THE HEARTBEAT HYPOTHESIS
NA Contemporary Romance
Audra is only alive because Emily isn't. After the heart transplant, Audra vowed to make good use of her gift. Go to college. Declare a major. Give dating a try. (You know, live.) When Emily’s unfinished bucket list winds up in her hands, she sees it as a perfect way to repay her debt and adopts it as her own.
Completing the list leads to piano lessons from Emily’s brother, Jake, the unobtrusive art major with a fondness for the color black. As their lessons continue, he offers to help with the rest of the list, but rainbow-chasing and pie-smashing are easy compared to falling for her heart donor’s brother.
Then he finally admits why he won’t talk about his sister. He doesn't believe the bullshit story about how she died. Unraveling the mystery behind Emily’s death could bring Jake the peace he so desperately needs, but he wants nothing to do with uncovering the painful truth. When Audra starts pushing his trust and collecting her own secrets, it’s clear she overestimated her detective skills and underestimated her knowledge of Jake. One wrong move and she’ll push him out of her life for good.
Halfway between campus and the coffee shop, my lungs burned, every breath a conscious task. I’d hoped walking the few short blocks would clear my head. Big mistake.
I placed a sweaty hand on my chest and ran a finger over the scar beneath my shirt. Breathe and relax. At this rate, I’d be covered in sweat, huffing and puffing, ready to pass out on the floor for a nap by the time I arrived. That wasn’t the kind of impression I wanted to give Jake.
Maybe he wouldn’t show. Or worse, maybe he wouldn’t agree to help me.
Needing a distraction from my racing thoughts, I tried singing in my head, reciting poetry—even sung through the alphabet.
A light breeze tickled my skin, blew the scent of freshly-cut grass past my nose, and I breathed in, steadying my twitchy fingers. Any sense of calm evaporated the moment I saw the sign for Pete’s Coffee Shop. My quick pace became a measured shuffle, the soles of my shoes clinging to the pavement.
Holy fucking shit. I couldn’t do this.
Calm down. Jake’s just an ordinary guy. No big deal.
Such lies. His sister’s heart beat furiously beneath my ribcage, and all the pep talks in the world wouldn’t change that she was dead—and I was not.
I stopped in front of the door, which was an ugly shade of yellow, featuring an artistic rendition of a coffee mug, and mouthed silently, “Hey, happy to meet you.” No, happy wasn’t appropriate, and hey was too casual.