On the Loose Preview: Part I

Look for On the Loose, book two in the Katie Parker series to hit shelves the week of September 15.

What's the book about? Why, thank for asking.

What's a girl to do when the glass slipper doesn't fit?

Six months into her stay with her foster parents, Katie Parker is finally adjusting to her new family. But when a tornado rips through the town of In Between, nothing is ever the same again.

When her foster mom, Millie, is diagnosed with cancer, Katie begins to doubt if God really does care. What will happen to Katie? Could she possibly have to leave In Between and the family she's come to depend on? Things spiral even further out of control when Katie juggles a science fair project, a malfunctioning best friend, Spring Break plans, and holding the attention of her own Prince Charming. It's going to take more than a glass slipper and some fairy dust to fix Katie Parker's problems. But will help come in time?

Chapter One

(And by the way, I've found if you read it out loud using a British accent, it sounds much more exciting. Not sure why. Australian works well, too, but don't even waste your time with Jamaican.)

Chapter 1

Another adverstisement for feminine products. Is it just a universal law that if you sit down to watch TV with a guy, you are guaranteed at least two tampon commercials?

I sigh with relief when American Idol comes back on and focus my attention on the contestant.

“Get off the stage! You can’t sing. Girl, your mother’s been lying to you.”

James, my foster dad, rips the remote control out of my hands. He collapses back into his leather recliner and shouts another piece of artistic advice to the contestant on TV. I watch this fifty-five-year-old pastor howling along to Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway,” and wish I had a mute button for his singing voice.

“How did she get into the top ten?” His intense gaze seeks mine. “Have you ever heard anyone so bad?”

I blink. Is this a rhetorical question—like when we girls ask if we look fat?

As the painful song ends, James shouts more criticism and comments at the TV. If his congregation could only see him now, preaching his Simon-like truth to the contestants on American Idol, they would drop their NIVs and run. It’s like the evil spirit of pop, rock, and disco takes over his body. So not pretty.

I eyeball the remote in his hands, clutched in a death grip. Ah, remote, we used to be so close. Once upon a time we had such good times together. So much of my life has changed since coming to live with James and Millie Scott. Most of it for the good, but their firm control of my viewing habits still totally bites. I’m used to free reign, trolling through the cable channels to my heart’s content. I mean my own mother’s rules during prime-time viewing hours were that I didn’t interrupt her illegal drug sales. She was all for HBO if it kept me occupied. Those days are so over. But now I’ve got my foster parents completely addicted to the few shows I can still watch. Like American Idol. And yet Laguna Beach still calls my name . . .

“James, are you watching the weather?”

Millie walks into the living room, a frown on her face. She opens the blinds and looks outside.

“Yeah, the weather. Uh-huh.” He turns up the volume. “Oh, did you hear Simon? That’s exactly what I would’ve said.”

“Honey, switch it to a local channel for a second, would you? Mother just called and said there’re some weather alerts.”

“Millie, this is the last contestant for the night. We’ve got to see this. The theme tonight is Justin Timberlake songs, and I’ve been waiting all week for this.”

My foster mom and I freeze. And stare at James.

OK, number one, how does he even know who Justin Timberlake is? And two, he’s been counting the days until the former ’N Sync star was on American Idol?

With a final glance out the window, Millie plops down on the couch beside me. “This is all your fault, Katie. Last night he asked me if he was too old to try out for the show.”

James laughs and passes me some popcorn. “I could show Justin a thing or two.”

Yes, but he would need intense therapy afterwards. “James, the world is just not ready for your singing talents.”

Rocky, the family dog, follows the food and parks his large body on my feet. I try to shove him away, but it’s no use. Just one of the many things I’m getting used to around here.

“OK, commercial break. Now flip it over to channel seven.” Millie throws a pillow at her husband to get his attention.

“Just a sec.” James pulls his cell phone out of his pocket. “We’re still going with that voting strategy we talked about at dinner, right?”

My foster dad has a whole system going. He’s got spread sheets, bar graphs, and occasionally he even watches Entertainment Tonight to get some inside scoop on the singers. I’m just waiting for the day he starts his own Idol blog.

Millie lifts herself off the couch and grabs the remote out of James’s hand. “Come on. We’re gonna miss the first part of the judge’s comments. If you could wait ten more minutes and—”

A loud siren from outside stops James mid-sentence. It sounds like the fire drill at school, but it’s much louder. My eyes go wide, and I look back and forth between my foster parents.

“What’s that?” The hair on the back of my neck stands on end.

“The tornado alarm.”

Millie changes the station and a map of our county is on the screen. It’s covered in red.

James loses all interest in our TV show, as he grabs his glasses and reads the message scrolling on the bottom of the television. “A tornado’s been spotted. It says we need to take shelter immediately.”

The town siren seems to grow more insistent. Rocky whimpers and buries his nose under the couch.

“Let’s get to the bathroom.”

Millie grabs the couch cushions and hands me some to carry with us.

I have never been in a tornado before. I’m from Texas, but where I come from, drought is the biggest weather disaster you have to deal with. Living with the Scotts has been one new experience after another, but this is a moment I could definitely do without. Who has a tornado in February, I ask you?

“I’m still calling American Idol,” James mutters. “Come on, Rocky.”

We speed walk into the Scott’s master bath. Having a bathroom of my own, I’m never in here, but now is not exactly the time to study the nautical theme Millie has going on in her powder room.

“Get in.” Millie steps into the large Jacuzzi tub and holds out her hand.

“In the tub?” What, does Millie want to make sure she and her loofah aren’t separated?

“Katie, get in. Then put the couch cushion over your head.”

Great. So in addition to worrying about being sucked up by a funnel cloud, I’m going to have really bad hair too.

I climb in next to Millie and squat low. The TV is blasting the weather report in the other room, and all I can hear is ‘Take cover. Go to your safe place.’ I scoot closer to my foster mom.

“James, come on. Shut the door.” Millie raises the khaki cushion over my head.

Shoving the dog into the bathroom (which is no easy task; that Lab is about as big as a buffalo), James swings his legs over the Jacuzzi and sits on Millie’s other side.

“Excuse me.” I clear my throat. “Shouldn’t I be in the middle? I am the child here. You know, the one you two should be protecting at all costs. My left side is totally unprotected, and—oomph!”

Rocky throws his body in to join us, his monstrous frame crashing into my side.
Well, who cares about the tornado? I’m pretty sure I’m gonna die under the weight of this overfed mutt.

“Good boy, Rocky.” Millie reaches around and gives her dog a pat. “Feel better, sweetie?”

“Oh, much.”

Copied from On the Loose, by Jenny B. Jones, copyright 2007, by permission of NavPress, www.navpress.com. All rights reserved.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 3 comments
Anonymous - August 27, 2007

SOOOOOO not fair!!!! I want to, HAVE to know more!!!! Pleeeaaasssee…more!

I will watch your seminar class for a WEEK!!!!!


Jessica Epps - August 28, 2007

Love it, love it, love it!!! You are so witty Jen!!! I can feel that this book will be like the first one, I won’t be able to put it down and will read it in one day! I can’t wait!


Anonymous - September 24, 2007

I am so excited about reading this book! And I have not even finished the 1st book. I am sure you will have blown us all away again like my friends have told me!



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