University Park Series Box Set: Books 1-3

BOOK: University Park Series Box Set: Books 1-3
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University
Park Series

Books
1 - 3

Version
1

University
Park Series Copyright © 2015 CM Doporto

All rights reserved, including
the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form without
written permission except for the use of brief quotations embodied in articles,
reviews, or posts.

Published
by:

 

http://www.cmdoporto.com

Cover
design by Cora Graphics

Edited
by Monica Black

Copyright
2015 by CM Doporto

This
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the
product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any
resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments,
educational facilities, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental. Any
trademarks mentioned herein are not authorized by the trademark owners and do
not in any way mean the work is sponsored by or associated with the trademark
owners. Any trademarks used are specifically in a descriptive capacity.

 

Opposing Sides

Book
1 in the

University
Park Series

 

By
CM Doporto

Opposing
Sides

Book
1 in the

 University
Park Series

Version
6

Opposing
Sides Copyright © 2014 CM Doporto

All rights reserved, including
the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form without
written permission except for the use of brief quotations embodied in articles,
reviews, or posts.

Published
by:

 

http://www.cmdoporto.com

Cover
design by Cora Graphics

Edited
by Monica Black

Copyright
2014 by CM Doporto

This
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the
product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any
resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments,
educational facilities, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental. Any
trademarks mentioned herein are not authorized by the trademark owners and do
not in any way mean the work is sponsored by or associated with the trademark
owners. Any trademarks used are specifically in a descriptive capacity.

Acknowledgements

I’d
like to thank my husband for his continual support. I can’t do this without you
babe. To my son, for allowing me to write when I should be playing with you.

A
huge shout out to my critique partner, Sam. Your help has been wonderful, and
I’m glad we work well together. Many thanks to my street team, CM Doporto’s
Heroes and Heroines. I appreciate your dedication and time with supporting my
books and getting the word out. A big thank you to Smexy Fab Four for managing
my team and getting things back on track for me. Monica, Sheri and Jessa for editing
the book for me. You know I’m not perfect. Thanks to Cora Graphics for creating
another beautiful cover!

I
would be remiss if I didn’t mention the bloggers and reviewers who take the
time to read and post reviews. Your support of indie authors helps get the
attention of readers we work hard to obtain.

A
huge thank you to you, the reader. Without you there would be no one to read my
story. I appreciate you taking the time to read it. I hope you enjoy it as much
as I did writing it.

Most
of all I want to thank our Heavenly Father for providing me with the
opportunity to do what I love, write.

 

 

Dedication

 

To my mom.

Thank you for not being
a helicopter parent.

I love you.

Chapter 1

 

“Lexi, are you okay?” Delaney snapped a
picture that broke me from my incoherent gaze.

“Yes, I’m fine.” I forced a smile to my roommate
and good friend since junior year.

“Just thinking of everything that needs
to be done in the next few months.”

“Oh, sweetie. I don’t want you stressing
yourself over the details,” Mom said, squeezing a hug from behind. “That’s why we
hired Melissa, remember? The wedding planner is there to handle all of that so
you don’t have to worry.”

I huffed out a breath. “I know, but it’s
still a lot that I have to manage and with school—”

“Lexi, if there is anything you need, just
say the word.” My soon to be mother-in-law, Suzanne, gave me a thorough look
over. “That dress is absolutely perfect! Collin will be speechless.” She pressed
a hand to her chest as her eyes glazed over with tears.

“Oh, I couldn’t agree more.” Mom fluffed
the back of the A-line style dress that had lace up to my neck.

I pulled on the neckline, gasping for
air. “I actually like the other one better.” I said, pointing to a strapless
ball gown with an organza-ruffled skirt that had a sequined bodice. “This one
has too much lace.”

“Oh, but it’s beautiful.” Mom lifted my
arms, continuing to admire the dress made for a conservative young female. After
all, that was who I was supposed to be. “The other one shows too much skin.” She
took my fairytale dress and handed it to the sales lady. “We will pass on this
one.”

“But what if I wore a jacket? I’m sure
Pastor Clifton would be okay with it.”

“I think my husband would agree that the
dress you have on is more suitable. Olivia, what do you think Lexi’s dad would
say? I mean…” Suzanne continued to ramble with my mother about the wedding
dress they had chosen for me. Yes, that’s correct. The one they chose, not me.

Sadly, I couldn’t picture myself walking
down the aisle in it. Aside from hating it, I had serious reservations about
saying ‘I do’. It felt like Collin and I were marrying to appease our parents
instead of marrying for love. We had known each other since we were thirteen
and had been together for the past four years. Everyone expected us to take
that next step. So, when he asked for my hand, I naturally accepted.

“Lex, seriously girl, what’s up with
you?” Delaney continued clicking her camera from different angles, demanding my
attention.

“Like I said, I have a lot on my mind.
Mid-terms are approaching and so is the wedding.”

She cast a doubtful stare. “Mid-terms
are two weeks away. Relax.”

“This is my senior year and I have to
stay focused.”

She lowered the camera. “It’s my senior
year too. And I say we should make the most of it.”

“You said that last year,” I said,
placing my hands on my hips. Delaney never took anything seriously, including
her schoolwork. Luckily for her, she was naturally smart and a gifted
photographer. I knew she had a bright future ahead of her.

Her eyes darted to the side, making sure
the mothers weren’t listening. “That’s because I can never get you to do
anything fun. All you do is study and play the piano. But this,” she pointed at
me, circling her finger, “is all about you. Not me. You’re getting married.”
She chucked my arm and I rolled my eyes at her. “You’re supposed to be in love
and excited. Screw exams and thinking about school.”

Delaney was right. I should have been in
la la land, dreaming about marrying my prince charming. But I just didn’t feel
it. Something was seriously wrong.

“Easy for you to say. I don’t ace exams
like you.”

“Oh, whatever.” She spun around like a
hopeless romantic, grabbing a veil from a nearby rack and flinging it over my
head. “Bend over so I can fix it.” Robotically, my body leaned forward,
allowing her to adjust the sheer material over my face. “Okay, take a look.”

I took a long hard stare in the mirror
as the clicks reverberated in my ear. For the past twenty years, I had been
shielded and protected by my parents. I was homeschooled and forced to commute to
the university my freshman and sophomore year. College should have marked the
time of my life, but it didn’t. The veil I wore was so much like the shield I
had been wrapped in my entire life. I was ready to tear it down, show the world
who I really was, and see what it had to offer.

“No. I don’t like it.” I yanked the veil
out of my hair and tossed it to her.

“Oh, okay.” She leaped forward, barely
catching it by the end of the material. “We can find another one—”

“Nope. I’m not wearing a veil.”

Mom quickly turned in my direction.
“What’s wrong, sweetie?”

I walked to a counter and picked up a clip
decorated in sparkling jewels. “Nothing, I just don’t want to wear a veil.”

“No veil?” Suzanne asked, a light frown
emerging from her porcelain smooth skin.

“Sorry, I don’t like the feeling of
something hanging in front of my face.” Using a vanity mirror, I pulled my hair
back and positioned the comb to the side, allowing my brown hair to cascade
forward. I smiled, liking the style much more, but the expression of happiness
wasn’t real. It was forced and had fake written all over it. However, no one
seemed to notice because this was the Lexi everyone knew. Sweet, agreeable,
quiet, and well respected. Deep down that just wasn’t me.

“Well, I suppose,” Mom said, with a tone
that spelled disappointment.

“Ooo, I like that.” Delaney captured
another shot while I held the deceptive smile. “I can’t wait for June. It’s
going to be one hell of a party.”

With that comment, Suzanne cast a
disapproving look at my crazy roommate. Delaney covered her mouth. “Oops, sorry
about that.”

Delaney didn’t always think before she
acted. Instead, she made decisions based on impulse and sometimes regretted
them. However, that was who she was and she was the one person I knew that
really enjoyed life.

“I think the comb is very becoming of
you, especially if you wear your hair down.” Suzanne placed locks of my hair in
front of my chest, trying to cover up my breasts.

Despite all the lace, they were more
noticeable and for once, I didn’t mind. After all, Mom had convinced me to keep
them tucked away and hidden because no respectable girl flaunted her breasts
for people to see, especially to guys. Her voice echoed in my head,
only
your husband should have the honor of enjoying them at the appropriate time
.
If only I could get Collin to enjoy them now before they sagged to my waist.

I eased the comb from my hair and handed
it to Suzanne. “I do like it.”

“I think we should buy it then,” she
said, with a gentle smile.

“Mom?”

“I guess,” she sighed.

“Thanks. I’ll change so we can go.”

Dying to get out of that awful dress, I
grabbed Delaney’s hand and pulled her into the dressing room with me. “Unzip
me, please.” I held up my hair, waiting to be released from the chastity gown.

“Damn, this zipper’s stuck.” She tugged
on it and my body broke out in a sweat.

“Please don’t tell me that,” I sighed.

With another tug, she unzipped the
constricting bodice. “There we go.”

My lungs took in a full breath of air. “Thank
God!”

She helped me step out of the heavy
dress and I automatically felt twenty pounds lighter. I slipped on my jeans and
shirt and stuffed my feet into my Toms.

“Lexi, I’ll tell the sales lady we’ll
take the dress,” Mom’s voice carried over the dressing room door.

Covering my face with my hands, I shook
my head.

“Tell her you don’t like it,” Delaney
whispered in my ear.

My shoulders dropped. “It’s pointless.” No
matter what I wanted, my mother would never agree. I was the result of
helicopter parents doused with a thick layer of strict upbringing. My parents
feared that I would make the wrong choices and end up pregnant like my mom did
in high school with my sister. They did everything in their power to make sure
the three of us didn’t embarrass or shame the family. At the rate Collin and I
were going, they had nothing to worry about.

To make matters worse, my sister set the
bar so high that even with high heels on I doubted I could reach it. She was a
successful attorney with two children and a partnering husband who worked
alongside her battling court cases. They were a match made for high society,
fitting in perfectly with the yuppies in upper Dallas with all the money they
rolled in and flaunted.

Thank God, I didn’t care to wear those
high-heels. I was happy working on my degree to be an English teacher. Money
didn’t matter to me. In the end, all I really wanted was to help kids succeed. More
than that, I wanted to be happy and in love. I hoped that by marrying Collin,
he would show me love and give me that fairytale ending that I read in romance
books; ones that my mother forbade me to have.

I opened the door and walked past my mom
and the sales lady. Delaney followed me, staying close behind.

“Lexi, you could have hung the dress on
the hanger,” Mom scolded as she scampered into the dressing room. “I’m so sorry.
She’s probably tired. It’s been a long day of…trying on dresses.”

The sales lady flashed a sardonic smile
and said, “We can put the dress on hold for a week, if you are unsure.”

“That would be great,” I quickly
announced.

Mom shook her head. “I’m sure that’s the
perfect dress for her, she’s tried on so many.”

“It’s the prettiest one by far,” Suzanne
added.

Delaney turned around to face me and
stuck her finger down her throat.

I raised my brows, agreeing. Picking up
the skirt of the dress, I gave it one more look over. Before I could answer, my
mom spoke up.

“If you can hold the dress, that would
be wonderful.”

I breathed another sigh of relief. Maybe
I wouldn’t look like a mid-century prude after all. “Thank you, Mom.”

 

***

 

A breeze swept through my hair, kicking
up leaves as signs of autumn appeared across the campus. I untied the hoodie
from my waist and put it on. In Texas, autumn never lasted more than a few
weeks and since Mother Nature was bipolar, you had no idea if it would be a
beautiful sunny day or downright frigid. Checking the weather app on my phone had
become a daily ritual.

I crossed the street and opened the door
to the quaint burger joint where we ate frequently. The smell of the sizzling
grill hit me and my stomach growled. Memorabilia from Park Hill University’s various
sports teams hung from the walls, showing off their wins over the last decade. To
the right, I spied Delaney sitting next to my brother, Luke, in a booth. They appeared
to be in a deep conversation. I couldn’t help but notice the steady gaze they
held on one another.

“Hi.” I dropped my backpack on the bench
across from them, disrupting their chat.

“Hey, Sis.” Luke turned slowly, as if he
didn’t want to break eye contact.

“I was beginning to wonder if you were
coming.” Delaney glanced at her phone. “You sent a text about twenty minutes
ago.”

Uh huh. Are you sure you wanted me to show
up?

For the constant denial of having an
interest in each other, claiming they had a friend’s only status, they were
sitting really close to each other. “Sorry, I had to call the writing center.
They want me to tutor someone and we were trying to coordinate schedules.” I
pulled out my wallet. “Did you two already order?”

“Yeah, about five minutes ago.” Luke
rubbed his chin and I immediately knew something was up. That something had
Delaney’s name written all over it. Being that he was my twin, I could sense
things about him. It was weird, but we had similar quirks, no matter how much we
didn’t like admitting them.

“I need to hurry. I have to meet a
student in forty-five minutes.” When I turned around, I stumbled into Collin.

“Lexi.” He caught me between his strong
arms and I took advantage of the proximity of our bodies.

“Sorry, I didn’t see you.” I placed my
hand on his chest and stared into his pale green eyes, dying to make that
connection with him. “Aren’t you supposed to be in class?”

He released my arms and unhooked his
backpack, placing it on the floor next to the booth.

So much for that wish.

“Professor cancelled it. I sent you a text
but when you didn’t respond, I figured you might be here. Thought I’d eat lunch
with you.”

“Great.” I smiled, glad that he wanted
to spend time with me. Between school and his baseball practices and games, I
jumped at any opportunity for us to be together. “Unfortunately, I have to be
at work in forty-five minutes.”

“That’s fine.” He shrugged, showing a
little too much indifference. “What do you want to eat?”

Collin usually ordered for me and took
it upon himself to do things without asking. At first, I liked it, but since
the engagement, I seemed like it was more about control than consideration. I
was conflicted between longing for discretion and wanting to be closer to him.
“Sure. I’ll have the chicken and roasted green Chile burger, no fries, and
water with lemon.”

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