In this twisty psychological thriller from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of THE CELLAR, Ivy finds out that her twin sister, Iris, is trying to push her out of her own life--and might be responsible for their mother's death.
After their parents divorced, 10-year-old twins Ivy and Iris were split up--Ivy lived with Dad, Iris with Mom. Now, after a tragic accident takes their mom's life, the twins are reunited and Iris moves in with Ivy and their dad. Devastated over Mom's death, Iris spends the first few weeks in almost total silence--the only person she will speak to is Ivy. Iris feels her life is over and she doesn't know what to do. Ivy promises her twin that she can share her life now. After all, they're sisters. Twins.
It's a promise that Iris takes seriously. And before long, Ivy's friends, her life at school, and her boyfriend, Tyler, fall under Iris's spell. Slowly, Ivy realizes she's being pushed out of her own life. But she's just being paranoid, right? And Mom's accident was . . . just an accident. Right? It's not like she--or Dad--or Tyler--are in any danger. . . .
About the Author
Visit Natasha online at natashapreston.com and follow @AuthorNPreston on Twitter and @authornatashapreston on Instagram.
Read an Excerpt
I dig the tips of my yellow-painted fingernails into the firm leather seat as Dad drives us home on the verge of breaking the speed limit. He’s anxious to get back, but I would rather he slowed down. My stomach dips, and I hold my breath, squeezing my eyes closed as he takes a sharp corner.
With my muscles locked into place, I raise my eyes to the rearview mirror. Thankfully, Dad’s eyes are fixed on the road, but there’s a tightness to them that’s unsettling. He’s a good driver, and I trust him with my life, but I’m not a fan of this speed.
The car, a black Mercedes, is immaculate and still smells brand-new a year on, so I’m surprised that he’s driving so fast on dusty country roads.
Everything is going to be different now, and he seems to be in a hurry to start our new life.
It’s not right. We need to slow down, savor the ease of what our lives used to be, because the new one waiting for us in just five minutes, I don’t want. Things weren’t perfect before, but I want my old life back.
The one where Mom was still alive.
It’s spring, her favorite season. Flowers have begun to brighten our town, turning the landscape from a dull green to a rainbow of color. It’s my favorite time of year, too, when the sun shows itself and the temperature warms enough so you don’t need a coat.
I’m always happier in spring. But right now, it might as well be winter again. I don’t feel my mood lifting, and I definitely don’t care that I’m not wearing a stupid coat.
My twin sister, Iris, is in the front passenger seat. She’s staring out the window, occasionally starting a short conversation. It’s more than I’ve done. There’s been nothing but silence from me. It’s not because I don’t care; it’s because I don’t know what to say. There are no words for what has happened.
Everything I think of seems dumb and insignificant. Nothing is big enough to fill the enormous void left by our mom.
The warm spring sun shines into the car, but it’s not strong enough to hurt my eyes. I don’t want to close them again anyway. Every time I do, I see her pale face. So pale she didn’t look real. Her once rosy cheeks gone forever. It was like staring at a life-size porcelain doll.
I wish I hadn’t gone to the funeral home to see her. My last image of her will be her lifeless body.
When I go back to school, I’ll be fine. I’ll swim and study until it doesn’t hurt anymore.
Or I’ll want that to work, but I know it’s going to take more than a couple of distractions to make the pain disappear.
We turn down our road and my toes curl in my tennis shoes.
I swallow a lump that leaves my throat bone-dry.
Dad slows, pulling into our drive and parking out front. Our house feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere, but there are about ten houses nearby and it’s a five-minute drive into town. I love the quiet and the peace of my hometown, but I feel like it’s going to drive me crazy. Right now I need loud and fast-paced. I need distractions and lots of them.
Iris gets out of the car first, her butt-length, silky blond hair blowing in the warm breeze. She’s home with me and Dad forever now.
Our mom died after falling off a bridge while out running two weeks ago. She was by a farm and the land was uneven and hilly. It had been raining and there was mud on the ground. The rail on the steep side of the short bridge was low, there more for guidance than safety, and she slipped off. The bridge wasn’t very high, apparently, but she hit her head and died instantly. That’s what the police told us.
Mom ran to keep fit and healthy so she could be around for me and Iris longer, but it ended up killing her.
Her death is still impossible to process. I haven’t lived with my mom or Iris for six years, since she and Dad divorced, but her permanent absence weighs heavy in my stomach like lead.
When I was ten and our parents sat me and Iris down to explain they were separating, I had been relieved. It had been coming for a long time, and I was sick of hearing arguments while I pretended to sleep upstairs. The atmosphere was cold at best, our parents barely speaking but smiling as if I couldn’t see through the crap mask.
Iris and I have never had a conversation about it, but the separation was a surprise to her. She shouted and then she cried while I sat still, silently planning how I would tell them I wanted to live with Dad. It wasn’t an easy choice for anyone, but we had to make one. Dad and I had always been close; we share a lot in common, from movies and music to hobbies and food. He’s the one to give us clear guidelines, without which I would crumble. Mom was laid back, sometimes too much, and I would never get anything done.
Besides, Mom always wanted to live in the city, and I never liked how densely it’s populated.
Mom and Iris moved out; then they moved away to the city. I have spent school holidays flitting between houses, sometimes missing out on time with my twin thanks to conflicting schedules. She would be with Dad while I was with Mom.
None of our family members, friends, or even neighbors could understand it. You don’t separate twins. I get it—we’re supposed to be able to communicate without speaking and literally feel each other’s pain. But Iris and I have never been like that. We’re too different.
We’re not close, so although she’s my sister, it feels more like a distant cousin is moving in.
She still has her bedroom here, which she and Dad redecorated last year when she visited for the summer. But she’s brought a lot of stuff with her from Mom’s. The trunk is full of her things.
I watch her walk to the front door as Dad cuts the engine. She has a key to the house, of course, so she lets herself in.
Dad scratches the dark stubble on his chin. He usually shaves every morning. “Are you okay, Ivy? You’ve barely said a word the entire time we’ve been on the road.”
“I’m fine,” I reply, my voice low and gravelly.
Fine, the modern I’m not okay definition of the word, is what I mean here. Everything has changed in the blink of an eye. Two weeks is all it has taken to turn my world upside down. And what about Iris? She was closer to Mom than anyone. What right do I have to fall apart when she has lost even more than me?
“You can talk about it. Whenever you want.”
“I know, Dad. Thanks.”
His eyes slide to the house. “Let’s go inside.”
I take a long breath and stare at the front door.
I don’t want to go inside. When I go back in there, our new normal starts. I’m not ready to let go of the old just yet. Until I walk through that door, my twin isn’t living with us again because our mom has died.
That’s all total rubbish, obviously. Not walking through that door changes nothing, but I can pretend. I need longer.
“Ivy?” Dad prompts, watching me in the mirror with caution in his blue eyes, almost afraid to ask me if everything is okay again in case I crumble.
“Can I go to Ty’s first? I won’t be long.”
His brow creases. “We just got home. . . .”
“I’ll be back soon. I need a little time. It will give you an opportunity to check in with Iris too. She’s going to need you a lot, sometimes without me.”
He opens his door. “One hour.”
I get out, my heart lighter knowing I have an extra sixty minutes, which I can stretch to seventy before he’ll call. “Thanks, Dad.”
Shutting the car door, I look back at the house.
The hairs on my arms rise. Iris is watching me from the second-floor window.
But she’s not in her bedroom.
She’s in mine.