All In (Full Tilt Book 2)By: Emma Scott
I’d like to extend a huge thank you to the following people for their support, love, and for their solidarity for me in my endeavors. Each and every one of you had a hand in bringing this book to life.
Melissa Panio-Petersen, Angela Bonnie Shockley, Joy Kriebel-Sadowski, Ashley Drew, Jennifer Balogh, Noemie Heloin, Elaine Glynn, and Kathleen Ripley. It takes a village to raise a kid, they say. It also takes one to write a book, and you ladies are my tribe. Love you all.
To Robin Hill, for everything, everything. There are no words to thank you for what you’ve done for me. None. And I say this as a writer who should have plenty. With much love and gratitude.
To my husband, Bill, for your incredible support, for taking the kids to give me time to write, and for believing in me, always. I will love you forever.
To my readers, the bloggers, and my friends in this wonderful community, without whom I could not do this, nor would I want to. I give my characters a voice, but without you, they could never be heard. Thank you.
And to my editor, Suanne Laqueur. For you, so much. For keeping the compass north. For love and bravery. You are a universe, it is certain.
For Desiree, who holds these characters in her heart and keeps them safe for me,
for Tom, the little brother of the family, and the rock I set my back to.
Way Down We Go, Kaleo
Like a River, Bishop
Unsteady, X Ambassadors
Love is a Losing Game, Amy Winehouse
Everything I Do, Bryan Adams
Arsonist’s Lullaby, Hozier
Lil Darlin, ZZ Ward
Love in the Dark, Adele
What a Wonderful World, Louis Armstrong
Full tilt (n): 1. with maximum energy or force; at top speed.
“Theo, dear. He wants you.”
Kacey’s soft hand tightened in mine. I looked at my brother’s girlfriend, who gave a wan, reassuring smile. Another squeeze of her hand, then I somehow found the will to stand up.
My mother smiled weakly, hanging on Dad’s arm in the hall outside Jonah’s hospital room. She looked so lost and broken. Frail. Dad looked grim but stoic, holding Mom up. But Jonah was the glue in our family. Without him, we were going to fall apart. It was only a matter of time.
It was time now to say goodbye to my brother. As I walked toward the door of his room, a carousel of images circled my head, each faded with time, as if they’d sat out in the bright sun too long. Jonah and me feeding a goat at the state fair. Jonah and me in swim lessons together. In our Little League uniforms. Walking high school hallways where Jonah was effortlessly popular and I was his wingman. Visiting Jonah at UNLV, then at Carnegie-Mellon. Swimming with Jonah in Venezuela.
Where he got sick… and I didn’t.
I pushed the door shut and moved to where Jonah lay dying. A thin, pale version of the healthy guy in my mind’s photo album.
My brother. Struggling to breath. Struggling to hold on. While I was still strong—strong and ready to tear down the walls of this goddamn place, to set the whole fucking world on fire at the unfairness of it all.
Still not strong enough to walk over to his bed and say goodbye.
Jonah managed a weak smile. “That bad, huh?”
“You’ve looked worse,” I said, finally moving into the room and taking a seat beside his bed.
“Bite me.” His chuckle was a horrible-sounding wheeze. His hand twitched on the blankets. He didn’t even have the strength to lift it. I reached to clasp it, wrapping my fingers around his.
Jonah’s smile faded and his eyes—still sharp—met mine. “I’m worried…about Mom.” His heart could only pump enough air for two or three words at a time, squeezing them out between shallow intakes of breath.
“I’ll take care of her,” I said.
“And Dad… He’ll come around…about your shop. I…believe in you.”
I doubted our father would ever support my work as a tattoo artist, but at that moment, Jonah’s I believe in you was all I needed.
“Now,” Jonah said, his gaze intent. “The favor…I want from you… Remember?”
I sat forward in the chair. “Name it.”
My voice stuck in my throat. I coughed it free. “What about her?”