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The Life You Stole (Life Duet #2)
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Sex. Lies. Revenge.
On the heels of a devastating loss, Evelyn fights to put her life back together.
“If you tell her the lie, I will tell her the truth.”
When her best friend goes to great lengths to protect Evelyn from destruction and devastation, mistakes are made, lines are crossed, and all trust is shattered.
“We weren’t unbreakable.
Don’t miss the explosive conclusion to this unforgettable thriller by Jewel E. Ann, bestselling author of The Transcend Series.
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I waited for the end.
Hinder not the soul’s intended path unto the light, lest shards of darkness shed upon thee.
When their heart stopped, I was supposed to let them be—like a walking DNR, except EMTs saved lives. We rarely pronounced someone dead in the field. We didn’t deal with souls; we dealt with human bodies.
I compressed chests, shocked hearts, and breathed air into lifeless lungs. I did this knowing that less than half of CPR recipients regained a heartbeat, and only ten to twenty percent of those patients lived to be discharged from the hospital. I did it because I made the choice to be a superhero in spite of the risk of suffering eternal death.
The end came for me. My time to die. No more saving lives. An end to perpetual suffering.
Only, no light greeted me.
The familiar ringing chimed in my ears, my connection—that energy—I shared with the soul I hindered. The life I saved. The ringing stopped when that person died. But Lila didn’t die. That ringing should have stopped when I died.
The feathery pine tree branches framed the patchy, gray clouds. I blinked as those clouds spit droplets of rain onto my face. I wasn’t dead.
“Lila …” I whispered, running my fingertips along my neck. It ached, tender to touch. Rolling onto my side, I groaned while climbing to my hands and knees, letting my head hang like a ten-pound bowling ball between my shoulders. I took a few labored breaths of the damp air, thick with musk and pine. And life.
Yes. I was alive.
Glancing up, I scanned the narrow trail for my phone. It taunted me, just feet out of reach. On another groan, I stretched my hand across the wet dirt to grab it and lumbered to my feet.
“Lila …” I wiped my dirty hand on my shirt and tapped her name in my contacts.
After several rings, it jumped to voicemail. Then I tried Graham.
On the second ring, he answered. “Hey, buddy. What’s up?”
“Graham, where’s Lila?”
“Are you okay? You don’t sound so well.”
I cleared my throat, trying to steady my breathing. The words flowed on a wave of panic, strained and shaky. “I just …” Closing my eyes, I pinched the bridge of my nose. “Evelyn was trying to reach Lila, but she couldn’t, and she was getting worried.”
Graham chuckled. “Lila’s in the shower. Should I have her call Evelyn when she gets out?”
“Uh … no. It was nothing really. Is she … okay?”
“She’s great. Why do you ask? Are you sure you’re okay? Is Evelyn okay? The kids?”
“No … I mean, yeah. We’re fine. Just, forget I called. Don’t worry Lila. It was just Evie being Evie. You know.”
“Yeah, I know. She worries about everything, but rightfully so since Madeline died.”
“Yes.” I ghosted my fingers over my neck. “Sorry to bother you.”
“No problem. Give Evie and the kids big hugs from me.”
Graham disconnected the call before I could bring the phone away from my ear. How could she be fine? What the fuck happened to me? She was it. She was the life I saved. I felt her and no one else. If that wasn’t her, then what was it?
Living Lila. Constant tinnitus. The cloud of eternal death following me everywhere. Talk about un-fucking-familiar territory.
Why did my heart stop after she coded? What did that mean for her? For me? For that little thing I wanted to keep called my sanity?
I thought I knew the rules, but maybe there were no rules to a phenomenon I couldn’t explain and a voice I couldn’t prove. All signs pointed toward insanity, but I knew I wasn’t crazy, even if everything about it felt crazy.
Did that happen? Could I truly not breathe? Or did I feel something that wasn’t actually happening to me? But if I felt what Lila felt, and it was happening to her, it should have been worse for her. It made no sense that I nearly died while she was in the shower and—perfectly fine?
On wobbly legs, I trekked down the trail, the cool air nipping at my sweaty skin. By the time I pushed through the back door, the panic and discomfort subsided. Evie and the kids had already left for the library. After experiencing the scariest, most painful moment of my life, I tore off my clothes and grabbed a shower, trying to make it to my meeting on time. Wiping the condensation-covered mirror, I inspected my neck.
No redness or bruising. Nothing.
Cringing at the residual tenderness, I swallowed past the discomfort like someone had stepped on my neck and crushed my trachea.
“How was your meeting?” Evie maneuvered Anya’s squirmy legs through the holes of the highchair at the restaurant.
Franz crawled into the booth next to me, pulling out library books from his cloth bag and piling them onto the table to show me. I scooted the water glasses away from the books and smiled at my wide-eyed, young boy.