Publication date: October 4th 2022
Genres: Adult, Romance, Suspense
How can someone who’s dead save your life during a night of terror?
Jackie’s heart broke when her beloved college boyfriend died in an off-campus gas explosion—a pointless, horrible death. Nine years later and thousands of miles away, her own life is saved when a random stranger calls her name and covers her body with his during a mass shooting. She wakes in a hospital only to learn that the stranger is among the dead.
But was he a stranger? For those terrifying seconds, Jackie was sure he was her beloved Leo. Needing to hide such crazy ideas from friends and family, Jackie begins a search for the only man she has ever loved—now seemingly twice dead.
“You said your name was Jackie? Life is full of crazy coincidences, I guess. Jake had the strangest tattoo, and I’m remembering now that I’m almost certain it said Jackie.”
All the air was suddenly gone from the room. Jackie couldn’t breathe.
“Yeah. So unusual. I would never have seen it except that I got this thingamajig to attach to my toilet that was supposed to help with . . . well, not important. It was supposed to be easy to install, and I thought I could do it, but it absolutely did not work the way the instructions said it would. Every time I turned the water valve back on, water sprayed everywhere. I thought I’d need to call a plumber, but Jake stopped by and said he’d be happy to look at it.”
Mr. Riga chuckled softly, shaking his head and briefly closing his eyes. “He worked on it for about 45 minutes and made it work in the end, but he was completely drenched.”
His smile broadened in memory. “This was last February, when it was still cold, so I told him he wasn’t going outside in wet clothes. I made him take everything off and gave him sweatpants and a shirt to put on and told him the least I could do was wash his clothes. He said it wasn’t necessary, but I didn’t want him getting sick on my account, and he eventually gave in. So he stripped right there in the hall” —Mr. Riga pointed to the small hallway off the kitchen where a door, presumably to a bedroom or bathroom was partly ajar— “and I saw it low on his belly. I was afraid it was a bruise and that he had hurt himself with the wrench or something, so I asked about it.”
Mr. Riga sighed again, and a look of complete exhaustion passed over his face. “He was such a sweet but serious young man. Not the type you’d expect to have a tattoo, especially there.” He looked slightly embarrassed but went on to finish his story.
“Anyway, he said it was the name of the girl he’d loved and lost, and he’d put it in a spot where only he would ever see it.”
For a man sunken in grief, he’d been able to tell an animated story. Through her mesmerized attention, Jackie could see a resemblance to the gregarious and effervescent Danny she had never really known but heard so much about. It was his words, however, that had her biting her lip hard enough that she only stopped in surprise when she tasted blood.
She and Leo had joked frequently about getting tattoos. Several of their friends had them, and Jackie had teased Leo about going together one day and getting them in places only the two of them would ever see. But like so many other plans, that one had vanished when Leo had died.
“What kind of tattoo was it?” She had to know, despite the odd look shot her by Nadine.
“I didn’t get up close to see, since I’d only meant to make sure he wasn’t hurt.” Mr. Riga reddened slightly, the spots oddly sweet on his otherwise pale face. “But he was a nice guy and saw I was curious. He drew a picture of it on a piece of paper. He knew I understood music because I’d told him I played the violin. He said it was something he’d doodled long ago and only had made into a tattoo one night after he got stupid drunk.”
He smiled at Jackie and Nadine. “Whoever that Jackie was, she must have been pretty special. When he talked about the tattoo, he was almost like a different person. But after that night, neither one of us ever mentioned it again.”
“What was special about it?” Nadine asked, and Jackie was grateful for her friend’s curiosity. There was no way she could have forced her voice to work.
“Well, he’d drawn a small musical staff.” He looked at them. “Do you ladies know what that is?” When they nodded, he continued. “And you know what a G clef sign is?”
Jackie nodded, not breathing, while Nadine just shrugged. “He made the core of the clef sign stand out as the letter J and then had the rest of the letters of the name Jackie going up the staff like small notes. It was quite beautiful and unlike anything I’d ever seen.”
But Jackie had seen it. Years ago. Years ago, miles away, and in an entirely different life, the young man she had been in love with had sketched just such a design when they had joked about getting tattoos. They had never gotten them because Leo had died.
Except apparently, he hadn’t.
Meg Napier knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that love stories form the basis for everything that matters in life. Her hope is to bring joy, excitement, and a sigh of satisfaction to readers everywhere through stories that tell most frequently of second chances--in life, love, and sometimes even at rediscovering a soul-mate from a previous life. Email her at MegNapierAuthor@gmail.com or find her on her website
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