Lies Like Wildfire
An intense high-stakes story about five friends and the deadly secret that could send their lives up in flames, perfect for fans of Karen McManus and E. Lockhart.
“Five fiery stars for this bingeable, edge-of-your-seat, twisty thriller.”—NATASHA PRESTON, New York Times bestselling author of The Lake
In Gap Mountain, California, everyone knows about fire season. And no one is more vigilant than 18-year-old Hannah Warner, the sheriff's daughter and aspiring FBI agent. That is until this summer. When Hannah and her best friends accidentally spark an enormous and deadly wildfire, their instinct is to lie to the police and the fire investigators.
But as the blaze roars through their rural town and towards Yosemite National Park, Hannah's friends begin to crack and she finds herself going to extreme lengths to protect their secret. Because sometimes good people do bad things. And if there’s one thing people hate, it’s liars.
An Excerpt fromLies Like Wildfire
Time: 11:10 a.m.
I’m not dressed to find a body. I’m wearing cutoffs and a thin white tank top. The mosquitoes are going to suck me dry, and my new Vans are going to get trashed. I’m dressed for summer, not for crawling around in the woods, searching for one of my best friends with a bunch of overcaffeinated volunteers.
I hope we don’t find her. I want Violet to be alive. We just graduated high school, and we’re going to college soon. Getting kidnapped or murdered or committing suicide, or whatever happened to her, was not scheduled for today. What was scheduled was shopping for bedding and other dorm supplies.
So no, I’m not dressed or prepared to find Violet Sandoval’s dead body. Besides that, I believe she was murdered, and I’d like to let that sleeping dog lie. Why? Well, why would anyone want a dead girl to stay missing? Because they don’t like her? Maybe (but not in this case). Because they want a shot at her boyfriend? Perhaps. Or because they helped kill her? Now that’s a reason. I just got out of the hospital, and I don’t know what happened to Violet and I don’t want to know.
Only one thing is certain: it all began with a flame.
Time: 12:15 p.m.
Five weeks earlier . . .
As I reach into my Jeep, I hear quick footsteps and feel the back of my bikini top snap against my skin. I whip around to see the gleeful face of Nathaniel James Drummer, my main best friend out of my four best friends, smiling at me from my driveway. I aim a kick at him. “What are you, twelve?”
He dances out of my striking range, cloaked as usual in faded jeans and a too-tight T-shirt. Grizzled, spiny trees surround us, rearing toward the sky, and a hot summer wind gusts off the Sierra Nevada mountains. “What’s in the bag?” he asks. “And you better not say homework.”
“It’s summer, idiot.” I snatch my backpack and sling it over my shoulder. I did make the long drive to the library to check out books on criminology, nothing wrong with getting a head start, but it isn’t technically homework—not until I leave for college.
Drummer eyeballs the heavy pack, and his smile deflates. “Come on, Han, don’t waste the time we have left reading.”
I laugh. “That’s exactly why I’m going to college and you’re not.” But when I meet his gaze, my stomach lightens. Drummer has no idea I fell in love with him in the sixth grade. It happened fast, like sliding off a cliff. One moment he was my sharp-kneed, slightly smelly best friend, and the next he was golden-skinned and handsome and a million miles out of my league. I cross my arms so he can’t see the gigantic Drummer-shaped hole in my chest. The thing about love is, unless your best friend falls too, you fall alone.
Drummer hooks his finger around a loop in my jeans and tugs me closer, his deep voice making my eardrums vibrate: “I came to get you. Everyone’s meeting up at the Gap for a swim. Want to go?”
“Yep, all the monsters. And Mo’s bringing beer.”
Our group—Mo (short for Maureen), Luke, Violet, Drummer, and me, Hannah—are the kids he’s referring to when he talks about the “monsters,” a nickname we received when we were seven years old.
It was at the community center. Our parents had signed us up for a low-budget daycare-in-disguise summer production of Where the Wild Things Are. The director asked who wanted to be a wild thing, and since none of us wanted to play the human, our hands shot into the air. After that, she called us simply the monsters, and we’ve been the monsters and best friends ever since.
I bump my hip against his. “Let’s ride the horses there.”
He and I have moved into the shade and are now leaning against my Jeep in the driveway. My bloodhound, Matilda, watches us from the family room window, her big ears cocked.
Temperatures will soar into the hundreds today, with afternoon winds blowing from the east. Humidity is at 11 percent and dropping. I know because Red Flag Warnings started pinging on my phone at 8:00 a.m. Drought caused an early fire season this year, and the electric company plans to shut off the power at noon. When you live in California, in a tinderbox called a forest, you know more than you ever wanted to about wildfires.
Drummer slits his eyes. “I’m not riding that colt that stomped on you.”
“Sunny didn’t stomp on me; he stepped on me. Not his fault he weighs a thousand pounds.”
“Another reason I’d rather not ride him.” His gaze shifts to the tank top covering my bikini, and his eyes burn straight through it. “You’re the only woman on this damn earth can get me on a horse, you know that?”
My voice falls an octave. “I know it.” Drummer flirts with everyone, it means nothing, but my stupid, traitorous heart soars when he looks at me like that.
His pretty blue eyes slide up to my face. “All right, Hannah Banana, have it your way.”
A half hour later, we’re saddled and on the trail. Drummer’s horse, my fourteen-year-old Appaloosa barrel racer named Pistol, hops at every shadow. “He’s bucking,” Drummer complains.
“That’s not bucking. Sit up and relax.” Drummer obeys and Pistol settles.
We emerge from the pines and there’s Gap Lake, a sapphire oval sunk in its mountain crown. Steep, unshaven peaks surround it, and the wind creates ripples that blow across the water, making it shimmer like wrinkled satin. Underground springs feed the Gap all summer, and rainwater and snowmelt replenish it in winter. Pine trees and noble firs surround the shoreline like undecorated Christmas trees.
The Gap is a pit, really, a hole full of fresh water with no shallow end, its sheer edge skidding straight down into a black abyss. Scientists say the lake was formed by shifting tectonic plates back in 480 CE. Ancient peoples claim that it was carved out during a volcanic battle between gods. The citizens of Gap Mountain don’t care how it came to be. We care that (according to new measurements) it has surpassed Lake Tahoe as the deepest lake in California, and we care that if you drown in the Gap, your body will never be recovered.
Violet spots us. “Over here,” she calls, waving.
Our group is sprawled on a piece of dusty shoreline we call “the beach,” the only area where you can climb out of the Gap. There are no other kids here, which means everyone else is at the river. Mo is digging into her hot/cold bag that I know will be filled with cut fruit, sandwiches, chips, homemade muffins or cookies, and beer, while Violet lounges on an oversized towel, humming a tune. I don’t see Luke.