Mesmerized

By: Audra Cole & Bella Love-Wins

The Hollywood Tales Series: Brandon, Book 1


A Billionaire Celebrity Romance






Prologue


“He what?” My best friend, Ashley, says. She looks at me wide-eyed.

“He’s not coming,” I repeat. My voice is barely a whisper.

“You mean now, he’s not coming right now? Is he running late?”

“No, Ash, he’s not coming ever. The wedding is off.” I can’t meet her gaze. I look past her shoulder and see the reflection of my wedding dress in the mirror above my dresser. My head is spinning and it’s hard to breathe. I feel like I should say something else, but nothing comes out.

“What? Charity, when did this happen? What happened? Everything was fine at the rehearsal, wasn’t it?”

I nod slowly. “It was after that, after the rehearsal. We argued and he called it off. He said he can’t do it. He can’t marry me.”

I feel tears well up as I replay that line in my head. I can still picture his face and the heartbroken look in his eyes as he said it.

Ashley is silent for a moment and then takes my hand.

“Have you talked to him today? Maybe he just needed time to cool down. You guys have had arguments before. You always work it out.”

“Not this time, Ash. It’s different.”

I start to explain, but there is a knock at the door. Ashley rises from her perch on the edge of my bed and goes to answer it. My heart stops at the hope that it might be Brandon at the door.

It’s not.

It’s my mom with a tray full of cookies and tea. Since learning the news this morning, she hasn’t quite known what to do with herself. She already called all the important people—the florist, caterer, minister, musicians—to cancel everything.

Ashley takes the tray from her. They exchange a few whispered words and then close the door again.

“What did she say?” I ask.

“She’s just worried, wants to know how you’re holding up.”

I nod, trying not to cry again. I wish I could go back in time and figure out what went wrong. Then maybe I would be wearing my wedding dress instead of just staring at it hanging on the wall.





Chapter One


Three years later…



Even with the TV on in the living room, the house seems too quiet. I can hear my slippers scuffing on the floor as I pace back and forth across the kitchen. I stop to take a deep sip from my wine glass and, for once, I wish I was at work. At least when I am at work my brain is busy, and it’s never this quiet.

I am about to go bump up the volume on the TV when there is a knock at the front door.

“Finally.” I breathe a sigh of relief.

“I know, I know, I know. I’m late,” Ashley declares, bursting into the room waving a bunch of shopping bags in the air. “But it’s all for good reason! I brought everything!”

“It looks like you brought a whole department store!” I laugh as I follow her into the living room, where she dumps the bags on my couch.

“I also got this!” She holds up a bottle of wine. “Thought you might need it.”

“Way ahead of ya sister.” I hoist my glass up.

“Oh, you started without me?” Ashley says with a pout.

“Ash, you’re two hours late!” I try to keep the irritation out of my voice. “I took the whole afternoon off because you said you’d be here at two.”

“Okay, okay, I know. I just got caught up on a design, and then this new adhesive I’m trying got all over my work table and it wouldn’t come off with nail polish remover and then I dropped a jar of beads and Maci was trying to eat all the ones not sucked into the glue pool…” Her voice trails off as I start laughing, picturing her giant golden retriever running around eating glue covered beads.

She sighs. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s all right. You’re here now. I’ll probably need a refill soon anyways,” I grin.

“Well then, let me pop this in the fridge. We can crack it open here in a bit. In the meantime…let’s get you ready!”

Ashley gathers up the discarded shopping bags and tromps up the stairs, leading the way to my bedroom, where she tosses everything down in one big heap on my bed. I lower to the bench at the edge of my bed, and watch as she begins to unpack everything. She stacks dresses in one pile and then starts another for skirts, tops, and jackets. While she works, I pull out a bag of jewelry and start picking through the pieces, easily spotting the ones Ashley has designed. I set aside a necklace and the matching earrings, knowing it will make her happy if I wear something from her collection.

“Sooo…how are you feeling about your big date?” Her voice is casual but cautious. She knows it’s a loaded question.

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