Alexandria Casey, thirty-five, just had a reality check. Life didn't go as she expected once she said I do.' After her divorce, Alex meets someone new. He's twenty-eight, British, a television star, and determined to make her notice him. She would rather hide from the paparazzi and the microscope they bring upon his personal life. Will she give in to his pursuit and learn to love once more?
|Publisher:||Red Press Company|
|Edition description:||Large Print|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.63(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
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Tinkerbell Must Die
"Every time I hear, 'And they lived happily ever after' and Tinkerbell comes out with her magic wand to end the movie, I feel like reaching for the bug spray and a fly swatter."
Alex Casey laughed out loud and squinted as she stepped out of the movie theatre into the bright sunlight. Her best friend, Alison Potter, had dragged her to yet another romantic comedy. The Sunday matinee showing, the week before Memorial Day celebrations, was already crowded enough for their taste. The glorious late spring day, in the mountains of North Carolina, enveloped them as they walked through the parking area.
"You're thirty-five, Alex. You're not supposed to be so jaded on love. Just because you're divorced doesn't mean you have to spoil it for the rest of us in our twenties."
Alex sobered, "That's just it, Ali. We're fed a line our entire lives by society. You grow up. You get married. You have kids and life is perfect. Well, they lied."
Alison jingled her car keys and rolled her eyes. "How about we go get an early dinner, to-go, and work on the restaurant reviews for the blog? Maybe some Thai food tonight?"
"As long as we don't spend the entire night humming love songs while we type."
Both ladies shared a laugh.
"Okay, deal." Alison opened her car door to get in.
Alex was ashamed of herself. "I'm sorry, Ali. I know you wanted me to forget about life and enjoy myself. I did like the movie. Thanks for forcing me to get out."
"You really are a softie on love, Alex. You just don't want to admit it. You look for Tinkerbell, just like I do. She's magic."
"After that last kiss, you want to root for the couple in any romance. We all want that Hollywood ending." Alex just couldn't conceive of ever having that for herself, again.
Music by Sugarland was vibrating the walls. No one would be around to check up on Alex until late Sunday night. Alison and Alex were dancing around with their wine glasses held high, singing to the top of their lungs. When the song was finished, laughing ensued. Alex paused for a moment after turning the player off and took the last bite of her Thai. She sat her empty bowl in the deep, white farmhouse sink. The kitchen was small, but had all the amenities for a chef.
She issued a soft burp while refilling her wine glass. "Excuse me. Was it just me or did the Tom Yum soup not have as many mushrooms as usual?"
Giggling, Alison turned to face Alex. "Nice burp, very lady like. Kip is laying down on the job. There weren't as many shrimp either."
Alison was hunkered over the remnants of her meal. The latest issue of Hollywood Gossip was atop the long hand hewn work table in the open floor plan apartment, getting fingerprinted with oil from an egg roll. She was devouring the candid color photos from her favorite guilty pleasure magazine while she polished-off her Thai.
"Alison, how can you read those things? I like looking at the photos occasionally, but the stories are either so bizarre, they can't possibly be real, or stars really do lead eccentric lives in perpetuity." Alex leaned over her shoulder at the table, looking down on the glossy pages.
"They do have some strange headlines. The photos are why I buy them."
"You're encouraging stalking. You do realize that?" Alison laughed, but agreed. Alex left her at the table in favor of spell checking the copy waiting for her on the computer.
Suddenly a squeal tore through the quiet, drawing Alex's attention from her large monitor back to Ali, across the room.
"Michael Rosencrantz is engaged!"
"That's great! Kelly is a wonderful woman."
Alison stuffed the remainder of her egg roll back into the paper bag. It suddenly did not warrant her attention as much as the photo of Michael and his fiancée, Kelly MacLeod. The long legged blonde was smiling adoringly at him in the picture.
"Convergence is one of the few television shows I actually watch. I still can't believe you know him."
Alex turned back to her computer. "They're both salt of the earth. I don't mind catering for people like them. They treat me differently than most people that I work for. They always have."
"I wish I was lucky enough to get an invite every time they come to Highlands to relax. You're over for dinner, then brunch, and all I get is a lousy autograph. How about the new season, on DVD?" A finger left the keyboard and pointed to the enormous antique white armoire across the room. "I have all four. Michael dropped last season in the mail to me a week ago."
Alison got up quickly to find the discs, tripping over a large floor size replica of the Eiffel Tower, to find the box-sets. Four shiny unopened cases were stuffed at the back of the lower shelf, where she had never noticed them before, under the flat screen.
"You have season four and didn't tell me? What's wrong with you?"
Alex chuckled, "I don't watch the show. I don't watch television, remember?"
"I'd think you would have at least opened it. He's your friend and you don't even watch his show. Now that he's off the market, I suppose I'll have to start paying more attention to his co-star. That British guy, Parker, is really cute too."
Alex had already tuned Alison out as she finished the Thai restaurant review for Curated, her lifestyle and food blog, bearing the same name as her part-time catering business. She clicked the mouse and moved the copy into the Wordpress window and saved the post. She twisted a finger in a loose curl while she waited on her cursor to return to normal. Her long, very curly, brown hair was almost always stuffed into a messy bun at the base of her neck. Curls managed to escape around her face during the day.
"He's a close acquaintance. Ali, why don't you just take the DVD's home with you and drool over both of them in private? I don't think I can bear to watch you while you're being that silly."
"I'm not silly. It's a good show and they're both serious eye candy. Tell you what, I vote that we take one day off from work and have a Convergence marathon. We can binge-watch the DVD's all day and relax."
The idea sounded appealing on the surface. Downtime for Alex was something she sorely needed, but never considered. There were simply too many bills to be paid after walking away from a bad marriage with a large debt load. In order to pay them, she had to work part-time at a local restaurant, cater whenever she could, sell her travel photos online, and keep the food blog going for advertising dollars. It was just recently turning a profit.
"Sounds like a plan. Soon, okay? I need to get this week's posts finished first. Then we can vedge, all day. And I can get you munchies to keep your mouth busy so you don't drool on my sofa."
Alison laughed, "You need a day off, Alex. Half of a day, like today, doesn't count. You need to get out more anyway."
Alex lived over the top of her father's workshop, next to her parent's home, in Franklin, North Carolina. Other than Ali, a social life was nonexistent. Being an only child meant no visiting siblings either. Outings consisted of walking on the Greenway and trips to work, or to catering jobs. Then there were days when she wanted to run away and enjoy the nearby town of Asheville, the closest larger city. Going there alone wasn't proper, or safe, according to her family. Alex stayed home for the most part because she wanted to.
"Do you promise you'll consider a whole day of doing nothing with me?"
Alex blinked a few times, her blue eyes focusing on Alison. "I promise. Now, did you decide on a teapot photo to use on the slider for the Fall tea-focused posts?"
The DVD's were all but forgotten, Alison came over to sit beside Alex.
"I like the brown betty with the dark red earthenware cups and saucers. But the toile printed pot is nice too. I like the grainy effect of the photo. It reminds me of the black and white typewriter print you have hanging above us here at the desk." Alison tilted her head up. "When are you going to print off some art for my house?"
"When you buy some print cartridges for my ink sucking behemoth printer. I'll use the print paper I have left from the Etsy sales. I can't afford the ink unless I'm getting paid for it."
The large format printer took up almost as much floor space as the desk.
"I know. I really want some of these prints from Paris. I like all the black and whites. They look great against that paint color. What's it called again?"
"Shaker Beige. Otherwise known as khaki." Alex smiled, "You helped me roll the walls. I can't believe you forgot the name of the paint color."
"I just want the art. You've been selling enough of it online lately. Please. Give me the cartridge numbers you need and I'll get them ordered this week. How big can you make the pictures?"
"The paper roll is forty inches across. Most of the prints I sell online, and have hanging in here, are twenty-four by thirty-six."
"Oh! I just had a thought. You should totally print off a poster of the June blog images and hang it up in the coffee shop. That would be so awesome and good exposure for the site."
"No problem. Perk Up is pleased to support the lady who supports it's hair-brained owner."
"You're not hair-brained, just a little organizationally challenged."
Alison sat down at the computer to review the online content for the blog, up to where they had finished editing. "I'm jealous. You can cook, you can design your blog, photograph anything, and write. It's not fair. So can you take pity on the kitchen challenged and make more batches of muffins tonight, please? We're completely out."
"So soon? Wow!"
"It's almost Memorial Day weekend. People have been hitting the coffee shop hard the last few mornings."
"We can finish the posts later. Let's make your muffins, now. They'll have a chance to cool and you can take them with you." Alex smiled and went to the kitchen to bake mini dark chocolate chip muffins. The last batch of ninety-six had only lasted two days apparently.
At ten that evening, both decided the day had been long enough. Alison was expected at her post early the next morning. Caffeine addicts would want their hit before work began.
Alex dressed in a worn t-shirt and gray jersey shorts. The nightly ritual of listening to her favorite soundtrack, John Williams, from the movie Sabrina, was a comfort as she readied for bed. Working on her articles for the blog would wait tonight. The mood had to be right for the words to flow onto the page and recipes to be born. After Alison had left, she just wasn't feeling it.
Two sets of French doors on the south wall functioned as the windows for the apartment. They provided a wonderful view of the pond and chaotic cottage garden behind her parent's home. She stared into the moonless night replaying the afternoon movie in her head. Would she ever find the capacity to let herself love again, like in the movie?
After seven years of marriage, Sam Winston had come home to simply find her gone. She had packed up her belongings in one day, with help, saying goodbye to a dream that once was.
There were so many nights that Sam had sweetly tucked her into bed, but never joined her. Almost every night of those seven years in fact, she went to sleep in an empty bed. She had felt so alone for so long now. Her heart felt cold and brittle toward love, like grass blades under the first frost.
The oversized mug in her hands was warm with tea. It was placed on her bedside table, next to a worn copy of Walden, as the white duvet was folded down at the end of the bed. She opened the French doors and listented to the frogs at the pond, singing their nightly chorus. Alex turned out the light and stared up at the ceiling. Sleep didn't come easily anymore. It had not in some time. Hope burned eternal in her heart of glass, that although love had been an elusive and cruel friend, she secretly longed for its return. Bitter ashes exchanged for love's beauty.
Loud ringing interrupted her sleep. The noise continued until the fog of slumber lifted. Alex fumbled around with her right hand on the bedside table for her phone. Morning had come.
"Hello, Alex. It's Michael. How are you?"
"I was asleep. Shouldn't you be? It's what time out there in L.A.?"
Alex sat up and kept blinking trying desperately to focus on the large wall clock across the room. Eight thirty? She was elated at sleeping so late, even though a phone call had jarred her awake. She had to be at work in an hour.
"I'm in Montreal, with Kelly. I'm sorry I woke you up."
"No, it's fine. I should have already been up."
"We're flying into Atlanta on Thursday morning. It'll be a short trip, heading back to Montreal on Monday."
"I hear congratulations are in order." Alex could hear the smile over the phone in Michael's voice.
"Thank you. I took your advice on the ring. She loved it. Thanks for your help."
"You're welcome." Alex licked her lips and sipped the cold tea in the mug to moisten her throat.
"I have a huge favor to ask of you. You can say no if you don't have the time. I realize this is really short notice. Kelly is throwing a small party, about fifty people, over at the house on Friday night. The whole weekend will be filled with activities for the group to help us celebrate shooting for the new season and relax a bit. We're also celebrating our engagement. Kelly's parents are handling the food. I wanted to know if you can make that amazing chocolate cake again."
Alex sat up even straighter, nearly dropping the tea cup. "You want my death-by-chocolate-cake for your engagement party?"
"Yes, of course. Neither one of us has forgotten it. Do you have the time?"
"Oh, I'll make time. Fifty people you say?"
"Thank you so much for doing this. Yes, about fifty. Make more than you normally would. I want to have some to spare. I'll meet you in town Thursday at Perk Up. I have to stop, in Franklin, to pick up the champagne we want. I'll bring you a check. How much?"
"Consider it my engagement present to you both."
"That's very generous of you, but I'll still pay you. It's worth it to me because you'll have to deliver it to the house and you can stay."
"That's a private moment, Michael. I'm not sure it would be appropriate."
"Nonsense. You'll stay and have fun. You're one of the few friends we have that isn't superficial. You're real. We want you there. Not just as the Cake Lady, but as our friend."
Alex considered the invitation. It would be a house full of people she didn't know. This was going to be awkward. "I don't suppose you'll take no for an answer, will you?"
Michael laughed, "Not a chance. See you Thursday. I'll call when we get close to Franklin."
"Alright, see you then."
Chocolate cake for fifty with a house full of Hollywood faces. She had three days to have the cake ready, plenty of time. But she'd need to get good quality chocolate and espresso powder. This was going to be interesting. Alex wondered what Alison would have to say about this.
Alex checked the time and jumped out of bed. She was going to be late for work. Lillie wouldn't be happy.
"Parker! Get out of bed."
Michael Rosencrantz continued to pound on the hotel room door. After a moment, it appeared the occupant was finally responding. He waited to hear an obscenity wrapped smoothly in a British accent.
"Alright, alright! Stop beating the bloody door in!"
The door opened a bit and bright blue eyes peered through the crack. A tangled shaggy mess of somewhat short brown hair was swept back with a pale hand.
"It's half of nine in the morning, Michael. And I've had night shooting remember? What's so pressing?"
"Time off. You're coming with us to North Carolina this weekend. You'll be back in time for the cameras to roll on Monday night."
Parker Grey looked skeptical under his long dark lashes. "North Carolina?"
"Yes. There are mountains, breathtaking views, nature, plenty of fresh air, and no paparazzi jumping out from every corner. It's enough for even you to lose yourself easily. "
Michael had backed Parker into his room with the exuded enthusiasm. He threw the curtains open, flooding the room with bright light. Prisms reflected wildly off the lacquered acoustic guitar beside the bed. Parker collapsed onto the mattress and pulled a pillow over his head.
The bed shook as Michael pounced onto it.
"Come on, London boy. I've been asking you to go since we started working together. What do you say?"
"I say, ask me when I've had some tea and sleep. I don't know how much longer I'm going to be able to stick to this bet of not drinking coffee for a week."
Excerpted from "Kissing Hollywood"
Copyright © 2017 Monica Collier.
Excerpted by permission of Red Press Co., Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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