After the events in the Bahamas, Paige’s engagement to designer Dylan Marceau is about to fall apartand so is Paige. Erin’s state of mind isn’t much better: In addition to keeping Paige in check, Erin is dealing with on-again, off-again boyfriend Bryce’s new TV career, as well as having to care for their director, Fran, during her chemo. A trip to Milan might be the break both girls need, but things only seem to get more complicated once they land in Italy. Dylan is also in town, and Paige’s rekindled romance, combined with a new director for On the Runway, leaves Erin with more work on the show. Just when Erin can’t take any more, she discovers a secret that could crush Paige. Clinging to God for direction, Erin must find the power to make a difficult choice, one that could not only hurt her sister but throw the show into turmoil.
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By Melody Carlson
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2011 Melody Carlson
All rights reserved.
Los Angeles is always hot in the summertime, but when July stays in the triple digits for a week straight, I am ready to evacuate to my grandma's house in the mountains.
"You can't leave me," Mollie protests as I'm visiting her and two-week-old baby Fern. "I'm stuck here and I would be totally lost without you."
"You guys could come with me," I say quietly as I rock the baby in my arms. Fern's almost asleep now, sucking on her pacifier, eyelashes fluttering on her cheeks.
Mollie chuckles. "Yeah, right. You've told me how your grandmother lives—it's like going back in time. No, thank you. Besides, what about your grandma's new boyfriend? She might not want any company with him around."
"That's possible." I lean over the side of Fern's crib, trying not to disturb her as I gently lay her down, adjusting her pacifier and tucking the baby blanket around her. Fortunately, Mollie's basement apartment stays nice and cool despite this heat wave.
Satisfied that Fern is down for the count, we go to the other side of the room where we open some sodas and I pop my Britain's Got Style disc into her DVD player. The episode already aired in England, but it won't be on our show until early August. "Like I told you, Paige was supposed to be a judge," I explain as Mollie turns on the TV.
"But she was nursing a hangover," Mollie fills in.
"Right. Anyway, I was wearing an earpiece, and Dylan was supposed to be feeding me fashion critique."
"Seriously?" She frowns at me.
"Yeah, it sounds lame now, but at the time it made sense."
"So what's going on with that jerk anyway?" She pauses the DVD. "Give me the dirt on Dylan."
I groan and lean back in the chair, trying to remember the latest development in the ongoing drama of Paige Forrester and Dylan Marceau's engagement. "Well, I already told you that he's been sending her flowers and chocolates and shoes—"
"Shoes?" Mollie's expression is a combination of outrage and lust.
"Oh, you know, nothing says 'I'm sorry' like a pair of Louboutins."
"Yeah, that red sole is like a big ol' bleeding heart." She takes a sip of soda and rolls her eyes. "So what's Paige's response?"
I shrug. "She finally had an actual conversation with him a couple days ago."
"And?" Mollie leans forward with way too much interest. But I have to forgive her. It's not easy being cooped up with a newborn 24/7.
"I think she's kind of torn. I mean, on the one hand, it's hard not to believe Dylan. I honestly thought he was in love with Paige too. And it's possible that Eliza set him up while we were in the Bahamas. We know she's capable of something like that."
"Maybe so, but wasn't it his choice to share a room with her?"
I nod. "Paige specifically asked him why he didn't just camp out in the lobby until the hurricane moved on."
Mollie nods. "And he said?"
"He said he didn't think it was that big a deal and that he didn't mean to fall asleep on the sofa, but it was late. And he said that Paige should just trust him."
Mollie laughs. "Trust him? Overnight in a hotel room with a beautiful woman? And let's not forget, she's a beautiful, rich woman."
"That's true." I recall Eliza's interest in remaining in the fashion world even though her modeling career fizzled. To be honest, this is one facet of the dilemma I hadn't fully considered before. But if Dylan's design firm really is struggling, as Paige has suggested, it's possible that linking himself to an heiress would be a tempting bailout plan.
"And you said that Eliza has had her eye on Dylan for a while, right?"
"Eliza was totally into Dylan during New York Fashion Week, and even more so when we stayed at her parents' chateau in France. And you should've seen Eliza in the Bahamas when she congratulated Paige on her engagement. She was pea green with envy."
"So ... what if it really was a setup?" Mollie asks in an intrigued tone. "What if Eliza planned the whole thing right from the start—a way to trap Dylan and hurt Paige?"
"I don't know. It seems a little far-fetched."
"But what if Eliza, knowing the hurricane was coming, talked Dylan into taking her to that other hotel where she already had the suite booked? Maybe she pretended she needed his help, somehow enticed him up to her room ... and then slipped him a Mickey." Mollie looks at me with wide eyes. "What do you think?"
I laugh. "I think you've been watching too many old Hitchcock movies."
"It could've happened. Then after it was all said and done, Eliza acted like they'd had a little tryst and—"
"But why wouldn't Dylan just say that?" I shake my head. "No, I think Paige is right. Maybe Dylan's been using her all along."
"You think he's used her to promote his clothing line?" Mollie purses her lips like she's ruminating over this. "Yeah, I guess that's believable. Paige Forrester is a hot commodity in the fashion world. A designer could do worse than engage himself to someone like her—even if it's just for a short spell."
"I really hate to think of Dylan like that."
"But he's a businessman, Erin. He has employees, and the bottom line. He might've rationalized that he was simply saving his ship."
"But how does he look now? I mean, if word gets out that he was just using Paige?" I ask her.
She frowns. "Good point. But maybe that's why he has to move on to another girl—one with a lot of money."
"I don't know, Mollie. That just makes it all so sad and pathetic, especially for Paige. It's like she was blindsided."
"Life's like that sometimes."
"I just didn't think Dylan was that kind of a guy."
Mollie sets down her soda with a clunk. "Guys are so flaky."
I'm tempted to point out that not all guys are like that. But I realize that will only start an argument and will also initiate Mollie's questions about my personal life. So far I haven't told her much about what's going on between Blake and me. In fact, I haven't told anyone—perhaps because I'm still trying to wrap my head around it myself. Am I really ready to be as serious as Blake seems to want? Do I want to take it to the next level?
"Speaking of flakes ..." I smirk at her. "How's old Tony boy?"
Mollie rolls her eyes.
"Blake tells me that Tony's been coming to visit you."
She tips her head toward the crib. "More like to visit his daughter."
"But that's kind of cool, isn't it?"
She makes a lopsided smile. "I guess."
"And when he comes to visit Fern, I suppose the two of you don't talk at all?"
She shrugs. "We talk, a little."
"So ... what have you been talking about?"
"I don't know." She shrugs and doesn't meet my eyes.
"Fine. Just keep on being tight-lipped about the whole thing. All you'll do is make me even more curious." I point my finger at her. "In fact, now I'm suspicious. I'll bet you two are getting back together, aren't you?"
She scowls at me. "No way."
"No way on your end, or no way on Tony's?"
"No way—on my end."
I blink. "Seriously?" I find this hard to believe, especially considering how she's been pining away for her ex for months.
She nods. "I told Tony that even if he begged me—if he got down on his hands and knees and crawled over broken glass—I would still not go back to him."
"And what was his reaction to that?"
Her mouth twists to one side. "Probably relief."
"So does that mean he was asking you to go back to him?"
"Not exactly. He was more what-iffing. Like what if we got back together? What if we became a little family? Would it work?"
Mollie's expression softens a bit. "Sometimes I wonder if it would."
She laughs. "And then I wake up and realize I was just dreaming."
I actually feel relieved at this. Not that I wouldn't want Mollie to get back with Tony—if it's the right thing. But I've seen her hurt so badly, wounded so deeply ... I wouldn't want her to jump back into it again. "Well, anyway, I think it's cool that Tony is interested in seeing his daughter."
Mollie brightens. "And he's promised to pay child support too."
"Good for him."
She nods. "Yeah. But that means he can't move out of his parents' place like he'd been planning. And he'll have to keep working once school starts in the fall—just part-time, but he'll be pretty tied down."
"Not as tied down as you."
"That's true. But at least I'll be going back to school too. More than ever, I want to finish my degree now. I have to."
I want to ask her about acting, but hate to make her feel bad. I know becoming an actress had been her dream, and that aspiration got set on the back burner during her pregnancy. Maybe it's dead and buried now.
"So what's going on with the show these days?" Mollie asks.
"Mostly we've been putting together the Bahamas shows," I tell her. "I'm still getting to intern in the editing room."
"Yeah, it's a great way to learn."
"So when does your show go on hiatus?"
"All of August. After that we'll get ready for Italy. Late September is Milan Fashion Week. It's supposed to be really good, and most of the top designers in the world will—"
Mollie holds up her hand. "Sorry I asked. That's all I need, you know, when I'm scrambling around here, changing stinky diapers and trying to keep up with my homework. It'll just totally make my day to imagine you and Paige roaming around Italy."
"Hey, if it turns out anything like the Bahamas trip, I'd rather be in your shoes, going to classes and taking care of Fern."
"Yeah, right. I'm sure there'll be a hurricane in Italy, Erin." Her voice drips with sarcasm. "No, you and Paige will be hobnobbing and shoe shopping and I'll be stuck here doing the laundry. Do you have any idea how many loads of laundry I do a week?"
She makes a dramatic groan. "You and Paige ... man, you guys have the life."
I wish I hadn't mentioned Milan to her. Sometimes I forget that Mollie still has some serious jealousy issues. "So maybe we shouldn't watch this DVD either."
"No, no, I want to see that. I have a feeling it'll be pretty funny."
"You mean that I'll be pretty funny?"
She grins as she aims her remote at the TV. "Hey, you've never claimed to be a fashion expert, Erin. So shoot me for wanting to see you floundering on an international TV show. I'm only human."
But as we watch Britain's Got Style, I can tell that Mollie is a bit disappointed. Not only do I not totally flounder, I get more camera time than Eliza. Plus I get some laughs—not all at my expense either.
"Who knew?" Mollie says once the show is over.
"Who knew what?"
"That Erin Forrester is finally starting to get fashion."
I glance at my watch. "And now Erin Forrester needs to get going." As I gather my stuff, I explain that I promised to visit our director, Fran, this evening and leave the DVD with her.
"How's she doing?" Mollie asks with concern.
"She's scheduled next Monday for her bone marrow transplant. She just needs to remain stabilized until then."
"Oh, good. I'll keep praying for her."
"She'll appreciate that." I hug Mollie and tell her good-bye then head outside. Despite the fact it's close to eight o'clock, the temperature still feels like it's in the high nineties.
Fran's out of the hospital and back in her apartment now. Her mom even flew in from Boston to stay with her awhile. She's only been here a few days, but it's obvious they don't get along too well, which is why I've been trying to drop in sometimes, just to lighten the otherwise heavy atmosphere. After all I've been through with Fran during her cancer treatments, I can't just turn away. Maybe it's my calling to help others. Whether it's Mollie, Fran, or Paige, it seems that I've been doing a lot of hand-holding lately. But I'm okay with it—I think it's what Jesus would do.CHAPTER 2
I'm barely in the door at Fran's apartment when I realize that Mrs. Bishop is on some kind of tirade. As she lets me in, her cheeks are flushed and she's all worked up about something. "Come in, come in," she says in an aggravated tone.
"Mother's been trying to convince me to go home with her," Fran tells me from the sofa. She's wearing a forced smile and her eyes look tired.
"Only because it makes perfect sense." Mrs. Bishop is pacing back and forth between the tiny dining area and the living room. "I could care for you in the convenience of my own home and—"
"It would be convenient for you, Mother. Not for me." Fran is pushing herself to her feet, and I can tell she's struggling. I rush over to help, giving her my arm to pull herself up.
"We have excellent doctors and medical facilities in Boston." Mrs. Bishop stops walking, staring at us as I'm guiding Fran toward her room.
"I think Fran might need to go to bed," I say.
"Yes. Fine." Mrs. Bishop waves her hand in the way a queen might dismiss a servant. Then she follows as I slowly walk Fran down the short hallway. "But I want you to listen to me, Fran. There is nothing you have here in Los Angeles, well except for this stinking heat, that we don't have in Boston."
"Boston can get hot—"
"It's not hot now. I just spoke to your father and he says it's in the midseventies and there's a nice breeze—"
"Yes, Mother, and I'm glad the weather is nice there. But the point is, my doctors are here. And I'm scheduled to—"
"We have the finest doctors in the world in Boston, Francis Marie, and you know it."
We've arrive in Fran's bedroom, and I'm hoping that Mrs. Bishop will back off, but she doesn't. Whether it's the LA heat or her Bostonian stubbornness, this woman is relentless tonight. Finally, with Fran sitting breathlessly on the edge of her bed, I turn to Mrs. Bishop. "I know you love your daughter, but right now Fran needs some rest. So maybe you could have this conversation with her another time—when she's stronger."
Mrs. Bishop's brows arch, but fortunately she takes the hint and leaves the room. "Sorry," I say to Fran as I help her lie down, "I didn't mean to sound so bossy, but—"
"Bossy?" Fran lets out a weary chuckle as she leans back. "Who are you kidding? My mom wrote the book on bossy."
"Well, I just thought you needed a break."
She closes her eyes and sighs. "I did. Thanks."
"Can I get you anything?"
"Just some water and my pills over there on the dresser."
"How about something to go along with the pill?" I ask as she puts one in her mouth. I know how irritated her stomach has been since starting chemo again. "A little toast and yogurt maybe?"
She shrugs then washes the pill down with a sip of water.
"I'll take that as a yes," I say as she sets the water glass on her bedside stand. Then I return to the living room, where Mrs. Bishop has resumed her pacing. She reminds me of a bird. Not a dainty sort of bird—more like a chicken, with her rounded body and thin legs. And the jerky way she moves about, almost as if she's pecking, is kind of hen-like too.
"I'm getting Fran a snack," I tell her.
"She already had dinner."
"Great." I nod. "But it's good for her stomach to have a little food with her medicine."
As I wait for the bread to turn to toast, I attempt to talk some sense into Mrs. Bishop. "You know, Fran is comfortable here in her apartment ... and with her doctors and Cedars-Sinai, and I don't think it would be in her best interest to move her just now."
"How old are you?" Mrs. Bishop demands out of the blue.
I blink. "Nineteen."
She laughs. "You're nineteen, with a role in a kids' reality show? What makes you think you're an expert on how to make my daughter well?"
Just then the toast pops up, and I distract myself by applying a very thin layer of butter, the way Fran likes it. I cut it into fourths and set it on a small plate. Then with the yogurt in one hand and the toast in the other, I face this outspoken woman. "It's true, I'm young. And I'm not an expert," I say evenly. "But I really do care about your daughter."
"Humph." She gives me a skeptical look. "I'm guessing you care more about your job and that Fran is your meal ticket than you do—"
"Excuse me." I lock eyes with her, ready to hurl some facts at her. But instead I walk away. I take Fran's snack into her room, closing the door a little too loudly behind me.
"Let me guess," Fran says in a weary voice. "Mother is setting her sights on you now."
I shrug. "It's okay."
"Just eat what you can," I say as I arrange the food on the tray and set it on her bed. I sit down and give her the update on Paige and Dylan. Naturally, I pad the story, making it seem more pleasant and hopeful than it really is. I suspect Fran knows there's more to it, but I decide perhaps this is a game we both have agreed to play ... the Pollyanna game. At least until she's better. I just hope that she will get better. I'm praying (and asking everyone else to pray too) that the transplant will work and turn things around for her. Because I have a feeling if things don't turn around, Fran won't last too long. I wonder if Fran's mom thinks about that.
Excerpted from Ciao! by Melody Carlson. Copyright © 2011 Melody Carlson. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
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