All’s fair in love… and bowling! Read a sneak peek from The 7/10 Split by Karmen Lee


All’s fair in love… and bowling! Read a sneak peek from The 7/10 Split by Karmen Lee

For fans of Ashley Herring Blake’s Delilah Green Doesn’t Care and Chencia C. Higgins’ D’Vaughn and Kris Plan a Wedding comes an utterly charming and queerly irresistible romantic comedy…where all’s fair in love and bowling.

This is how love rolls…

For teacher Ava Williams, some subjects are not up for debate. Like history — specifically, the one she has with Grace Jones, bowling pro and local celeb. Who is now, for no identifiable reason, teaching at the same small-town Georgia high school as Ava. Once upon a time, they were thick as thieves, best friends, rivals who pushed each other, and total bowling nerds. Then they shared a kiss, sweet and confusing…and after that, they split and nothing was ever the same.

Ava is pretty sure she has every reason to hate Grace. Especially when the school’s soggy potato of a principal announces — finally — that the students can have the bowling team Ava has been pushing for, for years…only to hand it to Grace.

Now they’re expected to be partners and lead their new bowling team to victory in six months. And with that, their rivalry is back. Fierce, ultracompetitive…and with an undeniable attraction that pushes, pulls and crashes together. It’s history. It’s chemistry. And it’s just a matter of time before it explodes…one way or the other.

“Whatever it is, the answer is no.”

Ava knew that look. That look promised extra hours with no extra pay and a significant bump in her caffeine budget for the week. She already needed to cut back on that dark-roasted money suck and agreeing to whatever ridiculous school spirit activity Bradley Parrish was surely coming to convince her of was not the way to go.

“You haven’t even heard what I have to say.”

“And it’s going to stay that way,” Ava replied, ducking quickly into her classroom and attempting to close the door behind her. If she were the type to startle easily, the hand that slapped down on the other side of the door would have done it. As it was, she just sighed loudly before abandoning her moment alone before the staff meeting she didn’t even want to go to.

It wasn’t that she would get fired for missing it. Peach Blossom High School was understaffed, and they wouldn’t risk losing an Advanced Placement teacher right now unless it was over something illegal. Maybe. No, she just didn’t want to deal with the pettiness that was their principal, Robert, when he scented even a whiff of insubordination. Ava dealt with enough petty behavior at home being the middle child sandwiched between two sisters gung ho on always being the head bitch in charge. She didn’t feel like dealing with it at work too.

“Leave me be, Brad,” she huffed. “I have books to sort, lesson plans to finish, and wounds to lick.”

It was the third year in a row that Robert had rejected Ava’s plans for reviving the school’s old bowling team. She had even downgraded it to an extracurricular club to reduce the costs, but still he had vetoed it. If Ava wasn’t so used to it by now, she would have slammed the door on her way out of his office. Instead, she had calmly replied she understood before stuffing her feelings down and locking them behind a wall thicker than Robert’s bullshit civility.

“Ouch. Let me guess,” Brad said. “He rejected your plan for the new team and said the school had no money for it.”

“Got it in one.” Ava figured it was time for her to give up the idea in its entirety. “I’m not in the mood to do anything but finish this planning before this meeting so I can go the hell home and eat my weight in yeast rolls.”

“So, you don’t want to talk about who the new teacher might be?” he asked. Ava’s curiosity was piqued but she refused to show it. No, if he was going to get her off-task, he had to work for it. She resolved herself to a couple more hours of sorting the books she had on hand and praying the ones still missing were enroute to arrive soon.

If anyone had told her five years ago she would be back at her old high school teaching English, she would have laughed in their face. The Ava Williams of five years ago had big plans that included a PhD in Europe where she could walk the same streets as her favorite authors while churning out words that would one day earn her heaps of praise. Teaching AP English to high schoolers back in her small hometown of Peach Blossom, Georgia, had been nowhere in her plans. Yet, here she was about to start her fourth year and not completely hating life.


Ava fell into her chair, her loose skirt wrapping around her legs. When she looked up, Brad’s hulking frame leaned against her desk. His curly brown hair gleamed under the harsh classroom light with a few errant curls falling over his forehead and his lips were split wide in an eager smile. She was determined to out-stubborn him this time, but the angle was all wrong. If she stared up any longer, she would get a crick in her neck and then have to drive a couple hours to find a chiropractor. Sometimes small-town life was a pain in the ass.

“Don’t you have your own lessons to finish planning?”

“Did them already,” he replied. His wide smile and boyish charm were usually enough to pull Ava out of a funk, but not today. She had barely gotten any sleep last night thanks to her sisters having another argument over absolutely nothing and she was not in the mood. Despite having their own designated spaces in the large family home they shared with their father, it never failed that someone would get on someone else’s last nerve and Ava would get roped into the middle against her will. She sometimes wondered if she should have just bitten the bullet and gotten her own place.

“I can’t believe you really aren’t the least bit tempted to talk about it,” Brad continued. “Getting a new teacher is kind of a big deal.”

She shrugged before reaching out to shuffle some papers. Small-town life meant any change, no matter how inconsequential, was a big deal. “We get new teachers sometimes. I don’t see why I should waste my time talking about it.”

He gave her a look that she refused to find amusing. She had too much to finish before school started next week to find his interruption entertaining. “When was the last time we got a new science teacher? Who was a woman and qualified enough to allow us to add an AP Chemistry course to the class schedule?”

Ava’s mouth clicked shut. She had been about to interrupt him, until that last bit. He was right about that. The school hadn’t attracted many women in the sciences or math subjects for quite a few years.

“And I heard they managed to get her to sign a two-year contract.”

Ava widened her eyes. “That’s a first.”

Brad nodded, his grin growing wider. “I heard the school nurse talking to the assistant principal about it. Seems they are trying to figure out a way to entice the newbie to stay longer than that.”

“Which means they have their golden goose for the next two years,” Ava said, rolling her eyes. “Well, hopefully the person isn’t a total dick, otherwise we will be the ones dealing with it until the newbie wises up and fucks off to their next assignment.”

He crossed his arms before shaking his head, curls falling over his arched brow. “You are way too colorful to be so pessimistic.” He waved a hand at her outfit. “How is it you look like a walking ad for the Black Ms. Frizzle and yet can somehow manage to turn the whole world gray with one sentence?”

Ava snorted. It wasn’t the first time she had heard that comparison given her penchant for colorful skirts and dresses and the curls that adorned her head. She happily embraced the description. Still, just because she favored bright colors didn’t mean she always had to be a ray of fucking sunshine.

“I’m an English teacher. Words are my weapons and I wield them with glee.”

Brad’s laughter was loud enough to vibrate her desk and despite wanting to hold onto her frown, Ava found herself smiling. He was infuriatingly good at that. Rarely did she manage to stay in a mood when he came around whispering observations about things and generally being a pest that she hated to like. His brown eyes twinkled as he pushed off the desk.

“You’re a menace,” he replied. “I’m going to go grab some stuff from storage before the meeting. Save me a seat if I get there after you?”

“Always. Now shoo, we both have work to do, and I refuse to stay any later than I have to.”

Ava watched him leave the classroom, the door clicking shut behind him, before she sighed and looked down at the mess of papers on her desk. She really did need to finalize her lesson plans, but now her concentration was completely shot. She replayed Brad’s words in her mind. She wasn’t lying when she said the school occasionally got people to stick around, but she was still curious about who the newcomer could be. She hoped they would all get along well enough, considering their classroom would be right across the hallway from hers. Otherwise, the school year wouldn’t pass quickly enough.

“Hopefully whoever it is isn’t a total asshole,” she said aloud. The last science teacher hadn’t been completely terrible, but he had let it be known that he had no intention of sticking around for longer than the contracted year. It would have been fine if he’d let only the administration know, but the attitude had carried over into his classroom. The students had all known he didn’t give two shits about staying long-term and they had acted accordingly. Most treated his class with mild indifference. A few known troublemakers had taken a more active approach, cementing the fact that the guy was in and out in one academic year.

He hadn’t even left a forwarding email according to the office assistant. Well, according to Brad who had gotten his information from the school nurse who had gotten her information from the office assistant. It was like playing the world’s worst game of telephone.

Ava managed to focus for another twenty minutes, but eventually her mind wandered back to the latest hot topic. Who could the new teacher possibly be? Patience wasn’t a virtue she normally had, and this time was no different. Did she really want to wait until the staff meeting to figure out who the mystery person was? She glanced down at the still disorganized papers in her hands before giving in to temptation with a put-upon sigh.

The lesson plans could wait.

She turned toward her laptop, intent on doing some sleuthing. Surely, there was information somewhere about the new teacher. Ava could have called the front office and made up a story to get the information, but people around here liked to gossip. She didn’t want to leave any trail that might come back to her in case shit went down with the newbie and people would definitely talk if they heard she had been asking questions about them.

She went to the school website, but when she toggled over to the staff and filtered for science, only a placeholder came up. Even that didn’t have any identifying information. Not to be deterred, she opened a new tab, determined to find some information she could use. Thirty minutes later, she threw in the towel.

Nothing. She hadn’t found a damn thing. All the school’s social media accounts were focused on the start of school but nothing about new teachers. There was a vague post about adding AP Chemistry as a new course offering for seniors and juniors, but nothing about who was teaching them. If Ava were a parent, she would want to know that information. That seemed perfectly acceptable. Right?

Voices filtering in from the hallway caught her attention and she cursed herself for not having the door open. It would be weird now if she just happened to open it when they were standing in the hallway and Ava wasn’t even sure if she wanted to engage in conversation. What if they were a talker and never shut up? She already had a couple of those in her life and her introverted ways would not allow for another one. Instead, she sat as still as possible and strained her ears to try to discern the voices.

She could recognize Robert’s overly pleasant tone that belied the fact that he was often on some bullshit. Ava had been briefly taken in by his faux pleasant demeanor when she first started, but it only took her a couple months before she realized that the promises he made were hardly ever carried out unless they made him look good. His continuous rejections of her bowling-team idea was proof of that even when she showed him the interest in it and how little it would eat into the school budget. No, here football was king with basketball coming in a close second. Anything other than those was expendable or frivolous by comparison apparently.

The other voice was higher, and Ava frowned. There was something familiar about that voice that tickled her brain even as she drew a blank. Her need to know fought with her need to not get roped into anything by showing her face. She was surprised Robert hadn’t barged in already and designated her as the welcoming committee. When the sound of the other door shutting reached her, it spurred Ava into standing and making a move.

The hallway was clear by the time she opened her classroom door and Ava straightened her outfit before walking over and knocking on the new teacher’s door. She cursed the old frosted glass window obscuring her vision. If they had bothered updating it, she could have walked by and peeked in unseen. It took her a minute to realize that the door hadn’t opened so she knocked again a little louder in case the person hadn’t heard her.

“One minute,” they called out, voice clearer now that she was closer, and Ava felt herself freeze. It had been a decade, but without the extra barrier of a concrete wall to muffle it, she swore she knew that voice even after all these years. The door opened as if in slow motion and before she could school her expression into something more neutral and less shocked, it was too late.


“You?!” she blurted before her mouth could catch up to her brain. It hadn’t been the only commentary running through Ava’s mind, but it probably was the most pleasant.


Hi. That was all Grace fucking Jones could come up with after nearly a decade of space between them. It wasn’t that Ava had never imagined what would happen if she and Grace were ever face-to-face again, but she hadn’t expected it to be at work. She hadn’t prepared herself for this scenario.

She wasn’t ready.

Without saying another word, Ava pivoted on her heel and made a beeline back to her room. It wasn’t until the classroom door was firmly shut behind her that Ava realized she was trapped.

Grace was here, back in Peach Blossom.

Grace was across the hall.

Ava should have taken a sabbatical.

The 7/10 Split by Karmen Lee is out in June 2024. Pre-order your copy today!

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