- Published: 7 February 2019
- ISBN: 9781473559837
- Imprint: Cornerstone Digital
- Format: EBook
- Pages: 384
The Wedding Guest
(Alex Delaware 34) An Unputdownable Murder Mystery from the Internationally Bestselling Master of Suspense
Stupid name for a signature cocktail. Brears had found the recipe online, this tequila-Baileys thing. Seven shots plus the deejay speeding everything up plus the pink wine Leanza had drunk before the ceremony were killing her bladder.
When she got to the ladies’ room, a line trailed out into the hall. Pathetic little ladies’ room, like two stalls, because of what the venue had been before.
She took her place at the back. Her bladder felt like it was gonna explode.
No Regrets. As if.
Last week at the bachelorette in Vegas, Brears was all about regrets. After ten shots of her signature bachelorette cocktail, this rum and some sweet orange thing with bubbles in it. The week before there was a signature bridal shower cocktail, champagne and grapefruit soda and a toothpick with a little plastic bride on top.
Everything had to be “bespoke” for Brears, since she’d learned the word, she couldn’t stop using it.
Once her mom or dad died there’d probably be a signature funeral cocktail.
At the bachelorette, Brears was throwing back shots faster than anyone while doing a man-spread on the sofa in the suite and letting out artisan shrimp pizza burps that smelled like the bottom of a fish tank.
Then she started talking, looking like she was gonna cry.
Plenty of regrets about Garrett, what the eff am I doing?
Everyone telling her what a great guy he was, she was doing the right thing.
Brears drinks, burps, looks like she’s falling asleep but she isn’t. Coupla more shots, she’s all I love Garrett so so so so much.
Then she did cry.
But right then the hot-boy strippers came prancing in like ponies. Fireman / cop / cowboy / pool boy. Stripped naked in seconds.
Brears had no regrets about them.
Leanza was sure Garrett, who really was nice but kind of smart-dumb pathetic, had no clue. His signature cocktail wasn’t. Some kind of pale ale made from oats? That is not a cocktail.
Leanza’s stomach pressed down and moved around weird. Like she’d swallowed a rat and it was chewing on her bladder.
The line hadn’t budged since she got there.
Two old women, had to be friends of Brears’s or Garrett’s parents, got in line behind her and started talking about what a lovely affair it was. Considering the venue. Did you know? Giggle giggle.
Old bitches shouldn’t giggle, they sounded like maniac squirrels.
Maybe that was the problem with the ladies’ room, some grandma not able to get the plumbing going . . . then oh, shit, there was Mom, barely able to walk, her boobs hanging out as she wobbled toward the line and Leanza knew she’d want to have one of those girl-to-girl talks that proved to Mom she was still young . . . oh, God, she was going to explode.
Then she remembered.
Upstairs, where she and the other bridesmaids had sat in a crowded room and did their hair and makeup—all by themselves, you’d think Brears would share her stylists but no—upstairs there was also a bathroom. Leanza hadn’t used it but Teysa had, Leanza remembered because Teysa came back with the bottom of her dress all flipped up in back and Leanza had joked you look like you just took it in the backside and Teysa had laughed and Leanza had fixed her.
Problem was, the stairs were all the way on the other side of the building. Probably some office space for when it used to be a strip joint. Could she make it back there without totally exploding?
Would she get up there and then find someone else had figured it out first and then she’d have to come back here and go to the end of the line?
The only other choice was sneaking out into the back alley and squatting and just doing it. Some dude saw her, his lucky day, the way she felt, she could care less.
But the alley was even farther than upstairs and to get there she’d have to run all the way around the building and then out back.
No way, it was either stay where it wasn’t moving or make a break for the stairs. And in a second Mom would see her.
Muttering, “Eff it,” she ran.
The old ladies behind her said something rude.
Eff them, they were lucky they weren’t getting sprayed.
Barely able to move her legs without leaking, Leanza climbed the shaky, creaky, dirty-looking stairs. What a dump, Brears’s idea of creative.
Holding her breath and fighting to maintain control, she finally made it to the top and saw the door up ahead and to the right marked Employees Only.
No one waiting here, if she was lucky, no one inside. She charged the door.
Open! I am Warrior Princess!
Without bothering to close the door, she threw herself in.
Gross stinky place. No window, a gross stinky closet.
One urinal, one stall. Figures.
She yanked on the door of the stall, was already pulling down her pantyhose and her thong when she saw the girl.
Sitting on top of the lid of a closed toilet, her head dropped, dark hair falling to one side like a curtain. Dressed in a tight red dress and gold do-me sandals with heels as long and skinny as a lead pencil. Leanza hadn’t seen her at the ceremony or the dancing, didn’t recognize her, probably someone from Garrett’s side.
Leanza said, “Excuuuse me.”
The girl didn’t answer. Or move. Or do anything.
Stupid bitch. How many No Regrets had she tossed back?
Eff her, this was a toilet not an armchair, do your stoner thing somewhere else.
Leanza took hold of the girl’s bare arm.
Cold skin. Like not . . . human.
She said, “Hey!” really loud. Repeated it.
Cupping the bottom of the girl’s chin—it was even colder than the arm—she lifted the drunk bitch’s face, ready to slap her awake.
Brown eyes as expressionless as plastic buttons stared back at her.
The girl’s face was a weird gray color.
So were her lips, gray with some blue around the edges, hanging loose, you could see some teeth. Dried drool trickled down both sides.
Then Leanza saw it: the circle around the girl’s neck. Like a horrible red choker necklace but this was no jewelry, this cut into the skin, red and gritty around the edges.
Leanza knew she was being stupid but her mouth said, “Hey, c’mon, wake up.”
She knew because she was the one who’d found her grandmother after the heart attack. Ten years old, a Sunday, walking into Grandma’s bedroom wanting to show her a drawing she’d made.
Bottle of ginger beer spilled onto the comforter. The same plastic-button eyes.
The same gray skin.
Gripped by nausea, Leanza backed away from the girl. In the process, she kicked the girl’s leg and the girl slid off the lid and down. Flopping as she continued to slide, her head making a weird thumpy noise as it hit the filthy floor.
Sliding toward Leanza.
Leanza scurried back.
Staring at the dead girl, she said, “Eff it,” and let her bladder do whatever it felt like.
The dead man lived up the hill. We could have walked, if the world wasn’t ending and we didn’t have to bring him back.
Eno trudged up the road. Big fancy property like this, maybe a chance to hit a lick.
The first three men came stumbling into town shortly after ten a.m., babbling of dark shapes and eerie screams and their missing buddy Scott and their other buddy Tim, who set out from their campsite before dawn to get help.
Matthew Butler cocked his head to one side, considering the big-boned blonde in front of him.
The Pratt & Whitney radial engines rasped and hunted as they struggled to inhale the high-altitude air.
I ’m not afraid of flying. The chances of dying in a plane crash for the average frequent flyer are one in eleven million.
I WASN’T PRESENT at the courthouse in Erva, Alabama, on that morning in June, when events unfolded that would suck me into the undertow of Douglas County.
Inside Laura's head, Deidre spoke. The trouble with you, Laura, she said, is that you make bad choices.