Domestic noir at its best. Readers will devour this stunning page-turner about the disintegration of a marriage as grief, jealousy, betrayal and murder destroy the facade of the perfect literary couple. New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison takes her exceptional writing to a new level with this breakout novel.
They built a life on lies
Sutton and Ethan Montclair’s idyllic life is not as it appears. They seem made for each other, but the truth is ugly. Consumed by professional and personal betrayals and financial woes, the two both love and hate each other. As tensions mount, Sutton disappears, leaving behind a note saying not to look for her.
Ethan finds himself the target of vicious gossip as friends, family and the media speculate on what really happened to Sutton Montclair. As the police investigate, the lies the couple have been spinning for years quickly unravel. Is Ethan a killer? Is he being set up? Did Sutton hate him enough to kill the child she never wanted and then herself? The path to the answers is full of twists that will leave the reader breathless.
Excerpt 7 Discoveries Are Made
He left the Scotch in his office, grabbed the semi-warm cup of tea from the kitchen counter, went to Sutton’s lair on the other side of the house, and booted up her laptop. The banking was always done on her computer. She had the tax files, so it made sense that the financial info was in the same place. Sutton had never shown an interest in the money Ethan brought to the marriage—she paid her mother out of her earnings, as he insisted—but was diligent about making sure the quarterlies and annual taxes were paid.
His family money: Most of it gone now anyway, eaten up by the price of the house and subsequent renovations. They should have gotten a mortgage, it was insanity to pay one point four million in cash, but Sutton wanted to be free of debt, so Ethan had signed on the line and handed over his nest egg.
At the time, money gone wasn’t a big deal. It was simply expected that he could continue earning; his highly anticipated third novel was due to release the following June. But, despite his best efforts, the trials of the past year had been too much for even his prodigious mind to handle; he couldn’t make it happen—the ending was elusive, the words juvenile and trite. Without any sign of a book the publisher had gotten antsy and the contract had fallen through. Bill tried everything he could to stall them, but, apologetically, the publisher had asked for—demanded—the very substantial million dollar advance back. The brilliant book with the plot that ruined his marriage was officially cancelled; Ethan was publicly humiliated in the industry trades and on social media. How does a man recover from such an embarrassment?
But far worse, far worse indeed: Ethan was now reliant on Sutton’s income to support them. Even knowing a royalty check would be coming, they had to reassess their expenditures.
It made him feel like less of a man, less of a husband, less of a writer, but even those indignities hadn’t broken free the writer’s block.
Ethan simply hadn’t been able to write a word since Dashiell died. Every time he laid hands on his keyboard, it all felt so fruitless. Pointless. The words drowned in the accusations, in the horrors and sobbing and cries. He’d helped create a life, and helped take it away. The child had depended on them for love and nurturing, and they’d nurtured him right into the grave. How could they forgive each other? How could they move on, move past? Worse, how could words—insignificant, paltry words—heal such a wound?
But dead baby or not, they had to eat. And Ethan wasn’t the type to get a job. Family money had lasted him this long, the small but flush trust fund to which he’d added the impressive advance of his debut novel, but once his parents bit it, there was an estate issue, and some of the money was tied up in a trust, and some went to pay off the accumulated debts, and the rest he’d sunk in the house, so he had all he was getting, at least for now.
And it wasn’t enough to make the monthly nut.
So Sutton became the breadwinner. Sutton was the one bringing in the money.
It had gone to Sutton’s lovely little head, the one who couldn’t be bothered with all his money, but took a sort of sinful pride in hers. She’d callously talked about investments and 401Ks over breakfast, ways to save for the future, how they would have to be careful from here on out.
No thank you for supporting us all these years, Ethan. No I am so grateful you wiped out your family money to buy us this house, Ethan. No don’t worry, sweetheart, you’ll find your words again. I promise, either.
They were alone now. No nanny. No baby. Just the two of them, knocking around in the grand old Victorian, the incessant tap, tap, tapping away from her end of the house, at all hours of the day and night, Sutton pouring her heart and soul onto the page while Ethan suffered through his drought alone.
She could work. She could talk about finances. Why couldn’t she talk to him?
They hadn’t had a real conversation in months.
Stop that, Ethan. My God.
He felt odd sitting at her desk. There was a half-full teacup with a scum around the edge, notepads and notebooks and pens—her favored fountain pen, a simple Pilot Metropolitan. He ran a finger along the edge of the pen. It was white, pearly, and he imagined it still held a hint of warmth from her touch. Ethan preferred the Blackwing 602 pencil—sturdy, reliable, never running out of ink or exploding onto unsuspecting fingers. Sutton had laughed at his old-fashioned nature.
He didn’t want to see the bank accounts, because knowing it was all hers made him feel…less.
“Man up, you bloody fool,” he said to himself, and opened the bank’s website.
They had two accounts, one for day-to-day expenses, and one for the investments.
Neither seemed disturbed. The last entries on the daily account were for Publix, $124.76, and a $25 charge to Starbucks, both dated Thursday of last week. Groceries, and she’d refilled her card. Ethan much preferred the grocery delivery service, but Sutton liked going to the store. He used to tease her that she only went to show off the baby. Of course, that wasn’t the case anymore. They’d taken to using the service lately, so Ethan was a bit surprised by the fact that she’d gone to the store directly, but hey, there was nothing sinister about it.
The Starbucks card, though, that was a regular expense. Ethan knew she refilled the card religiously once a week. He saw the entry with a pang of…was it happiness, sadness? He didn’t even know. Sutton had always loved walking to the square, loved the crowded Starbucks with its skinny building and long wooden tables. She went there every day, either with Ellen and Rachel, after yoga, or with Filly, when they could push the strollers, their ponytails bouncing, or with Ivy, when she was in town and didn’t have early morning meetings, but every day, she was there. It was her favorite part about their house’s location in downtown Franklin—how everything that mattered to her was within walking distance.
Who buys groceries, refills their Starbucks card, then decides to run away? It made no sense.
He scrolled back through the records. As far as he could see, the day-to-day account had no unusual charges for the past several days, and the last substantial withdrawal was one he’d made the past Friday. Sutton used a debit card for everything, hated carrying cash. Ethan was the opposite; he loved the tangible feel of money.
Part of him was relieved, and part of him was frightened. She hadn’t fled with cash in her pocket.
Call the police. You need to call the police. Something is wrong. The note, it could have been written under duress.
The other side of his mind said, just…assemble all the facts first.
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