Named a “Great Beach Read” by People Magazine
“When you're packing your beach bag this summer, no doubt you'll want a copy of Guilty Pleasure tucked inside.” E! Online
Can Hollywood's hottest secret relationship survive a PRomance? Find out in this jaw-dropping sequel to Blind Item as three young Hollywood professionals strive to keep the industry’s most salacious scandals under wraps during awards season.
Nicola faces her biggest challenge as a publicist when she is forced to represent her superstar ex-boyfriend, Seamus, when he returns from rehab. Her boss Gaynor is struggling to keep the PR agency afloat, and Seamus is one client who definitely won’t leave as long as Nicola is around. He’s willing to do anything to win her backeven start a fake relationship for some badly needed good publicity.
Meanwhile, tabloid journalist Billy’s integrity is tested when he’s asked to print the inside scoop on a troubled star. And as for their bestie Kara? Miss Reality Show may have a sex tape on the market.
With everyone's career and relationships in jeopardy, the three friends must trust each other againbefore all their dirty secrets spill.
An Imprint Book
Named a “Summer Must-Read” by Life & Style Magazine
An A grade from InTouch Magazine
“Hollywood insiders … pull back the curtain on celebrity scandals in this dishy sequel.” People Magazine
“Written by Hollywood insiders, this jaw-dropping novel is ripped from the headlines, and from the scandalous secrets that never made print!” InTouch Magazine
“Grab a bottle of wine, and let Dickson and Ketsoyan take you on a new dark yet refreshing Hollywood adventure. … an A rating.” Digital Journal
Named one of the 10 Books You Must Add to Your Summer Reading List Right Now by Her Campus
About the Author
Kevin Dickson has been an entertainment journalist for twenty-five years. Between 2002 and 2013, he worked as an editor at the tabloids In Touch and Life & Style where his friendships with celebrities took him behind the scenes in Hollywood in away that very few journalists ever get to experience.
Jack Ketsoyan is a veteran publicist in Hollywood who's spent most of his time on the other side of the velvet rope. He has worked for big agencies such as PMK, representing stars like JenniferLopez. He now runs his own boutique agency, EMC Bowery. Jack has occasionally specialized in crisis PR, helping stars deal with sudden scandals.
They are the authors of Blind Item and Guilty Pleasure.
Read an Excerpt
THE WINDSHIELD WIPERS FOUGHT TO clear the blinding waves from the glass before the pouring rain immediately blurred Wilshire Boulevard back into a watery mosaic. Nicola slowed the Beemer down to twenty-five and moved to the right lane, sending a wave of dirty spray over a homeless woman sheltering from the storm at a bus stop.
"I'm sorry," Nicola mouthed, trying to make eye contact with the woman's blinking, scowling face as she flicked water off her soaked, dirty puffer with angry resignation. Nicola parked the car and opened her center console, digging under the stack of CDs in search of the emergency money she kept there. She closed her fingers around a bill that turned out to be a twenty and opened her passenger window, rain instantly spattering her passenger seat. She waved the woman over, extending the bill. The woman scampered quickly to the car and snatched the twenty from her fingers.
"I'm so sorry. Happy new year."
The woman flipped her off and tucked the bill into a pocket.
I asked for that.
Waze beeped at her from her phone, informing her that five minutes had been added to her trip. Nicola grimaced. She could not be late. Her movie-star client (and ex-boyfriend) Seamus O'Riordan was getting out of rehab in two days, and she was due to present her press plan to his agent and manager at two thirty. Waze now said she was going to arrive at 2:27. How could it possibly take her twenty-seven minutes to go three miles?
Even though her assistant, Alicia, and the rotating crew of interns at her publicity agency, Huerta Hernandez, had been given time off between Christmas and New Year's, her boss, Gaynor Huerta, had insisted that Nicola work every day, deflecting press inquiries about Seamus's dramatic and near-fatal overdose on a movie set in Ojai three months earlier and devising a meticulous step-by-step media cover-up for his return.
Miraculously, the media had accepted their fabricated story that Seamus's injury on the movie set had been more serious than doctors had realized. The trades had covered his departure from the movie in a businesslike way, and the tabloids hadn't suspected the cover-up. The current story line was that Seamus was recovering with family in Scotland — a risky lie, since Seamus didn't have much family left.
"The death of journalism makes our job a little easier," Gaynor had crowed after they were sure the media had swallowed the story. Even after an early slip up, where they'd switched from a torn ACL to a rotator cuff injury. Nobody had noticed.
With the news cycle at its usual fever pitch, the story had been digested and forgotten in just one stressful week. Nic occasionally wondered if Seamus had any idea how hard they'd worked on his behalf, and each time, she mentally chin-checked herself for thinking about him at all.
Seamus is a liar. Seamus is a junkie. Seamus is my client.
This litany had been her glue since the last time she had seen him, at his first rehab facility, in Malibu. She tried never to think, Seamus broke my heart.
She nervously twisted her fingers around the nylon bracelet he'd sent her for Christmas, from the second rehab place, this time in Seattle. She had decided that she would cut it off tonight, but she wanted to wear it to the meeting. For luck.
Two nights ago, after Gaynor had made her decline all New Year's Eve party invitations, she and Gaynor spent the night role-playing the upcoming meeting.
Gaynor had relished her chance to impersonate Seamus's English manager, Tobin Freundschaft, and his notoriously thorny agent, Jon Weatherman. Gaynor had dressed in a man's black suit, her thick black hair clipped to her head and hidden beneath a fedora. At times, Nicola had wondered if she was preparing for a meeting or a community theater production of Chicago.
For more than eight hours, they had sat in the Huerta Hernandez offices, snacking on a fruit plate and drinking champagne as Gaynor hurled increasingly bizarre questions and insults at Nicola, trying to ruffle her.
"Ay, malparida" was how most of the questions began. Nicola argued that Tobin and Weatherman wouldn't use language like that in a meeting. "You'll be lucky if they're that polite," Gaynor had cackled before launching into another round of preposterously rude test questions, like "Are you sure there's no sex tape of you and Seamus?" or "How the hell is a junior publicist from Buttfuck, Ohio, going to bail out one of the world's biggest movie stars?"
By the time they'd wrapped, the new year was five hours old, and Gaynor had finally permitted Nicola to check her phone. The long list of notifications had made her teary: texts from her mom and brother; multiple drunk texts from her BFF, Billy, and his new boyfriend, Seamus's former minder, Bluey; and finally, a long, heartfelt text from her roommate, Kara.
Hey Boo, I stayed in tonight hoping the dragon would send you home early. I even stole some Johnnie Walker Blue from Amber's so we could toast. I'll take a rain check on it, we can toast tonight. But I did a lot of thinking, Nico. I'm real sorry I let you down last year, I got out of my head and I really hurt you. Never again girl. I got your back. Thanks for standing by me and I promise to fuck up less this year. Promise! Love you.
Gaynor, who could sense drama a mile off, saw the tears spring into Nicola's eyes. She snatched her phone out of her hands.
"Careverga Seamus!" she cried, her glee visibly deflating when she saw that the text was from Kara. She still read the whole text.
"Seems like Miss Jones is still feeling muy, muy guilty for trying to sell you out," Gaynor teased.
Nicola's shoulders slumped. Forgiving Kara for trying to sell photos of Seamus and Nic to the tabloids had been one of the hardest things she'd ever had to do. As her mom had pointed out, if it weren't for Kara's meddling, Seamus would have continued lying and denying his drug habit to Nicola. Sometimes her mom was way too obsessed with the silver linings in situations, but this time, Nicola had clung to her words. Good had come out of Kara's selfishness. And she had been nothing but apologetic ever since. They'd arrived at a fragile peace that was getting easier day by day.
As the Global Talent Management offices appeared between swats of the wipers, Gaynor's voice swam into her head. "These people are the big time; they'll eat you alive." That was how she'd sent Nic off to this meeting, after losing the battle to accompany her. Nic was Seamus's publicist. It was time to put on her big-girl shoes and face his legendarily difficult team on her own.
Nicolita. Gaynor's voice echoed inside her skull. These people are not human. They are wolves, and they will rip out your throat for sport. You need me there. They are scared of me. I will be your human shield.
"Cállate, Gaynor!" she said aloud, and the voice in her head fell silent. She smiled. Even the fake Gaynor in her head responded better to Spanish, which she was learning slowly, through osmosis. She was currently fluent when it came to obscenities and fat shaming. Thanks, boss.
Reaching the Global Talent building, Nicola slowed, squinting to locate the entrance to the parking garage. Before she could find it, a gunmetal Tesla materialized out of the rain, nearly slammed into her, then skidded into a driveway beneath the building. Nicola followed suit, realizing too late that she had pulled into the employees' driveway and did not have a keycard. She began to reverse into the street when headlights filled her rearview mirror and she became trapped. The car behind her began to honk loudly. The security bar in front of Nicola went up. Frazzled, she threw the Beemer into drive and entered the parking garage, her wipers scraping loudly. She angrily turned them off. All of the available parking spots were marked RESERVED with a name plaque on the wall in front. She couldn't see any visitor parking. Ahead of her the driver of the Tesla, a generically handsome blond, got out of his car and pointed to a parking spot to her left. He then urgently mouthed, "Hurry up."
The driver of the other car started blasting his horn again, long, braying shots of sound that echoed around the small garage. Through her rain-speckled rear window, Nicola could make out maniacally flailing arms and anger. She followed Tesla guy's instructions and pulled into a solitary space that she finally saw was marked VISITOR.
Killing the engine, Nicola gathered the off-white Birkin satchel purse that Gaynor had forced her to bring. "Purses are power" was one of her favorite sayings. Standing slowly, she straightened the front of her black Calvin Klein jacket and pants and scoured the parking garage warily for angry car guy. She locked her car and looked for the elevator. Tesla guy appeared from behind a post and raised a hand, telling her to wait, his eyes widening for emphasis.
A car door slammed and Nicola saw the guy who'd been honking at her get out of his car and stalk toward an elevator bank. She slumped. It was Weatherman. He was talking loudly into a Bluetooth earpiece.
"I don't fucking care about the script," he barked. "I don't fucking care about story arcs. I want you to tell me about the back end, and I want you to guarantee two sequels, and I want you to tell me five fucking minutes ago. Now, quit wasting my time and get some fucking answers."
He vanished into the elevator lobby. When the door closed Tesla guy dropped his hand.
"Hey, I'm sorry," he called out across the garage. "But you did not want to get into that elevator."
Nicola walked toward him.
"Thanks, I think," she said, her brows knitting.
"That was me who buzzed you in."
The guy stepped out from behind the pole. "I raised the security bar for you."
"Oh, then definitely thanks," Nicola said with a bigger smile. The guy stood there, as if he was waiting for something. "Anyway, I have to get inside fast. I'm here for a meeting."
"I'm Timothy," he said, extending his hand and still not moving. Nicola switched the heavy Birkin, filled with folders and her laptop, to her other hand and gave his a firm shake.
"I'm Nicola," she said casually. "Hey, do you know which floor the conference room is on?"
"You're Nicola Wallace, from Huerta Hernandez?" She nodded.
"You're the ex-girlfriend, new publicist," he said slowly. "I'm in your meeting. I'm Weatherman's assistant agent for Seamus."
"I'm fine with just 'publicist,'" Nicola said quickly. "Let's get to the conference room."
In her almost two years in Los Angeles, Nicola had developed a mild, persistent irritation for elevators in three-story buildings. She reached for the door to the fire stairs.
"Fire stairs are always locked," Timothy said as her hand jiggled the handle. "Security precaution."
Nicola raised an eyebrow. "You're not supposed to lock fire doors," she said.
"You wouldn't believe how hard people try to get inside this building," Timothy said breezily, pushing the elevator call button.
"I'd probably find that easier to believe than locking a fire escape," Nicola said, stepping into the elevator, vowing to remain silent for the short ascent to the building's first floor.
The doors opened onto a hushed reception area. Nicola approached the brushed-metal-and-glass counter, where a model-looking young woman stared at her phone. As Nicola leaned in to announce herself, Timothy stepped between her and the desk.
"I have Nicola Wallace from Huerta Hernandez with me for the two thirty."
The receptionist didn't acknowledge him, either.
"Follow me," he instructed, taking long strides down a corridor flanked by glass walls revealing sparsely decorated offices, each containing a desk, a MacBook, and two visitors' chairs that she recognized from design catalogs. People sat at their desks, talking into headsets and staring at their screens. It reminded Nicola of a job she'd had at a call center for five hellacious months, in Dayton, Ohio, a lifetime ago.
As they neared the end of the hallway, Nicola saw a big glass wall with a small sign that read CONFERENCE ROOM 1. Weatherman sat at the head of the table. She could also see several other men, all in black suits with white shirts. Some wore ties. It looked like a Tarantino movie. Seamus's amiable manager, Tobin, waved as she walked in. They'd met once before, briefly, during happier times.
Nobody else moved. There was also one suited figure with their back to the door. Nicola did a double take at Crystal Connors's giveaway severe, colorless ponytail. Crystal was the cutthroat veteran publicist whom Seamus had fired in favor of Nicola. Next to her was a stunning woman in an elegant strappy red Elie Saab mid-length dress, jet-black curls falling down her back. She was vaguely familiar, but Nicola couldn't place her.
Timothy opened the door and waved her inside before she had a chance to recalibrate. Why is Crystal here?
"Morning, everyone," Timothy said perkily. "I have Nicola Wallace from Huerta Hernandez with me. Are we all here?"
"What took you so long?" spat Weatherman.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Weatherman," Timothy said. "I was just making sure Miss Wallace found the meeting okay."
"I hope that Miss Wallace doesn't need your help to do her job," Weatherman said, his voice dripping with contempt as he eyed her up and down. "Miss Wallace, would you care to introduce yourself, or are you happy for Thompson here to be your assistant all day?"
Nicola groaned inside. The most powerful agent in Hollywood already hated her. Great. She blinked as slowly as she could and met Weatherman's gaze dead-on.
"Hello, Mr. Weatherman," she said coolly. "Hello, everyone. I'm Nicola Wallace from Huerta Hernandez PR. Tobin, it's good to see you again. Timothy I already met." Nicola stopped her gaze on the woman next to Crystal.
The woman opened her mouth to speak, and Crystal put a hand up, stopping her. Weatherman nodded at a seat at the opposite end of the table. Nicola slid into the mid-century leather chair as gracefully as she could. The silence around the table was deafening. She locked eyes with the young man next to Timothy. After an awkwardbeat, he mumbled that he was Timothy's assistant. He didn't give a name.
"Thank you for coming, Nicola," said Tobin, a craggily handsome Viking with natural gray-blond hair and eyes like gravel. He gestured offhandedly at the bespectacled young man next to him. "This is my assistant."
Nicola moved her gaze around the table, past Jon Weatherman, until it rested upon Crystal, who was typing furiously into her phone and clearly making her wait for any kind of acknowledgment.
"Hi, Crystal," Nicola deadpanned. "I wasn't aware of any business that might require your presence here today."
Crystal stood, slowly, like a vampire after a long sleep, and extended her hand.
"Shake my damn hand, Wallace. Didn't that third-world madam teach you basic manners?"
Nicola stood and reached for Crystal's hand, but as their hands got close, Crystal suddenly sat down and left her hanging. Without skipping a beat,
Nicola moved her hand to the woman seated next to Crystal. "And you are?" The beautiful woman stood, surprising Nicola with her height. "I'm Bette Wu," she said. "I was on Doombringers on the CW."
Nicola didn't watch that show. She shrugged.
"I'm also an Olympic gold medalist? Martial artist?"
"Uh, nice to meet you." Nicola raised an eyebrow and looked from Jon to Tobin to Timothy. Nobody said anything.
Nicola counted to ten in the silence.
"Unlike everyone else at this table," Crystal finally said in a low snarl, "I have more than one client. Can we get this dog and pony show on the road? Are you waiting for Seamus to tell you what to do? Is the tail still wagging the dog around here?"
"Can it, Crystal," Weatherman snapped. "Nobody likes a sore loser."
"Listen, Weatherman," she said, her voice dripping with venom. "I wasn't the one who fired my agency. I wasn't the one who couldn't even control my client, my junked-out boozehound action star, long enough to get through a simple overdose."
"No, that would be me," said Tobin, pressing his palms flat against the glass tabletop. "I failed to see that problem on the horizon. And I'll ask you, kindly, to try to be professional when discussing our client."
"That was a professional assessment, and you know it," Crystal seethed.
"Okay, everybody." Timothy stood and opened his arms to include the table. "Enough of this. Let's acknowledge that this is a difficult time and a unique situation. Let's get started." He tapped his assistant on the shoulder. "My assistant is going to keep us on track. What's the first topic?"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Guilty Pleasure"
Copyright © 2018 Kevin Dickson and Jack Ketsoyan.
Excerpted by permission of Imprint.
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