A Girls Trip Takes A Dark Turn In Summer's Must-Read Thriller — & You Can Start Reading Now

By Kerri Jarema

Have you ever thought about the secrets your best friends might be keeping? If you haven't you definitely won't be able to keep from side-eying even your closest companions after reading Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke's upcoming psychological thriller, Girls' Night Out. Bustle has the exclusive cover reveal and an excerpt from the book below! Girls' Night Out follows estranged friends Ashley, Natalie, and Lauren, who have decided that it’s time to heal the old wounds between them. And where better to repair those severed ties than on a girls’ getaway to Tulum, Mexico? But even after they’re reunited, no one is being completely honest about the past or the secrets they’re hiding.

When Ashley disappears on their girls’ night out, Natalie and Lauren must piece together their hazy memories to figure out what could have happened to her, while also reconciling their feelings of guilt over their last moments together. Was Ashley with the man she’d met only days before? Did she pack up and leave? Was she kidnapped? Or worse — could Natalie or Lauren have snapped under the weight of her own lies? As the clock ticks Natalie and Lauren’s search rushes headlong into growing suspicion and dread. Do their secrets run deeper and more dangerous than one of them is willing — or too afraid — to admit?

Click here to buy.

Girls' Night Out won't be hitting shelves until July 24, 2018, so you have a few months left to wait to try and solve the mystery (and to plan out your escape route in the event your next girls' weekend goes awry) but Bustle has the entire first chapter of the book below to hold you over until then. Keep reading below!


Waves lapped against the shore. It sounded as if the sea were breathing. In and out. In and out. Between the whitecaps breaking against the sand, there was a pause, almost as if the ocean were inhaling and preparing to release another breath. In and out. In and out.

Natalie was in a haze, falling somewhere between sleep and semi-consciousness, about to let herself dip back into a deep lull when she felt a breeze tickle her bare arms. Had they left the door to their hotel room ajar last night? She opened her eyes, expecting to see her suitcase parked in the corner, her espadrilles sitting next to the sliding glass door, her purse resting on the ledge behind her. Her passport, extra pesos, and wedding ring locked away in the safe. She’d spy Ashley’s brown curls poking out from beneath the sheets next to her, their clothes and shoes from the night before left in a forgotten pile on the floor.

Squinting, Natalie attempted to adjust to the twilight, the only light coming from the rising sun, still resting on the ocean, about to make its way into the sky.

She shot upright.

She was outside. On the beach. Lying under one of the hotel’s rustic cabanas. She craned her neck — a sharp pain jolting her as she tried to turn it — expecting to see Ashley, or possibly Lauren, next to her, but all the chairs were empty. She swallowed, her throat dry. As she swung her legs over the side of the chaise, her wet dress clung to her. When she pulled at it, sand fell from the hem. She stood slowly as her head spun, noticing her calves were also caked. She paused, took a deep breath, and attempted to get her bearings.

“Ashley? Lauren?” she called, even though she could see the beach was desolate, save for a stray dog running near the surf, his ribs visible through his fur. It felt like a dream.

Was it?

Her stomach fluttered, worry starting to build as she thought of having slept out here, alone, overnight. The things that could have happened to her. Ben would not be happy if he ever found out. After all the lectures he’d given her about Mexico — the things that could happen to women traveling alone — she couldn’t let him know. Taking a quick inventory of her body —running her hands over it — she decided nothing seemed off, other than a throbbing behind her temples that rocketed through her skull every time she moved. Her legs felt heavy as she began to walk the narrow path that led to the hotel, stumbling slightly up the wooden steps, passing the rustic cottages and hoping no one would take notice of her. What would they think? That poor almost 40-year-old woman who drank like she was half her age, then woke up outside. She shuddered. That wasn’t her. Not by a long shot. She hurried up the stairs toward her room, clinging to the railing, bile swirling in her stomach.

Her stomach fluttered, worry starting to build as she thought of having slept out here, alone, overnight. The things that could have happened to her.

She hoped Ashley would know why she’d slept outside — why she hadn’t made it the three hundred yards to their room. That she’d fill in the gaping hole in her memory. She imagined her friend’s eyes narrowing as she took in Natalie’s sandy legs, the way her cross-body purse was still secured lightly on her chest. (Thank God it was still there!) Then she’d play back the night in detail, filling in all the blank spots Natalie couldn’t. Ashley would tell her not to worry. Natalie would worry anyway.

Natalie tried to conjure what she could from the night before — their girls’ night out. She recalled getting ready. Putting on the black dress with the floral embroidery that she’d purchased from a street vendor in downtown Tulum, the dress that now hung heavy on her. She recalled going out to dinner—to that beachfront restaurant with the wooden tables — what was it called? She strained until the thought finally came — Hartwood! Yes, that was it. She recalled Ashley ordering Patrón, Natalie protesting weakly before finally giving in. Despite her policy against doing tequila shots because they would only lead to no good — she could name a dozen possibilities — Ashley’s big brown eyes had won her over when the small hand-blown glasses with salted rims were set on the table next to a plate of limes. Ashley’s body had been angled just slightly away from Lauren, and her request was clear. Please. Have fun with me. We need this.

And Ashley had been right. They’d needed it.

Natalie had grabbed the glass and tossed it back, the burn of the tequila in her throat making her feel both invigorated and a little bit dangerous. As her chest warmed and her eyes stung, she was struck with a feeling that anything could happen.

But what had happened?

Natalie yanked on the sliding glass door of her hotel room, but it was locked. Digging inside her purse, she found the oversize key chain with the room key dangling from it and unlocked the door, pulling it open quietly so as to not wake Ashley, who was most definitely not a morning person —especially after a night of heavy drinking. Natalie planned to slip under the duvet and drift back to sleep, getting the answers she needed about the night from Ashley once she woke up.

But Ashley wasn’t in the room.

Natalie’s eyes darted around the suite. The king-size bed was made, the white comforter pulled taut in only that way housekeeping could do, and the pillows embroidered with bluebirds and flowers were perfectly positioned.

Where was Ashley?

Shuffling toward the bathroom, confusion and fear mixing together in the pit of her stomach, she scanned the room for something that would jog her memory. Had Ashley told her where she was going and Natalie had forgotten? Towels from their showers were hanging on the wooden ladder leaning against the wall, Natalie’s cream one-piece bathing suit and black cover-up dangling from a hook by the closet, Ashley’s workout clothes strewn about the room. Natalie’s makeup bag and toiletries were arranged neatly, Ashley’s splayed across the counter.

She saw a flash of the two of them putting on makeup in tandem. Ashley telling Natalie how the lavender eye shadow complemented her green eyes. They’d sipped margaritas and made jokes about how big their hair was thanks to the humidity. Natalie had given up and pushed her red bob back with a headband while Ashley kept at it, trying in vain to use the BloBrush to tame her curls. She could hear Ashley’s feathery laugh as she had surveyed herself in the large steel-framed mirror, then gave her reflection the middle finger. Ashley pivoted on her heel toward the door. “I guess even this thing has it limits,” she’d joked, holding up the bright pink hot brush Natalie had designed. “I give up. Let’s get out of here!”

But had that been last night? Or another night? Her mind felt like a dull pencil, her thoughts lacking the sharp edges they needed.

Natalie’s skin pricked as she felt around in her purse to make sure her wallet was still inside. Her breathing slowed when she pulled it out and found her driver’s license, credit card, and pesos tucked into the billfold. Her cell phone was still where she’d forgotten it last night — charging on the shelf behind the bed. That detail came through so clearly — but not much else. Why? Her instinct had been to go back and get it — in case Ben, Meg, or Lucy needed her.

But had that been last night? Or another night? Her mind felt like a dull pencil, her thoughts lacking the sharp edges they needed.

Meg had just gotten her first cell phone and seemed intent on being able to reach Natalie whenever she wanted. She’d text her from the school bus, band practice, even the living room when Nat was just in the kitchen. Natalie didn’t know if it was the newness of the phone or if Meg had a sincere desire to connect with her mother. She hoped it was the latter. She had begun to miss her girls terribly, and the ache to see them throbbed in the pit of her stomach. But Ashley had convinced her not to go back for the phone, that any of her family members could find Nat through her or Lauren.

She studied the blank screen now. They hadn’t called or texted, and neither had Ashley or Lauren. She quickly dialed Ashley, but it went straight to voice mail. Hi, you’ve reached Ashley Green with BloMe, Inc. Please leave your name and number, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. She hung up, wishing she had Marco’s number — Ashley was probably with him. They’d spent nearly every day of their trip with the good-looking local, but Natalie never thought to ask for his contact info. She tried Ashley once more and heard her message again. Concern started to rise inside her —Ashley’s phone was always on; Nat couldn’t remember the last time she’d heard Ashley’s outgoing message. Once, Natalie had called her at 2:00 a.m. in a panic, wondering if Ashley had mailed the tax extension request for BloMe, and Ashley had answered.

Natalie sent a text now.

Where are you, Ashley?

Click here to buy.

Excerpted from Girls’ Night Out by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke with permission of Lake Union Publishing. Copyright © 2018 by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke. All rights reserved.