Excerpt from The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Wife Between Us

by Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen X
The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2018, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2018, 416 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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CHAPTER
ONE

NELLIE COULDN'T SAY what woke her. But when she opened her eyes, a woman wearing her white, lacy wedding gown stood by the foot of her bed, looking down at her.

Nellie's throat closed around a scream, and she lunged for the baseball bat leaning against her nightstand. Then her vision adjusted to the grainy dawn light and the pounding of her heart softened.

She let out a tight laugh as she realized she was safe. The illusion was merely her wedding dress, ensconced in plastic, hanging on the back of her closet door, where she'd placed it yesterday after picking it up from the bridal shop. The bodice and full skirt were stuffed with crumpled tissue to maintain the shape. Nellie collapsed back onto her pillow. When her breathing steadied, she checked the blocky blue numbers on her nightstand clock. Too early, again.

She stretched her arms overhead and reached with her left hand to turn off the alarm before it could blare, the diamond engagement ring Richard had given her feeling heavy and foreign on her finger.

Even as a child, Nellie had never been able to fall asleep easily. Her mother didn't have the patience for drawn-out bedtime rituals, but her father would gently rub her back, spelling out sentences over the fabric of her nightgown. I love you or You're super special, he'd write, and she would try to guess the message. Other times he'd trace patterns, circles, stars, and triangles—at least until her parents divorced and he moved out when she was nine. Then she'd lie alone in her twin bed under her pink-and-purple-striped comforter and stare at the water stain that marred her ceiling.

When she finally dozed off, she usually slept hard for a good seven or eight hours—so deeply and dreamlessly that her mother sometimes had to physically shake her to awaken her.

But following an October night in her senior year of college, that suddenly changed.

Her insomnia worsened sharply, and her sleep became fractured by vivid dreams and abrupt awakenings. Once, she came downstairs to breakfast in her sorority house and her Chi Omega sister told her she'd been yelling something unintelligible. Nellie had attempted to brush it off: "Just stressed about finals. The Psych Stat exam is supposed to be a killer." Then she'd left the table to get another cup of coffee.

After that, she'd forced herself to visit the college counselor, but despite the woman's gentle coaxing, Nellie couldn't talk about the warm early-fall night that had begun with bottles of vodka and laughter and ended with police sirens and despair. Nellie had met with the therapist twice, but canceled her third appointment and never went back.

Nellie had told Richard a few details when she'd awoken from one of her recurring nightmares to feel his arms tightening around her and his deep voice whispering in her ear, "I've got you, baby. You're safe with me." Entwined with him, she felt a security she realized she'd yearned for her entire life, even before the incident. With Richard beside her, Nellie was finally able to succumb again to the vulnerable state of deep sleep. It was as if the unsteady ground beneath her feet had stabilized.

Last night, though, Nellie had been alone in her old ground-floor brownstone apartment. Richard was in Chicago on business, and her best friend and roommate, Samantha, had slept over at her latest boyfriend's. The noises of New York City permeated the walls: honking horns, occasional shouts, a barking dog … Even though the Upper East Side crime rate was the lowest in the borough, steel bars secured the windows, and three locks reinforced the door, including the thick one Nellie had installed after she'd moved in. Still, she'd needed an extra glass of Chardonnay before she'd been able to drift off.

Copyright © 2017 by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

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