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Alice Hunter


Published by AVON

A Division of HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd

1 London Bridge Street

London SE1 9GF

First published in Great Britain by HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 2021

Copyright © HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 2021

Cover design by Holly MacDonald © HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 2021

Cover photographs © Karina Vegas/Arcangel Images

Alice Hunter asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.

A catalogue copy of this book is available from the British Library.

This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this ebook on screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins.

Source ISBN: 9780008414078

Ebook Edition © May 2021 ISBN: 9780008414085

Version: 2021-05-12


For Katie Loughnane

an inspiring editor and friend, thank you.



Title Page



Chapter 1: Beth

Chapter 2: Beth

Chapter 3: Beth

Chapter 4: Tom

Chapter 5: Beth

Chapter 6: Beth

Chapter 7: Beth

Chapter 8: Tom

Chapter 9: Katie

Chapter 10: Beth

Chapter 11: Tom

Chapter 12: Katie

Chapter 13: Beth

Chapter 14: Beth

Chapter 15: Tom

Chapter 16: Beth

Chapter 17: Beth

Chapter 18: Beth

Chapter 19: Beth

Chapter 20: Beth

Chapter 21: Beth

Chapter 22: Beth

Chapter 23: Beth

Chapter 24: Tom

Chapter 25: Beth

Chapter 26: Katie

Chapter 27: Beth

Chapter 28: Beth

Chapter 29: Beth

Chapter 30: Beth

Chapter 31

Chapter 32: Tom

Chapter 33: Beth

Chapter 34: Beth

Chapter 35: Beth

Chapter 36: Katie

Chapter 37: Beth

Chapter 38

Chapter 39: Beth

Chapter 40: Beth

Chapter 41: Beth

Chapter 42: Beth

Chapter 43

Chapter 44: Tom

Chapter 45: Beth

Chapter 46: Katie

Chapter 47: Beth

Chapter 48: Beth

Chapter 49: Tom

Chapter 50: Beth

Chapter 51: Beth

Chapter 52: Beth

Chapter 53: Beth

Chapter 54: Tom

Chapter 55: Beth

Chapter 56: Katie

Chapter 57: Beth

Chapter 58: Katie

Chapter 59: Beth

Chapter 60: Beth

Chapter 61: Tom

Chapter 62: Beth

Chapter 63: Beth

Chapter 64: Beth

Chapter 65

Chapter 66: Beth

Chapter 67: Beth

Chapter 68: Tom

Chapter 69: Beth

Chapter 70: Beth

Chapter 71

Chapter 72: Beth

Chapter 73: Beth

Chapter 74: Beth

Chapter 75: Tom

Chapter 76: Beth

Chapter 77: Beth

Chapter 78: Beth

Chapter 79: Tom

Chapter 80: Beth

Chapter 81: Beth

Chapter 82: Tom

Chapter 83: Beth

Chapter 84: Beth

Chapter 85: Beth

Chapter 86: Beth

Chapter 87: Beth

Chapter 88: Tom

Chapter 89: Beth

Chapter 90: Beth

Chapter 91: Beth



About the Author

About the Publisher

Chapter 1



I’m half relieved, half annoyed when I hear the insistent knocking on the front door. Poppy has only just settled after the third reading of The Wonky Donkey. I’ve promised her repeatedly that Daddy will definitely be home to give her a goodnight kiss. It’s gone eight, two hours past her usual bedtime.

‘Daddy’s here,’ she says, her aquamarine eyes springing back open, all sleepiness evaporating.

‘And it seems he can’t be bothered to use his key,’ I sigh, rising up from the Disney Princess bed. ‘You close your eyes again, my Poppy poppet, and I’ll send him up in a minute.’ I run my index finger from the bridge of her tiny button nose to the tip.

I dash down the stairs, unconsciously bobbing under the low oak beam, ready to fling the door open and shout at Tom for his lateness and lack of consideration. But at the same time, I want to throw my arms around him: he’s never late back from work and I’ve been winding myself up thinking something bad must’ve happened to him. I’ve tried convincing myself his train was delayed, or he’s been caught up in traffic on the way back from Banbury station – having to commute from Lower Tew to central London and back every day isn’t the quickest of journeys – but if that’d been the case, he’d have called to let me know he was running late. He wouldn’t let his little Poppy down – he loves hearing her delighted squeals when he does the daft voices. It’s something I clearly haven’t mastered, given the number of times she made me ‘try again’ to get it right.

I unlock the solid wooden door and take a steadying breath. There’s no need for me to be mad at him. He’s late, that’s all. Doesn’t matter if he’s woken Poppy up; he’ll happily settle her while I reheat his dinner. Don’t shout at him.

I swing the door open. ‘Why haven’t you got your key?’ The scolding words are out of my mouth before I even realise.

It’s not Tom.

‘Oh, erm … sorry, I was expecting …’ My sentence trails off. My heart tumbles in my chest.

‘Good evening. Mrs Hardcastle, is it?’ one of the two men says. They stand shoulder-to-shoulder at my small doorway, obscuring the view outside. I can’t see the vehicle they’ve arrived in but given their smart, suited appearance and the fact they know my name, I instinctively know they’re police.

‘Y–yes,’ I stutter.

My limbs tremble. I was right. Tom’s had an accident. I grasp hold of the edge of the door frame, closing my eyes tight. My breaths are coming fast and shallow as I wait for the inevitable.

‘We need to speak with Mr Thomas Hardcastle, please.’ The man, who looks to be in his early fifties, with hair greying at the temples and thinning on the top, opens a leather wallet and flashes a badge at me. ‘I’m Detective Inspector Manning from the Metropolitan Police and this is a colleague from Thames Valley, Detective Sergeant Walters.’

His words fly over my head as relief floods through me. If they’re asking to see him, they’re not here to tell me he’s been killed.

‘He’s not here. He’s late back from work. I thought you were him, actually,’ I say, my voice now more controlled. ‘What’s it in connection with?’ I frown, suddenly aware DI Manning is encroaching on the threshold of my cottage. The other detective, whose name I’ve already forgotten, has stepped back and is now strolling around my front garden.

Manning doesn’t respond.

‘Can I

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