Beside Your Heart
by Mary Whitney
New Adult Contemporary
Late one night Nicki Johnson plays with emotional fire and Googles her high school love, only to find his name splashed across the British gossip columns. Back in his native England, Adam Kincaid is successful and dating a woman from an aristocratic family like his own. With a career in politics, Nicki’s no slouch, but she knows Adam is living a world away from her life.
Yet there was a time he was no farther than the next locker. Nicki will never forget their year together in high school—the year of her sister’s death, the year her mother checked out. Adam helped Nicki through suffocating grief, and she led him through a coming of age. Was it just high school, or was it something more?
“No British literature. Isn’t this supposed to be an English class?” Adam asked.
“Uh.” My ancestors would’ve been proud of the jolt of American patriotism that hit me. “There was a revolution two hundred years ago. We write our own books now.”He leaned back in his seat with a smile. “I think I heard about that.”“We still share the same language.”“Sometimes I’m not too sure.”
“I bet not.” I could imagine what he thought of a Texas accent.
He picked up the list of books again. “What about Catcher in the Rye?”
“I read it a long time ago when I was, like, eleven.” I laughed a little as I remembered how I’d first come to read it.
“Is there something funny about that?”
“Yeah. My father had suggested I read it then. The book is the classic coming-of-age story. Clearly, he wasn’t really thinking about whether or not it was appropriate for an eleven-year-old.”
“Well, for one thing, the main character is a guy who swears a lot.”
“I suppose I swear a lot.” He cracked a sly smile. “At least compared to you Yankees.”
“Yankees? You’re in the South.” I laughed.
“What else is inappropriate about the book? Now I’m interested. It can’t only be a few swear words.”
“No, it’s not just that. It’s…” I hesitated for a moment as I realized I was about to bring up the topic of sex with Adam Kincaid. What the hell, I thought. I should be matter-of-fact about it. He had a girlfriend and would never want anything with me. I could hide I thought he was hot, so I shrugged. “Holden, the main character…he’s a little sexually frustrated.”
His eyes twinkled, and it felt as if my words hung in the air. I wanted to squirm in my seat. ‘Sexually frustrated’—like me checking out Adam Kincaid.
His proper upbringing showed again as he sidestepped the issue, yet he smirked. “That sounds like an adventurous book to be on an American high school syllabus.”
“Like I said—it’s considered an American classic.” I laughed. “I guess some things are sacred.”
“But of course.” The gleam appeared in his eye again, and he turned toward me in his seat. “Teenage sexual frustration is sort of a rite of passage, if you will.”
There went the good-English-boy manners out the window. His tone, the look in his eye, his body language—was he flirting with or taunting me? I decided the former was impossible, and if the latter, I wasn’t going to back down. With two parents who were lawyers, debate was a family routine.
“A rite of passage? More like a biological fact, isn’t it?” I asked, casually clicking my pen. I raised a brow. “Especially for guys.”
“You’re right about that,” he said with a grin.
About the Author
Even before she graduated from law school, Mary Whitney knew she wasn’t cut out to be a real lawyer. Drawn to politics, she’s spent her career as an organizer, lobbyist, and nonprofit executive. Nothing piques her interest more than a good political scandal or romance, and when she stumbled upon writing, she put the two together. A born Midwesterner, naturalized Texan, and transient resident of Washington, D.C., Mary now lives in Northern California with her two daughters and real lawyer husband.
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