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The Wife Upstairs

Recap & Book Summary



The Quick Recap and Section-by-Section Summary for The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins are below. Spoiler warning: these summaries contains spoilers.

For a non-spoiler version of the plot synopsis, see The Bibliofile's review of The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins.

Quick(-ish) Recap

(The book switches from Jane and Bea's perspectives. Jane is narrating, and Bea is writing in journal form.)

Jane is a dog-walker who is struggling financially, but has clients in the affluent neighborhood of Thornfield Estates. Jane is also former foster kid, and she is guarded, calculating and resentful of the wealthy people she works for. She meets the handsome and rich Edward "Eddie" Rochester, who lives in Thornfield, and Jane and Eddie soon start dating. After a few months they sleep together, and Jane moves in with Eddie two weeks later. Soon, they're engaged.

Eddie's wife Bea has been presumed dead for the last six months. Bea was in a boating accident along with her best friend Blanche Ingraham. At the time, Bea and Eddie had only been recently married, after meeting each other while on vacation a year ago and having a whirlwind romance, resulting in a quick engagement and the marriage soon after.

However, Bea is actually not dead. She is locked in the panic room of their home, and she writes down her side of the story, about how Eddie had joined her and her longtime childhood best friend Blanche for a midnight cruise, but then he murdered Blanche. Bea had woken up afterwards to find herself locked up in the panic room on the third floor of their house. Eddie periodically brings her food. She then takes her journal and hides it in Eddie's pocket, hoping Jane will find it and save her.

Bea and Blanche have a complicated relationship. Bea's mother was an alcoholic and her father was abusive. Bea (real name is Bertha) met Blanche at boarding school, which Bea attended on scholarship. Blanche took Bea under her wing through high school. When they reunited 26, their relationship dynamic changed now that Bea was very wealthy and successful. It became more competitive, but Bea still wanted Blanche's approval. After Bea meets Eddie, Blanche comes on to Eddie, and Bea sleeps with Blanche's husband Tripp to get back at them (though it's later revealed that Eddie actually rejected Blanche's advances).

In present day, Blanche's body is finally found in the lake, and Tripp is soon arrested for her murder. Meanwhile, Jane hears strange noises in her house (which is Bea, who is locked away upstairs). She begins to suspect Eddie, who is acting strangely. When Tripp asks to talk to her, he insists that it wasn't him and that he was framed. Jane wrecks the house looking for evidence of Eddie's guilt and finds Bea's journal. Jane rushes up to release Bea from the panic room. However, Eddie walks in on them, and Jane hit him with a blunt object, leaving him bleeding and with missing teeth.

(The book then switches to Eddie's perspective.) Eddie recalls how after he rejected Blanche romantically, Blanche had told him that she suspected Bea of murdering her own mother after Bea's mother embarrassed Bea at a Southern Manors' event. Eddie didn't believe it until he saw Bea kill Blanche. He had gone up to the lake house that weekend that Blanche was killed, he had found Bea, realized what she had done, incapacitated her and locked her up in their panic room. Eddie loved Bea too much to turn her in, and even now still loves her.

In present day, Eddie's now stuck in the panic room with Jane and Bea downstairs. Jane senses that something is off with Bea story, but then the fire alarm goes off. Eddie has started a fire, knowing the door wouldn't open, but that Bea would come save him. Bea rushes into the fire as Jane runs away. Afterwards, the police only find some of Eddie's teeth (the ones Jane knocked out) and assume that he is dead. There's no trace of Bea. Jane learns that Eddie changed his will to leave all of his assets to her, so Jane is now very wealthy. Jane imagines that they both survived the fire, escaped and are now together.

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Section-by-Section Summary

Part I: Jane

Chapters 1 – 4

A woman, a dog-walker, walks a dog around the wealthy Thornfield Estates subdivision of Mountain Brook, Alabama. She lives in the less-affluent town of Center Point. Today, she walks Bear in the rain for Mrs. Reed. She ends up standing in the street when a slick red sports car comes towards her, nearly hitting her.

The car swerves to avoid her, hitting a light pole. The man, Edward “Eddie” Rochester, apologizes for pulling out of the driveway so quickly. The woman introduces herself as Jane, but it’s not her real name. It’s the name of a dead girl she once knew, but she’s worried he would recognize her real name. Jane is also a former foster kid, and she occasionally steals small items from her wealthy clients. She also recently left a job at Roasted, a coffee shop in Mountain Brook Village.

Eddie invites her inside for coffee. Jane notes how nice the house is, and it backs out into the woods which stretches out behind them. Eddie mentions how “we” (implying a wife) bought the house, but he’s not wearing a ring. Jane is immediately interested in him, determined to play her cards correctly to have a shot with him. Then, Eddie says he’s getting a dog soon and wants Jane to walk it.

Jane soon figures out that Eddie’s wife, Bea Rochester, is presumed dead. She was in a boating accident six months ago along with Blanche Ingraham, the late wife of Tripp Ingraham (Richard Ingraham the Third) (another one of Jane’s dog-walking clients). Jane also learns that Bea was the “founder of the Southern Manors retail empire”. A week later another one of Jane’s clients, Emily Clarke, asks about Eddie’s new dog, Adele. Emily also says that the circumstances around the boating accident are a bit mysterious. It occurred at Smith Lake, only the two women were on the boat and it was found empty in the middle of the lake. Jane and Emily also talk about how distraught Tripp continues to be over Blanche’s death.

Chapters 5 – 7

Jane goes home to her roommate, John Rivers, who she dislikes. John works in the office of a local church, and she knows him from her foster days. At home, Jane looks up Bea’s company, browsing the upscale, overpriced stuff on the site. She also reads a profile on Bea, who was originally from Birmingham, Alabama. It says that Bea met Eddie while on vacation in Hawaii. As she researches, Jane resents Bea for being beautiful, successful and for the picture-perfect life she led. She also learns that Eddie had to go through some trouble to have Bea declared legally dead so he could make decisions for the company.

The next day, Jane runs into Mrs. McLaren (Jane walks her dalmatian, Mary-Beth). Jane is walking Eddie’s dog Adele, and Mrs. McLaren gives her a hard time for walking her so far from the neighborhood, which angers Jane. Afterwards, when Jane drops of Adele, she snoops around Eddie’s house. She finds a photo of Eddie and Bea together, looking perfect for each other. Jane feels silly for imagining that Eddie would be interested in her. Then, Eddie catches her looking at the photo. Eddie explains that it’s a photo of them from Hawaii from when they met last year.

When Jane expresses sympathy for Bea’s death, Eddie dismisses it and invites her to dinner. At dinner, he orders a pricey bottle of wine. Then, he comments on Jane’s necklace, which she had stolen from Mrs. McLaren, which makes her nervous. Eddie says that Bea’s company makes a similar necklace. As they talk, Jane tells him some true things about herself, but makes up some other stuff as well. The date goes well. That night, right before it seems Eddie is about to kiss her, they get interrupted by one of Eddie’s friends, Chris.

Chapters 8 – 9

The next morning, Jane goes to Tripp’s house because he has asked her to organize some of his late wife’s things, which he has been unable to bring himself to do. Tripp is drunk and his house is covered in golf stuff and photos of Blanche. When Jane comments on a lamp that looks like it’s from Southern Manors, Tripp informs her that Bea never had original ideas, and instead she stole ideas from Blanche. Tripp says the two women grew up together, and that Bea’s real name is Bertha.

Afterwards, Jane runs into Eddie who invites her out for a second date. Jane takes things slow, mindful of not wanting to be seen as an “easy conquest”. Jane is calculating about their relationship, knowing that she wants him. Soon, they have a third date and as the months pass, they continue to see each other. They go on dates outside the city in order to avoid the gossip of the other people in the neighborhood. Jane listens on as the women around the neighborhood wonder about who Eddie’s mystery woman is. Finally, Jane tells Eddie the truth about being a foster kid and how different their worlds are. Eddie reassures her that he wants her, and they sleep together.

Part II: Bea

(Bea is writing this section as a letter, it’s dated as “JULY, ONE DAY AFTER BLANCHE”)

Bea writes that last night her husband Edward Rochester murdered her best friend Blanche Ingraham, and now she is locked up in their house. She recalls how Eddie had joined her and Blanche for their midnight cruise, but then he’d attacked them. Bea woke up in the panic room on the third floor of their home. Bea wonders how she could have married a monster and not realized it? Eddie comes in and brings her food and water, but doesn’t speak to her. As the days pass, Bea thinks to herself that she’s determined to outsmart Eddie and find a way out of there.

Bea recalls meeting up with Blanche just after she’d met Eddie on vacation and had suddenly gotten engaged. When Bea told her about the engagement, Blanche had simply told her to get a pre-nup. Blanche had warned her that Bea was doing well financially and clearly this guy knew it. Bea had responded angrily that Blanche was just jealous and preferred when Bea was her broke, charity case friend. Bea also noted that Blanche was projecting her own relationship troubles with Tripp onto her. Still, the two friends calmed down after their argument, and Bea had asked Blanche to be her maid of honor.

Part III: Jane

Chapters 10 – 12

It’s now been two weeks since Jane has functionally been moved in with Eddie. Jane realizes that even though she was very interested in Eddie’s money (and still is), she also has genuine feelings for him. When Jane mentions that she’s still walking dogs to make money, Eddie offers to give her access to his credit card and checking account. Then, they agree to Jane moving in for real.

When Jane goes back to clear out her stuff at her old apartment, John is rude to her, but Jane no longer cares. However, before she leaves, she sees that Eddie has followed her there. Eddie chalks it up to curiosity. Jane is weirded out, but lets it slide. When John demands two weeks notice from Jane, Eddie tells John to contact his lawyer, and they leave.

With their status more official, Jane is now excited to let the other women in the neighborhood know about their relationship. She starts with Emily, who seems unsure at first but then accepts her. Campbell, Emily’s husband, therefore has no choice but to accept Jane as well. Jane finds herself volunteering for the Neighborhood Beautification Committee, and she ends up being responsible for picking up solar lamps for the neighborhood.

At the store, she runs into John, and she suspects that he purposely followed her to engineer them meeting up. He mentions that someone from Phoenix, Arizona (where Jane previously lived) has been calling looking for someone named Helen Burns, who seems to match her description. Hearing this name instantly makes Jane anxious, and to get rid of him, Jane gives him her emergency stash of $200.

Chapters 13 – 17

Jane gets together with the other women in the neighborhood, and as they are talking, she realizes that the women will not truly accept her unless she is married to Eddie. As such, Jane has a new goal which is to get engaged. She’s hopeful he’ll do it on his own, but when he doesn’t, she gives him a nudge by making him think she is considering leaving to go to grad school. (She wouldn’t since she never even finished college, but he doesn’t know that). It works and he proposes.

Soon thereafter, Jane is approached by Tripp who has heard the news. He says something implying that Eddie is overrated, and he says pointedly that “Women have bad luck around Eddie Rochester and boats”. Then, when Jane goes to the dress shop to browse wedding dresses, she runs into Emily outside and tells her the good news. Emily is delighted for her, but when she asks about the size of the wedding, Jane thinks about how she has no family. When Jane gets home, she suggests to Eddie that they elope, and he agrees.

Later that night, the police show up. The woman introduces herself as Detective Laurent. Jane initially assumes that she’s there for her, but it turns out she wants to question Eddie about Bea.

Part IV: Bea

Bea recalls her and Eddie going to dinner with Tripp and Blanche. She had noticed a weird dynamic between Eddie and Blanche when Blanche discusses hiring Eddie’s construction company (which Bea gave him the capital to start). Also Bea had thought to herself how Blanche and Tripp didn’t really have the money for the project they were proposing. Afterwards, she noticed a gaze between Eddie and Blanche and suspected that there was something going on (romantically) between them.

In present day, Bea writes about how the days pass locked up in the panic room. She’s been trying to get Eddie to talk to her, and she finally succeeded by complementing him. Then, three months into her captivity, he offers her some books to read to pass the time, and she’s able to talk to him more. Bea realizes there must be a reason he kept her alive even though he killed Blanche.

Part V: Jane

Chapters 18 – 20

After the detective leaves, Eddie tells Jane that they were just giving him an update on the situation. They found Blanche’s body, but not Bea’s. They also suspect that this was a murder, not an accident. Eddie says that he’s not a suspect, but they still want to question him. He also says they want to question Jane, too, which worries her since she has very purposefully been keeping her past hidden.

Jane soon gets a call from John, who has heard about Jane’s upcoming marriage from an announcement that Emily submitted. He knows that she’s “marrying money” and wants to extort more money from her (because he knows her real identity). She reluctantly agrees.

A while later, Eddie invites Jane to the lake house he owns, but it’s the same one he visited when Bea died. Jane wonders why he would want to go, but is also curious about it, so she says yes. At the lake house, Eddie talks about how Smith Lake is the deepest lake in Alabama and that they flooded a forest in order to create it, so there are trees at the bottom. Jane realizes that’s why it was so difficult to find Blanche’s body. Then, he absentmindedly says something about it being “one bad memory” as if he remembers the incident — except according to what Jane knows, Eddie wasn’t there when it happened. Jane tries to tell herself that she must have misunderstood.

Chapters 21 – 23

That night at the lake house, Jane hears a strange noise. She goes to inspect and finds Eddie in the living room, inspecting the floor. He claims he is looking for a key he dropped, but Jane doesn’t believe him. Later, Eddie asks Jane about taking money out of the account (to pay off Eddie). She lies about it (not wanting him to find out more about her past), saying it was for wedding stuff. They eventually leave early. Afterwards, Jane arranges to have lunch with Tripp to get information out of him. Tripp asks if she wants to know about what was going on between Eddie and Blanche, but when Jane expresses surprise, Tripp dismisses it all as rumors. Tripp talks more about Bea stealing Blanche’s ideas, but Jane doesn’t get much more information from him.

When Eddie finds out, he is furious with Jane about having lunch with Tripp, saying that it “looks bad”. He also says that he knows Jane paid off John and disapproves (since John tried to extort him as well, saying there were people looking for Jane). Eddie reveals that managed to get the phone number of the people from Phoenix who have been trying to contact her, but he say that never called it because he trusted her. In his anger, Jane notices how cold and focused Eddie is when he is angry.

Soon, the news breaks that Tripp has been arrested based off of the results of the autopsy of Blanche’s body, but it doesn’t calm Jane’s fears about Eddie. With Jane acting weird around Eddie, Eddie finally asks her point blank whether she thinks he had something to do with the boating incident. Surprised, Jane simply tells him the truth, that she thought maybe it could be true. Then, she apologizes, and they make up.

Part VI: Bea

It’s now four months after the accident. Bea senses an opportunity to escape, but it requires seducing Eddie. When he comes in, she comes onto him. He at first rebuffs her, but soon gives in.

Bea thinks back to the period of time after she’d began suspecting that Eddie and Blanche’s had betrayed her. Bea had ended up sleeping with Tripp to get back at both Eddie and Blanche.

Part VII: Jane

Chapters 24 – 26

Following their argument, Jane is determined to trust Eddie more. But, when Eddie isn’t home, Jane starts hearing some loud noises and knocking about coming from upstairs in the house.

Meanwhile, more details are revealed about Tripp’s arrest. Tripp made bail and is home now, but apparently police discovered that Tripp had purchased a hammer on his credit card soon before Blanche’s death, and Blanche’s body was found to have a massive fracture in the skull. Later, Jane gets together with Emily and Campbell, and they talk about the arrest. Emily and Campbell both don’t think Tripp would do something like that. Jane also asks them about Bea, and they say that Eddie actually always had more of a temper than Bea, who was much more easy-going.

Jane gets another text from John asking for money. This time, she calls the number of the people who had been trying to find her, but it turns out it’s nothing for her to worry about. It was a private investigator, who was hired by Georgie Smith. George is trying to locate her sister Liz’s daughter, Helen Burns, who ended up in the foster care system. Jane tells the private investigator that John knows nothing and is wasting their time. Then, Jane’s goes to the church where John works, tells him off and then she makes a large donation to the church to ensure that John’s boss won’t want him pissing her off.

Afterwards, Jane thinks about what she’s actually afraid of which is her former foster parents, Mr. and Mrs. Brock. The real Jane had been another foster kid in their care, as well as being her best friend and closest thing to a sister. They had refused to get the real Jane medical attention for her cough, and the real Jane had died of pneumonia. Later, Jane and Mr. Brock were in the house alone and Mr. Brock’s heart issue had flared up. He needed his pills, but Jane flushed them down the sink and let him die. Then, she left town. For whatever reason, no one had ever linked her to his death, but it’s what she fears.

Chapters 27 – 28

Jane and Eddie attend a country club cocktail party, and Jane gets a familiar urge to steal a bracelet that one of the women, Landry, is wearing. She knows she doesn’t need to anymore, but takes it anyway. As she leaves, she drops the bracelet and Eddie picks it up for her.

Later that night, Jane gets a text from Tripp, asking to talk.

Part VIII: Bea

Bea thinks back to the launch party for one of Southern Manors’ new lines. She had invited her mother, who got drunk at the party. Bea had stood up to tell her often-recited lie about how the aesthetic of the company was based on her family’s tastes, only for her mother to get up, call her out and make a scene. Blanche had been the one to help her mother up and get her out of there as tactfully as possible.

In present day, Bea writes about how seven months after Blanche’s death, Eddie comes into the panic room with a drop of blood on his cuff and a scrape. A while later, Bea realizes that Eddie must’ve met someone new. Eddie admits that he’s dating someone named Jane. Despite everything, Bea feels jealous.

A full year after Blanche’s death, Bea writes her last journal entry (which she has been writing in one of the books Eddie gave her to read), and puts the book into Eddie’s pocket. She’s hoping that Jane will find it, save Bea and save herself from Eddie.

Bea then recalls meeting Blanche and the history of their friendship. Bea was born Bertha Lydia Mason. Her family had money at some point in time, but not anymore. Her father was abusive. She grew up hearing about her mother stories about attending boarding school at Ivy Ridge, so Bea applies and gets financial assistance to enroll. There, she meets Blanche, who suggests the nickname Bea instead of Bertha. After Bea’s father dies, Bea decides not to go back for the funeral. That summer, Blanche invites Bea to join her for the summer, and it’s the best summer of Bea’s life. Blanche gets them matching “B” charm necklaces. They are inseparable through high school.

When college approaches, Bea tells Blanche she’s planning on going to the same college, but by now Blanche doesn’t seem excited by the prospect of them going off to college together, saying that they “can’t be ‘the Bs’ forever.” As a result, Blanch ends up at Birmingham-Southern, while Bea attends Randolph-Macon.

When Bea and Blanche are 26, they reunite. By now, Bea is transformed, she’s rich and looking good. Meanwhile, Blanche is gorgeous as always and engaged to Tripp. Bea helps Blanche with wedding plans and gives Blanche a small charm with a bee on it. When Bea provides a bunch of Southern Manors’ merchandise for Blanche’s wedding reception, Blanche notes how similar the stuff is stylistically to things found in her home.

Part IX: Jane

Chapters 29 – 30

Jane goes to talk to Tripp, who gives his version of what happened at the lake house the weekend when Bea and Blanche went missing. Tripp tells her that Blanche had wanted them to leave the area because she felt like Bea was suffocating her. He explains that things had gotten messy between the four of them (Blanche, Bea, Tripp and Eddie), so Bea had invited Blanche for a weekend away to “hash things out”. However, on that Friday, Tripp was confused when Bea also asked him to join them for the weekend as well, but went with it. After he got there, the three of them ended up getting trashed. When he woke up hungover the next day, Bea and Blanche were gone.

When Jane gets back to her home, she starts suspecting Eddie more and searches for clues that Eddie may have been responsible. After hours and completely wrecking the house, Jane finally finds the jacket where Bea had hidden her journal. Written over the words of a book is Bea’s writing, detailing out her side of the story (basically all the sections of the book marked “Bea”).

Jane reads what Bea has written about Eddie killing Blanche, locking Bea upstairs and having sex with Eddie. Jane then hurries upstairs where she opens up the hidden panic room (behind two closet doors), revealing a very-much-alive Bea in the room.

Bea and Jane agree they need to leave before Eddie returns, but then they hear a sound.

Part X: Eddie

Chapters 31 – 34

Meanwhile, Eddie returns home to find the house completely wrecked. Realizing that something is amiss, Eddie heads upstairs to find Jane and Bea standing in the panic room. Then, Jane grabs a decorative silver pineapple and hits Eddie with it in anger and fear.

Eddie crumples on the floor, bleeding and with a few lost teeth. When he regains consciousness, he’s locked in the room and sees that Bea and Jane are now gone. He thinks about when he first met Bea at the Hawaiian resort. He’d been there with a girl, Charlie, who had recognized her and knew that Bea was wealthy. Charlie had family money, but Bea’s personal wealth interested Eddie, and he found Bea attractive. Eddie had then ended the trip with Charlie (saying he’d been called back to work) and then set out on pursuing Bea. Later, Charlie had sent him an e-mail, but he’d seen the words “toxic”, ‘manipulative”, etc. and deleted it without reading it. Long after things went south with Bea, Eddie wondered who the e-mail had been about.

Eddie recalls how Bea was only person he knew that was more determined to get what she wanted than himself. (He’d liked Jane’s willingness to manipulate for similar reasons.) Even when had Blanche come on to him, he knew that he was just some prop in a fight that Bea and Blanche had been engaging in since they were young. When he rebuffed Blanche’s advances, Blanche ended up telling Eddie that she suspected Bea killed her own mother. Two weeks after Bea’s mother had embarrassed Bea at the Southern Manor’s launch party, Bea’s mother had been found dead at the bottom of a flight of stairs, and Bea had been the only one around. Still, Eddie hadn’t really believed it until the night Bea murdered Blanche.

After Eddie had found out that Tripp would be going, Eddie had decided to head up himself as well. On arrival, he had seen Tripp passed out, drunk. Then, he’d seen Bea walking back up the dock, wet and alone, and Eddie had realized what had happened. At first he pretends to be supportive of her, but then he grabs Bea and incapacitates her. In the process, Eddie loses a button on his shirt (which is presumably what he was searching for that weekend he and Jane went back to the lake house).

Afterwards, Eddie isn’t sure what to do with Bea. He loves her too much to turn her in, but knows that he can’t just let her loose, knowing what she is capable of. So, he ends up locking her up in the panic room as a temporary solution. Even now, he realizes he wasn’t really in love with Jane, instead he still loved Bea despite everything.

In present day, Eddie has an idea for how to get out of that room.

Part XI: Jane

Chapter 35

Downstairs, Jane and Bea chat. When Jane says they need to call the police, Bea stalls. When Bea tells Jane about how Blanche invited her to the lake house, Jane starts to sense that something is wrong, since it contradicts what she was told by Tripp.

Part XII: Bea

Chapter 36/u>

As Bea and Jane talk, Bea knows that Jane isn’t entirely buying her story.

It reminds Bea of how Blanche was after the funeral for Bea’s mother — Blanche hadn’t been suspicious exactly, but did seem to think that something was off. Bea then thinks about how free she felt after pushing her mother down the stairs. Later, Blanche had accused Bea of stealing all of Southern Manors’ ideas from her. When Blanche soon tells Eddie about her suspicions about Bea’s mother’s death, Bea saw it as Blanche’s jealousy.

Once Bea had decided Blanche needed to die as well, she started concocting her plan, inviting Tripp along for the purpose of framing him for it. Unfortunately, Eddie had showed up, which she had not anticipated.

In present day, as Jane talks, Bea realizes that Eddie kept her in the room because he still loves her. Then, a fire alarm goes off. Bea starts to head for the door, but she knows that Eddie must have intentionally set off a fire, knowing that the room would not open but that she would go let him out. Bea turns around and runs upstairs into the fire.

Part XIII: Jane

Chapters 37 – 38/u>

Jane ends up in the hospital, and the house is now burned down. Jane recalls seeing the fire in the panic room and running away from it while Bea rushed in to save Eddie.

Detective Laurent shows up to say that they think Eddie died in the fire because of the teeth they found, but Jane knows that she likely took out some teeth when she hit him. They police have released Tripp. They had always suspected Eddie, and now they think Eddie burned the house down in order to kill himself and Jane because he knew they were getting close. Detective Laurent says nothing about another body, so presumably Bea survived the fire.

Afterwards, Emily shows up to say that there’s someone there who says that he’s her brother. Jane assumes that it must be John being up to something shady, so she avoids him. Instead, Jane stays at Emily’s place for a while, but soon feels like she’s functionally working for Emily because Emily asks her for various “favors”. It’s now been three weeks since she left the hospital, and Richard Lloyd, Eddie’s lawyer, shows up.

Richard informs Jane that Eddie had updated his will prior to his death. Jane now owns all of his assets as well as Southern Manors.

Epilogue

Jane wonders what happened to Bea and Eddie. She imagines that they both escaped the fire, and she thinks that they truly loved each other and are happily together now.

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