To many, Hillary Duff is best remembered as Lizzie McGuire from the popular kids show, but this actress and singer is also a bestselling author and now, a wife and mom to be. Duff appeared on "Good Morning America" today to talk about her latest book, "Devoted," the sequel to her paranormal thriller, "Elixer."
Read an excerpt from "Devoted" below.
I repeated that word over and over again in my mind, trying to clear my head.
I squeezed my knees into the horse's flank, pushing it to race faster, then faster still. I crouched low in the stirrups, my legs screaming as I hovered over the saddle. The reins were sandpaper on my blistered palms, and each gasp of air burned my throat.
For two beautiful minutes, I was there, free from every thought beyond the fight to stay astride.
But the horse could only run that fast for so long. Already he had slowed to a trot. I had to relax, and the second I did, the world crashed down on me.
Was it really only two months ago that Rayna and I were in France? That felt like another lifetime, and in a way it was. I was a different person before Sage.
Not that there was a "before Sage."
I pulled back on the reins and eased to a stop, then swung myself down. I pulled a small, hand-tied bouquet of wildflowers from a saddlebag. Resting my palms on the horse's heaving flank, I took a deep breath. I'd been doing this for weeks, but I still needed that moment. Facing the grave of someone you love never gets easier. I turned and smiled.
"Hi, Dad," I said. "I brought you flowers."
I knelt and placed the flowers on the memorial I'd put together. The large rocks looked like they were in the form of a cross, but I meant them as a caduceus, the symbol of my father's medical profession. I laid the bouquet by the largest stone, just under the silver iris necklace he'd given me when I was young. I'd worn that necklace every day, but now I preferred to keep it here.
The "real" grave for my father was in upstate New York, in the sweeping plot of land devoted to generations of Westons. Dad was a Weston by marriage, so when he was declared dead last year, he immediately earned a place of honor among the family's power brokers and politicians. I can picture the tombstone, long enough to fit two names. Throughout the graveside service, I kept stealing glances at my mother. Did she realize she was staring at her own grave, just waiting for her?
The funeral made it onto CNN, or so I was told. Didn't make a lot of sense to me at the time. It wasn't a real funeral. There wasn't even a body. My dad had disappeared from Brazil while on a humanitarian mission. He was a world-renowned heart surgeon, almost as famous as my mother, whom the media dubbed American royalty thanks to her political career and storied family. There was a worldwide manhunt when my dad disappeared. A United Nations of countries did their part to help, and the Westons were one of many wealthy families throwing money by the boatload into private investigations. Every single person involved eventually agreed: Grant Raymond was dead. His body was missing, and he was gone.
You'd think that would have been enough for me. It wasn't. I couldn't accept it.
Mom did. She threw herself into her career, which soared, and avoided the topic of Grant Raymond, even among her closest friends. Even with me. Tabloids called her the Ice Queen. They said her marriage had been a disaster, and the worst muckrakers wondered if Victoria Weston had planned her husband's disappearance, so she could both get rid of him, and also use the ensuing public sympathy to propel her career.
It wasn't true. Mom loved Dad, so much that she couldn't live with her grief. So she dropped a steel wall between his death and the rest of her life.
I was different. I became obsessed with the idea that there was more to the story, and my dad was alive.
I was partially right. There was more to the story… but was my father alive? I had no idea. He had disappeared the day he was supposed to meet Sage for a journey. When I first met Sage, he said he believed my father had been kidnapped by one of two groups, either of which would want to hold him for what he knew.
Sage also told me his journey with Dad was a mission to retrieve The Elixir of Life. This was a lie. Sage and my father knew where The Elixir of Life was – it coursed through Sage's veins. The two of them were on a mission, but it was a mission to end Sage's centuries-long life… because they both wanted to protect me from an endless circle of tragedy. Sage was my soulmate. Our hearts were tied together so securely that we found one another in every lifetime… and every lifetime ended early, in my own violent death.
Sage told me he believed my father was alive, but I'd had a lot of time to think over the last six weeks, and I understood now that Sage would have said anything to keep me around. Not because he loved me – he was fighting against that from the second we met – but because he was determined to destroy himself, and with my father missing, I was the only person who could get him the information he needed in order to do it.
So did my father's disappearance really have anything to do with Sage or the Elixir? Or had Dad simply wandered into the wrong place at the wrong time? The investigators had found no shortage of possibilities. They proposed everything from Dad getting caught in the crossfire between rival gangs in the favelas of Rio, to being mauled to death by wild animals.