thought my A.M. welcomed lies as long as the lies helped her to avoid some conflict or some disappointment. She was terrified of unhappiness because someone sometime in her life had convinced her that sadness was what aged people the fastest and the most. Her belief was reinforced by the faces of some of Daddy's patients, especially the women. Depression, she was persuaded, aged them twenty to thirty years, especially around their eyes -- red, sunken and sad.

Anger was second on the list of youth killers, even though she succumbed to it more often than she would have liked. Scowling not only created wrinkles where there were none, but it deepened any that were naturally there. Thus, when offered the choice of following a deception or facing an ugly or unpleasant truth, my adoptive mother lunged for the lie the way some drowning person would stretch and jump for a life preserver.

She was truly a very beautiful woman, elegant and always in style. She often traveled to Paris, without Daddy, to shop for the newest fashions. Nearly as tall as Daddy, ...

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