Maya has no problem turning up the heat when she takes her show on the road for Spring Break in Cancun. On and off camera, the drama with her crew is chart-topping scandalous. And when a reckless bet Maya makes with Evian turns into a full-blown kidnapping crisis, Maya turns disaster into a major ratings win. But she'd better watch her back, because Evian is taking advantage of her moment in the spotlight and she just may push Maya out of the way for good. Maya will have to work all her skills and face some hard truths to save her credibility--and make sure the best gossip diva wins . . .
"Sit up and pay attention--Maya Morgan will knock your socks off." --Earl Sewell, author of The Keysha Diaries
"Scandal and mouth-dropping entertainment!" --Ni-Ni Simone
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Truth Or Dare RUMOR CENTRAL
By RESHONDA TATE BILLINGSLEY
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2014 ReShonda Tate Billingsley
All rights reserved.
I couldn't stop smiling as I watched the commercial with white sandy beaches, crisp blue water, and hot-bodied people walking up and down the beach. In just a few days, that would be me (of course I would be a lot cuter than that busted-looking chick in this commercial). But I couldn't wait. It was about to be on!
"Stand by," my director, Manny, said, snapping me out of my daze.
I turned back to the camera to get my shine on (not that it ever left), but I got into serious focus mode when the camera turned on. As the popular host of the hottest celebrity gossip show—not just in Miami, but in the country—I always had to bring my A game.
"And we're back in five, four, three, two ..." Manny pointed to me as the Rumor Central theme music came up.
"What's up, everybody?" I began. "It's your girl, Maya Morgan, and we hope you've enjoyed today's edition of Rumor Central. You'd better believe that we're all over this latest story about Usher, and you'll want to make sure you keep it locked here to get the latest scoop. But you'll have to tune in in two weeks because your girl is out! That's right, I'm heading to Cancun, Mexico, for a little fun in the sun, rest and relaxation, and an all-around great time at the world-famous Spring Break Fling! Check out this short video from the Fling last year, shot by none other than one of the members of the boy band Four Dudes."
On the video, stars were partying with regular people in what looked like the best party ever.
The weeklong Spring Break Fling had been going on for a few years, but in the past couple of years, young celebs started going and that took things to a whole other level. Granted, I was going with my senior class, but I wasn't about to tell my viewers that. I didn't need the world to see I was getting excited about a high school thing. But make no mistake, I was pumped. The only thing that could've made this better was if my cousin, Travis, were going. Despite some drama with his drug-dealing friend last month (long story), I loved kicking it with my cousin, who had come to live with us earlier this year. Travis was fun with a capital F, but he was going back home to Brooklyn, New York, for spring break to spend time with his sick mother.
No worries, though, because the party must go on!
Manny gave me the cue to wrap, so I said, "Yours truly will be all up in the mix this year, so you know it's gonna be fiyah! Enjoy the break. I know I will. Until next time, holla at your girl."
The theme music came up again as the credits started rolling. I couldn't get my earpiece out of my ear fast enough.
"Bye, Manny," I called out, not bothering to wait for a reply. I was so ready for a vacation. Since I'd started as host of Rumor Central, I had become a workaholic, which wouldn't be so bad if I weren't seventeen and in the prime of my teen years. But hey, you couldn't be on top—and stay on top—like me by being a slacker. As Diddy said, "I'll sleep when I die." So, I wasn't making plans to sleep in Cancun, but I was going to kick it. Even though my girl Kennedi didn't go to school with us in Miami (she lived in Orlando), I'd managed to finagle her on to this trip. (Hey, when you were a rich chick like me, you made your own rules.)
Anyway, between Kennedi and my other BFF, Sheridan—and of course the fact that I was the life of the party, any party—we were about to have a blast.
"Looks like somebody is ready to go," my executive producer, Tamara, said, approaching me as I speed-walked down the hall back to my office. As usual, she was fly in a burgundy custom-tailored Vera Wang pantsuit. Her jet-black bob had her looking ready to kick butt and take names. I guess that's why she was the top dog at Rumor Central—next to me, that is.
"Well, that's the understatement of the year. I am so ready to get out of here," I replied, stopping to face her.
Dexter, the show producer, stood next to her smiling mischievously. Dexter was Tamara's partner in crime and ever since they'd canceled Miami Divas, a reality show that I had starred in with four other people, and given me my own show, they were always conspiring with one another.
"Uh-oh," I said, my gaze darting back and forth between the two of them. Whenever Dexter got that look in his eyes, something was up. It meant his mind was churning.
I glanced at my watch. I had fifteen minutes before I was off. So I didn't need his mind to be churning with anything concerning me.
I decided I wasn't even going to ask questions. "Umm, okay then, I'll see you guys in two weeks," I said, trying to step around them.
"Hold on," Tamara said, following me. "We're going to walk with you to your office."
I looked back and forth between the two of them. "I'm off in fifteen minutes." They gave me a lot of respect, and sometimes, I could tell the older people at the station had a problem with me being only seventeen years old, but I'd more than proven my worth. In the beginning, people used to doubt if the gossip I delivered was legit, but they had quickly learned that I was right on the money with most of the stuff I brought to the table. Being in Miami's "It Clique" had allowed me that luxury.
"This will only take ten minutes," Dexter said, giddily, like he was hiding some big secret.
"Okay, what's up?" I said. I walked in my office and started gathering my things. I would listen, but I didn't want to stop and make them think I was giving them too much of my time.
"Well," Tamara said as she exchanged glances with Dexter. "We know you're about to head to Cancun with your friends and so Dexter and I were talking ..."
Dexter was so excited that he couldn't even let her finish. "And we think now would be the perfect time to take the show on the road."
"Excuse me?" I said, finally stopping and giving them my undivided attention.
"Think about it," he said. "Maya Morgan in Cancun at the Spring Break Fling with young celebrities from all over the country? Oh, that's some good juicy material waiting to happen," Dexter said.
I couldn't believe they were going there—again. When I'd first started the show it was bad enough that I'd had to turn my back on my Miami Divas costars. Since she was my best friend, Sheridan had since gotten over it. But the others—Shay Turner, Bali Fernandez, and Evian Javid—were still salty about it. So, I'd felt bad about that (for a brief minute anyway), but then I'd had to sell out my friends for ratings and that had created major drama. Now, here they were asking me to do it again.
Dexter must've been able to tell my mind was churning because he said, "You talked about wanting to go international. This is the perfect opportunity."
Tamara continued. "I was talking to someone and they told me a whole lot of young celebs go to the Spring Break Fling. It's become a hot spot for them to let their hair down. That sounds like some good stories waiting to happen."
"This is supposed to be my vacation!" I protested.
"Sweetie, do you think Beyonce takes a vacation?" Dexter said.
"Ummm, as a matter of fact she does," I replied.
"No, trust and believe, I assure you, she's still working even while she's on vacation," Dexter said.
"We're not trying to take away from your fun. We're just saying now would be a perfect time to have a camera crew go on the road," Tamara interjected.
I shook my head. I was so not feeling this idea. "I just want to relax and have a good time."
"And you can," Tamara said. "If we send a camera crew, we're footing the bill."
I looked at them sarcastically like that was supposed to be enticing to me. I could foot my own bill. As a matter of fact, this trip had already been paid for.
"Everything's already taken care of," I said.
"So, you have the penthouse suite of the InterContinental Presidente?" Tamara asked matter-of-factly.
"How do you know where we're staying?"
"Honey, we know everything," Dexter said, folding his arms and flashing a sly smile.
"Well, no, I don't have the penthouse suite. We tried to get it, but they told us it was unavailable."
Both Tamara and Dexter smiled. "It's unavailable for normal people. Not for a network like WSVV," Tamara said.
"So picture yourself in the penthouse," Dexter added. "I mean you're already the 'it' chick and I'm sure you have a very nice room, but we've booked the whole top floor of the InterContinental Presidente. The penthouse suite just for Maya Morgan."
That made me raise an eyebrow.
"We'll make sure you have a driver, unlimited food and drink—non-alcoholic of course—everything at your disposal. We know you can do all of this yourself, but why bother? Let us do it for you," Tamara said.
I narrowed my eyes. "And all I have to do is agree to let you film the trip?"
"That's it," Dexter said with a smile. "Let us film it and Rumor Central gets the scoop."
"And we'll even give you your free time," Tamara added. "Just get us enough for a few stories and the rest of the time is yours."
I wasn't feeling this idea because I really had been looking forward to just relaxing, but images of the penthouse suite, a driver at my disposal, and an all-around good time on someone else's dime made me say, "Fine I'm in."
I hoped it wasn't a decision that I would end up regretting.CHAPTER 2
"Ain't no party like a spring break party 'cause a spring break party don't stop!"
I laughed as several of my friends sang our signature It Clique song while the baggage handlers loaded our luggage onto the party bus. I'd invited along a select group—the "in" crowd—and they were all hyped when they saw the bus.
My friends and I had really been hyped the whole plane ride here to Cancun. Most of us travelled quite often—all over the world, in fact—but it was nothing like being able to spend a week on a sandy beach with your friends. Yeah, we had some chaperones, but we had made it very clear that with the kind of money our parents shelled out for our exclusive private school, Miami High, those chaperones were just here to make sure nobody died and nothing more.
"Come on, Maya!" Sheridan called out, heading toward the bus.
Kennedi had already gotten comfortable in the front seat. I wanted to laugh. That was so Kennedi, staking her claim. I was just about to say something when I saw the cameraman and sound guy from my station approach us. I'd known they were sending these two and one undercover cameraman. I hadn't warned any of my friends that Rumor Central was sending a production crew. I knew they wouldn't be happy about it so I wasn't going to say anything until the last possible moment. And it looked like the last possible moment was here.
"What's up, Maya?" the cameraman, a guy named Quincy, said as they walked up to the van. "I see you guys just made it."
"Yeah," was all I could say.
"Our flight just got in, too," Quincy said.
Sheridan and several of my other classmates stopped in their tracks, looked at them, at me, and then back at them.
"Oh, unh-uh," my friend Zenobia said. "Is that a Rumor Central crew?"
"I know they're not here to film us," Shay said.
I wanted to tell Shay that she was lucky to even be on this party bus, since I didn't like her ghetto-fabulous behind anyway. She was only here because I'd invited her and Evian Javid. Our relationship had never been the same since all of that drama with Miami Divas. Sheridan had gotten over it. Bali had moved away. And while I was back speaking to Shay and Evian, we weren't cool like that. Still, I invited them along because I was trying to be the bigger person (and of course, I wanted them to see how I was rolling).
"I know that's right, no filming," Sheridan echoed as she handed her Vera Bradley bag to the driver. She turned to face me. "Please tell me they are not here for work."
"Chill," I said to everybody standing around staring at me. "Yes, they are here for work. We are taking Rumor Central on the road, but this is actually a win-win for everybody."
All of them gave me a "yeah, right" look. I'd known I was going to catch some flak about the Rumor Central crew being here. I had shared a lot of people's secrets since my show started eight months ago and that had caused a whole lot of drama. I immediately went into the speech that I had worked on in my head the entire plane ride here.
"Look, we're about to have a blast." I pointed at the party bus. "That's compliments of Rumor Central. And wait until you see the room they got us." I figured if I could win over Kennedi and Sheridan, who were staying in the suite with me, they'd be more likely to convince the others that this wasn't such a bad idea. "I just have to film a little somethin' for the show. But you guys are straight."
"I don't care! No cameras!" this basketball player named Jock said after he bounced up next to Sheridan. "I'm 'bout to get into some mayhem and mischief up in Mexico. I don't need any documented proof. Matter of fact—"he took off his baseball hat and held it out toward us—"all of y'all, give me your iPhones and your Droids."
Of course, nobody paid him any attention, so he ended up putting his hat back on his head.
Evian stepped forward. She had her arms folded across her chest and was giving major attitude. She looked like she should be in some beach commercial with her butt-length hair pulled up into a loose ponytail and her Diane Von Furstenberg peach wrap dress. Evian's dad was a Persian billionaire, and so she always carried herself like some princess (although we'd heard lately that her family had some ties to the mafia).
"Mm-mm, Maya, this is so not cool," Evian said.
"For real," Shay said as she stepped up next to Evian. Shay should've been the poster child for ghetto royalty. Her thug- turned-NBA father was Jalen Turner, one of the hottest players in the NBA. Somebody should've told her that bleach-blond hair was so not a good look for black girls. Even now, she had on some Daisy Dukes shorts, a Run-D.M.C. tank top, and some high-top Converse. Just ghetto. Shay had been the saltiest about me getting my own show, but whatever.
"You're not about to blast our business all up over the world," Shay continued. "We all agreed that what happens in Cancun stays in Cancun."
"Yeah," Zenobia added. "And it can't stay in Mexico if you're catching it all on tape."
"It's not like you guys aren't going to be recording and posting stuff on Instagram anyway," I snapped back.
Quincy just stood there like he was enjoying the show.
"Look, you guys," I said, trying a different approach to calm everyone down. "I would've preferred that they didn't come either, but they're here and I didn't have a say-so in it, but what I did get them to agree to is a cut-off time. So anything that's scandalous in Cancun will stay here. I promise."
I didn't know how good I would make on that promise, but at this point, I needed to do my job and I didn't need the drama.
"And besides," I continued, "I did get them to agree to give me final say on whatever they air." I didn't really, but I needed to make them feel at ease.
"Oh yeah, because we know your judgment is on point," Shay said, rolling her eyes.
I gave her the hand and turned back to Sheridan and Kennedi. "All I'm saying is this is our chance to show the world how we party, diva style."
"I don't need anyone seeing me toasted," some girl from the back yelled.
I wanted to tell her she had nothing to worry about because the camera would not be pointed in her direction at all with her busted-looking self. But I ignored her.
"Doesn't matter to me," Kennedi finally said from the bus. Of course she'd be cool with it. Kennedi had my back all of the time, no matter what.
"I don't know, Maya. I'm not feeling this at all," Sheridan said, shaking her head. I didn't know why she was trippin' anyway. It's not like she'd be doing anything TV worthy anyway with her boring self. Sheridan was making me mad, though, because considering we were BFFs, she could be so shady sometimes.
"Just trust me," I said.
"Yeah, like that would ever happen," Shay mumbled as she turned and walked away.
Kennedi slid her sunglasses on. "Whatever. Just can we roll? I'm ready to get my party on."
I looked at Sheridan, waiting for a sign from her that she was cool with everything. Finally, she smiled and said, "Fine."
I nodded toward Quincy. "All right. I'll catch up with you later."
"Cool. Later." Quincy didn't say anything else as he made his way over to their waiting taxi.
"You foul," Jock said, wagging a finger at me. "But since you got this bus"—he broke out in a huge grin—"I forgive you." He jumped on the bus. "Let's get this party started!"
His silliness was just enough to get everybody back in party mode as they pushed any reservations aside. I just hoped that it stayed that way.
Excerpted from Truth Or Dare RUMOR CENTRAL by RESHONDA TATE BILLINGSLEY. Copyright © 2014 ReShonda Tate Billingsley. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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