Whether you’re planning far-flung summer travels or kicking it closer to home, you’re going to need a great beach read — and that’s where We Were Never Here comes in. This twisty thriller from the bestselling author of The Lost Night and The Herd follows best friends Emily and Kristen on their annual reunion trip.
It’s a total blast until the final night, when Emily enters their hotel suite to find blood and broken glass on the floor. Kristen says the cute backpacker she brought back to their room attacked her, and she had no choice but to kill him in self-defense. Even more terrifying? This isn’t the first time one of their trips has ended in bloodshed.
As Emily feels the walls closing in on their cover-ups, she must reckon with the truth about her closest friend. Can she outrun the secrets she shares with Kristen, or will they destroy her new relationship, her freedom — even her life?
The novel comes out Aug. 3, but you don’t have to wait until then to start reading. In this exclusive excerpt, Emily’s enjoying a drink at a Pisco distillery in Chile with Kristen — and marveling at how, unlike last year, this trip has gone perfectly so far.
A fat bee bumbled around our glasses, and Kristen waved her hand, fearless.
“Feels like we’re the only non-locals for miles,” I said. The isolation was both thrilling and unsettling.
“It won’t last. My guidebook says all the tourist buses arrive on Saturdays.” She stretched her arms, recrossed her muscular legs. Kristen had gotten into CrossFit in Sydney, and sometimes her limbs still looked off to me. Tawny and taut, like they belonged on another body.
Kristen had moved to Sydney eighteen months ago; her market research firm opened up an Australian office and her boss encouraged her to apply. To my dismay, she’d complied, murmuring about how she was over Milwaukee — her hometown — with its smallish size and polarized communities.
Kristen in Australia: It’d seemed like a whim, fleeting and outlandish. I didn’t know adulthood without her, from when we became friends as fellow econ majors at Northwestern to when we both found jobs in Wisconsin and shared a ramshackle apartment off Brady Street. Together we fumbled through our postgrad years, through bad dates and good job news and rough nights and even rougher mornings, until we emerged, fresh-faced and triumphant, in our late twenties, me with my very own apartment in the Fifth Ward, her a few miles away in Riverwest. We spoke casually of how we’d someday be each other’s maids of honor, how she’d eventually be my future children’s “auntie.” I’d grown to love Milwaukee by then, with its broad lakefront and myriad festivals and friendly little art-and-music scene, all of the talent and none of the pretension of larger cities. I’d tried hard not to take her digs at the city personally.
I’d been happy for her, of course, but almost glowing with self-pity: left out and left behind and left, left, left. I dipped into depression in her absence, forcing myself through life as if there were a layer of dust dampening every moment. But we kept up a tradition we’d kicked off in Milwaukee: annual trips to someplace exotic, far-flung places most people never put on their lists.
I’d only been to popular international destinations (London, Cancún, Paris . . .), so each vacation with Kristen felt like slipping into a wormhole and appearing in another dimension, dizzy with sounds and smells and sights. Vietnam had been first, Hoi An and Hanoi, exploring tube houses and night markets and elaborate temples, more colorful than a field of poppies. Then Uganda, all our savings poured into once-in-a-lifetime experiences that piled up like snow, miraculous at first and then oddly normal: staring into the marble eyes of gorillas in Bwindi, boating past Nile crocodiles and bloats of fat hippopotami, clutching each other from the back of a jeep as a lion regarded us during a game drive in Kidepo Valley.
The third trip — Cambodia — was when things had gone awry. It was our first time meeting up from opposite corners of the globe, and I couldn’t wait for all that concentrated face time, the kind we took for granted when we both lived in Milwaukee. I never imagined it’d take a turn for the terrifying, become my own personal horror movie. But Kristen, as always, had helped me, saved me, taken care of me. And here we were, with our final hours in Chile’s Elqui Valley dwindling like the flame of an old candle, and everything felt gushing and good between us.
Kristen plucked a grape from the bunch and tossed it into the air, catching it neatly in her mouth. She grinned as she chewed.
“Open your mouth, Em.” She held another up, like a dart.
“Let me try! I have really good aim.”
“I don’t trust you.”
“Hey, you’re talking to King of Kings’ three-time basketball MVP. Here, throw one in my mouth.” She unhinged her jaw.
“This is not going to end well,” I warned, giggling as I pitched a grape her way. It bounced off her chin and landed, rather miraculously, in her empty glass, and we both stared in quiet awe.
It’d taken a few hours to find our rhythm here in Chile. On the long drive up from the Santiago airport, I’d been grateful to bask in Kristen’s aura again, her casual confidence and glinting wit. But my nerves had hardened and sparked when she’d crunched our rental car onto the dirt in front of an empanada stand. We ate lunch leaning on the car’s hot hood as the cook, a stout lady with leathery skin, looked on. A woman out here all alone, nothing but stubby trees and choky dust for miles — I tried to give her a friendly smile.
Packed inside each doughy triangle was an entire hard-boiled egg and seasoned ground meat, and without thinking, I lifted my phone to snap a photo.
“What are you doing?” Kristen swallowed her bite and raised her eyebrows. “Did you forget?”
“I wasn’t gonna post it,” I muttered, blushing.
“Hand it over.” The sun beat into Kristen’s open palm. UV rays shooting onto each crease in her palm, each groove of her fingertips. I didn’t move and she flicked her wrist. “You know the rules.”
A breeze sent the bushes and shrubs around us hissing. The woman glanced up from the counter, where she was rolling out dough.
I dropped my phone into Kristen’s hand and grinned. “Digital detox commencing now.”
It hadn’t come up again. Our phones were in our purses now, there in case of emergency, but turned off, dead blocks of metal and glass. Our Cambodia trip had involved a no-phones-allowed two-night yoga retreat at the beginning, and we’d both agreed to keep it up. And then the decision had served us so well. So much luck, so many incidental details lining up to bring us here: alive, safe, free.
Image Source: Courtesy of Random House