Well I have some bad news and some good news.
First the bad news. Well, I'm not ready to stat writing again. In fact my holiday has yet to begin. My less than a week after sending my WIP to my editor than she has it back to me and there was some work to be done. Nothing major really, just little things, but some little things turn into bigger issues and i've added in several pages of extra content, which i suppose is good. Although i don't feel capible, i'm still able to creat something almost as needed, even if it does take several days. So I will still be taking a few weeks off.
Now the good news. You have all read my grumblings and talk of a almost mythical project. Today, the bones bare flesh and skin. Here is the cover, partly compete.
And the first chapter. I will be putting it on azon for pree order either next week or the week after.
The shower stall was thick with steam, the hum of the motor reverberating through the walls as fat beads of condensation ran down the brown natural stone tiles and fogged glass door. Tipping her head back into the spray and sweeping the sodden, honey-coloured tresses from her eyes, Mina Carring uttered a low, throaty moan as the scalding water pelted her naked body, washing the stresses of the day away.
She longed for moments like these. After a long day posing for cameras and listening to photographers and directors screaming at each other like toddlers contesting for their favourite toy, there was nothing more relaxing than a scalding-hot shower. And it really hadn’t been her day.
Even from the outset, nothing seemed to go to plan. It all started with her sleeping through her alarm and oversleeping by more than half an hour. Then the coffee maker had died mid-brew, forcing her to start the day without the vital morning fix. Later, matters were only made worse by the combination of morning rush hour and a minor accident that had left her stranded in a long, snaking queue of traffic down Route 405 for more than an hour after she was supposed to meet up with her agent for a late breakfast. Finally, there was that debacle of a photo-shoot.
While few, knowledgeable, individuals would ever describe the life of a model and actress as easy, that job had just about taken the biscuit. It should have been so simple, so easy. Just one shoot, little more than a day’s work, modelling a new fashion line for a new European-brand-clothing store that would be opening on Montana Ave sometime in the summer. There had just been one problem: the French photographer commissioned for the shoot considered himself a born-again Guy Bourdin, but seemed only to bear a striking resemblance to a toad, and had insisted on having the natural lighting and mood of every shot to be exact to his vision. Yet there just were not enough hours in the day, or positions of the sun, and in the end, an afternoon’s shoot had to be spread over three days. Today had been the last, an easy two hours posing on a rock rising out of the surf and walking across the deserted stretch of beach. However, it seemed Pierre the Toad had woken up on the wrong side of his fishpond and before she had even had a chance to change, he was screaming that this was wrong or that was out of place. By the end, chewing her bottom lip was all she could do to keep from telling him just where he could stick his precious vision.
Despite the heat of the shower, Mina shuddered at the memory. She’d so desperately wanted to leave, to quit and go on with her day the way she’d been planning it for weeks, to go out to Griffith Observatory with Mark and their parents for lunch before taking them on an expensive shopping trip down La Brea Avenue. After all, it wasn’t every day her little step-brother turned 21. Yet the restrictions in her contract forced her to finish the job, regardless of her prior engagements or that slimy, self-aggrandising toad’s attitude problems, and now it was up to her to make it up to Mark.
Reluctantly, she hit the button to shut off the water before throwing open the glass door. Wet and dripping, but feeling fully refreshed, she let the little rivulets of water run off her before stepping out from beneath the dripping shower head and onto the fluffy white bath mat that encircled the stall. Courtesy of the shower, her spacious ensuite was warm and misty, but with the tiniest chill from the single open window. Her skin prickling at the delicious contrast, she took a towel off the heated rail and patted herself down. Vigorously towelling her hair with one hand, she opened the door to her connecting master bedroom and sauntered inside.
Spacious and airy, she’d had its walls painted a passionate shade of crimson shortly after purchasing the property and furnished it with fittings of deep oak. The curtains were drawn, but shafts of deep red light filtered through nonetheless to flood the room with natural illumination as the sun sank beneath the distant horizon. However, it was the south-facing windows and outer balcony, offering splendid views overlooking Beverly Hills, that made this her favourite room in the house.
She had already selected her clothes for tonight from the walk-in-wardrobe and neatly laid them out across the queen-size bed’s black Egyptian cotton sheets. Forgoing underwear, she dropped the towel unceremoniously onto the floor and tugged the black slim jeans up her long, willowy legs and over her buttocks, deftly fastened the buttons, then pulled a powder-blue, long-sleeved, babydoll-style top over her head. Though not tight or revealing by any stretch of the imagination, the thin fabric moulded to her still damp skin to leave nothing to the imagination. It made her feel naughty, and the thought of Mark seeing her like this ignited a warm tingling feeling in the pit of her stomach. No! Stop it. That’s not why you’re going to see him.
When fully dressed, she crossed the bedroom in seven quick strides to her dressing table where a variety of jewellery boxes, perfumes, brushes, creams and other beauty utensils were arrayed around the oval vanity mirror. Her likeness glowered back from within the glass. Mina tried to picture the person who had been looking back at her five years before, and then the little nine-year-old girl she’d been fifteen years ago. So much had changed. She felt older, drawn and tired with the weight of a lifetime’s mistakes forever bearing down on her; yet, still so much was the same. The same wavy golden hair, angular features and sparkling azure eyes that had won her that first audition. She had been a meek, quiet child back then and her father had thought the experience might help her come out of her shell. He’d had to drag her into it, though, kicking and screaming, after the director saw her performing the role of the Pied Piper in her school play a couple of days before and suggested she audition a role in his new movie, Eternity’s Wisps. The film had been a low-budget B-movie, a science-fiction collage of Star Wars and Star Trek with just the smouldering, gritty hint of Sin City thrown in. It was the ill-born brainchild of a writer long past his best, trying to rekindle the forgotten glory of the ‘80s space-race movies and had held all the prospects for success as a thriller, starring Robert Pattinson.
Considering her reflection, she took a shiny black comb inlaid with Lapis in hand and began brushing the tangles from her hair, until it framed her face and fell down past her shoulders in a wash of sun-kissed curls. Had her mother looked like her when she was her age?
Mina often pondered the question, even though she knew she would never have her answer. She had not known her mother. She had been too young to remember when she had left, vanishing into the night without a word. Her father never spoke of her, no matter how much she had pestered him. Out of respect for him, Mina had never searched for her, never hired a private investigator or reached out in any way, despite numerous offers from several prime time talk shows. There were no photos of her in the house, no traces or details online. It was almost as if she’d vanished off the face of the earth and all Mina had left was a name: Angela Willis. The name brought her no comfort or rush of recognition however, but installed only the deepest sense of sadness that threatened to overwhelm her in a surge of suppressed emotion whenever she thought on it. She had questions, so many questions. Was her mother alive? Where was she? Why did she do it? Did Mina mean so little to her? Was it something she’d done? The list went on and on. She had forgotten how many times she’d asked herself those poignant questions, and bore that inevitable, terrible weight of doubt and self-loathing. Yet, as much as she longed to know the truth, Mina never wanted to hear the answers. Some things were better left unknown. And as much as people claimed it would set you free, the truth could be a far more bitter pill to swallow than ignorance.
Utterly engrossed in her thoughts and her grooming, she never noticed the figure coming up behind her, just out of sight of the mirror, and almost jumped out of her skin in fright when a pair of strong arms suddenly coiled around her waist and drew her backward. Without thinking, she made to lash out with the comb and break free of her captor, but then went limp, the make-shift shiv slipping from nerveless fingers as thin lips teased the sensitive place on the back of her neck, just behind her left ear, making her knees weak and drawing a low moan from her. Only two men knew about that little spot…
“You look beautiful tonight,” Jason whispered against her throat, sending delicious shivers down her spine as his fingers slipped beneath the waistline of her top to glide across her flat stomach, sending tingling sensations zipping down to her centre. Damn him, how did he always know just how to touch her?
“Mmm…thanks, but I really need to go-oohhh…I’m already running late and Mark’s party is-ohhh, god…” Words failed her as he began laying fiery little nips and kisses along the curve of her neck before ravenously gnawing on the sensitised tendons. He hadn’t shaved today, she noted, her toes curling at the feeling of his stubble-roughened chin brushing against her softer skin.
Jason William Scott Stoker had been her boyfriend for the better part of three years. They’d met while filming The Devil’s messenger. He had been her co-star and character’s love interest, and instantly hit it off, their chemistry as sizzling off-screen as it was on. Though she couldn’t explain it, there was just something about his geeky sense of humour and Newcastle accent that she found enthralling. Seized by the passion of the moment, she swivelled in his arms to catch his lips in a hungry kiss while tangling her fingers in his dark mop of frizzy hair.
The embrace was instantly hot and heavy. Taking the offensive, Mina eagerly curled a long leg around his thigh while tracing her tongue across his lips, demanding entry. Groaning a low sound, he acquiesced, his hands moving down the curve of her spine to paw her derrière through the tight denim. Though tall and lanky, he was uncommonly strong and she couldn’t help uttering her own low moan as he drew her closer, allowing her to feel the weight of his desire pressing against her, stoking the fire suddenly burning inside her. Then their tongues met in a fierce dance, their teeth gnashing violently as they battled for dominance, manoeuvring blindly back towards the bed.
Almost knocking her heel on the bed’s heavy, oaken frame, she trailed her fingers down his neck to press against his upper torso before pivoting, breaking the embrace to send him tumbling to the bed. He had a handsome face, rugged with a defined jaw, easy smile and emerald-green eyes that could make her go weak at the knees with just one look. Smirking at his stupefied expression, she bent over his prone figure, her hair spilling over her shoulders to glide lightly over his cheeks, and kissed him again, but it was only a chaste, teasing touch, a ghost of her former passion, and she drew back before it could develop into something more. Confused, Jason’s eyes narrowed and he shot her an incredulous look as she rose to her feet, but she met the stare with only an apologetic smile.
“Sorry, tiger, but I’m already late.” She pivoted on her heel and went back to the dresser. The reflection that greeted her had her lips pressed together in a tight line. She looked, quite accurately, like she had been mauled. Nearly tutting in disgust at the sight of the red blotches on her neck and swollen lips, Mina shook out the dishevelled, and quite unrepairable, ruin of her hair before tussling it with her fingers, trying to bring some order to the chaos.
“Do you want me to come with you?”
Her eyes darted to his reflection in the mirror; now propped up on the bed by his elbows, his eyes bright and watching her with an almost lazy smile. “No, its fine.” Casting a look across the cabinet, she selected one of her foundations and began applying it to the red marks. “This will just be a quick visit. Dad and Alexis are having dinner at Le Cœur de la Mer so Mark is having some friends from university round. I’ll just drop his gifts off, say sorry for missing him earlier and wish him a happy birthday. Then I’ll be on my way home.”
Jason quirked an eyebrow at her. “All that, just for a quick visit?”
Men! Placing the cosmetic back on the dresser with a roll of her eyes, she selected her favourite lipstick from the selection. “A girl has to look her best.”
“You’re always at your best. If only you’d let yourself see it.” There was a depth of emotion in his voice Mina rarely heard there. It made her feel uneasy, as though a heavy knot was being tied in her gut and rising to block her throat. Her fingers trembling as she applied the lipstick, she tried to swallow, to force it down. Don’t say it- “I love you.”
She stilled, his words striking her like the crack of a bullwhip. Ice ran through her veins as their eyes met in the mirror and she saw the desperate pleading within them. Please, not again. At the end of the silent appeal, her mind ran to the two small, velvet-lined boxes he hid in the bottom draw of his bedside table, beneath his socks. She knew he’d kept them. Had he bought another? God, she hoped not, since the thought of rejecting him again was like a stone in her heart. Why couldn’t he understand she wasn’t that kind of woman?
Jason frowned at her silence, then pushed away from the bed to sit straight-backed with a resigned sigh. “Can’t you say it. Just once?”
I wish I could, she thought bitterly. But she wouldn’t lie to him. Forcibly swallowing the lump in her throat, Mina closed the lipstick and placed it back amongst the others before wheeling round and giving him her best reassuring smile. It did no quite reach her eyes however. Almost cool, they held his imploring look as she walked towards the bed, her feet seeming to glide over the soft carpet without a sound. Then, bending forward and resting both hands on the footboard, she leaned forward until his eyes were level with her breasts. She drew in a breath, just enough to lift the swells of her bosom and emphasize the way the so very thin fabric stretched over her cleavage.
She wanted to love him, she really did. He was a good man, fun and dependable and deserving of someone much better than her; but her heart was a fickle bitch, devoting itself to a lover, but never truly opening up. She’d seen where that road leads, what came of giving herself to someone completely.
Despite himself, Jason’s eyes flickered downward at the movement and lingered there, the shape of his manhood rising sharp and strong against his jeans, tenting the otherwise slack denim. Mina smirked, her plush tongue darting out suggestively over her rosy lips. “Hold that thought for me, lover boy.” Jason’s eyes darted back up, but she was already backing away. “Wait up for me and I promise, when I get home, we can pick up where we left off.” Feeling cold steel against her fingertips, her hand blindly closed around the door handle. “Until then, here’s a little preview…” As her left hand pulled the door open, her right grabbed the hem of her top and dragged it up, flashing him a provocative view of her cleavage. Then she was gone.
Her heart thundering with excitement, Mina had bolted before the door had even closed behind her, a broad smile on her lips as she envisioned Jason chasing her through the house before having his way with her against the door. Pushing her top back into place, she almost ran down the house’s spiralling staircase into the airy foyer. Slipping on a designer pair of brown leather boots and the matching jacket, she grabbed her keys off the oak side table, and the plastic shopping bag beside it containing Mark’s presents, before opening the ebony front door and stepping out into the cool evening air.
The sky was a dwindling tapestry of pink and orange beneath a sinking sea of violet, the sun long hidden behind the western horizon. The City of Los Angeles was nothing but a ghostly silhouette; still slumbering in that twilight purgatory dividing night from day. Bathed in the golden glow of the hanging iron lamp, she walked past the four huge columns of pale alabaster stone that supported the upper balcony, and down the porch’s three wide steps. In her wake, the heavy door slid shut with a booming bang.
Sleek and polished to a high shine, her black, Luxury Ride Lexus RX 350 was parked in the centre of the ringed-pebble-and--coral driveway. Clicking the key to unlock the vehicle before pocketing the fob, she clambered into the driver’s seat, carefully placing the shopping bag in the passenger seat’s foot-space as she did. Dragging the door shut behind her, strapping on her seat belt and taking off the handbrake, she pressed the ignition. The engine bellowed to life, emitting a deep rumble that had the seat vibrating deliciously beneath her. Slipping the shifter into drive, she put her foot to the accelerator; sending the SUZ roaring forward. Pressed back into her seat by the sudden motion, she drove round the doughnut-shaped driveway, passed through the high black iron gate, which arched five metres above the driveway and swung open automatically at her approach, marking the end of her 1.2 acre estate, and, without looking, turned sharply onto the winding street beyond.