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Still Beating
Author: Jennifer Hartmann


Chapter One


“You’re incorrigible.”

I narrow my eyes at the man I’ve deemed worthy of my most treasured insult.

Incorrigible. It’s a damn good word.

The man in question is Dean Asher—my sister’s prick of a fiancé.

Dean laughs, seemingly unaffected by the hostility shooting from my eyes like hot lasers. He must be used to it by now. “What the hell does that even mean?”

“Stupid, too,” I say, sipping on my watered-down cocktail with one arched eyebrow.

Fifteen years. Fifteen goddamn years is the amount of time I’ve been subjected to Dean’s teasing, ridicule, and bad attitude. He’s the stereotypical ‘bad boy’—surly, well-muscled, always reeking of cigarettes and leather. Pathetically good-looking.


My sister, Mandy, fell right into his trap. They were high school sweethearts from the start. Mandy was the epitome of popularity with her Prom Queen title, bleached blonde hair, and Abercrombie wardrobe. That was the style back in high school.

I, on the other hand, was none of those things—thank God. Despite the fact that I’m only ten months younger than Mandy, we could not be more different. She’s athletic, bubbly, and vain. I’m a bookworm who would much rather purchase adorable outfits for our family dog than for myself. Mandy is perky, and I’m prickly. I could recite Shakespeare all day, where Mandy likes to quote the gossip headlines off Twitter.

Even though we have our differences, our sisterly bond has strengthened over the years, and now I’m preparing to be the Maid of Honor in her wedding next month. I’d like to say that Mandy outgrew everything about her high school years, but, alas, Dean Asher somehow made the cut as she enters her thirties. He’s clung to Mandy like a disease. She just can’t shake him.

I can’t shake him.

So, now I have the divine privilege of being Dean’s sister-in-law in four short weeks.


“Pretty sure that’s not a word.”

I swirl the miniature straw around my glass, my eyes raising to the man staring me down with his signature smirk. His gaze is all iron and grit. I shake my head, ashamed I have to call this guy family soon. “Don’t make me Google it, Dean. You know I will.”

It’s Mandy’s thirtieth birthday party. We’re at The Broken Oar—a laid back bar in northern Illinois, right on the lake. It’s a fun place to celebrate, despite the questionable company.

Dean takes a swig of his beer, his pale blue eyes twinkling with mischief. And not the fun kind. “You always were the nerdy type, Corabelle.”

“Don’t call me that.”

He winks at me and I shoot him a death glare. Dean is the only person, other than my parents, to call me by my full name—Corabelle. I hate the name. Everyone calls me Cora. Dean knows this, of course, but he’s always found immense joy in tormenting me.

Our banter is interrupted by the birthday girl, who is currently bringing the phrase “white-girl-wasted” to remarkable levels. Mandy wraps her arms around both me and Dean, squeezing the three of us together in an awkward, smooshed hug.

“I looooove you. You’re my bestest friends. I’m marrying my bestest friend,” Mandy slurs, having inhaled at least a dozen Sex on the Beach shots at this point. She turns to me, her head falling against my shoulder. “And you, Cora. You are going to marry your bestest friend really, really soon.”

I push myself free of the embrace. The smell of Mandy’s overpriced perfume and Dean’s whiskey breath is making me want to hurl. “I’m never getting married, Mandy. Divorce just isn’t on my bucket list. Maybe in another life.”

I begin to turn away, but Mandy stops me. She pokes a French-tipped finger in the middle of my chest, and I flinch back, scratching at the tickle she leaves behind. “Marriage is sacred. Dean and I are never getting a divorce.”

Possibly true. Dean seems like the type who would be content staying married, while enjoying his side-chicks along the way. And Mandy is certainly the type to turn a blind eye. “A fairytale. Color me jealous.”

“Can you guys try to get along? Please?” Mandy begs, waving her hands around with an air of theatrics. There is an ounce of sincerity mingling with her intoxication.

I sigh, my eyes darting to Dean. He’s still smirking. I tap my fingers along the side of my glass as I pretend to consider Mandy’s plea. “I mean, I would… maybe, perhaps, but… how am I supposed to get over the ‘spider in the shoe’ incident? How does someone move on from something like that?”

Dean chuckles as he chugs down his beer, clearly amused with his antics. “That was gold. I’ll never apologize for it.”

“See?” I shove my glass at him, jutting out my pinky. “He’s uncooperative. I tried.”

Mandy smacks her fiancé in the chest. “Dean, stop being a dick to my baby sister.”

“What? She can hold her own.”

I glare at him, and our eyes hold for just a beat. “Well, he’s right about something.” Then I storm away, swallowing the last few sips of my crummy cocktail as I approach the bar. I slam the empty glass down and perch myself on a stool, eyeing the bartender. “Another one, please. Make it a double.”



I should have accepted the ride home.

It’s a little after one A.M., and I managed to find the most boring guy in the bar to get trapped in conversation with. My intoxication is dwindling, so now I’m just tired and crabby as my elbow presses against the bar counter with my head in my hand. I’m staring at the idiot to my left as he blathers on about being a lawyer, his cool car, and something about a reality TV show audition. Honestly, he lost me before he even opened his mouth. He smells like my passionfruit sugar scrub, and it’s really unsettling.

I feign a mighty yawn, forcing my head further into my palm. “That’s great, Seth. Really great.”

“It’s Sam.”

“That’s what I said.” I thread my fingers through my long, golden strands of hair as I lift my head and force a smile. “Anyway, I should get going. It’s late.”

Seth/Sam furrows his bushy eyebrows at me, his thin lips forming into a straight line. “It’s not that late. I’ll buy you one more drink.”

Nope. I’ll puke. I’ll definitely hurl all over his ridiculous sweater vest.

“No, thanks,” I respond, dismissing him with a quick wave. “I’m gonna go.”

“Do you need a ride?”


Actually, maybe. Mandy and Dean drove me here, and I couldn’t stomach another car ride with Satan himself, so I turned down their offer to drive me home.

But that’s what Uber is for.

I push myself off the bar stool, wobbling on my stupid high heels, and snag my purse off the counter. “See ya.”

Seth/Sam grumbles as I fling my purse strap over my shoulder and saunter outside. I’ve successfully ruined his plans for the evening, and I’m pretty much okay with it. I wouldn’t mind a night of drunken shenanigans and questionable decisions—Lord knows my vibrator is sick to death of me—but Seth/Sam lost his appeal faster than the Chicago Bears lost their shot at the Superbowl this year, which was pretty freakin’ fast.

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