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.
|Publisher:||Entangled Publishing, LLC|
|File size:||2 MB|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The Heartbeat Hypothesis
By Lindsey Frydman, Jenn Mishler
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2017 Lindsey Frydman
All rights reserved.
Everyone called me a miracle. I guess they didn't understand the concept. My heart was the miracle. I, however, was an aerobically challenged basket case trying to hoof it ten blocks from campus without fainting.
Halfway there, I stopped, bracing my hands against my knees. My body heaved, lungs burned, and Pete's Coffee Shop loomed in the near distance.
The universe didn't owe me another favor, but damn. If I could just make it there looking semi-normal — not covered in sweat, huffing and puffing, ready for a nap. That was not the impression I wanted to give Jake.
Maybe he wouldn't show. Or worse, maybe he would show and refuse to help me.
I placed a shaky hand on my chest, running my fingers over the bumpy scar hiding beneath my shirt, and trudged on, calming myself by humming an annoying jingle. I even sang the alphabet in my head — anything to slow my frantic pulse.
A light breeze tickled my skin, blew the scent of freshly cut grass past my nose, and I breathed it in, steadying my twitchy fingers.
But my sense of calm evaporated the moment I saw the baby-blue 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.
There was nothing casual about this meeting. Jake was not just some guy. His sister's heart beat furiously beneath my rib cage, and all the pleasantries in the world wouldn't change that she was dead — and I was not.
Still, as I stood paralyzed in front of the door, which was a putrid shade of yellow, I silently mouthed my lines. "Hey, happy to meet you." No, "happy" wasn't appropriate, and "hey" was too offhand. So I'd say ... what? "Sorry we're meeting under these circumstances." No, that was crap, too. My stomach tightened, and a mix of anxiety and dread bubbled into my throat. I leaned forward, swallowed hard, and blinked at the dirty welcome mat, watching a giant ant cross some artistic rendition of a coffee mug. Then I slapped my thighs, stood up, and squared my shoulders.
Okay. I can do this. I want to do this.
The door rattled a high-pitched chime when I pushed it open. I instinctively ducked, flinching like it was gunfire, and I almost scurried back outside. But I didn't, because I was okay. Everything was going to be —
There he was. I'd know that dark blond hair and strong jawline anywhere — thanks to some Facebook stalking — but Jake was no longer just pixels mashed together on a screen. He was an actual guy wearing jeans and a T-shirt, hunkered down in a booth fifteen feet away.
He lifted his head, scanning the room slowly. My feet cemented to the tile. Holding my breath, I waited. He shifted his jaw when his eyes found mine, and the pressure in my chest, combined with the lack of oxygen, made me dizzy.
I opened my mouth, but still hadn't moved, and now he stared at me like I had a time bomb strapped to my chest. Tick, tick, tick.
Finally, after watching him watch me for what felt like an entire espresso production, I dipped my chin and walked to the booth.
"Hi," I said, slinking into the brown leather seat across from him.
Jake's hair fell in semi-waves across his brow, framing an angular face. He ran a hand over the faint stubble covering his jaw, and even though his lips were pressed firmly together, I couldn't stop thinking about how gorgeous he was.
"Hi." His voice was deep, guarded.
While he assessed my face, I wiped sweaty palms against my jeans and forced a smile. "I'm ... Audra Madison."
Jake leaned back in the booth. "If you weren't, this would be pretty awkward, huh?"
I would've laughed, if not for the gravel in his voice and the coldness in his eyes.
"Yeah." I cleared my throat.
The faint sounds of people chattering and clinking their coffee mugs on the tables weren't enough to disguise the tense silence between us. I aimed my gaze at his chest to avoid an unnerving staring contest. His shirt was pitch-black with the words "I'LL FIX IT IN PHOTOSHOP" in white.
"Thanks for meeting me," I said.
"Sure." He looked down at my chest before angling his head toward the window.
Oh God, was he wishing it were Emily sitting here? I wanted to tell him I was sorry for his loss, because I was, but that seemed mendacious — if Emily were alive, I'd be dead. And I certainly couldn't say that. As the silence stretched, his fingers tapped the empty tabletop, and I panicked.
"Don't you like coffee?" I blurted.
His brows slid upward. "Yeah. Don't you?"
"Yes. But you don't have one. This is a coffee shop, and you wanted to meet here so ... I thought you'd have a coffee, I guess."
"I was waiting for you."
Warmth spread across my neck. "Oh."
A shadow of a grin lifted the corners of his mouth. "How do you like your coffee?"
I fidgeted against the soft material of the seat, twirling the silver bracelet around my wrist. "With a little cream and no less than three packets of sugar."
"So you don't like coffee."
Before I could respond, he was out of the seat and headed for the counter. I waited, rubbing my hands together and staring at the brown tabletop.
Don't freak out.
Ever since he'd agreed to meet me, I'd thought about how this day might go, what I'd say, what he'd say. It was a two-month fantasy of every possible conversation we could've had. He could've been an ass. He could've been weird or creepy. I could've been weird or creepy.
Wait. Maybe I was.
Oh man, this was like a blind date.
It's not a date, you idiot.
Jake set two coffee cups on the table. He slid one toward me.
"Thank you." I pulled the mug closer, breathing in the rich aroma, trying to find comfort in the smell.
No such luck.
He ran a hand across his jaw, shrugging one shoulder. "Sure thing. I'm always happy to enable another caffeine addict."
"You assume I'm a caffeine addict?"
Jake smirked. "No. I know you are. Every college student is."
"Fair enough." Although he was right, and I did love my caffeine, my indulgences were severely limited since the transplant.
Silence settled between us again, and I gripped the mug between my palms, stealing glances at him when I thought he wasn't looking. As soon as he caught me, his shoulders tensed and I took to staring at the mocha-colored liquid, trying to remember the advice my best friend, Kat, had given me.
Oh, she'd had a perfect break-the-ice line, but I couldn't remember it. All I heard was my heartbeat — or rather, Emily's heartbeat — pounding in my ears.
I shifted, digging my fingers into the booth seat. "I want to do something for your sister. To honor her ... thank her."
When Jake looked up, his eyes had softened and so had the hard set to his jaw. "You do?"
"Yes." I swallowed my nerves and decided my words carefully. "Have you ever seen Emily's Tumblr account?"
"They're full of your photographs. You've really never seen it?"
His forehead creased, one eyebrow rising slightly. "What?"
I pulled out my phone and set it on the table. Sixty daunting seconds later, I'd found Emily's page and twisted the display so he could see.
Jake tapped on the phone, scrolling for only a moment before removing his finger and looking at me. "Why would you think these are mine?" "Most of them share the same hashtag: my favorite photographer Jake. That's you. Right?"
He returned his attention to the phone, this time picking it up, interest lighting his face. "Oh. Yeah, I took these. There's so many damn hashtags, I didn't even see my name."
"Well, her whole page, it's a done-it list."
His gaze lifted, along with the corners of his lips. "A what?"
"According to her, she never understood why people made lists of the things they were going to do, so she made a page dedicated to all the things she did do."
"Sounds like Emily."
Now that is a smile. "Well, it's inspired me to start my own done-it list, but I want to start by re-creating her list."
Jake set the phone down and slid it across the table. "Re-create it?" "Yes. Like this one ..." I scrolled until I found the photograph. "She threw glow sticks in a pool and went swimming." I assumed he remembered, since he'd been behind the camera. "I'm going to do that, then put it on my own done-it Tumblr list. Emily only had sixteen done-its, so I plan on redoing all of them."
After taking a slow sip of coffee, he leaned forward like he was going to share a secret. "Can I make a suggestion?"
I winced, instilled with a burning desire to flee from the coffee shop. There I was, alive and well — with a perfectly functioning heart — and Emily lay six feet under, dead and gone. Jake probably thought —
"You should name it something else," he said. "Done-its sounds like Cheez-Its, and that's a little weird, don't you think? Don't get me wrong, kudos to my sister for the idea, but, uh, she could've been more original with the name." His smile grew, crooked and adorable.
Relief washed over me, and I smiled, too. "I agree done-it is unoriginal, but I can't think of anything better that isn't also weirder. Can you?"
With a considering expression, Jake leaned back in the booth, and while he thought, I took a sip of my coffee and cream mixture.
"See. Not as easy as it sounds." I laughed, warming my fingers around the mug.
Jake chuckled, shaking his head. "Guess I'll have to get back to you on that one. But where do I come into this?"
I let go of the ceramic and splayed my hands across the tabletop. "I want you to photograph my ... poorly named list."
Opening up Emily's Tumblr again, I inhaled deeply, reminding myself this was going better than I'd expected. Look on the bright side — that's what Kat would tell me. "I tried to re-create this photo." I tapped on the image and turned the phone around.
It was a picture of Emily lying in the middle of a road, hands behind her head, one leg crossed over the other, blissfully unaware of her surroundings. Two yellow lines trailed beneath her, narrowing down and out of the frame, and a golden horizon burned across treetops in the background.
"I had my friend take it," I explained. "But there wasn't a photo app in the world that could make it half as awesome as the one you took." His lips quirked, and I took that as a sign to go on. "Since you're Emily's favorite photographer, it only seems right to hire you for the job. I mean, if that's something you'd be comfortable with." Even though his sister's death was two years ago, it wasn't the kind of pain that simply faded away. "I'll completely understand if it might be ... too much to ask of you."
He tipped his head, saying nothing. I looked down at my coffee and wrapped my fingers together in my lap to keep them from twitching.
Maybe this had been a bad idea.
I chanced a look at him, still waiting for a reply. His stone face gave nothing away.
No, this wasn't a bad idea. This was a good thing.
Finally he said, "Why?"
Swallowing, I shifted against the seat. "Why what?"
"Why re-create the things Emily did when you could start with your own list?"
Maybe because when I saw the photos, it was like being let in to a significant part of her life. The done-its weren't extraordinary feats, but they were random and quirky. Re-creating them would allow me to step into her shoes and hopefully find whatever it was that made those moments magical for her — whatever made her beam so brightly in those photographs. But I couldn't bring myself to tell Jake all of that so I said, "I want to get to know her somehow, and this feels like the best way."
After a moment, he nodded. "Okay. I can understand that. So ... I'll do it."
I wrapped both hands around the mug, sucking in a breath. "You will?" "Yeah. But you don't need to hire me. I don't want your money. I'll just do it."
I wanted to jump up and down, clap my hands, then run off singing down the street. But I chose to smile instead. "So great."
We spent the next few minutes silently drinking our coffees. I tried stealing more glances, but none went unnoticed. Maybe if I'd gone on more than two real dates in high school, this would feel more natural.
This is not a date.
Jake's phone buzzed against the table. He tapped the screen before looking up. "I have to go, but before I do ... you want to try what real coffee tastes like?" he said, lips twisting with amusement as he slid his mug toward me.
"I know what real, unaltered coffee tastes like — it's gross."
Lashes lowering, he shook his head and laughed. "But you've never had Pete's special brew before. It's the best damn coffee in Fort Collins. I promise."
I peered at the black liquid inside his cup. "Uh. You make a compelling argument, but no thanks. Maybe next time."
"All right. If we find ourselves together in a coffee shop again, I'm holding you to that, deal?" Before I could respond, Jake slipped out of the booth. "I'll message you later. We can set up a time to meet."
"Er — wait."
He stopped, confusion lurking in his gray eyes. I waved one hand. Faked a smile. Prayed he didn't notice my desperation — I didn't want him to leave. "I'm sure we'll have plenty of chances to talk later."
As he headed for the door, he glanced back at me — was that a wink? — and said, "I'm sure we will."CHAPTER 2
The door smacked shut behind Jake, and I blinked twice before turning back to my mug. I couldn't tell if I'd flirted with my heart donor's brother ... or made a complete ass of myself.
With only the soft reggae music keeping me company, I stared at my hands, playing his words over in my head. Why? Jake wanted to know, and although I offered explanations, it wasn't the entire truth. Frowning, I twisted the bracelet around my wrist. The one piece of jewelry I never took off. The one labeling me a heart transplant recipient.
I needed to clear my head. The hike back to my dorm would do the trick — if it didn't kill me. Colorado State lay in the foothills of the Rockies, so no flat, even land for me. Sadly. But at least the cyan-colored sky casing the backdrop of the green-and-brown mountains made the exhausting trek worth it.
As I walked, I considered all the things I didn't tell Jake. Like how when I found Emily's Tumblr, I'd been smacked in the face with reality. A girl I didn't know, could never know, was dead, and her tragedy had suddenly become my blessing. It felt ... wrong. And it would've been foolish to sit around and do nothing about it.
Hours later, I was still stuck with my own thoughts on repeat. I pressed my ear against my pillow until I heard my heartbeat — hauntingly similar to the tick of a clock, warning of time gone by.
Eighty-six thousand, four hundred seconds in a day. How many was I wasting?
I rolled over until the taunting noise ceased. "What are we doing tonight?"
Kat, my closest friend since the glue incident in fourth grade, spun in her computer chair a few feet away. "We could always —"
"No frat parties." I leaned forward on my bed. The two of us had done everything together for years, and she'd always been my go-to person, so choosing the same college and becoming roommates was a no-brainer. Even if she enjoyed the party scene more than I did. "I can't smell any more stale beer breath for at least ... a few more days. Okay?"
"Fine." She pulled her legs up and spun the chair again. Since it was cheap, plastic, and cost two bucks at a yard sale, it only rotated once before stopping. "We can watch a movie, or some trashy reality TV." Kat laughed, and it made me smile. It always did. "Have you heard from the heart guy yet?"
"Don't call him that. His name is Jake."
That nickname had to go, mostly because it made no sense. I was the one who had a heart transplant two years ago. The heart pumping blood through my body belonged to his sister, Emily. His heart had nothing to do with this.
She waved off my comment. "Have you heard from Jake?"
Even though it'd only been a few hours since I saw him, I'd been checking my Facebook messages non-freaking-stop. It was becoming something of a problem. "Not yet."
Kat leaped off the chair and lunged for my twin-size bed. She rolled onto her side, propping her head on her hand. "You could always message him first, you know."
I pulled my computer onto my lap, leaning against a boring white wall. "He said he would message me."
She gave me a look that I took to mean: you poor, naive thing. "Did you get his number?"
I tapped at the keyboard and logged on to Facebook. Again. "No."
"Did you give him your number?"
Excerpted from The Heartbeat Hypothesis by Lindsey Frydman, Jenn Mishler. Copyright © 2017 Lindsey Frydman. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.