In the bestselling, page-turning vein of The Couple
Next Door and The Dinner, Kaira Rouda weaves a
gripping, tautly suspenseful tale of deception and betrayal
dark enough to destroy a marriage…or a life.
“I glance at my wife as she climbs into the passenger
seat, and I am bursting with confidence. Today will be
everything I’ve promised her…and more…”
Strom has the perfect life: a glittering career as an
advertising executive, a beautiful wife, two healthy boys
and a big house in a wealthy suburb. And he’s the perfect
husband: breadwinner, protector, provider. That’s why he’s
planned a romantic weekend for his wife, Mia, at their lake
house, just the two of them. And he's promised today will
the best day ever.
But as Paul and Mia drive out of
the city and toward the countryside, a spike of tension
begins to wedge itself between them and doubts start to
arise. How much do they trust each other? And how perfect
their marriage, or any marriage, really?
us to ask ourselves just how well we know those who are
closest to us, Best Day Ever crackles with dark
energy, spinning ever tighter toward its shocking
I glance at my wife as she climbs into the passenger seat,
sunlight bouncing off her shiny blond hair like sparklers
lit for the Fourth of July, and I am bursting with
confidence. Everything is as it should be.
Here we are, just the two of us, about to spend the weekend
at our lake house. Today represents everything I’ve worked
for, that we have built together. The sun blasts through my
driver’s side window with such intensity I feel the urge to
hold my hand up to the side of my face to shield my eyes,
even though my sunglasses are dark and should be doing the
job. Under any other circumstances, on any other day, they
would be, I know. But today, something is different between
us; some strange tension pulses through the still air of
the car’s interior. I cannot see it, but it’s here. I’d
like to name it. Discover its source and eliminate it.
Sure, this morning has been hectic. It’s a Friday, and
Fridays always seem the most frenzied when you have kids.
Getting the boys up and dressed, and then dropping them off
at their immaculately landscaped and highly ranked red
brick elementary school where they will no doubt excel, in
first and third grade respectively. Truth be told though, I
usually have little to do with the scenario I just
outlined. Mia, my wife, handles all the tasks pertaining to
the boys each morning. We’re a traditional suburban
household in that respect. In the morning, I make coffee,
shower, dress and leave for work before the boys awaken.
Yes, mine is quite a selfish and single-minded pursuit on
That’s another reason why today is so special. I drove the
boys to school, reminded them that the babysitter would be
picking them up afterward. When I returned to the house, I
put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher. I can be helpful
when I want to be, although I don’t want to remind Mia of
this fact as she may come to expect it. Dishes finished, I
had called up the stairs to Mia, urging her to hurry. We
haven’t had a weekend together, just the two of us alone,
for more than a year. This day was going to be just for us,
and it was time to go.
She called back, her voice floating like a butterfly down
the stairs, asking for my help with her luggage. The next
moment, I found myself lugging two huge suitcases down the
grand main staircase of our home. She followed behind me
with a laundry basket filled with who knows what.
“Staying a while?” I teased. She blushed, embarrassed by
her notorious overpacking. But I didn’t complain. It was
her day. She was free to overpack away. Once we got
everything loaded into the trunk of the car, just as Mia
was starting to relax, the packing part over, that was when
my phone rang. I shouldn’t have answered it. But onward.
Taking the call was just one small mistake in a day that’s
destined to be brilliant. From the driver’s seat, I finally
finish syncing my phone with the car’s system. I find the
playlist I created for my wife. All her favorite songs will
play during our drive. Music is such an important part of
keeping romance alive.
And now, we’re getting on the road. Mia turns toward me and
smiles. She has a perfect smile: half-moon-shaped, with
glistening white teeth. My smile is more of a rectangle; no
matter how hard I try, I appear to be smirking, I know
that. But my teeth are perfect, thanks to the cosmetic
dentist. I grin back.
She loves me so much, and of course the same can be said
for me. We’ve been together almost ten years now. We know
each other’s best qualities, and we know each other’s dark
sides. Although to be quite honest about it, I’m not sure
Mia has what you’d call a dastardly alter ego. Her dark
side is simply grumpy, and it typically only appears when
she is tired, or when one of our boys faces a rough patch.
For my part, I wonder if Mia thinks I have a dark side.
Most likely, as far as she knows, I am just her dear loving
Today, though, this morning, right now, she is exuding
energy; it oozes from her pores, from her flawless face.
It’s the cause of the strange pulsing between us, I decide.
“You seem wound up, honey,” I say. I want to pat her leg
and tell her to relax but I don’t. Despite her odd mood she
is still beautiful, almost perfect in every way.
“Do I? I guess I’m just excited,” she says, confirming my
assessment while stretching her hands toward the front
windshield. The diamond from her wedding ring flashes in
the overbright sunshine as if imitating her energy.
“Me too. But we’ve got a long drive ahead of us, so try to
relax. Let’s make today the best day ever.” I attempt to
add the proper lilt to my voice. I need her to believe I am
just as happy and carefree as she is. That driving up to
our lake house for the first time this season is the most
exciting thing I could ever imagine doing on any day, ever.
“In that case, can I request a small detour? There’s a
little bakery in Port Clinton, just before the turnoff to
Lakeside. I’d like to stop there on the way in. For
croissants for tomorrow morning. Do you remember the spot?
We won’t arrive in time to grab croissants for breakfast
today, of course, but tomorrow’s almost as good,” she says.
Thankfully, her bright blue eyes are hidden behind dark
sunglasses that match mine. When I glance at her, we cannot
make eye contact. Not really.
I wonder if the comment about not arriving in time is
directed at me, and realize it is. Of course. I am the one
who took the phone call just as we were packed up, ready to
hop in the car and drive away. I shouldn’t have. It wasn’t
anything new, but I had still held out hope that it would
be. Instead, I spent thirty minutes on a worthless call
with a headhunter, and, I know, made us late. The
croissants will be gone by the time we arrive at the
bakery; I know this, too.
“Yes, I remember the place. Ugly strip mall, but sure,
we’ll stop. Not worried about gluten anymore, I take it?” I
say. For a while, Mia and her doctor du jour thought her
upset stomach, weight loss, and other intestinal issues
were caused by gluten. I was relieved when she decided not
to hop on that fad after giving up wheat for a few weeks
with no change. She still insists on a vegetarian
existence, leaving her with few choices when we go out to
dinner and endless questions for the wait staff. It’s
annoying. But I push those thoughts away. My wife is just
doing her best.
“Turns out gluten isn’t the culprit,” Mia says. She smiles.
“So yes, I’d love to stop. If it’s okay with you, of
Stopping on our way to the lake house at a bakery that will
no doubt be out of croissants was not on my agenda today.
She knows I’m a man of action and when I have a plan, I
follow it. I just want to get up there already. But today,
Mia’s every wish is my command…
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