When Whitney meets fellow Californian, Connor Rivers, in the most unlikely of places—on the Camino pilgrimage in Spain—they fall into a brief, impassioned love affair. But she’s on her way back to her career, and he’s a world traveler whose restless spirit refuses to be tamed by anyone. Maybe even her.
Scroll down to read chapter 10, a website exclusive.
Title: Beautiful Mine
The first standalone in the Beautiful Rivers Series
It’s six in the morning. Whitney’s already scheduled a cab pick-up and is in the bathroom, getting ready to take her shower. I’ve gotten dressed—I’ll shower after she goes—and am sitting on the edge of the bed. Whitney’s impending departure is pulsing through my veins.
I hear the shower water turn on, and something inside me starts to sink and grow still. I listen to it for a few minutes, not moving. When I do move, it’s to pull out my phone and dial my sister. I just need to hear her voice. She answers after the second ring.
“Hey!” Lizzy says, always so happy to hear from me.
“Hey sis.” I try to make my voice sound normal.
“Fine,” I say, trying harder. “I saw a stork yesterday and it made me think of you. You’ll have to tell Rayce.” It’s an old joke. It’s not really funny at the moment.
She laughs. “I will.”
I’ve successfully diverted her, but it does me no good. “I met someone.”
I didn’t mean to say those words, even though they’re true. The full and weighty implications of them are all true.
There’s silence on the line. Maybe because I said it like it’s something I’m already regretting. “What does that mean exactly?”
“Nothing. Just that I met someone.”
“You’re seeing her?”
I grip the side of the bed. “Not exactly.”
There’s more silence. Only the sound of the shower water. My heart’s pounding painfully. “Okay Mr. Elusive,” Lizzy says. “What exactly is it then? You’re the one who brought it up, you know.”
“I know. Her name’s Whitney. I met her outside of Arca.”
“There in Spain?”
“Is she Spanish?”
“No. She lives in San Francisco.” I don’t know why I’m telling Lizzy any of this. I really don’t.
“So, you like her?”
I nod but I don’t say anything. I’m just listening to the shower. I wish Lizzy were here. Or I was there. These are the times when I feel too far away and too alone.
“God, Connor. Why’d you even say anything if you didn’t want to talk about it?”
“Sorry. I don’t know. I just… thought you’d like to know.”
“I don’t even know what I know,” she says lightly, accepting my ways for what they are, like she always has. “But I’m happy if you’re happy. Does she make you happy?”
Irrelevant. All irrelevant. “She leaves for San Francisco today. She lives there.”
“Yeah,” she says slowly, responding to my tone, which hasn’t changed one wit since I said I met someone. “You mentioned that.”
She’s right here, I want to say. She’s on my boat, in my shower, in my head, in my veins.
“What’s this about, Connor?” Lizzy says quietly. “Do you want to follow her to San Francisco? You could, you know.”
“I know, but…” I take a deep breath and lean my elbow on my knee, closing my eyes and pinching the bridge of my nose between two fingers.
“How long would that last?” I say, not moving. “I don’t want to hurt her.”
Lizzy sighs. “Well. That’s something to think about,” she says gently.
I let my arm drop and fall back onto the bed, staring up at the ceiling.
Lizzy sighs again. “I don’t know if you want advice or if you just need me to listen or what.” One of the great things about Lizzy is she’s careful not to give unsolicited advice. “I wouldn’t know what to tell you anyway because I don’t know enough.”
“I know,” I say. “I wasn’t looking for advice, I guess. Just telling you. Like telling you I saw a stork yesterday. It’s not a big deal.”
“Uh huh.” She doesn’t believe me. Nor should she. “You’re full of shit, you know.”
“That’s what I hear.” I sigh. We sit on the line in silence for a moment.
“Are you okay?”
The shower water shuts off and I sit up. “Yeah. Look, I’d better go. Give everyone my love.”
“I will. But you know you’re in my dog house now.”
“Because now I’m going to be wondering about this Whitney person until we talk again and I get to find out if she’s still in your life or not.”
The pang of that truth pinches my heart. I understand what she’s saying. People don’t stay in my life. Because people are kind of like plants and tend to want to pick a spot of ground to grow in, while I don’t stay in one place long enough to grow any roots that matter. I can’t seem to do it. Not even for the people I love.
Evie’s words come back to haunt me: “It’s not fair to be with someone when all you want to do is leave.” And she was right. It’s not fair. I imagine Whitney one day looking at me the way Evie did that day, brows pulled down, arms crossed, anger and resentment all over her face.
I don’t want Whitney to ever have to hate me like that.
“I love you,” I say.
“I love you too, kiddo.”
“Don’t call me kiddo,” I say automatically, like she knew I would.
She laughs and we hang up.
By the time Whitney comes out of the bathroom, fresh-faced and clean, I’m resolved we’ll say goodbye as we should, with a smile on her face and a smile on mine.
No matter how much it hurts.
“As always JL White tells a fabulously romantic, erotic, heartwarming, hilarious story.” – Janae, Amazon reviewer
Finish reading Beautiful, first standalone in the Beautiful Rivers Series today: