WHAT SHE DESERVES (A Tallwood Tale)
by Jody Wallace
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Length: Novella (37K)
Buy Links: Not currently available!
Winnie and Peter fought all through high school. Has the time finally come to kiss and make up?
At seventeen Winifred Sampson was sure of three things. She was a nerd, she hated Peter Duvall, and her crush on the quarterback would never be reciprocated. Ten years later, she’d like to revise two of those constants. She’s a sexy, self-confident woman now, more than woman enough to seduce a former high school football player. She doesn’t spare a thought for that turkey Peter…until she sees him at the reunion. My, how he’s grown!
Peter never cared that he and Winnie were the class nerds. So they were smart. So they didn’t have dates. Big deal. Now they were smart and successful. She was always his fantasy girl, and he’s decided to make a few of his own dreams come true…in the most carnal way possible. All he has to do is convince her that he’s graduated, with honors, from dud to stud.
The new Winnie isn’t immune to the new Peter, but will longstanding rivalries, their rambunctious classmates, a certain quarterback, and that sly bitch Fate cooperate this time around?
Tropes: This high school reunion love story features enemies to lovers, a return to one’s hometown, and unrequited love. Also bad dancing, but that’s not a trope.
Note: The Worst Christmas, a YA short story, is a free prequel to WSD, but it is not necessary to read it first.
***** EXCERPT *****
She couldn’t put this off any longer. After adjusting the straps of her designer gown one last time, Winnie tiptoed across the elegant hotel lobby. Despite the careful pace, her high heels clicked loudly against the tile until she reached the carpeted hallway.
There, straight ahead, was her destination. The room she’d attempted to approach three times already and chickened out. The room she’d been dreading, and anticipating, for months.
The Magnolia Ballroom, scene of the Ten Year Reunion of Tallwood High School’s Class of ’98.
As she lurked behind the final pillar that hid her from the view of the woman at the welcome table, she heard the ominous words that would force her into the open.
“Winnie? Winnie Sampson?”
Winnie whirled. A tall, handsome man strode toward her. He wore an expensive grey suit with a wildly patterned tie and wide smile.
She smiled back, waiting for memory to kick in. He looked familiar—but not familiar enough. Whoever he was, he was very good-looking, so they probably hadn’t run in the same crowds.
The man chuckled at her noncommittal expression. “It’s Peter Duvall.”
“Good Lord!” The obnoxious, scrawny kid with the thick glasses and long hair had turned into a self-assured, gorgeous man. She hadn’t seen him in, what, six years? Not since he’d dropped by her parents’ house over Christmas. She wouldn’t have recognized him if he’d sat down beside her and pelted her with beans—which he’d once done at a National Honor Society banquet.
His face crinkled with amusement, and he extended his hand for a shake. Bemused, Winnie placed her hand in his.
“You look great.” He wrapped his warm hands around hers, squeezing in a meaningful fashion. “How the heck have you been?”
His intense regard unnerved her. Did he have x-ray vision? Because if he did, he wouldn’t be seeing any underwear to speak of beneath her clingy red gown.
To hide her confusion, and the fact she was thinking about her g-string next to Peter Duvall, she marched those final fifteen feet to the welcome table, where she traced her finger down the rows of nametags. “I’m fine. You need your tag, Peter. Nobody’s going to recognize you. You look different with short hair.”
She located his tag and snatched it up with shaky fingers. His senior photo grinned up at her through the laminate.
“I gave up the ponytail when I got a job at a law firm. Kinda had to.”
“I can imagine,” she said.
“I wouldn’t have needed a nametag to recognize you, Winnie.” His hazel eyes, unreadable, studied her. Nevertheless, he accepted his plastic with good grace and smiled at Sally Jones, now Sally Jones Hammond, who staffed the table and monitored attendance.
“You can quit texting me, Sally,” Peter said. “I’m here.”
Sally gave a high-pitched squeal. She was easy to recognize. She had the exact same hair, exact same make-up and exact same big mouth, only there were seventy more pounds of Sally to love.
“Peter, you look so handsome.” Sally fluttered her eyelashes, totally ignoring Winnie. “I’m putting in my nomination for Most Gorgeous right now.”
Winnie should have recognized Peter, but he’d changed. In high school Winnie and Peter had fought constantly—who’d captain the debate team, who’d break the curve on the chemistry exam, who’d be valedictorian. The few times they’d seen each other since hadn’t been any different. Unless that aspect of his nature had changed as well as his appearance, she didn’t plan to reminisce with him any longer than politeness dictated.
Mr. Most Annoying proceeded to schmooze Sally in a fashion Winnie didn’t associate with her high school rival at all.
“Thanks, Sally.” He took her beringed hand in his own. “Should I put your name in for Most Likely to Make a Man Feel Special?”
Winnie tried not to gag. What a tool. Peter had always won. At everything. She should have recognized his laughing face, because more than once she’d wanted to punch his lights out.
Sally gestured with her free hand. “Don’t be silly. I’m a married woman, and I can assure you, Tod does not feel special.”
Winnie bent her head so her long, dark hair fell forward, concealing her face as she pinned her nametag to her silk dress. She scanned the remaining labels to see who had yet to arrive.
Was he here yet? His name had been on the ReunionPlanning.com list as a yes.
Sally tilted her face toward Peter like a flower seeking the sun. “That’s some tie, Peter, and some suit to go with it. Have you finally taken my advice and become a male model?”
Peter gave an easy laugh. “Since we saw each other last? I haven’t had time.”
Winnie fidgeted. Was Sally going to acknowledge her presence or should she just walk off? The recessed lights glimmered off the expensive material of Winnie’s gown, which clung to her curves like paint. She clutched the matching chiffon wrap more tightly around her. The wrap was a necessary evil—the back of her dress draped so low it revealed the Celtic knot tattoo at the base of her spine.
Peter Duvall wasn’t the only late bloomer from Tallwood High’s Class of ’98, but trust Sally Jones not to notice how much Winnie had improved as well. Yet here she was, amidst her high school companions, as invisible as she’d promised herself she’d never be again.
No matter what she did, Peter did it better—even turn into a hottie. Sheesh!
He patted Sally’s hand one last time. “Are the girls with Grannie Hammond?”
“Thank my lucky stars this isn’t Nadine’s bingo night.” Sally nodded, her cheeks pink. They matched the color of her suit, which had animal print trim and buttons. Cute, but not the Sally Jones of Winnie’s high school memories.
Make that nightmares. Sally had coined Winnie’s hated nickname. Sally had mocked Winnie’s intelligence. Sally had plopped her formerly tiny rump in its cheerleading uniform into the lap of the football team captain, whom she’d married shortly after graduation.
Sally had been a big part of the hell that was Winnie’s high school years. She’d matured past most old resentments, but in the past couple of months, contemplating the reunion had reawakened all her insecurities.
“How’s Tod tonight?” Peter asked Sally. “Did he get out of coaching football practice?”
At Peter’s words, Winnie’s heart lurched, but not on behalf of Sally’s husband. Tod Hammond’s best friend had been Chase McKnight. Quarterback. Heartthrob. It was his nametag Winnie was seeking, to discover if the boy who’d ruled her high school fantasies was here yet…and ready for a surprise. It seemed like the easiest, and most pleasurable, way to erase her lingering high school bitterness.
Sally, however, had a different reaction to Peter’s question. Her pretty face scrunched up. “Tod’s at the bar getting drunk.”
This was the break Winnie’d been looking for. Taking a deep breath, she asked, “I guess Tod’s old buddies are here? Bigboy? Hank? Chase?” She hoped her voice didn’t sound as trembly to Sally and Peter as it did to her.
“They’re all in there, egging him on,” Sally replied with a frown. Her eyes narrowed as she finally evaluated Winnie. “So did you become a brain surgeon, Winifred, or a…” Her voice trailed off as she looked up and down Winnie’s dress. “A librarian?”
“I’m a computer programmer,” she answered. “Brain surgery wasn’t lucrative enough. Would you like me to get you a drink from the bar since you’re stuck handing out nametags?” That would give her a reason to go straight to the bar and see who she could see.
“No thanks, I don’t drink.” Sally’s expression soured even more, and Winnie felt an odd surge of sympathy for her.
Sympathy for Sally Jones? Well, if Peter Duvall was gorgeous, anything could happen. She’d better put in a call to Lucifer and tell him to stock up on space heaters.
© 2009 Jody Wallace