Day 2 of our holiday extravaganza celebrating not only our 1 year anniversary but this special time of year with our families and friends is an EXCLUSIVE Cover Reveal and a scene from the book CHASING ABBY by Cassia Leo!
ENJOY!!! This is a series you don’t want to miss! Multiple chances to win giveaways below including a special giveaway from Cassia! Good luck!
Five years, six months, eight days….
It’s been eighteen years since Abigail Jensen was born with a gaping hole in her heart and five years since she collapsed on the soccer field and spent a harrowing three weeks in the hospital fighting for her life. Five years, six months, eight days since she found out she was adopted.
For five years, Abby has gone to sleep wondering about the family she never knew and waiting for her eighteenth birthday. But when her birthday finally comes, she hesitates. What if her birth parents want nothing to do with her?
A month after her birthday, Abby breaks the news to her parents that she will be moving in with her boyfriend, Tate. Lynette and Brian Jensen are adamant they will not pay her college tuition unless she lives with them. This is all Abby needs to send her searching for the parents she never knew.
When Abby and Tate show up on the doorstep of Chris and Claire Knight, they are overjoyed to see the little girl they lost eighteen years ago standing before them, beautiful and on the cusp of womanhood.
But the news of Abby’s rebellion leaves Chris and Claire conflicted. They agree to let her and Tate stay with them for the summer, to catch up on all the years they’ve missed. But when their visit comes to a close, and they encourage Abby to return home, Abby can’t decide what hurts more: feeling unwanted by her birth parents; being misunderstood by her adoptive parents; or the very real and painful hole in her heart.
Release Date: Summer 2014
Brian Jensen’s POV
As I stand next to Abby’s hospital bed, all I can think is that if I knew thirteen years ago what I know now, I’d have done everything differently with her birth parents. I was thirty-three years old when Chris and Claire Knight came to us asking for visitation rights. I wasn’t young, but I was foolish. Foolish to think that Abby would never need them. Foolish to think that we would never need them.
Lynette stands next to me, gently stroking the back of Abby’s hand with her thumb, the way she has every day for the past seventeen days since we received a call from Abby’s soccer coach informing us that she had collapsed during practice. It wasn’t the first time my little girl had passed out from over-exertion. Abigail was born with an AV (atrioventricular) canal defect; a gaping hole in her heart.
After the surgery she underwent at the age of five months, her recovery seemed to be going well. Then, we noticed four-year-old Abby struggling to breathe while chasing Harley, our Jack Russell Terrier, around the yard. Sure enough, we took her to the doctor and they discovered one of the valves in her heart had begun to weaken and her body wasn’t getting enough oxygen. Abby had one more surgery to reshape the leaflet, during which she died for three minutes and twenty-four seconds. We vowed to do everything we could to prevent her from ever needing surgery again.
Unfortunately, this means Abby has been forced to take various medications for years. We knew this came with a risk of injury to her liver and kidneys. We didn’t know—we couldn’t know—when she switched medications four weeks ago that she is genetically predisposed to liver toxicity due to the way her body synthesized the new drug. This time, it wasn’t her heart that made her collapse; but as I watch her lying in the hospital bed, lost in the haze of sedation with a tube buried in her throat, I almost wish it were her heart. At least then I’d know that there’s some kind of surgery that could fix her.
But there is no surgery that can fix her liver. They attempted to reverse the toxicity with corticosteroids, but she only got worse. If she doesn’t get a new liver, she could be dead in days. Her best chance at survival, due to her heart condition, is to find a genetic liver donor.
I squeeze Lynette’s shoulder and she sniffs loudly. “We have to contact them. We have to at least try.”
She shakes her head. “What will she think of us when she knows we lied to her?”
“She won’t think anything of us if she dies.”
“Stop that,” she whispers, her voice strangled by the truth of these words.
“It’s true. We need them whether we like it or not, and … she needs more from them than a piece of their liver.”
Just saying these words aloud fills me with a level of regret so heavy and palpable that I feel as if I might collapse from the realization. I grit my teeth and attempt to swallow the lump that forms in my throat. I’m no longer the one person my little girl needs more than anyone.
I reach forward to pull a few strands of hair away from the tape that’s holding the breathing tube in place. I want her to look her best for the photograph I’m about to take; quite possibly the most important photograph of Abigail’s life and she’ll be sleeping right through it. The moment I touch her warm cheek, her head twitches and Lynette pulls my hand back. She doesn’t want me to touch Abby’s face. She thinks it introduces germs into her nose and mouth and she’s afraid of what will happen if they have to give Abby antibiotics.
“I thought we wouldn’t have to tell her until she’s eighteen. I just don’t think I’m ready,” Lynette whispers as she reaches for the camera, which rests on the chair beside her. She holds the camera out for me to take, but she holds on a little as I attempt to take it from her. “Hold on. Let me fix her hair.”
I can hardly breathe as I watch Lynette smooth down Abby’s blonde hair. As similar as Abby’s hair color is to Lynette’s, she doesn’t really resemble either one of us. She noticed this a few years ago and when she inquired about it, Lynette’s response was, “Because you got all our best traits. That’s why you’re so much prettier than us.”
You don’t have to share DNA with your child to know when they’re suffering. Whether Lynette admits it to herself or me, the truth is that Abby knows she’s different. I read about adopted children who grow up feeling unwanted even when their adoptive parents make every effort to show them they are loved. This is one of the main reasons why I was so adamant about not allowing Chris and Claire Knight to have any contact with Abby after her first birthday. I knew that if there were a chance that Abby ever felt unwanted or unloved, she would go running to them. Now, I just want her to feel normal. If meeting them is what will save her life and give her back that sense that she is loved, I’ll do anything for her to feel that.
Lynette wipes tears from her face as she steps away from Abby and I take a step back to get a wider angle of the hospital bed. The lighting in this critical care room is terrible. This isn’t something I ever imagined I would care about in the countless days we’ve spent in hospital rooms.
I take a few shots, feeling sick with myself as I walk around the bed to see which angle makes her look best. Every year, a few days before Christmas, we drop a flash drive containing pictures of Abby in a joint safe deposit box in Raleigh. They also leave a flash drive with pictures of themselves, and I can only assume it’s because they haven’t given up hope that we’ll introduce Abby to them. This is the first year that we’ll be handing them the pictures in person as we beg them to save our girl.
Finally, I have to stop taking photos when I realize I’m about to lose my composure. I turn away from the hospital bed and silently ask Abby’s forgiveness for photographing her while she’s in this state. She hates taking pictures, especially Christmas pictures, unless she’s had time to fix her hair and put on a nice outfit. The things thirteen-year-old girls worry about still baffle me. I often wonder if she inherited this and all the traits I love so much about her from the Knights.
I turn around and Lynette is holding Abby’s hand again. “She’s lucky we adopted her,” she says. This time her voice is a bit louder than a whisper, as if she’s trying to convince me—or herself. “She probably wouldn’t have survived this long. She’s lucky to have us.”
“She needs to see those pictures,” I insist, but Lynette doesn’t look up or acknowledge my words.
Suddenly, Abby’s head jerks a bit harder and her fingers begin to move. My heart races as I rush to her side. Her eyes are still closed as tears begin to slide down her temples.
“What’s wrong?” I ask instinctively.
A soft whimper sounds in her throat where the breathing tube prevents her from speaking. She shakes her head, her eyes still closed as the tears come faster.
“Call the doctor!” I shout at Lynette, who is dumbfounded. Abby has been in a coma for eleven days.
Abby’s cries become more high-pitched as she struggles to be heard through the tube. “Don’t try to speak, honey. The doctor’s coming. Just stay calm. Are you in pain?”
She shakes her head even more adamantly and finally she opens her eyes wide.
“Don’t be afraid,” I whisper as I reach for her hand, but she slaps my fingers away. “Abby, what’s wrong?” She reaches for the tape holding her breathing tube and I grab her hand to stop her. “Don’t do that.” She leans her head back and her muffled cries cease as she closes her eyes. “Honey, are you okay?”
She squeezes her eyes tightly shut and now it looks as if she’s in extreme pain. The nurse rushes in and I lock eyes with her. “I think she’s in pain.”
Abby’s cries begin again and she continues to shake her head. She wants us to know she is not in pain.
The nurse is confused. “Then what’s wrong, dear. Is it the tube in your throat? Because we can’t take that out. We’ll have to wait for the doctor to get here. He’s been paged. Can you wait a few more minutes?”
Lynette wears a guarded smile as she rounds the foot of the bed and reaches for me. She didn’t see what I just saw.
Abby’s cries grow stronger and the nurse appears worried. “You want a piece of paper to write something down?”
Finally, Abby nods and the nurse quickly leaves the room to retrieve a pen and paper, but Lynette beats her to it. She grabs a store receipt and a pen out of her purse and hands it to Abby. As she takes the receipt and the pen from Lynette, she seems to be refusing to look at her. Her hand shakes as she writes a few words down on the back of the receipt then lets both the receipt and the pen drop onto her blanket.
The words on the paper break my heart into a million pieces: I want to see the pictures.
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Cassia Leo grew up in California and has lived in three different countries. She loves to travel and her dream is to one day score a record deal based on her awesome shower singing skills. She is the author of the Shattered Hearts series (Relentless, Pieces of You, Bring Me Home). She is also the author of the popular Luke and Chase series.