Excerpt from Three Little Wishes

Chapter 2

Camilla Monroe read the last line of dialogue and lowered the script onto her lap. She glanced at Hugh, the director, from under her fake lashes, trying to gauge his reaction to her audition.

Although she wouldn’t exactly call it an audition, more of a formality than anything. Hugh knew her work. He’d directed her in the movie for which she’d received her first and only Oscar nomination, for Best Supporting Actress. She also considered him a friend. They’d known each other for fifteen years.

His ginger head was bent, nodding at something his pink-haired, twentysomething assistant was showing him on her phone. The young woman had annoyed Camilla from the moment she’d ushered her into the room. She was direct to the point of rudeness, barely looking up from her iPad. No respect, no warmth whatsoever. Camilla didn’t know what was wrong with these Gen Zers. She much preferred Brenda, Hugh’s previous PA. She’d loved Camilla.

This woman clearly did not, and it was just as clear to Camilla from the PA’s sidelong glances while she whispered in Hugh’s ear that she was critiquing her reading. Camilla had to get ahead of this. She needed this role too badly to let this…this pink-haired teenager sway Hugh.

Camilla’s career was in desperate need of a reboot. Her image could use one too.

She looked at the script, praying that wasn’t the reason for Pinky’s whispers. People in the industry didn’t read tabloids anymore, did they? Besides, even if Hugh’s assistant did, what was the old adage? No publicity is bad publicity, right?

She briefly closed her eyes before pasting on a wide, confident smile. “I love everything Liane Morrison writes, and I can’t tell you how much it means to me that you considered me for the role, Hugh,” she gushed. Too much? she wondered.

She meant it, though. She’d read and loved every single one of Liane Morrison’s novels, and the movie adaptations to date had been fabulous. Camilla had known from the moment she’d read the script that this one would be the same. The perfect vehicle to relaunch her career. It had award winner stamped all over it.

Hugh lifted his head and smiled. He was a lovely man with fabulous hair, a handsome face, and warm eyes. He reminded her a little of Sam Heughan, the actor from Outlander. Hugh’s assistant caught Camilla studying him and raised a microbladed eyebrow, a proprietary look in her eyes.

Really, Hugh? Camilla wanted to say. He was forty-seven, the same age as her. What could he possibly see in a woman young enough to be his daughter? Camilla lost a little respect for him, and she’d respected him immensely. She’d thought he was different but she should’ve known better. All men were the same. Always on the lookout for an upgrade, trading you in as soon as a bright, shiny younger model came along.

Camilla swept her hair over her shoulder, glad she’d listened to her assistant. Sometimes she thought Gail knew her better than she knew herself. Her new look had given Camilla the confidence boost she needed for today. The colorist had done an amazing job weaving honey and caramel lowlights throughout her creamy-blond hair. The warm colors complemented her tanned skin tone to perfection. The stylist had completed her makeover with soft bangs and layers that made her look more than a decade younger. According to Gail, she could pass for thirty-two.

While on the one hand, the compliment was just what Camilla needed to hear, it was also slightly concerning. She didn’t want to look too young. The role she was reading for was that of a forty-year-old mother of two, Rachel West.

Camilla glanced at Hugh. His head was once again bent over his assistant’s iPad. It sounded as if they were reviewing Camilla’s reading. Fine, let them. It had been one of her best auditions in years. She’d nailed it. Except Hugh seemed unusually distracted and that worried her. It was his assistant’s fault. Every time he’d opened his mouth to say something to Camilla, she’d shown him something on her iPad.

Camilla cleared her throat and subtly arched her back, ensuring her boobs were shown off to their best advantage in the cream-silk wraparound dress. Her implants were fabulous and worth every penny she’d scrimped and saved when she’d first started out. They were the best investment she’d ever made. Her toothpaste-commercial-worthy smile came a close second. She flashed it at Hugh as soon as he lifted his head. He could date whomever he wanted. She didn’t care. All she cared about was getting this damn part.

“This role was made for me, Hugh,” she said, crossing her legs, letting the red Jimmy Choo dangle flirtatiously from her toes. His assistant rolled her eyes. Camilla didn’t care if Pinky thought she was a sellout to womankind as long as she drew Hugh’s attention to her long, toned legs, which were the result of daily two-hour sessions with her trainer. She’d use any means at her disposal to get this job—apart from sleeping with anyone, of course. If she didn’t get this role, she was terrified her career would be over.

“I am Rachel West.” Camilla wasn’t blowing smoke. She’d identified almost immediately with Rachel. Like Camilla’s, Rachel’s life had imploded upon her discovering her husband was having an affair with a woman two decades her junior. Something else Camilla could sadly identify with: the young woman Rachel had taken under her wing at work was gunning for her job. The last two roles Camilla had auditioned for had been won by the much younger woman she’d mentored and considered a friend. She should’ve known better. It was a cutthroat industry. Everyone was out for themselves.

Hugh drew his eyes from her legs, clearing his throat before offering her what looked like a self-conscious smile. “Your read-through was great, Cami.” His assistant said something under her breath. He glanced at her, nodded, and then returned his attention to Camilla while refusing to meet her gaze. Camilla wanted to howl.

“We’re wrapping up auditions for Rachel today, and we hope to have a decision by the end of the week.”

Camilla worked to keep the smile on her face and the panic from her voice. “I see. I didn’t realize you were auditioning other actresses for the role.” Chin up, tits out, she told herself as she rose from the chair. When her nose itched and her throat clogged, she silently repeated the advice her mother had given her decades before. Don’t ever let them see you cry.

Hugh rubbed the back of his neck as he came to his feet. “Look, Cami. I—”

Once again, his assistant rolled her eyes, and Camilla clenched the script in her hand. She wanted to throw it at the condescending little twit.

“You passed them on your way in,” Pinky said with a smirk.

“I couldn’t have. The actresses waiting in the hall are all auditioning for Rachel’s daughter.” They had to be. None of them looked a day over nineteen, and Camilla didn’t recognize any of them. Were they beautiful? Yes. Actresses of her caliber and experience? Definitely not.

Camilla walked to Hugh with sensuous grace, ensuring that she had his undivided attention.

His assistant snorted. Hugh shot her a look that had her bending her head over her iPad.

“We’ve already filled the role of Rachel’s daughter,” Hugh said. “We gave the part to Lilianna Rose.”

“Lilianna Rose? Hugh, she’s a tween.”

“I know, but she nailed the audition, Cami. The kid’s a natural.”

“So the actresses in the hall, they really are auditioning for the role of Rachel?”

He nodded, pulling his phone from his pocket. He glanced at it as he said, “They are.”

There was so much wrong with that that she wanted to spit. She’d been coming up against ageism more and more as each year passed. Just like every other actress, she knew the score. Once a woman hit forty, the roles began drying up. Of course it wasn’t the same for their male counterparts. At least fifty percent of the leading male roles in the movies went to actors in their forties.

Hugh’s gaze met hers, and a muscle in his chiseled jaw bunched. He knew exactly what she was thinking. How could he not? They’d had this conversation before.

He rubbed his hand over his wavy ginger hair. “Are you going to be in town for a few days?”

“I can be. Why?”

“I’d like you to do a read-through with Clive.”

She didn’t have to ask Clive who? Hugh had directed the majority of Clive’s movies, earning them both shelffuls of awards.

“Oh, so Clive’s playing Rachel’s husband?” she asked, holding his gaze to make her point. Clive was fifty-seven while Rachel’s husband in the movie adaptation was forty.

Camilla had every right to be upset but it wouldn’t get her the job. Instead of calling Hugh out on the double standard, she smiled winningly. “I’d love to do a read-through with Clive. It’ll be great to catch up. We’ve always had amazing chemistry on camera.” They had when they’d worked together in the past but she’d been much younger then.

Hugh’s broad shoulders relaxed as if he’d been expecting her to call him out for the hypocrisy. “Great. Emily will be in touch with a day and a time once she’s spoken to Clive.”

The name didn’t suit the young woman with the perpetual sneer. Her parents should’ve named her Wednesday. Other than her hair color, she had the same look and demeanor as Wednesday Addams in the Netflix series. And no way was Camilla leaving her future in Pinky’s hands. She didn’t put it past her to give her the wrong day and time.

Trying to come up with a work-around, she leaned in to kiss Hugh’s cheek, lingering longer than was necessary. Long enough to discover that he smelled as delicious as she remembered. “Perfect,” she said, her voice husky and low.

He leaned around her to open the door, looking a little flushed. “It was good seeing you, Cami.” His low baritone was even deeper, huskier too.

She dipped her head, hiding her grin. They didn’t call her a heartbreaker for nothing. At least in Sunshine Bay they had. She briefly closed her eyes. What was up with her? That was the second time today she’d thought about her hometown and her family. She locked thoughts of both away. Nothing good ever came of thinking about Sunshine Bay and her family.

She needed to focus. Smoothing her hands over her hips as if straightening her dress instead of highlighting her curves, she said, “It was great seeing you, Hugh. It’s been too long.”

Then she rested a finger on her chin, bringing his attention to her pouty, kissable lips. Thank you, Dr. Vaughan. “You know, since I’m going to be in town, why don’t we go out and have a drink together?”

It was the perfect solution to the Pinky problem. Hugh could confirm the day and time of her reading with Clive, and Camilla would have the opportunity to point out that the lead actresses in the previous movie adaptations of Liane’s books had all been in their forties.

She’d also remind him how well they’d done and what the entertainment industry seemed to forget: it was people over fifty who controlled seventy percent of the disposable income.

At the sound of whispering coming from her right, she cringed. What had she been thinking, asking him out as she stepped into the hall? She prayed the other actresses hadn’t heard her or, if they had, that Hugh agreed to meet for drinks.

He looked as if he was about to nod when they were interrupted by a familiar male voice. “Camilla, what are you doing here?”

No. It couldn’t be. She widened her eyes at Hugh.

He raised his hands. “I had no idea, Cami.”

Pinky leaned past Hugh. “Giselle, we’re ready for you now.” Her black-slicked lips twisted in a smirk that she directed at Camilla before her face transformed, welcoming Giselle with a warm smile as if the two were BFFs.

For all Camilla knew, they could be. They were Gen Zers and were obviously into older men. Last year, Giselle had stolen Camilla’s husband, Jeff, from her. Now her ex-husband, she reminded herself.

Hugh put a hand on Camilla’s shoulder and gave it a comforting squeeze. Although if Pinky had shown him the tabloids’ front pages from a few months earlier, it was possibly a warning squeeze and not a supportive one.

“I’m here until at least ten tonight. But I’ll give you a call, and we’ll grab lunch tomorrow. Okay?” He ducked his head to meet her gaze.

She nodded. “I’d like that, thanks.” He had no idea how grateful she was. He’d saved her from looking like an idiot in front of her ex.

She took some measure of pleasure in knowing that Jeff would be furious that her friendship with Hugh might give her a leg up over his girlfriend. The fact that both Jeff and Hugh’s assistant thought the gorgeous model had a chance to beat out Camilla made her stomach turn. The woman might be beautiful but she couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag.

“Sorry. I need to get by,” Giselle whispered, her shoulders hunched around her ears as if she expected Camilla to make a scene. Camilla rolled her eyes. She could only imagine the lies Jeff had told her. He’d had a field day with the press.

Or maybe Giselle felt guilty for breaking up their happy marriage. Camilla snorted at the idea that her marriage had been a happy one as she stepped aside to let Giselle by. Camilla hadn’t realized how unhappy she’d been until a week after catching Jeff and Giselle in her bed.

She turned to leave, which brought her face-to-face with Jeff, his eyes narrowed as he looked from her to Hugh. She wanted to smack his too-pretty face. She wasn’t a violent person but her ex brought out the worst in her, which had unfortunately been enshrined on the front pages of the tabloids forever.

“You got this, Cami?” Hugh asked.

She nodded, wondering where Gail was. “I do, thanks.”

For the past few months, her assistant had been running interference with Jeff to avoid more bad press. But Camilla wasn’t about to let him get a reaction from her today. She wouldn’t put it past him to have the paparazzi on standby.

He used to be a publicist and had taken over her PR when they started dating. She should’ve listened to Gail. She’d advised her not to hire him and then not to marry him.

Gail hadn’t liked any of her previous husbands either, but she really, really hadn’t liked Jeff. Sadly, Camilla had been head over heels in love with him.

She looked over her ex-husband’s shoulder, waving and smiling as if someone were there. The second he turned to look, she hurried past him.

He grabbed her arm. “Don’t think I’ll let you get away with this, Camilla.”

She stopped, looked down at his hand and then pointedly at the actresses sitting in the chairs in the hall.

He let his hand fall from Camilla’s arm before leaning into her and whispering fiercely, “If you mess this up for Giselle, you’ll be sorry.”

“The only way your girlfriend has a chance at this part is if you called in some favors. And despite what you like to think, you don’t have that much pull, Jeff.”

Sadly, these days, she had less pull than he did. She wasn’t worried as much about Hugh as she was about the producers. She didn’t know who they were, and they held the purse strings.

She hooked the strap of her Coach straw tote over her shoulder. “You might want to think twice about sabotaging my chances of getting this role, Jeff. If I don’t get it, I won’t be able to afford your alimony payments.” At least at their current amount.

That would the one and only positive of not getting the role. She’d been angrier about having to pay Jeff alimony for the next two years than she had been when she’d discovered him in her bed with Giselle.

“I don’t think that will be a problem. All you have to do is sell the house,” he said with a smug smile. “In fact, with the rate of inflation, I’m thinking of asking for an increase.” He waited for that to sink in before adding, “Now, if you were to put in a good word for Giselle with Hugh, I might—”

He didn’t finish, and not because Camilla had punched him in the nose, rendering him speechless, but because Gail had appeared at her side and looped her arm through Camilla’s, whisking her away.

“Don’t say a word,” Gail warned, her gaze moving from left to right. “You don’t know who’s listening, and the last thing you need is more bad publicity.”

By the time they reached the lobby, Camilla was practically shaking with suppressed anger. “Did you hear him? Did you hear what he said to me?” she asked, unable to stay quiet any longer.

She pushed open the glass doors, yelping when a gust of wind and rain whipped open her dress. She fisted the fabric in her hands to keep it closed while joining Gail under the umbrella she held over her head. “Please tell me I didn’t flash anyone who had their phones out.”

She was extra careful these days never to put a wrong foot forward in public, which was why she ranted quietly to Gail about Hugh’s PA, Jeff, Giselle, and the unfairness of it all while standing on the edge of the sidewalk, flagging down a cab.

Gail grimaced at her phone.

“What’s wrong?” Camilla asked, worried that Jeff had already done something.

“Nothing. At least, I don’t think it’s anything to worry about.” Gail offered her a closed-lipped smile. “We can talk about it when we get back to the hotel.”

“No. Tell me now.”

“Willow called. She says it’s urgent. I told her you’d call her back before the end of the day.” She held up her phone. “She texted to see if I had given you her message.”

No, no, no. This couldn’t be happening. The last thing Camilla needed was for her secret to come out. It would ruin her. She wouldn’t stand a chance of getting the role. She—


As she stepped off the sidewalk, Camilla glanced over her shoulder at Gail, and everything went black.

back to Chapter One