Full Tilt (Full Tilt #1)

Full Tilt (Full Tilt #1) by Emma Scott

I’d like to extend a huge thank you to the following people for their support, love, and solidarity. Each and every one of you had a hand in bringing this book to life.

L.B. Simmons, Robin Hill, Angela Bonnie Shockley, Maryam, Melissa Panio-Petersen, Nathalie Raven, Elaine Glynn, Jennifer Balogh, Kathleen Ripley, and my husband, Bill, for your incredible support, for taking the kids to give me time to write, and for believing in me.

Huge thank you to Colin Lenihan, M.D. for his medical expertise on the complex intricacies of heart transplants and chronic rejection. Any and all liberties taken with the science are mine to enhance the story, though I have striven to follow Dr. Lenihan’s advice as closely as possible to present a realistic account.

Much gratitude to Gregory T. Glass who instructed me on the fine (and breathtaking) art of blown glass. Thank you for making Jonah’s skill and artistry come to life.

To my readers, the bloggers, my friends in this wonderful community…I honestly don’t know what I would do without you. You make this incredible, frightening, wonderful journey worth it, and I appreciate everything you do. You lift me up and share my voice, and for that I will be forever grateful.

And lastly to my editor, Suanne Laqueur. You take my messes and clean them up, you show me the hidden moments that are hiding and lure them out, and you give me the mental will to keep going when I’d rather bash my head against the wall of anxiety and frustration. I don’t want to do this without you. You are a universe.

This book was not easy to write. It was not the next story I sought to tell. But it would not leave me, despite the pitfalls and difficulty. It scared the crap out of me, to be honest, but begged to be told. Because I believe love stories come in all shapes and forms. Some people meet, fall in love, tragedy strikes, and they persevere together, maybe fall apart, come back, and find peace in the love they had. But what about those who fall in love when the tragedy is already looming on the horizon, in plain sight? What is love worth to those who are at the end of their journey instead of the beginning? Love can begin at any time, in any facet of life. That is the beauty—and hope—of this human existence. I hope this love story does justice to that idea.

I firmly believe in the concept of Happily Ever After. For everyone. No matter when or who or how they fell in love. Because that love existed, they felt it, and that is worth everything. It cannot be conquered.

Love always wins.

This book is about brothers much as anything else. It is dedicated to my brother, Bob, who set me on this path—unwittingly—with one magical email and a suggestion. You set me on this journey, telling love stories—my calling—and changed my life forever. With thanks and love, this one is for you.


Lightning Crashes, by Live

Hurricane by Halsey Chandelier, by Sia

Yellow, by Coldplay

My Heart Will Go On, by Celine Dion Like a River, by Bishop

Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty

Chasing Cars, by Snow Patrol

Spirits, by the Strumbellas

Hallelujah, by Rufus Wainwright, lyrics by Leonard Cohen

Full tilt (n) (poker): Playing emotionally instead of rationally; making impassioned rather than logical decisions.

Fifteen months ago…

White light pierced my eyes. I struggled to keep them open, then gave in and let them fall shut again. I listened to the machines instead, let their sound pull me out of unconsciousness. The beeping pulse was my heart. My new heart, pumping slowly in my chest. Yesterday, it belonged to a twenty-three-year-old basketball player who’d been in a car accident outside Henderson. Now it was mine. Grief and gratitude danced at the edges of my consciousness.

Thank you. I’m sorry, and thank you…

God, my chest. It felt as if an anvil had crushed me, smashed my ribs. Somewhere within the deep, heavy ache was my heart. A great swelling agony underneath my sternum that had been cracked open like a cabinet, then stapled shut again.

I groaned and the sound surged out of me, riding a current of pain.

“He’s waking up. Are you waking up, honey?”

I forced my eyes open and the white light was blinding.

Maybe I’m dead.

The white of hospital sheets and stark fluorescents seared my eyes, then settled. Dark shapes took form. My parents hovered over me on my right. My mother’s eyes were wet and her hand reached to brush a lock of hair from my forehead. She adjusted the nasal cannula that was jammed up my nose though it probably didn’t need adjusting.

“You look wonderful, sweetheart,” she told me in a tremulous voice.

I felt like I’d been run over by a freight train, and before that I’d been deathly sick for weeks. But she didn’t mean I looked good. She meant I looked alive.

For her sake, I managed a smile.

“You did good, son,” my father said. “Dr. Morrison said everything looks real good.” He gave me a tight smile, then looked away, coughing into his fist to hide his emotion.

“Theo?” I croaked and winced at the deep bruise of pain in my chest. I breathed shallowly and looked for him on my left.

He was there, crouched in a chair, his forearms resting on his knees. Strong. Solid.

“Hey, bro,” he said, and I heard the forced lightness in his deep voice. “Mom’s pulling your leg. You look like shit.”

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