Love. Lies. Acting. Not just another young adult romance for new adult & college readers.
Discover the Starlet Series and uncover the life of a talented teen actress caught in Hollywood’s web of lies.
I’m actress Liana Marie Michael. I won an Oscar at 17 but whatever. Celebrity is what it is: marketing a product. I’m part of a tight-knit group. I keep to myself and don’t complain about my life. I’ve been happy until lately.
Evan dumping me leveled me. Matthew shocked me. I knew he couldn’t hurt me with my bodyguard so near, but his eyes…so I have trust issues. Dating super-hot Byron didn’t help clear the confusion either. I’m torn between going to church on Sunday and making a living from pop culture.
But experience builds perspective. My days of shutting up needed to end. First, I told Manuel. Then I told my mom. It turned out awesome until I learned the truth.
Now I’m screwed. Totally. Let’s face it: Hollywood’s web entangles everyone.
Winner of the January 21, 2013 IBD Award!
Gold Medal Winner, 2013 AUTHORSdb Book Cover Contest!
“YA fans will absolutely want to check out this series, where they’ll find a new heroine to root for in the flawed but sympathetic Liana.” – BlueInk Review
Book Rating: R
e x c e r p t
~ LOOKING GOOD ~
Mom arrived in jeans and a tee. Sage was already in full makeup but the stylists had not started on her hair.
Sage was a beautiful woman, my height with long black hair, dark skin and green eyes. I didn’t know if she was Persian or Turkish, perhaps Indian. Her name was also her trademark. I loved her eyes, not just the sage color or the contrast with the green against her skin, but also the depth of emotion that her eyes expressed. From her eyes, I knew I could trust her and that she was genuine. She was in her mid-thirties but looked a few years older than Mom. Dad hired her when she needed a job after she bombed out as a performer. She was a huge teenaged success, starring in a cute young adult motion picture series in which she also performed the vocals for the key tracks. She had instant fame but couldn’t handle the pressure from both Hollywood and the concert tours. She was a complete drunken slut there for a while. Her second album was a flop. Her production studio didn’t renegotiate her contracts and no one gave her another chance. She went to rehab, cleaned herself up, reconnected with her Muslim roots, and fell in love. But she was a has-been in the entertainment industry. That’s when Dad hired her to manage his and my engagements around Mom’s busy schedule. When he moved to Montana and I became an actor, I became her sole client. Since she lived the jet-setting celebrity teenaged life and then found God again, Dad figured she’d know the game and help me from imploding. And she did. She was a terrific manager, protecting me from making her mistakes.
“Mom!” I hugged her. “I forgot to ask you yesterday. How’s your project going?”
“The film will be wonderful. But I’m still disappointed we have to shoot in Vancouver. I’d like to be closer to you, Marie. I love you so much. I’ve missed you more than I can say.” She sighed and hugged me tighter. “I’m so proud of you. You did such a great job on Jefferson’s Muse and Richard says you’re even more tremendous in Constantine’s Muse. Wow, honey; good work.”
“Thanks.” I let go. “Hi Sage.” I hugged her too.
“Great job, Marie. It’s always a pleasure working for you. I’m so proud of you, too.”
“Thanks, Sage. And thanks to you, I have nothing to worry about. Except tonight. I’m terrified. Can we practice again, Mom?”
“That’s why I’m here. But let’s make sure your dress fits first.”
Mom turned to Byron and shook his hand. “Hello, Byron, I’m Michelle Michael, co-producer of the film you are wrecking. Please learn how to act.”
Byron shook her hand but said nothing. He smiled and winked at her. For a moment, I thought Mom had turned him on or something. We walked uneasily to the elevator and to the hotel room.
Mom hugged Franz and the three of them left the room to the adjoining room to brief Franz’s team.
Byron kissed me again from out of nowhere.
“Stop! Dude, I didn’t see that coming. I’m aware that you’re standing next to me, and then boom, out of nowhere! Please, my nerves are completely rattled. Don’t kiss me.”
“I thought it would relieve some tension, that’s all.”
I searched his face and shook my head. His eyes expressed sincerity and face was relaxed, showing no sign of tension or worry. I pleaded, “I don’t want to be just another girl to you. I want it to be special, with someone who only loves me. Please, I’m not a trophy.”
He stepped back from me and waited until I acknowledged him. He explained using his most patient voice, “You don’t fool me, Marie. I see how lonely you are. I’m your guy. I can give you so much love.”
“Byron, you think I’m this innocent virgin. I’m not. I have chosen not to be promiscuous. I used to party, too. I’ve seen it all and don’t want it. I’m not going to attend gross parties, blow you, or go through rehab again. I’m completely not your type.”
He shook his head. “You’re wrong about me, Marie. You’re right that I get pissed too much. And these girls, they’re everywhere, aggressive, in line. I won’t deny myself but I don’t want you in the way I have them. I respect you, admire you.” He looked down and his lips slightly puckered into a sexy pout. “I want you to move into my condo with me until we finish shooting. You won’t be lonely anymore. I won’t be either.”
I shook my head. “Be realistic. We wrap. We say a painful goodbye. We both feel more alone afterwards as we go on to the next project. You’re incredibly hot, Byron. Your line of girls will never stop. You’ll continue to lose yourself each time you’re bashed online. You’ll keep changing who you are for a fickle audience. I’ll miss you too much. An affair is temporary. It’s not what I want.”
He sighed, looking deflated. “Okay. I’ll back off.”
“Promise?” I asked.
“You have to know the effect you have on me. I love the color of your eyes and the mind hidden behind them, and I only get to see them if I’m really close. Babe, we connect. But I’ll do my best.” Byron crossed the room and slouched onto the couch. “I wrote you a song. Please just let me sing it to you when we get back to the set.” He picked up the remote and turned on the TV.
He didn’t promise. A song would completely wear me down. I answered, “Just take no for an answer.”
Mom came in to get me to try on the dress. She assessed the situation.
She walked directly to Byron and put her hand on his shoulder, looking at him with knowledge and purpose. “Byron, back off from my daughter. You’re co-stars. You’re not romantic. Use your feelings on screen. Repress them when you’re off the set. Marie is not Muse. You touch her without her permission and you’ll wish you stayed down under.”
Byron put his hand on hers and returned the stare with conviction. “I’m in love with her. I know she’s more than Muse. She’s perfect, one-of-a-kind, extraordinary, and beautiful. But she’s so lonely. I can replace that loneliness with my love if she’d let me.”
He took Mom’s hand off of his shoulder and kissed the top of it as he got up from the couch. He held her hand as he walked her to me.
“You both are absolutely gorgeous. I promise I’ll try, Marie.” He smiled and put Mom’s hand in mine. Then he walked back to the sofa, sat down, and watched TV.
Mom and I watched him. I wondered if any want-to-be or unproven actor but Byron had the nerve to treat Mom that way. Mom was a diva and most people tried desperately to kiss her ass.
Then I noticed Mom. Her face glowed from the confrontation and she shifted her body, accentuating her legs. She actually had an insurance policy on her perfect legs. I shook my head in disbelief. She giggled and tossed her hair as she pulled me to the adjoining room.
I was going to scold her for flirting but Franz was positively giddy when I entered the room. I thought he would be stressed out about how Mom would react to the dresses but he grinned and tried not to bounce. His hands were clasped together. I eyed Sage and Mom. They smiled, too.
I asked, “What is it, Franz?”
He squealed, “Your Oscar presents! Your own collection! What do you think?”
He unveiled a collection of Anabelle by Marcia Sherrill handbags, totes, evening bags and a cute little backpack. Her trademark was a pink pineapple, which always brought me back to comforting thoughts of looking out of my terrace in Santa Monica at all the palm trees in the canyon.
“I love them! Thanks! These are in my collection? What does that mean?”
“Marcia named the bags after you. You’ve got a Liana bag and a Marie tote from your favorite Palm Springs line. This gorgeous bag for tonight is the Marie Michael from the Hollywood line! We got it in both black and gold. I figured the Durglo backpack would be your favorite.”
Mom hugged me. “I got a set for everyone! Renee wears hers tonight, too. I’m so proud of you, Marie, so very proud.” Mom got down to business. “Now let’s get ready!”
I sat in a swiveled chair in front of the bathroom mirror. Franz’s team had several stations throughout the hotel room. He turned the adjoining room into wardrobe and catering. Franz was working on my makeup first. Someone else would do my hair.
“Franz, Byron insists that he’s in love with me and wants to date. He’s completely hot. I like him but, you know?”
“If you date someone, date Evan again. You two are beautiful together in every way. Byron doesn’t deserve you. You’re too good for him, Marie.”
“I have such a hard time. I kiss him a lot off set, ya know, at least a couple times a week. I… it’s always in response to him kissing me. I just don’t know why… It’s like I don’t see it coming and then it’s, ‘wow’, and then I stop kissing him back when I remember that he’s shallow.”
“I don’t think Byron is shallow. He loves you but he’s not right for you. He’s new to this world and from what I can tell will crash like most of them. Can I tell you what I see?”
“Of course, Franz. Please.” Although I had to be careful with what I revealed about myself with him, I could trust that he would tell me the truth.
“I’ve watched you for years on set and at home. All your co-stars love you. You’re sweet and naturally beautiful inside and out—one in a billion. But, you, my dear, are in love with only one boy and until you tell Manny how you feel, you won’t be able to date anyone.”
The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I blushed. I shook my head. “It would hurt too much to tell Manuel. He doesn’t love me that way. He hates that I’m an actor. He thinks I’m his sister.”
Franz put his hand on my shoulder and stopped applying my foundation. He looked me in the eyes and pleaded, “You need to tell him that you’re in love with him, take the chance.”
“I kind of did. I kissed him and he pushed me away.”
One of his assistants entered the room. Franz shooed him out and closed the door. He continued, “I hate seeing you so lonely. I know Evan didn’t cheat on you. You broke up because you loved Manny. Manny thought you were mental when you kissed him and pushed you away. Renee told me. Nothing will change for you unless you’re honest with the people you love. I personally like Evan better, but you and Manny have a stronger bond. Manny doesn’t play games. You played a kissing game.”
I chuckled and then explained, “I’ve kissed Manny twice, actually. The first time was playing spin-the-bottle. The second time I pretended to demonstrate Byron’s surprise kiss. Both showed that he didn’t care while both tore me up inside.”
“Manny is dense, darling. But he’s absolutely in love with you. I can feel it in the room when you both are together. Michelle knows. Evan knows. Beth knows. Kate knew. You two are the only ones in denial. You need to be straight with him.”
“I’m afraid to. He’ll reject me and then what?” I asked and then turned from him, embarrassed that he saw through me so clearly.
“Then you’ll have closure. I’ll be here for you, as is Renee. Evan would jump at the chance to date you again. You can find some peace because then you’ll know where you stand with Manny.” He giggled. “Besides, Evan is ready for commitment and is mature. Manny needs to grow up and be more open-minded. I saw him roll his eyes behind my back when I was getting you ready for the SAG awards. I kindly ask you: never invite him to come by again while you’re in hair and makeup. Please.”
Franz smiled and added, “And he should praise you after your transformation into a goddess, not complain that you’re more beautiful without makeup. I also don’t like that he acts like the keeper of your modesty. You have the best figure in Hollywood and should flaunt your perfection, not hide it.”
Franz stopped his rant. “Darling, I like Evan. He’s worldly, beautiful and wise.” He raised his eyebrows. “Tell Manny how you feel. If he doesn’t feel the same, call Evan and this time love him in return and you’ll be so happy with him.”
I nodded but didn’t feel like talking anymore. I would be so vulnerable if Manuel rejected me. I’d feel like a complete idiot after he gasped at my admission of love and withdrew from my life. But then I would have the freedom to let myself love Evan. Franz was right that Evan would take me back. I let it play out in my head. Nope, I would miss Manuel too much. He had to stay in my life. I needed him on a deep, almost spiritual level, even if it was just as a brother.
Franz got down on his knee in front of me and held my hand. “Marie, I know you’re my boss, but you can trust me. I’m a gossip. I am. But I won’t betray you. You’re one of my best friends and I know I’m yours. Well, I share that role with Manny. Listen, I see everything, hear everything. I put things together. I heard about Matthew. You’re right to want to destroy him. You’re considering dating Byron. From the swelling around your eyes, you’ve been crying. I’m here for you, can support you. What you’ve been through is too much. I love you. Please let me help.”
I hugged him and tried so hard not to lose it. Tears fell anyway. He held me while I cried it out.
I pulled myself together. “Thanks, Franz.”
“Let’s start over, my beautiful friend.” Franz handed me a cold wash cloth to wipe my tears and sooth my eyes.
After he finished reapplying my foundation, he opened the door and called in his assistants. It was time to transform. At least I had my black handbag with embroidered pineapples that could remind me of nature, peace, and home.