|About the Book|
A fast-moving, dramatic California saga about the people--Spanish, Anglo, Mexican and Indian who struggled, fought, made mistakes, loved and survived to build the foundations of the Golden State.On her twenty-first birthday, Natalia Ausmus drove herMoreA fast-moving, dramatic California saga about the people--Spanish, Anglo, Mexican and Indian who struggled, fought, made mistakes, loved and survived to build the foundations of the Golden State.On her twenty-first birthday, Natalia Ausmus drove her lemon yellow Kharmann Ghia along the cove road, heading for the cliff house that perched like a bird ready to take flight over the ocean. She loved the house, all glass and redwood, rebuilt, shed been told after a previous house there had been destroyed by the earthquake of 1957. The same earthquake that had killed her father and her mother but had spared their newborn baby--her.When she was in her early teens shed often wondered why shed survived. Was she destined to be important to mankind? But as she grew older such questioning seemed pretentious to her. Theodora would laugh her head off if she ever knew Natalia thought of herself as someone special.When Grandfather Davis died two years after she was born, everyone was shocked to find his will left the cliff house as well as the remodeled mansion to Natalia. Her Uncle Fonso had been especially upset. When she was ten, her cousin Theodora told her that Uncle Fonso killed himself because of his fathers will and it was all Natalias fault.At the time Natalia had believed her and guilt had dogged her for years. Fonsos death came only seven months after her grandfathers so shed been too young at the time to know anything about what happened. Since then her Cousin Frances had repeatedly assured her the will had nothing to do with Fonsos death, a death Frances refused to believe was suicide.Fonso was a compulsive gambler, Frances had told her. When I was married to him I kept his gambling under control but after our divorce he went wild, gambling away hundreds of thousands of dollars. He was in trouble with people he owed money to, dangerous types--Mafia, for all I know. They killed him, Im sure of it, and set up the death to look like hed shot himself.By now the truth was buried under too many years to ever be known. But Natalia did learn why her grandfather had favored her in his will, because hed left a letter with his lawyers to be given to her on her eighteenth birthday. In it he told her he hoped shed learn to love the land as he did and would always keep the ranch in the family. I can trust none of my other descendants to do so, hed written. Youre the wild card in the pack, my last chance.Hed also willed her sixty percent of his stock in Burwash Incorporated. The remaining forty percent was divided between Theodora, Fenton, Renata and Wanda. Natalia had also inherited her mothers stock but, because other stock was outstanding, Natalias total holding was less than forty percent of all the stock- she didnt have a voting majority by herself.And that was the problem. Fenton, Renata and Wanda had inherited their father Fonsos stock and Theodora had inherited her father Malcolms stock. Frances Bothwick Bardini also owned shares, as did her ailing mother, Meg.Together, they outvoted Natalia. This fact hadnt bothered her until a month ago when shed gone to see Renata play at a golden oldies rock concert at the Hollywood Bowl.I loved your new song, Sands of Gold, Natalia told Renata afterwards. Fantastic. Really with it, not old time at all.The songs about the ranch and growing up there, Renata confided. I hate to see the place sold. Especially to a conglomerate.It was the first Natalia had heard of the proposed sale. By pestering the director of the board, seventy-year-old Elmer Jarvis, shed eventually learned that Theodora, Fenton and Wanda were pushing the sale.