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Authors: Luanne Rice

Last Day

BOOK: Last Day
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PRAISE FOR LUANNE RICE

“Lovely, lyrical—and lethal. Luanne Rice turns her talents in a new direction and succeeds completely.”

—Lee Child, #1
New York Times
bestselling author

“Luanne Rice is the master of small towns with big secrets. With a deft touch, she draws us into a picture-postcard New England village, behind the closed doors of a well-loved home with its beautiful gardens and perfect family, only to expose the truths within. Surprising, powerful, a total page-turner.”

—Lisa Scottoline,
New York Times
bestselling author of
Someone Knows

“In
Last Day
, Luanne Rice shows once again her unique gift for portraying the emotional landscape of a family. By adding a riveting thread of suspense, she proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that love and murder make brilliant bedfellows.”

—Tess Gerritsen,
New York Times
bestselling author of
The Shape of Night


Last Day
, by Luanne Rice, shines with its brilliant plot about four women friends, their families and loves, and, shockingly, a murder. Rice’s writing is flawless and fast, her characters are like the women I have coffee with, and the desire, violence, and betrayals shock me and remind me of Liane Moriarty’s
Big Little Lies
.”

—Nancy Thayer,
New York Times
bestselling author of
Surfside Sisters

“A dark family history. A deeply flawed marriage. The complicated tangle of the ties that bind. Luanne Rice writes with authenticity and empathy, unflinchingly exploring her characters and diving into the shadowy spaces where they hide their secrets. Like all great stories,
Last Day
is a compulsive, twisting mystery dwelling inside a searing portrait of what drives us, as riveting as it is human and true.”

—Lisa Unger,
New York Times
bestselling author of
The Stranger Inside

“A brutal murder, a failed marriage, secret lovers, and enough suspects to fill a room. The truth lies somewhere between betrayal and love. A compelling mystery you won’t put down or solve until the final pages.”

—Robert Dugoni,
New York Times
and Amazon Charts bestselling author of the Tracy Crosswhite series

“I’ve long loved Luanne Rice for her trademark elegant style and her deep understanding of familial relationships, and she brings these superpowers with her as she delves into suspense.
Last Day
is a true page-turner, peopled by characters I care deeply about, with an ending I never saw coming.”

—Joshilyn Jackson,
New York Times
and
USA Today
bestselling author of
Never Have I Ever

OTHER TITLES BY LUANNE RICE

Pretend She’s Here

The Beautiful Lost

The Secret Language of Sisters

The Night Before

How We Started

The Lemon Orchard

Little Night

The Geometry of Sisters

The Letters
(with Joseph Monninger)

The Silver Boat

Secrets of Paris

What Matters Most

Sandcastles

Summer’s Child

The Deep Blue Sea for Beginners

Blue Moon

Home Fires

Dance With Me

Stone Heart

The Edge of Winter

Light of the Moon

Last Kiss

Follow the Stars Home

Firefly Beach

Summer Light

True Blue

Safe Harbor

The Perfect Summer

The Secret Hour

Silver Bells

Summer of Roses

Beach Girls

Dream Country

Cloud Nine

Crazy in Love

Angels All Over Town

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Text copyright © 2020 by Luanne Rice

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

Published by Thomas & Mercer, Seattle

www.apub.com

Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Thomas & Mercer are trademarks of
Amazon.com
, Inc., or its affiliates.

ISBN-13: 9781542018203 (hardcover)

ISBN-10: 154201820X (hardcover)

ISBN-13: 9781542016353 (paperback)

ISBN-10: 1542016355 (paperback)

Cover design by Shasti O’Leary Soudant

First edition

For Audrey Loggia

and Joe Guccione

CONTENTS

PART I

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

PART II

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

32

33

34

35

36

37

38

39

40

41

42

43

44

45

46

PART III

47

48

49

50

51

52

53

54

55

56

57

58

59

60

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

PART I

1

July 11

Beth Lathrop lay on her side, one arm flung across her eyes as if to block the bright morning sunlight that streamed through the east-facing window. She was covered by a pale-blue percale sheet that draped over her pregnant belly and clung to her left hip. It was mid-July; the baby, a boy, was due October 4. The distinct peace of white noise made the room a separate world from the rest of the house: the hum of the air conditioner, the low buzz of a single fly circling the odd, shocking, dark-red jewel behind her ear, the muffled sound of a dog just outside the door.

Outside, a salt breeze blew off the protected cove down the hill. July in Black Hall could be humid, waves of damp heat rising from the marsh and tidal flats, but although it was already eighty-five degrees, the air was clear, and this was one of those sparkling summer days Beth loved so much, looked forward to all winter.

If the windows had been open, the white curtains would have lifted and rippled, and the cross breeze blowing across the marshes, off Long Island Sound, would have cooled the whole house. But the house was closed up, the bedroom door shut tight, the window air conditioner running on the highest setting—so high that despite the hot day, a thin film of frost had formed on the vents and the sill. Beth’s golden-red hair, loose and wavy, cascaded over her bare shoulders.

Her iPhone on the bedside table lit up with an incoming call from her sister, Kate. The phone was set to “Do Not Disturb,” so it neither rang nor vibrated. When Kate disconnected, a message banner showed on Beth’s screen. It was the most recent of twenty-one missed calls. Nearly as soon as the message appeared on the iPhone, the landline began to ring. It was downstairs, in the kitchen, and the tone was muffled by the rooms and stairs and closed door in between it and Beth.

Popcorn had been scratching at the bedroom door, but he had given up and now lay on the top step, whimpering in the hall. The family’s yellow Lab loved his morning beach runs. It was 7:35 a.m., and he was used to being fed and walked around 6:00. With Pete gone on his sailing trip, Beth under her sister’s orders to grab a little extra sleep because it had been a complicated pregnancy, and their sixteen-year-old daughter, Samantha, away at camp, Popcorn had to wait. He kept glancing at the bedroom door—lifting his head, whining, resting his chin on his paws.

Through the closed bedroom door and over the air conditioner’s loud hum, the doorbell could barely be heard. It rang three times. Popcorn let out a whooping yelp, bounded down the stairs, and ran back and forth in the entry hall. Then came the sound of rapid closed-fist pounding on the front door. Then the sharp clank-clank-clank of the brass door knocker. Popcorn barked wildly.

The noise at the front door stopped. Footsteps sounded on the brick walk along the side of the house, voices carrying as the white picket gate squeaked open. Popcorn tore into the kitchen, wailing at the two women and a man who had entered the backyard and were standing just outside the back door. They peered in, hands cupped around their eyes to block the sunlight.

Popcorn pranced with excitement, his tail thumping. One of the women knew him well—Kate Woodward, Beth’s sister. He reared up, front claws clicking on the glass. Kate went to the gas grill, opened the lid. The Lathrops usually hid a spare key inside, and although she had
looked earlier, before she had called the police, before they had pulled up in their cruiser, she had to double-check to make sure it really wasn’t there.

The other two visitors were uniformed Black Hall police officers, Peggy McCabe and Jim Hawley. McCabe knocked hard, the rap of her knuckles sharp and staccato.

“Black Hall Police,” she called. “Beth, are you home? Anyone in there?”

“Is the dog friendly?” Hawley asked warily.

“Yes, very—Popcorn’s very friendly; don’t worry,” Kate said. “Just break the door, will you? Please?”

Hawley crouched down, looked the dog in the eye through the slider. “Hey, Popcorn; hey, Popcorn,” he said. “You’re not going to bite, are you?” Popcorn slimed the glass with his nose, his tail wagging.

“There’s nowhere else they could have hidden a key?” McCabe asked.

“I don’t think so. I don’t know. The spare is always in the grill. Beth would never go this long without calling me. Will you please get us in there? I should have broken in myself. Something’s wrong.”

“Did you have a fight?” McCabe asked.

“No!” Kate said.

McCabe knew they should get a search warrant, but Kate’s panic was compelling. Beth Lathrop was six months pregnant and hadn’t been heard from in three days. Her silver Mercedes was parked in the driveway, and at least two days’ worth of dog waste was visible through the window. These facts, plus Kate’s demeanor, told McCabe that she and Hawley could claim exigent circumstances if they faced a problem in court later.

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