THE INTERNATIONALLY BESTSELLING PSYCHOLOGICAL SUSPENSE NOVEL YOU CAN'T MISS...
“A cracking read...Our Little Secret builds to a deliciously dark conclusion.” Ruth Ware, New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in Cabin 10
Roz Nay's Our Little Secret is a twisted tale of love, pain, and revenge that will stay with the reader long after they turn the last page.
They say you never forget your first love. What they don’t say though, is that sometimes your first love won’t forget you…
Angela Petitjean sits in a cold, dull room. The police have been interrogating her for hours, asking about Saskia Parker. She’s the wife of Angela’s high school sweetheart, HP, and the mother of his child. She has vanished. Homicide Detective J. Novak believes Angela knows what happened to Saskia. He wants the truth, and he wants it now.
But Angela has a different story to tell. It began more than a decade ago when she and HP met in high school in Cove, Vermont. She was an awkward, shy teenager. He was a popular athlete. They became friends, fell in love, and dated senior year. Everything changed when Angela went to college. When time and distance separated them. When Saskia entered the picture.
That was eight years ago. HP foolishly married a drama queen and Angela moved on with her life. Whatever marital rift caused Saskia to leave her husband has nothing to do with Angela. Nothing at all. Detective Novak needs to stop asking questions and listen to what Angela is telling him. And once he understands everything, he’ll have the truth he so desperately wants…
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.30(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
ROZ NAY grew up in England and studied at Oxford University. She has been published in The Antigonish Review and the anthology Refuge. Roz has worked as an underwater fish counter in Africa, a snowboard videographer in Vermont, and a high school teacher in both the UK and Australia. She now lives in British Columbia, Canada, with her husband and two children. Our Little Secret is her first novel.
Read an Excerpt
I've been in the police station all morning while they ask me questions about Saskia. Every hour the cops come to me, one after another, with a new pad of paper and a full cup of coffee. They must pass off the same brain at the door when they leave, hand it over like an Olympic baton, because not one of them strays from the script. Do you know the woman well? Can you speculate on where she's gone? Are you upset? Angry? How do you feel about Mr. Parker? Would you consider your relationship with him to be particularly ... close? Always a pause before the adjective.
That's the thing: They sound like they're asking about Saskia, but all roads lead to Mr. Parker and me. The police want to know if I'm in love with him, and they ask it like it's the simplest explanation rather than the most complicated. My definition of love is nothing like theirs, though. Language can't link us anymore: Somewhere along the way, the important words got emptied and dulled, bandied around until they lost all electricity. Honestly, I don't think they know what they're asking.
Mr. Parker. It's funny to hear his name that way; to me he's HP and he always will be. For the hours I've sat in this room with cold-faced interviewers who don't know me, it's him I miss the most. I've done nothing wrong and until I know what's happened, I'm saying nothing. Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye, I'd tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but it's like they're trying to solve a puzzle by fixating on one piece, as if it might change shape for them if they prod at it for long enough with their chimpy thumbs. They sit with their heads down, anticipating my answers and writing them in before the words are even mine. I wonder if it matters what I tell them.
The walls in this room merge with the floors in a sheen of polish: you can't tell where each one ends and another begins. It's as if no living creature ever spent time in here. The sole sign of humanity is on the wall to my left: one small line of graffiti written in fervent black capitals. THE URGE TO DESTROY IS CREATIVE. I've looked at it all morning, and it makes me worry about who sat here before me and what they were up to.
The only furniture in the room is a chrome table with four chairs, all the legs stubbed with rubber to avoid scarring the floor. Above the door a clock with a beige face judders its long hand through the seconds. In the top left corner is a video camera. The red light winks at me. There's one window up high to my right, but the glass doesn't open. The long, thin pane glints like a reptile tank in a pet store. The police station parking lot must be out there. I often hear car doors banging.
There are other interview rooms on this corridor — I'm sure of it, because the air sucks in like a gasp every time the police officers open a door. Who's being questioned in those rooms? I can't be the only one they've brought in.
At noon they send in a fresh recruit. This one is dressed in a suit with a name badge clipped on his right pocket.
"Hello, Angela." J. Novak studies the clipboard on his lap.
He writes the time in twenty-four-hour digits and fills out his name on the dotted line. J for James? John? Jekyll? He's shaved his sideburns so that his hair cuts a strange line over the tops of his ears.
"How are you feeling this morning?" He clears his throat, and his Adam's apple bobs. "I'm Detective Novak. I've been asked to take the lead because I specialize in homicide cases." He exhales, an apology for his talents. "Here, I brought you water and food." He holds out a generic bottle of water and two granola bars. When I don't respond, he places them gently on the table. "Look, we really need you to talk to us, to help us find Saskia. If you could just fill in the blanks, we can close your file." Detective Novak's pen drums against the clipboard in a measured pulse. The pen lid is chewed into a dented peak.
"I have a question." My voice bounces around the vinyl walls. Novak's dark eyebrows shoot up.
"Fire away," he says, like we're just hanging out over lattes.
"Do you really want to know what happened?" My voice is a tiny husk. It's the only question anyone should ever need to ask.
Novak smiles, a tight line on his lips, and pulls the sleeves of his jacket lower to cover his shirt cuffs. He puts both palms flat on each side of his paper, the pen horizontal at the top like a spoon at a place setting. He is waiting to be fed.
My mother always taught me not to ask questions you don't want answers to. Mind your manners, Angela. You're so nosy, so grabby. You're so needy; have I taught you nothing about being a lady? Twenty years I lived with my parents and we never really talked about anything. We were just moles fumbling along in the same dark tunnel.
These days when all three of us meet, we blink at each other in the bright surprise of my adulthood and flounder for a point of reference. But if I think about it now, maybe my mother was right. In among all her competitive disapproval lay a gristly knuckle of truth: Don't ask what you don't want to know.
Detective Novak, I don't trust your curiosity.
I prod my forefinger on the chrome of the table, leaving a smeared fingerprint. "I'll tell you all I can, on two conditions."
"I know Saskia. I know what she's like. Is it really true she's been missing since last night?"
"I want to know why you think it's a homicide case. She might have just wandered off. Maybe she flew back to wherever she came from."
He pauses, frowning. "At this point we're considering all possibilities."
"Good, because you shouldn't rule anything out. You don't know what people are capable of."
That one he writes down. I wait for him to finish, the full stop at the end of his line carefully pressed. He lifts his head. "What's your other condition?"
"You said there were two conditions."
"Oh, I don't want to talk about Saskia the whole time."
Novak's teeth are flat at the front, four of them in a row. "She's kind of the main event."
A black thread dangles from the hem of my shirt. I coil it around and around my forefinger until the skin at the tip shrieks purple. "I'm sorry to break it to you, Detective, but the story I have for you isn't really about her. There's a skill to finding where a tale truly begins, and trust me, there was action long before there was Saskia." I yank the thread free, roll it into a tiny ball and launch it to the floor.
"Start wherever you like, Angela. I'm a captive audience."
We study each other.
"Am I a suspect, Detective Novak?"
He uncrosses and crosses his long legs. "Like I say, the investigation's ongoing. At this stage we're just filling in the blanks. We don't know for sure what we're looking at. And you're helping us form a ..." He cups his hands as if around clay. " ... a clearer picture."
"I doubt I can help. I know HP more than I do Saskia, and most of what I can tell you is a decade old."
His mouth smiles but his eyes don't. "Just tell me what you know."
I shrug. "Okay, here we go."
* * *
So, Detective Novak, can we talk about me for a change? In my experience, it's not a subject that gets much discourse, and I have a lot to say. It might even end up being cathartic. Thank you — I'll take it from that slight incline of your head that you'll let me off-load for a while, whether or not you have a choice.
Let's go way back and begin with how my parents moved a lot. My mom and dad bonded over their restlessness and rushed to get married in it. They met as college actors in a play, although they were never skilled enough to get agents or turn pro once they'd gotten out of school. My mom had aspirations of grandeur, I'm sure: She was from a rich family and Dad was from a clever one, and at the time my dad might have been landing the leading roles — perhaps that's why she chose him. But that was while they were seniors at Yale, and the drama society can't have had a vast pool of talent. Nothing ever came of his stardom when they graduated, and I'm not sure that even bothered him. He didn't need fame — he needed academic challenge, so there were other, deeper disappointments stacking up for him. Still, once they'd married and had me we were up and moving every three years as if life was a grand stage production they thought they were touring, although by then my dad had stumbled into arts management and ditched all the celebrity of an actor on stage. My mother wasn't as quick to surrender. While she took on the role of the docile housewife, glamour rasped at her throat like thirst. There was nothing about her life that quenched her. She grew drier and more desperate year by year. One of my earliest memories is of being four, maybe, and in the middle of cutting out a picture of a turkey from the grocery store coupons. My fat little hands were squashed right into the scissor handles, cutting in a curve, when my mom started jangling her keys next to my head and telling me we had to go, right now, baby, out the door, let's go. Right now, leave that, just leave it. She yanked the scissors out of my hand and stood over me while I struggled to find my shoes.
I went through my whole childhood like that. Ready to be yanked away.
The moves were career related for my father — he's always been a man with one eye on the success ladder, although if you ask me he must have been climbing the rungs in his slipperiest socks. Ad astra per aspera, Angela — to the stars the hard way. It was tiring watching him. Still, my mother was happy to accompany him as long as each step felt like a social climb. There was a giddiness to their choices in those early years, a strange excitement. Darling, just imagine! Each time they left a place, my parents must have believed they were on their way to somewhere they might actually be happy.
Moving when you're fifteen is terrifying. It's not fun, it's not an adventure, it's not a wild ride to wonderful things, baby. In ninth grade I said goodbye to my friends and watched them fade away from me even while I was still standing there. When people get older, they're supposed to cope better with separation, but I don't know whether that's true. Are we honestly meant to believe the important ones will stay with us wherever we go?
We drove three hours northwest to Cove, Vermont, in the fall just as tenth grade began. You probably love this town to death and all, Detective Novak, you're probably New England born and bred; but I've got to tell you, the first time we drove down Main and Oak Streets it looked like we'd arrived in the sister town of somewhere more exciting, the kind of place you move to because the housing's cheaper. Sure, Vermont is all covered bridges and maple candy shops, and life is like the lid of a Christmas cake tin, but when we drove into Cove's town center, there was a hardware store, a scattering of bars with faded HAPPY HOUR banners over their doorways, and a Frostee Delite with a hand-scrawled sign in the front window that read GET YOU'RE POPSICLES NEXT JULY, YOUR AMAZING — I swore I'd never eat there. The town's curling rink looked like a Cold War bomb shelter from the outside, and the riveted metal of the roof clanged with raindrops as we drove by with the car windows down.
The house we bought was sad and gray and looked hunched, like it was coughing. There was a shoe in the driveway. In the middle of the front lawn was an iron stake driven deep into the dirt, with a rusted chain on the grass.
"Dog owners." My mother shuddered to my father. "David, we'll need a commercial cleaner."
Do you like living in a town of only four thousand people, Detective Novak? Isn't it a cozy little community, the lights of the townsfolk twinkling around Cove Lake? Dad knew and liked the principal of the high school and felt the move to a smaller place would somehow benefit my chances of getting into a good college. It's all about class sizes, my dear. Teacher-student ratio. Let's shoot for the Ivy Leagues. He took a job at the Cove Municipal Library, giving up his research post at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston because he had become obsessed with my education. Either he'd lost the trail of his own success and was now starting to sniff out mine, or else he was trying to relive his glorious Yale days where he aced his Classical Civilization class and spent heady afternoons reading The Iliad under the shade of the maples. He wanted a second run at Yale himself, another pass at a more rigorous, elitist trajectory upon exit. I never wanted to leave Boston. Small towns are a soap opera: You're either acting or you're watching.
I went to Lakeside High, although I'm sure you already know that. It was a flat-roofed brick building with basketball hoops out front that had long ago lost their netting. The first day in that school my palms smelled tinny and sour from gripping the iron handrails that led up to the front entrance. The locker they gave me still had stickers in it from the kid before — rainbows that were plastic and puffy and crinkled when you pressed them. I pried them all off with my thumbnail.
At every school I attended, gym teachers sighed when they saw me coming, and Lakeside High was no different. I've never been one for chasing a ball around, could never see the purpose of it. Perhaps I'm not much of a team player. At the end of gym on that first Monday, I went to change back into my regular clothes and there were knots in the ends of my pants, pulled so tight that two people must have put their full weight into the job. I couldn't tease the knots apart. By the time I sat down in defeat, the locker room had emptied.
"Angela, is it?" The teacher came in with her class list clasped to her rock-hard chest. "Angela Petitjean?" She said it like this — pettitt-gene — without any flow of French to it, no lyrical peh-ti-shon. Not much of a linguist. "What's happening here?" She wore a polo shirt with all the buttons done up, and her bangs were hair-sprayed to one side. "Who did this? Holy smokes, they put some effort into it." As she spoke, she grunted and ground her fingers into the knots, easing them loose. "Okay — here. Now, pick up the pace! You'll be late to your next class."
My pants had a crimped hemline for the rest of the day, like an '80s disco look. I knew who did it; I knew right away because two girls followed me down the hallway laughing when I emerged from the gym. And they were everywhere: waiting outside the bathroom, behind me in the line for lunch, and three lockers down, leaning against the wall while I tried to get my books organized for English class. The taller one wore dark-purple nail polish and a T-shirt that showed her belly button. Pierced. The other girl dressed identically, even down to the love-heart laces in her sneakers. What is it about teenage girls that make them impossible to tell apart? I thought it was all in the styling, the makeup, the cloning of boy-band music and favorite movies. Now I realize what bonds and homogenizes them: panic.
Haven't you noticed, Detective Novak? Girls of fourteen move together in a band of cruelty, always searching for somebody to terrorize as long as it keeps the spotlight off them. They'll hunt in twos or more because if you're standing alongside the sniper, it's unlikely you'll be the one in the scope.
"You're new, aren't you?" the tall one said. "Yeah, we're not really okay with that." They giggled. "We like to be asked before things change."
I didn't say anything back, but I remember reaching as far into my locker as I could, short of climbing in there and shutting the door.
"What's with your pants?"
Just then a voice stopped them.
"Back up there, sisters."
I peeped around the edge of my locker and saw a tall boy a few doors down. He was about fifteen, olive-skinned, blond, with a sleeveless Metallica T-shirt that showed the early bump of deltoids. He wore sandblasted beads around his neck and a navy baseball cap with a D on the front.
"Oh, hey, HP." Girl number one shook back her bangs.
"Oh, hey," Girl number two echoed. "Where'd you come from?" She stretched gum from her mouth and twirled the glistening loop with a forefinger.
"Swim practice." He slammed his locker door and walked toward me.
I think my head tried to turtle down into my shell in that moment as I stood there in my crinkly pants, wide-eyed, holding my English textbook.
"Come on," he said. "I'll walk you to class."
Excerpted from "Our Little Secret"
Copyright © 2017 Roz Nay.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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