Blurb: Flirting never hurt. Forced to give up her promising gymnastics career due to a devastating injury, Riley Murphy decides to join her twin sister at St Joseph’s University in Texas. Finding a best friend in her roommate, Chloe, she nonetheless finds herself going off the rails as she indulges in drugs, alcohol and boys. However, playing quickly turns into something she can’t control… Too ashamed to confide in her friends or family, and with a boyfriend who does nothing but feed her addictions, the person she turns to is Cameron Lucas, someone she knew as a child.
Cam’s loved Riley since he used to go to work with his mama at the Murphy estate, but she was always so far out of his liege. Now he’s beginning to realize that he never really knew her in the first place… However, that realization only deepens his feelings. But the question is, how far is he willing to go to help someone who won’t help them self? And can he discover the demons driving her to self-destruct?
Excerpt: A cool breeze ruffled his shirt as he stood on the wrap around porch. Even outside there was a horde of people drunkenly weaving around. A guy he recognized vaguely as being on the football team entertained his friends by juggling with beer bottles. Predictably, he dropped them all but luckily the grass cushioned their fall and none shattered. The group of stocky football players laughed uproariously and Cameron sighed.
He was just thinking of leaving when he spotted Riley in the crowd, dressed in an even skimpier dress than the one she’d modelled that morning. The sight of her made his heart race. Unable to leave now, he followed her with his eyes as she joined a group of guys on the verge by the road, giggling and flirting, falling all over them. One swooped her up in a fireman’s carry and slapped her butt. She beat his back and struggled, but she was laughing.
When he put her down, another guy grabbed her around the waist and pulled her close. The guy was practically humping her leg and she was acting like it was just a bit of fun, not an insult. Unable to watch any more, he pushed through the crowd toward the street but something made him pause and glance back over his shoulder. Growing up in a rough area, he knew how quickly these things could escalate.
The guy who held her had his hand thrust up her skirt. Riley was no longer laughing and her smile was strained as she tried to shove his hand away.
“Drew, stop it. Don’t touch what you can’t afford,” she joked. When the guy didn’t release her, he stepped forward without a second thought. They were all double his size, but in that moment he didn’t care.
Shoving through their ranks, he demanded, “Let her go.”
There was a moment of awkward silence and then someone snorted. “What are you going to do about it pipsqueak?” Color rose in his cheeks. Instinct told him to back down in the interest of self-preservation, but then he noticed Riley craning her neck to look over at him, her other hand slapping angrily at Drew’s chest.
Squaring his shoulders, Cameron cleared his throat, yet his voice still came out sounding weak. “Get your hands off her, she said stop.” The guy who’d confronted him stepped closer, towering over him, so close that he could smell the beer on his breath. “You want to fight, kid? Come on then.”
Cameron shuffled back a step and his opponent laughed, glancing over his shoulder to encourage his friends. Curling his fingers into fists, he used the moment of distraction to strike. His clenched fist connected with the guy’s jaw and he stumbled back, hand flying up to his bloody lip. There was a brief moment when he got to admire his handiwork, before payback came in the form of a punch to the eye that sent him reeling backward.
He must have blacked out momentarily, because the next thing he knew he was on the ground and someone was standing over him. Anger sparked from Terri as she stood with her hands on her hips, clearly braced for battle.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” she shouted.
“We were just having some fun,” Drew replied, releasing Riley who gave him a shove before moving away.
“You broke his glasses,” Terri accused, stabbing a finger at the guy who’d punched him.
“He started it.” Pushing himself upright, Cameron opened his mouth to speak, however, Terri was on a role.
“Hardly a fair fight, was it?” she snorted contemptuously, making him feel about three inches tall. “I’m betting you’d be kicked off the team if Coach found out.”
Drew narrowed his eyes on her threateningly. “You going to rat us out?”
She shrugged indifferently, clearly not cowed. “Maybe, maybe not. Depends if you plan to stump up the money for a new pair of glasses?”
“Hey, Terri, you all right?”
Cameron turned his head to see a tall, lanky guy of either Asian or Indian descent walking towards them. Behind him, two more football players followed and he recognized the one with brown hair as the guy Riley had been flirting with on the quad earlier. Scrambling to his feet, he brushed himself off and pulled off his glasses to check the extent of the damage, though everything was a messy haze without them. They fell apart in his hands.
“You’re gonna have a nice shiner there.” Looking up, he wanted to dislike the brown haired football player that Riley seemed to have a fondness for, but his smile and tone were friendly.
“What are you fuckers up to?” the other guy growled. Tall and broad, with too-long blond hair and a red baseball cap, he was more than a little intimidating.
“Nothing,” someone piped up immediately and the group shifted guiltily, glancing at one another. “Go do nothin’ somewhere else.” Without another word, they scattered, heading into the house.
After a moment, Terri turned to face him. “Are you all right?” she asked. He nodded. His eye throbbed, but it was his pride that really hurt. Clearing his throat, he glanced around, “Is Riley okay?” He couldn’t see her and his stomach dropped.
Without his glasses it was hard to see, but he thought Terri rolled her eyes as she said, “She’s fine, she’s probably gone chasing after them.”
“Terri,” the Asian guy chided and she swung around with a scowl.
“Well, it’s the kind of stupid thing she does all the time,” she snapped. “And you can stop taking her side, you’re supposed to be my friend.”
“I am your friend. I just think you’re a bit harsh on her sometimes.”
“That’s because you didn’t grow up with her, she’ll do anything to get attention. She just can’t handle not being in the limelight.” Cameron watched the back and forth with a sinking feeling in his stomach; he’d always thought there must be more to Riley than what everyone else saw, he’d had faith that under all the flirting and drama she had a heart of gold, but Terri was her twin and she seemed to think Riley was just as shallow as she appeared. Shifting uncomfortably, he felt his ears burning as he drew everyone’s attention back to himself. “I, um, I’m just going to go.”
“How far can you see without your glasses?” one of the other guys enquired, waving a hand in front of his face. “How many fingers am I holding up?”
The blond with the baseball cap punched his arm, growling, “Stop bein’ a dick.” However, when he turned to Cameron his expression wasn’t too terrifying. “You’ll get used to him,” he said. “Dawson likes to wind everyone up.”
Behind his back, Dawson pulled a face and made a hand gesture. “I’m Parker. I think I’ve seen you ‘round, do ya live in Oak, too?”
Nodding cautiously, Cameron racked his brains trying to remember if he’d seen Parker around. He was sure he’d remember if he had; Parker looked like the kind of guy he’d usually try to avoid, but then he did spend most of his free time either working in his room, or in the library. “We’re just headin’ back, mind if we walk with you?”
Again he nodded, though he felt like he’d just accepted a babysitter because they didn’t trust him to walk back to the dorm alone.
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About the Author: M L Sparrow is currently the author of five full length novels, three novellas and a slew of short stories published in various anthologies. Her novella, A Tangled Web, was a finalist in the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and in the 2017 Readers’ Favorite Awards. Another novella, Red Days, was a winner in the Book Excellence Awards, Current Events category.
She will write pretty much anything that pops into her head, no matter the genre, and enjoys keeping her readers guessing as to what she will write next, though you can pretty much guarantee that there will be some degree of romance!
As well as writing, she enjoys travelling and is currently living in Tokyo. Her travels are a constant source of inspiration and she has an endless supply of ideas for future novels…
Follow M L Sparrow:
Goodreads link – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35144472-flirt
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