EBOOK: 978-1-942052-08-1 / Signal Press
Signal Press / EBOOK: 978-1-942052-08-1
When a film director's obsession with a sex phone operator threatens his latest production — and his marriage — his talent agent thinks he knows how to handle the situation: buy off the woman with “the voice that launched a thousand erections.”
Instead, he falls in love with her.
But how will he feel when he discovers that she is the wife of his hot new client?
REVIEWS FOR THE TRUE HOLLYWOOD LIES SERIES:
Secrets, sex, money and scandal…Josie Brown is a skilled observer whose clever dialogue makes for truly entertaining reading.” –Jackie Collins
“…The tone is confessional, the writing laced with venomous humor…” -The Wall Street Journal
“Brown captures the humor of working for a megalomaniac…[A] well-paced, entertaining story.” -Publishers Weekly
“A fine piece of literary work.” -New York Post, Page Six
“Josie Brown does an outstanding job capturing the glitz and glamour of Hollywood living while illuminating the stark loneliness present beneath the façade. Filled with good-natured humor and witty repartee…” -Romance Reader's Connection
“Before you check out the stars walking the red carpet at next Sunday's Oscars, spend time with Josie Brown's new satirical novel about an irritating actor nominated for an Academy Award, his harried personal assistant and all the angst endured from the moment the nominations are announced until the winning name is read out loud. Brown, a journalist with her share of celeb interviews, drops names a-plenty.” -Lowell (MA) Press
“With tongue-in-cheek dialogue, Josie Brown provides a fascinating look at the jet set lifestyle of the rich and for-the-moment famous…. You will laugh, cry, and wonder if it's worth it to be rich and famous.” -Romance Reviews Today
EXCERPT / HOLLYWOOD HUNK
My appointment with Louis Trollope took place at his house, which sat high in the Hollywood Hills. It was a typical actor's bachelor pad, which is to say it was a ramshackle stucco cottage with a Spanish tile roof, hidden deep inside a grove of madrone trees and overrun with bougainvillea. And, while it was merely adequate in the area of creature comforts, it received exceptionally high points for its breathtaking views of the city and the ocean beyond.
I had zigzagged my way up Mulholland Drive then turned back south onto Laurel Canyon Boulevard. I was going faster than I should have, but only because my Beetle was running on fumes. Already the winter sun was setting, and I wanted to get there and back as fast as possible, reasoning that it would be better to coast downhill on empty in twilight than after dark.
Svetlana's directions ended at a nondescript driveway on a tiny dead-end lane off LCB. A tall wooden gate blocked the driveway. I pressed the security phone's intercom button three times before getting a response: something garbled came out, but it ended with, “—love.”
“I beg your pardon?” The last thing I was a term of endearment. I prayed he could hear me better than I had heard him.
“Shit!” came his response. At first, I didn't know what to think. Had my question offended him in some way? Or did he suffer from Tourette's Syndrome? Or was this just a sneak preview of his usual demeanor?
“Sorry, love, that wasn't meant for you. Somehow I—I disconnected my cell phone by mistake. Bloody piece of crap! Please, come up the drive and park anywhere.”
“No problem. I'll be right up.” The Beetle had been idling in neutral, which was supposed to conserve its last pitiful vapors of gas. I waited until the gate swung open far enough for the Beetle to squeak by and crawl toward the house.
In the driveway were a Humvee, a Tesla roadster, a deep red Ferrari Millichili, and a Harley Davidson custom CVO Fat Boy: the right accessories to suit any mood or event. These were the prerequisite toys of the male célébrité dans la mode, evidence that Louis Trollope had arrived, at least by Hollywood's standards.
The front door was wide open. “Hello?” I called from the foyer.
At first I didn't see him. Walking boldly through the entryway and into the living room beyond, I barely missed stumbling over a khaki camel-hair ottoman. Coming in from the outside, it took a while for my eyes to adjust to the cool semidarkness of the room. With its rough-hewn beamed ceiling, dark stained batten-and-board walls, large suede chairs and several oversized leather settees clustered around a carved antler coffee table piled high with movie scripts, Louis's cottage was so obviously Beverly Hills designer Dodd Mitchell's take on a gentleman's hunting lodge.
Finally I made out his silhouette. And although Louis hadn't said a word, I just knew he had been watching me from the moment I had entered, clearly relishing the opportunity to observe without being observed himself—a rarity for him, I'm sure.
Now that I was standing there in front of him, he gave me his complete and utter attention: the equivalent of 1,000 watts of unadulterated star power.
“Hello to you, too. I'm quite charmed to make your acquaintance,” he said, offering his hand to me.
I had to admit, the celebrity magazines have Louis Trollope pegged right: “For being a guy's guy, it's easy to see why he's such a chick magnet… ” (GQ), what with his being “ruggedly handsome and roguishly charming…” (Ladies' Home Journal) and possessing “startling azure eyes that, when focused on you, make you feel that you are the only person in the room—not to mention cheekbones to lust for…” (Redbook) as well as “…the cutest bum on either side of the pond” (British Vogue).
Over all, he's “just a wicked wet dream!” (Cosmopolitan).
And there I was, bathed in the spotlight of his smile.
It would have been easy to bask in its warmth, but my intuition warned me not to get too used to it, or I might get burned.
I shook his hand, and I swear, when I touched him a current ran through me like a bolt of lightning. It was all I could do not to melt into a ball of jelly at his feet.
If Louis felt it too, he didn't show it. I was surprised just how much that disappointed me.
The soft, insistent moan of his iPhone broke the spell.
“Damn! It never stops!” he muttered again. “Why doesn't the world just leave me alone?”
He looked as if he wanted to throw the cell through the plate-glass window and into the pool that lay just outside. Then he thought better of it. Instead he sighed and tossed the cell into the piles of pillows nestled on one of the humongous leather couches, where the buzzing was immediately muffled in buckskin-encased goose down.
I couldn't help feeling a bit sorry for him, knowing as I did that, should his wish ever be granted, he would rue the day.
“Jasper claims that you're the answer to my prayers.” His voice was warm, the words silken.
I blushed, not knowing how to answer him. “I'm sure it was said simply out of kindness,” I murmured modestly.
“God, I hope not! I'm in a jam. Tell me you're my angel of mercy. Please.”
His eyes locked onto mine again with what he intended to be a soul-searing gaze.
“Well… well I—I don't know if I can live up to all of your expectations. That was quite a daunting job description.”
“It's rubbish. It was dreamed up by one of those agencies that finds zookeepers for spoiled, pampered Hollywood brats.” He raised one eyebrow skyward and leaned back suggestively. “Our relationship would be a bit more low-key, casual. You'll come to know me intimately—of course, I don't mean that in an incestuous way. More like a doting sis, mind you.”
My god! He's flirting with me!
Noting that his charm had brought about the desired result, Louis chuckled conspiratorially then eased me onto the settee alongside him. I fell between the cushions—thankfully not onto the cell phone, which had finally stopped growling.
“Things are going crazy around here. I'm finishing up a film right now, and I've been offered three more movies, all wanting to go into production immediately. And, just my luck, they're all great roles, but different, you know? That's why you are so important to me.”
You had me at “Hello to you, too”…
Stop it! Been there, done that!
To break his spell over me, I nodded my head, as if to indicate that, if it mattered to him, then it mattered to me, too—which he already took for granted.
“One is the lead in the Terminator reboot: instant box office, of course, before the first frame is even in the can. But I'm dying to work with Brownstein, you know, that kid who ran away with all the offers at Sundance this year? He and I are talking about something small, edgy—smarter than the usual garbage thrown out by the studios.” His face took on a faraway look. Then a self-satisfied smile appeared. “And, I'm sure you've heard the rumors that I'm considering the lead in the Mad Max remake.”
I nodded again, enthusiastically, although, in truth, I hadn't heard.
“They were such classics! It was such a breakthrough role for Mel Gibson,” I said encouragingly. “I'd imagine it would be that for you, too.”
“What do you mean, ‘breakthrough role'? I've already broken through.” The smile faded. His eyes went dark with wariness. Flippantly he added, “You know, Fleming's estate wanted me for the lead in the Bond reboot, but I passed. Ha! Terminator with Cameron is going to be my penance.”
“Oh, really?” I feigned belief, but lacking the performance skills of even a reality TV show contestant, I don't think I fooled him. He really couldn't blame me for doubting the claim.
“I'm for real, I swear! But my bloody agent at the time talked him out of it at the time talked him out of it. Said I was too young for the role. That guy had it in for me because I fired him the year before! I'm now at ICA, with Zimmerman.” He ran his fingers through his golden tendrils, spiked with just enough hair goo to flop forward on cue.
“Yes, I know Randy.” Randy Zimmerman had also been Leo's talent agent, and was one of Hollywood's most notorious man-ho's.
Yep, a real pig.
On the many occasions in which I'd pointed this out to Leo, he'd responded by paraphrasing his favorite president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (and, needless to say, with a spot on accent): “He may be a pig, but he's my pig.”
Any way you shake it, in Hollywood, your ability to negotiate several $20 million deals earns you that kind of loyalty.
However, diplomacy (and credit card angst) gave me reasons to keep my mouth shut while Louis rationalized that bit of fate.
“That's okay. The Bond franchise wouldn't have worked for me anyway. The producers didn't get it when I suggested a major rewrite. I mean, what was that whole mourning-and-revenge plot line in the latest Bond movie? Craig came off as a pussy. Too many women, so little time, right?”
It was a line taken straight out of the Leo handbook. Ah, how some things never change!
“They should have begged me to take it—at least, that's what they said in The Hollywood Reporter.”
To prove my empathy, I tossed off this lame consolation: “Oh, well, as they say, ‘don't go believing your own press clippings.'”
“Why? What have you read? What have you heard?” Louis turned deadly serious.
“Oh—uh, nothing. Nothing! Really.”
“You can tell me. Believe me, you won't hurt my feelings.” He purred the words, but that famous smile had frosted over. I shivered unconsciously.
“Nothing, I swear! I never even look at the tabloids. Or the trades, for that matter.” Oh well, no more fun and games, I thought.
My chagrin must have been obvious to Louis, because suddenly he was the Sun God again, all warmth and smiles. “That will change quickly enough when you work for me.”
Didn't I know it! One of my first memories of Tammy, Leo's assistant, was of her hands, ink-stained from having scrutinized tall stacks of tabloids for articles about Leo, which she would then cut out and paste into a scrapbook. “For posterity, babe,” Leo would murmur to me, winking coyly. Then, as an excuse for this egocentric ritual, he added this cautionary note: “My legacy is yours too, you know.”
Yeah, right, sure.
Even if I hadn't believed him, Sybilla must have, because the only things she had released to me thus far had been Leo's twenty-four scrapbooks, a half-century of Tammy's handiwork. Sybilla's limo driver had unceremoniously dumped them on the front porch of my Venice Canal cottage on an unseasonably scorching hot morning. I had been at UCLA, so by the time I'd gotten home that night, rivulets of Elmer's glue had already cascaded down the steps into small gooey puddles strong enough to pull my left sandal off my foot as I'd stumbled over Leo's legacy in the dark. The clippings, yellowed and brittle, had either stuck together like Siamese twins or dissolved into shreds of confetti. It had been another week before the porch had finally lost its eau-de-Montessori-preschool fragrance.
When you work for me, Louis had said.
Suddenly I bolted upright at the implication. “I beg your pardon?” I murmured politely.
He took my stupor for the usual shock and awe he invariably elicited from the masses, all in a day's work.
“I have a gut feeling about you. I think you'll work out. It's a go, then? You won't break my heart, I hope?”
Break his heart? If he kept up this level of charm, he'd be calling an ambulance for me.
Don't be a fool. It's Leo all over again.
So here he was, practically begging me to take the job. Yet, as flattering as that was, I knew deep down inside that Louis would have made the same offer to anyone short of a two-headed circus freak who had walked through his front door.
At the same time, he had called me his angel of mercy.
Besides, Beetle and Visa payments wait for no woman. And the legal fees in fighting Sybilla's raid would not be cheap, either.
Reluctantly, I nodded my consent.
“Fabulous, love! Just fabulous!” He practically glowed with appreciation. “By the way, I'll need you to start as soon as possible.”
“Okay, sure. What time will you want me here tomorrow?”
“No, I mean like now. My dirty laundry is in the bedroom. Scoop it up like the good girl you are, and take it down to the dry cleaner's. Put it under your name, of course. I'd hate to see my tighty-whities on eBay. That happened to Clooney, had you heard? Then go down to the BH Ralph's and pick up some food. I'm having a little get-together for that closed-circuit fight. Just four or five mates, nothing too big. I'm Zone, so keep that in mind with what you pick out. Get some deli, too, and some beer.”
He was no longer the attentive wooer. With that dismissal, the moratorium on his iPhone ended. It was recovered from its cushioned nesting place, and he thumbed out a text as he headed off in the direction of the pool. His panther-like restlessness virtually shouted, I've got things to do, places to go, and people to see—so get lost.
“Which way to the bedroom?” I called out archly, hoping that my tone conveyed the message I may be at your beck and call, but I'm certainly not your slavey!
No response. I couldn't tell if that was the result of his not hearing me, or the fact that he was ignoring me outright. Naively, I chose to believe the former.
“And, um, before I leave, shouldn't we discuss the terms of my employ—”
Placing one hand over the mouthpiece of his cell, he turned back around. On his face was a look of mild exasperation intended to make me feel guilty for asking
“Call my manager, Genevieve. She takes care of those kinds of details. Jasper's person will have her number.”
He had spoken.
And now I was his “person.”
I nodded resignedly, a gesture as empty as an air kiss, since he was already psychically light years away from me.
I'd officially been pulled into his orbit.
And yes, I know a black hole when I see one.
© 2017 © 2006 Josie Brown. All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the publisher, Signal Press. (firstname.lastname@example.org)