Read All The Pretty Lights (The "A" List #1) Online

Authors: Tara Oakes

Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #New Adult & College

All The Pretty Lights (The "A" List #1)

BOOK: All The Pretty Lights (The "A" List #1)
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ALL THE PRETTY LIGHTS

 

THE “A” LIST

BOOK ONE

 

 

 

 

 

TARA OAKES

 

This is a work of fiction. Similarities to real people, places, or events are entirely coincidental.

 

First edition.  January 4, 2016

 

Copyright c. 2015

 

Twelve Oakes Publishing, Inc.

 

Cover designed by CBB Productions

 

Edited by Dana Hoffman

 

TO MY LAMBCHOP, MY LOVE

 

 

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

 

ALL THE PRETTY LIGHTS, book one in THE “A” LIST SERIES, is another collaborative effort from my team, and I want to make sure to thank each and every one of them.

Alicia, my assistant, is first on this list. ALL THE PRETTY LIGHTS is our first release of 2016. Every release is special in its own way, but as this one starts off a new calendar year of publishing, it also marks the one year anniversary of Alicia coming aboard. It’s been such a productive year and I know we have another great one ahead of us.

To CBB, my designer, I send thanks but also prayers as she and her family have been challenged recently with some pretty serious health issues. Throughout all of it, she has remained strong and resilient, proving that not only is she a kickass designer, but she’s also a kickass wife and mom.

I’m so lucky to have her on my team and I consider her a friend as well as a collaborator.

To Dana, my editor.. I am incredibly grateful to have “accidentally” found her  through a random comment online. She’s become invaluable to me, proving herself to be reliable, professional and damn good at what she does.

Thank you to all the bloggers, reviewers and promoters that help to raise visibility for my work.

To the readers, thank you so much for following my different series and supporting each of them. THE “A” LIST is a brand new one that I hope you’ll love.

And finally, to my Lambchop, my hubby. We recently went to a wedding where a beautiful speech was given that really drove home for us. A marriage is about finding someone who compliments you, who balances you. It’s where two different people who can be opposite in so many ways can fit together and become something better and stronger than each person by themselves.

2016 is just starting out, and I’m so grateful to have such an amazing parter to share it with.

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

DAPHNE

 

Los Angeles

Twenty-six years old. Twenty. Six. Years. Old. And what do I have to show for it?

I’ll tell you what I have to show for it. I have a worn portfolio that has proven itself useless yet again, a pocket full of mascara stained tissues, broken dreams, and a first class return ticket to New York.

I sigh deeply and glance around through the bustling airport crowd, careful not to miss the overhead signs for my terminal. The small envelope icon is flashing on my phone screen as I check the time. Apparently I have thirteen minutes to board my plane and six new messages.

              Quickening my pace, I make a sharp right turn, and BAM! There’s a snowstorm of fluttering, flapping papers with many of my portfolio sketches raining down around me when I crash into a rock hard body.

“Crap!” I fall to the ground, anxiously gathering the drawings like they actually mean something, when ironically, earlier this morning they’ve proved that they didn’t.

My vision begins blurring as I hear the light crumpling under my hand while collecting the pages.

“You alright?” An obviously bothered, slightly annoyed, voice asks from above me.

Am I alright
? That’s a loaded question.

Everything I’ve been desperately working towards these last eight years has just been destroyed by the one person whose opinion could
actually
mean something in this business. I’m thousands of miles away from home, with no way to return except the ticket in hand to the flight that I will now, thanks to this latest catastrophe, miss.

“I—I’m fine. Thanks.” I try my best to sniffle back the tears threatening to escape my tightly closed eyelids as I inhale deeply.

“Here. You missed these,” The same deep voice draws my attention to a small pile of my work held in his large hands as he crouches down to help me with it. I can’t help but notice the low vibrations laced through his words. What
is
that? Amusement? Do I
amuse
him?

“Thanks,” I snatch the sheets from him a touch more forcefully than I’d planned.

The three or four design renderings are added to my portfolio and I slam the leather cover shut with a harsh slapping sound.

A pair of shiny brown leather shoes that look to be worth more than the entire contents of my apartment, peak in the corner of my eye.

“You should
really
slow down,” he offers while grabbing a hold of my elbow, helping to lift me up. Well, the word
help
is an understatement in this case. I’m brought to my feet in record time as this guy practically picks me up to plant me back on my heels.

I gather my bearings, holding tight to my portfolio so it doesn’t fall again.
Shit!
I’m never going to make my flight now! “I—I’ll try to remember that. Thanks again, gotta go!”

Leaving the sexy-voiced, sadistically amused Good Samaritan behind, I make a mad dash to the gate for my flight, convinced that my
perfect
day will now be topped off appropriately by me being stuck behind, here, in Los Angeles, with no way to get back home.

As I reach the counter, out of breath and disoriented, the smartly dressed woman behind the tall grey counter lifts the phone receiver in her hand close to her cherry red lips.

“Attention, ladies and gentlemen. We regret to inform you that flight number 1049, direct service from Los Angeles to New York City, will be delayed by at least forty minutes due to adverse weather conditions.”

I nearly double over while catching my breath, processing her announcement. I haven’t missed the flight! I’m not too late! Finally,
something
is going right for me. An empty nearby chair calls to me as I rest from my quick sprint. Suddenly that treadmill in my bedroom is looking like something other than just a piece of furniture that is used as a resting place for my jackets.

The electronic board above the nearby counter changes, with my departure time now reflecting the woman’s forty-minute warning.

Thank God! I’d been too nervous to eat anything all day with my future as a fashion designer hanging in the balance. Now, with all hopes of any sort of career in the industry all but destroyed, I think it’s safe to indulge in a little comfort food to take the sting off things, and I have just enough time to grab something before takeoff.

Who cares about fitting in a size four sample size anymore?
I
certainly have no reason to. Starting Monday morning, the only thing I’ll have to worry about fitting into will be a waitressing uniform. Or, maybe, a secretary’s skirt and jacket?

Who the hell am I kidding? I’ll be moping around in sweats and pajamas for at least a couple days before I can even bring myself to become a sellout and take the first available job I can find.

Thanks to a pretty decent paying design job last month, I have enough to cover another month’s rent and a big, greasy hamburger. My stomach grumbles loudly as I eye the food stand across the terminal, deciding on whether or not I’m going to go through with it. After a moment, I decide that I am.

By the time I return to the waiting area for my gate almost every seat is taken with impatient passengers. Tired people of all ages, some even sleeping, wait to be called to board the plane that from what I can see through the large nearby windows, has yet to even arrive.

Before the delay our flight was already scheduled as a red-eye. With the new departure time, the already exhausted passengers are trying their best to stay alert enough to crawl onto the plane when called. All but me, that is.

I’m a night owl, always have been. I’ll routinely find myself drinking a glass of wine at my draft table at two or three in the morning. I’ve gotten what I had thought was my best work done when most other people were fast asleep. That’s one of the reasons I’ve never been able to keep a roommate. Not the only reason, but one of them.

I laugh to myself bitterly as I think of what good all my “best” work is worth now.

Anyone else who’s had the kind of day I’ve had would probably be more than happy to find a place where to lean their head and pass out, not having to think about the harsh, cruel words that were used during my interview today.

Not me, though. No. I’m a glutton for punishment, and so I stand here in the corner taking big, hearty bites of the bar burger I’m devouring while replaying the scene over and over in my head.

Katharine Harding has a very well known reputation in fashion. She’s a genius, an artist, a visionary. She also happens to have a razor sharp tongue and absolutely no concern for whom it might cut.

This morning, while I was sitting across the desk from her in her very expensive downtown LA office, that vicious tongue was like barb wire, and I was the victim it wrapped around and strangled.

All of that doesn’t matter right now, does it? She’d told me the truth, what no other person in this field had had the guts to tell me. She told me I don’t have
it.
Whatever
it
is.

No matter how much a person studies, sketches, and networks, it doesn’t matter. If they don’t have it, they never will. It’s something you’re born with. At least now I know. I can stop wasting my time and accept the truth for what it is.

If Katharine Harding says I don’t have it, then I guess I should be grateful to her for telling me now, before I waste another eight years of my life. Just because I know the truth, that doesn’t mean it’s not a hard pill to swallow though. Everything I am, everything I’ve done in my life has been to get me to one goal; to design clothes that people actually want to wear.

I’ve barely been able to process all of this myself, let alone tell someone else. I’ve been avoiding my cell phone all day, knowing Mom and Lori have been anxious to hear about my interview.

I’ve been excited and nervous for days, ever since I’d gotten the phone call from Katharine’s assistant to set up the interview. Somehow word had gotten to Katharine about some work I’d done at Fashion Week this year. I thought it was my big break, thought it was just what I’d been waiting for.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Of course Mom had told me that I had nothing to worry about. Lori too. To them, this interview was only the first step in my career finally taking off. They don’t know how cut throat this business can be, and I don’t have the heart to tell them. That’s why I’m putting off calling them back.

I take another bite of my burger, holding tightly to the crinkling wax paper folded around the warm bun and watch the people nearby. There’s a mother with young twin girls, an arm around each of them as they snuggle into her sides. A college-age kid has his eyes glued to his laptop, while another man, looking to be in his forties, is browsing through a financial magazine.

A blonde woman with thick-rimmed glasses knits a pastel blanket from a collection of yarn inside of a plastic shopping bag. She sees me watching her and smiles. Taking my last bite of the informal dinner in hand, I scan over the sleeping people until my eyes settle on two of the last remaining passengers.

A large, strong, younger looking guy dressed in army fatigues with a duffel bag leaning against his left combat boot is talking softly to the woman in front of him. I can tell from the look they share, from the gentle and loving way she closes her eyes while listening to him, that they are in love.

With the late hour, the normally harsh airport lights are dimmed, casting a soft glow upon them as I watch from a distance. He lifts his hand to caress her cheek and she leans her head, kissing his open palm.

Suddenly I begin to feel immense guilt. Here I am, sulking and drowning my sorrows in junk food about my career, or lack thereof when people like those two are going through much more difficult things.

I can’t even imagine how it must feel to send off a loved one, not knowing if you’ll see them again, if they’ll be safe. I’ve lived near NYC my whole life, and I know there are several army bases around the area. I have little doubt he’s traveling to one of them.

I need to do something to take my mind off my own troubles. I need to do something that will make me feel good, in the midst of the looming feelings of inadequacy, even if for just a small moment.

Unzipping the front pouch of my carry-on, I rummage for the printed copy of my ticket information. One very expensive, first class seat with my name on it is reserved for the five-hour flight from LAX to NYC.

Before yesterday I had never flown first class before. Leave it to Katharine Harding to send first class tickets to and from my interview. Yesterday morning I had felt so important, so special, in that huge leather chair as the flight attendants doted on me.
This is the good life I had thought to myself...

Sure, the champagne had been fantastic, the extra legroom divine. But, in the end, I ended up in the same place as everyone else on the plane.

“Excuse me,” I’m careful to speak in a whisper as many of the nearby people are trying to sleep.

“Can I help you?” The airline employee behind the counter matches my whisper.

I hand her my boarding pass. “I have a first class ticket for this flight. I’d like to switch seats if possible?”

The auburn-haired twenty-something woman looks at me like I have two heads. Who in their right mind switches
from
first class? Her fingers begin typing quickly on the narrow keyboard before her as her eyes watch the computer screen.

There’s a soft glow from the light of the screen reflecting on her skin. “Daphne Baker, seat 3A.” She reads from the screen. “What would you like to do, now?”

I take one last glance over my shoulder at the couple holding tight to one another and know for sure that I’m doing the right thing. “I’d like to give that soldier over there my ticket. I’d like him to have my seat in first class and then I’ll downgrade my ticket to coach.”

The woman I’m speaking to glances over in the direction of the soldier I’m speaking of. “This is highly unusual, Miss Baker.”

I nod, “I’m sure. But, I’d love if you could look into it, please.” I spot her name tag for the first time. “Please, Kara.”

Kara, the woman behind the counter takes a deep breath. “I’ll see what I can do. In the meantime though, you should wait in the first class lounge so that I can find you when I have an answer.”

“Thank you, Kara.” I point to the nearby door labeled
lounge
, with my eyebrow arched in question. She nods, confirming where I’ll need to go and I follow the silent direction, pushing against the door into the exclusivity of the room.

Immediately I feel the difference in surroundings. What was generic and sterile looking from the outside couldn’t be any more different within this plush and luxurious lounge. Oversized, heavily padded leather chairs are sectioned in small groups filled with impeccably dressed people who barely glance up as I cautiously walk in.

“Miss? Can I take your things?” I look to the jacketed waiter who’s greeting me.

I shake my head. “No. No, thanks. I—I’m fine. I’ll just take a seat.”

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