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By Alice Clayton. You do realize I have seen you naked before, right? Did you actually just say that to a half-naked girl? Seriously, you should know better. I was in the process of trying to get my butt into a new pair of low-rise jeans that were so very, very low, they might have been illegal. She came barreling through the door, stopping short when she saw me struggling on the bed.

I was laid out flat on the sheets in a charming lacy peach bra, halfway in and out of the damn jeans that she had convinced me to buy, even though I knew I was in no way young enough to work them in the way they deserved to be worked. Holly had always had a way of getting me to do things she wanted me to do, under the guise that she knew what was best for me.

And, mother-of-pearl, she was almost always right. Sweet rack, she said, acknowledging my bra. Do I need to get a pair of pliers and pull the zipper up myself? Yes, yes we did. I can see that. Okay, hold your breath, she said, and grabbed the button of my jeans. I pulled with all my might as the zipper finally closed, leaving me breathless. A you go, girl thrill rolled through me, but it could have also been the lack of oxygen from the denim restricting my air supply.

Holly helped me climb off the bed, and I turned to admire the way I looked in these badass jeans, thinking that maybe I could actually pull them off. I still caught myself examining the mirror at times and having to look twice to make sure it was really me.

She saw me checking myself out and chuckled. I would totally fuck you. I smiled back at her as I continued to pose in the mirror. I began to vogue and got to giggling. Grace, settle down. Vogueing is just wrong. She laughed, giving me one last thumbs-up as she left the room. I had recently shed quite a bit of weight. In fact, I was in better shape now than when I was in college. Holly was proud of me and made sure to tell me often. Holly Newman and I met in college.

While we both majored in theater, she knew early on that she preferred the behind-the-scenes world, especially the business side, while I was a major drama queen. The entire time we were in school together, we made plans for when we would conquer the entertainment world. She would have her own agency and manage only the best talent, working with artists who shared a similar creative vision.

I, however, had stars in my eyes and wanted to be famous, famous, god damned famous. She made it out to the coast six months before I did, and when I finally got there, she was already working her way up as a junior agent at one of the major firms in town.

She had a real knack for artist management, knowing when to be tough and when to coddle. She knew when to really fight for her artists and when to lay the groundwork for future projects. The girl was a knockout. I loved L. After about six months, Holly convinced her boss that I should come in for a reading and be considered for representation. I was prepared, I read well, my headshots were flawless. And waited. And then waited some more. Finally, they agreed to take me on if Holly agreed to sign me personally as my sole representation.

She began sending me out on auditions. I auditioned all over that town, and I was damn good. But so was everyone else. The thing is, in L. For all the people who move to L. I became one of those sad sacks—I only lasted in Los Angeles for eighteen months. I limped away, feeling like a failure for the first time in my life. I let the city and the industry beat me. But now I was back. Holly was having a party at her house to celebrate the launch of her new management company and had invited her close friends and several of the actors and actresses she represented.

She had recently left a very high-profile position with a major agency. A few of her clients had chosen to stay with the other agency, but she was so good at crafting a career, particularly with fresh new talent, that many had followed her. Which brings us to the illegal jeans. As a thirty-three-year-old with some preexisting body image issues, I was trying to get into the mind-set I would need to navigate this party in this particular pair of jeans.

I had matched the illegal jeans with a fairly conservative turquoise, cowl-neck tank top and slid my feet into some very nice peep-toe sling-backs. I had great toe cleavage. I was wearing my hair down, which I rarely do, but Holly had banned all my ponytail holders this evening. We had gone that afternoon to get our hair done, and my red hair was a mass of soft curls. That stylist really earned his money, and even I had to admit the curls were shampoo-commercial-worthy.

The party was in full swing, and everyone was having a great time. Because Holly only took on talent she truly wanted to invest herself in, they became her close friends as well. They were always at the house, and her circle had become my circle. I was deep in a discussion with Nick, a screenwriter whom Holly had known for years. Tonight we were knee-deep in the dirty martinis. Extra dirty. He was waiting for an actor to arrive whom Holly had recently begun to represent, an actor who apparently was poised to be the next big thing.

I had yet to meet him, although Nick had admitted he was, and I quote, yummy, scrumptious. Also, his British accent was lovely, to die for, and knock-me-down-and-fuck-me. But no one holds a candle to my Lucas. Someone got scratched. I could feel my face redden instantly.

Holly had a picture of this guy on her computer and had been referring to him as Super-Sexy Scientist Guy for the last month. This was her new client—the next big thing. He had the lead in a movie slated for a fall release that was already generating big buzz in town.

Super-Sexy Scientist Guy gave me a confused and somewhat sheepish grin. Did he know how hot that grin was? I saw you in your movie Her Better Half. Loved it! I also saw your pictures in Entertainment Weekly. Are you living here in L. Are you excited for Time to come out? I turned to Jack. I shook his hand while Nick panted next to me. And you are quite pretty," I added as Jack smiled back at me. Now that my surprised blinders were off, I saw a tall, lean young man who was almost a foot taller than me.

He was wearing faded jeans, a black T-shirt with a gray zip-up jacket, and oh my, were those Doc Martens? He seemed very comfortable in his skin, which, for a second, I imagined pressed up against mine in a tight embrace. I shook my head to clear it a little and saw Holly working her way across the kitchen to greet Jack.

Hello, sweetness. Jack smiled again and Nick swooned. I snorted and Jack winked at me mischievously. Grace is my girl, Holly said. And Nick, well, Nick is necessary," she said teasingly.

Nick feigned annoyance and responded, "Bitch, please. Where are you gonna find another man who will take you to see New Kids on the Block? And go along with the lie that it was work related?


The Unidentified Redhead by Alice Clayton

With some help from her best-friend agent, will that dream become a reality—or at thirty-three, has Grace missed her chance at the big time? Funny, borderline neurotic Grace is perfect in her imperfections, and the sexual chemistry between her and charming yet blissfully unaware Jack is off the charts. With laugh-out-loud dialogue and a super-steamy romance that will get your heart racing, sneaking around in L. Already have an account? Sign in. I remember, sign in.


The Unidentified Redhead




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