EXT. Mediterranean Coast — Day:
Devon Makes a Splash

As far as Devon was concerned, there was only one way to arrive in Saint-Tropez: on board a magnificent seventy-five-foot yacht.

She didn't become the most famous sixteen-year-old in the world by playing wallflower. This might be her first-ever visit to the fabled Côte d'Azur, but Devon had been a star since she was in pull-ups. She knew how to play the fame game.

She struck a fine figure on the ship's bow as a refreshing ocean breeze blew gently on her mass of cinnamon curls, her skin tanned to a dark caramel shade of gold, her sultry catlike beauty highlighted by eyes a smoky shade of green. In a music magazine's latest issue, the effusive writer had compared the color of her eyes to an English summer meadow at dusk — whatever that meant. Devon was from Los Angeles (Crenshaw Boulevard — holla!), and her exotic looks were due to a perfect mix of her heritage: her studio musician dad a New Orleans Creole of Haitian descent, her rocker mom of French-Canadian stock.

As the boat neared the dock, she gave a cheerful wave to the dozens of tourists and curious locals who swarmed the outdoor cafés, craning their necks to see who had pulled into the harbor in such grand style so early in the season during the first week of May. She struck a confident pose for the paparazzi zooming in on their shots with massive telephoto lenses.

Let them look, Devon thought. This yacht charter cost a very pretty penny. For her arrival in Saint-Tropez, she was wearing the tightest, shortest, loudest black-and-white zebra striped Dolce & Gabbana skirt in her closet, paired with a creamy off-the-shoulder silk Cavalli top and five-inch Balmain monster heels. Not exactly an outfit suitable for sailing the high seas, and the captain had already warned her about her stilettos ruining the teak finish. But as long as she gripped the rails and stood with her feet planted apart, Devon knew she'd make it to the quay without taking an embarrassing tumble. She had no plans to be TMZ laughingstock anytime soon.

"Honey, we're here!" Her mother, Imogen Dubroff, emerged from the staterooms below to slip a slender, freckled arm around her daughter's shoulders. Devon bent her head quickly to hide a smile. Of course her mother wouldn't want to miss a photo opportunity.

She noticed Imogen had changed for the third time that day, finally deciding on tight white jeans, white high-heeled mules, and a chest-hugging white t-shirt and ropes of gold chain jewelry.

Imogen had told her she'd read something in OK! about Elizabeth Hurley wearing a similar outfit every summer on the island of Capri. Devon counted herself lucky her mother was wearing clothes at all. Imogen was the original wild child, and in her day she probably would have arrived in the South of France wearing nothing but a smile.

"It's so pretty," Devon said, sighing happily at the sight of white houses nestled in the cliffs above the sapphire-blue sea. "But it's so much smaller than I imagined."

"Well, small can be cute," Imogen suggested. "Except when it comes to yachts, and bank accounts, and houses, and guys'...you know."

"Mom!" Devon made a face.

"Oh please," said Imogen, rolling her eyes. "Don't oh-Mom me. Not in that outfit, anyway," she said, giving Devon a cool once-over.

"What's wrong with it?" Devon asked, wishing she didn't care so much what her mom thought. It was bad enough that Imogen was competitive on every level — more like an "ene-mom" (or was it "mom-emy?") than a real mom, and Devon didn't need any nagging insecurities that day.

Even if Saint-Tropez looked more like a picturesque seaside village with a giant marina than a big resort town, it was still the height of chic in the entire French Riviera. This was the place where Brigitte Bardot frolicked and pouted on the beach in a racy bikini; this was the place Bianca had married Mick Jagger wearing that sexy white suit. Devon wanted to stand out, but in a good way. There was a lot at stake for her this summer in Saint-Tropez. Way too much.

"You think it's too short?" Devon asked, tugging at her postage-stamp-size skirt.

Instead of answering, Imogen continued to smile serenely at the other boats they were passing.

If only Devon felt as calm. Whenever she saw pictures of herself at clubs in magazines and on gossip blogs, she cringed at how out of control she had been. What had she been thinking? Sure, she'd been under a lot of pressure. A lot of stress. There was so much riding on the movie — she was expected to bring in a blockbuster, just like her album and TV show had been. But what if it all went bust? What if it tanked? It didn't help that on those first few weeks of filming it seemed a new writer was getting fired every day, the producers were squabbling about everything with the studio, and no one was happy.

Then she and Randall had broken up — she'd had to read about it on his Facebook page of all places, which was

picked up on Ellen and shown on the mandatory subsequent tabloid covers. And then her mom kept disappearing into those lost weekends of hers, with Devon grimly calling hospitals and morgues.... So she'd done the only thing that had seemed right at the moment. Obliterate. Escape. Dance the night away, don't let the music stop, and keep the cocktails flowing.

And look where that got her. Straight into Commitments, some fancy rehab center in the desert where she'd spent her days lounging by the pool and getting daily massages. It had been a relief in a way. At least at Commitments, someone else was taking care of her for a change.

When she returned, her agent had to beg the studio to take her back, otherwise her career would have been flushed down one of the yacht's expensive Japanese toilets installed downstairs.

So. Those bad old days were over. They had to be, if she wanted to make a fresh start. She couldn't afford to make any more mistakes like the ones she'd made just a few months before. Everyone was counting on her. She had to pull it together. She couldn't mess this one up.

Devon took a deep breath and savored the salty-sweet air. She was looking forward to working again.

Imogen went back upstairs as the yacht slowed, the captain expertly steering it into the long berth. Devon itched to get on land already — she had so many things to do before tomorrow's shoot. The crew, all in pale blue polo shirts embroidered with the yacht's silver logo, barely had time to secure the ship to its moorings before she walked briskly off the boat and lowered herself on the gray planks of the dock.

A crowd of paparazzi were already gathered a few feet away, yelling her name and asking rude questions. Devon kept a smile on her face until an oily voice purred from the top deck of the yacht, "Where's my special lady going?"

That was no paparazzi. That was Eddie Pitch, her mother's boyfriend, leaning over and caressing the ship's railing as if it were a pool cue. His voice was as greasy as his comb-over ponytail. Why did her mom have to bring him and spoil everything?

"Hey! I thought I was your special lady!" Imogen teased, walking up behind him and reaching around to raise her face to his for an excruciating smooch while the cameras kept clicking.

Devon's heart sank. So much for good first impressions.

"Devon! Devon! Over here, baby!"

All the paparazzi were shouting for her, wanting her to turn in their direction, hoping she'd make a face or do something outrageous. That was the old Devon — easily riled, easily derailed. But this was a brand-new country, and a brand-new start. At least, that was the plan.

"Dating anyone special?" one of the paps barked.

"Wouldn't you like to know?" she cooed, strutting down the dock as though it were a runway.

The flash of a zealous photographer's camera momentarily blinded her, but Devon kept smiling, as though everything in the world — her world — didn't depend on what was about to happen, for better or worse, this summer in Saint-Tropez.

Copyright © 2009 by Melissa de la Cruz

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