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By Tori Carrington
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHollywood Confidential - October 13, 2003
A casting call went out for an actress with natural breasts to perform a love scene with heartthrob Ben Damon. Not a single candidate has stepped forward, leaving this reporter to wonder if there's a pair of natural breasts left in all of Tinseltown....
Doctor Layla Hollister closed the latest edition of the gossip rag she'd picked up on her way to the restaurant and glanced at her own modest breasts. They were all but nonexistent beneath her high-necked white blouse. She resisted the urge to wave her hand and say, "Me! My breasts are natural!"
Not that it mattered. Of the nearly two million people in L.A. proper, not to mention the ten million in L.A. County, she was one of the ten percent not interested in an acting career. Not in a bit part in a commercial or music video. Not even in a starring role opposite one of the world's best-looking men. De nada. Add that she was also a third-generation Hollywood native whose family tree didn't include any actors and, well, she was even more of a rarity. She made a face, peeled off the piece of lime stuck to the side of her glass, and sipped on her club soda.
At any rate, the casting agents would get one look at her small bustline and probably laugh her out of the studio. Yes, they may be fishing for natural, but it was a pretty good bet they were looking for Halle Berry breasts and not her own boobs that essentially hadn't grown one iota since she was twelve and had bought her first training bra. Her well-endowed mother, Trudy, had told her she must have inherited them from her father's side of the family. Layla had thought it was God's idea of a cruel joke. At least until she was twenty and so busy with medical school she'd had little time to think about her breasts beyond the time it took to buy a new bra.
The paper rustled as she put it on the empty stool next to her. She glanced around the packed bar, wondering when her table would be ready. The restaurant she'd chosen had recently hit the trendy list, not because it was new, but rather because some star or another had stopped for a meal there and it had instantly become all the rage. She'd chosen it because it was close to home and she liked the food. So did Reilly, Mallory and Jack.
She sighed; just thinking of her three friends made her smile. She hadn't had many friends growing up. Okay, she'd had none - unless you counted Dirtbag Della who'd come to her house a couple of times back in second grade. Della had been the only person willing to hang out with the gangly geek in bottle-bottom glasses, at least until Della's mother had moved into a house where the shower worked and Dirtbag Della had suddenly qualified for Clique Three status. Then when Della had gotten a nose job at age eleven, she'd quickly moved up to Clique One and forgotten Layla existed altogether.
She found herself shrugging her shoulders even now, pretending not to care. And at twenty-seven, she really shouldn't. But she was only human and every now and again memories of her childhood in a town where looks were valued over everything else sometimes got to her.
She nudged her watch around her wrist. Where were Reilly, Mallory and Jack anyway? She was usually the one running late. As if on cue, her cell phone vibrated in the purse in her lap. She extracted the palm-size receiver, then answered when she saw the number was Reilly's.
"Can't make it, Lay. Sorry," her friend said without so much as a hello. "Last-minute order came in for three batches of Big Fat Greek Baklava and, well ... you know."
Layla did know. The only thing worse than being an ugly kid in Hollywood was being a fat kid. And she sometimes thought that Reilly Chudowski - once known as Chubby Chuddy - had had it worse than Layla had. Reilly had long since taken off the weight, but she seemed determined to keep upsetting the status quo by opening a pastry shop called Sugar 'n' Spice smack-dab in the middle of healthy diet country. Surprisingly Reilly had turned a modest profit the first year. Now her goal was to corrupt the whole of L.A. with Sugar 'n' Spice.
"Give Mallory and Jack a kiss for me, will ya?" Reilly requested.
"We still on for next Saturday night?" Layla asked.
"Your place, right? Definitely still on. And I've got something special in mind just for the occasion." Reilly made kissing noises then rang off.
Well, that stank. Next Saturday was a good ten days away and she hadn't seen Reilly for at least as long. She'd hoped her day would improve with dinner. Instead it seemed to be taking an even sharper nosedive.
Layla slid her phone back into her purse, catching an envelope before it could fall to the floor. She flipped it over to read the return address. Her quarterly student loan statement. How long had it been since she'd actually paid any attention to her financial affairs? Her paychecks from both the Center and the clinic were deposited directly into her savings and checking accounts, and her loan payments automatically taken out. She had the same overhead every month - what with rent, utilities and car insurance - so there wasn't really much need to balance her accounts on a monthly basis. The problem was she was pretty sure a year or so had passed since she'd last sat down and gone over everything.
All her bank and loan statements sat on her foyer table unopened. Or she temporarily stuck them into her purse with the intention of opening them - which she never did.
She made a face. Wasn't that how people got into trouble? So she didn't like doing that sort of stuff. Who did, other than a boring accountant?
She slid her short thumbnail into the corner of the envelope and opened the statement. A quick glance told her that everything was going like a well-oiled machine. No flags to say that she'd missed a payment or that she was being penalized for anything. She stuffed the envelope back into her purse, figuring that's all she really needed to know.
"This seat taken?"
Excerpted from Night Fever by Tori Carrington Copyright ©2003 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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