The Deal (Off Campus #1)(9)

By: Elle Kennedy

“No, it’ll have a bigger impact if we do the harmony,” I argue.

I’m ready to rip my own hair out. I know exactly what Cass is up to. He wants to end the song on his note. He’s been pulling shit like this ever since we decided to team up for the winter performance, doing everything he can to single out his own voice while shoving me into the background.

If I’d known what a fucking prima donna Cass was, I would’ve said hell no to a duet, but the jackass decided to show his true colors after we started rehearsals, and now it’s too late to back out. I’ve invested too much time in this duet, and honestly, I truly do love the song. Mary Jane wrote an incredible piece, and a part of me really doesn’t want to let her down. Besides, I know for a fact that the faculty prefers duets to solos, because the last four scholarship-winning performances have been duets. The judges go cuckoo-bananas for complex harmonies, and this composition has them in spades.

“MJ?” Cass prompts.


I can see the petite blonde melting under his magnetic stare. Cass has that effect on women. He’s infuriatingly handsome, and his voice happens to be phenomenal. Unfortunately, he’s fully aware of both these assets and has no qualms using them to his advantage.

“Maybe Cass is right,” MJ murmurs, avoiding my eyes as she betrays me. “Why don’t we try the E Major, Hannah? Let’s just do it once and see which one works better.”

Benedict Arnold! I want to shout, but I bite my tongue. Like me, MJ has been forced to deal with Cass’s outrageous demands and “brilliant” ideas for weeks now, and I can’t blame her for trying to strike a compromise.

“Fine,” I grumble. “Let’s try it.”

Triumph lights Cass’s eyes, but it doesn’t stay there long, because after we sing the song again, it’s clear that his suggestion stinks. The note is far too low for me, and instead of causing Cass’s gorgeous baritone to stand out, my part sounds so clumsily off that it draws attention away from his.

“I think Hannah should stick to the original key.” Mary Jane looks at Cass and bites her lip, as if she’s afraid of his reaction.

But although the guy is arrogant, he’s not stupid. “Fine,” he snaps. “We’ll do it your way, Hannah.”

I grit my teeth. “Thank you.”

Fortunately, our hour is up, which means the rehearsal space is about to belong to one of the first-year classes. Eager to get out of there, I quickly gather my sheet music and slip into my pea coat. The less time I have to spend with Cass, the better.

God, I can’t stand him.

Ironically, we’re singing a deeply emotional love song.

“Same time tomorrow?” He eyes me expectantly.

“No, tomorrow is our four o’clock day, remember? I work Tuesday nights.”

Displeasure hardens his face. “You know, we could’ve mastered this song a long time ago if your schedule wasn’t so…inconvenient.”

I arch a brow. “Says the guy who refuses to rehearse on weekends. Because I happen to be free both Saturday and Sunday nights.”

His lips tighten, and then he saunters off without another word.


A heavy sigh echoes behind me. I turn around and realize MJ is still at the piano, still biting her lip.

“I’m sorry, Hannah,” she says softly. “When I asked you guys to sing my song, I didn’t realize Cass would be so difficult.”

My annoyance thaws when I notice how upset she is. “Hey, it’s not your fault,” I assure her. “I wasn’t expecting him to be this much of a jerk either, but he’s an amazing singer, so let’s just try to focus on that, okay?”

“You’re an amazing singer, too. That’s why I chose the two of you. I couldn’t imagine anyone else bringing the song to life, you know?”

I smile at her. She really is a sweet girl, not to mention one of the most talented songwriters I’ve ever met. Every piece that’s performed in the showcase has to be composed by a songwriting major, and even before MJ approached me, I had already planned on asking to use one of her songs.

“I promise you, we’re going to sing the shit out of your song, MJ. Ignore Cass’s bullshit tantrums. I think he just likes arguing for the sake of arguing.”

She laughs. “Yeah, probably. See you tomorrow?”

“Yep. Four o’clock sharp.”

I give her a little wave, then leave the choir room and head outside.

One of my favorite things about Briar is the campus. The buildings, ancient and covered with strands of ivy, are connected to each other by cobblestone paths lined with sweeping elms and wrought-iron benches. The university is one of the oldest in the country, and its alumni roster contains dozens of influential people, including more than one president.