Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six

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“A deliciously tense ride.” –Ruth Ware, New York Times bestselling author of One By One


Three couples rent a luxury cabin in the woods for a weekend getaway to die for in this chilling locked-room thriller.

What could be more restful than a weekend getaway with family and friends? An isolated luxury cabin in the woods, spectacular views, a hot tub and a personal chef. Hannah’s generous brother found the listing online. The reviews are stellar. It’ll be three couples on this trip with good food, good company and lots of R & R.

But the dreamy weekend is about to turn into a nightmare. 

A deadly storm is brewing. The rental host seems just a little too present. The personal chef reveals that their beautiful house has a spine-tingling history. And the friends have their own complicated past, with secrets that run blood deep.

How well does Hannah know her brother, her own husband? Can she trust her best friend? Meanwhile, someone is determined to ruin the weekend, looking to exact a payback for deeds long buried. Who is the stranger among them?

* People Magazine Book of the Week 

* PopSugar Best Thriller and Mystery

* CrimeReads Best Psychological Thrillers

* Goodreads Editor’s and Readers Most Anticipated Book 

* BookPage Best Mysteries of November 

* BookBub Best Mysteries and Thrillers 

* Scary Mommy Best Fall Releases 

* St. Paul Pioneer Press Top Reads 

* The Saturday Evening Post Best Books to Cozy Up with this Fall   





June 2018

The night-light stars spun on the ceiling, and Hannah lay on the plush carpet watching them glimmer and turn. She listened to Gigi's measured breathing. The baby—almost a toddler at fifteen months—had just, just drifted off in her crib.

Hannah stayed still though her arm was falling asleep, tingling unpleasantly beneath her head. One wrong move and those angelic eyelids would pop open and Hannah would be on the floor for another half hour at least.

She breathed. Gigi breathed.

Outside the door, she could hear Bruce's low, rumbling voice from his home office down the hall. He was on the phone, working too late as usual. Hannah pricked her hearing in his direction. Did his tone sound slightly off? Did he sound angry? Or was there something a little desperate, pleading there?

But then it was quiet again. After a few minutes, she heard him walk outside, the back door chiming as it did whenever it was opened.

She felt an unease that was becoming too common.

He had been coming home late. Twice she'd awoken to find him gone from bed, at his desk. Laptop lid gently closed as she entered his office. There had been phone calls that he'd taken, leaving the table, or the living room.

Hannah wasn't the jealous type. And her husband was loving and devoted, a wonderful father.


She heard him come back inside and her attention returned to her lightly sleeping daughter, who turned over onto her side.

Hannah and Gigi had fallen into one of those bad nighttime rituals that pediatricians and parenting books were always going on about. It had started with a storm last month, a violent shaking thunder and lightning show that rocked the house. Bruce had been out of town and Gigi had been wailing.

Hannah stayed on the floor until the storm passed, and the baby had finally drifted off, too.

Stay, Mommy, Gigi begged the next night.

Of course then it was the next night, and the one after. It was a habit now, one that would have to be broken. Every parent knew the epic amount of energy it took to change a bad habit. Energy that Hannah did not have. Easier sometimes to just do the thing.

And anyway—who cared?

Was it the worst thing in the world to lie on the ground while your tiny daughter pinned you with her gaze, eyelids fluttering, closing, then opening to make sure you were still there? Who else ever loved you that much? And how long before her daughter didn't even want Hannah in the room anymore? The space, dim, with glittering stars and the face of her baby, and the shelves of toys and books, and walls she and Bruce had painted themselves. It was, truly, one of her favorite places in the world.

Her husband's voice again, this time louder. His tone was off. Not his usual professional cadence.

She was ashamed to admit that recently, when he got in the shower, she'd checked his work phone. He had two phones—the life phone as they called it, which was always lying around not password protected, an open book. And his work phone; it was a known but unspoken thing that she should not look at it. He had clients—military, government, security contractors—whose business was classified. And never before had she even thought to breach that boundary.

He had a habit of deleting all his texts immediately, a fan of the whole inbox zero thing. So there was nothing there. But in the chain of mostly unfamiliar but some known contacts—the office, Mako, Bruce's virtual assistant—in his recent calls, there had been three from someone named only UNKNOWN. No number. No way to call back. She almost asked him about it, prepared to admit that she'd been snooping. But she knew what he'd say. What he always said: "Difficult client."

Many of his clients he couldn't discuss, and it probably was that.


Hannah was trying to be kind to herself—the way you were supposed to be now, self-care and self-compassion and all of that—but she was not in love with her post-baby body. (In fact, she had not been in love with her pre-baby body.) And sometimes she was in her pajamas when Bruce left for work, and still in the same pajamas when he came home. The sex was always good—but it was hurried, rushed, lately, prone to interruption from Gigi, both of them overworked in different ways, exhausted, passing out right after.

Maybe there was some hot young thing at one of his clients' offices.

Someone not wearing pajamas.

Someone who had a daily shower.

Her husband—simply put—was a hottie. Broad, tall at six feet, he towered over her brother. Chiseled jaw and bedroom eyes, which gleamed with intelligence and warmth. He could be a bit brooding, a bit severe maybe. But he was in great shape from running, and always well put together, groomed. He was a catch.

She'd known that the night they met. Even though Hannah had been rebounding from an ugly breakup, she knew it right away. Bruce was at one of Mako's epic, pre-Liza blowouts at a hot new Saint Petersburg restaurant he'd invested in. In fact it had been Mako who'd introduced them. "This is my sister, who also happens to be my best friend," said Mako, dropping a protective arm around her. "And Bruce—well, he might just be the smartest guy I know. And the most honest."

He's safe, that's what Hannah remembered thinking when they shook hands, Bruce's grip warm and firm, but not too tight like some men who seemed to view the handshake as a statement piece. She was still reeling from the cheating, borderline verbally abusive man she'd just dumped. He'd been calling all night—leaving messages that alternated between desperate and nasty. Chad. Another friend of her brother's—though not anymore after the way he'd treated Hannah. FOMs—Friends of Mako's, as her best friend, Cricket, liked to call them. All smart, successful leaders in their field, but many of them also entitled assholes. That particular trait seemed to come with power, didn't it?

But this one seemed different. A measured coolness to him, an elegance.

And those eyes. He'd worn an understated watch, analog with a blue face and silver dials. It caught the lights overhead and glinted. She liked it because it wasn't the usual Rolex that most men wore to telegraph their wealth. Bruce, she'd learn later, had a love of watches, precision machines with only one function—to mark the passage of time. A funny passion for a tech guy.

They'd started talking and didn't stop, drifting from the party and out to the deck into the cool night. The bay glittered and across Beach Drive, the small Museum of Fine Arts sat white and glowing.

"You can't be related to Mako," he said after a while.


"You're too—real."

She didn't ask him what he meant. She knew. The Mako Show. It was always running.

That night, Hannah had been threaded, manicured, waxed, and coiffed. When she met her husband, all her assets were well managed. She'd been working for Mako—event planning, client schmoozing, booking corporate retreats, researching all the best hotels and restaurants wherever Mako traveled, making reservations. It wasn't what she ever planned to do with her life. But.

Now Bruce's voice carried down the hall again. She listened but still couldn't hear the words.

During last week's brief and mainly unhelpful visit, her mother had gently intimated that Hannah needed a haircut, maybe a manicure. We do need to continue to take care of ourselves, dear, even with a baby around.

Sophia had stopped short of offering to watch Gigi so that Hannah might do that. No, Sophia's visits consisted of getting a picture with the baby that she could text to all her friends, handing Gigi back immediately after that. Hannah sensed that her mother wanted to be closer to Gigi, but that she was a little afraid. She's so tiny, she'd said more than once. So fragile.

Even when the visits were good, and Sophia did some cleaning or cooking, Hannah often felt more insecure, frazzled, and exhausted than ever after she left.

When Bruce went out for a run that night of Sophia's last visit, Hannah tried to get on his laptop and found it password protected. She tried Gigi's birthday, their anniversary. She was afraid to try a third time, knowing she'd activate the lockout feature.

Had it always been password protected? She honestly wasn't sure because she'd never tried to spy on her husband before.

She was becoming one of those women.

Finally, after a hard look in the mirror, Hannah had asked her mother-in-law, Lou, to come last week to watch Gigi for a while. Lou was the exact opposite of Hannah's mother; she literally demanded that Hannah sit and put her feet up while Lou made coffee, and did a load of laundry, and played blocks with Gigi. She took pictures of the baby; but not selfies. Lou was not on Facebook. There would be no posts for Hannah to look at annoyed: Just little Gigi and Grandma today! She's the light of my life!

Lou happily stayed with Gigi while Hannah got a Brazilian bikini wax that hurt so much she saw stars in front of her eyes. Mani, pedi. Cut, color, and blowout. She bought some new underwear, some elevated lounge wear.

Okay, yeah, she'd needed a little cleanup.

Hannah shifted now, watching Gigi.

Her beloved face: Gigi's eyes were firmly Bruce's—big and innocent; her high, intelligent brow belonged to Bruce as well. Gigi's cupid's bow mouth and button nose, her wide smile and her high cheekbones, were a mirror of Hannah's face. Hannah who favored her father, Leo. Everybody always said that. Hannah had been staring at her daughter a lot over the last couple of weeks, analyzing her features.

She'd been staring at herself as well, wondering about the ungroomed woman she saw in the mirror. Did she really look like her father? She saw a lot of Sophia, even though their coloring was different.

She was lost in thought about all of this when Bruce pushed in at the door softly. Finding her on the floor, he gave an indulgent smile. Then he made the motion of tipping a glass to his lips.

Yes, she thought. That would be nice. She gave him a nod and he moved away into the shadows.

She got herself to all fours, arm aching, and she crawled—yes, not ashamed to admit it—she crawled from the room, only coming to her feet outside the door. She could already taste the cabernet Bruce was probably pouring.

She stood in the dim hallway, waiting, breath held.

Gigi released a little moan, shifted onto her back. One. Two. Three. Silence.

Mission accomplished.

Child asleep.

Hannah released the sigh native to motherhood, only issued when the baby was down for the night, safe in her bed.

A free woman, Hannah padded into the adjacent open-plan living room when the lights were low, and soft music played. Bruce's jazz station. He stood in the kitchen, two glasses waiting, cab decanting.

"Down?" he asked.

She nodded. "Done working for the night?"

He smiled at her, poured the glass. "Knocking off early." It was nearly 9:00.

He poured, then handed her a glass; they strolled to the living room where he flipped on the faux fireplace which was all light and no heat. It was Florida, after all. A real fireplace was a silly feature in a house where the air-conditioning ran ten months out of twelve. Hannah sank into the plush sectional. She wanted to pop on the television and turn off for a while.

"Who were you talking to so late?" she asked lightly. "You sounded angry."

He rolled his eyes. "Difficult client."

She searched his face for signs of deception, but there was nothing—just fatigue.

"Want to talk about it?"

"I'd rather talk about anything else, to be honest," he said, putting down his glass on the coffee table.

She put a hand on the back of his neck and rubbed; it was where he held all his tension.

"Do you really think you're going to be able to unplug this weekend?" she asked.

She highly doubted it. Even in Hawaii last year he hadn't been able to fully disconnect from his company, working most mornings while she and infant Gigi played in the kiddie pool. She never complained or gave him a hard time. She knew who he was when she married him.

"I'm going to try," he said, slipping his phone from his pocket and taking a quick glance. "What about you?"

Anxiety bubbled. "It's our first time away from her."

"My mom's good with her." He put a comforting hand on her leg.

"She is," said Hannah. Gigi absolutely adored her Lulu. "And that's the only reason I even considered it."

"The only reason?"

He moved in, took her glass and placed it on the distressed wood. She slid into his heat.

Truthfully, she didn't feel like fooling around, but she made a point not to push him away. They needed the connection, the closeness. His lips on her neck. The strength of his arms. The light scent of his cologne.

Hmm. Maybe she did feel like fooling around. And there was that new Brazilian to show off. They'd had the lights out last time. She met his mouth with hers, let the moment, his desire, take her.

Gigi issued a little cry. They both froze, staring at the monitor on the counter. Hannah made a move to get up. Bruce gently held her back. "Give it a moment, see if she settles."

Silence. Outside the distant rumble of thunder, a flash of lightning. Then, the soft hiss of Gigi's sleeping breath. Hannah's shoulders, which had hiked up high, melted.

"I swear she knows when I'm about to get lucky," he said, picking up his glass, giving her a wry grin.

The kid was a cock-blocker, no doubt. Any stirrings of desire dissipated. No wonder Bruce was fooling around with the hot woman from his client's office. He wasn't. Of course, he wasn't. She knew her husband. Didn't she?

Hannah grabbed her glass and slid into the crook of his arm, stared at the dancing orange faux flames, took a long swallow. He placed a tender kiss on the top of her head.

"There will be plenty of time and space for us at the cabin," she said, comforting him as well as herself.

"Sure about that?"

"We'll make time."

"The agenda your brother sent looks pretty packed. Hiking, zip-lining, yoga, massage, facial."

"He's not the boss of us." Actually, Mako could be enthusiastic to the point of overbearing. And it was true, that she did sometimes feel powerless against his will. But he was essentially sweet, most of the time; though he had his moments. He just had a big personality and he wasn't for everyone.

"Technically," said Bruce. He drew his hand through his curls. "He is my boss. At the moment anyway."

Bruce was a wizard coder with his own freelance company. Mako owned a growing game software franchise Red World. Her husband had established a niche for himself in the tech industry. He was a fixer. He found bugs, security breaches, errant code that caused glitches eluding even the original developers. He was like that at home, too. Always inspecting, repairing, cleaning up—the running toilet, or the chip on the baseboard, the light out in the shower. She never had to ask him to do any of it. He always saw what was wrong and fixed it.

He's kind of a whisperer, Mako told her. He lives inside the code; it speaks to him.

Bruce had worked for Mako a handful of times over Hannah and Bruce's five-year marriage, and had recently saved her brother from a major error right before a big launch. Mako wanted Bruce at Red World full-time; it had come up a couple of times since Christmas. There was even a formal offer, a big one, to be his CTO. But Bruce liked to do his own thing, had built his company, and wasn't looking to sell it and go to work for Mako. Maybe there was a little tension about it. Because Mako usually got what he wanted. But it was a friendly tension. They were friends, had been for years. So, Hannah stayed out of it.

"You are the boss," she reminded him.

"Actually, you are," he said, kissing her on the head.

A chirp from Gigi crackled out of the monitor. They looked at each other and laughed. Everyone knew who the boss around here was.

"Anyway," she went on. "The weather is supposed to be bad. A big storm in the Atlantic, supposed to come ashore on Friday. By the time it gets to us up there inland, it will be mostly dissipated. But still, not hiking weather. So, lots of time to laze around, right?"

Bruce picked up his phone and opened the weather app. "Weather looks fine here. Gigi and Lou will be all right."

"Other coast. Looks like it will hit land around St. Simons Island as a tropical storm."

Many miles away from their Sleepy Ridge destination.

Her phone pinged. Mako.

That was Mako's favorite word. Everything was epic.

She typed: Bruce's mom gets here at 7. The car is packed. We'll head out then.

A rush of anxiety. Three nights away from Gigi. She quashed it. It was okay. She needed this break. Bruce did. Gigi and Lou had a relationship that should be given space and room, too. It was good for everyone.

So why did she feel sick?

Bruce blew out a breath, reading over her shoulder. "A private chef? I thought this was going to be more chill—like grilling out," he said. "Burgers, ribs."

Hannah felt the familiar urge to mediate, tried to call her brother but only got voicemail. Mako almost never picked up. He liked to distill communication to its most efficient form—or so he said. Hannah suspected that he just didn't want to be bothered with the messiness and unpredictability of actual human interaction when he could help it.

Another ping from her phone: Tell Bruce the chef is grilling. I know what a carnivore the big guy is. But you know Liza.

He didn't even acknowledge that Hannah had just tried to call.

Hannah wasn't sure what Mako meant in this context but was he implying that Liza had put up obstacles to a casual cookout? True, she was not a beer from the bottle, paper plates kind of girl. But also, she was mostly vegan, munching on salads or black bean burgers when meat was served. If she were calling the shots, they would not be grilling meat. Hannah suspected this was a Mako thing. Mako wanted the private chef. It was showy in a way that appealed to him and made Bruce uncomfortable. The two men could not be more different, really.

Hannah and Bruce exchanged a glance. Family. What were you going to do?

All good, she typed. Thanks again for this.

This whole "private wellness retreat" at the huge, beautifully appointed, and totally remote cabin was all Mako's design, and his treat. It was like him to be expansive this way, showy and generous.

Love you, she wrote. See you tomorrow.

She almost wrote him back right then. Can we find some time to talk? Alone?

But if she did that, he'd hound her until she told him what was on her mind. He was not a patient guy. And she wasn't even sure she wanted to talk. She wasn't sure if it was a good idea.

"What's wrong?" Bruce asked, as always reading her expression, her mind.

"Nothing," she said. "Just tired."

It probably was nothing.

"We should be paying our own way. It's not like we can't afford it," said Bruce.

"He wants to do this for you, for us. Let him," said Hannah.

Bruce made an assenting grunt. She snuggled into him. The fake fire danced; Gigi breathed.

"And you're going to tell him, right?" said Bruce. She looked at up at him, feeling a little jolt of surprise. Did he know?

"Tell him what?"

He frowned. "About the house?"

They were currently renting and living in Mako's old house. They hadn't been ready to buy their own place when Mako upsized. Bruce and Hannah had moved into the spacious waterfront home, Mako's old bachelor pad—complete with hot tub and outdoor kitchen—just after they got married. But they were ready to buy their own place now, Gigi's home, the place where she would grow up. It was in the same neighborhood, but at the end of the finger island with expansive open water views. Their bid had been accepted and they were under contract. She was uneasy about telling her brother. But why should she be? He'd sell this house and make a fortune.

"Yes," she said. "I'll tell him this weekend."

Bruce looked at her, seemed about to say something, then didn't.

His quietude was one of the things she first loved about him. The way he waited before he spoke, the way he listened when she talked. But he had a way of keeping things in for too long; he ruminated. He'd had a hard childhood—father left him and Lou when Bruce was just a kid. Lou, she knew, had worked two jobs to keep them afloat. And Bruce grew up feeling like he had to be strong, take care of his mom. Hannah thought he never really had a chance to be a kid; Hannah tried to make up for it—big parties for his birthday, an Xbox on the television in the den. He was stoic. Pushing him didn't work; she had to wait for him to open up.

Which he would eventually.

She hoped.


"It's going to be great," she said, looking up at his presidential profile—square jaw, ridged nose. He looked so tired. Even in the orange glow, she could see his fatigue.

He needed this getaway. She needed this. They needed it.

But there was something.

She chalked up the rising tingle of unease to leaving Gigi for the first time. It was normal, wasn't it? Of course it was. Perfectly normal.

They finished their wine in silence.



I watch. I am the watcher. From my place in the shadows, I see it all.

Tonight, the humidity is brutal, raising sweat on brow, on the back of my neck. The lights across the street go out one by one, until the house is sleeping.

You all have a long drive tomorrow.

So do I.

I stand beside a towering queen palm, blending in with the night. I've set this thing in motion, a great boulder that I leaned my weight against and now it's tumbling down, ready to crush everything in its path. It has taken time and planning. More than six months. Multiple moving parts.

I sigh, listen to the singing of the frogs, the whisper of wind in palm fronds.

Do you remember the day you first met me? I certainly do. It was one of those perfect Florida mornings when the air is neither hot nor cold, where the sky is a crisp baby blue and the clouds happy white mountains in the air. This dank blanket of humidity that comes in late spring and lingers into late autumn hadn't fallen yet.

The world felt clean.

I felt clean. Electric with purpose.

There was a lot of birdsong that day, if I recall correctly. More than usual, maybe. Yes. I remember thinking that when I woke up just as dawn was breaking. How happy the birds sounded outside my window. A mockingbird trilled, his call an overture of other birdcalls. It felt like a good omen.

That morning I practically leapt out of bed, got in the shower right away, not wanting to be late for the job interview that hadn't been easy to get. I was determined to ace it.

I wanted you to want me as much as I wanted you.

And you did.

As soon as we were alone in that posh office of yours at the very top of one of the few tall buildings in the area, I could see it on your sculpted face. I was just your type.

Your walls were windows; all around us was the city, the glittering bay, the shipping yards, the marina where the giant cruise ships roll in. To the west, off in the distance, I could just see the white sand beaches cut into jewel-green water.

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Nov 8, 2022