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Tall Cool One
An A-List Novel
By Zoey Dean
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New York blueblood Anna Percy came to L.A. to learn how to have a good time. Now she’s surfing Zuma Beach with the industry’s hottest young television producer. But duty calls and Anna must jet down to Las Casitas, Mexico, on a secret mission for her uber-powerful businessman father. But it turns out Anna isn’t the only one staying at the super-luxury resort with a secret. Soon to be a major motion picture from Universal Pictures, The A-List and its bestselling sequels, Girls on Film, Blonde Ambition, and Tall Cool One, are full of page-turning action about the fast times of Beverly Hills’ most beautiful and glamorous people.
Copyright © 2005 by Alloy Entertainment
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Little, Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group, USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
For more of your favorite series, go to www.HachetteBookGroupUSA.com.
First eBook Edition: April 2005
The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Cover design by Marci Senders
Cover photography copyright © Andrea Balena/Photonica
A-List novels by Zoey Dean
GIRLS ON FILM
TALL COOL ONE
BACK IN BLACK
SOME LIKE IT HOT
HEART OF GLASS
If you like THE A-LIST, you may also enjoy:
Bass Ackwards and Belly Up by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain
Secrets of My Hollywood Life by Jen Calonita
Haters by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez
Betwixt by Tara Bray Smith
Poseur by Rachel Maude
For my friends in Aruba
"If I'd observed all the rules I'd never have gotten any where."
Anna Cabot Percy was very good at a wide variety of things: Conjugating irregular French verbs. Putting together the perfect understated outfit. Memorizing the poetry of Emily Dickinson. Ballet. Any and all forms of analytical left-brain thinking. Looking tan and gorgeous in her white racer-back Polo Ralph Lauren bathing suit. So okay. She was not without talents. But as she shivered on her surfboard in the ocean at Zuma Beach, Anna realized that surfing was not going to be one of them.
She felt like a bedraggled, waterlogged wreck. Who knew a person could wipe out so many times in one afternoon?
"You good?" asked her friend Danny Bluestone. He bobbed on his own board a few feet from Anna. Danny was on the short side, but he was still cute and quirky and funny and extremely talented. He and Anna had met on Hermosa Beach—the new hit TV show where he was the youngest writer and Anna had interned. A native Californian, Danny had assured Anna that he could teach her how to surf in a single afternoon.
"I'm great," Anna lied, trying to will herself into a positive mind-set.
"Hey, did I mention the peeing thing?"
"What . . . thing?" Anna asked, refusing to blush. It wasn't easy, though. According to the This Is How We Do Things Big Book (East Coast WASP edition), the apocryphal bible by which she'd been raised, urination was not a bodily function to be discussed in polite company.
"Basically, don't pee in your wet suit," Danny explained. "Gives you a rash from hell. You won't be able to sit down for a week."
"Good to know," Anna replied gamely. But memories of the carafe of Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee she and Danny had shared at the 17th Street Café in Santa Monica three hours ago suddenly became a pressing issue. She willed herself to ignore them. When she'd moved from Manhattan's Upper East Side to Beverly Hills six weeks before, hoping for new adventures, a severe rash in unmentionable regions had not been one of them.
"I learned the hard way," Danny said with a grin. "Anyway, you ready to give it another go?"
Anna nodded with determination. Because that's just the kind of girl she was.
"Perfect. I'll be behind you. We'll pick the wave, I'll help turn your board, you'll paddle like hell, and I'll push you from behind. Then stand up. Hey, take this one!"
Anna saw a decent wave coming her way. Not too big, not too small. She swung her board around so the nose faced the beach and paddled as the wave swept toward her. Then she felt an extra surge as Danny shoved her board from behind.
"Get up!" he yelled.
Anna rose to her feet just like Danny had taught her on the beach—knees bent, left foot ahead, arms spread for balance—she was surfing!
For about a nanosecond.
Then she lost her balance, the board flipped out from under her, and she somersaulted headlong into the breaker.
"Woo-hoo!" shouted a guy on a surfboard who rode past her when she surfaced. "Nice wipeout!"
Humiliating. Even Anna knew it was time to pack it in. Five minutes later she and Danny floated in to shore.
"I think I missed getting the surfing gene," Anna despaired as they carried their boards up onto the beach.
"That's a good thing." Danny cut his eyes at her and smiled.
"Does that remark come with an explanation?"
"Let's just say that female perfection can be highly intimidating. This is our spot. Dig your board in here."
As they pushed the boards into the sand by their woven rattan beach mat, Anna noticed that two long-haired burnouts in crud-encrusted tie-dye shirts had plopped down on their spot without asking. But before Anna could say anything to them, they stood and scuttled away. She was about to tell them to go ahead and use the mats. But after Danny's crack about "female perfection," she was probably better off keeping her inner Mother Teresa . . . inner.
Danny closed his eyes and raised his face to the sun. "Man, I'm glad to be out of the office while it's still daylight."
"You might want some of this for your face." Anna handed him some Clarins 30 UV sunblock for his fair skin.
He nodded, squirted some into his hand, and spread it on his face. "You can't do this in New York in February, that's for sure. What's the temperature there right now?"
"Perfect surfing weather. For polar bears."
Though it was a Saturday afternoon in February, here at Zuma the weather was perfection and the beach crowded. Up and down the sand, sun lovers frolicked with their dogs, tossed Frisbees, played volleyball, built sand castles, and picnicked. Out in the water, there were still dozens of surfers doing their thing. Anna had to agree: Except for her inability to get up on a surfboard, this was about as close to nirvana as real life could get.
Danny reached into the cooler he'd brought and plucked out two bottles of pear-apricot juice. He handed one to Anna. She opened it as she scanned the ocean. A girl surfer had just caught a humongous wave and was riding it with elegant perfection.
Anna cocked her head toward the girl. "What's she got that I haven't got?"
"Me?" Danny quipped.
Anna gave him a confused look.
"I mean not now. But in theory I could probably go chat her up, give her the old 'yeah, I write for a hit TV show' routine, and next thing you know, we're getting our freak on."
Anna playfully swatted his arm. "Very funny."
He shrugged. "Just want you to know what you're missing."
She laughed because he was joking. Sort of. She and Danny had formed a fast bond since they'd met at Hermosa Beach. They'd had some adventures and shared some kisses. She liked him a lot. But in the last few weeks, Anna had come to think that this was a time in her life when it would be best just to focus on herself. After her fling with Ben Birnbaum had flamed out, she didn't want to make things too complicated, too fast.
"We're friends, remember?"
He winced. "The F word—kiss of death." He took a long drink of his juice. "Would it help to mention how hot you look? A tall blonde in a wet suit? Can't beat it."
Then his gaze shifted to a gorgeous redhead who was carrying her board up from the surf line. She was poised and slender and wore a blue wet suit. Her thick red hair glistened in the afternoon sun. "Wow," Danny commented.
Anna knew that the tiny stab of jealousy she felt was utterly ridiculous. After all, she'd just reminded Danny that their relationship was strictly platonic. But men never ceased to amaze her. Danny could flirt with her one minute and "wow" after a complete stranger with great hair the next.
She smiled at him. "You're wasting your time, Danny. You're not her type."
"On the contrary," he replied, "I know her. But I never thought I'd see her here."
Oops. Anna did a mental rewind. Danny's "wow" had been a "wow" of recognition. She took a casual sip of her juice.
Just then the girl noticed Danny and waved. Danny waved back.
"She lives in Santa Barbara. We hooked up at a party in Ojai last summer."
Anna watched the girl, trying to picture her with Danny. "You mean, just for one night?"
He nodded. "You shocked?"
Anna shook her head.
Danny laughed. "Yeah, you are. Because you are the last girl on the planet to go for a hit-and-run."
He took another slug of his drink and patted her hand. The gesture struck her as patronizing, even if what he'd said was true.
"I don't think casual sex is necessarily bad," she insisted.
Danny cocked an eyebrow at her. "Yeah, you do."
"No. I really don't."
"Really. Okay, then. Check out the beach." Danny propped himself up on one elbow. "Point to a hypothetical one-night-stand candidate. Myself included."
"You're my friend; I already know you," Anna pointed out. "So by definition you don't qualify."
"Ever hear of friends with benefits?"
She frowned—he mimed sticking a dagger into his heart, then extracted it. "Just covering my bases. Anyway, it's better when you don't know the person too well. Out of town is primo." Anna took a moment to ruminate on the concept of sex for its own sake.
Danny just chuckled at her. "But don't worry about it, Anna. It's not everyone's style," he said as he pulled on his Ray-Bans and lay down on his mat.
Okay, maybe it hadn't been her style in the past. Back in New York, she hadn't even had the guts to flirt minimally with Scott Spencer—the object of her most intense crush. But that was then, this was now. And from a purely intellectual point of view, she had no problem with mutually consenting people having a mutually satisfying . . . whatever.
Fine. She'd accept Danny's challenge.
Anna stood with new resolve and scanned the crowded beach. Danny was right. There was no lack of local talent. A guy in a Dodgers baseball cap, with a golden six-pack that ended in red surfer jams, was playing catch with his German shepherd. Guys being maternal with their dogs were always a turn-on. Another guy—lean and cut, with multiple tattoos on his arms and a red bandanna—caught her eye as he jogged along the shoreline.
She pictured herself making idle chitchat with one of them and then heading off to . . . where? His car? His apartment? Surely a one-night stand didn't pony up for a night at Ma Maison Sofitel, did he? And the girl wouldn't be the one to pay for such a thing, would she? She was pretty sure this wasn't covered in the Big Book.
"Success?" Danny asked. He was leaning on his elbows, peering up at her.
"Him." Anna pointed to the jogger.
"You like tall guys."
She heard the regret of being five feet, eight inches in his voice and shook her head. "It's really more about the person, Danny. When you get to know someone and they interest you—"
"Ha!" He pointed at her.
She sat next to him again. "What's that mean?"
"You don't want to get to know a one-night stand, Anna. That's the whole point. Face it, you suck at this."
Anna sighed. Maybe she did. Maybe her aptitude for casual sex was right down there with her aptitude for surfing. Then she noticed the redhead from Danny's past parked on a green beach blanket a hundred feet away. She was chatting with two guys, both blond surfer types in black wet suits, and another pretty girl with short, jet-black hair and a maroon wet suit. Four longboards stuck into the sand cast shadows over them.
"What's her name?" Anna asked. "The redhead."
Danny shrugged and reached for another bottle of juice. "I forget."
She winced. "Ouch."
"I'm sure she'd like to think of herself as more memorable than that."
He shrugged again. "Trust me, Anna, some girls don't care. They're in it for the boo-tay just as much as the guy is."
Anna thought about that for a moment.
"So, did you regret it afterward? Sleeping with her?"
"It didn't feel sleazy? Empty? Meaningless?"
Danny wriggled his eyebrows. "That's the fun part."
"She told you that?"
"I'm just being honest. If both people know exactly what the expectations are—"
"Exactly. Then no one gets hurt. Want another juice?"
Anna shook her head and studied the redhead, trying to picture her with Danny. Had they danced, had a few drinks, flirted? Did they end up having sex in the wet sand, with the surf spraying their naked bodies?
God, how cheesy romance novel was that?
But maybe it had been different. Maybe they'd met at the Ojai getaway of Danny's television agent, shared a bottle of Dom Pérignon, and then attacked each other in the agent's overdone bedroom, with a mirror on the ceiling over the bed.
God, that was just as cheesy. But what if instead they'd talked intimately all night, driven back to Danny's place in Santa Monica, and made love as the sun rose?
Made love. But it wasn't love. That was the whole point. Danny was right. She even sucked at imagining a one-night stand.
"Does my hollow and sordid sex life shock you?" Danny teased.
A little, Anna thought. Which was puzzling. She should have been used to it by now. Cynthia Baltres, her best friend back in New York, regaled Anna with her wild exploits and open-door policy with guys of all shapes, sizes, and sartorial leanings.
But she wasn't about to tell Danny that.
"Your sex life couldn't shock me, Danny. Shocking would be me actually getting up on a surfboard."
"Or you having a one-night stand," he shot back.
Maybe he was right. But it really annoyed her that he was so sure of himself.
The R Word
Back on New Year's Eve, the night Anna had first arrived at her father's Beverly Hills mansion, she'd walked in on him with his girlfriend, Margaret Cunningham.
Anna had rarely seen her father since her parents' divorce many years earlier. And she had certainly suffered through her mother's serial boyfriends—mostly young artists of the Eurotrash variety. But it had still been a jawdropper to see her father tangled up with a half-dressed woman she had never seen before. Anna had been so startled that she'd accidentally broken a priceless Ming vase.
Now, as Anna—still gritty from the beach—opened the front door lock of the mansion, a sight shocking enough to shatter the replacement vase, plus every other antique heirloom in the place, greeted her.
It was her father. Jonathan Percy. And her mother. Jane Cabot Percy. Together on the living room couch.
Thankfully, they weren't doing anything more than drinking martinis from crystal stemware and chuckling over some private joke. But not only were Anna's parents divorced, they also—at least as far as Anna knew up until this moment—didn't speak to each other. In fact, they hadn't been in the same room in approximately five years, and the last time they were had been at a Manhattan divorce judge's chambers, flanked by their batteries of high-priced lawyers.
After the divorce, her father had returned to Los Angeles, his birthplace. Anna and her older sister, Susan, had stayed in the Upper East Side Manhattan town house with their mother, end of story. Anna had last seen her mother seven weeks before, when Jane had gone to Florence to visit a twenty-eight-year-old Italian sculptor of whom she'd become a "patron." What that patronage entailed, Anna had never wanted to ask.
But here was her mother, the one and only. In Beverly Hills. In her ex's living room. Drinking martinis.
That part was familiar. So was her mother's patented Jane Cabot Percy outfit: a straight black vintage Chanel skirt that ended just below the knee, a three-ply gray cashmere sweater, and a pearl choker that she had inherited from an eighteenth-century ancestor. Her glossy blond hair was parted down the middle and fell just below her perfect jawline.
"Come in, Anna dear." Jane beckoned, as easily as if they'd had breakfast that morning. She offered Anna her cheek; Anna dutifully kissed it.
"What are you doing here, Mom?" Anna asked, trying to match her mother's even tone. "You're supposed to be in Italy."
"It's a surprise, sweetie," Jonathan explained. "Susan's being released from rehab today."
This was news to Anna. Her older sister wasn't supposed to get out of the world-famous Sierra Vista drug-and-alcohol rehabilitation facility in Arizona until next week. This was her second stint in rehab in as many months—Susan had come to Los Angeles in January after she'd checked herself out of the Hazelden rehab facility in Minnesota. It had only taken a few days before she'd reimmersed herself in her drugs and alcohol of choice, California style.
Finally, after Susan had done an inebriated near-naked dance in an outdoor fountain at a swank Hollywood industry party, Anna had persuaded her to try a different facility.
"Her doctor called yesterday," Jonathan continued. "He described your sister as 'a changed human being.' So I phoned Jane in Italy. She decided to fly in and share a family moment."
Family moment? They weren't a family, and they hadn't had a moment in years.
"The doctor suggested that having us present a united front might be helpful," Jane added. "According to your father, he almost insisted on it, which is really rather rude. But I only want what's best for Susan."
Anna was dubious. Susan and their mother did not get along, to say the least. Meanwhile, relations between Susan and her father ping-ponged between scratchy and disastrous.
"Are you sure this is the best thing?" Anna asked. "It might be kind of . . . intense."
"Nonsense," Jane decreed with divine assurance. "If my elder daughter is clean and sober, I call it a minor miracle I'd like to witness." She sipped her martini and frowned at Anna. "What have you been doing with your hair?"
Anna touched her head. Still wet from the ocean, she felt sand beneath her fingers. "I was at the beach. Surfing."
That got a trout-like rise out of her mother; a slight skyward movement of the eyes. "Surfing?"
"Yes, Mom," she replied. In the olden days—aka almost two months ago in New York—Anna would have wilted under her mother's thinly veiled disapproval. But she wasn't that girl anymore. "Actually, I love surfing. Want to go with me sometime?"
"Interesting," Jane murmured.
"Well, I'm going to take a shower. And get changed." Anna headed for the stairs. "What time do we have to be at LAX?"
"Her flight gets in at seven," Jonathan said.
"We'll leave at six," Jane decided, glancing at her Cartier watch. "Sharp. That's in fifty-seven minutes. I know you tend to run late. You'll be with us?"
Anna gritted her teeth as she headed upstairs to her room.
In her palatial marble bathroom, she turned on the shower and peeled off her grungy clothes. No matter what Susan's shrinks had or hadn't said, Anna knew her sister better than they did: Sending her the Jonathan-and-Jane airport greeting committee was about as helpful to Susan's cause as handing her a Grey Goose and tonic.
Exactly fifty-six minutes later, hair in a ponytail, dressed in Seven jeans, a white Juicy Couture tank top, and a white terry hoodie, Anna returned to the living room. She expected—even hoped—that her new low-key West Coast–style clothes would irk her mother. Jane raised her eyebrows; silent Mother Percy–speak for disapproval. Mission accomplished.
Anna noticed that the crystal martini pitcher was now nearly empty. She doubted the most encouraging way for her parents to reunite with newly sober Susan was with Tanqueray gin and vermouth on their breath.
"Would you like coffee before we go?" Anna asked pointedly.
"You worry too much, Anna," her mother replied tersely. "You always have."
"Your sister has to live in a world where people drink socially," her father added, "even if she can't."
"We can do the drive-through Coffee Bean on the way if ya'll want," a voice drawled from just inside the front door.
Anna turned to see Django Simms, her father's driver and all-around assistant, standing at the hallway entrance to the living room. His short dark hair, tips bleached white-blond, set off perfectly chiseled features; his sexy baritone voice betrayed his southern roots. Django lived on her father's property in a guesthouse just behind the main house. Anna liked him. A lot. He was, in four words, a man of mystery.
She smiled at him. "Great idea."
"I told you, Anna, it's not necessary," her mother insisted. "But thank you, Django. That's a very gracious suggestion."
He tipped an imaginary hat to her—a signature gesture—and glanced at Jonathan. "I've got the Beamer waiting, sir." Then he opened the front door and ushered the family out. As Jonathan and Jane strode to Jonathan's car, he put a gentle hand on Anna's arm. "You turn into a surfer girl today, Miss Anna?" he asked playfully.
"I was terrible," she admitted. "Do you surf?"
"I've been known to catch a wave or two."
"Where'd you learn?"
He flashed an enigmatic smile. "Let's not keep your big sister waiting." He dropped his voice even lower. "Though I don't know that she'll be all that pleased with the greetin' party. "
It was a surprisingly perceptive remark, but Django always surprised her. Like when she'd heard him playing a magnificent concerto on the living room piano. Or when she'd discovered a photograph of him as a boy, wearing a tuxedo and standing by a Steinway grand piano in front of a full symphony orchestra. It was clear that he was the featured soloist at that concert. But Django wouldn't talk about the photograph. He barely talked about himself, ever. Which only made her want to know even more. Why was a guy that musically talented hiding out from the world in a Beverly Hills guesthouse?
Someday, she vowed to find out.
As Anna headed out the front door, she got another Django surprise. A stunningly beautiful woman with auburn hair floating around her shoulders and a model-type build stepped out of Django's guesthouse. She wore a very short black Yamamoto skirt and a velvet Louboutin blouse. Anna recognized the designers, having inherited from her mother an appreciation for exquisitely created clothes.
"Hey, Lisa," Django greeted her warmly. "Meet Anna Percy."
"Hi," Lisa said, barely registering a glance at Anna. "So Django, listen, I'll probably be gone by the time you get back."
"Cool. I'll call you."
"Great." She kissed him on the lips, then headed back to the guesthouse.
"Secret girlfriend?" Anna asked. She just couldn't help herself.
He cocked his head at her. "Just what are you getting at, Miss Anna?"
"Nothing," she answered quickly. "I just didn't know you had a . . . whatever she is."
"She isn't, actually," he said, being his usual enigmatic self. "Except when she happens to be in town and calls me, and I happen to be footloose and fancy free."
- On Sale
- Aug 1, 2008
- Page Count
- 304 pages