Olivia Puharski author

Chapter 1 of The List

I have several works in progress, including book one of a contemporary romance trilogy in the new adult category called The List. It features a sarcastic, independent and sexually liberated heroine, Alicia Rose, and a brooding, secretive and filthy rich hero, Jackson Townsend. You can think of it like Bridget Jones’s Diary meets Tinder (#mswl anyone?).

Exciting news: I’m exclusively releasing the first chapter on the blog today! Don’t forget to let me know what you think in the comments below and check out Instagram to see a bonus collage of some of my inspiration photos for Alicia and Jackson (hint: it’s steamy!).

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Contemporary Romance Trilogy

The List: Chapter One

Being single is like having an ailment coupled people aren’t sure is contagious. They either avoid you like the plague, unwilling to invite the single girl to the dinner party, or they smother you and introduce you to every single guy they know regardless of his social aptitude. Tonight my best friend, Mackenzie Parker, is trying to proactively find us an antidote.

I’m half-listening to her chatter about how much fun it will be to get out. Mackenzie is newly single whereas I’m an old pro, and I’m constantly reminding myself to be patient while she adjusts to her new normal.

She craves dressing up and being pawed by random men who will tell her how beautiful she is while they buy her drinks and hope to get laid. It’s empty and meaningless, but it feels good for a while. I get it.

This is why I’m cranking my neck to keep my cell phone between my ear and shoulder while I idly run a finger along the dresses in my closet. It doesn’t really matter what I wear. The outcome is always the same: hangovers, regret and extra laundry.

But I love Mackenzie, so I’m going to do it anyway. She’s telling me we have to convince our other best friend, Leighton Wilson, to come with us. We are a tripod and it won’t be the same unless we all go.

I pull a black dress out of my closet at random. It will do. I look longingly at my couch and picture the wine chilling in the fridge, but my mental solitude will have to wait. I put Mackenzie on speakerphone so I can scroll through my Bumble and Tinder feeds, dismissing and encouraging bedfellows with a single swipe. No one is particularly enticing, so I might as well go out and meet someone in the flesh.

It’s inevitable I’ll end up having sex tonight. The short answer is I’m a sexually liberated 25-year-old who is enjoying my youth, and the long answer is I had a complicated childhood with an absent father and negligent mother who both left gaping voids in my life that I try to fill with random dick. It’s pretty much textbook Freudian, wouldn’t you agree?

“I just need to do it,” Mackenzie is telling me. “I have to get it over with.”

I don’t have any idea what she’s talking about. I swipe left, left, right, and then left. “Do you think you’re going to do it tonight?” I ask dumbly.

“Yes,” Mackenzie replies firmly. “Derek wasn’t thinking about me when he was cheating on me, so I need to stop thinking about him and just move on.”

“I agree,” I assure her, figuring out what ‘it’ means. “It gets easier, Kenzie.”

“I just…” I hear tears in her voice. “I can’t imagine having sex with someone who isn’t Derek. You know? But I obviously have to. I don’t want to be a goddamn nun.”

“We’ll find you Mr. Right Now,” I promise. “The first guy after a breakup never sticks. It’s like you said, it’s just getting it over and done. We’ll get you a nice Tinder glow and Derek will be out of you mind after you finish the sexorcism.” Mackenzie laughs through her tears and I smile.

“I’ll meet you around 10. I’m going to call Leighton and beg her to join us.” This will be a tough battle because Leighton is a dedicated bookworm and serious gamer who would rather read about debauchery than live it. But she has the biggest heart of anyone I know and when she hears the tears in Mackenzie’s voice, her fierce loyalty will make her relent.

“Okay,” I confirm. “I’m going to have a shower and figure out something to do with my hair.” My mop of chestnut ringlets is currently piled on top of my head in a messy bun, which is perfect for a night of solo Netflix, but not ideal for man-catching.

I have primping down to an art and I’m ready in no time. Ever since I was 12, I’ve known men find me attractive and I’ve never bothered to pretend otherwise. I’ve grown into my mile long legs and full breasts, kept my well-rounded hips and tiny waist, and while my complexion is comically fair, I have a rosy glow that makes me look just-fucked. Add in big aquamarine eyes, pouty lips, a cute button nose, and fistfuls of thick, dark hair, and men totally get off on my vibe.

I grab my clutch and slide my feet into my single pair of skyscraper Louboutin heels, a splurge that hurt my bank account for weeks. Fine, months. The shoes have the desired effect of making my skin tight black dress look even shorter, and then I’m out the door into a waiting cab. I’ll probably have bunions by the time I’m 30, but single girl rule #1 is fashion trumps comfort.

I use the drive to do more swiping: right, left, left, right, and pay zero attention to my surroundings. I’m pretty sure I once read something about the dangers of single women being distracted by their phones and getting attacked, but what can happen in a cab, right? When we pull up in front of the club, Mackenzie is already waiting outside looking nervous.

She’s a knockout willowy blonde bombshell with killer legs and a face men find erotically innocent. All at once, she looks like she can suck the soul out of a guy while also seeming like it’s her first attempt. Her cheekbones are sculpted, her lips like a kewpie doll’s and everything about her is so perfectly proportionate, it’s ridiculous and could land her a modeling contract if she was interested.

Mackenzie is a total smoke show despite the extra 20 pounds she put on when she was in her comfortable relationship with Derek. Single girls know not to let the dreaded weight gain happen, even though coupled women find it perfectly acceptable.

Single girl rule #2 is always having my situation in order because I never know when I’m getting naked. I’m Brazilian waxed, manicured, pedicured and in shape at all times. I intend to stay this way so when my partner leaves me, I won’t be like Mackenzie and chained to the treadmill. My future partner has already abandoned me, even in my own dreams. Thanks, dad. You really did a number on me.

There’s relief all over Mackenzie’s face when she spots me and I wrap her in a tight hug. “You look amazing,” I greet her.

She pulls at the hem of her dress, her caramel eyes full of anxiety. “I’m way too fat.”

“You’re not fat,” I assure her.

The pint sized Leighton, who looks like an adorable pygmy, is suddenly between us and we take a moment for a group hug before we walk to the front of the line. I’m a regular and I know the bouncer, so I smile sweetly and give his forearm a squeeze while my friends and I walk into the loud, crowded club without paying cover.

Leighton is telling us about someone she met playing World of Warcraft while I scope out the room and lead the way towards some prime bar real estate I’m confident we can squeeze into. While Mackenzie and I have been friends since kindergarten, we only met Leighton in first year university when she was put in our group for a project. She’s nothing like anyone I’ve ever met and that’s why I love her so much.

When I’m scanning my options, my eyes connect with a tall, dark and handsome stranger’s across the room. He’s in the middle of saying something to his friend and he stops mid-sentence, amusingly slack jawed, and I feel the familiar rush of anticipation.

He’s holding his beer at chest level and his hand drops as though he’s lost motor control while he gapes at me. I offer my patented sexy half-smile, which encourages him to start closing the distance between us immediately.

“I’m definitely fucking him tonight,” I tell my friends.

“Who?” Leighton asks, looking around in confusion. “What just happened?”

The closer he gets, the hotter he gets, which is a good sign because I’m not even drunk yet, and damn, this man is fine. His movements are strong and confident as he weaves through the throng of people without taking his eyes off mine. When he’s close enough that I can feel the heat radiating off his body, I actually lose my breath.

He openly studies me, then nods slowly. “I’m going with a whiskey sour.” The corner of his exquisite lips quirk. “Close?”

At this point, I’d probably drink mud if he wanted me to. “My favourite,” I promise.

His hand is on the small of my back while he snaps his fingers to get the bartender’s attention. Something about this guy is commanding, so he immediately gets served and seconds later, I have a drink my hand. “I’m Jackson.”

“Aren’t you going to guess my name?” I tease, biting my lower lip.

“If it’s not ‘sexy,’ ‘breathtaking’ or ‘lord have mercy,’ then I’m afraid you’re going to have to help me out,” Jackson’s voice is a smooth tenor I want to lose myself in all night. “I can just call you baby if you prefer.”

“Let’s go with Alicia,” I supply.

“Well, Alicia, I insist you come join me.” The way he says my name makes my insides turn to honey. Jackson’s steely blue eyes are so intense I feel like he can see my darkest and dirtiest secrets. I’m suddenly flushing and my mouth is bone dry. I raise my drink to my lips with a shaking hand and while I want to look at my friends, I can’t pull my eyes away from Jackson.

I’m wearing my highest heels and I only come up to his shoulder. The hard planes of his chest and the strong lines of his muscular shoulders are clearly visible through his tight black shirt and his skin is so bronzed it glows, even in the dark club.

He’s almost otherworldly, a walking sex god, and for some reason, he has zeroed his attention solely on me. I’m giving him my best ‘fuck-me-right-now’ look without even meaning to and I watch as his pupils dilate while he takes a step closer to me. God. His body was designed to make women crave him.

I can clearly picture this man in an impeccably tailored suit. He screams ‘well-bred’ and ‘wealthy,’ but there’s something else, something so raw, primal and masculine that I already feel my core tightening in anticipation. His perfect square jaw looks good enough to fuck and he has the hint of a five o’clock shadow I can almost feel nuzzling between my thighs.

His nose is a strong slash, and there’s this aura, a barely contained energy I feel pulsing between us, threatening to completely take over my mind. His expression is self-possessed, but I see the hint of wildness in his eyes that lets me know he feels it too.

I’m still looking at him, but I’m talking to my friends, “Oh, yeah,” I breathe, barely holding back a moan. “I’m most definitely f*cking him tonight.”

Jackson chuckles as he leans in impossibly close and I’m so sure he’s going to kiss me I actually whimper over the loss when his lips brush against my ear instead. “Actually, Alicia, I’ll be the one f*cking you.”

What do you think of chapter 1? What is your favourite genre to read? What are some of the books on your “to be read” list this summer? 

To see a bonus collage of some of my inspiration photos for Alicia and Jackson, head over to Instagram. Don’t forget to follow our hashtag #authoropwrites, turn our post notifications on, and show us some love with a like or follow!

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7 thoughts on “Chapter 1 of The List

  1. I was so caught up in the story – I forgot to answer the rest of your questions! My favorite genre is historical fiction. For my TBR, I have books like “Camino Island” by John Grisham, “The War I Finally Won” by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, “Turtles All The Way Down” by John Green, and several American Girl books.

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