With nowhere to go, no one to help her, Leigh fled into the arms of Luke Casteel! Leigh Van Voreen had to escape from Boston's Farthinggale Manor. The foul secret she harbored within her seemed to darken her life forever. Jillian, her mother, would not believe her...and Tony Tatterton, her stepfather, had betrayed her most cruelly.
But the pure devotion of Luke Casteel promised her hope and respect. Only Luke knew her deepest of secrets...only Luke would love and protect her. Bravely she bore the suspicions of the Willies' hillfolk, as she tried to grasp the happiness that had so long eluded her. Leigh prayed with all her heart that her bright, shining dreams would save her from tragedy at last...
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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 Foxworth, Christopher’s Diary: Echoes of Dollanganger, and Secret Brother. V.C. Andrews has written more than seventy novels, which have sold more than 106 million copies worldwide and been translated into twenty-five foreign languages. Join the conversation about the world of V.C. Andrews at Facebook.com/OfficialVCAndrews.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Luke and I pass through the tall wrought-iron gates that spell out FARTHINGGALE MANOR. Patches of rust have broken out along the letters like a skin rash and the pounding of sea storms and winter winds have bent the gates back. Now they lean against the somber gray skies and the great house itself looks oppressed, weighed down by time and the heavy and bleak history that lives in its hallways and grand rooms. There are a few employees kept on to look after the house and grounds, but no one really checks on their work and they do relatively little to keep things up.
Luke squeezes my hand. It has been years, centuries, it seems, since we have been here. The dismal skies are appropriate for our arrival, for this is not a nostalgic journey. We would rather not remember my stay here, my imprisonment I should say, after the dreadful accident that took my parents' lives.
But our journey is sadder yet. The funeral air is correct. We have come to bury my real father, to put Troy Tatterton finally to rest alongside his true love, my mother, Heaven.
He had remained in his little cottage all these years, continuing his intricate artistic work on the wonderful Tatterton Toys, leaving only for special occasions like the births of my children. But whenever he visited us, no matter what the occasion, he could never stay away from Farthinggale long. Something always called him back.
Now he will never leave.
Even though the great house looms forever in my nightmares, and the memories of those tortured days remain remarkably vivid still, once I took upon this grand estate, I understand why Troy had the need to return. Even I, who have every reason not to, feel a need to reenter the house and walk through its long corridors, up its great stairway to view the room that had been my cell.
Luke doesn't want me to go inside.
"Annie," he says, "it's not necessary. We'll wait for the burial ceremony to start and greet whoever there is to greet outside."
But I can't help myself. Something draws me on.
I don't enter what was my bedroom. There are cobwebs everywhere and everywhere there is dust and grime. Curtains are faded and hang loose. Linens look stained, dirty.
I shake my head and walk on, pausing at Jillian's suite, the famous suite Tony had kept up with a fanatical urgency, refusing to face up to Jillian's passing and all that had gone with it. The suite has always intrigued me. It intrigues me now. I walk in, look up at the mirrors without their glass, gaze at the clothing still draped over chairs, the toiletries still on the vanity table. I pass it all, slowly, moving like one through a dream, the air like gauze.
And then I stop at Jillian's desk. I do not know why I do, but perhaps it's because the drawer is slightly open. Everything about this suite intrigues me and I wonder if there is something in that drawer that Jillian might have written during her days of madness.
Curiosity takes hold of me and I open the drawer. I blow away the dust and peer inside to see blank paper, pens and ink. Nothing unusual I think and then I spot the cloth bag toward the rear of the drawer and reach in.
There's a book in it. I take it out slowly.
LEIGH'S BOOK, it says on the front. I hold my breath. It is my grandmother's diary. I open to the first page and find myself falling back through time.
Chapter 1: Leigh's Book of Memories
I think it first started with a dream. No, not a dream, but more of a nightmare. In it I was standing with my parents -- I don't know where. They were talking with each other and sometimes they would turn and say something to me. The only thing was, whenever I tried to talk to them, they seemed unable to hear me. As I kept trying to get into their conversation I reached up to push my hair back. Yet instead of my hair falling into place, I was horrified to discover a large clump of hair falling into my hand. Again and again I pushed back at my hair and each time I did another clump of my hair came free. I stared, horrified, at the large strands of hair in my hand. What was going on? Suddenly, a mirror appeared before me and in it I could see my image. I choked back a scream. My beautiful cashmere sweater was filled with holes and my skirt was torn and dirty. Then, before my already disbelieving eyes, I watched my features bloat. As I became fatter and fatter I started to cry. A trail of tears streamed down my smudged cheeks. I tore my eyes from my ugly image and turned to my parents, screaming for their help. My screams reverberated and bounced off the walls. Yet my parents did nothing. Why wouldn't they help me?
I couldn't stop screaming. Finally, when I thought my voice was gone and I was unable to utter a sound, they turned to me. Looks of astonishment broke across their faces. I wanted to call to Daddy...to have him cover me with hugs and kisses...to protect me as he always had...but before I could open my mouth, a look of disgust came over his face! I cringed in horror and then he disappeared. Only Momma remained. At least, I thought it was Momma. This stranger looked exactly like her...except for her eyes. Her eyes were so cold! Cold and calculating...empty of the love and warmth I saw daily. Where had it gone? Why was she looking at me this way? My beautiful momma would never look at me with such hatred. Yes, hatred...and jealousy! My momma wouldn't fail to help me in my most desperate moment. Yet she did nothing. First, a look of disgust, identical to the look Daddy had given me, appeared. Soon it was replaced by a smirk...a smirk of satisfaction. And then she turned her back on me...starting to walk away...leaving...leaving me alone in the darkness.
Somehow I found my voice and cried for her help. But she only kept walking, becoming smaller and smaller. I tried to follow, but was unable to move. Then I turned back to my image and before I could blink an eye, the mirror shattered and shards of glass came directly at my face.
With my last bit of strength I screamed, raising my hands to shield my face as I kept screaming and screaming.
When I awoke I was still screaming and my heart was beating furiously. For a moment I couldn't figure out where I was. Then, as the familiar surroundings of my bedroom came into view, I remembered. I was home in my bedroom in Boston. Today was my birthday. My twelfth birthday. Glad to be out of my awful dream, I put my fears behind me and pushed away the images that had terrified me only seconds ago. I headed downstairs with only thoughts of the day ahead.
On my twelfth birthday, I opened what would be my most precious gift: this book for memories. At the last moment, Daddy slipped it into the small mountain of wonderful and expensive gifts he and Momma had bought me. I knew he had put it there himself after Momma had arranged everything because she was just as curious about it as I was. Daddy usually left the buying of gifts completely in Momma's hands, just as he left her in charge of buying things for the house and buying all my clothes because he admittedly knew absolutely nothing when it came to fashions. He said Momma was an artist, so she would know better about color coordinations and designs, but I think he was just happy not to have to go to department stores and clothing stores.
On a few occasions when I was younger, Daddy brought me models of his steamships, but Momma thought those were silly gifts for a little girl, especially the one that you took apart to learn about the workings of the engine. But I couldn't help being intrigued and very interested and played with it all the time, except when Momma was around.
Everything was stacked on one side of the dining room table at breakfast, just as it always had been on every birthday I could remember. I had woken early, of course, because of the dream. Birthday mornings were usually like Christmas mornings to me, although this morning I was still a little upset by the nightmare, and now I tried hard to forget its scariness.
Daddy had the surprise gift wrapped in light pink paper with birthday candles painted in dark blue that spelled out HAPPY BIRTHDAY all over it. Just knowing he had bought it for me all by himself made it the most important gift there. I tried not to rip the paper as I unwrapped it. I loved saving things like that, mementos of all my special occasions: the candles from my tenth birthday cake, the one that was so big it took both Clarence the butler and Svenson the cook to carry it into the dining room; the candy angel on the top of the four-foot Christmas tree Momma bought to have placed in my playroom when I was only five; tickets from the circus Daddy took me to when it came to Boston last year, a play program from the Punch and Judy puppet show at the museum Momma and I went to when I was seven, and dozens of odds and ends like buttons and pins and even old shoe laces. So Daddy already knew that memories were precious to me.
I took the book out slowly and ran the tips of my fingers over the cover, over my name. I just loved the feel of the buttersoft, rose-colored leather cover with the gilded edging, and I especially loved seeing my name in print written like the title of a book: LEIGH'S BOOK.
I looked up with excitement. Daddy, already dressed in his dark gray three-piece suit and tie, stood back smiling, standing there the way he usually stood with his hands clasped behind his back, rocking on his heels like an old sea captain. Usually, Momma made him stop, claiming it made her nervous. Because Daddy was the owner of a big luxury ocean liner company and was on one ship or another so often, he said he spent more time on the water than on the land and he was used to rocking.
"What is that?" Momma asked when I opened the cover to blank page after blank page.
"I call it a logbook," Daddy said and winked at me. "Captain's log. Keep track of the major events. Memories are more precious than jewels," Daddy said.
"It's just a diary," Momma said shaking her head. "Logbook. She's a little girl, not a sailor."
Daddy winked at me again. Momma had bought me so many very expensive things, I knew I should pay more attention to them, but I clutched the book called LEIGH'S BOOK to my heart and got up quickly to kiss Daddy thank you. He knelt down and I kissed him on his rosy cheek just above his gray beard, and his shimmering rust-brown eyes brightened. Momma claimed Daddy was on one or another of his ships or at the ocean so much, his skin tasted salty, but I never tasted it whenever I kissed him.
"Thank you, Daddy," I whispered. "I'll write about you all the time."
There were so many things to write down, so many private and precious thoughts, I couldn't wait to do it. But Momma was anxious for me to unwrap the other gifts. There were a dozen cashmere sweaters in a variety of pinks and blues and greens, each with a matching pencilslim skirt, the skirt Momma said everyone was wearing even though they were so narrow you couldn't walk very quickly in them. There were silk blouses and gold hoop earrings and a matching bracelet splattered with diamond flecks from Tiffany's. There was Chanel perfume and scented soaps, as well as a pearl comb and brush set.
And lipstick! I was finally going to be able to wear it, lightly of course, and only on special occasions. But I had my very own. Momma always promised she would show me how to wear makeup correctly when the time came.
There was one package she said I couldn't open now. It had to wait until we were alone, later.
"Girl business," she said eyeing my father. She thought it was horrible of him to rush off to his office on my birthday morning, but he said he could spend the rest of the day with me and then take Momma and me to dinner, so I forgave him. There was always one sort of crisis or another for him these days. He blamed it on commercial jet airline travel that was increasingly cutting into the luxury ocean liner business. Momma always criticized him for how much time he spent working, and this all made it worse.
Although we had gone on many trips, she claimed we were like shoemakers without shoes because we didn't go on the trips she wanted.
"My husband's in the vacation travel business and we rarely vacation. We have to check out new routes or new ships, rather than enjoy the way we should," she complained, sometimes bitterly.
I knew my last big package had something to do with all this because she said she bought what was in it, hoping I would have an opportunity to use it, and then she scowled at Daddy and said, "I still haven't had an opportunity to use mine."
I tore open the package quickly and opened the box. It was a skiing outfit: a heavy cashmere sweater and tailored ski trousers with a matching Italian silk blouse. Many times during the summer, Momma had voiced her desire to go for a winter holiday to St. Moritz and stay at the Palace Hotel, "where all the best of society stopped." It was a beautiful outfit.
I looked over all my wonderful presents, squealed with delight and hugged her. She vowed she was always going to make sure I would have better birthdays than she had when she was growing up in Texas. Even though her family wasn't poor, she said her mother, my grandma Jana, was as austere as a Puritan minister. She had told me over and over the sad story of how she wasn't even allowed to have a doll when she was a little girl, and she said her sisters, both older, were just like her mother because they were both so plain looking, they didn't care about being feminine and having dainty and beautiful things.
Aunt Peggy and Aunt Beatrice really were as ugly as the wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz. We didn't see them very often, but whenever we did, I hated the way they gaped at me through their thick-rimmed spectacles. Both wore the same ugly black-frame glasses that magnified their dull brown eyes, making them look like frogs. The way Momma always clumped them together when she spoke about them made me think of them as twins. They did have identical shapes. "Ironing boards," Momma called them. She said Grandma Jana found them husbands, spineless homely men themselves: one the owner of a department store in Ludville, Texas, and the other an undertaker in nearby Fairfax.
According to Momma, both Texas towns as well as her own "were so dusty and dirty, you had to take a bath after a walk through Main Street." It didn't take Daddy long to win Momma away from all that. I made her tell me the story again and again, never minding that each time she told it, she added something new or changed or forgot something she had told me before. The main part of the story was always the same and it was one of the first things I wanted to put into my book.
So in the early evening, when she came into my room to talk while we both got ready to go out to a fancy Boston restaurant for my birthday dinner, I asked her to tell me the story again.
"Don't you ever get tired of hearing about that?" she asked, throwing me a quick look.
"Oh no, Momma. I think it's a wonderful story, a dream story. No one could ever write one as beautiful," I said, which made her very happy.
"All right," she said, sitting down at my vanity table. She began to brush her beautiful hair, till it shone like spun gold. "I lived like poor Cinderella did before her prince arrived," she began as always. "But it wasn't always like that. I was the apple of my father's eye. He was a foreman in charge of everything at a nearby oil field, a very important man. Although he wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty when he had to, he was a very elegant man. I hope some day you'll find a man like my father."
"Isn't Daddy like him then? He doesn't ...
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Book Description HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 1990. Hardcover. Book Condition: Very Good. Very Good condition with no significant faults. Clearly used but very few minor defects. Will look good on your book case after reading but may not be suitable as a present unless hard to find elsewhere SECURE DAILY POSTING FROM UK. 30 DAY GUARANTEE. Bookseller Inventory # mon0002291995
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Book Description Collins, 1998. Hardcover. Book Condition: Used; Good. Dispatched, from the UK, within 48 hours of ordering. This book is in good condition but will show signs of previous ownership. Please expect some creasing to the spine and/or minor damage to the cover. Bookseller Inventory # CHL1129155
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Book Description HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS LTD. Book Condition: Very Good. 1990. Book Club Edition. Hardcover. Fine clean copy in fine dustjacket. Previous owners mark on ffep. . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. Bookseller Inventory # KTJ0010862
Book Description HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS LTD, 1990. Book Condition: Very Good. 1990. Book Club Edition. Hardcover. Fine clean copy in fine dustjacket. Previous owners mark on ffep. . . . . Bookseller Inventory # KTJ0010862
Book Description HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 1990. Hardcover. Book Condition: Very Good. In VERY GOOD overall condition, with some signs of previous ownership. Daily dispatch from UK warehouse. Bookseller Inventory # mon0000000700