Slow Play - Monica Murphy

Newly broke girl Alexandria Asher just wants to live a normal life. After her parents are sent to prison on embezzlement charges, she enrolls in college under her mother’s maiden name and tries her best to pretend she’s someone else.

Tristan Prescott is everything Alex is trying to avoid. A seemingly egotistical, lazy, rich jerk, she dumps her beer on his head when he comes on to her one night at a party. This only spurs Tristan into action. He loves nothing more than a challenge. And the beautiful Alex is exactly the type of challenge that intrigues him.

Despite her reluctance, Alex finds herself quickly involved with Tristan. Underneath that playboy exterior is a good guy, a sweet and sexy guy who she is undoubtedly falling for. What they both don’t realize is the actions of Alex’s parents are the reason for so much tragedy in Tristan’s family. And when Tristan discovers who Alex and her family really is, can he forgive and forget?

The room is hot, so crowded with bodies seemingly moving to the beat as one and I dance right along with them. Water bottle clutched in one hand, my phone clutched in the other, arms above my head, trying to lose myself in…something. Anything to help me forget, at least for a little while. The guy dancing next to me is all sloppy moves and flailing arms made extra dangerous by the full cup of foamy beer in his hand.

I know this because I watch in horrified wonder as he drips foam all over the floor, some of it dripping all over him. If he gets any of that cheap beer on my costume there’s going to be hell to pay.

With an artful turn my old ballet teacher would’ve been proud of, I spin away from him, noting the disappointed look on his face. Oh well. He’s so not my type. None of these guys are really my type. I’m here with my new friend Kelli. We suffered through the first month of our statistics class together and bonded over a near fail on a quiz.

Mutual suffering is a great way to form a friendship. Kelli and I have become close these last few weeks. She introduced me to Jade, one of her best friends. And tonight, Jade introduced me to Lucy, who is going out with Jade’s boyfriend’s best friend.

Yeah, that’s a mouthful. But they all seem really sweet and the boyfriends are super hot so I guess that’s something, right? Making new friends, avoiding hot rich guys—because these guys are rich, I’m at Jade’s boyfriend’s house right now and this place is huge—acting like a normal girl no one really knows.

Just the way I prefer it.

Pushing past some irritating jock I catch leering at me whose idea of a costume is wearing his football jersey—so original—I head for the kitchen in search of another bottle of water or a soda or something nonalcoholic. I’m the designated driver tonight by choice. When you watch your parents drown their feelings with liquor to help them forget their misdeeds, you tend to avoid it.

At least, I do.

“Alexandria!” Jade smiles at me and waves, then resumes arranging brownies on a plate, brownies that look fresh out of the oven. More like smell fresh out of the oven. The rich scent of chocolate lingers in the kitchen, masking the gross combination of body odor, beer and weed that permeates the air. “I can’t get over how great your costume is.”

I do a twirl, my feathery white wings wobbling from where they hang on my back. The flimsy halo feels like it’s going to topple off my head at any moment and I reach up to right it. Last year I went all out on the costume I’m wearing when I bought it for another Halloween party, back when I thought I had money and not a care in the world. A different kind of party, a different kind of life, I’m not that girl anymore.

I never will be again. That girl wouldn’t have been caught dead wearing the same costume two Halloweens in a row…

“I especially love the feathers,” Jade says, nodding toward them. She’s all kickass female power in her Robin costume. Her boyfriend Shep is her partner in crime fighting. He’s been walking around the house all night long murmuring in the huskiest voice he can muster, ‘I’m Batman.’

His throat is probably going to be killing him by tomorrow.

“Thanks,” I finally say, reaching across the island to snatch a tiny