'The Last Time I Saw You' By Liv Constantine Is An Addictive & Thrilling Follow-Up To 'The Last Mrs. Parrish'
When it was published in 2017, The Last Mrs. Parrish received rave reviews from critics and readers alike. It quickly rose on the Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller lists, became a New York Times bestseller in paperback, and was chosen for the Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club. Now, the sister writing team known as Liv Constantine is back with a brand new novel that is sure to satisfy old fans and create brand new ones. An addictive novel about a shocking high-society murder, The Last Time I Saw You doesn't hit shelves until next year, but Bustle is thrilled to give readers a first look at the book's cover and an exclusive excerpt.
Lily Michaels is dead, the victim of a brutal attack in her suburban Baltimore home. The murder has sent shock waves throughout the entire community, but none feel them more than Lily's daughter Kate, who is just trying to hold it together for the sake of her newly widowed father as well as her own husband and young child.
When her former high school best friend shows up at Lily's funeral, Kate is both surprised and grateful to have Blaire Barrington by her side again. Despite the lingering tension from their fallout 15 years earlier, it doesn't take long for the women to fall back into their own routines: Kate, the anxious achiever, and Blaire, the fierce defender. But after all these years, and with Lily's killer still on the loose, can Kate trust Blaire to have her back, or will their reunion push Kate over the edge?
A twisty novel about money and murder, The Last Time I Saw You isn't due out from Harper in May 2019. Luckily, you don't have to wait that long, because Bustle has an exclusive first look at the cover and an excerpt you can start reading right now.
She screamed and tried to get up, but the room was spinning. She sat again, breathing deeply in and out, trying to focus. Was there a way to escape? Think. She rose, her legs wobbly under her. The fire was spreading now, engulfing the books and photographs. She sank down onto her hands and knees as heavy smoke filled the room. When the air became too dense with it, she pulled her shirt over her mouth, coughing as she moved across the floor toward the hall.
“Help me!” she croaked, though she knew there was no one around who would. Don’t panic, she told herself. She had to try and quiet herself, preserve her oxygen.
She couldn’t die like this. The smoke was getting so thick she couldn’t see more than a few inches in front of her. The heat of the flames was reaching out to consume her. I’m not going to make it, she thought. Her throat was raw, and her nose burned.
With every last bit of strength, she inched her way to the entrance hall. She lay there, panting from exhaustion. Her head was fuzzy, but the cold marble floor felt good against her body and she pressed her cheek against its cool surface. Now she could go to sleep. Her eyes closed, and she felt herself fading until everything went black.
Only days ago, Kate had been mulling over what to get her mother for Christmas. She couldn’t have known that instead of choosing a gift, she’d be picking out her casket. She sat in numb silence as the pallbearers slowly made their way to the doors of the packed church. A sudden movement made her turn, and that’s when she saw her. Blaire. She’d come. She’d actually come! Suddenly, it was as if Kate’s mother was no longer lying in that box, the victim of a brutal murder. Instead, a different image filled her head. One of her mother laughing, her golden hair whipping in the wind as she grabbed Blaire and Kate by the hand, and the three of them ran across the hot sand, into the ocean.
A sudden movement made her turn, and that’s when she saw her. Blaire. She’d come.
“Are you all right?” Simon whispered. Kate felt her husband’s hand at her elbow.
Emotion choked her when she tried to speak, so she simply nodded, wondering if he’d seen her too.
After the service, the long procession of cars seemed to take hours to reach the cemetery, and once everyone had arrived, Kate wasn’t surprised to see that the line wrapped around it. Kate, her father, and Simon took their seats as mourners filled the space around the gravesite. Despite the bright sky, a few snow flurries fluttered in the air, precursors to the wintry days that lay ahead. Behind her dark sunglasses, Kate’s eyes searched each face, assessing, questioning if the murderer might be among them. Some were strangers — or at least strangers to her — and others old friends she hadn’t seen in years. As she scanned the crowd, her eyes came to rest on a tall man and a petite, white-haired woman standing next to him. Pain spread across her chest, an invisible hand squeezing her heart. Jake’s parents. She hadn’t seen them since his funeral, which until this week had been the worst day of her life. They were stone-faced, staring straight ahead. She clenched her fists, refusing to let herself feel that pain and guilt again. But how she wished she could talk to Jake, to cry on his shoulder as he held her.
The service at the grave was blessedly short, and as the casket was lowered into the earth, Harrison, Kate’s father, stood there unmoving, staring at it. Kate locked her hand in his, and he lingered a few moments more, his face unreadable. All at once, he looked much older than his sixty-eight years, the deep lines around his mouth even more pronounced. Kate was suddenly overwhelmed with sorrow, and she reached out to one of the folding chairs to steady herself.
Pain spread across her chest, an invisible hand squeezing her heart. Jake’s parents. She hadn’t seen them since his funeral, which until this week had been the worst day of her life.
Lily’s death would leave an enormous void in all of their lives. She had been the strong center around which the family revolved, and the organizer of Harrison’s life, the one who arranged and managed their packed social calendar. An elegant woman who was the product of the Evans family’s great wealth, she had been taught from childhood that her good fortune obliged her to give back to the community. Lily had served on several philanthropic boards and had headed her own charitable foundation — the Evans-Michaels Family Trust — which awarded grants to organizations dedicated to victims of domestic violence and child abuse. Kate had watched her mother over the years as she presided over her board, tirelessly raised money, and even made herself personally available to help the women who came to the shelter, and yet Lily had always been there for her. Yes, she’d had nannies, but it had been Lily who’d tucked her in every night, Lily who had never missed a school event, Lily who’d wiped her tears and celebrated her successes. In some ways, it had been daunting to be Lily’s daughter—she seemed to do it all with such grace and ease. But at her core had been a strength of purpose that drove her, and Kate had sometimes imagined her mother finally relaxing her straight posture and perfect demeanor when she closed the door of her own bedroom. Kate had promised herself that if she ever had kids, she’d be the same kind of mother one day.
Kate put her arm through her father’s, nudging him away from the canopy, where the cold air was thick with the nauseating smell of hothouse roses and lilies. With Simon on her other side, the three of them walked to the waiting limousine. She slid with relief into the cocooned darkness of the car and glanced out the window. Her breath caught when she glimpsed Blaire, standing alone, hands clasped in front of her. Kate had to stop herself from pressing the window down and calling out to her. It had been fifteen years since they’d spoken, but the sight of her made it feel like they had been together just yesterday.
Simon and Kate’s house in Worthington Valley was a short drive from the cemetery, but there’d been no question anyway of holding the funeral reception at Lily and Harrison’s home, where she had died. Her father hadn’t returned since the night he discovered his wife’s body.
It had been fifteen years since they’d spoken, but the sight of her made it feel like they had been together just yesterday.
When they arrived, Kate hurried to the front door ahead of the others, wanting a few moments to check on her daughter before people began to pour into the house. She quickly mounted the stairs to the second floor. Simon and Kate had agreed that it was best for their young daughter, just shy of five, to be shielded from the trauma of the funeral, but Kate wanted to check in on her now.
Lily had been so thrilled the day Kate told her she was pregnant. She’d adored Annabelle from the moment she was born, and had lavished attention on her without any of the limits she’d put on Kate, laughing as she said, “I get to spoil her. You are the one who gets to correct her.” Would Annabelle remember her grandmother as the years progressed? Kate wondered. The thought made her falter, her foot slipping from the top step, and she gripped the banister as she reached the landing and headed to her child’s room.
When she peeked in, Annabelle was playing contentedly with her dollhouse, looking mercifully sheltered from the tragic events of the last days. Hilda, her nanny, looked up as Kate entered.
“Mommy.” Annabelle rose and ran to Kate and threw her arms around her waist. “I missed you.”
Kate drew her daughter into her arms and nuzzled her neck. “I missed you too, sweetheart.” She sat in the rocker, pulling Annabelle onto her lap. “I want to have a talk with you, and then we’ll go downstairs together. You remember I told you that Grammy went to be in heaven?”
Annabelle looked at her solemnly. “Yes,” she answered, her lip trembling.
Kate ran her fingers through the child’s curls. “Well, there are lots of people downstairs. They came because they want to tell us how much they loved Grammy. Isn’t that nice of them?”
Annabelle nodded, her eyes wide and unblinking.
“They want us to know that they’ll never forget her. And we won’t either, will we?”
“I want to see Grammy. I don’t want her to be in heaven.”
“Oh sweetie, you will see her again, I promise. One day you will see her again.” She held Annabelle to her, trying to keep her own tears from falling. “Now, let’s go downstairs and say hello to everyone. They’ve been very kind to come and be with us today. You may come down and say hello to Granddaddy and our friends and them come back upstairs to play. Okay?” Kate rose and took Annabelle’s hand, nodding at Hilda, who followed them.
Downstairs, they made their way through the crush of well-wishers who’d arrived, but after fifteen minutes, Kate asked Hilda to take Annabelle back to her playroom. She continued moving around on her own, greeting people, but grief made her hands shake and her breath come in short gasps, as if the air were being gobbled up by the crowd. The living room was wall-to-wall people.
Across the room, Selby Haywood and her mother, Georgina Hathaway, stood in a tight circle with Harrison. Nostalgia swept over Kate as she looked at them. So many good memories—summers at the beach from the time she and Selby were kids, splashing in the surf and building sand castles while their mothers looked on. Georgina had been one of her mother’s closest friends, and the two women had always loved that their daughters were good friends as well. It was a different kind of friendship from the one Kate had had with Blaire, though. She and Selby had been thrown together by their mothers—Kate and Blaire had chosen each other. They’d clicked from the start, as if there’d been a special understanding between them. She’d been able to open her very soul to Blaire, something she’d never experienced with Selby.
...grief made her hands shake and her breath come in short gasps, as if the air were being gobbled up by the crowd.
A hand on her elbow made her turn, and she was face-to-face with the woman who had been like a sister to her for so many of her formative years. She collapsed into Blaire’s arms and wept.
“Oh, Kate. I still can’t believe it.” Blaire’s breath was hot against her ear as she hugged Kate to her. “I loved her so.”
After a moment, Kate pulled away and took Blaire’s hands in hers. “She loved you too. I’m so glad you’re here.” Kate’s eyes filled again. It was surreal to see Blaire standing here, in her home, after all their years of estrangement. They’d meant so much to each other once.
Blaire had hardly changed — her long dark hair hung in thick waves, her green eyes were still sparkling, the faint hint of laugh lines around them the only evidence that time had passed. Blaire had always been stylish, but now she looked sleek and expensive, like she belonged to another, far more glamorous world. Of course, she was a famous writer now. A swell of gratitude enveloped Kate. She needed Blaire to know how much it meant to her that she’d come, that she was the part of Kate’s past that held so many good memories, and that she understood better than any of her other friends the anguish of this loss. It made her feel suddenly a little less alone.
“Your being here means so much. Can we go into another room where we can talk privately?” Kate’s voice was tentative. She was unsure of what Blaire would say, or if she was even willing to talk about the past, but seeing her made Kate want that more than anything.
“Of course,” Blaire said without hesitation.
Kate led her into the library, where they settled together on the deep leather couch. After a short silence, she spoke. “I know it must have been hard for you to be here, but I had to call you. Thank you so much for coming.”
“Of course. I had to come. For Lily—” Blaire paused briefly before adding, “And for you.”
“Is your husband here?” Kate asked.
“No, he couldn’t make it. He’s traveling for the new book, but he understood that I needed to be here.”
Kate shook her head. “I’m so glad you are. Mother would be too. She hated that we never made up.” She fingered the tissue in her hands. “I think about that fight a lot. The horrible things we said.” The memories came flooding back, filling her with regret.
“I never should have questioned your decision to marry Simon. It was wrong,” Blaire said.
“We were so young . . . so foolish to let it rip our friendship apart.”
“You don’t know how many times I thought of calling you, to talk it out, but I was afraid you would hang up on me,” Blaire said.
Kate looked down at the tissue in her hands, now shredded into pieces. “I thought about calling you, too, but the longer I waited, the harder it was. I can’t believe it’s taken my mother’s murder to finally do it. But she would be so glad to see us together.” Lily had been terribly upset about their fight. She’d broached it with Kate over the years, always trying to get her to reach out to Blaire with an olive branch. Now Kate regretted her stubborn resistance. She raised her eyes. “I can’t believe that I’ll never see her again. It was so brutal, her death. It makes me sick to think about it.”
Blaire leaned in closer. “It’s horrible,” she said, and Kate sensed a gentle questioning tone in her voice.
“I’m not sure how much you’ve heard—I’ve been avoiding the papers,” Kate said. “But Dad came home Friday night and found her.” Her voice quavered, and she choked back sobs before going on.
Blaire was shaking her head, quiet as Kate continued.
“She was in the living room . . . lying on the floor, her head . . . someone hit her head.” Kate swallowed.
“Do they think it was a break-in?” Blaire asked.
“Apparently a window was smashed, but there were no other signs of forced entry.”
“Do the police have any idea who did this?”
“No. They didn’t find a weapon. They searched everywhere. They talked to neighbors, but nobody heard or saw anything unusual. But you know how secluded their house is—their closest neighbor is a quarter-mile away. The coroner said she died sometime between five and eight.” Kate twisted her hands together. “I can’t bear to think that while my mother was being murdered, I was here just going about my business.”
“You couldn’t have known, Kate.”
Kate nodded. She knew Blaire was right, but that didn’t change how she felt. While she had been making a cup of tea or reading her daughter a bedtime story, someone had brutally taken her mother’s life.
Blaire frowned and put her hand on Kate’s. “She wouldn’t want you thinking like that. You know that, right?”
“I’ve missed you,” Kate sobbed.
“I’m here now.”
“Thank you,” Kate sniffled. They embraced again, Kate clinging to Blaire as if she were a life preserver that could keep her from sinking into her deep and terrible grief. As they were leaving the room, Blaire stopped and gave Kate a quizzical look.
“Was that Jake’s parents at the church earlier?”
Kate nodded. “I was surprised to see them. I don’t think they came to the house though. I suppose they just wanted to pay their respects to Mother and leave.” She felt a lump in her throat. “I can’t blame them for not wanting to talk to me.”
Blaire started to speak, then simply gave her a sad look and another hug.
“I guess I should get back to my guests now,” Kate said.
She felt a lump in her throat. “I can’t blame them for not wanting to talk to me.”
She went through the rest of the day in a daze. After everyone had gone, Simon holed up in his office to handle a work crisis while Kate roamed restlessly from room to room. She had been anxious for everyone to leave, for the day of her mother’s funeral to be over, but now the house felt eerily quiet. Everywhere she looked, it seemed, there was another sympathy card or flower arrangement.
She finally sat down in the recliner in the study, leaning her head back, and closed her eyes, weary and sad. She had almost dozed off when a vibration at her side made her open her eyes. Her phone. In the pocket of her dress. She pulled it out, pressed her thumb to unlock it, and saw Private Caller where the phone number should be. She read the incoming text.
Such a beautiful day for a funeral. I enjoyed watching you watch them lower your mother into the ground. Your beautiful face was mottled and swollen from crying. But I delighted in seeing your world fall apart. You think you’re sad now, just wait. By the time I’m finished with you, you’ll wish you had been buried today.
Was this some kind of sick joke?
Who is this? she typed, waiting for a response, but nothing came. She shot up from the chair, her heart thudding wildly against her chest, and ran from the room, her breath coming in short bursts. “Simon!” she yelled as she sprinted down the hall. “Call the police.”