Authors: Ophelia London
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places,
and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
The author would like to thank the band Mustang Sally for the generous permission to use their name fictitiously in this novel.
Copyright © 2013 by Mary A. Smith. All rights reserved,
including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact
Entangled Publishing, LLC
2614 South Timberline Road
Fort Collins, CO 80525
Visit our website at www.entangledpublishing.com.
Edited by Stacy Abrams
Design and typesetting by Neuwirth & Associates, Inc.
Cover design by Alexandra Shostak
Manufactured in the United States of America
First Edition March 2013
The author acknowledges the copyrighted or trademarked status and trademark owners of the following word marks mentioned in this work of fiction: Mini Cooper, VH1, Tonka, Beetle, Volvo, Silly String, Mountain Dew, Emporio Armani,
, BlackBerry, Locals, Frisbee, Chevy Nova,
, Diesel, Google, Dumpster, Range Rover, iPod, Dr Pepper, Kleenex, YouTube, iPad, Windex, Chuck Taylor, Camaro, Mercedes, Porsche, Berber, Juicy Fruit, Kashi, Cap’n Crunch with Crunch Berries, Chanel Number Five, Ritz, M&Ms, Styrofoam, Windex, Bluetooth, Creamsicle, Turtle Wax, Uzi, Jetway, Modica Market,
Better Homes and Gardens
, Cartier, Harry Winston, Tiffany & CO, Jimmy Choo, Coke, The Gap, Victoria’s Secret, Mary Kay, Zoloft, U-Haul, Bose, Goodwill, Gucci, FedEx, In-N-Out, Body Glove, Ron Jon’s Surf Shop, Pottery Barn, Disney World, Barnes and Noble, DayGlo, Neumann
To Taylor Swift and No Doubt.
Thank you for keeping pop music relevant.
ow could there be no valet parking? This was Los Angeles.
After circling the building a second time, I finally found a space. Even though parallel parking was not my forte, I managed to snake in and then did that reverse-forward-reverse-forward trick about ten times, trying to straighten out. I glanced through the passenger-side window, inspecting the population of the sidewalk. Hmm—busy, lots of business people and shoppers dodging one another. Hopefully no tourists, though. My stomach felt queasy at the thought.
I sat back in my seat, closed my eyes, and breathed slowly.
In through the nose . . . out through the mouth . . . Repeat until pulse steadies. . . .
If I were late to my appointment, I’d tell Dr. Robert it was because I was practicing a relaxation technique. He knew agoraphobia wasn’t my current paranoia, however, so he probably wouldn’t buy it. So, after one more inhale, I adjusted my huge round sunglasses, took a last look through the window, and opened the car door.
I was careful not to slam it shut—no need to draw unnecessary attention. I walked around the car. And I was fine. I stepped onto the sidewalk. Still totally fine. Dr. Robert’s office building was only about fifty paces away. Dead ahead. If I looked down and walked fast, no one would—
“Abigail? Abigail Kelly?”
I froze in place. Bad idea—I should’ve kept moving. I turned toward the voice. It was a girl, maybe about sixteen years old. She was pointing at me with one hand while her other was clapped over her mouth. Probably stifling one of those ear-splitting teenage squeals I would have been good at eight years ago
“It is. It’s
“Hi there,” I said, forcing my mouth to turn up into my “charming smile.” Before she even reached me, I was automatically poised to take whatever scrap of paper she handed over. It was a movie ticket stub this time. I glanced at the title, but I’d never heard of it. Occupational hazard of being on the road and out of the country for the past eleven months.
“What’s your name?” I asked, then scribbled my best wishes followed by my signature, including the trademark loopty-loop on the
at the end.
By that time, three other girls—friends of girl number one, presumably—had joined us.
“Seriously. I just
you!” one of them said, beaming. “Your songs are, like, all my favorites.”
“You’re so much prettier in person,” declared another.
I was nodding and smiling and loopty-looping as fast as I could, keeping one eye on the building entrance a few yards away.
“Your hair,” girl number one said, “is so totally beautiful. How do you get it that blond and shiny?” She actually reached out and touched my head.
I allowed it. Not that I was used to having total strangers pet me on street corners, but it was like I’d been nine months pregnant for the last five years, and everyone thought they were allowed to rub my belly.
“Yours is gorgeous.” I smiled. It was true; it was the kind of red you can’t get out of a bottle. “Never change it,” I said, signing the last piece of paper. “Grow it long. You’ll rule the world. Trust me.”
The girls gathered in a buzzing huddle as I started to walk away. Not too petrifying that time. Four autographs, probably a couple of cell phone pictures. Nothing that was going to make tonight’s news. I clutched my purse strap over my shoulder and exhaled. Home free.
“Hey, Abigail.” It was a man’s voice this time. “C’mon, give us a big smile now.”
When I looked over my shoulder toward the voice, I didn’t find just one man, but three, all dressed in their typical L.A. daytime street garb: shorts, wrinkled T-shirts, ball caps on backward, and cameras strapped around their necks.
Suddenly they were one arm’s length away from me.
The paparazzi really had no sense of personal space. Looked like I picked the wrong day to run a simple errand alone, without Shugger, my bodyguard, or even Molly, my personal assistant. I wondered for a frightening second if I should call Max and have him send in the troops to pull me out; managers were very good at things like that. But I dismissed the idea—causing a scene might have been worse.
“Hi, guys.” I waved in what I hoped was a friendly manner, even though I was dying to turn and run. “I’m sorry, I have to go.” I pointed toward the building. “I have an appointment.”
“With the ‘Psychiatrist of the Stars’ again?” one of them said, his snapping camera literally three inches from my face.
Really, I shouldn’t have been at all surprised that they knew, even though I’d gone in to see Dr. Robert only one other time—the rest of our sessions had been done over the phone because I was out of the country. Not that they were doing much good, if you asked me. When I’d tried to convince him I was simply having a quarter-life crisis, he didn’t believe me.
Maybe he was smarter than I’d thought.
“What do you talk about with him, Abigail?” another paparazzi asked.
I shook my head, playing mysterious, and backed away.
“Yeah, c’mon, you can tell us. It’ll be
little secret, right?” He snickered while moving his camera to a different angle.
Knowing this had already gone on too long, I turned on my heel and started to walk off, ignoring the warning bells chiming in my head. The three men followed me, saying things I tried to ignore. All the paparazzi were really after was a reaction—they wanted to snap a picture of you crying or yelling or adjusting your bra strap.
“Yo, Abby,” one of them called out, stepping in front of me right before the entrance. “How’s Christian these days, huh?”
My stomach dropped to the floor and my throat felt like a long, slippery snake was choking off all my oxygen. His question was a low blow, even for them, but I did not react. Christian was my one button the paparazzi knew they could push—even though what happened to Christian was a year ago. That didn’t matter to them. In fact, they would sink as low as they had to, dig up the most painful part of my past and twist it into something even uglier, just to get the response they wanted. But I refused to give it to them.
Instead, I swallowed hard and said nothing. When I tried to step around them, the photog in front blocked my way again.
“How does it feel, Abby? To know you killed your brother?”
I wasn’t sure when I realized that my forward motion had stopped. Half of my brain was screaming to remain calm,
Do not react, Abby
, while the other half was painfully aware that the clicking sound of the cameras had suddenly tripled. There was no part of my brain that could give the command to retreat.
The next sound I heard was my own gasping. I felt tears on my cheeks when I pressed a hand over my mouth. Blood rushed to my head as I bent forward, my other hand braced on the front of my thigh. My eyelids were clenched so tightly that all I saw was black . . .
The next thing I was fully aware of was sitting on the small sofa in Dr. Robert’s office. He was staring from a wingback chair a few feet away while some hidden machine was playing sounds of the ocean, and there was a steaming cup of something minty smelling on the table next to me. I looked down at my lap toward an area of acute pain. Both fists were white-knuckled—nails digging into my palms. When I swallowed, my throat felt uncharacteristically raw. I tried to think back, wondering if I’d really just broken down like that. In the middle of rush hour. For the whole world to see.
“Are you ready to talk about it?” Dr. Robert asked, clicking his pen. “About your brother?”
I took a breath and opened my mouth.
But then I closed it, sealing my lips together. No, I was still not ready to talk about it.
Dr. Robert crossed his legs. “All right, then.”
I reached over for my drink and took a sip, then another, staring down into the mug. The liquid inside looked like tiny tsunamis as my hands shook.
“Okay,” Dr. Robert said, lowering his notebook. “Let’s talk about something lighter for a while.” He stroked his short beard. “When was the last time you felt happy?”
I chuckled darkly and rolled my eyes, about to explain to him that I hadn’t had one moment of joy since Christian died. But then I thought of something else and realized that wasn’t the truth.
“Three . . . three days ago,” I began, my voice sounding scratchy. “We were in Paris. The band was exhausted—it was our ninth show in nine nights. We were running on adrenaline.” I returned the cup to the table and looked toward the window past Dr. Robert’s head. “During the acoustic set, it was just Hal and me onstage. The song was slow—a love ballad from our first album. We were sitting on stools. Hal was on guitar, and I was behind a standing mike. Toward the end of the song, I remember closing my eyes.” I closed my eyes then, reliving the memory. “I could actually feel the music pulse through my body, down to my toes, under my hair. I’ve never felt so . . .
.” I sat forward, leaning toward Dr. Robert. “My voice, the band, all the instruments were blending perfectly that night; everything was clicking. As I sat under the spotlight, I felt the energy of fifty thousand friends singing along with me, singing their hearts out. That massive venue was suddenly intimate, like we were all in sync. I wondered if they knew we were experiencing something extraordinary.”