“A stunning new fantasy where legend and reality come together in the form of a deadly mystery, where every page simmers with danger, magic, myth, and romance.”
Sarah Glenn Marsh, author of Reign of the Fallen
Seventeen-year-old Annabeth prefers the fantasy of her books and paintings to realitybecause in reality, her mom is dead, and it was all her fault. She vows to make her dad’s life easier in return. But upon accompanying him to his friends' secluded manor, he goes missing in the woods.
Annabeth suspects the manor’s heir Griffin knows more about the disappearance than he’s letting on. He’s irritable, removed, and he’s under police investigation for the mysterious “accidents” happening at his family’s estate.
Annabeth fears her father isn’t lost, but rather a victim of something sinister. She launches her own investigation, tracing clues that whisper of myth and legend and death, until she stumbles upon a secret. One that some would die to protect, others would kill to exposeand which twists Annabeth’s fantasy and reality together in deadly new ways.
|Publisher:||Page Street Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.50(d)|
|Age Range:||14 Years|
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It had been three years, two months, and six days since I'd accidentally killed my mother. Hers was the last funeral I'd been to, and I wasn't sure I could make it through another one, let alone two.
My hand shook on the door handle of Dad's sedan as I stared up at the church looming at the top of the hill.
"Annabeth," Dad said, the tell-tale staccato seeping in between the syllables of my name, as it did whenever he was worried, "are you sure you want to do this?"
I was sure I didn't want to go his friends' funerals, but Dad needed me, and ever since Mom died I'd promised myself I would do everything I could to make his life easier. Nodding, I forced a smile, hoping it masked how I really felt: like a hollowed-out pumpkin.
"You have nothing to prove," Dad said. "Just say the word and I can drop you back off at your dorm."
Oh, how I wanted to say yes.
After a stretch at McLean psychiatric hospital, my doctor and Dad both thought I was doing better — back in school, able to focus and be "present." Yet the tightness in my chest had increased with each passing mile that brought me farther from my safety zone. Now, I would be with people who knew everything about me; I couldn't hide behind my books or my paintings. But I pushed aside my worries and wrapped myself in the blanket of numbness I'd worn since the night Mom died.
"I'll be fine," I said, trying to convince us both as I climbed out of the car. "I know how much Malcolm and Sarah meant to you."
I had spent many summers and holidays at their house, Bradford Manor, along with the other Magellans — members of the Magellan club that Dad had belonged to in college, which was dedicated to investigating myths, legends, and unsolved mysteries. Every time I'd been there, Mom had been with us. I tried not to think about the memories that would be waiting for me around every corner.
"It just seems so ironic and sad that for all the traveling the Magellans did to exotic places, Malcolm and Sarah drowned in the lake right behind their house. An accident at home, just like Aunt Kathy and Uncle Paul."
"Tragic is what it is." Dad gave my hand a squeeze as we walked up the stone steps. "Thanks for coming. It helps more than you know. And Richard and Griffin can't wait to see you."
Since Griffin's parents were now dead, his uncle, Richard, was stuck raising a teen alone, just like Dad. "The last time I saw them was at Bradford Manor when I was about thirteen."
Dad closed his eyes, his face softening at the memory. "That was a great weekend. The whole gang was there, all of us Magellans, and your mom, of course. You and Griffin had a ball."
Griffin Bradford was a year older than me, and him I remembered. Clearly. He was bratty and incredibly irritating. When he discovered I was terrified of spiders, he snuck into my room and shook a jar of them into my bed. My shoulders squirmed just thinking about it.
Dad took a deep, steadying breath as he opened the door to the church. Since he'd gotten lost along the way — no big surprise there — we were late, so we slipped into a pew in the back where I could tune out most of what was going on.
The burial was a different matter. I had to force myself to get out of the car, force my legs to walk, force myself forward, when all I wanted to do was turn around and go home.
But even home was no longer a sanctuary. After Mom died, it became a memory-filled house with no heart and just another reminder that I couldn't go back, yet I couldn't seem to move forward. This in-between world was like living in purgatory.
As I followed Dad down the meandering path to the burial site, I wrapped my blazer tightly around myself and rubbed each of the seventeen charms on what had been my mother's bracelet. I hoped the ritual would calm my frayed nerves. It didn't. The closer we came to the dark wooden caskets, the more it felt as if I were walking in quicksand. Stopping, I told Dad I was going to hang in the back while he said hello to Richard and Griffin.
Griffin was far from the gangling kid I remembered. I stared at his profile: a cleft chin, sharp cheeks, and full red lips. If it weren't for his familiar crooked nose, I might not have even recognized him. His suit was pulled taut across his broad shoulders, his body tense as he stood rigidly gazing down at the caskets. He glanced back and stared at me with bloodshot eyes.
Shuddering, I took a step back on the soft spring grass, and then another, and another, until my view was blocked by a flowering pear tree. Two police officers hovered in the back with me, their eyes trained on Griffin.
"Terrible, isn't it?" Startled, I turned and saw a girl about my age with wild red curls and bright purple glasses.
I nodded. "Just awful."
"Are you family?" she asked.
"No." My voice was cracked and dry. "Good family friends. You?"
She shook her head. "I knew Dr. and Mr. Bradford from the hospital, and I used to know Griffin. No one's seen him much since they got back from Europe a couple of years ago — except for now, since his face is splashed all over the newspapers. Not that anyone minds staring at that face."
"Why is he in the papers?"
"You haven't heard?" She pulled her curls behind her ears and leaned in conspiratorially. "Who goes for a boat ride at one in the morning on a cold rainy night? My father's the sheriff" — she jerked her head toward the older policeman — "and he's sure that Griffin knows more about his parents' so-called accident than he's letting on. Griffin may be named a suspect."
No one could fake the grief I saw in Griffin's face, no one. "But my father said the coroner ruled their deaths an accidental drowning."
She quirked an eyebrow. "That doesn't mean it was one. Summer's the busy season around here; an open double homicide investigation isn't good for home sales or business. But the Bradfords were worth millions and Griffin inherited everything. Dad doesn't trust him."
I hadn't seen Griffin since he was fourteen, but the boy I had known adored his parents. How much could he have changed in four years? I swallowed a bitter laugh. I knew the answer to that all too well. Plenty. I barely recognized the girl I used to be — she was long gone. I knew that Dad thought I'd be "cured" when I went back to the before me, but Dr. Harrington said that wasn't how things worked and that I needed to stop comparing myself to her. Easier said than done. That me was fun, outgoing, strong. I am her foil, in every way. Even I liked her better.
The girl practically knocked me over when she whipped around to see what the police were doing. "Sorry! I'm Holly by the way, but I gotta go. Dad's talking to Deputy Clarke, and I want to know what's going on."
"Why does it matter to you?"
"I intend to find out what happened to the Bradfords. They were really good to me. When Mom had cancer, we couldn't afford the experimental treatments, but Dr. Bradford made sure everything was paid for."
"I'm so sorry about your mother."
"Oh, she's fine now. In remission."
Holly's tone was light, as if her mother had chicken pox. It made me want to shake her. "She's lucky. And so are you."
She let out a hollow laugh. "Yeah, real lucky. Apparently along with her new lease on life came an epiphany — she didn't want to be stuck in the boonies saddled to a policeman who worked long hours. So now I see her and her new husband — her oncologist, by the way — every other weekend."
What I'd give for every other weekend.
Holly handed me a card with her name, cell phone number, and title: Investigative Journalist, Laketown Daily News. "Call if you want to talk, or if you think of anything."
"You're a reporter?"
"An intern, at least for now. All I need is my big break — and this case could be it," she said with a gleam in her eyes.
I wasn't sure what to make of Holly, but the scales were definitely tipping away from like. Since I'd probably never see her again, and I didn't want to be rude, I shoved the card in my pocket, knowing I'd never call her.
Once the burial was over, I headed for the Dunkin' Donuts across the street while the police roved around Griffin, Dad, and his friends — the four remaining Magellans. I thought about the four who had died — along with Mom — and a cold shiver scuttled down my spine.
* * *
By the time I emerged with my coffee, Dad was waiting by the sedan. "You drink too much coffee. Although, if that's all I have to complain about, I guess I should consider myself lucky."
My smile faded as I slid into the passenger seat. As if that was all Dad had to complain about. He never blamed me for Mom's death — not once. Sometimes I wished he would.
I took a long sip of my coconut iced coffee while Dad drove through town and turned onto a twisting country road, singing the wrong words to an Eagles song on the classic rock station and stealing anxious looks at me when he thought I wasn't looking. Not for the first time, I felt like an exotic animal at the zoo.
"We've been driving for over half an hour. Shouldn't we be at Bradford Manor by now?" I could've sworn we'd already passed that BRAKE FOR MOOSE sign. "I think we're going in circles."
Dad shook his head. "I'm sure this is the right way."
"I'll just double-check." I picked up his phone, but it was dead. "Where's the portable charger I gave you for your birthday?"
Leaning over, Dad ran a hand through his thick sandy brown hair and absentmindedly patted down his cowlick. He was in definite need of a haircut. Of course, that would require leaving the house. "I could have sworn I put it right there."
I fished around the middle console — it was stuffed full of papers, gum wrappers, change, a broken garage door opener, and assorted sticky notes with reminders to get gas or go to an appointment or buy dog food despite the fact that Argos had died a few months before Mom — until I finally found it.
"You should have veered left a few miles back."
Sighing, Dad made a U-turn.
We crossed a bridge that straddled foaming water and drove deeper into the forest while dusk settled in all around us. Ancient trees stood like sentinels, blocking out the light from the star-strewn sky. Branches and vines crept into the dirt road, making it even narrower, as if it was closing in on us. I took a deep breath and dismissed the unsettled feeling that was slithering like a snake in the pit of my stomach, reminding myself that we weren't traveling to a haunted house but to Bradford Manor, where I had spent many weekends.
The road ended in front of an elaborately-carved black iron gate. Attached to a stone column were three signs:
"Real welcoming," I muttered. If the signs had been there before, I hadn't noticed.
Dad pressed the intercom button recessed into the column.
"Is that finally you, Sam? We were about to send a search party."
Dad waved at the security camera. "Sorry. We got lost."
As we drove up an incline, the vista completely transformed: The woods receded, and acres of lawns and gardens spread out before us. In front of the clapboard mansion replete with turrets and multiple stone chimneys was an elaborate alabaster fountain, and behind it was a lake glistening in the moonlight. It wasn't quite the fairy-tale castle of my childhood memory, but it was close.
Richard ushered us into a cavernous foyer. He was thinner than I remembered, with receding salt-and-pepper hair, but he still had a warm smile and kind dark blue eyes. He pulled me into a hug, telling me how sorry he was about Mom. Richard, along with the Bradfords, had been on a remote island when she died, so they never came to the services. Not that I would have remembered either way, since I fainted three words into Dad's eulogy.
"How's Griffin holding up?" Dad asked.
Richard scrubbed a hand across the back of his neck. "Not good. I've been a doting uncle his entire life, but I'm not prepared to be a stand-in parent. I've read a dozen books on parenting and grieving, but to tell the truth, I don't know what the hell I'm doing. I owe it to my sister to get this right ... I just wish I knew how."
Dad gave Richard a knowing smile and patted his shoulder. "I'm sure you're doing fine."
I cleared my throat, wishing I was somewhere — anywhere — else.
"Annabeth was accepted at her school's summer art program." Dad beamed at me. "So I can spend as much time here as you need."
"Thanks, Sam. I'll take you up on that. Griffin's been very emotional, so don't be surprised by his behavior."
As if any teenage behavior could surprise Dad at this point.
"But he's really looking forward to seeing you both."
I was sure that was only half true, but I followed behind Richard and Dad nonetheless, my Keds squeaking on the polished marble. We passed a study and a dining room with a table that could easily seat twenty, before coming to a large but cozy combination kitchen/family room that was exactly as I remembered: white cabinets and a driftwood backsplash Mom had painted with mermaids, sea monsters, and whales. I smiled sadly as I remembered eating breakfast on the bluestone patio beyond the French doors with all the Magellans and their kids, playing chase around the kitchen island and doing puzzles at the oversized pine coffee table. Without the others, the house felt ominously quiet.
Griffin, along with Camila and Jack — the other surviving Magellans — came in from the patio. Griffin had always been tall, but now he had six inches on me. I reached up to give him a hug, telling him how sorry I was, and his back stiffened beneath my hands.
As soon as Griffin pulled away, Jack had his arms around me. "So good to see you, darlin'!" he exclaimed in his Texas drawl. He hadn't changed a bit since the last time I saw him, though now I was about his height. He was still stocky, with brown hair and an easy smile.
Camila, on the other hand, looked like she had aged ten years — her skin was sallow, and her purple-black hair had lost some of its luster. She pulled me into a tight hug. "Annabeth! Look at you! You are the spitting image of your mother."
I flinched, although I was used to it. Everyone said I looked like Mom. We had the same blue-gray eyes, wavy dark hair, seemingly too many teeth for our mouth, and a ski-jump nose (as we had called it) that turned up a bit too much at the end.
"Are the boys still in Cuba? They posted some great pictures," I said.
"No, it was just a short trip to visit their abuela. They wanted to come, but they're both doing the summer session at Tulane," Camila answered.
Richard shook his head. "I still can't believe they're in college. Griffin will be going this fall — and next year it will be you, Annabeth. I still remember the kids all running along the beach in their diapers. Seems like it was yesterday."
I didn't remember that. I did, however, remember Griffin chasing after me, wagging a dead fish in his hand that resulted in me slipping off the dock, cutting myself on a rusty nail, and getting a tetanus shot. Thanks to him, I can add trypanophobia — fear of needles and injections — to my list of medical conditions.
"I can't believe you're the same skinny girl who was so adventurous — always climbing something and off exploring. I was looking through old photos" — Richard chuckled — "and in every one you're bruised or bandaged. You drove your poor mother crazy!" He caught himself too late. We all stood there, surrounded by an awkward silence that screamed.
"Anyway, I'm so grateful to have all of you with us during this difficult time," Richard continued, a quaver in his voice. "My dearest friends, I just wish we didn't keep meeting at funerals."
Leaning against the wall to steady myself, I regretted not returning to school when I'd had the chance. I wasn't sure how I was going to survive the next few days. I glanced at Griffin, who was clenching and unclenching his hands, and noticed three of his fingers were partially amputated. None of the cuts were straight, and each finger was of a different length. I wondered when in the last four years that had happened — and how.
It occurred to me that I didn't really know Griffin, not anymore. A lot could happen in four years — I knew that all too well. There must be some reason the sheriff didn't trust him, some reason the police might name him a suspect.
I didn't like the idea of Dad spending a lot of time at Bradford Manor.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Uncharted"
Copyright © 2018 Erin Cashman.
Excerpted by permission of Page Street Publishing Co..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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