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Beauty Mark (Love California #2)

Beauty Mark (Love California #2)

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In the glamorous world of high stakes beauty and fashion, Scarlett Sandoval is a top intellectual property attorney in such demand that her firm sends private jets to shuttle her between Los Angeles, New York, London, and Madrid.

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Book Description

Book 2, Love California Series

In the midst of a critical trademark deal between a top fashion designer and an international cosmetic company, Scarlett is shocked to learn that in order to achieve her coveted partnership, one devious partner expects more than she is willing to surrender. Soon she is marked for murder.

Her denial not only threatens to derail her hard-won career, but it also endangers her life and the lives of those close to her. Johnny, a handsome Beverly Hills restaurant owner she’s known all her life, offers his protection, but one fateful evening, their platonic friendship ignites.

When Scarlett’s world erupts and she discovers there is no way back to the life she once had, her other single friends help her through the turmoil. Can Scarlett mend her life, or has she made an irrevocable mistake in business, and in love? Find out in this romantic suspense saga.

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London, England



“WHERE IS SHE?” Scarlett Sandoval sat in the tea room at Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair waiting for her client to arrive. She was annoyed, as usual, at Fleur’s perpetual tardiness. She ordered a second pot of tea and checked her watch. Even though they were traveling on a private jet to Los Angeles, they did have a schedule, something that frequently escaped the fashion designer’s notice.


“I’ll take a car to the airport,” David said, rising from his chair and slipping a button through a buttonhole on his crisply tailored bespoke suit. “I don’t want to get stuck in traffic. You’re the best one on the team at handling her anyway.”


“We’ll see you there. Soon, I hope.” Scarlett made a face. David Baylor was on the partner track at the same high profile law firm, Marsh & Gold, in Los Angeles. Years ago, when she’d been in the firm’s New York office, and he’d been in Los Angeles, they’d threatened a cross-country affair, but now that she’d relocated and they were in the same city, they were glad they hadn’t crossed the line. David was a good work friend, and had recently become engaged.


Her mother was right. At this rate she might never get married. Polite conversation bubbled across the room. Scarlett nibbled on a scone, and then checked her watch again. She glanced around the stylish room, which had been renovated in recent years. Antique fireplaces flickered in the corner, while contemporary art splashed color across the walls. Silver gleamed against white tablecloths, and VIPs of London filled every tapestry covered chair.


A flurry of activity erupted at the entryway to the Georgian townhouse in which Brown’s had been established since 1837. The venerable old hotel was the law firm partner’s preferred hotel in London. As the story went, Alexander Graham Bell made the first telephone call from the lobby at Brown’s. Couldn’t Fleur have managed a call on the gold-plated mobile phone usually glued to her ear? 


Speak of the devil, thought Scarlett, dropping her buttered scone in shock. Fleur strutted into the room, and Scarlett realized what the commotion at the front door was about. Her client struck a defiant pose at the door, while a murmur rose across the room, and the tea room manager hurried to speak to her. Waist-length purple hair matched her six-inch platform shoes, but it was the attire in between—or rather, the lack of it—that had the manager in a dither. Her sliver of a dress was definitely against the dress code at Brown’s Tea Room. Why then had Fleur insisted on meeting her here instead of at the airport?


“Put this on my corporate account, please,” Scarlett whispered to the tea sommelier. Hastily grabbing her briefcase, she slid from the booth. She covered the room in long strides and hooked her arm in Fleur’s, whisking her from the room.


“Hey, wait a minute,” Fleur said, struggling to keep up in her platform shoes. “We need to get some shots.”


That’s when Scarlett saw the billionaire shipping magnate with whom Fleur had been pictured in the tabloids. The impeccable Vladimir Ivanov was having tea in a booth near the entrance with another woman. She sighed and checked her anger against her client. “The plane is waiting.”


Scarlett nodded to the doorman, who was attired in a formal top hat and three-quarter-length coat. He signaled for a black town car that had been idling on the quiet block. Out of nowhere appeared several paparazzi; they began snapping photos like mad. Fleur placed her hands on her hips and angled a shoulder in a provocative pose for them.


“Let’s go, Fleur.” Scarlett gave her a minute and then grabbed her hand. This was not the brilliant legal career Scarlett had imagined while she was pulling all-nighter study sessions in law school. She slid into the backseat and let out a sigh of relief as the driver steered his way through London.


“Did you call them?” Scarlett had traveled with Gina “Fleur” Georgopoulos long enough to know that she often called paparazzi to keep herself in the headlines. A Greek native from the Bronx, she’d moved to London, adopted an accent, and took the world by surprise when she had one of her boyfriends buy billboards over Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. Soon everyone was asking, who is Fleur of London? On some level—a low one, Scarlett thought—it was brilliant.


“If I’d just had the chance to speak to Vladimir, they could’ve gotten some great shots. Cover page stuff.” Fleur sniffed. “I’ll be lucky if those make it into print at all.”


Fleur was known for her outlandish costumes. “Chin up, Fleur,” Scarlett said. “I’m sure that outfit is print-worthy. Besides, you should be celebrating. This new cosmetics trademark deal is nearly complete. You’re about to be one very wealthy woman.” One of the top makeup companies in the world, High Gloss Cosmetics, was licensing the Fleur of London trademark for a new line of brilliantly colored products, including lipstick, eyeshadow, eyeliner, and mascara. 


“Pour me a couple of shots of vodka then.” Fleur smiled coyly and shoved on oversized sunglasses, her signal that she was through talking.


“I have a call to make,” Scarlett replied, matching Fleur’s smile. A bartender she was not. 


Scarlett punched in a number on her phone. “We’re on our way,” she said, and clicked off. She had already had a long day of negotiations regarding the intellectual property uses, and now they were en route to Los Angeles for Fleur to meet with the company in person. It was the final phase in the deal. Fleur was a master of self-promotion who had, surprisingly, few other talents. She hired other fashion designers to create her line, dressed outlandishly, wore makeup more suited for Kabuki theatre, and dated billionaires. This got her a multimillion-dollar deal that others worked a lifetime for and never realized.


When they arrived at the airport, Fleur gravitated toward the partner, which was fine with Scarlett. In her mauve silk blouse and chic grey wool suit, she could hardly compare to the peacock style of Fleur. Not that she wanted to, though. Scarlett preferred being an advisor to her famous clients. 


Most fashion designers and actors she worked with were creative and accomplished, and they worked well together with mutual respect, but occasionally an eccentric client like Fleur came along, and usually landed in her lap at the firm. Scarlett was one of Marsh & Gold’s top intellectual property attorneys and made the firm a fortune every year.


“Welcome aboard.” Lucan Blackstone was her fifty-something boss from Los Angeles. Originally from London, Lucan seemed to be going through a permanent mid-life crisis. Fast cars, fast women, fast money—that was his motto. He traded in Teslas, Lamborghinis, yachts, and long-legged European models. Both men and women were attracted to his charm, his intelligence, and his silver-haired, movie-star good looks. He was the consummate rainmaker. Marsh & Gold partners often overlooked his missteps to keep his deals flowing. 


Scarlett stepped into the cabin of a newly outfitted Boeing jet, which had replaced the Gulfstream 550 Lucan had deemed too small. The crew closed the door behind her, ready for wheels up.


She cocooned herself in a large white leather recliner, surrounded by creamy white and beige leather, polished burl wood trim, and every amenity one could want at fifty-thousand feet. With a touch to a digital screen, she lowered the shade and adjusted her light. Her sparkling water and crudité vegetable plate had already been set out for her. 


She might be cruising in luxury, but Scarlett had plenty of work to do on the twelve-hour flight. She’d learned to tune out whatever went on in the bar, or the stateroom behind her. She placed her laptop on the workspace in front of her and opened her briefcase, ignoring the blaring television, Fleur’s incessant chatter, and Lucan’s barking guffaws.


“Working the entire flight?” David asked. He’d already stretched out his large frame in the reclining chair. His hands were cupped behind his head. 


“Some of it. We need to get this deal done. Just received the red-lined agreement back.”


“Don’t those High Gloss corporate attorneys have anything better to do? You’d think they were billing by the hour.” 


She felt the rumble of the jet engines as they prepared for take-off.


She shrugged. “Keeps us in business.”


Lucan walked by on his way to the galley. “David, don’t let us keep you up. Late night of partying with our English clients?”


“Sure, you know me, sir.” David winked, and Lucan playfully punched him on the shoulder.
“

That’s my boy,” Lucan said. 


Scarlett grinned. She happened to know David had worked much of the night, too. He’d called her to discuss points several times.


Lucan skirted the curved divans that followed the lines of the plane. No telling how many models had lined those seats, Scarlett thought. She was the only female in the firm who’d ever flown on this corporate jet, which was reserved for partners and their handpicked team, but there were plenty of women’s things in the stateroom. Scarlett didn’t want to know any more than she did. She kept her head down and kept working. “You’ve sure got him fooled.”


“Lucan just wants to relive his misspent youth,” David said with a chuckle. “Hey, thanks for your help last night. Couldn’t have done it without you. Now, I’ve got to get some shut-eye,” He snapped open a prescription bottle and poured out a couple of tablets. “Need an Ambien to sleep?”


Scarlett shook her head. “Not for me.” A lot of consultants, attorneys, corporate finance pros, models, and entertainers who crisscrossed the globe on a weekly basis wolfed down Ambiens like they were Altoids. Shifting time zones could cause people to do that, Scarlett knew. In the old days it was alcohol, and she knew all about that from her father. She squeezed lime in her bubbly mineral water and took a drink.


“G’night, Scarlett.” David pulled a sleep mask over his eyes.


“Night, David. I’ll wake you when we arrive.” Scarlett flicked a few keys on her keyboard and hooked up to the wireless service onboard. One advantage to flying private was that there were no annoying announcements asking flyers to turn off their electronic equipment on departure and take-off. Coupled with long security lines and layovers, private jets were massive time-savers that allowed the firm to squeeze maximum time from valuable employees to serve high-paying clients. The deals they worked on were often staggering in value, especially in the Mergers and Acquisitions practice. The airplane began taxiing, gaining speed as it hurtled down the runway.


A minute later, the wheels lifted from the ground and Scarlett felt the pressure of her body heavy in the seat as the plane climbed through clouds to blue skies above. 


Once airborne, Scarlett gazed out the window and watched London recede from sight. When she was young, she had dreamed of traveling like this, but it wasn’t as glamorous as she’d imagined. As a first-year attorney, she’d taken red-eye flights, arriving at client’s offices after spending the night on an airplane. Or the corporate limousine would shuttle her home at five in the morning, just long enough to shower and return for another demanding day, while she napped in the back seat en route.


But she’d committed her life willingly. Scarlett loved the law and had a strong sense of justice. Even as a little girl, she’d wanted to protect the good kids and stick it to the bullies. The intellectual stimulation never bored her, and she met fascinating, creative people in her beauty trademark work. She smiled. Instead of trademarks, her friend Johnny often teased her, shortening it to beauty marks.


She stifled a yawn, and made a mental note to call her mother when she landed. She’d missed her mother’s birthday in London, but she promised to make it up to her.


Her family had moved to Los Angeles from Spain when she was a young girl. A few years later, after her father died of liver failure, and her brother Franco died in an ambush in the war in Afghanistan, Scarlett became her mother’s sole support. She worked throughout school, received scholarships, took student loans, and lived frugally. 


Scarlett’s eyes welled as she thought of Franco. She and her brother had been so close. She missed his quick smile and sharp wit. Everyone loved him, and hardly a day went by that she didn’t think of him. He was the bravest soul she’d ever known, and the best tribute she could give him was to emulate him and his approach to life.


As soon as Scarlett graduated from law school, she’d moved her mother from the barrio to the west side of Los Angeles, where she lived in a lovely little condominium and spent her time making baby clothes for children Scarlett might never have time to have. 


Still, Isabel Sandoval didn’t give up easily. Every time Scarlett visited her, she seemed to have another nice young man to introduce.


Somehow time had slipped away from Scarlett. It seemed that one minute she was twenty-four and graduating from law school, and the next minute she was thirty-two with a ticking clock. She’d been a bridesmaid so many times she’d lost count. Even if she met someone today, she’d probably be thirty-five before she had children. She’d always thought she’d have a family by now. And so did her old-school mother. She adored her mother, but the world was different today.


One of the problems was that she wanted to get to know a man well before she married. As an attorney, she’d heard far too many horror stories to jump into a relationship. Maybe that’s what held her back, she thought, suppressing another yawn.


Scarlett put on headphones to focus on the detailed task at hand. Dinner came and Scarlett ate while she worked, eager to finish the agreement during the flight. They crossed the Atlantic and the eastern seaboard. Judging from the time they’d been in the air, they were somewhere over the midwestern United States, Scarlett figured. Finally, she hit save, closed her laptop, and got up to stretch.


She took off her jacket, and then wandered to the flight deck to say hello to the pilot and crew.

“Hi, Jeffrey.”


“Hi, Scarlett,” the pilot replied with a grin, touching a finger to his forehead. The aircraft was on autopilot. 


She chatted with Jeffrey and the crew about upcoming flight plans, which included the next European rugby match, snow skiing in the southern hemisphere, a fly fishing junket in Scotland, and Formula One and Grand Prix races. Lucan spent a fortune on entertaining clients, but it certainly paid off.


Scarlett was booked for Fashion Week in Paris, and the Cannes Film Festival, where she often negotiated licensing deals for many of her clients. She went to all the glamorous parties, but she was not there to play. Marsh & Gold partners expected her to bring in new business, and she did.


In truth, her manic work pace and extensive travel didn’t allow for much of a personal life. She envied her friends who managed to balance their lives. 


As she walked to the galley for tea, she thought of her good friend and client, Verena Valent, who, after having lost her family’s legendary skincare salon to an unscrupulous investor, created another skincare line. Verena managed to blend work, the care of her twin sisters and her grandmother, and a new relationship. How did she do it? 


But Scarlett knew the answer. It was the flexibility Verena had as an entrepreneur. She was always busy, but on a time schedule of her own making. It was the same with their other friends, such as Dahlia, whose family ran a perfume business, and Fianna, who was a fashion designer and owned a boutique. 


For eight years, Scarlett had been focused on working her plan, investing her life into her career, and making partner. After graduation, she had sat for two of the toughest bar exams in the country—California and New York—and passed them both on the first try. 


She’d had several competing offers, but she’d accepted a generous one from Marsh & Gold. Now, she was next in line on the partner track. The decision would be made next week. A satisfied smile curved her lips. Soon it would be worth the years of struggle.


Scarlett picked up the green tea she’d brewed and sat down on the divan. She kicked off her shoes, took a few sips, and leaned her head back. She closed her eyes. It felt so good to relax. They still had a couple of hours before landing at the Van Nuys airport in Los Angeles, where the corporate plane was kept. She felt herself drift off.


Her dreams were quite realistic sometimes. “Mmm,” she murmured, as someone stroked her shoulders and arms, which felt so good. She couldn’t remember who he was, this man in her dreams, she couldn’t see his face. If she opened her eyes…but her eyelids were heavy. 


“Just relax,” he whispered. He ran a firm hand down her throat and chest, pausing on her breast.


She smiled in her sleep. Who was this virile dream man who seemed so real? One of her old boyfriends, or someone she was yet to meet? She had to know. Straining against her slumber, she fluttered her eyes, trying to capture him.


As she did, she gasped, and shot bolt upright on the divan. “What are you doing?”


“Relax,” Lucan repeated. He hovered over her, and his white dress shirt was unbuttoned. “You work so hard, Scarlett. A beautiful woman like you needs a break.”


“Lucan, stop it.” Scarlett glared at him. “We’re not doing this. Get away from me.”


“Come on, Scarlett.” He twirled a lock of her coppery blond hair around his finger. “Who’s to know? David’s zoned out on Ambien. Fleur passed out in the stateroom from too much vodka.” A smile curved his perfectly tanned face. “And the crew won’t talk. So let’s have fun.”


“Absolutely not.” Scarlett stood, weaving a little on her feet from a mixture of exhaustion and air turbulence. 


“Scarlett, Scarlett. So naïve in so many ways.” Lucan patted the spot next to him. “Sit down. I’ll have a couple of nightcaps made for us.” He pressed a button and spoke to the crew. “I won’t bite.

”
She touched the cabin wall for support and glanced around. Where could she go? The stateroom door was closed. David was snoring in the front of the cabin. But a crew member would be here any minute. She perched on the bench, leaving space between them.

Book Reviews

"An engrossing view into the world of 'beautiful people' with an ending that will leave you wanting more." - New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Melissa Foster

"With a stage set, once again, for a fabulous novel, Jan Moran did not disappoint her readers. The story lived and breathed of our heroine's character... A job well done. A story well written, which left this reviewer eager for the upcoming offerings of this series. BEAUTY MARK is a definite recommendation to read, alone or as a part of the series." - Karen Laird, Under the Shade Tree Reviews

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