Ladykiller

A Novel

About the Book

Everyone has a story. But not everyone’s story is true.

When a young woman vanishes from her remote Greek island estate, her best friend races to find her, using clues found in the explosive manuscript she left behind.

“Full of sun, sex, money, and greed, not since Gone Girl have unreliable narrators been this fun.”—Katy Hays, New York Times bestselling author of The Cloisters

Gia and Abby have been friends since childhood, forever bonded by the tragedy that unfolded in Greece when they were eighteen. Now thirty, heiress Gia is back in Greece with her shiny new husband, entertaining glamorous guests with champagne under the hot Mediterranean sun, while bookish Abby is working fourteen-hour days as an attorney. When Gia invites Abby on an all-expenses-paid trip to Sweden to celebrate her birthday, Abby’s thrilled to reconnect.

But on the day of her flight, Abby receives an ominous email that threatens to unearth the skeletons of her past, and when she and Gia’s brother, Benny, arrive in Sweden, Gia isn’t there. Worried, Abby and Benny fly to Greece, where they find Gia’s beachfront estate eerily deserted, the sole clue to her whereabouts the manuscript she penned, detailing the events leading up to her disappearance. Gia’s narrative reveals the dark truth about her provocative new marriage and the dirty secrets of their seductive guests, a story almost too scandalous to be believed. But the pages end abruptly, leaving more questions than answers.

How much of Gia’s story is true? Where is she now? And will Abby find her before it’s too late?
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Praise for Ladykiller

“A glitzy mystery with shades of Gone Girl.”People

“A missing woman, a dark secret, and a sizzling romance set in the glamorously decadent world of the uber-rich—Ladykiller is a salacious and steamy thriller with utterly unpredictable twists and turns until the mind-bending conclusion.”—Liv Constantine, bestselling author of The Last Mrs. Parrish
 
Ladykiller is the perfect mix of setting, atmosphere, and tension. A past indiscretion (or more than one), a mysterious couple, a sun-drenched setting, unrequited love, and lust swirl together in this spellbinding novel from Katherine Wood. Trust no one, but read this immediately.”—Catherine McKenzie, USA Today bestselling author of Please Join Us and Have You Seen Her

“An absolute knockout of a thriller, Katherine Wood has crafted the perfect summer read with Ladykiller. Sun-drenched and sultry with shades of Highsmith and Gillian Flynn, I was utterly mesmerized by this twisty, devious, staggering suspense loaded with gorgeous backdrops, long-buried secrets, toxic female friendship dynamics, and jaw-dropping twists you’ll never guess, try as you might! I could not tear myself away from it!”—May Cobb, author of The Hunting Wives
 
“Sexy and addictive, Ladykiller is one of the best thrillers I’ve read in years. From the first page, Wood works at a blistering pace, deftly ratcheting the tension until the reader can’t turn the pages fast enough! Full of sun, sex, money, and greed, not since Gone Girl have unreliable narrators been this fun.”—Katy Hays, New York Times bestselling author of The Cloisters
 
“A delicious cocktail of desire, deceit, and dark secrets set against a sun-soaked backdrop, Ladykiller is the perfect poolside read. Expertly plotted with twists that will keep you guessing, fans of White Lotus will devour this seductive thriller.”—Lindsay Cameron, author of Just One Look
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Excerpt

Ladykiller

Abby

Chapter 1


Five months later



The invitation arrived in the mail without notice, as was customary for missives from Regina “Gia” Highsmith Torres. My best friend had always enjoyed the element of surprise, which paradoxically meant that nothing she did was all that surprising—to me, anyway.

The battered red envelope was marked Air Mail and covered in stamps, the return address that of her family’s Greek islands home. I felt a wave of nostalgia, picturing the view from the balcony of what had been my bedroom when I used to visit, rocky hills tumbling down to an azure sea. I could almost hear the song of the cicadas, smell the leather of the couch in the dusky library, taste the earthy olive oil pressed from the trees in the grove.

An icy blast of air conditioning brought me back to the present as I stepped into the elevator of my modern high-rise apartment building. The August heat was no joke in Atlanta no matter the time of day, but the air conditioning was always shockingly cold. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, my blond hair dark with perspiration from my early morning run through steamy Piedmont Park. Dry shampoo wasn’t going to cut it this morning, which meant I needed to rush if I wanted to make it to work on time.

As the elevator whooshed me up to the fourteenth floor, I pried the flap of Gia’s envelope open with damp fingers, slicing my thumb in the process. I sucked the stinging cut, muttering expletives under my breath as I extracted a postcard from a hotel in northern Sweden. The picture showed a stunning wood and glass structure nestled in the mountains overlooking a lake, beneath the vibrant green and pink hues of the aurora borealis. On the back of the postcard, I recognized Gia’s looping scrawl:


Abby,

Please join me and Benny (just us three!) for my thirtieth at this incredible hotel where we can see the northern lights. I’m so sorry about the things I said the last time we talked. I love you and really hope you can come. Please come.

Love,

Gia


I turned the envelope over in my hands to see there was something else folded inside. A first-class plane ticket to Kiruna, Sweden, departing on September 8.

I exhaled through pursed lips, touched, but also annoyed. I’d told her a million times that as an associate at a law firm pushing hard for partner, I worked twelve-hour days at least six days a week. While it was true Gia and I had fantasized about seeing the northern lights since we were teenagers, there was no way in hell I could just drop everything and jet off to Sweden in a month’s time. But Gia never planned anything in advance.

Hell, she’d only known her husband four months, and they’d been married three.

Even for Gia, that was reckless.

I’d tried to caution her before they tied the knot, but Gia was too busy playing the heroine in her own love story to listen to the advice of her boring best friend. Which was why we hadn’t spoken in as long. I stood by my refusal to bear witness while she exchanged vows with a man she’d known only a month, but I did regret the wounds we’d inflicted on each other over their nuptials, and this invitation told me she did as well.


It didn’t help that it had been five-thirty in the morning when she called to relay the news.

“We’re getting married!” she’d squealed into the phone when I answered, worried that something terrible had happened.

“Who’s we?” I grumbled, rubbing the sleep from my eyes.

“Garrett,” she answered with a laugh. “He’s The One, Abs. It’s magic.”

Garrett. It took me a minute to picture his face. I’d met him only once, about two weeks after they’d gotten together. I’d been in New York briefly for work and Gia had brought him along to our dinner, foisting him upon me like a gift. I could see why she liked him; he was charming, handsome, and erudite. I, however, found the way he fawned all over her a little nauseating. But adulation was Gia’s sunlight.

“That’s great.” I rolled over and turned on the bedside lamp, squinting in the sudden light. “But isn’t it a little fast to be getting engaged?”

“None of that matters when it’s right,” she declared. “I wish you were here already. I’m shopping for dresses now, I need your opinion.”

“It’s five-thirty in the morning. My opinion is it’s too early.”

“Can you come tomorrow? Just send me your passport number and I’ll book your ticket.”

“Tomorrow?” I asked, alarmed. “When is the wedding?”

“This weekend!”

“This weekend? Gia, no.”

“Yes!” she said, giddy, her words tumbling over each other. “I’m in Copenhagen. You can get married fast here, it’s like the Vegas of the E.U. I mean, I’ll have to buy a dress off the rack, obviously, but I think I can find something. It’ll just be us, anyway. Maybe we’ll do something big in a few months, but for the moment—”

I was up now, pacing into the kitchen to make coffee. “Gia, I know with your dad gone, you’re probably wanting stability right now, but marrying a man you just met is not—”

“It doesn’t have anything to do with that. I’m in love!”

Panic rose in my chest. I felt like I was watching a runaway train, and though I knew logically there was nothing I could do to stop it, I had to try. “Please don’t take this the wrong way, you know how much I love you and your enthusiasm . . . but you’ve been in love before.”

Gia was always in love passionately—and briefly. She was obsessed with the idea of finding her one true love and thought that any reasonably good-looking man who showed interest in her was The One until she got to know him properly. I never knew, when meeting her latest beau, whether I’d be introduced to an intensely cerebral professor, a whiny viscount, a coked-up stockbroker, or an artist who refused to wear shoes—in New York City. I was still scarred from a road trip we’d taken with the latter, during which he put his nasty feet on the air-conditioning vent of her G-Wagon to “refresh them.”

“It’s different with Garrett,” she declared. “It’s like we were made for each other. Can’t you just be happy for me?”

“I am happy for you. But you’ve known him less time even than you knew—”

I broke off, Noah’s name hanging in the silence between us.

“Please don’t,” she said after a moment.

“I’m sorry,” I said, kicking myself. “I just get protective of you.”

“I know what he did to you was awful,” she said sincerely. “And I know it’s my fault for bringing him into our lives. I will forever be sorry for that. But I was eighteen. I’ve grown up. My judgment is better now.”

I didn’t point out that her decision to marry a man she’d known a month made me highly doubt that. “Have you told Benny?” I asked instead.

“I’m not asking my brother to stand beside me, I’m asking you,” she pleaded. “You’re my best friend; we always promised we’d stand beside each other.”

My heart pinched. I bided my time as I filled the coffee maker with water, searching for the right answer. “Okay,” I said finally, with as much diplomacy as I could muster. “If you really want me to stand beside you, you’re going to have to wait at least six months. I have a job. I can’t just take off to Denmark at the drop of a hat.”

“Your job you hate?”

“I don’t hate it—”

“You complain all the time that they take advantage of you,” she pointed out. “So, f*** ’em.”

I could feel a tension headache coming on. “That’s not how it works.”

“If it’s about money, I can send you money.”

“I don’t want your money, G.”

“What do I have to do to get you here?” she begged.

“There’s nothing you can do,” I snapped, my irritation flaring as the coffee machine hissed. “I can’t come this weekend. And even if I could, I wouldn’t. I love you too much to let you marry a man you just met.”

We’d gone back and forth like that, our exchange becoming more barbed with each volley, until she finally hung up on me, and we hadn’t spoken since. We’d texted and emailed a few times and commented on each other’s social media posts, but three months had passed since I’d heard her voice—a record for us. I knew we’d make up eventually, though; our friendship was too deep to be ended by one fight. And while I was wary, I really did hope things would work out with her new husband.

About the Author

Katherine Wood
Katherine Wood is a native of Mississippi and a graduate of the University of Southern California. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, two children, a naughty pug, and a ferocious kitty. More by Katherine Wood
Decorative Carat
Random House Publishing Group