Authors: Candis Terry
HANCE AT THE
This very first book is dedicated—finally—to my incredible husband Bill. You never gave up on me even when I wanted to give up on myself. You never complained when you had to eat frozen pizza (again). You’ve given me the most wonderful (and sometimes offbeat) adventures that have opened my eyes to the great big beautiful world around me. And you’ve made me laugh, even if its been at your expense. I love you so much.
ate Silver had five minutes. Tops.
Five minutes before her fashion schizophrenic client had a meltdown.
Five minutes before her career rocketed into the bargain basement of media hell.
Behind the gates of one of the trendiest homes in the Hollywood Hills, Kate dropped to her hands and knees in a crowded bedroom
magazine had deemed “Wacky Tacky.” Amid the dust bunnies and cat hair clinging for life to a faux zebra rug, she crawled toward her most current disaster—repairing the Swarovski crystals ripped from the leather pants being worn by pop music’s newly crowned princess.
Gone was the hey-day of Britney, Christina, and Shakira.
Why women in pop music never had a last name was a bizarre phenomenon Kate didn’t have time to ponder. At the end of the day, the women she claimed as clients didn’t need a last name to be at the top of her V.I.P. list. They didn’t need one when they thanked her—their stylist—from the red carpet. And they certainly didn’t need one when they signed all those lovely zeros on her paychecks.
Right now she sat in chaos central, earning every penny. Awards season had arrived and her adrenaline had kicked into overdrive alongside the triple-shot latte she’d sucked down for lunch. Over the years she’d become numb to the mayhem. Even so, she did enjoy the new talent—of playing Henry Higgins to the Eliza Doolittles and Huck Finns of Tinsel Town. Nothing compared to the rush she got from seeing her babies step onto a stage and sparkle. The entire process made her feel proud and accomplished.
It made her feel necessary.
Surrounded by the gifted artists who lifted their fairy dusted makeup brushes and hair extensions, Kate brushed a clump of floating cat hair from her nose. Why the star getting all the attention had yet to hire a housekeeper was anyone’s guess. Regardless, Kate intended to keep the current catastrophe from turning into the Nightmare on Mulholland Drive.
Adrenaline slammed into her chest and squeezed the air from her lungs.
This was her job. She’d banked all her worth into what she did and she was damn good at it. No matter how crazy it made her. No matter how much it took over her life.
After her triumph on the Oscars red carpet three years ago, she’d become the stylist the biggest names in Hollywood demanded. Finally. She’d become an overnight sensation that had only taken her seven long years to achieve. And though there were times she wanted to stuff a feather boa down some snippy starlet’s windpipe, she now had to fight to maintain her success. Other stylists, waiting for their star to shine, would die for what she had. On days like today, she would willingly hand it over.
In the distance the doorbell chimed and Kate’s five minutes shrank to nada. The stretch limo had arrived to deliver Inara to the Nokia Theatre for the televised music awards. With no time to spare, Kate plunged the needle through the leather and back up again. Her fingers moved so fast blisters formed beneath the pressure.
Peggy Miller, Inara’s agent, paced the floor and sidestepped the snow-white animal shelter refugee plopped in the middle of a leopard rug. Clearly the cat wasn’t intimidated by the agent’s nicotine-polluted voice.
“Can’t you hurry that up, Kate?” Peggy tapped the Cartier on her wrist with a dragon nail. “Inara’s arrival has to be timed perfectly. Not enough to dawdle in the interviews and just enough to make the media clamor for more. Sorry, darling,” she said to Inara, “chatting with the media is just not your strong point.”
Inara made a hand gesture that was far from the bubble gum persona everyone in the industry tried to portray with the new star. Which, in Kate’s estimation, was like fitting a square peg into a round hole.
“Kate?” Peggy again. “Hurry!”
“I’m working on it,” Kate mumbled around the straight pins clenched between her teeth. Just her luck their wayward client had tried to modify the design with a fingernail file and pair of tweezers an hour before showtime.
“Why do I have to wear this . . . thing.” Inara tugged the embossed leather tunic away from her recently enhanced bustline. “It’s hideous.”
The needle jabbed Kate’s thumb. She flinched and bit back the slur that threatened to shoot from her mouth. “Impossible,” she said. “It’s Armani.” And to acquire it she’d broken two fingernails wrestling another stylist to the showroom floor. She’d be damned if she’d let the singer out the door without wearing it now.
“Inara, please hold still,” the makeup artist pleaded while she attempted to dust bronzer on her moving target.
“More teasing in back?” the hair stylist asked.
Kate flicked a gaze up to Inara’s blond hair extensions. “No. We want her to look sultry. Not like a streetwalker.”
“My hair color is all wrong,” Inara announced. “I want it more like yours, Kate. Kind of a ritzy porn queen auburn.” She ran her manicured fingers through the top of Kate’s hair, lifting a few strands. “And I love these honey-colored streaks.”
“Thanks,” Kate muttered without looking up. “I think.” Her hair color had been compared to many things. A ritzy porn queen had never been one of them.
“Hmmm. I will admit, these pants seriously make my ass rock,” Inara said, changing gears with a glance over her shoulder to the cheval mirror. “But this vest . . . I don’t know. I really think I should wear my red sequin tube top instead.”
Kate yanked the pins from her between her teeth. “You can
Blue Light Special
with Armani. It’s a sin against God.” Kate blinked hard to ward off the migraine that poked between her eyes. “Besides, the last time you made a last-minute fashion change you nearly killed my career.”
“I didn’t mean to. It’s just . . . God, Kate, you are so freaking strict with this fashion crap. It’s like having my mother threaten to lower the hem on my school uniform.”
“You pay me to threaten you. Remember?”
“I pay you plenty.”
“Then trust me plenty.” Kate wished the star would do exactly that. “Once those lights hit these crystals, all the attention will be on you. You’re up for the new artist award. You should shine. You don’t want to end up a fashion tragedy like the time Sharon Stone wore a Gap turtleneck to the Oscars, do you?”
“Good. Because that pretty much ended her career.”
Inara’s heavily made-up eyes widened. “A shirt did that?”
“Easier to blame it on a bad garment choice than bad acting.”
“Kate? Do you want the hazelnut lipstick?” the makeup artist asked. “Or the caramel gloss?”
Kate glanced between the tubes. “Neither. Use the Peach Shimmer. It will play up her eyes. And make sure she takes it with her. She’ll need to reapply just before they announce her category and the cameras go for the close-up.”
“Kate!” Peggy again. “You have got to hustle. The traffic on Sunset will be a nightmare.”
Kate wished for superpowers, wished for her fingers to work faster, wished she could get the job done and Inara in the limo. She needed Inara to look breathtaking when she stepped onto that red carpet. She needed a night full of praise for the star, the outfit,
Scratch that. It was not just a need, it was absolutely critical.
Inara’s past two public appearances had been disasters. One had been Kate’s own oversight—the canary and fuchsia Betsey Johnson had looked horrible under the camera lights. She should have known that before sending her client out for the fashion wolves to devour. The second calamity hadn’t been her fault, but had still reflected on her. That time had been cause and effect of a pop royalty temper tantrum and Inara’s fondness for discount store castoffs. It may have once worked for Madonna, but those days were locked in the fashion vault. For a reason.
Kate couldn’t afford to be careless again. And she couldn’t trust the bubble gum diva to ignore the thrift store temptations schlepping through her blood. Not that there was anything wrong with that for ordinary people. Inara did not fall into the
Not if Kate could help it.
As soon as she tied off the last stitch, she planned to escort her newest client right into the backseat of the limo with a warning to the driver to steer clear of all second-hand clothing establishments along the way.
“This totally blows.” Inara slid the shears from the table and aimed them at the modest neckline. “It’s just not sexy enough.”
“Stop that!” Kate’s heart stopped. She grabbed the scissors and tucked them beneath her knee. “Tonight is not about selling sex. Leave that for your music videos. Tonight is about presentation. Wowing the critics. Tomorrow you want to end up on the best-dressed list. Not the
What the hell was she thinking?
Inara sighed. “Whatever.”
“And don’t pout,” Kate warned.
Or be so ungrateful.
“It will mess up your lip liner.”
“How’s this look?” the makeup artist asked, lifting the bronzer away from one last dusting of Inara’s forehead.
Kate glanced up mid-stitch. “Perfect. Now, everybody back away and let me get this last crystal on.”
“I know, Peggy. I know!”
Kate grasped the leather pant leg to keep Inara from checking out the junk in her trunk again via the full-length mirror. She shifted on her knees. A collection of cat hair followed.
Once she had Inara en route, Kate planned to rush home and watch the red carpet arrivals on TV. Alone. Collapsed on her sofa with a bag of microwave popcorn and a bottle of Moët. If the night went well, the celebration cork would fly. If not, well, tomorrow morning she’d have to place a
Stylist for Hire—Cheap
Kate pushed the needle through the leather, ignoring the hurried, sloppy stitches. If her mother could see her now, she’d cringe at the uneven, wobbly lengths. Then she’d deliver a pithy lecture on why a career in Hollywood was not right for Kate. Neither the Girl Scout sewing badge she’d earned as a kid nor the fashion award she’d recently won would ever be enough to stop her mother from slicing and dicing her dreams.
Her chest tightened.
God, how long had it been since she’d even talked to her mother? Easter? The obligatory Mother’s Day call?
In her mother’s eyes, Kate would never win the daughter-of-the-year award. She’d quit trying when she hit the age of thirteen—the year she’d traded in her 4-H handbook for a
Her mother had never forgiven her.
For two long years after high school graduation, there had been a lull in Kate’s life while she waited anxiously for acceptance and a full scholarship to the design school in Los Angeles. Two years of her mother nagging at her to get a traditional college degree. Two years of working alongside her parents in their family bakery, decorating cakes with the same boring buttercream roses, pounding out the same tasteless loaves of bread. Not that she minded the work. It gave her a creative outlet. If only her mother had let her shake things up a little with an occasional fondant design or something that tossed a challenge her way.
Then the letter of acceptance arrived.
Kate had been ecstatic to show it to her parents. She knew her mother wouldn’t be happy or supportive. But she’d never expected her mother to tell her that the best thing Kate could do would be to tear up the scholarship and stop wasting time. The argument that ensued had led to tears and hateful words. That night Kate made a decision that would forever change her life.
It had been ten years since she’d left her mother’s unwelcome advice and small-town life in the dust. Without a word to anyone she’d taken a bus ride and disappeared. Her anger had faded over the years, but she’d never mended the damage done by her leaving. And she’d never been able to bring herself to come home. She’d met up with her parents during those years, but it had always been on neutral ground. Never in her mother’s backyard. Despite her mother’s reservations, Kate had grown up and become successful.
She slipped the needle through the back of the bead cap and through the leather again. As much as she tried to ignore it, the pain caused by her mother’s disapproval still hurt.
Amid the boom-boom-boom of Snoop Dog on the stereo and Peggy’s non-stop bitching, Kate’s cell phone rang.
answer that,” Peggy warned.
“It might be important. I sent Josh to Malibu.” Dressing country music’s top male vocalist was an easy gig for her assistant. He’d survived three awards seasons by her side. He could walk the tightrope with the best of them. But as Kate well knew, trouble could brew and usually did.
Ignoring the agent’s evil glare, Kate scooted toward her purse, grabbed her phone and shoved it between her ear and shoulder. Her fingers continued to stitch.
“Josh, what’s up?”
Her heart did a funny flip that stole her breath.
Definitely not Josh.
“Dad. Uh . . . hi. I . . . haven’t talked to you in, uh . . .”
“Sweetheart, I . . . I don’t know how to say this.”
The hitch in his tone was peculiar. The sewing needle between her fingers froze midair. “Dad? Are you okay?”
“I’m . . . afraid not, honey.” He released a breathy sigh. “I know it’s asking a lot but . . . I wondered . . . could you come home?”
Her heart thudded to a halt. “What’s wrong?”
“Katie, this morning . . . your mother died.”