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Hepburn's Necklace Ebook

Hepburn's Necklace Ebook

Regular price $15.99 USD
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From Jan Moran, a USA Today bestselling author of romantic women’s fiction, comes a dual timeline saga of love and second chances.

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Book Description

A vintage necklace. A long-hidden secret. A second chance for love.

When costume designer Ariana Ricci leaves her groom at the altar, she seeks solace with her great-aunt, a Texas-born Hollywood legend who worked on the film Roman Holiday as an extra. There, Ariana discovers Audrey Hepburn gave Ruby Raines an intriguing necklace during filming, and a cache of 1950s letters, postmarked Italy, raises more questions about Ruby’s hidden past.

Aching for a fresh start and the chance to resolve an unfinished story, the two embark on a journey to the sun-dappled shores of Lake Como, Italy that will illuminate secrets of a bygone era and offer second chances to each of them—if they are bold enough to seize them.

Read A Sample

In the Rodeo Drive jeweler’s private viewing room, sunshine poured through a clerestory window above, illuminating the filigreed canary diamond necklace in Ariana’s hands. Of all the jewelry that Ariana had chosen for her casts and clients, this piece exuded the greatest warmth. The shimmering golden hues would beautifully reflect her client’s expressive amber eyes. 

After studying the impressive necklace, Ariana raised her gaze to Yasmin, the jewelry executive seated across from her at the polished, antique desk.

“Solani Marie would wear this for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival,” Ariana said. “Would there be any trouble transferring it to France?” The studio had mounted a major campaign for Solani Marie’s latest film. While these yellow diamonds certainly couldn’t compare to the astounding 128-carat Tiffany diamond that Audrey Hepburn had worn for the jeweler’s advertising campaign years ago, they were dazzling, nevertheless.

“We can ship it to our office there,” Yasmin said. “They’ll handle security for it.”

Ariana held the necklace up to the natural light, examining it. The stars would walk the red carpet in the afternoon hours, so she was concerned that the color might wash out in the sun. But the stones blazed brighter than ever.

“This is a stunning piece.” What excited Ariana was not the value of the stones nor mingling with celebrities, but the sheer joy of creation and respect for artistry. She loved envisioning a look for a character—or a real person—and bringing that vision to life. The glow of gems, the drape of fabric, the brilliance or subtlety of color. These elements and myriad details infused actors with the confidence and power to convey emotional stories.

While some—like her mother—had called fashion design frivolous, Ariana knew the power behind it. She loved helping women blossom with the right clothes. That edge was often enough to help them conquer their corner of the world. 

Ariana lowered the necklace, satisfied with how the sunlight illuminated the stones and brought out the color. She held the necklace against the black matte jersey of her dress—one she’d designed and made. The yellow diamonds popped against the black fabric.

“This is one of the most stunning necklaces we have,” Yasmin said, leaning forward. 

Ariana had worked with Yasmin for several events. The company that Yasmin worked for—one of the oldest jewelers on Rodeo Drive—often lent jewelry to stars. This consideration of jewelry worth millions was business as usual for them. 

Ariana detected the jewelry store’s signature orange blossom perfume wafting from a nearby candle. The scent might have made some women in her condition queasy, but not her. Not yet, anyway. She breathed in, appreciating the aroma. Underfoot was an antique Persian rug probably worth six figures. Opulence was evident in the French antiques surrounding them. And behind them, a uniformed security guard with a wired earpiece stood by the office door. 

Presumably, if Ariana were to bolt for the high windows, she wouldn’t get far. 

Yasmin’s eyes shifted to Ariana’s left hand and bare ring finger. It was subtle, but Ariana caught it. She noted the look of concern in Yasmin’s eyes and shifted in her chair under the scrutiny. Before Yasmin could say anything, Ariana asked, “Has anyone ever worn this on the red carpet? Or for other events?”

Yasmin clasped her hands. “It’s a brand new piece.”

“You’ll have excellent media coverage for it,” Ariana said, pulling a swatch of fabric from her purse for comparison. 

This morning, Phillip had been in a mood. Upset over budget pushbacks on a film he was set to direct, he’d snapped at her when she’d asked him to look at flowers for the wedding over the weekend. Why can’t you make a decision without me? She was quite capable of that, she assured him, but her defense only fueled his anger. She’d merely wanted his involvement. He’d finally apologized—sort of—by telling her that he understood her hormonal changes were probably at fault. Just thinking about their argument made her head throb again.

“That’s why we’re offering your client this opportunity,” Yasmin said, discreetly checking her slender platinum and diamond watch. 

“This piece works quite well with the fabric I’m using,” Ariana said. “And to be the first to wear significant pieces of jewelry matters to my client.” As a multi-award-winning actress, Solani Marie was exacting in every aspect of her clothing and accessories. Having fired a succession of stylists, the star asked Ariana for help after she’d designed costumes on Solani Marie’s last film.

“Even though Solani Marie is young, she’s hot on social media,” Ariana said. “You’ll have extensive media exposure and a good chance of selling this necklace soon after the awards show.” That was the business value of lending jewelry worth staggering amounts of money. 

Ariana recalled the old days of Hollywood when actresses wore their personal jewelry or borrowed from the costume departments. Elizabeth Taylor had incredible jewelry, as did Ginger Rogers, who’d been the highest-paid actor of her time. 

One of the most talented costume designers had been Edith Head, who’d dressed stars onscreen and off for decades—and won more Oscars for costume design than days of the week. Edith Head had dressed Audrey Hepburn, Greta Garbo, Mae West, and hundreds of others. 

Ariana loved photos of Grace Kelly in Edith Head’s understated, ice-blue elegance for the 1955 Academy Awards. The costume designer had explained, saying, Some people need sequins, others don’t. Ruby once told her that when Edith Head dressed her, she felt a magical transformation—as if she could inhabit the character she needed to play almost without effort.

Yasmin’s eyes darted to Ariana’s hand again.

“This is a classic Hollywood piece,” Ariana said, musing over the necklace. Ruby had a closet full of such clothes and jewelry that Ariana had often raided as a teenager for parties. She’d grown up understanding how people could transform themselves through clothing and costumes. Ruby was a prime example. From a dusty Texas ranch on the Edwards Plateau in the hill country to the pinnacle of Hollywood—her aunt could play any part with aplomb. 

Ariana let the necklace spill through her fingers, imagining how the drape would mirror the neckline of the dress she’d designed for Solani Marie. Ariana designed the young star’s costumes for her breakout television series, then for her hit movies, and now, for the red carpet. From costume designer to red carpet stylist, Solani Marie trusted few others for her look.

“Our security will accompany this piece,” Yasmin said. “We’d prefer it returned right after the show.”

“So would I.” After the last event in which Ariana had styled a celebrity, the actress had slipped out to a party, losing the guards in the process. Ariana had received a blistering call from the head of the studio. Thankfully, the jewelry had turned up, but it was nerve-wracking.

Not a scene Ariana wanted to reenact.

Thanks to her Aunt Ruby, who had taught her to sew and introduced her to the head costume designer at the studio, Ariana had been working there since she’d been in college. She began working as an intern in the costume department while she completed her studies in downtown Los Angeles. The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising had a long relationship with the studios, often mounting Hollywood costume exhibits in conjunction with the awards season. Ultimately, Ariana progressed to a senior role, and just last year, she’d receive her first award nomination.

Yasmin’s gaze rested on Ariana’s left hand. “I don’t mean to pry,” Yasmin said. “I noticed you’re not wearing your ring. If there’s a problem with the fit, we can resize it.”

“It fits perfectly, thanks.”

Yasmin frowned. “Are you happy with it?” 

“It’s beautiful.” Ariana shifted in the burgundy velvet wingback chair. After the initial shock of the pregnancy test had worn off, Phillip proposed by saying somewhat begrudgingly, I suppose we might as well get married. 

Under pressure from his ultra-competitive friends, Phillip had made a big deal about buying a ring from Yasmin. The ring he chose was showy and ostentatious. Ariana would have preferred a more delicate design. But Phillip, as always, had to outdo his friends.

Realizing Yasmin was still waiting for an answer, Ariana hastily added, “I forgot it this morning.” That much was true. Phillip’s temper tantrum had frazzled her nerves. Her chest grew tight at the thought.

“I hear that a lot,” Yasmin said. “It’s only been a week. You’ll get used to wearing a ring that size.”

Will I? Ariana wondered. 

Now in her early thirties, Ariana knew she should be overjoyed at her engagement. Maybe only younger brides experienced giddy happiness. She and Phillip had been dating off and on for years. As many of their friends married, he’d become more serious about their relationship. 

I’m ready for a family now, he’d told her one morning as if an alarm on his cell phone had gone off. Although she’d wanted a family, too, she’d remained noncommittal. Until her pregnancy test came back positive.

Phillip often talked about how she could provide costumes for his films. Working together, they’d be a Hollywood power couple. This is what she wanted, right?

“Are you free for lunch today?” Yasmin asked. “I’ve love to hear all about your wedding plans. A friend of mine married at an incredible castle in France, but she’d considered a lot of venues. I can put you in touch with her.”

“I can’t today. I have another meeting.” Ariana returned the necklace to the velvet-lined tray on the French desk before her. She couldn’t face another deluge of questions.

Yasmin’s eyes widened. “You have to do something amazing. That enormous ring just screams big wedding plans.”

“We’re planning something small and intimate.” And fast. Not that being pregnant on your wedding day was the issue it would have been in her grandmother’s day. Still, Ariana was old-fashioned. Her pulse raced, just thinking about the wedding. Without her mother there, the event was already fraying at the seams.

“You’ll reserve this necklace for me?” Ariana asked, needing to exit this conversation.

“Will do.” 

“Thanks. I’ll see myself out.” Ariana hurried past the security guard.

As Ariana emerged into the bright California sunshine and the sound of traffic, the reality of her future gnawed at her. Los Angeles—or most any city where she could make her living—was a busy metropolis. 

After her parents divorced, Ariana shuttled between boarding school and her great-aunt Ruby’s home in Palm Springs. While her friends flew home to extended families, Ariana often felt lonely without her mother. If not for Ruby, and Stefano, her aunt’s devoted houseman, she would have had a miserable childhood.

Phillip allayed that loneliness with his presence. And when they had children, she’d finally have the family she craved. 

On the sidewalk outside the jewelry store, Ariana started for the garage where she’d parked. Cutting through the crowded walkway, Ariana recalled how she used to spend a few weeks in the summer in New York with her mother. Even then, she felt like a burden. Mari told her that to make it on Wall Street meant working harder than every man around her. As a result, Ariana often had dinner with the housekeeper. 

As Ariana grew older, her visits to New York grew shorter. She spent the long hot summers in Palm Springs with Ruby—or wherever Ruby was. Sometimes her aunt was filming a series in Los Angeles or performing on the dinner theatre circuit across the country. They’d have pajama parties at the Drake Hotel or tea parties at The Huntington. Aunt Ruby loved to work, but she always made time for fun with Ariana.

While Ariana waited on a corner to cross a busy street, she thought about her parents. Her father had a second family and hadn’t contacted her in years. And when Ariana had called her mother with the news about the wedding, Mari’s reaction disappointed her.

“Two weeks? Oh no, you’ll have to postpone it if you want me there,” Mari had said in her brittle, business-like voice. “You should have planned farther ahead.”

Ariana heard no excitement or apology in her mother’s voice.

Book Reviews

“An ode to the magic of Lake Como past and present, Hepburn’s Necklace sails from the set of Roman Holiday in 1952. As sparkling as a Bellini, this novel will…leave you enchanted.” — Kristin Harmel, New York Times Bestselling author of The Book of Lost Names

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