Alien scientist David has dealt with disappointment his entire life, but failing to breathe life into the planet Mars is his greatest regret. Out of options and in need of a new home for their people, the alien Caretakers rekindle their plan to inhabit Earth. First they will have to eliminate the human race, including Jess, the only human David holds dear. Humanity has one final chance at survival. David needs to emulate Earth’s precipitation on Mars. But the catalyst to make it rain lies in the fathomless depths of Earth’s ocean. The clock is ticking down to humanity’s last hours as Jess and David face a world more alien than either of them can imagine. The sea hides secrets, but some secrets don’t want to be found.Embers in the Sea is part one of the heart-stopping conclusion to Jennifer M. Eaton’s high-action "Fire in the Woods" series.
About the Author
Jennifer M. Eaton is a contemporary writer who blends science fiction, dystopian, and romance. She is the author of Ashes in the Sky and Fire in the Woods. She lives in Millville, New Jersey.
Read an Excerpt
Embers in the Sea
By Jennifer M. Eaton
Month9BooksCopyright © 2017 Jennifer M. Eaton
All rights reserved.
I tucked back the dark bang that flew in my face, shifted my seating, and balanced Philosophers of the Pre-Modern World on my crossed legs.
Squinting in the morning sunshine, I forced myself to read the passage from Colton's Lacon one more time:
"Time is the most undefinable yet paradoxical of things; the past is gone, the future is not come, and the present becomes the past, even while we attempt to define it."
I closed the textbook and tossed it on the grass. "Why should I even care about what some old cleric guy said two hundred years ago?"
"Because he's a famous old cleric guy." Matt plucked the book from the lawn and dusted a few stray grass clippings from the cover.
"I came to college to study photography, not to be confused beyond reason by dead philosophers."
Matt handed me the book as we stood. "Philosophy is supposed to broaden your mind."
"Yeah, well, I'm broad enough." Knowing I'd gained a few pounds since the last time we'd seen each other, I sensed a witty retort forming on his lips. "Don't say it."
He held up his hands. "I wouldn't think of it."
A group of people pointed at us from across the courtyard, and my fingers twined around my mother's necklace, pressing the charm into my palm.
When I first came to Columbia University, this secluded lawn nestled between Lewisohn and Earl Halls was one of my favorite places to relax. Digging my fingers into the cool grass felt like a hug from home, despite the New York skyline looming just over the trees. But each semester I had to dodge more and more Jess-watchers. Why they were still interested in me after all this time, I didn't know.
It had been nearly two years since David left Earth to help his people populate Mars, and there'd been no impromptu spaceship sightings yet. But alien chasers still flocked to Columbia University thinking today might be the lucky day.
"How about we go this way." Matt tugged me away from the wide-eyed group. Several of them raised camera phones, then looked at the sky.
It was always the same, as if just because Jessica Martinez walked outside, a spaceship would magically pop out of nowhere and whisk her away.
"You know, it wouldn't hurt you to smile once in a while." Matt waved at a guy holding a late model Nikon camera with a cheap lens attached to the front. "You always look ticked on the tabloid covers."
I left the walkway and stomped across the grass. "These aren't paparazzi. They're just gawkers, and they're driving me crazy. I wish they'd just let it go."
Matt laughed. "Let it go? You're Jess Martinez: the girl who saved the world from Armageddon. Twice. I think you need to cut people some slack."
I stopped under a tree at the corner of the visitor center and watched a bird hop back and forth from the grass to the cement walkway. "I just want to be normal again. I want people to stop staring at me all the time."
"Then you better stop wearing those tight jeans because, damn, girl, I'd snap a few pictures too if I thought I could get away with it."
I smacked his shoulder, like I always did when he complimented me in his own, Matt-like way. It felt like we were back in New Jersey, back when I was "just Jess" and friendships weren't so much a luxury.
"So, when is your cancer symposium over?" I asked.
"I'll be here for a few more days."
A few more days. It wasn't enough. "Thanks for coming to see me. I missed you."
Red stained his cheeks. "Yeah, I missed you too." His gaze drifted to the tree. "Bobby says hi, by the way."
I cringed and tried to hide my sneer. "I can't believe you guys ended up friends after what he did to you in high school. He's such a jerk."
"Yeah, but he's a connected jerk."
"You don't need him, Matt. You're brilliant."
He shrugged. "Brilliant only gets you so far. Bobby has the charm and means to get my work noticed."
"And in return, you get him good grades?"
"I can't take his exams for him, but yeah, I help with the other stuff." We walked to the Alma Mater steps, where he reclined against the cool stone. "He quit McGuire for you, you know."
"That doesn't change the fact that he's an ass."
"He's trying to get back in your good graces ... change the world so you see him differently."
I eased down beside him. "Did he ask you to say that?"
Matt's eyes widened. "Am I that transparent?"
"I can't believe he's pretending to care about cancer research just to impress me. When will he learn to take 'no' for an answer?"
"You're serious? You're really not into him anymore?"
"Not if he were the last guy on the planet."
A smile spread across Matt's face. "Good. You can do better. He's a weasel." He cleared his throat. "Just don't tell him I said that. He's still bigger than me."
I mustered half a grin before three people jumped in front of the steps and tried to pretend they weren't taking pictures of me.
"Wow," Matt said. "They really don't let up, do they?"
"Not too much, no."
He stood and helped me to my feet. "How about we go inside somewhere? Is there anywhere around here we can catch an early lunch?"
I folded my arms. "Seriously? We're in New York City. Name your poison."
His grin made me forget about the roving photographers. "Anywhere quiet, where we can kinda be alone."
I straightened. "Alone?"
He slipped his cold fingers around mine. "I meant it when I said I missed you."
Whoa. I slid my hand away. "Weren't you just rooting for team Bobby?"
"Yeah, well, I figure if the referee has banned Bobby from the game permanently, that kinda makes room for team Matt to swoop in and maybe win one for the eggheads of the world."
A flash of seventeen-year-old Matt, bruised and bleeding on the sidewalk after Bobby beat him up for taking me to a movie flashed through my mind, before my vision refocused on the brilliant med student Matt had become. I'd saved the world from aliens, but Matt was going to save the world from cancer. He believed it. I believed it. Matt was one of those guys who could do anything.
As long as he could avoid getting beat up again.
And with me at his side, he would get beat up again. Going to college hadn't changed Bobby that much, even if he was riding on Matt's gravy train.
Matt just put himself way out on a limb. But did I want to go out on that skinny little branch with him?
Maybe I did. "How about something a little more casual, like ice cream."
He held up his hands. "Whoa there. I don't know. Ice cream sparks of commitment. We've only known each other for what, eight years? I think you're moving a little fast for me. I thought I was pushing it with lunch."
I punched him in the arm.
He punched me back. I loved that. No airs. No games. No attitude. Just Matt.
Maybe, just maybe, I could get my life back. Maybe I could be happy again.
A startled cry echoed through the courtyard.
"What is that?" a man yelled.
Matt grabbed my hand and we followed the throng away from the steps, across 116th Street, past the sundial, and onto the South Lawn. A huge hole had formed in the clouds, widening into a shimmering circle of crystal blue.
I plucked my camera out of my backpack and joined the amateurs clicking away with their cell phones. I hid my amusement behind the lens of Old Reliable.
These people had no idea what a picture could be, how to focus in just the right place, how to find tone in the simplest of images, and catch the perfect light to evoke the exact mood. I hit the shutter four times as the anomaly widened, expanding past several city blocks. Nature never ceased to astound me.
A few more photography students added their lenses to the crowd. There'd be no deficit of pictures for the internet newsfeeds to choose from, that was for sure.
I snapped seven more shots. The race was on. Click. Who would take the best shot? Click. Who would be the first to get their work published?
Me. That's who. Click. Click.
The shape shifted and elongated, swirling until it settled over the courtyard and froze as if someone pressed the pause button.
The crowd grew silent. I lowered my camera. WTF?
A ball formed in my gut as the air in the middle of the circle formed a nearly transparent, shimmering bubble. A rainbow formed across its surface; the stripes brilliant, clear, and defined. Dozens of breaths hitched as an iridescent flicker glimmered across the apparition. The form pinched and molded into a colorful, swirling tube that slowly dropped from the sky.
Matt tightened his grip on my hand as the other spectators stepped away. Half their gazes staring up, the remainder staring at me. Some stumbled into the bushes lining the walkways.
"Friends of yours?" Matt asked.
I shivered. "No. That's not Erescopian technology." At least I didn't think it was. Erescopian ships were liquid metal ... shiny opal or silver. "That just looks like ..."
"Water," Matt whispered.
Water hanging in the sky. Or more like a lake ... a huge lake with a giant elevator tube dropping out of it. So. Not. Good.
The cylinder fell in short, billowing waves before settling on the middle of the South Lawn. It was there, but it also wasn't — like it took a picture of the Butler Library columns behind it and played back a video on the cylinder's façade, hiding the tube like a chameleon. Incredible — if I wasn't standing so close to it.
Matt inched back, glanced at me, then returned to my side. If I hadn't been glued to my little patch of grass, I wonder if he'd have run.
Camera shutters triggered like crazy. Everyone gawked at me, like I was supposed to know what to do.
Yeah, 'cause Jess Martinez knows all there is to know about spaceships.
A whoosh of air rushed through the open area. The people on the other side of the cylinder stepped back, shielding their eyes as a bright, flickering light flooded them.
My fingers tightened on my camera strap. I'd seen that light before, on the tarmac two years ago, as hundreds of Erescopian soldiers left their liquescent spaceships and stepped onto the earth for the first time. It was supposed to be over. They weren't coming back.
I remembered to breathe, and tried to stop my hands from shaking. This thing didn't land in the center of Columbia by accident. They knew I'd be here. My legs trembled, itching to run, but I knew there was nowhere to go.
A siren blaring from behind the buildings broke my frozen stance. I raised Old Reliable, clicking off shots that probably would amount to nothing, until a human form materialized within the cylinder's hazy brilliance.CHAPTER 2
The figure whirled within the glow until the floods abated, leaving us in the soft radiance of afternoon and the eerie shimmer of the fluidic crystal cylinder. I shot off another round of photographs, catching the blurry shape within the glass, until the figure stepped out onto the lawn.
The wind kicked up, and perky blond curls wafted in the breeze.
My best friend from high school spun toward me, giggled, and bounded in my direction.
I tried to control my gape. "How ... What ...?"
She nearly jumped into my arms. "I just took a ride on a spaceship," she said. "That was so freaking cool!"
"What are you ... Huh?"
Her smile dazzled, detracting from the liquid craft behind her. "This thing landed right in front of your house. I thought Mrs. Miller was going to have a coronary."
Matt's grip on my hand stiffened. "Are you going to get to the part about why you were on that thing?"
She raised a brow at Matt, but turned toward me. "Oh, yeah, well, he said he couldn't feel you or something like that. So I told him you were at college in New York, and he said where's New York? And I said in New York, silly, and he said —"
I held up a hand. "Maggie."
Matt's grip became iron. Pins and needles tickled my fingers. I didn't need to ask why. She said him.
Maggie placed her hands on her hips. "Wait. Matt? What are you doing here?" Her eyes widened. "Oh my glob. Are you guys seeing each other?"
"I, umm, I ..." He turned away.
Maggie snickered through her nose. "Damn, Matt. First Bobby, and now you're taking on an alien who can probably lift a car over his head. Do you have a death wish or what?"
Matt's lips tightened as his attention drew back to the ship.
Maggie leaned toward me. "E.T. is still rocking that hard body, by the way. Could crack a walnut with that ass, I swear."
"David's in there?" I don't know why it came out as a question. I found myself squeezing Matt's hand as hard as he squeezed mine. Grounding myself.
"Of course he is." Maggie shielded her eyes, scanning the crowd. "He's up there pushing buttons and waving his hands around like he's playing Xbox Sports or something."
"That still doesn't answer why you were on the ship."
She laughed. "His alien GPS wasn't working so I had to show him where New York was. As soon as we left Jersey, he said he could feel you again, and here we are!"
A deep hole formed in my chest.
Two freaking years and not a peep out of David. For all I knew he was dead.
And now he was back. In a nearly translucent spaceship. Parked on Columbia University's front lawn.
Numbness settled over me as several police officers moved the crowd back. A security guard approached. His lips formed an "O" as his gaze fell on my face. He backed away, hands splayed, and scooted a different group to the sidewalk.
A confused oblivion took hold as the buzz of the crowd slipped into the background. I'd gotten so used to the idea of David being gone that I could barely compute the spaceship only a few paces away from me.
More police scampered onto the scene as the base of the cylinder shimmered into a full glow again. The blurry figure of a man stepped out and solidified, facing the bystanders opposite me. Matt released my hand and shoved his fingers in his pocket, hunching his shoulders.
A few people gasped, and several women's voices yelled something about the man's resemblance to the actor Jared Linden before camera-palooza started up again.
My heart sank to my toes, and a knot formed in my stomach. The pull started — the undeniable invisible tether that drew me toward him. My skin tingled. My arms ached, begging to touch, needing to hold.
He was here ... right here in front of me, and part of me still couldn't believe it.
David's fists clenched and his dark hair shifted in the breeze as he scanned the crowd. Not searching for me, of course. He knew exactly where I was. David was as drawn to me as I was to him.
I blinked away the buzz and raised my camera. The lens worshipped the white cotton tee-shirt stretched taught across his shoulders as the focus panned over his waist to enjoy the walnut-cracking rear-end Maggie just had to point out.
Dammit. He was just as gorgeous as I remembered. But what the lens captured was only a façade. Beneath that human covering hid beauty most people couldn't imagine. Pearly lilac skin. Violescent. And a heart I'd die for.
My hands trembled as I clicked the shutter button again. I needed to keep it together. Focus. He was just a guy. A story. An award-winning photo opportunity.
Yeah, if I kept telling myself that, maybe I'd believe it.
Matt shifted nervously at my side as David turned and looked directly into my lens. Click.
His eyes: so blue. So needful. So ... sad?
My stomach twisted as David walked toward me.
Keep cool, Jess. You can do this.
A tingling wave spread over my skin. All I wanted to do was rub all over him like a kitten on a catnip-coated scratching pole.
But I couldn't do that to Matt. I had to be strong. Ignore this insane longing.
Matt was a nice guy. Human. Hung around on Earth all the time. Was always there for me. He didn't leave for years at a time and not call. He didn't ... I gritted my teeth.
Dammit! After all this time, why did I still want to cover myself with sweet alien goodness? Click. Click. Click. Click. Click.
David's face filled the lens before he drew my camera down with one finger. "I don't really have much time."
I stared at him, letting my camera hang loose around my neck. The draw swirled inside me, but I managed not to step toward him as his words sunk in. "Excuse me?"
David sighed. "Listen —"
Oh, I was sooo not ready to listen.
I punched with both my hands, bashing him in the chest. "No, you listen. You're gone for how long, and all you have to say when you get back is you don't have much time?" I slammed him again, and he stepped back. "I waited for you. I waited for you like an idiot, wasting my senior year staring at the stars, but did you even call? No. I heard nothing from you. Nada. Nunca. Did you ever even ... ever even ..."
At some point during my tirade, he'd grabbed my wrists. His face was expressionless.
My hands remained fisted, ready to punch. His lips tightened as his grip relaxed. "Can I let go of you now?"
I closed my eyes and nodded, even though I didn't want him to let go of me. Not now. Not ever.
His hands fell to his sides, but I wasn't done.
Excerpted from Embers in the Sea by Jennifer M. Eaton. Copyright © 2017 Jennifer M. Eaton. Excerpted by permission of Month9Books.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I really enjoyed this book. This story has wonderful characters and a wonderful plot. There was a surprisie ending. I had a hard time putting this book down. I will be getting the next book in this series.