I’m super sorry! All retailers are corrected now.
And I have a new release of a boxed set which was less likely to be messed up because they were written before my month of no writing, just figuring everything out.
I’m currently scrambling to write my November release so I’ll be back to the mad scramble soon. I am excited to be back to a new normal and I want to thank you all for sticking with me!
Ashley Romero stepped out of her rented Kia Forte and stared at a large firetruck in the employee parking lot for the movie studio, where the stars and the stage hands vied for a space.
Seriously, someone had driven a firetruck… to work.
Some of the cars were similar to what she’d seen when she’d worked on Star Island in Miami, like Mercedes and BMWs, but she did a double take—was that a green and purple hearse?
Both Miami and Hollywood had blue skies, palm trees, and wealth, but the custom-made black bat mobile wasn’t something created for normal people.
She shut her car door and kept her head high and strutted toward the check-in gate where access was granted only to people on the guard’s list.
Ashley handed over her driver’s license and the security guard ran it through his computer. He glanced at her face and the license. Okay, no one had a worse license picture than her, but there was no need to frown.
The older man waved her through and she headed inside.
Today was the day she would change her fate. Somehow, someway she’d make her dreams come true. Pinning her hopes on a guy noticing her wasn’t smart, and she knew she should just be happy now—but Ashley doubted she’d have another opportunity to meet Matthew Morgan without being invisible to him and it was well past time to give her heart a chance.
Ashley saw a door that had his name in black on a gold star, down an otherwise boring corridor that led to a movie set at the end.
She’d thought they’d have private trailers.
Her heart pounded. Was Matthew inside, right now?
She trekked past his door without stopping. Her pass wasn’t for barging into a movie star’s dressing room. That would be a fast ticket out of here.
So she walked to the next door with a star on it. Jennifer Gonzales. Her fingers trembled as she reached for the knob but she closed her hand into a fist and knocked.
“Come in,” her cousin said and Ashley slipped inside.
Growing up, Jennifer was always the perfect, pretty cousin and Ashley her opposite. Her life was considered a big disaster and neither her mother nor her aunt ever thought she would amount to anything. Boring people weren’t worth talking to and she was to them the Queen of Plain Janes.
Jennifer’s skin glowed like she was still sixteen and a fresh-faced beauty pageant queen.
Part of Ashley wished her face was so perfect. Her skin was rather dry in comparison, but she closed the door behind her and nodded. “Jennifer.”
Jennifer stood and her dark hair practically shimmered from some fancy wash she must have used as she pouted, perfection in her powder blue skirt and white sleeveless collared chemise. “Ashley. I didn’t think you’d actually show up here.”
Fair. The last time they’d spoken, the phone conversation had been… intense. Best not to bring that up. Ashley, in a scoop-neck t-shirt, squared her shoulders. “You left my name for security.”
Jennifer huffed but reclaimed her seat like she was royalty “It was like you dared me, after you betrayed me.”
Betrayal? Seriously? Her cousin was still the same. Ashley ignored the slight, took out a metal folding chair and set it up in front of her. She’d called for this job because the idea of buying herself a home in Florida, away from Miami, meant she’d settled for a life instead of ever once chasing her own wishes. She sat. “That’s dramatic and untrue. You made me your unwilling surrogate and then ended up pregnant yourself at the same time.”
Jennifer leaned back and laughed like they were good again though they both knew she’d never respect her. “That wasn’t the plan. I wanted to have Peter’s baby but the eggs were already fertilized and I… didn’t think having a baby would be good for my career.”
Their mothers had bemoaned the fact both of them were pregnant, though they only ever cared about Jennifer’s future. Ashley’s life was always her own.
She’d never wanted the pressure that the former beauty queen was often under.
The past didn’t matter. Ashley no longer had to worry about money, and yet she was here about a job. Being a surrogate mother for a happily married couple had ended up good for her. She’d been very well paid and the baby was loved and cared for. She’d made Peter and Belle happy, even if she hadn’t done that on purpose. She’d learned long ago that arguing with Jennifer was pointless, so she shrugged and said, “You were wrong about that. Having a baby made you America’s darling.”
Jennifer’s smile was radiant. “That’s true. My agent loves me these days.”
Pleasantries done, it was time to move onto why she was here and had sought out Jennifer, of all people. She folded her hands in her lap. “So, about my application?”
Jennifer’s gaze narrowed as she pressed her hands to her heart. “Why? You have money. Why would you…want to fetch me coffee?”
Fair. They had a tumultuous relationship. She took a deep breath and asked, “No-holds-barred, truth time?”
Jennifer crossed her legs but leaned forward like she was some sort of mind reader. “Yeah. I need to know if I can trust you.”
“I’m your only cousin,” Ashley said the words fast, in a defensive reflex.
She’d never admitted to having a burning crush on her former boss’s brother to anyone. Cleaning Elizabeth Morgan’s, now Soliz’s, house had somehow brought her to seeing Matthew and falling hard for him and this time she’d have the confidence to talk and tell him. It seem so real she could almost taste and smell the flavor.
Matthew Morgan had been a star most of his adult life, unattainable and out of her reach.
He was up for a major franchise movie hero role that would place him as the undisputed King of Hollywood. No one would think she’d ever, ever have a shot as his girlfriend or more, especially Jennifer.
If she could come up with a way where she didn’t have to explain her reasons for wanting to be on this movie set, life would be better.
Jennifer crossed her arms and stared at her like she was an ant. “You took the Morgan money and gave them their baby.”
“Their” being the key word. The baby she grew inside her belly was not hers genetically. The money to settle the situation fast had secured a future she’d never have achieved scrubbing toilets.
She could now have her own maid, if she wanted, and live in her own small mansion. “I had no legal claim on the baby, not really, and they offered compensation for my time.”
Jennifer’s lips pressed together as her face went red. “And you married the man I loved.”
Ah. The whole obsession with Peter Morgan thing. Ashley honestly didn’t get it. He was nice looking but he was rather stuffy even for a banker, and absolutely in love with his real wife. Ashley sat back. “For less than twenty-four hours. My marriage was shorter than yours.”
Jennifer’s nose crinkled like Ashley had just scored a point. “Chris… let’s not discuss him. We’re talking about you and Peter. You know how I feel about him.”
The entire world knew she was obsessed. Bringing that up wouldn’t get her what she wanted today. Ashley sat straighter, pushed her hair behind her ears and said, “Look, he’s nothing to me, but I do want this job as your assistant.”
Jennifer tapped her fingers against her armrest. “Why though? You were paid millions.”
Ashley held her tongue. Her skin had that pins and needles feel. Cash hadn’t solved anything. Was it possible to get this job and not explain? She took a breath. “For the first time in my life, yeah, I have money. But I want more.”
“No. I want a chance to follow…”
A knock at the door sounded. They both looked behind them, and Matthew Morgan walked in. He nodded politely at her and handed Jennifer a script.
Ashley admired his perfectly sculpted muscles under his gray t-shirt and thin hiking pants that likely had been tailored for him.
Talk girl. Now. Say hi.
Adrenaline shot through her. No words came out.
Hello is not a hard word to utter. Speak.
But she couldn’t. She was paralyzed.
If only he knew that she existed.
He waved goodbye and closed the door.
Jennifer put the note about the script change beside her and then raised her eyebrow. “Matthew? Wait. Seriously?”
Drat. She’d guessed. Was it so obvious? Ashley began to bite her lip but then stopped. That habit was a bad one. She straightened her spine. “He never noticed me when I was cleaning his sister’s house.”
Jennifer laughed so hard she held her belly. She stared at the door and then at Ashley’s face and at the door again. Once she stopped laughing, Jennifer still held her belly in case she cracked up again. “My co-star? Our lawyers had to draw out agreements on what we can and cannot discuss on set before either of us agreed to make this movie.”
Understandable. Not that she’d say that to Jennifer. Instead she nodded and just agreed so she’d get the job. “The last one you made with him and Eva Bishop was a huge hit.”
Jennifer sat normal again and rolled her eyes. “Ugh. Eva stole the show there, but she’s playing my sister in this one. Getting to be the bad sister is way more fun.”
The romantic comedy/drama where two sisters go after the same guy—Ashley remembered Jennifer mentioning the script when it came in and she was hiding her pregnancy.
Since her cousin now knew her feelings, Ashley lifted her chin. “I don’t actually care about your movie. I want to be on set and get my chance.”
Jennifer pointed to the door. “At Matthew?”
Her face felt hot. Had someone turned up the heat? Maybe this was all some stupid fantasy of hers that had no bearing on reality. She nodded. “Yeah.”
Jennifer jumped out of the chair and circled her, gently running her hands through Ashley’s dark hair. “He’ll never notice you as you are.”
Not until she learned to speak, that was true. She crossed her arms. “If I build up the nerve to speak to him, maybe he will. I want to try.”
Jennifer gave her a huge smile. “Okay. Since we’re family, I’ll help.”
Oh no. Jennifer’s help usually ended up in disaster. Ashley shook her head. “I don’t want your help, just the job.”
Jennifer bubbled like they were friends and nothing bad had happened between them as she hugged her. “You get both. We’ll get you a makeover. I’ll supervise. I’ve seen the women he dates.”
A makeover might be okay. Maybe. And if that was the extent of the “help” Ashley could be nice and accept it.
She’d seen the movies where women went to Rodeo Drive and magically turned beautiful.
It might be nice to have that confidence of a pretty woman.
Maybe then she could forget scrubbing floors he’d walked over without seeing her.
Ashley straightened her t-shirt, crumpled from her cross-country flight from Miami to Los Angeles. “You think he’ll notice me if I change how I dress?”
“He likes blondes,” Jennifer said like it was a fact of life and she’d need to dye her hair. Ashley lifted her chin to agree, why not, but then Jennifer tapped her cheek and studied her harder. “I think your bigger issue will be that you’re related to me, but I can at least help get you that date.”
Admitting to being family wasn’t on the agenda for them. Their mothers were sisters and no one ever expected Ashley to be anything more than a maid, while they pinned their super star hopes on Jennifer.
She held out her hand to shake. “So I got the job?”
Jennifer walked over to her dressing table and held out various lipsticks like she was comparing them to Ashley’s skin-tone. “Yeah, I put you through enough and I’m sorry for the whole surrogacy thing.”
A makeover was clearly in her near future. Ashely was okay with this as hair and makeup had never defined her, and maybe she needed some pampering for herself.
Now that she’d recovered from post-partum and looked almost like herself again, she was rich and could afford a few fine things. “I made a lot of money so I can’t hate you for it.”
Jennifer held up a color palette like Ashley’s face was a house she was going to paint as she said, “I’m glad, but I still want to make this up for you. I can help you land Matthew in your bed.”
Bed? This wasn’t about sex. Ashley almost bit her lip but she stopped herself in time. “No… I want the chance to tell him I love him. I know that’s stupid and he doesn’t know I’m alive, but… I do, and I’d trade every dime I have for that chance.”
She couldn’t forget his haunted blue eyes when he’d sat on Elizabeth’s back porch with nothing to do. He’d seemed so… sad, when honestly he had everything anyone could ever want.
Jennifer put the palette down and headed back to her chair to pick up her script. “And you’ll get it. Now, I have to read my new lines. Go get me coffee and tell hair and makeup in the green room that I’m ready for them.”
Right. Job. This was how she intended to see Matthew without being a maid, on her hands and knees, cowering in a corner. On set she’d get him and Jennifer coffee. It was a perfect plan and hopefully one day she’d figure out how to say hello to him.
Or maybe she was just chasing windmills and living in denial still, not following practical dreams like interior design which was also now actually possible.
Once she spoke to Matthew, one-on-one, maybe she’d figure out he wasn’t perfect, or that he wasn’t the man she thought he was, and she could move on.
Ashley saluted her cousin. “Yes, ma’am.”
She marched toward the door. Jennifer coughed, so she turned around as her cousin said, “Oh, and let’s keep our family connection a secret.”
If on the off chance this wasn’t just all some fantasy and she and Matthew had more than just her dream, Jennifer was… well, she was what she was. Ashley nodded. “Agreed. I don’t think the Morgans like you much.”
She flitted to the door, happy to go. For once in her life, she had a way to follow her dreams. Movie sets were a great place to talk about designs too, so she’d reach for two dreams in one trip.
Or she’d go down in flames and drink a lot of wine.
She wouldn’t think about that now. Nothing stood in her way. She wasn’t the maid anymore. She honestly had nothing to lose. She could be… free. And this was a start. She opened the door as Jennifer said, “I… I really screwed up my life, but it will be fun to help fix yours. It will be like therapy.”
Ashley would accept a makeover, but there was absolutely zero way she’d let Jennifer really interfere in her love life. She waved as she headed out and said, “Okay, I’ll see if I can make you a cafe cubano out here in Hollywood.”
“Now that would make you the best assistant ever,” Jennifer called out.
Maybe she was wrong, but LA or Hollywood didn’t seem to have the cafesitas in the gas stations with perfectly made coffee. But now that she was here to stay for a while, she’d find out for herself.