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TRACIE HOWARD is author or coauthor of six books, including Gold Diggers and Never Kiss and Tell. Named an Ebony magazine style icon, she’s been a columnist and editor for Savoy and owns Ethos, a lifestyle-accessories company. She lives in Atlanta with her husband.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Midas Touch, Brandon's imposing 191-foot yacht, floated serenely in spite of the churn of afternoon waves that lapped seductively at Saint-Tropez's sandy coastline. He'd recently taken possession of the decadent--even by yachting standards--vessel after spending over a year and tens of millions of dollars working with the best craftsmen in the world on every detail, from the design of the heliport and assortment of smaller boats beneath, to the eighteen-carat gold fixtures that accented the Italian marble in the exquisitely appointed master spa. These extravagant touches were after parting with a cool two hundred million for the custom-designed luxury craft itself. Nonetheless, the sight of his equally exquisite wife, Gillian, as she sunned topless on the upper deck made this pricey investment well worth every single euro.
The boat and the beauty, Brandon's two prized possessions, validated that he had successfully outrun the squalor of Mississippi's projects. He'd recently sold his money-minting boutique record label, Sound Entertainment, to one of the major labels for over half a billion dollars; more than enough money to scrub away any lingering stench from the gangster rap game and replace it with the sweet smell of success. He was untouchable. The "S" on Brandon's chest was accented with two vertical slashes right down its middle.
"You are more beautiful every day," he whispered in awe. At the moment, he was speaking of Gillian, rather than the magnificent boat.
"Thanks, darling," Gillian murmured. Her four-carat, flawless diamond stud earrings radiated beneath the Mediterranean sun, which even mid-December was grade-E brilliant.
Brandon could hardly believe that this stunning, exotic creature was all his. The ghetto bumpkin who hadn't known a salad fork from a pair of nose clippers had managed to snag the most beautiful and desired woman in Hollywood, if not the world. Brandon may have been born into dire poverty, without a glint of sophistication, but he applied tenacity and street smarts to build a vast music empire, and then smoothly leveraged that success to pry his way into the film industry. He then used his access to lure Gillian into his grasp, making her a superstar actress and his wife in the process. By far, the latter was her most demanding role to date.
When they met she was a former runway model/struggling actress, but he'd astutely appraised the dazzling diamond that shone unseen beneath the rough. Brandon recognized a star in the making when he saw one, and the woman he met that day sat at the center of her own constellation.
Gillian was simply the most elegant woman he'd ever met. Her poise, beauty, and stature stubbornly defied the fact that she had no money, no career prospects, and no man. And unlike most women, the latter of the list was the least of her concerns.
"Why don't you come in, we wouldn't want any sunburn on that beautiful skin of yours."
"I'll be fine," she said.
"What time is it?" she mumbled, turning away from him. Though there was a slight autumn chill in the air, in the middle of the Mediterranean the still-intense sun felt good against her skin. This was their last outing on the floating palace until next summer, and she wanted to soak up every second of it.
"I'm sure what you really want to know is what time is it in L.A.?" He grinned. "It's four forty-five a.m.," he answered, not needing to consult the hundred-thousand-dollar Chopard timepiece that sat depreciating on his wrist. Today was monumental...