A gaggle of showbiz reporters loitered outside the Sports Illustrated LA Branch, there had been a tip off that top model, Buffy Summers, had been reviewing her pictures for the celebrity swimwear edition. If they could be the first get a scoop on Summers their payday would be triple what they usually earned, so they crowded desperately outside.
“Buffy, Buffy! Turn this way!” The Cosmo photographer yelled, pointing his camera in her face as she exited the building.
“Miss Summers, please, just a pic for the LA Times…. Oh, that’s gorgeous, Buffy, tell us what you wore in the centrefold! Please, I beg you!” A reporter called out as she elbowed her photographer in the ribs to spur him on to get the best shot.
“Buffy! Buffy! Are you hoping Angel will see how lovely you look and take you back?” Another reported shouted out.
Buffy shielded her face with one hand and ducked away. Where did these people come from? And how did they know where she was at every hour of the goddam day? She’d worn scruffy jeans, a black hooded sweater, sneakers, dark glasses and a headscarf and they’d still spotted her. It was like they had some sort of tracking device. Not that anything would surprise her, some reporters had been caught tapping celebrity’s phones recently. She made a mental note to swap phones and get someone in to go through her apartment with a fine-tooth comb, the freaking FBI couldn’t have done a better job at finding her.
She gritted her teeth as they followed her to her car, shouting in her ear and pointing camera’s in her face until she was almost blinded by the flashes. Buffy and driving were non mixy things and that day, she’d opted to have the driver her agency provided.
Buffy never had any problem playing up for her public at an arranged event but the pap's had hounded her daily since she’d got together and then split in a spectacular way with Angel O’ Connor; actor, director and millionaire playboy. When he’d been caught by the press getting sucked off by some two-bit whore in downtown LA her world had been turned into a goddamn circus.
Boy, had that asshole played up to the press when she’d socked him one in the eye, going to the press to tell them how America’s darling had beaten him, playing his part immaculately as he tried to save his own career by telling them she was frigid and he’d been driven to it by her domestic violence. That had been six months ago and still the paparazzi pestered her for her side of the story. She’d hoped it would be old news by now but still they harassed her, badgering her every minute of the day until she thought she might have a mental breakdown.
Her mom had died a few months before her spilt with Angel and she had barely any family left, her dad couldn’t care less about her or her sister. Dawn, was at college in Rome pursuing her dream of becoming an artist. She knew Dawn would come home if she asked but Buffy had never been able to bring herself to tell her little sister the full story. When Dawn asked, she’d just said it was Hollywood crap and just to ignore it. Thankfully Dawn was far enough away that she wasn’t bothered by any of the fallout.
She almost let a tear fall in front of the eager hyenas before composing herself, her fingernails digging into her palms. I miss you so much mom, her inner voice cried out. Her mom had always sheltered her when the showbiz world got too much for her but now she was gone, as was her place of solace.
Buffy reached the corner where her driver had said he would meet her at and he wasn’t there. “Shit, shit, shit!” She muttered, turning as the pap’s edged their way closer like a pack of wolves going in for the kill.
Glad of the fact she’d worn sneakers, she took off her headscarf and threw it at the reporters before breaking into a run, taking a turn into an office block and bounding in through its revolving doors in her desperate escape.
William Boring sat through the sixth interview of the day listening to the candidate babble on with figures he had no care for. He didn’t want figures! He wanted bloody action! Wanted them to get up off their arses and tell him what the company needed to stay at the top. What he got was tedium and a desperate need for a very large drink.
Okay, a master’s degree in Mathematics from Oxford University and some top-notch experience as managing Director of his father’s London firm, god rest his soul, had got him passage to the US and into the large firm he had now worked his way up in but, fucking hell, were these business types boring, and William was the one with the bloody name Boring!
A chant started up in his mind as one Senior Accountant after another pled their case for the VP’s position, ‘bored, bored, bored, bored, bored’. The current guys mouth was moving but William wasn’t hearing anything he was saying as he glazed over.
When the guy stopped and stared at William anxiously, he glanced down at the intricate doodles and lines of poetry he’d been working on upon his notepad and tried to look interested.
“I think this wraps it up, unless anyone has any further questions?” He said, with a sly glance at the company president, Faith, and her assistant, Andrew.
He stood and shook the candidates clammy hand. “Thank you for coming, we’ll be in touch.” Before muttering in his head, when hell freezes over.
As soon as the guy left the room he stretched his arms above his head and groaned, ignoring the blatant lusty stares of the others in the room. “I suggest we sleep on it or I’ll be tempted to hire Andrew instead.” He said in a matter of fact way, ignoring Andrew rearing in his seat like an eager puppy. The kid reckoned he could do it and William thought he probably could, given half a chance but he was too inexperienced and William was in two minds about the bloke.
“Heel, Andrew,” Faith said with a smirk, pointing at her assistant before smoothing down her tight haute couture black dress before tottering on skyscraper heels towards William.
“Will’s, they’re all good candidates, you know it. I listened to them closely and it’s going to be a hard decision. I’m just not sure you’re here with us, you know, in the zone?" She noted. "When was the last time you took a break? And I don’t mean a lunch break longer than twenty minutes.” She smiled, folding her arms across her chest.
William tugged at the tight Windsor knot at his neck. God, he hated always hated ties and the fact he'd chosen a career where they were pretty much compulsory. “I don’ know, firecracker,” He said calling Faith by his pet name and running his hand through his dark blonde slicked back hair, “If six of you came walking through that door like you did a few years ago, I’d hire every soddin’ one. Trouble is, love, they have no spirit, it’s like a convention for the dull.” William said wearily as he circled his temples with his fingers.
“That’s it! I have no power over you but please, for your own sanity and mine, take a week off. Go, get some sun on that pasty ass of yours and come back with a decision.” She reprimanded.
It had been a long time since William had taken a real vacation, he would have called it a holiday but the yanks say tomato and he said fuck that little red fruit that most people thought was a vegetable. “Alright, I’ll go. I’ve fancied a road trip up to New England for a while, I quite like the idea of driving to see Salem and all that rot.” His facination with all things horror had made the place an ultimate destination for him and his secret obsession was late night horror marathon with a bottle of Jack and a pack of Marlboro's.
Faith beamed like she was the Dali Lama whose life advice had been taken up by the Pope. “Probably better take two or more, it’ll take you two whole days and some on the road, and that’s without sleep.” She leaned up and pecked him on the cheek, “Get out of here and leave Andrew to run the show, he does anyway,” She laughed and winked at a beaming Andrew before slapping Williams arm, “Go!”
“Alright! Bloody women! Always thinkin’ they’re the boss!” He shook his head with a smirk as he removed his tie altogether and slung it over his shoulder.
As he left the room and walked down the hall, he heard Faith bark at Andrew, “Assume the position, you dirty, dirty boy!”
William chuckled as he collected his briefcase from his office and headed to the foyer, already planning his trip in his head. He was going to do the full tour, Route 66 in a Winnebago and then on to Massachusetts. This was it! He was going right out to buy one and then home to pack and pick up his dog, Ramone. This was going to be the best road trip ever! One man, his dog and peace and quiet.
The guard was looking at some pictures of a stunning blonde in a bikini as he walked through the lobby. “You old dog.” He chuckled as he walked up behind the desk, amused as Sergio snapped his laptop shut.
“Uh, Mr. Boring,—I-I.”
“Whatever your sins are, mate, they’re between you and your god.” William patted his shoulder manfully as he bid goodnight to the guard on the desk and headed for the revolving doors.
Buffy pushed with all her might and the door rotated as she almost flew through the entrance, her fists clenched in anger. The doors moved so fast that she felt the back of the door hit her in the butt and she was launched inside, her clenched fist hitting some poor person in the face as they tried to exit.
William turned his head and saw stars as he was launched six feet right onto his ass, sliding across the polished floor.
“What the bloody hell—I think you’ve broken my fuckin’ nose!” He yelped, clutching his proboscis, his eyes blurred in pain as blood ran down over his lips and chin onto his suave grey suit.
“Mr Boring! Are you OK?” He heard the security guard shout as he rushed to his aid, attempting to help him up.
“Fuck! Yeah, I’m alright, Sergio! Stop bloody fussin’ like an old woman!” He insisted, slapping the guys hands away as he nursed his nose. As his vision began to clear he saw a petite blonde run towards him, her face tight with contrition.
“Oh, God! I’m so sorry, please don’t call the cops, I need help! I need to get away from them!” She cried, patting him and smearing blood all over his suit, muttering, "Eww," as she shook her hands with a grimace.
William shakily got to his feet and shook his head, taking the handkerchief out of his breast pocket in an attempt to stem the bleeding. “You fly like a soddin’ avenging angel through the doors, pet and punch me in the face tellin’ me you’re on the run from the cops! Are you completely carrot top?”
“Sir!” The guard demanded.
“Not now, Sergio!” William yelled.
The blonde’s lower lip began to tremble in an adorable way and as William pinched the bridge of his nose. He couldn’t help but stare at her through one eye closed in pain, fuck, she was sweet.
“It’s not the cops or anything bad, I promise!” She said breathlessly. “They’re after me and I need to hide! Please help me, I have money and we can go anywhere you like.”
The injured man rolled his eyes. “Look, pet, I can drop you home but I have places to go, I’m on vacation and I need to pick up Ramone and get on the road.” He said finally as his dripping nose finally stopped bleeding, much to her relief.
Her heart sank as he mentioned his girlfriend, she had to be his girlfriend as she hadn’t seen a ring on his left hand. Buffy couldn’t help but peruse the sweet planes of his chiselled face. His blue eyes were startling, so much so she bit on her forefinger as her eyes raked over him. His suit was exquisitely fitted to his body, like it was designed for only him. His white shirt was drenched in blood but she could almost see his muscular chest right through it. All she’d experienced in the past months were selfish, fake tanned and pretentious guys who loved themselves and for some reason this person she’d hurt so badly looked like sex on toast because he wasn’t trying to impress her. She supressed a groan as he opened the neck of his shirt to the navel, flapping it with a look of annoyance and revealing tight abs beneath.
Her eyes glazed over as she heard the guard over at the desk clear his throat and realised he was watching her every move. He recognised her, she knew he did because she spent her life trying to escape people who thought they owned her because they'd seen her in some magazine or other.
“Uh, could you tell the guard that he hasn't seen me?” She said, laying her palm flat on bloody guys arm.
“Yeah, that's a little weird but whatever, pet. There’s a car lot up the street I need to go to but I can drop you back to your place after.” He said, pawing the air with a look a irritation as he looked at the mess and wiped his nose with the back of his hand.
“I-I can’t go back out there, can you—d-do you have a change of clothes I could use?” She begged.
“Sir?” The guard interrupted again.
“Bloody hell, yes, what is it, Sergio!”
“Sir, I don't mean to intrude, but Margorie left her security outfit here and there’s a black wig from the staff party at Halloween still in the locker room.”
“Great. Show, err, sorry, what’s your name?”
Sex on legs, ring-less and blood drenched man asked as he moved aside. “It’s, uh—I'm-um.” Buffy stuttered, sure this guy had absolutely no idea who she was and would probably think she was insane.
“Candy! I’m sure she said her name was Candy, sir.” Sergio said abruptly with a conspiratorial wink at Buffy. He didn't leer and he seemed nice, thank god, so he thanked her lucky stars for true and decent fans who would protect her forever. Sergio was a nice guy but she shuddered as she wondered what he might do while looking at her pics. She wasn’t a total innocent, she knew what men thought of her. In fact, scrap that, she knew what both sexes thought of her. The lace knickers her manager received in the post that very morning were more than enough evidence of what women thought of her too.
“Err, Candy? Why don’t you go with Serge, he’ll help find you a change of clothes.” The man nodded agreeably.
William the blood drenched idiot, was the ironic name he’d coined himself while waiting for the gorgeous Candy to come back from the changing rooms. He didn’t know this girl, yet he’d agreed to help her and he had the feeling this was only going to lead to a shed load of trouble. He shucked his blood soaked shirt and put his suit jacket back on, throwing the shirt into the trash as Candy re-appeared. She nodded at him and he followed her to the doors. He gulped as her pert rear end swayed in the tightest of jeans, obviously a size too small for her because he was unable to take his eyes off her. She just seemed like one of those girls who could wear a burlap sack and still look good, a girl who would never look twice at him.
Sergio opened the security door, letting out a deep breath as they left. He’d just met the gorgeous and infamous Buffy Summers in the weirdest of circumstances. She’d kissed his cheek and thanked him for his help before asking him to keep his silence about her. She was so gracious and apologetic when she signed last year’s Sports Illustrated and kissed his cheek. His knees had gone weak when he’d told her he would take her secret to the grave, he knew he'd die before he told anyone where either of them went. Mr Boring always smiled and greeted him like an old friend when he arrived, not that it was often, but the man made him feel valuable in a job that didn't receive much praise. Grinning once they left together, he made his way back to his desk. Mr. single, workaholic, Boring, would never know what had hit him and he was amused at the fact the man didn't know who one of the most famous women in the world was.
“Sir, I have just the thing for you.” The Salesman said jovially as he glanced at the spots of blood on the man’s suit.
“I want this one.” William said pointing at his choice of Winnebago with a raised eyebrow.
“But if you’ll let me show—”
“No. I want this one, cash, right now, I haven’t time for this, I’ve looked at it online and this suits my needs.” He said with a low growl that usually made his employees twitter and run to do his bidding, it was one of his only amusements, even though he didn't use it often.
“Say that one more time and he walks!” Candy interrupted, her hands paced firmly on her hips, “This vehicle costs one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, now you go and tell me you’ll sell another today!”
“Don’t say it!” She demanded, her eyes narrowed in challenge.
“Y-yeah, sure, we can have it delivered to you at your home.” He salesman said sheepishly, looking at her like he was attempting to work out where he'd seen her before.
“Now! We want it now.” She insisted, taking a step forward and poking his chest.
“Sir, I don't think your girlfriend understands, we can’t just give it to you right here and now, you have to wait for the model to be shipped, it's in the contract.” He Implored.
“A—She isn’t my bloody girlfriend and B, she isn’t bleedin’ wrong, I want it right now to take away or we'll go elsewhere.” William felt like he could rule the world just by watching this girl stand up for him, he'd spent too much time hiding away and working himself into the ground and she was filled with vitality he didn't experience often.
“I have to speak with my manager.” The sales guy twittered as he ran to the office.
Thirty minutes later they were settled and on the road. From her position in the cosy white leather seat of the RV, Buffy relaxed and sneaked another peek at her saviour, her thoughts distracted by his authoritative voice back at the car lot
“Where to, pet?”
She liked it when he called her pet, it was different, new and his accent was soothing. He seemed honest, not like the other men she'd met who were misogynistic and possessive, he just spoke without an ounce of expectation. “Uh, there you have me, I don’t want to go home.” She said, wringing her hands nervously. Going home meant facing her demons, the demons who tailed her at every turn.
“Well, you can’t bloody stay here!” He said sternly. “I have to get on the road.”
She looked up at him, stunned by his annoyed voice and his change in demeanour, feeling a tear slide down her cheek. Was he really so different? Or was he just the same as all the others?
“Sorry, I’m a bad, rude man, love." He sighed, rubbing his forehead with the palm of his hand. "I'm tired and that was uncalled for, sweetheart. Why don't you tell me your address an' I’ll take you there.”
His eyes were apologetic and he looked fraught. “Just head to Santa Monica Boulevard.” She muttered and through the corner of her eye she noticed how he watched regretfully as she wiped her tears away, sniffing as she took out her cell and made a call.
“Hi Maria, can you pack me some stuff and wait at the back...you know, the secret place? Yeah, the usual and can you bring Mr. Gordo this time?....Great, and can you pack a hamper please?....Yeah, probably a hotel for a week...I know, they’ve been tailing me for days....Yeah, yeah, I’m okay, j-just a little scared this time, it was close, they almost got me...I wish you could but it's better if you stay and ward them off...yes, love you too, bye.” She closed her cell and clutched it tightly within her hands and her eyes fluttered closed, her hands clutching the phone like a prayer.
William took another quick look at her, his sweaty hands circling the wide rim of the steering wheel.
“Candy?” He uttered tenderly, afraid to upset her further.
Buffy didn’t answer. Who the hell was Candy, she wondered.
“Candy?” He tried again, moving to tap her arm with his fingertips.
Buffy’s eyes shot open and looked at him, shocked that she'd forgotten her alias. “I’m sorry, yes, of course—uh, I’m Candy. I’ll direct you to pick up my stuff and then if you’d be so kind to drop me off at a hotel?” She requested, her fingers playing with the hair from the long black wig, apprehensively.
William gulped, certain by now that this girls name wasn’t Candy. People who had lived a life using the same name never had to be urged more than twice to answer. He didn’t know what kind of trouble this girl was in but if she lived on Santa Monica Boulevard, she wasn’t likely to be a bad girl, she’d said the cops weren’t involved and he was inclined to believe her and her tears seemed genuine, so much so he felt them wrench at his heart. He made up his mind to give her a chance, there and then. He was on vacation alone and this afternoon had probably been the most exciting thing that had happened to him in years. What was the worst that could happen?