"Sharp, atmospheric, and wildly fast-paced"—Jessica Goodman, New York Times bestselling author of They'll Never Catch Us
From the author of Lies Like Wildfire comes another page-turning thriller about the little lies we all tell before the truth sets us free—perfect for readers of Karen M. McManus and Diana Urban.
Mistake number one . . .
Fun-loving Jake tells his girlfriend, Jessica, that they have to go to Tegan’s end-of-summer party in their tiny California beach town. Jessica doesn’t like parties, and she doesn’t like Tegan, who has an obvious, obsessive crush on Jake. But she agrees to go, to make Jake happy.
Mistake number two . . .
Something awful happens at the party. Something so embarrassing that Jessica doesn’t know if she can ever get over it—and Jake will do whatever it takes to earn her forgiveness. And now a girl is missing. Everyone is a suspect. And Jake seems to have a lot to hide. . . .
When a body is discovered at the beach, friends start turning on friends, and lies start piling upon lies. What happened could destroy their lives. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer? Mistake number three . . .
An Excerpt fromFriends Like These
I flip over and there’s his face, inches from mine—Jake, my boyfriend and my next-door neighbor. “You scared me,” I whisper.
His shadowy lips curve into a grin. “I was shooting for romantic.”
“Well, you missed.”
He rolls off the bed and turns on my light, posing in the most un-Jake-like outfit I can imagine: a cute dolphin-print shirt with matching dolphin-print shorts and a pair of white-rimmed sunglasses. “At least I’m well-dressed.”
“Oh my god, why?” I sputter.
“Because I’m taking you to the beach to see the sunrise. I even packed food.”
I stretch and roll onto my side, prop my head up in my hand. “You look like a tourist.”
He adjusts the brightly colored shorts and slides off his glasses. “A sexy tourist?”
“No such thing.”
Jake sweeps me up, tucks my legs around his waist, and nuzzles my neck. “So, are you up for a sunrise surprise? We have to hurry.”
I gaze into his eyes, sweet caramel-brown framed by long black lashes. I already know this picnic will be missing napkins or drinks or something essential, and Jake will insist on bringing his obnoxious dog, Otis, and there’s no way we’ll get to the coast in time for the sunrise, which happens in the east, not the west (and I think deep down Jake knows this), but none of it matters. The date will be perfect because we’ll be together, so I agree. “Yeah, I’m up for it.”
Jake inhales in that slow way of his, as if he’s breathing me into his lungs. Then he sets me down and enjoys the peep show while I change into jeans and a sweatshirt, beachwear in Northern California. “Ready, Mrs. Healy?” he asks, giving me his last name.
“Ready, Mr. Sanchez,” I reply, giving him mine.
Jake collects his backpack and drops his sunglasses back over his eyes. “Otis is going to be very happy you said yes. He’s already in the truck.”
I lead Jake out of my bedroom with happiness blooming in my stomach at being correct, because of course Otis is in the truck.
• • •
As we crest the last bluff, the view of Blind Beach fills Jake’s windshield. Doesn’t matter that we were born here, doesn’t matter that I jog here every day after school, doesn’t matter that the ocean never changes—the sight of the endless sea sucks our breath from our lungs as if we’re drowning in it. This is the most dangerous stretch of coastline in California. The continental shelf drops quickly from a few dozen feet below the sea’s surface to several hundred feet, creating riptides that will kill you if you aren’t careful.
Sleeper waves are another risk. They hide in deep water, but when they meet the shallow portion of the shelf, they rush past previous waves and swallow whoever is standing on the shore. The water is cold enough to silence human screams, and if none of that kills you, the great white sharks that prowl offshore might. Visitors die here each year. Last summer, two local boys drowned when a sleeper wave dragged them into the ocean.
Today the waves are white-capped and violent, assailing the huge boulders that rise as ancient monoliths from the deep. The tide swallows the shoreline in greedy gulps, and the brightening sky reveals a layer of gauzelike mist, veiling the horizon. Seagulls dive and screech as they scavenge on creatures washed ashore—crabs, abalone, and starfish. In the dark depths, humpback whales, dolphins, seals, and sharks flick their tails, invisible to us until they decide to be seen.
Jake glances at me, smiling. “We’re here.”
But I’m surprised to see we’re not alone. Our friends Chloe and Manny, and Manny’s girlfriend, Alyssa, are nestled in the sand. “What’s going on?”
Jake parks and turns off his engine, rubs his hands together for warmth. “I want to hang out, just our group, one last time before school starts on Monday.”
Oh, I think, not this again. Jake is terrified of senior year. I can’t talk to him about my college applications or my AP tests without him getting moody and quiet. I won’t get into an Ivy League school, but my dream of attending the University of Colorado is pretty attainable, and that has Jake worried. It’s so far, he says. He believes I’ll forget about him at college—as if I ever could—but I think he’s more afraid to lose a person he loves, like he and his little brother Cole lost their dad two years ago. Maybe it’s why he clings so hard.
But today he invited our friends. He did that for me, and I smile back at him. “This is perfect.”
He opens his door, and Otis streaks out and down the trail, bounding toward the beach like a puppy. I sigh. “He’s going to get wet.”
But Jake ignores Otis and grabs our gear—two beach chairs, a blanket, and a cooler full of food. His thick eyebrows crinkle as he tries to wrangle it all. He looks so cute, I almost don’t want to help him, but I reach for a chair.
“Nope, I got it,” he says.
We hike down the trail to the beach, and Manny spots us first. “Hey, hey, the cabana boy is here!”
Jake drops everything and slaps Manny on the back. Alyssa and Chloe huddle by a small driftwood bonfire, with the massive stone cliffs at their backs, blocking the worst of the wind. The sky is ash gray and getting lighter.
I drop in next to my friends, and they scoot over so I can share the blanket draped over their laps. Alyssa glares at Jake on the other side of the flames. “Your boyfriend texted at five this morning and told me to hurry, and then he has the balls to show up late—wearing that.” She laughs.
I peek at Jake’s tan muscular legs, clad in dolphin-print shorts. “He pulls it off.”
Alyssa snaps a picture of him.
“Don’t post that!” I grab for her cell.
She grins. “Too late.”
The boys join us, and Jake pulls out the food he brought: a collection of sodas, a clump of grapes, and frozen breakfast burritos he must have heated in the microwave this morning. “Shit,” he says, rummaging in his backpack. “I forgot the salsa.”
The rest of us exchange a look, not surprised he forgot something. Jake and I started dating ten months ago, and I’ve learned I can rely on him to be exactly who he is—my easily baffled and mostly disorganized boyfriend who tries harder than anyone else I know to do the normal shit, but then crushes me with gestures so tiny and sweet that I wonder if I deserve him at all.
Finally he passes out the burritos, which are now dusted in brown sand from the gusting wind. “No charge for the seasonings,” he says.
We brush the tortilla wrappings clean and dig in, sometimes hearing the slight crunch of sand between our teeth. The beans are ice-cold in the center of my burrito.
“Delicious,” says Manny, tossing his into the fire with a shake of his head.
Jake passes out the sodas, and we watch the crackling flames as Manny adds another driftwood log. “Who’s going to Tegan’s party tonight?” Manny asks.
“We are,” says Jake, wrapping his arm around me.
“We are?” I ask.
His brows draw together. “Yeah, weren’t you on the group chat?”
“What group chat?”
“Uh-oh,” says Alyssa.
“The invite chat,” he says. “Tegan invited us.”
Anger slithers through my belly. “Us or just you?” Tegan is Jake’s ex, and she doesn’t bother to hide the fact she still has a crush on him.
“Us, all of us,” he says. “She told me to bring you.”
Manny pokes at the hot embers, causing sparks to dance in the wind.
“Everyone is going, Jess,” says Alyssa. “It’s Tegan’s end-of-summer bash.”
I nod but feel my heat rising. I don’t subscribe to the “everyone is going” peer pressure bullshit. I don’t like parties; they’re too chaotic. Everyone drinks and acts stupid and they’re not fun. They’re loud. Tegan’s Fourth of July bonfire earlier this summer was a disaster. Parties are one area where Jake and I don’t see eye to eye. He loves them, and I’ve made him skip quite a few.
Chloe snorts. “I can’t believe she invited you through your boyfriend. Oh wait, yes I can.” Her sarcasm masks the hurts from our past. Tegan and I were best friends until I befriended Chloe in the third grade. The three of us tried to be friends for two years, but Tegan treated Chloe like crap and eventually forced me to choose between them—I chose Chloe.
“Are you going?” I ask her.
“Yeah, Grady invited me. It’s his house too.” Grady is Tegan’s younger brother and Chloe’s best friend, next to me. They met when Chloe and I used to sleep over at Tegan’s, and then reconnected when they bought goldendoodles from the same litter three years ago. When the Sheffields are out of town, Chloe is their dog-sitter. Grady’s had a crush on Chloe since he was a kid, and I think she likes him too, but Chloe won’t do anything that takes her focus off gymnastics, and that includes dating.
Jake gently tilts my face, so our eyes meet. “It’s the last party of the summer, Jess.”
I shift my eyes to the bonfire, to our friends, and to our ruined burritos. This is my idea of a party, time with the few people I truly care about. But I know Jake wants to savor the beginning and end of senior year—the final leg of our high school journey—so I let out my breath. “Okay.”
He grins and kisses the back of my hand, and Alyssa snaps a photo. “So cute,” she says.
The others finish eating while I pet Otis to hide my sulk. If it was anyone else’s party, I’d feel better about it, but Tegan Sheffield? Our friendship exploded in the fifth grade during lunch period when Chloe and I declined to join Tegan at the popular table. We didn’t like Tegan’s new friends, not because they were popular but because we had nothing in common.
“Sit down,” Tegan insisted.
“No,” I whispered, feeling my face grow hot.
“You’re being a baby.” She eyed my horse-graphic T-shirt. “You look like a baby.”
We were eleven years old, and an epic shouting match followed that resulted in Tegan slapping me and making me cry. Chloe shoved her, and Tegan stumbled and tripped over a bench. Her skirt flew up, showing her underwear, and her new friends laughed at her.
After the fight, Tegan and I stopped speaking and Chloe became my best friend, and Tegan never forgave either of us. And now that the boy who dumped her is in love with me, our feud has reignited.
Tegan wages her war by posting candid pictures of Jake on her social media account. She draws little hearts around his ass or around his face, using the hashtag #TheOneThatGotAway. Once she posted a shot of both of us, Jake looking gorgeous and me looking frazzled, and tagged it #BeautyandtheBeast. It probably counts as online bullying, something we could turn her in to the principal for, but Jake and I decided to ignore the pictures. No response is a response, right?