Rich Againby Anna Maxted
Walk-in closet full of designer everything? Check. Private Caribbean island? Check. Connection to the aristocracy? Working on it. Cunning, malicious stalker? Double check.
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Welcome to the world of the Kents, a charismatic, ambitious, and fabulously wealthy English family with two sisters - one as strong and sparkling as the other is delicate and
Walk-in closet full of designer everything? Check. Private Caribbean island? Check. Connection to the aristocracy? Working on it. Cunning, malicious stalker? Double check.
Welcome to the world of the Kents, a charismatic, ambitious, and fabulously wealthy English family with two sisters - one as strong and sparkling as the other is delicate and wounded - who must somehow put their differences aside to keep an unknown enemy from bringing them down. Wild and beautiful Emily Kent has had the world laid at her feet by her ruthless mother and billionaire father - but it's not enough. Gifted with her mother's to-die-for looks, her father's hard-scrabble business sense, and both of her parents' lust for control, Emily is determined to make her own luck by seducing the only man she's ever wanted, a man who can make her dreams of attaining the heights of old-money English society come true. By contrast, Emily's step-sister, Claudia, is a fragile soul--her mother died when she was five, leaving her to the unkind reign of step-mother Innocence. In an uncharacteristic burst of rebellion, Claudia trades her gilded lifestyle for an ordinary flat and daytime job where she meets the man of her dreams… or so she imagines.
But, Emily and Claudia are caught up in a desperate situation that may be beyond their control. As for their father, disgraced tycoon Jack Kent, and his wife Innocence, they are too obsessed with the fight for supremacy over their vast empire to see that a mighty and sinister opponent is plotting to ruin them all.
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LOS ANGELES, 1996
It was 10.30 a.m. and Emily lay naked on the lilo, using her mother’s favourite suede coat as a towel, and let the gentle breeze waft her around the infinity pool. In one hand she held a pint glass of chilled Baileys. Her first to-do on arrival at the mansion had been to order Quintin to freeze three icecube trays of her favourite drink, because there was nothing worse than a warm Baileys or a dilute Baileys. She drew on her fifth Silk Cut Light of the day, and gazed at the foreverblue sky of LA.
She liked the world upside down, especially when it was so prettily fringed by those pink and red flowers that smothered any suggestion of ugliness – wall, pole, fence and, possibly, person – in the Hollywood Hills. She liked that there were invisible teams slaving night and day to keep all she saw gorgeous. She liked the quiet. The only noise was the buzz of helicopters, either the paparazzi harassing stars or privately owned by the stars themselves. She liked that it was summer and that Mummy had complied with the annual lie that Emily ‘work’ as an intern at the Beverly Grand.
It was lucky that Mummy adored Emily more in theory than in person, and seized on any chance to put oceans between them. Mummy wasn’t interested in people under eighteen. By the time Emily was old enough to come to her attention, it would be too late.
To Mummy, this was just another one of Emily’s LA jaunts, where she could drink and smoke and do coke and trash the 26,000-square-foot mansion off Mulholland, while pretending to work at her father’s hotel. As long as Mummy didn’t witness a felony and wasn’t forced to make a show of responsible parenting, as long as someone was paid to delete all evidence of wrongdoing, Mummy was just grateful to have a fourteen-year-old with the wit to entertain herself.
It was annoying to be underestimated, but she wouldn’t be for much longer. Meantime, her parents’ lack of interest was useful. The pinnacle of her life plan – to seduce her best friend, Timmy – would be accomplished that day without interference.
Timothy Rupert Peregrine Giles, heir to the Fifteenth Earl of Fortelyne, was seventeen and Gordonstoun was shaping him up nicely for a lifelong stay in the warm embrace of the Establishment. He was charming, witty, able to acquit himself admirably in any social situation; he was a good rower, a fine rugby player, and – having been removed from his mother at seven and only briefly reunited with her after puberty – he knew nothing about women.
Tim had no idea that if a girl recommended Lanikai Beach in Hawaii for the best surfing – several times, over several months, in passing, until he became convinced that the idea was his – that she might have an ulterior motive. He was one of those nice but frustrating guys, blind to who was a saint and who was a bitch, because he imagined that wicked must show on a girl’s face.
However, his naivety and good nature were great assets to Emily. She’d waited until he booked Hawaii, and then she’d said, ‘I’ll be in LA around then. Come for the weekend. I’ll send the jet.’
She knew that while a seventeen-year-old boy could (bizarrely) resist her, he couldn’t resist ‘the jet’.
Tim’s family had pots of money but, to Emily’s disdain, they had no idea how to spend it. That crappy old Land-Rover they bumped about in! Those hideous saggy green cords his mother Pat – a countess! – was always tramping around in! If they flew, they flew commercial! All that dreary centuries-old furniture! And their parties! Never happy unless a great big draughty marquee was involved; only satisfied if their guests were squelching up to their waists in mud; curiously cavalier about the quality and quantity of the food.
So, the private jet was winging its way to Hawaii and the Maserati would collect him at the airstrip. As far as he knew, he was staying for the ‘weekend’, a concept familiar to him, as most posh people she knew spent every weekend filling their castles with braying guests, who were expected to kill birds and bunnies, take endless walks, play charades and take part in any number of life-sapping activities from dawn to dusk. God forbid they had a quiet couple of days lolling around to music and watching the box.
This weekend – her LA house party weekend – would be different. LA was made for parties, unlike England. In England, throwing a party was an imposition: against you stood the weather, the traffic and your guests’ prior commitment to staying home and sniping about next door.
Emily smiled to herself. She’d found her own event planners, people who were clued in to now. They’d sorted the valet parking and the street-use permit. They’d notified the neighbours, with enormous bouquets – she didn’t want the LAPD wading in. They’d organized the bartenders, security guards, caterers, decorators, insurance, bonded storage for the art and antiques – like she cared, but they did – and they’d even offered to supply a couple of dozen fashion models paid to chuck themselves naked into the pool at midnight.
Like, talk about your worst nightmare! But the limo service into the Hills was a good idea, as most of her guests couldn’t drive. The party would set Mummy back nine hundred thousand pounds, plus another ton when Emily flew out all her mates from London. She was embarrassed at having them slum it in Virgin Upper Class (she hated to appear budget) but there was no way that they’d all fit in the family jet. Anyway, it was reserved for Timmy and, short of appropriating Air Force One, there was no alternative.
She’d chosen the guest list with care. Her own crowd was pretty cool, and Leonardo was invited, and Johnny – she prayed he wouldn’t drag along his girlfriend. It was a great bore that the bar had to be officially virgin, but she didn’t want Quintin busted for serving liquor to minors. Anyway, there was a secret alcohol den for the chosen few and, in hommage to Johnny, she’d ordered the Jacuzzi to be filled with vintage champagne. She had to invite some A-list females, so she’d chosen Alicia and the Ricci girl – no one too distracting.
The DJs, Sasha and John Digweed – oh my God, their gigs were so cool! She loved how trance let you be, and it made her so horny. They were going to blow everyone away. And she was going to blow Timmy away.
‘It’s eleven, Emily, a selection of drop-dead outfits await your inspection.’
She’d picked them out a week ago, leafing quickly through Vogue: ‘Get me that, and that, and that.’
She loved Quintin. She wondered if his mother had just known he was gay, setting eyes on him. It was quite cool to have gay friends. Well, to be acquainted with an actual gay person. Officially, it was ‘his’ party, and he’d done everything in his power to ensure its success. He knew the best beauticians; her eyebrows and bikini line were immaculate, and the hot-stone massage – ‘You’ll feel like you’ve just had sex, darling,’ he’d said, then clapped a hand over his mouth. She’d smiled; she loved that he thought of her as an adult.
She’d been body-brushed and seaweed-wrapped and Pilates-stretched to within an inch of her life. She disliked the underground gym – she felt it gave the house a whiff of the Hyatt – but she’d done ten miles on the running machine. Her teeth were virgin white, and her tan was café crème (poor Mummy thought that ‘sexy’ was to fry yourself the colour of a hot dog). She’d gone for an early hike up Runyon every morning, and she could now swim the entire length of the pool underwater.
Emily was ready to bet that no one in the history of the world had prepared quite so thoroughly for a blow job.
She drained the last of the Baileys, swam to the side and jogged up the steps. The Mexican gardener fought against nature to look the other way. ‘Feast your eyes,’ she cried as she skipped past.
Quintin had laid out the clothes on her bed. Amid the tiny gorgeous scraps of material passing for dresses was a black mini kimono from Galliano. Perhaps she could wear it with the Wonderbra, black fishnet stockings, suspenders and red and black lace knickers from Topshop? And you couldn’t beat black patent Prada heels. To hell with heroin chic – she preferred prostitute chic. Seventeen-year-old boys weren’t complex, so why confuse them?
Here was the plan. She’d have the driver take the Merc and grab her a Fatburger with chilli cheese fries. She’d eat, doze and watch MTV while they tarted up the house. Quintin could deal with questions and Timmy wasn’t due till eight. Bang on four, she’d shower, do her hair and make-up. The air con would have to be polar – happily, Mummy wasn’t here to scream, ‘Shut the fucking doors!’ Mummy loved a professional make-up artist, although they invariably made her look like a drag artist. No way was one of those clowns going near Emily’s face!
She ate, slept, woke, looked in the mirror; FUCK, her eyelids were PUFFY. Puffy as HELL.
‘Quintin! Quintin, Oh my God, come now, help!’
To his great credit, Quintin staggered into her bedroom wielding a seventeenth-century stone Buddha.
An emergency application of ice cubes and cucumber limited the damage, ‘and it’s imperative that you remain vertical from this moment on, and whatever you do, don’t cry.’ By six o clock she felt sufficiently calm to dress to The Immaculate Collection. She flossed, brushed, blinked through the sting of the mint mouthwash. Then she had a fag. Sod it, that was what gum was for.
‘Very Pretty Woman,’ murmured Quintin when she did a twirl.
Stupidly, she felt nervous. Tim hadn’t called – did he have the house number? He had her mobile, but reception was shit in the Hills. Oh, these boys, they never called – they just arrived. She scurried back to her bedroom, quick snort; now she felt good. She poured herself another Baileys, then wandered to the upper deck, threw herself on a sun lounger and gazed through Chanel shades at the amazing sprawl of the San Fernando Valley and the San Gabriel Mountains, almost purple on the dimming horizon. The ocean was a thin serene line. It was hard to stay still, so she jumped up, lit a fag, went to say hi to Sasha and John.
‘I enjoy your work,’ she said coolly, tossing her hair.
John winked at her and said, ‘Thanks, little girl.’
He was cute in a rough sort of way, like a builder. She couldn’t decide whether to be offended or flattered, so she purred, ‘See you later,’ and sashayed off.
The house looked wild. They’d set up tacky-but-cool fluorescent palm-tree lights at the front gates, and the word Believe in huge curly white script was projected to the bottom of the pool. Later, the pool would become a monster bubble bath (the bubbles, colour of your choice, were guaranteed to vanish, leaving no trace, by dawn). They’d managed – how, in the dusk, she had no idea – to refract light into its composite colours; as a result, the entire house was a mass of rainbows. The pagoda had been cleared of furniture and was now an open-air dance floor. The lemon, fig, peach and grapefruit trees were hung with crystals, all sparkling, amid the fruit. And there were white flowers everywhere.
Oh, and they’d turned the tennis court into an ice rink.
She peered into the open-air Jacuzzi, then knelt, like a cat before a saucer of cream, and lapped at it. Fucking A, man! If you hadn’t drunk Krug from a Jacuzzi, you hadn’t lived. Emily sat up, tilted her head and laughed aloud. Although …
‘Please bring ten bottles of crème de cassis.’
She emptied them into the Jacuzzi, giggling, and watched as it turned a hot pink. This was the spot, oh my God! And don’t think she wouldn’t turf out Johnny to get close and personal with Tim. Although, it was kind of gross. She didn’t mind immersing herself in Depp’s bodily fluids, but the girlfriend’s ? No way.
The Jacuzzi needed to be roped off with some of that yellow police-crime-scene-do-not-cross tape. She asked Quintin to organize it, and went to check out the bar. Virgin everything. Americans were so bloody terrified of booze that it was illegal to drink until you were twenty-one, but if you wanted a gun licence: you’re so welcome! Her guests would get high on drugs instead.
The food was lush: sushi from Katsu-ya – their tempura prawns were to die for; fish and chips from Ford’s – love that Oo-ee Sauce, but, sigh, no garlic tonight; chocolate fountains; candy-floss stalls; milkshakes from Fosselman’s – unbeatable, especially the cookies and cream; and, of course, cupcakes from Dainties. She’d have to resist, she had more important business and – oh my God, the limos were arriving. She screamed with joy to see her girls, who screamed back. Her parties always merited a good scream. The British guys walked around, hands in pockets, trying not to look impressed. The American guys were all, like, ‘Man, this is awesome!’ There was lots of air kissing, and the music was at full blast. It was going to be a bad night.
But where was Tim?
Leonardo showed, with an entourage of fifteen. He was cute, not as squat as on-screen, but spent a tedious amount of time huddled in a remote scrum, or fiddling with his mobile. She’d shrugged prettily and said, ‘Guess you should find a party downtown.’
Tram lines improved her mood, and she had to test a glass of Jacuzzi booze to make sure it was drinkable, and those tempura prawns, what an addiction! Hey, and there was her favourite boy, Barney: middle posh, cheerfully sleazy, loyal as a red setter, always randy (he’d tried it on with her mother and she really, really didn’t want to know how far he’d got). Barney insisted she try the chocolate fountain. Instead of dipping in a pink marshmallow, he dipped in his cock.
She shrieked with laughter. ‘Fuck off, Barney, I don’t know where it’s been – or rather I do!’
But, suddenly, more than anything, she wanted to suck him off. Girls like her didn’t send jets for just anyone. How dare Tim reject her. She’d spent months of preparation, not to mention nine hundred thousand quid on his blow job!
Fine. Well. She’d give it to someone else, someone who deserved it. She turned to Barney with her best pout, and—
‘Hi there, Em. Cool party.’
She swung around, eyes glittering, and Barney faded tactfully into the shadows.
‘Tim.’ She had to laugh. ‘Tim, you must be boiling!’ He was wearing black faded jeans, cowboy boots, a pink shirt under a white wool tank top, and a great red pashmina with gold thread wrapped around his neck. ‘This is LA, Tim, not Edinburgh.’ She grinned and walked around him, unravelling the pashmina. ‘You need to show me some skin.’
‘I don’t know,’ he said. ‘There appears to be a skating rink.’
‘Well, it is Hollywood. Someone’s got to break a leg.’ Shit. She must be nervous. That joke sucked.
She waved over Quintin, who was booze marshal, and pressed an illicit Jack ‘n’ Coke into Tim’s hand. ‘By the way,’ he said. ‘Thanks awfully for the ride. It rocked.’
‘Do you mean there was turbulence?’ she teased. ‘Because I simply don’t allow it.’
He blushed, letting his hair fall over his eyes. ‘Only in my heart.’
She felt her heart crinkle like a tissue. Poor baby, he was so inept. ‘Oh, Tim,’ she said, and stroked his hair. ‘You are just … beautiful.’ She took his hand. ‘Come with me. I have something to show you.’
They crept down to the lower deck, where the Jacuzzi was cordoned off. The whole of downtown LA spread below them like a magic carpet.
‘Nice view,’ she said.
‘I prefer this one,’ he replied, gazing into her eyes. Oh Jesus. On no account must she laugh.
Somehow, Quintin had found a sign that read ‘DANGER OF DEATH’ above an illustration of a prone stick figure, a lightning bolt pointing at his neck. Em booted it to one side. Then, slinkily, she sat on the ground, and said, ‘I don’t want to get my shoes wet.’
Slowly, Tim knelt, like a knight before his queen, and slipped off her shoes. It was OK – she’d deodorized her feet to hell. He was breathing hard. She necked her Kir Royale; she tipped her head back too fast and her vision swam. She felt odd, wired, but not in a good way. Fried prawns and white powder didn’t go – remember that for next time. She was about to take off Tim’s shoes, when she saw that he’d whipped off all his clothes, except for his boxer shorts.
He grinned. ‘Let’s Jacuzzi.’
She stood up and, silently, he pulled at her obi-style sash. The black mini kimono fell open, and she shrugged it off. Tim’s mouth actually fell open at the sight of her in her tiny knickers, stockings and Wonderbra. He pulled her on to his lap, and their lips met in a hard clash. To her surprise he took the lead.
‘You kiss good,’ she gasped, and he replied, ‘I fuck better.’
His dick pressed hard into her stomach, and she felt a lurch of desire. ‘Oh, baby,’ she sighed, wrapping her legs around him. ‘I’m just a girl.’
She should really go down on him now … now would be a good time, but she had to let her stomach settle. She leant back as he leant forward, chasing the kiss, and, screaming, they toppled into the Jacuzzi.
‘My hair,’ she shrieked, and got a mouthful of Kir Royale.
‘Far out!’ gargled Tim, surfacing, and then he pulled her under. But she couldn’t kiss for laughing, and then got Krug up her nose. She surfaced, spluttering, and so did he. Her eyes stung, but she was so wasted she couldn’t stop laughing, and nor could he.
‘Stop laughing,’ she gasped as he grazed his lips to her nipples. Zing! Every sensation was magnified and it wasn’t entirely pleasant. ‘I’m going to …’ It was quite hard to focus. She wasn’t sure she could hold her breath that long – she tried a sexy smoulder. ‘I’m going to give you the chew of your life.’
He shouted with laughter. ‘Emily, Emily,’ he muttered, as his mouth found hers. ‘You dirty girl.’
He stood up and she pulled off his boxers. Oh my. Basically, in the cold light of day, these things weren’t the prettiest. In fact, a penis was, like, gross. But right now, she was so in the mood, and to her, it looked good enough to eat. She licked and sucked, and he shuddered and groaned and thrust. It was fine, except when he thrust. When it hit the back of her throat it made her stomach heave. But she writhed, and sighed, and gave him the coy looks for about a thousand years, and he rolled his eyes, half comatose with bliss, but showed no sign of approaching the finish line. Bloody hell, hurry up, she wasn’t exactly having fun here. She should really do the deep throat thing now, the grand finale, and he would never look at another girl. He would dream of marriage – he was an old-fashioned boy, he’d be digging through his mother’s jewellery box, ferreting out the great-grandmother’s engagement ring in no time. The thought spurred her on and she could feel – thank God, her lips were totally numb – it was near the end. ‘Yes, I’m going to come.’ She squeezed her eyes shut tight as he jerked violently. Come on, Em, keep going, think of castles. God, she felt rough. Her head ached, as if it was being crushed, and he was pushing her hard, down and – ‘OH YES!’ Oh no – rearing back in horror, she puked a great stinking fountain of pink champagne and half-digested fried prawns all over him.
RICH AGAIN. Copyright © 2009 by The Parallax Corporation. All rights reserved. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
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