For those who might be interested, I’m going to post consecutive chapters of my novel, Conscience, here once weekly. Hope you enjoy!
Rachel Parker’s laugh was slightly forced but her new celebrity boyfriend probably didn’t realize it. It was hard to notice certain details like that when you were with her. In fact, that was one of her constant frustrations with men in general. They seldom noticed anything when they were with her except for her lips, her eyes and her ever wind-blown hair. She sighed as she considered this, grateful for the oversized, designer sunglasses that shielded her true emotions from his view. Beauty had its perks of course and when she was honest with herself, she was less troubled with the dumb blonde stereotypes than she let on. Her multi-million dollar modeling and acting contracts offered sufficient rebuttal to anyone who viewed her as just another pretty face. Still, there were times she wished that someone would see past the sexy images of her that clung to every other billboard in Los Angeles and recognize the person that she was on the inside.
Father Stan had been able to see the real her and she loved him for it. She thought of him anxiously and wondered why he wasn’t returning her calls.
“Are you okay?” Her date asked gently. Maybe she wasn’t hiding her thoughtfulness as well as she imagined.
“Yes,” she mumbled turning back to face her newest celebrity boyfriend. “Just stalling—these events are becoming increasingly tedious.”
He smiled at her, showing perfectly straight teeth, whiter than any tooth had ever naturally been and made to appear even more so when contrasted with his smooth, tanned skin. He was a beautiful man and most other women would have been smitten with him. They were sure to be the talk of the tabloids after today, their first public appearance “together.” His latest film was rocking the charts and People magazine was circulating rumors that he was destined to be their upcoming “sexiest man alive.” Hollywood’s golden couple—that’s what the headlines would say—until they started saying that he was cheating on her with strippers and call girls.
She shook her head angrily, wishing she didn’t always have to be so negative. A realist. That’s what Stan had called her but she knew he was just being polite. He didn’t know how to be anything else.
A gentle touch on her shoulder brought her around. It was time. She took his hand, lifted the designer sunglasses to a perch on top of her platinum blonde hair and flashed her million-dollar smile—ten million dollar smile to be exact. She smiled for real at the thought of that.
They made their way to their seats, another black tie gala for the Hollywood elite, some of which had genuine compassion to match the depth of their pocketbooks. This cause was a worthy one, raising money to fund the renovation of an entire village in Sudan, complete with water filtering systems, educational strategies and the launching of a massive mobile medical clinic that would service, literally, thousands of orphans. Yes, this one was a good cause. However, she knew it wasn’t the only cause being promoted at the event.
She spotted the mayor from across the room and knew it would only be a matter of minutes before he made his way over to her and mugged for his usual, impromptu photo shoot. She didn’t know of any other elected official with more celebrity contacts—including the celebrities themselves who had been elected to office. He was gunning to be the president of the United States even though he hadn’t officially announced his candidacy. Yes, they would be raising money for needy children in Africa tonight but they would also be adding to the necessary votes and influence to, quite possibly, put Kevin Gunther in the White House.
Not that he would be a bad choice or an incompetent leader. He had already won national acclaim with his smooth handling of the L.A. hostage crisis the preceding year—the largest hostage showdown with local law enforcement in California’s history, or in America’s history for that matter. His unflappable leadership and tireless work ethic was reminiscent of Rudy Giuliani after 9-11 rocked New York City and the entire world. No, it wasn’t his experience or credentials that worried her—it was the other part of his life.
“Rachel,” he greeted her flashing his own million-dollar smile. His wife, Shelly, trailed behind him and Rachel noticed that despite her attempt to hide her pain, her eyes were flat and hollow, reflecting the knowledge that only two other people knew, Rachel and Father Stan.
Rachel embraced him with the appropriate Hollywood air kisses and mandatory compliments and then glanced over at Shelly who only briefly made eye contact with her.
Shelly Gunther, Kevin’s high school sweetheart and the homecoming queen voted “most likely to become rich and famous” was a classic beauty, always mistaken for their daughter’s sister instead of her mother. With her perfect etiquette and genuine compassion and empathy she was the perfect counterpart for the fiery, outspoken mayor who never backed down from any case of inequity or injustice. They, more than any movie star pair, were the true golden couple of Los Angeles and their fame and star power were augmented by the fact that they were genuinely in love with each other, with a seemingly healthy twenty-five year marriage to prove it. Rich, beautiful, athletic, educated, talented and devoted to facilitating positive change in the world, they were an easy choice for California’s governor’s mansion and even quite possibly, America’s White House.
As long as America never learned what Stan had discovered.
Rachel found herself wondering again if everything was okay.
End of Chapter Seven. To purchase this book and continue reading in printed or electronic form click here.