Authors: Holly Rayner
Bought For One Night:
The Sheikh’s Offer
By Holly Rayner
Copyright 2016 by Holly Rayner
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part by any means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the explicit written permission of the author.
All characters depicted in this fictional work are consenting adults, of at least eighteen years of age. Any resemblance to persons living or deceased, particular businesses, events, or exact locations are entirely coincidental.
Table Of Contents:
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It was a beautiful spring day. The sun was shining, and a cool breeze wafted over the hills and down into LA. Glittering in front of me, my private pool beckoned as I sipped on a frozen margarita, lounging away another afternoon under the California sun.
It should have been a perfect moment—one of those moments every wannabe actress in this godforsaken city dreams about having. It’s a moment that tells you unconditionally that you’ve made it. But there was no trace of that feeling for me; only a growing dread kept me company, eating away at the perfection of the day.
I tried my best to chase it away with a refreshing swim and a good meal, but it was no use. My anxiety was king and all I could do was obey its every command. All that glittered here was not gold and it was getting harder and harder to ignore.
My mansion was modest by some Hollywood standards, yet it was still one of the largest on the street, formerly owned by some Golden Age starlet whose name I could never remember. I always had to look it up before I had a dinner or wrap party so I could regale my guests with its history, and usually they ate it up. It didn’t really matter what her name was. Soon, I might be joining her in the halls of obscurity, a name for the next It-Girl to forget when she bought this place out from under me.
It was true what they said—Hollywood was a bitch goddess who devoured everyone, and now it was my turn. After a glorious ten-year run in my dream career, it seemed the well was drying up. Twenty-seven years old and apparently I was already washed up.
I knew deep down that it wasn’t true—I had so much more art to devote my energy and passion to. But it didn’t seem like the industry wanted it from me anymore. One minute they adored me, with casting directors knocking down my door; the next, all I was offered were B-list horror movies and cliché TV soap romances.
All of it had changed the minute things with Jack fell apart; that fact was impossible to ignore. I was already in trouble the day I had the audacity to turn 27, because Hollywood is nothing if not predictably sexist. Things took a brutal turn when he left me for a younger girl, and the media took the story and ran with it.
Some people were on my side, sure; plenty of women in the industry had similar experiences to share. But it wasn’t enough, and too many people were eager to congratulate Jack on his girlfriend trade-in abilities, as if they were hoping he’d let them in on his secrets. They wanted to be just like him, with a hot blonde actress ten years his junior as arm candy. It wasn’t long before Jack spread stories about me being the ‘crazy ex-girlfriend’ to solidify that he had done the right thing by cheating on me. He had a bad-boy reputation to maintain, and the more notoriety he gained for doing something shocking, the better for his career.
So he had sacrificed us—me—to that end, and it had worked, with me left alone to clean up the carnage. Every day, it felt like there was less and less to salvage. Even back when I was young and squeezing in auditions between waitressing shifts, I hadn’t felt as hopeless as I did now.
Lounging pool-side didn’t last long. After I finished my margarita, my restless legs forced me up from the davenport and back into the air-conditioned silence of the mansion. I didn’t have any kids or pets to bring life to the place; I didn’t even have a boyfriend to be arguing with over something petty. The house was quiet as a tomb, if much more comfortable.
I put on a comfortable jumpsuit and decided to turn on the TV before my brain consumed itself with worry. I spent day after day pacing around this place, waiting for word from my agent about potential new jobs. And every day, the silence seemed to grow, as did the pile of bills. Without a constant flow of top-tier projects, affording the A-list lifestyle was quickly becoming unsustainable. The public liked to imagine that us movie stars were set for life once we had our first blockbuster hit. Most movie stars I knew would gladly accept that reality. But the truth was, we were just like them—without work, it was ramen for dinner and the threat of the lights not turning on. Add a few zeroes to our salaries, of course, but we were as trapped as anyone if we couldn’t get work.
I had just started to sink into the new cable crime drama all the critics were raving about when I my alarm system detected a car in the driveway. Looking out the window, I frowned as I spotted a black town car. I wasn’t expecting anybody today.
My heart froze up when I recognized my agent, Katherine Murray, getting out of the back seat. She paid the driver and he backed out of the driveway as quickly as he’d come. Seconds later, Katherine was on my doorstep, buzzing the intercom.
Even though she was exactly the person I wanted to hear from, seeing her show up in a hire car instead of her own BMW was a disconcerting sign. I turned off the TV and tossed the remote on the couch. “Jesus,” I muttered to myself. “This can’t be good.”
Instead of answering the intercom, I went straight to the front door to let her in. Katherine smiled up at me, but it was a tight, anxious smile. Her left hand clutched the expensive white leather bag she always carried in a white-knuckled grip.
“Julianne! Hi, sugar plum,” said Katherine. “I’m not bothering you, am I?”
I rolled my eyes. “Gimme a break. Bothering me? You know I’ve just been pacing around here waiting for you.” I stepped back from the door to let her in. “Where’s your car?”
“Oh, nowhere. Jonathan and I have been taking turns, that’s all,” she said lightly.
Jonathan was Katherine’s husband, also an agent, and what she didn’t say was that two married agents sharing a car in this city signaled serious trouble for at least one of them.
I didn’t push any further. It wasn’t like I was in any position to lecture Katherine about hiding the truth of her circumstances. My whole life had become an elaborate show, masking what was going on underneath. Refusing to do interviews while I ‘healed’ from the pain of Jack was acceptable in the industry, at least for a short time. Eventually, though, I would have to break my silence—either by getting back to work on a big project, or speaking about what had happened in an attempt to keep my name on everyone’s mind. I desperately wanted the former.
As usual, Katherine tapped on her kitten heels through the foyer, past the living room, and made a beeline for the enormous kitchen. She took a seat on a barstool at the island where she began to pull files from her neatly organized bag and spread them across the marble countertop.
She waved a finger at me. “You mind pouring me a glass of something?”
“What do you want?”
“Vodka and diet tonic? I’m on a cleanse.”
I served us both a glass of the favorite low-cal drink of all Hollywood women and sat on a stool across from her as she sifted through her files. Katherine was very meticulous in her work; it was part of what attracted me to her when I was starting out. She cared about her clients, and I was glad that even now, that hadn’t changed.
Katherine sipped her drink and took a breath. “Okay, so I have a few offers for you.”
“Wonderful,” I exhaled. “That’s exactly what I wanted to hear from you.”
She tsked slightly. “You’re not going to like some of them, but I figured I should bring them anyway, considering…”
“Considering the state of things,” I finished for her, unable to mask the hint of bitterness in my voice. “I know I’m not in any position to be too choosy about the jobs I get. Let’s get on with the freak show, then.”
Katherine gave me a half-smile and pulled up the first file in its manila folder.
Other Side of the Tracks
, it’s a mid-budget horror movie. You’d be the female lead. The director’s got a bit of a cult following, but your romance or drama crowds aren’t going to give a hoot. Saying that, you’d get to watch Tobey Maguire get his head chopped off.”
I tilted my head a few times, weighing up the decision. “Tempting, but pass,” I said. “I’ve already been killed on screen more than I would like.”
Katherine didn’t argue, but dropped the file on the granite countertop. She picked up the next one. “
Ink and Paper
, a romantic comedy about a New York writer falling for her newspaper editor. Standard will-they-or-won’t-they plotline, no sex scenes, probably some great wardrobe too.”
I perked up. “That doesn’t sound too bad. Who’s doing it? Paramount?”
“Television?” I whined, my excitement dying. “Is this what it’s come to?”
Katherine shrugged. “It should be an easy gig for you, hon. It’s not much money but it’s also not much work—you can do this
Never Been Kissed
garbage in your sleep by now. And you have a built-in audience for it that would follow you to TV.”
“It’s not about wanting an easy gig,” I replied. “I’d have to do ten of those a year just to make the same money I’d make with one major studio movie. There’s no way I’d be able to do that and stay sane; I’d be constantly working.”
“Working on TV for a while would at least keep you relevant, and maybe get you some real movie offers,” Katherine countered.
“Yeah, or maybe I become the literal face of Lifetime and get trapped there forever.”
Katherine let out a sardonic laugh and swirled the ice in her drink. She nodded and put the yellow folder aside. “All right, fair point. You’re right; we don’t want you getting stuck in the TV cesspool. Are we still opposed to the soap opera avenue?”
I gave her a little glare and raised my glass. “Absolutely.”
Another three folders joined the discard pile. Katherine didn’t even bother reading them to me.
“How would you like to play Zac Efron’s mom in a teen comedy?”
I almost choked on my cocktail. “His
? He’s my frickin’ age!”
She sighed and gave me an understanding nod. “I know, but it’s the business, pumpkin. They’ll dress you older and probably do something with makeup and hair to make it seem less ridiculous, and it’ll work for the audience. But his name recognition should help with the paycheck.”
,” I hissed with venom.
Katherine only had one folder left—one she hadn’t bothered to color-code with her usual system. It was odd, as was the way she clutched at it with her hands like she didn’t want to open it.
Sensing some tension, I stood and refilled both our glasses. Sitting down, I gestured to the folder. “So? What’s this last one, let’s get it over with.”
Katherine took a drink and let out a big sigh. “I’m not so sure I want to show you this one, to be honest.”
I was confused. This had never happened before, and Katherine had had no problem introducing me to all manner of unappealing roles in our long time together as actor and agent.
I frowned at her. “What is it, Katherine? Geez, you’re acting like you’re opening Pandora’s Box here.”
“I might be,” she muttered, but I pretended not to hear.
“Just tell me, Katherine. I’m dying for some good news, and so far you haven’t brought me any. What could possibly be in that folder to make my options worse? They want me to play Clint Eastwood’s great aunt?”
The joke didn’t land for Katherine. She sighed again and looked down at the folder. Slowly, she opened the front flap and silently read something to herself as I waited.
“How familiar are you with Al-Dali?” she asked finally.
I shrugged, searching my memory. “The country in the Middle East? Passingly, I guess. I know it’s a popular vacation spot for the super-rich. Why?”
“I received this offer from one of their leaders, Sheikh Zane bin Alaman.”
“One of their royal titles. You could compare it to a prince or a king in a western monarchy.”
sent you a pitch for me?” I repeated, convinced I had missed some huge piece of information.
But Katherine nodded. “Yep, exactly. He has an offer for you…” She cleared her throat. “But it’s not a movie. He wants to hire you for a single night of, um, company. And he’s willing to pay you a million dollars for it.”
The silence was crushed by the sound of my glass hitting the granite countertop with a loud
. Ice and vodka tonic splashed all over the discard pile of folders. I swore and rushed for a kitchen towel to clean up the mess.
“Are you kidding me?” I asked Katherine as I wiped up my spilled drink. “Is this a joke?”
She shook her head slowly. “Not as far as I can tell. I called him myself when the offer came in because I thought the same thing. I thought one of my rivals was playing a prank, or it was a setup from Jack to humiliate you. But it’s vetted. It’s for real. And he definitely has the money. A million bucks is probably chump change he finds in the cushions of his couch.”
I had to grip the counter to steady myself, as my mind was swimming with confusion. “This is unbelievable.”
“It’s the kind of money you wanted,” Katherine reminded me gently. “And for far less work than any production, TV or otherwise.”
“Now, wait a second there. Far less work, but not
work. I’m not a prostitute, Katherine, and that sounds like… like exactly what this is,” I argued, waving my hand at the folder. “This is some
Katherine didn’t have a reply. She waited, and then shrugged. “You asked to hear it. It’s just a night, sweetheart, and it’s a
of money for one night.”
“I’m not a prostitute,” I repeated firmly. “And he might have written ‘company’ in that nice little pitch he drew up, but you and I both know what he’s really asking for. Don’t play dumb with me.”
“I’m not,” Katherine replied with a solemn nod. “And I’m not going to deny that he’s most likely expecting… that.”
Even though a million dollars would go a long way to alleviating the situation that was currently crushing me, I couldn’t convince myself to be okay with the idea. It stuck like a piece of bread in my throat, refusing to be swallowed.
A voice in the back of my head kept repeating Katherine’s words:
it’s just a night.
But I couldn’t make myself say yes.
I shook my head and loosened my grip on the counter, realizing that my fingers hurt. “No, Katherine. Tell Sheikh whatever-his-name-is that I’m not for sale. He may think I’m rock-bottom enough to accept it, but I’m not. Just tell him no. And keep looking for other jobs.”
Katherine nodded. She seemed both disappointed and relieved, which was exactly how I felt. She dropped the folder on top of the rest of the pile. “All right babes, I will. I’ll find you something better.”
“Please do. And don’t tell anyone about that offer,” I implored her. “The vultures in this town would absolutely eat that up.”