Losing Leah by Tiffany King follows twin sisters Leah and Mia Klein, 10 years after the tragic abduction of Leah, as Leah struggles to escape her captor and the two start to realize that their fates are linked in ways they could never have imagined (available March 20, 2018).
Some bonds can’t be broken.
Ten years after the tragic disappearance of her twin sister Leah, 16-year-old Mia Klein still struggles to exist within a family that has never fully recovered. Deep in the dark recesses of her mind lies an overwhelming shadow, taunting Mia with mind-splitting headaches that she tries to hide in an effort to appear okay.
Leah Klein's life as she knew it ended the day she was taken, thrust into a world of abuse and fear by a disturbed captor―“Mother,” as she insists on being called. Ten years later, any recollections of her former life are nothing more than fleeting memories, except for those about her twin sister, Mia.
As Leah tries to gain the courage to escape, Mia's headaches grow worse. Soon, both sisters will discover that their fates are linked in ways they never realized.
Smile. Pretend you’re fine.
Focus. You got this.
Don’t think about it.
Stop being a baby. You’ve been here before.
“Mia, are you okay?” The voice is familiar, though it sounds like it’s coming from the end of a very long tunnel.
I open my eyes, not even aware I’d closed them. I force a smile. My traitorous hand drops from its spot at my temple.
“I’m fine,” I lie, though I’m nowhere close to being fine. Fine is normal. Fine is not having your head split open with an invisible ax. Logically, it was just a headache. Plenty of people get headaches.
Screw you, I silently cursed at my head.
It responded with another pound.
“Headache?” My boyfriend, Luke, asked the obvious.
“It’s no big deal,” I lied again.
My recurring headaches started the day my sister, Leah, was taken. They were sporadic. In the beginning I got them all the time. Sometimes they were tolerable and easy to ignore and other times they weren’t.
This one happened to be an insistent bastard. I knew what that meant. I’d been here before. Time was short.
“I already know the answer, but do you want me to come in?” Luke asked, pulling up in front of my house. He watched as I rubbed my sore temples, giving away the severity of the headache. I’d never shared the origins of my headaches with him or the things that triggered them. As far as he knew they were brought on because I studied too hard. “Nah, that’s okay. I’ll be fine once I take ibuprofen,” I lied, ignoring the intense pain behind my eyes. I didn’t have much time before the headache would engulf me, leaving nothing but darkness. Most days I could feel the truly bad ones approaching and could prepare, but today’s headache had snuck up on me.
“Thanks for dinner,” I said, giving Luke a quick kiss somewhere near the corner of his mouth before hurrying out of his car. I pasted just enough of a fake smile on my face to get him to pull away. His reluctance showed that I’d slipped. Tomorrow when I felt better, I’d lie and tell him it was a migraine. That’s the diagnosis my doctor gave me years ago. I even had medication to prove it. He didn’t need to know the little pills wouldn’t help. That they’d never helped.
Mother of all pounding suck.
The headache was growing quickly, taunting me from every side. I needed to get in my house sooner than later.
“You won’t win tonight,” I muttered, standing on my front porch as I fumbled for the keys in my bag. I should have saved time and fished them out while I was still in the car. That was a dumb move. The problem was Leah’s disappearance long ago caused my parents to go overboard with security.
Sensors on every door and window.
Front and back doors equipped with enough locks to keep Fort Knox safe.
It was a lame attempt to keep monsters away, but also a huge nuisance.
After several failed attempts and a few choice curse words, I finally matched my keys with the right locks and pushed the door open. Not surprisingly, the house was quiet and empty. Mom and Dad regularly worked late and clearly Jacob wasn’t home either. Thank goodness. I loved my brother, but he was a worrier. If he knew how bad this headache was, he would take matters into his own hands, maybe even haul me over his shoulder and lug me to the emergency room himself. Tonight his absence was a godsend. I could tell this headache was going to be a doozy.
My eyes were already having trouble focusing, which made entering my security code into the keypad by the door more of a chore than it should have been. Luckily, with enough blinking I finished in time, because my throbbing head would have exploded had the alarm gone off. The impending stairs that led up to my room looked as intimidating as a mountain. I slid along the wall for support, flipping on every light switch I passed. I was terrified of the dark. It was smothering and oppressive, like a mystical force trying to squeeze me in its grip. I usually slept with all the lights on in my room, including the night-light that used to belong to Leah. Not that it did much good once my eyes closed. There was simply no escaping the dark.
Tiny razor-sharp tentacles were digging their way into my brain.
Fear gripped me.
I began to doubt I would make it to my bed before the shadows consumed me. My feet may as well have been encased in cement, as heavy as they were. Each step I took felt like a hundred.
Somehow, I managed to pull my way to the top using the rail, and my foot found the last step. Leaning against the wall, I took a deep breath to gather myself, blinking over and over again to maintain focus. My room was at the end of the hall, but it looked like it was three football fields away. I needed to get to my bed. Everything would be tolerable if I could just make it there.
I shuffled down the hall like a zombie. “Almost there,” I said, counting the steps in my head. Ten more and I would reach my door. Five more after that and my bed would be within reach. I wouldn’t allow myself to think about the times in the past I hadn’t made it. My energy and focus were better spent moving forward.
Four steps to my room. If it wasn’t for the wall, I would have been on my ass already. The shadows were beginning to bleed together. I was almost out of time. I wasn’t going to make it. Panic began to claw its way up my throat.
Two steps. I was so close and yet my head felt like a grape being squeezed in a vise.
One step. I could no longer see. Reaching out blindly, my hand closed around my doorknob. My body weight pushed the door open and I fell forward into my room, collapsing on the floor. Even if I’d had the strength to crawl to my bed, I doubted I could have pulled myself up anyway. Rolling over on my back, I closed my eyes, letting the darkness take hold. You win was my last conscious thought.
* * *
“Earth to Mia—are you in there?” Amber, my best friend in the world, asked the next day, rapping her fingers on my locker to get my attention. I was too busy searching for my Spanish book to answer right away.
“I’m sorry, what did you say?” I asked, unearthing my book from the cluttered mess that was my locker.
“I said, how’d you do on the test?”
“Not bad,” I finally answered as I slammed my locker closed before any other books could escape. “I think I probably passed.”
“Oh, please. You know you aced it. Since when do you not screw up the grading curve for the rest of us? I swear if I had a time machine I’d go back and smack the guy who came up with the idea to mix letters and numbers together and call it math. Obviously it was some sadistic plot to separate the brains from the morons in the world,” Amber joked, shouldering her book bag. “One day you’ll be working in some lab figuring out the secrets of the universe and I’ll be asking people if they want paper or plastic. Unless I bag a rich dude, of course.”
I laughed, elbowing her in the arm. “As if bagging a rich dude hasn’t always been your plan. Besides, you’ll be some starlet in Hollywood, going to all the cool parties. Everyone will want to be your friend and you’ll forget about the nerd you befriended way back in elementary school.”
Amber linked her arm through mine. “I wouldn’t count on it. Best friends for life, right? Anyway, you know all my secrets. I could never dump you.” She giggled.
“Best friends for life,” I confirmed, smiling as we sidestepped a questionable wet spot on the polished linoleum floor on our way to her locker.
Luke and Anthony (Amber’s newest boy toy—her words, not mine) were already waiting at her locker by the time Amber and I made it through the herd of students who all seemed as eager as we were to get to lunch.
“’Sup, babe. Inside or out?” Luke asked, dropping a peck on my lips as he slung his arm across my shoulders.
I shook my head. Same joke. Different day. He knew I preferred to eat lunch outside beneath the sun and clouds, but he still asked. He thought he was being cute. He was right, of course, but telling him that would only inflate his ego. “Outside, of course,” I answered. “I need to get my lunch, but I’ll meet you guys at the normal spot,” I said, smiling brightly at him.
“I’m coming too. You know you’ll need help carrying the buffet table,” he teased, making Amber snort with laughter. Anthony shot us a mystified look. This was only his second lunch with us and he’d yet to witness what my legendary stomach could hold when I wanted to pack it away.
The cafeteria line was busy as always, but Luke and I barely noticed as we talked about the upcoming football game on Friday. I paid for my lunch while he stressed about the college scouts that would be at the game and the importance of standing out. He was nervous. It was kind of adorable. He had nothing to worry about. Football came as natural to him as breathing, but if a little reassurance was what he needed to get pumped up for the game, I was more than happy to oblige my guy.
Amber and Anthony were at our normal spot outside when we finally made it from the cafeteria with Luke carrying two trays of food.
“Aw, what a gentleman—carrying your lady’s tray too? Does he carry your purse also?” Anthony asked me, laughing at his own joke.
“When I’m wearing a matching shirt I do, and actually they’re both hers, dickhead,” Luke said, laughing as he placed the trays on the table. “I brought a lunch,” he continued, pointing to the modest bag I held in my hand.
“Shut up.” Anthony’s eyes moved from Luke’s face to mine, obviously thinking we were messing with him.
“I’m serious, bro. I got ten bucks though if you don’t believe me.”
“I wouldn’t do it,” Amber chimed in. “She can eat, like, twice her own body weight.”
In typical alpha-male fashion, Anthony wasn’t about to back down from a challenge. “Whatever. You guys are messing with me, and I’m calling your bluff,” he said, slapping his money on the table.
“Suit yourself,” I said, picking up my double cheeseburger with everything.
“I feel like I got hustled,” Anthony said twenty minutes later as I popped the last French fry into my mouth. He’d watched incredulously while I plowed through a slice of pizza, the cheeseburger, fries, a chocolate chip cookie, and a pudding.
“Don’t sweat it. You’re not the first,” I joked, downing the last swig of my Coke.
“I feel full just from watching you. Totally worth the money though.” He laughed, rubbing his stomach.
Amber rolled her eyes. “Believe me. If she wasn’t my best friend, I’d hate her. I’m living on salads until football season ends. I’d give my left leg for a slice of pizza,” she said, running a finger over my empty plate to capture a lone droplet of pizza sauce.
“I can help you burn off some calories if you need to,” Anthony said, sliding his arm around her waist.
She slapped him on the arm. “I bet, you perv. I’m serious though. If Joshua drops me on my ass one more time, I’m going to throat-punch him.”
“Maybe Luke should try out for the squad,” I teased. “He’d never drop you,” I added, giving Luke’s bicep a squeeze. “What do you think? You ready to trade your football cleats for pom-poms?”
“I’d totally rock the skirts,” he said, hiking up his shorts to flash us his hairy thighs.
“You’d have to wax that fur off, Wolfman Luke,” Amber said, munching on her last carrot. “Why don’t you come over to my house on Friday? Mia and I can get you all buffed and smooth.”
Luke shook his head exuberantly. “Hard pass. I’ve seen what my mom looks like after she gets her eyebrows waxed. I’m out on that sadistic ritual.”
“Aw, big tough football player afraid of a little girly wax,” Amber cooed, making us both giggle.
“Give me a concussion any day. Right, my man?” Luke asked, looking to Anthony for support.
Anthony shrugged. “It’s not all that bad,” he admitted sheepishly.
Amber’s eyes lit up with merriment. “You wax?” She chortled. “Where?” she asked, tugging on his shorts for a peek.
Anthony’s face flushed bright red like he wished he’d kept his mouth closed.
“Gotta be the legs,” I guessed, ducking under the table to check them out for myself.
“No, not my legs,” Anthony answered, looking more uncomfortable by the second.
Amber and I exchanged an amused look. “You don’t mean your boys, do you?”
“Say it isn’t so,” Luke said, shaking with laughter.
“Come on, man. You know there’s no way hot wax is going anywhere near a guy’s precious cargo,” he choked out. “It’s my pecs,” he finally admitted.
“Your pecs?” Amber asked, raising an eyebrow. “You have hairy pecs?”
“It’s not like I was Bigfoot or anything. I lifeguard over the summer and I like looking good.” He blushed again, much to our amusement. “Now you know and we can change the subject.”
“Not on your life,” Amber teased. “We wanna see for ourselves.”
“Absolutely,” I added. “Show us the hairless wonder.”
The halls were buzzing with activity as everyone scrambled to get to class before the fifth-period bell rang. “I’ll meet you at the library after practice,” Luke said, giving me a chaste kiss. “By the way, you look better today.”
“I feel better. It was just a migraine. You know I get them sometimes.”
“You study too hard.”
“One of us has to,” I teased, trying to take the focus off my head.
“Ouch, I’m wounded,” he said, clutching his heart, making me giggle as he headed off to his afternoon classes.
Still smiling, I watched him leave. Today was a good day. My headache from the night before was long forgotten.
I was once again me.
A typical, normal teenager.
The twin who’d been left behind.
I was six years old when Leah disappeared from our front yard. I went inside to fetch us the cherry ice pops we both liked, and when I returned, she was gone without a trace. We were identical in every way, including our tastes in food. Where one of us ended, the other began. She was the other half of me, until in one instant, she wasn’t. She was gone, along with my life as I knew it. Nothing was ever the same after she disappeared. How could it be? You keep doing the everyday things that make you a person—eating, breathing, moving. Some days you even kid yourself and pretend everything is okay, but deep inside your soul, you stop living the moment you lose the other half of yourself.
For the past ten years my family has pretty much gone through the motions at home. Holidays, birthdays—they basically come and go without any real hoopla. School has been my only solace. It provides sanity, purpose, an identity. At school I’m just Mia Klein. Not Mia Klein, the girl whose twin sister disappeared. To my friends, I stopped being that person long ago. The world moved on at school, while at home we remained shackled by the past.
Copyright © 2018 Tiffany King.
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Tiffany King is the USA Today bestselling author of over fifteen young adult and new adult novels. Publisher's Weekly called her most recent new adult contemporary romance release, A Shattered Moment, “heartfelt… an admirably authentic portrait of PTSD.”