Elle and Blair Fowler dive into the glitzy Los Angeles nightlife in "Beneath the Glitter," following two sisters as they follow their dream, and come perilously close to losing it all. Here's an excerpt.
once upon a crime . . .
The Malibu Colony, 6 p.m.
The two girls on the beach in their flowing gowns could have been mistaken for water nymphs, if water nymphs wore gold edged togas. They stood barefoot side by side, one blond, one brunette, hair fluttering around their faces with their toes curled into the cooling sand.
From behind them a breeze carried the sound of what people were already calling one of the top ten parties of the season—everything wonderful about LA seemed to be spread out before them on the balcony of Ronald Ralston’s beachfront palace. In front of them the last rays of the sun painted the wind-sculpted surface of the Pacific Ocean orange and blue and pink.
Sophia and Ava London couldn’t help it, they were feeling giddy, and not because of the sugar high from the sixteen different desserts being served, all of which they’d sampled. It was as though everything they’d gone through in the past five months, everything they’d worked for and everything they’d very nearly lost, had brought them to this moment.
Moving to LA had been a different adventure than they’d expected but after tonight it looked like it was turning out great. Their agents, and their potential sponsors, could not have been happier. Everything was—
A commotion behind them caused both of them to turn back to the party where a ribbon of police officers was moving through their guests like a snake through tall grass. They paused to talk to someone, and then, as the London sisters watched, a finger pointed them out and the police began moving toward them.
“Sophia and Ava London?” the plainclothes officer asked, as though there was anyone else on the beach. They nodded.
“You’re under arrest. Please come with me.” As the two sisters, still in their togas, were led across the patio and back through the house, the Prada- and Cavalli-clad guests’ eyes were riveted on them, every face a mask of shock and horror. Or almost every face. If anyone had been standing close enough to the striking woman at the edge of the crowd they might have heard her murmur to herself, “London bitches going down,” or seen her take a sip of merlot to hide her smile.
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But no one was close enough, she was sure of that. No one ever knew what she was really up to. That was the key about LA, the number one thing that newcomers would never understand: in the town that practically invented make- believe, nothing— and no one— was ever what it seemed.
Five Months Earlier . . .
It was the kind of day that was made for kissing, Sophia London thought, and immediately wished she hadn’t. Still, there was no denying it. Blue sky, puffy clouds, rich buttery light that gave everything it touched a slight golden sheen, turning skin luminous and the grass that bordered Beverly Boulevard a rich green. Behind her, her younger sister Ava tried to coax her puppy, Popcorn, away from a particularly delectable fire hydrant. It was warm with a hint of breeze, just enough to make you want to nestle against someone’s neck and get them laughing as your hair tickled their nose . . .
Stop it, Sophia told her brain.
And no checking messages, she ordered her hand, already on its way to the pocket of her bright coral blazer.
Sophia caught her hand sneaking back toward the pocket and rerouted it to check the bow at the neck of her lacy cream blouse. There wasn’t a message; there wouldn’t be a message. There shouldn’t be a message.
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So why did she care so much? Her life was pretty much perfect—ideal, she corrected herself, just the way it was. Sure it was a lot of work, but it was still amazing, a dream. What else could you call waking up every morning in Los Angeles, a place where the weather was almost always fantastic and you could find yourself in line at the supermarket next to someone you’d been watching on TV the night before? Living in Hollywood with Ava, seeing where they could take the London Calling brand, every day a new adventure— she had everything she needed.
And yet there were days, days like this one when everyone around her seemed to be living in a romantic comedy movie montage, strolling arm in arm and feeding each other strawberries from a farm stand and talking about what movie to see and smiling up into each other’s eyes and giggling for no reason and running to catch lights and exchanging quick, intense kisses . . .
Days like this Sophia felt a little lonely. As she toyed with the ends of her blond hair she thought that it didn’t help that today was—would have been, she corrected herself— her third anniversary with Clay Cutter, the football player with the boyish smile she’d dated from the summer after her freshman year of college until three months earlier. She could still picture him standing there in his tuxedo, his face all gorgeous and intense in the light of the full moon, could still smell the slight perfume from the red rose boutonniere she’d pinned to his lapel, could hear the sounds of music and laughter from the Valentine’s Day formal behind them, could feel the fingers of cold creeping over her as he said—
“Do you think I should shave my head?”
The sound of Ava’s voice next to her jolted Sophia out of the memory, but it took her a moment to register what she’d heard.
Ava and Popcorn shot by her so she had to rush to catch up with them. “Did you just ask if you should shave your head?”
Ava nodded, her dark brown ponytail bobbing up and down.
“I was trying to see if you were listening.” Popcorn zigzagged across the pavement in front of them, rushing from side to side to sniff at everything. “Do you have any idea what I’ve been talking about for the last five minutes?”
“Of course,” Sophia said, pretending to be hurt by the accusation.
Ava moved her eyes from Popcorn to her sister. “Really? Pinkie swear?”
Sophia sighed and her shoulders sagged. “Well. No.”
Ava stopped walking, much to the dismay of Popcorn who began popping up and down at the end of his leash like he was trying to live up to his name. Crossing her arms over her chest, she said, “Are you finally going to tell me what’s wrong?”
Sometimes Sophia wished that Ava didn’t know her as well as she did. It was like being scrutinized in a slightly-too-effective magnifying mirror.
“It’s Clay, isn’t it?” Ava said, her eyes filled with sympathy.
“Yeah, I guess I’m still feeling a little bruised.” Sophia let out a deep breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding. Just saying it out loud made her feel a little better. Acknowledging how one minute she’d been a princess in a fairy tale heading into the Happily Ever After sunset with her Prince Charming and the next she’d been frozen on the steps of her sorority house, staring into the empty space where he’d stood, back at square Once Upon a Time and wanting to be anywhere but there.
“Alright, I know just what you need.” Ava nodded positively, pulling out her phone. “I’m staging a sistervention.”
Reprinted from "Beneath the Glitter" by Elle and Blair Fowler © 2012 by Elle and Blair Fowler. Used with permission of the publisher, St Martin's Press.
© 2012 MSNBC Interactive