DOWN & OUT IN BEVERLY HEELS is a mystery romance about actress Meg Barnes, who loses everything she has and ends up living on the streets of Beverly Hills in her car, which she calls her “Ritz-Volvo.” In this excerpt, Meg is invited for dinner by her old friend and former roommate, Carol Baskin, who wants to fix her up with handsome widower Jack Mitchell. Carol, who is married to a wealthy film producer, has no idea that Meg has fallen on such hard times. To further complicate matters, Jack is the FBI agent who investigated Meg’s fugitive husband, the conman who cost Meg everything she owns. Worse, he suspects Meg of being in on the scam, which does not bode well for an evening that gets off to a rocky start.
Carol and Sid Baskin reside in a two-story mock Tudor on three lush acres within a gated development off Mulholland. The architecture in the Baskin’s neighborhood runs the gamut from Doric Revival and Roman villa to Versailles and Monticello (think plantation-chic). One house appears to be an almost exact replica of the New York City Public Library, with Bryant Park for a backyard. These newly minted relics boast all the features a modern-day Hadrian couldn’t live without: screening room, tennis court, swimming pool, waterfall, koi pond, serenity pavilion and twelve-car garage.
The sun is setting as I pull up in front of the vine-covered entrance to what the Baskins like to refer to as their Howard’s End home. Through the rose-covered arch leading to the back garden, I glimpse the pool house, disguised as Anne Hathaway’s cottage. I once called it home. Shakespeare, himself, would have loved its fully equipped exercise room and sauna beneath a faux thatched roof. I did.
I ring the bell. A dark haired woman with a shy smile opens the door. I realize at once that the Baskins have changed “couples” again.
“Hi, I’m Meg Barnes.”
The woman bobs her head and steps aside. “Please,” she says, her voice barely a whisper. She closes the door and scuttles down the hall toward the kitchen. I peer into the hushed twilight of the vast living room. A dank chill hangs in the air despite dozens of flickering candles and a fire blazing on a raised hearth. Hello, Hollywood -- the roaring inferno competes with frigid blasts from an air-conditioner.
“There you are,” Carol says, sweeping in through the patio doors. She’s wearing silk print evening pajamas with regulation Manolo Blahniks. “I thought I heard your car. Did Olinda let you in? She’s the most darling Portuguese. I just got them. Her husband, Guillermo, is pouring drinks.”
“I thought you said casual.” We brush cheeks with kisses.
“I meant no tiaras.”
“I’m in blue jeans.”
“I see that. Well, never mind. It’s just the four of us. Do you want to freshen up a bit?”
“I’m feeling pretty fresh. Do I look bad?”
Carol laughs. “Don’t get so touchy. I just thought we could have a minute to ourselves. You want to come upstairs?”
“Sure. Jack’s not here yet?”
“He just arrived a couple of minutes ago. Sid’s showing him his new hybrid SUV. Honestly, such a saving in fuel. C’mon up.”
I follow Carol up the dark-oak stairway and along the balcony with its lavishly carved minstrel’s gallery overlooking the living room. For larger gatherings, Carol usually hires musicians. She likes gypsy violinists. Sometimes she has harp or flute music to entertain her guests during cocktails. We continue down a long passageway to the master bedroom, actually a suite of rooms that occupies an entire wing of the house. Carol’s sitting room, in an alcove next to her dressing room, has a tiny Juliette balcony with a view of her rose garden. It’s my favorite corner of the house. But it’s a long trek, and I wish I’d asked for a glass of wine before we’d set out on our journey.
Carol plumps herself down on a velvet settee. She curls her legs under her, and shakes her blond hair onto her shoulders. “It’s been ages,” she says, her voice cozy. I realize immediately that I’m in for a heart-to-heart. Whenever Carol’s anxieties get the better of her, I’m the lucky recipient of the overflow. Sorting me out calms her.
“Ages,” I agree, wondering what perceived inadequacies in herself she’s about to transfer to me.
“Water?” Carol reaches into a faux-painted bamboo cabinet stocked with miniature bottles of Evian and hands me one.
“You can’t drink too much water.” She puts on a weary smile. “You know, it’s not easy to bring these things up, but we’re friends, and I hope you feel you can say anything to me. Anything at all.”
Should I risk it? “I could really go for a glass of wine, Carol.”
“I know you could,” she says. “That’s another thing. Do you think you might be drinking just a bit too much these days?”
“No. I don’t. I’m not drinking nearly enough.”
“Hey, you don’t need to get pissy with me, okay. I’m just trying to help. I would more than appreciate a little suggestion like that from you -- if you thought I needed it. That’s what good friends do for each other.”
“Sorry, but I don’t need an intervention, Carol. Just like a glass of wine.”
“Fine. We’ll get you one. All in good time. You know, I think all of us drink too much. I don’t have a single girlfriend who doesn’t think she drinks too much. We should all cut down. Anyway, that’s not what I wanted to get into.”
She picks up a sheaf of papers laying face down on a side table and turns them over. I see a zodiac pie, and my heart sinks. “I’ve updated your chart and, I’m telling you, I have never witnessed such an amazing convergence. Uranus has changed direction and is sitting right on your Seventh House, along with the Sun and Venus. On top of that, your moon has just entered Libra, and whenever the moon enters a new sign it stays there for a couple of years. This places a lot of emphasis on relationships. Your Venus has progressed to the top of your chart and that portends love, maybe marriage. With all this power, this could be a critical time for you. I see big changes in store for you.”
Carol’s eyes glitter and her voice is hushed, so this must be good news, but I have no idea what she’s talking about. I see only one way out of this, and that’s sincerity. If I can fake that, as they say, I’ll get my drink. “You’re right, Carol. With Venus in the picture I get it.”
“Just remember your critical dates, the twenty-second and twenty-third of this month. Focus, okay? It’s there for you if you let it happen.”
“Okay, got it. Thanks, Carol. I really, really appreciate this.” I dutifully stuff the pages in my shoulder bag as I move, with some speed, toward the door. I have no intention of looking at this horoscope, and haven’t a clue what I would do any differently on those critical days. Wash my car? Refold my sweaters?
Excerpted from DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HEELS by Kathryn Leigh Scott, ©2013 Amazon Publishing
Author Bio: Kathryn Leigh Scott, author of Down and Out in Beverly Heels, is probably best known for her star turn as Josette Du Pres, ingénue bride of reluctant vampire Barnabas Collins in the TV cult classic “Dark Shadows.” This is her second work of fiction, following her debut novel last year, Dark Passages. While continuing her acting career, Kathryn launched Pomegranate Press to publish books about the entertainment industry, “Dark Shadows” fan books, and other nonfiction and fiction titles.
Kathryn has generously offered to give away a copy of her mystery romance, DOWN & OUT IN BEVERLY HEELS, to one lucky winner! (Print or digital to US/CANADA; digital to other countries.) You can enter up to 5 times using the Rafflecopter widget below. The giveaway will end at midnight on Sunday, June 16th, and a winner will be announced on Monday, June 17th.
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