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/
A Letter from the Author
It’s hard to believe One Was Lost is finally here. It feels weird to admit that I’ve been desperately looking forward to scaring you all and keeping you up way past your bedtimes, but it’s the truth. And now that it’s finally out in the world, I just can’t wait to hear what you all think! I mean, after you get some sleep of course. I’m not that impatient.
As a writer with my fourth book hitting the shelves, I can say each new release has its own special brand of excitement. Each story has elements that you cherish and characters you love. But One Was Lost wasn’t like any of my other books. Writing this book was a whole new ball game.
The truth behind One Was Lost is that my father died a few months before I started writing it. He was my inspiration for writing as a child and easily one of my closest friends throughout my life. Losing him was like having my foundation knocked sideways. My grief felt oceans deep and I was lost in the roll of every wave. It was brutally difficult.
For anyone who’s met me and knows what a class clown I am, I’ll confess 2015 was one of the least funny years of my life. Still, when I sat down to write One Was Lost, I knew I had something special. These characters were speaking to me like characters never had. This story was at a roiling boil in my head—but, could I really write it?
Doubt plagued me in those first days. Could I still remember how to get lost in a story? Could I get it right when I was still struggling so much? Most importantly, could I still be the writer I used to be?
The answer was quick and a little terrifying. No.
I couldn’t go back to the writer I was before. Losing someone incredibly important to you changes you. There is a new normal you must adjust to, and that new normal doesn’t fade away after the funeral is done and over.
My new normal proved to be a very powerful force in my writing life. One Was Lost forced me to face fears I might have danced around in other books. I had no choice but to dive more deeply than ever before. My new perspective had me spend more time than usual learning about these new characters. Trying to understand them. Hurting with them and fearing with them.
I didn’t just lose myself in One Was Lost, I drowned in it. I fell so deeply into this book that at times it was difficult to resurface to do normal, mundane not-lost-and-terrified-in-the-forest things. I’m not sure I’ve ever been more in love with characters in any of my stories, and I’m absolutely sure I’ve never been happier with the way a book has turned out.
It is my dearest hope that you’ll all get a little lost in this book too. Sometimes even the scariest things can bring out strength and goodness we never believed possible. And it is just that reason that One Was Lost is a book I’m so particularly proud of and excited to share with you.
An Exclusive Excerpt
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.