“I’m his obsession… His one weakness. Now his enemies are dying to exploit it …”
Jake Dalton is shooting a new movie. He needs an assistant. With no experience, except a smart mouth and a cool head, Charlie Winters accepts straightaway. Jake’s a cold-hearted bastard – handsome, arrogant, a real heartbreaker – but she can handle him, right? Charlie’s been running from her past all her life but now, at twenty-two, she’s determined to crash headfirst into something.
Jake’s the King of LA, the president of a Hollywood empire, yet he’s consumed by a darkness of his own design. What is it about Charlie that keeps smashing through his defences? In turn, Charlie finds herself drawn to a man as damaged as her.
But soon there are too many outside forces tearing them apart, like the dark family secrets he refuses to share and a beautiful ex who won’t leave him alone. When an enemy’s quest for revenge spirals them into danger, Charlie risks paying the ultimate price for falling in love with Jake Dalton.
Read on for an exclusive excerpt of Chapter One…
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“May I speak to Charlotte Winters, please?”
“Charlie,” I mutter, my voice sounding two octaves lower than it should. “Everyone calls me Charlie, except at this time in the morning.”
There’s a cough on the line. A clearing of the throat. It’s a sharp, ugly sound that yanks me further from my sleep.
“I couldn’t care less what the time is, Miss Winters,” comes the snooty reply. “Did you or did you not send your CV into Global Studios last week? We’re an assistant down and our new movie starts shooting on Monday. I need someone to fly out to location as soon as possible.”
She’s female, that much I can gather, and brusque. Super brusque. In my head she’s a neat suit with a subtle grey pinstripe, four-inch courts and a pair of black-rimmed Chanel glasses balancing on the bridge of a slim, brown, blade of a nose. I bet she has her legs crossed as well…
“Miss Winters? Miss Charlie Winters? Are you taking any of this in?”
Not really. Not before my morning coffee anyway. I glance at the window at the foot of my bed. The street lamps outside are still bruising the edges of my curtains with their fuzzy, amber glow.
“Your flight departs at 3pm this afternoon.”
Now she has my full attention. “This afternoon? But there must be some mistake!”
“No mistake. We need you there for when Jake Dalton arrives. You’ll be working directly for him.”
Her words are like the rat-a-tat-tat of machinegun fire spewing information at me. Jake Dalton. Top movie producer. Tough, uncompromising and complete hell to work for, or so says my flat mate, Lucy. She’s my oracle when it comes to all things A-list and luminary. I don’t tend to take notice of who’s screwing who in Hollywood but even I have heard of Jake Dalton.
“This is crazy. Where am I meant to be flying to?” I can feel a hot, ugly blush creeping over my chest and neck now, staining my skin and illuminating my freckles.
“Morocco. Do you need a taxi to Heathrow or can you make your own way there?”
“Oh. I… I’ll make my own way,” I say, thinking fast. Why change the habit of a lifetime?
Satisfied with this, the woman starts reeling off a list of insurance requirements as I catch a glimpse of myself in the vanity mirror opposite. I’m a slim, slumberous vision in a crumpled white t-shirt and long, unruly dark hair that’s sprawled across my face like a lazy teenager. My mind flitters to my mother. She’s going to be furious about this. Normal things like jobs don’t feature in her grand plans for me. She’ll only be happy when i’m married off to some rich man to justify her own choices in life.
“I’ll finalise the details right away,” says the woman, interrupting my thoughts. “And then i’ll give Rachel a call to let her know what flight you’ll be on. She’s holding the fort until you arrive. She’ll send someone out to pick you up from the airport.”
“She will? Who’s Rachel again?”
“Jake’s production manager. Now I really must–”
“Wait!” Her eagerness to get rid of me is spiraling me into a panic. “Will the driver have a name board or–?”
“I’ll text you the E-Ticket reference number shortly. You’ll be connecting with a flight down to Erizo when you reach Casablanca. It’s a small town in the middle of the Sahara Desert. Good luck, Charlie,” she adds quietly. “I think you’re going to need it.”
There’s a click and then she’s gone.
“She said what?”
Lucy has thrown off her duvet and is gazing at me in shock. She looks like a crumpled pixie with her flashing blue eyes and her short, blonde hair all prickly with sleep. “What the hell is this woman thinking? No offence, Charlie, but you haven’t a clue about the movie industry. And why the hell are you telling me all this at 4:20 in the morning?”
That’s the thing about Lucy, there’s no sugarcoating with her. Thanks to my stepfather’s chequebook I have a long history of impeccable academic achievements, none of which are remotely linked to filmmaking.
“It’s a good opportunity,” I argue, navigating my way through a minefield of dirty clothes and empty DVD cases to reach her bedside. “I’m twenty-two. So far i’ve nothing to show for it except an unhealthy fixation with parental avoidance. Anyway, i’m only his assistant.”
“But Jake Dalton’s the devil! The stories i’ve heard about him.”
Lucy’s a celebrity journalist so she would know. She’s also the most opinionated woman on the face of the planet. I’m no pushover myself, and I usually value those opinions, except when my instincts are screaming at me to get on that plane and jump-start my life.
“I can handle Jake Dalton,” I scoff, but we both know that’s bullshit. My track record with men in general is pretty grim.
“I see. Do you even know what he looks like?”
“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“That’s a no.” She picks up a magazine from the floor and tosses it at me. I catch it easily with one hand. “Turn to page ten.”
I do as she says but only to shut her up. I glance down at the article and accompanying photograph and prepare to shoot my indifference back at her. And then I pause… because there’s something really unnerving about the way Jake Dalton is staring down the camera lens like it’s the barrel of a gun.
“So?” I shrug, chucking it back at her. “He’s attractive. Doesn’t mean anything.”
“Attractive?” Lucy looks at me in amazement. “That’s an understatement if ever i’ve heard one.”
“Here, give it back to me.” I study the picture in the magazine again. Jake’s expression is bleak, his heavy brows are fused together in a frown but his dark eyes are seriously seductive. Ok, ok, so he’s got my attention. “What’s his story anyway?”
“He’s the biggest movie producer in the world but his dad’s just died so he’s chucking it all in after this film shoot.”
“To do what?” I say, trying not to smirk. “Start a paper round?”
“To take over his father’s legacy, as President of the Hollywood media empire, Global Studios. You know, the folks who just employed you?”
Lucy shakes her head at me. “He’s a game player, Charlie. He’ll screw with your mind. These entitled men always do. He’s rich, ruthless…” she trails off and fixes me with troubled eyes. “Do you really want to work for someone like that after everything that happened with your father?”
“I don’t want to talk about my father!” Low blow, Lucy. Low blow.
“Sorry,” she mutters. Then she stops and studies me for a moment. “Damn. You’ve got that weird look on your face again.”
“You know the one. It’s the Charlie Winters’ special. It tells me you’re not going to listen to a single word of reason.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
But she’s not fooled. Not for a second. She knows I never shy away from a challenge, not even when they’re six-foot-two of hot-tempered Hollywood Royalty…