Authors: Kristin Wallace
By Kristin Wallace
Published by Astraea Press
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.
Copyright Â© 2014 KRISTIN WALLACE
Cover Art Designed by BOOK BEAUTIFUL
Thank you to my parents, who always encouraged me to keep going, even if they didn't understand this crazy impulse to be a writer. I would not be where I am today without the friendship, encouragement and advice from everyone at Florida Romance Writers. Thank you for helping to make this dream come true.
Dear Diary... I died today.
Deliberately plowed down in the middle of the street by the proverbial black, unmarked car. My funeral will be mobbed by the movers and shakers of the fashion world on three continents. The inquiry into my death will bring about a national manhunt for my killer and spark at least a half a season's worth of
The list of suspects will be a mile long. My faithless husband? My nemesis and rival in romance and in business? My drug-addicted son? My angelic daughter? Wronged business partners? Wronged business adversaries? Pretty much anyone who ever had the misfortune to cross Corrine Barrett. Or get in my way.
“We got it.”
“Let's set up for the next scene.”
Shouts went up as the director called out instructions to the crew members. With a deep sigh, Addison Covington opened her eyes. Rolling onto her hip, she performed an inventory of the various parts of her body. After being jerked back by the harness attached to her waist and landing on an air mattress in the middle of the street, she'd expected to feel like the roadkill Corrine had become. Her back would be protesting the abuse tomorrow, but for now, she was only a little sore.
One of the grips approached her landing pad and helped her stand up. “You all right, Addison?”
“Never better, Charlie.”
Yeah, she wasn't really dead. It just felt that way.
Corrine Barrett-Channing, ice queen and ruler over the Barrett Empire in the hit drama
House of Fashion
, was toast. But Addison Covington, her portrayer, was sadly still of this earth.
She slipped off the jacket of her white Armani suit so Charlie could remove the harness and fought back a wince. Perhaps she'd been wrong about only being a little sore.
Charlie scowled. “I told you to let your stunt double handle the fall.”
“I'll be fine.”
Even as he unhooked the contraption, other crew members removed her landing pad, setting up the scene to reveal Corrine's body lying in the street. At least Addison would be spared the humiliation of having to play dead. That job would go to her stand in.
Addison's job here was finished. Literally.
“Stubborn woman,” Charlie said with a gruff affection as he took off the harness.
“Thank you, Charlie,” she said, kissing his cheek. “You've always been a prince.”
He shuffled his feet and then leaned in closer. “You deserve better, Addison.”
“Not according to the gossip rags. They all think I should be burned at the stake.”
From behind her, a familiar feminine voice rang out. “You punched America's sweetheart in the nose. What did you expect?”
Addison glanced around to see her on-screen nemesis and off-screen best friend, Sydney James, approaching. “I expect it should be acceptable to rearrange someone's face after she's stolen your husband, but then I'm old-fashioned that way.”
Sydney laughed, and they both stood on the sidewalk watching the organized chaos unfolding. For several moments neither of them spoke.
Then Sydney bit her lip. “I hate this,” she said, fury and desolation etched in every word. “I hate what's happened to you. I hate that you won't be here with me anymore, and I hate that
gets away with everything.”
“Look on the bright side,” Addison said, digging her nails into her palm, hoping the pain would stave off the urge to curl up in a fetal position and wail. “You'll probably never have to film a fight scene in a mud-bath again. Who knows, maybe Merrick will change his mind, and I'll be back as my evil twin someday.”
A gurgle of laughter mixed with a sob escaped. “I think Corrine Barrett
the evil twin,” Sydney said, tears swimming in her green eyes.
“The good twin then. It would certainly be a stretch for me to play, right?”
Sydney took Addison's arm. “Come on, there's nothing more to see here.” They headed to the dressing trailers down the block. “You'll need a hot bath tonight. Otherwise you won't be able to move tomorrow.”
“What I need is my job and my husband.”
With an elegant snort, Sydney tossed her riotous mane of copper-colored hair over her shoulder. “Merrick isn't worthy to lick the tips of your shoes.”
Addison ignored the comment, her eyes trained on Sydney's trademark red tresses. “Since I've been fired, I'd like to state for the record how much I hate you.”
Sydney missed a step, scrambling to avoid doing a header on the pavement. “What?”
“From day one, you've always had the wild,
red hair, while I've been stuck with my oh-so-proper chignon.”
“You don't like your hair?”
“I'm thinking of coloring it. Platinum blonde is so passÃ©.”
Sydney scrunched her nose. “Your stylist would have a heart attack. Jean-LÃ¼c has made a name for himself with your head. Besides, why would you want to lose your signature Grace Kelly look? You always look so elegant. You're the glamour girl. Theâ”
“Ice queen. Untouchable on screen and in life. Maybe I want to be sultry and exotic for once. Maybe then my husband would want to touch me instead of my on-screen daughter.”
Oh yes, Addison's husband hadn't just traded her in for a new model. He'd taken up with her co-star.
Angela Brighton starred as Felicia Channing, Corrine's angelic and long-suffering daughter. At the beginning of the show, Corrine's children were four and seven, and appeared on-screen sporadically. When the sixth season rolled around, the producer, who also happened to be Addison's husband, decided to SORAS the kids. SORAS as in Soap Opera Rapid-Aging Syndrome, which entails children aging several years overnight. One day the little munchkins were ten, the next eighteen. So, the cast was joined by two up-and-coming young actors, Brock Nichols as Corrine's twenty-year-old son and Angela as the seventeen-year-old daughter.
Another Hollywood practice was to hire actors who looked like teenagers, but who were well over the voting age. It got them around the pesky laws governing working minors. So even though Angela had passed for seventeen, she'd really been twenty-one.
Addison had been thirty-five at the time, but she must have passed for someone who could've had a seventeen-year-old daughter, not to mention the twenty-year-old son. She didn't know which was more degrading. The fact that her husband had left for a woman young enough to be her daughter.
Or someone thinking she was old enough to actually
Tears stung her eyes, and Addison tilted her head to hide them.
Sydney saw anyway. “I thought we agreed no more crying over your soon-to-be ex-husband.”
“I agreed, but my tear ducts didn't get the revised script.”
Sydney put an arm around her, and they walked in silence toward the dressing trailers on the next block. Gusts of wind whipped down the narrow street, sounding like a mournful freight train. Addison shivered and glanced back one last time. The crew members were silhouetted in the lights of the set. Everyone ran around doing his or her job. Even now, the show was moving on without her. Addison swallowed the lump in her throat, fighting the urge to march back into the fray and tear the set apart with her bare hands.
Once inside her trailer, Addison walked into the sleeping compartment while Sydney rummaged around in the kitchenette. Addison peeled off the white suit, wincing as much for the smudged grease stains on the sleeve as for her bruised posterior. She slipped into a silk robe, relishing the feel of the cool, smooth fabric.
She wedged herself into the miniscule bathroom and plucked out a handful of hairpins, allowing a curtain of blond hair to fall free to her shoulders. She'd picked up a streak of oil on her cheek, and she used a damp washcloth to wipe the stain away, careful not to look into the blue eyes staring back at her.
Sydney was seated on the sofa with two mugs of chamomile tea when Addison emerged. Just as she had picked up her cup and was about to take a sip, someone knocked on her trailer door. The handle jammed and she turned it hard then squeaked as the stupid door flew open, causing her to tumble right into the arms of the squat, dark-haired man standing on the other side.
Without expression, he set her upright again. “Addison Covington?”
“Yes,” she snapped, angrier with herself for being clumsy than at him.
Quicker than a rattlesnake, he whipped out a long manila envelope and shoved it into her hands. “Thank you,” he said, in the same reptilian manner. “Good evening, ma'am.” The door swung shut with a soft click.
In historical movies, bells always tolled as the accused approached the gallows. Staring down at the envelope, Addison heard the same mournful sound reverberating though her head.
“Addy, what is it?”
She dropped Merrick's death warrant on the coffee table without a word.
“The rat,” Sydney said, cursing under her breath. “Did he plan the delivery so you'd get them today?”
“He always did have perfect timing.”
Sydney reached for the envelope. “May I?”
Addison shrugged and turned away to pick up the pile of mail, which her personal assistant had left on the coffee table earlier.
“Why would he send your divorce papers the day you taped your last scene?” Sydney asked as she broke the seal and pulled out a long sheaf of papers.
“Further punishment for marring his little honey's perfect visage, I imagine.”
Sydney threw the documents down in disgust. “Don't sign anything until your lawyer goes over it. I wouldn't put it past him to try and screw you in the divorce settlement, too.”
“Don't worry. I won't.” Addison leafed through her mail. A catalogue, a couple bills, an invitation to a charity auction.
“Do you know what these papers mean?” Sydney asked.
The statement brought Addison's head up. “Free to do what?”
“Anything you want. Go anywhere, see anyone, become anyone.”
“Why would I want to become anyone else? Who would I become? I'm Addison Covington. I like being her.”
“Do you?” Sydney asked, pinning her with a laser-like stare. “Are you happy?”
Addison let out a sound of frustration. “What, right now? My husband dumped me for my twenty-three-year-old co-star. I've been fired for punching said co-star in the face on national TV. I'm not sure
is possible at the moment.”
“I don't mean this minute,” Sydney said. “I know you're miserable, and with good reason, but have you examined your life? Haven't you wondered if there's more to life than money and fame?”
Addison narrowed her eyes. “Are you going to give me the God speech again?”
“Syd, I've heard this story,” she said, holding up a hand. “You tell me God is the only One who can fulfill me, while I humor you the whole time.”
“All right, I won't bore you with the spiritual today,” Sydney said in resignation.
Addison sat down. “Thanks for trying. At least I know you still care.”