Find more from this author on:
About the author:
Barbara C. Doyle grew up in a small town in Upstate New York, surrounded by a passion for writing, pizza, and cats.
Her journey started at the young age of fourteen, and grew as she pursued an English bachelors degree in college. She believes that the written word is best used as a mode to escape into a different reality, thus the birth of her novels.
Her other passions include binge-watching Netflix, reading, and hanging out with her fur baby.
What inspired you to write your book?
I've always loved friends to lovers stories. Maybe it's envy that I don't have that. (I guess I should get straight guy friends, because the ones I have aren't exactly going to go for the trope.) The banter between the characters came so easily to me, and so Will and Tessa were born!
Here is a short sample from the book:
“Batman is stupid.”
I’m pretty sure I saw time stop and Tessa whirl around in slow motion, her long, chestnut hair cascading out around her as the wind caught her wavy tresses. Once the words were out, there was no taking them back, and the scorching look set in her rich ocean-blue hues told me to run.
“Take. That. Back,” she growls, her eyes narrowing and her nose scrunching like it always does when she’s irritated.
I stand my ground. “I can’t.”
Her lips part, and I know she’s going to lunge at me. So as quickly as I can, I turn to run in the opposite direction of the mall. Before I get more than a few feet, she’s attached to my back, her long legs wrapped around my waist, and we go down.
“Tess!” I yell, laughing where we land on the floor. She sits on my back, her legs stretched out on either side of me so I can see her dirty black Converse … and the Batman tattoo on her ankle.
“Take it back,” she repeats firmly.
“You know I can’t,” I tell her, chest rumbling with amusement.
She wiggles on my back to get comfortable, because we play this game a lot. She’ll sit on me until I finally succumb, and then she’ll win for the billionth time. But Batman sucks, especially the recent takes on him.
“He’s just a rich boy with toys.” I attempt to get her to fall off me, but she sits like a statue.
Except for when she gives me a wet willy.
“Fuck!” I blast, wiping at my ear in disgust. “Did you really just do that?”
It isn’t like we haven’t shared saliva before. Tess and I grew up right next door to each other practically our whole lives. We shared drinks and candy—she was always stealing my damn lollipops—but wet willies were where I draw the line. Who wants a wet finger in their ear?
“Be lucky I don’t do it more often,” she warns, but her “I’m dangerous” voice sounds like an angry kitten more than anything.
I finally shake her off me, causing her to fall on her butt on the floor. People are passing by and giving us dirty looks, but neither of us care. Most people around here know this is us. We’re just Will and Tessa. Weirdos destined to be friends despite our opposite affections for superheroes.
Sitting up, I grin at her. She’s trying to stay mad, but the deep frown she’s giving me is wavering. She attempts not to smile at the smolder I cast in her direction. I know the way I shoot her smiles and wiggle my eyebrows always get her to forgive me.
And she does.
She shoves my shoulder when she starts laughing, so I wiggle my eyebrows some more. I join in when she snorts, covering her mouth when she realizes the sound she made.
Our random Saturday amusement in Bennington, the city over from our hometown where we go to college, is cut short when Gus, the mall security guard on duty, comes over with his hands on his hips, ready to scold us.
“Awe, Gus,” Tess whines, giving him her best puppy-dog eyes, “we’re just having fun. Not like we’re harming anyone.”
Gus always lightens up with Tess. “You still can’t be rolling around on the floor. There are people trying to walk around the stores.”
She sticks out her bottom lip, and Gus offers her a hand up. For someone who’s probably in his late sixties, the guy has some serious strength. Not that Tess is big by any means, but Gus pulls her up in one quick motion like it’s nothing. Maybe that’s because Tess weighs like ninety pounds wet.
Girl needs a cheeseburger. Or ten.
Standing up, I brush off my pants like Tess got them dirty when she tackled me. I grab her messenger bag which, you guessed it, has Batman stickers stuck all over it, from the floor. The girl has an obsession. Seriously.
We made it a habit to come to Bennington once or twice a week since we temporarily moved back home to Clinton for the summer. Even though we both have apartments here in the city, we decided to go spend time with our families since it’s our last free summer before senior year. Well, it’s my last semester in fall but Tessa’s last full year. I came home to help out on the family farm, and Tess came back to torment everyone in her path.
She’s good at it, too.
Putting her bag over her shoulder once she takes it from me, she looks at Gus. “Even though you suck the fun out of our lives, I guess we still love you.”
He gives her a throaty laugh. “Glad to hear that, kiddo. My life would much less interesting if you weren’t in it.”
A wide smile spreads across Tess’s face, and it’s contagious. All her smiles are, especially when her dimples appear on either side of her lips. The indentations are full of a light that makes even the bad days good again.
Lately, her sincere smiles have become a rarity. It’s always nice to see them when she means it, not the fake ones she paints on her face.
There’s just something about the way her face lights up, how her blue eyes shine like the baby blue sky, which makes it hard not to be happy right there with her.
Yeah, I need to stop watching sappy romances with Tessa …
Gus catches me staring at Tess and winks. I quickly cast my gaze at the ground, ignoring his knowing eyes. Everyone assumes we’re dating since we spend about every second we can together, but we’re not. She’s my best friend, even if she’s one of the weirdest people I know.
I’ve learned from her that the weirdest people are some of the best though.
There were times when I wanted the assumptions to be true. But, it never worked out. The timing was never right in the past for me to be honest with her about my feelings. The truth? Tess is, and always will be, my best friend. I wanted more, but I figured that out too late.
Always too late.
Gus puts his hand on my shoulder. “When are you two going to finally get together already? What are the kids calling it now? Bumpin’ uglies? Netflix and chill?”
My eyes widen in shock, and both Tess and Gus laugh at me.
Gus’s eyes crinkle with his smile. “You two run along now. I wouldn’t want you to start rolling around on the floor gettin’ all affectionate. Then I’d have to call the cops for indecent exposure.”
Tess laughs harder and I shake my head. What can I say to that?
Releasing my shoulder, Gus leaves us where we are. Tessa is looking at me with tears in her eyes from laughing so hard, and I can’t help but stare in amazement.
“How come he always picks on me and not you?” I demand, as we start walking toward the exit.
She wipes away stray tears, and puts her arm around mine as we walk to my truck, which sticks out like a sore thumb in all its rusty glory.
Grinning, she glances at me. “Gus loves me, that’s why. Plus, you’re the guy. Isn’t it like a rite of passage to be picked on about girls?”
I roll my eyes at the ridiculous assumption. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“You’re the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” she retorts, as if that makes sense.
I laugh. “You’re such a weirdo.”
“I’m the weirdo?” she gasps. “You don’t like Batman! Who doesn’t like Batman? He’s … Batman!”
We stop at my truck. “Is it Batman you love, or the guy who plays it? Ever since I took you to the drive-in to watch The Dark Knight saga, you’ve been obsessed with everything Batman. You should have just tattooed Christian Bale’s name on your ankle instead.”
Right outside of Clinton, among the endless cornfields and valleys, is a family-owned drive thru that plays just about any movie out there. Tess always liked comic movies, so when I found out The Dark Knight saga was playing, I had to take her. I never thought she’d become obsessed, but I don’t really keep expectations for her. She lives off spontaneity.
“Christian Bale is dreamy,” she sighs. “But he is expendable. Batman is not. Batman is forever. He is life itself. You just can’t see the truth.”
I asked her not long after she mentioned wanting a tattoo why she liked Batman so much. I didn’t think it was a deep reason. She practically drooled all over herself every time Bale would come on the screen, so I assumed it was for that reason.
But what she told me … it only made me admire her more.
“It’s not about how hot he is,” she addresses, almost in contempt. “It’s about how somebody who is so blatantly human, somebody so full of fear, is able to overcome it. He pushes past what’s stopping him to do something bigger than himself. It’s … admirable. He didn’t have to become Batman, or save people. He didn’t have to stick to his judgment and morals. But he did every single time. His weakness is human emotion, but it never stopped him, not even when the Joker or Bane broke him. That’s … that’s what I want to be. Who I want to be.”
“Admirable?” I ask.
Her response is hushed. “Strong, even when my past weighs me down.”
There isn’t a day when Tessa doesn’t take me by surprise. Most of the time, it’s because she does something I can’t understand—something I can’t contemplate. But her love for Batman is something I’ll always be perplexed by. What she doesn’t know is that I’ll always see her as somebody who is strong and admirable. She thinks she’s weak, that what happened to her makes her flawed, but it only makes her stronger.
One day, I hope she sees that.
I’m surprised we don’t get into our typical argument surrounding Batman, the one that leads to us getting heated about the Superman versus Batman movie that came out earlier this year.
No matter how many times we have the argument, it’s always the same.
“That movie is such a bullshit idea!” she blasts. “I mean, they paired off a damn alien with actual superpowers against a human! Who does that? They should hire me to do the pairings. No wonder that movie tanked in the box office.”
I bring myself from my thoughts, and snort. “I think you’re forgetting that I’m the one who introduced you to Batman.”
She smacks my arm. “So really I should be blaming you for my sudden obsession. Nice going, William.”
Now she’s pulling out the big guns and using the full first name. She knows I don’t like being called William. It reminds me too much of being in trouble, although at least with her she doesn’t pull out the middle name like my mother does. That’s when I know I’m in deep shit.
“If you had a full first name I’d use it right now,” I inform her, opening the door for her.
She sticks out her tongue. “Unfortunately for you, I’m just Tessa.”
She sits in the seat and looks at me, waiting for me to close the door. But I don’t. Instead, I have word vomit and say, “You’re not ‘just Tessa.’ You’re fucking amazing. Perfectly imperfect.”
She blushes, which is something I don’t see often.
It makes me wonder what’s going on inside that thick skull of hers.
“Close the door, Romeo,” she finally says, giving me a small smile. She brushes a strand of her hair behind her ear and puts her bag on the floor by her feet.
Closing the door, I make a face at her through the window.
She laughs and flips me off, making me roll my eyes at her. She’s feisty nine times out of ten, swears like a sailor, and has a dirtier mind than my teenage brother, but that’s just what makes her … her.
She’s a head case, but she’s my head case.