First Chapter Friday: Best Served Cold

Meet Julia and Jesse . . .
I’m smart enough to choose love over revenge . . . aren’t I?
Liam Bailey is the golden boy of Birch College—he’s hot, rich, a track star and the only son of a popular senator. For nearly a year, I was the lucky girl on his arm.
That is, until he dumped me in the most spectacularly humiliating way.
I’m over him now. I mean, do I want some payback? Sure. When the opportunity to plot my revenge comes along, I’m not going to pass up the chance.
But I hadn’t planned on meeting Jesse. He’s cute, intelligent and the way he looks at me takes my breath away. Jesse is everything I ever dreamed of, and even better, he feels the same about me.
When I realize that my revenge scheme might get in the way of my new love, my choice should be easy. Only . . . I really want to see Liam squirm. I need him to feel as bad as I did. But do I want that so much that I’m willing to risk Jesse?

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           “I didn’t even like him.”

            I threw down the shirt I had just pulled from my suitcase and sank onto the edge of my bed. “I didn’t like him that way. I thought he was a jerk. I didn’t want to go out with him. Remember? I said that. I had a crush on Mason Thomas. I wanted him to ask me out. Not Liam-freaking-Bailey.”

            Across the room, sitting at her desk, Ava lay down her pen. She was surrounded by piles of glossy textbooks we had just picked up from the campus bookstore, and her laptop was open to the syllabus for abnormal psych. Classes didn’t start until Monday morning, but we always came back to campus a few days early to get settled.

            As she turned in her chair, I had the sense that Ava was smothering a sigh.

            “Yes. You told me that. You didn’t like him. You told me then, you told me right after the birthday party, you told me during finals. You told me the night you got so drunk, I was afraid I wouldn’t get you home. You told me the days you couldn’t get out of bed because you’d been crying all night.”

            “I’m driving you nuts, aren’t I?”

            She finally gave in to the deep sigh and regarded me with that ever-patient Ava stare I’d come to know and love in the three years we’d been roommates.

            “Of course not. I kind of hoped that maybe over winter break, you’d have time to process this a little, maybe start to move past it. But here we are, and you’re telling me the same things you did a month ago.”

            I groaned and dropped back onto the bed. “I’m a loser. I’m a loser who can’t keep a boyfriend, even one I didn’t want in the first place.”

            “Sweetie.” Ava sat next to me on the bed and took my hand. “Seriously. I know you have to go through all the stages of grieving this relationship, and you have the added issues of humiliation. But it’s been six weeks. Maybe it’s time to move on.”

            Having a roommate who was a psych major had its own particular charm. Not that I didn’t appreciate her support, but getting analyzed all the time could be irritating.  I bit my tongue and just barely kept from rolling my eyes.

            “If I knew how to move on, don’t you think I would? I’m telling you, Ave, my heart isn’t broken.” She smiled a little and shook her head at my use of her nickname. She always said I was the only person who could further shorten a three-letter name.

            “I’m not really grieving.” I went on, ignoring the interruption. “I mean, I miss having a date on weekends and someone to meet me between classes for coffee and I definitely miss-” I patted the bed. “You know, this. But I don’t think I miss him.”

            “Then why are you still talking about him? Not to be mean, but if you don’t care about Liam, why can’t you let it go?”

            “I think it’s what you said before. Humiliation. I thought people would stop talking about it by now, but I still hear whispers. ‘There’s the girl who was dating Liam Bailey and didn’t know he had broken up with her.’” I mimed a look of shocked glee.

            Ava nodded. “He hurt your pride. I get that.”

            “And why did he dump me? What did I do? What did I not do? I wasn’t clingy. I gave him space. But I was supportive, too. I showed up at his track meets. I tried to be the perfect girlfriend. I went to dinner with his parents when they came to visit. My God, Ave, I slept with him. I didn’t plan to, but I let him talk me into it.” I rolled over and burrowed my face into the blankets.

            “Jules.” Ava lay down next to me and put her arm over my back. “Don’t. You didn’t do anything wrong. He’s a prick. Maybe he hid it for a little while, but prick will always come out.”

            I peeked up over one arm. “Prick will always come out? Is that a new Ava-ism?”

            “Maybe. Ava-isms are always accurate.”

            Pulling over a pillow, I flipped around to lie on my back again. “Jamie says I need something to take my mind off the whole thing.” I grimaced, thinking about my visit home for Christmas and the advice my sisters had given me. “Pretty sure I was driving her, Jen, and our parents crazy. They were glad to see me come back here.”

            Ava bit her lip and tilted her head. I recognized that expression, too. “Your sister might be on the right track. You need to change up your routine, try something new.”

            I shook my head. “I’m not ready to date yet. A new guy is the last thing I want.”

            “I’m not talking a guy. I’m talking, like, a hobby. Volunteering somewhere. The best way to take your mind off your problems is to do something for someone else. Or, I don’t know, play an instrument, or take dance lessons.”

            “Dance lessons? I don’t think so.” I paused and turned my head to look at Ava. “I did have an idea, though. It’s not exactly volunteering or being selfless.”

            “That’s okay.” She turned so she was sitting on her knees, looking down at me, her eyes bright. “That was just one option. What’s your idea?”

            I smiled. “Revenge.”

                                 ***

            “Are you sure this is what you want to do, Jules?”

            We were huddled in the corner booth of Beans So Good, the shabby little coffee shop just off campus. It was quiet for a Thursday night, but then again, the spring semester was just barely underway. Taking into account the sudden cold snap that had hit Birch College as well as all of southern New Jersey, it wasn’t surprising that most people wanted to stay at home.

            But Beans was our home-away-from-dorm, as Ava said, the place we went when we couldn’t stand looking at the same four walls anymore.  She swore their espresso had saved her grades second semester freshman year when she was carrying an eighteen-credit load. She held one in her hand now, a serious expression on her face as she looked over the rim at me.

            I stabbed my straw into the iced mocha on the table. “I don’t necessarily want to do it, but I think I need to.”

            “You know what they say about holding a grudge. Free rent in your head and all that.”

            “I’m not holding a grudge. I’m righting a wrong. Sort of.”

            “So doing this—whatever this is—will change Liam? Make him realize he’s a jerk?” Ava set her drink down, centering it carefully in the middle of the cardboard coaster. “You’re not trying to get him back, are you?”

            “Definitely not.” I shook my head. “I don’t want him back. I want to move on. But at the same time, I want Liam to know how bad it feels like to be treated like that. I need him to know that he was wrong. ”

            She nodded. “Okay. I get it. But how do you see this playing out? ”

            “I’m not sure,” I admitted. “I haven’t gotten that far yet. If I thought showing up at party with another guy would do it, I would. But that would mean finding someone who’d be willing to go out with me. I wasn’t exactly turning them away before Liam asked me out.”

            “Julia, don’t be ridiculous. If you wanted a guy, you could have one. The only thing that keeps boys away from you is that don’t-touch-me attitude you have. That’s why Liam saw you as a challenge. He wanted you because. . .” Her voice trailed off, and she frowned.

            “What’s wrong?” I pushed back my cup.

            “Nothing. I was just thinking. I might have an idea.” Ava straightened up, shifting her legs out from beneath her on the bench seat. “We need a plan. I want to give it some thought. I mean, you’re talking about more than just slashing his tires and keying his car, right?”

            “Defile the Beemer?” I clutched my heart in mock horror. “As tempting as that sounds, yeah, it wouldn’t do the job. Not the way I need it to.”

            Ava smiled. “Then don’t make any plans for this weekend. You and I are going to have a down-and-dirty get-even planning session. I’ll buy the ice cream.”

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Sometimes Music is Best Served Cold

< voice of Sophia from the Golden Girls> Picture it: Florida, 2013. I’m on my way home from a quick trip north to NJ with my husband, and we’re cruising down 95 with the radio playing on the country station when a song comes on and he reaches over to turn it up.

“Have you heard this? It’s good.”

REVENGEThe unmistakable crackle of Miranda Lambert came over the speakers, and as I listened to the words, I began to smile. This song had sass. It had spunk. It had. . .sizzle. I kind of fell in love with it right there.

I added Mama’s Broken Heart to my playlist and listened to it regularly that summer. I’d just finished up The King Series that spring and written and released The Posse in July. I wanted to do something with this new genre called New Adult, because it was something I enjoyed. I wasn’t sure what yet. . .and then a line from Miranda’s song got stuck in my head.

Can’t get revenge and keep a spotless reputation
Sometimes revenge is a choice you gotta make.

Aha. There was a story there.

Julia emerged more slowly than many of my other characters. She was cautious, giving me bits and pieces of who she was and what happened between her and the infamous Liam. Some of her experience was actually based on my own high school life, with a little more drama added.

But whenever I’d get stuck and a little frustrated with her reticence, I’d just go for a drive and turn on the music. Helped me every time.

It was important to me that all of the Best Served Cold music was sung by women. This was a story of empowerment and strength and growth. I wanted that reflected in the songs.

So, without further ado. . .go check out the Best Served Cold playlist here. See what you think. And share your favorite revenge song.

Next week. . .a very special Ava and Liam playlist from Just Desserts.

 

If you haven’t read Best Served Cold, grab it NOW–it’s free for a very limited time (going back to regular price next week!). Best Served Cold - Tawdra Kandle

 

Julia worked for weeks planning the perfect surprise birthday party for her boyfriend, Liam, but that night, she was the one who got the biggest shock. He broke up with her in front of all their friends, humiliating her in the process.

Clearly revenge was in order.

The plan is simple. Make him jealous, win him back, and then crush his heart. Fair is fair. However, there is one little hiccup, and he has curly brown hair and dimples.

Jesse is everything she wants. With him, she could almost forget her bruised heart. Almost. Julia has one choice: let Liam walk away after everything he did, or lose a chance at love in pursuit of payback.