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Her Three Lives
By Cate Holahan
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- ebook $10.99 $13.99 CAD
- Audiobook Download (Unabridged)
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Gaslight goes high-tech in USA Today bestselling author Cate Holahan’s new standalone thriller in which a family must determine who the real enemy is after a brutal home invasion breaks their trust in each other.
Her public life
Jade Thompson has it all. She’s an up-and-coming social media influencer, and she has a beautiful new home and a successful architect for a fiancé. But there’s trouble behind the scenes. To Greg’s children, his divorce from their mother and his new life can only mean a big mid-life crisis. To Jade, his suburban Connecticut upbringing isn’t an easy match with her Caribbean roots.
Her private life
A savage home invasion leaves Greg house-bound with a traumatic brain injury and glued to the live feeds from his ubiquitous security cameras. As the police investigate the crime and Greg’s frustration and rage grows, Jade begins to wonder what he may know about their attackers. And whether they are coming back.
Her secret life
As Greg watches Jade’s comings and goings, he becomes convinced that her behavior is suspicious and that she’s hiding a big secret. The more he sees, the more he wonders whether the break-in was really a random burglary. And whether he’s worth more to Jade if he were dead than alive.
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All human beings have three lives: public, private, and secret.
— Gabriel García Márquez
Gabriel García Márquez: A Life
She would make them late. Greg paced between moving boxes, fighting the urge to call Jade a second time and remind her of Friday traffic into the city. He didn’t want to nag his new fiancée about the importance of their presence at a cocktail hour, in which she couldn’t partake, for an event that neither of them wished to attend. They both knew what awaited them at the building’s unveiling, the critical assessments they’d face from his colleagues and, worse, their spouses. Over the years, several of the wives had become friends with his ex. And even those with whom Leah had never ingratiated herself were unlikely to welcome a two-decades-younger replacement.
Late midlife crisis. That’s what they’d all hiss after seeing his beautiful thirty-two-year-old betrothed with her lineless brown skin and cascade of thick black curls. Greg didn’t want to consider what they might whisper about Jade herself.
The time on Greg’s cell added another minute. His Pac-Man imitation in the narrow living room wasn’t making her arrive any faster. He perched on the couch’s arm and peered over a stack of boxes partially blocking the front windows. Jade’s SUV wasn’t parking outside.
She had to be on her way though. He’d explained that social events were obligations at his level. If he didn’t show, Marcel would make it seem like a deliberate snub, evidence that Greg was still bitter about losing the Hudson Yards project to an up-and-comer, despite the firm tapping Greg for the Brooklyn building, for which Marcel had also campaigned. Greg needed to ooh and aah with the rest of the architects, if only to pretend no hard feelings.
Sitting wasn’t calming his anxiety. Greg walked to the staircase, leaned on the banister, and tried to distract himself by picking at the rental’s poor design. The builder had failed to install a front door with windows or place any in the above hallway. As a result, no natural light fell on the landing. The second floor appeared as a black hole, swallowing everything beyond the last step.
Greg had corrected such mistakes in his current project. The renovated house would be a new beginning for him, just as he’d hoped when he’d purchased the fixer-upper a few towns over from the shingle-style he’d called home for eighteen years. Leah had gotten that creation. After twenty-five years of marriage and raising two children inside it, he figured she’d earned it.
His future home would have fifteen windows in the front alone. He’d considered more but had, ultimately, restrained himself. Destroying the original Tudor exterior wouldn’t have made him many friends in a neighborhood defined by old-world facades.
The sound of a car barreling up the driveway snapped Greg’s attention to the front door. He opened it, a gentlemanly gesture that would also emphasize to Jade that he’d been waiting. She seemed to catch the hint, changing her stroll up the walk into a sprint.
“Fastest shower ever. Promise.”
Before she entered the house, he might have said something snippy like I should hope so. But the sight of her brown eyes, red-tinged like an iron-rich soil, smothered his annoyance. Suddenly, all he wanted was to gaze into those dark irises and slip his hands around the slight swell of her belly.
He grabbed Jade’s left palm, restraining her from racing up the stairs. The five-carat diamond fit between his interlaced knuckles, advertising his claim. He was glad that she wore it around town and not simply for special occasions.
“How are you feeling?”
Jade’s full lips pinched into a not-impressed smirk. “Belchy. Bloated. But the books say it should be getting better.” She smiled. “Honeymoon trimester.”
Greg planted a kiss on the corner of her uncertain mouth. If she actually felt sick, she didn’t show it. He suspected that Jade complained about the pregnancy as a way of reminding him that a baby hid beneath her near-flat stomach. Either that or she was giving him an excuse to skip the event altogether. He supposed he could blame the baby for their absence. Jade wasn’t feeling well. She’s barely entered the second trimester. People would believe him. Though his colleagues would also mutter about the ridiculousness of a fifty-two-year-old man having a newborn. A thirty-something struggling to raise young kids while keeping up with the office’s relentless pace was entitled to sympathy and leeway. He was supposed to be past such concessions.
Blaming anything on an unborn baby was bad luck anyway. He released her hand. “We should get out of here soon.”
Jade started upstairs. “I need to make myself pretty.”
“You’re the prettiest woman in any room.”
She turned and draped an arm over her head, striking a pose on the staircase before sniffing toward her exposed armpit. Her nose scrunched, transforming her striking appearance into something cute and cartoonish. “Well, I don’t want a reputation as the ripest.”
She hurried to the second floor, swearing to break speed records with her beauty routine. Greg settled on a step, knowing that she wouldn’t simply wash and throw on a dress as she had pledged. Jade was her own biggest critic. She believed her bronze skin was tarnished above her cheekbones, even though he couldn’t see any so-called dark circles, and she had a habit, particularly around his peers, of smoothing down invisible flyaway strands. It was all so silly. Jade didn’t need to be self-conscious.
He checked the time on his phone: 5:20. Marcel had planned the cocktail hour for six to ensure that the whole firm could appreciate the brightening of Jersey City’s gap-toothed skyline from the new building’s omnipresent windows. If they were more than forty-five minutes late, they’d miss the show.
“Jade,” he shouted up the stairs. “Twenty minutes tops. Okay, babe? It could take an hour to get into the city.”
He listened for a response. Water ran through the wall pipes. Greg also heard footsteps. Heavy, yet fast. They approached the house, stomping up to the front door.
He rose from the stairs, continuing to listen. Jade had begun shopping for the baby online. Several times a week, packages landed on the stoop. What dubious necessity had the mommy blogs demanded she buy this time, he wondered. A bottle warmer? (A cup of hot water worked fine.) Teething rings painted with edible, organic vegetable dyes that, somehow, didn’t break down from saliva? He waited for the familiar thud of a box landing on the outside doormat.
“You sure this is the address?” The muffled voice was gruff. Male. A new deliveryman in training. Greg braced himself for the squawk of some radio dispatcher, reaffirming coordinates.
“Yeah…what…said,” answered a second voice, higher and more jittery than the first, the speech broken and even less intelligible. Two new guys, Greg decided, with a package either for him or for a neighbor that he’d end up delivering himself if they dropped it at his door.
Carting something heavy enough to require two deliverymen did not appeal to him. Greg flicked back the top lock and turned the knob. “You can leave it if—”
Wood struck his left cheekbone. Instinct drove him from the source of the blow, forcing him toward the wall when he should have thrown his entire body weight behind the opening door. Two men stormed into the foyer. Ski masks hid all but slivers of pale skin around their eyes. Their hands were covered in black leather gloves.
Greg assessed their sizes. One was skinny. He could tell by the folds in the man’s bulky black sweatshirt. A drug addict, perhaps, seeking cash for his next fix. The other man was larger, nearly Greg’s height and significantly broader.
Greg rushed the bigger guy, not allowing himself time to consider the stranger’s hulking physique. He thought only of Jade upstairs. Her subtle smile. Her delicate frame. The baby nestled inside her belly.
He rammed the man into the wall, recoiled his right arm, and brought it as hard as he could into the guy’s stomach. The intruder absorbed the hit like a body of water, barely shuddering as Greg’s fist connected with the soft flesh beneath his shirt. The ski mask muted an epithet. Greg bent his elbow, aiming again at the man’s torso.
Footsteps on the stairs distracted him. The thin man was headed toward Jade.
Greg turned to give chase. Before his foot hit the second step, the larger intruder rammed a fist into Greg’s kidney. Lights exploded in his head. He struggled to catch his breath.
“What do you want?” he panted. “Money? I can get money.”
The larger man reached into his back pocket. Gun, Greg thought. I’m going to die. A silver cylinder flashed in the air. The masked man held the weapon above his head. Greg thought the stance wrong for a gun. For a fraction of a second, he wondered whether real people held firearms one-handed. He’d never shot one.
As the weapon swung down, he realized his mistake. Not a gun, a crowbar. The thought resounded as the tool connected with the top of his head. He heard the amplified crack of a breaking eggshell. Jade. Her name reared in Greg’s mind, a sound wave cresting and crashing in his brain. Jade. Jade. Jade. It deafened him before he plunged into darkness.
“Pride goeth before destruction.” The proverb was one of Abigay Thompson’s favorites. Growing up, Jade had heard her mother mutter it many a time after hearing that misfortune had befallen a seemingly upstanding individual. To her mom’s credit, Abigay never uttered it with the smug satisfaction of some of the other churchwomen, as though she’d personally warned the poor soul that his luck would change if he didn’t show God more gratitude.
She tended to say it in the same tenor as an apology. Abigay regretted that heaven’s standards were so impossible, but it wasn’t for men to judge the laws of the Lord. The Savior didn’t punish without reason. If tragedy struck a decent family, then, in Abigay’s mind, Jesus must have determined them insufficiently thankful for their blessings.
Jade had little use for Proverbs 16:18, or any other biblical victim-blaming. As far as she was concerned, the universe meted out vengeance with the precision of an atomic bomb. Storms leveled cities. Men and women were murdered. Raped. Babies died in utero. There were myriad reasons, and chief among them was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But prayer, or the lack thereof, wasn’t one. She’d learned that lesson at age seven when she’d still been a true believer, and she was certain that what had happened a week earlier had nothing to do with the divine or justice.
There’d be no convincing Abigay of that though. Jade could feel her mother’s disapproving gaze boring into her back as she draped a bright orange cloth over the kitchen table. In her peripheral vision, she could see Abigay’s pursed lips above the newspaper held roughly in her hands. Part of Jade wanted to tell her mother that she had no right to judge at the moment. Abigay was not the one with a fiancé in the hospital. Abigay had not been attacked. But Jade had long learned that fighting with a woman who believed in preordination was pointless.
Jade slipped into the neighboring kitchen. She grabbed a white plate from the cupboard and brought it beside the still-sizzling cast-iron skillet. The air was saturated with the smells of frying oil and fish, reminding her of Lenten Fridays as a child. She grabbed a spatula from a basket beside the stove, slipped it under the small snapper, and transferred the fish to her plate.
Scales shone pink around the snapper’s gelatinous eye and glowering mouth. Jade’s stomach twisted with sudden revulsion. She pulled back the fridge door and dipped her head inside, sucking in the cold air to settle her stomach. Ever since the attack, the weirdest things set off waves of nausea.
Jade pressed the heel of her hand into her flat stomach until the feeling subsided. She then yanked the pickling jar from the fridge’s top shelf and shut the door. Twisting off the metal lid released the trapped fumes of fermenting Scotch bonnet peppers. Jade’s eyes watered as she grabbed a spoon from a drawer beside the stove and scooped out several slices of carrots, bell peppers, and gingerroot, spreading them like jam across the top of the fish.
Even with her blurred vision, she could tell the plate would look pretty on the orange backdrop. She carried her culinary painting to the table and placed it in the center of the fabric, taking a moment to admire how the cloth’s color highlighted the carrots atop the fish. She returned to the kitchen for a fork and a knife, a deep purple napkin, and the flowers that she intended to take to the hospital later: a lavish arrangement with two bird-of-paradise blooms emerging from a nest of violet orchids.
As she staged the area around the plate, Jade could feel her mother’s anger intensifying, heating the air between them like a blast from an opened oven. She tried to ignore it, focusing only on the still life framed in her iPhone screen and the sumptuousness of the food at the photo’s center. The pictures looked appetizing, although a tad too brassy thanks to the afternoon light streaming through her mother’s west-facing window. The right filter would tone down the color.
Jade grabbed the fork and carefully peeled a morsel off the fish’s side. She stabbed it along with a bright yellow pepper and then brought the lot up to her coral-painted mouth, smiling as if unaware of the cell phone camera clicking in her extended left hand.
Her mother jostled the newspaper. “Sweetheart, for shame.”
Jade placed the bite back on the plate. “It’s been nearly a week. If I don’t put up a post soon, I’ll lose followers.”
“Lose them then.” The paper smacked against the table. “Your husband-to-be is in a coma.”
Abigay leaned forward in her seat, thick biceps bulging over her folded hands, an arm wrestler waiting for a challenger. Her hair was pulled off her face in a low ponytail. The style, coupled with the fact that Abigay lacked a single wrinkle on her walnut skin, made her appear to be Jade’s older peer rather than her parent.
Jade placed her phone on the table. “You don’t think I know where he is?”
Abigay stiffened. Jade reminded herself of the respect due the woman who had birthed and raised her alone—regardless of how absurdly judgmental she might be acting. She lowered her voice. “I’ve been there plenty since it happened. Greg doesn’t know that though. He’s not responsive, and he may never become so. You want me to hold a round-the-clock vigil until the doctors say it’s time to make a decision?”
Jade’s eyes watered more, a drizzle threatening a true shower. She pushed the pepper-covered fish farther from her face. “I can’t lose my livelihood too.”
Her speech did little to soften her mother’s expression. Abigay gestured toward the plate. “So, you’re gonna what? Share a picture of you smiling beside an escovitch fish?”
Her mother’s accent, muted from four decades in Brooklyn, became more prominent when she was annoyed. Abigay would have slipped into a Jamaican Patois, Jade bet, had the recent home invasion not demanded some extra show of sympathy for her child.
Abigay Thompson would never see the blog as anything other than her daughter’s indulgence. As a nurse, her mom believed that the value one provided others should be physically measurable, obvious in the reduced fever of the infected patient or the stitched arm of the fall victim. Jade provided enjoyment calculated by an amorphous formula involving clicks and time spent on pages.
Clicks could add up to real money though. The blog brought in six thousand dollars a month in advertising, enough to support her as she continued to work out how a BFA in design could yield steady contract work. In her mother’s defense, Jade supposed that she’d downplayed the site’s importance in the beginning, dismissing it as a “hobby.” In truth, Jade had always hoped to build an audience. When she’d installed the advertising widget on her site, she’d silently planned to gain enough of a following to pay off her student loans—a sum that had remained undented by bartending and sporadic modeling gigs.
Jade suspected that her mother secretly thought the whole enterprise sinful, albeit in a venial fashion. In her mother’s eyes, LifeinColor profited off of bragging and frivolity. It probably encouraged idolatry by diverting attention from God to home decor and other vain pursuits.
“You honestly think telling the world about your lunch is a good use of your time when your fiancé’s eating from a tube?”
The words stung. Fresh tears welled in Jade’s eyes along with a recent image of Greg. His head bandaged and his neck braced, a plastic tube ran into his open mouth beneath thick white tape, hiding his thin lips. His skin, always pale, had the powdery appearance of albinism.
Jade glanced at the graying fish on the plate. Whatever morsel of hunger she’d felt disintegrated. “Why don’t you have it? I can’t eat.”
She started toward the front door. Abigay was wrong to criticize her. Even the Bible didn’t contain a playbook for how she was supposed to respond to her situation. Her fiancé wasn’t dead; he was comatose. Donning a black dress and wailing would be putting the hearse before the horse. And why should she do that? Because her mother came from a tradition that urged public displays of grief rather than stiff upper lips?
She wanted to head through the door and slam it behind her, let the building shake with her fury. But she’d been raised to come when her mother called or face the consequences. She froze in the hallway beyond the kitchen, preserving a little dignity by refusing to retreat.
“Your phone is ringing. It may be the hospital.”
Jade could just hear the staccato chords of a reggae song, her ringtone for anyone she didn’t know. Her stomach lurched into her throat. It seemed she’d been riding a carnival swing that twirled people in the air and the centripetal motion had suddenly stopped. Her urge to fall was almost as strong as her desire to vomit. She did neither, however. Instead, she walked, shaking, toward the table where she’d abandoned her cell.
Her legs vibrated as she accepted the call, shutting off the shrill music. Would they tell her Greg had died? Did hospitals deliver that kind of information over the phone?
Her response caught in her throat. Ms. Hamlin was, technically, Greg’s ex. “Jade Thompson. I’m his fiancée.” Nerves lifted her voice at the end, turning her title into a question.
“Mr. Hamlin is awake.”
Emotions, too powerful to be identified, crashed over her. She clutched the phone like a lifeline and held her breath before finally speaking. “He is?”
“He’s asking for you.” The words barely registered beneath the rush of her own heartbeat.
“What are they saying?” Abigay had stood from the dining chair. She held her arms out, prepared for some burden to drop into them.
“Thank you. Please, tell him I’ll be right there.” Jade didn’t know how she’d managed to form the response. Some subconscious part of her was taking over, leading her to deliver the proper polite statements that she’d been conditioned to make since childhood.
She hung up and slipped the phone into her back pocket. Abigay stood in front of her wearing an unrecognizable expression—worry, perhaps, but mixed with another feeling that flared her nostrils.
“Greg is conscious.”
Abigay clapped her hands together like she was calling for lightning. “Oh praise Jesus. Oh dear God, thank you. Thank you.” The clapping took on the rhythm of a church hymn. “Oh dear God in heaven, thank you. Jesus, thank you. We thank you.”
The gratitude chorus followed Jade around the apartment as she grabbed her purse and car keys. It grew louder, covering for the congregant failing to join in. Jade’s own voice shriveled in her throat. She’d read stories about people who woke from comas. Some couldn’t walk or had to relearn to talk. Some came back fundamentally different, the spark of their intelligence permanently snuffed by the blow that had failed to kill them, their thought patterns and personality irrevocably altered. Would Greg be the same man? Would he be injured but capable of getting better? Or would he be reduced to some childlike state, needing her help to tie his shoes and wash himself?
When she’d said yes to Greg’s proposal, Jade had imagined herself swearing before a priest and God to love and honor him for the rest of his life, come what may. But she’d also fervently believed in probability. Six days earlier, her betrothed had been a handsome, fit man barely in his fifties who ran triathlons and had enough income to afford top-of-the-line health care. The smart money had been on Greg’s not becoming an invalid anytime soon. It was why he’d been able to obtain such a large life insurance policy.
Jade mumbled something to her mother about calling later and hurried out the door. Her fiancé was alive. But she didn’t know whose prayers had been answered.
Part of his head was missing. Greg gathered that much from the suited man at his bedside who gestured to a model skull with million-dollar words. Dr. Hsu was tall, at least from Greg’s reclined vantage point, with a perfect noggin. Seen head-on, the neurosurgeon’s forehead rose to a Moorish arch, framed by architectural haunches of buzzed black and gray hair. Greg had never paid much attention to the design of the human head before. As Hsu rotated the plaster cranium in his left hand, however, Greg found himself fixated on the shape.
“The crowbar hit here.” Hsu indicated a spot about four inches back from the top of the skull’s forehead, on the left side. “It broke through the bone, injuring a portion of the parietal lobe and requiring the removal of a two-inch section to relieve the swelling.”
As he spoke, Hsu’s pointer finger traced circles and triangles atop the replica. Greg could almost see the imaginary lines, as though the camera working his eye had been set at a slower shutter speed to trap taillight trails on a dark highway. He hoped the effect was a consequence of the pain medication and not a permanent issue.
“The good news is that removing the section of skull was successful in reducing the pressure on the brain and preventing additional damage. Very little tissue was impacted by the actual blow. Your scans have looked good, and the reflex, vision, and motor tests I performed when you woke didn’t show any significant impairments.” Hsu’s hooded eyes pressed into tight crescents from the force of his smile. “You’re very fortunate, Mr. Hamlin.”
Greg felt the opposite of fortunate. His last memory before waking was of two masked men rushing into his home. After that, everything was gone. Not a blur, but completely missing, as though a yard of negatives had been excised from the film of his life, and his inner projectionist had fused together the remaining reel. The crushing blow to his skull and the subsequent days he’d spent comatose weren’t experiences that he’d consciously endured. As a result, he couldn’t feel real gratitude for the life he’d nearly lost. Instead, he felt frustrated with his current circumstances: trapped beneath blankets in a hospital bed, head weighed down with bandages, in the dark about how he’d ended up in the hospital or the location of his soon-to-be wife.
“Excuse me, Dr. Hsu, but Jade— The other doctor said that she was on her way?”
The man’s lips folded in, as though there was some fact he didn’t want to escape. “Um. She’s been called. I believe so, yes.”
“And you said she’s okay.”
Hsu’s eyes darted to the side before resuming focus on Greg’s face.
“You said she wasn’t hurt,” Greg repeated. “What happened?”
“I know that she was seen and discharged,” Hsu said. “The same day of your attack.”
"The stuff of which blockbuster movies are made."—Midwest Book Review
"Cate Holahan is a hidden gem in the thriller world, and her new suspense novel HER THREE LIVES delivers all the entertainment value and clever plotting I’ve come to rely on in her books. It’s twisty, page-turning, and deliciously sinister."—CrimeByTheBook.com
“Holahan shapes characters easy to care about in Her Three Lives.”
—South Florida Sun-Sentinel
“Her Three Lives is a page-turner filled with betrayal and surprises. Cate Holahan just keeps getting better and better. Read her.”
—Harlan Coben, New York Times bestselling author
“Holahan’s propensity toward melodrama at high pitch is quite entertaining.”
—New York Times Book Review
“Slick and twisty. A high-tech spin on the domestic thriller that's packed with secrets, lies and suspicion."—Riley Sager, New York Times bestselling author of Home Before Dark
"Starts with a bang and never lets up. Holahan expertly draws you in with layered characters and tense action. If you think you’ve got this one figured out - think again. An ending that will leave your jaw on the floor. Exceptional!” —Liv Constantine, international bestselling author of The Last Mrs. Parrish
“What begins with a brutal home invasion turns even darker in this deliciously twisted thriller. In Her Three Lives, Holahan escalates the suspense with each new discovery, shining a spotlight on divided loyalties and a family stretched to the breaking point. Holahan is three steps ahead the whole time, expertly stripping away each character’s secrets until the shocking conclusion.”—Kimberly Belle, internationally bestselling author of Stranger in the Lake
“With Jade Thompson, Holahan has created an instantly likeable and much-needed character in the domestic suspense genre. Her Three Lives will make you want to stay up all night reading and then get rid of your home security system.”
—Kellye Garrett, Anthony, Agatha, and Lefty award-winning author of The Detective By Day Mysteries
“Cate Holahan is a star on the rise.” —Brad Parks, award-winning author of Interference
"After a terrifying home invasion leaves a man close to death, he begins to question the people he loves most. The plot twists keep coming with every chapter until the shocking reveal. An outstanding read!"—Wendy Walker, international bestselling author of Don’t Look For Me
"Her Three Lives will not let you go until the final, shocking twist is expertly revealed. A terrible crime launches this dark and wonderfully complex thriller that pushes each character to the very edge. Another perfectly plotted and unputdownable read by Cate Holahan."
—Vanessa Lillie, author of Little Voices and For the Best
- On Sale
- Apr 20, 2021
- Page Count
- 352 pages
- Grand Central Publishing