A single touch is all it takes to restore life to dead flesh. Jay can regenerate the dead. But he has always regarded this gift as more of a handicap than a gift. Until the night he finds a woman brutally murdered in a shadowy stairwell ... and raises her.
Her name is jo, and she is the first dead person he is able to restore completely. She also happens to be beautiful and intelligent. Jay soon discovers that she bridges the chasm that has ripped apart his heart since his wife died. Mutual attraction develops into something far deeper and more tender between them, so, too, does someone else's unwanted attention. Jo's death was not a random act. her killer is a wanted serial killer.
"Christmas present?" asked the girl behind the register at K-B Toys.
Jay Frances blinked at her, snapping out of a near reverie. He'd been wiggling his fingers, glancing at them in distraction because they were tingling, a strange, tickling sensation, the way they might had he lost circulation, only to have feeling and blood flow abruptly restored. "I beg your pardon?"
The girl nodded at the iDog on the counter in front of her. "These are really huge this year. I asked if it's a Christmas present?"
"Oh." Jay looked down at the toy, a robotic dog that would move its feet, bob its head and flash colorful lights in time to a music feed from an MP3 player. It was white plastic with hot pink butterflies adorning its glossy surface, the one Emma had been eying hopefully for months now. "No. It's a birthday gift for my daughter."
"Coming up soon, then?" the girl asked, tapping the tip of a ballpoint pen against a small machine beside her register, waiting for it to process his credit card.
"Too soon," Jay replied, rubbing his hands against the front of his coat, trying to shake that peculiar prickling. It reminded him of how you could feel the vibrations of a revved car engine while gripping the steering wheel, or the throbbing beat of a song just by draping your hand against a speaker box. "She was born the day after Christmas."
The cashier's expression grew mournful, like Jay had just told her Emma had stuck her hand down the garbage disposal and flipped the switch. "Wow," she remarked as the machine spit out a receipt. "That's rotten luck."
He'd heard sentiments to that effect a million and a half times, of course, as if he and Lucy had deliberately planned everything from the moment of conception just to have a kid born close to Christmas. Every year, he tried to make each occasion, Christmas and birthday, special and separate for Emma. Especially since Lucy had died.
His hand was still tingling as he signed the sales slip and slid it across the counter. "Don't tell my daughter that."
As he made his way out of the mall, returning to the garage where he had parked his car, he glanced at his watch and saw it was quarter 'til eight in the evening. Despite the late hour, the garage remained full of cars and relatively empty of people. It two weeks before Christmas, a time of the year when frantic shoppers clung to every last second in which the mall shops were open for business.
It had been four years since Lucy had been killed.
They'd been out on a "date night," their first in too long. Most of the evening was completely lost to Jay, memories that were irretrievably gone, his neurologist had told him. He'd hit his head in the car crash that had killed Lucy; an SUV that had hit an icy patch on a two-lane highway had veered out of control and into their lane. Jay had tried to swerve and avoid a head-on collision, but the car had been broad-sided at nearly 60 miles an hour. Lucy had died instantly. At least that's what the doctors and police had told him. Jay had suffered what was diagnostically termed a traumatic brain injury. After languishing comatose for almost a full month, he'd then languished anew for many more long months to come, enduring physical and speech therapy, bouts of severe depression and chronic fatigue.