Emmeline Hopkins-Keller is in paradise, sharing a luxurious holiday on a tropical island with her husband Jeffrey and his family. But it’s hard to relax and enjoy it when she knows her marriage is in deep trouble.
One fateful night, a cataclysmic argument between Emmeline and Jeffrey sends him fleeing into the deep, dark forest. A day later he is still missing, leaving everyone shocked and bewildered.
Then, a miracle. Jeffrey turns up unharmed and wants to reconcile. But something is horribly wrong. He looks and sounds like Jeffrey, but Emmeline is 100% sure he's not the man she married. Even if everyone in his family is welcoming this stranger with open arms.
Which leaves her wondering, who exactly is this imposter? And how can he deceive everyone around him? And most of all – what are his plans for Emmeline?
Struggling to believe that everyone around her is lying, Emmeline begins to doubt herself, to lose her grip on reality. Only one thing is certain – when she finally uncovers the terrifying truth, her life will be changed forever.
Dripping with intrigue, The Doppelganger is an enthralling psychological thriller that will surprise you at every turn.
Release date: March 5, 2023
Publisher: Inkubator Books
Print pages: 366
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The Doppelganger: a psychological thriller with a twist you won't see coming
Emmeline was beyond exhausted. She had no idea how much time had passed since she first set foot in that damn forest. Why was there a forest in the middle of an island anyway? It felt like at least a few hours had passed when she finally managed to find a way out. Walking slowly since she was barefoot. In her haste, in her anger toward Jeffrey, she’d forgotten to put her shoes on. She headed back toward the cabin. Alone.
She felt so tired she could fall asleep standing up. She wasn’t just physically tired, she was emotionally drained as well. Then again, having a screaming match in the middle of nowhere with her husband could do that to a person.
Emmeline couldn’t wait to reach the cabin and get into bed. She felt like she could sleep for days. Jeffrey had made them so miserable it was beyond description, beyond comprehension. Unfortunately, there was nothing she could do about it anymore. It is what it is, she thought simply.
She barely stopped herself from groaning when she saw Jessie Mae waiting by the door of her cabin. Her plan to crawl into bed and forget the world would have to wait, at least for a little while.
Why did the Kellers insist on tormenting her when all she wanted was to be left alone, to sleep for a week straight? After what Jeffrey had put her through this evening, she felt like she deserved it.
Damn Jeffrey. He ruined everything.
It was clear from Jessie Mae’s face that she was surprised at Emmeline’s appearance. Her feet and hands were filthy.
Her words confirmed as much. “What happened to you?”
“I fell a couple of times while trying to find my way out of the forest,” Emmeline explained.
No need to hide what had happened. She was sure the whole island knew about her fight with Jeffrey by now. She only hoped Patrick didn’t say anything about their near kiss. Not because she was ashamed of it, but she knew the Kellers wouldn’t understand. They would probably fire him if they heard he’d tried to take advantage of her.
“What are you doing here?” Emmeline asked. She noted it was quite late at night, and since Jessie Mae couldn’t go to a party, Emmeline had assumed she would be asleep.
Did our fight wake her up?
“Are you all right?” Jessie Mae demanded, fully ignoring her question. “Is Jeffrey all right?”
Emmeline made a face. She was furious at the man. And she was sure she would remember everything he’d said to her, every nasty thing, every slight, until the day she died. He broke her heart with his selfishness.
“I’m fine, just tired. And I need a bath,” she added as an afterthought, looking at her dirty hands.
They really needed to install some lights in the forest and create a proper path, not a dirt road, so things like this would not happen.
“I heard noises and got worried when you weren’t here.”
Of course, she’d heard them arguing. Her cabin was right next to theirs.
Jeffrey’s parents liked to stay at the main house, which was farther away. So did Lynne, but Jessie Mae liked to have some privacy and had settled in one of the empty cabins.
Lucky us, she thought dryly, because everyone loved a peanut gallery while fighting.
Emmeline massaged her brow, sighing heavily. “What you heard was me and Jeffrey arguing.”
“Is everything all right between you guys?”
No. Yes. It all depended on the perspective. “I don’t know,” she replied with a shrug, entering the cabin. Jessie Mae followed her.
Although dirty, Emmeline sat on the bed. She was bone tired and didn’t feel like speaking, but she felt she still needed to explain. Getting the words out while not crying was hard.
“I really thought that coming here would help us, but it’s worse than ever. We apparently can’t stop arguing,” she admitted, looking at the floor. She felt like the biggest failure.
“What happened? Why did you two fight?” Jessie Mae asked, sitting beside her.
Emmeline shook her head. “It was stupid, really. He didn’t like me speaking with Patrick.”
“Patrick?” Jessie Mae inquired, as though unfamiliar with the name.
“The new staff member. Jeffrey was convinced something was going on because I was polite with the boy one time. He accused me of behaving inappropriately. How archaic, right?” she explained, and started to cry. She couldn’t help it. This hurt too much. Jeffrey hurt her too much.
“He got upset with you for talking with a staff member?”
“Yes, and he said some horrible things, caused a big scene, and then I got upset as well. As you can imagine, things only went sideways afterwards.”
And now she was sitting alone on their bed, crying to his sister, having to deal with the aftermath of the mess he’d created. How fitting, after everything that man put her through, he’d abandoned her to deal with everything alone.
“Is that why you are covered in dirt?”
“Partly,” Emmeline replied simply.
“And where is Jeffrey now?”
I hope in hell, she thought angrily, but regretted it instantly. That was too cruel of her. No matter how angry she was with him, she still loved him, and having such thoughts wasn’t good.
“I don’t know. He took off in the middle of the fight and stormed into the forest.” Emmeline wiped her eyes. “I tried following him and then got lost. I called out for him, but he didn’t come back. I looked for him, but it’s dark, and I got scared. I mean, I know nothing bad can happen on this island, but it was so dark, and I was so emotional. I started to see things, scary shapes.” She shook as though trying to repel bad memories. “I barely managed to find my way out,” she confessed, sniffling.
“I see,” was all Jessie Mae said for the longest time. She still looked pretty worried. Emmeline could understand that; she was too.
It was different for Jessie Mae, though; she adored her brother and had idolized him her whole life. It was very hard for her to learn her brother was just a human being like the rest of them, who struggled with his own demons. Although, based on tonight’s behavior, Emmeline was more inclined to say he’d thoroughly succumbed to them. He’d let his demons run wild. He’d let them take complete control and had hurt her, deeply. Not that she planned on sharing that part. She’d said enough as it was.
“I think I’ll go look for him,” Jessie Mae added after some thought.
“I’m sure he is fine, hiding in that cabin on the eastern side, avoiding me,” Emmeline said, making a face.
“The cabin you two stayed—”
“Yes,” Emmeline interjected before the other woman said honeymoon. There really was no need to be reminded of that. It felt like rubbing salt into a wound. “How’s that for irony?”
“Why do you say that?” Jessie Mae wanted to know.
“Because it’s true. This is his pattern of behavior. This is what he always does. He instigates a fight, then storms away, but still manages to find other, small ways to hurt me, even from afar.” Emmeline sighed, rubbing her brow. “I’m sorry for dumping all of this on you. As you can see, I’m still pretty agitated. I’m sure he’ll come back once he’s cooled down. After realizing he’s made a mistake.”
That was always the best and the worst part of it all. In the end, he always came to terms with the fact he was the one at fault. She just wished he could cut out the middle part, the fighting.
Sadly, Jeffrey didn’t learn from his mistakes.
Jessie Mae looked at her funny, as though in disbelief. Emmeline could understand that as well. She was still young. She had no idea how the world of grown-ups functioned, how complicated relationships between people truly were. Besides, Emmeline was painting Jeffrey in an entirely different light. And the girl had to come to terms with the fact she didn’t know her brother as well as she believed.
Then again, people were complicated. He could be an amazing brother while being a shitty husband and an outstanding businessman. Emmeline could see Jeffrey’s younger sister was finally starting to get that. And that was good. It was about time she learned the truth.
They should all learn the truth about Jeffrey. That he wasn’t their golden boy; he wasn’t so perfect. He had a lot of issues, and most of them revolved around his wife.
When things were good between them, they were perfect though. He was perfect, magical, so caring, thoughtful, not to mention generous, showering her with gifts and attention. Though, when things were bad, they were like this. He would shred her heart to pieces with his words, with his cruelty, and then storm away, leaving her wondering if this was the last straw.
“Are you all right with me leaving you alone?” Jessie Mae asked.
She was quite used to being alone.
“Do you want me to call Lynne or Mom?”
“No. I don’t want to bother anyone else. Thank you for listening to me.”
Jessie Mae nodded. “I think I’ll go look for him now. Just to make sure he’s okay.”
“That’s a good idea. Maybe you’ll have more luck finding him than I did,” Emmeline added as a joke, but Jeffrey’s sister didn’t laugh.
We all deal with stress differently, I suppose, she thought. Emmeline liked to break the tension with humor. Jessie Mae apparently liked to remain stoic.
“There’s no place on this island he can hide from me. I know it like the back of my hand,” Jessie Mae reassured her.
“Then again, he’s not hiding from you,” she pointed out glumly. That privilege was reserved for her alone, and she said as much.
“I’m sure you guys will work it out.”
Was she saying that to placate her, or did she truly mean it? Did Jeffrey speak with her about their problems? No. He wouldn’t burden his younger sister with something close to that. Besides, based on how Jessie Mae had reacted to everything Emmeline had shared, it was clear she’d learned about all of this tonight. She’d had no idea they had marital problems.
Could the same be said for the rest of the family? Although it was irrational, Emmeline felt a little nervous about all of them knowing she and Jeffrey had problems. The cat was definitely out of the bag now, so stressing about it would accomplish nothing.
Part of her was glad they would all finally know the truth. The rest of her was worried they would judge her. They were his family, after all. It would be only logical for them to side with him.
I’ll just tell them what happened and let them judge who was in the right and who was in the wrong.
“I know,” Emmeline replied eventually. “Thank you for saying that.”
Jeffrey’s younger sister nodded, getting up.
“I know I’m still very much mad at him, but tell him I love him,” Emmeline added, with a small smile.
“Relationships are hard,” Jessie Mae commented.
“You have no idea. Like, take now, for example. I know he’s been acting like an idiot, ruining our vacation for no particular reason, and I’m very much angry, but at the same time, he’s my idiot, you know?”
“I will let him know,” Jessie Mae reassured her on her way out.
Emmeline couldn’t believe how much lighter she felt after this conversation with Jessie Mae. She would never have guessed that she of all people would be her shoulder to cry on. She didn’t seem like the type, being so self-centered and spoiled.
People can surprise you, she thought.
Looking through the window, she could barely see Jeffrey’s younger sister going into the woods. She really had gone to look for him. In the middle of the night. Emmeline could only shake her head.
She knew they were all close, Matthew had raised them like that, but this was taking things too far. The sun would rise in a couple of hours, but apparently, patience wasn’t one of the qualities Jessie Mae possessed.
Emmeline collected a few things she needed and then went to have a much-deserved shower. She felt dirty all over, with all kinds of nastiness underneath her fingernails, and she had to scrub herself thoroughly to feel clean again. It went without saying she was resentful toward Jeffrey for having to do this now.
That man brought her so much grievance, so much pain and anguish, she wondered why she’d stayed married to him for this long. Something must be seriously wrong with her if she willingly went through all this torment, all this drama.
As she scrubbed herself clean, she felt some of her tension disappearing. She didn’t know if it was because of the shower, the fresh water, the creamy soap, or because she’d reached some kind of epiphany that night. Probably a tad bit of everything.
Everything will be all right, she reminded herself, taking a deep breath. It had to be because she wouldn’t accept anything else.
Wrapping herself in a towel, she left the bathroom. She decided not to bother dressing.
Knowing Jeffrey wouldn’t be coming back tonight, she sprawled on the bed, lying at the center of it, occupying as much space as possible, as though out of spite. It wasn’t out of spite; she was simply enjoying her time alone. She was used to being alone, even when in relationships, and tonight she’d come to terms with the fact she actually preferred it.
She was the best possible company she could have. Other people only disappointed her, anyway.
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