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"Have the Frat Boys arrived yet?" she asked of the man sitting behind the desk, who himself looked like an overgrown frat boy, with his goofy baseball cap and even goofier lopsided grin. Daniel Esterman was the late-night host of a popular talk show and a show-business icon in his own irreverent way. So intent was Cassie on Daniel's response that she missed the quiet movements coming from the far side of the room.
"They're here and already at rehearsal with Paul," Daniel said. Cassie barely had time to breathe a sigh of relief that at least one part of her day was going as planned, as she gracefully spun on her heel, having finally registered the soft-soled movements behind her. That brought her face-to-face with Jonny Duponi. At the present time, there was almost no bigger movie star than Jonny; his award-winning performances coupled with his cool insouciance made him a potent potion for every female with a heartbeat.
"Hello," Cassie said coolly, with just a tinge of her trademark warmth. She didn't miss the assessing look in his eye as he made his way toward her. She turned back and fixed Daniel with a withering look. Cassie was nothing if not a well-bred young woman and was not going to converse any further without a proper introduction-even if he was the premier movie star of the decade ... especially since he was the premier movie star of the decade.
Daniel shot to his feet to correct the social oversight. "Cass, this is Jonny Duponi. Jonny, this is Cassandra Owens."
She really just wanted to get down to rehearsal but tamped down her impatience. Her mother would have been horrified if she hadn't properly greeted a friend of Daniel. She always enjoyed his sparkling conversation at the many parties she hosted throughout the year, and Cassie was smart enough to never cross her mother.
"Are you doing the show?" Cassie asked politely.
"Are you in town for a movie?" she tried.
"I've actually just recently moved to the East Coast."
"You must have grown up here."
"I did, but what makes you say that?" Jonny wanted to know.
"Well, no die-hard West Coaster would move out here at the beginning of winter. You must have had some pretty solid reasons for making the move at this point in the year."
She kept eye contact, but was decidedly unflirtatious and seemingly unfazed by his celebrity. He wondered about her calm, unruffled manner. "It was time for a change, so when I came to spend Thanksgiving with my family, I stayed."
"You wanted to change, or you wanted your surroundings to change?" she asked. Her question was asked in a nonconfrontational manner, yet he felt oddly unnerved. She had hit very close to the heart of his restlessness.
"I felt like I needed to make some changes in my life," he replied in a soft undertone, almost more to himself than to her.
She looked at him for a long moment as if to measure his sincerity. Not finding it lacking, she gave a small, tight nod. "Well, good luck then, and welcome to New York. It's been a pleasure meeting you."
There, her mother would be proud. Cassie was a dutiful daughter and a good girl, through and through, even if it killed her. Her mother was a pedigreed member of New York society, and Cassie's grandmother, Adeline Whitney, was the grande dame. Cassie had adored her grandmother. She had always told Cassie that class is how you treat someone else. On their many Sunday brunch outings during Cassie's high school years, her grand-mère would be quick to point out if a fellow society patron was being rude to the waitstaff. "Look at her," she'd sniff. "She's not better. She was just born lucky. Cassandra, sweetheart, always appreciate that you were born lucky."
Cassie had a sudden urge to flee the room and walked toward the door. "Daniel, I'm going down to rehearsal to check on the Frat Boys and then I'll be in the green room for the show."
After she left, Jonny turned to Daniel, a gleam in his eyes.
"Oh, no, no, no. Don't even think about it," Daniel said with a soft chuckle.
"Too late, I'm already thinking about it. The sexy hair, the sky-high legs-the whole damn package is finger-lickin' good."
"She is completely off-limits. There are seven million women in New York. Every one of them would be happy with your attention, just not her," Daniel replied firmly.
"Is she married?"
"Very amusing, it's just no. That's it, just no," Daniel repeated
"You seem a little nervous. Don't tell me you have a thing for her. She's a little young for you."
"First of all, every guy has a thing for her. Second of all, she's like a baby sister to me. I was friends with Cal, her oldest brother, all through school. She's got three older brothers and they'd come after you with a tire iron. They've had practice."
"I'm not a bad guy," replied Jonny, not taking the warning at all seriously.
"You're not, but your reputation precedes you."
"Don't believe everything you read in the tabloids," Jonny said, taking on a mock-hurt tone.
"I don't. It's just that I've been with you on more than one occasion, and a girl like this is out of your league."
Jonny gave a short bark of laughter. "She's out of my league? It's been many years since anyone made such a bold prediction. Actually, I think I might have been twelve at the time. Didn't she just mention something about rehearsal?"
Daniel responded by rolling his eyes. "I think I've developed a sudden yen for hearing the Frat Boys in person. I've never met Rick Swagger. I hear he's a legend with the ladies. Maybe he can give me some tips. Sounds like I can use all the help I can get. Later, bro."
Daniel looked toward the heavens and back at Jonny. "Just a warning, if you get on her bad side-and trust me, that is pretty hard to do, though you seem hell-bent on trying-you might as well pack your bags up and leave town."
"She looks a little young to be a mafioso."
"She might as well be. She has deep roots in this community. If she gives someone her seal of approval, they have an easier time making their way around New York society and vice versa."
"I wasn't really planning on sipping afternoon tea with the ladies." Jonny chuckled.
"Well, she's got the club scene all sewn up as well, seeing as she scouts talent for Avatar Records. Just trust me on this one," Daniel said.
"She sounds quite versatile; I like that in a woman. You never know what position you'll find yourself in," Jonny responded, looking quite innocent as he headed out. "You can trust me, I'll be careful." Jonny put his hand over his heart. "I swear."
"Just because you haven't gotten anyone pregnant yet doesn't mean you're careful, but I'm not foolish enough to trust you." Jonny heard these parting words behind him as he made his way toward the elevator. Daniel was beginning to sound suspiciously like his mother.
Jonny's intrigue was heightened by the seemingly elusive and very prim Miss Owens. It had been many years since he had to flex any muscles when trying to get a woman. Basically, his skills had been watered down to a wink and a head tilt across the room at some party and the willing female was in his bed in no time at all. Maybe this was the kind of change he was looking for. He felt better already.
* * *
The Frat Boys sounded great, he observed from the sidelines. Although his gaze was firmly set on Cassie, he had to admire that the multiple-platinum group was still going strong after thirty years in the business. It took more than talent to survive in the entertainment industry. Sometimes he thought talent took a backseat to the mechanics of the biz. He was exhausted from it all.
"Hey, you, I didn't know you were a fan, man," Rick Swagger called from the stage to Jonny. "But it seemed you weren't really focusing on me, eh?" he taunted. "I loved your last flick. I'm a huge fan."
Cassie watched the exchange, not quite sure what to make of Jonny's unwelcome appearance and too busy to give it much thought either. She made her way up to give Rick and the other band members a big hug, and with a nod to Paul, the show's nightly band leader, she headed upstairs to the green room. She barely glanced at Jonny.
"Whoa, not doing too well with the ladies, huh?" Rick teased Jonny.
"I do all right." Jonny laughed, unperturbed.
"Well, look somewhere else, just not her, okay?"
"What's the deal with all the overprotectiveness here? She looks to me like she can handle herself just fine," Jonny responded.
"Let me tell you how the world works, being as I'm a little older than you," Rick said. "You and I, we're the bad boys, and a woman like that, she's the angel. You're not going to get far in life tainting an angel, so cut a wide path."
"Thanks, man, I'll think on it. Good luck with the show. Meanwhile, I think I'll be heading up to the green room," Jonny said.
Rick turned to his lead guitarist. "That boy is going down the wrong path." He laughed. "Been there, done that. The universe doesn't like it when you mess with the angels. This is going to be fun."
Rick was an ardent admirer of Cassie, as were most of the talent she worked with. Avatar Records was one of the many diverse companies her grandfather, Blake Whitney, owned. Her Uncle Nick had run Avatar successfully for many years. Cassie used to love to visit the studio and grew up being bounced on the knees of Elton John and Billy Joel. When Uncle Nick suffered a heart attack a few years back, his doctors warned him that the stress of work was too much. He had to cut back drastically. Her grandfather had given her Avatar Records for her twenty-first birthday, and she had worked side by side with her uncle to allow for a smooth transition. She worked much harder than she really had to in order to prove herself within the industry. Yes, she believed family connections did come in handy, but they only got you so far. She had a keen eye for noticing new talent, and her genuine warmth and natural grace were a panacea for some of the veteran talent who needed an eye kept on them as well.
"You did not just say charm-o-meter." Daniel groaned.
"I don't get it," Jonny continued, "I'm usually a babe magnet. Am I losing my cool?" He stepped over to the mirror.
"Ah, yeah you are if you keep talking like a character out of a seventies sitcom."
"Oh, sorry, man, I'm in the middle of a script ..." Jonny was distracted. He was carefully looking at himself in the mirror. The interesting thing about his status as a leading man was his lack of vanity. He always played someone in costume or heavy stage makeup. He never wanted to trade on his good looks for a role. That would be too easy. He liked to be challenged. But did he only have a couple of good years left to his looks? Maybe he should start rethinking things.
"Well, that's the problem right there-she's not a babe."
That got Jonny's attention. "Okay, I totally disagree with that. In fact, she is babelicious."
"You attract beautiful, usually shallow women looking to jump in the sack with Jonny Duponi. A classy woman like Cassie is like a fine wine. She needs to be appreciated and savored."
"I can savor." Jonny looked a little put out.
"No, you can't. A shaggy-haired, leather-wearing, commitment phobe is not her type." Daniel reached for his jacket.
"Sounds deadly dull. Where are you off to?"
"The show's holiday party is tonight. Why don't you join me? Lots of different people stop by, so maybe you'll meet someone and get your mind off your faulty charm-o-meter. Besides, you need to do something other than sit on my sofa."
"I had a life in L.A."
"I'll introduce you around. Actually, maybe we should leave that job up to Cass," he teased. "She knows everyone."
* * *
The party was in full swing by the time they arrived. The food was delicious, the women were stunning, and the music was pleasingly loud. Daniel was just introducing Jonny to some uptight-looking woman.
"Jonny, did you know that Missy Cartwright is the chairperson for this year's Black and White ball on New Years Eve? It's the can't-miss event of the holiday season. Missy, any chance you can squeeze a spot for Jonny at one of the tables?" Jonny looked distinctly uninterested, which was just as well because Missy was looking at Jonny like he was something she had just scraped off her shoe. "I'm terribly sorry," she said, not looking terribly sorry. "Daniel, the tickets for the ball sold out months ago. It is the charity event of the season."
"Of course." Turning to Jonny he said, "Too bad, you'll be missing a grand time."
"I'll bet," he mumbled. Daniel waved Cassie over as he spotted her across the room. She was talking to Paul and gesturing animatedly. Her warm brown waves bounced fetchingly as they glowed in the room's soft lighting.
"What's too bad?" Cassie wanted to know, looking sympathetic as she joined the conversation.
"Missy was just saying that there were no more seats left for Jonny at the New Year's Eve Black and White ball. It just seemed like a good opportunity for him to meet people. He's feeling a little out of sorts ever since he's gotten here," Daniel explained. Jonny did not appreciate being spoken about in the third person.
"Really, I wouldn't think a formal evening to be your cup of tea. Jonny, do you really want to go?"
Suddenly, he was dying to go. He could do classy; after all, he was an actor. "Yes, I would like that very much."
"It'll cost you."
"No problem, I like to contribute." She looked at him intently. He seemed sincere.
"Missy." Cassie touched the woman's sleeve. She immediately turned around looking peeved. The moment she saw Cassie, her expression smoothed and a dazzling smile appeared out of nowhere.
"Why, Cassandra, sweetheart! How fabulous you look!"
"Jeez," Jonny muttered under his breath.
Cassie fixed him with a glare. "Work with me here."
Jonny flashed a mischievous smile. "Ms. Cartwright, you are looking quite lovely as well. May I freshen your drink?"
"Daniel was just mentioning that you've managed to sell every ticket to the ball. That is quite impressive," Cassie praised.
Missy preened. Then Cassie continued. "I really feel that Jonny would get so much out of attending. He can have my spot."
Missy froze. "No, that's just not possible." Her social standing would plummet to an embarrassing low if the granddaughter of the founding member of the ball was a no-show. "You must come." Her voice was sounding borderline hysterical.
"Oh, I assure you, it's just fine." Cassie went in for the kill. "I've been attending these things for years. It's time to step aside, you know, new blood and all."
Missy gritted her teeth. "Mr. Duponi, you may attend, although I have no idea where I could possibly seat you."
"You'll put him at my table," Cassie offered.
Missy looked aghast. She turned to Jonny. "Have your people call the charity office and they'll forward the invite." She turned tail and left.
Daniel was beside himself. "Cassie, you were brilliant."
"I must admit, I enjoyed that a little too much," she responded.
Jonny looked stumped, the nuances of the exchange going over his head. Daniel figured at some point he would find out Cassie's full name was Cassandra Owens-Whitney-as soon as he discovered "Page Six," most likely.
"Well, I'm heading out. Good night," Cassie said. She stopped off at the ladies' room. She was on her way to a club and some minor fashion tweaking was in order. She piled her long, chestnut waves casually atop her head. She applied some dark eye shadow, a few bangles and hoop earrings, a pair of high-heeled boots she had stowed in the bathroom earlier, and she was good to go. She texted Reginald to bring the car around, and she stepped out into the night.
Excerpted from Love Doesn't Play by the Rules by Sandi Perry Copyright © 2009 by Sandi Perry. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted February 1, 2010
What a blast! This book was fun, the characters interesting, and the style a breeze to read through. I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a good chick-lit book. I can't wait to find my Jonny Duponi!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.