Party planner Vicky Stone is on a post-divorce mission. Not only does she intend to land her dream promotion, she's going to indulge in a night of hot hook-up sex. Preferably with the hunky actor she just met at a work function, no-fraternization rules be damned. Fortunately, his drunken directions included a right that should have been a left, landing her in bed with her brother's extra-hot, extra-off-limits best friend instead of the unemployment line.
And, oh, he feels good. Too good.
Bad boy Dante Palladino's forbidden fantasies are about to come true...until Vicky realizes who she's feeling up. And to find out she risked her job for sex with some loser? Not on his watch. Dante throws down the ultimate, albeit self-serving, blackmail. Vicky will date him-and only him-and her secret will be safe. But Vicky swore never to fall for another guy who could break her heart...and Dante's on course to do just that.
Each book in the Gone Hollywood series is STANDALONE:
* Tempting Her Fake Fiancé
* Blackmailed By The Hero
* Playing the Perfect Boyfriend
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About the Author
Julie Particka was told to get serious about her future in Junior High. Several years after getting a bachelor's degree in chemistry, she realized being serious was over-rated and went back to her first love--writing. Now rather than spending her days in the drudgery of the lab or teaching science to high school students, she disappears into worlds of her own creation where monsters sometimes roam, but true love still conquers all.
She can most often be located in the Detroit area with her favorite minions (the ones who know her as Mom) where she is currently hatching a plot for world domination. It involves cookies for everyone, so she's pretty sure there's no way it can fail...except the minions keep eating the cookies.
Read an Excerpt
Blackmailed by the Hero (Gone Hollywood)
A Gone Hollywood Novel
By Julie Particka
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Julie Particka
All rights reserved.
Dinner break was almost over, and Vicky felt like she hadn't rested at all. As excited as she was about her new career possibilities, working her way up the ladder at Elegant Entertainment was no walk in the park. Phone calls like this from her best friend didn't help, either. She clutched the phone tighter, wishing she hadn't picked up at all. As Jade chattered about all the reasons their deal was important, Vicky remembered the original discussion like it had happened yesterday, rather than over three months ago.
"You've been divorced more than a year, Vicky. It's time for you to get yourself laid."
Vicky rolled her eyes at Jade. "I don't need a man."
"I know, I know, you're on this whole independent woman thing, which I wholeheartedly applaud. You don't need a man. What you do need is an orgasm."
"Did you forget BOB? He's given me plenty of orgasms."
"If you can say that with a straight face, you're worse off than I thought." Jade sipped her vodka cranberry. "It's not the same thing, and you know it."
She did know it. She knew hiding in her apartment and only coming out for work or to hang with Jade wasn't moving forward. No matter how many convincing arguments she could make to the contrary, she'd never been very good at lying to herself. And the truth was, Brandon had shattered her self-esteem to the point that she didn't think she deserved happiness. Much less a career and her independence and a romantic relationship.
So, she'd prioritized. Career first to gain her independence, and then, if she felt the urge, she'd go looking for love in something vaguely resembling the right place. But she'd stalled out at career. A year in and she was finally on track for her first promotion. It'd take at least four more to get where she wanted to be, but she'd make it. After all, the only thing she had left was her determination to go it alone — something Brandon had said she'd never be able to do.
Once upon a time he'd told her he loved how much she needed him, said it made him feel like her knight in shining armor. Somewhere along the way, though, that love had turned bitter. And from that point forward, he reminded her at every turn that she needed to grow up and take care of herself — among other things.
The other things had eventually led to the divorce, and Vicky had been forced to go it alone. Now she was determined to rise or fall without any knights, thank you very much.
But even this get-a-non-battery-induced-orgasm pact was a way for Jade to take care of her. Everyone had always taken care of her. First Mom, then Evan, then she'd married Brandon ... and now Jade had stepped in on the sex thing. Vicky wanted to bail on the bargain, but as much as her friend had shoved her toward it, she had to admit that sex with no strings was probably a good thing. She didn't want to belong to someone again, and doing this would prove to her that she could have a guy without it being such an all-consuming thing, like her marriage had been. Just sex.
One and done.
Hit it and quit it.
She could totally do that. Just not tonight.
Her boss, Mathew Collins, poked his head out the door and arched a brow. That was her warning. Time to wrap up the call and get back to work. Vicky nodded at him, and he left. "On a deadline, my three months are up in a couple weeks. Got it. I have to get back to work now. I'll see you tomorrow."
Her thumb was on the end button when Jade said, "You know, you're at a big Hollywood party. One would think you could find a guy there to take care of business."
If she wasn't wearing her I'm-the-help uniform, she probably could, but she shouldn't. "Right. And then I'd get fired."
"Only if you got caught."
"Good night, Jade." Vicky disconnected the call and fought the urge to scrub at her face. Looking good was part of her job, so smeared makeup wasn't an option. All too often she wondered if she wouldn't have been better off getting a job at Hooters, but the opportunities for advancement with Elegant Entertainment had been too good to pass up. With this job, she could build a career — and a new life — if she played her cards right, and she wouldn't have to rely on being a pretty face forever.
Too bad the game meant starting as a glorified waitress. Soon, though — soon she'd be taking the next step. No one ever said climbing the ladder would be fun or fast — only that everyone had to do it.
Stowing her phone out of sight, she stood and straightened the black skirt that stopped a good four inches above her knees. God, she hated these parties. Someone needed to tell producers that the waitstaff weren't supposed to be eye candy — they were supposed to be invisible. Instead, they were ogled. Some of the women loved it, but she didn't want to be someone's golden girl anymore. She just wanted to earn her paycheck and go home. Give her a nice wedding or bar mitzvah any day. At least at those, she could be fully clothed.
A couple more months, then I can get into billing. No more short skirts or late parties.
In the kitchen, Vicky picked up a tray of hors d'oeuvres — this time it was foie gras with date puree and pomegranate. Her face twisted into a frown; there went her appetite. People would just have to deal with her growling stomach. Starving or not, goose liver really didn't appeal enough to risk a reprimand for sneaking a couple of them for dinner. When was she going to learn to keep protein bars in her purse?
Plastering a smile on her face, she strode from the kitchen into Saul Mortensen's birthday party. He was a producer, so the place was awash in movie stars, wannabe movie stars, directors, musicians, and who knew who else. Basically she was swimming upstream in a river of the rich and famous. Periodically, she'd pause and offer people food, but she tried not to notice who she talked to. Every time she met someone's eyes, there was a risk they'd recognize her from the occasions her brother had invited her to attend premieres and parties with him. And then the whispers would start.
Evan Stone's sister is a waitress?
What is she doing here?
It wasn't that she minded being the sister of a movie star; she just didn't want that to be her identity any more than she'd wanted Evan footing the bill to keep her in L.A. When Mom had announced her plan to sell the house and relocate to the Midwest, Evan had offered to buy the place for Vicky. A post-divorce gift, he'd called it.
A post-divorce handout, more like.
Nope. Vicky was going to make it on her own, and she was going to make it in Los Angeles if it killed her. Brandon had walked away from their life together, but somehow the idea of leaving felt too much like running — too much like proving him right. She had no intention of letting him chase her out of town.
So she did the parties, regardless of how short the skirts were, and she kept her eyes down to keep people from making the connection to Evan. Her apartment might be tiny, but it was hers, paid for with her own money, and that was good enough as far as she was concerned. Another couple months as waitstaff and she'd be eligible to move into Elegant's billing department. Baby steps. That's all it would take, and soon enough she would no longer be on the front lines of the business and she could become invisible, or at least invisible enough.
She was so busy avoiding line of sight with one of Evan's ex-girlfriends that her heel caught on a rug and she fell into the arms of Reed Russell, leading man extraordinaire. She'd never met him before, but Vicky had seen some of his films. He was a decent actor with the body of a runner and a face that looked like it should have been carved from marble. Leave it to her to fall into the arms of one of Hollywood's hottest. Luckily her tray was almost empty, or they both would have smelled like goose liver the rest of the night. And that was something she wasn't sure even he could pull off.
Reed caught the one remaining appetizer as it slid off the tray and held it near her lips. "Foie gras?"
"Sorry, I don't French this early."
His lips quirked at the joke, and she found herself smiling along with him despite herself. Placing the food back on her now steady tray, he stood her upright and said, "How about when you get off later? Interested in some French then?"
He was ... hitting on her? Vicky cast a covert glance around. There were at least a hundred eligible women at this party, most of whom would give their left eye to have Reed look at them. Why the hell would he be flirting with a waitress? "Sorry, but you know I'm part of the staff, right?" At his shrug, she continued, "My boss has a rule about foreign-language lessons on the job."
"Ah," he said, a twinkle in his green eyes, "but I'm talking about after the job. Something more along the lines of you coming back once everyone else is gone."
Definitely hitting on her. Which was flattering as hell, but not exactly a foreign occurrence. She and Evan had grown up getting more than their share of attention because of their looks, and even here in Hollywood, people sometimes mistook her for an ingénue. But flirting with Reed Russell, no matter how pretty he was, screamed bad idea. Vicky was about to make some excuse to get out of the situation when Jade's reminder came back to haunt her. She only had a few weeks left to fulfill her part of their deal, and Reed would definitely be a one-time thing. He wasn't exactly the type to date a waitress, no matter who her brother was. So, it wasn't really an entanglement situation, and he was incredibly attractive.
If she could just guarantee not getting caught ... "How would one go about coming back?"
"Simple. A bunch of us have to be here for a meeting tomorrow morning, so Saul offered to let us stay the night. I'll make sure the slider over there is unlocked." He tipped his head to the left. "My room is down the hall directly next to the door. Third room on the right. No muss. No fuss. No one needs to know a thing."
Though away from the party would have been better, the suggested plan was easy. She'd say too easy, but this wasn't like infiltrating some enemy base to gather intel, it was sex. And clearly she'd been watching too many of Evan's movies lately if she was thinking in those terms. "And getting caught? How do I avoid that?"
"If you wait until the rest of the staff is gone, I can pretty much guarantee this part of the house will be empty. As long as you can be a quiet little kitten while you come back in, I promise to have you purring once you're in my room."
The first part was true enough. Hosts and guests rarely, if ever, stuck around for cleanup. That was Elegant's job. So once everyone else on staff dispersed, getting in would be no problem. The kitten thing, though ... She found his confidence sexy as hell, but the not-so-veiled pussy reference? Not as much. Still, he was gorgeous, and the way he was looking at her sent a little trill of excitement down her spine. She bit her lip, leaned in close, and said, "Purr."
Reed's hand slid down her arm, thumb grazing the curve of her breast on the way. "Good kitty. I can't wait to see what other noises you make."
With the way her insides tightened, Vicky had to admit Jade was right. She did need to get laid. And a one-and-done with Reed Russell was just about the best option she could see in her future. As he said, no muss, no fuss — just no getting caught. She could totally do that. "I hope you're as good as you claim. I haven't had anyone make me scream in a long time."
"I'm better than that, but I don't like to boast. Though, when you scream, you should know I'll be putting something in your mouth so we don't wake anyone."
Vicky couldn't help the giggle that escaped, but when she saw Mathew heading their way, she realized the time for playful banter had ended. Reed would just have to wait until she finished her shift if he wanted more. "I have to get back to work right now, Mr. Russell, but I hope you don't fall asleep on me later."
She turned to leave, followed only by the whispered words, "There won't be any sleeping involved. I can guarantee that."
On an average day, she'd have given him grief about being so forward, especially with her boss hot on her tail. But today wasn't average. Today was the day she was going to give up the ghost of her ex and finally have sex again. Just get it over and done with so she could close that chapter of her life for good. Jade would get off her back, and Vicky could resume her stay-away-from-relationships-at-all-cost-until-she-got-her-shit-together plan. As long as no one ever found out about her and Reed, it would work out perfectly.
With a little more bounce to her step, she moved through the mass of people and back to the kitchen. She didn't bother noticing what tray she picked up this time — it wasn't like she was going to risk nicking food and having sex with a guest. Too bad the not noticing things continued as she left the kitchen. That was when a disturbingly familiar voice made heat rush to all the right places, and she almost dropped the hors d'oeuvres entirely.
"What's the matter, Vicks? Not going to offer an old friend a snack?"
She allowed herself two seconds to close her eyes and collect herself before turning around. Not only had she been discovered, but it was by the one guy she'd prayed never to run into — mainly because she wasn't so sure she'd be able to walk away twice. "Dante. I didn't know you were here."
Her brother's best friend shoved off from the wall and stepped closer. Like most men, he wasn't that much taller than her, only five or six inches above her own five-eight, but all his muscles made him seem like he was towering. Yet he managed to pick up one of the pieces from her new tray without shifting it at all. The finger food nearly disappeared in his big hands, but she caught a glimpse, and recognition kept her grounded, kept her from thinking about other things he could do with those magnificent hands.
Crostini with butternut squash and ricotta.
Dante popped it in his mouth and chewed slowly, watching her as she watched him. Just like always, she found herself unable to turn away, even though she knew better. Something about the man compelled her to look, whether it was the full lips that begged to be nibbled or the strong jaw with its hint of scruff or the muscles that wouldn't quit ... she didn't know. He was so unlike the guys she was normally drawn to that the attraction she'd found curious years ago reached overwhelming now. The urge to move closer was almost impossible to resist; he was like a magnet and she was made of iron. She needed to walk away — and not just because she had a job to do. She'd wanted him for too long. Strong and independent women didn't run to the next knight in shining armor — or tarnished armor in his case, at least according to Evan.
One step back, her feet ready to pivot, she froze again as he said, "I've been here all night, watching you, trying to decide if I should say hello or not."
Nope. A whole lot of nope. The deal she'd made with Jade was for a one-time thing she could walk away from, and that wasn't Dante. He was her kryptonite, the guy who made her want to be the damsel in distress, and she couldn't be that anymore. Wouldn't be that anymore — no matter how much her body was screaming yes, she had to say no. She wasn't about to belong to him any more than she wanted to belong to Brandon. "Well, I am working, so some other time might be better."
"I'm sure your boss won't mind you hanging out here as long as I keep eating his food." He took another piece from the tray. "How have you been?"
It should have been an easy question to answer. For most people it would be, but not for her. And especially not talking to him. All the things she wanted to say were the very things she needed to keep shut inside. Because regardless of what she'd been told, her first instinct with Dante had always been to tell him everything, to trust him, to let him be her rock.
She'd met him a few months before her wedding. She'd gone to visit Evan, and he'd been working out with Dante. They'd talked, she'd been drawn to him, and she'd left, thinking nothing of it. For a couple weeks, she kept running into him, whether alone or out with Brandon. And it was always the same. She'd tried to write it off as just a burgeoning new friendship that might have been more flirty than necessary, but nothing worse than that. Then suddenly Evan had told her to keep her distance.
Excerpted from Blackmailed by the Hero (Gone Hollywood) by Julie Particka. Copyright © 2015 Julie Particka. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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