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By Scarlet Wilson, Libby Murphy
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2014 Scarlet Wilson
All rights reserved.
Selena Harris's first sign that things weren't going well was when one of her silver, crystal-studded, red-soled heels hit her square between the eyes. One second she'd been walking along the sidewalk to her apartment—next her view was of the LA sun, high in the perfect blue sky.
She squinted. Tried to make sense of what had just happened. Then the picture was made even more perfect by a gorgeous array of colors, all fluttering like butterflies in the sky above. It was like being inside a kid's picture book.
Was this what concussion looked like?
It took her a few minutes to realize the butterflies were her designer wardrobe. The second silver shoe cracked down on the pavement next to her head as her red Stella McCartney dress floated through the air and landed at her feet.
She sat up and swayed, still dazed by the wayward shoe, and squinted at the immaculate cream-colored building to see if anyone was watching. The apartment block was in one of the most prestigious parts of Santa Monica. Untoward behavior would generally result in a complaint to the management company. Something trickled down her nose and she brushed it away with her hand. Blood.
She looked up. The sun was reflecting off all of the tinted windows except one—it was wide open. She pushed herself onto her feet and stared up at the open apartment window, grabbing one of her shoes in her hand and checking it for damage. There was no way she could wear a bloodstained Louboutin.
Her stomach twisted as a few of her handbags came catapulting out, like baseballs hitting the backstop. The Chanel leather scuffing off the sidewalk made her wince. Or maybe that was the concussion?
"What the hell are you doing? These are my Christian Louboutins," Selena yelled at the angry silhouette inside, hoisting the shoe in the air.
Mark's red, sweaty face appeared at the window. "Would that be the two-thousand-dollar pair or the fifteen-hundred-dollar ones?" he shouted.
She flinched, pressing the back of her hand against her head to stop the flow of blood. Her forehead already felt as if it were giving birth to an egg. Their maxed-out Visa bill must have arrived again.
This wasn't the first time Mark had been mad at her, but this was certainly the biggest display of displeasure. Once he'd calmed down, she'd be able to talk him.
Her cream Ralph Lauren coat sailed out the window, landing on the sidewalk and she shuddered, thinking of the dry-cleaning costs. It had hardly been worn—not really suitable for the California weather. But how could she say no when it was fifty percent off? They were practically giving it away ...
A car skidded next to her—the driver obviously overcome with terminal nosiness -- and drifted across the freeway.
Rage built inside her. Mark was making a spectacle of himself.
More importantly, he was damaging her spectacular wardrobe.
She grabbed at the things around her, not even registering what they were as she stuffed them into her arms. "What on earth are you doing? Are you crazy?" she shouted.
His head shot out the window again. This time he was holding the dreaded statement between his palms. "I've had it with you and your spending. A billionaire couldn't keep you in shoes and makeup."
He turned inside to grab something else. Next she thing knew, her thongs were fluttering in the wind like multicolored candy wrappers. Now that really attracted the drivers' attention. Cars started weaving all over the place.
Her throat went dry. Her arms were already fully loaded and the humiliation of picking up her underwear from the street made her skin prickle.
She didn't want to think about the Visa bill. Her MBA wasn't doing her much good working weekends as a barista—but desperate times called for desperate measures—and it was the only job she could get.
"You're being ridiculous. What am I supposed to do with all this?"
Her Louis Vuitton case landed at her feet.
She winced. That dent would be irreparable.
A roll of garbage bags bounced off the sidewalk.
"Well, the one thing you can't do is bloody pay for it!"
She winced again. Yeah, the job thing. It had all seemed like such a good idea at the time. Fly from Scotland to LA. Use her dual nationality. Jobs in Scotland were scarce right now. Surely LA would be a better prospect?
See the sights.
Have some fun.
See the shops.
Spend some money.
See the men.
Then, along came Mark.
All dinners, cocktails, LA tan, and perfect teeth.
All, "put it on my tab," "move into my apartment."
All, "have a card on my account."
The honeymoon period had lasted around eight weeks. Practically forever in LA.
He'd ranted about the joint Visa bill last month, too—even making the suggestion that some of her purchases should be returned. Thankfully, as she'd thrown the tags and receipts in the trash, that wasn't an option.
She'd really tried to curb her spending this month. Opening her paycheck from the coffee house had made her cry. It was a million miles away from the six-figure salary she used to earn.
But the silver heels had been like a message sent from above. As if her name was written on their red soles.
She examined the one in her hand. Was that a missing crystal?
Her heart pounded as a few other—less glamorous—parts of her wardrobe, landed around her. Sneakers. Running clothes.
He was really getting serious now. This was the worst temper tantrum she'd seen.
Crash. Her vanity case.
No. There was a tinkle of a few thousand dollars smashing to smithereens.
"Give me my key." Mark glared at her.
"What?" Her brain was still focused on the vanity case. Was her crème de la mer ruined?
He pulled his head in from the apartment window and disappeared.
What next? Did she have anything left up there?
She opened her suitcase and stuffed the pile of clothes inside. Normally, she would have spent hours folding and organizing her prized possessions, but people on the sidewalk were staring at her.
Little fireworks started exploding in her brain. The evidence of her spending was all around her. How on earth had she expected to pay for all this? And now Mark was throwing her out, where on earth could she go? She wasn't exactly surrounded by friends in LA, she'd barely had a chance to make any. There were her colleagues in the coffee shop, but she didn't even know where any of them lived. They were acquaintances—not friends.
Keeping her head lowered, she grabbed the nearest multicolored thongs and padded bras and started pushing them into the case.
"I like this color best."
An elderly power-walker was holding up a matching royal-blue set of silk underwear. "If only I could still get away with things like that." She dangled the thong from her thumb.
"Thanks." Selena grabbed the items, and the older lady gave her a grin and power-walked on.
"Give me my key." The deep voice hissing in her ear made her jump about a foot in the air. She'd never seen him so mad. He was normally a placid kind of guy, but his eyes were spitting fire at her and his teeth were so clenched he could barely speak.
"What are you doing? If you'd let me explain—"
"I said, give me my key. I've had enough of your explanations." His outstretched palm was directly under her nose.
Selena's eyes met his.
It was the expression on his face. The exasperation. The finality. Her heart started thudding. Last time she'd felt like this was when someone had pushed her off the diving board as a kid. She couldn't really swim and the chlorine-soaked water closed over her head in a matter of seconds. She'd drifted to the bottom of the pool, her arms and legs failing to work in unison. Her lungs burned.
And that's the way she felt now.
As if she desperately needed to suck in a breath.
This wasn't just a show. He wasn't just having a tantrum.
He was serious. He was throwing her out.
Deep down, she couldn't blame Mark for his reaction.
The truth was, she was at the end of her tether with herself.
She'd wiped out her savings in her first month here. As for getting a more suitable job ...
She'd meant to. She really had. She'd sent out her CV numerous times. But every coffee shop was filled with baristas with MBAs. She'd started to stress.
"Tell me, who do you expect to pay for all this?" He bent down and picked up her Prada handbag, extracted his key for the apartment, and strode toward the entrance.
She swallowed. She desperately needed a drink. Right now she would even drink one of those hideously trendy sea-grass things. But she couldn't worry about that right now. She had more to care about, like ... where would she stay?
Desperation flooded through her. "Wait," she shouted at his retreating sweat-drenched back. "It can't be that bad. I'm sure I can pay you back—"
He slammed the door closed behind him, locking her out of their apartment building.
No. His apartment building.
He turned to face her through the glass. "Oh, I'm sure you can pay me back and you will pay me back. I'm getting in touch with my attorney."
And with that, he turned and marched up the stairs, leaving her standing on the sidewalk.
There was a snigger behind her as a guy pulled his open-top convertible back into the traffic. He must have pulled over to see what the drama was. LA. It was always about the drama.
To add insult to injury, he waved at her with one of her hot-pink thongs as he skidded away. Disgusting creep.
One of her neighbors came out and pressed something cold into her hand. A woman she'd barely glanced at in the elevator—too busy with shopping bags to notice.
"Ice. For your forehead. They can't stitch it when it's swollen. And don't go to the local ER. You'll get a junior doctor who's never stitched before and you'll end up scarred for life. Go to a plastic-surgery clinic." She gestured toward the freeway. "There are some good ones along the Pacific Coast Highway." She shrugged and walked away.
Stitches. She was going to need stitches?
The bag of ice was gingerly placed on her forehead, causing her to wince. Ouch. There was no way anyone could stitch the egg currently breeding there.
She looked around at her scattered clothing. Darn it. If only she'd managed to intercept the Visa bill. If only she could have hidden it for a few days ...
And then what?
The truth was he would have found out anyway. Maybe sooner was better than later. Too bad it didn't feel that way.
She'd never behaved like this before. It didn't make sense—even to her.
If her worldly goods hadn't been lying all around her, she might have had the sense to actually offer a proper apology. But right now her survival instincts were starting to kick in.
A drip from the icepack on her forehead landed on the sleeve of her satin blouse. That would stain.
Her gaze fell on something lying on the grass. Something flat, black, and credit-card-sized. Her heart gave an excited leap, and her gaze darted back to the apartment window.
The car key. In his haste to reclaim his apartment key, Mark had obviously forgotten about his brother's car. Selena had been driving it around LA for the last few weeks after Mark's brother had gone to work in Dubai.
It wasn't anything special. Just a year-old white Toyota with low mileage. Not exactly the most stylish car in LA. But it was still a car.
She dropped to her knees, stuffing as much as she could into the suitcase, and sat on top of it to pull the zipper around.
She grabbed the handle and ran along the path. But instead of gliding smoothly behind her, the suitcase rumbled and jumped along before coming to a dead halt and nearly catapulting her forward on to the grass. She watched as one lone wheel rolled off into the path of the ongoing traffic.
She bent down and picked up the suitcase, running as fast as she could in her stiletto heels to the parking lot behind the apartment building. It was too heavy. Her arms were burning with the strain.
The car automatically clicked open as she approached. Thank goodness for modern technology. She hefted the case onto her hip and popped the trunk, scraping the surrounding paintwork around the trunk as she pushed the luggage inside.
She snuck over and flattened herself against the wall of the apartment building and stuck her head around the corner. The coast was still clear. There was no sign of Mark. He was probably on the phone to his attorney complaining about her.
Any second he'd realize that she had the car. She had to make this fast.
Right now she needed transportation. She could phone him in a day or so and tell him where to pick up the car. He'd be okay with that.
She ran—as best she could—back along the path grabbing one of the garbage bags. It went against all her principles, but she didn't have time to be precious.
She started picking things off the grass. Another red-and-pink Hermès scarf, several pairs of designer shoes, fitted trousers, more underwear, a few dresses. The bag was getting heavy, too heavy in fact. Any minute it might split.
Cars were still hooting on the way past. One slowed down, an arm stuck out of the window holding a smartphone. As if someone picking up their belongings from the grass was amusing. She gritted her teeth, visualizing hits on YouTube of "woman thrown out of her apartment." She scowled at the car driver. "Get lost," she hissed.
The garbage bag was teetering in her arms. She had to get it back to the car.
She froze, as the window of the apartment slid open and Mark's red face appeared again.
"Give me the car key." As soon as he said the words, he disappeared. Her heart pounded. It would only take him a few seconds to get down the stairs.
Would he try and take the key from her? She wasn't going to wait around to find out.
She still had lots of items scattered on the grass, her arms felt as if they could break, and her gaze darted between the two most-precious remaining items.
The Ralph Lauren coat and her fully stocked vanity case.
Her stomach twisted. She could see his shadow at the glass door already. There was no time to think. She moved. The vanity case was nearer. She stretched out her fingers and grabbed it on the way past, running back toward the car.
She stumbled, something had snagged her ankle. Her thighs were burning. Running in stilettos wasn't for amateurs.
Skidding to a halt next to the car she yanked the door open, tossing the bag and vanity case onto the passenger seat and hitting the auto-lock button as she landed inside.
Sweat was running down her back and between her breasts. The blouse was ruined now. There was no hope for it. A tear slid down her cheek. First the Louboutins, now the Yves Saint Laurent silk blouse. Her wardrobe was being ravaged as a result of a few measly over-the-top purchases.
She slid the card into the ignition and the car started automatically. Mark was nowhere in sight. Maybe he wasn't going to pursue her?
Selena had no intention of waiting around to find out. She was running on pure adrenaline.
Hesitation was for fools. She switched gears, pulled her car out the lot into the adjoining street, and floored it.
Her last view in her rearview mirror was of her cream-colored woolen coat, lifting off the ground as she sped past and settling back down in a cloud of dust.
* * *
"Can you get the phone, please?"
The ringing drove Colt insane. He was trying to hold a consultation with a new potential client and the incessant noise ruined his concentration.
The nurse scowled at him as she finished taking the patient's blood pressure. "You get the phone. You fired the receptionist."
He sighed and plastered his trademark smile on his face, going over the last details of the operation with the patient and getting her to sign her consent form.
"I'm sure you'll be very comfortable in our suite downstairs. Our nurse, Linda, will take you down and show you around." He waited until the patient had turned away and then sighed heavily. He watched while she escorted the patient over to the elevators, and then he strode across the reception area to answer the phone.
"Seacliffe Cosmetic Surgery, can I help you?" He cringed as he said the words. Chances were, he probably couldn't help. He didn't even have a clue how the messaging system worked, let alone anything else.
But luck was on his side; it was an easy request. He lifted a pen and scribbled down a name and address of someone asking for a brochure. Simple. Even he could manage that.
Excerpted from Hollywood Temptation by Scarlet Wilson, Libby Murphy. Copyright © 2014 Scarlet Wilson. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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