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Scheming and Dreaming in Los Angeles

Published by: eXtasy Books

Author : Donna Del Oro

ISBN :978-1-55487-919-9

Page :177

Word Count :52923

Publication Date :2011-01-15

Series : Born to Sing#2

Heat Level :

Available Formats : Scheming and Dreaming in Los Angeles (epub) , Scheming and Dreaming in Los Angeles (mobi) , Scheming and Dreaming in Los Angeles (pdf) , Scheming and Dreaming in Los Angeles (prc)

Category : Contemporary Romance , Romance

  • Product Code: 978-1-55487-919-9

Tess MacIntosh is 29, a professional R&B singer in a nightclub in Los Angeles, owned by her fifty-something fiance, Porter Hunt. She’s as cynical and as hardnosed as Porter, due to her own difficult childhood, and is marrying Porter for his money and connections. Porter, in turn, is one of those middle-aged men whose wealth and power in his little world make him feel invincible and entitled to any beautiful woman he wants. Tess’s good friend and once teenage crush, Aaron Peterson, a musician and composer with dreams of seeing one of his musical plays on Broadway, needs her to join him for a cruise gig. He’s loved Tess since he was nineteen and she was sixteen. He sees this cruise gig as his last chance to win her over before she takes a path in life that he’s convinced will lead to misery. So which path will Tess choose? Millions of dollars if she marries Porter? Or Aaron’s love and Broadway dreams?

Tess MacIntosh bowed her head and held her hand to her heart. The applause was deafening, like a freight train roaring down the tracks. It was wonderful!

Seconds later, she half-turned to the nine-piece band behind her and swept her arm to include them in the audience’s display of appreciation. The applause rose in intensity as the musicians stood, and then subsided. Since she’d already sung three encore numbers, she sensed this was the time to exit stage left. Literally.

Fifteen minutes later, she’d shed her silk evening gown, glittery hose and stiletto heels, along with the sparkly bling and heavy stage makeup—the darker foundation, heavy eye shadow and fake lashes. Down came her straight, red tresses, which she brushed and fastened into a long ponytail. Dressed now in a black Nike track suit, Tessa sighed deeply. It seemed she’d been doing a lot of sighing lately. For a second, she wondered why. Of course… she was exhausted.

The success of tonight’s closing show, a tribute to romantic songs from the 1940’s and 1950’s, gratified her enormously. But it was time to take a well-deserved break and do something fun. And, Lord knows, different! Having removed her stage makeup, she let her sprinkling of freckles show and finished applying a light touch of coral lipstick. She heard the call of Porter’s assistant, then his knock, “Are you decent?” When she replied, he peeked in.

“Tess, boss wants to see you. He’s in his office.”

“Tell him I’m on my way, Andy.” She smiled and waved him off while she slipped into her running sneakers. A late dinner, a shower and some lovemaking awaited her… well, she wasn’t so sure about the lovemaking. Exhaustion suddenly hit her like a weight of stones on her shoulders. No nookie tonight. She’d beg off or rather, she’d be honest and tell him she just wasn’t in the mood.

She yawned loudly and closed her eyes.

Why do I feel so down?

Porter Hunt. Her fifty-year-old fiancé. Although twenty-one years her senior, he had the energy of a man half his age. Her thoughts scattered a bit nervously, then settled on their life together.

He’d hired her as one of three main acts for his enormously prosperous supper club in Malibu. Within three months, he’d wined and dined her, bedded her, blinged her up (in Hollywood parlance), and asked her to marry him. A whirlwind romance that had swept her off her feet, owing to the fact that Porter was fabulously rich—as in Southern California rich. Even with three ex-wives, Porter was the kind of rich that got you the best table at Ruby’s in Beverly Hills and Malibu, that drew the famous and powerful over for an exchange of air kisses and agents’ cards, and that provided Tess a ten-thousand square-foot shelter in Beverly Hills with views of the Hollywood Hills. Another smaller digs in Manhattan Beach overlooking the ocean. She even had her own walk-in closet, the size of her entire flat in San Gabriel, as well as her own bathroom of black marble and gold-plated fixtures.

What was not to like about Porter? He still had a handsome face, kept a little more youthful thanks to two facelifts. He reminded her of Alec Baldwin with his somewhat racy sense of humor, and his burning desire to stay young. But in all truth, Tess suffered no illusions about what drew her to him. The main attraction was his money, plain and simple.

All pretense and hypocrisy aside, Tess yearned to marry rich. All her friends knew this was her ultimate goal, had been since puberty when she’d discovered she was a horny-male magnet. The trauma of childhood poverty had convinced her that whatever gifts God gave her were meant to be used any way she chose. And that meant putting millions of dollars’ worth of distance between her miserable childhood and her future.

“If you knew what I had to endure as a child,” she’d once told her good friend, Marisa, who’d raised her eyebrows at Tess, “you’d understand.” For Tess, that was sufficient explanation, one she seldom elaborated upon. Her and her brother, Mac’s childhood was not a topic she ever cared to discuss…with anyone. Until Porter, that is. He understood and he welcomed the chance to play Santa Claus, the tooth fairy and Prince Charming all rolled into one. For that, she was happy to marry him and give him whatever he wanted of her youth.

In one month, she’d be Mrs. Porter Hunt. No prenup—he hadn’t asked for one—meant financial security for the rest of her life. If and when the marriages of the rich and famous came to an end—thanks to California’s Community Property Rights laws—the underdog always went away far richer. She’d continue to sing, of course, for music fed her soul and was her God-given gift, which she meant to share with anyone who cared to listen.

Life was perfect.

Tess sighed and opened her eyes, grabbed her wallet and bulging satchel of sheet music and closed the door of her dressing room behind her.

Up two flights of stairs, she rapped lightly on the office door, then entered. Porter arose from behind his desk and embraced her. Tess hugged him back and kissed him. Her arms draped around his neck, she kissed his neck and sniffed him. He wore an expensive, musky cologne that she recognized, but his breath exuded the scent of tobacco. She had to laugh. Porter Hunt was as unlike the Marlboro man as any urbanite, it was his secret fantasy to be as tough and rough as a rugged outdoorsman, and so he smoked those damned cigarettes.

She knew better. Having jet-setting parents, he’d never had the misfortune to want for food or shelter. If he splattered his golf shoes with mud on the fairway, he immediately had his caddy wipe them off. Lucky Porter. As a businessman, he had the Midas touch. Every venture he invested in or bought turned to profit. The silver spoon never turned to rust in his mouth.

“Great show tonight, babe. You really put your heart and soul into those songs. You floored them, as always.” His pudgy, ringed fingers skimmed tenderly over her cheek.

“Thanks. The house was hot to start with. Johnny and Tom primed the pump for me.” The comedic and song-and-dance acts that preceded her set were top-notch, former Las Vegas performers.

“Ah, Tess, you’re being modest. That’s not like you. Admit it, you had ‘em eating out of the palm of your hand.”

He withdrew and went back to sit behind his desk. Uncustomary of Porter, for he was usually ready to leave as soon as her numbers were done. Usually, he was all hands and mouth on her and couldn’t wait to show her off at the late-night spots around the valley. Or rush home and to bed. Andy Berkoff, his assistant, always closed up for the night.

At the moment, he was displaying extreme displeasure. His generous mouth was pursed and downturned. Tess knew what was coming. “So, babe, looking forward to some time off?”

She perched on the corner of his desk and offered a solicitous smile. “Porter, it’s just a twelve-day cruise. I’ll be back in plenty of time for the wedding. Everything’s under control. The reception’s all done—the flowers, music, caterer, the works. Everything’s been ordered.”

They’d be married at City Hall on the last Saturday of the month, followed by an evening reception at Porter’s mansion in Manhattan Beach. Rather, Porter’s and her mansion.

Not to be swayed by her reassurance, his dark brown eyebrows, which Porter kept dyed, furrowed.

“I don’t like you disappearing like this, especially with this guy pal of yours.”

She made a moue of exasperation with her lips, but kept her temper under control. “I’m not disappearing. Timing’s lousy, I know, but Skin’s—uh, Aaron’s a good friend, like a brother to me. My childhood pal and Mac’s best buddy. He needed a singer for this gig and, frankly, I need a break. I’ve been doing this same show for two years now, five times a week. First in Palm Springs, now here. I want to spend my days on the deck of a ship, soaking up rays. Just some R and R for a change.”

Her voice sounded plaintive, almost pleading. She hated feeling guilty for taking a much needed break—not that it was much of a vacation. Singing for their supper every night on the cruise ship was a bona fide job, not exactly time off.

“You still glad I lured you here from Dante’s?” Porter sat back, almost smirking, appearing confident of her reply. Not only did Porter’s club pay her twice the salary, her gig had been steady and had promoted her standing among the other SoCal nightclubs. Nevertheless, Dante’s, in Palm Springs, had enabled Tess to pay off her mother’s debts after her father had drunk himself to death. And since Porter hired her, she and Mac had paid to relocate their mother to a private rehab and nursing home where she could overcome her many addictions and maybe even recover her health.

Tess was grateful to Porter and she did her best to show it.

 He held up his highball glass. “Want one?”

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Tags: Contemporary, Romance