Love Offline – First Chapter Preview!

Time flies! Just two weeks until Love Offline: Looking For Romance In Real Life is published. Exciting!

It follows the story of Emily who isn’t having much luck finding romance online, so her friend challenges her to look for Mr Right in real life. Will ditching the dating apps lead to true love?

Love Offline is a fun, sexy, entertaining story about friendship, stepping outside of your comfort zone and falling in love the old-fashioned way. You can pre-order it right now and it’ll be delivered straight to your device on Friday 1st November.

Until then, here’s an exclusive preview of the first chapter. Enjoy!

Love Offline: Looking For Romance In Real Life, by Olivia Spring.

Chapter 1

Normally, I love social media.

The endless fancy food and envy-inducing holiday pics on Insta, the witty conversations on Twitter, the funny memes on Facebook—I adore it.

When I’ve got important designs to create for clients and deadlines to meet, I can often be found spending many minutes (truth be told, more like hours) scrolling through strangers’ feeds rather than actually working. After all, who doesn’t like staring at photos of cute kittens?

Like I said. Normally, I love social media.

Well, I did until precisely 9.29 a.m. today.

The day started off like any other Monday morning. Hitting the snooze button a dozen times before finally crawling out of bed. Having a shower whilst wondering why the weekend flashes by in what seems like five minutes, whereas Monday to Friday lasts for half a century. Throwing on whatever looked clean and didn’t need ironing, then dragging myself to my local coffee shop to get the caffeine-and-sugar hit I needed to help me feel remotely human, or at least alert enough to start work.

I’d sat at my desk, taken a generous bite of my blueberry muffin, sipped on my steaming latte and switched on my computer. I had considered going through my emails but, in true procrastination style, decided to check Instagram first instead, because of course that was much more important than doing actual work.

And there it was.

That photo.

The picture which had already amassed thirty-six likes.

The image that instantly made my head spin and my stomach sink.

Captioned with just three words that sent my world crashing down.

She said yes!

My ex-boyfriend Eric, who I always believed would be the man I’d spend the rest of my life with, had proposed to Nicole—the woman he’d been cheating with for the last six months of our relationship—and she’d said yes.

Great.

There they were on what looked like some tropical beach, waves crashing against the golden sand, gazing into each other’s eyes, lips locked, her left hand strategically placed on his shoulder, showing off the giant rock adorning her ring finger.

Exactly what I didn’t need to see on a miserable grey March Monday morning in South London.

After staring at my screen for longer than was healthy, I’d tried to do what any smart, sensible, level-headed, pragmatic woman would if she heard the news that her unfaithful ex was marrying the younger model she’d been traded in for. I’d told myself I couldn’t care less, that it was his loss, there were plenty more fish in the sea, karma would catch up with them and to just get on with my day.

Did it work?

Of course it bloody didn’t.

So instead I’d dragged myself the ten steps from my home study to my bedroom, put on the ‘Life Sucks’ Spotify playlist, curled up into a ball and sobbed until my mobile rang.

It was Chloe. She’d heard the news from a friend during the school run and was on her way over. With cake.

I’d told her I wasn’t sure that even a Victoria sponge the size of the Atlantic Ocean could make me feel better, but she’d insisted. And now she had let herself into my flat using the key I’d given her for emergencies. I suspected that she was probably mentally preparing herself for the sight that was about to greet her.

Chloe knew how much I loved Eric and how I’d struggled to get over him, so she’d realise that this wasn’t going to be pretty.

‘Emily Robinson!’ she shouted, bursting through the bedroom door. ‘Up you get!’

I slowly peeled my head from the pillow and tried to gauge whether I really had to force myself off the bed and deal with the situation or if I could get away with lying here for the rest of the afternoon and convince Chloe to give me a bucketload of tea and sympathy.

Who am I kidding? This was my no-nonsense best friend. And she did not do self-pity. Especially over an unfaithful man.

‘Come on, Em. We’re not doing this again. Remember?’ She picked up my iPad from the bedside table, frowning as she bashed away haphazardly at the screen before eventually managing to pause the playlist. ‘No more listening to sad songs. No more tears over Eric. He’s not worth it,’ she said, edging closer to the bed. ‘You can do much better than that tallywag.’

I slowly dragged myself upright, scraped my thick, dark curly hair off my face and tucked my knees under my chin.

‘I know he’s a loser, but seeing that picture, of him, with her, proposing after knowing her for all of two minutes, when he knew I’d wanted to get married for years and constantly fobbed me off, it just—it really hurt,’ I said, using the sleeve of my grey jumper to wipe the tears streaming down my cheeks.

‘I understand that,’ said Chloe as she smoothed down the back of her 1950s-style polka dot dress and sat down on the plain magnolia duvet. ‘But you really need to move on, Em. It’s been seven months. It’s time to start a new life. Unfollow the fool like I told you to ages ago and make new friends.’

‘I make new friends all the time,’ I scoffed. ‘I’m up to almost six hundred on Facebook. Admittedly, Insta is lagging behind a little as I’m low on content, but—’

‘For crying out loud!’ Chloe crossed her arms. ‘I don’t mean friends on social media. That’s nonsense. I’m talking about proper friends. You know, people that you speak to face-to-face in a restaurant, rather than clicking the stupid love heart button on a post of some person from Timbuktu that you’ve never met.’

Trust Chloe not to understand. She’s so old-fashioned, she doesn’t even own a smartphone. Can you imagine?

‘I know you have an aversion to technology and anything online, Chloe, but social media has been my lifeline. If you think I’m bad now, I would have been much worse without the support of my online community.’

Your online community?’ Chloe rolled her eyes. ‘Good grief! Sounds like some sort of cult!’

‘Laugh all you want, but their likes, comments and uplifting posts have kept me going.’

If you say so,’ replied Chloe, reaching in her bag and pulling out two forks, serviettes and a container before taking out a large slice of chocolate cake. The rich scent filled the room. Mmmm. It smelt delicious. ‘Like I’ve said before, I really think you should venture out of these four walls and try new things. You work from home all day, and apart from coming round to mine, you never seem to go anywhere. If you had a load of hobbies and were out making new friends in real life, you wouldn’t have time to think about what that idiot is doing. You’d be too busy having fun.’

Here we go again. It’s the you need to get out of the flat more lecture. I love Chloe, I really do, but she just doesn’t get it.

My whole social circle revolved around my life with Eric. His friends became my friends, and after the breakup, that disappeared overnight. Now it was almost impossible to find anyone to go out with. On the rare occasions that I did get invited out, all the people in the group were coupled up and I was the odd one out. I got treated like either a weirdo or a potential husband thief. That’s when I wasn’t getting pitied or being shown photos of other random single men they were convinced would be ideal for me, purely because we’d both been ‘condemned’ to a life of solitude. I shuddered just thinking about it. No, thanks. I’d rather sit at home and have conversations online than be subjected to that hell.

‘It’s not that simple,’ I huffed as I reached for my own slab of sponge and took a large bite. I wasn’t in the mood to use a fork and serviette like Chloe. ‘Everyone I know is married and has kids and doesn’t have time to go out.’

‘I appreciate what you’re saying,’ said Chloe, stroking her raven bob, which she’d styled into her signature vintage waves. ‘But you are not the only thirty-five-year-old singleton in London. There are loads of other people out there just like you, so if your old circle of friends doesn’t fit your life anymore, make a new circle. Find new friends. Look.’ She stood up. ‘I hate to leave you like this, but I’ve been called into work today, so I’ve got to run. I’ll call you later, but please—don’t sit here moping. Go for a walk to clear your head and have a think about what I said. There’s a whole world out there. So many exciting things you could be doing with your life, but you need to actually step outside of this flat to discover them. Promise you’ll give it some thought?’

I looked up at her, fighting the temptation to roll my eyes after hearing her make the same suggestion for the millionth time.

‘Yes, yes,’ I said. ‘I’ll think about it.’

‘And you’ll stop thinking about Eric too?’

‘Yes,’ I muttered reluctantly. What was I supposed to say? It wasn’t like I wanted to think about him. Eric was just always there. Right in the front of my thoughts.

‘Excellent!’ She smiled. ‘You’ll feel so much better when you do. You don’t need his toxic energy around you. Anyway, I’d better go.’ She leant forward and hugged me tightly before rushing towards the door. ‘Make sure you get stuck into the cake. Love you!’

I stretched over to the container and grabbed another helping of sponge, shamelessly stuffing it into my mouth, then wiped my fingers before wrapping the duvet tightly around me. Getting out of these four walls? Going for a walk? Not a chance. That was the last thing I felt like doing. I planned to stay right here in this flat until I ran out of food or was forced to evacuate due to a state of national emergency. Whatever happened first.

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