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Authors: Melody Mayer

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BOOK: Bad to the Bone
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Lydia felt for them. Kat and Anya had been a longtime couple. They started out as rivals on the tennis court and became lovers, and then, partners. But then Anya cheated on Lydia's aunt. With a guy. When Kat found out, she went ballistic. Anya moved out, which left Kat partner-less and the kids second-mother-less.

On the other hand, Anya was a ballbuster, constantly making to-do lists and leaving the kids with no freedom. Lydia didn't like her. Also on the other hand, the split-up gave Lydia the estate to herself for half a month. Her aunt's driver, a great guy named X, was at her beck and call. The cook, Paisley, would whip up whatever Lydia wanted. The housekeeping staff did her laundry and cleaned up after her. All she had to do was wake up and let X take her to school, which was what she'd done since school had started last week. Mostly. Growing up in Amazonia hadn't made attending school a big priority for her. There seemed to be no good reason to make it a priority now.

So mostly, she was living the life to which she thought she should become accustomed. She sipped her champagne and smiled. This was a helluva long way from the mud huts of the Amazon. She picked up a copy of the
Universe
, a popular tabloid, and idly leafed through it. Lindsay Lohan, the Olsen twins, reality show stars, a piece on the upcoming Rock Music
Awards because the
Universe
was sponsoring a contest where the winner would get two front-row seats and backstage passes. After weeks of breathless reporting about Platinum's reckless endangerment trial, which had put her friend Kiley into the spotlight too, it was as if the scandal had never happened.

Lydia sipped more champagne and threw the tabloid aside. Funny, really. Everything in her new life was disposable. In Amazonia, no one disposed of anything. Everything was recycled, including magazines, which became toilet paper.

Lydia sat up, pulling off her clothes—the champagne was making her feel really warm—and jumped into the crystalline pool. Floating on her back, she gazed up at the dusky night sky. Dang, what a great life. She had everything she could possibly want. Except … someone to share it with.

She swam to the lip of the pool, where she'd left the champagne bottle, and took a long pull. Back in the Amazon, she was rarely alone. There were always Amas around, or her own parents, or visiting doctors on do-gooder missions. You couldn't get away from people after dark, because wandering into the rain forest alone could turn you into some wild beast's premidnight snack. Lydia wasn't used to being alone. And she didn't much like it.

Well, then. She'd just have to do something about that.

Platinum's floodlit estate was white. Very white. Blindingly white, Lydia thought as she walked up the white gravel path that led to the front door while X pulled away in the Beemer. It was only a ten-minute drive from her aunt's estate over to Platinum's, but living in the rain forest had made it tough to get a driver's license. She had to call X to take her there, and
as usual, he did his duty with a smile—and plenty of dish on who was hot and who was not this week in Hollywood.

Lydia had pulled on bleached-out tattered jeans that fit her like a second skin, and a lavender silk Stella McCartney camisole “borrowed” from her aunt's latest swag bag. She didn't even have to ring the bell. Kiley was waiting for her, dressed in khaki shorts and a white University of Wisconsin-La Crosse T-shirt.

“Thanks for letting me come over. I got lonely,” Lydia confessed. “And I just wasn't in the mood to go party with strangers at some club.”

“You? Not in the mood to party?” Kiley teased.

“I'd probably meet some guy and dance and get rowdy and think about sex and then maybe even
have
sex, which, as you know, I am trying not to do until I get to know someone real well,” Lydia explained earnestly. She'd been accused of being honest to a fault. But she didn't see how being honest could be a bad thing.

“Didn't want to call Flipper, huh?” Kiley asked.

Lydia shrugged. “He's off at a swim meet in La Jolla.”

Kiley hugged her. “Well, I'm glad you're here. Come on in. There's something amazing happening.”

Lydia perked up, sensing new tabloid fodder. She'd spent so many years in a mud hut reading about the wild exploits of the rich and famous, she couldn't help being excited now about actually living among them.

“Platinum spreading lines out for her kids?” Lydia ventured. “Or are they breaking up a key of cocaine together?”

Kiley made a face. “Thankfully nothing like that. Platinum's got a visitor. Come and see. Or should I say, come and hear.”

As Kiley led the way through the white-on-white foyer, down the white-on-white main hallway and into the white-on-white living room, Lydia paused a few times to check out some of the Platinum memorabilia that adorned the walls. She'd been to Platinum's place several times, but always went straight to Kiley's guesthouse in the back, never inside the main house. There were blown-up magazine covers, Grammys, and awards certifying that her records had gone gold or platinum. They were in English, French, even Russian. Platinum's career had spanned three decades. While she didn't have the same popularity as she did twenty years ago, she had definitely crossed into the realm of rock icon.

“Want something to drink?” Kiley asked, motioning to the white marble bar at the far end of the living room.

“I don't know,” Lydia admitted. “I've had plenty of Taittinger—”

“You drink Taittinger?” came a female voice with a British accent. “I adore Taittinger. Could live on the bloody stuff!”

Lydia turned. The speaker was petite, with short, shaggy ebony hair and shaggy bangs that nearly obliterated the kohl-lined dark eyes in her pale, heart-shaped face. She wore black capris, a pair of black rubberized clogs, and a Tottenham Hotspurs soccer jersey. Above that, her slender neck was covered in tats; Lydia couldn't make out what they were from across the room. She did, however, know who the girl was. Not for nothing did Lydia steep herself in all things pop culture.

“You're Audrey Birnbaum!” Lydia exclaimed.

“So I've heard,” the girl agreed. “You a fan?”

Was she ever! Audrey Birnbaum was the newest, hottest R & B singing sensation from Liverpool, not far from where the
Beatles had grown up. Audrey's aunt had even been Paul McCartney's girlfriend, many years ago. Audrey was twenty-one, and she'd been discovered singing in a pub by the same people who had turned Rihanna into a major star. Audrey was famous for her husky voice and her wild ways, or at least that was what the media claimed.

“Am I a fan?” Lydia echoed. Then she began to sing the lyrics to Audrey's latest hit, “Can't Remember Your Name”:

“You sent me a breakup letter, I stoked it and never smoked better, you're up in flames, can't remember your name, boy, can't remember your name….”

Audrey laughed. “Not much of a voice but yeah, that's my song.”

“Audrey Birnbaum, meet my friend Lydia Chandler,” Kiley said. “Audrey's working on a duet with Platinum for the Rock Music Awards.”

“And it's bloody hard work,” Audrey added. She plucked a pack of smokes from the rear pocket of her capris and tapped out a cigarette, then offered the pack to Lydia. “Smoke?”

“That stuff'll kill you,” Lydia pointed out.

“Yeah? Hadn't heard,” Audrey said breezily, lighting up. She exhaled smoke toward the ceiling. “So Lydia, what do you do besides look hot?”

Lydia beamed. “You think I look hot?”

“I imagine the whole world thinks you look hot, chicklet,” Audrey opined.

“You know, I take that as a great compliment, you being bisexual and all,” Lydia said.

Audrey laughed and flopped onto the white tapestry couch. “You read that in some rag?”

“That's kind of personal,” Kiley put in quickly.

“As if I care,” Audrey commented. “I was bi before bi was hip, sweets.” She flicked ashes into her cupped palm. “Which team do you play for?”

“Sorry?” Lydia had no idea what Audrey meant.

“You like girls or boys or both?” Audrey asked.

Lydia noticed that Kiley was blushing, which Lydia found sweet. These kinds of questions didn't bother her in the least. The irony was, she was usually the one asking them, not the one being asked. She shrugged. “I love my girlfriends to death, but not like that. I love boys, though. I got started kind of late on account of I used to live in the Amazon, where the guys were five feet tall and had no teeth. So now I'm makin' up for lost time.”

Audrey burst out laughing. “Get out. Are you shitting me?”

Lydia assured the singer that she was definitely not shitting her, and rambled on about her unique upbringing. Audrey seemed to find it fascinating, and kept asking Lydia questions, which Lydia was more than happy to answer.

“Where the hell did you get to?” Platinum said, striding into the room, dead-eyeing Audrey. “I come back from the john and you're gone.”

The superstar wore white jeans, a white tank top, and understated makeup to go with her trademark long, stick-straight, glossy blond hair. Lydia thought she looked well, especially for someone who had spent much of the summer in pretrial detention. Platinum noticed Lydia and gave her a little wave, which Lydia returned. And that was it, as far as getting noticed was concerned.

“I was hanging with your nanny and her friend, sweets,”
Audrey explained, putting out her cigarette on the bottom of her flip-flops. “This girl's fabulous.”

“Flirt later, work now,” Platinum demanded. “We need to fix the harmony on the bridge.”

“Great.” Audrey rose. “Kiley and Lydia can be our first audience.” She crooked a beckoning finger. “Come along, sweets.”

Lydia's cell dinged with a text as Platinum and Audrey led the way to Platinum's home recording studio. She'd check it out later; she was too excited right now. The singers put on earphones and ran the sound through the system so that the instrumental blared from state-of-the-art speakers, and then the two women sang along.

The song that Audrey and Platinum had written was a driving rock-and-roll power number with an infectious, hooky chorus. Lydia could tell it had been inspired by Platinum's experience in the criminal justice system. Come to think of it, Audrey had a little experience in that arena, too.

When you're safe in the arms of justice
Never think you're safe at all
.
Freedom is love, love is freedom
Loving freedom is the best of all…

Lydia found herself bopping her head to the beat, and even humming along to the chorus. As for Platinum and Audrey's voices, they soared and twisted together like two hawks riding the summer thermals above the desert. It sounded as though they'd been singing together their whole lives.

When the song ended, Kiley and Lydia applauded loudly. “That was fantastic, y'all!” Lydia exclaimed.

“I loved it, too,” Kiley agreed.

Platinum nodded. “It was okay. I'm still not happy with the bridge.”

“And the second verse. I want to move around some of the lyrics,” Audrey told her.

“Yeah. And I'm not happy with that 'Loving freedom is the best of all' shit,” Platinum declared.

“I like it. It's kind of Janis Joplin-Bobby McGee-ish,” Audrey mused.

“Needs work, I'm serious,” Platinum insisted. “Kiley, call Mrs. Cleveland, tell her we want cappuccino and a fruit plate.”

“A fruit plate? You mean, like with kiwis and blueberries?”

“As opposed to the ones with steak and ravioli,” Platinum quipped.

Audrey stuck out her tongue. “Bitch.”

“Love you too.” Platinum turned to Kiley. “Add a bloody rare burger with chips for the British bitch over there.”

“And a six-pack. I can't write without beer,” Audrey said. “We'll save other illegal substances until we're done.”

Both superstars laughed. So did Lydia. This was just so cool! Kiley excused herself to give the order to Mrs. Cleveland. Platinum moved over to the white grand piano and noodled some notes. Audrey hung with Lydia, lighting up another cigarette.

“So luscious Lydia,” Audrey began, “I was thinking. Platinum and I are working tonight, but I'm definitely partying tomorrow night. Maybe you and Kiley want to come with? Do some clubbing? I might meet up with some of my industry friends. You know Beck?”

Whoa
. Was this really happening? Had Audrey just asked
her and Kiley to go clubbing with her and Beck? “I'm there,” Lydia declared. “I'm sure Kiley will want to come too. Her boyfriend is leaving tomorrow to do a movie in Russia. We can help take her mind off of it.”

“Audrey? Work?” Platinum demanded from the piano.

“Don't get your knickers in a wad,” Audrey groused. She winked at Lydia. “Tomorrow, then. Get my digits at the hotel and call me.” Audrey moved off to work with Platinum just as Kiley returned from placing the food order.

Lydia beckoned Kiley into the hallway so that they wouldn't disturb the singers. “Audrey just invited us to party with her tomorrow night!” she exclaimed.

“That's nice,” Kiley said.

“Nice?” Lydia echoed incredulously. “It's amazing!”

“You go,” Kiley urged. “I won't be in the mood.”

“Mooning around over Tom,” Lydia guessed. “Well, if you change your mind…”

“I won't,” Kiley said.

Lydia sighed. “Okay. Then let's talk about something really important. Like tomorrow night. What am I gonna wear?”

Kiley laughed at that. Which was exactly what Lydia had intended.

BOOK: Bad to the Bone
8.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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