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Authors: Francine Pascal

The Sweet Life

BOOK: The Sweet Life
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The Sweet Life #2: Lies and Ommissions

Francine Pascal with Cara Lockwood

To Molly Jessica Wenk

Chapter One

Lila Fowler was not used to being ignored and she didn't like it. First there was her husband, Ken, who'd packed a bag, left the house, and wasn't answering his phone or replying to any of her texts, and now there was her best friend, Jessica Wakefield, who seemed to be far more engrossed with her stupid cell phone than with anything Lila had said in the last fifteen minutes.

“Are you even
listening
to me?” Lila asked Jessica, annoyed. The fact that she even had to ask this question at all made her want to storm out. But then she probably ought to save the theatrics for the
True Housewives
cameras. There were no cameras here in Jessica's tastefully decorated town house in Sweet Valley.
Tasteful,
Lila thought,
if you went for bubble-gum pink
.

“What? Oh, sorry.” Jessica glanced up—for the first time in ages—from her phone. “It's the Bruce thing.” She flipped a perfect strand of blond hair away from her blue eyes and gave Lila one of her trademark Wakefield smiles.

Right. Bruce Patman, reigning Sweet Valley perv,
Lila thought. Lila's family, the Fowlers, and the Patman family never did get along, but even she was a little surprised by the news. In fact, after Lila read the headlines about Bruce trying to force himself on an intern, she'd had a brief flashback to high school, when
she'd
been nearly raped by John Pfeifer at Miller's Point. She probably would have been if she hadn't fought free, stabbing the jerk in the neck with his own car keys. She didn't like thinking about that. It was ancient history, but still, without even knowing all (or even some) of the facts, Lila was on the intern's side.

“I can't believe he turned out to be such a creep,” Lila said. “He should go to jail.”

“He's innocent,” Jessica snapped.

“How do you know?”

“Because I know him. Much better than you do. And I know he could prove it if I knew who his accuser was.”

“You don't know yet?” Lila asked her, surprised. After all, it was hard to keep secrets from Jessica, especially when she was determined to find out something.

“Lizzie is working on it, but so far she says she hasn't found anything. If I did know, I could start really tearing her story apart.”

“What if she's telling the truth?”

“She's not,” Jessica said, refusing to back down.

Lila shrugged. “Whatever.” It wasn't worth a fight.

“I've got interviews lined up for him on some morning shows,” Jessica said, again thumbing through messages on her phone.

The two old friends were sitting in Jessica's living room. Jake, Jessica and Todd's two-year-old son, and his nanny, Liza, were out at the park, but there were still a few telltale signs of the toddler, like a couple of Lego bricks half hidden in the carpet, one of which Lila had nearly stepped on with her stiletto heel. Lila was still surprised Jessica had gone the kid route. Lila didn't plan to have kids—now or maybe ever—not when a baby was likely to be cuter, younger, and more of a spotlight hog than she was. Lila was the star of her own show, thank you very much.

“It's been a crazy few days, but I think I'm starting to make headway for Bruce,” Jessica continued.

Jessica was so engrossed with the Bruce Patman business that she had forgotten entirely why Lila was there, and it wasn't to talk about Bruce or to kick Legos under the coffee table.

“I really think I can nail this, but I need that girl's name,” Jessica said, still distracted.

“There's got to be some reason she's made this whole thing up. I know it.”

Lila let out a frustrated sigh.

“That's great and all, but how about my problems? Think you could work your PR genius on
them
for a second?” Lila tapped her Christian Louboutin–clad foot impatiently on the rug, her diamond bracelet catching the light and sparkling like fire. It was bad enough she had to hear all about how talented Jessica was from her father, since she was his favorite rising PR star in his company VertPlus.net. She didn't need to hear it from Jessica, too. “Sorry, Lila, I just—”

“Sorry doesn't cut it, Jessica. I mean, what kind of friend are you anyway?”

Jessica turned to Lila, blue eyes widening in surprise for an instant, and then reality set in. Surely she could not have thought that spoiled bitch personality was just for TV? No way. Jessica had known her best friend too long.

“I'm in a total meltdown mode here,” Lila said. “Ken won't even talk to me! And you're blabbing on about Bruce Patman. Like I care!”

“Lila, calm down.” Jessica reached out to touch her friend on the shoulder and gave her a patronizing look that Lila couldn't stand. It was the kind of look you gave losers and pathetic women whose husbands had left them for other women. Lila wasn't going to be lumped in with them.

She shrugged the touch away as she set down her mug of coffee on the table. She was beginning to wish she'd asked for wine instead. Not that Jessica had offered. Coffee was what she had brewing when Lila had dropped in unannounced.

Lila looked at the bright burgundy lipstick smudge on the lip of her coffee mug and thought,
Nothing is turning out how I wanted it to. And I really don't like it.

She'd gone over to Jessica's for a little bit of handholding, and she wasn't getting it. This, after all, was supposed to be
her
moment of drama. Ken wasn't talking to her—at
all.
That had never happened before, not even when she'd asked for a divorce three years ago. It had been too long now with no word from Ken, and she was miserable without him.

Since she'd first married him, Lila always thought he was mostly just a well-groomed accessory to her life—the handsome and sweet onetime high school quarterback turned pro who adored her. She always thought of him more like a lap dog—cute and loyal and one hundred percent
hers
. But since he'd finally grown a backbone and left her, she realized she actually did care about him, which for Lila was like the brink of love.

She needed him.

And since he'd moved out, all she could think about was how to get him back.

For one thing, he was the only one who loved her as much as she loved herself, and that was saying a lot. Would anybody else ever be able to match Ken's devotion? She seriously doubted it.

Sure, back in high school he'd dated both the Wakefield twins, but that was only fooling around. When he fell in love, he fell for her. Hard.

How else to explain that when she tried to divorce him three years ago, he simply refused to leave? Okay, maybe not refused, but he hung around until she gave up talking to the lawyers. And then there were the looks he sometimes gave her, the ones that told her she was the goal line and he was coming across it, no matter what. Nobody else made her feel so worth…winning.

“I don't think Ken is gone for good,” Jessica said. “He loves you.”

“He has a funny way of showing it,” Lila said. Like not answering any of her e-mails or texts or a dozen voice mails. “He's never ignored me for this long before.”

“Maybe he needs a little more time to cool off,” Jessica suggested.

Lila knew Ken was angry with her. She'd said some awful things about him for the
True Housewives
show, but none of them was real. It was all pretend. Just like Paris Hilton and all her reality shows. Didn't she say she was just exaggerating everything for good ratings? Well, so was Lila.

“Maybe if you quit the show…” Jessica suggested, even as her phone dinged again, drawing her attention.

“Quit? What! Never!” Lila couldn't even conceive of the idea of quitting
True Housewives of Sweet Valley
. She was the show's starring bitch and she happened to be good at it. Lila hadn't done anything with her life so far except drop out of college, marry Ken, and spend her days dumping piles of money on Rodeo Drive.
True Housewives
was the closest that Lila had ever come to a life's calling. She had great instincts for camera angles and drama, and her perfect little body looked fantastic on camera. If she gave that up, then who would she be? An NFL star's wife. That was bad enough. Now she would be his ex-wife. You can't be more nobody than that.

“I'm just saying, maybe that would help soften things with Ken,” Jessica said, her attention again on her phone's lighted screen.

“Are you asking me to
give something up
?” Lila asked. “Um, excuse me, have we met?” She threw open her arms, which were heavy with diamonds and platinum. “When was the last time I had to cut back
on anything
?”

Jessica had to laugh. The thing about Lila was, she might be spoiled, but she was the first to admit it.
You could say a lot of things about Lila, but that she was boring certainly isn't one of them,
Jessica thought. “Sorry, I forgot.”

Lila pushed her dark hair from her forehead.

“And anyway, I'm not going to quit. Besides, there's a problem: the producers want him on next week's show.”

“You really think he's going to do that?” Jessica's phone dinged again, drawing her attention.

“He
has
to,” Lila said. “They said get him on the show or…else. I don't know what the ‘else' is, and I don't want to find out, either. If I could just get him to talk to me, just once, I know I could straighten this out.”

Jessica shook her head in sympathy and was about to speak when her phone vibrated again.

“He
has
to come on the show,” Lila continued. Of course, technically, he hadn't signed any sell-your-soul reality show contracts.

“Um-hm,” Jessica mumbled, eyes cast down on her phone, hardly listening, as she tapped out a response.

“Jessica, would you stop with the messaging already!” Lila grabbed the phone out of Jessica's hand. “Screw Bruce!”

“Hey!” Jessica lunged for her phone but missed.

“I have your attention now,” Lila declared as she held the phone aloft. “No sudden moves or I
will
smash this thing.”

“No, no!” Jessica cried, hands up in surrender as she eyed her iPhone nervously. “Look, Lila, I'm sorry. It's just you guys have been separated before. It's not like it's never happened before.”

“It's never happened
this
way before.” Lila waved the phone.

“Okay, I'm sorry. I'll listen. I know what it's like to have your husband leave.” Jessica's voice sounded full of sympathy now that Lila had a hostage—her iPhone. “Trust me, I know.”

Lila hesitated. It was true that Jessica knew what it was like since Todd had moved out. Never before had Jessica lost something so dear that she hadn't intended to lose.

“At least Ken hasn't slept with a cheap plagiaristic criminal,” Jessica said bitterly. Well, Lila had successfully gotten her to change the subject of conversation away from Bruce Patman. Unfortunately, not entirely in the direction Lila would have liked.

“You mean Sarah Miller?” Lila asked. Jessica's phone was heavy in her hand. She stopped dangling it over the edge of the couch.

“You know?”

“Caroline Pearce, remember? Everyone knows.” Lila shrugged. Even though Ken wasn't speaking to her, Lila was totally sure he hadn't slept with anyone else, certainly not her main Housewife competition, Ashley Morgan. Not yet, anyway. Even the thought of him kissing her made Lila's blood boil with jealousy. “Is he in love with her?”

Jessica looked sharply at Lila. “I don't think so. He texted me, actually.”

“And told you what?”

“Give me my phone back and I'll show you.” Jessica opened her palm, and Lila plunked her phone in it.

Jessica pulled up Todd's messages and showed them to Lila, who skimmed them quickly.

“Sounds like he wants you back,” Lila said.

“Yes, but…” She paused. “It's complicated. He knows I went out with Liam.”

“So?” Lila shrugged. “Who cares about drinks and dinner? So what?”

Jessica grew quiet. It was about that time that Lila realized she'd been sidetracked—again. Who cared about Todd? And why was she talking about Jessica's problems? She could feel herself getting sucked into the Jessica Show, and frankly, she just didn't have the time.

“Back to me: I need a plan,” Lila said. “Calling Ken isn't working. I need to do something else.”

“I need a plan, too,” Jessica said. “I know I could have a chance with Todd, but I don't know how to make it happen.”

“Since when do we sit around and wait for the guys to come to us? We have to be proactive.”

“You're right, proactive. I like that.” Jessica agreed. “We make the first move and they don't stand a chance.”

Lila snapped her fingers. “Ken has a game tomorrow night,” she said. “I could be waiting for him afterward. I could wear my new Jason Wu micromini with the plunging neckline. He's never been able to resist my…assets.”

“I could ask Todd on a date…somewhere special,” Jessica mused, in her own world again.

The fact that neither friend was actually talking about the same thing or providing needed advice on either topic didn't seem to matter. The two friends had been talking past each other for years.

And these two had never been losers and weren't about to start now.

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