The price of true love is betrayal, suspicion, and murder in a thriller of twisting suspense by the Amazon Charts bestselling author of The Best Friend. James and Jessica Sommers are celebrating their first blissful year together, an unexpected second chance at true love. Unfortunately, their newfound shot at happiness is not without collateral damage. There’s Jessica’s ex-husband. He pretends for all the world that he’s resilient and strong. James’s ex has taken a different road. Bitter, vengeful, and threatening, she wants only the worst for the happy couple. And then there’s the couple themselves: Are they truly as in love as they seem?...
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (April 1, 2021) Pages: 299 pages ISBN-10: 1542005760 ISBN-13: 978-154200576 ASIN: B085NT4DL5
Adam Mitzner grew up in East Brunswick, New Jersey, which is about an hour outside of New York City. He graduated from Brandeis University with a B.A. and M.A. in politics, and from there went directly on to law school at the University of Virginia. After law school, Mitzner joined the litigation department of a large New York City law firm, and after a few more stops, he is currently the head of the litigation department of Pavia & Harcourt LLP, which is located in midtown Manhattan. Pavia & Harcourt recently received some fame because it is the law firm where Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor practiced before she was appointed to the bench.
James Sommers considered looking at his wife in her wedding dress irrefutable proof that there was no relationship between virtue and happiness. It had been a year and four days since they’d married, and the simple sight of Jessica still made him smile like an idiot at his good fortune.
James knew his wife was asking whether rewearing her wedding dress was overkill for their anniversary party. She had posed the question before—several times, in fact. He had always answered honestly, telling Jessica that she looked perfect.
This time, however, he decided to flirt.
“I do prefer you naked.”
She smiled at his joke. “There’ll be time for that later. But seriously, do I look okay in this?”
“Perfect,” he said.
Jessica rolled her eyes. “I don’t even know why I ask.”
James did not consider himself a particularly introspective man. He certainly wasn’t a religious one, having no faith in a higher power. Still, he had always tried to do the right thing. He’d be the first to admit that he wasn’t perfect in that regard, but all things considered, he thought he’d more or less walked the line. It was not an easy thing to do in his profession, where most art dealers believed that if you weren’t cheating someone—the buyers, the sellers, the artists, the IRS—you weren’t trying hard enough.
Much to James’s surprise, keeping to the straight and narrow had led him to unhappiness, and only after detouring had he found the contentment he’d previously thought unattainable.
He owed all his happiness to Jessica, but at times he felt like a thief. As if he had stolen the happiness meant for someone else, and at any moment he might be apprehended and forced to give it back. That was why, like any good criminal, he took care to keep his haul out of public view.
It was for that reason that James had initially expressed concern when Jessica proposed this party. Gathering everyone they knew for the purpose of celebrating their first anniversary seemed like tempting fate.
“You know my view,” James said. “You can have either a big wed-ding or a happy marriage, but not both:’
The line had become a recurring joke between them. At first to justify James’s resistance to a big wedding, then to explain to friends and family why they’d elected to elope.
Regardless of whether there actually was any relation between the number of guests invited to watch nuptials and the happiness of the marriage to follow, James could not deny that after their elopement, their first year together had been nothing but pure bliss. Before Jessica, he had imagined happiness in the form of exotic trips and grand roman-tic gestures. But in reality, it was the smallest moments that he had come to cherish most: the way Jessica talked about the characters in novels as if they were friends and how she could throw her whole body into a laugh brought on by something he found only mildly amusing.
“Nothing over the top,” Jessica had assured him about the anni-versary party. “Fifty people, no more. No sit-down meal. We’ll cater in some low-key food. Sushi, maybe. Or even just order in some pizzas.”
James had responded to this request the way he did to most things Jessica asked of him. He’d agreed. Which was why he was now staring with a big idiot grin on his face at his bride of a year and four days wearing her wedding dress.
For his own attire, James had decided to follow Jessica’s lead and wear the suit he had donned to get married, a navy crepe that he’d had custom-made for the occasion. It was a tad lightweight for late January in New York, but he didn’t intend to leave the apartment tonight. He’d briefly considered pairing the suit with a different tie than he’d worn at the wedding, but in the end, he reached for the same solid silver Kiton sevenfold that had served him so well the first time.
James’s father had been killed in a car accident, going on fifteen years ago now For months after, James had considered how the world would be different if his father had not been driving across that inter-section at exactly the same moment the truck had entered it. What if his father had been delayed even thirty seconds before getting behind the wheel? What if he hadn’t made a light ten blocks north? Or if the truck driver had started his journey five minutes later? All the infinite variables that could have been different. But because none of them were, his father was dead.
Afterward, people said it was meant to be. That nothing could have been done to change it. It was no one’s fault. Some things were beyond anyone’s control.
For years he wondered if that were true. If the world actually worked that way, with the onslaught of sudden inalterable cataclysmic events.
And then he met Jessica. And he finally believed.
The same way that fifteen years earlier nothing could have been done to change his father’s fate, Jessica’s entry into his life was similarly preordained, and he was powerless to alter it.
Despite her husband’s repeated assurances, Jessica still couldn’t help bur wonder if her dress was too much for a house party. She had initially justified the garment’s exorbitant price tag with the thought that, because it wasn’t so wedding-y, she’d get more than one use out of it. In reality, few occasions were appropriate for a knee-length off-white silk dress. She couldn’t wear it to anyone else’s wedding, and the art openings at which she served as James’s plus-one usually required something understated and black.
Her final assessment met with her approval. She looked good. Forty-one years old and everything still more or less where it was supposed to be.
Then she shifted her gaze toward her lawfully wedded husband. James looked better than good, the way some men—the very lucky ones—were at their most handsome in their forties and fifties. She’d seen pictures of James as a younger man, all chiseled features, six-pack abs, and that hair—Jim Morrison from the cover of the Best of the Doors album, which she’d listened to on repeat in her teenage years, thinking it made her edgy But James had grown into his looks over the years; now he had gravitas. Not only a pretty face, but a serious one too.
Sometimes she considered how close she had come to never seeing that face and therefore not living the life she now considered to be nothing short of perfection. Like a fairy tale, except that instead of leaving behind a glass slipper, she had forgotten her wallet at work. By the time she’d returned to retrieve it, it was past six and her office was a ghost town.
She’d been ready to leave her office for the second time that night when her phone buzzed with a text from Lisa Rollins, her boss at the real estate agency.
URGENT: CAN ANYONE BE AT THE LOFT IN 10 MINUTES?!!!
Jessica texted back—I CAN!!!—mirroring Lisa’s use of all caps and exclamation points.
Her phone rang a millisecond later.
“Thank God,” Lisa said. “There’s a serious buyer interested in the loft. He’s already got an offer in on this other place, but I convinced him to take a look at ours before deciding. Problem is, he’s only available to see it tonight. After that he’s heading to Europe or Asia or somewhere. So I need someone to be down there with the key in ten minutes.”
Although the agency had numerous listings, Jessica knew which one Lisa was referencing. It was the crown jewel of their portfolio at the time, described as a True Artist’s Loft in the glossy brochure Jessica had helped write, even though everyone in the office knew that a banker would likely buy it.
The loft was only a five-minute walk from the office. When Jessica arrived, James was waiting outside. She was immediately drawn to him—tall and well built with a face that seemed vaguely Italian in its dark-featured, straight-nosed way.
“I’m Jessica, the broker. Lisa Rollins asked me to show you aromd.”
“James Sommers,” he said, smiling in a way that Jessica would never forget.
So many times in the past year she’d used the phrase “love at first sight.” It sounded corny, but she had no other words to capture the overwhelming sense of inevitability of meeting James. Time and again she thought of that quote from Wuthering Heights, how Catherine described Heathcliff as more herself than she was, and that whatever souls are made of, theirs were the same. That’s how Jessica felt within thirty seconds of meeting James.
She led him through the space, trying to remember the tear sheet’s description of the origin of the marble surrounding the fireplace and the brand of tile in the master bath. Fortunately, the place sold itself; their walk-through lasted less than twenty minutes. During that time, however, the heavens had opened outside. By the time they returned to the street, it was hailing, chunks of ice hitting the pavement hard enough to activate car alarms into a cacophony of wails.
Jessica suggested that they escape the weather by going inside the Starbucks next door. When the hail let up an hour later, they parted ways. Jessica couldn’t sense whether James was seriously considering the loft and had no reason to think that she had made any personal impression on him. But two days later, he called her and made no pretense about his interest in both.
Wayne wasn’t nearly as naïve as people thought. He knew that attending a party to celebrate his ex-wife’s first year of wedded bliss with another man made him the marital equivalent of a sideshow freak. And yet, here he was, all dressed up on a Saturday night, leaving Forest Hills, Queens, and riding the 7 train into Manhattan for that very purpose.
Wayne’s mother often said that her husband was “a hard man.” Wayne supposed it was a more charitable description than “angry alcoholic,” although the latter was more accurate.
Somewhere along the line, Wayne’s father had decided that the world had betrayed him. Archibald Fiske was smart enough to know that his true adversaries—his boss, the man at the service station who told him their Buick needed a new transmission, or the neighbor who didn’t pull his garbage cans in from the street quickly enough—would never stand for his abuse. So, rather than risk a counterpunch, ole Archie took out his frustrations on people who would not fight back: his wife and son.
“He’s just a man of his time” was another of his mother’s efforts to justify her husband’s rage, as if every male born in the decade after World War II thought nothing of striking the woman he had sworn to love until death, or striking a child who had done nothing wrong but be born. “You’ll be different, though,” Wayne’s mother always said to him.
Wayne’s entire life had been an effort to fulfill his mother’s wish and be nothing like Archibald Fiske.