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Danielle Steel

Family Ties

© 2010

To my beloved, precious children,

Beatrix, Trevor, Todd, Nick,

Sam, Victoria, Vanessa,

Maxx, and Zara,

of whom I am so proud,

to whom I am so grateful,

for whom I live my life,

with whom life is a joyful adventure!

May the ties that bind us be

ever gentle and ever strong!

with all my love,

Mommy/D.S.

Chapter 1

Seth Adams left Annie Ferguson’s West Village apartment on a sunny September Sunday afternoon. He was handsome, funny, intelligent, fun to be with, and they had been dating for two months. They had met at a Fourth of July picnic in the Hamptons, and he was as excited about his career as Annie was about her own. He had graduated from Harvard Business School two years before and was enjoying a meteoric rise at a Wall Street investment bank. Annie had graduated from Columbia Architecture School six months before, and she was reveling in the excitement of her first job with an important architecture group. It was her dream come true. And the handsome pair had spotted each other across a crowded room, and it was infatuation at first sight. It had been a great summer so far, and they were already talking about renting a ski house together with some of their friends. They were falling in love and looking forward to good times ahead.

Annie was having the time of her life: weekends with Seth, passionate lovemaking, happy times on the pretty little sailboat that he had just bought. She had it all, new man, new home, first big step in the career she had worked so hard for. She was on top of the world, twenty-six years old, tall, blond, beautiful. She had a smile that could have melted the world, and a lot to smile about. Her life these days was everything she had dreamed of.

She had to force Seth to leave that afternoon after another perfect weekend on his boat, but she had work to do. She wanted to spend some time on her first big project for a client meeting the following day. She knew she had to blow their socks off, and the plans she had been working on were meticulously done, and her immediate supervisor had shown a lot of respect for her ideas and was giving her a chance to shine. Annie was just sitting down at her drafting table when her cell phone rang. Although he had only left the apartment five minutes before, she thought it might be Seth. He called her sometimes on his way home, to tell her how much he already missed her.

She smiled, thinking of him, and then saw from the caller ID that it was Jane, her older sister by ten years. The two sisters were crazy about each other, and Jane had been like a mother to her since their parents had passed away when Annie was eighteen. Jane was happily married, lived in Greenwich, Connecticut, and had three adorable children. The two sisters looked almost like twins. Jane was a slightly older version of Annie, and she was looking forward to meeting Seth. He sounded like a keeper to her. All she hoped for Annie was that she would find someone as wonderful as her own husband Bill and be as happily married one day. Jane and Bill Marshall had been married for fourteen years and still acted like they were on their honeymoon. They were role models Annie hoped to emulate one day, but for now she was focused on her brand-new career, in spite of the delightful distraction provided by Seth for the past two months. Annie wanted to be a great architect one day.

“Is he there?” Jane asked conspiratorially, and her younger sister laughed. Jane was a freelance illustrator of children’s books and a proficient artist, but she had always been more interested in her husband and children than in her career. Bill was the publisher of a small but respected publishing house. They had spent the weekend in Martha’s Vineyard, closing up their summer house, and enjoying a romantic weekend away from their three kids.

“He just left,” Annie answered.

“Why so early?” Jane sounded disappointed for her.

“I have to work. I have a big presentation tomorrow, to an important client, and I wanted to work on the plans.”

“Good girl.” Jane was infinitely proud of her little sister. She was a star in her eyes. “We’ll be home in a couple of hours. We’re just leaving now. Bill is pre-flighting the plane. It was gorgeous here this weekend. I hate to close the house.” They loved the Vineyard, and so did their kids. They’d bought the house when their oldest, Lizzie, was born. She was twelve now, and the portrait of her mother. Ted was eight and looked just like Bill, with the same sweet nature and easygoing style. And Jane liked to say that her youngest, Katie, came from another planet. At five, she had opinions about everything, was incredibly bright, and was fearless. She was an old soul in a child’s body, and she always said that she and her aunt Annie were best friends. “How’s the weather in New York?” Jane asked her conversationally. It was hurricane season, but the weather at the Vineyard had been good.

“It’s been hot and sunny all weekend, but they say there’s a storm coming in tonight. It doesn’t look like it to me,” Annie answered.

“They’re expecting a storm here too-the wind picked up an hour ago, but it looks okay so far. Bill wants to get home before it starts.” He was waving to her from the plane then, and Jane grabbed her styrofoam cup of coffee and walked toward him, as she wound up the conversation with Annie. “I’ll call you when I get home. Don’t work too hard… I love you. Why don’t you bring Seth out to dinner next weekend?”

“I’ll try. I may have to work, depending on how the meeting goes tomorrow. I love you too. Call me later,” Annie said comfortably as they hung up and she went back to work. She spread out the plans and studied them carefully. She could see a few adjustments she wanted to make, just subtle ones, but she was a perfectionist and wanted everything to be flawless the next day. She began slowly and meticulously making the changes she had thought about all weekend.

Jane got into the plane that was her husband’s pride and joy. He had been a Navy pilot, and in love with planes all his life. This was the biggest one he’d had. It was a Cessna 414 Chancellor that seated eight. It was perfect for them, their three children, and their babysitter Magdalena when she came to the Vineyard with them, which left room for two friends, or the mountain of shopping bags and suitcases that Jane always dragged back and forth between Greenwich and the Vineyard. The plane was a luxury, but it meant more to Bill than their house and was his most beloved possession. Jane always felt totally safe when Bill was flying, more so than on any commercial flight. He kept his license current and was instrument rated.

“Get your ass in here,” he said jokingly, as she pushed one more shopping bag into the plane. “There’s a storm coming, and I want to get us home before it hits.” The sky was darkening as he said it, and Jane’s long blond hair was flying in the wind. She hopped in, and he leaned over and kissed her, and then concentrated on the dials in front of him. He had clearance to leave, and they had instruments if the weather got socked in. Bill put the headphones on and talked to the tower as Jane pulled a magazine out of her bag. She loved trashy gossip

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