City of Angels and Elves Book 1: Tinseltown Trail
A star is born… maybe. A signed deal with the devil is all that is needed for a one-way ticket to stardom.
Tinseltown Trail –
When the Devil himself tells you you’re going to be a star, you’re probably screwed.
The thought flicked through Ma’s mind as she sat across the attorney’s desk. Yes, the Devil was a lawyer in his spare time, among other things. He wore a pinstriped suit and had dark, slicked-back hair. He sat calm and composed with his gaze directed at the paper before Ma, patiently awaiting her response.
Finally, Ma brought her attention back to the proposed contract in front of her. Wincing, she scanned the wording again, nervous excitement jolting through her body.
The Devil folded his hands in front of him on the desk. “Mable-Anne.”
“Ma,” she corrected him.
“But Mable-Anne is such a pretty name. Very well, let’s begin. Ma, you’re a free agent. Please let me represent you. There is much I can do to help. I think we both know this is your best chance at achieving the level of stardom you seek.”
Ma didn’t doubt the Devil could pull strings and help her establish herself as a star stuntwoman and actress in Hollywood. But what would be the cost?
She picked up the contract and continued reading through it. As much as she wanted success, she wasn’t about to dive blindly into a deal with the Devil.
He must have sensed her thoughts. “You don’t think you’re the first elf to try to make it in LA, do you?” He leaned forward over his folded hands and regarded her curiously.
Ma paused her reading to meet his gaze over the top of the contract.
“Sure, you’ve got good looks.” The Devil bobbed his head good-naturedly. “The face, the hair, the eyes, the teeth…” He lowered his gaze down her neck toward the rest of her body. “The body. You don’t need my help in that department.”
“Look, can I finish reading through this thing?” Ma asked.
A wide smile formed on the Devil’s face. “Why, certainly. You have all the time in the world. Except…that’s not entirely true. You are mortal, and pesky mortal bodies do tend to, how should I put it? Sag. Yes, that’s the right word.”
Ma was still young, even for an elf. She opened her mouth to protest, but the Devil spoke over her.
“And don’t forget that you’ve already tried this path once.” He leaned conspiratorially over the desk toward her. “You remember what happened the last time you came to LA, right? Mortal minds tend to grow forgetful over the years…”
Ma set the contract back on the desk. “I’m not that old.”
The Devil passed his eyes up and down her for a moment. He didn’t look convinced.
“I’m not.” She hoped she hadn’t overstepped her boundaries. She was speaking one-on-one with the Devil. Being here was probably a bad idea, but it could finally be Ma’s ticket to success. Success that if she didn’t find soon, she’d have to leave the city. Life was too expensive here for someone trying to make it.
“I’m not trying to pressure you,” he said softly and delicately. “It’s just, it seems you’re the hot new thing after everything that went down with that half-troll Maine. You helped take down one of my clients—and the press has noticed you. I know several big-name producers who are practically begging to have you in their next film.”
Ma knew the Devil was exaggerating her fame. If big-name producers were after her, she would have heard from them by now. She couldn’t help but wonder why the Devil was so eager to help her. Was it because her ex-boyfriend had been the Devil’s client that she had taken down? Her ex had signed a contract similar to this one although she hadn’t known it at the time.
The Devil had failed to uphold his end of the bargain. Since Ma was her ex’s beneficiary on his contract, and since the deal had fallen through…
The Devil cleared his throat, snapping her back to the attorney’s office.
Ma pushed the issue. “If I’m so popular, why would I need you?”
“To represent you, of course. To make sure you don’t get, excuse my language, ‘screwed’ in your contracts. You deserve to be paid fairly for your work. And by fairly, I mean top dollar. Because this is an incredible time in your life right now. You must exploit it, or others will exploit you.”
Ma considered this. As her agent, the Devil should be able to secure her good roles with prominent directors. She had wrapped up filming on a TV show pilot. Now she needed to land another role, or she’d be unable to pay her bills.
“I’ve got my ear to the wind, and you’re so popular that you can consider this your own spinoff series.” The Devil reached over the desk and tapped the contract with his forefinger.
As anxious as she was to finally attain some measure of fame, to say yes right now would be foolish. She scanned down the contract until she came to a rather vague line. She read aloud, “‘In exchange for retaining the Devil’s services; I agree to render certain not-yet-determined services at not-yet-determined times.’”
She set down the contract and checked to see the Devil’s reaction. He was sitting back in his chair and smiling at her with his hands clasped before him. She was careful not to look into his eyes in case he tried to hypnotize her or something with his powerful magic.
“You have a problem with that clause?” the Devil finally asked, his smile still plastered on his face.
“Yeah, I do. What are you, the Godfather? Are you planning to have me dispose of bodies or something in the future?”
The Devil chuckled and adjusted his suit coat. “Nothing of the sort. I’m not so crass as my reputation might have you believe. But…” The word was long and drawn out. “I might need to ask you to perform certain services in the future. In exchange for the success I can help you attain. Have no worries. The services would be related to the showbiz industry. None of the sordid and repulsive requests your mind is probably buzzing with right now. How about I clarify that in the terms of the contract?”
The Devil snapped his fingers and Ma watched in surprise as the vague clause rewrote itself upon the contract to specify that her services would be related to the film industry.
She relaxed a little.
Maybe this contract wasn’t as bad as she was expecting. Especially if she could get the Devil to amend it to clarify everything in her favor. Then again, maybe she was being too optimistic. Unwavering optimism could be a double-edged sword. And she was no legal expert. It would take her hours to inspect the lengthy legalese.
She took note of another vague clause and read it aloud. “‘I agree to attend at least one of the Devil’s midnight masquerade meet-and-greet parties each month.’” She glanced over the contract at the Devil.
“Networking is the key to success.” His smile didn’t waver. “The main purpose of my parties is for my clients to meet each other, to see what they can do for each other. We’re all in this together, aren’t we?” The Devil’s words were calm and full of camaraderie. They threw up alarms in Ma’s head.
“Why are they at midnight? Do I have to perform some kind of dark ritual with the others?”
The Devil snorted. “Dark rituals? Just who do you think I am?”
Ma didn’t respond.
“Fine. I’ll add some…clarity.” He snapped his fingers, and a line was added to the end of the masquerade party clause, specifying only to converse and familiarize herself with the other clients. No dark rituals and no illicit deeds with anyone or anything at the parties.
Another clause caught her eye. “‘I must silently thank the Devil for the opportunity each time I’m about to go on set.’” She shook her head. “I’m not going to do that.”
The Devil’s face remained unchanged but his following words pressed out gratingly through his smile. “Now I think you’re being unreasonable. However…” He snapped his fingers, and the clause vanished from the contract.
Did he want to represent her that badly?
No. She caught the sharkish glint in his eyes. Ma was pretty sure now that this meeting had been about distracting her from something else—her ex’s old contract. As her ex’s beneficiary, there had to be some clause that could give her power over the Devil. The Devil didn’t like that. Too bad her ex’s contract wasn’t as simply written as hers. Each time she started to read it, it was like getting lost in a maze.
She had half a mind to confront the Devil about it right here, right now. Was that the best option? He had the power to make her a star.
The Devil raised a hand in dismissal. “I see you need more time. Take the contract with you and read the rest of it. Think on it.”
She nodded noncommittally.
The Devil sighed. “I want the best for you. You want to make it in this city, right?”
When Ma didn’t answer, he continued. “I want you to have the notoriety. I want you to rub elbows with the hottest stars. I want you to have a fast car. Hunks vying for your attention. Celebrity endorsement deals. A mansion in the Hills complete with fountains, a theater, and a bowling alley.” He rubbed his hands together sincerely in front of himself. “I want you to have it all.”
Ma had to admit that she had none of those things. She was relatively alone in LA, had no car, her apartment was nothing to brag about, and her love life was nonexistent. How much longer was she willing to stay in LA this time if she didn’t get her big break soon?
She rose and slid the contract into her purse. When she came here, she already had one contract in her possession. Now she had two. One was an enigma, but the other could make her a star.
When something sounds too good to be true it usually is. Will she use her knowledge of the Devil’s previous deals to make a new one or will she make it on her own? Find out on February 14th, 2024 when City of Angels: Tinseltown Trail is released. Until then head over to Amazon and pre-order it today.