Read an Excerpt
When Avenues Collide
The Ambassadors for the Arts Luncheon, held annually in the legendary Conrad Suite of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, had officially begun.
Madison Hamilton rose from her place at the exclusive Michelangelo table and quickly scanned the room. She peered over the ornate floral arrangements that towered like skyscrapers. She glanced past the young violinist playing Bach beside the podium. She even pushed up on her tiptoes to get a clear picture of the L-shaped bar in the far left corner. The latter action made her thirst for a glass of cold champagne, but she immediately decided against it, not wanting to shift her thoughts from the problem at hand.
And it was a big problem.
Her sisters, Park and Lexington, were missing. Or, more specifically, they hadn’t yet returned from their impromptu trip to the restroom a half hour ago. How long could it possibly take to reapply lip gloss and blush?
Madison was fuming. She had made it very clear to Park and Lex that there was a schedule to keep. The paparazzi were prancing around the hotel freely, and today’s event was surely one of the most important of their lives. In a few short minutes, she, Park, and Lex would be called up to the front of the room by the mayor of New York City to receive their newest honor. The Hamilton triplets were being appointed ambassadors for the arts by the Royal Crown Society of the Americas. Composed of eminent artists, composers, actors, and philanthropists, the society rarely admitted new members; membership was a distinction reserved for only a select handful of people of “superior qualifications.” As ambassadors, Madison, Park, and Lex would be sitting on a committee that had its hands in everything from museum acquisitions to the construction of art-deco hotels and the restoration of historical sites. They would have the chance to arrange exhibitions, support rising artists, and be among the first to view exceptional works of art.
The very idea of standing before a Renoir or Picasso made Madison’s heart race. She had a passion for art history and the great master painters. In fact, she had spent many an hour fantasizing about one day being granted a seat at the society’s roundtable. To her, there was no greater honor. She belonged there, in the midst of highbrow discussions of Caravaggio and Degas, Titian and Monet. Park and Lex weren’t as psyched to be joining the society, but Madison wasn’t about to let their lack of interest ruin the most exciting moment of her life.
And it wasn’t just their induction into the society that had Madison jittery. It was the fact that she and her sisters would also be unveiling the newest painting by famed artist Tallula Kayson before a very eager crowd. Tallula was the artist of the moment, a genius who had already drawn comparisons to many of the modern masters; barely out of high school, she had rocketed to stardom nearly two years ago because of her jarring talent and signature style. Tallula Kayson’s paintings weren’t just an amalgam of color and delicate brushstrokes; they were mysterious, awe-inspiring creations that seduced the senses. Madison had been dying to meet her ever since two of Tallula’s paintings sold for several million dollars. Tallula was brilliant and beautiful and worldly, and Madison wanted to gain her friendship.
But how was she going to accomplish that when her nerves were so on edge?
She stared to her left and saw Mayor Kevin Mayer schmoozing with a young waitress while guzzling from a champagne flute. The mayor was tall and handsome in his Ralph Lauren Black Label suit, but if the rumors were true, he liked women and booze a little too much. On the flip side, he had done an adequate job in public office, supporting many of the city’s forgotten neighborhoods and doing away with all those silly parking restrictions on Fifth Avenue. Thanks to him, a girl could now hop out of her limo and run into Saks for a full ten minutes while her driver waited outside. Just off to Mayor Mayer’s right was the Kahlo table; Madison spotted her best friend, Coco McKaid, staring aimlessly into space—a clear sign that Coco had guzzled her stolen martini too quickly. All the other tables were buzzing as waiters served cocktails and watercress salads. The majority of the guests were quite old: legendary socialites and philanthropists, a few well-known producers. It was a smattering of beyond-Botox wrinkles and shiny canes. Madison recognized a handful of her classmates from St. Cecilia’s Prep, but there was still no sign of Park or Lex.
“Madison, dear, are you all right?”
The voice startled her. Madison glanced over at the older woman sitting at the Michelangelo table and sighed inwardly.
Poppy van Lulu was a character in every sense of the word. She was well into her sixties but looked at least ten years younger, courtesy of an excellent plastic surgeon and weekly visits to the Spa at Mandarin Oriental. Her red hair was cut in a blunt bob. Her oval face was caked with makeup. Her waiflike body was wrapped in a too-tight beige dress that made her look like a matchstick.
But it wasn’t Poppy’s eccentric appearance that instantly annoyed Madison. It was, rather, Poppy’s penchant for otherworldly drama.
A well-known psychic to the stars, Poppy had a colorful reputation that stretched from New York to Hong Kong. She had given readings to just about every celebrity on the planet. She even appeared regularly in tabloid magazines, where she dished astrological advice and divined Hollywood’s scandalous future. Having married into the powerful and socially elite van Lulu family at twenty-five, Poppy was now one of the wealthiest divorcées in the world—and one of the most theatrical. She couldn’t appear in public without prophesying an actor’s secret infidelity or a rock star’s imminent journey into rehab.
It irked Madison. She’d met Poppy on several occasions but had always kept a cool distance from the woman. Didn’t everyone know that infidelity and rehab were staples of the Hollywood life? There was nothing supernatural about foreseeing the inevitable. It was true that Poppy had accurately predicted the winners of American Idol and America’s Next Top Model every season, but that didn’t exactly make her a shaman. Madison didn’t believe in psychic phenomena and had little patience for Poppy’s behavior.