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September 13, 2018

Read an Excerpt from UNCHARTED by Erin Cashman

Posted by TaylorT

In Erin Cashman's newest book, UNCHARTED, 17-year-old Annabeth prefers the fantasy of her books and paintings to reality --- because 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 expose.

In celebration of the novel's release last week, we are sharing an exclusive excerpt below: 

Maine, 2017

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—all 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. That was the last time we were all together.”
Griffin Bradford was a year older than me, and him I remembered. Clearly. He was bratty and incredibly irritating. When he discovered that I was terrified of spiders, he snuck into my room and shook a jar of them into my bed. I squirmed my shoulders 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 that 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 Doctor 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. Brad- ford 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 police- man 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 and Dad and his friends—the four remaining Magellans—who stood huddled together, deep in conversation. I thought about the four who had died—along with Mom—and a cold shiver scuttled down my spine.
Excerpted from UNCHARTED Copyright © 2018 by Erin Cashman. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.