At that instant, Greer figures it out.
She hurries back down to her bedroom and finds her cell phone.
She sends a text to both Thomas and Abby. It says: Lower your voices. Everyone can hear you.
Thomas has been having a years-long affair with Featherleigh, and Elida found the pillbox in Thomas’s bedroom. In the trash.
Tag is the plotter, not Greer, but after twenty-one murder mysteries, she has learned a thing or two about motivation. Greer saw Abby last night when she went to the kitchen to pour herself the final glass of Veuve and left her pills on the counter. Abby had either snatched the pills up then or noted their existence. Much later, she went down to see if Featherleigh had left. She overheard Featherleigh humming in the powder room and must have decided to put the old girl to sleep… to keep her from fooling around with Thomas.
And who could blame her?
Abby dropped a pill in Featherleigh’s drink, only the drink had gone to the wrong person. It had somehow gone to Merritt.
The police have ruled Merritt’s death accidental—and an accident it indeed was. Abby may not even realize she’s to blame, and Thomas will never put two and two together. The secret resides with Greer, and with Greer it will remain until her death.
The future of the Winbury family depends on it.
Sunday, July 8, 2018, 2:47 a.m.
Nantucket Island holds her people’s secrets.
When Merritt Monaco and Tag Winbury get back from the kayak ride, Merritt is soaking wet and crying. Tag is a man struggling with both fury and feelings of tenderness. Merritt staggers off down the beach, and Tag kicks over the kayak, bringing up a spray of wet sand. He considers going after Merritt but instead heads up to the house. She can’t be reasoned with right now; he’ll have to postpone further talks until after the wedding.
Merritt turns her face just enough to see Tag scurry for the safety of his home base. She can’t believe how craven and heartless he has turned out to be. Only a few weeks ago, she found him standing outside her apartment building like a lovesick teenager; now, he is someone else entirely.
Merritt wrenches the silver ring off her thumb and throws it into the water, then immediately regrets it. This is another childish gesture on her part. The first was jumping off the kayak when they were hundreds of yards offshore. Merritt was like any other woman who went to desperate measures to gain her lover’s attention.
There had been one moment when Merritt had believed she would drown. She was so tired, so lethargic, her limbs were too leaden to swim, and she’d nearly sunk to the harbor floor like a stone.
Tag had grabbed her by the wrist and hauled her back up onto the kayak. He had been even angrier then than he was when they started out.
It was a fling, he said, for fun, for a release, for escape. Nothing more, Merritt. Nothing more!
You were obsessed with me, she said, but her words had been garbled and he didn’t understand her. If he had understood her, he would have denied it, but Merritt knows he was obsessed, captivated, enraptured. For hours, days, weeks, he thought of nothing but her.
The problem is it didn’t last. The obsession, such as it was, vanished as capriciously as it had arrived. Merritt longs to inspire a more substantial feeling, a real feeling—like what Benji and Celeste feel for each other.
Benji and Celeste are the perfect couple. Merritt wants what they have more than she wants anything else in this world.
It’s very late, and Merritt can barely keep her eyes open. She could lie down on the beach right now and sleep until morning, but if she does that, she is sure to wake up to Greer standing over her with a disapproving glare.
Merritt stumbles back up toward the flagstone path that leads around the house to the second cottage. She indulges in a fantasy that Tag is waiting inside the cottage for her or that he has left a note or a rose cut from the garden on her pillow. Anything.
Merritt cries out. There is a rude, sharp pain. She lifts her foot and pulls a shard of glass from her soft instep. She’s at the edge of the lawn, where the cute young girl dropped the tray of champagne flutes.
There is blood everywhere. Merritt stumbles back into the sand. Now there’s sand in the cut. She will have to rinse it and hop back up to the path.
Salt water is supposed to cure everything, but Merritt doesn’t expect the sting. She looks down to see a plume of blood rise and she cries fresh tears. That girl, the niece of the Nantucket police chief, had gazed at Merritt with such wide-eyed awe; she had no idea what kind of mess Merritt had made of her life.
She’s pregnant. And alone.
It’s okay, Merritt thinks. She will raise the child by herself; she will hardly be the first woman to do so. Maybe she will write a blog: Millennial Influencer Turned Unwed Mother. Merritt’s eyes drift close. Rousing herself feels like pulling on a rope to get out of a deep, dark hole—but she does it. When she opens her eyes, she sees a glint of silver on the ocean floor a few yards away.
Yes, she thinks. She should get the ring. It’s the only present Tag will ever give her. She will save it for her baby. The baby will no doubt be a girl, and long after Merritt has moved on to the next man and the man after that, she will whisper to her daughter, This is a ring your father gave me. Your real father.
Merritt wades in and bends down to grab the ring but she kicks it accidentally and she has to wait for the sand to settle before she can find it again. She is unreasonably sleepy, too sleepy to stand, and so she spreads her arms and legs out and she floats. She opens her eyes underwater.
Where is the ring?
There it is. She sees it.
Like love, she thinks, it is just beyond her reach.