Monday, September 10, 2007

SNEAK PREVIEW! Fashionistas: Hadley!

Officially out on September 20th (though it seems to be available from most good bookshops and now, which isn't something I'm losing any sleep over), here is a small taste of Hadley Harlow to whet your appetites:

Hadley didn't believe in what might have beens. It was better to regret something you had done, than something you hadn't. That's what her yogi used to tell her. But then her yogi hadn't witnessed the moment that George and Candy first laid eyes on each other. If he had, he'd have given up on Buddhism and started stock-piling canned goods for the inevitable apocalypse.

"Oh my God, girlfriend!" George squealed, when he caught sight of Candy emerging from behind the velvet rope. "I fricking worship you, you foul-mouthed little bitch!"

"I love you too!" Candy threw her arms around George as the cameras started flashing. "You're the funniest thing in that lame-ass sitcom."

Hadley impatiently tapped her foot and waited for Candy to back away from her pretend boyfriend.

In the end, she had no choice but to trail after them, like the original third wheel, as they made their way up to the VIP area. To add insult to injury, Candy and George sailed past the door whore without a backward glance while she was forced to insist sweetly that, yes, she was on the guest list, thank you very much.

"… nightmare, Candy," she heard George say, as she caught up with them. "Used to step on all my cues and then Momzilla, that's what we called Amber on set, banned all baked goods because Hadley might get super-fat."

"I'm wheat intolerant," Hadley said icily, sliding into the booth. "And I never stepped on your cues."

"Take the stick out of your butt, Hadders," Candy advised, flagging down a waitress who deposited a tray full of garishly coloured drinks on the table. "It worked out OK in the end, didn't it?"

"How did it work out OK?" Hadley took a dubious sniff at one of the drinks and nearly got impaled on a stray cocktail umbrella. After her foray into champagne and the monster headache she'd had the next day, she was living alcohol-free.

"Well, you and George are love's young dream," Candy said archly, nudging George who giggled. "I mean, get a room, you two!"

That was obviously meant to be a joke as they were sitting miles apart but Hadley forced herself to turn her frown upside down and smile lovingly at George who pulled a face.

"Hadley's all right," he said grudgingly. "But, hey, don't you think she's really bossy under that fluffy exterior? She's all, like, hug me there's a photographer or don't act so gay when people are around." George clapped his hand over his mouth as he realised his monumental gaffe.

Candy's smile glittered. "But you're not gay," she pointed out. "Because you wouldn't be going out with Hadley if you were."

"Everyone in London acts gay," George hastily assured her. "It's the cool, new thing."

"Oh, really…" Trust Candy to be all suspicious-y.

"See, George acts all camp and stuff because he thinks it's funny," Hadley bit out, which was quite an achievement given the way her jaw was so tightly clenched. "Even though I've told him a million times that it's not."

George slid across the banquette so he could sling a careless arm around Hadley's shoulder. "You know I love to get a rise out of you, sweetness," he cooed, planting a sloppy kiss on her cheek. She should have got an Oscar right then for resisting the urge to squinch up her face and rub her hand over the spot that George's lips, lips of George!, had touched.

"You're so funny, darling," Hadley simpered, patting his hand and if she dug her nails in just a teensy weensy bit, then even God himself would forgive her.

"Have a drink," George whispered in her ear as Candy waved at someone on the other side of the room. "Loosen up a little bit before she begins to realise that I can't actually stand the sight of you."

"The feeling is beyond mutual," Hadley whispered back and grabbed the nearest drink, a fluoro pink concoction with a stray piece of pineapple floating forlornly in its depths. Hadley took a cautious sip.

"This has pomegranate in it," she announced, ignoring the acidic after-taste, which was more liquor-y than fruity. "That's like a superfood."

"See, it's practically a health drink," George soothed.

Candy agreed with him. "For God's sake Hadders, stop sniffing it and just chug." She took a long enthusiastic gulp from her own glass.

It definitely tasted nicer than the champagne. And the second drink, a blackberry martini, was almost approaching yummy, though the pips kept getting stuck in her teeth.

When Candy and George went off to dance, she even managed to wave them off with a carefree smile. Oooh, maybe she could get Mervyn to leak some bitter love triangle story to the gossip rags, as long as she emerged the eventual winner.

Hadley beckoned a tray-yielding waiter so she could have another blackberry martini – they really were all kinds of more-ish. She was starting to feel fuzzy round the edges. Fuzzy was good. For the first time since she sat in her lawyer's office all those months ago, the sharp, nagging anxiety had floated away.

She was just a girl with a pink flower in her hair slurping down a martini in a club in London. She didn't have to tell anyone off or do their job for them, or remember to keep her left profile away from the cameras. If this was what drinking did for you, then she was a fan.

It was all going fine, until Hadley tried to stand up and her legs registered their disapproval. She could do things in five inch heels that most girls had never even dreamt about, but suddenly balancing on them was a problem.

Her knees knocked painfully together as she cannoned off the side of the booth and into the back of someone.

"Sorry!" And that was also weird. Her teeth had gone numb. Hadley ran her tongue over them experimentally and they all seemed to be present and correct, but actually her tongue felt odd too. Like it was made of rubber.

She needed to pee and she needed to find George and she might possibly need another drink too. It took a few seconds to get her priorities in the right order and then she was stumbling down the stairs; her hand clutched tight to the rail.

Pit-stop done, (two of girls in the bathroom had broken into a tuneless rendition of Feelin' Kinda Hadley, the theme tune from Hadley's House, which Hadley had found hysterically funny) Hadley's next mission was to find her fake beau.

The problem was that George didn't really have any distinguishing features. Apart from his spectacularly smug smile and it was too dark in the club, to be able to hone in on that. Every second boy had over-gelled blonde hair and a white shirt.

"George's shirt is Comme des Garcons," Hadley muttered to herself, scanning the crowd of blonde, white-shirted boys to see if she could spot the ruffle detailing that made George totally not stand out in a crowd.

In desperation, Hadley clambered on to a chair almost putting her heel through a girl's leg, who took it with a really bad grace, and peered over people's heads.

It was no use; she still couldn't see. Hadley carefully held aloft her martini glass and climbed up on the table. It was so much better. Now she could see George and Candy whirling around like they were on So You Think You Can Dance?

"George!" Her ear-piercing shriek didn't carry over the surf guitars bursting forth from the DJ booth, but the people who were sitting around the table that she was currently standing on, still started bitching. "I'm sorry," she hissed. "But I have to find my boyfriend."

"You spill my drink, you pay for it," snarled one really surly girl who got even surlier when Hadley told her that there was a free bar if you were a celebrity.

"Are you from one of those sad-sack reality shows?" the girl said belligerently. "God, where do they find people like you?"

Standing on top of a table was not the best place to recite the highlights from your resume, but Hadley gave it her best shot.

Her audience was less than impressed. "Go fuck yourself."

"Well, there's no need to get snippy," she started to say when she felt two hands around her waist and she was lifted from the table and set on her own two, very unsteady feet. "How dare you, you…"

"Do you stand on tables at home? I'm sure Candy would have mentioned that before."

It was Reed. The man who'd manhandled her with his hands. At least her blackberry Martini was still intact. Hadley took a long, slow sip because table-hopping was thirsty work. "I've lost my boyfriend," she informed Reed gravely. "Your sister's run off with him. But he's my boyfriend. Mine." She poked Reed in the chest with her finger so he'd get the seriousness of the situation.

Instead he looked down to where her finger was prodding what felt like rock-hard abs, with a frown. "How much have you had to drink anyway?"

Hadley finished off the rest of her Blackberry martini in one defiant gulp. "You're not the boss of me. I'm the boss of me. And that whole stubble thing is so over. Would it kill you to shave?"

Reed rubbed the chin in question. "Yeah, it might."

Hadley squinted at him. In a sea of white shirts and blonde hair, he stood out like some black-clad interloper, determined not to get in to the Tiki swing of things. "Are you allergic to shaving cream?" she breathed, because, hello, freaky.

"You really can't hold your drink," Reed pronounced, deftly taking the glass out of her hand. "I thought all you LA kids were in rehab by the time you were 14. You're a real lightweight."

Hadley liked to think that she was dignified in her alleged drunkeness. "I never touched alcohol when I was younger. It would have totally stunted my physical development."

And deja ewwww! Because that made Reed remember he had a hard-earned reputation as a player to maintain and he ran his thickly lashed eyes all over her. She was obviously lacking, mostly in the breast department, because he turned away as someone touched him lightly on the shoulder.

Someone with straggly hair, gangly limbs and jutting cheekbones - obviously she was a successful model.

"Reed," the girl said in heavily accented English. "This place sucks. I want to go now."

He stroked the backs of his fingers down the girl's cheek but she pouted furiously and took a step back. "Now. We go now," she repeated emphatically.

"Will you be all right on your own?" Reed asked Hadley doubtfully. "Should I go and find someone?"

"Who would you find?" she asked, but he'd already turned away.

"Later," he called over his shoulder and she was left to go and fling her arms round George, and nudge Candy out of the way with her hip, just in time for a stray photographer to take their picture.

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