For today’s Excerpt Day, you get an exclusive peek at the opening pages of a brand new book! Not a Fairy Tale, my fourth contemporary romance for HarperImpulse, released yesterday. It’s a Hollywood romance featuring an A-list actress determined to re-make her image, and the hunky stuntman she hires to help her.

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Not a Fairy Tale_SmallerIf just one more person congratulated her on her loss, she would smack them. Nina gritted her teeth and smiled like a crazy person as she threaded her way through the crowd and along an outdoor walkway. Out on the terrace, she breathed in deeply. Not exactly fresh – no one would call LA air fresh – but the crisp February air was better than the suffocating warmth inside.

This was as close as she could get to crawling into a corner and letting the tears flow.

It’s just an award. It’s an honor to be nominated. There’s always next year. You’re in great company.

The platitudes were meaningless. Everyone in this town knew you were only as good as your next job and right now she didn’t have a next job. The history books were littered with the names of has-beens who came close but never won. And who remembered them now?

But put “Oscar-winner” in front of your name and everyone knew who you were. Oscar-winners didn’t need to screen-test for coveted roles along with every other hopeful in a town filled to bursting with the hopeful, the pretty, the thin.

The bowl of west Los Angeles sprawled beneath her feet, a carpet of lights. No longer needing to keep up appearances, she dropped her smile and rubbed her aching facial muscles.

“Drink this.” Someone pressed a glass into her hand. She sniffed at the dubious liquid before raising her eyes to its donor. Or rather to the wall of chest at eye level, before she looked up higher into a pair of amused green eyes.

She would have smiled again if it didn’t hurt so much.

Dominic Kelly. Even when he wasn’t clowning around, Dom always made her want to smile. He had a way of looking at a woman that made her feel special and beautiful. As if he could see through the hype to the person lost inside.

She didn’t care that he had that effect on all women. She did care that he slept with all the others yet had never made a move on her.

“It’s brandy. It’ll make you feel better,” he said.

“I don’t drink.”

“You’re in recovery?” He frowned, no doubt remembering an evening or two during the filming of their last movie when she’d danced the night away with a lurid cocktail in hand.

“Of course not!” She didn’t blame him for the assumption, though. At least half the people at this party were probably in recovery from one addiction or another. And even though they’d partied together throughout production on the one movie they’d worked on together, she and Dominic really knew nothing about each other.

For that matter, there was no one here tonight who really knew her. They only knew the public image, the person they wanted her to be. The lie.

She lifted the glass to her lips and sipped. Fire burned down her throat and brought tears to her eyes before the alcohol settled in her belly. He was right. It did make her feel better, if for no other reason than that it made her feel like a giddy teen at the prom again. That had been a good night. She’d been a winner that night.

She sniffed, inhaling the decadent scent of her favorite meal a moment before she spotted the In-N-Out box in Dominic’s hand. Her stomach flipped.

“Want to share?” He held up the burger box from the food truck parked outside the party venue.

Her stomach flipped again, but she suppressed it. Ruthlessly.

“I only just managed to fit into this dress. One bite and I might split the seams.”

Dom’s gaze swept over her, settling on her hips. Her very- far-from-size-zero hips. She sucked in her stomach, but he only grinned. “That’s a sight I wouldn’t mind seeing.”

“Yeah, you and every camera in there. I don’t think so. I need to sit.”

She wove her way between the sofas scattered around the deck, leaving Dominic and his burger to follow in her wake. A few of the sofas were occupied by people in serious conversation and at least one by a couple making out. Despite her curiosity, Nina refrained from looking too hard to see who they were as she led Dominic toward an unoccupied area of the terrace, shielded from view by potted palm trees.

The scarlet shoes with their three-inch heels were killing her feet. She kicked them off and wiggled her toes. Bliss!

Then she sagged down on the sofa and breathed a dramatic sigh of relief as she put her bare feet up on the glass coffee table. Dominic’s eyebrows lifted as he sprawled beside her, slinging an arm across the back of the chair, but he said nothing. Though he wasn’t close enough to touch, she could feel the heat emanating off him, and he smelled of the sea. Not the storm-wracked waves that made her stomach clench, but lazy holidays and suntan lotions and laughter.

She resisted the crazy urge to lean in closer to breathe him in.

There were cameras everywhere at this party, and that was so not a picture she wanted to see online in the morning, either.

In the town where gossip was a billion-dollar industry, she’d worked hard to keep her image clean. Nooky in a corner of a party was definitely a no-no. Which put it up near the top of the list of things she most wanted to do.

Right behind ‘Eat a burger with all the trimmings!’

She tried not to drool as Dominic tucked into his, and instead looked out at the view and sipped the fiery brandy. Down there, below the roving spotlights that illuminated this party-to-end- all-parties, were real people living real lives. She could hardly even remember what that felt like. As much as she envied their anonymity, their freedom to come and go without their every move scrutinized and torn apart, she wouldn’t swap her place up here on the hill with theirs for anything.

That was her addiction: fame. Being admired, being loved, was something she’d worked very hard for. And while losing might not be fun, at least she’d never need to worry about a mortgage payment again. She was living the fairy tale, with more money than her teen self could have imagined, doing what she loved. And she was adored. She had everything she’d ever wanted.

Almost everything.

Not a Fairy Tale is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks and All Romance eBooks.

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