A compulsively readable portrait of the fragility of friendship, the corrosiveness of sudden wealth, and the dark side of good luck, Adele Parks’ latest domestic thriller will make you think twice about trying your hand at the lottery.
Be careful what you wish for...
After spending happy hours, parenting classes and barbeques together for the last 15 years, Lexi and Jake Greenwood have celebrated and shared almost everything with the Pearsons and the Heathcotes, including their lottery numbers. Then one night, the unthinkable happens. Someone has been telling lies – lies dark enough to burn bridges and tear the tight group of friends apart. When the Greenwoods win a stunning $23 million in the lottery with their group’s numbers shortly after their dramatic falling out, the Heathcotes and Pearsons believe they’re entitled to part of the prize... and the three couples will do anything to claim what is theirs.
Reader beware: the last chapter will change everything.
I can’t face going straight home to Jake. I’m not ready to deal with this. I need to try to process it first. But how? Where do I start? I have no idea. The blankness in my mind terrifies me.
I always know what to do. I always have a solution, a way of tackling something, giving it a happy spin. I’m Lexi Greenwood, the woman everyone knows of as the fixer, the smiler—some might even slightly snidely call me a do-gooder. Lexi Greenwood, wife, mother, friend.
You think you know someone. But you don’t know anyone, not really. You never can.
I need a drink. I drive to our local. Sod it, I’ll leave the car at the pub and walk home, pick it up in the morning. I order a glass of red wine, a large one, and then I look for a seat tucked away in the corner where I can down my drink alone. It’s Easter weekend, and a rare hot one. The place is packed. As I thread my way through the heaving bar, a number of neighbors raise a glass, gesturing to me to join them; they ask after the kids and Jake. Everyone else in the pub seems celebratory, buoyant. I feel detached. Lost. That’s the thing about living in a small village—you recognize everyone. Sometimes that reassures me, sometimes it’s inconvenient. I politely and apologetically deflect their friendly overtures and continue in my search for a solitary spot. Saturday vibes are all around me, but I feel nothing other than stunned, stressed, isolated.
You think you know someone.
What does this mean for our group? Our frimily. Friends that are like family. What a joke. Blatantly, we’re not friends anymore. I’ve been trying to hide from the facts for some time, hoping there was a misunderstanding, an explanation; nothing can explain away this.
I told Jake I’d only be a short while, and I should text him to say I’ll be longer. I reach for my phone and realize in my haste to leave the house I haven’t brought it with me. Jake will be wondering where I am. I don’t care. I down my wine. The acidity hits my throat, a shock and a relief at once. Then I go to the bar to order a second.
The local pub is only a ten-minute walk away from our home, but by the time I attempt the walk back, the red wine has taken effect. Unfortunately, I am feeling the sort of drunk that nurtures paranoia and fury rather than a light head or heart. What can I do to right this wrong? I have to do something. I can’t carry on as normal, pretending I know nothing of it. Can I?
As I approach home, I see Jake at the window, peering out. I barely recognize him. He looks taut, tense. On spotting me, he runs to fling open the front door.
“Lexi, Lexi, quickly come in here,” he hiss-whispers, clearly agitated. “Where have you been? Why didn’t you take your phone? I’ve been calling you. I needed to get hold of you.”
What now? My first thoughts turn to our son. “Is it Logan? Has he hurt himself?” I ask anxiously. As I’m already teetering on the edge, my head quickly goes to a dark place. Split skulls, broken bones. A dash to the hospital isn’t unheard-of. Thirteen-year-old Logan has daredevil tendencies and the sort of mentality that thinks shimmying down a drainpipe is a reasonable way to exit his bedroom in order to go outside and kick a football about. My fifteen-year-old daughter, Emily, rarely causes me a moment’s concern.
“No, no, he’s fine. Both the kids are in their rooms. It’s… Look, come inside, I can’t tell you out here.” Jake is practically bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet. I can’t read him. My head is too fuzzy with wine and full of rage and disgust. I resent Jake for causing more drama, although he has no idea what shit I’m dealing with. I’ve never seen him quite this way before. If I touched him, I might get an electric shock; he oozes a dangerous energy. I follow my husband into the house. He is hurrying, urging me to speed up. I slow down, deliberately obtuse. In the hallway he turns to me, takes a deep breath, runs his hands through his hair but won’t—can’t—meet my eyes. For a crazy moment I think he is about to confess to having an affair. “Okay, just tell me, did you buy a lottery ticket this week?” he asks.
“Yes.” I have bought a lottery ticket every week for the last fifteen years. Despite all the bother last week, I have stuck to my habit.
Jake takes in another deep breath, sucking all the oxygen from the hallway. “Okay, and did you—” He breaks off, finally drags his eyes to meet mine. I’m not sure what I see in his gaze, an almost painful longing, fear and panic. Yet at the same time there is hope there, too. “Did you pick the usual numbers?”
His jaw is still set tight. “You have the ticket?”
“Yes, it’s pinned on the noticeboard in the kitchen. Why? What’s going on?”
“Fuck.” Jake lets out a breath that has the power of a storm. He falls back against the hall wall for a second, and then he rallies, grabs my hand and pulls me into the room that was designed to be a dining room but has ended up being a sort of study slash dumping ground. A place where the children sometimes do their homework, where I tackle paying the household bills, and where towering piles of ironing, punctured footballs and old trainers hide out. Jake sits down in front of the computer and starts to quickly open various tabs.
“I wasn’t sure that we even had a ticket, but when you were late back and the film I was watching had finished, I couldn’t resist checking. I don’t know why. Habit, I suppose. And look.”
“What?” I can’t quite work out what he’s on about. It might be the wine, or it might be because my head is still full of betrayal and deceit, but I can’t seem to climb into his moment. I turn to the screen. The lottery website. Brash and loud. A clash of bright colors and fonts.
The numbers glare at me from the computer—1, 8, 20, 29, 49, 58. Numbers I am so familiar with, yet they seem peculiar and unbelievable.
“I don’t understand. Is this a joke?”
“No, Lexi. No! It’s for real. We’ve only gone and won the bloody lottery!”
Excerpted from Just My Luck by Adele Parks, Copyright © 2021 by Adele Parks.
Published by MIRA Books