Hollywood Sinners - By Victoria Fox


The Parthenon Hotel,

Las Vegas, Summer 2011

The woman studied her reflection in the bathroom mirror. To an onlooker she was flawless, but close, much closer, there was an uncertainty in her eyes that gave her away. Fear was a dangerous thing. However hard you pushed it down, it always found a way back.

Turning her head to one side, she attempted a practised smile and almost convinced herself. She was a professional–it was her job to make people believe.

In a white toga-style dress amid the stylised opulence of one of Vegas’s most renowned hotels, the woman resembled a Greek goddess. Tomorrow morning her image would appear in magazines all across the world. Fashion editors would appraise her gown. Reviewers would dissect her performance. Gossip columnists would speculate on the man she was with. Fame. Celebrity. Stardom. She had imagined this moment for a long time, and now she had arrived.

It’s one night, she told herself. Nobody knows.

The woman stood back. Blood rushed to her head and she struggled to focus. A hot wave of sickness washed over her.

It was karma. Everybody had to pay for the mistakes they made.

This is what you deserve.

She touched the palm of one hand flat against the marble wall. It felt cool.

‘Just not tonight,’ she begged, her lips cracked and dry. ‘Please, not tonight.’

‘Are you OK?’

The woman jumped, less at the shock of remembering he was out there as at the concern in his voice. But the second time he spoke it was with the familiar bitterness.

‘Limo’s here in five. Let’s move.’

She breathed deeply, smoothed down her dress for a final time and reached for the lock on the door. It was show time.

The Parthenon Tower Suite was vast. Four lavishly designed bedrooms backed on to a sprawling living area complete with champagne bar and wall-to-wall plasma television, a private games room and sumptuous spa. Floor-to-ceiling windows boasted a panorama of the glittering Vegas Strip, its pink and gold lights laid out below like a chain of jewels. On both sides multi-billion-dollar hotels stood shoulder to shoulder like giants, each one more impressive than the last. The Mirage, the Luxor, the Palazzo, the Desert Jewel. Fountains of fire and water set the night sky ablaze and billboards dazzled with news of the hottest show in town. In the casinos, players and hustlers vied for the big time. This was Sin City, the pounding heart of the desert. Everybody was working a game of chance.

And in the middle of it all, the man she was supposed to be in love with. He was standing at the panorama, adjusting his tie.

When he turned to her, his eyes were cold.

‘Is everything all right now?’ he asked quietly.

‘Everything’s fine.’ What was the point in telling the truth? They had gone way beyond honesty a long time ago.

The man took a step forward. For a crazy moment she thought he might kiss her.

‘Tonight matters,’ he said instead. ‘You understand why.’

She nodded. In a matter of minutes they would appear together at the Orient Hotel, host to tonight’s movie premiere. The world’s press would be gathered on the red carpet, everybody who was anybody in the business walking the runway, and they all wanted a super-couple at the top of their game. Paparazzi had camped out for days for their hundred-thousand-dollar shot. If they could expose what nobody else saw–the faltering smile, the glimmer of doubt in a moment of privacy–then they’d be looking at the big money. She imagined the flashing lights, the waiting crowd. For one night their performance had to be flawless; their kisses for real.

‘I’m ready,’ she told him.

‘Good. Don’t let me down.’

Unexpectedly her phone shrilled to life. Reaching to retrieve it from her clutch, she noticed a flash of unease pass across his face.

‘Who is it?’ he demanded.

It was a private number.

‘I’ll take it outside.’ She crossed to the sliding doors and stepped out on to the terrace. The fresh air was invigorating and she experienced a rush of hope.

It’s just one night. How much can go wrong?

She flipped it open. ‘Hello?’

At first, only silence. Then the voice began to speak. It was low and distinctive. She recognised it immediately.

Fighting a wave of panic, the woman gripped the balcony rail, her knuckles bleeding white in the darkness. Forty storeys below traffic throbbed down the Strip.

‘I know about you, sweetheart. Remember? I know everything. Get ready, baby–because now it’s payback time.’



One year earlier



‘Lana, over here! Lana, Cole! How’s the marriage?’

Lana Falcon adjusted her pose for the cameras, hand on