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Nothing But The Best
By Kristin Hardy
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLos Angeles, 1996
"OKAY, EVERYONE, you can stop unpacking, dinner's here."
Cilla Danforth shut the front door with her elbow, balancing the stack of pizzas as she stared at the disordered living room of her new house. Despite the confusion that dotted the room, Cilla could still feel the warmth of her late grandmother's presence. No reading of the will changed that. But Gran had wanted her to have a home of her own. Cilla figured that she'd have understood that at twenty, Cilla wasn't ready to live alone yet. She wanted friends around her, roommates to share her days in the rambling Depression Modern home in the affluent neighborhood of Brentwood.
Cilla shook her head briskly and carried the stack of pizza boxes into the kitchen. Like magic, the scent drew the rest of her new roommates, the same way it did when they got it delivered to the university drama department when they were all working on a production.
"Trish, where's all the kitchen stuff you got at the store?" Kelly Vandervere yelled.
Trish ran down the stairs, her long red hair clubbed back in a braid. "Look on the counter behind you. I grabbed paper plates and napkins. I thought we could figure out what to do about real plates once we got settled. I don't think Cilla shouldhave to buy everything. We're living here, too."
"Well, these will do for the time being," said Delaney, a gleam in her eye as she opened the box holding the pepperoni pizza.
They settled in the living room, sitting on the sofa or against the wall.
"One of the things we're going to have to get is enough places for all of us to sit," Cilla observed.
"I got a couple of upholstered chairs when they sold off the props from my dad's last movie," Sabrina Pantolini told them.
"That'll help," Cilla said. "Paige, you want to go to Danforth Home with me this week and help me pick out a couple of sofas?"
Paige's eyes lit up at the idea of a shopping spree at Danforth, Cilla's family's business and the most luxurious department store on Rodeo Drive. "Any time."
"Nothing too gorgeous, Paige," Thea begged. "I don't want nightmares from spilling wine when I'm making out with Rob Frieden, or something. Not that I'm planning to," she added hastily.
Sabrina winked. "Not planning to do what, spill wine or make out with him?"
"Spill wine, of course. As to Rob ..." She gave a saucy look and took a bite of pizza.
Delaney raised her Coke. "Here's to escaping the dorms."
Trish shook her head. "Here's to Cilla, for inviting us to live in her new house."
"Thanks to you guys for being my roomies," Cilla countered. "We'll fix it all up, get it in great shape."
"Using lots of sexy contractors, I hope," Kelly added.
"My dad made sure it stayed fine structurally, but you'll see it needs paint and repairs. Toward the end, Gran just wasn't comfortable with anything changing, so some of the walls are pretty bad."
"I'll paint my room," Paige, always the designer, volunteered immediately. Even though she'd been hauling boxes all day with them, she looked as coolly blond and tidy as always.
"Our room," Thea reminded her.
"Trust me, darling, you'll love it," Paige assured her.
"So let's see," Delaney said thoughtfully. "We've got four bedrooms. Sabrina and Kelly, you're rooming together, and Trish and I, which leaves Cilla with the only private room."
"As appropriate," Trish pointed out. "She owns the place."
"So what if one of us has a boyfriend and wants to have some privacy?" Delaney asked.
"You mean when," Kelly said, rubbing her hands.
"It's a good thing you and Delaney didn't wind up in the same room. I don't know who would be fighting more, you or your hormones," Paige observed.
"Well, unless we figure something out, it's looking like Cilla's going to be the only one getting any action, here," Delaney replied.
"If you're good, I'll fill you all in on it," Cilla said with a smile. "Trust me."
THE HIGHWAY WAS open, the wind was in her hair, and for the first time in nearly two months, Cilla Danforth felt free. Around her, the California desert stretched out in all directions, flat and open and fringed with mountains. She turned up the stereo. Friday night and nowhere to be for two whole days.
It was almost better than sex.
Not that she had recent memory of that, of course. Running around to the spring collections in Paris, Milan and New York made it a little hard to have a social life. She was back in her own time zone now, though, at least for a few weeks. Yes, being couture buyer for Danforth's was exciting. And being the bridge-line buyer for the coast-to-coast Forth's chain was a challenge. Sometimes, though, she wanted to stop being Cilla Danforth, fashion guru and department store heiress, and just ... be.
Cilla would cheerfully have kissed the administrative assistant who'd chosen the Carrington Palms Hot Springs Resort as the location for the Danforth Corporation strategic-planning meeting. The rest of the board and management was showing up Sunday night, or even Monday morning. That was practically an eternity away and she had every intention of spending that eternity by the pool.
And leaving Cilla Danforth behind for a couple of days.
The setting sun sent long fingers of shadow stretching out ahead of her as she headed east. The cars coming toward her - such as they were on this stretch of highway - had begun switching on their lights. Still, she was making good time, and barring unforeseen incidents, she'd make the resort before it got dark.
A sudden explosion made her jump. Instantly, the car began to slew on the highway. Fueled by a spurt of adrenaline, Cilla fought to brake and keep her little Porsche roadster heading straight. Finally, what seemed like eons later, she brought the car to a stop on the shoulder.
Then she dropped her head onto the steering wheel and waited for the shakes to go away.
Okay, triage. It had to have been a blowout. She just needed to confirm it, call AAA to send someone to change the flat, and she'd be on her way. It wasn't a disaster, just an inconvenient delay. She refused to let it interfere with her bliss.
Cilla slipped on her shoes, wishing she'd remembered to toss her driving moccasins back in the car after she'd worn them last. Stilettos and a miniskirt weren't exactly approved tire-changing attire, but then who planned for that sort of thing anyway?
Excerpted from Nothing But The Best by Kristin Hardy Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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