The Heartbeat Hypothesis
by Lindsey Frydman
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audra Madison simply wanted to walk in the shoes of Emily Cavanaugh, a free-spirited teenager who died too young. After all, Audra wasn’t supposed to be here.
Thanks to Emily, Audra has a second chance at life. She’s doing all the things that seemed impossible just two years ago: Go to college. Date. Stargaze in the Rocky Mountains. Maybe get a tattoo. You know, live.
Jake Cavanaugh, a photographer with mysterious, brooding gray eyes, agrees to help chronicle her newfound experiences. She makes him laugh, one of the only people who can these days. As they delve into each other’s pasts – and secrets – the closer they become.
But she’s guarded and feels like she can’t trust anyone, including herself.
And he’s struggling with the fact that his beloved sister’s heart beats inside her.
“Audra…I’m really sorry.”
My mind was stuck on the way my name sounded coming from him in that low, rough voice. I wrapped my arms together, running my hands down them to chase away the line of goosebumps. “It’s fine. I understand.”
His jaw twitched. Fingers flexed and unflexed. “I’ve still got more pictures to take,” he said, taking a step back. “If you still want a piano lesson, I’ll be in the rec center at seven on Monday, okay? Meet me there.”
I nodded, offering him the best smile I could manage. But as he turned to go, I whispered, “I’m the one who’s sorry.”
He flashed me a questioning look. “Sorry for what?”
I lowered my arms and pressed my palms together. “About Emily.” I’m sorry she’s dead and I’m not, and that you want her to be standing here and not me. I’m sorry if this isn’t what she would’ve wanted—me living the life she couldn’t have.
I’d never seen anyone stand so still and straight-faced for so long. The only movement was his chest rising and falling with increasing pace.
When he spoke, agony laced every word. “There’s nothing for you to be sorry about.”
My whole body trembled, a thousand tiny needles pricked at my skin, and I couldn’t keep my voice from wavering. “I think…I feel like—”
“No.” He shook his head, inching toward me again. “I don’t want your pity. I don’t want you apologizing.”
Peering across the street at a cluster of trees, I swallowed. The coils in my chest tightened like a winding rubber band until I thought I might snap in two.
Jake said my name again, lower this time, and when I looked at him, he was only inches away. “I have a lot of shit going on. None of it has anything to do with you.” Two fingers brushed the edge of my cheek, and he gave me a half-hearted smile. “You just don’t know me that well.”
My skin burned beneath his light caress. “That’s the whole point,” I whispered, still shaking. “I don’t know anything about you. But I want to.”
“I’m not an easy guy to understand.” His fingers drifted down my neck, and he took another deep inhale before he pulled his hand away.
I’m beginning to see that. I ran my own hand over the spot where he’d touched me, then rubbed the back of my neck. “Most people aren’t.”
“I know.” His eyes grew unfocused as he lifted the camera up. “I’ve got to get back to work. See you Monday?”
I nodded and he stepped past me, heading for the back of the house, his shoes crunching over the dry grass.
Flattening my palms against my sides, I looked at the porch steps, wishing I didn’t have to go back inside, through the crush of people. Wishing Jake wasn’t leaving me.
“Hey,” he called from yards away, his figure merely a shadow beneath the trees. “I want to know you too.”
Lindsey has been writing since she was nine years old, when she discovered the awesomeness that is Harriet the Spy. Her books always include a romance, though sometimes there’s an added sci-fi or magical realism twist. She lives in Columbus, Ohio (where the weather is never quite right). Her BFA in Photography and Graphic Design has granted her a wide assortment of creative knowledge that serves as inspiration (and not much else). When she’s not crafting YA and NA stories, you'll likely find her spending waaay too much time on Pinterest, playing a video game, singing show-tunes, or performing in a burlesque show—because she enjoys giving her introversion a worthy adversary. (Plus, it's the closest to Broadway she’ll ever get.) Lindsey was a proud 2016 Pitch Wars Mentee and thoroughly adores being a part of the wonderful writing community. THE HEARTBEAT HYPOTHESIS is her debut novel.
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