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Tangled Lies


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Tangled Lies

Anne Stuart

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contents

Prologue 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 Epilogue

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ISBN 0-373-36014-2

TANGLED LIES

Copyright © 1984 by Anne Kristine Stuart Ohlrogge

Published Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd. 1984,1993

All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher, Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario M3B 3K9, Canada.

All characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author, and all incidents are pure invention.

This edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

Printed in U.S.A.

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Prologue

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December 1969—Cambridge

There was a biting wind ripping through the Cambridge streets, laced with the icy tang of the sea and the Charles River, whipped into stinging pellets of freezing rain that assaulted the back of his neck as he ducked his head down. He brushed past the crowds of people with unseeing hazel eyes trained on the cracked sidewalks, his affable grin absent. Usually he made a concerted effort to look strangers in the eye and smile, but his cheerful friendliness was nowhere to be seen that day. Ducking around a corner, his booted feet moved faster. He hadn't wanted to leave the town house. Second-year chemistry students tended to think they had all the answers. He would have felt safer if they were graduate students. By that time in their studies people knew enough to realize how much more they had to learn. Charlie's Pizza Palace was a small, funky hole-in-the-wall that served as meeting place, dining hall, and home away from home for their small, dedicated group. Tinny Christmas carols were blaring forth from an old AM radio behind the counter, and some ratty-looking tinsel, spotted with tomato sauce, adorned the seldom-used cash register. The man slammed the door shut behind him as he entered, closing out the biting wind and some of his misgivings, and went to pick up the pizzas.

Three large, with the works, ought to keep them occupied most of the night, until he could make sure they knew what they were doing. He was older than most of them—he felt somehow responsible. A staid, sober influence, he thought with a laugh. Who was he kidding? But the pizzas and the gallon of cheap red wine they'd brought with them when they'd arrived earlier that afternoon served to distract them for a while, and one of those intense all-night arguments on political theory would finish the night. A wry grin lit his lean, youthful face. There'd be no revolution without pizza and cheap red wine to fuel it, he thought, and lots of theory. Bringing out the money, he felt the customary twinge of guilt. Money was too available to him; too many people were in need, and his pockets were always bulging.

"Keep the change." Hefting the three large boxes in his small, strong hands, he headed back out into the Massachusetts winter. Charlie looked after him, wiped his nose, and stuck the fifty-dollar bill in a back pocket before turning up the radio as dogs barked "Jingle Bells."

The pizzas would be cold by the time he made it the four blocks back to the elegant town house that resembled nothing so much as a Haight-Ashbury crash pad right now. Donovan's parents were touring Europe. He could imagine their horrified reaction if they returned early, in time for Christmas, and saw the holiday decorations Donovan and Julianna had fashioned. But Donovan's parents weren't going to return any time in the near future, and Christmas would pass undisturbed and unnoticed.

Not by the majority of Boston, however. Songs about peace on earth blared forth from every radio, interspersed with bulletins announcing the rising death toll and the constant escalation of that nasty, vicious little war. All is calm, all is bright, he thought, turning the corner into the wealthier section of Cambridge, where there were neater streets and quieter houses, where the silent weight of wealth and prosperity and capitalism radiated its smug self-assurance to the deliberately scruffy passersby. Peace on earth was a cruel joke, he thought, ducking his head against the stinging sleet. When the most peace-minded people he knew spent the season of joy and hope constructing bombs, and he was a half-hearted patron. Nitroglycerin cost money, which he had in abundance.

Not that bombs, per se, were that bad, he reasoned, the never-ending argument still playing in his head. A nice, clean bombing that destroyed parts of the war machine without endangering human life had a certain anarchistic charm. But could you always guarantee there wouldn't be a night watchman, a student at ROTC studying late, a miscalculation?

Hell, he was borrowing trouble. He'd smoked too much dope before leaving for the pizzas, and it always made him paranoid. Then again, that was another problem. He couldn't quite reconcile the amount Donovan smoked with the needed care for the chemical combinations. Donovan always insisted it made him even more accurate, but he had his doubts.

Still and all, Donovan, for all his youth, seemed to know what he was doing. And the lab was surprisingly efficient, despite its ramshackle air and jumbled components. He wondered how everyone was getting on in his absence, and how far down the wine bottle had gotten. Maybe he should stop and get some more.

No, he was just being overly moralistic and chicken-hearted. Nothing would go wrong—the house was as safe as a nursery school. Donovan was brilliant, in complete command…

The blast rocked the street beneath him, sending him staggering against a parked car beneath a shower of broken glass. The pizzas went flying, and he stared at them for a blank moment, the anchovies mixing with the shattered glass on the hood of the Dodge beneath him. And then he was up, and running, oblivious to the slivers of glass embedded in his scalp, oblivious of the crackle of fire and the distant screams that echoed distantly in his head. People were everywhere; he shoved them out of his way ruthlessly as he raced toward the town house. Skidding around the corner, he careened into a couple of curious housewives. And stood there staring, with horror, at the pile of rubble and flames that had been the Donovan town house.

"Hey, man, you've got to get out of here." An urgent voice penetrated his horrified abstraction, and he turned with overwhelming relief to see a soot-covered Donovan, the gash on his high, intellectual forehead oozing blood. Julianna was beside him, her arm at a strange angle, the whiteness of shock set in her face. "Come on, man. They'll be after us before you even turn around. Get moving."

"Where's—?"

"Gone, man. Julianna and I were the only ones to get out. We only realized at the last minute it was going to blow. Listen, the heat will be here any moment now, and people know you've been seen around here. Get lost, man, and fast." And without a backward glance, either at his friend or at the rubble of his parents' house that now served as a tomb, he took Julianna's good arm and hustled her down the street.

He stared after them, then swung around to watch the flaming pile of debris. The sound of the sirens was growing louder, and so was the deafening panic that beat down around him. Before he realized what he was doing he had whirled around and was racing back down the streets through the shattered window glass. There probably wasn't a window intact in three blocks, he thought dazedly. It was going to be a cold night for a lot of people. He had almost made it to his illegally parked car when the sound of a radio blared out from one broken window. "All is calm all is bright…"



December 1969—New York

Sometimes the man thought New York was the coldest place on earth. He knew it was impossible, of course. He'd spent years in Minnesota, where it regularly dipped to twenty and thirty below zero during the long, hard winters. New York at ten above was still more bone-chillingly cold.

Even the forced gaiety of the Christmas season didn't seem to help. Of course, there wasn't much to be happy about this Christmas. He faced decisions, and none of the answers pleased him. There were times when prison seemed the least of the evils, but he knew he was fooling himself. Even if he could stand it, and he had little doubt he could bear anything he put his mind to, there were others to consider.

Canada was another possibility. It probably wouldn't be much different from Minnesota. The only problem was the inevitability of it. There would be no changing his mind, no turning back, once he went that far. And he didn't fancy being on the run, giving other people that kind of power over his life.

But the third alternative was no alternative at all. Killing was alien to him; his sister always said that despite his hard face he was the sweetest man on earth. He wouldn't go that far, but he knew he didn't want to participate in organized killing, in a war he didn't believe in.

Sooner or later he was going to have to decide. He had till Christmas, a Christmas that was moving much too rapidly toward him. Reaching over, he flipped on the radio; his large, slender hand sped past the omnipresent Christmas carols that had begun to grate on his raw nerves. He wasn't in the mood for the twenty-fifth rendering of "The Little Drummer Boy."

His hand stayed outstretched, motionless, as he listened to the news bulletin. His hand shook slightly as he withdrew it, pulling it back as if burned. He leaned back in his chair and stared with unseeing eyes out the soot-caked New York window. And for the first time in his life he wanted to kill.

Chapter One

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With an almost detached glance Rachel Chandler looked down to see her strong, pale hand grip the armrest of the 747 that was gleefully soaring through air pockets and the most god-awful turbulence to the peaceful paradise of Hawaii. If I hold on tight enough, she thought in a controlled panic, then this ridiculously heavy piece of machinery won't fall out of the sky and into the vast, green-blue Pacific Ocean beneath us.

"First time you've flown?" a deep, sympathetic voice next to her inquired, and she shook her head. The last thing she wanted to do was to encourage the man beside her. She had had time to size him up through her initial wave of panic before the plane took off, long enough to assure herself that she wanted nothing in the world to do with him. He was dressed in a pale silk suit that had doubtless been tailored to his tall, muscular body; his handsome face was perfectly tanned, the blue eyes above the strong, aquiline nose calculatingly warm and flattering. He was just a little too perfect for Rachel's perverse tastes. She had had her fill of handsome, well-dressed, charming men like her ex-fiancé, Ralph Fowler, all surface charm and no depth at all, and the last thing she needed was to arrive in Hawaii with a man hanging over her.

Of course, she was probably having delusions of grandeur, she thought, deliberately trying to loosen her death grip on the armrest and keeping her face turned out into the clouds. She had no illusions about her looks—she knew just what he saw through those beautiful blue eyes. A woman in her late twenties, she had chestnut hair in a thick braid down one shoulder and dark brown eyes, cautiously curious. She wore a white linen-blend suit set off by an aqua-green silk blouse, the straight skirt with the slit halfway up her thigh providing her seatmate with a needless amount of slender, tanned leg. She should have worn jeans, she thought irritably as one of her seatmate's hands reached over to pat the clenched fist that rested nervously on one thigh. She had been in such a whirl of excitement and panic that she'd put on the first thing she could think of this morning, an outfit guaranteed to make her feel good about herself.

With a cool, deliberate stare, Rachel looked down at the encroaching hand. He had too much black hair on the back of his knuckles, and he wore a diamond pinky ring, which immediately rendered him harmless. How could anyone be seriously threatened by a lothario with a pinky ring? She looked up into his blue eyes, which were a trifle closer together than she had first noticed, smiled sweetly, and said, "Take your hand off me or I'll call the stewardess."

He moved his hand away as if burned, an affronted expression on his face. He probably hadn't been turned down in years, Rachel thought to herself, especially not by someone who in a crowd would be a definite second or third or even twelfth choice. A moment later he rose, navigating the aisles with practiced ease in his hurry to get away from her and seek out greener pastures. She had to admire his balance, though nothing would get her to unfasten her seat belt and leave the dubious haven of her seat.

Not even nature, which had been calling her quite adamantly for the last hour. There were three more hours left to the flight, but nothing, absolutely nothing, would entice her out of her seat to brave the dangers of the airborne rest room. Her bladder would simply have to suffer. Think of something else, she admonished herself as her body protested. Think of why you're doing such an incredibly suicidal thing like flying.

By the end of the day, for the first time in more than fifteen years, she was going to see her brother. After six months' time, countless private detectives, a concerted effort on Minnie Masterson's part to have him declared dead, and sheer panic on Rachel's part, Uncle Harris had suddenly, surprisingly, come up with the goods, confounding all the greedy relatives who had hoped to prove her brother long dead. Emmett Chandler had been found, still on the same island in Hawaii where he had last been seen in the late sixties.

Of course, Emmett being found wasn't as simple as it sounded, Rachel reflected. With Emmett it was never going to be that way. First off, there was his involvement sixteen years ago with a bomb factory in a town house in Cambridge. The town house no longer existed, thanks to the bomb factory, but various members of the radical group he'd been involved in still made occasional reappearances. Emmett had scarcely been a ringleader, and it was the accidental explosion that had sent him on the run to Hawaii, but the FBI had still made occasional inquiries of Ariel and Henry Emmett as recently as three years ago. The elderly couple who had raised two astoundingly disparate grandchildren remained ignorant of his possible whereabouts.

It was a good thing only Rachel had known the next stop on his run. A postcard from the island of Kauai was the last direct word she'd heard from him. In retrospect she had little doubt what he'd been doing on the chiefly agricultural island—Hawaii was famous for the potency of its marijuana and the ease of its cultivation. But apparently that wasn't the answer to his problems either, for a few months later Emmett William Chandler had disappeared. Henry Emmett sorrowfully assumed his grandson was dead; Ariel and Rachel refused to accept the fact. That was doubtless why Ariel had left almost all the money to him, Rachel had decided months ago. She'd known that Emmett had as little interest in the Chandler fortune as she had, but if Emmett was the heir to all those millions, someone would have to find him.

Perhaps Rachel had been wrong not to tell Ariel about the packages in the beginning. They began arriving the year Emmett left, regularly as clockwork, a few days before her birthday, postmarked Hong Kong, Macao, Rome, New Delhi, names to fill her imagination and set her mind at ease. There was never any note, but then, there didn't need to be. As long as she knew Emmett was well enough to think of her, to send her a birthday present from his exotic ports of call, then she knew he was all right. And the small porcelain butterfly would join her growing collection, a collection Emmett had started on her fourth birthday.

Henry Emmett had known, of course. Henry Emmett knew everything that went on in the vast mansion north of San Francisco. But he'd never questioned her, never said a word, merely smiled faintly each year when he handed her the well-traveled packages that arrived with strange postmarks and no return address.

And now

she was finally going to see her brother again! She could hardly remember what he looked like, it had been so long. He'd seemed very tall to her when she was twelve, though she knew in retrospect that he was less than six feet. His long, sandy-colored hair had hung halfway down his shoulders, though he usually tied it back in a ponytail, and a full beard had obscured his face for three years prior to his disappearance. Would he still have that skinny awkward look? He'd be around forty by now—perhaps he'd be suave and slinky like the man who had sat beside her.

And would he be pleased to see her? Uncle Harris had decreed that none of the pack of ravenous relatives should even think of venturing out to Hawaii to welcome home the prodigal son until the various legal entanglements were settled. It wouldn't do to have the Chandler heir slapped in jail; it wouldn't do to have the Chandler fortune hit with lawsuits by the survivors of the town house blast. Even Aunt Minnie decided to wait, albeit with a great deal of grumbling and almost daily phone calls to Rachel, usually at work. The District Supervisor of the Department of Social Welfare hadn't been pleased with a junior caseworker spending so much time on personal business, but Aunt Minnie, with all the arrogant disdain of the Chandlers, had been unmoved.

Uncle Harris's warning had even extended to her, of course, though he hadn't felt it necessary to lay it on quite as thickly. After all, the entire family knew that Rachel didn't fly, that nothing short of a major earthquake could get her to leave northern California. But he hadn't counted on her lifelong love for her brother, her general feeling of bereavement at the sudden death of the grandparents who had brought her up from infancy, when her flighty mother had died in a plane crash. Emma had been on her way to a party, five weeks after Rachel was born without a father. She had abandoned Rachel's thirteen-year-old half brother, Emmett, to her parents years before. Despite the large difference in their ages, Rachel and Emmett were bonded closer than most siblings.