Secret Sheikh's ObsessionBy: Sophia Lynn
"You're a miracle worker, Charlotte Johns! You're my perfect golden girl!"
Mikaela van Horne draped her elegant arm around Charlotte's neck, hugging her close in a display that was shockingly genuine. Just six months before, the starlet had been floundering in the obscurity of the New York theater scene. A few promising roles hadn't lived up to the promise, and Mikaela was looking at a return to a dull office job if things didn't pick up.
That was where Charlotte had come in. Just as Mikaela was a rising star on Broadway, Charlotte was a rising star at Brooks Publicity. She had taken on the young Mikaela when no one else would, and now Mikaela was off to her first red-carpet event.
Charlotte laughed, hugging the starlet hard. She had been impressed by how much she genuinely liked the younger girl. She remembered being twenty and thinking that the world rose and fell with a single invitation. Now, five years later, she knew that that wasn't true. It was far better to be behind the scenes and pulling the strings.
"You did most of the hard work," Charlotte said. "I just pointed the way and made sure that you got to the right people. Now, remember what we talked about?"
Mikaela nodded dutifully.
"Stay on my feet, smile a lot, don't commit to anything, and take no crap."
"That's my girl. Remember, if you have any problems at all, give me a call. I'm always available, and I am on your side."
As she waved the young starlet into her limo, Charlotte turned toward her own night with a grin.
She was a small woman with brassy blond hair that most assumed she got out of a bottle. She was a little curvier than fashion dictated, but she dressed well for it, choosing dark colors and bright accessories that made her vivid blue eyes seem to glow.
The flowing black cardigan that she wore was professional. When she took it off, she revealed a low-cut, figure-hugging blue dress that definitely was not. She had sent Mikaela off to have her fun, and now, after a campaign that seemed to drag on forever and a day, she could have hers.
She stopped to check her reflection in a nearby shop window. It was after dark on a spring night in Manhattan, and Charlotte wanted to look her best. A few men passing by whistled at her, and she ignored them with the cavalier indifference that an entire lifetime in the city granted her.
She checked her texts, figured out where she was going next, and dialed up her sister as she walked.
"Viviana, come out to see me. I miss you so much!" she said without a greeting.
Her younger sister laughed a little. They could have passed for twins if they kept their mouths shut, but Viviana was always the gentler sister, the sweeter one.
"And whose fault is that? You're the one who had to work around the clock for the past two months."
"It's my fault, all my fault," Charlotte said mournfully. "If you're willing to come out and have a drink, maybe I could make it up to you. Me and some of the girls are meeting up at Delmarr tonight, and I know that I'm not the only one who would love to see you. Come out, and I'll buy you your favorite drink."
"My favorite drink is peach soda, and I can get that from the vending machine around the corner. Sorry, Charlotte, but I need to be on a plane at six sharp. Maybe American Airlines waits for publicists, but they sure don't wait for event planners.”
"Awww crud, I forgot. You're doing that thing in Las Vegas, aren't you? Shoot, that means that I'm not going to see you for a month, at least."
"Well, you could come out to visit me while I'm out there. They're putting me up in a suite, and there's plenty of space for two. You could blow some vacation time and get away from New York and New York guys for a bit."
Charlotte laughed ruefully.
"I guess I've been complaining about my lack of romantic success a little more often than I should have, huh, sis? All right, I'll see what I can do. No promises, though. Get some sleep, and let me know when you've landed safely, okay?"
"Will do. Have fun with the girls tonight. Don't do anything I wouldn't do."
Charlotte hung up with a sigh of regret. She loved her sister fiercely, and a night out just wasn't the same without Viviana's dry wit and genuine sweetness. However, that didn't mean she was going to go to the bar to mourn.
It was a short walk to Delmarr. Even in the early evening, there was already a line stretching halfway down the block. Charlotte breezed past the line with practiced grace, earning herself more than a few dirty looks as she went by.
The imposing bouncer at the door gave her a long look up and down before asking for her name.
"Charlotte Johns," she said with a big smile. "I should be on the list under Bennett Moragh's party."
The man took his time finding her, but finally nodded, unhooking the velvet rope for her.
"Have a good night, Ms. Johns."
Inside, Delmarr's was dark with glassy walkways and velvet furnishings that called back the camp of the seventies and eighties. Though retro design was big in New York at the moment, Delmarr's came by it honestly. It had been one of the hot spots for hungry talent ever since that era, and when some of that talent had grown up and become famous, they repaid their old watering hole by making it famous.