They built a life on lies
Sutton and Ethan Montclair’s idyllic life is not as it appears. They seem 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.
And Then They Were Three
Sutton was green.
They sat together at the kitchen table, and Ethan watched his wife over the rim of his tea cup. She was truly green around the gills.
“Are you okay? You don’t look so good.”
She gave him a panicked look, made a horrible noise in her throat, then bolted from the table. He was right behind her. She made it to the half bath in the foyer, started retching the second she was above the toilet. He caught her hair, held it back, crooned and rubbed her back.
After a while, she collapsed in a heap next to the toilet. He handed her a cold, wet washcloth. She wiped her face and turned those huge eyes on him.
“You must have had something bad at the event last night. I hate those catered parties, that food sitting out on the tables. You never know how long the food’s been sitting out. Those scallops—”
“—I never saw anyone change the tray. I’m going to call and complain, they shouldn’t be allowed—”
“I don’t think it was the food.”
“What else could it be?”
There was a long pause, searching looks, then dawning comprehension. A spark of joy built in his chest. “Oh my God, Sutton. Are you—?”
“Pregnant,” she said, the word dripping with contempt and hate.
“Pregnant!” he cried, dropping to his knees, gathering her in his arms. She was stiff as a board, didn’t move. “My darling, this is brilliant news. Brilliant! We have to call the doctor, we need to decide which room to use as the nursery, we—”
“Stop. Just, stop. There will be no baby.”
Ethan froze. Her tone was so coolly detached now he almost didn’t recognize her. If he could see into her head, he’d realize his beloved, crouched on the bathroom floor, a string of vomit in her tangled hair, was slowly plotting the demise of their child.
“What do you mean, no baby? Of course there will be. You’re healthy, this will go wonderfully. How far along are you?”
He didn’t say he’d suspected all along because the trash can hadn’t filled with the usual monthly accouterments. He didn’t tell her he’d noticed her breasts were a touch fuller, the nipples gone the color of wine. He couldn’t, because if he did, it would be clear to Sutton he’d been paying attention to her cycle, and if she knew that, she might realize more about her “surprise” pregnancy, and right now, all he cared about was getting her mind wrapped around a little one.
“A baby, Sutton. We made a baby.”
She stood up. “I don’t want to have a baby. I have absolutely no interest in having a baby. I can’t do this. I can’t.”
“So…what? You’re going to do what?”
“I’m going to have an abortion.”
Ethan reared back as if slapped. “Over my dead body.”
There was something in her eyes when she looked at him. He should have taken a moment and tried to understand what she was telegraphing in her gaze, but he was panicking. It couldn’t happen. She couldn’t get rid of their child. He had to find a way to convince her this was meant to be, that a baby would be everything to them.
Purged, she headed to the kitchen, and he followed, pleading, demanding.
“You can’t. I forbid it.”
“It’s my body, Ethan. I’m the one who has to deal with this. You don’t get to tell me what to do.”
“It’s our child. Ours. You can’t just make a decision like this without my input.”
“The law says I can, Ethan.” She took up her teacup. Wrinkled her perfect nose and dumped it into the sink. Pulled out a bottle of Diet Sprite, the only soda she’d allow herself, and poured a glass. Took a sip and turned green again.
“Ugh.” He saw her glance at him, sideways, under her lashes, measuring, and knew the discussion was still ongoing. Thank God.
“Come here.” Ethan led her to the table, got her seated gently in the chair, knelt in front of her so they were face to face. “Darling. My sweet brave girl. I know you’re scared. I know you don’t think you want this. But a baby… Sutton, we have so much to give a child. We have freedom, and money, and a beautiful home. We were born to be parents.”
“You might have been. Me? No. I’m not interested in diapers and sleepless nights and carpools and the PTA. I just can’t figure out how this happened. I’m religious about my pills.”
He looked away, bit his lip. Do not tell her, Ethan. Don’t make that mistake. His knees were beginning to burn. He stood and pulled a chair close, pulled her limp hand into his.
“Sutton. I want this child. I want us to have a family. Like you said, you’re religious about your pills. Sometimes, things happen, and you know I believe everything happens for a reason.”
“How will I write? How will you write?”
“We’ll get a nanny. We’ll hire a night nurse. Anything you want.”
Sutton hadn’t moved. “What’s the point of having a child if you aren’t the one raising it?”
“Sweetheart, would you rather me suggest you give up your work to raise a child? It’s very 1950s, but if you want me to act the caveman…”
“I think you should give up your work.”
Ethan didn’t move.
“Seriously, Ethan. If you want a baby so badly, then you give up your work, and take care of it.”
“I’d be willing to do that if you truly want me to.”
“A baby means more to you than your books? Than your mark on the world? You’re leaving something concrete behind, Ethan, we both are. Children aren’t the same—it’s a genetic lottery. It could be smart, it could have birth defects. You never know. And we aren’t at all equipped if this child isn’t absolutely one hundred percent perfect, in every way. I don’t want to be saddled with a child. You can’t take the risk of a child ending your career. It’s better for us to just take care of things, and never think about this again.”
“You don’t mean that,” he whispered. “Please, Sutton. I know you don’t. I know you want this too, deep inside. I know it. And I swear, I will handle everything. If you truly want nothing to do with raising our child, I will do it all. I am more than willing to abandon my art for this. For us, and our family.”
She sat quietly, watching him, the red hair floating around her face. “God, you actually mean that, don’t you?”
“I do. I swear it.”
She said nothing, stared over his shoulder. There was a bird feeder outside the window; he could hear the birds, dancing around the edges of the feeder, grabbing a bite, fluttering off then rushing back. Wings beat the air. His heart stood still.
“I’ll think about it,” she said, finally, and he realized he’d been holding his breath. He gathered her into a hug, and she let him.
About the Author
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author J.T. Ellison writes standalone domestic noir and psychological thriller series, the latter starring Nashville Homicide Lt. Taylor Jackson and medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens, and pens the international thriller series “A Brit in the FBI” with #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter. Cohost of the Emmy Award-winning show, A Word on Words, Ellison lives in Nashville with her husband.