Perfect for book clubs or the beach, Aggie Blum Thompson’s I Don’t Forgive You is a page-turning, thrilling debut “not to be missed.” (Wendy Walker)
An accomplished photographer and the devoted mom of an adorable little boy, Allie Ross has just moved to an upscale DC suburb, the kind of place where parenting feels like a competitive sport. Allie’s desperate to make a good first impression. Then she’s framed for murder.
It all starts at a neighborhood party when a local dad corners Allie and calls her by an old, forgotten nickname from her dark past. The next day, he is found dead.
Soon, the police are knocking at her door, grilling her about a supposed Tinder relationship with the man, and pulling up texts between them. She learns quickly that she’s been hacked and someone is impersonating her online. Her reputation—socially and professionally—is at stake; even her husband starts to doubt her. As the killer closes in, Allie must reach back into a past she vowed to forget in order to learn the shocking truth of who is destroying her life.
I Don’t Forgive You will be available on June 8, 2021. Please enjoy the following excerpt!
A little innocent flirting never killed anyone. “You look like the sauvignon blanc type.”
“Is that right?” The guy standing next to me fills my glass to the rim from a bottle of New Zealand’s finest. I didn’t catch Wine Guy’s name. He’s the same age as the other dads at the party, but he gives off a different energy, like the one house on a dilapidated block that has been painted.
Sharp laughter carries across the kitchen, and I shoot a glance at the corner from which it emanated. It’s three moms from school who completely ignored me for twenty minutes while I listened to them debate Blue Apron versus Plated, with a dumb smile on my face, waiting for a chance to speak. I turn back to Wine Guy and smile. Men are so much easier.
“So there’s a sauvignon blanc type?”
“Oh, definitely.” He smirks, which makes his green eyes crinkle. We are at that age where men get sexier and women get Botox. “And you’re it.”
I glance over at Mark, but my husband hasn’t paid attention to me since we arrived at the annual Eastbrook Neighborhood Social. I can see his dark hair and the back of his checkered shirt on the opposite side of the Gordons’ kitchen; he’s talking to some of the other men about the Washington Nationals’ World Series chances. “I’m it, huh?” We’re flirting, no denying it, and I don’t mind.
It beats mingling and trying to make “mommy friends,” as Mark put it earlier. I spent the first hour of the party wandering around, trying to slip into other women’s conversations, feeling like a moth who keeps banging her head on the glass, a creature too dumb to know she’s outside and is never getting in. “So just what is this sauvignon blanc type?”
I eye the blond streaks in his hair as I lift the glass to my lips, relishing the cool, tangy wine gliding down my throat. I wonder if they’re produced by the sun or a salon. A squeal behind me makes me jump. I turn to see a blond woman in skinny jeans and buttery-brown riding boots embrace an identically dressed friend. I watch them kiss on both cheeks and am flooded with both contempt and jealousy. Aren’t we too old for such conspicuous displays of cliquishness? Also, why don’t I have any girlfriends who squeal when they see me?
“Sauvignon blanc folks like to think they’re unique, creative.” “Creative, huh?” I pull at my skirt—the damn thing keeps riding up my thighs. I should have worn jeans like all the other moms here. The immense kitchen island offers cover for my wardrobe adjustment. It’s large enough to lay two cadavers out side by side, the gleaming white expanse of marble daring party-goers to spill red wine on it.
“That’s right,” he says. “You look creative. Are you an artist or something?”
I can’t help but smile. I’d like to think that I haven’t lost that spark, even though I’ve become a mom and moved to the suburbs. I let myself indulge in the fantasy that this guy can see I’ve still got it. “Or something. A photographer.”
“A photographer, like Ansel Adams?”
I have to laugh at that one. “More weddings and family portraits, fewer mountain ranges. Although recently I’ve done a bunch of headshots.”
I laugh. “D.C. famous, maybe. Ever heard of Congressman Marcel Parks?”
“I think so.”
“Did his headshot. There’s a chance I might be doing Valerie Simmons’s. She’s got a new book coming out about her experience in the Obama administration.”
His eyebrows shoot up. “Val Simmons? I watch her on CNN. She’s a badass.”
“If you’re interested, you can follow me on Instagram. I’m Allie at allie-photo-dot-com.” Then I blush, embarrassed at how automatic it’s become. Ever since I took a class last year on branding and growing my online presence, I recite my Instagram address to everyone I meet.
“Well, that explains why you don’t run with the chardonnay crowd.”
“The chardonnay crowd? There’s a whole crowd?” I giggle despite myself. And why not? It feels good to lose myself in wine and banter. Since we moved to Eastbrook, a tight-knit neighborhood in the close-in D.C. suburb of Bethesda, and our son, Cole, started kindergarten, my thoughts have been monopolized by to-do items: buying school supplies, arranging lawn service, vaccinations. The soul-crushing minutiae that are both mundane and urgent.
“Sure. Lifetime members of the comfort zone.” He waves his arm around to encompass everyone else in the gleaming white kitchen, which is just smaller than an airplane hangar and boasts a stove the size of a Smart Car, as well as two Sub-Zero fridges. I wonder what the Gordons’ monthly gas bill looks like.
“All chardonnay furniture is beige,” he continues, not breaking eye contact with me, “and anything they’re not familiar with is weird.” He screws up his face when he says that last word.
But it isn’t just that Eastbrook is chardonnay country through and through. It’s me. I’ve never really fit in or belonged to a group. No #girlsquad for me. That wasn’t a big deal in San Francisco, and in Chicago, no one really noticed, but here in the suburbs, you’re nobody if you’re not part of one of the mom tribes—the alpha career moms, the stay-at-home moms, the PTA contingent.
I’ve made one friend so far, my across-the-street neighbor
Leah, who has a daughter in the same kindergarten class as Cole. We bonded this summer, baking in the D.C. heat at the neighborhood pool, while our kids splashed around. Our running joke was that we were living in a zombie apocalypse, the only remaining moms thanks to a mass decampment for Nantucket or the Delaware shore.
Actually, I may have two friends if I count Daisy Gordon, but I believe Realtors are contractually obligated to be nice. Yes, she invited us to the party, but from the size of it, she invited the whole neighborhood.
“What else can you tell by looking at me?” I ask.
His gaze travels from my face, down to my breasts, and to my too-short skirt. Heat blooms within me. I cannot remember the last time a man examined me with such frank desire. It’s like rediscovering a slinky red dress I had forgotten about in the back of my closet that still fits. I wouldn’t trade my life with Mark and Cole for anything, but just a little taste of stranger danger won’t hurt. In fact, maybe it could spice things up a little for Mark and me. The move to D.C. hasn’t been great for our love life.
“What else? Let’s see.” Wine Guy narrows his eyes as if he’s trying to read my mind like a boardwalk psychic. “You’re not from D.C.”
I scoff. “That’s too easy. Who is?” Most of the people in this neighborhood come from around the country, around the world even, to work for the government or large international organizations such as the World Bank. Mark is a rarity in that he grew up around here.
“Fine. How about: you love Cardi B.”
“I do love Cardi B.” I keep sipping the wine, even though I know I am already buzzed. This is where tomorrow’s headache begins, but I don’t put my glass down. I’m sick of worrying about tomorrows. I want to enjoy the now. “But I can’t be the only one who does.”
“In this room?” He looks around and laughs. “You might very well be the only Cardi B fan.”
“What else?” As I ask the question, I glance at Mark. He has not moved from his perch, still surrounded by the same three guys in baggy khakis and billowing polo shirts that do little to hide their dad bods. One of them is crouched like a batter at home plate. Still talking about baseball. If sports are the universal language for men, what do we women have? Maybe our kids or our exercise habits.
“Well, how about this?” he asks. “You’d rather be at home watching the new John Wick 3 than at the annual neighborhood social.”
I laugh because I said the exact same thing to Mark this evening as we were getting ready, even going so far as to offer to break it to Susan, our sitter, that her services wouldn’t be needed. But Mark insisted we go after Daisy told him these neighborhood parties were mostly other parents. You’ll thank me later, he said. Maybe you’ll meet your new best friend.
“How did you know I love John Wick?” “Lucky guess?”
Last week, I binge-watched the first two movies in the series while editing a tedious wedding shoot. “Have you been snooping in my Netflix queue?”
“Who, me?” His eyes widen in mock innocence, and he pushes on my collarbone with one finger. The heat from his touch radiates across my skin. I want more. This is good. I can take this home to Mark. It’s been almost two months since we’ve had sex. “You should be more trusting, Lexi.”
The sound of that old nickname snatches me from my fog. I’ve left Lexi far behind. “Wait, why did you call me that?”
“Me Rob.” He leans in so close that his forehead almost touches mine. “You Lexi.”
I jerk back. “I need to eat something.”
As I weave through the crowded kitchen, I rack my brain. I might be saturated with wine, but I’m sure I would have introduced myself as Allie, maybe my full name—Alexis—but not Lexi.
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