BETTER THAN REVENGE
Ever since Violet Forrester first moved next door to Brianna, she has been tortured relentlessly…
It seems like Brianna has everything, and yet she still doesn't have the one thing she really wants; the one thing that Violet cares about the most—Blake Edwards.
After years of letting Brianna walk all over her, Violet’s finally had enough. She’s tired of sitting back and watching Brianna flirt with her boyfriend, steal her friends, and push her around. She’s finally ready to stand up for herself.
To do this, Violet and her new friend, Lena, devise a plan to make Brianna realize that not everything is hers for the taking, and Violet knows the perfect way to do it…
After all, nothing is better than revenge.
That is, until someone gets hurt.
With the drama of the school year behind them, sisters Lena and Ella Snotty are off to California for the summer…
Their parents have recently separated, and the sisters are becoming closer, though Lena can’t get past wanting to know more about their fractured family. While unpacking, Lena finds a photo of their mother with the twins she gave up for adoption, and notices something very strange.
In the photo, there’s a man she’s never seen before…
Assuming it must be the man who adopted the twins, Lena and Ella set out to find him so they can meet their younger siblings. As they search, Lena reconnects with Carter Anderson, the boy she dumped abruptly the year before, causing her to wonder whether or not she should return to Virginia in the fall.
Did the man in the picture truly adopt the twins—or is John Symmes someone else altogether?
A journey through the past might just change their lives forever…
PLAYING WITH FIRE
Ella Snotty is worth more than a quickie…
After a family scandal tore their family apart, seventeen-year-old Ella chooses to stay in California with her mom for the rest of the school year. Things are lonely since her sister Lena went to live with their dad. But at least she has her new boyfriend, Shane Quinn, to make things a little less depressing.
Ella isn’t the only girl who thinks Shane is swoon-worthy…
Shane takes Ella out to blow off some steam, and the party isn’t short on alcohol. When a tipsy old flame “falls” into Shane’s lap, her spontaneous kiss makes Ella more than a little jealous. And when details of Shane’s dating history surface, Ella is determined to be more than a fling.
The V-word will slow things down…
Afraid Shane wants to use her for a little fun, Ella lies and says she’s a virgin. According to his reputation, Shane has commitment issues. Maybe it’ll make him stick around long enough for them to form a real connection before the physical sparks fly. But is he worth the lie? And what happens when both of their insecurities come crumbling down like a house of cards?
She wants his heart. He’s afraid to commit. As the pressure mounts, will they find comfort in each other? Or will they learn that when playing with fire, you risk getting burned?
***BETTER THAN REVENGE - FREE***
PLAYING WITH FIRE
BETTER THAN REVENGE - EXCERPT 1
The hot summer sun was beating down on us as we sat together on the side of the pool. Leaning forward, I dipped one foot into the water and made small circles, causing the clear water to ripple and shine in the bright sunlight. I could feel the heat radiating off of his body as he snaked his arm around my waist. Despite the heat I leaned into him, resting my head on his shoulder as I breathed in his scent. The strong smell of his aftershave mixed with citrus from his shampoo enveloped me, fogging my thoughts.
“Want to take a swim?” Blake looked at me with a small smirk on his sun-tanned face that made my heart melt.
I couldn’t help but notice the way his blue eyes twinkled every time he looked at me. A small breeze blew a few strands of his black hair into his eyes as I cupped his cheek with my hand.
“I dare you,” I whispered as I leaned in closer to him, pressing my lips gently to his.
He kissed me back softly, allowing his lips to mold and move in sync with mine, before pulling back and smirking at me. “I never turn down a good dare!” he exclaimed with a laugh as he shoved me into the pool.
The cold water slapped against my body, folding in around me on all sides until I was completely submerged. I had just barely managed to take in a breath before I had been so rudely shoved into the pool, and I was thankful that I had. When my toes touched the bottom of the deep end I kicked off of the concrete, propelling myself back upward. Once my head broke the surface I rubbed the chlorinated water from my eyes and squinted up at where Blake had been sitting moments ago.
A chorus of giggles erupted from the opposite direction and I turned my head to see Blake walking toward the fence that separated my yard from my neighbor’s, laughing at something that Brianna, the stuck up princess who lived next door, had said. She giggled, tossing her hair lightly as she spoke again, leaning her body against the wooden fence. As Blake drew near her, she leaned her body forward and pulled him into a tight hug, pressing her chest to his body while rolling her eyes at me, and smirking. I responded with a glare that only deepened when she mouthed the word, “Mine,” before she pulled away. The only word she has known ever since we were little.
Since I was younger, and even now, Brianna has been associated with some of my worst memories. As I watched her talk to my boyfriend while tossing me sly glares I remembered seventh grade when Brianna had done everything in her power to make my life miserable. Not even a month into the school year she had found a way to turn all of my friends against me. She dug a hole into my friend group, put herself in, and took me out. She had a leader quality in her, that was for sure. All of my friends followed her in spreading rumors about me, and isolating me from the main group.
I had learned at a young age how to entertain myself, and I had even gotten use to being alone. Her actions, and the actions of my so-called friends had shown me that trust shouldn’t be doled out easily. Trust is something to be given to those who deserve it. That was something that had stuck with me, and was probably the reason I had so few friends to this very day.
Logically, I knew that I was able to change that, but my trust issues ran deep, and I blamed Brianna. Even at a young age she had been conniving and evil. Nothing about her personality has really changed. She’s still conniving and evil—just more so.
That was just one of the many times that the stuck up bitch, formally known as Brianna Richardson, had taken something that was mine and made it hers, and I was tired of it. Brianna was the type of girl who had been spoiled and put on a pedestal her whole life, and I hated people like that. I wanted to rip the silver spoon from her smirking mouth and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine. It was about time that she learned other people have feelings too, and I was just the person to teach her that.
SCARLET AWAKENING - EXCERPT 2
I pulled a long sleeve sweater from deep within the confines of my suitcase, and stared at it quizzically. Wow, I really did go overboard packing. I know that I had said that I was packing in preparation for anything that came my way, but seriously, a long sleeve sweater? Did I think that sometime during my visit, San Diego was going to be hit by a blizzard?
Shaking my head, I folded the sweater neatly and tucked it away into the bottom drawer of my dresser. I had been unpacking for nearly two hours now, and so far I hadn’t gotten far. I blamed my lack of progress on my short attention span, and my laziness. So far, I had managed to organize each drawer according to clothing article. I had separate drawers for bottoms, tops, bathing suits, undergarments, pajamas, and miscellaneous. The sweater was placed into the miscellaneous drawer where it was accompanied by a thin raincoat, sweat pants, and a pair of gray leg-warmers. Seriously, I had a packing problem.
My phone buzzed on the dull hardwood floor just a few inches away from my thigh. I scooped the phone up and smiled at the screen when I saw that the message was from Violet. She had been sending me cute videos of her sister, Lilly, all morning. Lilly had started taking dance lesson a few months ago, and she had her first recital coming up in a week so she would practice throughout the house, despite her mom’s efforts. I unlocked the phone, which instantly opened the message to show another video. Along with the video, Violet had sent a message telling me to listen to her mom.
Smiling, I hit play on the video, and watched closely as the camera focused on a dancing, tutu-clad Lilly. She was spinning around the Forrester’s living room, weaving in and out of the furniture and doing ballet-style leaps over little obstacles that littered the floor. The obstacles were little stuffed animals, and toys that Lilly had probably set up.
“Watch this, Lizzie,” Lilly’s voice blasted from my phone’s speaker. She stopped moving and faced the camera head on, then smiled so brightly that her eyes scrunched up some. Her dark curls continued to bounce around her face from the previous motion. “I, Lilly Forrester, am going to do something that no other dancer can do.” She raised her arms high over her head, and proceeded to do a cartwheel from the living room into the dining room where her mom was.
I heard Mrs. F. let out a shriek, and it soundly like she was about to have an aneurysm or something. The shriek caused Lilly to lose her footing, and fall onto her butt. “No cartwheels!” Violet’s mom spoke loudly. She wasn’t yelling, but she was definitely worked up. “You could break your neck!” Then the video ended, and I laughed loudly at her words. Mrs. F. was known for being an extreme worrywart. I thought that it was hilarious, while Violet thought that her mom was crazy. I was sure that if I had grown up with her as my mom, I would think she was crazy too.
I shook my head; still smiling to myself about the video as I typed back a reply about how her mom was hilarious, before setting my phone back on the ground and staring into my suitcase again. I would probably be done now if I had continuously stuck with unpacking when I first started. I had begun right after breakfast, and Ella and I had decided to have a race to see who could finish first. She won.
It wasn’t fair really. I had more to unpack than she did, so I should have gotten a head start. It had only taken her half an hour to unpack everything. How was that possible? When she finished and had come up to brag about her winning, I no longer saw the point in rushing, and began to take my sweet time. I had even taken a break to go talk to grandpa who had been doing a little organizing of his own. Apparently grandma had given him the task of cleaning out the once guest room that had been converted to a storage room. She didn’t want me to be stuck up in the attic room for my whole visit. I was fine being in the attic, but grandma disagreed.
So when I went to see grandpa, he had been in the middle of trying to figure out the most effective way to begin cleaning the room. In my opinion the most effective way to begin cleaning was to start, but he was sure that there was a certain way that he needed to tackle his task. When I left him, he was grumbling about who was the person to come up with the saying, “Happy wife, happy life.” At the moment, making grandma happy by cleaning was not making his life happy.
Sighing, I shook my thoughts from my mind and reached into my bag again, pulling out a cute, red sundress that I had gotten on my last trip to the mall with Ella. I hadn’t worn it yet, but I was excited to get the chance too. Red had always been my favorite color. Not only was it just a nice color in general, but also I felt like it made me look sexy, and mysterious. It probably didn’t, but a girl could dream. Standing, I went to hang the dress up in my closet, along with the other dresses that I had already hung up. This unpacking thing was rapidly becoming tedious.
With a groan, I leaned my back against the foot-board of my bed that faced the closet. Maybe I could convince Ella to help me finish up? Just as I was about to stand, my eye caught a little corner of a piece of paper that was poking out from behind the dresser. I furrowed my brows at the sight of it, wondering what it could be. The rest of the room had been completely empty when I arrived, so I was curious to see what this was. It was probably nothing, but either way my interest was piqued.
Pushing myself away from the bed, I walked toward the dresser, crouching down next to it as I gripped the corner of the paper and pulled it from its hiding place. I unfolded it, seeing the back first. There was one sentence scrawled across the back. It was short, and sweet.
Keep us in your memories.
That was all that it said. There was no name signed under it, or even a date. Just that one sentence. Now I was really curious. Flipping the paper over, my jaw dropped almost instantly. It was a picture of my mom in the hospital, holding one bundle of white in each arm, with a man standing next to her. I could see now why there was no name or date listed on the back. The date was obvious. The picture had to have been taken on August 8th, the day that my mom gave birth to the twins. That was the first and last time that she had seen them. I assumed that the man in the picture was the guy who had adopted them, and probably the owner of the handwriting on the back as well.
I stood hurriedly, and took the stairs down from my room to go find Ella. Luckily, she was sitting in her room listening to music. I entered without knocking, earning a glare. I didn’t care though. I knew that she would want to see this.
Moving toward where she was sprawled across her bed, I trusted the photograph out to her. She took it curiously, staring at the front in silent before flipping it over to read the back.
“Do you recognize him?” she asked me, eyebrows furrowed.
I shook my head no. “He’s got to be the guy who adopted the babies. Why else would he be in the picture?”
Ella shrugged in response, staring at the front of the photo again. I stood in silence for a moment as she just sat, holding the picture and frowning down at it. Then, with a smile curving her thin lips upward, she met my eyes. “If we found him, we would probably find the babies too.”
I bit my lip as realization crashed over me. “We could finally meet them.”
PLAYING WITH FIRE - EXCERPT 3
The music blasting from the speakers in the living room was so loud that it felt like the house was pulsing to the beat. There were giant speakers set up against the walls, and each piece of furniture, with the exception of a few couches, had been moved out of the living room to make space for a makeshift dance floor. From my position on the loveseat in the corner I could see a group of drunk girls gyrating and grinding against each other to a completely different beat. Each girl was dressed as a cat, and I almost groaned audibly at their costume choice. There were so many damn cat outfits that I’d lost count. Is originality frowned upon on Halloween too, of all days?
Next to me, Carter laughed as one of the girls stumbled in her leopard-print heels and almost toppled over before she was caught by one of her more sober kitty-friends.
“Why aren’t you out there?” Carter asked, leaning toward me and yelling over the music so he could be heard.
I shrugged. Normally I was the type of girl who spent the night dancing in the middle of the crowd until my thighs burned, but tonight was different. I just wasn’t in the mood to dance, or to be social at all. I hadn’t even wanted to come to the party. If it weren’t for Shane and Carter, I would probably be at home right now squandering away the night watching old Disney Halloween movies and avoiding my homework assignments until the last minute. “I can’t find Shane,” I answered. It wasn’t the exact reason, but it was more or less true. About an hour into the party, Shane had disappeared. I told myself the only reason I was wondering where he’d gone was because he was the reason I was here, but everyone knew that wasn’t true.
Carter smirked at me. Shane and I had been dating, for lack of a better word, for nearly three months now and yet he still teased me about it every chance he got. I never teased him about how whipped he was when it came to my sister. The least he could do was extend that same courtesy to me.
“Aw, do you miss him?” he questioned, still smirking. The fact that his face was painted as the Joker only added to my annoyance. It was as if his smirk was extra defined.
I rolled my eyes dramatically.
“Hey, I’m only messing with you,” he said loudly, placing a hand on my shoulder. He offered me a small smile when I made eye contact. “If you find the alcohol, I can promise you you’ll find Shane.”
“Come with me?” I had to lean into his ear as I asked. I could barely hear my own voice.
He nodded in response and we both got to our feet. As soon as our butts left the couch, the wolf and Little Red Riding Hood swooped in to take our seats, then proceeded to make out. Her grandmother would be so disappointed.
Carter led the way out of the room and down the hall toward the kitchen. I’d only been in this house one other time for a party at the beginning of the year, and was surprised I remembered my way around. As we entered the room, we wove in and out of people who were standing around, guzzling substances from their red plastic cups. Some people had really gotten into the Halloween spirit and went all out for their costumes, while others had taken the easy route by sticking animal ears on their heads and calling it a night. If I had originally planned on coming to the party then my costume would’ve been way better than it was. Instead, I was wearing the same costume I wore last year to Brianna’s Halloween party—Marilyn Monroe.
I scanned the room as Carter and I made our way through the growing throng of our peers. Shane wasn’t anywhere in sight. I was rapidly becoming annoyed. How rude is it to force someone to come to a party with you, and then just ditch them? Very.
I followed closely behind Carter as he exited the kitchen through a sliding glass door and headed out onto the deck. The hot day had turned into a warm, breezy night. The sky was dark, but light came from tiki torches and the many candle-lit, carved pumpkins that surrounded the backyard. Almost instantly after I stepped out onto the porch, Shane walked up to me with a big smile on his handsome face.
“Ella!” he yelled, throwing his arms around me and pulling me in for a bone-crushing hug. The strong smell of alcohol hit my nose as he nuzzled his head into the crook of my neck. “I missed you,” he mumbled against my skin, sending tingles down my spine when he kissed my neck. The way my body reacted to him only served to annoy me further. I was mad at him for making me come out tonight, and then leaving me on the couch for nearly an hour while he drank. He did not deserve my affection right now.
I pushed him back by his shoulders, keeping him at arm’s length as I said, “If you missed me then you would’ve come inside and gotten me. Have you been out here the whole time?”
He nodded hard, causing his blond hair to fall into his eyes. Then, catching me off guard, he placed his hands on my cheeks and guided my face to his. He kissed me hard for a moment before I pulled away. If it was possible, he tasted worse than he smelled. Carter laughed as I scrunched my nose in disgust.
“What are you doing?” I groaned, wiping my mouth with the back of my hand. I ignored the hurt in his eyes as he pouted.
“I just wanted to kiss you,” he answered, running a hand through his hair and glancing to the side.
I sighed, pulling him away from the door, down the steps into the yard, and over to a lawn chair. Carter followed us and stood with his arms crossed over his chest, just watching us in amusement. “You smell terrible,” I said, trying not to stand downwind of him. “How much did you drink?”
Shane shrugged as he dropped down into the chair. My gaze trailed from his face to his chest, which was on full display in his costume. He was one of the people who had taken the easy route out for a costume, and bought a cheap boy scout’s vest from the costume store earlier today. He paired it with some khaki shorts, and was ready for a night out. The vest was open and showed off his tan abs and muscular arms. I wasn’t the only one who was noticing either. Other girls were milling around the yard, obviously checking him out, and it was kind of pissing me off.
Shane pulled me down onto the chair with him, hugging me tightly to his chest. His muscular arms flexed as they circled my waist, and he leaned down to rest his chin on my shoulder. He sighed deeply. “You smell so good,” he commented.
Carter rolled his eyes. “I’m gonna go see if I can find him a bottle of water or something. He’s gotta sober up before he gets home or his mom will have an aneurysm.”
“Okay, hurry back. We should leave soon. I’m tired.” As if my body was trying to prove my words, a yawn escaped my parted lips. Behind me, Shane hugged me tighter. I shifted positions uncomfortably, trying not to gag at how horrible he smelled.
“Got it,” Carter replied, turning to head back into the house where I could see people dancing in the kitchen through the plate glass door.
More people were beginning to come outside, probably because of how crowded it was inside. It was hot in there, and there was hardly any space to move around. The only downside to being out here was that the music was only a dull thud. You could hear the beat, but it was hard to tell what song was playing. At least outside I could actually hear myself think.
I turned my head slightly so I could see Shane’s face as his head rested on my shoulder. When I moved, he opened his eyes and his gaze met mine. Then he shifted his eyes and looked around in front of us. Returning his gaze to mine, he sat up as he said, “He’s gone!”
He looked so cute and happy that I couldn’t help but smile at him. “Carter?”
Shane nodded in response. “I was waiting for him to leave.”
“Why is that?”
He smirked. “So I could do this,” he answered, turning me slightly as he leaned in to kiss me again. I pulled away before he could.
I placed my hands on his chest and held him back as he tried to lean in again. “Damn boy, you need to calm down. Your hormones are on a whole ’nother level right now.”
“It’s the outfit.” He raised an eyebrow at me as he pulled at the material of my white dress. “I always had a thing for Marilyn Monroe.” He winked, and even in his drunken stupor he managed to look so sexy that I almost swooned. How that was possible, I had no clue.
“Well, Marilyn is taking a vow of abstinence.”
Shane groaned. His mood changed so quickly. He went from flirtatious to looking like someone just ran over his puppy.
I laughed lightly as he pouted. “We really need to get you home.”
Shane instantly took the bait and his smirk returned full force. “You wanna take me home?”
“Yes, but not in the way you’re implying,” I answered, rolling my eyes at how cheesy his suggestion was. Then I glanced up and looked toward the door, hoping to see Carter coming out, but he wasn’t. “Where is Carter? He said he’d be right back.”
Shane waved my question off. “Who needs Carter? All he does lately is talk about Lena. He’s boring.”
“That’s not boring, that’s adorable.”
Sighing, I tried to push myself up, but Shane tightened his arms around me so I couldn’t stand. “Shane, I’m going to find Carter. Just wait here for me to get back. Do not move.”
Pouting, he let me go. Then he crossed his arms and leaned back in the chair, frowning.
“Seriously, don’t go anywhere.” I stared at him until he said he wouldn’t move, and then I headed back toward the house.
As soon as I entered through the back door the sound of the music filled my ears again. Everything was loud inside. People were yelling over the music, laughing, and singing. I had no idea how I was supposed to find Carter if he wasn’t in the kitchen. After I looked around the room and saw that he wasn’t there, I continued to push my way through the crowd. I hardly recognized anyone from school other than people who hung out with Carter and Shane. When I was almost out of the kitchen, a tall girl dressed as a pirate came hurtling around the corner and ran straight into me, spilling the cups of beer she had in each hand all over the front of my dress and down my legs. I groaned loudly, shaking the beer from my hands, and then holding the front of my dress away from my body as she apologized and ran off.
Now I’m going to smell like beer, I thought with a sigh. Holding my now wet dress away from my body, I walked down the main hall, scanning the throng of people for Carter. As I neared the bathroom door, it opened, and out walked Carter with a satisfied expression on his face. I almost wanted to hit him.
When he spotted me, he laughed, but it was covered by the music.
I marched toward him, taking him by the arm and pulling him to the kitchen, where he grabbed one of the many bottles of water that sat amongst the nearly empty bottles of liquor. Then we headed back outside, into the night.
“You look horrible,” Carter commented, gesturing to my beer stains.
I frowned in response. “Thanks, that’s what every girl wants to hear,” I said, the sarcasm heavy in my voice. “Let’s just get this water to Shane, so we can get out of here.”
Carter nodded, and we both turned our attention away from each other and to where I left Shane. I was happy to see he was still sitting there. I took the four patio steps down to the yard, and froze as I watched some girl stumble toward Shane. It was like one of those scenes in a movie where the main character knows in her gut that something bad is about to happen, but is powerless to stop it.
The girl was dressed scantily as a damn black cat, with her dark hair curled and two little cat ears sticking out of her hair at the top. When she got to Shane she plopped down into his lap, tossed her arms around his neck, and kissed him with everything she had in her. My heart clenched at the sight, and I felt anger bubble up inside of me. My head swam for the two seconds that she kissed him until Shane pushed her away. I felt like my blood was boiling, I was so mad.
Shane stood up, placing the girl on her feet and holding his hands up in a surrendering motion. I watched as his lips moved, and then the girl crossed her arms and stormed off. As soon as she turned away from him, Shane turned slightly and his gaze met mine. He looked apologetic, and it seemed as if that one action had sobered him up quick.
I didn’t know what to think. Why the hell did she feel comfortable enough to just come over and start kissing him? Was I missing something?
I didn’t wait to find out though, because as soon as Shane took a step toward me, obviously coming to explain, I turned away and headed back into the house. It was time to go.
I should’ve stayed home.
Taylor Henderson is a psychology major at the University of Mary Washington who was born and raised in Northern Virginia. She has been an adamant reader and writer since she was young, and has always found solace in the worlds and characters that other authors have brought to life in their works. Taylor plans to continue writing, and hopes to expand to different genres in the future.
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