CINEMATIC ROYALTY

Excerpt:

Copyright © Isabelle Santiago, 2006-2008

All Rights Reserved, Freya’s Bower

Star struck. That’s exactly how I felt when I first laid eyes on Bridget Phillips. Not exactly a feeling I was familiar with. I, Charles Witmore, Esquire, businessman extraordinaire, never lost my composure, never got flustered. Countless celebrities walked the floors of my establishment, each more beautiful than the last, each glorious in their presence, larger than life. I remained in control, professional. Until she stepped through my hotel doors and changed everything.

I’m quite certain I’ll never forget that day. She strolled through the lobby with her eyes hidden behind smoky square frames. Each step of her heels clicked against the patterned marble floors. I stared, awed by the deliciously slow movement, hypnotized by the way her hips swayed from left to right with each purposeful stride.

At that moment, no one else stood in that room. The voices that filled the air
only moments before vanished. All I could see was the flawless ivory skin of her neck, the dusty rose flush on high, rounded cheekbones. Her lips, caught in a photo-ready smile, made wicked promises no respectable woman would, tinted a bold crimson like the darkest wine. A maroon silk scarf with vibrant orange flowers covered her head. The silken material tied freely beneath her chin and left a peek of auburn curls against her neck. My fingers curled in anticipation. Every coherent thought centered on touching those curls, testing whether they were as soft and lush as they looked.

Restraint pulled me past the suffocating sea of physical sensation back to reality. I shook my head to clear the foggy thoughts. Logic told me I was not the first man she had affected in this way, nor would I be the last. I wasn’t blind to her cunning ways. I’d heard many things about the beguiling actress. Forbidden liaisons, scandalous affairs with the richest, most powerful men in Hollywood. Leading men were her style. Rugged, handsome pretenders that would look good on her arm at events and in the papers. In short, Bridget Phillips was the type of woman that stories could be spread about. That people wanted to spread stories about.

"Miss Phillips?" I cleared my throat, easing away the nervous lump that lodged there. She smelled of English lavender and summer rain, a combination deadly to any man’s senses. She turned to look at me. Like a fiery flame traveling a million miles an hour, it struck me with a burning intensity right in the chest. I was smitten.

She removed her sunglasses, pressed them between long, elegant fingers sheathed in buttery cream leather gloves. Her rich chestnut eyes swept over me with careful scrutiny. When she blinked, dark lashes swept over her cheeks. Each move struck me as graceful; the choreographed action of a dancer who never ceased performing. I gawked at her, unable to rip my gaze away. Her beauty was effortless. Confidence oozed from each pore, tinged with just enough aloofness to make her a fascinating mystery.

I struggled to collect my thoughts. I felt awkward, completely out of place, a nervous teenager in front of the most popular girl in school. Get it together, Witmore, I coached. You are the owner of the most luxurious hotels in the United States. You’re well liked. Respected. I counted to ten, then backwards to one all in my head. I focused on breathing through my nose. None of it mattered. For the first time in my life, I was floored. She looked into my eyes, and I fell utterly and completely in love with her.

"Ah yes," she said in a breathy whisper. "You must be Mr. Witmore. A pleasure, I’m sure." Her plump lips perfectly formed each syllable.

I watched them, mesmerized by their movement. Her voice caressed the air like soft velvet. I could have listened to it for all eternity. Something about it was musical, rhythmic, and enchanting. She was bewitching, plain and simple.

Through the haze of my thoughts, I somehow managed to reach out, pick up her gloved fingers and lay a delicate kiss upon them. I thanked the heavens for the ability to keep my composure, despite the violent thundering of my heart. "I am pleased to have you staying at my finest establishment, Miss Phillips," I said with deceptive calm. "I truly hope you will find your stay comfortable and enjoyable. The reception desk is available twenty-four hours a day. They will be more than happy to handle all of your needs."

I kept my usual business-like tone, knowing the speech by heart. It was what
I did. What I excelled at. It was comforting to have something familiar to draw on when everything else in my world felt like it’d been tipped on its axis.

"What about you, Mr. Witmore?" she questioned. Her eyes looked back up at mine for a brief moment before she removed one, then both of her gloves. I glanced down at the bright red of her nail polish in stark contrast to her creamy ivory skin. My mouth went dry, the burn in my chest returned, and the calm, collected man flew out the window. This woman with her pin-up looks, was some sort of poison.

"Me, Miss Phillips?"

"Yes," she sighed, exasperated. "How would I go about contacting you? After all, if I am in any way displeased, I would much rather go to the management than the busboy. You understand now, don’t you?" I nodded my head, eager to please, brushing off the arrogance of her words. She was, after all, royalty of the absolute worst kind: a goddess of film, the black and white vixen of Hollywood who took the silver screen by storm.

"Here is my card." I pushed shaky fingers into my breast pocket and pulled out the small paper square. "Feel free to contact me at any hour. My job is to make sure you have everything you desire."

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