Shattered Image<br/>

Author: Stacy Monson
Publisher: His Image Publications
Published: 2015-03-21
ISBN(s) 0986124516, B00V1QALRE
Language(s): English
Category: Fiction
Audience: Adult
Genre(s): Inspirational, Contemporary, Romance Read Excerpt >

Chapter 1

“I’m fired?” Kiera Simmons’ world tilted off its successful axis.

“That sounds so ugly.” Margaret, the Paisley, Inc. CEO, crossed her legs and leaned back in her leather chair, tapping her fingertips together. “Since we’re paying out your contract, we prefer to call it a separation. In light of the ongoing investigation, we believe your reputation is no longer conducive to representing our fashion line. I’m sure you understand.”

Kiera stared at her. Understand being fired? “I wasn’t involved in any of it.”

“And we’re glad about that, of course.” Margaret’s silken voice oozed condescension. “However, when we signed you as our fashion spokesmodel, we were clear your behavior both on and off camera must be above reproach.”

Her dark eyes narrowed. “We’re dealing with impressionable young women, Kiera. Being connected to someone like Thomas Ramsey was a poor decision that turned out to be very unpleasant for all of us.” She frowned over black Armani glasses. “I pushed to get you signed because I thought you were above this sort of behavior.”

Being duped by someone I cared about was bad behavior? The walls of the sterile office seemed to inch closer. Kiera lifted her chin, her breathing uneven. “You’re right. I was as naïve as the rest of his constituents to think he trulyhad everyone’s best interests in mind.”

Margaret’s red lips quirked. “Your focus should have remained on your job.” She slid two sheets of paper across the gleaming desk. “Now if you’ll sign both of these, we can all move forward.”

“Termination Agreement” glowed red at the top of each page. Kiera clamped her hands together in her lap and leaned back. If Christine were here, she’d know what to do, but her former agent was halfway around the world on her honeymoon.

I didn’t do anything wrong! The burn in her chest flared as the letters blurred. They can’t do this. Thomas’s actions had humiliated her on a national level, put her private life under a microscope, and almost landed her in jail. Now they were costing her the only job she knew how to do.

“I’m the best spokesmodel you’ve had.” She leveled defiance on the woman who at one time had been her champion. “My ads brought in a fifteen percent revenue increase this year alone.”

Margaret dipped her head. “But now that your name is associated with the…incident, we’re hoping we don’t lose that ground. The Board has decided that putting a fresh face to this next campaign may prevent that.”

Kiera blinked. “What?”

“We signed Fiona for the upcoming series.”

A strange buzzing filled her ears. “But we finished the first shoot for the campaign last month. Everyone said it’s the best we’ve done. You said it.”

“Fiona will do a wonderful job as well. She’s a young, fresh face.” Margaret leaned forward and clasped her hands on the desk, stilted sympathy on her powdered face. “Kiera, I know this is difficult for you, but you’ll be free to try something new and…different.”

The walls inched closer. Margaret’s cloying perfume choked the air from the room. So this was it? Tossed aside like last year’s fashion?

The phone intercom chimed once and Margaret pressed a button. “Yes?”

“Your two o’clock is here.”

“Thank you. I’ll be just another minute.” She extended the pen to Kiera. “It’s time for all of us to move on.”

The craziness that had erupted with Thomas’s arrest four months ago had hounded Kiera to this moment. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think. She scribbled her signature on the papers and shoved them back across the desk.

Margaret folded one and slid it inside an envelope. “This is your copy. And the remainder of your pay. You must vacate the apartment by this Saturday, May 31st.”

The apartment? Nausea churned. Of course they’d boot her out. First the job, then her home. Did they want the clothes off her back too?

Margaret stood, her gaze lifting Kiera out of the chair onto stiff legs. “We appreciate the work you did on behalf of Paisley, Kiera. We wish you the best in your future endeavors.”

Moments later Kiera stood on the busy Manhattan sidewalk outside the fashion agency’s headquarters, squinting against the spring sunshine. Envelope clutched in her fist, she shivered in the breeze, jostled by people hurrying past. Traffic crawled along Fifth Avenue, horns blaring, cabbies shouting and gesturing at each other. Tempted to make her own gesture at the glass office building that loomed over her, she gripped the envelope tighter. Her father had taught her better than that.

After Thomas’s arrest, she’d been pursued by paparazzi, given countless statements and depositions, and taken to occasionally wearing disguises in public. The sense of doom that had lurked at the edge of every day enfolded her, pushing her off balance. Legs trembling, she looked around for a bench, for something to stop the free fall.

“That’s her!” The girlish squeal scraped across her skin.

Not now. Kiera slipped her sunglasses on and turned away from the voices, wobbling a few steps before a touch on her arm stopped her, followed by a hesitant, “Excuse me?”

With a tiny sigh, she flipped the internal switch and let her face light up, turning toward the voice. “Yes?”

Three teens stood plastered together, arms linked, wide-eyed with excitement. Had she ever been that young, that awed by celebrity?

The tallest girl had a toothy smile. “Are you Kiera Simmons?”

She had been an hour ago, but now… She pulled on her professional face, hoping her smile was more than a grimace. “Yes, I am. Who would you lovely young ladies be?”

It seemed impossible but they squeezed together even tighter in a fit of giggles. Dressed in fashionably ratty jeans and ribbed camis under lightweight hoodies, they could have stepped out of one of Kiera’s own ads.

“I’m Anna,” the tall one answered. “This is Jamie and Mia. We just wanted to say we love your work.”

“Your Paisley pictures are awesome,” Jamie gushed. She rummaged through her colorful Paisley backpack and pulled out a magazine, folded open to Kiera’s photograph. A deep pink infused her freckled face as she held it out. “Would you, maybe, sign this?”

“I’d love to.” Stuffing the crumpled envelope into her purse, Kiera accepted the magazine and neon pink pen and glanced at the ad before signing her name to the bottom. Who was that girl with auburn hair, heart-shaped face, and light dimple in her chin? The smiling, airbrushed exterior masked emptiness inside.

Ignoring the burn in her eyes, she handed the photo and pen back to Jamie. “There you go.”

The girls studied her signature, dancing with delight. Anna looked from Kiera to her friend. “Jamie’s hair is almost the same color as yours.”

Her friend’s blush deepened as she wrapped a strand of dark red hair around her finger.

“You have beautiful hair, Jamie.” Kiera forced a smile, the tremble in her legs threatening to dump her on the sidewalk. She needed to breathe. To go back in there and fight for her job. Or find a place to hide from her life. The free-fall sensation made her sway.

“Doesn’t Paisley have the coolest purses?” Anna asked, then frowned. “But my mom won’t let me wear the clothes yet. She says they’re for older girls.”

“How old are you, sweetheart?”

Anna stood taller and tossed long brown hair. “Fourteen. In three months. That’s old enough to wear their stuff, right?” She released a short breath and deflated. “I don’t wanna look like my kid sister. Like you said in the magazine, the right clothes can change who we are. And I want to look glamorous and beautiful like you.”

I said that? The pleading in the girl’s eyes touched something deep inside Kiera’s battered soul. There was nothing glamorous about her life. Especially now. And being fashionable only went so far. To be thirteen again with a chance to do it over—do it right.

“You know what, Anna? It’s not the clothes or makeup that make you beautiful.” She pulled her sunglasses off and looked at each earnest face, willing them to believe her words. At some point she’d stopped believing them herself. “It’s who you are inside that matters. That’s what makes you special. Don’t ever let other people tell you who you are.”

The tremble intensified. “I have to run, girls. I’m so glad we met. Take care, okay?”

“Wait! Could we take a picture with you?” Anna held a sparkly red iPhone.

Kiera hesitated, then nodded. This might be the last time anyone asked. “That would be fun.”

The girls squeezed close, surrounding her with giddy excitement and the fruity aroma of body wash and hair gel. Anna extended her arm and snapped the selfie.

“Thank you!” She threw her arms around Kiera. “Thanks for talking to us. You’re really nice.”

Kiera hugged each girl, then signaled a cab. Once inside she managed a wave and sagged against the backseat. Tears blurred her view of New York. The bright lights and endless possibilities, intoxicating when she’d arrived to start modeling eight years ago, now suffocated her.

She folded her arms tight and closed her eyes. It was time to go home—to Minnesota, to find out who she was away from the lights and cameras. The idea was more terrifying than facing hordes of paparazzi had ever been.

That evening she left a voice mail for Christine with a brief explanation of what had happened, finishing with “I’m hoping this will give us a chance to work together again.” Her bravado disconnected with the call. It had been three years since she left Glitz, and Christine, for the Paisley dream job.

Too humiliated to contact anyone else, she passed the rest of the evening in silence as she stared out the floor-to-ceiling windows, watching the sun set on the greenery of Central Park.

Over the next few days, Kiera stormed through the spacious apartment, slamming personal items into boxes she’d gotten from the doorman, telling her plants just what she thought of Margaret, Thomas, and the mess she was in. They listened stoically, though she half-expected them to shrivel up in boredom from her unending rant.

On Friday morning, after another fitful sleep, Kiera rested against the chic couch cushions, fingers wrapped around a steaming mug of hazelnut coffee. The firing still didn’t make sense. Following the flight of a distant plane, her eyes narrowed. Was Thomas somehow involved? An unwelcome memory stopped the breath in her throat.

Standing in the courtroom two months ago, Thomas had turned his back to his lawyer and leaned toward her. “I don’t know what you think you know, Kiera, but I suggest you keep it to yourself.”

She’d lifted her chin in the face of his veiled threat and crossed her arms, thankful there were no cameras in the courtroom. “Unlike you, I prefer the truth.”

His eyes took on a hint of steel. This wasn’t the same man who nearly a year earlier had charmed her into a high-profile relationship. “I’d be careful with that attitude, Miss Spokesmodel. It could end your successful career.”

She pushed the memory away and sipped her coffee. “God, I know I haven’t made time for you lately,” she whispered, “so maybe you don’t have time for me but…what do I do now?”

Shattered Image   by   Stacy Monson   |   See Bio >
Book 1 of 3 in the Chain of Lakes Series.
Kiera lived and left the celebrity life. Peter is determined to have his turn in the spotlight. In the glare of publicity, can they hold on to each other and to the One who matters above all else? Or is the allure of wealth and fame too strong to resist?

As a former spokesmodel, Kiera Simmons is passionate about countering society’s distorted message of significance aimed at teens, a lie she helped perpetuate. She’s happy to leave her life in the spotlight, returning home to care for her father.

Peter Theisen stands on the threshold of realizing his dream of becoming a famous performer. With every step of his career driven by his A-list agent, Peter is ready for everything fame promises.

What started as a sweet, unexpected romance is tested by the glare of celebrity, financial devastation, and a diagnosis that will change everything.

When they discover the cold emptiness of reaching their dreams alone, can they find their way back to each other and to the One who matters most? Or is the allure of wealth and fame too strong to resist?

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