Lie to Me by J.T. Ellison
ISBN: 9780778313649 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780778330950 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781489242112 (ebook)
ASIN: B01N1I3DC3 (Kindle version)
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Publisher: Mira Books
Sutton and Ethan Montclair’s idyllic life is not as it appears. The couple seems 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.
A text dinged. Ivy.
I haven’t seen her, or talked to her since I left on my trip. We chatted Thursday and she seemed fine. Do I need to come home? Do you need help?
Ivy: always the one willing to lend a hand, pitch in, make their lives easier.
He sent back: No, I’m sure she’s just gone off to upset us all.
Ivy sent back an emoticon that he took to mean “eye roll”. He didn’t understand emoticons. Or abbreviations. LOL. BRB. For God’s sake, when had it become so difficult to actually use words anymore?
The doorbell sounded, impatient, as if it were being stabbed repeatedly with a thick finger—which of course it was. He opened the door for his mother-in-law, who sailed through like the Queen Mary, then turned on him. “So what did you do to upset my daughter now?”
Her dyed black hair was shoved under a dingy Nashville Sounds baseball cap; she was unkempt and smelled like stale liquor. She and the mister must have been hitting the bottle hard the night before. They liked to party, liked to hang out at their country club with other well-soused individuals, eating good food and drinking good wine and lamenting their fates. Such a lovely woman.
“I didn’t do anything. I woke up this morning and she was gone. She left me a note.”
Biting back the response he wanted to give, he instead led her into the kitchen and handed her the paper. She read it three times, lips moving as she did, and he wondered again how this dull, crass woman had created the glorious Titan he’d married.
Though during Sutton’s bad times, the breakdowns, he saw bits of Siobhan in her.
Siobhan set the note down and crossed her arms on her chest. “Where do you think she’s gone?” Her voice was curiously dispassionate, missing its usual aggression toward him.
He shook his head. “I was hoping you’d have an idea. I’ve called her girlfriends. They say they haven’t heard from her.”
“Did you tell them about the note?
“I mentioned it to Filly and Ivy. I got the sense Filly might know something but wasn’t willing to say.”
She waved a hand. “Filly has always loved Sutton’s drama, and is hoping it will rub off on her. She’s a sad little woman living through everyone around her. She doesn’t know anything, or she’d already be here, glorying.” Siobhan played with the edge of the paper, sat down at the table.
“Sutton’s been in bad shape since the baby,” Ethan offered, almost unwilling to open the door. But he needed help, damn it.
Siobhan nodded, surprisingly grave. “Can you blame her?”
“Of course not. But I kept hoping… Siobhan, is there something else I should know? Did she tell you she was leaving me? You don’t seem terribly surprised by this.”
She gave a windy sigh that smelled suspiciously like dirty martinis. “Sit down.”
Ethan wasn’t used to taking orders in his own house, especially from a woman he wasn’t fond of, but he perched on a counter stool and set his hands on his knees. Siobhan watched him for a moment.
“When we spoke last, a few months ago, Sutton told me she was very unhappy. It wasn’t like her to confide in me. You know we don’t always see eye to eye about her choices.”
“If you mean how you suggested she leave me last year after Dashiell… I know. She told me all about it.”
“Do you blame me, Ethan?” That strange, dispassionate tone again. Almost as if they were confidants here, not enemies. “You treated her badly. You handled things poorly. She was in bad shape and you were too busy with your little fling to notice.”
His little fling. His stomach clenched. No one could know the truth there, it would destroy them all, Sutton especially.
“I made a mistake. I came clean, I apologized. We were getting things back on track. We’d talked about… We talked about moving, maybe, getting away from all the bad memories. Starting over.”
“Back to London.”
“I see. And Sutton was happy to do that?”
“We hadn’t made any concrete decisions. We were talking. Planning. The future…bloody hell, Siobhan, at least she was talking to me again. You have no idea what the past year has been like, not really, for either one of us. It’s been torture. Oh, yes, we’ve put on a brave front. But once the door closed and the people disappeared, once the funeral was over and the neighborhood stopped tiptoeing around, we were left alone, to try and muddle through. It was hell.”
“I can imagine,” she said, and she sounded almost like she cared. He knew she didn’t, not really. She was in it for the money. Siobhan and Sutton had a weird, twisted relationship, more like catty girlfriends who despised one another than mother and daughter. But despite all his advice, Sutton refused to cut her out completely. Ethan would never understand.
“I don’t care what Sutton told you, or didn’t. She’s been on edge lately, secretive. Something has definitely been going on with her. Do you know what she’s been planning?”
Sutton’s mother suddenly looked gray and old. “No. But her note doesn’t sound like someone who’s gone gaily off to do the Lord’s work. Why don’t you call the police? If you have nothing to hide…”
“Give me a break, Siobhan. I didn’t hurt her. It’s not like she’s a missing person, either. She left a note, after all. Besides, they won’t even take a missing person’s report for seventy-two hours on an adult.”
“How do you know if you haven’t talked to them?”
“I do research my work, Siobhan.”
“For your books. Yes, of course.”
Oh, the disdain in her tone. Ethan tried not to place his very large hands around his mother-in-law’s neck. Siobhan never had understood the creative gene that he and Sutton shared. Sutton said Siobhan wanted her only child to find a rich man to marry, one who would allow her to play tennis at the club and host fabulous backyard garden parties. His temperament was optional. What were a few black eyes and broken ribs in the face of never-ending wealth and comfort?
They’d never told Siobhan how much Ethan was worth, how much he made on his novels. It was none of her business.
The uncomfortable silence grew between them. Finally, Siobhan stood.
“I’m sure she’s simply run off. She is always very dramatic when she gets upset.”
“And if she isn’t being dramatic?”
“You’re upset. I understand. You asked my advice, and here it is. Sutton’s been unhappy, and she probably doesn’t want to be found. But if you’re not content with that answer, call the police. Let them look for her.”
“You don’t seem very upset by the news that your daughter is missing. Or that she could have been harmed somehow.”
“Because I don’t think she’s missing. I think my daughter finally left you. Something she should have done long ago.”
“Thanks a lot, Siobhan.”
“You’re welcome. Now, my check? It was due today. If Sutton’s not here, perhaps you should see to it.”
And there it was. She didn’t give a flying damn about Sutton, just wanted to get the money she wrenched out of them. That’s why she’d called, and then come over. Not to help. To take her cut.
Sutton generally handled the quarterly allowance she stubbornly insisted on paying her mother. It was a sore spot between them; having Siobhan standing with her greasy paw out all the time nearly sent him over the edge.
“You must be joking.”
“I’m leaving town this evening. We have a trip to Canada. I’d like to deposit it before I go. And who knows when Sutton will resurface.”
“You are a seriously cold woman, Siobhan.”
“You have no idea.”
Ethan went to his office, pulled out the checkbook. He filled in the check, dated it, and stormed back to the kitchen.
“Here.” If only I could lace it with rat poison and watch you die, you miserable, uncaring witch.
“Thank you. Keep me apprised if she shows up, will you?”
“Why would I? You’ve made it quite clear you don’t care about Sutton, or about me. All you care about is your precious money.”
“I care more than you realize, Ethan. But you’re her husband. You do what you think is right.”
“I will. Trust me.”
As the door closed on her, she turned. “Ethan? Even after all these years, I don’t think you know my daughter at all.”
Meet the author
VisitJTEllison.com for more insight into her wicked imagination, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter @thrillerchick, and Instagram @jt_thrillerchick.