Home > Star Bright (Starstruck #1)

Star Bright (Starstruck #1)
Author: Susannah Nix

 

One

 

 

“How about a rom-com?”

Kimberleigh Cress looked up from tying her shoelaces and scowled at her assistant. “No way. Pass.”

“Why do you hate rom-coms so much?” Luna shook her head as she shifted aside the stack of scripts she’d been pawing through. There were scripts piled all around her on Kimberleigh’s couch and covering the surface of the coffee table, sorted by some mystifying system that only Luna understood. Her eyes glinted with wry humor as they lifted to her boss. “Is it because your heart is a shriveled husk of dark matter that’s incapable of either absorbing or emitting light and therefore impossible for most humans to detect?”

In addition to being her assistant, Luna Marquez was one of a very small group of people who Kimberleigh trusted enough to consider a friend. They’d been friends for years before Kimberleigh started making enough money to hire her as her assistant, which meant Luna felt free to shit-talk her to her face.

Some people might consider that a downside of having a friend in your employ, but Kimberleigh had always considered it a bonus. There were enough people in her life devoted to kissing her ass and fawning over her. She liked having someone around who wasn’t afraid to piss her off by telling the truth.

“I don’t hate rom-coms,” Kimberleigh said, suppressing the urge to smile. “I just don’t want to be in one.”

“Sure.” Luna nodded, tucking a strand of raven hair behind her ear as she reached for another stack of scripts. “Who wouldn’t want to be part of the magical formula of romance and comedy joined together in a cinematic perfect storm of happiness? Oh, that’s right—” She directed a raised eyebrow at Kimberleigh. “You.”

“Name the last rom-com you saw in a theater.”

Luna scratched her head, frowning as she thought about it.

“I rest my case,” Kimberleigh said.

Luna licked her finger and flipped through the next script on the stack. “I’m telling you, rom-coms are about to make a comeback. I’ve seen at least two dozen in here, which is more than you’ve ever gotten before. Everything’s a cycle, right? You could lead the new rom-com boom.”

“Do you know what the shelf life is for actresses who get pigeonholed into rom-coms?” Kimberleigh shook her head as she adjusted her boobs inside her sports bra. “I’m practically too old already.”

Luna rolled her eyes. “Whatevs.”

To the rest of the world, Kimberleigh Cress, one of Hollywood’s hottest young actresses and star of the smash hit Otherwhere franchise, was a mere twenty-two years old. But Luna was privy to all of Kimberleigh’s secrets, including her real name, Leah Krasny, and the fact that she was actually twenty-seven.

“I need to take on some roles that aren’t about my looks.” She’d gotten famous by playing teenagers, but she needed to move into adult roles, and she needed to do it strategically in order to maximize her career longevity. Lying about her age had bought her an extra five years, but those five years would be gone in the blink of an eye.

“This is the movie biz, my dude. There’s no such thing.”

Kimberleigh stood up and dropped into a hip flexor stretch. “You know what I mean. A part with weight to it where I can stretch myself and do some real acting. I have to remind people there’s more to me than a pretty face and a pair of perky tits shoved into a tight costume.”

She didn’t just want to be the next Emma Stone or Jennifer Lawrence. She wanted to be the next Charlize Theron or Amy Adams—someone who was still landing primo roles well into her forties and hopefully beyond.

At Luna’s uncharacteristic silence, Kimberleigh turned her head and caught her friend frowning at her. “What?”

“Are you sure you should be doing this run today?”

“I’m fine.”

“You just got back from three weeks of nonstop press tour appearances immediately after wrapping up a brutal four-month shoot in London. You’re jet-lagged, peopled out, and I’ll bet you haven’t slept more than ten hours total over the last three days. You are definitely not fine. I think you should bail.”

Kimberleigh shook her head as she switched legs to stretch her other hip. “It’s for charity. Bailing is a bad look.”

“We’ll tell them you strained your Achilles tendon or something. It’s no big deal.”

“It’s a leisurely three-mile jog along the beach, not an Ironman triathlon.” Kneeling on the floor, Kimberleigh pushed herself up into downward-facing dog to stretch her calves. “It’ll be relaxing.”

“Yeah, just you and a few thousand strangers all crushed together and running in a giant pack while a nonzero number of them try to creep on you. Sounds super relaxing.”

“It’s not that bad. And I’ll have Syed with me.”

Syed was part of Kimberleigh’s security team. She didn’t always take bodyguards when she ventured out in public, but given the crowd expected at the run today, her trusted assistant had insisted on it.

Luna chewed on her lip, clearly not mollified. “At least skip the afterparty tonight. You don’t need the hassle of doing full hair and makeup after the race so you can stand around in heels and Spanx making small talk all night. Come home and change into pajamas instead. Go to bed early. Get some actual sleep for a change.”

Sitting back on her heels, Kimberleigh directed a resolute look at her friend. “People paid a lot of money for tickets to this gala so they could socialize with celebrities. I made a commitment to attend and I plan to honor it.”

She’d acquired a reputation for being chilly and unapproachable, which didn’t ordinarily bother her. It could be useful, especially as a young, attractive woman, for people to be a little afraid of her. But she couldn’t afford to be seen as unprofessional on top of that. That would get her labeled as difficult, which was the kiss of death for a woman.

In order to earn her perceived arrogance, Kimberleigh needed to be flawless. Reliable. Unimpeachable. So she didn’t flake on her commitments. Ever.

Luna arched an eyebrow. “You realize that ballroom will be crawling with fans trying to get a piece of you?”

“I’ll only venture out of the VIP area long enough to give a few hugs and pose for a few selfies before making an early exit.” The doorbell rang, and Kimberleigh tossed an eye roll over her shoulder as she went to let Syed in. “Stop worrying about me, Mom. It’ll be fine.”

 

 

Nothing said Christmas in LA like a run along the beach with three thousand people wearing Santa hats and battery-operated twinkle lights. It was sunny and sixty degrees in Santa Monica on the late December day chosen for the Tinsel & Tatas 5K, perfect weather for a little exercise in the great outdoors.

Unfortunately, Luna might have been right about Kimberleigh pushing herself too hard lately. She hadn’t been sleeping well—but then when did she ever?—and the nonstop travel, interviews, photo calls, and press junkets of the last few weeks had taken a lot out of her. Possibly more than she’d appreciated. It probably didn’t help that she’d skipped breakfast this morning as well.

Kimberleigh chose to blame low blood sugar for the unexpected dizziness and nausea she began experiencing in the last half mile of the race.

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