With her best gracious loser face firmly in place, Hollywood’s hottest starlet is hoping to end her evening of disappointment with a graceful exit stage left. Only an unexpected proposal and an awkward wardrobe malfunction mean that this is certainly going to be a night to remember… for all the wrong reasons! So what girl would resist the gorgeous Dominic Kelly coming to her rescue?! Especially when he’s whisking her out of the paparazzi’s prying eyes on the back of his motorbike – and wearing a tux to rival James Bond!
Nina soon realizes that the only way to recover from such a scandal is to toughen up and snag the role of the decade in the year’s hottest YA screen adaptation. Who better to train her than her very own professional stuntman? Getting up close and personal with Dom will take Nina well out of her comfort zone – both professionally and in her closely scrutinized private life. But this A-list couple know only too well that’s it not all happy ever afters in Hollywood…
I’ve always written stories for myself, but didn’t even think of being an author until I realised that being over thirty and living in a fantasy world was a little odd. Writing those same stories for other people makes it a lot more acceptable!
By day I dress in cargo pants and boots for my not-so-glamorous job of making movies but at night I come home to my two little Princesses, in Johannesburg, South Africa, where I live, and I get to write Happy Ever Afters. Since I believe every girl is a princess, and every princess deserves a happy ending, what could be more perfect?
The only exit she knew was the same one she’d entered through, the entrance onto Sunset Boulevard where she’d have to run the gauntlet of half the world’s media.
Yet more cameras.
She couldn’t trust herself to hold it together for the length of that walk. She couldn’t trust herself to hold it together long enough to make it across the room.
“We have to get her out of here.”
Thank heavens. A voice of reason. Relief swamped her as she faced her agent and her publicist.
It was short-lived.
“Hold up your dress. You’re baring your butt to the world.” Dane grimaced as he gathered up a handful of ripped silk and thrust it at her. “Couldn’t you have worn a sexy thong at least?”
The unshed tears burned all the way to her throat. How long had her supportive granny pants been on display to the entire room? And was Martin Scorsese looking straight at her?
“Maybe the press outside won’t have got wind of this yet?” Dane said hopefully.
The look Chrissie sent him answered that one quickly enough.
“I’ll get her out of here. I know a back exit.”
All three of them turned to look at Dominic. The relief in the faces of her agent and publicist would have been insulting if she hadn’t felt the same.
Dominic grinned. “We’re going to walk out of here as if we don’t have a care in the world. You can manage that much, can’t you sweetheart?”
Nina nodded. The tears had stopped their insistent push against her eyelids. She already felt calmer. If she wasn’t still so aware of the sea of eyes all around, she would have leaned into him.
“Do it,” he said, holding her gaze, daring her. His eyes sparkled. They were an unusual color. Mesmerizing. Like dark emeralds flecked with gold. He placed his arm around her shoulder and pulled her against him.
How had he known what she was thinking? She breathed in the scent of the wild sea, simultaneously frightening and exhilarating, and gave in. She leaned into him.
“That’s it. You’re an actress, so act. Now just follow my lead.”
His cheeky grin was back in place. She managed a weak one of her own. “You’re enjoying this,” she meant it to sound accusing, but the words came out more curious.
“Of course I am. You just rescued me from dying of boredom.” He leaned close to whisper in her ear. “Besides, the look on your publicist’s face was all the reward I needed.”
Of course. The note she’d caught in Chrissie’s tone had been intended to warn him that he didn’t stand a chance with Nina. Instead, she was leaving the party with him. She stifled a hysterical giggle.
Dominic took her free hand and led her through the crowd, not towards the kitchens or a service entrance, as she’d hoped, but straight toward their host. She prayed he knew what he was doing.
It wasn’t easy walking with one hand clasped behind her back, holding her gaping dress together, but she kept her chin up and she smiled. Not the furious, bright smile of before. She aimed more for a Mona Lisa effect now. It was about as much as she could manage.
Their host turned at their approach, smiling. “Leaving so soon, Dom?”
Dom grinned and shrugged. “You know how it is – I have a thing for damsels in distress. Thanks for another great dinner, and we’ll talk about that canoeing trip soon.”
Had Dominic been invited to the dinner and viewing party earlier in the night? Those tickets were gold. She did a rapid recalculation of this ‘lowly’ stunt man.
“I look forward to it.” Their host glanced down to where Nina clutched her torn gown together, then summoned over a minion with an all-access security pass around his neck. “Ms. Alexander has had a wardrobe malfunction. Please take them out the private exit.” Then he turned to Nina. “Thank you.”
She tried to sound as cool and amused as he did. “My pleasure. But what for?”
The older man’s grin reached ear to ear. “For providing me with the headline story for our webpage tomorrow.”
She wished she hadn’t asked.
The tuxedoed minion led them through the dining area, where the most privileged guests had sat for dinner, to an exit she hadn’t known existed.
“Shall I call the valet to bring your car around, Mr. Kelly?” the minion asked Dom.
“No need. I’m parked right outside.”
The minion frowned. Nina only just managed to stop her own frown from wrinkling her forehead. When she’d arrived there’d been a mile-long traffic jam and police everywhere. No one could have parked within walking distance of this place.
They passed two security checkpoints before they reached the exit to the back end of the Sunset Plaza parking lot. Nina dropped Dom’s hand and breathed in the cool night air. There were no fancy black Escalades parked out here, just vans and other working vehicles.
“What now?” she asked. “Are you going to sneak me out in a delivery van, or do you have a magical flying carpet stashed out here?”
Dom grinned. “As good as. How precious is that dress of yours?”
She glanced down to assess the damage and groaned. “I think it’s past saving.”
“Good.” He kneeled down and with a quick rip tore the remaining skirt off her dress.
“What are you doing?” she asked, trying to stop him. But she was too late. What had once been a slinky, scarlet, floor-length evening gown was now the length of a cocktail dress. A very short cocktail dress, with an uneven hemline that barely covered her granny pants.
Her PA was going to have to be very inventive to explain these new modifications to the designer.
He handed the torn expanse of fabric to her, then removed his jacket. “Cover yourself with this.” He helped her into the jacket, then placed his hand on her lower back to guide her between the cars.
To a motorbike.
No, not just any motorbike. A KTM offroad bike, with fiery orange paintwork and gleaming chrome. Not exactly subtle, but it was close and wouldn’t get stuck in the traffic jam out front. Nina nearly wept with relief.
A quick escape was worth the loss of one couture ball gown.
“Where do you want to go?” he asked, handing her the helmet hooked over the handle- bars.
The helmet was going to wreck the beautiful curls her stylist had labored over all day. But no one would see her now. They were as good as home free.
She pulled the helmet on, her fingers fumbling with the chin-strap. Dom stepped close to help her and she caught her breath.
A light bulb popped.
She looked around.
Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse…they did. Not a bulb, but a camera flash.
The pap who’d spotted them gave a shout and began to run toward them, camera held high.
Dom lifted her onto the back of his bike as if she weighed nothing, then straddled the seat between her legs and revved the bike to life. The roar nearly drowned out his voice. “Where are we going?”
“Anywhere,” she shouted back. Anywhere but home. The condo was barely a few blocks from here and the press would be all over it in two minutes as soon as this story broke.
She laughed. “I’m starving. I’d kill for a burger right now.”
Dom grinned back at her. “Hold on tight. I know just the place, but it’s gonna be a long drive…”