Sample: Dealing with the Devil

“Jess, darling, I have a present for you.”

I looked up and met Barry’s eyes. They were warm with just a hint of puppy dog in them.

“Oh, Barry, driving me to the airport was gift enough.”

“I wanted to get you something else,” he insisted. “Open it.”

I removed the wrapping paper and discovered a stuffed animal, slightly larger than my fist. It was a white rabbit.

“A snow bunny for my snow bunny,” Barry said.

I couldn’t help the small smile. The bunny was goofy and sweet, just like Barry was when no one was looking. And of course, Barry had chosen his moment perfectly. A quick glance around the concourse confirmed that no one was looking. My other sorority sisters were talking among themselves over by the gate. Only Hayley was casually looking in our direction.

“This is really sweet,” I said, giving Barry a hug and then tucking the rabbit in my bag.

“I wish I could go with you,” he said.

I pulled back with a sigh. “It’s a ‘girls only’ trip. As much as I’d love to have you along…” I sighed again. I had argued with Regan and Hayley about bringing our boyfriends, but they’d been insistent. Just Chi O sisters. Since it was Regan’s family’s chalet, I’d let it drop.

“That’s okay,” Barry said. “You’ll be back in time for us to be together before Christmas.”

“Yes I will. Or do we have to be at your parents earlier?”

“No,” Barry reassured me. “Father hasn’t called. I don’t think he will, since Mother was so upset about his last-minute changes last year. I don’t think he wants to endure another of her crying fits.” Barry and I shared a smile. No one with any sanity wanted to endure one of his mother’s crying fits.

“Well, hello, Bartholomew.” Hayley had walked up while we’d been talking.

“Hello, Hayley,” Barry said.

“Nice of you to see Jessica off,” she said with a small smile. Her eyes flicked to me and back.

“It’s what any gentleman would do,” Barry said.
“Well, it’s a good thing you’re a gentleman.”

Hayley’s face contained a little too much innocence for me to believe she meant what she said, but Barry didn’t see it. Instead, he reddened a little at the compliment.

“Just living up to the family name,” he said, a little too eagerly.

I shot Barry a dirty look, but he didn’t see it. Hayley was still smiling at him, turning on the charm. Of course, I knew it was just a mask; she had no real interest in Barry’s well-being.

“So how is your family? Your father’s firm doing well?”

“Quite well,” Barry said. “They should bring in record profits this year.”

“Well, that must make for a very merry Christmas,” Hayley said.

“Oh, yes.”

Hayley glanced at me and moistened her lips as she grinned. “Jessica is so lucky to be dating you,” she practically purred, returning her attention to Barry. “She’s so lucky to have caught you!”

“Hayley!”

We looked in the direction of the shout and saw Regan waving her arm. Hayley turned back to Barry.

“It was good to see you, Bartholomew,” she said, lightly touching his arm before turning and heading over to join my sisters.

“She is such a bitch,” I spat through gritted teeth.

“What?” Barry responded. “I thought she was perfectly nice.”

“You didn’t catch the insult? That I had to be lucky to be with you?”

“That was an insult?” he asked.

Barry, dear Barry, was completely clueless. I just shook my head.

“She’s always getting away with stuff like that,” I muttered.

“Huh?”

I turned and looked Barry in the eyes.

“You know I don’t like her, but it’s more than that. Her nickname’s ‘Hayley Devil.’ It’s partially a play on her last name, Devlin. Most people think it’s because she can be so naughty. But some of us know better.”

“I don’t understand.”

“She’s selfish, amoral, and smart enough to get away with it,” I said. “She can be really nasty too.”

“She’s always been nice to me.”

I closed my eyes for a second and gritted my teeth. Barry could be so sweet, but he just didn’t see beneath the surface.

“So, if she’s all those things,” Barry asked, “why hang out with her?”

“You know why. We’re sorority sisters.”

“Oh.”

Barry seemed to still have a question hovering on his lips. While I was debating whether to try and explain more, we heard the boarding call.

“You have to go,” Barry said with a small pout.

“Yes.” I stepped forward and hugged him. He wrapped his arms around me and held me tight until we heard the second boarding call. I pulled back and we exchanged a quick kiss.

“Take care of yourself, darling,” he said, forcing a smile.

“I will.”

“I love you.”

“I love you too.”

I pulled away, slowly letting go of his hands, before turning toward the gate. With a final wave, I boarded the plane.

The first leg of the flight was uneventful. My “little sister” Gina met us in Atlanta. Her entire family and boyfriend Paul saw her off, so I didn’t think Barry doing the same for me was that unusual. Despite what Hayley might say.
As I settled into my seat by the window, Gina surprised me by throwing her bag into the same overhead compartment.

“Hi, Jess,” she said.

“I thought you’d be up with Regan,” I said, gesturing toward First Class.

Gina frowned. “When Regan made the reservations, she said she’d get me a seat with her, but she didn’t reserve enough seats in First Class. Then Hayley persuaded her that they needed to talk about some ‘plans’ for the weekend. So I got bumped.”

“Plans?”

“They didn’t say.”

To be continued…

Cover for the book Friends and Benefits

 Want more of  Dealing with the Devil?

The Devil knows how to get her way.

“Her nickname’s ‘Hayley Devil.’ Most people think it’s because she can be so naughty. Some of us know better.”

As Jessica heads to Vermont for a week of skiing with her sorority, she knows that Hayley is planning something, something she won’t like.

Can she figure it out in time?