Birthright (Roberts, Nora)

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9780399149849: Birthright (Roberts, Nora)

When five-thousand-year-old human bones are found at a construction site in the small town of Woodsboro, the news draws archaeologist Callie Dunbrook out of her sabbatical and into a whirlwind of adventure, danger, and romance.

While overseeing the dig, she must try to make sense of a cloud of death and misfortune that hangs over the project-fueling rumors that the site is cursed. And she must cope with the presence of her irritating-but irresistible-ex-husband, Jake. Furthermore, when a stranger claims to know a secret about her privileged Boston childhood, she is forced to question her own past as well.

A rich, thrilling, suspenseful tale, Birthright follows an inspiring heroine, an intriguing hero, and a cast of fascinating characters whose intertwined lives remind us that there is much more going on under the surface than meets the eye.

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About the Author:

Nora Roberts is the #1New York Times-bestselling author of more than 200 novels. She is also the author of the bestsellingIn Deathseries written under the pen name J.D. Robb. There are more than 500 million copies of her books in print.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Prologue

The bright red nose of Rudolph, his very favorite reindeer,

blinked on and off until Douglas’s eyes were dazzled.

He tried to entertain himself by counting the red dots that

swam in front of his eyes, the way the Count counted on

Sesame Street.

One, two, three! Three red dots! Ha ha ha ha ha!

But it made him feel a little bit sick.

The mall was full of noise, the blasts of Christmas music

that added to his impatience, the shouts of other children,

the crying of babies.

He knew all about crying babies now that he had a little

sister. When babies cried you were supposed to pick them

up and walk around with them singing songs, or sit with

them in the rocking chair and pat them on the back till they

burped.

Babies could burp right out loud and nobody made

them say scuze me. Because, dummy, babies couldn’t talk!

But Jessica wasn’t crying now. She was sleeping in the

stroller and looked like a doll baby in her red dress with the

white frilly junk on it.

That’s what Grandma called Jessica. Her little doll

baby. But sometimes Jessie cried and cried and her face

got all red and scrunched up. Nothing would stop her from

crying, not the singing or the walking or the rocking chair.

Douglas didn’t think she looked much like a doll baby

then. She looked mean and mad. When that happened,

Mama got too tired to play with him. She was never too

tired to play with him before Jessica got in her belly.

Sometimes he didn’t like having a little sister who cried

and pooped in her pants and made Mama too tired to play.

But most of the time it was okay. He liked to look at her

and watch the way she kicked her legs. And when she

grabbed his finger, really tight, it made him laugh.

Grandma said he had to protect Jessica because that’s

what big brothers do. He’d worried so much about it that

he’d snuck in to sleep on the floor beside her crib just in

case the monsters who lived in the closet came to eat her in

the nighttime.

2 _ Nora Roberts

But he’d woken in his own bed in the morning, so

maybe he’d only dreamed he’d gone in to protect her.

They shuffled up in line, and Douglas glanced, a bit uneasily,

at the smiling elves who danced around Santa’s

workshop. They looked a little bit mean and mad—like

Jessica when she was crying really loud.

If Jessica didn’t wake up, she wasn’t going to get to sit

on Santa’s lap. It was stupid for Jessie to be all dressed up

to sit on Santa’s lap, because she couldn’t say scuze me

when she burped, and she couldn’t tell Santa what she

wanted for Christmas.

But he could. He was three and a half years old. He was

a big boy now. Everyone said so.

Mama crouched down and spoke to him softly. When

she asked if he had to pee, he shook his head. She had that

tired look on her face and he was afraid if they went to the

bathroom they’d never get back in line and see Santa.

She gave his hand a squeeze, smiled at him and promised

it wouldn’t be much longer.

He wanted a Hot Wheels, and a G.I. Joe, and a Fisher-

Price garage, and some Matchbox cars and a big yellow

bulldozer like the one his friend Mitch got for his birthday.

Jessica was too young to play with real toys. She just

got girl stuff like funny dresses and stuffed animals. Girls

were pretty dopey, but baby girls were even more dopey.

But he was going to tell Santa about Jessica, so he

wouldn’t forget to bring stuff for her when he came down

the chimney at their house.

Mama was talking to someone, but he didn’t listen. The

grown-up talk didn’t interest him. Especially when the line

moved, people shifted, and he saw Santa.

He was big. It seemed to Douglas, on the first ripple of

fear, that Santa wasn’t so big in the cartoons or in the pictures

in the storybooks.

He was sitting on his throne in front of his workshop.

There were lots of elves and reindeer and snowmen.

Everything was moving—heads and arms. Big, big smiles.

Santa’s beard was very long. You could hardly see his

BIRTHRIGHT _ 3

face. And when he let out a big, booming ho ho ho, the

sound of it squeezed Douglas’s bladder like mean fingers.

Lights flashed, a baby wailed, elves grinned.

He was a big boy now, a big boy now. He wasn’t afraid

of Santa Claus.

Mama tugged his hand, told him to go ahead. Go sit on

Santa’s lap. She was smiling, too.

He took a step forward, then another, on legs that began

to shake. And Santa hoisted him up.

Merry Christmas! Have you been a good boy?

Terror struck Douglas’s heart like a hatchet. The elves

were closing in, Rudolph’s red nose blinked. The snowman

turned his wide, round head and leered.

The big man in the red suit held him tight and stared at

him with tiny, tiny eyes.

Screaming, struggling, Douglas tumbled out of Santa’s

lap, hit the platform hard. And wet his pants.

People moved in, voices streamed above him so all he

could do was curl up and wail.

Then Mama was there, pulling him close, telling him it

was all right. Fussing over him because he’d hit his nose

and made it bleed.

She kissed him, stroked him and didn’t scold him for

wetting his pants. His breath was still coming in hard little

gasps as he burrowed into her.

She gave him a big hug, lifted him up so he could press

his face to her shoulder.

Still murmuring to him, she turned.

And began to scream. And began to run.

Clinging to her, Douglas looked down. And saw Jessica’s

stroller was empty.

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