(Formerly RUMOR HAS IT)
by Kaelyn Christian (@kaelynsue)
Editor: Editor Cassandra (@OnlyCassandra)
I am seeking representation for my novel EXPOSED, a contemporary young adult retelling of Much Ado About Nothing.
Seventeen-year-old Beatrice has always hated Ben. He's charming, gorgeous, and utterly infuriating and Bea means to avoid him as much as possible. Then her cousin Harper falls hard for Ben's best friend Cade, and suddenly Ben is just always there, being charming, gorgeous, and utterly irresistible.
When Bea and Ben start hooking up, no strings attached, Bea insists they keep it a secret. She doesn’t need hopeless romantic Harper trying to set them up. It's not like they actually have feelings for each other.
The arrangement works for them, until explicit photos of Harper are leaked online. Suddenly everything is falling apart; Harper is devastated, Cade is cowed by his politician father, and Bea finds herself leaning on Ben, whose support is the only thing bringing her any peace.
Her cousin deserves justice, but the police are useless. Bea is determined to find out who posted the photos herself and begins her own investigation, with Ben’s help. The closer Bea gets to the truth, the more she thinks that the happily ever after Harper’s been so desperate for just isn't possible. Bea never believed in happily ever after anyway, but if she allows herself to, she might just get a taste of it for herself.
EXPOSED is complete at 65,000 words. I’m including the first five pages, per your instructions.
I have a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science. I’m currently a children’s librarian at a public library in West Michigan.
First Five Pages
The mayor’s house was lit up like a Christmas tree when Bea and Harper arrived. Twinkly lights were strung all over the massive backyard, creating a canopy. Small decorative fire pits were scattered around to help drive away the October chill. Bea could already feel the cold seeping through her jacket, so she drifted towards one of the fire pits as she and Harper surveyed the party. Flood lamps on the back of the house bathed the dance floor in light and a banner strung over the gate to the yard proclaimed “Welcome Home, Cade! Thank You for Your Service!” The Mayor did nothing halfway.
Uncle Leo spotted Harper and Bea across the yard and waved them over. Harper took Beatrice’s hand so they wouldn’t be separated and started towards him.
“Remind me why we’re here again?” Bea hissed.
“Because, according to my dad, Mayor Philips’ son is a hero,” she said. “He’s getting an award from the Governor and everything!” Bea rolled her eyes. Harper’s dad and Bea’s uncle, Judge Leo Messina, was a close personal friend of Mayor Philips’, although Bea was never quite sure if they were truly close, or if they were only friends in the way political allies usually were.
“I guess. Hey, did you ever officially meet Cade?”
Harper shook her head.
Cade Philips was two years older than they were, and wouldn’t have given them the time of day when they were all in school together. He was the golden boy, beloved by everyone. The prince of a kingdom. Even Harper, blonde, slim, and beautiful, wouldn’t have turned his head back then. They had mutual friends, but for some reason Cade always held himself apart.
“Girls!” Uncle Leo wrapped an arm around each of them as they joined the group of adults mingling in the center of the yard. Beatrice didn’t recognize any of them. “Enjoying the party?”
“It’s not bad,” Bea said, shrugging her shoulders. It wasn’t really her kind of party, but she wasn’t going to complain. She’d only moved in with Uncle Leo at the start of the summer and was still getting used to the politics at play.
Mayor Philips made his way over, his silver hair nearly glowing under the lights. He was an imposing figure, broad shouldered but not terribly tall. It was mostly in the way he carried himself, the way the crowd parted for him, like he was a king and there was no one to challenge him.
“Leo, Harper, Bea,” Mayor Philips said, greeting each of them in turn. “Good of you to come.”
He and Uncle Leo shook hands and immediately sequestered themselves in conversation. Probably about something to do with the Mayor’s reelection campaign; things were ramping up even though the election was still over a year away. Bea wondered if she should eavesdrop, if he might say anything that would give her a leg up at work. She was still fairly new to Mayor Philips’ campaign office. Politics was mostly repugnant to her, but she needed a job and a recommendation letter from Mayor Philips would look great on her Dartmouth application.
She turned to Harper, chatting about nothing, until a murmur rose up from the crowd. Harper stood on her toes, straining to see what the fuss was about, but she was too short. Even Bea, taller by a few inches, couldn’t see anything.
“That will be the guests of honor,” Mayor Philips said, breaking away from his conversation with Uncle Leo. “I’d better go introduce them.”
“Guests?” Bea asked. She thought this party was only for Cade, she hadn’t heard anything about another honoree. Cade had a half-brother, but he was older, and he was discharged from the Navy a few years before. He did the same grunt work she did, and Bea saw him in the campaign office sometimes.
“Cade and Ben Montanto,” the Mayor called back.
Bea felt like she’d been hit over the head. She sucked in a breath, her ribs tight and constricting, and tried to let it out slowly as her head swam. The lights were suddenly too hot, her denim jacket too rough against her skin.
Ben. She hadn’t seen him in two years, since just before he deployed. She’d hoped to never see him again.
Their small group dispersed, and Uncle Leo urged Harper and Bea to the front. Harper went gladly, but Bea dug in her heels. She didn’t want to see Ben, and she really didn’t want him to see her. She couldn’t figure out why he was at the party. If he was on leave, Bea could probably avoid him, but if he’d been discharged too... She didn’t even want to think about it.
Uncle Leo laughed and gave her an extra push, making her stumble a bit. They gathered in front of the stage, craning their necks to look up at Mayor Philips as he fiddled with the microphone.
“Good evening, everyone! Thank you for being here. Tonight, we celebrate the homecoming of two brave soldiers, my son Cade Philips and his brother in arms, Ben Montanto!”
The crowd cheered loudly, people whistling and clapping as Cade and Ben appeared beside Mayor Philips. They practically glowed in their navy whites, standing tall and proud with their hats under their arms. Cade looked serious, but Ben, as always, was smiling. Beatrice took the opportunity to study Ben, his brown hair just starting to grow out from its buzz cut, his slightly goofy grin framing straight white teeth. He was tall and slim, a runner’s build.
Ben caught her gaze and winked at her. Bea scowled, which only made Ben smile wider. How could he act like seeing her for the first time after doing what he did was no big deal? She turned to Harper, ready to rail against the unfairness of the world, and found her cousin studying Cade with stars in her eyes.
Bea glanced at Cade and tried to see the appeal. She supposed Cade was handsome. He was shorter and stockier than Ben, but his sea-blue eyes were warm, and she remembered that he had a nice smile when he forgot to take himself so seriously. He wore his hair cut close to his head too, the way most soldiers did.
Bea elbowed Harper and grinned when she managed to tear her eyes away from Cade. “Someone’s smitten,” she teased.
A blush colored Harper’s cheeks, which only made Bea laugh.
“I don’t remember him being that cute,” Harper muttered. She may have never met Cade officially, but everyone knew what the mayor’s son looked like. His face had been splashed on campaign billboards all over town.
“I guess the Navy changed him,” Bea whispered.
Mayor Philips continued his speech, talking about how happy he was to welcome Cade and Ben home, how proud he was of the both of them. Watching Ben preen under the praise made Bea want to gag. Finally, with a last, raucous cheer from the crowd, Mayor Philips turned off the mic and released them.
“I need a drink,” Bea said, pulling Harper towards the bar. She wasn’t going to survive the night without one.
“Wait, we’re not supposed to,” Harper protested.
Bea rolled her eyes.
“It’s a party. And Mayor Philips handed you Champagne when we got here. It’s not like we’re doing shots,” Bea reasoned.
Harper sighed, but let Bea lead her to the refreshments.
Bea took a glass of Champagne for both of them, handing one to Harper and taking a long sip of the other. She let the bubbles fizz on her tongue, enjoying the sensation.
“Be careful, you two,” Uncle Leo said as he joined them. “I don’t want to see you in my courtroom for drinking under age.”
“Yes, Your Honor,” Bea said. “Like there’s a single cop here who’s going to hand out a ticket.”
“Just looking out for my two favorite girls.”
Bea rolled her eyes again.
“Hello, hello!” Ben called as he and Cade joined the group.
Bea turned towards the bar, ignoring him and trying to ignore the tightness in her chest. She took another sip of Champagne, holding tightly to the glass to stop her hand from shaking.
Bea could feel Ben getting closer, the air heavier against her shoulders, with each step he took towards her. She sucked in a breath and instantly regretted it as she caught his scent, clean and a little sharp, like fresh cut grass.