The sexy New Adult e-original from Jamie Brenner, in which Lulu has everything except the one thing she never knew she desired—until now.
She lives in a world of beauty.
His life is shrouded in darkness.
When they meet, she must choose between everything she has and the one thing she has always desired.
Lulu Sterling thinks she has it all figured out: with one more year left at NYU, she's spending her summer interning at her mother's iconic art gallery, determined to overcome the long shadow of her father's suicide and prove herself to her critical mother. With her boyfriend, rising artist Brandt Penn, Lulu also hopes she will finally experience the love and desire that have always eluded her. But passion comes where she least expects it in the form of a brilliant, reclusive street artist known only by the tag GoST, and Lulu must decide how much she is willing to risk – and how far she is willing to go -- to claim it.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|File size:||2 MB|
About the Author
Jamie Brenner grew up in suburban Philadelphia and studied literature at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Her previous books include The Wedding Sisters, The Gin Lovers, and Ruin Me. Her latest novel is the national bestseller The Forever Summer, which People magazine calls "A captivating tale of family secrets and strong women." Jamie lives in New York City with her husband and two teenager daughters.
Read an Excerpt
By Jamie Brenner
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2014 Jamie Brenner
All rights reserved.
There's a thing that happens at these art gallery parties filled with the beautiful people. Everyone orbits the room pretending not to look at the one person they all want to notice them. They pretend that her glance isn't the ultimate prize.
I've been playing this game my entire life.
The owner of New York's most prestigious art gallery, she is a pale-skinned, willowy brunette, wears dark-red matte lipstick, and is dressed in all white. There are several ropes of pearls around her neck and a cigarette in her hand — even now, when no one smokes in public anymore. She's like a living photo from the past, Coco Chanel or Dovima. She is timeless but perfectly of this moment. Elegant, powerful, elusive.
She's my mother.
"You should stand closer to him so you get in some of the photos," she says to me so quickly and quietly no one else would have heard.
I immediately cross the room. I'm a junior at NYU, an art major, and girlfriend of one of the hottest up-and-coming painters in New York. But around my mother, I'm still the six-year-old who ignored her warning never to use the scissors without her permission, only to cut my own bangs and ruin my hair for a year.
Hoping to satisfy her, I stand closer to my boyfriend, Brandt. It's not even his night, but he looks like the star. And in three months, he will be: It will be his paintings on the walls, his sound bites the journalists and bloggers want. But for now, New York magazine just wants a photo of us together for their party section.
"I'm going to get some fresh air," I whisper to him, uncomfortable with the attention. It's late, close to midnight by now. He looks at me, his blue eyes shiny, his cheeks flushed from excitement and wine. He is talking to the showing artist, Dustin McBride, whom my mother just poached from Vito Schnabel's gallery.
A few months ago, Dustin wouldn't have given Brandt the time of day. But now Brandt is part of the club. Not just an "emerging" artist but one about to have his first one-man show with Anna Sterling.
"I'll go with you," Brandt says, but I know he doesn't mean it. He's high from all the attention, buzzing with it. Hovering close by is Inez Elliot, my mother's trusted gallery director and probably the coolest girl I know. She has pale coco skin and bleached blond hair offset by dark eyebrows — Rita Ora on steroids. I smile at her; she looks away.
Other women are circling — the art groupies, the hipster writer from The Times, and even the new "it" girl model with her heart-shaped lips, pink-edged blond hair, and stud in her nostril. Brandt drinks it all in. He was made for this.
"I'll be right back," I tell him.
Outside, I gasp with relief when I feel the humid June air. The streets of SoHo feel like they are running on different oxygen than the freezing gallery. For the first time in hours, my goose bumps disappear.
This wasn't how my summer was supposed to go, I thought while crossing Greene Street. I'd wanted to be spending this week packing for a trip to Spain with my roommate, Niffer. We'd spent months planning our trip and even knew where we would eat dinner our first night — Els Pescadors, for tapas. It's where Niffer met her boyfriend, Claudio, last summer. He still works there.
Now Niffer is going without me, thanks to my mother.
I inhale the summer air greedily and walk slowly down West Houston Street in my impractical shoes and sheath dress. The initial elation of escaping the party turns sour as I start to perspire. I'm exhausted.
I always imagined working at the gallery alongside my mother. Dreamed of it, actually. I knew it was my future. But now that she wants me to start this summer, it feels all too soon.
But, I can't say no to my mother — I never have. And now I'm paying the price for it. Keeping up with her breakneck work ethic is going consume the next two months of my life, as it has consumed all of hers. She only took time off from the gallery twice in twenty-five years: when I was born, and then six months later, when my father killed himself.
My phone vibrates in my dangly, beaded vintage clutch. A part of me dares to hope that it's Brandt, saying that he wants to get some air, too. "Let's get pizza," or more likely, "Let's fuck."
I pull the phone out. It's my mother. "Where are you? Richard wants a quote from you."
"From me?" Richard is the art critic for The New York Times.
"I'm outside. I just needed some fresh air. I'll be back in a minute."
I dutifully turn to head back to the gallery. And that's when, out of the corner of my eye, I see something.
I look up. Sure enough, on the side of a building, ten stories above the street, a man dangles from a harness. One arm is perfectly still, the other is waving in sharp, methodical sweeping motions. He is holding a stencil in one hand, spray-painting with the other.
I watch, rooted in place, mesmerized as swaths of paint start to form an image. It's a dark-haired woman. The spray can leaves a trail of colors to form a blue shirt with capped sleeves and a long yellow skirt. The woman's body appears to wilt, her arm falling to her side. I take in the image from top to bottom. It's Snow White. She's beautiful, vulnerable, falling into the legendary sleep that will only be broken by her prince.
He moves quickly, now painting near Snow White's limp hand. His body blocks my view. Finally, he pushes back on his feet, moving away from the painting. It is now complete, with a poisoned apple dropping from her limp hand.
But it's not just any apple — it's the tech company logo.
I gasp. It's the most exciting piece of art I've seen all night, and it's on the side of a building.
Suddenly, the can of spray paint falls from his hand. It seems to happen in slow motion, tumbling over and over, until it hits the sidewalk with a tinny crash.
The noise attracts other people, and a small crowd gathers at the base of the building. People are pointing. And then, nearby, the wail of a police siren.
But he is not finished yet. With quick, efficient circular motions of his arm, he claims the painting, tagging the piece with the name GoST. And I realize I am witnessing the artist whose brilliant, politically-edged stencil paintings have been popping up all over walls and billboards in SoHo and the Village. A thrill runs through me.
And just like that, he is gone.CHAPTER 2
Two police cars pull up to the scene, lights flashing. I sigh; I have to get back to the gallery.
But something keeps me from turning back. And before I realize what I'm doing, I step into the street, dashing across the middle of West Houston with cars blaring horns at me.
I reach the sidewalk, hobbling. Without hesitating, I pull off my high heels and run down Broadway.
Eventually I stop, putting my hands on my hips, try to catch my breath, and look around. This ten seconds of stillness gives me what I need: in the crowd of late night revelers spilling out of bars and restaurants, traversing the cobblestones arm-in-arm and competing for cabs with drunken inefficiency, one solitary figure stands out. He moves deliberately, but without rushing. He is dressed in all black, a hood over his head despite the heat.
I move quickly. I'm so excited I can barely think straight.
And then he stops, so I stop.
What is he doing?
He lifts up a section of the sidewalk, some sort of hatch that blends right into the ground. For a heart-stopping second, he looks up — right at me. He is wearing a ski mask, but our eyes lock. It's more electric than anything I've ever felt before. His eyes are big and dark, and leave me breathless. I open my mouth but nothing comes out.
"Out of the way," a gruff voice says from behind me. I know without turning around that it's the police, duty bound to arrest him for vandalism.
And I know what I have to do.
I turn to the officer, and "faint" into his arms. Thankfully, the guy catches me.
I hear his partner say something about me being drunk. He's not happy. I steal a quick glance at the spot where GoST had been standing.
* * *
It's only when I walk back into the gallery that I realize my horrendous, colossal mistake: I forgot to snap a photo. I could have snagged evidence of the elusive GoST. It would have gone viral on Instagram in a matter of minutes. I didn't even get a shot of the painting!
I have to go back.
For months, I've been chronicling street art around the city on Instagram and my Tumblr site. The idea that some other blogger might post the photo of Snow White before I do is unbearable. It's become a competition.
But it's too late. My mother has already spotted me.
"Where have you been?" she asks icily.
I step inside. The room is startlingly bright and loud, the hum of conversation broken by the occasional burst of laughter, the inescapable cameras. And yet something has shifted since I walked out the door a half hour ago. The evening has obviously peaked. People are punctuating their conversations, heading toward the door. But Brandt is exactly where I left him. Only now, the paintings that hang behind him suddenly look bland.
"I ran into someone ..."
I realize my right foot is cut. It's bleeding. She notices it at the same time I do.
"I'll be right back."
I duck into the bathroom to check the damage. But I don't regret the barefoot dash. I'd almost missed him.
I wonder if he saw my faux faint. Or maybe he was oblivious to the fact that a stranger aided his clean getaway. I felt like the Little Mermaid, dragging the unconscious prince to shore, anonymous, yet forever changed from the encounter. My body warms thinking of him. This stranger somehow moves me when, lately, I don't feel much of anything at all.
For almost a year, every time I spot one of his paintings around the city, I am inspired. The sighting of a GoST is like a talisman. My good luck charm. And tonight, for the first time, I saw him in action.
I leave the bathroom and find my mother talking to Richard Vogel, the feared and revered art critic for The New York Times. To me, he is simply Uncle Richard.
"There she is! I've been meaning to talk to you all evening," he tells me, giving me the double-cheek kiss. "We blinked, and she's all grown up," he says to my mother.
My mother nods, smiling, my little disappearing act and inelegantly bleeding foot all but forgotten. For now.
"I just want a few words about the show," he says, holding out his mini tape recorder. Richard has been doing this for twenty years, so I guess he feels no need to jump into the new millennium and use his phone to record his interviews. "Do you have a favorite from this series?" he asks.
I glance across the room, where Dustin McBride stands next to his largest canvas, a nearly floor-to-ceiling work entitled Threshold. It's blocks of color, very Mark Rothko. There is a red dot on the information placard next to the painting, signifying that the painting has been sold. Every painting in the room is marked with a red dot.
"Threshold," I say.
"What do you have to say to the notion that this collection is a commentary on the American dream?"
I feel nervous answering, not wanting to make a misstep that will be locked in print. Richard's column matters in a way few other art journalists' work does. He has considerable sway over what is bought and sold. I've been reading his columns since I was in grammar school, and he inspired me to want to be a journalist. But mother's philosophy is, why write when you can do? But I think the real reason she discouraged me is that journalists don't make a lot of money. As far as my mother is concerned, cash is king — and the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.
One or two dealers define each era in art. Starting in the early 1990s, that dealer was my mother. She'd made her first million by the time she was twenty-eight. And expects no less from me.
I look at Richard.
And I think of the painting of Snow White, the poison Apple.
I glance at my mother. She nods slightly.
"I think it is a commentary on our toxic consumerism," I say.
My mother smiles.CHAPTER 3
A car waits outside to take us to the after-party in Williamsburg.
The hot new DJs of the moment are going to be spinning there. They are a pair of fraternal twins who go by the moniker X & Y. My friends have stood in line for hours trying to get into clubs to experience their magic.
Brandt and I climb into the back of the black Town Car. "Just drop us off on the corner of West Twenty-third and Tenth," Brandt tells the driver as the car pulls away from the gallery.
"You want to skip the party?" I ask, incredulous.
"I don't mind being fashionably late," he says, his hands already under my dress, skimming the edge of my cotton underwear.
"I can't be out all night. I have a final in the morning," I tell him.
"I'll be quick," he says, kissing me.
"Brandt," I say, in feeble protest. And I do mean feeble: I have never been able to resist Brandt's desire for me. The first time we met, I kissed him and went further with him than I ever had with anyone else I barely knew.
It happened at Niffer's brother's college graduation party in the lush green suburbs of the Main Line, Philadelphia.
I didn't want to go to the party, but Niffer guilted me, and the next thing I knew I was on Amtrak headed to 30th Street Station. I always felt weird around Niffer's parents, the Holgates. They are big art collectors and don't even try to hide the fact that they are impressed by who my mother is. And to Niffer's absolute horror, her father is always angling to get her brother and I together, but he is even less interested in me than I in him. (His date at his party was a Swedish exchange student who I could have sworn I heard call him "Daddy").
The party was a year ago on a perfect June day at a country club. Hors d'oeuvres were served out on the manicured lawn, and I noticed Brandt immediately. He was a few yards away from me, talking to Mr. Holgate. And I was riveted.
He was easily the most gorgeous guy I'd ever seen. His thick hair was golden and his nose and jaw perfectly sculpted. And though he was just wearing jeans and black t-shirt, he looked polished. Maybe it was the Rolex on his wrist and the Tod's driving shoes. Or maybe it was the sunlight, or the slight buzz I had from the white wine spritzer. Whatever it was, this guy seemed to glow.
Sensing my stare, he turned in my direction. His bright blue eyes instantly locked on mine. I felt it in my stomach down to my toes. Mr. Holgate beckoned me over with a wave.
"Glad you could make our little celebration, Lulu," said Niffer's dad.
"Um, me too," I say. Brandt's eyes were on me, tracing my body.
"I was just telling Brandt about you." I looked at Mr. Holgate, startled. He was a bit of a jokester, so I waited for the punch line. "Brandt's a painter. I told him your mother happens to be a big deal — and a big dealer." Mr. Holgate laughed.
I heard the words painter, your mother, and dealer. But it was all I could do to listen because Brandt looked at me with such intense focus, holding on, making it impossible to glance away even though I felt I needed to just so I could exhale.
He walked me to the bar to refill my champagne, and I felt like I was in a movie that had cast me as the female lead by mistake.
It's not that I felt unattractive. But I was something of a late bloomer — at least sexually. I didn't even have a boyfriend until freshman year of college: Andy Miller. We dated for six months, and I had sex with him once, it was incredibly disappointing, and the relationship kind of fizzled after that.
But never had a guy as gorgeous and charismatic as Brandt ever paid so much attention to me. From the moment we were introduced, Brandt's focus was entirely on me.
By the time the sun started to set, we snuck off to the women's locker room in the main clubhouse. I felt giddy and excited as he took my hand and led me to a discreet row of lockers and wooden benches near the back.
After an afternoon of champagne, and feeling Brandt's eyes following me from across the lawn as I made small talk with the other guests, and then finally the last hour we spent engaging in witty banter — him touching my hand and brushing against my shoulder — all I wanted was to feel his hands on my bare skin.
Brandt didn't seem nervous. The way he kissed and stroked me, you would never have known there was a party outside.
He kissed me lightly, breathing into my neck as his thumb brushed my nipple gently under my bra. A warmth spread through me as a soft moan escaped.
But even in the moment, I was worried he would try to have sex with me. I'd never had a one-night (or, in this case, one-afternoon) stand and I wasn't ready to start now.
Excerpted from Ruin Me by Jamie Brenner. Copyright © 2014 Jamie Brenner. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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
I do believe this is the first New Adult novel set in the art world I've read. I had no idea the art world was so cut throat! I'm not sure what it was I was expecting, but this book was full of drama and action. As a fan of art in all its forms I was surprised to see the disdain with which street art like GoST's was treated compared to traditional art like Brandt Penn's. Now seeing how one art installation caused traffic to shut down and the bomb squad called out, I can see why it's not looked on so favorably. After all the purpose of art is to convey a message or capture a moment in time and everyone interprets things differently. I really liked Lulu. She knew what she liked and she went after it. I liked how even though she was afraid of her mother, once she gained confidence and herself, she didn't let anyone hold her back. I admired GoST for the same reason. Not only was he trying to convey a message to the public but he stood behind his art. He wasn't going to let anyone else take credit for it or let anyone get hurt because of it. Chances are I'm not doing a really good job at conveying how good this book was. Give a try. It took me about 10% to really get into it, and then I had a very hard time putting it down. This is the first book by Jamie Brenner that I've read. I'm surprised I haven't heard about her before. Now that I know she's written other books, I'm definitely going to check them out and keep my eyes and ears pealed for whatever she writes next.
3.5 Stars ~Reviewed by FRANCESCA & posted at Under the Covers Book Blog What a pleasant surprise to read a book with an idea I’ve never read before! Lulu Sterling, our heroine, is the daughter of one of New York’s most well known and respected gallery owners. In the art world, she’s like a princess waiting to inherit that status after she graduates NYU. She’s even dating a talented up and coming artist. But in living that sheltered life she’s also never experienced many things. Felt many things. But she has a passion for street art. She even documents it on her Instagram account. And she’s a huge fan of GoST. His art is political at times, but always meaningful. At one of her mom’s events she happened to catch a glimpse of GoST in action and got a chance to get closer to him. I was surprised at how much I liked the unconventional hero. He’s homeless, really! How could I find him interesting? But he’s edgy, very smart and knows his agenda well. He’s not scared to go for it and accomplish what he sets out to do. And until Lulu he was also very much closed off to the outside world. RUIN ME shows that you can find love in the most unexpected places and how that love can bring out the real you inside. I loved reading that process in Lulu and I had fun with their adventures! *ARC provided by Publisher