Texas Rascals, Book 4
“Oh look, your ‘twin’ is breaking her engagement.”
“What?” Bonnie Bradford rolled back from her desk in the downtown San Antonio office she shared with her coworker, Paige Dutton and peer over at Paige’s computer. “Let me see that.”
Paige scooted aside so Bonnie could see the TMZ website.
Quickly Bonnie’s gaze scanned the salacious headlines: Oscar-Winning Actress Gives Hunky Hubby-To-Be The Heave-ho. There on the screen was Bonnie’s doppelganger, young starlet Elizabeth Destiny.
The actress had obviously been ambushed by paparazzi. Her expressive eyes were wide and sad. Her normally luxuriant blond hair, the exact same shade as Bonnie’s own, hung in limp strands down her back. Worry lines creased Elizabeth Destiny’s forehead and her chic clothes were rumpled.
Sighing sadly, Bonnie settled back in her chair to read the article.
The impending marriage between Hollywood’s hottest leading lady Elizabeth Destiny and one of America’s most eligible billionaire bachelors, Kurt McNally, has ended quite unlike it began, with a whimper not a bang. The much touted “match made in heaven” has come to a grinding halt before it ever began. Irreconcilable differences were cited as the cause for the split, though there have been plenty of rumors about the couple’s real reason for separating. At a press conference held earlier this week , Ms. Destiny announced her intention to seek seclusion during this troubled period in her life. Mr. McNally could not be reached for comment.
The article continued, but feeling slightly sick to her stomach, Bonnie pushed back from Paige’s computer.
“I don’t believe it,” Bonnie said, “Elizabeth and Kurt were so happy together. Anybody could look at their engagement photos and tell that. And I certainly don’t believe the two had irreconcilable differences. Doesn’t anybody believe in commitment anymore?”
Paige shook her head. “Sometimes I worry about you, Bonnie. You act as if you really knowthese people. I like movies, too, but jeez I don’t get carried away.”
“In a sense, I doknow them,” Bonnie argued. “I’ve seen every Elizabeth Destiny movie ever made. I even keep a Pinterest board on her.”
“See what I mean?” Paige circled a finger in the air near her temple. “Cuckoo obsession.”
“I don’t think making a Pinterest boards means I’m obsessed, especially since I resemble Elizabeth so much. I’m just an ardent fan.”
“You area dead ringer for the woman,” Paige mused, studying the photo of Elizabeth Destiny on her computer, and then casting a sidelong glance at Bonnie. “Maybe she is your long lost twin and you were separated at birth.”
Bonnie laughed. “Don’t think that hasn’t crossed my mind. My mother assures me I was not a twin, but I do feel a certain affinity for Elizabeth. I think she’s an incredible actress.”
True enough, Bonnie could not deny her lifelong fascination with film. From the time she was a small child, she liked nothing better than escaping from her mundane like at the Cinemaplex near her house. She’d grown up living with her mother and her two spinster aunts and the most exciting moments of her childhood had unfolded at the movies.
She recalled the cozy, safe feelings a darkened theater evoked. She remembered the taste of buttery popcorn, cold sodas, and chocolate-covered peanuts. She recalled the feel of the cushioned seats, the rise and fall of movie sound tracks whisking her away to magical worlds where anything was possible. There was nothing wrong with Netflix, but it couldn’t compare to seeing a movie at the theatre. Yes, she was most definitely a movie aficionado and no amount of razzing from her friend could change that.
“I remember when Elizabeth and Kurt got engaged,” Bonnie said. “I watched the engagement party on Entertainment Tonight. Kurt McNally is so handsome and he’s got a body to die for.” She sighed. ‘‘A completely masculine male. Every woman’s fantasy. And I hear he’s a nice guy to boot.”
“Ah, you’ve got the hots for him,” Paige teased.
“Yes,” Bonnie confessed, chagrined. “I know it’s silly but every time I see a picture of him I can’t help imagining what it might feel like to have him wrap those big strong arms around me.”
‘‘He is one fine hunk of man,” Paige agreed, eyeing Kurt’s picture on her screen. ‘‘But aren’t you a little old for puppy dog crushes?”
“I don’t have a crush on him. I just appreciate his hotness. I can’t imagine what problems he and Elizabeth could have had. They seemed like a storybook couple.”
‘‘Just goes to show happy endings aren’t what they’re cracked up to be.” Paige picked up a nail file and buffed her fingernails.
“I prefer to think of myself as a realist.”
“I still believe in love at first sight and happily-ever-after.”
“That’s because you’ve never been married.”
“True. But I’d love to try it someday.” Bonnie sighed again. “If only I could meet Mr. Right.”
“How do you expect to meet someone if you never go out? You’re way too shy. Instead of running off to the movies, you should be hitting the dating apps. You’re never going to have a romance of your own hiding out in a dark theater.”
“I know, but I have such a hard time talking to men. I wish I could be like Elizabeth, confident and self-assured.”
“Remember,” Paige admonished. “She’s an actress and probably just as terrified of social situations as you are. She merely acts the part. Next time you meet a guy, try pretending you areElizabeth Destiny.”
“I don’t know,” Bonnie hedged. “Do you really think it would work?”
“You’re a beautiful woman, Bradford. I wish I had half your looks. Why do you insist on hiding your figure in frumpy clothes and wearing glasses instead of getting Lasik eye surgery and keeping your hair in a bun? You need to live a little. Hell, why don’t you start dressing like Elizabeth Destiny? If you’d let your hair down once in a while, you’d have to beat the men off with a stick.”
Bonnie blushed. “I don’t wantto beat men off with a stick. I just want to fall in love, get married and raise a family.”
“Then come to the Fast Lanewith me and Kelly tonight,” Paige said, referring to a nightclub she frequented.
“Not tonight.” Bonnie wrinkled her nose. She hated drinking and loud clubs and suave insincere men delivering flattery in hopes of luring inebriated females into their beds.
“You’ll never change,” Paige predicted closing the TMZ website. “Once an introvert, always an introvert I suppose.”
Wasit silly for her to feel so saddened over a movie star’s broken engagement? “It’s such a shame about Elizabeth and Kurt. I wish there was something I could do to save their relationship.”
“That’s your problem, Bonnie. You’re too kindhearted. Always worrying about saving the world when you should be taking care of business.” Paige glanced at her watch. “Hey, it’s five o’clock and I’m outta here. You coming?”
“I’ve got some letters to finish for Mr. Briggs.” Bonnie waved a hand at her keyboard. “You go ahead.”
“See you Monday.”
“Remember I’m taking two weeks off to do some work around the house,” Bonnie reminded her friend. “Gardening, painting, relining my shelves. And I hope to take in a movie or three. There’s a new romantic comedy I’m dying to see.”
“Oh, yeah. Sounds like a thrill a minute. Have fun living in fantasyland.” Paige locked her desk, flung her purse over her shoulder and headed for the door. “Join us at the Fast Laneif you change your mind.”
Was she really so dull? Bonnie wondered as she watched Paige leave. Did she really dress frumpy? She glanced down at her baggy flower print dress and winced. Okay, so she wasn’t a glamour puss. But she loathed attracting attention to herself.
She was a background sort of person, taking satisfaction in doing her job well, a homebody who felt more comfortable as part of a group rather than a leader. She preferred pastels to vibrant colors, easy listening to rap and home cooking over gourmet cuisine.
Unlike her flashy “twin,” Elizabeth Destiny, she did not crave the limelight. In fact, she shunned attention. No, Bonnie number one goal in life was to have a husband and children of her own. But would she ever achieve her heart’s desire?
“Not if I have to wear skimpy clothes and hang out in bars like Paige,” Bonnie mumbled to herself. Whomever fell in love with her would have to love her for who she was, not for some persona she’d perfected. She’d rather be alone than with the wrong person.
By five-thirty Bonnie had finished her work. Everyone else in the office had long since taken off. Extracting her carryall from her bottom desk drawer, she got to her feet.
Too bad about Elizabeth Destiny and her fiancé. If she were Elizabeth, she’d do everything in her power to hold on to herman. Especially a man as sexy and masculine as Kurt McNally. Not to mention good-hearted. McNally was involved in a number of charities including building houses for the homeless and organizing fund-raisers for breast cancer research. From what she’d read about him, Kurt McNally seemed the long-haul type of guy who believed in family and commitment.
So what had gone wrong with their engagement?
Maybe Paige was right. Maybe she did care too much about the lives of celebrities.
Still fretting, Bonnie took the elevator to the first floor and left the downtown San Antonio office building where she worked as a legal secretary. Nibbling on her bottom lip, she joined the thinning crowd on the sidewalk.
The wind gusted, twirling dirt and litter into the air. Scaffolding erected to repair damage from recent hailstorms lined the sidewalk outside the Federal Building.
Traveling beneath the plywood-and-wrought-iron skeleton unnerved Bonnie. She hurried through the makeshift tunnel, head down, her high heels clacking an eerie echo against the wooden walkway.
A construction worker whistled at her and Bonnie blushed. She wished she was bold enough to flip the guy off, but that just wasn’t her style.
Maybe Paige was right, maybe she should start acting more like Elizabeth Destiny. At that thought, Bonnie reached up and plucked the barrette from her hair. Shaking her head, she allowed her curls to tumble free around her shoulders.
“Yeah, baby!” the construction worker hooted. “If you got it, flaunt it.”
Bonnie scurried along. Okay, it might be degrading to be objectified, and usually she would find it offended, but with the mood she was in, she felt buoyed by the stranger’s approval.
She took off her glasses and slipped them into her purse. Maybe she should look into eye surgery, or at the least contacts. After all, she was Elizabeth Destiny’s duplicate. What would it be like to live a movie star life?
The wind blew harder. Overhead, a board creaked ominously, but wrapped in her thoughts, Bonnie barely noticed.
She reached the cross street and started to step from beneath the scaffolding.
“Lady, watch out!” the construction worker yelled.
But it was too late.
Squinting, Bonnie looked up and saw a heavy two-by- four hanging precariously from a scaffolding beam by one lone nail.
Oh my gosh!The words formed in her mind but froze on her lips.
“Lady, move it!”
Before Bonnie could leap to safety, a single wind puff sent the board flying free from the chassis to hit her squarely on the top of the head.