Cascading over her face and down her sodden hair, washing the stresses of the day away, along with any remaining salt, sand and shampoo suds, and leaving her feeling freshly rejuvenated. After a long day posing for cameras, listening to photographers and directors scream at each other like toddlers contesting for their favourite toy, there was nothing more relaxing than a scalding hot shower.
It just hadn’t been her day. While few, knowledgeable, individuals would ever describe the life of a model and actress as easy, even by those standards, given her progressively tight schedule and life’s seemingly endless conspiracy to fuck up each of her carefully laid plans, her day had been particularly taxing.
Even from the outset, nothing seemed to go to plan. Her alarm clock had broken sometime in the night and she had overslept by more than half an hour. To make matters worse, the combination of morning rush hour and a minor accident had left her stranded in traffic down Route 405 for more than an hour after she was supposed to meet up with her agent for a late breakfast. Then there had been that debacle of a photo-shoot.
It should have been so simple, so easy. Just one shoot, little more than a day’s work modelling a series of new fashion lines for a European Brand clothing store that would be opening on Montana Ave sometime in the summer. There had just been one problem, the French photographer commissioned for the shoot considered himself to be a born again Guy Bourdin, but only bore a striking resemblance to a toad, and had insisted on having the lighting and mood of every shot to be exact to his vision. Yet there just were not enough hours in the day, or positions of the sun, and in the end, an afternoon’s shoot had to be spread over three days. Today had been the last, an easy two- hours posing on a rock rising out of the surf. However, it seemed Pier had woken up on the wrong side of the bed and before she had even had a chance to change into the first of her dresses, he was screaming that this was wrong or that was out of place. By the end, chewing her bottom lip was all she could do to keep from telling him just where he could stick his precious vision.
Despite the heat of the shower, Milla shuddered at the memory. She’d so desperately wanted to leave, to quit and go on with her day the way she’d been planning it for weeks, to go out to Griffith Observatory with Marco and their father for lunch before taking them on an expensive shopping trip down La Brea Avenue, after all it wasn’t everyday her little half-brother turned 16. Yet the restrictions in her contract forced her to finish the job, regardless of her prior engagements or that slimy toad’s attitude problems, and now it was up to her to make it up to Marco.
Reluctantly, she hit the button to shut off the water before throwing open the glass door. Wet and dripping, she let the little rivulets of water run off her lithe body before stepping out from beneath the dripping shower head and onto the fluffy white bath mat that encircled the stall. Courtesy of the shower, her spacious ensuite was warm and misty, but with the tiniest chill from the single open window. Her skin prickling at the delicious contrast, she took a towel off the heated towel rail and patted herself down. Vigorously towelling her hair with one hand, she opened the door to her connecting master bedroom and sauntered inside.
Spacious and airy, she’d had its walls painted a passionate shade of crimson shortly after purchasing the property and furnished it with fittings of deep oak. The curtains were drawn, but shafts of deep red light filtered through nonetheless to flood the room with natural illumination as the sun sunk beneath the distant horizon. Yet it was the south-facing windows and outer balcony offering splendid views overlooking Beverly Hills that made this her favourite room in the house.
She had already selected her clothes for tonight from the walk-in-wardrobe and neatly laid them out across the Queen-size bed’s black Egyptian cotton sheets. Forgoing underwear, she dropped the towel unceremoniously onto the floor, then tugged the black skinny jeans up her long, willowy legs and over her curvy buttocks. The garment fit like a second skin and deftly buttoning the denim leggings, she then pulled a powder blue long-sleeved babydoll-style top over her head, unintentionally putting her perky breasts on full display as the cotton moulded to her damp skin. Fully dressed, she crossed the bedroom in seven quick strides to her dressing table where a variety of jewellery boxes, perfumes, brushes, creams and other such beauty utensils were arrayed across the top. Considering her reflection in the oval vanity mirror, she took a hairbrush in hand and began brushing the tangles from her hair, hissing and cursing under her breath each time a stubborn knot had to be dragged apart, until it framed her face and fell down past her shoulders in a wash of dark mahogany curls.
Utterly engrossed in her grooming, she never noticed the figure coming up behind her, just out of sight of the morror, and almost jumped out of her skin in fright when a pair of strong arms suddenly coiled around her waist and drew her backward. Without thinking, she made to lash out and break free of her captor, but then went limp in his arms as thin lips began kissing the sensitive place on the back of her neck, just beneath her left ear, making her knees weak and drawing a low moan from her. Only two men knew about that little spot…
‘You look beautiful tonight.’ Paul whispered against her throat, sending delicious shivers down her spine as his fingers slipped beneath the waistline of her top to tickle her flat stomach. Damn him, how did he always know just how to touch her?
‘Mmm…thanks, but I really need to go-oohhh…I’m already running late and Marco’s party is-ohhh god…’ Worlds failed her he began laying fiery little nips and kisses along the curve of her neck before ravenously gnawing on the sensitised tendons. He hadn’t shaved today, she noted, her toes curling as at the feel of his stubble roughened chin brushing against her softer skin.
Paul William Scott Anderson had been her boyfriend for the better part of three years. They’d met while filming ‘Resident Evil’ and had instantly hit it off. Though she couldn’t explain it, there was just something about his geeky sense of humour and Newcastle accent that she found enthralling. Seized by the passion of the moment, she dropped the brush and swivelled in his arms to catch his lips in a hungry kiss while tangling her fingers in his dark mop of hair.
The embrace was instantly hot and heavy. Taking the offensive, Milla eagerly curled a long leg around his thigh while tracing her tongue across his thin lips, demanding entry. Groaning a low sound, he acquiesced while hands moved down to paw her rump through the tight denim. Though tall and lanky, he was uncommonly strong and she couldn’t help uttering her own low moan as he drew her closer, allowing her to feel the weight of his desire pressing against her. Then their tongues met in a fierce dance, their teeth gnashing violently as they battled for dominance, manoeuvring blindly back towards the bed.
Almost knocking her heel on the queen size’s heavy oaken frame, she trailed her fingers down his neck to press against his upper torso before pivoting, breaking the embrace to send him tumbling to the bed. Smirking at his stupefied expression, she bent over his prone figure and kissed him again, but it was only a chaste, teasing touch and she drew back before he could develop it into something more. As reality caught up to him, Paul’s eyes narrowed and he shot her an insidious look that she met with a sly, but apologetic smile. He’s so cute when he pouts.
‘Sorry tiger, but I have to go. Its Marco’s party tonight and I’m already late.’ Taking advantage of his distraction, she began edging backward until within an arm’s reach of the door. ‘Wait up for me and I promise, when I get home, we can pick up where we left off. Until then, here’s a little preview…’ With a playful smile, she grabbed the hem of her top and dragged it up over her breasts, flashing him a provocative view of her cleavage before retreating out of the room.
Pushing the garment back into place, she almost ran down the house’s spiralling staircase into the airy foyer. Slipping on a designer pair of brown leather boots and the matching jacket, she grabbed her keys off the oak side table and the plastic shopping bag beside it containing Marco’s presents, before opening the ebony front door and stepping out into the cool evening air. The sky was a dwindling tapestry of pink and orange beneath a sinking sea of violet, the sun long hidden behind the western horizon and the City of Los Angeles nothing but a ghostly silhouette; still slumbering in that twilight purgatory dividing night from day. In her wake, The heavy door slid shut with a booming bang.
Bathed in the golden glow of the hanging iron lamp, she walked past the four huge columns of pale alabaster stone that supported the upper balcony, and down the porch’s three wide steps. Sleek and polished to a high shine, her black, luxury ride, Lexus RX 350 was parked in the centre of the ringed driveway. Clicking the key to unlock the vehicle before pocketing the fob, she climbed into the driver’s seat and carefully placed the shopping bag on the passenger seat then dragged the door shut.
Strapping on her seat belt, she activated the ignition, the V-6 engine bellowing to life with a deep rumble that had the seat vibrating deliciously beneath her. Slipping it into drive and taking off the hand brake, Milla gave the accelerator an invigorating nudge that sent the SUZ surging forward. The sudden acceleration pressed her back into her seat and she drove round the driveway, through the gates that marked the end of her 1.2 acre property, and, without looking, turned onto the solitary stretch of road beyond. There were few streetlights and, with the failing daylight, sensors automatically activated the Lexus’s headlights as she sped round the snaking turns before catching sight of distant cars speeding across the approaching intersection and tapping the brake. Feeling the reassuring jerk of the brakes pushing her forward as the car slowed, she avidly observed dwindling convoy of cars speeding past, only to floor it when she saw an opening, her heart leaping excitedly as she took the left turn at more than 60KMPH and fell in behind a metallic blue BMW Z3.
Easing off the accelerator, she relaxed back into the supple leather of the driver’s seat and switched the radio settings over to CD, flooding the Lexus with the jaunty vocals of Electric Light Orchestra’s Mr. Blue Sky; content for the moment to let the surrounding traffic set the pace. Lavish white fronted homes with large gardens and double garages sped by as a blur on either side of the busy suburban thoroughfare. With the traffic moving so smoothly, she made good time, but it was still long after night’s clock had fully descended that she glimpsed road signs informing her she was approaching Sherman Oaks. Just as she was approaching the intersection, however, the lights hanging overhead suddenly switched from green, to amber to red. Spotting the ominous crimson glow almost too late, she slammed on the brakes, sparking the awful squeal of tires, before coming to an abrupt stop that almost pitched her through the window. Saved only by the tight embrace of her seatbelt, she let out a shaky breath, her heart pounding violently, and collapsed back into the driver seat. Overhead, the light turned back to green. ‘Typical.’
Following the signs’ directions, she turned left at the lights, leaving the main road and the majority of the traffic, down a long boulevard teeming with clusters of convenience stores and a dozen or so minor residential streets, lined with modest two-storey homes, branching off from it on either side. Counting each one off, she swerved down the eighth to find the street chock-a-block with parked cars. Though her father’s house was more than halfway down the stretch, the sheer number of cars parked along it forced her to pull over beside by the dark silhouette of a broken street light standing along the curve of the cul-de-sac that ended the road. Turning off the ignition, she undid her seat belt, opened the door, and clambered out into the night, a shiver running down her spine as her hair began fluttering in the wind. Despite it being mid-march, there was still a trace of winter’s bite in the air and she drew the jacket close before retrieving Marco’s present from the passenger side. Reaching into her jacket pocket and locking the SUZ with a click of the fob, she started down the left-hand sidewalk, past four near identical modest yet homely properties, and up the tarmaced driveway.
Even from the other end of the street, her father’s house was easy to spot due to the half a dozen cars parked across its garden, the colourful banner draped from the roof proclaiming ‘Happy Birthday Marco’, and the party music booming from the open windows and door. As she walked up the path, a cluster of four youths was gathered on the front doorstep, avidly conversing amongst themselves until one with flaming ginger hair styled in a Mohawk spotted her approaching. With the slightest nod of his head, the group all fell silent and whirled around to confront her. By their sheepish expressions, she could tell they were up to no good but chose not to say anything and upon realising she was not one of their parents, they shifted a step to let her pass. Taking care not to look any of them in the eye, Milla carried on without a second’s pause. As she crossed the threshold, she suddenly felt the heat of their lecherous leers upon her back and a shiver that had nothing to do with the cold crawled up her spine.
Inside, she found a scene straight out of an American Pie comedy. Music was blaring from a Jukebox that had been set up on the living room coffee table. An aluminium keg dispensing something that looked suspiciously like beer had been set up in the kitchen amidst a buffet of various party foods on disposable paper plates. And everywhere there were teenagers, either commingling in gangs of three or five, or else gyrating mindlessly against one another to whatever musical abomination happened to be playing over the Hi-Fi. The only thing missing was Sean William Scot shouting profanity.
With her ears ringing at the raucous bombardment, Milla slipped into the mass of writhing hormones and weaved through the crowd. It had been several years since she last visited her father’s house, but she found it had hardly changed and remained much the way she remembered it from when she was a girl. The same laminate wood flooring and pale beige walls adorned with hanging family photos. The sturdy box-television and veneer cabinet, now encircled by a mass of presents. The old grey four-seater settee against the opposite wall, the one she’d once almost broken by using it as a trampoline, presently a makeshift bed for amorous young couples engrossed in heated games of tonsil hockey. Her father’s faded chocolate leather Barcalounger in the far corner beside his antique, and securely locked, liquor cabinet, forgotten and almost completely buried beneath a mound of coats. Yet there was no sign of Marco.
Trying to ignore the heads twisting in her direction, with all the subtlety of an air-raid siren, as she passed and depositing the bag amongst the other gifts, before turning on her heel and deciding to check the kitchen. She kept to the outskirts of the writhing horde, her eyes darting amongst the dozens of revellers, eyeing their curious body art, hairstyles and attire curiously. Was this what kids were into these days? When had she grown so old that the younger generation became an alien concept, their thoughts and passions well beyond her powers her powers of comprehension? Then again, were they really so strange. When she thought back to her own rebellious stage, she could recall baggy clothes, raiding shopping centres armed with spray paint, losing her virginity behind a cinema and even occasionally snorting coke in clubs, phases that had come and gone as quickly as David Beckham’s haircuts. Was this merely how modern youths rebelled against authority? What’s more, were they all Marco’s friends? He rarely talked about his friends, but then she had not been able to keep in touch as often as she would have liked and they had begun slowly drifting apart.
When she found Marco, would he still be that geeky, awkward teenage, or resemble the ill-fated love child of a central African tribesman and a 70’s punk rocker…
Slipping through the already open sliding doors to the large adjoining dining room, then moving through to the kitchen, she cast a quick look around but still saw no sign of Marco. Biting back a curse, she threw a glance across the room to the patio door that looked out over the back garden, but saw that it was inky black, so instead made for the refreshments spread across the kitchen counters. It was your typical Teenage guilty-binge selection; a ring of Pizza boxes glistening with Cheese and toppings, BBQ Chicken wings, crisps, scotch eggs, biscuits and sausage rolls. The sight enticed a deep rumble from her stomach. Giving the food a guilty look, her mouth watering and suddenly very aware she hadn’t had any dinner, Milla couldn’t resist. Helping herself to a large slice of pepperoni Pizza, she took a bite then turned around to find a tall, broad shouldered youth with short raven-black hair and pale blue eyes towering over her.
‘Hey, you’re Milla right? Milla Jovovich, Marco’s older sister?’ He grinned, showing her a mouth of pearly whites. ‘Remember me?’
It was quitter in the kitchen, but even so it was a struggle to hear him over the roar of music. Slightly taken aback, Milla took a reflexive step back before giving him a once over while chewing her pizza. He was certainly comely, in a smouldering, clean-shaven, square-jawed way and there was something vaguely familiar about him, but his name lingered on the tip of her tongue, just out of reach.
‘It’s Daniel, Daniel Cornwell. Remember, you use to babysitter Marco and me every Saturday.’
His words struck her like a lightning bolt and Milla had to resist the impulse to spit her food across the floor. Forcibly, she swallowed the mouthful. ‘What! No, you can’t be…not little Danny.’ She thought her jaw must have dropped and her eyes glanced towards one of Marco’s old school year photos that had been hung up on the kitchen wall, studying the dark haired sprite that’d tormented her mercilessly every weekend. He may have grown taller, but there was no mistaking that impish grin. ‘Jesus Christ, you grew up.’
Daniel’s eyes twinkled mischievously. ‘Yeah…well I haven’t needed a babysitter for quite a while now.’
‘So I see…’ she almost purred, unable to resist noticing how his thin cotton polo-top stretched across his chiselled torso. Dropping the partially devoured pizza slice back into the box, she helped herself to one of the bottles of mineral water, unscrewed the lid and took a long swig to wash the dry bread down. ‘So what are you doing with yourself now? Are you enjoying high school? Last time I saw you, you were going to become the next Batman. You even ran around wearing your Mother’s tights on your head for a cowl and cape.’
Daniel’s grin never faltered. Without waiting for her to finish with it, he took the bottled water from her and took a drink from it himself before doing the lid up and placing it back on the counter. A single drop of water rolled down his chin but he brushed it away casually. ‘Those days are long gone I’m afraid. Actually, I’ve dropped out to enlist in the Army; I just got the results for my ASVAB and am due to ship out for possessing next week.’