Exclusive Excerpt + Signed Giveaway: Chasing Abby by Cassia Leo

Chasing-Abby

I have loved the Shattered Hearts series dearly. There’s an emotional gravity to it, a realness that seeped into my heart early on and entrenched itself deeply as I continued reading more of the story. Now, we finally get to know Abby’s story… Chris and Claire’s daughter… the baby they gave up so long ago. I just finished the book this morning and it was so beautiful… so heartfelt… an emotional story of acceptance, forgiveness, love and loss. It’s a must-read for fans of the Shattered Hearts series. I’m honored to share an excerpt from Chasing Abby, which is now available.

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Synopsis

chasing-abby-by-cassia-leoThe heart-stopping conclusion to the New York Times and USA Today best selling series.

Five years, six months, eight days….

It’s been eighteen years since Abigail was born with a hole in her heart. Five years since she collapsed on the soccer field. Five years, six months, eight days since she found out she was adopted.

Abby has spent five years wondering about the family she never knew and waiting for her eighteenth birthday. When Abby shows up on the doorstep of Chris and Claire Knight, her birth parents are overjoyed to see the little girl they lost eighteen years ago.

One summer is all they have to make up for the years they lost. But a summer of love soon turns into a summer of heartache.

Chapter Nine

abby

Two months after

I KNOW THAT, technically, I’m doing nothing wrong. I’m an adult. I have the right to decide where I want to spend the night. But lying to my parents always makes me anxious. Still, I don’t think it’s the lie that’s got me so worked up. I’m afraid to spend the night with Caleb.

I shouldn’t be afraid of spending the night with him. We’re not going to have sex. At least, I don’t think we are.

“So Amy is going to keep her ringer on all night in case they call, right?” Caleb asks as we drive toward the apartment he shares with his roommate, Greg Lawson.

I’ve hung out with Greg plenty of times and he’s agreed to spend the night at his girlfriend’s house to give us some privacy. But I can’t help but feel weird about this whole thing. Even knowing that this will be our apartment soon.

Greg graduated from UNC Chapel Hill two years ago. He was the only person Caleb found who was willing to take a chance on a seventeen-year-old roommate after Caleb’s dad died last year. Caleb absolutely did not want to get placed in foster care at his age. He asked for more hours at the tire shop where he works to bring in some more cash, and he’s been living with Greg ever since. Until Greg gets married and moves out in July. Then, Caleb and I have agreed we’ll take over the lease.

Caleb and I are going to live together.

It feels surreal as he turns left off Stanhope, into College Crest. College Crest is a neighborhood just east of NC State and Meredith College, mostly inhabited by college-age residents. Greg took over the lease on this apartment when his friend from NC State moved to Seattle after graduation. Two years on, and now Caleb and I will be assuming the lease. It’s hard to find a vacant apartment in College Crest.

“Yes, Amy is going to keep her phone on and she’s going to answer,” I reply, sliding my right hand between the seat and the passenger door to hide it as I wiggle my fingers. I run the fingers of my left hand through my hair to disguise the same action. I don’t want Caleb to know how terrified I am right now.

He reaches across and grabs my hand out of my hair as he turns into the parking lot on Stanhope. “Are you panicking?”

He rubs his thumb over the top of my hand and I close my eyes as I draw in a large breath.

“A little.”

He pulls his car into an empty space near the back of the lot, but he doesn’t turn off the engine. “We don’t have to do this. I’ll take you home right now and you can decide what you want to do later… Or now. You can tell me right now if you don’t want to live here. I’ll find another roommate… Or I’ll give you this apartment and find another place.”

“Caleb, stop. We’ve discussed this. I’m not taking this apartment without you, and I’m not going to try to find another roommate. No one else will understand me the way you do.” I look down at his hand in mine and smile. “I’m going to live with you. Nothing else makes sense.” I look up and he’s not smiling. “But that doesn’t mean I’m not really nervous about tonight.”

“Abby, you don’t have to be nervous. I’ll sleep in Greg’s room and you can sleep in mine. It will be like sleeping in your own bed, only it’ll smell much better.”

I shake my head as I reach for the door handle. “You always know what to say to make me feel so much better.”

We enter the apartment and, after he drops my backpack on top of the kitchen table, Caleb heads straight for the refrigerator. “I stocked up on Cheerwine for you,” he calls to me as I take a seat on the navy-blue sofa where Caleb and I have made out a thousand times.

He comes out of the kitchen with a can of Cheerwine, my favorite cherry soda, and a bottle of drinkable yogurt for himself. Caleb is addicted to drinkable yogurt, and not the fruity kind. He drinks the plain stuff, which I find disgusting. But he claims it gives him super powers.

He sits next to me, handing me the soda and offering me a sip of his yogurt. He smiles when I shake my head. “You’re missing out.” He grabs the TV remote off the coffee table and turns on the DVR. “I even recorded your favorite show,” he says, scrolling through a long list of episodes of Congressional Chronicle on C-Span.

I open my Cheerwine and take my shoes off so I can curl my feet up on the sofa. “You really are the perfect roommate.”

He puts on a romantic comedy movie he obviously recorded for me, then he sets the remote down on the table. “Tonight is your night, angel-face.”

“Angel-face?”

He guzzles the last drops of yogurt and places the empty bottle on the table. “Do you prefer sunshine?”

I take a large gulp of soda and place the can on the table, then I lie back with my head in Caleb’s lap. “Let’s mix it up. How about… turtledove?”

“Turtledove it is.”

He runs his fingers through my hair as we watch the movie and I don’t notice I’ve fallen asleep until I wake up in Caleb’s arms as he carries me to his bedroom.

“I can walk,” I mutter groggily.

“It’s fine. This totally makes up for the fact that I didn’t get to work out today.”

He lays me down on the bed and I’m fully awake now. “I have to get ready for bed,” I say, sitting up immediately.

Caleb holds up his hand to stop me. “I’ll get your stuff.”

He returns a moment later with my backpack. “I know you take a shower before you go to bed. I’ll just go… out there until you’re done.”

“Wait.”

He looks at me with that hopeful look in his eyes and my entire body is buzzing with anxiety. “Can you turn on the water in the shower for me?”

He smiles and nods for me to follow him. We enter the small bathroom and the first thing I think is that it desperately needs some new decor. The plastic shower curtain is covered in squiggly blue lines that are meant to resemble waves. But in between each line, there’s nothing. It’s just clear plastic. And the shower curtain liner behind it is also clear. Not very private.

I put down the toilet seat and the lid and Caleb smiles. “I knew I forgot something. Damn toilet seat gets me every time.”

The nice thing about being an only child is that I’ve never had to share my bathroom. Our small three-bedroom, two-bath house in Raleigh is just big enough for our family. My dad never goes in my bathroom, so I’ve never had the pleasure of accidentally sitting down on a toilet while the seat is still up. But every time I’ve visited Caleb’s apartment over the past ten months, I always find the toilet seat up. It’s not a big deal, but it’s one of those classic reminders of the things that happen when a male and female share a living space.

“Just don’t let it happen again, buttercup,” I reply, setting my backpack on the closed lid of the toilet as Caleb squeezes in next to me and pushes the shower curtain open.

“Turn it to the left to turn it on,” he says, turning on the water in the shower. “Wait a little while until it gets hot, then turn it back to the right if you want it cooler or to the left if you want it hotter. But be careful, it gets really hot. Greg rigged the water heater to go full throttle.”

“Full throttle?” I say, pulling my shampoo, conditioner, and body wash out of my backpack. “I’m going to make sure to tell my parents we went full throttle in the shower.”

He spins around and his eyes are wide with surprise. “Turtledove, I’m shocked.”

I laugh as I pull my pajamas out of my backpack and set them down on the bathroom counter. “Get out.”

After a long shower, my muscles are warm and relaxed. I enter Caleb’s bedroom and find the lamp on, but he’s not here. I set my backpack on the floor and head for the living room. He’s laid out on the sofa watching a political satire show on the comedy channel. He watches me as I approach, then I lie down on top of him, nuzzling my head into the crook of his neck.

“You smell like sunshine,” he whispers, planting a soft kiss on the top of my head.

“We can do this, right?”

He knows I’m referring to living together, so he doesn’t skip a beat with his reply. “We can do anything you want.”

I lie still for a moment, listening to the beat of his heart beneath me. “I want to go to sleep… with you… roomie.”

After Caleb showers and we settle into his freshly laundered sheets, I sneak back into his nook and he holds me until I fall asleep. When I wake seven hours later, I’m surprised to find neither of us has changed positions. My face is still mashed against his neck and his hand is still wrapped loosely around my shoulders. It’s almost as if God is trying to tell us something. “See, Abby. You’re still you and Caleb is still Caleb. Everything is going to be just fine.”

✦✦✦

WE PICK UP AMY at nine a.m., as planned, then we have breakfast at McDonald’s before we head back to my house. Caleb and I have breakfast on Saturdays quite often, and he drives me everywhere, so my mom won’t suspect anything when we show up in his car. They won’t know that Caleb and I just did a trial run on our soon-to-be new living situation and everything went great. They won’t know that I’m about to say good-bye.

My dad is in the backyard, the sound of the hedge trimmer buzzing. My mom is in the kitchen doing the breakfast dishes. Caleb, Amy, and I enter and I grab a towel to dry the dishes that are already in the rack. I dry the first plate then hand it to Caleb for him to put away.

“What are you doing today, Mom?”

She casts me that suspicious sideways glance that tells me she knows I’m up to something. “I’m going to lunch with your Aunt Maddie. What are you three doing?”

Amy opens the refrigerator and grabs the pitcher of cold water. I hand her a glass tumbler I just dried and she heads to the dining table with the glass and the entire pitcher of water.

“We’re thinking of going to Jockey’s Ridge,” I reply, taking the clean skillet from my mom.

“Jockey’s Ridge again? You graduated eight days ago and you’re already repeating your summer outings. Why don’t you all go to the movies or something?”

“That’s a great idea!” I say as I hang the skillet up on the pot rack above the tiny kitchen island. “But… I have something I need to talk to you about first. Well, Caleb and I have something we need to talk to you about.”

My mom finishes drying off her hands on a clean towel then turns around. “What do you have to talk to me about?”

“We kind of wanted to talk to you and Dad.”

She looks at me like I’m crazy. “Abigail, is this something serious? What is going on here?”

“I’m not pregnant or anything, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

She lets out a huge sigh and shakes her head. “Jesus, Abby. You scared the heck out of me. Your dad will be done soon.”

We all retire to the living room to watch some TV while we wait for my dad. My mom puts on the Animal Planet and I know Caleb is dying to make a smart comment. Every time we sit down to watch TV with my mom, she always puts on the Animal Planet. It’s almost as if she thinks this is the only safe channel to watch with us. Caleb thought he was so clever when he bought my mom an Animal Planet Explorer lifetime membership for her last birthday.

My dad walks in through the front door about twenty minutes later. My leg bounces impatiently as I wait for him to wash his hands and find us in the living room. When he comes out of the kitchen, he chuckles when he sees us all sitting down together and staring straight at him.

“Is this some kind of meeting of the minds? How’d it go last night, sweetheart?”

“It was great!” I reply quickly, shooting a glance at Amy.

“It was awesome, Mr. Jensen,” Amy begins. “We went for some fro-yo, then we watched pay-per-view porn all night.”

“Amy!” my mom shrieks while Caleb and I laugh.

“Oh, sorry. Was I not supposed to tell them about that?” Amy asks with a smile.

I can always count on her to completely erase any doubt that we were together. Though, according to Amy, my parents never called her all night. My mom did call me around ten o’clock to make sure I was okay and that I’d taken my nightly meds. But other than that, my sleepover with Caleb went off without a hitch. It’s almost frightening how easy it is to lie to my parents. Maybe I can lie to them about living off-campus with Caleb.

No, I could never pull that off. The stress alone would kill me.

And speaking of stress, here goes nothing.

“Mom, Dad. Caleb and I are going to share an apartment off-campus this fall.”

“What?” my mom and dad bellow.

“That is not even funny, Abby,” my mom says, her mouth hanging open as she waits for me to tell her this is a joke.

“Your mom’s right,” my dad agrees. “The porn joke was funny, but this is not.”

“It’s not a joke!” I shout as I push up from the sofa. “I’m eighteen years old. I’m allowed to live with whomever I choose and I want to live with Caleb. He knows me better than anyone. He knows when I’m stressed. He knows when I need to take my meds. He knows how to take care of me better than any random roommate ever will.” I look at Caleb and he has his head down, but I can see a shadow of a smile on his lips. “And we love each other.”

“Was this your idea?” my dad roars.

Caleb raises his head and I’m pleased to find he looks more surprised than scared. “No, sir. This was not my idea, but Abby’s right. I can take care of her better than anyone. I’d rather have her with me where I know she’s safe.”

My dad narrows his eyes and nods his head. “Where she’s safe? Sure, that’s exactly why you want to live with her. Do you two really think I’m that stupid?”

Caleb and my mom stand from the sofa at the same time, but I speak first. “We don’t think you’re stupid, Dad. We thought you’d be more understanding.”

“You thought I’d understand that my eighteen-year-old daughter and her eighteen-year-old boyfriend want to live together?” His glare is seething with a rage I’ve never seen on my father. “You thought I’d understand that you seem determined to repeat your parents’ mistakes?”

The room is so quiet after my father speaks these words, I can almost hear the tears welling up in my eyes. Everyone in this room knows what “parents” my father is referring to. And this is the first clue about their story that I’ve ever been given. And it only saddens me more that he used this piece of information to hurt me.

“How could you say that to me?” I whisper.

“Abby, you don’t know what you’re proposing. This is bigger than just picking a roommate,” my mom says, reaching for my arm, but I push her away. “Your father’s right. Accidents happen and you’re not physically or emotionally prepared to deal with something like that. You two need to finish college first before you start a life together.”

“I’m not emotionally prepared? I’m too fragile?” I shake my head. “You two don’t know me at all. Maybe I am more like my other parents.”

“Your father didn’t mean that.”

I grab Caleb’s hand and pull him toward the front door as Amy follows behind us. “That’s okay, because I think it’s time for me to find out for myself.”

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About Cassia

cassia-leo-cropped

New York Times bestselling author Cassia Leo loves her coffee, chocolate, and margaritas with salt. When she’s not writing, she spends way too much time watching old reruns of Friends and Sex and the City. When she’s not watching reruns, she’s usually enjoying the California sunshine or reading.

She believes in true love and happy endings, and that the most palpable regrets come from watching those two things slip away. Her favorite books and movies are the ones that challenge her mentally and leave her emotionally scarred. Her family has declared her a “method writer” because she gets “in character” while writing. She believes becoming the character is the only way to truly understand him or her. Her dream is to one day score a record deal based on her awesome shower singing skills.

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Comments

  1. I look forward to reading this series of books, I am always looking for new authors. Goodreads is a favorite of mine also

  2. I look forward to reading a new author

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