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Release the Stars (SIGNED PAPERBACK)

Release the Stars (SIGNED PAPERBACK)

Charlie is brokenhearted after her girlfriend leaves her for a man — and she vows to only date women who completely identify as lesbian in the future. But all bets are off when Charlie meets gorgeous, bisexual Ava…

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Book specifications

Pages : 246
ISBN : 9789881420558
Weight : 272g
Dimensions : 127 x 16 x 203mm

Full description

Can love be measured in percentages?

After her girlfriend leaves her for a man, broken-hearted novelist Charlie Cross moves from New York to Los Angeles to work on a TV show based on her books.

Charlie vows to never date any woman who isn’t a hundred percent certain of being a lesbian.

But when she is seduced by gorgeous bisexual cooking show host Ava Castaneda, whom she’s had a celebrity crush on for ages, Charlie is forced to review her belief in percentages because true love could very well be on the line.

Release the Stars is a lighthearted, fast-paced contemporary lesbian fairytale set in the glitzy world of Hollywood.

Themes and tropes

  • Celebrity romance
  • Opposites attract
  • BlissVerse

Chapter One Look Inside

Chapter 1

“You’re the toast of the town, sweetie,” Nick said. “Every woman in this place wants a piece of you.”

Charlie rolled her eyes at him. “Wrong bar. This isn’t Lux.” Her request to go to her favorite lesbian club had been ignored in favor of the newest, brightest, shiniest scene.

“Next time. I promise.” Nick sipped his cosmo. “This is where it’s at these days.”

Charlie shook her head. She tried hard to not give in to the negative vibes Nick kept scolding her about and go with the flow—also Nick’s advice. Charlie was convinced that spending some time at Lux could change that, but for reasons she couldn’t understand, Nick was reluctant to go there. Maybe because he was gay. But why it mattered to him was beyond her. Nick was happily married to a man who was, objectively speaking, way too hot for him.

“I don’t even know why you care,” Charlie said with a sigh.

“This is LA, Charlie dear. Things are different here.” He didn’t look at her directly, but kept his gaze focused somewhere behind Charlie. He touched her arm. “Okay, don’t look, but—”

Charlie interrupted by following his line of sight and looking straight at the face of a typical LA woman. It was as though women on the West Coast were a different species from the ones she was used to hanging around.

“Tsk. Now you’ve ruined it. She was giving you the eye.” He swung his hands in the air dramatically. “Way to play it cool.”

Nick was one of the most un-cool people living in WeHo.

“You should be out of practice,” Charlie said. “What with having put a ring on the most gorgeous man in Los Angeles.”

Charlie was severely out of practice as well, but she was pretty sure she wasn’t going to find what she was looking for on the rooftop of the newest and hippest Sunset Strip hotel. There was a glass cage in the reception area with a model locked in it, for God’s sake. Charlie assumed the woman went in voluntarily, but still.

“Are you Nick Kent?” A shrill voice came from behind Charlie. “You are,” the voice shrieked. “Can I get a photo, please?”

When she stepped into view, it turned out to be the same woman Nick had pointed out earlier. Instead of checking her out, as Nick presumed, she’d had her eye on him. Charlie couldn’t wait to throw that back into his face.

“In the flesh,” he said, a huge smile on his face. Nick had one of the lead parts in a popular sitcom, so it was imperative that he appear jovial and courteous at all times when meeting fans. “My friend here will take it for us.” He shot Charlie a quick wink.

The woman handed Charlie her phone and didn’t give her a further glance. Charlie took the camera and renewed her determination to drag Nick away from this place. He’d gotten his fan-girl fix; someone had spotted and approached him at the new “it” bar. Now he could indulge his lesbian friend for the rest of the evening.

Charlie fulfilled her duty and snapped a photo of Nick and the woman as they pulled their lips into the obligatory duck-face pout. Charlie had been in Los Angeles for six months now, but she still had some massive acclimatizing to do.

“Thank you so, so much,” the woman said, fawning over Nick. “I adore you on Laughing Matters. You’re my favorite character by far.”

“Thank you,” Nick said with a tilt of his head. “I won’t tell the others.” It took a few more seconds before the woman returned to her own party.

Charlie arched her eyebrows, hoping to convey a wordless I told you so.

“Okay, fine.” Nick showed her his palms. “You’ve got this one. I was wrong. I’ll go to Lux with you as penance. Too many out-of-towners here who don’t know how to behave amongst the likes of me.” He giggled self-consciously. One of the reasons why they got along so well was because he was one of the most self-deprecating people she knew. Plus they had a history in New York. She’d met him years ago, around the same time she’d met Jo.

“You’re a star,” Charlie said flatly.

“Tell me something I don’t know,” Nick replied and got up.

* * *

“It’s like you’re a different person here, Charlie. Just relax,” Nick said.

But Charlie found it hard to relax with a dozen women staring at her, their gazes burning into the back and side of her head. “I need more booze.” She looked around for a waiter.

“Erm, orders at the bar, dear,” Nick said. “You know that.”

“You get them.” Charlie couldn’t bear the thought of making her way through the throng of women blocking her path to the bar. Not because they were unattractive, or too LA for her taste. Rather, she was intimidated. That word summed up the last six months of her life quite adequately. Los Angeles was too shiny on the outside, its inhabitants too focused on appearance. Everything and everyone looked polished and slick. Back when Charlie was an anonymous novelist in New York, she’d never felt like this, so out of her depth.

“Oh no, I got the first round.” Nick gave her a smug smile. “And you wanted to come here. Don’t tell me you’re too chicken to order.” He shrugged nonchalantly. “God forbid you’d have to talk to an actual lesbian on the way. I mean, for someone with your aspirations, this place must embody your wildest dreams come true.” He leaned over their table. “One hundred percent lesbian, Charlotte, my darling. Your exact words. So what’s the problem? This place is teeming with exactly the kind of woman you’re looking for.”

“Screw you, Nick Kent,” Charlie said because she didn’t know what else to say. “Same again?”

“Yes, please.” He threw back the last of his cosmopolitan and leaned luxuriously against the backrest of his chair, ready to be waited on.

Charlie wanted to say “Nobody even drinks cosmos anymore,” but that would just be mean. Nick didn’t deserve that. Plus, he might take her comment too seriously.

So, Charlie made her way to the bar. The earth did not shatter, and she was not attacked by a pack of glossy LA lesbians. The customers standing around the bar even gave her enough room to speak to the bartender. In addition to Nick’s frou-frou drink, she ordered a margarita—an evergreen cocktail that would never go out of style—for herself.

“Aren’t you here with Nick Kent?” a short man with a receding hairline asked. It was just Charlie’s luck to be addressed by the only other man in the bar.

“Just someone who looks like him,” she said, but Nick was so recognizable with his ginger beard, it was futile. She’d gotten used to people recognizing Nick when they were out together, but Lux wasn’t the kind of place where she expected that to happen. The typical customer here was too cool to bother. So, Charlie smiled at the man to let him know she was joking.

“I don’t want to disturb him,” the man said. “I was just wondering, you know?”

“Sure.” Charlie checked out the bartender. She was dressed in a tight, black tank top, which displayed an elaborate tattoo snaking from her arm up to her shoulder. Quite possibly one hundred percent lesbian, she concluded.

“Aren’t you…” the man paused to reflect, “that hot-shot writer working on that new show everyone in town is talking about?”

Charlie chuckled. She was only a writer. LA was littered with the anonymous almost-but-not-quite famous like her. Sure, the rights to her Underground book series had caused a bidding war among the studios two years ago, and her face had appeared in a few trade periodicals since then. But that didn’t mean a whole lot in a city where everybody was somebody.

“I wouldn’t say hot-shot,” Charlie replied.

“I so can’t wait for that show to air,” the man said, getting excited.

“Here you go.” The bartender placed two cocktails on the counter. “That’ll be thirty.”

Charlie dug some bills out of her wallet, scooped up the two glasses, shot the man an apologetic smile, and headed back to Nick.

“Enjoy,” he shouted after her.

“At least I met a one hundred percent-gay man.” She deposited their drinks on the table. “Progress, right?”

“I saw.” Nick chuckled. “What can I say, Charlie? The gays adore you. It must be that androgynous thing you have going on.”

Charlie took a few big gulps from her margarita and looked around the bar. A few more of these and she’d be anyone’s. Her reverie was interrupted by the sound of a message arriving on Nick’s phone. When Nick’s husband, Jason, was out of town, they had the habit of texting back and forth like middle schoolers.

“What sort of sweet nothing is Jason digitally whispering in your ear now, Nickie?”

“It’s not from Jason.” Nick’s facial expression lost some of its usual playfulness.

“Oh.” Charlie didn’t know if she should inquire further.

“It’s from Jo.”

“Oh,” Charlie repeated, but in an entirely different tone. “What does that bitch want?” It came out a bit harsher than she had intended, but the alcohol was not missing its effect, and, well, Jo had treated her in a manner that warranted a little bitchiness on Charlie’s part.

“She’s asking how you’re doing since you don’t reply to any of her e-mails or texts.” He gave her a disapproving look. “She’s worried about you.”

“You can tell her I’m at a lesbian bar surrounded by women who are fully secure in their sexuality and who don’t go back to men at the first sign of trouble.”

“Now now,” Nick said. “Let’s at least try to be fair.”

“Please don’t pick her side again, Nick. She left me for a man. I deserve your sympathy here.”

“I have shown you the utmost sympathy, sweetie. I’ve welcomed you into my adopted city with open arms. I’ve shown you around. Taken away that first sting of loneliness. I’ve basically become your best friend, so no need to lecture me on sympathy.”

The alcohol made Charlie more forthright than she would normally be. “She now shares a bed with Christian Robson.” Apparently three margaritas hadn’t numbed all of Charlie’s pain, because it shot through her as if Jo had only broken up with her the week before, as opposed to months ago when it had actually happened.

“That’s a fact,” Nick said. “But, as you and I both know, because we are both reasonable adults, there are always two sides to every story.”

“Oh, stop playing devil’s advocate, already.” A weight settled in Charlie’s stomach, a weight she’d tried to outrun by moving west and taking up a writer’s position in Hollywood, working on the TV show based on her most successful books. Something she would never have done if Jo hadn’t broken up with her.

“It’s been almost a year, Charlie. It’s time to move on and to stop holding grudges. You’re only hurting yourself. Jo simply wants to know if you’ve settled in okay and how this town is treating you.”

Charlie pushed her half-full glass of margarita to the side. She’d had enough. “This… was not how it was supposed to go, Nickie. Me alone in this city full of fakes and wannabes. We had a good life in New York.” Until Jo blew it.

“I moved here, too, sweetie. I know better than anyone that the transition can be hard. But you have me. You’re not alone. And you’re working on the hottest show Hollywood has seen in decades.” Nick apparently wasn’t done with his cosmo, nor with his speech. “And self-pity is so unattractive.”

“It’s easy for you to say. You have Jason. You are adored by millions. You’re even friends with Ava Castaneda, for crying out loud.” Ava Castaneda was the goddess who hosted the popular cooking show Knives Out. Charlie’d had a TV crush on her for years.

“I was wondering when you would bring Ava up today.” Nick grinned at her. “I could introduce you, you know? Maybe that would cheer you up.”

Charlie just waved him off. “I’m sorry for becoming such shit company. Hearing about Jo still rubs me the wrong way.”

“I know, but look around you. Don’t tell me that, just because you and your ex-girlfriend broke up nine months ago, there’s no one here you could potentially be interested in. I declare the grieving period officially over here and now.”

Charlie wasn’t sure she’d ever be done grieving the loss of Jo Cook. Perhaps she wasn’t the easiest person to live with, but Jo had stayed with her for seven years, giving the impression that Charlie wasn’t too bad after all, only to do a runner when Charlie had least seen it coming. And with a man. No matter how hard she tried, Charlie couldn’t get over that fact.

“I’m drunk, Nickie,” Charlie said. “I think I’m ready to hit the hay.”

“You lesbians are supposed to drink us under the table.” Nick emptied his drink, then reached for Charlie’s glass. “You’re such a lightweight, Char. I thought I trained you better.” He chugged the rest of Charlie’s margarita. “Come on. I’ll take you home.”

Home, Charlie thought, where nobody waits for me. She nodded and followed Nick out of the bar.

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