excerpt: White Wine & Wild Rides

White Wine & Wild RidesSelina Ramirez exhaled as Phoebe, the mistress of the studio, tugged on her corset strings. Selina’s breasts plumped and threatened to spill.

Phoebe studied the overflow. “A little toupee tape should do it.”

Lengths of fluttery tie-died silk and strips of metal-studded leather lay across every surface of the San Francisco couturier’s workroom waiting to be turned into wearable works of art. Poster-sized stylized watercolor washes of a woman either riffing on an electric guitar, crooning into a microphone or strutting on a stage leaned on easels around the room. In its center, two triptych mirrors formed a mini-room that reflected into infinity.

The money that would change hands today would keep three designers and four seamstresses in rent money for the next six months.

Best of all, Selina Ramirez, escapee from Castor, New Mexico—population one thousand, two hundred and thirteen—would be paying the bill. No, the money wasn’t hers. All that lovely money was from her employer’s bank account. But that only heightened the moment.

Who would have thought that, eighteen months ago, Selina would be live-in personal assistant to the hottest pop star in the world? Working for Blair was turning out to be much more rewarding than her last job of thrusting tooth-picked chicken samples at unwary pedestrians while wearing a red yarn wig and oversized blue striped bloomers.

Being the same body type, the same size, even the same height as Blair were the attributes that had sealed the deal on Selena’s employment.

Blair detested fittings. Not so Selena, who had grown up wearing clothes from charity bags. Her prom dress had come from the lost-and-found box at the hotel where she’d cleaned during high school. Now she was the recipient of Blair’s continuous closet purges. Not only were her clothes the chic-est hand-me-downs in the world, they were custom-fit, too.

Not bad for a high school graduate whose only money handling experience had been pocketing left-behind change as a hotel maid and ringing up charge cards as a ticket seller at Cliff’s Amusement Park in Albuquerque.

She took a deep breath as if she were about to belt out a high note. The boning cut into her bottom ribs. “Loosen it a bit around the ribcage, please.”

Phoebe worked some slack into the laces. “How’s that?”

“Much better.” Selena scrutinized herself under the stark lights. “It needs something. A splash of color, I think?”

“Red?”

Selina imagined Blair’s spiky white-blond cut instead of her own waist-length dishwater-brown ponytail.

“How about an inset of electric blue?” She sketched out a design on a napkin slightly damp from the green tea Phoebe served her clientele. “What do you think?”

“Nice.” The voice over her shoulder was much deeper than Phoebe’s. But then, Eric Saunders’s voice was much deeper than most men’s. “And the design’s not bad, either.”

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