Read an Excerpt
Book 1: FORBIDDEN PASSAGE
Book 2: THE SABOTAGE
Book 3: DESPERATE MEASURES
To those courageous enough to seek their adventure.
Be Bold. Dream Big.
For the adventure you’re ready for . . . is the one you get
Vanessa forced herself to take another step. Then another. And another. It was everything she could do to keep from dropping to her knees in the mud and giving up. But that was the last thing any of them could afford.
It was the second huge storm in a week. The first had crashed their fifty-foot sailboat, the Lucky Star, onto the rocky shore of this tiny island. Now another one had come along and dragged the boat—their only shelter—back out to sea. The four of them had been lucky to get off alive as they’d scrambled over the rocks, onto the beach, and up into the jungle.
“Keep moving! And stay together!” she shouted to the others. Her voice was already hoarse, trying to be heard over the wind, and thunder, and crashing waves. She held her flashlight out in front of her, but it was hard to see. The rain poured down in sheets, even under the jungle’s thick canopy of trees.
They moved in a tight clump, holding on to one another and to the few things they’d managed to take. Jane and Buzz stayed close on either side. Carter was right behind, pushing the group to go faster. Behind them, Vanessa could hear the tide pounding the shore, each wave a little higher than the one before it. If they didn’t keep heading uphill, it was going to be one of them who got washed away next.
“I think I dropped something!” Jane called.
“Leave it!” Vanessa told her. “Don’t stop!”
“I said leave it!”
She didn’t like yelling at Jane, even now, but it couldn’t be helped. The only thing that mattered was finding shelter. And that meant getting to the caves as fast as possible.
The island was run through with them, like some kind of giant underground maze. The closest cavern opening they’d found was only a minute’s walk up from the beach. But that was during the day, and in the light. Now the cave seemed impossibly far off as they shuffled along, tripping over roots and rocks and squinting through the heaviest downpour Vanessa had ever seen.
“Just keep moving!” she shouted. “It’s going to be okay! It’s going to be—”
The words caught in her throat with a sob. The truth was, Vanessa had no idea if it was going to be okay or not. How was a thirteen-year-old supposed to handle something like this? Still, Buzz and Carter were eleven, and Jane was only nine. Without any parents or other adults around, it was up to her to keep the three younger ones safe for as long as possible. That much Vanessa knew.
But knowing it and doing it were two very different things.
Carter gritted his teeth. It wasn’t as if Vanessa, Buzz, or Jane could see him in the dark, but he knew he had to stay strong. This wasn’t a place where you could let your guard down, even for a second.
As they trudged uphill, he kept one hand on his little sister’s shoulder and another on the pillowcase he’d used as a makeshift pack. It was heavy with the fire axe from the Lucky Star, along with some sea charts and whatever else he’d scooped off the galley table in the dark. There hadn’t been time to pick and choose. They’d taken whatever they could before the boat was swept away. Everything else was lost.
Meanwhile, the cold wind off the Pacific seemed to cut right through his soaking-wet clothes. He couldn’t stop shivering—and neither could Jane. If there was any good news, it was that the ground had started to level off underfoot. That meant they were getting close.
Sure enough, with the next flash of lightning, Carter saw just ahead a familiar rock wall and the arched black opening of the cave itself. It was huge, maybe two stories high and wide enough for a truck to turn around inside. It wouldn’t be any warmer in there, but at least it would be dry.
“Straight ahead! Did you see that?” he shouted.
No one answered, but they all picked up their pace. The small beam of Vanessa’s flashlight led the way across the last twenty yards of flat muddy ground.
As they passed under the rock overhang and into the cave’s entrance, Carter felt the rain lighten to a sprinkle, then down to nothing at all. Finally, a break. Vanessa, Jane, and Buzz all sank to the ground, heaving for breath in the dark.
“Keep going!” Carter said. The wind was still bad at the front of the cave. There was no sense stopping now.
“Give us a second,” Vanessa told him.
“Just a little farther,” Carter said. “It’s freezing right here!”
“Um . . . you guys?” Jane said.
“It’s freezing everywhere. Calm down!” Vanessa said. Even now, she had to be the boss. It was like she couldn’t help it.
“You calm down!” Carter snapped, just before Jane cut them both off.
“You guys—listen!” she said, louder than before. The urgency in her voice was unmistakable.
“What is it?” Buzz asked.
“There’s something in here,” Jane said.
Carter ducked his head to listen. The rain outside poured down, but the sounds in the cave seemed to bounce off one another and amplify. And that’s when he heard it. A soft rustling of some kind was coming from deeper inside. Something was moving around back there. It sent a fresh wave of goose bumps down his arms.
“Everyone get up . . . slowly,” he said. “Vanessa, you got the light?”
“Got it,” she said. She’d turned off the flashlight to save the batteries, but she clicked it back on now. The beam shook unsteadily as she played it across the cave walls.
Then, before the light could show them anything, a piercing scream broke out of the darkness. For a split second, Carter thought it was Jane—but she was right there next to him. The sound was farther away than that. And in fact, he realized, it hadn’t been a human voice at all. It was an animal.
He and Vanessa looked at each other.
“Run!” Vanessa shouted.
As she turned to go, she tripped and fell. The flashlight dropped out of her hand. In the next moment they were all thrown into inky pitch blackness—just as Carter spotted the shadow of something on four legs bolting straight at them from the back of the cave.
And behind it were several others, all screaming as they came.
Something big slammed into Jane as it ran past her in the dark. It sent a shock wave of pain through her arm. Her hand slipped out of Carter’s, and she spun around as she fell, scraping her knees and palms over the rocky ground.
“Carter!” she yelled.
“Jane? Where are you?”
It was impossible to see through the darkness, much less to try to reach her brother. The stampede of beasts—whatever they were—pounded all around them now. Jane could feel their feet thudding on either side of her. She tried to crawl away toward the wall on one side just as one of them raced by. She then moved in the opposite direction, only to be knocked to the ground a second time. There was nowhere to go. All she could do was curl into a ball with her knees drawn up tight, and hope not to get completely trampled.
The worst part was the noise. Even with her hands over her ears, it filled Jane’s head—a humanlike, squealing sound straight out of a horror movie. It seemed to go on and on, echoing off the cave walls and high ceiling. She let out a scream of her own, but it only mixed in with the others until she couldn’t hear herself at all.
Then, as quickly as it had begun, the sounds faded. The thudding feet grew softer. The squealing came from outside now, and trailed off into the night.
Jane’s heart was still pounding when she moved her hands away from her ears and tried to look around.
“Carter?” she said again. “Vanessa? Buzz?”
“I’m here,” Carter answered. He was closer than she’d realized. Somehow that made her feel a little better. “Is everyone okay?”
“I’m okay,” Buzz said, though his voice sounded shaky.
“Me, too,” Vanessa answered. Jane could sense them all crawling toward her, feeling their way, but it was impossible to see.
“Where’s the flashlight?” she asked.
A few soft clicking noises came from nearby. And then, “I think it’s broken,” Vanessa answered.
This wasn’t like any darkness Jane had ever experienced at home. Not like when she turned off her bedside light to go to sleep at night. At least then, you could see your hand in front of your face. Here, the only comfort at all came from the sound of the others’ voices. As soon as Carter found her, she wrapped her arms around him and held on tight. She squeezed her eyes shut in the dark, trying to cut off the tears, but they wouldn’t stop. After everything that had just happened, it was hard not to wonder, What else? What next?
Vanessa and Buzz were close behind. They clustered in tightly now with Carter and Jane. All four of them were still shaking badly.
“What were those things, anyway?” Carter asked.
“Wild boars,” Jane answered. “That’s what they had to be.”
She’d seen pictures of them back home, and even a video about boar hunting in the South Pacific. The boars were like wild pigs, big and strong with tusks and sharp teeth. It was lucky none of them had been hurt, or completely trampled. Jane shivered with the thought of what could have happened.
“They were probably trying to get out of the storm, too,” she said. “I’ll bet we took their spot.”
“What if they want it back?” Buzz asked.
“Let’s hope they don’t,” Carter answered. There wasn’t much to say to that. All they could really do now was stick close together, wait for daylight, and hope for the best.
As Jane hunkered in with the others, teeth chattering in the dark, wet clothes sticking to her skin, it all started to sink in. These last three days on the island had been the worst of her life, by far. The worst of any of their lives. They’d barely had enough food, and they’d practically killed themselves finding water. So far, there had been no sign of rescue, and no way of knowing if help was coming anytime soon. Or at all. It had been just the four of them living alone on the wreck of the Lucky Star.
Now even the boat was gone, along with the last of their food and almost everything else they’d had on board. All of which could mean only one thing. Their lives here were about to get harder.
Much, much harder.
The rain stopped sometime just before dawn.
Buzz was the first to notice. It was the sound that changed. The wind died down first, and then the steady drumbeat of the rain itself. Finally, the darkness lifted, and the shape of the cave’s mouth started to show in the very earliest morning light.
Carter, Vanessa, and Jane were sitting with their heads drooped, half awake. None of them had slept, not really, but they didn’t seem ready to get up and move yet, either.
Still, nature called. Buzz had been holding on for what felt like hours. After the run-in with the boars, who knew what else might be waiting out there?
But the rocks dug into his back no matter how he sat, and his damp clothes had kept him shivering through the night. It was crazy how cold it got here after dark, considering how hot it was during the day. He’d never been this cold in his life, not even during the worst Chicago winters back home.
Finally, he got up, stretched his aching body, and stepped outside.