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USA Today Bestselling Author J.L. Mac shares the FULL PROLOGUE of her highly anticipated novel Vital Sign! (Don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the bottom of the post!)
J.L. Mac, the USA Today Bestselling Author of the Wrecked series [Ed. note - Official Winners of the Still Seeking Allies Sexiest Cover Contest 3 years in a row], is twenty-something years old and currently resides in El Paso, Texas, where she enjoys living near her parents and siblings. She was born and raised in Galveston, Texas. J.L. admittedly has had a long and sordid love affair with the written word and has loved every minute of it. She drinks too many glasses of wine on occasion, and says way too many swear words to be considered "lady-like." J.L. spends her free time reading, writing, and playing with her two young children.
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Vital Sign - Synopsis
Sadie Parker’s life has been nothing short of simple and perfect. She has Jacob, her loving husband. She has her art. She has stability and she has big plans and endless hope for the future. Until now. Until the night that turned her perfect life into a horrific nightmare. She’s a woman with the need for understanding and closure. She’s something she agonizes over. She’s a widow.
Sadie sets out on a journey to healing without knowing that things will get far worse before they get better. Despite her general indifference to organ donation she feels compelled to seek out the recipients of Jacob’s organs with hopes that meeting those people will soothe her own grief.
Resentment runs rampant as she meets the thriving, organ recipients. She has difficulty not being angry and jealous. The heart recipient is the last person she seeks to meet and he is a complete game changer. She hates him for his health but can’t help but feel at home in his presence. He soothes her grief in a way that is intoxicating; addictive even.
The heart that once fell in love with her now resides in Alexander Hayden’s chest. It’s a circumstance that forces her to wage an internal war fueled by grief, anger, guilt, love, lust, and loyalty.
Sadie must discover the things that are vital to going on with her life if she has any hope of finding her way through the all consuming grief that dominates every waking moment.
I'm excited about Vital Sign, and excited to be the first to share its Prologue, below. So why am I excited, you ask? First, because I love J.L.'s style, her way of expressing herself. It's so poetic and evocative. Example, you ask? "The heart that once fell in love with her now resides in Alexander Hayden’s chest." This isn't a totally unheard of concept, meeting a loved one's heart recipient. But J.L. frames it so poignantly, in just the way that a sensitive person might perceive and feel, and conveys its emotional heft in a sparse but unsparing and elegant way. Its just lovely. Without any further ado, though, let me share that Prologue with y'all, and you'll see what I mean. And I know you'll share my trembling anticipation for the release of Vital Sign (don't forget to add it to your Goodreads!)
Vital Sign - Prologue
My eyes flutter open and for a moment I dismiss the noise I just heard as Jacob coming to bed but he has been beside me for hours. The clock on my nightstand glows displaying the time.
He worked a double today and I know he is exhausted so I refuse to wake him over something that is more than likely nothing. I lay in silence for a long moment before closing my eyes again. The second my lids shut I hear something rustle from down the hall. I hope it’s Starla. She left through the dog door this afternoon and she had yet to return when we went to bed.
She’s a stubborn cat and I know she likes to sneak away in hopes of a good hunt so I’m not too worried. She has disappeared before and dragged in a day or so later smelly and tired from her gallivanting.
Jake would insist that he check out the noise while I wait in the bedroom but there is no sense in waking my weary husband over Starla, the mostly domesticated feline.
He’s a police officer so he has an awareness that I don’t and it can border on paranoia at times. I look over to him in the darkness and lift his leaden arm from my hip. I carefully slip from under his arm and slide from our bed. He doesn’t make a sound in response to my movement.
Normally he’d wake up right away but he’s exhausted. I can tell by his snoring. Jake only snores when he is completely spent. I don’t have the heart to disturb him.
My feet hit our carpeted floor and I tip toe to the door of our bedroom. Once in the hallway I glance towards the kitchen where Starla’s food and water bowls sit. I expect to see her there but she isn’t. I look the other way, towards the hall bathroom but I don’t see her in the dim nightlight.
“Starla?” I whisper, clicking my tongue a few times. Nothing. Where the hell is that crazy cat?
I sneak quietly towards the kitchen and living room in search of her. I know I heard something. I swear if I find another raccoon in our kitchen trash I’ll force Jake to seal up that dog door. Starla shouldn’t be getting out anyway. I brace myself for the creature I’m sure I’ll find. My shoulders tense a little. I clench my jaw, preparing to bite back my screams when I catch the rodent. The last time I caught a raccoon in the house I screamed like a wild banshee and ran for Jake like my life depended on it. I scared the shit out of him. Poor husband. He came hook sliding into the kitchen in his socks with his gun drawn. I squealed and jumped up and down pointing to the ass end of the raccoon sticking out of the trash can. He had made a mess and was stuck in the garbage can. The more scared he got, the more he fought to escape. Jake just looked from the raccoon to me wide eyed and slumped forward in relief. He leaned over resting his hands on his knees and began laughing so hard he couldn’t catch his breath. I, of course, got mad. He put the safety on the gun and put it on the counter. Carefully skirting the animal, Jake opened the back door wide and in one swift movement, tilted the trashcan upright. The raccoon fell to the bottom of the can, head first and Jake hurried outside with the whole thing. I’ll die if I’m about to relive that disaster.
“Don’t move,” A raspy low voice demands. I freeze in my tracks and gasp, unable to scream. I instinctively put my hands up as if being arrested. I don’t know why. I guess it’s the universal sign of submission. In the low light coming from the hallway I can see the form of a thin man standing in front of our television with his arm extended holding what I presume to be a gun. “I’ll fuckin’ blow your brains out if you make a noise. Anyone else home?”
Lie. Lie. Lie. “No. My husband is away on business.” I manage to whisper in a calm voice.
“Good. Where are your keys and wallet?” He takes a step closer forcing me to flinch.
I stand staring at him for a moment because my head is spinning and I honestly can’t remember where I left them last. My heart is pounding and adrenaline is coursing through my veins leaving a path of fine sweat and tremors in its wake. Think, Sadie. Don’t panic now. Be smart. Be strong. I play Jake's words through my head and it helps me to focus enough to remember where my purse is.
“Bitch,” the man warns.
“The dining table,” I blurt far too loudly.
“Go get it and set it on the coffee table. Slowly,” he instructs. I take a deep breath and begin the short walk to our small dining room. I must make only three steps and I hear the floor creak beneath the man’s feet. The noise startles me and I freeze again. He must be following me into the dining room. I don’t look back to verify it. I know what I heard.
“Drop your weapon.” Jakes voice is clear and firm. I spin around and see him standing in his boxers in the low light. His department issued pistol in his hand, pointed at the figure that is still by our TV. My eyes immediately go to where the intruder is standing. “Sadie, walk towards me,” Jake instructs without looking at me. I look from the man to Jake, then back to the man. I don’t want to move. I don’t want to make a mistake.
“You’re not goin’ anywhere, bitch,” the intruder growls. Jake’s gun is pointed at the man whose gun is alternating from pointing at me to pointing at Jake.
“Sadie.” Jakes tone tells me what I need to know and I know I have to do as he says. I inch towards Jake.
“Stay there!” the intruder barks. I stop where I am, only three or four inches closer to Jake than I was. I can’t do this. My feet feel glued in place. A bead of sweat rolls from my hairline down my forehead and into my eye. The sweat stings, causing me to blink rapidly. I look to Jake but he is focused on the man in front of him.
Jake takes a tentative step towards me. He’s testing the man. “Don’t move! I’ll shoot her!” The man is becoming more and more nervous. The tension in the room is palpable yet Jake seems calm; confident.
“Jake, don’t,” I plead just above a whisper. My eyes dart back and forth between the men. Tears build in my eyes, goose bumps spread across my skin. This is not going to end well. The hand that the intruder’s gun is in begins to tremble and he raises his other hand to stabilize himself. He’s edgy. “Jake,” I whisper while closing my eyes so tightly, instinctively preparing for what’s to come. I can feel it all around me. I can feel something bad closing in on us. I’m scared. I’m so scared.
Without warning, shots ring out. I’m not sure how many. I fall to the floor in a heap then roll to my stomach. I immediately begin scrambling face down for safety. It’s a feeble effort on my part. The side of my head landed on the tile hard sending a sharp pain ricocheting through my skull. I’m immobile and utterly helpless. I can’t open my eyes no matter how hard I try. My lungs burn. I need to take a breath. My brain is screaming at me to breathe, but I can’t.
Warmth covers my chest. It spreads down my ribs to my side. Immediately following the warmth is a cold that I’ve never felt. It’s a frigid type of cold that seems to emanate from the inside out. Confusion sets in and my train of thought is centered on Jake. I can’t hear him. I can’t see him.
Without regard for anything else I will my body to move and my eyes to open. A searing hot pain causes me to cry out as I force myself onto my side. With my temple pressed to the cool tile, my eyes widen offering me the first glimpse of Jake. He’s only feet from me. The low light provides just enough for me to see. He’s lying on the floor facing me. Mirror image. Blood has covered his neck and chest. The rose red pool around him keeps growing spilling out life with it. An unearthly shrill fills the space around us. A long moment passes before I realize that the unnatural noise is coming from me. It’s worse than a wounded animal. It’s what I imagine a dying person sounds like.
My love. My sweet love. Don’t leave me. Please don’t leave me.
Seven Years of Bad Luck
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