Starstruck, p.1Lauren Conrad
To Farrin Jacobs, for working unbelievably hard
and making the writing process so fun.
Thank you for not just being an amazing editor
but a wonderful friend.
1. Courtroom Couture
2. Moving On
3. Nice Gets You Nowhere in Hollywood
4. A Lot Like Jail
5. The Simple Things
6. A Mutual Favor
7. Know Your Line
8. Who Said Anything About Love?
9. Make It Right
10. On-Screen and Off
11. Quiet Time
12. Mysterious Contradictions
13. Fame Is Fame
14. In a Party Mood
15. A Much Better Place
16. A Band-Aid on a Bullet Wound
17. Playing to the Cameras
18. Going Rogue
19. A New Leaf
20. Let the Haters Hate
21. You Know Me Better Than That
22. Keep Me Standing
23. Picking a Winner
24. Go It Alone
25. Somewhere Better
26. What I Wished For
27. Talking Points
28. So Many Secrets
29. A Satisfying Amount of Commotion
30. The Stars Came Out
About the Author
About the Publisher
You probably don’t remember it, but a few months ago I wrote you a letter. I told you that I was your biggest fan. And I really was! My screen saver was a picture of you from the Fame Game premiere. My ringtone was the theme from Madison’s Makeovers. I loved you.
Well, I’m writing now to tell you that I don’t love you anymore. At all. Everything I said in that letter—about how you were true to yourself, how you worked so hard for what you got—I take it all back. Because everything that you said was a lie.
You had it all, Madison. Money, looks, fame. But I guess that wasn’t enough. Stealing is wrong. Didn’t your parents teach you anything?
PS: I unfollowed you on Twitter.
Madison Parker stood in the echoing marble foyer of the Beverly Hills Courthouse, her back pressed against the wall and her purse clutched tightly in her freshly manicured fingers. People in ill-fitting suits and outdated shoes hurried past without a second glance at Madison’s uncharacteristically pale face. (Seriously, was there a law against natural fabrics and current-season pumps around here?)
Madison’s own outfit was carefully thought out. She’d taken a page from Lindsay’s book (after all, who had more experience when it came to courtroom couture?) and opted for white, although Madison wore a bra with her ensemble. Her dress hit right below the knee, and she accessorized with a modest heel and pearls. She had a quilted Chanel that would have looked perfect, but instead she’d chosen a simple black bag. “No labels,” her lawyer had instructed her. She’d been charged with theft, and flaunting an expensive wardrobe wasn’t going to help her case.
She sighed. For the last ten minutes she’d been waiting for Andy Marcus, Esq., to emerge from wherever he’d disappeared to in the moments after her hearing. He was probably off congratulating himself, as if it had been his performance that had convinced the judge not to give Madison jail time for grand theft. Madison knew the truth, of course: When she took the stand, with her big blue eyes full of tears and her voice full of remorse, she saw the judge soften. In seconds, she had him wrapped around her finger. (She often had that effect on men.)
She’d practiced what she was going to say for days. She’d even hired an acting coach—the same one she’d used to help her prepare for her guest-starring role on an episode of Family Guy. She had to be prepared, because every word was a lie.
I got caught up in the moment, Your Honor. All the excitement and the glamour and the celebrity went to my head. I’m a small-town girl, sir. I never could have imagined all this would happen to me. I just—I don’t know—when the Fame Game premiere was happening, I wasn’t myself. There was so much pressure and insanity. It was wonderful, but it was also really confusing. I was exhausted and I wasn’t taking care of myself. Like I said, I just sort of forgot who I was. I saw this beautiful diamond necklace, and I felt like I needed it in order to be as special as everyone thought I was. Even though I know that I didn’t. I’m so sorry, Your Honor. I take full responsibility for my actions, and I deeply apologize to you and to my fans and to the wonderful people at Luxe....
This line of defense was inspired by the recent antics of action star Austin Beck, who, after being caught climbing a flagpole in a pair of women’s underwear, claimed “reactive psychosis” from stress and dehydration. (Surely his weakness for psychedelic drugs had nothing to do with his stunt.)
But defending herself in a court of law hadn’t been easy for Madison. While she was experienced in exaggerations and manipulations, she was not actually a good liar. On top of that, she was unaccustomed to taking blame for anything, even if she deserved it. She’d spent the last five years of her life looking out for number one, and number one had always been Miss Madison Parker. The words “I was wrong” tasted like poison in her mouth.
But when her estranged father, Charlie Wardell, showed up in L.A., rumpled and sweet and ashamed of the way he’d abandoned her, Madison discovered a selfless side that no one thought existed. She rented him a house. She welcomed him into her life. She forgave him for leaving all those years ago. And when he vanished into thin air the morning after the Fame Game premiere, along with the diamond necklace she’d borrowed from Luxe Paris, she took the fall.
Of course she’d thought about telling the truth and letting him suffer the consequences. But he’d already done time for theft. She couldn’t bear the thought of him being locked up again, making license plates for twenty-seven cents an hour or whatever it was they did in there. Not when he’d finally come to find her—to be a part of her life.
No matter what anyone else said, Madison knew that Charlie hadn’t reappeared with the intention of taking advantage of her. She’d offered him money dozens of times, and he had always refused it. “I don’t want to take anything from you,” he’d say. “All I want is to spend time with my daughter.”
She’d been right to believe him—at first. But then something changed. Who knew exactly what had happened? Only Charlie did, and he wasn’t around to explain. Maybe one of his bad debts had come due, or maybe he experienced his own moments of reactive psychosis. All Madison knew was that her father had stolen the necklace and split town. Just tell them you lost the necklace. They’re insured. Nobody loses. I love you always—Charlie, his note had said.
Nobody loses? If only it was that simple! But it wasn’t, because Charlie had been caught on videotape pocketing a pair of Luxe diamond earrings to match the loaner necklace.
(Questions of morality aside, how could he be so bad at stealing? Really, it boggled the mind.)
In the hours after she discovered that he was gone, a deep familial loyalty rose up in Madison. And today, she had pled guilty to cover for him. And for that act of generosity, she got a long lecture from the judge about honesty and personal responsibility, along with three hundred hours of community service. She had to pay back Luxe, too, although they’d given her a little break on what she owed because of th
“Oh! There you are,” said her lawyer, appearing at her side and looking pleased with himself. “I lost you for a minute.”
Madison took a small step away from him. Andy Marcus wore too much hair product and even more cologne. “You’re the one who disappeared,” she pointed out. “I’ve been standing here in the middle of … well, where I can only assume people are sent for crimes against fashion. I’m surprised everyone isn’t walking around here with black bars across their faces.”
Andy laughed. “Down but not out!” he said. “There’s the Madison Parker the world knows and loves.”
“Whatever,” she said, noting his own poor choice in suiting. “We should probably walk out together, right?”
Madison knew what was on the other side of the courthouse doors: a sea of photographers, TV cameras, spectators. A crowd of people waiting to see her. A few of them were her fans, of course. Most of them were not, though, and they waited impatiently, holding signs painted with mocking slogans, itching to unleash what she knew she had coming. While Madison was thrilled to have avoided jail time, there were plenty of people who felt differently. They wanted her to pay for what she’d done.
She thought of Lacey Hopkins, the young actress who’d been in Madison’s shoes more than a few times herself, thanks to a fondness for prescription drugs and petty shoplifting. Would Madison’s career suffer the way Lacey’s did? She told herself that it wouldn’t. It couldn’t. She’d do her community service and be a model citizen from now on.
Andy Marcus’s phone rang. “It’s your publicist,” the lawyer said, glancing at the screen. “She’s calling because you need to make a statement. Or I can do it, if you want me to. I like to think that talking to the press is one of my personal strengths.”
Madison snatched the phone from his hand and answered it. “Why are you calling the lawyer instead of your own client?” she demanded.
Sasha didn’t miss a beat. “Oh, hello, Madison,” she said smoothly. “I wasn’t sure how you’d be feeling, so I thought it would be best to call Andy.”
“I’m great, thank you,” Madison said. “Best day of my life.”
“I’ve been so worried about you.”
“I’m sure you have,” Madison replied. She liked her publicist fine, but she understood that Sasha was actually more worried about herself. It was always a hassle for publicists when their clients got in trouble; they had to field calls from every gossip blogger and magazine out there. It was a headache. And whoever said that all press is good press hadn’t posed for a poorly lit mug shot recently.
“Well, I have great news,” Sasha said.
“Really?” Madison felt her heart lift a little.
“Yes. I just got off the phone with Veronica Bliss, and she has agreed to run a huge spread on you. An exclusive. A sit-down with Madison Parker, with a photo shoot and everything. Isn’t that incredible?”
“So Veronica wants me to tell her Gossip readers all about my troubles,” Madison said, her voice flat. This wasn’t the kind of good news she’d been hoping for. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Andy give her the thumbs-up. God, he was such an idiot.
“Yes. It’s your chance to tell your side of the story, Madison. Your chance to regain some of the sympathy you’ve … well, temporarily lost.”
Madison smiled grimly. At any other time in her life, she would have cut off a limb to get a two-page spread in Gossip. But today? Today was a different story. Today she couldn’t tell anyone what really happened: not Trevor Lord, her boss; not Kate Hayes, who seemed like she’d be a sympathetic ear; and certainly not the entire circulation base of Gossip magazine. Besides her sister no one knew the truth, and Sophie wasn’t going to let that one slip. She was more than enjoying Madison’s fall. Funny how things worked out. “No thanks,” she said. “I don’t want to talk about it. Besides, given my history with Veronica, I hardly think it would be a positive story.”
“Are you sure?” Andy mouthed.
Madison waved his question away. “Let’s just make a statement,” she told Sasha. “Something about how I support the judge’s decision and I’m looking forward to starting my community service immediately and putting this all behind me, blah blah blah. You can make it sound good, right?”
“That’s what you pay me for,” Sasha said.
“Well, then you’ve earned it today. Here, Andy can give you the details.” Madison shoved the phone back into her lawyer’s hand. He looked at it in surprise for a second, as if he’d never seen it before. Then he held it to his ear. “Sasha,” he said.
Madison watched him for another moment and then turned to go. She didn’t need to wait for him. She had a life and an image to rebuild … again.
She strode toward the exit, still holding her bag in its death grip, and paused for a moment before the huge oak door. A large, red-faced security guard appeared beside her.
“I’m going to escort you to your car, Miss Parker,” he said. “There are … a few photographers outside.” He was six foot three and well over two hundred pounds, but he looked a little uneasy as he eyed the door. This didn’t help to calm Madison’s nerves.
Own it, she told herself. Own it. The perp walk is the new catwalk, after all.
She gave the door a defiant shove, and the bright September sunlight that came pouring in nearly blinded her. Or was it the burst of what felt like a thousand flashbulbs? Madison couldn’t be sure. All she knew was that she’d never been more thankful for her superdark sunglasses.
She walked down the steps, keeping close behind the security guard as he created a small path ahead of her. People were screaming her name. A woman in a jade-green suit pushed through the crowd toward her. “Madison Parker,” she said, holding out a microphone. “How do you feel about the outcome of today’s hearing?”
Another reporter appeared to her right. “Miss Parker, has Lacey Hopkins offered you any words of wisdom on dressing for court appearances?”
“Hey, Mad,” someone yelled, “what’s it like to be a convict?” (It was the TMZ guy. She didn’t even have to look to know.)
The shouts from the crowd grew more deafening. Meanwhile the camera shutters kept clicking and the flashbulbs popped like fireworks around her. It was exactly the sort of chaos that she usually loved. Usually craved. (Once a reporter had asked her where her favorite place to be was. “That’s easy,” she’d purred. “Right in the center of all the attention.”)
But now, in this moment, she wanted to be anywhere but here.
“Hey, Parker, nice shoes. Did you steal those, too?”
“Madison, are you going to rehab like your sister?”
“Madison, Madison, stealing is a sin—”
Madison tossed her blond hair and held her head high. She took slow, defiant steps to the waiting car. She imagined that the shouts were coming from her fans, the ones who used to scream and beg for photos and autographs as she walked down the red carpet.
The PopTV camera crew had staked out a place right near her car. On Trevor’s orders, Bret, the camera guy, moved toward her. She could practically feel the camera focusing in on her face, searching for any hint of emotion.
Of course PopTV wanted to broadcast her humiliation, the same as everyone else did. But at least their version would be sympathetic. If Madison had to exit a courthouse on TV, she might as well have the shot color-corrected in postproduction, slowed down for dramatic effect, and set to the tune of Kelly Clarkson’s most recent hit.
She reached up and took off her sunglasses. Let them see exactly how strong she was.
A girl—a freckled, redheaded teenager—came running toward her. “I still love you,” she called. “I still do!” And before Madison’s driver stepped in front of the girl and cut her off, she tossed a single red tulip at Madison’s feet.
Kate stretched out her legs on the chaise longue by the Park Towers pool and wriggled her toes, admiring the blue polish she’d picked out at Brentwood Nail Garden.
“I always thought blue would make a person look like they had poor circulation,” Natalie said. “Or frostbite. But you actually pull it off.”
Kate grinned at her former roommate. “Wow, thanks. You really know how to pay a girl a compliment.”
Natalie shrugged and popped a grape into her mouth. “What can I say,” she said, chewing. “I was raised by wolves.”
“At least they were wolves with a sense of fashion,” Kate said, noting Natalie’s colorful ensemble, which consisted of a leopard-spotted crop sweater paired with a royal-blue chiffon dress, a wristful of gold bangles, and a pair of navy Oxford-style flats. (Kate had, with some effort, convinced Natalie to ditch her opaque black tights; the girl needed a little vitamin D.)
“I found this sweater at a church rummage sale,” Natalie said. “Awesome, right?”
“It looks designer,” Kate agreed.
“It’s very Marc Jacobs,” Natalie said. (As a student at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, she knew the names of every designer.) “But it cost five bucks.” Then she poked Kate with an unmanicured toe. “Speaking of designer, are you getting free clothes now that you’re a superstar?”
Kate laughed. “I wouldn’t say superstar. But I have been getting some things sent to me.” She thought about the box that ShopAddict, an L.A.-based PR firm that repped some of the hottest designers, had messengered to her apartment and which she hadn’t even had time to open yet. It sat next to a Rebecca Minkoff handbag, several dresses from Alice + Olivia, and a pile of shoe boxes from Kate Spade. And they were all for her. To keep. Simply because they hoped she’d be photographed or filmed wearing them.
Starstruck by Lauren Conrad / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes