Home > Hollywood Playe (Hollywood Name Game #3)

Hollywood Playe (Hollywood Name Game #3)
Author: Alexa Aston

PROLOGUE

 

 

London Russell paid the cab driver as Jimmy, her apartment building’s doorman, opened the taxi’s door for her. He took her hand to help her out as she exited the cab, her backpack slung over one shoulder.

“Luggage, Miss Russell?” Jimmy asked, looking around.

“The airline lost it.”

That was an easier explanation than what really happened to all of the clothes and shoes that had accompanied her to the Caribbean for the Sports Illustrated gig.

“You’ll get it back soon,” he said hopefully, always the eternal optimist. Then a smile lit his face. “I downloaded your single three days ago. It’s been playing on stations everywhere nonstop. You’re really talented, Miss Russell.”

“Thank you, Jimmy.” She paused. “I need to let you know that Mr. Rossi is no longer welcomed here.”

Instantly, the young doorman’s posture and demeanor changed. His smile was replaced by a look of determination as he stood a little taller. “Yes, ma’am, Miss Russell. I’ll be sure he doesn’t get into the building.” He frowned, his brow creased in concern. “You doin’ okay?”

London hid the blackened eye behind dark sunglasses. “I’m going to be fine. Thanks for asking.”

Jimmy escorted her to the building’s entrance and opened the door for her. “I’m here for you. You need anything—anything at all—you just let me know.”

“I will.”

She hitched the backpack higher on her shoulder as she entered the lobby. Immediately, Claude caught sight of her and came from behind the desk to greet her.

“It’s good to have you back, Miss Russell. Your flat mates are both gone for the week so you have the place to yourself. Did your swimsuit shoot go well?”

She embraced Claude, who’d known her since she began modeling at fourteen.

“As well as could be expected.” That is, if you expected your photographer boyfriend to show up so hungover that he was fired—after he’d insulted three of the models and groped another one. She needed to let Claude know how serious the situation had grown.

Pushing her sunglasses up onto her head, London stared the concierge in the face. Ever the professional, Claude turned pale but kept a poker face.

“I’ve already informed Jimmy but I wanted you to know as well.”

Smoothly and perceptibly, Claude said, “I’ll be sure to inform all the staff that Mr. Rossi will never be a guest in this establishment again.” In a gesture of support, he placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. “You’re safe here, Miss Russell.”

London slid the glasses back down, not wanting any of the building’s occupants to see her this way. “I know. Thank you.” She hesitated. “I wasn’t able to claim my extra key from him, however.”

“That won’t be a problem,” Claude assured. “I’ll call a locksmith in the morning to have your locks changed and keys made for everyone who needs them.”

“Perfect. My father will be flying in tomorrow morning. He’s aware of the . . . situation.”

“Very good. May I do anything else for you tonight?”

“I plan to celebrate this job ending by ordering my usual splurge of Kung Pao from Mister Lee’s. First, I want to soak in a hot bath.”

Claude smiled, the laugh lines creasing around his eyes. “You do love your Chinese food. Especially once you’ve completed an assignment. I’ll make sure other than the delivery boy coming up that you won’t be disturbed the rest of the evening.” He returned to the desk and reached under it, bringing out a small bundle of mail and handing it to her.

“Thank you, Claude.”

London went to the elevators, ready to be home. She was glad to hear that her two roommates were gone on assignment. Constantly in high demand, it was rare for the three models to all be in residence at the same time. After the stress of the last few days, she craved solitude.

The apartment had a forlorn feeling as she entered and locked the door behind her. It made her wish she had a pet to come home to. She adjusted the thermostat and felt a swift rush of cool air seconds after she did. London dropped her sunglasses and the mail on an end table next to the sofa and slipped out of the espadrilles she wore. Scooping them up, she padded into her bedroom and tossed the backpack on her bed and placed the shoes in the closet before returning and emptying the backpack’s items so she could charge her electronics. Thank goodness she’d had the backpack with her at the beach shoot. It contained her phone and tablet and their chargers, as well as her passport. Giancarlo would’ve destroyed all of it if she’d left anything in the hotel room—including all of her clothes he’d shredded with scissors.

She ran a hot bath, dropping in plenty of scented oil to moisturize her skin. Being a fair-skinned redhead who’d spent the last ten days on the beach, she couldn’t get enough to soften her spray-tanned skin. Soon, her clothes were tossed into the hamper and her long hair was pinned in a knot atop her head. A glass of chilled sauvignon blanc rested on the edge of the tub, the only thing she’d found in the refrigerator. London set the Jacuzzi timer and slipped into the steamy water, placing her bath pillow behind her neck. Gradually, the tension left her body as she sipped the white wine. She closed her eyes as the jets swirled the water around her.

Images of her ruined wardrobe scattered throughout the hotel room came to her. London fought to push them aside but the past few days kept replaying themselves in her whirling mind. Her gut ached with the embarrassment of Giancarlo’s abysmal behavior in front of the crew and assembled models. Then the drunken accusations he’d hurled at her once she returned to their hotel room after a long day of photography in the sand had followed. No matter what London said, her lover had only grown angrier and more out of control.

And then he’d hit her.

She’d never been struck in her life. Her father didn’t believe in spanking. She’d never played sports and been subjected to thrown elbows or kicks during practice or a game. She never had any friends growing up to argue with and she certainly hadn’t made friends with any of her fellow models the past eight years. To be hit—much less in the face with such brute force—was not only a physical blow but one that ripped her apart emotionally.

Especially from a man who claimed he loved her more than life itself.

Her screams had brought management to the room, as well as various people connected with the magazine. Sylvia Rogers, who’d taken over the photo shoot that morning after Giancarlo had been fired, summoned a doctor to examine London’s eye. Fortunately, nothing had been damaged but the severe bruising would eliminate her from the rest of the shoot.

Or so London had thought.

Instead, Sylvia very cleverly had London turn her head away from the camera in some shots. She captured London in profile on her good side in others. In another series, she allowed London to wear dark designer sunglasses, adding an air of mystery to the pictures. One pose, in particular, had London seated in the sand as the waves washed ashore, her arms and legs wrapped around her as her chin rested on one raised knee. Sylvia had shared these photographs with London, something the photographer rarely did. The older woman told London she would push for her to become the cover of this swimsuit issue. That built her confidence some, seeing the magic Sylvia had done, working around the swelling and bruising. London’s self-esteem had taken as much of a beating as anything. She was grateful at the boost Sylvia’s praise gave her.

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