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Kat Parker thought she’d finally escaped being known as the housekeeper’s daughter in the class-obsessed polo town of Wellington, FL. With her first blockbuster screenplay, she’d become the Hollywood It girl-until with one flop suddenly she wasn’t. Heading home is her only option.
Kat knows she can write another hit…if only she can find the right story. What she finds instead is the drop-dead gorgeous celebrity athlete Sebastian Del Campo, who’s just as well known for his tabloid exploits as he is for his prowess on the polo field.
For Sebastian, everything in life has always come easily-wealth, sports, women. But the perennial party life is starting to feel a bit stale. Especially after meeting Kat. Her easy laughter and candid attitude make him aspire to something more meaningful for the first time in his life.
As Sebastian tells Kat stories of his grandmother Victoria, a woman who could be dripping in diamonds one moment and tearing up the polo field the next, Kat’s inspiration fires and soon the pair are back in Hollywood, working on a film together that could make or break both of their careers. And though the chemistry between the two is building, the film’s irresistible star has other ideas…
I first learned to ride a horse when I was four years old and started playing the sport of polo by the time I was nine. Tango was the horse on which I learned to play, and Tango was my first love. I fell in love with the beauty of horses and idolized the strength and bravery of the best players. In my native Argentina, everyone has a chance to go to polo matches and see how thrilling they are. It has been my dream to share the game that I love, the game that has given me so much—as a person and athlete—with the rest of the world.
I think polo is very appealing. After all, there’s a reason Ralph Lauren chose it. There is something undeniably sexy about a man and a horse and the speed and the adrenaline.
It was at a polo match that I met my wife. I was in the stands and she was coming up the stairs, and I looked at her and she looked at me, and we looked at each other. I had to know more, so I asked her cousin Sofia to introduce us and she told me, “That’s funny; she just asked me the same thing.” So the cousin introduced us, and we talked for a little bit. It was the beginning of the summer, and we didn’t see each other for two or three months. After the holiday, we started dating, and we have been together ever since…
I am very excited to present the Polo Season series, which blends my favorite sport with a little bit of romance. Whether you’re already a polo fan or completely new to the game, I hope you will enjoy these characters and their stories.
Katherine Ann Parker looked in the bathroom mirror and carefully applied a layer of dark red lipstick.
And then, just as carefully, she wiped it back off.
Too much. The last thing she wanted was to look like she was desperate.
She dug some ChapStick out of her bag and slicked it on, trying to ignore the Silver Lake hipster breathing behind her, impatiently waiting to wash her hands.
Yes, that was better. And everything else seemed to be working—her black hair, pulled back into a sleek chignon; the crisp white fitted button-down showing just a hint of cleavage; the modest gold hoops in her ears; the dark wash jeans that were tailored just so, the six-inch-heeled ankle boots…
She frowned. She knew her manager, Honey Kimmelman, would nix the boots. As a general rule, the men in Hollywood were short and didn’t like to be reminded of that fact. And Kat was already tall, even without the heels. The boots pushed her up over six feet.
“Well, too damned bad,” she said out loud. “This is a job, not a date.”
“Um, excuse me?” said the hipster.
Kat blinked, embarrassed. She had forgotten she was not alone. “Sorry. Personal pep talk,” she mumbled, and she moved aside so the girl could use the sink.
The girl washed her hands and left, shooting one last quizzical look at Kat as the door swung shut behind her.
Kat lingered at the window, looking out over the panorama of West Hollywood. She sighed dreamily. Even the bathroom at Soho House had an amazing view.
She checked her watch—it was time. She smoothed her hair, almost went for the lipstick again, and then stilled her hand and forced a deep breath. It was just a meeting, she told herself. She’d been to a million meetings. She could do this.
* * *
As Kat eased her way to the back of the restaurant, she made a point of pretending not to notice the multitude of celebrities and A-listers scattered around the private club. Soho House was, above all, discreet. A place where even the biggest stars could have lunch, take meetings, gossip, and relax, and be sure to go unbothered. Kat had reluctantly let her membership lapse when she could no longer afford the annual fees, but she was always happy to come back as a guest.
The movie exec, Dee Yang, rose from her seat, smiling, as Kat approached the table. Dee was younger than Kat, dark haired and pretty, wearing a navy sheath that showed off her toned arms. Kat liked her at once, could see the intelligence written all over face, and recognized her warm smile as genuine.
“Kat, so great to finally meet you,” said Dee as they shook hands. “I’m such a huge fan.”
Kat waved the compliment off, smiling. “Thank you. It’s so good to meet you, too.”
“And this is Steve Meyers,” said Dee as she and Kat sat down. “He’s producing the project.”
A fiftyish man with graying hair, in jeans and a baseball cap, nodded but did not look up from his phone. “Hang on. Just one second,” he said, texting away.
Kat glanced at Dee, who raised her eyebrows apologetically and passed her a menu. “Have you had the burrata?” she said. “I can’t resist it.”
“And ooookay,” said Steve, putting down his phone at last. “Sorry about that. Couldn’t wait.” He gave Kat an obvious head-to-toe once-over before he stuck out his hand. “Nice to meet you, Kay.”
“Kat,” Dee corrected.
“Right, sorry. Kat.”
Kat’s heart sank as she watched his eyes dart right back to his phone. It wasn’t hard to read the room. He didn’t want to be here. Dee had obviously talked him into this meeting. He probably already had someone else lined up for the job.
She forced herself to look at her menu, trying not to let the disappointment show on her face.
“So, Kat,” said Dee, “I notice a little Southern accent. Where are you from?”
Kat smiled. “My folks are originally from Georgia, but I grew up in Wellington, Florida.”
“Wellington?” Steve said, momentarily interested, “I think my first wife went down there once for some expensive thing she had to buy a crazy hat for. Tennis? Cricket?”
“Polo, probably,” said Kat. “Or some other horse-related activity. It’s pretty much all horses all the time in Wellington.”
She could just imagine Steve’s first wife, tan and toned, her face a mask of Botox, taking out her frustrations about her jerk of a husband as she violently stomped divots on the field in her Chanel suit and oversized hat.
“That’s right,” said Steve, “polo. You ride?”
Kat shook her head. “Nope. I am not what you would call a horsey person.”
Steve nodded. His phone pinged. “Oh man, it’s a text from Michael.” His voice sank to a conspiratorial whisper. “You know, Bay. I have to answer this.”
As he turned away from the table, Kat tried to push down a rising wave of annoyance.
“So anyway,” said Dee hurriedly, “I absolutely love Winter’s Passing. It’s one of my all-time favorites. I cry every time I watch it. And you were practically still in school when you made it, right?”
“About a year out,” said Kat.
“It was a crime that it lost the Oscar,” said Dee.
Kat smiled ruefully. “Well, you know what they say, just an honor to be nominated.”
Steve looked up from his phone again, smirking. “But then…Red Hawk.”
Kat felt the smile freeze on her face. “Yes. Red Hawk.”
Steve made a clucking sound with his tongue. “Man, how much money did that one lose? It was some kind of record, wasn’t it?”
Kat met his beady eyes defiantly. “Came this close to making the Guinness book.”
Dee laughed. Steve didn’t even crack a smile.
“Hell of a thing to be remembered for,” he said. “And didn’t you have a fling with Jack Hayes while you were filming? He dumped you right after the box office numbers came in, right?”
Kat fought the urge to stab him with her fork. “Something like that.”
“Well, they should have known better, really. Talk about ruining the source material. I mean, what little boy was going to want to see a girly version of Red Hawk comics?”
Kat stiffened. “And what Hollywood producer is so out of touch that he still thinks a bunch of little boys are driving the box office?”
Steve sniffed. “Yeah, because stunt-casting a female director obviously brought the audience out in droves.”
Kat slowly counted to ten in her head before speaking again. “You know, I made a lot of mistakes on that film, but I’m pretty sure that being born female wasn’t one of them.”
He shook his head. “Shoulda stuck with what you know.”
She cocked her head. “Oh? And what, exactly, do I know?”
“Rom-coms. Princess movies. Fifty Shades of Crap.”
She stared at him. “You’re kidding, right?”
He shrugged and looked back at his phone. “Your movie tanked. That says it all.”
Kat felt her face flush, and some very choice words rose to her lips, but Dee hurriedly interrupted. “But that was all years ago,” she said in a placating tone. “I’m sure you’ve done a ton since then, right?”
Kat took a deep breath and forced herself to turn away from Steve so she could give Dee her usual spiel about having some work in development, about how she was working on a new spec—but before she could even really start, Steve’s phone pinged again.
“Oh, yep, gotta take this one, too,” he interrupted.
That was it. She’d had enough.
She put her hand on his wrist and gave him her sweetest smile. “You know, Steve, I feel like we kind of got off on the wrong foot. Can we start over?”
He looked back at her, suspicious at first, but she just kept smiling until she saw the exact moment when he relaxed and a new kind of interest kindled in his eyes. His gaze slid down to her chest.
Bingo. She licked her lips in anticipation.
“It’s cool,” he finally said. “But I seriously gotta answer this text.”
“Oh, is that Michael Bay again? Are you really friends with him?” Her Southern accent was suddenly thicker.
He smirked. “Played tennis with him just last week.”
She looked up at him from under her lashes. “That is so amazing. I heard he only works with the best. You must be really good at what you do.”
He straightened his shoulders. “I think it’s fair to say that I know what I’m doing.”
“I can see that.” She smiled again, squeezing his arm. “I bet there’s a lot you could teach me.”
He raised his eyebrows. “I bet you’re right.”
She giggled. “Oh, hey, is that the latest iPhone? So neat. Do you mind if I take a look at it for just one little second?”
Steve chuckled. “Haven’t seen it yet, eh? I had my assistant stand in line for twelve hours to get this thing.” He passed it over.
Kat stood up, dropped the phone on the floor, and ground it under her heel.
“What the hell?” yelled Steve, his face going beet red.
Kat looked him in the face. “Oops. I’m so sorry,” she said, deadpan. She stomped down again. “It must have slipped.”
She smiled blissfully as she leaned even harder, enjoying the satisfying crunch of metal against metal.
Sebastian,” giggled the blonde, halfheartedly swatting away his hand, “stop it!”
Seb grinned and splashed her again. “Stop what, Lily?”
The blonde stopped giggling and pouted as she bobbed in the pool. “I’m Jilly, not Lily.”
Sebastian turned to the redhead stretched out on a float next to him, “Then you must be Lily.”
She huffed in protest, wrinkling her little nose. “I’m Amy!”
“Come into the water, Amy.” Sebastian pulled her into the pool with a splash.
“Sebastian!” she cried, pushing her sopping wet hair out of her face, “you are the worst!”
Sebastian grinned. “Indeed I am. Now, should we have a bit more champagne?”
He was just reaching for the bottle sitting by the pool when a pair of boots stepped between him and the wine. The two women looked up and squealed, sinking under the water, trying to cover up their nakedness. Sebastian squinted up into the night.
Sebastian’s older brother, Alejandro, loomed over him like a judgmental Greek statue.
“Perdón,” he said, calmly, “but might I have a word with you in the pool house, Sebastian?”
“Of course,” murmured Sebastian. “Un momento, hermano.”
Alejandro retreated into the pool house, shutting the door behind him.
“Oh my God,” sputtered Jilly as she emerged from under the water, “was that Alejandro Del Campo? Holy shit, he’s even better looking than his Instagram!”
Seb rolled his eyes. “Those are Photoshopped.”
He climbed out of the water, not bothering to put on his clothes, and joined his brother in the pool house. Alejandro looked down at him, shaking his head.
“What can I do for you?” said Seb.
“Well, for one, you could put on some pants,” said Alejandro.
Sebastian shrugged. “Why bother? Did you see those ladies? I’d just have to take them off again. So much work.”
Alejandro’s jaw tightened. “You know, my wife and eight-month-old son are sleeping in the house.”
“Oh, please, they’re all the way in the west wing. They can’t hear a thing. They might as well be in Argentina.”
“And our mother—”
Seb snorted. “She had three glasses of wine with dinner. You and I both know she is sleeping like the dead.”
Alejandro looked upward in frustration and ran his hands through his hair. “And I suppose it’s useless for me to remind you that we have a match tomorrow?”
Sebastian nodded. “We do. So you better get your rest, Capitán. Don’t worry, I’ll do my best to keep things quiet. Though I cannot promise much.” Sebastian winked at his brother. “That Jilly is quite a lively girl.”
Alejandro shook his head, a tired look on his face. “You know, Sebastian,” he said, “what was cute at twenty-two is no longer so charming at thirty-four.”
“Thirty-three,” said Sebastian automatically.
Alejandro shrugged. “I just hope you are fit to play tomorrow,” he said as he turned away. “I would hate to have to pull you off the field.”
Well,” said Honey, “the good news is that Steve Meyers said he wouldn’t press charges if you replaced the phone and apologized.”
Kat struggled with her house key as she balanced her own phone between her ear and shoulder. The lock had been sticking lately. She bumped the door with her hip a couple of times and finally felt it give. “And the bad news is that I didn’t get the job,” she said as she stumbled into the entryway and flipped on the light. “Right?”
“Um, duh, babe. But actually, Dee liked you. She told me that she definitely wants to work with you down the line.”
Kat rolled her eyes as she bent to gather the mail on her floor. “Fat lot of good that does me now.”
“Listen, you never know, okay? Maybe Steve will get caught screwing a studio head’s wife and get thrown out of town. Or maybe Dee will get a promotion and end up running the whole place. The Industry works in mysterious ways.”
Kat sighed in frustration as she sorted through the stack of envelopes and magazines. She needed a job now, not down the line. “What about the rewrite at Paramount? What happened with that?”
“One of the producers hired her boyfriend. Sorry.”
“What about the open call at Fox?”
“Filled by some Diablo Cody wannabe.”
“Well, what about—”
Honey cut her off. “Listen, Kat, what we need—aside from you learning to control your horrible, horrible temper—is a fresh writing sample. Something I can send out wide. A reason for everyone to remember just how good you really are. We gotta get that spec out. How’s it coming? Are you close?”
Kat hesitated for a split second. “Yeah,” she said. “Yeah, I mean, it’s still in first-draft shape, but it’s—you know, coming along. It shouldn’t be too much longer.”
“Great, great. I’m excited to read.”
“But Honey, listen, if anything comes up—directing or writing—even like, you know, a commercial or maybe even a web series—”
“Just put your energy into finishing that script, girl. That’s the key. And try not to break any more phones, okay?”
Kat sat down at her kitchen table and closed her eyes. “Okay. Got it. Will do. Thanks, Honey.”
“Sure, babe. And no worries, okay?” Kat felt a pang of dread at the slight note of defeat in Honey’s voice. “You know this business. Everyone has their ups and downs. I’m sure things will get better soon.”
Kat put her phone down and tried not to cry. She hated lying to Honey, but she couldn’t bear to tell her the truth either. She had abandoned her spec weeks ago. She’d read through the first act (which was as far as she’d written) and admitted to herself what she had known all along—that it was uninspired garbage. The same story she had already told and sold in a dozen different ways without ever getting another movie actually made.
No one wanted another plucky-small-town-girl-makes-good story anymore. And the fact was, Kat was sick of writing them. Especially since the days when she could identify with that kind of character were all but dead, burned, and buried.
She knew she had to start over, find something bigger, more personal, more essential, to write about. But for the first time in her life, she didn’t know where to begin.
Kat hadn’t had paid work for over a year. She had taken meeting after meeting, mining all her contacts, but nothing seemed to stick. She’d plowed through her savings, sure that the next job was just around the corner. Her agent, Jimmy, had stopped calling about three months ago, and now even Honey, who had always been as much a friend as a manager, was beginning to sound defeated. Kat was sure that, if she told her that she had writer’s block, it would be the final straw.
She sighed and began pulling the pins out of her hair, releasing the wild black curls in a halo around her face. She stared at the stack of mail. Bills. Mortgage. Student loans. Overdue credit cards…
She stood up and made herself a pot of coffee. The kitchen was beautiful but depressing. She’d let her housekeeper go last month, and it showed. It smelled like last night’s leftovers. There were two days’ worth of dirty dishes stacked in the sink. Even the things that usually gave her pleasure—the way the golden California light slanted through the big Palladian window above her sink, the brightly colored Talavera tiles on her backsplash, the cheerful robin’s egg blue of her La Cornue stove—couldn’t cheer her up.
In fact, the whole house felt like a rebuke.
Buying a home was one of the first thing she did after signing the contracts for Red Hawk. She’d been living like a college student in a tiny apartment in the valley with a revolving series of roommates, and she wanted to feel like a grown-up. She had a real career now, she reasoned, it was time to have a real home. And everyone assured her it was the thing to do, even at the height of the California real estate boom.
She’d tried to be sensible at first—looking at a sagging fixer upper in Huntington Park, a dark industrial loft in a marginal neighborhood downtown, a ranch house in Studio City that had once been owned by a somewhat famous B-list actor, but now smelled like cats and fifty years of cigarettes…But then, as if sensing her weakness, the Realtor had taken her to see this house, a 1920s three-bedroom Spanish-style cottage, tucked high up in the Hollywood Hills.
Kat had been filled with longing from the moment she walked in. The warm afternoon light poured in through every window and danced over the gleaming pine floors, the thick plaster walls, and the cheerful little beehive fireplace in the sunken living room. She got even more excited when she saw the snug, colorful kitchen with its intricately painted tiles and pretty blue stove. And when she discovered the copper slipper tub in the master bathroom, she almost made an offer on the spot. But it was when she’d walked out back and had been faced with the sparkling infinity pool overlooking the endless view of the city that she finally lost all reason. It was way out of her planned budget, but she had decided to bank on her future success and somehow make it work.
And it had worked for a little while. Jobs were offered, and checks kept coming in, and she’d started accumulating beautiful things to fill her beautiful house. She combed every flea market she stumbled across. Picking out mismatched china and silver flatware piece by intricate piece, never buying even a single fork unless she absolutely loved it, until she had a wild, colorful set big enough to feed twenty people if she wanted to. She sought out copper cookware in every size and shape, loving the substantial feeling of the heavy metal under her hands, the bright-penny look of them lined up on her stove. She drank her coffee from dusky green Wedgewood cups, the bone china so delicate and thin that she could see the shadow of her hand when she raised the cup to the light. She haunted the little boutiques on La Brea, looking for just the right mother-of-pearl inlaid side table, the softest hand-knotted wool rug, a beautifully tarnished silver platter big enough to serve an entire suckling pig if she ever had the need.
She unearthed a perfectly distressed harvest table in the back of a barn in Ojai, worn with the patina of a hundred years of farm wives shelling peas and hulling strawberries on its surface. She worked at an enormous Arts and Crafts desk in her office. It was bursting with pocket drawers, sliding doors, and secret compartments. She had a couch upholstered in yards and yards of the prettiest Liberty of London calico print, and so overstuffed with down that it felt like she had fallen into a cloud whenever she sat upon it. She found local artists she liked and splurged on their paintings and photographs for her walls. She filled her shelves with novels and cookbooks, art books, and biographies. She had a solid silver tea service and a queen-sized bed carved with such intricate designs of birds and roses that Frida Kahlo herself would have been thrilled to sleep on it. She slept under a crazy quilt so beautifully embroidered, it should have been in a museum instead of draped over her at night…
And she didn’t stop with just household stuff. She had a closet stuffed with designer clothes tailored to fit her exactly right. There was a bureau bursting with silk and lace lingerie. She had expensive lotions, vials of perfume, and countless pots and tubes of high-end cosmetics. She never bathed in her slipper tub without dropping in some scented oil or a handful of dried herbs and petals that she had specially mixed for her at a little shop in Silver Lake. Afterward, she would dry herself off with huge, thirsty Egyptian cotton towels and then slip between her antique linen sheets.
These things used to make her feel safe. They made her feel surrounded by treasures so beautiful that they somehow lent their magic to her work and day-to-day life. But now they just made her panic because she had spent, she hadn’t saved, and all she could see around her now were things to lose, things that were slipping from her hands.
Ten years in L.A. and what did she have left? A couple thousand dollars in the bank; this beautiful house full of beautiful things that she could no longer afford; a string of broken relationships; one small, good movie—Winter’s Passing—and one huge, horrendous bomb—Red Hawk.
Red Hawk was the film that was supposed to propel her firmly onto the A-list, to smash the tinsel ceiling for women writer-directors once and for all. A film that, instead, had broken her heart and pretty much ruined her career.
- "Your next summer beach read -- champagne, glamour and riding crops included."—People on High Season
- "Perfect book for the beach."—Library Journal on High Season
- On Sale
- Jun 28, 2016
- Page Count
- 320 pages