Hot on the heels of the New York Times bestsellers The Twin and The Lake, the undisputed queen of YA thrillers is back.
Don't be afraid. Be terrified.
It’s just a stupid meme that’s going around their small fishing town in the dead of winter—people reposting and sharing their biggest fear. But when her classmates start turning up dead—dying in the way that they said scared them the most—Izzy knows it’s no joke.
With each death hitting closer to home, Izzy sets out to try to stop the killer. Could her older sister’s friend Tristan have something to do with the deaths? He’s given her some strange vibes. Or what about his brooding cousin, Axel? But he’s in her classes at school. He’s not a murderer . . . is he? Izzie’s soon on a path that will lead her right to the killer . . . and her own worst nightmare.
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About the Author
Visit Natasha online and follow @AuthorNPreston on Twitter and @authornatashapreston on Instagram.
Read an Excerpt
Snow coats the ground like a fluffy blanket. It looks beautiful, like thousands of tiny crystals that glisten in the sun. But it also conceals what could be underneath.
Last winter it took two months—until the snow finally melted—to find my neighbor’s dead dog. Two full months that little terrier had been lying there, just yards from their front door.
Anything could be lurking under the snow.
We have a couple of months left of freezing conditions, but the air has been warming. Not quite enough to make the snow melt or stop it from falling, but just enough so that I don’t feel like I’m being punched in the lungs every time I step outside.
I walk to my car and immediately blast the heat. The roads are clear, as they’re plowed regularly, giving the impression that they’ve been carved out of the ten inches of snow that frames them.
More storms are in the forecast.
The sun is up, but gray clouds stop it from making an appearance. January is perpetual nighttime in our little fishing town. When my car is warm, I flick the lights on and back out of the driveway. Luckily, my dad shoveled yesterday, or I’d be late to school.
I better get accepted into Florida State. No more freezing air, no more winter coats and woolly hats, and no more wondering if there’s anything dead under the snow.
My sister, Lia, escaped to college in North Carolina last year, and she’s enjoying the warmer climate—and the food—immensely.
It’s senior year, and I still haven’t gotten Justin Rae to notice that I exist or told my best friend, Sydney—Syd—that I don’t really like going to parties, the mall, or any other place she drags me to.
We’re supposed to be going to Mariella Whitmore’s party tonight. Rich girl, wants to marry a billionaire, says “like” a lot—you know the type.
Lia calls me a shadow person because I follow silently and never stick up for myself.
I’d be offended if it weren’t completely true.
My car rumbles as I pull into the parking lot. I park in the same spot as always, Lia’s old one.
I check myself out in the visor mirror. My complexion is fair, clear skin and rosy cheeks that I’m so grateful for, because I’m terrible at applying makeup. My hair is naturally wavy, which suits me just fine, because I prefer to sleep in rather than waking early to style it. I have the same hazel eyes as my sister, though my left eye has a ton of green specks. Syd says it’s cool, and I’ve grown to like it.
I close the mirror and grab my backpack.
Rock Bay High has been my home for the last three and a half years. The town used to be named Rock Bass Bay, but they dropped the “Bass” years ago in an attempt to sound less fishy. Now we sound much cooler than we are.
It didn’t help, though. Thanks to bigger ports in the state, this still isn’t a town you come to unless you live here.
“Izzy!” Syd says, pulling my car door open as if it’s on fire. Frozen air hits me instantly. “What took you so long?”
Startled, I look at the time on my dash. “I’m actually earlier than—”
“Forget it. Have you heard? Justin dumped Gemma. He’s back on the market!”
That would be awesome news if I had even a hint of a shot with him.
“I don’t care,” I tell her.
“Sure you don’t.” She rolls her incredible sage eyes and scrolls her phone.
Syd’s tall, has smooth, dark skin, full lips, stunning shoulder-length curls, and the biggest smile. We’ve been inseparable since freshman year.
“You should go for it, Iz.”
Justin has never given me a second glance with his pretty green eyes.
She gasps as if she’s just remembered something. “Hey, have you seen this? It’s everywhere right now.”
She shoves her screen in my face as I get out of the car. I blink and rear my head back. “Well, I can’t see it from three inches in front of my face, can I?” I push the phone back.
“A new meme? A game? Fear what? What am I looking at, Syd?”
There’s a picture of a frozen red rose on a snowy dock. Some of the petals have broken off and are scattered around it. Text sits over the image:
REPOST WITH YOUR DEATH FEAR!
If death came for you today, what would be the worst way to go? #thefear
“That’s not at all creepy—wait, is this a picture of our dock?” I look over my shoulder in the direction of the port, though school is nowhere near it. Then I look back at the picture. Yeah, it definitely is. The wooden post behind the flower looks just like the one at Puck’s, the local diner. It even has the initials of the owner, Matthew, and a hockey puck carved into it.
No wonder everyone around here is going extra crazy for this challenge. They think someone we know created it.
“That’s totally what I thought! Must be someone around here trying to go viral. How lame,” she replies.
“They didn’t leave their name. Looks like the original post comes from Janie Dow. Nice play on Jane Doe there. How long before this is flagged?”
She shakes her head and takes her phone back as we walk into school. “Who do you think it is? It screams high school, right?”
I shrug. “Probably someone who goes here.”
Inside, it stinks like cleaning products and the repressed scent of feet. Our hockey team trains daily, and the smell proves it. So do all the shiny trophies from the glory days in the trophy cabinet.
Rock Bay High is big on hockey. RBH Blade Rockies banners hang above almost every door, with the sharkiest-looking Rock Bay logo I have ever seen.
Justin is captain of the team and insists on working harder so we have a shot at winning . . . anything this year. We actually might with him and Kason Risby leading.
I glance down the hall and notice that almost everyone is staring at their phones and muttering to each other. That’s not about this meme, right?
“What’s your fear? Wait, I know this. It’s suffocating, right?” Syd asks, tapping on her phone as we weave between crowds of students.
“Yep,” I reply. “And yours is being stabbed to death, a million times, like in a horror movie.”
“I don’t like pain, and that has to be such a painful way to go, right? I heard drowning is peaceful.”
I bark a laugh.
Peaceful. The only peaceful way to go is in your sleep. That’s what I’m hoping for—when I’m old and gray.
I can’t believe I’m even thinking about this.
“Fire would be an awful way to go, too,” Syd adds.
“I thought social media was where people went to brag about their perfect lives.”
Syd links her arm with mine as we walk to homeroom. “That’s so yesterday, Izzy. Keep up. Now it’s all about challenges and serial killers.”
“I’m not eating Tide Pods.”
“That should be your death fear, Iz.”
“Stupid people on TikTok or ingesting chemicals?”
She laughs as we enter the classroom.
“No way is being shot in the head worse than drowning,” Kason says loudly, as if he wants the entire school’s attention, and flicks his dark hair. He laughs and thumps Justin playfully on his muscular arm.
They’re a good duo. Every guy wants to be them, and every girl wants to date them. Isn’t that what they say? I’m sure that’s what Kason thinks. He’s a cocky asshole who’s relying solely on hockey to get him into college.
Syd and I take seats at our usual desks.
Justin is . . . different. All right, he’s super sure of himself and popular, but I’ve never heard of him treating anyone badly. He is a serial dater like Kason, though.
Another reason why I wouldn’t go there even if I had a chance: I think he averages about three months with a girl and then moves on. Still, it’s longer than Kason’s three hours.
I’m in agreement with Kason on this one, though: drowning would be worse than getting shot.