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Antoinette van Heugten

The Tulip Eaters

Antoinette Van Heugten The Tulip Eaters
$11.39 New
 
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Excerpt from book:

November, 1980

Nora balanced the grocery bag on one hip and inserted her key into the lock of the door leading from the garage into the house. This was the best moment of every day. Rose. Her beautiful baby—almost six months now. Every little thing she did was a revelation. How she raised her tiny hand to Nora's face as she held her. How her wide eyes, the deepest of blues, reacted to the slightest change of tenor in Nora's voice. How the warmth of her small body nestled into Nora's when she took her into her arms. When she held Rose, Nora didn't know where her own body ended and her daughter's began.

"Mom?" she called. No response, but that was normal. This was usually when her mother put Rose into her tiny, ruffled bathing suit and swirled her around in the pool. Moving back from Amsterdam to live with her mother had been a blessing. The thought of Anneke and Rose at home playing while she worked filled her with gratitude—and today was no exception. Contentment warmed her as she thought of the love she and Anneke shared in caring for Rose. Grandmother, mother, and child. Life was perfect.

Nora shifted the groceries higher onto her hip and glanced at the pile of mail on the entryway table. Nothing interesting. The newspaper lay open. She scanned the headlines. Iranian Phantoms and F-5 Tiger lis Attack Iraqi Airfields Near Basra. Nora shook her head. It was already 1980. Would the Middle East ever right itself? Her eyes flicked down the page. Los Angeles, Comedian Richard Pryor Badly Burned Freebasing Cocaine. Big surprise, she thought.

She looked through the living room window and caught a shimmer of water from the pool. Joy flooded her. She would take the groceries into the kitchen and then put on her bathing suit. She couldn't wait to hold Rose in her arms. Every evening it felt the same—as if she had been gone for days. That first touch of baby skin revived her spirit, calmed her soul.

She stepped into the living room, still holding the groceries. She heard them crash to the floor and then her own scream. "Mom!"

Anneke lay prostrate on the thick, white carpet, her beautiful hazel eyes gaping at the ceiling, a single bullet hole through her forehead.

"No!" screamed Nora. She ran into the living room, fell to her knees and feverishly searched for a pulse. Her fingers pressed again and again into the soft skin of her mother's neck, but there was nothing, nothing! Darkness exploded within her as she stared into Anneke's vacant eyes. Nora's heart leaped when she heard ragged breathing, until she realized that it was her own. "Oh, God, Mom!" she moaned.

Nora bent and cupped her mother's face with shaking hands. As she pressed Anneke's cold cheek against her own, Nora felt her heart slamming against her ribs, her breath now in hoarse gasps. Moaning, she closed her eyes, hoping wildly that when she opened them, this would all be a nightmare. But when she looked again, all she could see was a sickening stream of dark, ugly blood that ran from the gaping hole in Anneke's forehead in a jagged path down her pale cheek. Then she released her mother's face and saw the same, slick blood on her own palms. Vomit rose up, but she fought it down. She stared at this face she loved. "Mom," she whispered, "please, please don't leave me!"

Half-choking, she looked at the blood on her shaking hands. Then she smelled it—a metallic odor of copper and rust—one she recognized all too well from the operating room. Her own mother's blood on her hands! Bile rose in her again.

She studied the bullet hole. Scarlet blood had stained her mom's silver hair, turning it a grisly purple, the flesh around it charred and black. The odor made Nora gag when she realized it smelled like burnt pork."Parents of children with serious behavior problems will find their worst nightmares come alive in van Heugten's debut murder thriller...[with] more than one harrowing twist toward the end..."-Publishers Weekly


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