Monday, March 22, 2021

Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas ~ Excerpt & Giveaway

Lost in the Never Woods
Aiden Thomas
Published by: Feiwel & Friends
Publication date: March 23rd 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

When children go missing, people want answers. When children go missing in the small coastal town of Astoria, people look to Wendy for answers.

It’s been five years since Wendy and her two brothers went missing in the woods, but when the town’s children start to disappear, the questions surrounding her brothers’ mysterious circumstances are brought back into light. Attempting to flee her past, Wendy almost runs over an unconscious boy lying in the middle of the road, and gets pulled into the mystery haunting the town.

Peter, a boy she thought lived only in her stories, claims that if they don’t do something, the missing children will meet the same fate as her brothers. In order to find them and rescue the missing kids, Wendy must confront what’s waiting for her in the woods.

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Detective James turned back to Wendy and her mother. He clasped his hands in front of him, holding the small notepad and pen. Now the two detectives were mirrors of each other. Towering sentinels staring down at her.

“It was about five years ago that you and your brothers went missing, is that correct, Wendy?” Detective James asked.

Mrs. Darling inhaled a sharp breath. The hairs on Wendy’s arms prickled.

He said it so nonchalantly, as if Wendy didn’t go through life carrying the burden of what had happened each and every day. As if it weren’t a stain on her childhood, a family curse that they never spoke a word of.

As if it were nothing.

“Y-yes,” Wendy croaked.

“According to the original police reports, you, your brothers—John and Michael—and your pet dog went missing from your backyard on the night of December twenty-third.” Detective James spoke slowly as he watched her. “I believe you were twelve, John was ten, and Michael was seven?” He said it like a question, but it was clear he knew all of the details by heart. Not once did he glance at his notes. “Only your dog returned from the woods that day, and they found blood on her fur.”

Michael’s blood.

Wendy’s stomach gave a nauseated lurch.

Her mother was still as a statue, her face nearly as pale. “Officer Smith told us they had search parties combing through the logging roads and the woods, but nothing showed up. That is, until six months later when a park ranger found you in the woods. He said you were standing under a tree, looking up and not moving.” She felt frozen under his steady gaze. “He tried to get you to move but you didn’t respond, so he carried you out and called the police.” Detective James finally looked down at his notebook.

Wendy felt like she was watching a movie. One of the British procedurals her mother liked to watch. What did this have to do with Peter?

She wasn’t brave enough to simply ask.

“You had some minor cuts and bruises, but no major injuries,” Detective James went on, thumbing lazily through pages of his notes, not actually reading them. “The most pertinent things of note were that you had no recollection of what had happened during those six months, that parts of your clothing had been patched with natural materials native to tropical climates but nowhere in Oregon”—he paused for a moment—“and that there were traces of your brothers’ blood found under your fingernails.”

Wendy’s vision blurred. She barely registered that hot tears were trailing down her cheeks.

“Miss Darling,” Detective James said in a low, serious tone. “I’m sorry, but I have to ask you again: Do you remember anything that happened to you in those woods?”

A choked breath stuck in Wendy’s throat. She couldn’t remember, but whatever happened still lived in her bones. It hid tucked between her ribs and nestled in her spine, stirring on occasion. Her body remembered what her mind couldn’t. Wendy’s chin wobbled, a sour mix of embarrassment and fear twisting in her stomach. She pressed her lips between her teeth and tasted salt. She wanted to make some smart reply, to shut them down and get them to leave her alone, but she couldn’t come up with anything clever.

It was her mother who took a step forward. “What exactly is this all about, detectives?” She raised her voice, but the hand she held against her chest trembled. Her face was pinched, almost in a grimace, like she was bracing herself for impact. Like she already knew what they were going to tell her.

Detective James spoke in a rehearsed tone. “After the police officers you spoke to reported to the main department, they noted some connections between your daughter, the location of the incident, and the dates. They pulled some dead files, and we got called in.”

Dead files. Wendy shuddered. Mrs. Darling didn’t say anything.

“Mrs. Darling.” His tone was quieter now. “The material the boy was wearing matched the evidence collected from Wendy’s clothing five years ago.”


Author Bio:

Aiden Thomas is a New York Times Bestselling author with an MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College. Originally from Oakland, California, they now make their home in Portland, Oregon. As a queer, trans Latinx, Aiden advocates strongly for diverse representation in all media. Aiden’s special talents include: quoting The Office, winning Jenga, finishing sentences with “is my FAVORITE”, and killing spiders. Aiden is notorious for not being able to guess the endings of books and movies, and organizes their bookshelves by color.

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