Authors: Katlyn Duncan
One desperate journey for the truth
Returning to Willow Lake eleven years after her mother’s tragic death, Sloane Baker knows she will finally get the answers she needs! She always suspected that there was something more sinister at the heart of the accident that claimed her mother’s life, but a cryptic note could be the key to her past…
Two lives changed forever
The small town has always seemed safe to Brianna Taylor – until a mysterious new girl arrives who looks
like Bri! Now everything Bri knew has been thrown into question and Sloane’s arrival has changed the world of Willow Lake forever.
Strange things are happening in Willow Lake. But when they turn deadly, Bri and Sloane must find a way to save each other or risk losing everything they hold dear…
‘The epitome of a summertime read.’
Rather Be Reading
‘Fans of sweet romances and light reads will flock to cheer on Hadley and Will’s romance blossom.’
Pretty Little Pages
‘I definitely recommend
if you are looking for a great romance but that’s not completely light and fuzzy. The writing is fantastic and the romance PERFECT <3’
Lose Time Reading
‘I really loved this book from the beginning to the very end. It was a book that you couldn’t put down because you wanted to see if this couple would ever get together and fall in love.’ 4.5 stars from
Once Upon a Twilight
really reminded me of Colleen Hoover’s
that I loved and even though it wasn’t as intense, the writing itself was incredible.’
Spiced Latte Reads
was a sweet best-friends romance with a large dose of drama. It is an ideal summer read.’
‘Katlyn Duncan’s YA debut,
, is a thrilling ride that will leave you breathless for the next page, and curious to find the true soul we nurture within.’ Jennifer Murgia, author of the
Between These Lines
‘Wow! Talk about a completely unique concept with tons of new ideas, roles, and characters that took me on an exhilarating adventure.’ 4.5 stars from
I ♥ Bookie Nookie Reviews
is a BRILLIANT read! … This is one of those books to look out for.’ 5 stars from
A Diary of a Book Addict
The Life After
grew up in a small town in New England, but her head was always in the clouds. She wanted to travel and see the world but was happy enough to write her own characters and live through them. Katlyn started writing at a young age and never really stopped. Even if she wasn’t writing a novel or a movie script, she was jotting down ideas in her journal or on post-it notes. She never thought (even though she dreamed) they would lead to actually becoming published someday. One of her proudest moments was winning $50 for a writing contest in sixth grade. And Katlyn bought her very own television with it. In that same grade, one of her most influential teachers taught her that reading was an escape and she hopes she can bring that to her readers as well.
Katlyn currently lives in lower New England, a quick train ride to New York City, with her husband and adorable wheaten terrier in a Victorian fixer-upper.
I promised myself I’d never step foot in Willows Lake for as long as I lived. Yet diesel fumes filled my nose as the coach bus roared away into the night. I squinted up at the bright lights of the gas station that served as the town bus stop. I tightened my grip on my backpack and touched my pocket, crinkling the paper hidden inside. It had become a compulsive habit ever since I received the letter several days ago, calling me back to the place that served as the setting for most of my nightmares.
The two men that I shared the final stretch of my journey with had already left. One of them got into a car seconds after we arrived and the other was on his way to the motel across the street.
My stomach growled. The last time I ate was five hours ago at the bus station. A vending-machine meal of trail mix and a soda.
My phone chirped from my back pocket.
A text lit up the screen,
R U there yet?
Amber. A quick companion at my newest school in Manhattan. She was the resident cynic and had just lost her clique after stealing her new boyfriend, Paul, from her best friend. I wasn’t picky when it came to friends. I usually had at least one in the short stretches of time before Dad and I picked up and left for another location, which was good enough for me.
I typed a response.
Have officially arrived in Hicksville, USA.
Keep me updated!
I checked the other text that had come in when I arrived. It was from Dad.
Just landed. Have fun with Amber. Don’t stay up too late. Love you.
Quick and to the point. That was Dad. He felt bad enough leaving me for days at a time, enough that for a while he’d bring me home gifts from airports around the world. But having a pilot for a dad wasn’t that bad. I rarely broke the rules, given that there weren’t many. The main rule being that I let him know where I am when I’m not home. It was a simple one.
Until I got the letter.
It had been Amber who convinced me to come to Willows Lake. I told her I had family history in the sleepy town in upstate New York. It wasn’t a complete lie, yet made me feel bad enough.
“You saved me from torture the past few months. The least I can do is lie to your dad,” she’d said.
The letter opened up old feelings for me that I’d locked away a long time ago. The real truth I’d searched for until Dad sent me to several doctors at a high cost to our family and bank accounts. After finding several past-due bills, I knew I had to figure something out. Eventually I said whatever they needed me to say to officially “get over” her death.
Something wet splashed across my cheek. I looked up at the thick clouds as more rain peppered my face. I looked both ways before crossing, not that there was another car in sight but the ritual had been burned into my brain by my mom from a very young age. I hustled across the street to the diner next to the motel. A fluorescent sign for “Willows Lake Diner” called to me.
I checked the gold watch on my wrist; it had been Mom’s. Other than in the shower, I never took it off.
A memory of the accident crept into my mind. This time I allowed it to linger. Mom was the reason I was here. The last time she came to Willows Lake, she returned in a body bag. A car accident with one casualty and one survivor.
More than once I’d wished she’d been the one to survive instead of me.
I clenched my jaw, shoving the memories down. I inhaled the cool, crisp air, allowing my lungs to fill to capacity. The burn gave me something to think about other than her. Thinking of Mom always made my mind spiral. Soon I’d know more, then the nightmares and questions would end and I might finally be at peace.
I opened the door to the diner. The scent of burnt coffee and mouth-watering bacon filled my nose. The windowed walls were lined with red booths sitting on black and white checkered tile. Although it was much cleaner than any of the dozens I’d been to at home, I imagined there weren’t too many patrons coming through. A punk couple sat in the corner booth, their black-liner eyes boring into one another’s. And one old man sat in the middle booth reading a newspaper. A rock song poured through the open window behind the counter. I held the door open for a guy throwing his hood over his head before heading out into the night.
“Are you going to just stand there and let the rain in?”
I glanced at the older woman who stood in front of me, hand on her hip and lipstick stains on her front teeth. She cracked her gum and raised one pencil-thin eyebrow. Her white, curly hair was pulled back from her face in a mess, reminding me of the fluffy bichon frise that lived next door.
I pulled off my hood and I let the door go. The bell above tinkled as it closed.
“Just one?” she asked.
I glanced behind me at the empty space and turned back to her. “Yeah.”
She pursed her lips, pulled a menu from the hostess stand, and walked to the closest booth. I tilted my head down, letting my hair move over my face like a curtain. I wanted to keep the lowest profile I could. I slid into the seat, my back facing the door.
She slapped the laminated menu onto the tabletop. “Coffee?”
I shook my head; I wanted to sleep tonight. “Water is fine. And a bacon cheeseburger. Medium-well. Ketchup on the side.”
The waitress took the menu and turned on her heel toward the kitchen. I waited until she returned with the glass of water. No ice. I curled my lip but said nothing. Instead, I gulped down half of the lukewarm water and slid down the booth until my back pressed against the edge.
A newscaster’s voice rose over the music from the kitchen. I glanced up at the television mounted to the corner. The volume bar at the bottom of the screen increased. The waitress walked toward the television, holding the remote in front of her. She clicked her tongue disapprovingly.
“—Another large animal has drowned in Willows Lake. The county Animal Control will be testing the water and all residents are encouraged to steer clear of the lake until further notice. This is the fourth animal to be found in the past six months. Now on to the weather…”
I tuned out the news as I took the letter from the inner pocket of my jacket. I recited the words to myself as I unfolded the crumpled paper. I’d spent the last two days folding and unfolding the paper as I read it over and over, still not comprehending what it promised.
I apologize for taking so long to get in contact with you. I’m so sorry about your mother. She was a friend of mine for some time.
I can imagine Willows Lake is the last place you want to think of but it is imperative that you return. Information about your mother’s accident has come to light and with your help I know we can give her the proper justice she deserves. You need to return by Friday, October 14. I have enclosed money for your travel and to compensate you for any inconvenience. This matter must be kept to yourself until all the information has been collected.
I’ll meet you at noon behind the cafeteria at Willows Lake High School. You can stay at the Willows Lake Motel.