Spring Rush | Raven Harbor
BOOK 1 --- OLIVIA
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“Olivia! Olivia! Look over here! Who are you wearing? Olivia, photo! Smile! Gorrrgeous!” Cameras flashed all around her, the light blinding her temporarily, but they were coming straight for her and there was no time to duck. The paparazzi pressed in and enveloped Olivia Sarlin only to shove roughly past, buffeting her as they tore off in rabid pursuit of their actual quarry, the Olivia that tonight's party was really for, the famous Olivia Jade Taylor who was now fleeing in the opposite direction.
As the frenzy of photographers stampeded into the distance, she frantically gasped for breath and let out a feeble squeak. Her panicked heart was beating a hole in her chest, and her head twitched from left to right as she looked around for more clambering hordes. Her once-sleek butterscotch blonde up-do looked more than a little worse for wear, and her sad little press pass was lying, slightly bent, on the pavement at her feet. Sure that she must be relatively safe now, she bent down, swooped it up and BAM! Someone slammed into her from behind, sending her skidding forward – a perilous move in stiletto heels.
“What the freaking hell?”
With her butt in the air, Olivia was still on two feet but barely. Her hand had saved her from diving headfirst onto the pavement, while another pair of hands, his, were firmly grasping her hips. Pushing off from the ground, she straightened her body and shook free. Then she focused her eyes on a tall, dark-haired man with a long-lens camera slung around his neck. Trying to get a better look for the forensic ‘perp’ sketch she would damn-well have done later, Olivia brushed stray hair from her eyes as well some stuck to her pink-glazed lips.
The man wore a ball cap and a two-day scruff of beard which, because she’d forgotten to put in her contacts, made it extra hard for Olivia to get a good look. His large dark sunglasses obscured his eyes completely. Obviously another photographer, a beastly straggler catching up to his herd, had nearly run her down.
“Oh. Sorry,” he said casually, now looking at his camera with concern. Having barely stopped, he turned toward her slightly as he readjusted his ball cap, pushed his sunglasses back up his nose and continued quickly on his way. His gear bag swung past, and Olivia dodged the near miss to her head. With cameras clattering, the man took off running after the rest of the bloody paparazzi.
“Is that all you can say?!” she screeched after him. If she could have shot daggers out of her green eyes at him, she surely would have. “Oh, sorry? Loser! You people are freaking criminals! I hope Olivia Jade Taylor breaks your camera wielding aaasss!” she screamed loudly, her voice cracking as she drew out the ‘a’ in ass.
In her fury, Olivia the lesser-known had stopped feeling rattled. She brushed a little road dust off her damaged press pass. Clasping it firmly, her wind-borne blonde tendrils fluttered behind her as she strode swiftly toward the hotel.
Eden Point was the newest and chicest “boutique” resort on Majic Beach, if not in the whole Raven Harbor area. It was picturesquely perched on a cliff overlooking a private cove with endless ocean views beyond. Olivia had seen a glossy, full-page ad that proclaimed the hotel to be ‘spacious but intimate’, and ‘temple-like’. She’d dismissed it as the sort of hypey magazine-speak publicists always used. But as she passed through the front door, she believed she would testify to that.
Entering the lobby, she was bathed in a glow that suffused every corner. Giant cedar pillars reached all the way up to the vaulted Swarovski crystal-inlaid ceiling. She only knew that because she’d read the feature in this month’s Architectural Digest. But at that moment, she truly felt as if a glamorous aura had been cast upon her by the vaulted-ceiling angels, who obviously lived above and sprinkled diamond-dust upon the mortals below. Its effect on Olivia was refreshing – tranquilizing even. Shocking how much serenity a billion dollars could buy.
The entire hotel had been closed to the public for the evening, the walled grounds tightly secured by local police. She’d heard a rumor that it was also likely federal Special Agents would be prowling around, too, given the presence of a member of the British Royal Family.
Although having been smack dab in the full photographic fray, Olivia hadn't actually seen tonight’s famous guest. So far, the only evidence in view was the two-storey image of the amber-haired celluloid goddess looming before her. At the moment, the famous Ms. Taylor was probably somewhere in a private suite giving interviews, signing autographs and posing for photos with the people rich enough to have bought their way in. They were all in pursuit of her stardust, hoping to get close enough for it to rub off on them.
The movie star was set to emerge at some point during the evening, of course, though Olivia imagined it would be for only the briefest moments. Tonight’s glittery party was to fête the actress’ latest film in the series starring her as a sexy but brutal space superhero. ‘The Sigourney Weaver of the new cinema’, declared the tag line of the poster.
Yet as glamorous as it could be, sadly the night promised a dull drone fest of self-congratulating producers and movie execs. These were the money people, all coming to live their fifteen minute delusion on the podium, as the party people ignored them while gobbling up truffled canapés and swilling Belvedere martinis.
“Perfect timing.” Olivia swept a flute of bubbly from the tray of a passing waiter. This was one of those parties: swag, couture and free booze. Olivia wasn’t wearing couture, nor did she have much hope tonight of scoring any swag, but at least she could drink all the champagne she could get her hands on. Taking the first glass down in just a few quick gulps, Olivia absconded with another as the waiter circled back her way. The inner bubbles had begun to banish her outer jitters. It was time to check out the room.
Olivia took in the hum of the scene of beautiful A-listers and film industry people. Quiet ambient music pulsed in the background. The rear of the lobby was fully open all the way back into the garden, its immense glass windows now hidden in wall pockets. The garden was in full spring blossom, and a glorious floral perfume infused the air. The perimeter of the 400 acre property was walled and gated completely. Only ticketed invitees and accredited press could get anywhere near the grounds. No tickee, no party.
This sort of assembly of the glitterati wasn’t that unusual for this town, small as it was. Raven Harbor was the kind of place where the very wealthy kept their second or third or umpteenth ‘home’; the kind of home they visited once a year, whose staff spent more time in it than they ever would.
With a couple of glasses now down the gullet Olivia was feeling a bit tipsy and, not oddly, more self-composed. Champagne can do that for a person. She looked down and carefully smoothed out her beloved vintage dress. She was pleased to see that it was unscathed and as glistening as the moment she danced with it out of the store. However, on her matching velvet shoes below, she spied a scuff mark and whimpered. They were also vintage, but new to her and fabulously girlie, if not a bit over-the-top. Well, she thought, trying to look on the bright side, I can probably get them fixed and at least they ain’t Manolos. She let loose a soft snort then quickly looked up, hoping no one had heard her.
Olivia stood on her tippy toes and craned her neck trying to relocate the champagne waiter. Teetering precariously on her heels, she swayed unsteadily and then stumbled, breast-first into a muscular, beautifully-dressed arm. Just as she was about to completely lose her balance, the other tailored arm reached out and grasped her strongly, keeping her upright. Only inches away, a pair of ice-blue eyes glanced momentarily into hers, and the beautiful sandy-haired man murmured “Steady on.” Reassured that she was still standing, he smiled, winked and released her, leaving only his cologne to linger on her and Olivia to stare at his magnificent derrière as he walked away. Breathlessly, her mouth hung open. The whole thing had passed by in seconds. It was HIM, and she had not said one word!
Still a bit disoriented and flustered, Olivia spun wobbly around scanning for a place to sit and nearly knocked over someone else.
“Whoa, Olly! What are you, the Tasmanian devil?” It was Kaley Bishop, Olivia’s oldest and bestest friend, business partner and the only person in the world that called her Olly.
“I saw your magnificent tornado impression as I was arriving,” Kaley smirked.
“Ha! You should have been here earlier. I nearly got run over by a group of paparazzi!”
“Oh, you poor thing. No wonder you look like you got in the wrong side of a revolving door. Here, let me.” Kaley reached up and tucked Olivia’s wispy blonde tendrils back in. “There you go, Olly Green Eyes. You, my darling, are now perfect.” Kaley made a kissing sound and smiled at her. “Hey. What do ya call a group of paparazzi anyway?”
“A ‘murder’,” glared Olivia. “They were absolutely brutal. The worst was this idiot who slammed right into me from behind. I nearly landed on my head!”
“Ooh. From behind, huh?” Kaley grinned slyly, raising one eyebrow. Kaley’s imagination could reliably be found hanging out in the usual gutter.
“I’m serious, Kaley! Those paparazzi reptiles are vile. I can’t understand how Olivia Taylor can deal with it. As glamorous as it might seem, when I am rich I do not want to be famous.”
“Darling you don’t need famous when you are notorious. You do look gorgeous though, and that hottie you nearly leveled was a fabulous choice of someone to take out your revenge on. Good one! Did you get a feel? Grab his parts at least?” If she hadn’t been so embarrassed by the whole thing, Olivia would have laughed at that one. In truth, she was mortified and so disappointed in herself.
“Oh, Kaley, I completely screwed up the whole thing! That hunk I just about wiped out was Tyson Baldwin. That was him!”
“That’s him?” asked Kaley, her eyes widening. “Wow. He is definitely steaming hot. I hope he grabbed your parts then.”
Tyson Baldwin was the main reason Olivia wanted to come to the party tonight, though when she was talking Kaley into going tonight, she’d told her it would be good for their business. Now, with her hopes for a great first impression shredded and buried, she might as well forget about ever getting near him again.
“You did seem a somewhat over-avid about this event tonight but I get it now. Just think, though. You made an impression he will never forget. And you look gorgeous. So what are you worried about?”
Olivia did look fabulous tonight. Her dress was a vintage aquamarine bias-cut, floor-skimming satin sheath that caressed her curvaceous physique, perfectly highlighting all the right contours. She’d bought it especially for the occasion and thought it looked like a dress out of a movie from the 1930s. Very Jean Harlow. In it she was an undeniable head-turner.
Regardless, this was Tyson Baldwin she was talking about, beautiful dress or no. He was not only gorgeous but successful, single and currently the object of her most lurid fantasies. All she had wanted to do tonight was introduce herself, give him her number, and maybe follow him into a dark corner where he would kiss her. That was how her fantasy went anyhow. Now, he probably thought she was some klutzy, crazed idiot who’d tried to grope him. If she went near him again, he’d probably get a restraining order.
Olivia looked around the lobby and saw all the young beautiful women. Any one of them could be his date and the one he would be making out with tonight. She felt a pout coming on.
Poised next to Olivia, Kaley provided contrast. Olivia was sleek, soft, flaxen-haired girlieness. Kaley was a canvas of her own making – a work-in-progress of one of the world’s most sought-after tattoo artists. Tonight her ever-morphing hair was gleaming, black and poker straight. It was shaved slightly higher on one side and then cascaded asymmetrically to her opposite shoulder. She was tall, with perfect skin and bewitching celadon-gray eyes and was always meeting people who thought they had ‘discovered’ her. She’d had a brief stint as a runway model at 16 but quickly came to hate it. She couldn’t handle the BS and couldn’t drop it fast enough.
Kaley now stood with her arms crossed, one hand holding a flute of champagne and a pinky finger aimed at the gleaming two-storey image hanging before them. “Why do famous people use three names? It is so freakin’ pretentious.” Kaley was referring to tonight’s special honoree, the actress Olivia Jade Taylor. “You gotta admit, though. Juicy is beautiful.”
Kaley had cheekily nicknamed the famous Olivia ‘Juicy’, in reference to her first initials O.J. Nicknaming was a bit of a hobby with her. She had a natural disdain for celebrities and ‘position’ in general. Her parents had always nauseatingly paraded their coveted standing on the social register. Even before she could talk, Kaley understood the language they spoke and listening to it was like chewing Styrofoam. One chew, one squeak, and it sent her shuddering. Her whole life she felt like she had been dropped among them, like poor Harry Potter must have felt landing among the Dursleys. Rejecting their rules always, she had written and lived by her own.
“Just remember, Kaley, Ms. Taylor has done fundraisers for PETA and, even though we haven’t a hope in hell of talking to her tonight, maybe one day not too far down the road we can ask her to help us.”
Olivia was demonstratively opinionated about most things in life to the point of freely sharing her view with anyone in her path, whether they wanted to hear about it or not. However, when it came to the things most important to her, she tried hard to keep a level head, and that included their animal rescue charity.
Olivia and Kaley had talked about starting one ever since junior high. Now, three years after founding the charity, it already had a pretty high profile and took in substantial donations. Even though they didn’t have their own building for it, they used the money they raised to support others across the country. It was really still just fledgling charity; there was so much to do. But they had big dreams, and people like Olivia Jade Taylor could make all the difference.
“Let’s go upstairs,” said Kaley. “I’m feeling overwhelmed by her hugeness. Maybe Juicy is doing shots in the mezzanine and you can talk to her. Plus I need to tell to you about something, and it’s too noisy down here.”
Kaley and the ‘regular’ Olivia weren’t actually officially invitees at all this evening. One of Kaley’s friends – she knew everybody – worked for the actress’s publicity firm. They’d had a conflicting event, so Olivia became Kaley’s ‘plus one’. Even so, with Kaley’s connections they probably could have just crashed the party without any fuss at all.
Kaley Bishop and Olivia Sarlin had been best friends since they were 13 years old and were as unalike now as they were back then. Whereas Kaley was queen social butterfly to her core, Olivia had few close friends and was very much a loner. But she was rarely lonely. Kaley always said it was because she had a ‘rich inner life’. Olivia agreed with her but preferred to describe herself as ‘self-sufficient’. The other way made her sound delusional.
Kaley had ‘uptown’ written all over her pedigree but her soul was a pure free-spirit. She’d always had a talent for being wily and resourceful, and she found the private school and gated lifestyle of her family stifling and oppressive. When she was a kid and things had started getting really tense between her parents, the decision was made to board her at the private Barkley Academy for Young Ladies in the city.
But Kaley never went. Instead, she signed herself up for eighth grade at Olivia’s public school in Hassett and for years covered up her real family’s identity. She’d forged her parents’ signatures on the consent form and circumvented the many personal assistants and staff that worked for her family. Her parents never even noticed until the beginning of sophomore year, when she missed intercepting a letter that had come from Barkley Academy demanding that Kaley either attend or withdraw.
By then her parents were divorcing and too wrapped up in their own shallow dramas to trouble too much over it. Her father was moving out. Her mother had retreated to Venezuela to a plastic surgery clinic and spa, where she met Fernando the masseur, whom she married soon after the divorce was final. Her father went off on an instant spree of arm candy – ‘the trinklets’, as Kaley called them – each one younger and more vapid than the next.
Kaley stayed on at high school in Hassett until graduation, continually and successfully rejecting her parent’s attempts to insert their control over her. They were never very good adversaries. With Kaley they didn't stand a chance. Refusing to be driven to school in the limo, she commuted by herself on the train staying often with Olivia’s family on weekends and summer vacation. She spent a lot of time with Olivia and her mom in Raven Harbor and at Majic Beach and even occasionally out on the cape with Olivia’s grandparents. To this day, Olivia’s mom Daylene Sarlin had yet to physically meet the Bishops.
Olivia and Kaley climbed the curving staircase to the upper mezzanine. Kaley was striking in a black leather jacket and sheer pants over the skimpiest of underwear that exposed her long shapely legs and provided a partial glimpse of the tattoo on her right butt cheek. Climbing the stairs behind her, Olivia tugged at Kaley’s pant leg.
“Olly, your fantasy man might see you with your hand on my ass and get the wrong idea.”
“Oh shut up. I am trying to tell you that I think I saw the judge from that singing show going down the stairs we came just up.”
“Ooh, that’s exciting. I hear he’s single again.”
Olivia scrunched up her face and stuck out her tongue. Kaley had a lot of celebrity friends, and for her it was no big deal. It wouldn't be surprising if she actually knew that judge. But Olivia was always star struck. One summer in senior high she’d told Kaley she’d seen a famous 70s rockstar at Renfrew Bluff – as uncharacteristic as it was for Olivia to have been at a nude beach in the first place. But because she had always needed glasses and was forever too vain to wear them, it could very well have been anyone. Kaley had reminded her that people generally don’t wear clothing at nude beaches, and that the guy would have been 23 back in 1976 (if it indeed was him). So it might have been kinder she hadn't seen him clearly.
The mezzanine had restricted access and was wall-to-wall with the hippest of tonight’s party guests, their designer-clad bodies freely mingling out of the public eye. In the shadows were famous musicians and their model girlfriends. The DJ was spinning club remixes of the actress’s latest movie soundtrack, and Kaley was just beginning to party. “I think it’s time for a serious drink. Olly?” Olivia shook her head. Her glass was still almost full.
“Ok, I’ll be right back, but do me a favor. If that TV judge guy comes back up the stairs, please don’t audition,” Kaley snickered. Olivia swatted at her vainly, then watched as a near human-chain of people reached out to touch her friend as she went, all seeking her acknowledgement.
When Kaley returned to the spot she had left her, Olivia was nowhere to be seen.
“Kaley!” Olivia called out loudly, craning her neck to see past the crowd who had all turned to follow her gaze. Self-consciously, she slunk down and pointed to the balcony. “Tyy-ss-onn.” She was now silently mouthing her words and then crooked her finger at Kaley. “Come on!”
Since the champagne sherpa had been by repeatedly, the sharpness of the earlier events of the evening had fuzzed into the background of Olivia’s memory. With renewed daring she shimmied her way through the crowd in Tyson’s direction, his sandy-blonde hair guiding her in like a runway beacon. Close behind, Kaley threaded her way through a conglomeration of trust funders – the ‘cash flow surfers’, she called them. Olivia was an unwelcome interloper, and as she blew past them their faces sneered at her. Kaley smirked and rolled her eyes watching their reaction. Their frosty demeanor was matched perfectly by the chill of their diamond-weighted extremities.
Bent slightly forward with his back to the room, he leaned with his hands on the balcony railing looking off into the lobby below. His jacket’s rear pleat splayed open, the perfect frame for the one of the objects Olivia frequently fantasized about. There it was, in all its peachy glory, the exquisite derrière of Tyson Baldwin.
Olivia stood like a mannequin, both panicked and thrilled at the same time. Then she took a deep breath and gave herself a quick shake. She was just about to walk the remaining 10 feet separating her from the man of her fantasies, when another man cut her off and beat her to him. Sighing and deflated, her heart sunk to her feet which remained stopped in their tracks.
The man now talking to Tyson was tall, and quite out of place wearing tight blue jeans and white t-shirt. But Olivia was appreciating his muscular build and admiring his dark brown, tousled locks that fell in long finger curls to his shoulders. Bedroom hair, she imagined. Yet, there was something familiar about him, and she didn't know why.
The two were obviously good friends, embracing in that backslapping guy way. Tyson and the man were sharing a joke. As she was squinting to see better his dark-haired friend, who was laughing loudly now, turned her way. Olivia scowled and her mouth dropped open as she let out an involuntary shriek.
“You!” Completely forgetting what she had been about to do just a minute before, Olivia walked right up to him. “You nearly ran me down, you big oaf!” She was about to launch into a trademark hissy fit. The man stepped back slightly in an attempt to avoid her full affront, but Olivia closed in on him and glared.
The dark-haired man’s face opened into a brilliant smile. “Well, we meet again. Look, I’m really sorry, Miss. I didn't mean to bump into you outside but you were in my way. I have to be fast on my feet for that kind of work, and I didn't see you all bent over. It’s nothing personal.” The man took her gently by the shoulders and looked into her eyes with concern. “You look like you’re all ok, though. Right?”
Meet again? As Olivia took a breath for her next onslaught, the man commandingly held up one palm toward her and turned back to Tyson.
“Hey, Tyson, I have to run to my next shoot but I’ll call you next week. It was great to see you.” The man turned back, fixed his eyes again on Olivia and took a good look. He smiled, moved his head in close to hers and wished her a quiet “good luck.” Then as before, he walked away.
Practically catatonic and frozen in place, all she could do was watch him leave. Feeling naked and infuriated with herself, she could only stare dumbly after him.