WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH, THE TOUGH GO SHOPPING
Alana Marshall-Hughes has her priorities. They're Prada, Tiffany, and Gucci. The African-American princess has never met a pricey retailer that didn't practically cry with joy the minute she pranced in. But now that her credit-card bills have exceeded the price of her college tuition, her parents have cut her off. They even want her to get a (gasp) job! Alana's not going down without a fight. After all, she gets credit-card applications in the mail every day, and where there's a will to shop, there's a way ... right?
Tall, blond Hailey Starrett grew up on a farm, making jams with her hippie parents. Now, she's making up for lost time by shopping till she drops. Hailey's determined to make it as an actress in NYC, and she just might succeed ... if she can keep herself from spending all her money on shoes, clothes, and accessories. The blond beauty's just been given the chance of a lifetimeâstarring on a soap opposite daytime's hottest hunk ... and nastiest diva. But being in the spotlight means even more pressure to look good, and looking good doesn't come cheap. Or does it?
Witty, wicked, and laugh-out-loud funny,
is a nonstop romp through New York's dressing rooms, green rooms, VIP rooms, and rooms-for-improvementâproof positive that with a little ingenuity, a lot of moxie, and true friends, any girl can live the high life without breaking the bank.
“If readers thought Becky Bloomwood of
fame was bad, wait until they meet
Alana Marshall-Hughes ... The author of
Girls' Night Out
again delivers a
lighthearted, entertaining comedy.”â
here is nothing quite as sweet as the taste of success. At this particular event, the accolades were being showered upon my friend Pierre, a young couture designer who was showing his line in Europe for the first time; however, since I had been linked to him in the press, I felt that my fashionable presence elevated his turnout here in London. The fact that they'd called me an Aztec princess had made me laugh, though I knew that if my father, the descendant of slaves from the Underground Railroad, ever saw the piece, veins would pop in his forehead. Poor Daddy took these things way too seriously.
Now cameras flashed around me as Pierre dashed onto the stage and took a dramatic bow. I was already on my feet in the first row, clapping as loudly as my gold lame gloves would allow. Not that my applause would be noticed amid the audience roar. London's celebrity crowd adored Pierre's fashions almost as much as they adored the skinny, self-effacing brother who now blew kisses to the audience. Let me tell you, he'd come a long way from his days as Pete Brown, the ambiguous genius at Harvard who was afraid to tell his parents that he was minoring in design. My boy Petey had hit the big-time, and I was happy to be counted among Pete-turned-Pierre's supporters.
“You go, Pierre!” I called, lifting my chin slowly so as not to tumble the gorgeous gold Aztec-princess headdress he'd designed for me. It was the perfect centerpiece of my Pierre originalâa black sheath trimmed in gold, gold gloves, strappy black Manolo Blahniks.
Just then Pierre turned toward me and extended a hand, and the spotlight turned my way. In a gush of exhilaration, I moved sleekly toward the stairs, stepped up to the stage, struck a sultry pose that showed off Pierre's couture and my well-toned curves to advantage.
Let me tell you, there is a sensual thrill that hits when you are the object of so much admiration. Not the personal rush of the big O, but a real power rush. Yes, success is sweet.
We rode that sweet river of honey backstage, hugging each other and doing air kisses with the bony models.
“You are the ultimado!” Pierre told me.
are!” I insisted, nudging the shoulder of his dapper silk brocade jacket. He staggered back, the little twig. “Did you see who was out there?”
“Someone mentioned Uma. And Sir Ian. Sarah Jessica. And Ms. Hilton straight from the farm. Could it be true? Here in London?” He clasped his hands to his face. “How did I ever pull this off? I am so unworthy.”
“Get out!” I linked my arm through his, tempted to remind him of the way his parents had disowned him, the catcalls he'd elicited on the streets of Cambridge when trying out his own designs, the pervasive misery he'd been mired in at the math department. “Sweetie-Petey, you endured a lot to get here. Own it and enjoy it.”
His boyish, cutie-pie face dimpled with joy as he squeezed my arm. “Thanks, Alana. You're the best ...”
His words faded as the stage manager let loose a swarm of reporters who thronged around Pierre, looking for quotes and off-color remarks for the London tabloids. Someone insinuated that I was Pierre's mistress, and I managed to keep myself from laughing, wondering how they could look at my dear friend and see a heterosexual bone in his body. Not that I really cared if they started rumors about us. Neither of us was involved with anyone at the moment, and if a little posing could land Pierre in the scandal sheets, more publicity to him.
Someone tapped the shoulder of my silk gownâDarla, one of Pierre's “people.” “We got two calls during the show from a Judge Marshall-Hughs,” she said. “Says he's your father. He's trying to reach you.”
He'd left a message earlier at the hotel, but since it didn't sound frantic, I'd tucked him into the back of my mind until the show ended. “Thanks, Darla,” I said, moving away from the reporters. Perhaps now would be a good time to deal with Daddy, who didn't abide having his calls dodged. I told Darla that I'd meet the group down the block at Taman Gang, the restaurant we'd booked for the after-show celebration. Then I retrieved my tiny little beaded black bag and headed out.
Contrary to London's reputation, it was not raining but cool and sunnyâearly May. I turned on my cell and retrieved Daddy's progressively agitated messages. Lord, give that man some patience! As I strolled toward the restaurant, quite aware I was turning heads in my Aztec-princess garb, I came upon a shop I couldn't resist called Solid Foundations
It was a tiny little place that featured men's underwear in endless varieties: briefs, boxers, and bikinis in cotton, silk, and various blends. I found myself drawn in by the frank presentation of underwear on plastic mannequins with rather appealing bulges. Did I mention that it had been a while since I'd had a boyfriend? Maybe too long ...
In any case, I couldn't resist acquiring a few “foundations.” Not sure what Daddy preferred, I got him three pairs of Dolce & Gabbana ribbed boxer briefsâa conservative design befitting an elder statesman, judge, and father. For Pierre, I found black jersey trunks with the sweetest little heart buttons closing the flyâso precious I was tempted to snag a pair for myself, though I knew these tapered shorts would lack the capaciousness my little butt required. Did I say capaciousness? I would have to tell Daddy those two years of Harvard tuition were paying off.
I was waiting for the clerk to wrap my purchases when my beaded bag began to vibrateâmy cell. I flipped it open, not bothering to look at the caller ID. “Daddy! I was just about to call you.”
“Alana!” he barked, clear as a bell. Hard to believe he was across the pond in New York City. “Where the hell are you? Yesterday I got a call from the credit card company about approving an over-the-limit charge from Paris. What in God's name are you doing in Paris?”
“Paris was yesterday! Today I'm in London.” The Foundations clerk, a gangly young man in an ill-fitting tie, shot me a look of awe. I smiled back; maybe that would just make his day.
“London! What are you doing in London?”
“At the moment, I'm buying you some underwear.”
The clerk smirked, and I rolled my eyes as Daddy began to sputter. “Why would you do that? I don't need underwear!”
I held the phone away for a second. “No need to shout,” I said. “I can hear you just fine. I'm here to support Pierre in his fashion debut. He's been doing shows in all the key cities. A little off-season, I know, but people seem hungry for some new designs. Milan is next, and thenâ”
“I don't want to hear about Milan! I want you to tell me why I'm supposed to pay a two-thousand-dollar restaurant tab from Paris.”
“Did it come to that much?” I sighed. “I wasn't sure about the conversion rate.”
“You need to come home.”
“Next week.” I gathered up my purchases and mouthed a “thank you” to the clerk. “I'll be back next Sunday. Didn't Mama tell you? I'm taking her shopping for new furniture for the Hamptons house. I've already done the sitting room, butâ”
“Apparently there are many things your mama has not seen fit to illuminate.”
Uh-oh. A big uh-oh. Daddy had discovered a breachâpossible budget violation.
“What's that supposed to mean?” I asked in a teasing voice.
“Your charges have come up on my American Express account. How did you get a card on my account?”
Mama, of course, but I wasn't about to give her up. “Is that what's bothering you? No problem. I'll stop using it.”
“Come. Home. Now.” His voice was packed with a powdery anger.
“Daddy, is everything OK?”
“Everything will be fine when you get yourself home and sit down with me and set the record straight.” His voice boomed, imperious, commanding. Can't you just imagine the scales of justice upon his shoulders? Judge Daddy sometimes acted as if the world were his courtroom.
“Can it wait till after Milan?” I asked sweetly.
“No, it cannot wait. I want you home. Tonight.”
“But the Concorde doesn't fly anymore ...”
“That ... what the ... ?” he blustered. “I wouldn't want you spending that kind of money even if it flew you to the moon and back! Get yourself on the next flight home, Alana. If not, punitive measures will be taken.” Ever the judge, but the man was serious.
Disappointment seeped cold into my veins as I stepped out onto the trendy London street. “Would tomorrow be OK? Remember, we're a few hours ahead of you.”
“Today,” he barked, and I imagined his gavel falling in the background.
Case closed. Defendant to return home.
As I strolled past a shop window filled with tempting lotions and perfumes and waited to connect to the airlines, I couldn't shake a pang of worry over the tone in Daddy's voice. He sounded angry, frustrated, impatient. Typical Daddy, ruining my little junket with Petey. But that curvy, lavender bottle of lotion looked so delicate in the window. I could picture it on the console in the guest bathroom of the Hamptons house, right beside a bowl of floating sterling roses and that blue mosaic sculpture I'd had shipped home from Paris.
I plugged the earpiece into my cell and pushed into the boutique. I had to have that lavender bottle. Daddy would understand, once he saw the way it all came together at the beach house.
In the end, he always mellowed with me, realizing I wasn't some icky lawbreaker yammering away in his court. I was his baby, his little pork chop. I tried to keep that endearment under wraps, but in tense moments the recollection seemed to soothe my father. Yes, a tender hug from the little pork chop was good for ten grand on the Visa bill. Ha! Maybe even twenty!
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