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Author: Ruth Ware

Genres: Mystery , Thriller



Snoop ID: ANON101

Listening to: James Blunt / You’re Beautiful

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I keep my earbuds shoved into my ears on the minibus from Geneva Airport. I ignore Topher’s hopeful looks and Eva, glancing over her shoulder at me. It helps, somehow. It helps to shut out the voices in my head, their voices, pulling me this way and that, pummeling me with their loyalties and their arguments to and fro.

Instead, I let James Blunt drown them out, telling me I’m beautiful, over and over again. The irony of the statement makes me want to laugh, but I don’t. There’s something comforting in the lie.

It is 1:52 p.m. Outside the window the sky is iron gray, and the snowflakes swirl hypnotically past. It’s strange. Snow is so white on the ground, but when it’s falling, it looks gray against the sky. It might as well be ash.

We are starting to climb now. The snow gets thicker as we gain height, no longer melting into rain when it hits the window but sticking, sliding along the glass, the windscreen wipers swooshing it aside into rivulets of slush that run horizontally across the passenger window. I hope the bus has snow tires.

The driver changes gear; we are approaching yet another hairpin bend. As the bus swings around the narrow curve, the ground falls away, and I have a momentary feeling that we’re going to fall—a lurch of vertigo that makes my stomach heave and my head spin. I shut my eyes, blocking them all out, losing myself in the music.

And then the song stops.

And I am alone, with only one voice left in my head, and I can’t shut it out. It’s my own. And it’s whispering a question that I’ve been asking myself since the plane lifted off the runway at Gatwick.

Why did I come? Why?

But I know the answer.

I came because I couldn’t afford not to.


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The snow is still falling—fat white flakes drifting lazily down to lie softly over the peaks and pistes and valleys of St Antoine.

Three meters have fallen in the last couple of weeks, and there’s more forecast. A snowpocalypse, Danny called it. Snowmaggedon. Lifts have been closed, and then reopened, and then closed again. Currently almost every lift in the entire resort is closed, but the faithful little funicular that leads up to our tiny hamlet is still chugging away. It’s glassed in, so even the heaviest dump doesn’t affect it; the snow just lies like a blanket over the tunnel rather than clogging the rails. Which is good—because on the rare occasions it does shut down, we’re totally cut off. There’s no road up to St. Antoine 2000, not in winter, anyway. Everything, from the guests in the chalet, right through to every scrap of food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, has to come up in the funicular. Unless you’ve got the money for a helicopter transfer (which, believe me, is not unheard of in this place). But the helicopters won’t fly in poor conditions. If a blizzard comes in, they stay safely down in the valley.

It gives me a strange feeling if I think about it too much—a kind of claustrophobia that’s at odds with the wide-open vistas from the chalet. It’s not just the snow; it’s a hundredweight of unwelcome memories bearing down on me. If I stop for more than a minute or two, the images start to come unbidden, crowding into my mind—numb fingers scrabbling through hard-packed snow, the sheen of sunset on blue skin, the glint of frosted lashes. But fortunately I’ve got no time to stop today. It’s gone one o’clock and I’m still cleaning the second-to-last bedroom when I hear the shuddering sound of the gong from downstairs. It’s Danny. He shouts my name and then something I can’t make out.

“What?” I call down, and he shouts again, his voice clearer this time. He must have come out into the stairwell.

“I said, ‘Grub’s up.’ Truffled parsnip soup. So get your lazy arse down here.”

“Yes, chef,” I shout back mockingly. I quickly dump the contents of the bathroom bin into my black sack, change the bin liner, and then jog down the spiral stairs to the lobby, where the delicious smell of Danny’s soup greets me, along with the sound of “Venus in Furs” emanating from the kitchen.

Saturday is both the best day of the week and the worst. Best, because it’s changeover day—there are no guests, and Danny and I have the chalet to ourselves, free to laze in the pool, steam in the outdoor hot tub, and play the music we like at the volume we want.

Worst, because it’s changeover day, which means nine double beds to change, nine bathrooms to clean (eleven, if you count the loo downstairs and the shower room by the pool), eighteen ski lockers to sweep and Hoover, not to mention the living room, the dining room, the den, the snug, and the outdoor smoking area, where I have to pick up all the disgusting butts the smokers always strew around in spite of the prominent bins and buckets. At least Danny takes care of the kitchen, though he has his own to-do list. Saturday night is always a big dinner. Got to put on a show for the new guests, don’t you know.

Now, we sit down together at the big dining room table, and I read through the information Kate emailed this morning as I spoon Danny’s soup into my mouth. It’s sweet and earthy, and there are tiny little crunchy bits scattered over the top—shaved parsnip roasted in truffle oil, I think.

“This soup is really good,” I say. I know my job here. Danny rolls his eyes in a Well, duh gesture. If there is one thing about Danny, he’s not modest. But he is a great cook.

“Think they’ll like it tonight?” He’s fishing for more compliments, of course, but I can’t blame him. Danny’s an unashamed diva about his food and, like any artiste, he enjoys appreciation.

“I’m sure they will. It’s gorgeous, really warming, and… um… complex.” I am striving to pin down the particular savory quality that makes the soup so good. Danny likes compliments to be specific. “Like autumn in a bowl. What else are you doing?”

“I’ve got amuse-bouches.” Danny ticks the courses off on his fingers. “Then the truffled soup for starter. Then venison haunch for the carnies and mushroom ravioli for the veggies. Then crème brûlée for dessert. And then the cheese.”

Danny’s crème brûlée is his showstopper, and it’s to die for. I’ve literally seen guests come to blows over a spare portion.

“Sounds perfect,” I say encouragingly.

“As long as there aren’t any fucking stealth vegans this time,” he says morosely. He’s still reeling from last week, when one of the guests turned out to be not just vegan but gluten intolerant as well. I don’t think he’s forgiven Kate yet.

“Kate was really clear,” I say, cajoling. “One lactose intolerant, one gluten-free, three veggies. No vegans. That’s it.”

“It won’t be,” Danny says, still enjoying his martyrdom. “One of them will be low-carbing or something. Or a fruitarian. Or a breatharian.”

“Well, if they’re a breatharian, they won’t be bothering you, will they?” I say reasonably. “They’ve got all the air they could want up here.”

I wave an arm at the huge window that dominates the south side of the room. It overlooks the peaks and ridges of the Alps, a panorama so breathtaking that even though I live here now, I still find myself stopping mid-stride on certain days, almost winded by its beauty. Today the visibility is poor, the clouds are low, and there’s too much snow in the air. But on a good day you can see almost to Lake Geneva. Behind us, to the northeast of the chalet, rises the Dame Blanche, the mountain that forms the highest peak of the St. Antoine valley, overshadowing everything.

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