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Authors: Judith Michael

A Tangled Web

BOOK: A Tangled Web
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Praise for

A TANGLED WEB

“The suspense . . . is tightly drawn.”

—
Booklist

“A neat, twisty plot.”

—
Cosmopolitan

“The web of deceit begun in Deceptions continues in this well-crafted sequel. . . . Even without having read the first novel, readers will relish this intriguing story.”

—
Library Journal

Here's what critics have said about the bestselling novels of

JUDITH MICHAEL

“A thought-provoking character study . . . with a surprising amount of suspense. . . . A sure winner.”

—
Library Journal

“Countless layers of betrayal overlap in a tightly knit tale. . . . First-rate commercial entertainment.”

—
Publishers Weekly

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Contents

Epigraph

Part I

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Part II

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Part III

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

About the Author

Once more, for Cynthia, Andrew and Eric

“I think it's the most special blessing of all: to like our children as companions.”

—Garth Andersen

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave,

When first we practice to deceive!”

—Sir Walter Scott

Part I

CHAPTER
1

S
abrina took a deep breath and blew out the birthday candles—thirty-three and one for good luck—closed her eyes and made a wish.
Please let everything stay the same. My children, my dearest love, my friends, my home: close and safe. And truly mine.
She opened her eyes, smiling at everyone around the table, and picked up the antique silver cake cutter she had brought back from her last trip to London.

“What'd you wish, Mom?” Cliff asked.

“She can't tell us,” Penny said. “Wishes don't come true if you tell them.”

“They don't come true anyway,” Cliff declared. “Everybody knows that. It's all a myth.”

“Oh, too cynical,” Linda Talvia said, putting her hand on Marty's arm. “Lots of my wishes came true.”

“And all of mine,” Garth said, his eyes meeting Sabrina's down the length of the table. “Even one or two I hadn't thought of.”

“They can't come true if you don't wish them,” Cliff scoffed.

“Sure they can,” said Nat Goldner. “Dolores and I didn't even know we wanted to get married, all those years ago, and then all of a sudden we were and it was exactly right.”

“And I wished for wonderful children,” Sabrina said, “smart and fun and full of love. Was that a myth?”

“Oh. Well, sometimes they come true.” Cliff grinned as the others laughed. “I mean, if you make the right wish . . .”

The right wish.

I made a wish once. So did Stephanie.

Oh, Stephanie, look where it took us.

Sabrina folded into herself as the others talked, remembering Stephanie, longing to hear her voice, to look into her eyes and see her own eyes gazing back at her, her own face, her mirror image, her identical twin.
It's your birthday, too, Stephanie, not just mine; you should be celebrating today; you should be—

Here. She should be here. If Stephanie were alive, she would be sitting at this table, surrounded by the family and friends that were hers long before she and Sabrina dreamed up their plan to switch places. It had been a mad and careless idea, though at the time it had seemed like a lark, a daring adventure. One year ago, only a year, they both had had troubles in their separate lives and lightheartedly wished for a chance to live a different life, just for a little while.

And then it became serious. And so, at the end of a trip to China, Sabrina went home as Stephanie Andersen, to a husband and two children and a shabby Victorian house in Evanston, just outside of Chicago. And Stephanie became Sabrina Longworth, divorced and living alone in the elegance of a Cadogan Square town house in London. Just for a week, they said, one week of escaping into another life, and then they would switch back, with no one the wiser.

But they had not switched back. Sabrina broke her wrist in a bicycle accident, and Stephanie, her marriage to Garth
already shaky, pleaded with Sabrina to stay in Evanston until her wrist was healed, the final X-ray taken. Then, when once again they were identical in all ways, they could safely return to their own lives.

But the weeks of healing turned their lives upside down. Sabrina fell in love with Garth with a passion she had never known, and found a deep love for Penny and Cliff, while Garth discovered a wife quite different from the one who had been drifting away from him, whom he had barely looked at for many months. He found her enchanting and exciting, and told himself she was consciously changing herself since her trip to China, to save their marriage.

Stephanie, in London, made new friends, and began an affair with Max Stuyvesant, a man of wealth and mystery and social connections who was involved with the world of art and antiquities. And she managed Ambassadors, Sabrina's exclusive antique shop, growing more self-confident with each day that she pretended to be her glamorous sister. Still, they would have changed back, but first Stephanie begged for just a few more days for a cruise with Max on his yacht. One last fling, she told Sabrina. One last fling.

And then she was dead. The yacht exploded off the coast of France, and the news came that everyone on board, including Lady Sabrina Longworth, had been killed. Sabrina and Garth went to London, where everyone mourned the loss of her sister, and in the funeral home Sabrina said goodbye to Stephanie, almost blinded by tears of loss and guilt. At the funeral, trying to tell the truth, she fell to her knees beside the grave, crying, “It wasn't Sabrina who died . . . It wasn't Sabrina . . . !” But no one would listen; they said she was unbalanced by grief. And Sabrina, in a turmoil of despair and confusion, could not fight them.

And so she returned to Stephanie's family. She knew it could not last—she could not build a life on a deception—but for the next three months, weaving through her grief was a happiness greater than any she had ever dreamed of:
passionate love with a strong man; warmth and cherishing and humor with two bright, loving children.

But by Christmas, almost four months after the sisters switched places, before Sabrina had gathered the strength to tell Garth she was leaving, he unraveled the deception himself. Enraged, he ordered her out of his life, out of his children's life. She fled to London, her world in ruins from that mad act she and Stephanie had so carelessly committed.

But, alone in his home, Garth slowly came to understand the depth of Sabrina's love for him and his children. He understood that she, too, had been trapped by the deception. And he knew that he loved her more deeply than he had ever loved before.

“Stephanie? You still with us?”

Sabrina started slightly and saw Nat Goldner looking at her with concern. Nat, the close friend, the doctor who had set her wrist when she broke it one year ago, looking at her with affection. “I'm sorry,” she said with a small smile, “I guess I drifted away.”

Garth came to sit on the arm of her chair. “It's usually professors who get accused of that, not professors' wives.” He put his arm around her. “This isn't an easy time.”

“You're thinking about Aunt Sabrina, aren't you?” Penny asked. “It's her birthday, too.”

“I miss her,” Cliff said. “She was lots of fun.”

Tears filled Sabrina's eyes, and Dolores Goldner leaned forward. “How awful for you, Stephanie; such a happy day, but filled with sadness, too.”

“I guess I need to be alone for a few minutes,” Sabrina said, standing up. “Cliff, you're in charge of cutting more cake.” She leaned down and kissed Garth lightly. “I won't be long.”

She heard Cliff taking orders for seconds as she climbed the stairs to the bedroom. The bedside lamps were on; the sheet was turned back on either side of the four-poster bed; their clothes had been put away. Wonderful Mrs. Thirkell,
Sabrina thought. I brought her from Cadogan Square in London, where her only concern was Lady Sabrina Longworth, and plunged her into a family of four in an old three-story house that always needs repairs, and in the eight months she has been here she has never once seemed flustered.

Lady Sabrina Longworth.
Sabrina sat on the curved window seat and looked into the front yard, palely lit by streetlights and the windows of neighboring houses. There is no such person as Lady Sabrina Longworth anymore, she thought. Mrs. Thirkell calls me, from habit, “My lady,” to the children's endless amusement, but Sabrina is dead; to the world, she died on a cruise with Max Stuyvesant last October. To me, she died when I realized I could never go back to my own identity, because that would give away the deception to Penny and Cliff. They would know that their mother had thought it would be a lark to pretend to be Sabrina Longworth, free and on her own in London while her sister took her place at home. They would know that their mother had been traveling with a man not their father when she was killed. I could not let them know that. And so there is no more Sabrina Longworth. And often I miss her, miss being her, miss living her life.

BOOK: A Tangled Web
6.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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