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An Invitation to Sin

By:Sarah Morgan

An Invitation to Sin
Sarah Morgan

       CHAPTER ONE


‘ZACH? WHERE THE hell are you? You'd better not bail on me because I  don't think I can do this without you. Any moment now I'm going to give  in and eat carbs and that is going to be the end of this dress. When you  get this message, call me.' The phone almost slipped from her sweaty  palm and Taylor gripped it tightly. It was just a wedding. Just a bunch  of people she didn't care about and who certainly didn't care about her.  It shouldn't be enough to put her in this much of a state. She was only  here because the producer of her latest film had insisted on it.

She tried to take a deep breath but the dress wouldn't allow her chest  to expand. The designer had sewn her into it and then told her to send a  text when she needed a bathroom break.

The Sicilian heat scalded her bare back and Taylor rolled her eyes at  the absurdity of the situation. It was too hot to be sewn into anything  and she'd kill before she allowed someone in the bathroom with her,  which basically meant she couldn't eat or drink. Not that she ate much  anyway. The discipline instilled by her mother at a young age had never  left her. She was used to feeling hungry but lately the cravings had got  worse and she knew it made her irritable. She was likely to snap  someone's head off and if that happened she was going to make sure the  head belonged to the member of the Corretti family responsible for her  current discomfort.

She'd wondered if he'd had done it on purpose. This film was his baby.  He'd probably briefed the designer to make sure no man could remove her  dress and ruin her big comeback.

Zach was going to laugh when he saw her. She'd lived in jeans for so long and he'd never seen this side of her.

She'd stayed away from this for so long she'd forgotten how much she  hated it. She hated the falseness, the agendas hidden behind air kissing  and polished smiles.

Resisting the childlike temptation to bite her nails, she glanced at her  slick manicure and was depressed to see her hand shaking.

She didn't dare hold a glass of champagne. She'd spill her drink on her  dress. Or, worse, on someone else's dress and she knew how that would be  interpreted.

Irritated with herself for caring what people thought, she dropped the phone into her bag.

It was pathetic to be reacting like this about something so trivial. The  past couple of years had taught her what mattered in life. There were  people out there with real problems and hers were all of her own making  and all in the past.

She'd made bad decisions. Trusted people when she shouldn't have done,  but she was a different person now. Given time, she'd prove it.

And that was what today was all about, of course.

She was supposed to prove it.

No mistakes. No spilled drinks, however innocent the reason.

It didn't matter if someone threw oil on the path in front of her, she wasn't allowed to slip.

This was the price she had to pay if she wanted her acting career  back-and she wanted it desperately. Desperately enough to star in the  publicity circus that was part of the job. This was the price she had to  pay for doing what she loved.

The thought had her dragging her phone out of her bag again. ‘Hey,  Zach?' Her voice shook. ‘Just letting you know that the women here are  really hot. Even you can't fail to get laid so hurry up before you miss  your chance. And if that isn't enough to get you here then I can tell  you that I can't pee unless someone removes the stitches from my dress.  You are going to laugh yourself sick when you see me. Call, will you?'

She was frightened by how much she needed him here.

Zach was the one who had encouraged her to follow her dream and return  to acting, but some dreams came with nightmares attached. If She  couldn't cope with this, how was she going to be able to cope with the  attention of being back on a film set? She missed acting, but she didn't  miss this.

‘Taylor!' Santo Corretti, head of the film production company who was  reputed to have slept with every single leading lady of his past five  films, strode towards her across the perfectly manicured grass. ‘You're  late.'

‘I was being sewn into the dress you chose.' She didn't mention that  she'd been outside for half an hour trying to summon the courage to walk  through the gates. That was too embarrassing to admit to anyone. She  was terrified he'd see through her perfectly groomed exterior to the  shivering wreck beneath. ‘In my experience the paparazzi are all the  keener if you make them wait and work for it.'

‘Just remember you're here to promote my film, not yourself. I want  publicity and when I say publicity I mean good publicity. I don't want  anyone raking up your past.'                       
       
           



       

There it was. Just two minutes into a conversation and already the topic was her ‘past.'

There was no escaping it. Her mistakes had been played out so publicly  they were branded into her so that now it was the first thing people  saw, including him.

Her stomach growled a reminder that it was empty. ‘In a wedding packed  full of various members of the Corretti dynasty, I'm sure the press will  have plenty of alternative headline options.' A different version of  Taylor might have found him attractive but these days she avoided  trouble instead of seeking it out. And she especially avoided the type  of trouble that came shaped like a man. She'd learned that lesson and  she'd learned it well.

‘Are you blushing?' His eyes raked her face. ‘Taylor Carmichael, wild  child and sex kitten, able to blush when the situation demands it. I'll  take that as a sign of your acting abilities. And I approve. The public  loves vulnerability. They might even be prepared to excuse your shocking  past.'

‘My past is no one's business but my own.' But it was stuck to her, like  a dirty mark she couldn't rub out. ‘So who do you want me to charm  first?'

‘Weren't you bringing someone?' His eyes scanned the immediate area and Taylor managed to turn clenched teeth into a smile.

‘My friend Zach, but he's been held up.' And she was going to kill him.

‘Just remember your job today is to mingle with the people who matter, not nurture your love life.'

‘Zach isn't-' She stopped in mid-sentence, wishing she'd stayed silent but already he was nodding approval.

‘Good, because your messy love life has no place on my film set.'

‘My love life isn't messy.' She could have told him her love life was non-existent but she didn't.

‘There are two reasons this film is going to pull in a big audience. The  first is because it's my film-' his smile was cool ‘-and the second is  because you're starring in it, Taylor Carmichael. People are going to  pack out movie theatres to see your big comeback because you're a train  wreck and everyone loves ogling a train wreck. If I'm right about you,  they'll leave knowing you can act. Don't screw up.'

Despite the heat, she shivered.

This was what she hated. The press intrusion and studios who believed  they owned her, not just on set, but in every area of her life. As a  young star it had almost broken her, but she wasn't that naive girl any  more.

There was no way she'd let that happen to her again.

There was no way she'd screw it up or let them screw her.

They could fix their damn camera lenses to her ass and they still  wouldn't be able to catch her misbehaving. She was going to be so  perfect the press would die of boredom. She was going to rub that dirty  mark off her image until she shone like silver in sunshine.

‘So who is the most important person here today? Give me a brief.' Brisk  and professional, she was all business despite the fact the dress was  all Hollywood. ‘Who am I supposed to impress?'

‘All of them. Every guest at the wedding is waiting for the chance to  talk to you. Taylor Carmichael, finally back from exile. Everyone wants  to know the details. The grapevine is buzzing.'

‘You've made sure of it.'

‘You're my biggest asset and I know how to use my assets. Don't give them details. No interviews until I say so.'

‘No problem.' She'd pushed her past into a drawer and locked it and she  hadn't opened that drawer for years. The thought that others might be  trying to uncover her secrets made her feel sick and his next words  didn't help dispel that feeling.

‘They'll be persistent. After all, you're the girl who fired her own mother.'

‘I fired my manager. The fact that she was my mother had nothing to do  with it.' But it should have done. It shouldn't have been that easy to  get rid of a mother, should it?

‘People have a morbid fascination with the way you crashed your own life.'

‘Thanks.' The pain rose and she pushed it down again, alone with it as she was always alone.

‘So what have you been doing the past few years?'

Taylor watched as a bee hovered over a flower and then carefully landed on the fragile petals. ‘I was keeping a low profile.'

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