Chapter 1

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Day 5


Kate pulled up outside the villa and turned off the engine. She let go of the breath she'd been holding and flipped down the sun visor to check her reflection in the tiny mirror.

"Stay calm," she told herself. "Stay calm, stay calm, stay calm, stay calm."

Despite the mantra, she did not feel in the least bit calm. Her stomach was in knots. The girls would not be giving her a warm welcome this morning. If they offered her a cup of tea, she could be sure it was only because they'd laced it with poison. There wouldn't be one ally among them. Not the bride-to-be. Not her four chosen hens. Not even the crew.

Kate altered her mantra.

"Shit, shit, shit, shit..."

Opening the car door, she braced herself for the punch of manic techno beats. Instead, all she could hear was the hiss of cicadas. Even the neighbour's chocolate Labrador wasn't getting up to bark at her and pace frantically up and down the yard, tail banging against the rails. Instead it lay in the shadow of a giant cactus and dozed.

She paused as she unlocked the gates of the villa, expecting Clare to let out one of her shrill giggles, or Fiona to shriek in exaggerated panic because some dopey greenfly had landed on her arm. Poor Fiona, Kate thought guiltily. If she hadn't been allergic to nature, they would have got on so much better.

Kate listened out for a splash of water or a clink of glasses. The cicadas stopped abruptly nearby and then started up their buzz on the other side of the street.

Should she be worried? None of them had answered their phones last night. But perhaps they'd all just run out of battery. Kate tried to silence her thoughts as she headed down the side of the villa. Maybe the heat had knocked them out. She ducked under the fragrant jasmine that was weighing down the wooden awning and took the path down to the pool.

Typical. Four days of craving a bit of silence, and now that she had it, Kate felt nothing but alarm. Even when they napped, they usually left the Eurodance blaring – songs with lyrics that sounded like they'd been composed by people in the throes of a terrible hangover.

"Hey, Gina, what rhymes with 'high'?"

"Mate, I don't even know my own name right now...what about 'fly'?"

"How about, I wanna fly so high with you tonigh'...?"

"Nailed it."

Perhaps the music had stopped while they were asleep.

"Sleeping is for the weak. I'll sleep when I'm dead!" Fiona had announced on the plane.

Perhaps she is dead, Kate thought with a shudder. These last four days, Fiona had put away enough tequila to pickle a humpback whale.

The pool was empty. Sun glittered across the surface, the bright blue tiles lending the water an inviting azure hue. A pink lilo nudged at the stone rim as if half-heartedly trying to get out. At the far end, plastic bottles and beer cans bobbed up and down. Kate grimaced as she noticed the rest of the rubbish lying at the bottom. She shouldn't have done it. It was evidence that she had lost control.

If she hadn't had more pressing concerns, she would have got the net and fished it all out. She would have dived in herself and picked each piece up one at a time. But for the first time since she'd landed on the island, water pollution was not her priority. Finding the cast of The Hen Party television show was.

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