Damaged. Deceptive. Dangerous. Darling. Are they labels or a warning? The answer could cost Sera everything.
While on a mandatory senior field trip, a flash flood cuts off Sera and three classmates from their group with no way to call for help. But they’re not as alone as they thought…
Someone is stalking them through the woods. Someone who drugged them, stole their supplies, and wrote on their skin. Is it a judgement? A warning? If Sera doesn’t uncover the truth, it’s only a matter of time before the hunter finds her.
After years as a professional paper-pusher, NATALIE D. RICHARDS decided to trade in reality for a life writing YA fiction. She lives in Ohio (Go Bucks!) with her husband, three children, and a ridiculously furry dog named Yeti. This is her third novel. Visit her on Twitter @natdrichards or at nataliedrichards.com.
Preorder link: http://nataliedrichards.com/books/onewaslost/
I shriek as the frigid water laps up my thighs. Then—Snap! Pop!—off to my right. Dread spikes through me. Something’s coming downstream. I have to go. Right now.
“Come on, Sera,” Mr. Walker says, sounding breathless.
I rush, feet lurching. Almost there. So close now. I stumble. Lucas grabs my pack and hauls me up, and then I’m snarling at him—“Don’t touch me!”—while Mr. Walker snags one of my straps and half drags me out. Water pours down my pant legs. I’m soaked and freezing.
I take a soggy step, and my boot slips on the muddy bank. Lucas is out too, swearing and scrambling up while Mr. Walker stares across at the girls, hands in his hair, eyes wide with terror.
My knees are buckling, but I grab branches and exposed roots and, finally, Jude’s smooth, dark hand. Once I’m up, I follow him past brambles that snag my poncho. My hair.
“Over here.” Jude points to a vantage point near the path. No earbuds now. He’s wide-eyed and utterly focused on the stream fifteen feet below us. Emily and Lucas are beside him, both shaking.
There’s a tree wedged across the stream. That must have been what I heard. The water is rushing under and over it, pushing it harder and harder. And then it’s loose. I hold my breath as it rolls with the mud-brown river, snapping anything in its path.
“The others,” Emily says softly.
They’re lined up on the other side, mud-spattered and white with fear as the log hurtles past, ripping its way through the streambed and releasing a wall of sludgy brown water in its wake. The current surges up the banks behind it, littered with smaller branches and clumps of vegetation. Madison’s eyes track us across the water, finding Lucas and then me.
“They’re stuck over there.” I know it’s obvious, but I say it anyway.
Mr. Walker barks instructions at the edge of the stream. Ms. Brighton nods along, one arm wrapped around each girl, her dark braid coiled around her pale neck like a snake.
“What’s he going to do?” Jude asks.
“Nothing, rich boy,” Lucas says. “There’s not a damn thing he can do tonight. Can’t even call for help because there’s no signal anywhere with this rain.”
“What will happen to them?” I ask.
“If they listen to Mr. Walker, they’ll go set up camp on that ridge. We’ll stay here for the night, probably farther up the path. Us here, them there. Regroup in the morning if we can.”
I whirl on Lucas. “What do you mean if?”
“You expect us to believe he’s just going to leave them?” Jude asks.
“That flood isn’t going anywhere soon. And I don’t give a shit what you believe,” Lucas says to him. “Since someone has to set up our tent again, I need to find a clearing.”
Lucas storms away, and my eyes drag back to the stream. Three girls with arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders. The river gushes along, a monstrous evolution of what I just crossed, swallowing the bridge inch by inch.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Not like this at all.
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