Nine people have gathered for the reading of Aurore Gerritsen's will. Some are family, others are strangers. But all will have their futures changed forever when a lifetime of secrets is finally revealed.
Aurore Gerritsen left clear instructions: her will is to be read over a four-day period at her summer cottage on a small Louisiana island. Those who don't stay will forfeit their inheritance. With the vast fortune of Gulf Coast Shipping at stake, no one will take that risk.
Tensions rise as Aurore's lawyer dispenses small bequests, each designed to expose the matriarch's well-kept secrets. Longtime loyalties are jeopardized and shocking new alliances are formed as the family feels the sands of belief shifting beneath their feet.
As a hurricane approaches and survival itself is threatened, the fourth day dawns and everyone waits for the final truth to be revealed.
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November 01, 2010
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Excerpt from Rising Tides by Emilie Richards
The young man Dawn Gerritsen picked up just outside New Orleans looked like a bum, but so did a lot of students hitchhiking the world that summer. His hair wasn't clean; his clothes were a marriage of beat poet and circus performer. To his credit, he had neither the pasty complexion of a Beatles-mad Liverpudlian nor the California tan of a Beach Boy surfer. In the past year she had seen more than enough of both types making the grand tour of rock bands and European waves.
The hitchhiker's skin was freckled, and his eyes were pure Tupelo honey. Biloxi and Gulfport oozed from his throat, and the first time he called her ma'am, she wanted to drag him to a sun-dappled levee and make him moan it over and over until she knew, really knew, that she was back in the Deep South again.
She hadn't dragged him anywhere. She didn't even remember his name. She was too preoccupied for sex, and she wasn't looking for intimacy. After three formative years in Berkeley, she had given up on love, right along with patriotism, religion and happily-ever-afters. Her virginity had been an early casualty, a prize oddly devalued in California, like an ancient currency exchanged exclusively by collectors.
Luckily her hitchhiker didn't seem to be looking for intimacy, either. He seemed more interested in the food in her glove compartment and the needle on her speedometer. After her initial rush of sentiment, she almost forgot he was in the car until she arrived in Cut Off. Then she made the mistake of reaching past him to turn up the radio. It was twenty-five till the hour, and the news was just ending.
"And in other developments today, State Senator Ferris Lee Gerritsen, spokesman for Gulf Coast Shipping, the international corporation based in New Orleans, announced that the company will turn over a portion of its land holdings along the river to the city so that a park can be developed as a memorial to his parents, Henry and Aurore Gerritsen. Mrs. Gerritsen, granddaughter of the founder of Gulf Coast Shipping, passed away last week. Senator Gerritsen is the only living child of the couple. His brother, Father Hugh Gerritsen, was killed last summer in a civil-rights incident in Bonne Chance. It's widely predicted that the senator will run for governor in 1968."
Although the sun was sinking toward the horizon, Dawn retrieved her sunglasses from the dashboard and slipped them on, first blowing her heavy bangs out of her eyes in her own version of a sigh. As she settled back against her seat, she felt the warmth of a hand against her bare thigh. One quick glance and she saw that her hitchhiker was assessing her with the same look he had, until that moment, saved for her Moon Pies and Twinkies. Dawn knew what he saw. A long-limbed woman with artfully outlined blue eyes and an expression that refuted every refined feature that went with them. Also a possible fortune.
He smiled, and his hand inched higher. "Your name's Gerritsen, didn't you say? You related to him?" "You're wasting your time," she said. "I'm not busy doing anything else."
She pulled over to the side of the road. A light rain was falling and a harder one was forecast, but that didn't change her mind. "Time to stick out your thumb again."
"Hey, come on. I can make the rest of the trip more fun than you can imagine."
"Sorry, but my imagination's bigger than anything you've got."
Drawling curses, he reclaimed his hand and his duffel bag. She pulled back onto the road after the door slammed shut behind him.
She was no lonelier than she had been before, but after the news, and without the distraction of another person in the next seat, Dawn found herself thinking about her grandmother, exactly the thing she had tried to avoid by picking up the hitchhiker in the first place. This trip to Grand Isle had nothing to do with pleasure and everything to do with Aurore Le Danois Gerritsen. On her deathbed, Aurore had decreed that her last will and testament be read at a gathering at the family summer cottage. And the reading of the will was a command performance.
The last time Dawn drove the route between New Orleans and Grand Isle, she'd only had her license for a year.