EXCLUSIVE EXTRACT: False Hearts by Laura Lam
It's shaping up to be one of the hottest novels of the year, and because we love you dearly we've decided to share an exclusive extract of Laura Lam's False Hearts right here on the blog. Scroll down to soak up the goodness...
To save her twin, she must take her identity
One night Tila stumbles home, terrified and covered in blood. She's then arrested for murder, the first by a civilian in decades. The San Francisco police suspect involvement with Verve, a powerful drug, and offer her twin sister Taema a chilling deal. Taema must assume Tila's identity and gather information to bring down the drug syndicate. The police may then let her sister live. However, Taema's investigation raises ghosts from the twins' past.
The sisters were raised by a cult, which banned modern medicine - yet as conjoined twins, they needed life-saving surgery to replace their failing heart. And with help from co-conspirators, they escaped. Taema now discovers that Tila had found links between the cult and the city's criminal underworld. The twins were once unable to keep secrets, but will learn the true cost of lies...
* * * *
San Francisco, California
This is the first time I have ever been alone.
The first time that I have ever woken up to silence and emptiness next to me. The only sounds in the room are the beeping of the heart monitor and my own laboured breathing.
It isn’t supposed to be like this.
Groggy from the medicine, I raise my hand to hover over the hot wound, throbbing even through the pain of the IV. It is the first time my hand has been able to linger three inches above my own chest. Below my shaking fingers is the deep cut that will heal into a thin seam from just below my collarbone to right above my navel. Beneath the newly grafted skin and reconstructed breasts is a titanium sternum – bulletproof, so they say – and half of my ribs are made of the same substance. Below that metal sternum is my new, false heart. The old heart is gone, cut out and replaced with an upgraded model that will never tire. I can almost imagine I can hear its mechanical ticking.
This is the first time I’ve ever been lonely.
The doorknob to the recovery room turns. My automated heartbeat doesn’t quicken, though the old, fleshy one would have. I still feel the thrum of adrenalin. The door opens, and for the first time, I see my own, moving reflection. My full mirror image. The same brown skin, the mane of curly hair. The same long nose and dark eyes, features hollowed in fear and pain. My twin, Tila.
Are my knees that knobby? I ask myself, almost laughing from the ridiculousness of the thought. The drugs still rush through my system, and everything is dreamily gold-tinged.
She’s trailing her IV with her. I can barely move, so she shouldn’t be up, but Tila doesn’t let a small thing like pain stop her. I’m surprised she hasn’t triggered the alarms. She probably disabled them – she’s always been clever with her hands.
We’re not supposed to see each other for a few days, so we grow used to being separate. As usual, she’s ignored all the rules and advice and followed her own heart. It is really her own heart now. She creeps closer, her bare feet swishing along the floor.
‘T?’ she whispers.
‘T,’ I answer. We always call each other T when we are alone. I close my eyes, a tear falling down my cheek. What have we done?
Painfully, I move over on the bed as best I can. We haven’t just come out of surgery, if the date on the wallscreen is correct. They put us in a medical coma for a few days to speed up healing. I find the fact they can do something like that more than a little frightening. Neither of us has ever been to a hospital before this. There aren’t any in Mana-ma’s Hearth.
Tila slides into the bed. On her chest, in mirror image of mine, is the same wound that will one day become a scar. Beneath her false sternum is another new, false heart. I wonder if they are set to the same rhythm and even now beat together.
Gently, we turn onto our sides, pressing our foreheads together. Then and only then can we fall back asleep, in the position we have fallen asleep in for the last sixteen years. Now three inches of emptiness separate us, when before there had been nothing, and our heart had beat as one.
* * * *
Laura Lam's False Hearts is out in hardback and digital on Thursday 16th June.
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