Hot Mess (Chloe Gamble)

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9781416954378: Hot Mess (Chloe Gamble)

The final book in the rags-to-riches-to-rags trilogy that reads like an E! True Hollywood Story.

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About the Author:

Ed Decter is a producer, director, and writer. Along with his writing partner John J. Strauss, Ed wrote There's Something about Mary, The Lizzie McGuire Movie, The Santa Clause 2 and The Santa Clause 3 as well as many other screenplays. During his years in show business Ed has auditioned, hired, and fired thousands of actors and actresses just like Chloe Gamble. Ed lives in Los Angeles with his family.

Laura J. Burns has written more than thirty books for teens and kids, and hopes to write at least thirty more. She lives in California with her husband and kids.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

chapter one

Police Report, July 5

Interview with Nika Mays of 8455 Fountain Ave., West Hollywood. Employed by the Virtuoso Artists Agency. Detective Matt Lopez interrogating.

Lopez: Can you describe your relationship with Chloe Gamble, please?

Mays: I’m her agent. I was, I mean.

Lopez: Were you familiar with her family ... her mother, Earlene Gamble, and ...

Mays: Travis, her twin brother. Yes, I knew Early and Travis.

Lopez: And the father, Lonnie Gamble?

Mays: I knew the rest of the family first. But I met Lonnie when he arrived in Los Angeles—

Lopez: From Texas?

Mays: I don’t know. We weren’t exactly making how-was-your-trip small talk. Chloe and Trav were not happy to see him. I assume he came from Texas. The Gambles were from a town called Spurlock, Texas.

Lopez: And you met Lonnie Gamble when?

Mays: I met him at Chloe and Travis’s house, the same day everyone else met him.

Lopez: Who do you mean?

Mays: We were all there trying to talk sense into Chloe. It was me, Sean Piper—he was her lawyer. Um, Amanda Pierce and Jude Morgan—those were Chloe’s friends who worked on her TV show ...

Lopez: Cover Band?

Mays: Yes. Amanda did wardrobe and Jude was the set photographer. Then there was Max Tyrell, Chloe’s boyfriend. Marc Duval, her publicist. And Travis and Chloe, of course. And Early was there, too. Oh! And Sasha Powell.

Lopez: The movie star?

Mays: Yeah. But she stormed out before Lonnie showed up. She and Trav had a fight about Chloe. They were dating, you know, and Sasha thought Chloe was a bad influence on Travis—

Lopez: Let’s keep the focus on Lonnie, please. You say you were at Ms. Gamble’s house?

Mays: Yes. Chloe and Travis had just moved into this great place in the Hollywood Hills and we were supposed to be having a housewarming party. But Chloe went and accepted a role in a movie—

Lopez: I’m sorry, keep to the facts about Lonnie.

Mays: I’m getting there. We were fighting, that’s my point. Chloe was the star of the TV show Cover Band. She was under contract to the network. But Matthew Greengold offered her a role in his movie, and you know who Greengold is ...

Lopez: Yes, Ms. Mays, even us cops go to the movies.

Mays: So you know he’s the biggest director on the planet. Well, Chloe was ambitious. She wanted to be in his movie and she said she’d do it. But it meant she would have to break her TV contract and that would lead to lawsuits, so we all wanted her to change her mind. It was a tense situation. When Lonnie Gamble showed up, he walked into the middle of a ... well, a kind of career intervention—

Lopez: I really have to ask you to focus. I don’t want to hear about Chloe Gamble’s career. I know you Hollywood people think the world revolves around the Business, but I’m investigating a murder.

Mays: Detective, I’m not trying to be difficult. I know that even the biggest movie is not as important as the fact that a human being is dead. But if you want to understand what happened with the Gambles, you have to understand Chloe’s career. Everything—everything—was about Chloe’s career.

Nika Mays’s Manuscript Notes: Prologue

The cops never did get it. They always wanted to put each part of Chloe Gamble’s life into its own neat little box, as if that would help them solve the murder. Box one: her crappy family life. Box two: her too-mature-for-a-sixteen-year-old love life. Box three: her enemies. Box four: her fans. Box five: her bank account. Box six: Hollywood itself.

All of those things were the same to Chloe. All of them bled into one another until the only thing she knew was what she wanted. She wanted to be famous. She wanted her fans to love her. She wanted to destroy her enemies. She wanted men to desire her. She wanted to sing, to act, to earn, to conquer, to climb high above the nasty, dead-end life she had been raised to expect. Most of all, she wanted to escape from Spurlock, Texas. And from Lonnie and Earlene Gamble.

Chloe’s career—Chloe’s fame—was her fuck you to her parents, and it was also her entire reason for being. Chloe’s want... that was her true self. Way down deep, that was her whole personality. It took over her career and her family, her friends and her lovers. It was everything to her.

Maybe the police could’ve solved the murder if they understood that the way I did. Maybe that’s why I know who did it and they don’t.

Looking back, it’s clear that the day Lonnie Gamble arrived was the day it all began to go bad. At the time, he seemed like small potatoes to me, as my boss, Hal Turman, would’ve said. Chloe was being reckless—again—and she expected me to bail her out. I’d gotten the girl a starring role on a teen TV show, and it had made her famous. Then, when she broke her contract and recorded her own music instead of the show’s, I’d renegotiated the contract. Every time Chloe went and did something stupid, I found a way to fix it. But this time I couldn’t see a way out.

Maybe it wasn’t the best idea to confront Chloe. She was never a girl who would cave in to pressure. But at the time, all I could think about was how she was going to ruin it all, everything that we had built together. It wasn’t only her career at stake, it was everybody’s—mine and Hal Turman’s, because we had just sold our agency to Virtuoso, the biggest name in the Biz. If Chloe got herself sued by the Snap network for breaking her contract, then Virtuoso would be dragged into a huge lawsuit ... and Hal and I would be out on our asses. It was Sean Piper’s career, because he had scored a huge promotion at Webster and White, his entertainment law firm, based on our last renegotiation of Chloe’s deal. And it was Marc the publicist’s career, and Amanda the stylist’s, and Jude the photographer’s. And even Travis’s career ... would anyone really hire Chloe Gamble’s twin brother if Chloe got blacklisted? Maybe some fourth-rate cable reality show, but otherwise it was the end of Trav’s acting career too.

Chloe’s stardom was the reason we were all so successful, and we didn’t want anything to jeopardize our success. It’s strange to see that in writing. It seems so selfish. But that day in the Hollywood Hills, I thought that Chloe was the selfish one.

She’d threatened to fire me and Sean: the two people most responsible for her current big-bucks contract with the Snap network. She said she’d dump us if we didn’t find a way out of the contract. It still takes my breath away that she could be so awful, so ungrateful. So focused on getting what she wanted that she forgot everything I’d done for her. So focused on the next big thing that she was willing to sacrifice the big thing she already had.

But that was Chloe. What she had was never enough—she always, always wanted more. I’d been paying attention to myself in those days, concentrating on my relationship with Sean and on selling the Hal Turman Agency to Virtuoso. I was thinking of me, and so I forgot to think about Chloe and her need to keep climbing.

That all changed the second that Lonnie Gamble walked into the house. He had such a dark presence, such gravity. Just like Chloe did. I couldn’t take my eyes off him, except it wasn’t a good thing the way it was with Chloe. She practically glowed; all you wanted to do was stare at her. But Lonnie, he was fascinating because he just oozed ... meanness. That’s the only word I can think of. He was mean. But his face was perfect. He was a gorgeous man, there was no way around it. And yet all I had to do was look at him to know that it was a mask, that underneath that beautiful face was an ugly soul.

That’s why the second I saw him, it all came back to me: Chloe wanted to get away from him. And from her mother, Early. And from her upbringing in Texas. She wanted to get so far away from her past that it could never touch her again.

She’d become so successful that I guess I figured she’d already escaped. But Chloe didn’t think so.

Chloe was no idiot; she knew that her parents had both started out young and gorgeous and promising, and they’d ended up nowhere. Sometimes I think Chloe was terrified that she’d be just like them, that no matter how much money and fame she had, she would somehow fall into the same black hole that her folks had. That’s why she wanted stardom as big as it could be, as fast as she could get it. Maybe she thought that once she had it all, she would be safe.

Poor Chloe. She got all the fame and money in the world, but it still didn’t save her.

DADDY ISSUES

Once upon a time, there was a man named Lonnie Gamble, and he was the hottest damn thing ever to come out of Spurlock, Texas. That’s what my mama had told me back in the day, before she hated him so much that she couldn’t even say his name without swearing. Lonnie was tall and blond and gorgeous, and, more important, Lonnie was going places. He wasn’t just some regular Spurlock nobody, he was a bona fide regional rodeo champion.

But by the time he showed up in my living room in Los Angeles, he was nothing but a bona fide loser, and the hottest thing ever to come out of Spurlock, Texas, was me.

The day my twin brother, Travis, and me turned sixteen, we took our mama and left with only the clothes on our backs, and that’s because there was nothing left in Texas that was worth a damn. And that included my daddy.

“Just what in the hell do you think you’re doing in my house?” I demanded, soon as I got over the shock of seeing him again.

My daddy smiled his crocodile smile. “Your house? Well, ain’t you fancy?” His face might have been grinning, but there was a sneer in his voice. “Y’all buy this place with some of that TV money?”

It was a rental, but I wasn’t about to tell him that. “Nice, ain’t it?”

“It sure is, Chloe-girl,” Daddy said. He took a step toward me, like maybe he’d give me a hug. Like maybe we were a regular family having a reunion. For one second, I considered doing it. My daddy had never hugged me that I could remember. He always ignored me, except when he wanted something.

He wanted something now.

“Thanks,” I told him. “You’re not welcome in it.”

“That’s right, you get your ass outta here, Lonnie Gamble!” my mama shrieked. “You got a hell of a nerve showing up here after what you pulled!”

My daddy’s eyes never left mine, even when he was talking to Mama. “Nice to see you, too, Early. You want to show me to our bedroom now, or later?”

My mama opened and closed her mouth like a fish, but no actual words came out. “Mama don’t live here, Daddy,” Travis said. “Just me and Clo.”

“And I wouldn’t be sharing no room with you anyway!” Mama sputtered.

“Well, that don’t make no sense,” Daddy said with a chuckle. “Seeing as we’re man and wife.”

You could’ve heard a pin drop, at least in the two seconds before my mama hurled herself at him. That seemed to be some kind of signal for the men in the room, because all of a sudden my brother, my dreadlocked boyfriend, my sexy lawyer, and even my gay publicist were on their feet and moving to get between my mama and my daddy.

I didn’t get involved. I was busy thinking about what Daddy had just said. No way was he really here to get back with my mama. They couldn’t stand each other, and she hadn’t heard a word from him since the day we hauled ass out of Texas nine months ago. Far as I could tell, the only reason they weren’t divorced was ’cause neither one of them gave a crap about their marriage vows anyway.

But my daddy never said anything he didn’t mean, in one way or another. He talked sideways, that’s what Mama always said. I used to be pretty good at figuring out his doubletalk, but I hadn’t seen the man in months. I was rusty.

Max and Sean managed to drag my mama away, practically throwing her at Travis, who held on tight. My daddy just laughed the whole time.

“Well, she is a hellcat, ain’t she, boys?” he said. “Travis, how about you introduce me to your little posse here? I’d like to say thanks.”

Travis turned away without a word, leading Mama out to the balcony for some air.

“Guess I’ll have to do it myself.” My daddy held out his hand to Sean. “Lonnie Gamble.”

Sean ignored the outstretched hand. “My name is Sean Piper, and I’m with the law firm of Webster and White. We represent Chloe and Travis.”

“Great! So you’re our family lawyer?” Daddy said. “I’ll have to get your business card.”

“No, I’m Chloe’s lawyer, and Trav’s.” Sean’s voice was cold. “I am categorically not your lawyer, Mr. Gamble.”

Daddy pulled his hand back, studying Sean’s face. My whole body tensed up, and I wished Travis would get back in here to help me deal with this. My friends didn’t know how to handle my daddy, they wouldn’t understand that he was dangerous, that you had to move slowly around him, like you do around a rattlesnake. You never knew when he would strike. The sooner we got rid of him, the better.

“I told you to leave, Daddy,” I said. “You’re not wanted here.”

“Hush up, Chloe, the grown-ups are talking,” my daddy said. “I’m afraid I don’t quite see how you can represent my little girl but not me, Mr. Piper. Chloe ain’t got no legal rights on her own.”

“I have the right to throw you out of my house,” I snapped. My heart was pounding hard, but I kept calm on the outside. Me and Travis were emancipated minors, which meant Daddy had no power over us, though he didn’t know it. I was hoping if I reminded myself of that often enough, it would start to feel true.

“Sweetpea, I don’t even see how it’s legal for you to live in this house without your mama or me,” my daddy said. “That’s why the lawyer and me need to talk things over.”

“The only thing I need to explain to you, Mr. Gamble, is that from now on you’ll have to go through me if you want to contact Chloe or Travis,” Sean said. “My client has asked you to leave.” He took a step closer to my daddy. “Leave.

A couple weeks ago, that kind of speech to my good-for-nothing daddy might’ve made me want to jump Sean right there in front of our whole crowd of friends. But now, I couldn’t help sneaking a glance at my agent. Sean’s girlfriend. Or were they just fuck buddies? I didn’t know, and I didn’t care.

Nika wasn’t looking at Sean, though. She was looking at me. “Clo, call the cops,” she said.

I just stared at her. I’d called the cops a couple times back in Spurlock when my mama and daddy would get into one of their brawls. The cops never even bothered to come to the house ’cause they knew my parents would put on their everything-is-fine act as soon as they had an audience. Well, an audience besides me and Trav.

“You told him to leave and he won’t,” Nika said. “Call the police.”

“I’ll do it.” My friend Jude—my first and best friend in Los Angeles—grabbed her cell and started dialing. I felt a little burst of warmth go through me. We’d all been in the middle of a fight when Daddy walked in here, and it had been all of them against me. But now they were on my side, and that’s where I needed them. Too bad my daddy had to show up to get them there, but I’d take it...

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