Lights, camera, action! Join the cast and crew of reality TV show Whose Bride Is She Anyway? for a hilariously funny tale that will keep you listening. The stage is set, the players are in place, and the cameras are rolling as an ex-cheerleader and two ex-geeks compete for love, marriage, and money...a lot of money!
USA Today best-selling romantic comedy author Dakota Cassidy's laugh-out-loud, tropical island battle Whose Bride Is She Anyway? is a romantic comedy you'll love.
Whose Bride Is She Anyway? is the most popular reality show on TV, featuring a bride, 20 potential hunk-o-licious grooms, a jury, and a whole lot of cash at the end of the matrimonial aisle.
The rules? Spend a month on a tropical island (as if you didn't know that) and let a jury of your peers and one high school friend choose your man for life. If you can manage to stay married for a year you get the booty. A million bucks. Tara Douglas doesn't care about the booty. Once taunted and humiliated for being an overweight geek, Tara is now a svelte 30-something looking for revenge, and it ain't as the bride. The bride is Kelsey Little, ex-Evanston High cheerleader and all-round bitch. Kelsey was responsible for Tara's ultimate humiliation in high school. August Guthrie, a former dork himself, wants to win the woman he thought was his high school wet dream. What could go wrong? A few little things like sabotage, treachery, deceit, clandestine meetings, and an airtight contract that could leave you bankrupt with the paparazzi breathing down your neck for an eternity, that's what! This contemporary romantic comedy contains adult language and situations, and is not intended for listeners under the age of 18.
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 6.70(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
Dakota Cassidy lives in Texas with her family.
Read an Excerpt
Evanston High 1992--You want a piece a this?
An ass kicking...
Could one actually smell it when it was upon them? Cuz her nose was twitching with the scent of one.
The thick, acrid smell of a can of whoop ass being popped open
Yup, she was in for a licking. A serious tongue-lashing, and there was no escape. The predator was loose and on the prowl, just waiting to pounce on her with freshly polished nails and hair that shone so bright it made your eyes tear up looking at it.
Tara fought the onslaught of fear and panic that settled in her gut as the pack of Junior Miss America wannabes gathered around behind her in the girl's locker room. The scent of her own perspiration lingered in her nose and her hands trembled as she fought to open her locker, trying to pretend that Kelsey and her crowd of perfectly flawless, rah-rah compadres weren't cackling at her. She tucked the towel tightly between her breasts and popped open her gym locker with a jerk, keeping her back to them and her flushed cheeks hidden in the cool recesses of her locker.
Breathe ... they're just a bunch of stupid girls. That didn't soothe her much. That "bunch of girls" were prettily disguised barracudas, looking to chew up her well-rounded flesh and spit it back out.
"Well, well, look at Tara Douglas, girls. What are you looking for in that locker? More condoms so you can help Jordon study?" Kelsey crowed, sarcasm dripping like a melting ice cream cone in the hot summer sun with each venomous word she spat.
Ah, the ever popular Kelsey Little, Tarawinced. Captain of the cheerleading squad and head bitch on wheels at Evanston High, doing what she did best ... reign supreme.
She clenched her eyes shut as the small crowd of pom-pom queens twittered at Kelsey's reference to Jordon Sanders, Kelsey's boyfriend, and Tara's supposed squeeze.
Yeah, like Jordon Sanders could squeeze anything more than his biceps while admiring himself in a full-length mirror.
Like Tara Douglas could squeeze anything that belonged to Kelsey.
She ignored Kelsey's hot breath on her neck and continued to root around in the locker for her underwear and bra. The palm of Kelsey's hand slapped her locker shut with a sharp bang, just missing her fingers. She leaned forward into Tara with imposing menace, so close she almost choked on the smell of Love's Baby Soft perfume. Tara jumped, cringing at the confrontation she knew was about to happen and was helpless to avoid. Her heart raced as impending doom lurked.
Kelsey loved a good show, especially if she had her fellow, brain-sharing goons to egg her on and participate in a little dork bashing.
Feeling none too brave, but just shy of chicken shit, Tara turned to face Kelsey, refusing to give in to the overwhelming need to push her way past the humiliation patrol and run. Kelsey had been belittling her at every turn since she'd began tutoring her stupid jock boyfriend, and she was sick and tired of being the butt of her jokes.
Not to mention--she was sick of her butt being made into a joke.
It was big.
Tara didn't need anyone to openly share that for her in large groups. She had a mirror. It came in double wide, thank you.
Yes, she was overweight--as if it wasn't obvious. Clearly Kelsey didn't opt for the startlingly original when it came to taking potshots. And wait, big surprise, she couldn't wear short skirts or tight jeans. Not if she didn't want rolls of doughy flesh bulging from every available outlet, anyway. Her mother told her she'd grow out of it, but she was almost eighteen and at five foot four, six foot two was looking less and less likely. Growing a foot or so was the only thing that would put her in proportion to her current weight.
Her options were becoming sorely limited according to her tape measure.
And finally, to seal the geek deal, she didn't wield pom-poms and a flaming baton.
Sometimes, for the sheer joy of making Kelsey's brain cells flutter, she just wanted to walk up and stick her face in Kelsey's perfect one and yell, "I'm fat--fat, okay!"
Big deal. What was so special about being skinny anyway?
Tight jeans in a size four ... A date every Saturday night ... underwear that didn't look like they belonged to Omar the tentmaker ... Being on the cheerleading squad.
Tara tightened her towel and pulled it self consciously over her butt. Kelsey's teeth flashed in a wicked smile of absolute power, knowing she had Tara where she wanted her and reveling in it. Her long blonde hair jiggled as her head bobbed on her neck and she spat, "Tell me something Tara, does Jordon make you swallow?"
A profusion of color swept over Tara's face and the heat of embarrassment lingered on her cheeks, pricking at her flesh.
Swallow what? She bit her lip. Wait, scratch that. Whatever was supposedly being ingested, it couldn't be anything nearly as enjoyable as a plate of fries smothered in ketchup.
She didn't have a clue what in all of hell Kelsey was talking about, but she knew it had to be sexual by the gasp of the forbidden everyone made. Fear continued to pulse through her veins, rushing in waves that left her knees weak. Her stomach was doing the Highland fling, and her teeth weren't far from clacking their way out of her mouth, but she fought the fight of the meek anyway. "Get away from me, Kelsey. There's nothing going on between me and Jordon. I tutor him, that's all," managed between tightly clenched teeth.
Oh, God, please don't let me freak out now. Be calm, stay cool, and try not to notice that Kelsey's face is so close to yours you could count the blackheads on her pert, upturned nose.
Kelsey had blackheads? The horror...
They might be mingled with a smattering of freckles, but they were there. Interesting. Popular girls got blackheads too. Maybe not as many as Tara, but a blackhead sighting had occurred and she wasn't feeling nearly as inferior as she and her tube of Clearasil had a minute ago.
Kelsey flicked a stray piece of Tara's hair with her fingers. "Yeah? That's not the rumor I'm hearing. I hear you begged Jordon to screw you and he felt so sorry for you he mercy fucked you for helping him. Jordon told us all just last night at Candice Walker's party, didn't he girls?" A sea of shiny, Pert Plus heads nodded affirmatively, just as Tara expected they would. What else could they do? They were the Stepford cheerleaders, and no cheerleader worth her weight in cartwheels ignored Kelsey when a group opportunity to taunt a defenseless nerd became available.
Well, if what Kelsey said were true, and it wouldn't shock Tara, it only went to show what a dipshit Jordon really was. Who bragged about a mercy fuck to a bunch of girls, especially his own girlfriend? In front of his girlfriends' friends no less?
Jordon was a moron. A waste of perfectly good, functioning grey matter. Sure he was cute, but somehow, frighteningly simple.
Tara stiffened at the implication she'd had anything more than a tutoring session with him. Her response reflected her astonishment, squeaking on its way out, "I did not have sex with Jordon. He's not even my type." He would need to at least have a higher grade point average than my pet rock collection.
Tara gripped the towel tighter as her legs trembled and Kelsey's green eyes narrowed, boring into hers.
"Your type?" Kelsey screeched her grin of malice widening. "What is your type? Do they have types for slobs like you? You slut! Why would he lie about something like that? I guess fat girls get off too, huh, Tara? Do you really think Jordon is going to actually take you somewhere in public if you screw him? Like maybe you'll actually get to go to a party with us?"
"We--are--not--screwing!" Tara half screamed, panic rising in her throat. "We just study, that's it. Now go away. Don't you have to practice pyramid building or something?" Kelsey's pretty face turned ugly at Tara's rebuttal.
Oh, oh, oh ... maybe that might have been a wee bit overboard in the slam department. She swallowed hard, waiting for retribution. No one dared crack wise at a cheerleader, especially if the cheerleading wonder of the world was Kelsey Little.
Kelsey suddenly laughed and it wasn't because she found Tara amusing. It rang with the sound of evil. "I'm not going away until you tell the girls and me what you do while you're with Jordon. Admit it, you fucked him." The word fuck came out of her mouth like sludge from a sewer.
The group of perfect faces that made up the "in crowd" at Evanston High became a blur over Kelsey's shoulder, as Tara's eyes zeroed in on Kelsey's face, only inches from hers. "I--I told you," her voice quivered, to her embarrassment, "We study ... that's all. Jordon ju--just needs help in Trig."
Kelsey twisted a finger around a stray black strand from Tara's ponytail and yanked it. "Do you help him jerk off while he does his algebra?"
Tara might have rolled her eyes if her scalp wasn't pulled so tight any movement at all was impossible. She might even giggle if Kelsey didn't yank it harder, so hard tears came to her eyes. Algebra had nothing to do with trigonometry, you waste of good oxygen. Like Kelsey would know anything but the formula for mixing moisturizing creams.
Shit, she wished she had the guts to actually say that. Instead, she opted for the very-effective-thus-far, "Go away, Kelsey! Jordon needs to pass Trig if he wants to graduate. I'm just helping him. Don't you want him to be able take you to the prom?" God, she hated Kelsey Little and she hated her even more because Kelsey was quicker than she was. She hated that she even had to waste time defending herself over something so ridiculous. As Kelsey delivered slam after slam, the side of Tara that shoved those dateless Saturdays and cruel words off into the far recesses of her brain began to emerge like an evil twin who'd been put up for adoption at birth.
Kelsey snorted hard, her nostrils flaring. "I don't want him, not after he's screwed with a porker like you." The pom-pom sextuplets all snickered their agreement. Tara briefly wondered if they all shared the same brain, occasionally renting it out to a cheerleader in need.
Her face was now flaming as everyone laughed over Kelsey's stab at a complete sentence that involved more than "go team, go!" Jerking her head up, she ignored the sting of her scalp and the strands of hair Kelsey lost her grip on as the tendrils pulled free. Her gut burned and for a nanosecond, she saw red. The color represented her last frayed nerve. For every cruel joke Kelsey had made, for each time she walked down a hallway and had to hide behind a corner to avoid her nemesis, it spilled to overflowing and for a mere moment, overwhelmed her. Suddenly, nothing mattered but striking back as hatefully as she could. It didn't matter that she would pay later, at the moment she could see nothing but the person responsible for keeping her from being free to do as she pleased.
Tara's thick tongue finally found movement and a sneer came out of her mouth before she could stop its rapidly gaining momentum. "I guess I can't be that much of a porker, can I, Kelsey? Jordon sure didn't scream out your name when he was doing me."
The locker room became deadly silent, seething anger permeated the sweaty stench, and for a mere moment Tara was horrified at her words, seeing their faces change from evil glee to mortification. Her gut heaved as the implication of what she'd just spewed sunk in. She wanted to take it back--sort of--and then, as her courage outweighed sanity ... she didn't want to take it back. Not even sort of.
Wham! Take that, Barbie!
Ooooh, that was good! Tara silently congratulated her efforts. Whew, where had that kind of rare form of venom come from?
It came from Kelsey taunting her, day-in and day-out, over this stupid tutoring thing with Jordon. Jordon Sanders couldn't sharpen his pencil without studying for it and most sessions he spent talking about how many inches around his thighs were. Doing anything more with Jordon than imagining how hard it must be to have his tiny brain helplessly floating adrift in his head, was just ... well, it just left Tara utterly confounded. Why in the world would Kelsey think she wanted to have sex with Jordon when he couldn't even think without breaking into a mental sweat? Tara liked her boys complete with IQs, please.
Why would Jordon say he had sex with her? It was absurd and most likely a lie Kelsey made up so she had a reason to terrorize someone. Did she really need a reason?
The opportunity to find out never presented itself because Kelsey jammed her fingers into the top of the towel wrapped around Tara as her face turned crimson too. The ugly mottled color crept over her neck and her green eyes turned dark emerald. Tara's hands were numb from clinging to keep the flimsy towel in place. Kelsey jerked her forward and she began to lose her desperate grip. Her fingers clenched tighter as she dug her nails into the thin terry cloth; they began to bend painfully while she clung harder. "Listen up, you fat, ugly pig! You better shut up, or you'll regret it."
Wow, that was insightful--a huge revelation. As if Tara didn't regret it already. Her ears burned as Kelsey's words rang in her ears and her picture perfect friends began to chant, "Fight, fight!"
Tara's stomach heaved. Kelsey wouldn't physically fight with her, would she? Nah, she might break a nail or worse still, lose the bounce and behave in her flaxen curls.
But Tara would live to regret how wrong she was as Kelsey dragged her forward, and pairs of hateful hands tore at her towel, twisting and turning her until it was yanked rudely away from her body. Naked, she shivered as the cool air hit her clammy, fear-soaked skin and the towel was left in a puddle at her feet.
The throng of girls half-pulled, half-shoved Tara toward the locker room's double doors. Hands gripped her roughly, digging into the flesh of her arms and ramming into her back. The heels of Tara's shoeless feet dug into the concrete flooring as she fought to keep from being thrown out into the hall. It loomed in front of her and she struggled violently to stop the shoving. Screaming until she was hoarse, she begged them to stop as the noise around her became a muted roar and in a matter of seconds, she found herself in the outer hallway, confronted by a gawking bunch of Evanston basketball players.
Completely naked ... As in buck...
Tara whirled around, her cheek pressed flush against the door, and began to pound furiously on it. She didn't know what to do first. Cover her exposed flesh, or try to push her way back in. Shrieks of laughter echoed from behind the firmly shut door, as tears flowed down her face in salty bubbles, falling to her bare feet and splashing on the tiled floor.
Tara pounded harder with her fists against the heavy metal, but to no avail. Rivulets of blood began to seep between her knuckles and her hands throbbed, but she kept hammering on the door, begging.
Vaguely she heard the comments from the crowd of boys as they swirled above her frantic wailing.
"Look at that fat ass," someone yelled with disgust in his tone. "Maybe she's hungry, is it feeding time at the zoo? Hey, want a cheeseburger? Mooooo!"
Tara's world narrowed to the small point of escape the door had become as she hit it repeatedly with her fists. "Please," she sobbed, her mantra hoarse and dry, "please, let me in!"
The shrill sound of a metal whistle pierced the catcalls and taunting. Heavy footsteps scattered, assaulting her ears as they thundered through her head.
The door finally gave way with a deafening creak as Tara fell into it and collapsed on the floor, sobbing. Soothing hands helped her up and guided her to the gym teacher's office, covering her naked body with towels.
Tara couldn't remember much after that but her swollen hands and the clucking concern of her mother as she drove her home and tucked her into her bed. She only remembered staring at her ceiling and praying for death. Her mother assured her only angst riddled teens did that and this too would pass...
She never told a soul who pushed her out of that locker door, because telling would make her not only a bigger geek, but a snitch too. Nor did she give it up when the video tape of her degradation was played at graduation rehearsal. If she thought she'd suffered before the locker room incident, she could never have fully prepared for that video tape to be shown to the whole senior class of Evanston High. She'd forgotten about the video camera in the hall used to monitor any hanky panky between locker rooms. The remainder of her senior days were spent with her head hung low, zipping in and out of classes as fast as she could, repeating the words over and over in her head as she was taunted endlessly. It doesn't matter, I'll never have to see them again in six months ... four months ... three...
Thankfully, no mention was made in the yearbook via strict instructions from Principal Clark, but the few who dared labeled it covertly as the "moo incident" in their class memories under their photos.
There were no dates, no size-four jeans, only Tara, her books and her wish to see Kelsey Little vanish from the face of her planet.
Or at the very least be really uncomfortable.
But she vowed that one day she'd exact some skinny revenge on Kelsey Little. Someday she'd show her what Tara Douglas was all about. She'd be successful and more importantly, thin. She'd walk right up to Kelsey and say, "How do you like me now?"
She'd show Kelsey...
Senior class bitch, cheerleader from hell and homecoming queen of Evanston High.
Do I look fat in this?
"Whose Bride Is She Anyway?"
Hell's bells, Tara couldn't believe she'd made it this far in the auditions for, of all things, the reality television show her old high school nemesis was the star of. Here she was in California, sitting in a crowded reception area after twelve rounds of interviews, smiling until her lips stuck to her teeth to get on the most popular reality show this side of planet earth. This was it. The last interview--the big showdown for the top spot as jury foreman on "Whose Bride Is She Anyway?"
She took a deep breath and watched as people came and went from the ominous mahogany door labeled "Producer". As in the man who would call all the shots and held the key to Tara successfully pulling off the payback of the century.
A woman to her left whispered something about the "contestants", making Tara turn to see if they too were stuffed in that office, but she hadn't seen too many hunks come out.
Water, she needed water. Her throat was dry and scratchy and she'd been at this interview crap all damn day.
Tara clung to the number in her hand. It labeled her as potential jury member number two-twenty-three and it held her place in line. They were only on interview two-hundred or so ... it was going to be a long wait with each interview at fifteen minutes apiece, so she could afford the time to go find some water. She clung to her number as she went in search of a water fountain.
Slipping out the door, she headed down the hall and saw a man bent over at the waist drinking from a fountain in long gulps.
Tight buns in faded blue jeans--damn, they got hotter and tighter as she closed the gap between herself and the fountain. Lord, that was the last thing she should be thinking of at a moment like this. Every bun from here to Beverly Hills was tight. So what?
Tara cleared her throat and a head popped up ... the head that eventually led to those tight buns.
A ruffle of shaggy blond hair fell over his forehead, streaked from the sun, thick and shiny. His blue eyes locked with Tara's and his mouth was slightly ajar. A bead of water trickled down lips that were firm, but full. "Um, I'm sorry, I was hogging wasn't I?" His deep voice was like a waterfall of chocolate, trickling down over Tara in a cascade of shivers. She stared back at him, simply because words failed to produce much more than a caveman-like grunt under her breath.
He grinned, a flash of perfectly aligned white teeth and stood up. Fully erect, he was ... well fully erect ... Tall and solid, thickly muscled, but not plastic like she'd seen so much of since she'd come to California for this audition. Tara blinked and took a long, slow breath. "It's okay--ta ... "she cleared her throat again because she sounded like an armadillo in mating season. "Take your time. I--well, I--can wait. I mean they're only on number two-hundred, so I have loads of time. Really, drink all you want. It's okay, you look thirsty and I don't blame you. I mean it's hot here, right? The sun is..."
"No, I'm done, you go ahead," he interrupted, backing away from the fountain and offering her his spot with his hand. His big hand ... He looked confused and who could blame him? She was running off at the mouth, something she did often when she was nervous.
Tara forgot she was thirsty, forgot everything but this big man's chest, staring her in the face. "Th--tanks," Oh, God ... "I mean, thank you." Accent on the letters t-h.
He smiled back at her, but continued to stand his ground, unmoving, unblinking. His blue eyes just wouldn't let go of hers. Was he an actor? Was this eye contact thing like a technique you were supposed to practice on complete strangers? Cuz it was workin'.
She was not bending over in front of this man to drink from the fountain. He would see her ass.
What the hell was wrong with her? Who cared if he saw her ass? As asses went, hers would pass. She wasn't sure what it was passing, some silent test she'd made up in her head, but nonetheless, it would fare all right. She stomped over to the fountain and pushed the button to make the water come out. Nothing ... she pushed again ... still nothing.
"Here, let me help. You have to push slowly if you want a steady stream."
Magically the water sprayed up and out and Tara took small sips, quickly, standing back up and using her thumb to wipe the excess water from the side of her lips. "Tank..." argh! "Thank you," she said slowly, avoiding his gaze.
"My pleasure," his scratchy grumble pierced the quiet of the hall.
Finally raising her eyes, they appraised one another
Then, silence and nothing but the pounding of her heart in her ears, yet they continued to stare at one another, his eyes holding hers until someone yelled in their direction.
"August!" A thin man came running down the hall, waving his hands and heading in their direction. "August, I told you--you have to use the fountain in Hall B."
August? What kind of name was August? He was an actor, Tara decided. They all had names that were far fetched and hid something awful, like their real names. His was probably Bubba or Cletus.
August wasn't apologetic as he looked over his shoulder one last time at Tara, his eyes lingering for a moment on her face before he turned to the thin man. "If you're going to keep us holed up in there like that the least you can do is give us water. How was I supposed to know where Hall B was? I just found the water. I didn't care what hall it was in."
The man put his hand on August's back and directed him back down the hall as he spoke in a rush. "I know, I know. I'm sorry, we're on overload here and I should have been more careful..." Their voices faded as they took the turn at the end of the corridor.
He must be on an audition, hence the eye thing, Tara figured. But he didn't look as fake as most of the men she'd run into since she'd come to California. He was vivid in the way most actors--she supposed--should be, yet raw and edgy with all that silent eye contact. Definitely had presence...
A shiver like spider's legs skittered up her spine. It was all technique, or whatever actors called it, designed to make women's libidos go "whoa", and hers had responded in typical teeny bopper fashion.
As Tara walked back down the hall she wondered about his name. He really should think about changing it.
August? Well, it was ... a month, for crap's sake.
Now that she was back in the waiting room, watching interviewees for the jury come and go from her corner chair, she gave some thought to Kelsey Little while trying to set aside her encounter with that August person who was much more like an Adonis than a man named after a month.
Out of the blue a thought occurred to her, one in a long string of paranoid thoughts that made her squirm with discomfort. Was there a lie detector test on this show? Because if so, she was doomed.
She fidgeted and refused to acknowledge the very idea that she'd been lying boldly about knowing Kelsey. It wasn't a lie. She did know her. Sorta...
Hookay, so she'd told a wee white lie to get this far.
Oh, all right, she conceded mentally, she'd lied a lot. Yep, she'd told a really big white lie, but the end justified the means, she reasoned with herself. So Tara Douglas and Kelsey Little weren't really friends, per se, in high school. The producers of "Whose Bride Is She Anyway?" didn't need to know that. All the rules on the show's website said was that the potential jury foreman had to be a friend from high school.
Tara sighed. Okay, so she and Kelsey weren't even acquaintances.
Jeez, so they came from two completely different worlds if she allowed brutal honesty to reign supreme.
What of it?
"I did know Kelsey Littman in high school!" a woman's voice protested loudly as it was ejected from the producer's door.
Tara almost laughed aloud from her corner of the room. Littman?
The nice secretary smiled serenely at a woman as she motioned her out the door of the producer's office. "That's lovely, but not according to our records, dear." The disgruntled woman stomped out of the waiting area with a flounce of hair.
Oh hell. They were checking records? Guilt chomped at Tara's intestines like a round of Pac Man. She glanced around the room nervously as if at any moment someone from her past might out her. She hunkered further down in her chair and grabbed a magazine from the table beside her, covering her face with it so she could get in touch with the vibe that had brought her here in the first place.
Some much overdue payback for Kelsey Little.
Kelsey Little didn't know Tara had existed in high school. Not in the way you acknowledged someone friend-to-friend, anyway. Kelsey instead had taunted and tormented her all through high school and then, she'd been responsible for the most humiliating event in Tara Douglas's life.
Tara was Kelsey's complete polar opposite. Short and overweight, president of the trigonometry club, debate team captain and home every Saturday night her entire high school career.
Alone. As in just Tara and her bag of pork rinds.
Definitely not a candidate for the illustrious Evanston cheerleading squad.
She wondered if Kelsey was as evil now as she'd been in high school. Evil like Kelsey's was inherent, inbred, a defective mean gene.
Tara shook off the bad karma that attacked every time she thought of high school. All she wanted to do was get on this stupid show as Kelsey's jury foreman, but as the waiting room continued to fill up rather than empty out, she was becoming skeptical.
"I think I did it!" a large man with a thick moustache touted as he left the interviewing room. "I think I'm going to be a jury member!" He cracked his knuckles confidently and smiled at the whispering crowd gathered on the far side of the room.
The jury members were comprised of people responsible for choosing Kelsey's eventual groom-to-be. Kelsey would pick from two of the men the jury offered her, based on their month-long assessment of chemistry with Kelsey and willingness to win her heart via videotaped dates. The jury was in charge of grilling these helpless contestants to be sure Kelsey ended up with the right guy.
Hah! That was exactly where she wanted to be, at the helm of this choice made in Kelsey's honor. She'd get a paid vacation at a tropical resort and the ability to revel in the payback of the millennium. Because she was going to help all of America see just what a selfish, conceited, backstabber Kelsey was.
Another potential jury member sat beside Tara, a chair away, making her peek out over the top of her Time Life. Thumbing the pages, Tara pretended to read while noting it wasn't anyone she knew.
"Interviewee number two-hundred and twenty," the secretary called from the office door. A short, round woman with red hair jumped up and waved her number.
Tara's stomach heaved again. Only three numbers away from a shot at nabbing the jury foreman spot and possibly on her way to big time payback.
Revenge on national TV--exposing Kelsey for the bitch she was--was Tara's ultimate goal. She'd also take the opportunity to show off her new bikini, if her balls got just a little bigger and half-naked suddenly became life-affirming rather than a traumatic battle of flesh over mind. Maybe she'd prance around in front of Kelsey in a thong just because she could. Flash her some newly sculpted Tara booty or something.
Look, Kelsey! It's me, Tara Douglas. See this ass, you rotten bitch? It ain't the one you threw out of the locker room door anymore. Wanna see my thong, thong, thong?
Well, okay, no thong, just some cute shorts or something.
If her self-esteem would quit freakin' on her she'd do just that, because Tara Douglas was no longer the fat geek. She wasn't sure that was ever going to be possible, but she wasn't the meek girl Kelsey remembered. Tara was still just as organized, maybe compulsively so, still just as smart, she just looked better for it. Speaking of organized, had she brought her lip gloss?
A guy wandered in from the outer door and nodded at her with a wink as he drifted toward the secretary's desk. The attention she garnered from men still surprised Tara.
"I think he likes you," the girl two seats away giggled.
Even now she had trouble reconciling herself with the new and improved Tara. The Tara men now eyeballed with lust in their hearts and hard-ons in their shorts. She'd come a helluva long way since high school and she was proud of that, but the old Tara, insecure, her self esteem jar half empty--reared her ugly head from time to time. Sometimes it was harder for her to be pretty than it ever had been being what polite society called unattractive.
It was pressure. Lipstick and mascara and cellulite cream and all sorts of crap to keep her body flab free. If she had just one more round with the "thigh-master," she'd bust or her thighs would explode, whichever came first.
She fought a sigh when the girl to her right asked what number she was. "Two-twenty-three," she mumbled from behind her magazine, hoping to avoid conversation.
"God," the girl said, "I feel like I've been waiting forever for this moment."
Tara nodded, understanding fully what that was like. Everything she'd done in the name of perfection was all for this moment.
A moment Tara didn't consciously know she'd craved anymore, but found once she'd had a sampling of, left her wanting more.
Kinda like opening a bag of revenge potato chips. You couldn't have just one.
It was a moment that cropped up out of the blue, and not in the way of your typical high school reunion. Tara hadn't realized how much she still despised Kelsey until she got wind of the fact that she was going to be on this reality show and then, it all came back in a rush of clarity. Crystal clear and rife with a vengeance she could taste.
But even now, newly sculpted as she was, as improved as she'd like to think she'd become, when she looked in the mirror she still saw the ghost of the same old Tara Douglas from the class of nineteen-ninety-two.
Chubby and ugly. Nary a date in all of her high school history and just a little freaked out about how much she loathed Kelsey for making her senior year miserable. And making her the Evanston senior class joke.
Hate however, was indeed a powerful motivator.
Kelsey Little deserved to rot in flawless hell for Tara's humiliation, and she couldn't wait to be the one who blew the air that fanned the flames licking at Kelsey's perfect cheerleader behind.
"I'm up next!" a far-too-enthusiastic contestant said as he held up his number.
A sharp pang of fire ripped through Tara's already upset stomach; reaching for her purse she dug around for her bottle of antacids. Popping it open, she threw a handful in her mouth and crunched them in an attempt to repress her burning intestines.
James Bond she was not.
Shoot, she wasn't even a very good liar. All of this cloak and dagger crap seemed far better suited to a Charlie's Angel, because she was an undercover Kelsey hater, masquerading as a former high school friend.
Crunching harder on the antacids, she hoped to fend off the guilt eating her guts up and spitting them back out like a Fear Factor contestant for just a while longer.
Looking around, she tried to focus on the other people who were looking to cash in on her ticket to walloping Kelsey. The room was packed. What if someone from high school was here and recognized her? She eyed the short chubby red-head in the corner of the reception area. She looked familiar, Tara thought as her stomach took a nose dive.
Oh, hell ... it was Candice Walker. Not a cheerleader in high school but a wannabe, always trailing behind Kelsey like some damn dog cleaning up her path of leftovers. She'd hand Mr. Perfect over to Kelsey and ask if she could cook dinner for the happy couple too. Suck up. Suddenly, Candice looked up and directly at Tara. Well, she could say hello ... "Hey, Candice, long time no see. I'm here to fuck with Kelsey. Wanna play?" Instead she lifted her chin and pretended she didn't know who Candice was.
Not that it mattered, because Candice didn't seem to know who she was either. Fine, it was just as well. She didn't need anyone horning in on her op to weave a web of deceit.
She'd waited a long time for this opportunity.
Okay, maybe not exactly this particular kind of opportunity. Honestly, Tara really thought she and Kelsey would run into one another in like the local grocery store and Tara would wander up to her, look her in the eye, and ask, "How do you like me now? Not such a fat ass, am I?" Neener, neener, neener.
This op was a just a smidge bigger in epic "look at me now" proportions.
Tara gnawed on the inside of her cheek. She sounded like every scorned geek looking for revenge from here to eternity. It was like a bad episode of "when geeks attacked".
Another candidate plopped down in the seat next to her. "It's packed in here," he commented.
Tara nodded again and ignored him. He was intruding on a good internal battle and she couldn't focus with endless personal chatter. She blew out a long breath. God, what she was planning to do was cruel, but then again, so was Kelsey and she had to cling to that if she was going to go through with this.
Rushes of guilt assaulted her as she continued to wait to be called for her interview, watching as people wandered in and out of that door that led to the interviewing. Remnants of the girl she used to be, no doubt.
A good girl--a good fat girl.
The mahogany door popped open and a young woman in low-slung jeans wandered out and she wasn't looking too happy. Another girl similarly dressed flew up to her and asked, "How did it go?"
The young woman shook her head, but Tara couldn't hear what she was saying.
Tara's stomach sank. Oh shit, who was she kidding? This was awful. She was an awful person to want to go through with this. Maybe she should just forget it. Who gave a damn if Tara Douglas spent her senior year hiding in her bedroom because Kelsey had video of her naked butt in the hallway outside the locker room?
While a bunch of sweaty jocks roared with laughter and made cow noises. No, that incident was something Tara would live with forever.
No one cared. Only Tara did.
Her face burned again as if she were right back in high school, pounding on that damn door for all she was worth. Her hands clenched tightly in her lap and wrapped around the bottle of antacids. She could still remember the sharp throb in them as she begged to be let back into that locker room.
Bitch. Kelsey Little was a selfish, overblown, egotistical big mouth who needed a good dose of her own meds. Tara would happily pry her mouth open and pour them directly down her throat.
Tara Douglas wasn't timid and mild mannered anymore and she wasn't a fat ass either.
She reminded herself--again--that revenge was sweet and Kelsey Little deserved this in sticky, cavity like portions. She needed to toughen up if she was going to be a bigger bitch than Kelsey. She'd waited a long time to see the likes of Ms. Little squirm in humiliation. Tightening her jaw, she regained her focus.
Her Mission Impossible, if you will.
Duh, duh, da da, duh, duh da da. The theme from the movie played in her head. Her mission: pick a freak of nature for Kelsey so she'd at least have to spend a year in hell with him to win the million dollar cash prize. Taunt her, remind her that Tara Douglas, Evanston High nobody, was the Captain of the humiliation squad now.
So screw the girl she used to be and screw guilt with a capital "S".
The man next to Tara left and another girl took his place, svelte and sleek in tight fitting clothing. She smiled absently at Tara. "Hi," she murmured.
Tara smiled back and ran her hands over her own tight jeans, feeling self conscious. Tugging at the area where her phantom belly used to be, Tara unconsciously sought to tent her shirt, covering the roll of flesh that she fully expected to seep out from underneath her T-shirt, between the top of her jeans and ooze from just below her breasts. Of course, that didn't happen, because there was no roll of anything anymore, but old habits died hard. Her habits kept stalking her from the grave.
Who could fluff this damn shirt out anyway? It was like a second skin, as sleek and as supple as her midriff had become.
Tara squirmed in her seat, shifting positions and crossing her legs. No one from her past would ever recognize her, not now, and she wanted to keep it that way. The shows producers would only choose one high school friend to be on the jury and Tara planned for that friend to be her.
No matter what.
The secretary popped her head out of the door again and called into the crowd, "Contestant two-hundred and twenty three..."