Happy Monday and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for DIG TWO GRAVES by Gretchen McNeil! I’m so excited to share an excerpt of the book with you today, AND more information about the author and tour, PLUS you can enter the giveaway to win a print copy!Dig Two Graves by Gretchen McNeil
Published on April 26, 2022 by Disney Hyperion
Genres: Contemporary, Horror, Mystery, Thriller, YA
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Author Links: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram
I did my part, BFF. Now it’s your turn.
Seventeen-year-old film noir fan Neve Lanier is a girl who just wants to be seen, but doesn’t really fit in anywhere. When Neve is betrayed by her best friend, Yasmin, at the end of the school year, she heads off to a girl’s empowerment camp feeling like no one will ever love her again. So when she grabs the attention of the beautiful, charismatic Diane, she falls right under her spell, and may accidentally promise to murder Diane’s predatory step-brother, Javier, in exchange for Diane murdering Yasmin. But that was just a joke…right?
Wrong. When Yasmin turns up dead, Diane comes calling, attempting to blackmail Neve into murdering Javier. Stalling for time, Neve pretends to go along with Diane’s plan until she can find a way out that doesn't involve homicide. But as she gets to know Javier – and falls for him – she realizes that everything Diane told her is a lie. Even worse, she discovers that Yasmin probably wasn't Diane's first victim. And unless Neve can stop her, she won't be the last.
Neve stopped at the end of the driveway and stared up at the brightly lit Spanish style McMansion with a mix of loathing and trepidation. “I really don’t want to do this.”
Yasmin rolled her eyes, a signature move. “We’ve been over it, like, a bazillion times.”
“I know, but…” Neve let her voice trail off as the front door flew open, flooding the street with the rhythmic booming bass of house music. A group of La Costa Canyon High School students—most of whom Neve recognized, but whose names she couldn’t have come up with if there was a gun to her head—spilled out onto the front lawn, each holding a red plastic Solo cup.
“But what?” Yasmin threw up her hands. “Marisol’s spring break party is supposed to be, like, the event of the school year. We have to show.”
Neve was pretty sure she didn’t have to show up at a party she hadn’t actually been invited to, but she knew voicing that opinion would only lead to another overly dramatic Yasmin Attar eye roll, so instead, she stood with her hands wrapped around her waist, unwilling to move.
“You promised,” Yasmin whined, a hint of a threat in her voice. “You’re my best friend. This is what best friends do.”
“Go to lame parties full of lame people we don’t even know?”
“Go to awesome parties full of people we want to know.” Another eye roll. Neve wondered if the frequency gave Yasmin headaches. “Stop acting like the first half of an antidepressant commercial and let’s go.”
Neve sighed, feeling like a very bad friend. She didn’t understand why Yasmin was suddenly so hellbent on going to this stupid party. They never went to these things—Yasmin always declared that San Diego parties weren’t as cool as the ones she used to go to back in Chicago—which was just as well since she and Neve were never actually invited to any.
Then suddenly, Yasmin’s stance had changed. They’d been at Starbucks “studying”—which was more like people watching while sending snarky texts back and forth—when Marisol and her boyfriend Brian breezed through the entrance accompanied by Marisol’s BFF Luna and some tall, muscular guy with striking hazel eyes. Yasmin had gone silent, her attention fixed on the unknown hottie. The group sat at a nearby table, either ignoring LCC social outcasts Neve and Yasmin or else not even noticing their presence, and discussed the upcoming beach bash. When they left, Yasmin decided that she and Neve were going to crash it, and Neve had decided that they absolutely were not.
They were an odd BFF couple: Neve Lanier, the weird Bay Area transplant with a penchant for black and white film noir and its accompanying fashion, and Yasmin Attar, the suburban Chicago princess who’d done beauty pageants as a kid and who loved to have all eyes on her. But when Yasmin transferred to LCC at the beginning of junior year, she’d had difficulty making friends, and had eventually sought out the mutually friendless Neve who ate her lunch alone in the hallway of the science building.
Neve had been skeptical at first: she’d been at that school for two years already and the only reason anyone at LCC ever talked to her was to make fun of her retro clothes and hairdos, taunting her with the nickname “I Love Lucy,” and challenging her “I don’t give a fuck what you think” attitude by trying to get under her skin. But Yasmin didn’t give up, and Neve appreciated that. After all, she’d been the new girl once, and she knew first-hand how hard it was to make friends at LCC. That initial lunch had been chilly, but Yasmin had showed up again and again in Neve’s lonely hallway, and much to Neve’s surprise, they’d bonded over a mutual dislike of the uber wealthy, painfully snobby San Diego suburb of Carlsbad to which they’d both been forced to move by their families. And they’d never had a single argument until that day at Starbucks when Neve refused to go to the party.
Except Yasmin had begged and pleaded and threatened and cajoled, and eventually Neve had given in, a decision she was currently regretting with every antisocial fiber of her being.
Yasmin watched her closely, her lips pressed together in an ugly sneer as if she was about to unleash one of the nasty one-liners she usually reserved for Marisol, Luna, or their exclusive clique, but then she appeared to change her mind. The sneer vanished, replaced by a tiny pout of her full lips. Yasmin clasped her hands in front of her chest and batted her impossibly long eyelashes. “Please?”
It was a lethal combination, the pout and flutter. Every time Yasmin used it, Neve’s heart thumped heavily in her chest, reminding her of the growing attraction she felt toward her best friend. And every time, Neve caved.
“Twenty minutes,” Neve said. A peace offering, not a capitulation.
“Thirty?” Yasmin begged, tugging on the puff sleeve of Neve’s forties-inspired black and gray house dress. “Then we can go if you still hate it.”
I will. “Fine.”
Yasmin squealed with glee as she dragged Neve up the driveway. The outdoor partiers cast cursory glances in their direction, and Neve was grateful that most of their faces were lost in shadow because she was pretty sure every single one of them would have registered the same thought: Why are they here?
Once inside, Neve understood why the group outside had relocated. The interior of Marisol’s house was packed with barely dressed bodies dancing, leaning against each other, lingering on the stairs, making out in the hall. There were faces she recognized, but also plenty she didn’t, and she wondered if this “social event of the year” was actually famous enough to attract students from all over San Diego county.
She huddled close to Yasmin, who led her through the crowd, snaking around the soccer team and apologetically cutting through a half dozen conversations. Yasmin kept her eyes moving, almost as if she was searching for something, while Neve tried to make a mental note of all the exits in case a fire broke out or something equally as catastrophic occurred. “Death by House Party” was not what she wanted in her obituary.
After a circuitous route that seemed to drag them through every room on the ground floor, Yasmin made a sharp turn then stopped so abruptly that Neve ran into her, knocking her forward.
Recessed lighting illuminated a kitchen so huge that Neve was pretty sure both her bedroom and her sister’s could have fit inside with square footage to spare. The countertops and cabinets were blindingly white, especially after the darkened rooms in the rest of the house, and the far wall was one giant glass accordion door, wide open onto an expansive deck. Neve could hear the waves crashing on the beach below.
She knew Marisol was rich, but she didn’t realize she was this rich.
The kitchen, like everywhere else, was swarming with high school students, most wearing swim trunks or bikinis and little else, and Neve realized how conspicuous she must be in her dark vintage dress, reddish brown hair pinned up in a pompadour. It was kind of hard to blend into the background, especially in these painfully white surroundings, and Neve zeroed in on the microwave’s clock, hoping by some time warping miracle that their thirty minutes was up.
No such luck.
She turned to Yasmin to tell her that she was going to wait outside on the deck—in the dark—but her best friend stood frozen, her stare fixed on something across the room.
No, not something. Someone.
He was tall and handsome like every other cookie cutter suburban douchebag in that house, pouring himself a rum and Coke from the bar with the ease of someone who did that sort of thing all the time. He wore a blue, slim-fit tank top and swim trunks, a strand of puka beads around his neck, and he would have blended into the beachy upper middle-class miasma of the party if it hadn’t been for his eyes. Large and hazel, staring right at Neve.
The guy from Starbucks.
Brian stood behind Hazel Eyes with an obviously intoxicated Marisol hanging off of him, arms caressing his bare neck and chest as if they were the only ones in the room. Hazel Eyes finished pouring the drink, then handed it to a blond girl beside him. Neve couldn’t see her face, but she must have said something funny because Hazel Eyes laughed then leaned down and whispered in her ear.
Yasmin stiffened, her gaze locked on Hazel Eyes and the blonde, and suddenly Neve knew exactly why they were at that party: Yasmin had a crush on Hazel Eyes.
“You’ve seen him once!” Neve blurted out, feeling irrationally peevish at the blush she saw creeping up Yasmin’s neck. “You don’t even know his name.”
Yasmin squared her shoulders. “I don’t know who you’re talking about.” Then she nudged Neve toward the bar. “Come on. I want a drink.”
Neve followed Yasmin to the bar where she unabashedly angled her body between Hazel Eyes and the blonde girl. Neve was begrudgingly impressed with her friend’s ballsiness, but flirting with a dude you didn’t know at a party you weren’t invited to in front of the blonde he had clearly been putting the moves on was more than just bold. It was rude. And in addition to a sort of nebulous rage over the whole evening, Neve was suddenly ashamed of her friend’s brazen self-interest.
“Hey!” Yasmin said to Hazel Eyes, using the same combination of fluttering eyelashes and pouty lips that had worked on Neve earlier. “What’s good here?”
The blonde snorted. “I’ll catch you later,” she said before sauntering away. She moved like a girl who was hot and knew it.
Meanwhile, Hazel Eyes hadn’t responded to Yasmin’s question. Not that it stopped her. “Pinot? IPA? The hard stuff?”
“Oh!” Hazel Eyes seemed surprised she was talking to him. “Um, I don’t drink.”
Yasmin’s approach shifted instantly. “Cool! Neither do I. Funny, right? That we’d both be here in front of the bar but neither of us drink? I’m Yasmin, by the way.”
Neve tried to lose herself in the house music and white noise of the crowd so she didn’t have to listen to her friend’s bullshit. She felt like an accessory, tossed aside and forgotten as soon as her purpose had been served. Yasmin was at that party for one reason: to meet Hazel Eyes. And she hadn’t wanted to show up alone, so she’d dragged Neve along, telling her it would be good for both of them.
Meanwhile, Yasmin flirted shamelessly with her crush, her hand on his arm. It looked as if he was being polite by humoring her, but twice his eyes strayed toward Neve. She may not have totally understood Yasmin’s instalove for this guy, but she couldn’t deny that dude’s eyes were beautiful. Still, checking out one girl while he was talking to another after being ditched by a third? It made Neve think of one of her favorite movie quotes.
“You’re about as romantic as a pair of handcuffs,” she said out loud with a gruff laugh.
“Wha?” a slurred voice said at Neve’s shoulder. She turned to find Marisol pointing at her, a sneer of disgust elongating her collagen-enhanced lips.
Neve could have explained that it was a line from The Big Heat, a classic of hard-boiled film noir from the early 1950s but she was pretty sure that would be too much information for the intoxicated hostess to process. Better to just disappear.
“Nothing,” Neve said, and turned toward the door.
Marisol grabbed her shoulder. “Wait, who’re you?”
Nobody. “I’m sorry?”
“Who. Er. You.” Marisol hung onto Brian for support with one arm while jabbing the other in Neve’s general direction, punctuating each syllable.
Neve was about to say her name when someone answered for her.
“I Love Lucy,” Luna said, blue eyes cold and narrow. She looked significantly less drunk and more pissed off than her bestie. “She and her skank friend were definitely not invited.”
Normally, Neve was pretty happy to float under the radar. Not that she was an intentional loner—more like a loner by circumstance—because who wanted to be chummy with these rich assholes? It hadn’t been like that in middle school up north where she went before her family relocated to Carlsbad. She hadn’t exactly been popular, but she’d had a few friends and, more importantly, didn’t hate the place with every fiber of her being like she did LCC.
But staying in the Bay Area to start high school wasn’t an option after her dad’s breakdown. He’d tried to go back to his old job after his hospital stay and some extensive outpatient mental health maintenance, but he couldn’t handle the stress. Down to one income, her parents couldn’t afford their mortgage, so they’d moved down to Carlsbad, California, Neve’s mom’s hometown, to live in Grandma K’s old house, rent free.
She was a poor kid in a rich town, and she hated the privilege that oozed from Luna and Marisol like toothpaste from an uncapped tube. Maybe all that pent up resentment finally boiled over or maybe Neve’s anger at Yasmin needed an outlet, but instead of avoiding a fight that wasn’t worth the added negative attention, Neve squared her shoulders and looked Luna dead in the eyes.
“I Love Lucy ran from 1951 to 1957, and this shirtwaisted day dress is clearly World War Two era, so if you’re going to insult me, I suggest you at least get your references straight.”
Luna blinked, too intoxicated to totally process Neve’s rebuke. “What the fuck did you say?”
“You wouldn’t understand if I drew you a Venn Diagram.”
“Hey!” Marisol pushed herself off her boyfriend and staggered over to Neve, swaying dangerously close. “Don’t be a bitch to my friend. Don’t come into my house, at my party, and act like a fucking bitch!”
Her volume escalated with each word until Marisol was screeching in Neve’s face. Slowly, everyone in the kitchen turned to look at them.
Neve was about to counter this drunken shriek fest with a well-placed “I guess with you and Luna around, the bitch quotient is all full up,” but before she could open her mouth, Yasmin caught her eye. She looked horrified, disgusted, desperate not to be associated with Neve, and when she silently mouthed “What the fuck?” as she edged away, Neve wanted to melt into the floor.
“You!” Marisol said, pointing an accusatory-though-unsteady finger at Yasmin. “Yer her friend.”
Yasmin looked at Hazel Eyes. “Um…”
Seriously? Was Yasmin going to get all Peter at the Crucifixion?
“Get out,” Marisol sneered, lunging toward Yasmin. “Don’t get your weirdo loser stench all over my friends.”
The color drained from Yasmin’s face. “But—”
“Out!” Luna parroted. “Get out or I’ll make you get out.”
A look of rage washed over Yasmin’s face and for a moment Neve thought she might launch herself at Luna, but when she grabbed Neve’s arm with a grip so fierce Neve almost cried out in pain, she realized Yasmin’s anger was directed entirely at her.
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What do you think about Dig Two Graves? Have you added it to your tbr yet? Let me know in the comments and have a splendiferous day!