For today’s scene from Dark Hollywood Nights, I present the original opener to the story. It was cut for several reasons – one being, pacing. It took far too long to get the action started and it told a lot more than necessary, bogging the reader down with back story. I love the current opening because it’s BAM, right in your face with the characters AND the conflict. But I do miss this scene because it has one of my favorite cameos of the book: Charles and Bridget.
They were still fresh in my mind from writing Cinematic Royalty, and they came off much stronger than my heroine, Lexi. That’s another reason we had to cut them. They were supporting characters now. I couldn’t let them outshine my star! 😉 But it’s an amusing scene and I’m happy to share it with all of you.
Copyright © Isabelle Santiago, 2008
Alexis Grant wrote furiously. A tiny, inaudible crack stopped her in her tracks. She stared at her pencil, mortified. “Last, but certainly not least,” her cousin barked, continuing ahead of her, “please, please, make sure that the guest in the Grecian Suite has all of her needs cared for. Do not skimp on anything, Lexi. If you have to send someone across town for a box of chocolates, you do it. While she’s here, you are at her beck and call. Understand?” He spun around. His bewildered expression told her he hadn’t realized she was no longer at his side. She stared at him wide-eyed, her pencil still frozen over her notepad.
“Heavens, Charles.” A female voice fluttered between them. Lexi inhaled a deep breath of relief at the welcome interruption. She watched Bridget Phillips, in her usual nonchalant manner, fluff her curls, purse her lips, then snap her compact shut. “You would think the woman is some sort of goddess. She’s just a guest.”
If Bridget’s tight, overly blasé tone didn’t betray the extent of her jealousy, the icy glare she pinned on Charles, most certainly would. Charles, as usual, oblivious to the inner workings of complex women, stared at her as though she were daft. Lexi bit her lip to stifle the amusement at their shared expressions.
“Bridget, darling, this hotel is known for top notch service. When someone of importance stays with us, it is essential we show them that their needs are ours. How else would we get such lovely starlets to wine and dine here?” He traced his fingers across Bridget’s jaw line. “Besides, you would have accepted no less.”
Lexi dropped her gaze. Her cheeks burned hot. She should have known the minute Charles’ voice went all whispery that he was going to get uncomfortably romantic. Didn’t he know how absolutely inappropriate it was to have such public displays of affection? She wrung her hands nervously in front of her, praying silently that they would stop.
“Be that as it might,” Bridget’s sharp, indignant tone brought Lexi’s eyes back up to watch the scene unfold just beneath her lashes. “Miss Valerie Price has yet to prove herself a starlet. Do not give her a title she hasn’t earned.”
“Ahh…” Charles’ lips curled into a beaming smile. He leaned toward her, his voice bubbling with humor. “You wouldn’t happen to be jealous of our little movie star would you, my sweet?”
“It isn’t jealousy.” She turned from him, her arms crossed over her chest. “I simply think she’s given undo praise because of her looks. It has very little to do with actual talent.”
The silence drew out for just a moment too long before Charles’ laughter erupted around them. Warm and genuine, the sound made Lexi smile. “You will always be my screen goddess,” he whispered, in a voice that warned Lexi to keep her eyes pinned to the checkered marble tiles of the floor. She saw his feet move, clad in newly shined patent leather shoes. Her imagination ran away with her. She envisioned him wrapping his arms around Bridget’s body and placing a delicate kiss on her lips. Her cheeks scorched.
Lexi cleared her throat. “Charles,” she said softly, a prelude to lifting her gaze. They both stared at her, as though they’d forgotten she was there. Lexi’s shoulders slumped. It was always like this around them. She felt like a fifth wheel. “There is nothing to worry about. I have Betty just a phone call away if I start to feel overwhelmed. Besides, it’s only a week. Go. Enjoy your honeymoon.”
Bridget stood up straight, dragged her slender fingers into creamy leather gloves. “She’s right, you know. You said yourself, there’s no one better cut out for the job. Stop worrying. We’re going to be late if we don’t go now.”
Charles hesitated. His brows creased with concern. Lexi forced her face to remain the perfect image of control, a look she’d seen on Bridget’s face countless times. She would not betray the nerves that twisted her stomach into knots. She’d be fine. She was smart. How hard could running the hotel really be? Charles opened his mouth. Lexi held her hand up to silence him. She wouldn’t even let him ask it. “I’ll be fine.” She pressed the note pad tighter against her chest. “I swear.” With a friendly nudge, she pointed her glance at the swirled iron wrought doors. “The Hamptons await.”
“Wonderful!” Bridget’s entire demeanor blossomed. Her face lit up with a vibrant expression of happiness that mimicked Charles’ face whenever he looked at her. “Our car is here!”
“Ok.” He took a deep breath. Whether it was for himself, or for her, Lexi wasn’t sure.
She placed her hand on his shoulder and smiled. “Have fun.”
He placed a worn fedora on his head and nodded. They walked away, he in his tailored grey suit, a suitcase in either hand, she in her delicate blush pink chiffon tea dress and grey pea coat. Lexi shook her head and laughed. They were an odd pair, the two. But she owed them everything for this opportunity.
She knew better than to think it meant nothing. Women didn’t run hotels. Especially not major hotels like The Winmont. “You’re smart,” he’d said, when Betty had run the idea by him for Lexi to run the hotel while he was gone. “One of the smartest women I know. You remind me of Eleanor. Level headed and reasonable with an uncanny business sense.”
Lexi knew the minute Eleanor Phillip’s name fell from his lips she was in good company. Charles had always adored his childhood friend. Now, she was assistant manager, alongside her husband Marcus Phillips, at The Winmont .
All Lexi had to do was keep things under control for one week. Seven days. They’d fly by! Keep the guests happy, keep things orderly and peaceful and Charles would set her up with a permanent position that could ensure her financial future. She could send money back to her mother. She could prove to her father that intelligence had its place in this changing world. The war was over. Women proved that they were more than just pretty faces meant to breed babies.
Lexi turned on her heels and looked over the hotel lobby. It teemed with people, some enjoying the busy flow of traffic from the cushioned sofas set as reading nooks, others made their way to the cigar room for a game of pool. Most, however, headed straight for the Parthenon to enjoy the day’s lunch. Her fingers tightened around the legal pad. She took a deep breath of her own. She would be fine. This was a piece of cake. She would not only run The Winmont as well as any man, she would do it better. She would not disappoint them.
“Miss Grant,” someone called from behind the gold plated reception desk.
“Yes?” The woman, whose name tag read Georgina , smiled. “The Grecian Suite has called down for lunch. Mr. Witmore is usually the one to bring it up for her.”
“Very well, I’ll handle it.” Lexi stood for a long moment, flustered. She looked left, right, before she realized she wasn’t exactly sure how to handle it. She felt the heated flush that rose from her chest cover her entire face.
“Ernie is waiting with the food cart and trays in the kitchen.” The woman grinned. Her aquamarine eyes sparkled against a freckled face. “He will have everything available for you there.”
Lexi nodded her head. No doubt Georgina saw the proof of her embarrassment. “Thank you very much,” she said, trying to sound graceful. Her words came out just as muddled as her thoughts felt.
“Go,” Georgina said with a laugh. “Our guest does not like to be kept waiting.”
“Right! Of course!” Lexi rushed forward, the sound of her heels against the floor nearly deafening. She was surprised she could hear it at all, over the rush of blood that swept past her ears. Several heads lifted. Eyes darted in her direction. Lexi forced herself to slow down. Unseen, unheard, she remembered from Betty’s quick tutorial about the hotel. I’ll be fine, she repeated, a useless mantra in her head.
She swore she heard Georgina call out, “Good luck, Miss Grant,” behind her.