From Sophie McKenzie, bestselling and award-winning author of Girl, Missing and Sister, Missing
On a quiet, sunny Sunday morning, Livy arrives at her best friend Julia's apartment for a lunch date only to find her dead. Though all the evidence supports it, Livy cannot accept the official ruling of suicide; the Julia she remembers was loud, inappropriate, joyful, outrageous and loving, not depressed. The suspicious circumstances cause Livy to dig further, and she is suddenly forced to confront a horrifying possibility: that Julia was murdered, by the same man who killed Livy's sister, Kara, eighteen years ago.
Desperate to understand the tragedies of her past and hold her unraveling life together, Livy throws herself into the search for Kara and Julia's killer, who she now believes is someone close to her family. But if that is true, can she still trust anyone? Damien, the man Julia was secretly dating? Leo, her husband's boss and a close family friend? His son Paul, her husband's best mate since college? Or even Will, her own dear husband, who has betrayed her perhaps one time too many?
And when Livy finally faces her sister's killer, and he traps her with one horrible, impossible choice, she must finally decide: is she strong enough to trust herself?
Get lost in the dark, gripping pages of You Can Trust Me.
|Publisher:||St. Martin''s Publishing Group|
|File size:||897 KB|
About the Author
SOPHIE MCKENZIE is the bestselling author of more than fifteen novels for children and teens in the UK, including the award winning Girl, Missing and Sister, Missing. She has won numerous awards, was one of the first Richard and Judy children's book club winners, and has twice been longlisted for the prestigious Carnegie Medal. She made her US adult debut with Close My Eyes. McKenzie lives in London and writes full-time.
SOPHIE MCKENZIE is also the bestselling author of more than fifteen novels for children and teens in the UK, including the award winning Girl, Missing and Sister, Missing. She has won numerous awards, was one of the first Richard and Judy children’s book club winners, and has twice been longlisted for the prestigious Carnegie Medal. McKenzie lives in London and writes full-time.
Read an Excerpt
You Can Trust Me
By Sophie McKenzie
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2014 Rosefire Ltd.
All rights reserved.
One month earlier ...
The text arrives as I'm getting out of the car. I'm so anxious about the evening ahead that I barely register the beep. The setting sun is casting soft swirls of pink and orange across the Exeter skyline, thinning and sharpening the tops of the cathedral towers. The air is warm but I'm shivering, my heart beating hard and loud against my ribs. Will throws me a worried glance. I pull my phone from my bag, wondering vaguely if the text is from the babysitter. But it's Julia's name that flashes up. For a second my anxiety eases a little. Whatever my closest friend has written is sure to be an offering of support, expressed in Julia's customary style: big and bold and full of feeling. But when I open it, the text is short and terse.
PLS CALL, I NEED TO TALK TO YOU.
I know it's an overreaction, but I can't help feeling hurt. Julia knows I'm dreading this dinner. She knows what I'm facing. Or, rather, whom. And yet her text is all about her.
Maybe I shouldn't be surprised. Julia has always been a bit self-obsessed. But still, it's not like her to forget about tonight. I close the text. I don't have the time or the inclination to reply right now.
Will puts his arm around my shoulders as we cross the road to the house Leo and Martha moved to just a few months ago. It's a new construction, a sleek white cube that contrasts with the brick town houses on either side.
"Impressive, isn't it?" Will says. He sounds tense. I shoot him a swift glance. The signs of his own nervousness are there in the slight clench of his jaw and the tightness around his eyes. Good. I'm glad he feels anxious too. So he bloody should.
The house is, frankly, amazing. Designed to within an inch of its life and perfectly reflecting the aspirations of Leo Harbury, Will's boss. The door opens as we approach. A young man in a tux with a tray of champagne flutes stands in front of us. I smile and he smiles back.
"Will and Livy Jackson," Will says.
"Please come in." The young man steps back to allow us inside. "Leo and Martha are through there." He points across the hall to a door on the left. "Bathroom and cloakroom to your right."
I follow Will to the door on the left. My heels tap noisily on the mosaic tiles. The décor in the hall is stylish and simple. If the house, with its show of money, reflects Leo Harbury's ebullient personality, then the plain white walls and tasteful furnishings are a testament to the restraining influences of his wife. I catch sight of myself in the gilt-framed mirror on the wall. I went to the hairdresser today, but I should have gone yesterday; my hair, carefully blow-dried into a feathery pale brown bob, looks too "done." I might as well be carrying a sign saying WOMAN MAKING AN EFFORT. I smile again, in spite of myself, at this Julia-ism and turn slightly, checking out my Hobbs cocktail dress. It's nice enough, but it looks like what it is: a High Street purchase rather than a designer one. Normally this wouldn't even occur to me. Leo and Martha Harbury are not snobs, and though Martha is bound to be dressed to the nines in something floaty and elegant she will also say how nice I look, with one of her warm smiles. I tell myself to get a grip. It's too late now to do anything about what I'm wearing.
Will is watching me, chewing on his lip. Despite the gray hair at his temples, he looks young—younger than I, though in fact he's two years older—and handsome in his dark suit. I finger the platinum necklace he gave me last year for our thirteenth wedding anniversary. It feels hot against my skin, though the air in the hallway is still and cool.
Will and I reach the door on the left. Sounds of the party float toward us: the low hum of chatter, the dip and soar of violins in the background music, the clink of glasses.
"You okay, Liv?" Will asks.
I nod, though both of us know it's a lie. Will takes my hand but I pull it away. Which probably isn't fair. Will feels terrible that we are here, under these circumstances.
It's still his fault.
"I'm sorry," he starts, but I hold up my hand. I don't want to hear any more apologies. Especially not tonight.
I've had six years of apologies. None of them turned back the clock. None of them took away the pain.
And none of them is going to prevent me from having to meet Catrina in the next few minutes.
"Tell me how many people are going to be here again?" I say. My voice sounds strained to my ears.
"Twenty or so, I think." Will makes a face. "Paul and Becky, of course, other people from the office, plus a few clients and agents we're working with in Switzerland and Germany, their partners, maybe some people from the States...." He trails off.
Catrina's unspoken name fills the space between us. I wipe my clammy palms down my dress. Leo and Martha's "kitchen supper for friends and colleagues" is an annual event, though this is our first visit to their new house. Of course, "kitchen suppers" is a misnomer that fails to hint at the style and formality of the actual events. Leo is a successful businessman who started his media and marketing company thirty years ago and has built it into a big, local success story.
"Ready?" Will reaches out for the door handle.
My phone rings. I fumble to retrieve it from my bag. The name on the screen is JULIA.
"Who's that?" Will asks.
"Just Julia." I switch the call off, then my entire phone. If there's a problem at home, the babysitter can call Will. I can't deal with Julia. Not now, anyway. I can't even think straight. I glance sideways at Will again.
He looks terrified, his hand still on the doorknob. With a miserable stab of jealousy, I wonder how he's feeling about seeing Catrina again. She worked with Will briefly, before being sent to Paris to direct Leo's French operation. I try to recall the girl from the picture on the Harbury Media Web site: a delicate-featured blonde with a snub nose, perfect makeup, and a seductive smile. Or did I imagine the smile?
"Liv?" Will is looking at me. Someone inside the room beyond laughs. "I'm so sorry about this," he whispers.
I nod without looking at him directly. I want to turn around and shout at him that sorry isn't any good. It won't give me the absence of fear, the peace of mind I want. He and Catrina took those things away from me six years ago with their months of stolen afternoons. Will was infatuated with her. He always denied it was love, but I could see the obsession in his eyes. And back then, I hated her with a raw fury—for blundering into my marriage, for risking my family life, for threatening to tear to pieces the fabric that held up my children's world.
I've never hated anyone so much in my life.
Well, maybe one other person.
Will leans across and kisses my cheek. "You look beautiful."
I shake my head. It's not that I think he's deliberately lying, but after nearly fourteen years of marriage, you kind of stop seeing each other, so I can't help but think he's overcompensating, trying to be nice. Anyway, whatever he's trying to do, it's too late. Flattery won't get either of us through tonight.
"You do," Will insists, smoothing away a stray strand of hair from my cheek.
With a nod, Will reaches out again and opens the door. The room beyond is full of people, but I can still see that it's as beautifully designed as the rest of the house: with a cluster of leather couches, some funky low tables, and simple cream curtains at the windows. Pieces of modern art are dotted around the walls. Will holds my hand as we walk across the room. I'm all eyes, looking everywhere for Catrina. The room is full of people, surely more than the twenty or so Will suggested would be here. I can see Leo by the window, holding court. He strides over to the drinks table, still speaking, with that classic swagger of his. I look around the room. No sign of any blondes, at least none under fifty.
I look up at Will, my eyebrows raised. He shakes his head.
I blow out my breath. Catrina isn't here. Yet.
A couple standing nearby advances toward us, bright smiles on their faces. They look about the same age as Leo and Martha, early sixties.
"Good to see you, Will. Last time was that conference in Basel, wasn't it?" The man has a Texas accent. He shakes Will's hand enthusiastically, then turns to me to introduce his wife.
She continues to smile as Will introduces me back. She is wearing what can only be described as a gown—it's pink and trails in soft, silk folds onto the floor. I look down at my cocktail dress, a black knee-length sheath with a lacy overlay. I can't decide whether it's too young for me or too unstructured for my figure. I've put on twelve pounds since Zack was born.
Will and the two Texans are deep in conversation now. Another young man in a tux comes by with a tray of drinks. I take a glass of white wine. It's delicious, dry, and smooth, with a distinct hint of gooseberry. The small talk around me continues. I smile and nod, though I'm not listening. All I can think about is Catrina. She's younger than I am and doesn't have children, as far as I know. I'm certain she will be sexy and skinny—as well as successful. She's been based in Paris for almost six years now, and is still Harbury Media's youngest-ever director. When I told Julia that a few days ago, she'd rolled her eyes. "Brace yourself, Liv," she'd said. "Worst-case scenario—she's picked up a wardrobe of French couture, a grooming regime to die for, and a Parisian sneer."
Thinking of Julia, I'm half-inclined to make my excuses and slip out to the bathroom to return her call after all—I don't care, right now, that she's maybe been a bit selfish tonight; I need to talk to my best friend—but before I can utter a word, Martha and Leo are here.
Leo beams and pumps Will's hand, giving him a mighty slap on the back.
"Good to see you, sir," he says in that mock posh accent he often affects in public situations. Both Martha and Will insist that Leo is privately a lot less confident than he appears in company, but he always manages to unsettle me. There's something overbearing about his presence, something unnerving about his piercing gaze. "How's the promotion sitting with you?"
This is a reference to the fact that Leo recently added deputy managing director to Will's job as planning director. It's a recognition of Will's talent and his hard work, and brings with it a little more money and a lot more stress.
"It's sitting very nicely, thanks," Will says with a slight blush.
Leo winks at me, his gaze straying briefly to the neckline of my dress. I fidget from side to side. It's not that I think Leo is perving after me; he's never even flirted openly. But there's a restless quality about him—you never quite know what he's thinking.
"Livy." Martha draws me toward her, planting a soft kiss on my cheek. "You look lovely. How are the kids?"
I smile, grateful for her warmth, all thoughts of calling Julia quickly forgotten. Martha never fails to ask after Hannah and Zack. She is childless herself and often says with a lighthearted smile that if she'd had a daughter, she'd have wanted her to be like me.
"The kids are good," I say. "Hannah's getting all hormonal, but Zack's still Zack. Your new place is lovely, by the way."
"Glad you like it." Martha says. A frown creases her forehead. "But Hannah surely can't be that old," she says.
"Afraid so. She'll be thirteen in October." I fish Will's phone out of his pocket and show Martha the screen saver: a photo of Hannah and Zack looking suntanned in shorts and T-shirts from our Easter holiday in Spain. As Martha coos with an almost grandmotherly pride over the children, Paul and Becky wander up. It's good to see them, not just because we haven't hooked up in ages, but also because of our long-standing connection.
Paul and I met studying History at university, though we didn't really become good friends until after uni, when Paul took a job at Harbury Media and introduced me to Will, who already worked there. Paul met Becky soon after that, and for a while, the four of us spent a lot of time socializing together.
"Zack looks so cute," Becky gushes. "Just adorable."
I smile once more, resisting the temptation to launch into an anecdote. Paul and Becky don't have kids, and I'm painfully aware that their interest, unlike Martha's genuine delight in my children, stretches only so far. As if to prove my point, Becky turns away from the phone and whispers something in Paul's ear.
I watch them. They are both aging well: Paul all slim and suited with slicked-back hair, and Becky elegant in a blue cocktail dress. I've known Paul such a long time that I often forget Leo is his dad—a product of Leo's first, never-talked-about marriage. It must be weird, working for your own father, but Paul seems happy enough.
I hand Will back his phone. A moment later, Leo steers him away to talk to Werner Heine, a client from Germany.
I catch Martha's eye.
She offers another smile, this one resigned. "They never stop working, do they?"
I smile ruefully back. Paul and Becky are still chatting away to each other, not listening to us.
Martha moves closer to me, lowering her voice. "I'm so sorry about Catrina," she says. "Leo invited her without thinking—then it was too late. I found out only a few days ago." She rolls her eyes. "Men, honestly."
I nod, my face burning. So she knows. I've never talked about the affair with Martha—or with anyone aside from Julia. I know Martha is just being her usual, kind self, but it's hard not to feel humiliated.
Martha squeezes my shoulder, clearly concerned. Embarrassed, I glance around the room again. A lot of the people here work in Leo's office with him and Will. How many of them know? Will told me he'd never said anything to anyone at work about his affair. I guess I was stupid to think that meant no one had noticed. Or that gossip wouldn't start and spread.
"I love what you've done with this room," Becky says to Martha, who gives my shoulder another squeeze, then falls back into hostess mode.
As Martha and Becky begin a detailed conversation about Farrow & Ball color choices, Paul catches my eye. Unlike Leo, he has a long, narrow face with no trace of his father's square, fleshy features except perhaps around the mouth.
"How are you, Livy?" he asks.
"Fine," I lie.
"Did I hear you saying Hannah's getting all 'moody teenager'?"
Encouraged by his interest, I dive into my latest story about Hannah requesting a leg-waxing appointment "when she hasn't even started her period." Paul looks slightly embarrassed at this mention, and I silently rebuke myself. He's always been a tad fastidious. I remember him very politely insisting that Hannah's diaper should be placed directly in their outside trash can on our first visit after she was born. The request was fair enough, of course, but it kind of signaled the start of our mutual retreat from the friendship the four of us had enjoyed up until then. Over the past few years, our visits to each other's homes have dwindled, though we still meet every few months for dinner or drinks out in Exeter.
Becky joins in the conversation again as Paul explains how they're having their house—a rambling Victorian mansion in Topsham—remodeled over the summer. Becky is a maths teacher at the local private school, petite and strikingly attractive, with a mane of glossy dark hair swept up in an elaborate bun and eyes as dark and sparkly as her husband's. Paul, of course, works for Harbury Media, though as the company's account director with special responsibility for digital marketing, he is one step lower down the pecking order than Will. Paul has a charming line in self-deprecation, stopping short of false modesty but insisting that his work, though challenging, is dull and that his wife is the one with the brains. On this occasion he is complimenting Becky on her understanding of the structural work being done to their house.
"She totally keeps the builders on their toes, he says, looking at his wife admiringly. "Brains and beauty."
Excerpted from You Can Trust Me by Sophie McKenzie. Copyright © 2014 Rosefire Ltd.. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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