The Revenge Artist - Philip Siegel

This book passed through a lot of hands before it got to yours. Thank you to Becky Vinter, Annie Stone, Brooks Sherman, T.S. Ferguson, Paula Stokes, all my awesome writer friends. And a special thank you to my readers. Thank you for being patient while I figured out how to get this book out there. Thank you for reading what I write. I do this for you.

Nothing is more glorious than getting two people to fall in love. It’s like making the Earth spin backward or losing four pounds before prom. I didn’t think I had that type of power to reprogram a person’s emotional hardware, to make him or her look into a stranger’s or acquaintance’s or friend’s eyes and see love glowing in the corneas. It’s such a beautiful sight to behold.

And to answer your inevitable question: Yes, this is still Becca Williamson.

I know when you hear my name, your brain instantly pulls up my sordid past as the Break-Up Artist, when I used to tear apart couples for $100 via PayPal. But I’ve changed. For real. I’m a different person. I have bangs.

Now I channel my plotting prowess into being a relationship engineer, helping poor, unfortunate souls woo their heretofore unwooable crushes. I’ve changed people’s lives for the better. I’ve given my classmates the greatest intangible gift of all: love.

And yes, I still charge $100 via PayPal, but c’mon. A girl’s gotta shop.

We all wish we could make the boy/girl of our dreams fall for us with ease. Not all of us are born with the gift of dashing good looks and witty banter, though. Being tongue-tied around your crush may work in Hugh Grant movies, but not in real life. There are good, wonderful people out there who would make outstanding significant otros. They just need some help.

Like Jake McKinnon.

He holds up two forms of ID to the webcam, and I bring my laptop up to my face so I can examine them. He doesn’t have a driver’s license yet, so a student ID and a Jerry’s Juice Bar rewards card will have to suffice. They’re both laminated, so I trust them. I know it’s Jake. I see him in the halls all the time. But after last year, when some skeevy college football coach hired me under false pretenses to break up a genuinely loving couple, I’ve learned you can never be too sure.

“So who’s the girl?” This is always my favorite part. No matter who it is, hearing about someone’s crush is always a rush. It’s like unlocking a piece of their puzzle.

“Wow. Just like that,” Jake says. He pats down his already flattened blond hair and blushes. I can make out his shaking knee in the corner of my screen.

“It usually helps if you close your eyes and say it.”

And so he does. “Paulina Cory.”

He opens his eyes to my warm, child-psychologist nod. I can do this. He’s not asking me to hook him up with some mega-popular girl with a boyfriend. Paulina Cory is attainable, one of those background girls I wished I’d gotten to know better, and a very nice girl, to boot. I once dropped my books in the hall, and she helped me pick them up. That’s the high school hallway equivalent of giving a stranded motorist a cable jump. Were I not the professional that I am, I would let out a squeal over this potential pairing. Jake and Paulina would be cat-video-level cute.

“What am I doing?” he says. “There’s no way she’d be into me.”

“That’s what they all say.”

“Her family’s loaded, and I shop at Old Navy.” He picks at his cranberry polo.

“First off, ain’t nothing wrong with Old Navy. They have the best two-dollar flip-flops in the world.” I click mine together, which is appropriate since today’s pair are ruby-red. “Secondly, Paulina doesn’t seem like that kind of girl.”

“She goes sailing. She probably has some dude in boarding school that she’s planning to marry on some island that you can only get to by sailing.”

“Do you have any proof to back these outlandish claims?”

He pats down his hair until it’s about to bury itself under his scalp. “No.”

“Then chill out, Oliver Twist.”

“Actually, I think Pip would be the applicable parallel here.”

“I’ll keep that in mind for my AP exam.” I check out Paulina’s online presence. No sign of a boyfriend. I have a strict rule that both my clients and their potential targets must be single. For obvious reasons. “Here’s a girl secret—the good ones don’t care