The First Mistake

The First Mistake

by Sandie Jones

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Overview

From Sandie Jones, the New York Times bestselling author of the Hello Sunshine Book Club pick The Other Woman, comes an addictively readable new domestic suspense about a wife, her husband, and the woman who is supposedly her best friend.

THE WIFE:
For Alice, life has never been better. With her second husband, she has a successful business, two children, and a beautiful house.

HER HUSBAND: Alice knows that life could have been different if her first husband had lived, but Nathan’s arrival into her life gave her back the happiness she craved.

HER BEST FRIEND: Through the ups and downs of life, from celebratory nights out to comforting each other through loss, Alice knows that with her best friend Beth by her side, they can survive anything together. So when Nathan starts acting strangely, Alice turns to Beth for help. But soon, Alice begins to wonder whether her trust has been misplaced . . .

The first mistake could be her last.

Praise for The Other Woman:

"One of the most twisted and entertaining plots."—Reese Witherspoon
"A perfect beach read."—Kristin Hannah
"Whiplash-inducing."—New York Times Book Review
"Such fun you'll cheer [Emily's] chutzpah."—PEOPLE
"This thriller will hit close to home."—Refinery29

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250192035
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/02/2020
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 71,321
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

SANDIE JONES has worked as a freelance journalist for more than twenty years and has written for publications including the Sunday Times, Woman’s Weekly, and the Daily Mail. She lives in London with her husband and three children. The Other Woman was her debut novel and a Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club pick.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

"Sophia, let's go," I call out from the hall. "Livvy, where's your homework?"

She huffs and rushes off to the kitchen. "I thought you'd put it in my bag."

"I'm your mother, not your slave. And besides, you're eight now, you should be taking more responsibility." I'm exasperated, though in truth, I'd happily pack her school bag for another ten years if it meant I could hang on to my baby who, it seems, has disappeared within a blink of an eye. How had I lost that time?

"Here," she exclaims. "Have you got my swimming cap?"

"Olivia! Oh, for God's sake, is it swimming today?"

She sticks one hip out to the side and rests her hand on the other, with all the sassiness of her fifteen-year-old sister. "Er, yeah, it's Wednesday."

"Run upstairs quickly, look in your top drawer. I'll count to five and you need to be back down here. Sophia, we're going." I'm shouting by the end of the sentence.

What my elder daughter does up there I don't know. Every day it seems to take her five minutes longer to straighten her hair, scribe the black kohl under her eye, inflate her lips with self-plumping lip gloss or whatever else it is she uses. She looks undeniably gorgeous when she does eventually appear, but is it all really necessary, for school?

"I can't find it," Olivia calls out.

"We're late," I shout, before huffing up the stairs. I feel a heaviness in my chest, a spring tightly coiled, as I rifle desperately through her socks and knickers. "If I find it in here ..." I say, never finishing the sentence, because I'm not quite sure what I'm threatening. "Did you wear it last week?"

"Yes," she says quietly, aware of my mood.

"Well, do you remember bringing it home?"

"Yes, definitely," she says confidently, knowing that any other response will have me blowing a gasket.

The grip on my chest releases as I spot the matte rubber cap in the back corner of the drawer. "Great," I say under my breath, before adding as I run down the stairs, "Livvy, you really do need to wake up. Sophia, we're getting in the car."

"I'm coming," she shouts back indignantly, as if she's said it three times already. With her music playing that loudly, how would anyone ever know?

She skulks into the passenger seat of the car and instantly pulls down the sun visor to inspect herself in the mirror as we drive.

"Haven't you just spent the past hour doing that?" I ask.

She tuts and flicks it back up with as much attitude as it will allow.

"What time will you be home tonight?" I ask, ten minutes later, as I lean across and offer my cheek. She kisses it reluctantly, which she's only just started doing again, since we struck a deal to park slightly farther away from school.

"There's a maths revision class, so I'll probably go to that," she says. "What's for tea?"

We've just had breakfast, are at least four hours away from lunch, and she wants to know what's for tea? I do a mental scan of the fridge. It doesn't look too healthy. I might be able to rustle up a pasta dish, at best.

"What would you like?" I smile.

She shrugs her shoulders. "Don't mind. Something nice?"

I pull her toward me and kiss the top of her head. "Go on, go. I'll pop into Marks and Spencer if I get time."

She smiles and gets out of the car. "See you, divvy Livvy."

"Bye poo face," giggles her little sister from the back seat.

I put the window down as we drive past her and call out, but she's already locked into her phone, unseeing and unhearing of everything else around her. "Look up," I say to her silently. "You'll never know what you might miss."

Olivia and I do a light jog into school, which isn't easy in these heels. "I love you," I say, as she rushes off to join a playground game of netball without looking back.

"Mrs. Davies, can I have a word?" calls out Miss Watts from across the playground. I purposely avoid eye contact. I don't have time for this. I look at my watch to let her know I'm under pressure.

"Sorry, it won't take a minute," she says. "Would you like to come into the classroom?"

I look at my watch again. "I'm running late, can we do it here?"

"Of course. It's just that ..." She looks around surreptitiously, but it's early enough not to have too many other parents within earshot. "It's just that we had a little incident yesterday, in the playground."

My heart lurches and I can feel my brow furrowing. "What kind of incident?" I ask, forcing myself to stay calm.

The teacher rests a reassuring hand on my arm, though it feels anything but. "Oh, it's nothing serious," she says. "Just a falling-out between a few of the girls." She rolls her eyes. "You know how girls can be."

"Was Olivia involved?" I ask.

"Apparently so. There were just a few nasty words bandied about, and Phoebe Kendall says that Olivia threatened not to play with her anymore. I'm sure it was nothing more than playground antics, but Phoebe was a little upset by it."

I imagine she was. "Olivia didn't mention anything last night. Did you speak to her?"

"I had a quiet word yesterday," she says, looking around again before continuing in a hushed tone. "It's just that it isn't the first time that Olivia has been involved in an altercation of this type."

I look at her, trying to read what's going on behind her eyes. "Oh" is all I can manage.

Miss Watts leans in closer. "She's normally such a bright and bubbly child, eager to be friends with everyone, but these past few weeks ..."

I rack my brain, wondering what's changed things. "I'll talk to her — see what's going on."

"Perhaps it would be useful to come in for a chat," she says, tilting her head to one side. Her condescending smile reminds me of a therapist I once had. The one who asked me to close my eyes and imagine I was lying on a deserted beach, with the sun warming my skin and the gentle waves lapping at my feet.

I hadn't gone back. Treating me like a five-year-old didn't work then, and it certainly isn't going to work now.

"I'd be happy to see you and Mr. Davies after school today if you're available?" Miss Watts goes on.

"I'm afraid Nathan ... Mr. Davies is away on business. He's flying back this afternoon."

"Ah, okay then, perhaps another time," she says. "I'm sure it's nothing to worry about, just something we need to keep our eye on."

"Of course," I say before turning on my heels and instantly bumping into a group of girls playing hopscotch. "I'll talk to her tonight."

I make my apologies to the disgruntled children as I tiptoe over brightly painted numbers on the tarmac.

"Wow, you look a bit done-up for this time in the morning," calls out Beth, as she streaks past me in trainers and go-faster Lycra with her daughter Millie trailing behind.

"Hey, gorgeous girl," I say to the petulant-looking eight-year-old. "What's up?"

"She got up late," Millie replies, as she rolls her eyes theatrically toward her mother. "And now we're all paying for it."

Beth turns around and pokes her tongue out at the both of us. "Let me drop this little madam off and I'll walk out with you."

I tap my watch. "I'm running late," I say after her. "I'll catch you later." But she's already gone and is depositing Millie in the playground. I start walking out, knowing that within seconds she'll be at my side.

"So where are you off to all dressed up?" she asks, half-accusingly, as she catches up with me. I look down at my black skirt; granted, it is a little tight. And my red top; perhaps a little low. But my jacket goes some way to covering me up. Suddenly conscious of what Miss Watts might have thought, I pull it closed.

"Do I have to be going somewhere to make an effort?" I laugh lightly, though Olivia is still nagging at my brain.

"Anything other than pajamas or gym gear is abnormal at this time of day," Beth says. "So yes, you looking like that, when us mere mortals haven't even had time to brush our teeth, is really not fair, and most definitely shouldn't be allowed."

"It's just my normal work attire," I say. "Nothing out of the ordinary."

My face flushes and she raises her eyebrows. Who am I trying to kid?

"I believe you, even if a thousand others wouldn't," she says, giving me a wink.

I smile, though I feel the heat rise in my cheeks. "Did you hear anything about the girls falling out yesterday?"

She looks at me nonplussed and shakes her head. "No, why, what happened?"

"Miss Watts just told me that a few of them had a bit of a ding-dong. It seems Phoebe and Livvy were involved. I just wondered if Millie had said anything to you about it."

"No, but I can ask her if you like."

"Probably best not to make a big thing of it for the moment," I say. "I'll wait and see if Livvy mentions it."

"Okay. You still on for tomorrow night?"

"Definitely! Nathan's back today and already knows he's on babysitting duties."

"That's what I like to hear," she says, laughing. "A man who knows his place."

"Where do you fancy going?" I ask. "Uptown or do you want to stay local? There's a new place that's just opened in Soho. Nathan went there with a client and raved about it."

"I don't mind, could give it a try. Though saying that, I don't get paid for another three days, so if it's expensive, I might have to save it until after payday."

"No worries, it'll be my treat," I say, and see her eyes momentarily narrow. I bite my tongue and immediately wish I could suck the words back in. I'd hate for her to think I'm being patronizing, but I'd genuinely like to help. It takes a little longer for my brain to catch up with my mouth and realize that she might appreciate a handout for something more worthwhile than an over-priced meal in a fancy restaurant.

"Don't be silly," she says finally, and I let out a sigh of relief. "Why don't we do a pizza night tomorrow and go uptown next week?"

"Sounds like a plan," I say.

CHAPTER 2

"So, are we going for the burgundy and gold for the drawing room at Belmont House?" I ask the team around me, as they contemplate the mood boards in front of them.

"I've tried working up a royal blue, with white accents," says Lottie, our junior designer, as she absently chews on the end of a pencil. "But it doesn't look nearly as decadent as the burgundy."

"Great," I say, gathering up the loose papers that I'd strewn over the table during the meeting. "So, let's present them with that and see what they think. Is there anything else?"

"I've just got a few accounting queries," pipes up Matt, "but they can wait until Nathan's back from Japan."

I look at my watch and my breath quickens. "He's due to land in the next hour or so, all being well. If he makes good time, he might pop in. Are you sure it can wait until tomorrow if he doesn't?"

"Yeah, course," says Matt. "It's nothing urgent."

"Okay, so if that's all?" I ask, looking around at the nodding heads.

"Can I have a quick word?" says Lottie, hanging back as the rest of the team file out.

"Sure." I smile. "What's up?"

"I just wondered if I'd be able to come to the meeting at Belmont House with you tomorrow?"

I consider it for a moment.

"It's just that I've got loads of ideas, and I really feel I could bring something to the table." She looks at me, her mouth agape at the faux pas she thinks she's made. "Not that there's anything wrong with what's already on the table," she rushes on. "It's all on there, and then some, and then you've wrapped it up in a big gold bow and put the Alice Davies signature on it ..." She's rambling, and I wait with raised eyebrows.

"I can't see why not," I say, when she stops to take a breath. "In fact, you can lead it, if you like."

An involuntary squeal escapes from her mouth that I pretend not to hear, even though it makes me smile.

I can't help but marvel at how far she's come in the short time she's worked here. She was as quiet as a mouse when she first joined AT Designs, barely able to look anyone in the eye. I remember asking at her interview where she saw herself in ten years' time, and she'd meekly whispered, "Sitting in your chair." The juxtaposition of her manner and her words had almost made me spit my coffee out. She had got the job on that alone.

She'd been almost mute for a week, just nodding and shaking her head at pertinent times, but I knew she was in there somewhere. I'd seen it, though Nathan refused to believe me.

"I'm telling you, you picked the wrong candidate," he'd said over dinner after her second day. "We need someone with something about them — she's not even going to be able to interact with clients."

I'd smiled and shaken my head. "She's young and shy, but she's quietly ambitious and has a real flair for interior design. She reminds me of someone I used to know."

He'd smiled ruefully. "I give her two weeks."

Six months later and she's truly come out of her shell. She's not only able to interact with clients, but is working on one or two small projects by herself.

"I won't say, 'I told you so,'" I'd whispered to Nathan under my breath when she presented her ideas on a new restaurant concept we were pitching for last week.

"Smartarse." He'd smiled, his blue eyes not leaving Lottie.

There was no denying that I felt a tiny sense of satisfaction at getting one over on Nathan. Our friendly competitiveness was part of who we were, whether it be in work, a game of tennis, or playing charades with the girls. But the overriding emotion was one of relief; that in Lottie I might have found a protégé who could take the pressure off me. Nathan was, is, brilliant at keeping the business side of the company ticking over. It's in better shape now than it's ever been. But, until Lottie joined, I was the only creative, and to have someone to fall back on, to take the heat off, has meant that I've slept a little easier at night.

Although he's not one to admit defeat, Nathan obviously concedes that having Lottie around is making a difference, as just before he left for Japan he'd championed her for a pay rise.

* * *

"She's worth her weight in gold," he'd said, as he stood in the hall with his holdall in his hand. "You should have seen her in the meeting with Langley Kitchens. She had them eating out the palm of her hand."

"Er, you don't have to tell me," I had said, laughing. "I'm the one who told you, remember."

"If I'd thought of it sooner, I'd have asked her to accompany me to Japan."

"Really?" I was taken aback, even though I couldn't quite work out why. It had been my choice not to go.

"It's not too late if you want to come with me," he'd said gently, taking me in his arms.

"Don't be ridiculous." I had pulled away, my heart hammering through my chest. "Of course I can't, I've got the children to think about."

"Your mum would have them at a drop of a hat, you know she would."

My mind had frantically run through what I'd have to go through to get on that plane with him. My breath caught in my throat as panic crept through every nerve fiber, tingling the tips of my fingers.

"We've discussed this," I'd snapped.

"I'm just saying that there's still time," he'd said as he pulled away from me. "That's all."

"I'll see you on Wednesday," I replied. "Enjoy yourself."

"How can I if you're not with me?" he'd said forlornly.

"It's Japan, how can you not?"

"Be good," he'd said with a wink as he walked toward his car on the drive.

"Call me as soon as you land, won't you?"

When I didn't hear from him, I frantically rang his mobile every few minutes as the horror stories played out in my mind. The plane had crashed, Japan had had an earthquake, there was a tsunami. By the time I'd eventually reached him, I'd convinced myself that there wasn't even a remote possibility that he was still alive.

"Oh my God," I'd cried, when he eventually picked up. "Are you okay?"

"I'm so sorry, darling," he'd said in a gruff voice, as if I'd just woken him from a deep slumber. "I took a call as soon as I got off the plane and when I got to the hotel I crashed out for a few hours."

"I thought something had happened to you," I said, still with a slight hysterical lilt to my voice, though my chest had stopped hurting.

"I didn't mean to worry you," he said patiently. "I'm absolutely fine."

I could hear ice cubes clinking in a glass.

"Are you all set for the big meeting tomorrow?" I'd asked. "Got everything you need?"

"Yep, Lottie's sent it across and I've got all your mock-ups here. I'll chat through the scheme with them and make sure we're all singing from the same hymn sheet."

"Even if we're not, I'm prepared to compromise," I said, laughing nervously. "I really want this, Nathan. This deal will put us up there with the big boys."

"Where you deserve to be."

"Where we deserve to be."

"AT Designs is your baby," he'd said. "It was your and Tom's vision that started this whole thing."

"That may be so, but having you beside me these past few years has made it the success it is today. I just know we can go even further."

"It's a massive ask, Alice. Are you absolutely sure you can take it on?"

I'd known what he was implying, and allowed the enormity of the task to wash over me. I sat with that feeling for a little while, like I had a hundred times before, waiting to see how it would present itself.

"It's twenty-eight apartments," he'd continued, as if reading my thoughts. "Our biggest job by a long way. Do you honestly think you can handle it?"

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "The First Mistake"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Sandra Sargent.
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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Dedication,
Prologue,
Part 1: Present Day,
Part 2: Nine Years Earlier,
Part 3: Present Day,
Epilogue,
Acknowledgments,
Also by Sandie Jones,
About the Author,
Copyright,

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