Excerpt: Starstruck

Excerpt: Starstruck

Contemporary Romance

Chapter One

“Me? Interview Joe Harrington? You must be out of your mind!” Live James stared across her messy desk with a mixture of exasperation and incredulity at her fellow reporter who had just ruined a perfectly lovely, sunny May afternoon by offering this astonishing rumor. “I’d rather cover the Kennel Club finals,” she added with the distaste of a woman allergic to dogs.

“You may well get to if you don’t show a little more enthusiasm for one of the world’s more famous actor-directors,” Frances Slade cautioned her, excitement wreathing her usually imperturbable grandmotherly face. “Me, I’d interview him in a minute. Who knows where it might lead?” she went on dreamily.

“To bed,” Liv said flatly. “With Joe Harrington, I hear that’s where it always leads.”

“Ah, but what a night,” Frances sighed with a gleeful chuckle.

“Whatever would George say?” Liv teased. George and Frances had been married well over thirty years, which Liv was beginning to think was some kind of record in this day and age.

“That could be a problem,” Frances agreed. “And you’re more his type, anyway. He seems to go for tall, slender blondes. You see him with them all the time.” She eyes Liv’s upswept ash-blond hair and slim figure as if she were actually assessing their potential.

“You see Joe Harrington with anything in skirts,” Liv retorted.

“Besides,” Frances went on as if she hadn’t heard, “you’re uncommitted.”

“And damned well going to stay that way.”

“Touchy, touchy,” Frances chided her. “I thought you were well over Tom.”

“I am. And I have no intention of interviewing Joe Harrington because he’s just another Tom James to the nth degree. It’s men like him who give idiots like Tom their ideas.” Her dentist ex-husband had decided after ten years of marriage that he needed to “feel free.” Currently he was experiencing that freedom in the arms of a twenty-four year old graduate student who had come to him for a root canal and had stayed to help him “fulfill” him. Her name was Trudy, but there had been Janice and Patty and Di and several others before her, and Liv was not impressed. Except by the irresponsibility of it all.

“I’m not sure it’s quite fair to blame Joe Harrington for all of Tom’s sins,” Frances objected. “After all, Joe wasn’t ever married with five kids.”

Maybe not,” Liv admitted grudgingly, “but he is certainly a source of inspiration.” She began straightening her desk, lining up pencils, sorting paper clips, anything to take her mind off the irritation she felt at Frances’s even having suggested such an outrageous idea. “Anyway,” she said as an afterthought, “I’m off early today. Marv’s given me a break because it’s my birthday.”

“Maybe that’s why you get to do the interview,” Frances laughed. “Mmmmmmm, what a present!”

“Cut that out,” Liv said, grinning in spite of herself. “What I am getting for my birthday is a casserole I made on the weekend, if Noel remembers to put it in the oven, and a cake that Ben, Stephen and Theo are baking with a little help from their friends and an original water-color by Jennifer. All far superior gifts to an interview with the playboy of the western world.”

“Don’t be surprised if you get that, too,” Frances said and jerked her head in the direction of the editor making his way across the busy newspaper office toward them. “Here comes Marv.”

Have I got a job for you!” Marv Ketchum boomed with the same heartiness he once used when he sent Liv off to write a story on ice fishing. She was glad it was not December.

“Oh?” Liv looked up, the hairs on the back of her neck standing up as she anticipated the ax about to fall.

“Story of the year,” he went on jovially, “and you get to cover it. What do you say to that?”

“That I hope it’s tomorrow, because I’m leaving at three-thirty today.”

Marv sighed, losing his heartiness. “I was afraid of that.”

“It isn’t?”

“no.” Then, apparently deciding that his best tactic was a strong offense, he said abruptly, “I want you to be at the Sheraton at five o’clock to interview Joe Harrington.”

Frances beamed, her existence justified. Liv’s teeth snapped together so hard they hurt.

He’s agreed to an interview &emdash;” Marv began.

Bully for him,” Liv muttered. “Why me? I thought the national desk guys would cover him. I mean, he’s in Madison to speak for that world peace organization, isn’t he? That’s their area, not mine.”

<“Well,” Marv said, ticking the off on his fingers, “Fitz went to Chicago for a story, Daly is in Minneapolis, Hold has the flu . . . “

“Fitz went to Chicago? But I saw him only twenty minutes ago.”

“Leaving,” Marv said with satisfaction. “So that means you’re it. Have it on my desk by ten o’clock tomorrow morning.”

“Wait a minute,” Liv said as he moved away. “What about Frances? Can’t Frances do it?” Surely George wouldn’t really mind if she sacrificed his wife on the altar of America’s favorite heartthrob.

Marv shook his head. “Come along to my office,” he said and nearly dragged her with him, shutting the door behind her. “Sit,” he commanded.

“I’ll stand.”

“Look, be reasonable,” he said, trying to moderate his tone and not wholly succeeding. Think how many women would like to be in your shoes. How many would give everything they own to interview Joe Harrington?”

“They’re welcome,” Liv said tartly, gray eyes flashing. “All I want is a nice, hectic evening alone with my kids.”

“You like your job, don’t you?” Marv said silkily, suddenly looking every inch the tough boss.

Liv stared. “You wouldn’t?” she gasped. He knew how much she needed this job. He had given it to her on very slim reasons and very great faith when she was newly divorced three years before and had presented him with a resume that said, “Twenty nine years old, five children, no experience.” Surely he wouldn’t snatch it away now &emdash; not because of someone like Joe Harrington!

“I probably wouldn’t,” Marv said heavily as he lit a cigar and took several shot puffs. “But I need to impress you with how very much I want this interview. Joe Harrington gives damned few of them. And if he’s suddenly willing to talk to Madison Times’ feature write, Olivia James, you’re going to listen!”

“But why me?” Liv demanded again. “Surely you could send someone else.”

“I could,” Marv agreed. “But he won’t talk to anyone else. It’s you he wants.”

“Me?” She was incredulous. “He doesn’t even know me!”

Marv shrugged. “He must know of you then. His secretary, some guy named Gates, called me this afternoon and said Harrington would talk to you. No one else.”