You are Anna Chambliss, a beautiful A-list actress engaged to a gorgeous Hollywood star. Life is beyond perfect—until you wake one morning to find tabloid headlines proclaiming that your fiancé is cheating on you. How do you react? Your love life, your career, and your future happiness all depend on what you choose to do—and who you do it with.
Will your engagement crumble in public scandal?
Do you seek out a sexy new leading man? Enjoy a night of mind-blowing bliss with a near stranger?
Or do you find your soul mate away from the spotlight’s glare?
Every decision you make has consequences, some steamy, some dangerous. Follow your destiny from movie sets to glittering premieres to glamorous vacation spots—and always remember: life in the fast lane can include all kinds of juicy detours. The choice is yours…
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A Pick Your Own Plot Bedventure
By Meredith Michelle
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Meredith Michelle
All rights reserved.
WE Weekly reports: America's Sweetheart, Anna Chambliss, 31, and fiancé of six months, Hampton Rhodes, 37, seen solo at separate Hollywood hot spots this week. Reps of each actor decline to comment. Could there be trouble in paradise?
You are Anna Chambliss. Your perfect face is splashed across the cover of every best-selling tabloid magazine, headlines proclaiming America's Sexiest Sweetheart in Tears!
You roll the glossy WE Weekly into a tight tube, deposit it into the little garbage can beside your dressing table, and look up into the dimly lit mirror in front of you. The same huge, widely spaced green eyes you've looked into since you were a child gaze back. A recent quote from the popular men's magazine Apex comes to mind: "Pure emerald pools with floating flecks of blue and gold." A surprisingly poetic description, considering the source.
You turn your head slowly right and then left, confirming the profile your last director described as having "not one bad angle." Your hair — all yours, not a single extension — falls in glimmering, golden waves that cascade past your shoulders. You lick your "bee-stung" pink lips, let your eyes rest upon your "strong but feminine" chin. Run your hand over your "flawless, silken" skin, all smooth lines over firm muscle without so much as a freckle or blemish.
Tucking your "impossibly long," slim legs under you on the quilted silk dressing table bench, you try to focus on relaxing for the few moments you have left before you step into the inevitable media storm waiting outside the hotel lobby.
Breathe, you tell yourself.
You bring your fingers to your hairline, gently smoothing the soft tendrils that frame your forehead. Raise your chin to admire the structure of your collarbone, the gentle inlet at the base of your throat, the soft curve toward your shoulders. Dip your fingers lower, palm flat against the swell of your breast, then gently beneath the lace fringe of your silk camisole, spaghetti strap now fallen down from your shoulder to rest on the curve of your upper arm. Your fingers send bright sparks down your spine as you reach lower, your gown now perched precariously upon the perfect roundness of your breast — the breasts that Hampton, the soon-to-be-husband you thought you knew so well, professed to find "delectable."
The thought of Hampton, of course, brings you quickly back to reality. "Delectable"? Really? You should have known.
You can't believe he hasn't called in three days. Worse, even his manager isn't returning your calls. Part of you wants to run directly to the movie set, bang on the door of his trailer, and find out what exactly is going on. If only you knew what to expect when you arrived on set — would security even let you through? The last thing you need is to be photographed being turned away.
You knew you should have been a little more wary of that notoriously seductive costar of his, Nigella Langley. But you believed Hampton when he told you he could never be attracted to any other woman, and that it was over for him when he laid eyes on you. He was the one who pursued you, after all.
Shaking yourself out of your thoughts, you remember who you are: Anna Chambliss, one of the highest-paid actresses on the big screen. Incredibly lucky and unbelievably in demand. You are not about to let Hampton ruin your career or even your day. You have a packed schedule ahead of you filled with interviews, appearances, and meetings. Hampton will probably call sometime today and you'll be too busy to talk to him.
Still, you know this nonsense will be a distraction at best and fodder for the media at worst. All of your dreams are on the precipice of coming true and the last thing you need is to be pulled into a nightmare you didn't even see coming. Part of you knows you should talk to him in person and get to the bottom of whatever it is that's going on. You were so sure yours was the one celebrity relationship destined to last more than the average twelve months, but apparently you were the last one to get the memo. Hampton's been distant for weeks — not just geographically — and the press is already reporting you two are no longer an item. You know you have to take matters into your own hands, one way or the other. Should you go to the set and confront Hampton and that awful Nigella or call him and put your doomed engagement out of its misery?
To confront Hampton in person, turn to page: 151. To call Hampton, keep reading.
Before you allow yourself a second to think about it, you muster your courage, pick up your phone, and call Hampton's number. Of course he doesn't answer. "Your call has been sent to an automated messaging system ..." begins the robotic voice on the other end. You speak as quickly as you can after the beep. "Hampton, it's Anna, remember me? I can't seem to get ahold of you. I really didn't want to do this by voice mail but I guess it's better than text." You pause for just a second then cut to the chase. "It's over, Hampton. Don't bother calling. My schedule is very full and I certainly don't have time for your games. I hope you have a wonderful life." You push End and feel a tiny, frigid sliver slide through your heart. At the same moment, it's as if an enormous weight is lifted from your shoulders. You take a huge breath and blow it out, feeling the sting of tears you quickly wipe away as you put the phone facedown on the little table.
"Knock, knock!" The too-cheerful voice of Buffy, your stylist, sings through the door. She bounces in, all ginger curls, dimples, and huge, sparkling, blue eyes. She's a ringer for Shirley Temple as a child — just a little taller.
"Hi, Buff." You glance over at the clock and force yourself to smile. "Is it that time already?"
"Sorry — I brought you a Starbucks, though. Skinny peppermint mocha?" Buffy sets the steaming cup down on the dressing table.
"Thanks. Hopefully I'll be awake by the time the interview's over."
"Not much sleep, huh?" Buffy begins her routine of setting out the makeup bottles and brushes and heating the curlers.
"What's the point? I keep waking up a million times thinking about everything. But I did it, Buffy. I called Hampton. Had to leave him a message of course. I think this time it's really over."
Buffy runs a brush through your uncombed hair. She's been with you through every twist and turn of your crazy Hollywood Hampton romance. She's never been his biggest fan, but she's always been yours. "I'm so sorry, Anna. And now you have a crazy day to get through. But you'll do great. You always do."
She starts the process of sectioning your hair, wrapping each piece around a now heated roller, and pinning it into place. "Do you have an outfit?"
"Actually, I was hoping for your input on that."
Buffy grins and says around a mouthful of bobby pins, "Where would you be without me?"
You smile at her in the mirror. "I don't even want to think about it."
* * *
An hour later, you're ready for your close-up. Dressed casually but impeccably in an ice-blue sheath, your hair flowing freely in loose waves around your shoulders, you don your sunglasses to face the world.
A gush of hot, dry air sucks into the revolving door as you leave the hotel.
LA is always too bright, the morning light reflected from the skin-deep glimmer of the city. You step out into the day, dreaming of escape. If only you could play hooky for a couple of days, take a vacation, recharge a little. But you are at the height of your success, and who knows what tomorrow will bring? As your manager always reminds you, you have to strike while the iron's hot, make the most of your fifteen minutes. So, you never say no — you take the endless bookings, meet the press, go from film to film, feeding the fame machine in hope that one day you'll be able to jump off the hamster wheel and just rest.
From page 155 (and continued from above) ...
You slide into your waiting car and meet the sunglasses-covered gaze of your driver, Bodhi, in the rearview mirror. His lopsided grin relaxes you in an instant. Handsomely disheveled, Bodhi always looks like he's ready to catch the next wave.
Not for the first time, you assess him from behind — the broad shoulders tapering to tanned and muscled arms, signature linen shirt billowing just slightly in the draft from the air conditioning. You know without looking he's wearing the requisite leather Birkenstocks. His white-blond hair is finger-combed into a goofily sexy, spiky mop. He might be fun — if only you hadn't just sworn off men for the rest of your existence.
"You okay, Anna?" he asks as you ease down onto the warm, black leather seat with a huge exhale.
"I really don't even know," you say, flopping back against the headrest. Bodhi's become more of a friend than a driver. Your little chats with him in the car between shoots and interviews are just the respite you've needed lately, and he's been a wonderful support through all of your relationship drama, helping you see things from a man's point of view but somehow always seeming to be on your side.
"Anna, you really need to give yourself a break," Bodhi sighs. "I mean, you've got to take time out. Enjoy your life a little. I'll tell you what would really help: transcendental meditation."
You look at his earnest reflection in the rearview mirror over the rim of your sunglasses and can't suppress a giggle.
"Seriously, it's the best. There's a great class at the Karma Citrus, that little place over in Malibu? But I like to do it on the beach, looking out at the waves. I focus on the horizon. Sometimes I really start to feel one with the world, you know? It's beautiful. It'll totally help you forget about ... what's his name?"
You roll your eyes but give an appreciative laugh.
"No, I'm serious. It is amazing. Better then sex."
"Well, I won't be having sex anytime soon, so maybe I should try it."
"Anna, come on ..."
"I'm serious! I'm done with men," you say as offhandedly as you can manage.
Bodhi spins in his seat to face you, his spiky hair and one raised eyebrow lending a comical look to his tanned face. He lowers his sunglasses revealing warm brown eyes, and waggles his sun-bleached eyebrows suggestively. "Your problem is you just haven't found the right man."
"Eyes on the road, mister," you say, half-smiling at the back of his head.
"Seriously though, Anna, you would like meditation. I tell you what, after you're done today I'll take you over to the spot I like, and I'll show you some moves. It's just what you need."
You have to admit, Bodhi has a refreshing way of lightening the mood. "You'll show me some moves, huh?" you tease.
"I'm not kidding," he says earnestly. "This is good stuff!"
You breathe a long sigh because it does sound good, but you know how crazy the day you have ahead of you will be. You can barely think past your first appointment and you don't even want to think about that — an hour long interview with Janine Perillo, the infamously brash WE Weekly magazine reporter. She's earned her nickname, "Mean Janine," through her vicious reputation for ruthlessly reporting the worst news in Hollywood. You just hope your publicist remembered to make the call to Perillo instructing her to avoid any and all questions about Hampton.
"Bodhi, I've got meetings until all hours. It'll be really late by the time I'm done. And tomorrow I'm due on location. Thanks, though."
Bodhi is undeterred. "You know what? It's even better at night. I swear, I've reached an unsurpassed clarity in the quiet of the night on the beach. It'll be the best." He pauses, awaiting an answer. "So?"
"Let me see how my day goes ..."
"I'm not saying yes."
Although now the idyllic scene is playing in your mind: the warm sand, waves rolling lazily in the dark, a man you can actually trust, and a moment to relax. You wish you could just blow off this crazy day and go right now. But you quickly dismiss the thought.
You put on your best all-business voice but smile into the rearview mirror, knowing Bodhi doesn't buy it for a minute. "Just mind your driving."
"Yes'm." Bodhi replies, pulling the sleek black car around a palm-tree lined curve and heading downtown.
As you approach the Tarento Restaurant on Sunset, you're relieved to see the usual spectators aren't milling about. In fact, the street is pretty clear. Bodhi pulls to the curb just outside the entrance and stops the car.
"See you in a few," you say, thrusting a heel onto the sparkling cement below.
No sooner have you planted your Manolo Blahnik firmly on the pavement than the glass door to Tarento flies open. Suddenly, a tall man dressed in a dark suit is upon you.
You duck your head and push your sunglasses more firmly onto your face, readying yourself to shove past the accosting fan or paparazzo. As you sidestep, he steps in the same direction, causing you to collide with his remarkably sturdy chest. You gasp for breath and catch a whiff of a subtle cologne that smells like man and unexpectedly makes your legs feel a little warm and shaky.
You look up, way up — this guy is tall — and find yourself gazing into the clearest grey eyes you've ever seen. Contrasted with the jet-black hair and ruggedly handsome face, those eyes are even more striking. He looks down at you for a moment, seemingly as stunned as you are, then, in the most musical accent says, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you — I just ..."
He pauses for a long moment, holding your gaze, and you think you see the unlikely trace of a blush on his handsome face.
The moment seems to last forever and, at the same time, end much too soon. He drops his gaze and clears his throat.
"Let me start over. I'm Colm Reilly" — he pronounces it "column" — "I'm with WE." His extended hand is large and warm, his grip strong and firm. His low voice drops to a quiet reverence. "You're even more beautiful than I'd been expecting."
He steps back a pace and you can see him composing himself despite the red flush now clearly rising from his neck to his already ruddy cheeks.
"Sorry, I must sound like a starstruck lad."
You have no idea what to make of this man. His blush rises just above the shadow you have a feeling a good shave never really erases, making him look like a tantalizing mix of schoolboy and full-grown man.
He drops his eyes to the pavement and clears his throat again. "Here's my card." He thrusts a glossy WE business card into your hand.
"Thanks," you tell him, though it sounds more like a question.
"Well, then. Shall we go in and get started?"
"Okay ..." you reply hesitantly. "What happened to Janine?" you ask as you walk through the door Colm holds open for you.
"She landed a job at Expose. My lucky break."
Sounds right up her alley, you think. This might turn out to be a lucky break for you, too.
You glance over at the still-waiting Bodhi in the car and give him a smile and a nod. He rolls up the window and glides away.
Colm leads you through the lobby and into a private room in the back of the restaurant. A petite waitress wearing a brightly colored kimono, her hair slicked back into a glossy bun secured by enameled chopsticks, glides into the room and slides the bamboo and paper door shut behind her. "What can I get you?" she asks.
"Chai tea, please," you answer.
"Chai it is," she says.
"Nothing to eat?" Colm asks. "My treat — well, WE's treat, if I'm honest."
You smile at that. "No thanks. The tea is perfect. I have to do a talk show in couple of hours. Nervous tummy."
"Then we already have something in common," he says with a wink, then orders a strong breakfast tea.
You notice the fabric of his suit strains across his strong shoulders as he leans slightly forward to hand his menu to the waitress. You also notice her sideways glance at Colm, then the fully adoring gaze as she registers his accent.
What are you thinking? He's a reporter, for God's sake. Not the type you should be considering at all. Not that you should be considering anyone, considering ...
"All right, then." He pulls a notebook and pencil from his jacket pocket and looks into your eyes. "How has your morning been?"
Already a departure from the questions you usually hear. You wonder how long this guy has been in the journalism business.
Excerpted from Star Struck by Meredith Michelle. Copyright © 2016 Meredith Michelle. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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