Emma left a career in serious journalism for daytime popularity, and now she's interviewing barely literate reality stars as she watches her credibility slip away. Even worse, she's also sharing the Beehive couch with Sutton, an aging news diva who's doesn't miss a chance to stick her claws into Emma for stealing her media mogul boyfriend. Simone, a Black American Princess and former teen model, is drowning in debt that her Beehive salary can't begin to cover, and her famous ex has just crossed the line from stalker to psycho.
Caught up in a wild mix of cheating boyfriends, scheming rivals, velvet-rope catfights, backstabbing exes, and bloodthirsty gossip columnists, the city's most beautiful people are about to discover just how ugly life at the top can get. . .
Kylie Adams is the author of Ex-Girlfriends, Fly Me to the Moon, Baby, Baby, and the USA Today bestsellers The Only Thing Better than Chocolate (with Janet Dailey and Sandra Steffen) and Santa Baby (with Lisa Jackson, Elaine Coffman, and Lisa Plumley). She is a contributing editor to The South, a regional bimonthly magazine that features her pop culture/humor column, "Kylie Says." She lives in Brandon, Mississippi, where she is currently at work on her next novel.
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By Kylie Adams KENSINGTON BOOKS
Copyright © 2008 Jon Salem
All right reserved.
Chapter One Sutton
"It's my party, and I'll bitch if I want to," Sutton Lancaster snapped.
She was fifty. She was furious. And she was so fucking hot. Burning up, in fact. Actual sweat trickled between her breasts, as if a water faucet had been attached there. Goddamn hot flashes.
A nervous-looking Jay Lufkin stared back at her. "Hey, it's your night."
"Is that so?" Sutton challenged him.
"You're the birthday girl. You're the star. Bitch away. Who's going to stop you?" Jay downed the last of his Pom-Pom, glancing around for a waiter to take his empty glass.
Sutton glowered. The mere sight of this smooth-faced overachiever-smug, ageless, and all-knowing in that Tucker Carlson sort of way-only exasperated her irritation. Here she stood, a news star with no real power, dateless at a party celebrating her half-century mark, and sick from an hors d'oeuvre binge twenty minutes ago. Of this much she was certain: Oprah had done fifty with considerably more panache.
She surveyed the Roof scene at Soho House New York, a private members club and hotel in Manhattan's Meatpacking District. Labor Day had come and gone. Everybody was back from the Hamptons. But the poolside theme still had the assorted revelers behaving like summer might never end.
Sutton silently noted that nobodyfrom Fox News had bothered to show up. How gracious. She expected as much from the network prima donnas. But what about all those little right-wing bitches and bastards that had glommed onto her for mentoring? Where were they? She tried to push the snub out of her mind. Who needed the assholes?
Every staffer at America's number one cable news network was probably putting money on how long it would take Sutton Lancaster to join the scrap heap of forgotten talking heads who left a good thing in search of more screen time and a higher profile.
Sutton took in the fantastic views of the West Village and the Hudson River, zoning out the cacophonous party chatter and the unimpressive turntable skills of computer-heiress-turned-DJ Panda Dell. Wow. The girl could put the needle on a Nelly Furtado record. Big fucking deal.
Her thoughts zeroed in on the bigger deal at the moment-her own career. There were times (like right now) when she stopped to ask herself, Why are you doing a high wire act at the age of fifty?
The answer was simple. A woman could either take the leap or wait for the ax. Because the latter was inevitable. No matter how many times they told her otherwise, Sutton knew the truth. Internal support for her had eroded long ago. Now it was mere ambivalence. And there were whispers of concern ... about her age. Rumors were rampant regarding a secret memo being shared among executives that ranked the "fuckability factor" of all on-air female talent.
We Report. You Decide. Viewers actually believed that pick-up line. Several years ago Sutton had fallen for a come-on far worse: We're going to make you a star.
The Fox suits sure knew how to court a girl. But back then, Sutton would have been an easy mark for career attention of any kind. Hell, she might have been tempted to jump into bed with the public access channel.
Oh, God, it was a bitter pill to swallow-the realization that she had lived out an entire career standing on the precipice of something bigger and better that never came. Anyone who said that it just took talent, drive, and tenacity to make your dreams come true was a liar. Or an idiot. Because the two secret ingredients for real success were luck and timing.
To the untrained eye, Sutton had made it, leapfrogging from large market affiliate to larger market affiliate on her way to grab the brass ring of every broadcast news anchor: a place on one of the big networks.
Ultimately, she darkened the doorways of every one, doing the substitute rounds on weekend newscasts, pulling correspondent duties on news magazine shows, listening patiently as executive after executive fed her cast-off lines like, "Hang in there. We're grooming you for a major slot. But you have to pay your dues."
Then Fox News had come to the door with flowers, saying all the right things. We need a trusted, recognizable female anchor. You deserve to be a household name.
So she jumped ship. Again. And nothing happened. Again. Once more, Sutton Lancaster got lost in the shuffle. Bill O'Reilly was Fox's Superman. Sean Hannity was taking off, too. Then the network poached Greta Van Susteren from CNN and gave her massive promotion with a cushy prime-time slot, relegating Sutton to more fill-in duties and the standard-issue ego stroke-her own Sunday afternoon week-in-review show.
And then, after years of low profile misery, she met Jay Lufkin, a producer with White Glove Entertainment. His call came like most life-altering calls do-from out of the blue. They met for lunch at Nooch, a Japanese-Thai noodle bar, and he told her about The Beehive, a new television project in development with her in mind as top-billed host.
"It's a multicultural version of The View," Jay had pitched.
And at that moment, Sutton had wanted to get up and leave. But the ramen bowl was too tasty, and she was just starting to feel the tom yumtini cocktail. So she resisted the urge to bolt.
She thought about this producer's copycat pipe dream to muscle in on the vehicle that had turned Star Jones into a media monster and then publicly killed the beast to make room for Rosie, and after that headline-hogging train wreck, Whoopi Goldberg and Sherri Shepherd.
The View made it look easy. Put some women around a table. Watch them yack it up. But it was anything but easy. That's why almost every imitator had crashed and burned. Painfully. What separated Jay's idea from those debacles?
"Our show is called The Beehive," Jay had told her. "And you would be the Queen Bee."
Right away, she wanted to hear more. "Go on."
"Imagine yourself flanked by a Black American Princess and a gay man that every woman watching will wish was her best friend." He paused a beat, smiling. "How's that for diversity?"
Sutton had experienced an electric tingle. This had real potential. A gut thing told her so.
"We've compiled a short list," Jay continued. "Simone Williams and Finn Robards are the front-runners."
Sutton's brain computer went to work. Both names rang a bell. Simone was an ex-model and bit player actress, though more famous lately for dumping New York Yankee Tommy Robb before the ball dropped last New Year's Eve. Nine months later and the gossip columns were still sorting out the messy details.
As for Finn Robards, he was a trust fund baby and society It Boy, always turning up in Page Six, W, Gotham, and Hamptons at some glamorous event.
Jay seemed to pick up on her interest, because he moved in for the kill by launching into his own A&E Biography. Loved talk shows as a kid. Lived for The Merv Griffin Show. Produced his own version in the backyard using neighbors as guests. Interned with Regis Philbin. Worked in various capacities with Joan Rivers, Ricki Lake, Queen Latifah, and Maury Povich before joining White Glove Entertainment.
Instinctively, Sutton knew that Jay Lufkin had talent. He might be pushing forty, but deep down, he was still that dorky kid pretending to be Merv Griffin. She could see the passion in his eyes. This guy was so desperate to step out of the shadows and run his own show that he would do whatever necessary to make it successful-or die trying.
But Sutton had the most to lose here. She was hard news. This was entertainment fluff. And to say rolling the dice with daytime syndication could be a precarious career move was the understatement of the century. If it tanked, what then? Once she stepped into the alternate universe of talking about holiday fashions for Paris Hilton's exotic pet of the moment, she could hardly go back to lobbing serious questions about homeland security.
To a degree, what Sutton knew about White Glove tempered her anxiety. The young company had managed three successful launches in the past year-a female-targeted celebrity game show called Bunko Night, a reality series about young nurses, and Sexually Aware, a provocative hour hosted by former-porn-star-turned-sex-therapist Ashlyn Saint. All were reaching at least ninety percent of American households and posting record ratings in key demographics.
"White Glove is very selective about the properties it chooses to develop," Jay had told her. "They have sophisticated methods of researching and testing concepts. Feedback on The Beehive is already incredible. And it's still in the early stages of development."
Sutton had just stared at Jay, recalling the Media Week profile on Ashlyn Saint that detailed her shrewd profit participation deal. That whore would end up making millions. "I'll want an executive producer credit and an ownership stake in the show," she said.
That had been months ago. And now, on the eve of the program's launch, with stations and time slots secured, the publicity juggernaut under way, the staff assembled, the major guests booked, and the creative vision determined, word came down from top executives at White Glove that Sutton, Simone, and Finn were not quite enough.
Some last minute testing revealed that The Beehive needed a fourth host buzzing about. A relatable personality for the coveted young female viewers. Christ. At the end of the day, it always came down to age. Working in television never let you forget how old you were.
"Happy birthday!" Simone cooed, leaning in to offer air kisses on each cheek.
The intrusion sent Sutton crashing back to her own party. It was, after all, her fucking birthday. "Don't remind me."
"Why?" Simone cried, glancing around appreciatively.
"This night is fantastic. And everybody knows that fifty is the new forty."
Sutton stopped to wonder. What would be fair punishment for girls under thirty who made such pronouncements? Immediate death came to mind. And if that seemed too harsh, at least facial disfigurement.
"You look amazing," Simone went on. "I love the dress. It's Marc Jacobs, right?"
Sutton nodded, self-consciously fingering the oversized ruffles cascading down the left side of the slim silhouette. Was it too much? Did she look ridiculous? Could she still pull off sleeveless? Yes, she worked out like a demon, but no matter how hard she tried, there was still that slight jiggle of underarm flesh.
And here stood Simone Williams, impossibly beautiful, young, and thin, a vision of caramel loveliness, so unfussy in her black, one-shouldered evening dress by Prada, accessorized by a sturdy leather belt and a flirty Louis Vuitton Damier Sauvage bag. She didn't wear the look. She carried it. Everything about her-the hair, the clothes, the makeup-was a beacon of effortless perfection. So naturally, Sutton wanted to kill the bitch.
Simone swayed to the beat of Michael Bublé's "Save the Last Dance for Me," popping a slender hip toward Jay. "You look like you're feeling no pain. How many have you had?"
Jay grinned blankly, bleary-eyed, close to being all the way gone.
"Enough to wake up in anyone's bed but his own," Finn remarked, swooping in to kiss Sutton on the cheek. "Happy birthday, diva. How old are you? Twenty-nine again?" She embraced him warmly, whispering "Fuck you," into his diamond-studded ear. Something told her that Finn Robards might be The Beehive's secret weapon. He had a rare quality that rendered him infinitely appealing, a special brand of insouciance.
Sutton had never known a man who smelled better. Morning, noon, or night, his intoxicating scent never faltered. And he was sexy as hell, the exact sort of charismatic gay man who could infiltrate a straight couple's life, captivating the girl and titillating the guy.
As Sutton stood there with Simone and Finn, the reality did not escape her. Where only days ago they had been a signed and sealed triumvirate, they were now an incomplete quartet. The announcement to add another host had done a number on all of them. Nothing like a clarion call from the top to say, "This isn't working."
Finn cleared his throat. "Well, ladies, I know who the fourth Supreme is." Sutton fumed silently. If Finn knew this information, then Jay knew it, too. Son of a bitch. She glared at him. "Why are you holding out on me?"
Jay held up his Pom-Pom. "I had every intention of telling you tonight. I just wanted to have enough to drink first."
"It's that bad?" Simone asked. "Oh, my God. Is it a fat person?"
Finn fixed a stare on Sutton. There was an apology in his eyes. "You may as well hear this now. It leads Jinx Wiatt's column tomorrow."
"Who is it?" Sutton demanded, bracing herself for the impact.
Finn looked at Jay, then back to Sutton. "Emma Ronson."
The announcement knocked the breath from Sutton's body.
Jay shut his eyes and liquored up even more.
"Isn't that the girl from Today in New York?" Simone asked.
"Wait a minute," Simone continued, glancing from Finn to Sutton and back again as she put it all together. Suddenly, her gorgeous hazel eyes went wide. "Isn't she dating ..."
"I need a break from this heat," Sutton murmured, darting away before Simone could finish. She slipped down to the fourth floor White Room, grateful for the air-conditioning. Was it really so hot outside? Or was it her hormones again? Her therapy needed an adjustment. First order of business tomorrow-call Dr. Barak.
Thank God for the Israeli gynecologist, a founding member of the controversial American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine. For long, frustrating years Sutton had suffered intermittent fatigue, depression, itching, vaginal dryness, and a diminished sex drive. She blamed her miseries on everything-work stress, lack of sleep, emotional upturns from one lousy relationship after another. But then a colleague at Fox had told her about Dr. Barak.
He diagnosed her immediately as being in hormonal chaos and calibrated a bio-identical cocktail to her individual chemical needs. In the beginning, it was tough. Sore breasts from too much estrogen, fogginess from too much progesterone, and a nasty round of acne from too much testosterone. But Dr. Barak dialed down the dosages, found her optimal levels, and the results were suddenly amazing.
Sutton could finally sleep through the night. She had more confidence. She could concentrate, actually sit down and read a book chapter by chapter without veering off into a private Mars.
Her sex drive returned with a vengeance, too, and with her thicker hair, perkier breasts, and harder nails, she finally lived out the secret fantasy of fucking the hot UPS driver who had been delivering packages to her co-op for the last three years.
Of course, this kind of therapy was costing her a small fortune-easily a thousand dollars per month. But Sutton would pay twice that amount or even more for such blissful relief.
She adored Dr. Barak. His voice was soothing, his demeanor patient and sympathetic. He listened to her problems and symptoms, instead of just shoving a prescription for antidepressants into her hand and moving on to the next patient. That was the course of treatment for so many of those white-coat bastards.
With no screening scheduled in the Cinema, the White Room was deserted. Sutton dimmed the lights and sought sanctuary on one of the sofas, stretching out, relishing the peace and quiet, thankful to be off her feet.
The tranquil moment lasted no more than a nanosecond. That bitch's name was smoking inside her brain. Emma Ronson.
Sutton closed her eyes, attempting to breathe, trying to relax. Oh, God, how she needed a dab of progesterone right now. Just one drop under her tongue. Enough to equalize her stress level.
A girlish giggle invaded the silence.
"Come on, nobody's in here," a male voice whispered thickly.
"No, let's go back to the party."
"In a minute. I want to show you something first."
There was a muffled giggle. And then the unmistakable sound of lips and tongues in full erotic battle.
Sutton rose slightly to see the young couple braced against the mirrored bar. She started to leave. "Whose party is this anyway?" the girl asked.
"I don't know. Some old news chick. The event planner called my publicist and said she needed bodies at this thing. Nobody wanted to come. I figure the drinks are free, and I might get laid. Why not?"
Sutton sank back down and just lay there, frozen. She had stopped breathing after hearing old news chick.
"Oh, I know her!" the girl exclaimed. "She's the woman wearing that stupid white dress."
Excerpted from Beautiful Liars by Kylie Adams
Copyright © 2008 by Jon Salem. 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The concept is relatively simple have four almost famous celebs sit around a table discussing events and issues and dissing one another. To insure explosions, the network brass understands the quartet must not just be bosom buddies they must be queens fighting to own the Beehive chat show.------------- Emma Ronson gave up journalistic respectability to become a daytime TV star. Fifty year old Sutton Lancaster was aged out of her respectable news anchor job. Former teen model Simone Williams needs this job although her pay cannot cover her debts or prevent her ex from psychopathic stalking and more. Finally, Finn Robards rounds out the table as the only male, the rational amusing' gay sidekick' to the three hostile female divas. However each faces personal crisis that could destroy them and if one goes down, the Beehive will probably die too. Though they dislike each other, the four musketeers must learn the Dumas lesson of ¿one for all and all for one¿.------------------ BEAUTIFUL LIARS satirically rips the famous as allegedly knowledgeable pundits who in fact are hedonistic selfish individuals who live in a shallow world of self deceit pretending to know everything about anything when they know nothing. Any moment this reviewer expected Professor Irwin Corey to appear. The key to this lampooning is the four Beehive hosts remains consistent throughout even when they try to help one another. Kylie Adams makes the case we know as much and probably much more than those talking heads whose claim to fame is membership in the Hall of Shame.----------