Today I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for The Wrong Man by Kate White. I have an extract for you along with information about the book itself.
Blurb: A moment of pleasure leads to a deadly game of cat and mouse in this slick and suspenseful thriller.
Kit Finn meets handsome sculptor Matt Healy on a business trip and the two share a night of passion. They arrange a second date, but when Kit arrives at Matt’s apartment she is greeted by a stranger claiming he is the real Matt and that his identity was stolen.
Realising she has been duped Kit decides to put the encounter behind her. Shortly after, the police ask her to identify a man killed in a hit and run, carrying only her business card, and she is shocked to find the dead man is the person she knows as the genuine Matt Healy.
Kit fears she has become unintentionally embroiled in a sinister web of deceit. With no real evidence to take to police, Kit resolves to unravel the mystery herself. But can she do so before more lives, including her own, are put in danger?
She threw the bolt on the door and set the chain.
After kicking off her boots, she grabbed her laptop and searched online for Ithaka, the hedge fund Healy had jotted down on the napkin. She quickly found the firm’s official website, tapped on it, and seconds later was staring at a bio of Matt Healy, complete with photo. It was the same guy she’d just met. There was no doubt now that he’d been telling the truth and that X had tricked her.
She thought of one more step she could take, mainly to satisfy morbid curiosity. X had introduced himself as Matt Healy and she wanted to know if he’d presented himself to the hotel that way or just to her. She called the hotel and asked for Matt Healy’s room.
“I’m sorry,” the operator said after a pause. “Mr. Healy has already checked out.”
So he’d definitely posed as Healy. But how had he paid the hotel bill? The real Matt had said that he’d cancelled his cards. Wouldn’t X have needed a credit card to check in? Had he somehow managed to get a new card under Matt Healy’s name, using the identity he’d stolen?
Even if she had the answers, none of them would shed any light on why he had duped her into going to apartment 18C. She told herself to feel lucky that she’d escaped Islamorada with only her ego bruised.
She tugged off her gray jersey dress and hung it back in the closet. It looked mopey and morose on the hanger, as if its feelings had been hurt, too. She couldn’t help but picture herself three hours ago, shimmying into the dress and pairing it with a long silver pendent. How pointless all her efforts had been.
She forced herself to the fridge and rooted around for food. There was half a chicken breast, left over from a rotisserie bird she’d bought the day before, a bag of mesclun greens, and a chunk of blue cheese, not quite ripe enough to kill an STD but almost. As she stood at the kitchen counter, fashioning a salad from what she’d found, she thought of the meal she’d eaten that night with X—conch chowder, blackened red snapper, a slice of key lime pie, all so different from her usual fare.
There was something else that was troubling her, she realized, something that the memory of those dishes forced her to recognize. Her Florida trip was supposed to have been a turning point, the beginning of a more daring, more adventurous chapter in her life. Not so much a new Kit really, but the Kit she’d once been as a girl, before everything had unraveled in her family’s life. Well, so much for being a bit of a badass. Maybe she should take the whole episode as a warning.
The irony was that in her work she rarely held back. She’d started her own business, and when it came to the actual design work, she liked to turn things on their ear, like painting a wall to resemble awning stripes or upholstering a couch with the fabric inside out.
That was one of the reasons she’d been so excited about teaming with Baby, a bold decorator who advocated that every room have at least “a dash of clash.” She always pushed the envelope, like choosing Fanta orange for the accent color in a posh Upper East Side apartment. The two of them loved tossing wild-card ideas back and forth.
“Oh, you naughty girl,” Baby would say to her.
But in other aspects of life, including love, Kit had always played it ridiculously safe. Risks scared her pants off, or rather, for the most part kept them on. She thought of herself as the total opposite of a woman who was buttoned-up all day at the office but after sundown turned into a whip-wielding dominatrix, with a name like “Madame Darke” or “Nurse Payne.” After a gutsy day at work, she turned into “Miss Goody Two Shoes.”
Of course her friends would probably have been surprised to discover she thought of herself that way. They referred to her as spunky—or at least most of them did. Kit suspected that after her bland, lame relationship with Jeremy, a few might have begun to revise their sense of her.
She crashed at eleven that night. The sound of a couple arguing on the street below woke her just after one, and it took her over an hour to fall back to sleep. She kept thinking of X, wondering how she could have done such a bad job of reading him. A few memories surfaced: X on the phone on the walkway, sounding slightly aggravated. Maybe he’d been talking to a cohort. X casting his gaze around the restaurant right after they’d finished eating. At the moment she’d supposed that he was searching for the waiter. But it could have been the instinct of a criminal who was always on the watch.
First thing the next morning, she emailed Matt Healy and told him that she’d drop by his office at noon. The sooner she got it over with, the better. She dressed casually—she planned to shop a good part of the day—grabbed a yogurt, and unlocked the door that led to her office from the apartment. The point of the door wasn’t simply for her convenience. Both she and Baby occasionally used the living space for client meetings—it was a great way to show off the kind of nontraditional aesthetic they subscribed to—and the inner door gave them easy access back and forth.
Baby had beaten her into the office that morning. She’d laid trace paper over an apartment floor plan and was plotting out where the furniture ought to be positioned.
Baby had spent nearly four decades as one of Manhattan’s top decorators—not quite in the same league as Bunny Williams or Mario Buatta, but in demand by tons of well-heeled clients. She’d retired at sixty-four, planning to travel, entertain, and relish life, but when her adored husband Dan had died five years later, she’d decided that the best way to tackle grief was to jump feet first back into work. After meeting Kit at an event and getting to know her, she’d suggested partnering with her—and investing a small amount of money in the business. Kit had been ecstatic. This time, though, Baby had no interest in her projects being splashed in the pages of Elle Decor or Architectural Digest. She wanted out of the limelight and that’s why a small boutique business had appealed to her.
In the two years they’d worked together, she and Baby had become not only colleagues but also friends, often reaching out to each other for personal guidance. The day after her return from Florida, Kit had reported on her dinner under the stars with the man calling himself Matt Healy—and had admitted to spending the night with him. As soon as Baby set eyes on Kit this morning, she arched a brow mischievously, eager for a full report about the date.
After dropping into her chair, Kit blurted out what happened.
“That’s perfectly dreadful,” Baby declared. “The man should be shot.”
“Yes, but so should I. It was just so stupid of me to believe he was the real deal.”
“It’s not like you let someone convince you the moon landing was faked. Thinking an attractive, educated-seeming man is who he claims to be isn’t stupid. It’s a mistake any woman could make.”
“I appreciate your saying that, Baby. But it was a lapse, a big one. The guy was a freaking con artist. I hate the thought of making a bad call like that.”
Baby tapped her hands together softly, her red nails gleaming.
“I don’t know if I ever mentioned this to you, but I was married briefly in my twenties before I met Dan. These days they call that a starter marriage, though back then the euphemism was ‘too young to know better.’ The man was a real cad and he cheated on me within months. For years, even after I married Dan, I beat myself up about it, really doubted my judgment. What helped me was to finally step back and ask myself what the warning signs might have been and why I missed them.”
“Had there been warning signs?” Kit asked.
Baby scoffed. “Does French kissing the maid of honor at the rehearsal dinner count? Unfortunately I didn’t learn that until much later. But there had been subtle signs from the very start, ones I’d chosen to ignore. Put this behind you, Kit. But there may be something to learn from it.”
Kit nodded glumly. The only lesson she’d gleaned so far was that taking a risk had blown up in her face.
Kate White is the New York Times bestselling author of twelve works of fiction: seven Bailey Weggins mysteries and five stand-alone psychological thrillers, including most recently, The Secrets You Keep. For fourteen years she was the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, and though she loved the job (and the Cosmo beauty closet!), she decided to leave in late 2013 to concentrate on being a full-time author and speaker.