Notorious

This month, I bring you NOTORIOUS! A case of mistaken identity!


Welcome to your monthly short story! There’ll be love, loss, laughs, heartache and heartbreak as we travel through the year, wherever my imagination takes me. I enjoy writing drama, comedy, paranormal, children’s stories, historical romance—I love writing in all sorts of genres.

This month, I bring you NOTORIOUS! A case of mistaken identity!

Notorious

I’m not normally one of those people who wears sunglasses inside because only nightclub bouncers and celebrities can get away with that, but I had the mother of all hangovers after several tequila shots too many last night.

It was Patty’s fault, my awesome best friend who had the great idea for a post-holiday-banish-the-blues-girls-night-in-with-pizza-and-shots—I think Hallmark make a card for that now. But mostly, we gorged ourselves because neither of us had dates, again. So, the girls’ night-in had turned into a pity party for two with aforementioned tequila shots and singing a medley of karaoke duets very badly.

Which meant that right now, light of any kind burned my retinas and made my head pound like someone was jackhammering inside my skull. Which was why I was standing in line at Chick-fil-A ordering four sausage, egg and cheese biscuits at 630 calories each, a 16oz black coffee to-go, and yeah—wearing dark glasses.

“You should be ashamed of yourself!” hissed the woman standing behind me, which seemed a little harsh.

My calorific-intake was between me and my elasticated sweatpants.

“It’s not all for me,” I protested. “One is for me, and the others are for a friend.”

I was lying: we were having two each to try and soak up tequila with a healthy dose of grease.

“You’re the kind of person who gives all women a bad name!” she said, raising her voice. “He’s married!”

“Who? The Chick-fil-A server?”

I peeked over my shoulder as she scowled at me. Great, I was in the line with a resident weirdo.

I tried to ignore her and hunched my shoulders a little, relieved that my order was up next. I grabbed my food and coffee, mumbling thanks to the server who was staring at me open-mouthed. What the fred-and-ginger was with everyone today?

I shuffled off breathing in the delicious aroma of fresh coffee, almost drooling at the fried-goodness of sausage, egg and cheese biscuits, so I wasn’t prepared when the crazy-lady shoved me in the back.

I stumbled in my flip-flops, sloshing hot coffee over my t-shirt, my sunglasses slipping down my nose.

“Hey!” I yelled up at her.

I was nonplussed to see that she had her cell phone out and was honest-to-God filming me! And she wasn’t the only one. As I gazed around the Inglewood branch of Chick-fil-A, every single person there was taking photographs; no one was helping me.

“Oh-em-gee!” yelled a teenage girl from behind me. “It’s her! Ya know, the one who slept with that movie star and made a sex-tape!”

“Caleb Logan!”

“His wife left him because of it! Greta something…”

“Greta Saxonby!”

“You mean Great Sex-on-me!” laughed a guy in the corner. “Hey, girl! Thought you lived in Beverly Hills. What you doin’ slummin’ it here?”

Suddenly, people were yelling at me from all directions.

“What’s Caleb like in bed?”

“Is it true that Caleb’s wife called you a homewrecker?”

“Perez Hilton said you were a scarlet ho!”

“Are you carrying Caleb Logan’s baby?”

I was hungover, hadn’t yet inhaled my first hit of caffeine, and I was surrounded by an angry mob, jostling to step all over me. I started to panic, and shouldered my way through the crowd. But they followed me outside, still yelling, getting in my face and filming it all, surrounding me, pushing and shoving. I dropped my coffee and biscuits and ran, losing one of my spangled flip-flops in the process.

“Start the car!” I screeched at Patty.

I saw her head bob up from her cell phone, eyes widening as the mob with phones instead of pitchforks chased me through the Chick-fil-A parking lot.

“Hurry!” I yelled, praying that her little Toyota wouldn’t choose this precise moment to break down again, but Esmeralda started first time, and I leapt into the passenger seat.

“What’s happening?” Patty screamed.

“Drive! Drive! Drive!”

I hid my face in my hands as flashlights from cell phones nearly blinded me, and several people banged on the window then the trunk of the car. Patty blazed out of there like she was driving at a NASCAR race.

She blew through a stop sign at 50mph and finally braked at the first red light we came to. My hands were shaking so badly, it took three tries to clip my seatbelt into place. A motorcycle cop shook his head at me as he pulled alongside. I was too freaked by what had just happened to care.

Patty looked like she was in shock, her hands strangling the steering wheel.

“What was that?” she whispered, her voice quivering.

“They thought I was an actress Greta Something. Then they all started screaming at me. It was freakin’ scary.”

She turned to look at me, her eyes widening. “Greta Saxonby! I always said you looked like that skinny white chick,” she gasped. “Except you’re prettier.”

“Thanks, I think,” I said, shaking my head.

“Why were they so mad at you?”

“Something about Caleb Whatsisface, the actor.”

“Wait! Caleb Logan? The Caleb Logan?”

“I guess?”

“And they chased you? Why?”

I shook my head, dazed and definitely confused.

“You need to know!” she said emphatically.

I googled ‘Greta & Caleb’ on my phone, eyes widening with each line I read; then I groaned.

“Oh no, I get it now. Kind of. Greta Saxonby and Caleb Logan made a sex-tape and it’s all over the internet.”

“Wow, he’s only been married six months to that Country & Western singer, Donna something.”

“I know, right? What a dick.”

“Yeah, totally. And you know what else? It’s really unfair that this Greta chick gets the blame. She’s single; she’s not the one swinging a dick at anyone within reach. Caleb Logan is such a horn dog!”

She was right. The single woman in this, Greta Saxonby, was getting the blame even though the douche movie star Caleb Logan had been the one who was married, the one who was cheating. Another case of Hollywood double standards. The Washington two-step was for crooked politicians; in LA, it was the blame-game in a state where divorce assets were split 50-50.

“Hey, where’re my biscuits?” Patty complained, tossing her long dreads over her shoulder and squinting at me. “You know I need biscuits like Momma made after a tequila session.”

I threw her a look that said, I was chased by a mob, nearly lynched and lost my favorite flip-flop, so sorry-not-sorry about your darn biscuits!

“Lame,” she muttered, sticking out her lower lip.

By the time she’d driven the four miles to our tiny one-story cottage in Westchester, whining the whole way about how hungry she was and how she needed home-cooked biscuits, two things had happened: I was ready to kill my best friend, and the photos of me in Chick-fil-A were all over Instagram and Twitter.

Groaning, I switched off my phone and trudged to our ancient coffee machine, staring in despair at the filter which had already been re-used twice, but I definitely wasn’t braving the great outdoors again.

I had no way of knowing that there was worse to come.

We spent the rest of the morning in yoga pants and baggy t-shirts binge-watching Bridgerton,drooling over the Earl of Hastings and laughing at Colin Bridgerton’s hair.

I nearly jumped out of my skin when someone hammered on the front door and wouldn’t stop. I grabbed my prized baseball bat signed by Erik Karros and peeked through the spyhole.

“Holy shit! Have you looked outside?” whispered Patty. “There are three news vans outside and a bunch of reporters. Oh my God! Check your phone!”

While we’d been watching TV, the story had gone viral. Only this time, people had found out my name and were now saying that I was the one who’d made a sex-tape with Caleb Logan, that Greta Saxonby was an innocent victim, and that I was a home-wrecking ho who’d slept with a married man. In the space of four hours, I’d become notorious.

“You have to put out a press release setting the facts straight,” said Patty.

“A press release? I’m a barista at Peet’s Coffee Hut not Kim Kardashian!” I yelled, very, very quietly.

“Right now you’re trending way higher than Kim,” she grinned at me.

“Not helping! I am so freaked right now!”

“Yeah, my bad,” she admitted. “But I’m not kidding about the press release. Put a post on your Instagram page and Tweet something as well. But, um, don’t read any of the messages and I think you should turn off commenting.” She bit her lip, her dark eyes flashing. “I’m going to call Diego and Stanley,” she said, mentioning her brother and his husband. “We’re going to need some serious muscle to get out of our house today.”

“Maybe we should just stay here and, you know, hide?”

Someone banged on the backdoor.

“I’m calling the cops!” I yelped. “Those jerks are trespassing!”

Patty wrinkled her nose. “Take a shower first and put on some makeup. You want to look your best on Huff Post.”

I hated that she was right.

I’d just finishing blow-drying my hair and dressed in my favorite jeans and cute little shirt when Stanley and Diego arrived, pushing their way through the crowds outside. I felt a little teary when I saw them: apart from the fact they were the cutest couple ever, it was like having two scarily enormous big brothers to look out for me.

“You know how to cause a sensation, girl!” said Diego, scooping me into a hug. “So how was Caleb? He as hot as he looks in his movies?”

“You’re kidding me, right? You don’t really think I made a sex-tape with Caleb Logan?”

He looked genuinely disappointed.

“You sure?” asked Stanley.

“Jeez, Stan! I think I’d remember something like that! Everyone has me confused with Greta Saxonby.”

“Um, well, I hate to tell you, but Greta Saxonby just put out a press release saying that the sex-tape wasn’t her and that she’d never sleep with a married man. Basically, she just threw you under a bus.”

My knees gave way. “Oh God,” I whispered. “Who’s going to believe me now? I feel sick!”

“You need an escort to work?” asked Diego kindly.

“You should take the day off,” said Patty, rubbing my shoulder. “Call Maurice and tell him you’re sick and can’t work tonight.”

My stomach lurched. “I think I’ll do that. It won’t even be a lie,” I said, my lips trembling.

It took me three tries to get through to my boss at Peet’s because the line was busy. But when I finally spoke to him, he fired me on the spot.

“I didn’t do anything!” I protested.

“There’s a clause in your contract that says you can’t do anything to damage the company’s good name,” he sneered. “Making a celebrity sex-tape definitely counts; I checked with our lawyers. This is a family restaurant!” and he cut the call.

I stared at my cell phone in disbelief. In a few hours, my life had fallen apart because of a case of mistaken identity. I wasn’t naïve enough to think that being innocent was going to protect me.

“What do I do now?” I asked, my eyes begging my friends for an answer.

But none of them would meet my gaze. Eventually, Patty replied.

“It’s still worth putting out your own press release,” she said softly.

“For all the good that will do now Greta-big-fat-liar-Saxonby has put out hers,” I sniffed, very close to tears.

Diego squeezed my hand. “Get out of town for a few days. Go visit your parents,” he suggested. “By the time you come back, this will all have died down.”

“Maybe,” I said uncertainly, “but every internet search from now until the sun goes supernova will link my name with a sex-tape and a douchey movie star. How’s that going to look on a résumé? No one will believe me. No one will hire me.”

“There is one way,” Patty said slowly. “Maybe.”

I looked up, hope flaring inside my chest. “What? What is it?”

“Get Caleb Logan to tell the truth.”

My hope died a sudden and tragic death. “He’ll never do that.”

Patty chewed her lip. “He might! He’s got nothing to lose by telling the truth. In fact, if he tries to help you, it’ll make him look good. Well, better than the cheating scum he is; he’ll be a cheating scum with a heart. This is Hollywood—everyone loves a comeback kid!”

Diego grinned at his sister. “I think that’s a great idea. All we have to do is make a call to the guy’s publicist. I can guarantee he’ll already be looking for a way to spin the story.”

Hope took a tiny peek out from under a dark cloud and told me that this could work. Possibly. But it was my only chance.

“Give me a dollar,” said Stanley, looking at me.

“Excuse me? My life is going down the toilet and you want me to lend you a buck?” I huffed.

He gave a deep, booming laugh. “I’m a lawyer and if you pay me a retainer, I can represent you.”

“You’re a tax attorney,” laughed Patty.

Stanley shrugged. “I’ll make the call and tell them I’m Gemma’s lawyer. It won’t be a lie.” He smiled at me. “And it’ll be more way more fun than tax law.”

“You guys are the best,” I hiccoughed, feeling happier and weepy at the same time. “Legit, my best friends in the whole world.”

“Remember that when you’re being interviewed by Jimmy Kimmel,” Patty grinned.

I held my breath while Stanley googled Caleb Logan’s publicist, then exhaled deeply while he was put on hold.

And waited.

And waited.

And then I made coffee for everyone and waited some more.

Eventually, Stanley spoke to someone and nodded. Then he shook his head, talked about suing, nodded, shook his head, waited some more, then finally said, “We’ll be ready.”

“What did they say?”

“They’re sending a car to bring Ms. Gemma Parkinson and her attorney, moi, to meet Caleb Logan’s publicist. Better put your game-face on, girlfriend!”

Stanley high-fived me while I squealed with a mixture of shock, relief and excitement.

We agreed that we’d all go, mostly because Patty and Diego didn’t want to be imprisoned in the house all day, and because I was very happy to have my friends with me.

Twenty minutes later, Stanley’s phone buzzed and he nodded. “The car’s outside: sunglasses on, everybody. Remember, whatever anyone says, reply ‘no comment’. Even if they ask you about the weather. Right, let’s go!”

As soon as Diego opened the front door, it was like the Chick-fil-A parking lot all over again except ten times worse. Reporters shoved huge, hairy microphones at me and yelled in my face as Diego wrapped his arm around my waist and almost carried me to the waiting limo. I glanced at Patty over my shoulder, and even her excited smile had dropped at the sight of the crowd and the horrible things that were being shouted.

An enormous security guard pulled open the limo’s door and shoved us inside, telling the reporters to back off.

The noise was horrendous and horribly intimidating. How on earth did real celebrities put up with this all of the time?

The limo nudged its way through the crowd as bright camera flashes surrounded us like fireworks. Thank God the windows were tinted. I was still shaking by the time the car made it to the 405 heading north.

“We’re being followed,” Patty said, pressing her face to the window.

The driver glanced in the rear view mirror and put his foot down, screaming through a light on amber and leaving the journalists fuming at the lights.

“Thank you!” I gasped gratefully, earning me a smile.

We turned off the freeway and headed toward Topanga Canyon, pulling through the gates of a pretty ranch-style house on the hills above the beach. It was smaller than I’d expected from a world-famous movie star, but still four times the size of our apartment, and it had a beautiful pool out on one side.

When the driver opened my door, a huge hairy hound came bounding towards me barking and growling. I squealed and tried to get back in the limo, but the dog pinned me to the car and started slobbering all over my carefully applied makeup.

“Get! Off! Me!” I spluttered.

“Boss! Down!” someone yelled.

The dog obligingly took its huge paws off of my shoulders and dropped down to all fours, pushing his nose in my crotch. And then, the giant mangy beast cocked his leg and peed on me.

I stood staring in horror and disbelief as a stream of yellow urine cascaded down my favorite jeans.

“Boss, no!” shouted the same man.

He came hurrying forwards and grabbed the dog’s collar.

“What are you doing here?” he shouted. “This is private property!”

“Your Rottweiler just peed all over my jeans and you’re yelling at me?”

“Who are you?” he insisted, his stormy gray eyes flashing.

“Gemma Parkinson,” I said in a small voice, still dripping as the dog tried to sniff me again.

“Who?”

Stanley inched out of the limo, eyeing the dog carefully. Even the driver had stayed inside.

“I’m Ms. Parkinson’s attorney. We were given this address for a meeting with Caleb Logan’s publicist.”

The guy cussed a blue streak with the words ‘jerk’ and ‘dick’ repeated several times, and those were just the things that were safe to repeat.

He was easy on the eyes with his wavy chestnut hair, nicely-filled worn jeans and a faded band t-shirt, but he was still a raging a-hole, and I had no clue who he was. He hadn’t even apologized for his socially-unacceptable guard dog.

Just then, a bright-red Ferrari screeched through the gates and Caleb Logan jumped out of the car.

I did a double-take. He looked like a shinier, more polished version of the guy with the dog.

“Hey, you must be Gemma. I hear we had a crazy night of wild monkey sex together! Wish I could remember it!” He held out his hand then frowned at the other man. “Dude, can you smell piss?”

“What are you doing here, Caleb?” the other man asked.

“This is my big brother Caden,” the movie star grinned as my gaze flitted between them. “I’m the younger, handsomer version.”

I shook his hand limply, then stared at the movie star’s brother. This man’s hair was darker and he didn’t have the famous, easy-going charm of his brother. In fact, he looked very intense, and very annoyed. But I’d have to be blind not to notice that he was also very hot.

“How nice,” I grit out, determined not to go fan-girl on either of them.

“I’m Stanley Cooper, Ms. Parkinson’s attorney,” said Stanley in a smooth voice, eyeing the brothers appreciatively.

“These are my friends Patty and Diego,” I said weakly as they scrambled out of the limo. “We couldn’t leave them at the house—it’s surrounded by reporters.”

Caleb just winked at me, but his brother Caden looked mad.

“And you invited them to my house because…?”

Caleb shrugged. “Donna threw me out and I needed somewhere private for this… whatever.”

Caden shook his head but didn’t reply. Instead, he turned and led us through the house and out to a private patio at the back where we sat under the shade of three towering dogwood trees.

“Uh … you want some water, coffee?” he asked, shoving his hands in his jean pockets.

“Both,” I said tiredly. “And some pee-free jeans, if you have them.”

“Sorry about that,” he mumbled. “It just means that Boss likes you. He’s really gentle when you get to know him.” He gave me a faint smile. “I have a pair of sweatpants you can borrow.”

“Thanks,” I sighed. “Just when I thought this day couldn’t get any worse…”

He led me into the house and darted into a room where I could hear him opening drawers. He finally emerged with a pair of enormous sweatpants.

“They’re way too big for you but they’re all I’ve got,” he shrugged. “You can wash up in there.”

In his bathroom, I cleaned myself off as best I could, then pulled on the enormous sweatpants. I looked like a clown and had to hold up the pants with one hand. I shuffled back outside where everyone was waiting for me.

“Please, help yourself,” Caden said, waving at a coffee pot and jug of water.

He waited until everyone had gotten a drink then stared pointedly at his brother.

“So, what can I do for you, Ms. Parkinson?” Caleb asked. “Or can I call you Gemma, seeing as we slept together?”

“No, you can’t!” I snapped, my eyes narrowing. “We did not sleep together or make a sleazy sex tape, and you haven’t earned the right to call me by my first name.”

He looked completely taken aback, but I saw that Caden had a small smile on his face. I glanced at Stanley who explained the situation succinctly as I blushed bright red when the sex-tape was mentioned again, and I felt Caden’s dark gray eyes pinned on me.

“It wasn’t me on that tape,” I said softly. “But since Greta Saxonby pretty much said it was me, well, it’s been awful. People are saying terrible things about me—untrue things. I even lost my job. My boss said I’d brought Peet’s Coffee into disrepute.”

“You’re a barista?” Caden asked.

I nodded.

“You’re not an actress?”

“No, I’m in school.”

“What are you studying?”

“Math. I want to be a teacher.”

“It didn’t take you long to lawyer-up,” Caleb sneered, apparently annoyed at being left out of the conversation.

I blinked up at him, surprised by his aggression. He certainly wasn’t trying to be charming anymore.

“Stanley is Diego’s husband, and Diego is Patty’s brother. Patty is my best friend. So getting all lawyered-up as you put it is my friends helping me out,” I said fiercely. “And maybe this is another day in Lala Land to you, but this is my whole life! No one will ever hire me as a teacher if they think there’s a sex-tape out there. I know that I didn’t sleep with you and you know that, too. Presumably Greta Saxonby knows that she did sleep with you, but seeing as she’s not prepared to tell the truth, I’m hoping that you will.” I looked down. “Or my life will be ruined for something that I didn’t do.”

He leaned back in his chair, a smug smile on his face. “Why should I?”

His brother gave him a sharp look. “Don’t be such a dick, Caleb.”

I was surprised at his support and managed a weak smile.

“And I think your brother’s supporters would like to see him do the right thing for an innocent woman,” said Stanley.

Caleb’s smug smile fell. “How much do you want?”

“Excuse me?”

He leaned forward, glaring at me. “I’m not saying we’ll pay you off, but how much money do you want?”

“I don’t want your money!” I said, offended. “I just want you to tell the truth.”

Stanley nudged my elbow. “I need to confer with my client.” Then he lowered his voice. “Don’t be a fool, girl! You could pay off your student loans, maybe even have enough for a down payment on your own place.”

I could tell that the brothers heard every word and a strange look passed across Caden’s face. Caleb just looked bored.

“I should be with my wife. Trying to save my marriage. I need to make a call.”

He stood up and wandered off with his phone in his hand.

“Yeah? Well, it isn’t Gemma’s fault that you can’t keep it in your pants,” Patty called after him, “but it’s my friend who’s paying the price!”

“Caleb is definitely paying the price,” Caden said between gritted teeth. “His wife threw him out.”

“He deserves it,” I snapped, my eyes flashing. “I don’t!”

He met me glare for glare, but then his angry face softened as he stared at me.

“I need to talk to my brother,” he said at last. “I can advise him, but I can’t promise anything.”

“We’re going to need more assurance than that!” said Stanley. “My client can’t go to her own home, she’s been fired from her job, and is seriously worried about the impact this will have on her future career. You need to do more than advise him, Mr. Logan. He needs to tell the truth.”

Caden’s eyes grew dark. “I think you’d better remember, Mr. Cooper, that my brother hasn’t made any statement about Ms. Parkinson. Nor has Greta Saxonby. So the only people you can sue for defamation are the reporters, and I don’t think you’ll have much luck with that … unless your client has very deep pockets.”

I blanched at the anger in his voice. Wasn’t this always what it came down to? Rich people could get away with anything, and the little people like me had to pay the price. Furious tears pricked my eyes.

“Then you’re as big an a-hole as your jerkoff brother!” I said. “Who the fred-and-ginger do you think you are?”

He blinked at me in surprise. “What did you just say?”

“I don’t like swearing,” I muttered.

His grin was brief and surprising. “I promise that I’ll do everything I can to clear your name. But I cannot promise what Caleb will do. I’m his brother, not his keeper.”

I nodded, understanding that this meeting was over.

Caden gripped my hand. “I’ll reserve a suite for you at the Ritz Carlton. They’re used to dealing with reporters so you’ll get some peace and quiet there.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“No problem,” he smiled. “My brother keeps it for when he’s in town, so he’s paying. That seems fair.”

“Very fair,” I smiled back shyly.

“What do you think?” I asked Stanley, as we left the brothers arguing loudly.

“Caleb’s a douche but the brother is hot,” said Diego, earning the stink-eye from his husband, “and he’s totally into our little Gemma.”

I rolled my eyes. “Do you think he’ll get his Caleb to tell the truth?”

Diego’s smile slipped. “I think he’ll try.”

We all traipsed back to the limo, me shuffling because of the clown-trousers I was forced to wear. Boss came bounding out again and I cringed when he licked my face, but at least he didn’t pee on me again.

The hotel suite was amazing and best of all we ordered room service and gorged ourselves on fabulous food and a range of cocktails—virgin for me, I was still hungover and my head throbbed so hard, my eyeballs were ready to roll across the thick carpet.

Two hours later, as we all lay in a sleepy food and trash-TV coma, there was a knock at the door. I shuffled off the bed, looked through the spyhole, then opened the door. Caden was standing there. He held my jeans in one hand, washed and dried, and a large envelope in his other.

“Sorry about your jeans,” he smiled. “Boss really liked you.”

“That’s … nice?”

He smiled, then slid a sheet of paper out of the envelope.

“All you have to do is sign this, and your problems go away.”

“Wait, let me see,” said Stanley, bustling over and reading the contract.

His eyes widened.

“My client accepts!” he said, thrusting a pen at me.

“I haven’t read it,” I objected.

“Your attorney has read it and approved it,” Stanley said pompously.

I snatched it from him and read every detail. “Fifty-thousand dollars? He’s going to pay me that and say the sex-tape was made with Greta, not me?”

Caden shrugged. “What can I say? My brother’s an asshole. But sometimes he does the right thing. I’m sorry you’ve gotten caught up in all his shi— um, crap.”

I held the pen, about to sign, then read the final clause. “Wait, it says here I have to have dinner with … with you!”

I stared up at Caden and he grimed at me. “I had that clause put in. I didn’t think you’d say yes otherwise, and I really did want to apologize for Boss’s behavior.”

“Sign it!” Patty said, nudging me hard in the ribs.

Diego gave me a thumbs up and Stanley smiled encouragingly.

“Fine,” I sighed. “I’ll sign.”

I scrawled my name across the paper and Caden looked very pleased with himself.

“By the way,” he said, “you’re much prettier than Greta Saxonby. Boss would never have peed on her leg.”

“I’m honored?”

He laughed.

“I really am sorry for everything you’ve been through, but right now I’m kind of glad. Can I call you about dinner?”

I smiled shyly. “Are you sure you want to have dinner with someone so notorious?”

He gave me a broad grin. “You’ve met my brother—I’ve had a lot of practice. See you soon, Ms. Notorious.”

THE END


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