KILLER BEACH READS is on sale for 99c for a limited time! Â http://bit.ly/28OPMvL To celebrate, this week we are having a Facebook Page Hop with prizes by every author! StartÂ at my Facebook Page for the starting spot every day. Get to know a group of fun, bestselling authors, win prizes and enjoy previews of some wonderfulÂ short stories.
Here’s a sample of my contribution:
Mr. Montana by Ellyn OaksmithÂ (Part of Killer Beach Reads Anthology)
Her father was right. Again. How annoying. Never work for an actress, heâ€™d said last year. You canâ€™t trust them as far as you can throw them. Of course Becca had reminded him that most Hollywood actresses weighed as much as your average twelve-year-old and could, in fact, be thrown very far, but heâ€™d plowed right on, telling her that heâ€™d seen things in his years as an entertainment attorney that would, and did, make grown men cry. Then sheâ€™d tuned him out. She had taken the job. Which had turned out to be a colossal mistake.
Now Becca was running through Celiaâ€™s Beverly Hills French Chateau-inspired (Celiaâ€™s designerâ€™s words) mansion gathering up the kids clothes as she spoke to her father, whoâ€™d told her when she finally reached him that he was due to meet Tom at the Ivy in ten minutes so sheâ€™d better make it snappy. Cruise of course.Â â€œDo not quit baby. You didnâ€™t listen to your old man but Iâ€™m not a bitter man nor am I one to say I told you so.â€ He paused long enough for her to acknowledge that this was exactly what he was saying. â€œFurthermore, I did not raise a coward. You fly up there and face Celia and give her two weeksâ€™ notice face-to-face like a professional.â€
â€œOh, like what she did was professional?â€ Becca made sure to walk carefully upstairs. Last month a maid had landed in the ER after slipping on the marble staircase.
There was a pause while her father gave agitated directions to his driver, a man whoâ€™d driven her father to the Ivy thousands of times. â€œI raised my kid to do the right thing. Look at me. I always do the right thing.â€
â€œYou always do the right thing? What about cheating on mom?â€ And you are a Hollywood attorney dad. Thereâ€™s that.
She was in Brooklynâ€™s bedroom looking for the $500 boots Celia had bought her in New York last month. Because, of course, in Montana a thirteen-year-old needed Rag and Bone boots to operate a horse. And go glamping, which Becca now knew from the Oasis Ranch website, was basically moving a Hollywood living room into a meadow, erecting a tent that cost more than most peopleâ€™s homes, and calling it camping.
Like many celebrities Celia vacationed for free. The Oasis Ranch had been trying to land Celia for three years, ever since she started her lifestyle website. Last week, when Celiaâ€™s latest romance had soured; she demanded that Becca get her into the Oasis, which was booked a solid year in advance. Some poor non-famous family was bumped and viola, Celia was on her way by private jet, leaving Becca, as usual, to deal with the crap.
Becca searched the walk-in closet that couldnâ€™t really be called a closet. It was an entire room with an illuminated shoe cupboard, a curved settee upholstered in French toile and a pale blue dressing table that Celiaâ€™s decorator found in Paris. After being raised in the thick of this privileged world with her own horse, private schools, and car service to grade school (post-divorce,) Becca still wasnâ€™t used to the obscene excess. This closet, for instance, made her slightly nauseous.
Isabelle had been shocked when she found out her only child wanted to be an actress. Thank God, sheâ€™d said. I thought you wanted to do something disgusting and dirty like work for Green Peace.
When Isabel was informed that Becca wouldnâ€™t allow her to donate to their friendâ€™s charities in a nonverbal but tacit agreement that Becca would have a small role in their next film, Isabelle had been furious. Honey, I donâ€™t doubt your talent or your drop-dead beauty. (Becca looked just like her mother, who had been an actress, long ago.) But this town runs on nepotism. Deal with it.
Finally Becca located the boot under Brooklynâ€™s canopied bed. A closet like that and sheâ€™s still a slob.
Her dad was cursing at his driver for parking too far from the curb. She heard him say hello to someone as he presumably climbed out of the car. â€œThe right thing? Oh please your motherâ€™s alimony is the right thing times twenty million. I love your mother, God help me but youâ€™re going to ruin my appetite if you drag up all that.â€
Becca went downstairs to the all white living room with the wildly colorful abstract art lining the walls and the two-storied limestone fireplace. â€œDad, I want revenge. What she did to me is unforgivable.â€
â€œHang on Max,â€ her dad said to someone. â€œBaby, baby. You are right. That was a low blow, even for a snake like Celia. But you know the saying revenge is a dish served cold?â€
â€œI know what youâ€™re going to say. Youâ€™re going to say that this is a small town, and Celia is a big fish, and if I ever want to be an actress I have to make nice with Celia, no matter what she did.â€
â€œGod no. Screw that bitch. Revenge is a dish best served hot. With lots of malice. You go up to Montana and you figure out how to get Celia back without her ever knowing that it was you. But be careful kid, youâ€™re only twenty-three. Celia was eating producers for breakfast at that age. What time does your plane leave?â€
â€œTwo hours.â€Â Celia, of course, had hitched a ride on private jet from some friends headed to Aspen. Brooklyn and her younger brother Dex had never flown commercial in their lives. Celia required Becca, and all her BloomingLife.com employees, fly coach. Becca wasnâ€™t even sure if she had to rent a car or someone was meeting her in Bozeman. Celia was doing a â€œtechnology cleanse.â€Â Becca was supposed to document everything: Celiaâ€™s squeaky clean diet, bonding with her two children in sunny meadows, smiling at the camera holding a bottle of water before she screamed at Becca to get her another frigginâ€™ Diet Coke before she frigginâ€™ died.
In theory Beccaâ€™s job was social media coordinator for BloomingLife.com. Blooming Lifeâ€™s lovely VP, Raven had promised Becca that this was an ideal job for a young actress eager to meet the industry elite. An actress needs life exposure. Celia loves mentoring people. She knows youâ€™ll move on but life is all about transition. Celia knows that. Â Two month later Celia had fired Raven and all her ilk, except for Becca, who had a powerful father.Â Now Becca was digging through a ten year-oldâ€™s crusty laundry looking for his lucky Dodgers t-shirt.
â€œTwo hours, baby. Shit,â€ said her dad. â€œIâ€™ll send my car.â€
Becca thanked her dad and got off the phone to go locate Celiaâ€™s fat jeans, which were a size four.
Maybe sheâ€™d get lucky and Celia would be eaten by a bear.
She wouldnâ€™t make much of a meal.
~ ~ ~
The Bozeman airport was the smallest airport Becca had ever seen, more like a lodge that happened to have a runway. Becca had been trying to call the Oasis Ranch for hours: from LAX, from the air, and now, repeatedly, as the hour grew later and the sun dipped behind the nearby mountains. All sheâ€™d gotten was a recording. Becca shivered as she paced outside the airport, looking for a car or van that said Oasis Ranch but the other passengers from her flight had left hours ago. The airport looked ready to close. Through the windows Becca could see a stuffed Grizzly that seemed to be looking at her through the windows, still furious it had been shot and looking for retribution.
â€œI know how you feel pal,â€ thought Becca. It still stung, fresh as a new wound, when she pictured Zac Nalan staring at his shoes.
â€œBecca, I donâ€™t know how to say this,â€ heâ€™d stammered.
Zac Nalan had gone to Choate prep in Connecticut with Becca. Theyâ€™d seen each other in the hallways and flirted a little but when theyâ€™d discovered that they both were from Beverly Hills theyâ€™d switched gears and bonded as friends.Â Now Zac was the hottest video director in town with a bank roll from his Uncle Steven, whose last name was Spielberg, for his first feature. He also happened to be wildly talented and had decided to shoot in town, quick and dirty and low budget.
So Becca got an audition.
And killed it.
Rarely did she know when sheâ€™d gotten it right but this time something just clicked. Zac almost had tears in his eyes. Except when he called her over, he had a very hard time spitting out what he had to say. In fact no one could meet her eyes so Zac took her into a back room and delivered the bomb.
â€œI didnâ€™t tell Uncle Steven any of this because heâ€™s really not afraid of anyone but Iâ€™m just too young to cop an attitude like that.â€
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â When Becca asked what he was talking about he stared at the ground and finally said, â€œCelia loves working with you. I mean, your posts are very artsy and hip and you know, you make Celia look relevant and young.â€ Celia was forty-two, a very tough age for actresses but Celia took it further. She spent hours with her personal trainer, chased the latest in skin therapy, had work done here and there and lied about all of it. She wanted to make it look effortless.
â€œSo?â€ Becca had said, really not getting it.
Zac looked at the door like he wanted to be anywhere but trapped in a little room with Becca delivering bad news. â€œSheâ€™s said youâ€™re not ready to act. You need life experience.â€
â€œWhat the hell?â€
â€œEveryone knows itâ€™s code for â€˜hire Becca Haynes and Iâ€™ll never work with you again.â€™â€
Her whole body had gone cold. Then hot. â€œWhat?â€
â€œI mean, she never exactly said it so your dad canâ€™t go after her but Celia is box office gold. Platinum really and-â€
â€œThat is why I havenâ€™t gotten one role in a year?â€ She had gotten several call backs but maybe they just did it so they didnâ€™t look like chickens. Or so that she never caught on.
Zac had nodded miserably. â€œPlease donâ€™t tell anyone I told you.â€ Heâ€™d collapsed into a chair, running his hands through his thick, wavy hair. â€œI feel like shit. Iâ€™m so sorry.â€
Becca didnâ€™t remember leaving the studio or driving home. Sheâ€™d sat in front of her television, drank an entire bottle of wine, and woken up with a miserable hang-over. Her phone was ringing. It was Celia.
It was the only vehicle in sight, other than a few meandering headlights in the tiny town across the tracks. The driver wore a battered, straw cowboy hat. Becca thought sheâ€™d never seen someone get out of a truck quite like this man. It was a process, almost performance art. Surely this guy would laugh his head off if he knew what she was thinking. Without a word, he planted himself on the dark sidewalk, studying her. The night was so big, the stars so bright. Somewhere a train whistled. Becca felt like she was in a movie.
â€œHi.â€ Great first line, she thought. Yeah, you should totally be an actress. You sure know how to make an entrance.
He walked towards her, moving remarkably fast for someone not running. â€œYouâ€™re late.â€ She was going to protest that it hadnâ€™t been her fault but something about him made her shut up. â€œIâ€™ll get your bag.â€
â€œAre you from the Oasis Ranch?â€ She must look horrible. Her blond hair was dirty, yanked back in a limp clump. Her skinny jeans sagged. Her Levi jean jacket was from high school. There was nothing LA-actressy about her, except maybe her clichÃ©d prerequisites: tall, slender, and finely boned. Her mother might be a neurotic mess but she had good genes.
The driver looked up from the brim of his pale cowboy hat, and her heart just about stopped. He was young and just that crazy kind of handsome. The kind that makes a girlâ€™s brain fade out as her body salivates. No flawed hero here. He was all that and a bag of chips. â€œYep.â€
Mr. Montana threw Beccaâ€™s suitcase into the back of the truck. She tried not to stare at him but the comparison to a young Paul Newman was startling, with a little bit of Robert Redford thrown in (shoulders, earnest seriousness) circa Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He had those cornflower blue eyes that make girls trot after a boy like heâ€™s the ice cream truck, and theyâ€™ve just gotten their allowance.
He caught her looking and seemed annoyed, so Becca studied the beat up Chevy truck. â€œUm, how do I know youâ€™re from the ranch?â€
He opened the door for Becca, drumming his fingers on the window. â€œBecause I said so.â€
She went for flirtatious, tilting her head with calculated adorableness. â€œWhat if youâ€™re a serial killer?â€
He stared back, not amused. â€œNow, thatâ€™s a new one.â€
â€œWell, are you?â€ Now she was just irritated.
He rolled his eyes. â€œDo you honestly think a bona fide serial killer would correctly answer that question?â€
â€œGood point,â€ Becca said, climbing into the cab, thinking that this trip suddenly got more interesting.
â€œIâ€™m Mack,â€ said the cowboy as the Chevy roared to life. Becca loved being high up off the ground, watching millions of stars twinkling through the dirty windshield. â€œI got roped into airport duty because weâ€™re short-staffed tonight.â€ He didnâ€™t have to say he wasnâ€™t happy about it. He oozed irritation.
â€œCelia will do that to people.â€ They both bounced as the pick-up pulled out of the airport parking lot over a train track. Becca thought she saw a tiny hint of a smile. â€œCowboy Mack.â€
He scowled. â€œNo. Not a cowboy.â€
â€œWell then, what are you?â€
He didnâ€™t look at her as he drove the car onto the freeway on-ramp. There was nothing but miles of darkness and black craggy hills as Bozeman peeled off behind them. â€œJust a guy with a summer job.â€
She wanted to talk more but Mack turned on the radio, settling into the drive. â€œWeâ€™ll be there in forty-five minutes.â€
â€œOakie doakie,â€ she said, wincing at how stupid she sounded.
â€œOakie doakie,â€ Mack repeated, almost whispering. It was too dark to see if he was smiling.
Sample of a short story by Ellyn Oaksmith in the anthology KILLER BEACH READS, from Gemma Halliday Publishing.
Ellyn Oaksmith is the bestselling author of 50 Acts of Kindness and other books. Sheâ€™s an eternal optimist, dog lover and always plotting something. Â Visit her atÂ EllynOaksmith.comÂ and join herÂ newsletter for free books, new releases and great reading suggestions.