I dive into the hollow of the tree, scraping my elbow on the rough bark. I bite back a curse. My heart is thudding. I curl myself small, like a chipmunk. The den reeks of mushrooms and a basement I can’t remember visiting. Through force of will, I steady my breathing. That, or my smell, will surely give me away. I cradle moss over my raw elbow to mask the iron odor of the fresh wound. In this hunt, out of sight does not equal out of mind.

Footsteps sound almost immediately, surprisingly quiet. Swish, swish. The grass is parted. Two quick sniffs seek my scent. I swallow my breath and melt into the cave of the tree, becoming bark and branch.

It works. He steps past the gnarly sycamore with its girl heart.

I wait a handful of beats before poking my head out. No sign of him. Just dense hardwoods forming a canopy so thick only ferns and horsebalm sprout beneath them, and an occasional patch of grass where persistent sunbeams have fought through. The dappled light gives the forest an underwater quality, making it both vibrant and hazy. The ground is peppered with fallen branches, each one a potential thundercrack if stepped on.

I breathe deeply, quietly. The hot Alabama air fills my lungs like water. Hopping out of the wooden cave, I grab a pinecone from the forest floor and toss it in the direction he disappeared. I cling close to the protection of my tree, waiting, listening. No response. He is either out of earshot or standing still as a rock, waiting for me to expose herself. It can’t be helped. I can’t hide forever.

I shiver with the risk of it and dart toward the relative safety of the river, dancing between twigs as silently as a deer. My body ripples in and out of shadow and light. Dust motes float lazily through the sun rays piercing the forest, undisturbed by my passage.

As I fly, I catch a flash of movement close to the earth and fifteen feet to my left. I drop to a crouch, expelling my breath in measured puffs. I scan the area. My heartbeat picks up. Have I misjudged his location? Is he actually shadowing me, smug, like a cat with his mouse?

The slight movement snags my eye again, this time accompanied by a tiny crunch and the color brown. I know. This creature is much too near the ground to be my pursuer. Probably a rabbit. I push myself up, brush the damp forest from my palms, and dash toward the river.

But the flash returns—the flicker of movement, still to my left, following me. I turn, and I see it, but can’t believe it: a man, no taller than a doll, perfectly formed, staring at me with deep brown eyes. I don’t know it now, but his name is Gilgamesh, and he’s come to change my life.

Please come find out how and share my adventure by reading A Toadhouse Trilogy: Book One. Here is a description of the book:

Aine believes herself to be a regular teenager in 1930s Alabama, but when a blue-eyed monster named Biblos attacks, she discovers that the reclusive woman raising her isn’t really her grandmother and that she’s been living inside a book for the past five years. With her blind brother, Spenser, she flees the pages of the novel she’s called home, one terrifying step ahead of Biblos’ black magic. Her only chance at survival lies in beating him to the three objects that he desires more than life.

As she undertakes her strange and dangerous odyssey, Aine must choose between a family she doesn’t remember and her growing attraction to a mysterious young man named Gilgamesh. Only through treacherous adventures into The Time Machine, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, A Tale of Two Cities, and the epic Indian saga The Ramayana will she learn her true heritage and restore the balance of the worlds… if she can stay alive.

** I’m giving away one (1) digital copy of A TOADHOUSE TRILOGY for the Kindle. Contest ends July 28. Leave a valid-email address with your comment. The e-book will be sent directly by me. **

Meet the author
Jess Lourey is the author of The Toadhouse Trilogy: Book One, the first in a young adult series that celebrates the danger and excitement of reading. She also writes the critically-acclaimed Murder-by-Month Mysteries for adults with a sense of humor. She’s been teaching writing and sociology at the college level since 1998. When not gardening, writing, or hanging out with her wonderful kids and dorky dog, you can find her reading, watching SyFy-channel original movies, and dreaming big. Please visit her mystery website at www.jesslourey.com, and her young adult website at www.jesslourey.com/toadhouse/index.html.

Book available at online retailers.

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