Beautiful Monsters by Cynthia Ogren
Current and trendy, Beautiful Monsters is a fun romp of a love story that could be lifted off the front page of any supermarket tabloid. Ostensibly, it explores the grit and gristle, sex and sizzle of modern romance—Hollywood style. And yet, with its overarching themes and complex characters, it runs much deeper than the glitz suggests. Do wealth, fame, and beauty bestow happiness? Is there a karmic aspect to love? Are we all beautiful monsters? And finally, how far would you go for love? Tag along with Riley Rinaldi and Keller Cross as they explore these concepts…and more!
“Hell is empty and all the devils are here.” ~Shakespeare
Hollywood: Movie Capital of the World, La La Land, Tinseltown, Hollyweird, Gomorrah, Land of Broken Dreams…Hell.
Makeup artist Riley Rinaldi has it all: beauty, wealth, talent, and undeniable sex appeal. But besieged by her past and the very attributes so many envy, she lives a lonely life devoid of the one commodity she cannot grasp—love.
When sexy heartthrob Keller Cross swaggers onto the set of Beautiful Monsters, Riley’s self-protective veneer cracks wide open. Her dormant passion ignites as the bad-boy actor thrusts her onto the volatile glass stage of Hollywood celebrity—and down into the depths of his sordid sexual deviancy.
Against a backdrop of studio politics, fame, jealousy, and unrequited love, their white-hot chemistry explodes onto the film set, incinerating their former lives and exposing the unseemly underbelly of La La Land.
But does love stand a chance among the beautiful monsters?
Prologue: Stephen’s Tongue
The whole damn mess had started with Stephen’s tongue.
“Damn him!” Riley whispered hoarsely, so as not to awaken him before she made her escape. In no way did she want to have a morning-after chat.
She stood tensely poised at the door of Stephen’s trailer, squinting out into the early morning light and ready to bolt when the coast was clear. A monster headache hammered in disjointed syncopation with her pounding heart and lurching stomach. Riley grimaced. If this song had a title, it would be “Bangover Blues.”
Unfortunately, a cigarette-smoking associate producer loitered outside the studio entrance adjacent to the actors’ trailers, along with Joe, a crusty security guard who had worked at Titan forever. Riley shifted impatiently.
She wasn’t about to take the walk of shame and risk running into anyone she knew. The studio was a cesspool of rumor and innuendo, and she had no desire for last night’s sins to become the gossip de jour or, worse, tomorrow’s tabloid headlines. After all, Stephen Lloyd was the star of Beautiful Monsters and a big name in Hollywood.
Stephen’s tongue. The image of the handsome British actor sensuously sweeping his tongue across glistening, razor-sharp fangs assaulted her brain again like a ubiquitous trailer for a bad B horror film. She groaned, remembering.
Curiously, Riley had been aroused last evening as she and other department heads had watched the dailies from yesterday’s shoot. Stephen had appeared so virile and sexy in those first few takes that it had sent her latent libido soaring into the stratosphere—and her common sense plunging straight to hell.
“Seriously, what was I thinking?” she grumbled, cringing now at the thought of last night’s drunken sexual romp.
What had possessed her to impetuously jump into bed with him? He was nothing like the sexy vampire he portrayed onscreen. He wasn’t even her type! And she wasn’t the type for meaningless hook-ups. No, Stephen was just one more black mark on her laundry list of doomed romantic relationships.
“Riley, come back to bed!” Stephen’s groggy British voice wafted from the bedroom, sending a jolt of adrenalin through Riley, spurring her to action. She burst out of the trailer like a filly on the whip at Churchill Downs.
With a heart mired in regret, Riley Rinaldi fled the den of iniquity, clothed in yesterday’s apparel and her shame. Head down, praying for invisibility, she darted toward the studio’s side entrance, which, thankfully, had been vacated by the associate producer. She would just have to take her chances with the security guard’s discretion.
The premonition hit her like a cold, hard slap, stopping her abruptly at the studio door. Somehow, her life had indefinably changed. Like the gods had conferred and planets had aligned to serve her one hell of a cosmic cocktail. Like nothing would ever be the same. Like hell was about to break loose…or freeze over.
And it had been set in motion by…Stephen’s tongue.
Opening the steel door, Joe gave her a crisp, expressionless nod. “Good morning, Ms. Rinaldi.” The soul of discretion.
“Morning, Joe,” Riley muttered, banishing the baleful feeling as she rushed headlong into the teeming chaos of Titan Studios.
Excerpt from Chapter Four: Making a Move
“What are you doing here, Keller?”
“I already told you—”
Riley cut him off. “You’re pursuing me.”
“Look, Beautiful,” Keller hedged, attempting to placate her, “I really did want to help Bebe. Having you here is just the icing on the cake. I probably would have helped her anyway.”
“Well, maybe,” Keller admitted, laughing.
Riley grinned in spite of herself. “You are so maddening! But seriously, Keller, I don’t date.”
“And I told you, Riley, I don’t remember asking you.”
“So why are you suddenly everywhere I look?”
Keller hit her with his trademark shrug and half grin, pinning her down with hungry eyes and piercing her armor with a calculated stab of his sexy charm. He’d won the skirmish without uttering a word. And he watched her bleed fear and desire.
Excerpt from Chapter Eleven: Role Reversal
Riley’s breath caught in her throat, her eyes widening in awe, as she gazed at his powerfully built upper body. Golden skin stretched over his tightly muscled chest and arms, and manly wisps of dark hair trailed down his six-pack to below his low-slung jeans. He had a body any gym rat would kill for.
But his impressive physical form wasn’t entirely what caused Riley’s reaction. His nipples were pierced with small gold hoops. Riley reached out and tentatively ran her hand over his muscled chest, stopping at one of the nipple rings. She looked at him with questioning eyes and tugged the hoop once.
“Mmmmm…ahhhh!” Keller stretched back, moaning loudly as his arms shot out and crushed her body to his. His mouth covered hers hungrily, their tongues tangling, until they both came up panting from the urgency of the kiss.
“Do you like it when I pull your rings?” Riley whispered hoarsely, pulling back to look at him.
The pupils of Keller’s intense blue eyes dilated with desire. “It drives me mad. I like a little pain with my sex.”