Cover Reveal: THE WOLVES ARE WATCHING by Natalie Lund
Cover reveal time! The Wolves Are Watching by Natalie Lund is a compelling, and eerie exploration of small-town living, stolen children, and wolves that watch in the woods.
The night little Madison disappears from her crib, Luce sees a pair of eyes–two points of gold deep in the forest behind her house–and feels certain they belong to a wolf. Her town, Picnic, Illinois, is the kind of place where everyone knows one another and no one locks their doors. It’s not the kind of place where a toddler goes missing without a trace, where wolves lurk in the shadows.
In town, people are quick to blame Madison’s mom. But when Luce’s English teacher shares an original script about the disappearance of another little girl in Picnic back in 1870, Luce begins to notice similarities that she can’t ignore. Certain that something deeper is going on, Luce tracks the wolf she saw into the woods and uncovers the truth about her town: magical animal-women, who have remained hidden in shadows for centuries, have taken her cousin for their own purposes–and they have no intention of bringing her back.
Scroll down to see the cover and read an early excerpt!
Cover design: Kristin Boyle
Illustrator: Jenna Barton (IG: @dappermouth, Twitter: @dappermouth_art)
There are eyes in the woods.
Two points of gold beyond the blue reflection from the TV on our window panes and our dandelion-seeded lawn, glimmering among the shadowed trunks. The hairs rise on my arm, prickling with goosebumps. I drop the pencil I’m chewing, the marks of my teeth an ant march down the yellow paint, and punch down the couch pillows so I have a better view of our back yard.
“Mom, what’s that?” I ask. She’s at the kitchen sink, her hands submerged in soapy water. She had a late client at the salon while I swept up, and she hasn’t changed out of her work clothes yet: black clogs that look like nurses’ shoes, black pants, and a black button-down rolled to the elbows.
She glances out the window behind the sink. “What?”
“Those eyes.” I point.
“Probably tricks of light,” she says, but she stares hard at the woods, mouth open, her tongue resting on her bottom lip like when she concentrates on cutting someone’s hair. In the window reflection, I notice I’m doing the same. I close my mouth.
“What lights could possibly cause that?” I ask her.
She pulls open the dishwasher and plunks some silverware into the basket. “The porch lights, I suppose.”
“The porch lights aren’t on,” I point out.
“The TV, the moon, I don’t know, Luce.”
Her tone says she’s tired and to drop it, but the eyes are still there, almond-shaped and shining. My skin crawls with the sensation of being watched. No way they’re tricks of light. They are too yellow to be human and too close to the ground to be an owl’s. They belong to something large.
I grew up hearing all sorts of stories about the forest behind my house—hikers and their dogs disappearing without a trace, an escaped murderer from the local asylum scratching at campers’ tents, pretending to be a branch until the campers fell asleep. Fairies called Vila posing as forest animals, capturing men with their singing, and turning them into trees. But over the years, my best friend and next-door neighbor, Anders, and I have spent hours beneath its canopy within calling distance of our mothers in the summers and early falls. We used to imagine ourselves as talking foxes or warrior centaurs or sibling monarchs of a wooded kingdom. We built castles from fir boughs, complete with leaf moats and branch drawbridges. With the sun filtering through the leaves, we weren’t afraid.
Now, though . . .
Are you rehearsing? I text Anders. The fall play started a few weeks ago, and he was, unsurprisingly, cast as the lead—even though we’re only sophomores.
The three dots in a bubble appear, and I wait for his response. Affirmative, he writes, ever the nerd.
Look out your back window.
On it. What am I looking for?
You’ll know when you know, I write.
Cryptic. I like it. A minute passes. I don’t see anything, Anders texts.
Are you upstairs in your room?
Sure am. Why do you want to know? 😉
My cheeks warm. Our texts have been veering in this new direction lately, and I don’t know what to make of it, but my body has been responding with flushes and flutters. I take a breath and ignore it.
Look straight behind our house. Do you see yellow eyes?
No. But I can say I do if you want. You might need someone on your side when they come to take you to St. Anthony’s.
St. Anthony’s is Picnic’s only point of interest, a long-retired asylum that is now used for overpriced ghost tours. There’s a ghost in every empty patient room, according to the legends. Hell, St. Anthony’s is probably more populated than our entire town.
Anders and I have walked the yellowing hallways countless times, and he will begrudgingly admit that, once, we heard the Wailer—the ghost that cries for her missing child. Just remembering that keening sound, high-pitched and echoing down the corridors, makes my stomach feel like I’m on a roller coaster about to drop.
Thanks so much, I text. Super helpful.
As always, my pleasure.
I put down the phone and sit up straighter on the couch. Maybe his room is at the wrong angle to see them. Or maybe a tree is blocking his line of sight.
“What about you?” I ask Giblet, our white French bulldog, who is asleep, curled in her bed by the fridge. “Do you see them?” She loves to chase all manner of wildlife creatures, but she glances at me and sighs like she can’t believe I woke her for something so ridiculous.
Mom comes to sit beside me, carrying the scent of hair spray and lemon dish soap, and switches the channel to the local news. She taps my notebook page and the math problems I abandoned when I spotted the eyes. “Finish. It’s almost time for bed.”
I roll my eyes. What other fifteen-year-old has a bedtime? But I dig my pencil out from where it’s wedged between the couch cushions. I finish a few problems for show, and when I look up, I find the eyes again, glowing like distant fires, flickering as the trees bend in the breeze across my line of sight.
What would watch our house at night like this?
A predator. That much I know.