Summer Island Page 6

“Will you come up?”

“Of course.”

“I want us to be brothers again.”

“We've always been brothers,” Dean answered uncomfortably.

“No,” Eric said softly, “we've been members of the same family. We haven't been brothers in years.”

Chapter Three

The scandal broke with gale force. Those humiliating photographs were everywhere, and the newspapers and television stations that didn't own the pictures described them in excruciating detail.

Nora sat huddled in her own living room, refusing to go anywhere. The thought of being seen terrified her.

Her assistant, Dee Langhor; had shown up bright and early in the morning-I came the minute I heard-and Nora had felt pathetically grateful. Now Dee was in Nora's home office, fielding phone calls.

With everything on Nora's mind, one thing kept rising to the surface; she should have called Caroline the day before, to warn her about the coming media storm.

But how did you tell your child something like this? Oh, honey, and don't mind about the pictures of your naked mother that are front-page news?

In the end, Nora had chosen to handle the impending disaster as she handled all difficult things: she'd taken two sleeping pills and turned off her phone.

In the morning, she'd had a short respite ... then she'd turned on the television. The story had been picked up by every morning show.

Now she had no choice. She had to call.

She reached for the phone, accessed the second line, and pushed number one on the speed-dial list. Her heart was pounding so hard she couldn't hear the ringing on the other end.


It took Nora a moment to respond--God, she wanted to hang up the phone. “Caro? It's me. Mom”

There was a pause that seemed to strip away a layer of Nora's tender flesh. “Well. Well. I hope you're going to tell me you were kidnapped yesterday and the FBI just freed you from your prison in the back some psycho fan's trunk.”

“I wasn't kidnapped.”

“I found out this morning when I dropped Jenny off at preschool.” She laughed sharply. “Mona Carlson asked me how it felt to see pictures of my mother like that. How it felt.”

Nora didn't know how to respond. Defending herself was pointless; worse, it was offensive. “I'm sorry. I couldn't ... call.”

“Of course you couldn't.” Caroline was quiet for a moment, then she said, “I can't believe I let it hurt my feelings, either. I should have known better. It's just that in the last few years ... I thought ... oh, hell, forget it.”

“I know. We've been getting closer ...”

“No. Apparently I’ve been getting closer. You, obviously, haven't changed at all. You've been like some Stepford mom, pretending, saying the right things, but never really feeling connected to me at all. I don't know when I got stupid enough to expect honesty from you. And I'm not even going to get into the content of those photographs, what they mean to our family.”

“Please,” Nora pleaded, "I know I screwed up.

Don't shut me out of your life again ..."

“You're priceless. You really don't get it, do you? not the one who shuts people out, not in this family. Maybe Ruby was the smart one—she hasn't let you hurt her in years. Now, I've got to go.”

“I love you, Caroline,” Nora said in a rush, desperate to say the words before it was too late.

“You know what's sad about that?” Caroline's voice broke. A little sob sounded in her throat. “I believe you.” She hung up.

The dial tone buzzed in Nora's ears.

Dee rushed into the living room, her eyes wide. “Mr. Adams is on the phone.”

“Oh, God-”

"I told him you weren't here, but he screamed at me. He said to tell you to pick up the f-+ phone or he was going to call his lawyers.

Nora sighed. Of course. Tom Adams hadn't become a newspaper mogul by playing nice. He was a good ole boy who had fought his way to the top by never giving an inch to anyone.

She rubbed her suddenly throbbing temples. “Put him through.”

“Thanks,” Dee said. Turning, she hurried out of the living room and went back into Nora's office.

Nora answered the phone. “Hello, Tom.”

“Jee-zuz Kee-riste, Nora, what in the Sam Hill were you thinking? I heard about this godawful mess when I was on the crapper this A.m. If I hadn't had the television on, I don't know when I'da found out. My little woman said to me, ”Gee, Tommy, your little gal has herself in a pickle, don't she?"

Nora winced. “Sorry, Tom. I was caught off guard by the whole thing myself.”

“Well, you're on guard now, little lady. Tamara tells me that you haven't gotten any letters yet, but you will. My guess is they'll start comin” in tomorrow."

“You've got two months' worth of columns from me on file. That'll give me some time to figure out how I want to handle this.” He made a barking sound. “I pay you a wagonload of money to answer readers' letters, and now that they finally got something interesting to ask about, you sure as hell aren't going to play possum. Scandals sell newspapers and I mean to cash in on your heartache. Sorry, Nora-and I do mean that; I've always liked you—but business is business. Your agent sure understood business when he bled me for that million-dollar contract.”

Nora felt sick to her stomach. “The radio station is giving me some time off-”

“Don't you confuse me with those tie-wearin' Panty waists. I haven't backed down from a fight in my life, and my people aren't going to, either.”

The headache blossomed into a full-blown migraine. “Okay, Tom,” she said softly. She'd say anything to end this conversation. “Give me a few days. Use what you have for now and then I'll start to answer the hate mail.”

He chuckled. “I knew you'd see the light, Nora. Bye now.”

She hung up. The silence that came after all that yelling was strangely heavy.

Tom actually expected her to sit down and read angry, disappointed letters from the very people who used to love her.


Ruby stood in her steam-clouded bathroom, staring through the mist at her watery reflection. The lines beneath her puffy eyes looked like they'd been stitched in place by an industrial sewing machine.

It wouldn't do to look this old, not in Hollywood. She wanted people to think of her as young and hip and defiant, not as a woman who'd wasted her youth in nightclubs and had nothing to show for it except early-onset wrinkles.

She used makeup to take off the years. Enough “heroin-chic” black eyeliner and people would assume she was young and stupid. Sort of the way gorgeous celebrities wore godawful hairdos to the Academy Awards; their message had to be, looks don't matter to me.

As if.

Only a beautiful woman would even consider making that ridiculous statement.

Ruby dressed carefully--V-necked cashmere sweater; black leather miniskirt, and black tights. She hadn't had time to run to the store for temporary hair dye, but a lot of gel had made her hair poke out everywhere instead. She layered fourteen cheap plastic Mardi Gras necklaces around her neck and painted her stubby, bitten-off fingernails a glittery shade of midnight blue. Finally, she put on a pair of clunky black sunglasses--Rite Aid knockoffs of the newest designer fashion.

Then she took a deep breath, grabbed her handbag, and headed outside.

The sleek black limousine was already parked at the curb. Ruby couldn't help wishing that Max were here right now. She'd just love to shove past him and drive away.

A uniformed driver stood beside the car. “Miss Bridge?”

She grinned. No one ever called her that. “That's me. I'm going to-”

“I know, miss. The Paramount lot. I'll be waiting to take you home after the taping.”

The driver came around and opened the door for her. Ruby peered into the dark interior and saw a dozen white roses in a sheath of opalescent tissue paper lying on the backseat. An ice bucket held a bottle of chilled Dom Perignon.

Ruby slid into the seat, heard the satisfying thud of the closing door; and plucked the card from the flowers.

People as talented as you don't need luck. They need a chance, and this is yours. Love, Val.

God, it felt good. As if those tarnished dreams of hers were finally coming true. She had never meant to need it all so much. It had begun as a lark--something she did well without a lot of effort. Ruby the class clown, always making people laugh. But after her mother abandoned them, everything had changed. Ruby had changed. From that moment on, nothing and no one had been quite enough for her. She'd come to need the unconditional acceptance that only fame could provide.

She scooted closer to the window, grinning as the limo pulled up to the security booth at the entrance to Paramount. The twin white arches, trimmed in golden metallic scrollwork, announced to the world that through these gates was a special world, open only to a lucky few.

Ruby hit the button to lower the privacy shield just in time to hear the driver say, “I have Miss Bridge for Uproar.”

The guard stepped back into his booth, consulted a clipboard, then waved them through. Ruby plastered herself close to the window, looking for celebrities, but all she saw were regular people milling about. The closest she came to seeing a movie star was a red Sports car parked in a stall marked JULIA ROBERTS.

At the visitors' lot, the driver parked the car and came around, opening Ruby's door. “There's your ride,” he said, pointing to a vehicle that looked like a stretched-out golf cart. A man in tan-colored shorts and a matching polo shirt was standing beside it.

“They'll zip you up to the studio. I'll be right here whenever you get back.”

Ruby tried to look blase', as if she did this all the time. To tell the truth, if her blood pressure bumped up another notch, she was probably going to stroke out.

She took a deep breath and headed toward the cart. Once she got in, the driver settled behind the wheel and started the soundless engine. The cart moved jerkily between the huge sound stages. There were people everywhere, walking, riding bicycles. They passed a battalion of aliens-" that Patrick Stewart-and veered around a gathering of cowboys. Finally, they pulled up to sound stage nine, a hulking, flesh-colored building. Above the door was a neon sign that read UPROAR! A NEW KIND OF TALK SHOW WITH JOE COCHRAN.

Ruby jumped off the cart and crossed the street. She paused a minute, then opened the door. Inside was a kaleidoscope of colored lights, darkened seating, and people. That's what she noticed most of all –there were people everywhere, scurrying around like ants with clipboards, checking and rechecking, nodding and cursing and laughing.

“You're Ruby Bridge?”

Ruby jumped. She hadn't even noticed the small, platinum blonde who now stood beside her; peering up at Ruby through the ugliest pair of brown-framed glasses she'd ever seen. “I'm Ruby.”

“Good.” The woman grabbed Ruby's arm and led her through the swarming people, down a quieter hallway and into a small waiting room. On the beside a brown sofa were a bowl of fruit and a bottle of Perrier on ice. “Do you need makeup?”

Ruby laughed. “Are you thinking of an intervention?”

The woman frowned, cocked her head, birdlike. “Excuse me?”

Ruby nodded stiffly. “My makeup's fine. Thanks.”

Source: www_Novel22_Net

Prev Next