Your Perfect Life: A Novel

Your Perfect Life: A Novel

Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke





To Mike, for being my soft place to fall For Reese, Dain, and Harper, always dream big



CHAPTER 1


* * *



casey


My mouth tastes like ass.

Rolling over, I grab for the water I always leave on the nightstand and silently pray that there are also two Advil waiting for me to help numb the pounding in my head. Why did I think that last shot of Patrón was a good idea? I rack my brains trying to remember what happened after that, but it’s just a blur.

“Hey, sleepyhead.”

I startle at the sound of a man’s voice next to me and instinctively pull the sheets over my naked body as memories of last night come crashing back. Being sent a tequila shot by a good-looking twenty-something. Motioning for him to join me. Four drinks and two shots later, us, fumbling in the back of the cab, making out like two teenagers. Coming back here, to my penthouse apartment in the Wilshire area of Los Angeles. And now, waking up to him in my bed, unable to recall his name. Was it Cody? Carl?

“Hey, you.” I decide a you will have to do as I run my fingers through my hair and glance around the room for anything I can put on. Our clothes are strewn everywhere, my bra is lying on the TV, and my underwear is ripped in half on the floor. Wow. Cody or Carl or whatever his name was didn’t mess around last night.

“Come here.” He pulls me by the waist into the fold of his body and I feel myself stiffen, my inhibitions no longer blunted by alcohol. He kisses my neck and I smile despite myself, suddenly remembering the reason I let him rip my La Perlas last night. But I don’t have time for a repeat performance, I think, as I glance at the clock. I’m due in the studio in less than an hour. And at thirty-eight, I don’t bounce back from these nights the way I used to.

I detach myself from him gently. “Sorry, I’ll have to take a rain check,” I say, knowing I’ll never see him again. “I’m late for work.”

“No worries,” he replies and rolls out of bed and grabs his pants from the chair in the corner. “I’ve got an audition later anyway.”

That’s right. He’s an actor. I vaguely remember discussing his role as “man number three” in the next Will Smith movie. I sigh. My penchant for twenty-something struggling thespians has always been my downfall.

Stepping out of bed with the sheet wrapped tightly around me, I kiss his cheek. “Thanks, and sorry, I don’t mean to kick you out of here.” But we both know that I do.

He wraps his chiseled arms around me. “It’s fine.”

“Great. Well, I guess I’ll see you around?” He lingers by the front door, his shirt still unbuttoned, his jeans slung low on his hips revealing the Calvin Klein waistband of his boxer briefs.

I know what’s coming next. Happens every time. “Hey, so, in case your agent is looking for fresh talent, would you mind talking to her for me?”

“Sure,” I reply, cringing at the thought of pitching my latest sexual conquest to my agent. “Just email your résumé to my assistant.” I write down her email address and swiftly escort him out the door and lean my head against it.

I’m getting too old for this shit.

? ? ?

I rush out of hair and makeup and toward the GossipTV set just as the taping is about to start. “Three minutes!” my producer, Charlie, calls to me as I sprint past him expertly in my high-heel ankle boots.

I hurry into place and glance over at Dean Anders, my cohost. He grimaces at my tardiness without looking up from his notes. “Nice of you to show up.”

“No problem,” I answer sarcastically. “What would you do without me?”

He smirks and opens his mouth, but before he can speak the stage manager cuts him off. “Four, three, two,” he says before pointing at me as the red light on the camera comes to life. I may have been flustered a minute ago, but now I’m in my element.

“Welcome to GossipTV! I’m Casey Lee and we’ve got the freshest scoop coming your way right now!”

Thirty minutes later, the relenting red light turns off and I pull off my boots. “Why do great shoes have to hurt so much?” I say to no one in particular.

“That’s the price you pay for high fashion.” My assistant, Destiny, sweeps by and takes the boots out of my hand, twirling them by their four-inch heels.

“Ain’t that the truth?” I mutter as I make my way back to my dressing room. I glance in the mirror. Even after an hour in hair and makeup, I can still see the circles under my bright sapphire eyes and the lines around them when I smile. Like always, there’s a small part of me that hates that I’ve chosen a profession where age forty is considered ancient, where the Kelly Ripas of the world are the exception not the rule. This past year, I’ve felt the clock start ticking. Not my biological clock—I’m talking about the clock that exists in the minds of all the executives who determine when on-air talent gets stale. I’d been pretty fortunate in my career, starting right out of college as a researcher at Entertainment Tonight and eventually working my way up to on-air correspondent. And for the past three years, I’ve been the cohost of GossipTV.

But I know that I’m only as good as my last sweeps number, and I’m starting to live on borrowed time. It’s a fact that Dean likes to bring up often. He is twenty-eight and arrogant because he doesn’t have that damn clock ticking in his ear.

I lie on the couch in my dressing room and close my eyes, practicing the meditations my yoga teacher taught me. But I can’t concentrate—it feels like the walls in my painfully small dressing room are closing in on me. I might be on-air talent, but it doesn’t afford me much more than a nameplate on the door, a pleather couch, and if you ask me, way too many mirrors. And then there it is again—the tight ball of anxiety lodged in the base of my throat. Breathe, Casey. Just breathe.

Destiny glides in the door a moment later, iPad in hand. “Ready to go over your schedule?” she asks.

“Am I ever ready?” I joke and take a sip of the water she wisely brought me.

“Oh, did Colby wear you out last night?” The sides of her mouth curl up as she tries unsuccessfully to keep a straight face.

Colby! So that was his name. I knew it started with a C.

“He emailed you already?” I groan.

“Yes, he sent his résumé and said he had a very productive meeting with you.”

I put my hands over my face. “It’s the last time, I promise.”

“Like I’ve never heard that one before,” she says with a snort.

Destiny has been with me since my first on-air job and is more than just an assistant to me. From the minute she strutted into her interview, I knew she was the one. She told me that if I hired her, she’d always have my best interests at heart, I’d never be late for anything, and, most important, she’d be the best damn gatekeeper I ever had. Ex-boyfriends from hell? No worries. Bad dates? She had me covered. My mother? Piece of cake. Having already called her list of references, I was well aware of those facts and then some—she’d been given a five-star review from each. I needed someone who wasn’t going to call Us Weekly when I had a meltdown over low ratings, someone who wouldn’t feed damaging information to people like my cohost Dean’s assistant and rumored lover, Fiona, a long-legged ex–beauty queen who’d do just about anything to take me down. I needed someone I could trust. When I listened to Destiny, sitting cross-legged in my worn leather chair, telling me a story about putting herself through college by working two jobs, I knew in my gut I had found a hardworking assistant and someone I could trust. Only later would I realize I’d also found a lifelong friend.

“Okay, so let’s talk about the next few days,” she says as she taps on the iPad and pulls up my calendar. “You’ve got an interview with the L.A. Times Calendar section after lunch today. Tomorrow the car service will pick you up at five thirty for your high school reunion.”

I groan. I’d forgotten all about it, or more likely, I’d just blocked it out. It would be a ballroom full of people triggering memories that I’d been trying to forget for twenty years. “Why am I going again? And who schedules a high school reunion in the middle of winter?”

Destiny sighs. “Is it ever really winter in Southern California? We’ve been over this. You know you need to go. People will be expecting you to show up—you’re a celebrity now.” She laughs and I roll my eyes. “Plus, you promised Rachel. You haven’t seen her much lately.” She shows me the calendar on the iPad like it’s exhibit A in a courtroom. “Three months is a long time not to see your best friend. What’s going on with you two anyway?”

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