Category Archives: Marketing Madness

An eight-second trailer for FIRE IN THE WOODS @month9books @Georgia_mcbride

I cut my timing even closer on this one. This was mostly a test of a new software upgrade that came through. I messed with it, and when I saw the effect I was floored. I got a very nice response from this, and it is only a whopping EIGHT SECONDS long!  Super quick, but I think it gets my point across.

What do you think?

 

fire-banner-final2.png
_JenniFer____EatoN

My favorite 15 second trailer for FIRE IN THE WOODS @month9books @Georgia_Mcbride

The more I fiddle, I think the better I get at this. Yes, I could be writing, but these little suckers are so much fun!

I’ve gotten a great reaction to this particular trailer. I shot off the idea of the full-length David-POV trailer, and cut it down to 15 seconds. Tough, but I think the impact is totally there.

Please let me know what you think!

This is my favorite 15 second trailer for FIRE IN THE WOODS.

A video posted by Jennifer M. Eaton (@jennifer_m_eaton) on

fire-banner-final2.png
_JenniFer____EatoN

15 second trailers. Don’t laugh. They are worse than a query.

I’ve been spending a lot of time on Instagram. It’s been great talking books with readers.  Tons of fun.

But of course, I’m also there to mention my book once in a while. Mostly this is with pictures of my book, or with snappy memes.

But I’ve also started enjoying 15 second or less mini-trailers.

Hey, you thought querying was bad!

This has been a huge challenge, and I have to admit… a little bit of fun.

Think it over… how can you entice a reader to check out your book in 15 seconds or less. It’s flash fiction, with videos!

For the next few weeks I’ll be showing these videos here on Fridays. I hope you enjoy them!

Here’s number one. This was really an experiment to see how it was received. I took for granted most people have at least heard of my book (Because they followed me)

FIRE IN THE WOODS 15 second teaser trailer. What do you think? Do you like stuff like this, or are still pictures better?

A video posted by Jennifer M. Eaton (@jennifer_m_eaton) on

What do you think?

fire-banner-final2.png

JenniFer_EatonF

Second Trailer for FIRE IN THE WOODS, From David’s Point Of View

Since I seem to be on this Friday Vlog kick, I figured I’d show off another piece of “exclusive content” I created for one of the vlog appearances.  This is a teaser trailer told from David’s point of view.

And in case you have not seen the actual trailer for FIRE IN THE WOODS, here it is.  This one I am super proud of. I think it really shows off Jess’s voice, and what the book is all about. Enjoy!

Happy Boxing Day! A special vlog about family

Boxing day is all about family — A day to be together and be thankful for each other and what you have.

While I spend the day with my own family, I thought I’d share a special memory.

Remember, even our furry family members have family. Here is a special Christmas memory for my little girl. She got to spend Christmas with her Mom. They were thrilled to see each other. And no, they did not forget. They absolutely remembered each other, and were thrilled (as you can see) Mine is the silver pup with the pink bows in her hair.

Enjoy, and I hope you had a wonderful Christmas.  Give someone you love a hug today.

Looking for a feel-good Christmas romance? Paper Wishes by Jennifer M. Eaton is only $.99

Merry Christmas

Looking for a nice Christmas romance to snuggle up with by the fire?  My contemporary Novella Paper Wishes is just $.99 everywhere ebooks are sold.

Enjoy, and I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas.

Paper Wishes FinalPart one: Jill has no idea what she wants for Christmas, but when it looks like her best friend Jack is going to get exactly what he asks for, Jill makes a Christmas wish that will change both of their lives forever.

Part two: Confronted with a choice of keeping Jack or holding on to her values, Jill makes a choice that leaves her alone on New Year’s Eve.  But the magic of Christmas is still alive, and one final wish will decide their future, one way or another.

ChristmasFiligree

Buy link for Amazon

Buy link for Barnes and Noble

Merry Christmas

_JenniFer____EatoN

Vlog – Video Blog “What is your inspiration for writing an action book?”

Fire in the Woods CoverHere’s installment six of my video interview tour for FIRE IN THE WOODS.

Fire in the Woods CoverThis is the last vlog in the series, all about inspiration. I hope you enjoyed watching!

Vlog – Video Blog “What kind of research did you do to write your book?”

Fire in the Woods CoverHere’s installment five of my video interview tour for FIRE IN THE WOODS.

Fire in the Woods CoverThis is my favorite one, because I incorporated moving images. I was also less afraid of the camera by this time. This is all about research.

Read Chapter Five of @JenniferMEaton ‘s FIRE IN THE WOODS for free! Question and answer session after. @Month9Books

Last one!

Welcome to day five of five chapters of FIRE IN THE WOODS.

In case you’re coming in late, here’s the link to page one, and each page will link to the next chapter.

Enjoy the last preview chapter!

Fire in the Woods Cover

Chapter 5

Beneath the overhang, I fussed with my keys and pushed the door open. With some finagling I dragged his trembling form inside and into the family room, where he collapsed on the couch.

“Stay here.” Like he was getting up anytime soon. “I’ll get some blankets.”

I sprinted up the stairs, leaving muddy footprints on the carpet. Yeah, that wasn’t going to get me in trouble or anything. I threw open the linen closet.

“Okay Dad, it’s like this,” I whispered to myself. “I know I wasn’t supposed to talk to strangers, but he was really cute so I figured it was okay … then he got sick. I couldn’t just leave him out there.”

Yeah, that’ll work. You are in deep dog-poop, Jess.

I threw two towels over my shoulders and grabbed a stack of spare blankets before padding down the stairs. Drying David’s clothing proved fruitless, but at least his hair wasn’t dripping anymore. Dad had left his gray sweatshirt hanging on the back of a chair. I peeled David’s wet tee-shirt from his back, trying to be careful of his injured shoulder, and pulled the warm fleece over his head.

Still stricken with the chill, David rolled himself into a ball. I unfolded the blankets with a flourish and swaddled him in pink and yellow fuzz.

“Okay. If that doesn’t warm you up, nothing will.”

I admired my domestic-ness until the covers began to quake again. He had to have a fever. I cranked the thermostat up from seventy degrees to seventy-five.

“David, I’m going to get a thermometer.”

Chattering teeth answered me.

Just call an ambulance, Jess.

No. No ambulance. He’d been clear on that. No hospitals. Until I found out what was going on, I needed to keep that promise.

I walked right by the telephone to the bathroom and grabbed the thermometer from underneath the toothpaste in the medicine cabinet.

Closing the door, I cringed at my reflection. Yesterday’s eyeliner oozed down to my cheek. My bangs hung wet, lifeless, and clinging to my forehead. Lovely. I ran a fingertip under each eye, alleviating most of the raccoon syndrome. Who was I kidding? I’d never win a beauty pageant anyway.

I uncapped the thermometer as I returned to David. He groaned. His chill rattled the coils in the couch.

“David, I’m going to stick a thermometer under your tongue.” I had no idea if he could hear me over his shivering.

After pressing the button to clear the digital readout, I pried his mouth open to slide the prong between his lips. His hand clutched the edge of the blanket. His fist shook against his chest.

“Come on David. Snap out of it.”

His eyes squeezed shut. His mouth formed a pained, straight line.

“It’ll be okay.” A puff of air blew out of my lips. Saying the words didn’t help me to believe them. What if I was wrong? What if he really needed a doctor? What if he died?

I touched the chain on my neck, twirling the links around my fingers. The phone sat on the end table. One call to 911 would bring an ambulance, which was what he really needed. I reached for the phone and sighed. He seemed petrified of the hospital. But was it right to let him die just because he was afraid?

The clock on the wall ticked, filling the room with its cadence. David’s teeth rattled against the plastic tube in his mouth. What was taking that thermometer so darn long to beep?

I grasped my pendant, willing myself to do the right thing—if I could just figure out what the right thing was.

My mother’s words seeped into my mind. “I had this necklace blessed. You’ll never have to worry about anything while you wear it.” Her image soothed me like a hug. I closed my eyes and fed on her strength.

“All right, Mom,” I whispered, “here goes nothing.”

Another tremor rocked David’s body as I unhooked the chain and refastened the clasp behind his neck. I touched my fingers to the golden oval.

“Please God,” I whispered. “Please help him.” The shiver subsided, but his breathing seemed labored.

Darnit. What was I supposed to do?

I frantically searched the room for something to help. Pillows, magazines, remote controls, everything a good Jersey home should have other than something to stop a person from freezing to death.

Three logs lay unburned beside the fireplace, leftover from the spring thaw. Perfect. I placed one of the logs on the steel grate and shoved some newspaper beneath it. Luckily, the dry wood caught quickly. I checked David’s blankets and glanced at the thermometer’s digital readout. 112. 113. 114. “What the …”

David convulsed and bit down, snapping the thermometer in two.

“Holy crap!” I picked up the half that fell on the blanket and tossed it on the table. My finger shot between his lips, and I pried his mouth open, praying he didn’t bite me by accident. I dug the rest of the thermometer from under his tongue and threw it over my shoulder.

His head fell to the side, his body as limp as a rag doll. I did my best to hoist him to a sitting position as his eyes rolled back, exposing ghostly white orbs.

“Omigosh, this is not happening. David! David!” No answer. I slapped his face.

His eyes sprang open, centered on me, and froze. His lips clamped together. His body shook as if it were preparing to explode. His muscles hardened like bricks beneath my fingertips. The skin around his eyes crinkled. The set of his eyes screamed for help.

“Come on, David. Snap out of it. Come on!”

His eyes remained fixed on me until the convulsion subsided. A blink told me he was still in there. I eased him back until he rested on the couch without my support. His gaze locked with mine. Color returned to his face.

I reached out and touched his arm. My fingers trembled. “Please tell me it’s over.”

David closed his eyes and rubbed his chest, taking in several long, full breaths. He blinked and squinted as if the light hurt his eyes, before scanning the room.

His movement seemed hesitant and sleepy, as if he’d just woken up. The licking flames in the fireplace caught his attention. His lips turned up in a grin.

“Warm. Thanks,” he whispered.

I ran the back of my hand across my forehead, dabbing away the sweat. “Thanks, nothing. You have, like, a hundred and fifteen-degree fever. We need to get you to a hospital.”

His eyes darkened. “No. I told you—”

“David, this is serious.”

He reached out and touched his fingers to my chest, just below the collarbone. “I am serious.” His irises seemed to brighten beneath his dark lashes.

A soothing sensation rolled over me, relaxing my muscles one at a time. My apprehension slipped away, while something deep in the recesses of my mind begged me to run. I blinked and allowed the calm to overcome. “All right, but I’m not a doctor, you know. I have no idea what I’m doing.”

“I don’t need a doctor.”

Yeah, so he’d told me. I kneaded my hands together, doing my best to remember what they taught in my first aid class. “So, okay, fever. A tub of ice, right? Ice water will break a fever?”

He raised his palms and leaned away. “No! No more ice. Please …”

“But David you’re really sick.”

“No, I’m not.” He rubbed his temples. “I, I … have a disorder.”

“A what?” The fire crackled behind me as the room continued to heat.

“It’s … thermo-nucleic disorder. Have you heard of it?”

“No.” I crossed my arms.

He straightened. The pink blanket fell to his waist. “I have an extremely high body temperature. I don’t do too well in the cold.”

“You’re trying to tell me you’re always that hot?”

He placed his hands on his lap. “Pretty much. I’m feeling better, though. Thanks for the fire.”

I kept my arms folded. Seriously? He must have thought I was a …

His smile warmed me more than the fire, and I relaxed.

A disorder, of course. It made total sense—unless he was pulling my leg.

His smile faded as he tugged the chain of my mother’s pendant out of the sweatshirt. He fingered the golden oval. “What’s this?”

I scooted aside the blankets and sat beside him. “It was my Mom’s. She gave it to me when I was twelve. She told me that whenever I wear it, I could hold it tightly and know that she was with me … that everything would be all right.”

David ran his thumb over the etching and turned the charm over. The starburst cross on the front glistened in the firelight. “That’s beautiful. Why did you give it to me?”

I shrugged. “At the moment you kind of needed it more than I did.”

“The fire warmed me, not the necklace.” He reached for the clasp behind his neck.

“No. Keep it for now … until I’m sure you’re okay.”

The fire cast a light glow on the right side of his face. “If you can help me stay warm, I’ll be giving this back to you pretty quickly.”

I narrowed my eyes. “Wow, I can’t believe this. You really can’t take the cold? At all? What do you do in the winter?”

He laughed. “I try to dress more warmly.”

I fiddled with my thumbs, recapping and sorting through everything that’d happened. Despite being completely relaxed, I knew something was very wrong. I fought back the feeling of ease as it tried to overtake me again. Why was I being so complacent when something was obviously up? What was wrong with me? Focus. I needed to focus.

“David, why are they looking for you?”

“You mean my father?”

I stood. “No. I mean the Army. Is it because you have some kind of funky disease? Am I in any danger? Did you break the law? What—”

“I’m going to have to take notes if you keep asking questions without letting me answer.”

I folded my arms. “Then start answering.”

He pursed his lips. “I’m not contagious, and I would never hurt you.”

“So you do have some sort of freaky disease. Is that why they’re looking for you?”

He chewed his upper lip, his face pensive. “I promise I’ll tell you everything, but right now I don’t think it would do either of us any good. Can you please just trust me for now?”

“I don’t know you. I’m not even sure why I brought you here.”

David stood and curled his fingers around my hands. “Trust me. We’re alone. If I wanted to hurt you, I’d have done it already.”

“But David …”

He stepped away from me and grabbed his temple.

“Please don’t tell me you’re getting another chill.”

“No.” He sat on the couch, jostling the pink blanket. “Just dizzy.”

He closed his eyes and stretched his neck as I sat beside him. “David, I don’t know what to do.”

“I think I’m just tired.” He cuddled into the corner of the couch.

Shifting the blankets out from under me, I stood and threw one over him. David blinked and smiled, sending a rush of tickling energy through me, heating my cheeks. What was it about that smile? Why did I turn into a heaping sack of melted jelly when he barely even looked at me?

My hands shook. Distraction. I needed a distraction.

“Tell you what. You get some rest. I’ll see if I can scurry up something to eat for dinner.” Yep. Food. That would work. Nothing helps a girl keep her calm and focus like a good old-fashioned dose of carbs and calories. I walked toward the kitchen. “I can always make peanut butter and jelly again if I need to.”

David drew the blanket up under his chin. “I’d rather have more PB&J if you have it. That was great.”

I turned, leaning on the doorframe. “That’s what I said.”

His lashes flickered closed, and his face softened. A placid rhythm developed in his breathing.

Maybe he was more tired than I thought. I walked back and sat beside him on the couch. Trailing my fingers across his forehead, I brushed back his long, dark bangs.

Who was he? Why was he here, and what the heck was going on? I rubbed my chin. He asked me to be patient, but all these questions were killing me. Was I sitting on the story of my life, or was I setting myself up for disappointment, and perpetual, eternal grounding?

The firelight cast a stunning shadow behind him. Eerie, ethereal. I pulled out my camera and rattled off shots from several angles, but the photos in the preview screen did little to convey what my eyes saw in real life. Maybe they’d look better when I downloaded them later.

Making my way into the kitchen, I opened the cabinet and reached for the peanut butter and a loaf of bread. I slathered as much jelly as I could without it sloshing out the sides of the sandwich. Admiring my finished masterpieces, I licked the jelly that still clung to the knife. Waste not, want not, Mom always said.

I smashed a quarter wedge into my mouth and placed the rest on a napkin, leaving it on the coffee table beside David. His lips rose in a half-smile as he slept.

Boiling hot skin met my fingertips as I touched my hand to his forehead. I winced, fright overtaking me for a moment, before I settled myself.

Duh. Of course he was going to feel warm. Temperature disorder, remember?

The sun broke through the clouds outside. Cheerful sparkles glimmered on the water droplets still clinging to the window screens. At least the rain was over.

I eased into the armchair and watched David sleep. So many questions muddled inside my mind. What was he running from? What’s really wrong with him?

Although the storm outside had abated, the storm inside still slumbered on my couch. I should have been terrified of him, but I wasn’t … and it drove me crazy.

And what about Dad? He could burst through the door at any moment. What would I say? How would I deal with the unavoidable life-long punishment? I covered my face. Crap. I was in way over my head.

The rhythm of David’s breathing transfixed me, lulling me to sleepiness. I blinked twice, and grabbed my phone. I Googled ‘rare temperature diseases’ and scrolled through listings of pointless topics. Raynaud’s syndrome. Nope didn’t make your temperature high. Lyme’s disease … nah, didn’t seem likely. Cold urticaria … allergic to cold temperatures, causes hives in the cold. I glanced in his direction. No, there was never a mark on him, and they didn’t say anything about constant high temperatures.

I clicked off my phone and rubbed my eyes. The sun had gone down, and the last embers in the fire had died out. I spied a carton of synthetic logs under the kindling newspapers. I added one to the grate to keep the fire burning.

David rolled over in his sleep, his bangs falling toward his right eye. I brushed them aside and sat on the floor staring at him. Was he telling the truth? Could he really have some sort of freaky temperature problem?

The clock on the wall clicked to nine-thirty. I tousled my hair and found it damp from the heat. Sweat beaded on my chest and dripped down into my bra. Gross.

David’s cheek was warm, but not sweaty. His breathing remained deep and regular.

He may have felt fine, but I felt like I was going to yack. I headed up the stairs to my bedroom and hoisted the window open, letting in the cooler outside air. A light breeze blew the curtains beside my shoulders, refreshing me from the heat in the house. I rested against the sill and turned my face to the sky. A thousand lights in the heavens glinted and sparkled, settling my uneasiness. I breathed deeply, enjoying the sweet scents of Mrs. Miller’s garden until a star overhead winked out. Then another.

I grasped the windowsill and pushed against the screen—holding my breath as the stars wiped away before my eyes. A deep, dark blanket stretched out over the house, consuming the sky quickly and more completely than any cloud cover.

I reached for my necklace. Startled by its absence, I froze until I remembered it lay safely around David’s neck. My gaze drew back to the sky. A black mass hovered over the houses, continuing to blank out the stars. One by one the little pinpricks of light returned as the form passed overhead and moved toward the airstrips.

No lights. No landing gear. Just black—And really, really slow. A blimp? In the middle of the night? And no noise at all?

I shivered and backed away from the window. Keeping an eye on the mass, I fumbled for my phone and dialed Maggie. I recounted my entire day, right up to the apparition that’d just flown over my house.

“Did you see it?” I asked.

“So they flew a plane over your house. It’s not the first time.”

“Have you been listening to a thing I’ve said?”

“Come on, girl. I don’t care about the plane,” Maggie said. “I want to hear about the hottie. He’s actually there in your house? Right now? And your Dad’s not home?” Her giggle always sounded maniacal. “Are you going to do it?”

“No! Maggie, come on.”

“But seriously. What are you going to tell your Dad?”

I shook my head. “I was thinking of the truth. I can’t send David back into the cold, and I can’t really hide him either. Right now he’s passed out on the sofa.”

“Holy cow. The major’s going to have a brain aneurysm.”

“Believe me, I know.” I tucked back the curtain and peeked up at the stars. Everything seemed perfectly normal—now. “Maggs, that plane, or whatever—it was weird. I mean, really weird. I couldn’t even hear it, but it must have been huge.”

“Hon, maybe you were dreaming.”

“I wasn’t.”

She held a long pause on the line. “Are you going to deal with the real problem, here? What do you think is wrong with Prince Charming?”

I checked the window again and slumped onto the bed. “I have no stinking clue. He says he has this funny disorder.”

“Okay, so what is it?”

I rolled onto my back. “He said it was something like thermo-dynamic disorder. Or maybe it was thermo-nuclear disorder. I don’t know … something that makes him really hot and he freezes when it gets cold out. I tried to Google it but I couldn’t find anything.”

“You already knew he was really hot.”

I ignored her. “It was so bizarre. I couldn’t get him warmed up, no matter what I tried.”

“You know, if it happens again, you can always smother his body with yours.”

“What?”

“Seriously. I see it in the movies all the time, and they told us that in first aid class too, remember? Sharing body heat and all.” She snickered. “And I hear friction …”

“Maggie!” I sat up and tossed my pillow back to the head of my bed. Not that the idea of snuggling up with David was all that gross, but I didn’t need her to know that.

“Okay, okay, but I’m going to research it to make sure he doesn’t have the plague or something.”

“Whatever. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

I smushed my forehead against the window screen again and counted stars. Not that I knew how many were supposed to be up there, but tallying them made me feel better. Scattered light clouds left from the earlier storm dotted the sky, but otherwise the stars shone as brightly as any other night. I closed the window, pulled the blind down, and leaned against the edge of my dresser. I knew there was no way I was going to be able to sleep.

I grabbed my comforter and pillow and padded down the stairs. Throwing the bedding on the chair beside David, I placed my fingers on his forehead. Still hot. Duh – Temperature disorder, Jess.

First things first: I needed to make sure Dad didn’t have a conniption when he walked through the front door so he didn’t shoot David or something. I grabbed the note pad from the counter and scribbled: Don’t be mad. I’ll explain in the morning on the yellow-lined sheet. I taped the note on the couch behind David.

Lame, but it was all I could come up with. Tomorrow was not going to be fun.

 I eased back into the chair beside David and yanked the lever to raise my feet. Using the blanket to prop up my side, I cuddled into my soft down pillow and watched David sleep. So many questions … but tomorrow I’d get some answers.

Hopefully David would comply. If not, Dad might beat the answers out of him.
[End of chapter five preview]

Gads! He’s in her house!  And Major Dad is coming home!

This is the last preview chapter of FIRE IN THE WOODS. I really hope you enjoy it. I’d love to hear any questions/comments about the chapter, or the preview overall. 

Do you think Jess did the right thing? Do you think she had a choice? Do you think she’s safe? And what about David? Is there any warm and fizzy there, or are you screaming for her to run for her life? I’d really love to know your thoughts.

If you’d like to continue, here are the links to pick up your own copy of FIRE IN THE WOODS. Enjoy!

Buy Links:

Signed Paperbacks | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Chapters Indigo! | iBooks

JenniFer_EatonF

Read Chapter Four of @JenniferMEaton ‘s FIRE IN THE WOODS for free! Question and answer session after. @Month9Books

Woohoo we’re 4 days in!

Welcome to day four of five chapters of FIRE IN THE WOODS. Enjoy!

Fire in the Woods Cover

Chapter 4

I yanked my jeans free of a thorny bush. I swear I had to be crazy. Just that morning something screeched in the woods so loud it almost burst my eardrums. But here I was, wandering around in those same woods, probably lost, bent on finding and helping a boy I didn’t even know. My chest ached with pressure from my short, choppy breaths. Why did the forest seem so much more sinister than it normally did?

Auoi calinart, est.”

The gruff, masculine voice echoed through the trees. The language was odd, musical. Kind of like singing, or maybe Norwegian—or maybe a Norwegian guy singing. I couldn’t decide.

An elderly man wearing a long, dirty winter jacket slapped a tree branch as he sped-walked around a bush. He nearly plowed into me.

“Sorry,” I said, backing off the path.

The man gazed up at me. His nose crinkled as if a foul odor suddenly hit him. He blinked and continued on his way, but his icy cold countenance hung with me for a minute. And his eyes … No one had eyes so blue. Except maybe David.

I shivered. Not sure why, but the old dude creeped me out. His head bobbed as he moved through the bushes. He had to be delirious, wearing that warm coat in the middle of August.

“Pardon me.” A woman with gorgeous long blond curls ran up the same path. Her jacket brushed against me as she passed. When she caught up to the old guy, she grabbed him by the arm. They muttered, heads close, before he shoved her away and continued down the trail. The woman turned her face toward the sky, fisted her hands, and continued on after him.

The dude had to be her father or something. Why else would she take that kind of crap from him? I sniffed out a laugh. I hoped that wouldn’t be me and my Dad in twenty years.

I pushed through the brush and plodded on. The trees were probably laughing at me, because I was pretty sure I’d seen the one with the big black knot in the bark at least three times, now. Stinking, stupid, big, black, knotty tree.

A rustling of leaves deep within the trees startled me. I froze, and stared down another gorgeous, enormous buck. Or was it the same one as that morning?

“Hey, beautiful,” I whispered.

Swirling antlers blended with the landscape. He barely seemed to notice me.

“Good boy.” I clawed for my camera, slipping it out of my pack. “Just stay right there.” I pressed the picture button and zoomed in. Click. Gotcha. But a closer shot would be even better.

I inched forward. Majestic black eyes emitted a sense of serenity, calming me from within their gaze. Crack. The twigs broke beneath my feet. Dernit. The deer’s ears twitched.

“It’s okay buddy. It’s me, remember?”

Two little baby steps brought me closer. I held my breath, trying to keep quiet, but my phone vibrated, the ringtone reverberating through the trees. The buck bolted.

“You’re not going to chase him again,” I told myself. A grin broke across my lips. “Oh, yes you are.”

Jumping over fallen trees and stomping in muddy patches, I followed him deeper into the woods. My phone finally stopped ringing, but the buck was long gone … again. I laughed and leaned over, resting my hands on my knees. I was starting to make a habit out of this.

“Jess?”

I screamed and whirled toward the voice.

David raised his hands. “Sorry. I thought you saw me.”

“Saw you? I was looking at the stinking deer.” I held my hand to my heart, willing it to stay within my chest. “You scared the crap out of me.”

His lips contorted into the cutest pout as he settled onto the ground. “Sorry.”

“Well, wear a bell or something next time. Geeze!”

Okay, heart. You can slow down now.

I caught my breath. “Are you feeling any better?”

“Maybe.” He rotated his shoulder. “Either that or I’m numb.”

Dirt and pine needles scattered in a puff as I dropped my backpack beside him. “Okay, let’s get to it, then.” I grabbed the Ziploc bag.

“What’s that?”

“Ice. What did you think?” The cubes scraped together inside the plastic.

“Umm …” His eyes widened.

“If your shoulder is swollen, and you won’t go to the hospital. You need a cold compress.”

He swallowed hard. “Okay.”

David bent forward. I brushed traces of bark and dirt clinging to his back as I knelt beside him. The muscles in his neck and arms tensed.

“Loosen up. It’s just ice.” I carefully placed the bag on his injury.

David trembled. He steadied himself against a sapling, gripping the slim trunk in a shaky fist. “It burns! Owe, it burns!”

I pulled the bag away from his skin. “How can it burn? It’s cold.” I set the Ziploc on my leg and let the ice chill my skin. “Look. No burn. You can’t be such a big baby. This is supposed to help. Can we try again?”

David nodded, but flinched as I lifted the bag.

“Okay, tell you what …” I picked up his tee-shirt from the ground. “Let’s get this back on you.”

His head popped through the opening, and a gentle tug brought his right hand through the armhole. I elevated his left arm as slowly as I could, but he still stifled a groan as the rest of the shirt slid on.

“This is like torture,” he whispered.

“Sorry.” I gently replaced the bag. “Your shirt should protect a little against the ice but still leave it cold enough to stop the swelling.” I smiled, proud of myself for remembering something from first aid.

David grimaced. “It’s still pretty cold.”

“It’s supposed to be. That’s the point.”

David’s eyes closed. He took in a deep breath through his nose, and his lips parted slightly to release it. I watched the tight, white cotton expand and retract across his back with each breath. Holy shmoley. Okay, Florence Nightingale, get a grip.

David’s body quaked, and he grunted through clenched teeth. He grabbed the sapling, snapping it in two.

“Hey, what’d that tree ever do to you?”

His hands formed into trembling fists. He shook like a rocket trying to take off until he bolted upright. The ice fell to the ground.

“I c-can’t,” he stammered. “It’s just too cold.”

“All right.” I picked up the bag. “But I don’t think it was on there long enough to help you.”

“Then I’ll have to deal with the pain. I’ll get over it.” He grimaced, settling back down on the ground. “Eventually.”

He rubbed his shoulders. His gaze seemed distant.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“I can’t seem to get warm.”

“Warm? It’s like eighty degrees. It’s gorgeous out here.”

“I know, but I keep getting a chill.” He scuffed the dirt, making an imprint with the front of his sneaker. A spider shimmied from the divot and crawled up a tree to his right.

The sun funneled through the canopy, flickering splotches of light into his hair. What was it about this boy? I just wanted to sit there and stare at him. Well okay, he was gorgeous, but it was something more than that. I felt compelled, like a gentle tug inside, drawing me to him. I bit back a grin. It’s called hormones, Jess. Let’s just keep it together and don’t make a fool out of yourself.

The wind blew lightly through the treetops, rustling the branches over our heads as I slid down beside my bag. “Are you hungry?”

“Yes, famished.” His eyes lit up, the color actually brightening. It must have been the sun.

“Great. I made a few PB&J’s. I hope that’s okay.”

“I guess.”

I handed him a sandwich. He flipped it over, squinting at the jelly running down the crust. Okay, so, I wasn’t Betty Crocker. Get over it. I removed mine out of the plastic wrap, and David followed suit. He watched me take a bite before tearing into his own.

What did he think, it was poisoned or something?

“This is good.” He swallowed and nodded. “Really good.”

A snicker escaped my lips. “I guess anything would taste good if you hadn’t eaten since yesterday.”

“Mm-huh. Thank you.” He finished the last bite and ran his tongue slowly along his pointer finger, licking off a glob of jelly.

I shifted my weight, watching his tongue glide across his skin.

Wow.

I bit my lip and cleared my throat.

Get. A. Grip. Jess.

Looking away—definitely a good option. “Listen, you can’t stay out here. There is some kind of dangerous fugitive or something on the loose.”

“Or something?”

The spider beside him dangled from a branch before swinging back up, a stream of silk glistening behind it.

“That’s about all I know. I just thought you should know. You know?”

Ugh. How much dumber could I sound? Why did I act so goofy around this guy? Pfft. It had nothing to do with the perfect tan, the washboard abs, those unbelievable arms …

“So, what does this fugitive look like? It’s not a young girl with long brown hair and blue eyes, is it? Because that would kind of suck.”

I laughed. “If I were a fugitive I wouldn’t be making PB&J for some sappy guy in the woods.”

“Well, I guess today’s my lucky day, then.”

He licked another finger. I forced my eyes back up to the spider web. The sunlight caught the square outline of the miniature piece of art before it disappeared, fading in and out like a mirage.

My stomach churned anxiously. “So, do you want to tell me why you’re out here?” Please, please, please don’t tell me you’re a dangerous fugitive.

He looked down. “I told you …”

“I know. You don’t want to be found. I get that, but the Army is out there looking for someone suspicious. If they find you …”

David’s eyes sprang open. He leapt to one knee, just missing the spider web. “Where are they looking?”

“I don’t know. Around, I guess.”

A refreshing breeze blew through the woods, invigorating me, but a shiver rattled David’s shoulders. “It’s getting colder.”

Dark clouds wafted over the treetops, shrouding the forest in a dim gray before the sun broke through once more.

“It might rain, but it’s still, like, eighty degrees.”

He wrapped his arms around himself and sat hunched over. A pang deep within my gut warned something wasn’t right, that I should run, but the sensation quickly ebbed away. As if erased.

I knelt beside him. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“I’m just cold.”

“Maybe you have a fever? You should really see a doctor.”

“No. No way.” He raised his hands in a defensive position.

“All right—if you tell me what’s going on, maybe I can get help, but we’re not really getting anywhere here with me doing all the talking.”

“Okay, let’s talk.” He looked to the right and moved closer to the web. He seemed to focus on each strand the spider spun.

The sunlight sparkled in his dark hair and gleamed within the web. I couldn’t help myself. I grabbed my camera and adjusted the focus so both David and the web popped crisply from the outlining scenery.

Whoa. The preview looked like a magazine ad. The lines in his face, his nearly pore-less skin—just perfect.

David smiled as I raised the lens again. I set off the shutter on high speed repetition, hoping to get some of the sparkle from the spider’s web.

“You like to take pictures, huh?”

“Yeah. It’s an obsession of mine. You don’t mind, do you?”

He shook his head, and I snapped some more. The last one had a beam of sunlight in the background. Damn if I couldn’t sell those as pictures of Jared Linden and gotten away with it.

I closed the lens. “I’m still waiting for your story. I love photography, but I’m not that easily distracted.” Well, not right now, at least.

“I’m not sure where to begin. Do you get along with your dad?”

I leaned back, surprised. “I guess. I mean, most of the time. He’s a little judgmental, though.”

“Mine too. In a big way.”

“Is he the reason why you’re out here?” A fly buzzed my ear. I swatted it away.

David shrugged. “Indirectly. If he’d just listen, just try to understand …”

“I know what you mean. My dad’s got this crazy idea I can’t make good decisions.”

“Yeah, mine too. He said I was worthless, and I’ve never done a selfless thing in my life. What does that mean, anyway?”

“My dad thinks I don’t listen.”

David propped his elbow on his knee and rested his chin on his fist. “Well, you’re listening now.”

I smiled. A little girly tingle jittered through my chest. He was cute, and said the right things. Score another notch in that lottery ticket.

My cheeks burned up in a flush under his sparkling gaze. Those eyes—so darn blue. I broke our stare, clearing my throat. “So, you had a fight with your dad, huh?”

“Something like that. I tried to prove I was worth something.”

“Did it work?”

He took a deep breath and let it out in a puff. “If it did I wouldn’t be here.”

The fly buzzed around David’s head and darted toward his right, snagging itself in the spider web. The more it thrashed, the more the webbing ripped and covered its wings … until the struggle abruptly ended. The web seemed to wink in and out of existence as the spider inched toward its prey.

Despair settled into my gut. The thought of being totally overpowered—and to die like that—it just didn’t seem fair. The clouds drifted, and the web faded once more. So beautiful, but nothing more than an elaborate trap.

David’s gaze moved from the spider back to me. He seemed to search through me, and his brow furrowed. Did I surprise him somehow, or was that confusion in his eyes?

His expression faded into a smile. “Jess, you …”

Another cooling breeze encircled us. David clamped his arms around his shoulders. His hands shook as they rubbed his skin.

The hair on my arms stood on end as the sky darkened ominously overhead. “David, are you all right?”

He wheezed, his body trembling as he bent over into a ball.

“Okay, that’s it,” I said. “I’m getting you out of here.” I lifted him to his feet. He barely struggled, but drew away once we were standing.

“I can’t leave the woods,” he said.

“Oh, yes you can.”

I nestled my camera into my backpack and flung the bag over my shoulder.   David’s body seemed rigid as I pulled him to his feet.

“Jess, please don’t …” His words were lost between chattering teeth.

“Don’t nothing. You need help.”

I yanked on his arm. Luckily for me, he was too busy trembling to fight me. We slunk through the trees, stopping each time David’s chill shook him too hard to walk.

This is insane, Jess. You don’t know anything about this guy. Lord knows what’s wrong with him, and … A moist tap hit my head, then another. I glanced up. The clouds thickened. Another raindrop grazed my nose as a few birds flew for cover.

Great. A rainstorm was all I needed at the moment.

David studied a drip run down his arm, and turned his eyes up to the trees. “What …”

“Come on,” I said, giving him a tug. “The trail is this way.” At least I hoped it was.

Ferns scraped against my jeans as I pushed branches away from my face. I stopped once to untangle David’s shirt from a sticker bush before the woods opened up to the dirt path beside the road. It wasn’t where I’d come in, but it was close enough to get home.

David tensed as we stepped away from the trees. Small circles appeared on the ground, darkening the sand from tan to brown as scattered droplets fell from the sky.

David retreated toward the woods. “I can’t … I can’t.”

“You don’t have much of a choice now, do you?” I led him forward.

His muscles relaxed, but his eyes told me it was in defeat rather than agreement. David hunched his shoulders, ducked his head, and stumbled as I nudged him forward. I slowed my pace, hoping it would help him keep up.

This is crazy, Jess. Just bring him to the … I stopped, alarmed by the movement at the gates to the base housing. Two men in uniform tossed their packs beside the door to the guard house. One fumbled with keys.

In the entire four years we’d lived on that base, I’d never seen guards stationed at the entrance. A wave of adrenalin swept through my body. Sweat formed at my temples.

David gripped my arm. Turquoise eyes, wide with fear, met mine.

A twinge in my gut forced my whole body to tremble. I was right all along. It was him. He was the guy they were looking for. We were in deep shi … well, we were in a lot of trouble. Or was it just me? Was I in trouble? Was David dangerous?

I forced a smile. Every part of me screamed to run, to flee to the guards and tell them, but when I looked into David’s eyes, the mistrust melted away, disappeared.

Wait. Why did it disappear? I was scared to death a minute ago, wasn’t I?

His eyes softened me. I was safe with him. I always had been.

“I’m not going to turn you in. I promise.”

His shoulders relaxed. “Can we please go back to the woods?”

“There’s no way to warm you up out there. Now come on, and act natural.”

I kept watch on the guard house as we walked toward the gate. One of the guys talked on a cell phone while the other unpacked his bag. Just keep walking. A large raindrop pelted my shirt, then another.

David brushed away a rain droplet dribbling down his cheek and looked toward the sky. He gaped, his eyes questioning. Why did rain freak him out? Everybody’s seen rain, right?

His nose and lips distorted before he ducked his head down again. Not really as inconspicuous as I’d hoped for, but at least he was keeping up.

Relief washed over me as we passed through the gate. I couldn’t believe it. We’d actually …

“Excuse me.”

Oh. Crap.

Every muscle in my body tensed. I could feel David’s bicep contract as I turned toward the MP. “Yes?”

“Can I see some ID please?”

“Oh, umm, yeah.”

I reached into my pocket and grabbed my wallet. He made note of my driver’s license on a clipboard.

The MP motioned to David. “And yours?”

“He doesn’t have his license yet,” I stammered. “He’s only sixteen.”

My tense muscles got even tenser. There was no way David would pass for sixteen. He looked eighteen, nineteen. My brow furrowed. Just how old was he?

A crack of thunder boomed overhead. David nearly jumped into my arms. The wind whipped up. I glanced to the MP. Please let us go, dude.

David turned from my shoulder and stared at the MP. The officer moaned and blinked his eyes. He looked up at the sky and handed my license back.

“Okay. You’re cleared. Thank you.” He walked back to the booth, massaging his forehead.

No way.

I shoved my license back in my pocket. “I don’t believe it.”

David didn’t comment beyond a tremor as I maneuvered him across the street.

We’d been incredibly lucky. The guy hadn’t even made a note of David. Maybe MP training wasn’t as hard-core as I’d heard.

We moved past a bush near the edge of the sidewalk, and a sparrow hopped out. The bird fluttered its spotty brown wings as it snatched a squiggling worm on the concrete.

David reared back, nearly knocking me over. “What the …”

I tightened my grip on his arms. “Dude, it’s only a bird. Chill out!”

“I’m sorry. It frightened me.”

His eyes remained on the little brown-spotted minion-of-doom as it hopped onto the road. What kind of idiot got spooked by a bird? I didn’t push it. David obviously had serious issues. Hopefully they weren’t the homicidal kind.

I cringed.

No. He was just a guy who needed help. No homicidal anything.

David’s gaze shifted from left to right. “Where are we going, anyway?”

“Don’t be so scared. It’s not like the whole world is looking for you. What are the chances of your father just happening to be on Maguire, and driving down this road at this very minute?” I tried to gauge his reaction, but his expression didn’t change. He was worried about more than his father, I could tell. Was it really the MPs? The regular police? Worse? Maybe eventually he’d open up to me.

As we turned onto my street, an open-top jeep sped toward us. David cried out and jumped away from the road. One of the soldiers inside waved as they drove by.

“I really think I need to go back to the woods,” David said.

The jeep turned the corner, not even hesitating at the stop sign. “It’s nothing. They’re only going to work. You need to lighten up.”

You should bring him back to the gate. Turn him in. This is bigger than you, and you know it. If the Army is looking for him something is seriously up.

I scoffed at my own idiocy. Paranoia was so un-cool. He’d be fine. He was just out of sorts with a fever or something. Besides, if he was a fugitive, and I helped him, I may just be setting myself up for the story of a lifetime.

Or a lifetime behind bars.

I decided to go with the first scenario. Much better karma.

Head tucked down low, David allowed me to guide him while I kept a careful watch on the neighbors’ windows and front porches. The last thing I needed was a nosy housewife calling my dad.

David dug in his heels as we turned up my walkway. He wrenched against my grip. “What’s that?”

“My house.”

“Your house?”

“Yeah, this is where I live. David, are you delirious or something? Where did you think I was taking you?”

I placed my hand on his arm. Perspiration beaded on his brow and his tee-shirt seemed far damper than it should have been in the light rain.

Sweat?

David scrunched his eyes closed and stumbled foot over foot. A torrent of unintelligible words streamed from his lips as his body went limp.

My knee slammed on the pavement as I reached down to catch him—but he was nowhere near as heavy as I expected. Weird.

His eyes opened and rolled back into this head. He coughed once before his gaze re-focused on me.

“You’re done. I’m calling an ambulance.”

He grabbed my arm. “No! I just need to get warmed up.”

I shook my head and helped him back to a standing position. “I think it’s more than that, and something really strange is—”

“I promise you, I’m just cold. Please just …” His words lost themselves inside a moan, and another shaking chill brought us both to our knees. David’s shoulders stiffened between my hands, becoming board-rigid before shaking fitfully.

“Shoot,” I whispered, rubbing his arms in a fruitless effort to warm him.

The sky opened up. Rain pummeled us. The sound roared through the compound.

David’s pupils fixed on a point behind me. His jaw vibrated in time with the tremor. Dark wet tresses matted to his forehead. Water trailed from his bangs and down his cheeks.

I gripped his face and pointed it toward mine. “David. David, listen to me. I need to get you into the house.”

His eyes didn’t focus. His teeth chattered.

“Okay. Let’s hope you heard me.” He grimaced as I hauled him to his feet. His shiver tightened his joints. The stiffness in his body fought against me as we made our way to the door.

[end of chapter four preview]

Things are getting interesting! There’s the fourth chapter of FIRE IN THE WOODS. There is almost too much going on here to come up with questions. How about the imagery? Can you feel Jess’s inner struggle? What are you feeling about David at this point?

To read the fifth and final chapter of this preview chapter of FIRE IN THE WOODS click here. (Available after December 5)

JenniFer_EatonF