Bad Angels

Excerpt - Melody

Forget slushy romance, this steamy bonkbuster packed with scandal and deception is a festive 50-Shades-esque thriller!’ Closer magazine

I should have known better. Why on earth did I ever let someone take a scalpel to my face?

Melody Dale stared at her reflection, experiencing a brutally bitter comedown.

Only last year, she had been voted not only the most beautiful woman in Britain, but the sexiest one too. Her agent had been over the moon with joy: this simply never happened. It was an almost-impossible balancing act, but Melody had pulled it off. She had been pretty and approachable enough to appeal to women, avoiding being so overtly sexy that she alienated them, while still projecting enough sex appeal to have the readers of GQ casting their votes for her in droves as the girl they’d most like to spend the night with.

It wasn’t a surprise that Melody had been voted Most Beautiful: her ethereal face, with its almond-shaped blue eyes and white skin, framed by a cloud of naturally jet-black hair, was hauntingly angelic, and her lithe body was elegantly slim, the figure of a twenty-four year-old lucky enough to be able to eat anything she wanted, as long as she went to the gym on a regular basis. Winning GQ’s Sexiest Woman of 2009 had been more of a feat, as Melody had resolutely refused to do any of the men’s magazine covers or photoshoots that were usually the road to winning that particular accolade.

‘I’m not taking my clothes off and letting my naked body be projected onto the House of Commons,’ she’d said firmly to her very disappointed agent. ‘I’m not putting on a bikini and Perspex heels and squatting down with my finger in my mouth. I’m not lying on a bed in lingerie sucking a lollipop, not even for Agent Provocateur. I went to RADA, I’m a serious actress – if I do one shoot like that, it’ll haunt me for the rest of my life. I want to play Juliet at the RSC, not the hot-pants-wearing heroine in Transformers.’

‘But you were a Bond girl!’ Anthony, Melody’s agent, had complained.

‘Exactly,’ Melody had said passionately.

She’d been picked straight out of drama school for the Bond girl part: she’d been cast as Angel Malone, a gorgeous burlesque dancer who made her entrance onstage in a tiny sparkling costume and huge, feathered, silver wings. After her night of passion with Bond, Angel was thrown off the turret of a French chateau by the villain’s henchman. It had been a dramatic death, the white silk dressing gown she had worn photographed to billow out behind her like the wings she’d worn for her costume, her black hair blowing in the wind. Bond, in the courtyard of the chateau, had helplessly watched her fall and vowed vengeance as the villain commented sarcastically: “Not all angels can fly.”


‘It’s because I was a Bond girl that I have to be extra-careful,’ Melody had insisted. ‘People will expect me to sell sex. I’m not taking my clothes off for anyone. ’


God, and look at me now, Melody thought miserably, staring at her reflection in the floor to ceiling window of the luxurious apartment in which she was holed up. It looked directly over the Thames, whose grey-brown waters were murky and dismal in this cold London winter, dappled by big, heavy drops of December rain that was gradually turning to sleet. Just down the curve of the river were the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf, their glass and steel gleaming through the falling water, a cluster of the tallest buildings in the country, the Citigroup red umbrella shining through the mist. At night, lit up, the towers dominated the panorama, glittering with ruby, diamond, emerald lights; Melody would sit in front of the windows and gaze out, down to South Quay, looking at the halogen strips that picked out the whole length of the Pan Peninsula building, wrapping around its sides like ribbon, turning it into the most expensive present in the world.


But by day, with the mist blurring the view, the glass became a kind of translucent mirror, and what it mainly showed Melody was her own splinted and bruised face.


The doorbell rang. Melody turned to look at the clock; in keeping with the five-star designer luxury with which all the apartments in Limehouse Reach were decorated, it was projected onto the high pale living-room wall, an elegant shadow tracery between the twin Damien Hirst dotted lithographs that hung over the Ligne Roset white leather sofas. It read eleven a.m. precisely: the new nurse was clearly very punctual. The last one had wandered by whenever suited her, well aware that Melody was - as it were - a captive patient.


Wincing as she went, constricted by the bandages round her chest, Melody crossed the living room and made her way down the hallway, which was lined by sleek striped wenge wood cupboards. She didn’t even bother to look through the peephole: she only ever had one visitor, apart from the room service brought by the Four Seasons hotel next door, whose waiters could access the apartment building through a custom-built tunnel that connected the hotel’s kitchens to the Limehouse Reach service elevators. She’d already had her breakfast – egg white omelette and berries – and wasn’t due for her smoked salmon, beetroot and pea shoot salad till one.


The nurse had a surprisingly impressive presence. Melody’s instincts as an actress acknowledged that immediately. It was like walking into a rehearsal room and instantly becoming aware that there was another actor present who would give you a real run for your money. Calm and centred, the nurse stood stolidly in the hallway, her white uniform perfectly ironed and starched, her dishwater blonde hair slicked back smoothly, not a hair out of place. She wasn’t good looking: her figure was square and solid, her features blunt. But her eyes, light blue and very clear, were full of intelligence and focus.


‘I am Aniela,’ she said simply, her accent Eastern European but her English careful and precise. ‘I will be on duty over the holiday period. Siobhan should have told you yesterday that I was taking over the shift.’


‘Yes, she did,’ Melody said, moving her sore and swollen lips with care.


‘Hello, Melody,’ Aniela said, bobbing her head in a formal greeting. ‘May I come in? I need to check how your surgery is doing.’


‘Of course.’


Melody turned away, letting Aniela follow her into the apartment. In the gleaming glass windows, she saw Aniela’s figure shutting the front door, coming down the corridor, the white nurse’s uniform widening her hips, the clumpy white orthopaedic shoes making her feet look even bigger.


‘I need to check to see if I must put more gel dressing on your chest area,’ Aniela said. Melody couldn’t help mentally filing away Aniela’s accent in case she needed to use it for a part in the future: that is, Melody thought miserably, if I ever get a decent part again…


Melody obediently sat down on the only dining chair that she ever used, one of a set of six around the glass table. Aniela placed her nurse’s bag on the table and, very carefully, helped Melody slip off her pewter cashmere and silk cardigan wrap, and then the button-front t-shirt which allowed Melody to get undressed without having to reach her arms over her head to pull off clothing. When the wrap and t-shirt were removed, it was clear why lifting her arms should be avoided wherever possible. Melody’s breasts were mottled with bruising at each side, small curved scars outlining the lower quadrant.


‘Oh, very good,’ Aniela said, nodding, her expression very concentrated as she knelt down to check out Melody’s scars from below. Melody looked down at Aniela’s head, her blonde hair sleeked back into an almost painful-looking bun at the nape of her neck; everything about Aniela was impressively professional.


‘These are healing very well,’ she continued. ‘You should be happy. It has been only a week since your surgery, correct? This is good progress.’


‘Will the scars show?’ Melody asked, her voice faint.


‘You will have to ask Dr Nassri,’ Aniela said. ‘He will be back after Christmas. It is hard for scars to disappear, but I can tell you that you are healing very well – the wounds are completely closed, you don’t need any more of the gel dressing. Soon we will give you Vitamin E oil and rose hip oil, to help the scars go.’


She drew a small packet from her bag, ripped it open and produced a sterilised wipe; cleaning her fingers with it, she then blew on their tips to make sure they were warm enough, and, with great gentleness, ran them over each scar in turn, something the previous nurse had never bothered to do. Melody felt her body respond, not sexually, but with desperate gratitude at having this moment of human contact.


How pathetic am I? Melody thought bitterly. I was a movie star – I played Cathy in Wuthering Heights, Ophelia for the Royal Shakespeare Company. I was half of the hottest young power couple in Britain, I had a boyfriend I loved with all my heart, I was surrounded by people doing my hair, my makeup, costume fittings, glossy fashion magazine shoots. And now I’ve got tears in my eyes because some agency nurse comes to visit and actually touches my skin, gives me the warmth of another body against mine for thirty seconds…


‘You had implants removed. It’s much harder to take them out than to put them in,’ Aniela said, her gaze concentrated on Melody’s wounds. ‘But these scars are already a little flatter. You are lucky, your skin heals well. I cannot promise that they will not show a little. But I think they will be smooth.’


‘Which means they can be covered up with makeup,’ Melody said with huge relief.


‘It is a shame you have the implants,’ Aniela said with brutal frankness, smoothing a little cream onto the scars. ‘Like this it is better. You are in proportion.’


Melody looked down at her tiny breasts on her slim frame.


‘I know,’ she said wistfully. ‘But I can’t help missing my C cups a bit. They weren’t even that big, really.’


Melody was the size 8 that leading actresses were required to be, and C cups on a barely 30-inch back were pretty little handfuls.


‘I didn’t even want to get them, but after the operation, I used to hold them a lot,’ she confessed to Aniela, surprised that she was telling her something so personal. ‘You know, just put my hands there and feel them. They were so nice. I never had boobs before.’


‘Then why did you take out the implants?’ Aniela asked with paralysing directness. ‘If you were so happy? You had no marks from the surgery. They put them in through your bellybutton, very clever. Let me look at your face now.’


She pulled out another chair and sat facing Melody, very close now. The nurse smelt of soap and water. Her heavy white skin was devoid of makeup, not even lipgloss; she didn’t tint her blonde eyebrows and lashes.


She doesn’t have a scrap of vanity, Melody thought sadly. If I’d only been a little more like her, I wouldn’t be in this mess now.


Aniela leant in, squinting closely at Melody’s face.


‘The bruising is also good,’ she said, surveying the twin black eyes that were now fading. ‘I looked at the photographs Siobhan took three days ago before I came this morning. There was a lot of purple then, but now it is all gone, and almost all the green is gone too. When it is just yellow, you only have a few more days before it stops to show.’


‘It’s still really swollen,’ Melody said in a small, frightened voice, reaching up her hand to touch her cheeks. Aniela promptly removed Melody’s hand, placing it back in her lap. It was a swift, efficient gesture, detached and professional, and it made Melody feel surprisingly relaxed: this nurse knew what was best for her, would have no problems at all telling her exactly what to do.


And that means she’s not lying to me about my recovery going well. I can trust her not to sugar-coat things.


‘Pff! You have had major surgery, of course it is swollen!’ Aniela said, shrugging dismissively. ‘Remember what Dr Nassri says? Eight to ten days for the bruising to fade, but twenty-one for the swelling to go completely. You were in surgery for nearly five hours. He had to file down your nose, take out the cartilage implant, put cannulas in your cheeks to suck out the fat the doctor in Los Angeles injected into them.’ The nurse raised her near-invisible eyebrows. ‘You were very lucky that doctor didn’t use fillers,’ she observed. ‘Once they go in, you cannot take them out because of nerve damage. If they move, there is nothing you can do. They are very bad.’


‘I know,’ Melody said devoutly, thinking of some of the A-list actresses she’d met in LA, whose faces had been irretrievably damaged by fillers. Injected high on the cheeks, to plump up a face and give it the youthful, rounded contours that savage dieting had removed, the fillers inevitably sank from where they had been placed, dragged down by gravity. And then more fillers were needed to compensate, balance out the shape of the face… Once you started, you couldn’t stop.


She shivered, thinking about it.


‘That’s why the doctor used my own fat,’ she said. ‘He said it was the only kind of filler he’d use.’


Aniela nodded.


‘The work done on you was good,’ she agreed. ‘But so much! I was surprised to read your notes.’


She touched Melody’s chin, also bruised and swollen, and then started to un-tape and lift off Melody’s nose split. Despite herself, Melody flinched a little; the nose was the most sensitive of all, even more than her breasts.


‘Chin implant, nose implant, face fillers, your breast enlargement,’ Aniela listed, looking at Melody’s nose and nodding in approval at how it was healing before replacing the splint with great care and smoothing down the tape again to hold it in place. ‘And now Dr Nassri has taken it all out for you. This is much harder, you know. Much harder to give you back what you had before, and to make it look natural than to just make you prettier or younger. Natural is the hardest thing of all, the doctor says.’


‘I know,’ Melody said, tears pricking at her eyes. ‘That’s why I came to him. He’s supposed to be the best.’


And he was certainly expensive enough, she thought ruefully. Hollywood may pay you a ton of money, but after the agent, the lawyer, the publicist, the stylist, the plastic surgeon and the makeup and hair people have all taken their cuts, it doesn’t leave you rolling in it.


The nurse stood up and crossed to the open-plan kitchen, all white and gleaming chrome, from its DuPont Zodiaq glass worktops and splashbacks to its porcelain-tiled floor. From one of the custom-built cupboards she extracted a mug - Vera Wang for Wedgwood, white bone china with a wide gold rim. The Limehouse Reach rental apartments were furnished impeccably: only the very best. Aniela dropped a camomile teabag into it and held it under the Quooker tap that gave instant, boiling water.


She put the mug in front of Melody.


‘Drink,’ she said firmly. ‘You must relax for the healing to be most effective.’


Melody looked up at Aniela over the steam rising from the mug of tea, inhaling the delicate scent of infusing camomile, and knowing that Aniela was right: she needed to stay as calm as possible. But how could Aniela understand how she was feeling? The stolid, capable expression on the nurse’s square, farm-girl face, her wide shoulders and air of extreme competence, all made Melody feel hopelessly fragile and pathetically weak by comparison.


I should show her, she thought suddenly. She can’t realise why I’ve had the surgery - she can’t have seen the film. Well, why would she? It was just a piece of trash, it bombed in the cinemas. And Aniela looks much too sensible to go to see that kind of exploitative nonsense.


Melody hesitated for a moment.


Is it too soon? Can I bear to see it, or will it tip me over the edge?


And then she looked at Aniela’s calm composed demeanour, took a deep breath, and stood, carefully, so she didn’t strain her chest.


I do need to look at it sooner or later. And who better to hold my hand while I’m watching it than a hospital nurse?


‘I’ve got something I’d like to show you,’ she said, picking up her mug and walking over to the flatscreen TV, which was set in a black glass panel hanging from the ceiling, dividing the living room from the dining area. Below the panel was a matching black glass unit into which were set the music system and the various consoles, topped with a black marble shelf, stacked high with a pile of DVDs: Melody was catching up on everything she’d missed while working flat out for the last few years. Right at the bottom of the pile was the one she was looking for, though she couldn’t even glance at its cover without wincing in as much pain as if Aniela were removing her nose splint.


Swiftly, Melody clicked open the jewel case and dropped the disk into the built-in player.


‘Brace yourself,’ she said dryly, indicating that Aniela should sit down on one of the sofas. Aniela might have drawn up a dining room chair so she could examine Melody’s surgery, but Melody sensed that the nurse’s training would not permit her to sit on a sofa without being invited to do so.


Melody fiddled with the remote controls. The TV sprung to bright, multicoloured life: a few seconds later, even Aniela’s professional poise was momentarily shattered as she drew in her breath on a soft, short inhale of surprise at what she was seeing on the 52-inch screen.


It was the short loop of film that played in the background while you decided what to choose from the main menu. Quite naturally, the editor had picked a clip of Melody in action. But it wasn’t the Melody sitting beside Aniela on the sofa. It was a pumped-up, lurid version, devoid of all the of the delicate beauty she had possessed before she took the part. Her cheeks were artificially high and plump, squinching up her deep blue eyes, so she had to open them wider than was natural to compensate. Her nose was unnaturally ruler-straight, her chin protractor-round; her lips were swollen like pillows, as were the round white breasts squashed up almost to her collarbones by the tight red corset she was wearing. On her bottom was a pair of bright blue pants, which, like the corset, was covered in gold stars and trimmed heavily with gold edging. And as she threw her arms wide and spun around and around, around and around, her lips parted into a O, and her implants bounced up and down, up and down, the sight of those plumped-up white breasts almost hypnotic –


‘You look like a porno doll,’ Aniela observed with crushing Eastern European bluntness.


Melody huffed a short, bitter laugh and clicked off the DVD again.


‘Exactly,’ she said. ‘That’s why the film tanked. I was supposed to be playing Wonder Woman. She’s a goddess. Strong, independent, sexy on her own terms. Not a porno doll.’


‘Well, men must have liked that,’ Aniela commented, nodding at the now-blank screen. ‘Many of them like the porno dolls.’


Melody laughed again. And even though the sound was still bitter, she couldn’t help thinking: This is the first time I’ve been able to look at that piece of rubbish since leaving LA - and I’m laughing. How weird that it’s a complete stranger who helped me do it.


‘I don’t think a single woman went to see it in the cinemas,’ she said ruefully, turning to look directly at Aniela. ‘Or bought the DVD. They rushed that out after the film tanked. With lots of extras of me doing stunts.’


Melody raised her hands, only to waist-height, because of the breast surgery, and made little quotation marks as she said the last two words.


‘Stunts?’ Aniela said, her mouth relaxing into the hint of a smile. ‘You mean, more of this?’


She put her hands under her own smallish breasts and wobbled them up and down with the nonchalance of a nurse who’s seen so many naked bodies that she has no embarrassment left about her own.


Melody burst out laughing.


‘Exactly!’ she said. ‘Ow, that hurts…’ She pressed her hands gingerly to her chest. ‘There was a whole bikini sequence – I had to wear the tiniest bikini you ever saw in your life, it was awful – they did all these shots of me diving into a lake, again and again, and that’s literally all you see in one of the clips. Just my bum in a tiny string bikini.’


She started to pull a face, and stopped immediately.


‘You see now why I had all the surgery?’ she said passionately. All her emphasis was channelled into her trained actress’s voice, since she was unable to use her features. ‘I wanted to go back to who I was before. Pretend the whole thing never happened.’


‘But why did you do it?’ Aniela asked, curious. ‘I have seen photographs, of course, for the surgery, of what you looked like, so that Dr Nassri could copy it. You were very beautiful. You had no need to do that to yourself.’


Melody heaved a long sigh, and sipped at her tea.


‘My agent was so keen for me to go to Hollywood,’ she said. ‘I had loads of offers after Wuthering Heights. But my boyfriend wanted us to stay here. We’d made a pact – we met in drama school, and we got together almost straight away. We said we’d be serious actors, we wouldn’t go to Hollywood till we’d done some years of stage in the UK first. I meant it, I really did. And James – that was my boyfriend, James Delancey - ’


‘I know him!’ Aniela said, smiling. ‘He is Doctor Who! He is very handsome, I think.’


‘Yes,’ Melody said softly, thinking of James, his floppy fringe, his sweet smile, his long, lean body. He was a real posh boy, a public-school, cricket-playing, posh boy, but a lovely one, with a gentle nature, always ready to see the funny side of things, to lighten tension with a joke. She’d fallen for him the moment she saw him; she’d always fancied that kind of boy, the kind that looked great in cricket whites or an officer’s uniform, who’d be cast as the young hero in any TV adaptation of a historical novel; James had already played Pip in Great Expectations, Larry in The Alexandra Quartet, and Charles Ryder in a stage version of Brideshead Revisited. He’d been over the moon to be cast as Doctor Who, not just because he loved the show, but also because it was a pleasant change to be acting opposite aliens and wearing modern dress.


‘And he is your boyfriend? Why does he not come to visit you? Siobhan says that you have no visitors. You are always by yourself,’ Aniela commented.


Melody recoiled a little. It was all very well having a nurse who was completely unshockable to confide in, but the downside, clearly, was that Aniela had absolutely no British reserve whatsoever.


She looked at Aniela over the rim of her mug. There was nothing gossipy about the nurse, Melody could tell. Her years in the celebrity spotlight had made her very familiar with the tell-tale indications: the gleaming, beady eyes, the head cocked forward, eager for a snippet of juicy information that could be instantly Twittered as soon as they left you. Siobhan had been like that, always trying to pump Melody as she changed her dressings, casually dropping the names of James or Melody’s other co-stars into her stream of chatter, hoping to prompt an unguarded response from her. Melody hadn’t trusted Siobhan as far as she could throw her – which, in her current bruised, post-operative state, was no distance at all.


Aniela, Melody could already tell, was the polar opposite.


‘We broke up,’ she said. ‘I haven’t seen him in over a year. I went to LA, and the distance made things just too difficult.’


Well, that’s the official line, anyway.


‘But he could still visit you,’ Aniela said. ‘Or your family. It’s good for the healing, to have people around. Not to be all alone, especially with Christmas coming.’ She cleared her throat. ‘You do not need to be here, you know,’ she informed her patient frankly.’ You could go back to your home, and maybe have a nurse come every day if you wanted to. Though even that is not really necessary. Dr Nassri told you that, correct? There is really nothing for me to do any more, now that your wounds have closed and you are healing well.’


‘I don’t want anyone to see me like this!’ Melody said, her voice rising. ‘Look at me! I want to hide out here and not see anyone, not until my face is recovered. I want to just hole up and hibernate till I don’t look like - ’ she glanced at herself in the black glass border to the TV – ‘like I got the worst of it in a street fight.’ She looked down again. ‘Besides, I don’t have anywhere to go. I was sharing a house in Shoreditch with my boyfriend, and I moved out when we broke up. I don’t have a place in London, and if I go to my family the paparazzi are bound to find out. There’s nothing they’d love more than to get photographs of me looking like this.’


She shuddered.


‘I understand. You want to be a bear,’ Aniela said, a glimmer of amusement in her voice.


‘A what?’ Melody, asked, completely taken aback.


‘You want to be a bear,’ Aniela repeated, standing up. ‘To hibernate, like you said. To hide in your cave all winter, until spring comes.’


And again, despite herself, Melody couldn’t help giggling.


‘Ow!’ she said. ‘Don’t make me laugh!’


‘I am sorry,’ Aniela said, smiling down at her. She walked over to the DVD player, pressed the Eject button and popped out the Wonder Woman disk. ‘I don’t think you should watch this any more,’ she said. ‘No more porno doll.’


Snapping the disk into its case, she dropped it into one of the storage drawers and slid the drawer shut with a decisive click.


‘I will come back tomorrow at the same time,’ she said. ‘You have my pager number? It is the same as the one for Siobhan.’


Aniela patted the little black gadget clipped to her belt.


‘You may ring me when you need,’ she said. ‘It will not be a problem. There is only you and one more patient staying here over Christmas and New Year. I have plenty of time for both of you.’


‘Are you here over the whole holidays?’ Melody asked.


Aniela nodded.


‘I look after only two patients here at Limehouse Reach,’ she said, ‘I sleep in the clinic next door, and there are no operations until the first week in January, no-one there to look after. So you may ring me without any worry. I am here twenty-four seven.’


‘Won’t you be lonely?’ Melody said unguardedly, her dark blue eyes looking up at Aniela, full of concern. ‘Sleeping in the clinic with no-one around? And not seeing your family?’


Aniela shook her head briskly.


‘No,’ she said, a brief smile flitting over her face. ‘Not at all. I will be very quiet and peaceful. Now - ’ she looked at the shadow clock on the wall over Melody’s head – ‘I must go to meet my other patient. It was very nice to meet you, Melody.’


‘You too,’ Melody said, biting her lip to stop tears coming to her eyes; you’re being pathetic! she told herself savagely. Remember at ComicCon last July, you had to have a whole phalanx of security guys around you because the geeks would have torn you to pieces? You could barely breathe for all the crowds and reporters shoving mikes in your face and fans screaming questions at you! You couldn’t wait to get back to your hotel suite and be by yourself! And now you’re feeling sorry for yourself because the duty nurse is going and leaving you on your own…


Pull yourself together, Melody. You made this bed and now you’ve got to lie in it.


The door of the apartment shut behind Aniela. Melody closed her eyes, determined not to cry. Over the past few months, she had cried enough for years to come, at the loss of everything that had fallen so easily into her lap: a wonderful boyfriend, a brilliant career. Now it was all in ruins at her feet.


I should never have done that bloody film.


‘I know you said no blockbusters, no action films,’ her LA agent had said eagerly over the phone. ‘But Melody, you gotta read this! They’re mad for you – you’ve got the perfect colouring for Wonder Woman, and you can handle comedy. You gotta at least have a look at it… ’


It was everything a comic adaptation should be. Funny, sexy, witty, packed with breathtaking action sequences. Wonder Woman was tough, wise-cracking, with the dry sense of humour of Robert Downey’s character in the first Iron Man film, a woman entirely in control of her own destiny, flicking her golden lasso, ensnaring the baddies. The showdown between her and the Nazi villainess, Baroness von Gunther, was both hilarious and genuinely dramatic. Melody couldn’t put the script down; she spent the day wandering round the house she shared with James, reading out juicy lines to him, and when she finally finished it she drew a deep breath, dragged him down onto the sofa with her and begged him to read it, to understand why she was going to break the pact that they had made and audition for the part.


‘We said we’d stay here for the next two years!’ James had said passionately, pushing back the lock of hair that always fell over his forehead. ‘We promised each other! You know what happens – people go off to LA before they’ve done enough stage here and you can never get that experience back!’ His hazel eyes widened as another thought occurred to him. ‘And when are they shooting? What about Romeo and Juliet? Rehearsals start in three months, Mel!’


It had been their dream at RADA, to play Romeo and Juliet together, while they were still young enough to be convincing as teenage lovers. After James was cast as Dr Who, and Melody as Cathy in a film adaptation of Wuthering Heights, they were both well-known enough for producers to be eager to cast them in a stage production, and the idea of real-life boyfriend and girlfriend playing the star-crossed lovers had been irresistible. Sir Trevor Nunn was lined up to direct them at the Theatre Royal. They had talked of nothing else for months.


‘Oh, of course this won’t interfere with the play!’ Melody had assured him, taking his hands. ‘I’d never mess with that, I promise! I’ll tell them that I’m committed to the play and that I couldn’t possibly start shooting on this till the run’s over – that’s if I even get the part, which is very unlikely… ’


But she had got it. Almost immediately. Millenial, the production company, had sent her a first-class ticket to LA as soon as they’d heard she was interested; the day after she arrived, she’d read for the executive producers, who had loved her reading as much as her looks – which, as her agent had already pointed out, were a huge point in her favour. Of course, you could take a blonde, brown-eyed actress, dye her hair black, give her blue contact lenses; but it was always preferable to cast a girl as Wonder Woman who naturally had her specific colouring, and Melody’s Irish blood had also given her Wonder Woman’s smooth white skin.


Melody was Millenial’s top pick. She had everything: youth, beauty, classical training, and the freshness that came from being a new face. And thanks to a good ear, as well as her RADA training, she could do a pitch-perfect generic American accent. Delighted, they sent her to meet Brad Baker, who was already contracted to direct the film.


And that was where everything went so wrong.


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