Cloudburst, p.1
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       Cloudburst, p.1

         Part #2 of Storms series by V. C. Andrews
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Cloudburst


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  Storm Warning

  The gentleness in Donald March’s eyes seemed to disappear, like a coin in a magician’s hand.

  “As your guardian with a parent’s responsibility, I want to tell you that we should not permit ourselves to be attracted to someone solely on the basis of his or her looks. Now, Ryder certainly comes from a respectable family, famous parents, money and all that goes with it, but anyone can see that there are turbulent waters running under the surface of his handsome face. I don’t want you to be drawn down into them, not now, not ever,” he said.

  “That won’t happen,” I said as confidently as I could manage, even though in my heart of hearts, I wasn’t absolutely sure of that.

  He smiled again.

  “All young people feel they’re immortal, infallible, with nothing but time ahead of them. Take Kiera, for example. By the time I realized what was happening, she was too wild to be reined in. You have to consider the advice of older, wiser people, especially those who care about you very much.”

  “I’m not Kiera,” I said, perhaps a bit too sharply.

  V.C. ANDREWS®

  CLOUDBURST

  V.C. Andrews® Books

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  Family Storms

  Cloudburst

  Daughter of Darkness

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  Following the death of Virginia Andrews, the Andrews family worked with a carefully selected writer to organize and complete Virginia Andrews’s stories and to create additional novels, of which this is one, inspired by her storytelling genius.

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2011 by the Vanda General Partnership

  All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Pocket Books Subsidiary Rights Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

  First Pocket Star Books paperback edition November 2011

  V.C. ANDREWS® and VIRGINIA ANDREWS® are registered trademarks of the Vanda General Partnership

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  Designed by Esther Paradelo

  Cover design by Anna Dorfman

  Cover photo by John Ricard

  Manufactured in the United States of America

  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  ISBN 978-1-4391-5503-5

  ISBN 978-1-4391-8116-4 (ebook)

  Contents

  Prologue

  Chapter 1: Rise and Shine

  Chapter 2: New Student

  Chapter 3: Gossip

  Chapter 4: Jordan’s Secret

  Chapter 5: Getting to Know You

  Chapter 6: Fighting

  Chapter 7: Meeting the Marches

  Chapter 8: A Strange Interest

  Chapter 9: A Star Family

  Chapter 10: Passion

  Chapter 11: A Present

  Chapter 12: Rumors

  Chapter 13: Bad News

  Chapter 14: Deception

  Chapter 15: Kiera’s Return

  Chapter 16: A Ruined Weekend

  Chapter 17: Grief

  Chapter 18: Changes

  Chapter 19: An Unwelcome Visitor

  Chapter 20: Recovery

  Epilogue

  CLOUDBURST

  Prologue

  Just like there are all kinds of noise in our lives, there are all kinds of silence as well.

  Mrs. Caro, my foster parents’ cook, is from Ballyvaughan, a small coastal village in County Clare, Ireland, and she says, “When the sea is calm, it’s like the world is holdin’ its breath, darlin’. It’s so peaceful your heart seems to go into a slumber, and you feel so content. To me, that’s the sweetest silence.”

  I knew that silence, too. When my mother and I were sleeping on the beach or when we sat quietly and just stared out at the ocean, I heard the same silence, and Mrs. Caro is right. It is sweet because it brings a feeling of peace and even hope to your heart.

  Another silence is the silence just before sleep, when you put the lights out. Even in the Marches’, my foster parents’, home, this enormous mansion in Pacific Palisades, California, with all of the servants moving about and the army of workers on
the property, it can get quiet enough at night to hear your own thoughts or hear the door in your mind begin to open to permit your dreams and nightmares to tiptoe into your head.

  In this deep silence before I do fall asleep, my memories of my mother and me living homelessly in Santa Monica often come rushing back into my mind. They are very unpleasant memories, but try as hard as I may, I cannot forget them or keep them out. It’s like trying to stop the rain with a single umbrella.

  Years after my father deserted us and depression and defeat had driven my mother into alcoholism, we literally slept in a very large carton on the beach and sold my mother’s calligraphy and my handmade lanyards to tourists on the boardwalk. That little money kept us barely alive until the fateful rainy night when the girl who is my foster parents’ daughter, Kiera March, high on Ecstasy, drove through a red light and struck my mother and me crossing the Pacific Coast Highway. Mama was killed instantly, and I was injured seriously enough to spend weeks in the hospital recuperating from a serious femur fracture.

  Oh, how silent the world was for me then.

  There was the silence of tragedy but also the silence that comes with great anger and rage, when you hate the sound of your own voice and especially the sound of other voices, none of which can really make you feel any better and many of which are empty, mechanical voices without sincere compassion, voices with no particular interest in you or your welfare. You become just part of their routine, another daily statistic to be included in some report.

  There is probably no deeper silence than the silence that follows the loss of someone you love. I had suffered this silence, so I understood Jordan March’s desperate search for someone new to love after she had lost her younger daughter, Alena, to acute leukemia. From what I could see, because she and her husband, Donald, had favored Alena so much, their older daughter Kiera’s resentment and jealousy fueled her rebellious and practically suicidal behavior, whether it took the shape of drugs, sex, and alcohol or simply driving fast and recklessly.

  Partly out of a sense of guilt and partly out of a desire to have me take Alena’s place in her heart, Jordan March surprised me with an idea one day at the hospital. She offered to take me into her home and give me all the things a wealthy family could give me. I, of course, hesitated. How could I go and live beside Kiera March, the girl whose wild and thoughtless behavior was responsible for my mother’s death? Wouldn’t that be the gravest insult against my own mother? Not that I cared about it then, but what would other people think of me?

  My private-duty nurse, Jackie Knee, a nurse Jordan March personally arranged for and paid for, told me to accept Jordan March’s offer and take everything I could from the wealthy Marches. Maybe that was my initial reason for entering their home and assuming many of Alena’s things, besides living in her bedroom suite. Gradually, though, I found myself feeling sorry for Mr. and Mrs. March and, eventually, even feeling sorry for Kiera.

  Did I forgive her, or deep down inside did I always harbor hate and a desire for vengeance? It took me a very long time to find that answer. Goodness knows that I had many more reasons to hate her after I was brought to her home. Naturally, she resented my presence. In the beginning, even her father did. I understood why. After all, I was a constant reminder to him about what a terrible thing Kiera had done, and a parent, especially one as proud and egotistical as Donald March, couldn’t help but hate feeling responsible and hate everyone and everything that made him do so.

  Gradually, as Jordan March tried harder and harder to turn me into her lost daughter, Alena, Kiera had another reason to despise me. Once again, it seemed as though she was becoming second best, at least as far as her mother was concerned, and I wasn’t even blood-related. I should have known she wouldn’t stand by to let this happen to her again, that she would do anything and everything she could to drive me from her home.

  Despite how poor her school grades were, Kiera was far from unintelligent. She was clever and conniving. Eventually, she succeeded in having me believe she not only had accepted me in her life but also wanted to be the big sister to me that she wasn’t able to be for Alena. Her regret seemed so sincere that I bought into it. I was flattered that she included me with her friends, all seniors. It helped me to feel important at a time when I was feeling very sorry for myself.

  Later, she succeeded in getting me seduced by one of her boyfriends and then got me into serious trouble with her parents by making it seem as though it had been entirely my fault. She convinced them that I had never really left the tough, gritty street life behind. As incredible as it was, she had them believing I was corrupting her and her friends and not vice versa.

  But in the end, I thought that her conscience about the way she had treated and thought of her sister, Alena, and what she had done to me drove her to be reckless again, and she nearly died of a drug overdose. All of the mean things that she and her friends had done to me were revealed when her friends, overwhelmed by her near demise, confessed to being part of Kiera’s schemes.

  Now imprisoned in a silence of her own making, she did seem to begin to change. However, I had suffered too much because of her simply to accept the things she said and the way she behaved toward me after all of this. I didn’t come right out and say so. I just took longer to believe in anything.

  My mother used to say that a little skepticism is a blessing. “It’s like a safety valve,” she told me. “It will keep you from falling too far too fast.” She was bitter by then. My father had not only left us without a word but had also taken all of our money and anything else we had of any value. Forced to accept whatever employment she could get, my mother was often exploited. She grew more and more depressed, let herself go physically and mentally, and began to drink heavily. Eventually, we were evicted from our home.

  “Remember this, Sasha,” she told me during one of her more sober moments while we sat on the beach and stared at the ocean. “The world is divided into two kinds of people, the gullible and the deceptive. It’s only good and sensible self-defense to be distrusting and be a little deceptive yourself. This isn’t paradise yet. We’re always in one danger or another no matter where we are.”

  I didn’t understand all she was telling me back then, but I could feel her pain and agony. It washed away her beautiful smile and smothered to death the softness in her soul. I know she drank anything alcoholic because she hated herself, hated what she had become, even more than she hated my father. She was choking on her own venom. I cried for her often then, cried more for her than I cried for myself.

  Ironically, her death had brought me to the lap of luxury. Not only did I now have far, far more than I had then or even could imagine having, but I also had more than probably ninety-nine percent of girls my age. After having once been a pitiful creature on the streets, I found myself now being envied by girls and boys who I had thought were princes and princesses themselves.

  I challenge you to try to do what I have trouble doing even today. Try to imagine a nearly fourteen-year-old girl having to sleep with her mother on the beach in a large carton, a girl with nearly no clothes, old shoes, who couldn’t go to school, a girl who had to wash herself in public toilets, a girl for whom finding a quarter or even a dime on the sidewalk or the beach was like finding gold.

  Then try to imagine this girl being taken out of a hospital room full of welfare patients and brought to a private room where she was given a private-duty nurse, treated by the biggest specialists, and then brought flowers and gifts she had only dreamed about while walking past store windows.

  Imagine this girl taken to live in a mansion that could only be approached on a private road, a uniquely styled house with a tower that made it look like a castle. Not only did it have tennis courts and an indoor pool and an outdoor Olympic-size pool, but there was also a man-made lake big enough for rowboats. Imagine her being given a room that was larger than the house in which she had once lived, a suite with a closet that looked half the length of a basketball court, filled with clothes
and shoes, many of which had never been worn more than once and some of which still had the price tags attached to them.

  Imagine her having her own private physical therapist to get her strong and well again by exercising in the indoor pool in that same mansion. She was also provided with her own private tutor to get her ready to go to school again—not just any school, but a beautiful private school with only the children of the very rich attending and with classes small enough for each and every student to get personal attention.

  If you can imagine all of that, you can see me now, years later, a high school senior bedecked in only the most fashionable styles and trends, a girl who is constantly told she is exotically beautiful, something her mother was and she always dreamed she would be. You can see me as an honor student, popular, who on her seventeenth birthday was presented with her own red BMW hardtop convertible.

  How often I have sat by the window in my suite and looked out at the well-manicured grounds, the Olympic-size pool and tennis courts, and closed my eyes, feeling sure that when I opened them again, I’d be back on the beach, sitting beside my ragtag mother, staring out at the sea, both of us left dumbfounded by how quickly hardship and misery had grasped and tightly held the two of us.

  But when I opened my eyes, I was still here, still the ward of a very wealthy foster family, gliding through life without a worry in the world.

  Kiera was off at her charm-school college now. Her parents had yet to learn it, but she had told me she thought she was close to becoming engaged to an English boy, Richard Nandi Chenik, whose famous architect father had been knighted. She e-mailed me almost daily, describing her social life and sharing her most intimate love secrets. I knew how hard she had been working at making me feel like her sister again. I imagined she was doing it because she needed my forgiveness and because, despite what a brave and often arrogant façade she had, she was basically a very lonely person, lonely and especially afraid that I would replace her in her father’s heart. I thought that was something she would never have to fear.

  Even though my foster mother desperately tried to make me feel as loved as her lost daughter had felt, I knew I was still a guest, an orphan in her husband’s eyes. Eventually, he was kind, full of praise for me, and certainly generous, but there was always that look of restraint, that realization that I was not his real daughter. He could only care for me just so much the way a father would before that look came into his eyes, and he would pull back and become more distant and formal.

 

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