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Susan Elizabeth Phillips

What I Did for Love

© 2009

In memory of Kate Fleming/Anna Fields

There aren’t enough words to fill

the silence you’ve left behind.

We grieve your loss and miss you

more than we can ever say.

Chapter 1

The jackals swarmed her as she stepped out into the late April afternoon. When Georgie had ducked into the perfume shop on Beverly Boulevard, only three of them had been stalking her, but now there were fifteen-twenty-maybe more-a howling, feral pack loose in L.A., cameras unsheathed, ready to rip the last bit of flesh from her bones.

Their strobes blinded her. She told herself she could handle whatever they threw at her. Hadn’t she been doing exactly that for the past year? They began to shout their rude questions-too many questions, too fast, too loud, words running together until nothing made sense. One of them shoved something in her hands-a tabloid-and screamed into her ear. “This just hit the stands, Georgie. What do you have to say?”

Georgie automatically glanced down, and there on the front page of Flash was a sonogram of a baby. Lance and Jade’s baby. The baby that should have been hers.

All the blood rushed from her head. The strobes fired, the cameras snapped, and the back of her hand flew to her mouth. After so many months of holding it together, she lost her way, and her eyes flooded with tears.

The cameras caught everything-the hand at her mouth, the tears in her eyes. She’d finally given the jackals what they’d spent the past year preying to capture-photographs of funny, thirty-one-year-old Georgie York with her life shattered around her.

She dropped the tabloid and turned to flee, but they’d trapped her. She tried to back up, but they were behind her, in front of her, surrounding her with their hot strobes and heartless shouts. Their smell clogged her nostrils- sweat, cigarettes, acrid cologne. Someone stepped on her foot. An elbow caught her in the side. They pressed closer, stealing her air, suffocating her…

Bramwell Shepard watched the nasty scene unfold from the restaurant steps next door. He’d just emerged from lunch when the commotion broke out, and he paused at the top of the steps to take it in. He hadn’t seen Georgie York in a couple of years, and then it had only been a glimpse. Now, as he watched the paparazzi attack, the old, bitter feelings returned.

His higher position on the steps gave him a vantage point to observe the chaos. Some of the paps held their cameras over their heads; others shoved their lenses in her face. She’d been dealing with the press since she was a kid, but nothing could have prepared her for the pandemonium of this past year. Too bad there were no heroes waiting around to rescue her.

Bram had spent eight miserable years rescuing Georgie from thorny situations, but his days of playing gallant Skip Scofield to Georgie’s spunky Scooter Brown were long behind him. This time Scooter Brown could save her own ass-or, more likely, wait around for Daddy to do it.

The paparazzi hadn’t spotted him. He wasn’t on their radar screens these days, not that he wouldn’t have been if they could ever catch him in the same frame with Georgie. Skip and Scooter had been one of the most successful sitcoms in television history. Eight years on the air, eight years off, but the public hadn’t forgotten, especially when it came to America’s favorite good girl, Scooter Brown, as played in real life by Georgie York.

A better man might have felt sorry for her current predicament, but he’d only worn the hero badge on-screen. His mouth twisted as he looked down at her. How’s your spunky, can-do attitude working for you these days, Scooter?

Things suddenly took an uglier turn. Two of the paps got into a shoving match, and one of them bumped her hard. She lost her balance and started to fall, and as she fell her head came up, and that’s when she spotted him. Through the madness, the wild jockeying and crazy shoving, through the clamor and chaos, she somehow spotted him standing there barely thirty feet away. Her face registered a jolt of shock, not from the fall-she’d somehow caught herself before both knees hit-but from the sight of him. Their eyes locked, the cameras pressed closer, and the plea for help written on her face made her look like a kid again. He stared at her-not moving-simply taking in those gumdrop-green eyes, still hopeful that one more present might be left for her beneath the Christmas tree. Then her eyes clouded, and he saw the exact moment when she realized he wasn’t going to help her-that he was the same selfish bastard he’d always been.

What the hell did she expect? When had she ever been able to count on him for anything? Her funny girl’s face twisted with contempt, and she turned her attention back to fighting off the cameras.

He belatedly realized he was missing a golden opportunity, and he started down the steps, but he’d waited too long. She’d already thrown the first punch. It wasn’t a good punch, but it did the job, and a couple of the paps stepped in to form a wedge so she could get to her car. She flung herself inside and, moments later, peeled away from the curb. As she plunged erratically into the Friday-afternoon L.A. traffic, the paparazzi raced to their illegally parked black SUVs and took off after her.

If the restaurant’s valet service hadn’t chosen that moment to deliver his Audi, Bram would probably have dismissed the incident, but as he slid behind the wheel, his curiosity got the best of him. Where did a tabloid princess go to lick her wounds when she had no place left to hide?

The lunch he’d just sat through had been a bust, and he had nothing better to do with his time, so he decided to fall in behind the paparazzi cavalcade. Although he couldn’t see her Prius, he could tell by the way the paps wove through the traffic that Georgie was driving erratically. She cut over toward Sunset. He flipped on the radio, flipped it back off, pondered his current situation. His mind began to toy with an intriguing scenario.

Eventually, the cavalcade hit the PCH heading north, and that’s when it struck him. Her likely destination. He rubbed his thumb over the top of the steering wheel.

And wasn’t life full of interesting coincidences…

Georgie wished she could peel off her skin and give it away. She didn’t want to be Georgie York anymore. She wanted to be a person with dignity and self-respect.

Behind the tinted windows of her Prius, she swiped at her nose with the back of her hand. Once she’d made the world laugh. Now, despite all her efforts, she’d become the poster girl for heartbreak and humiliation. The only comfort she’d been able to take through the whole debacle of her divorce was knowing that the paparazzi’s cameras had never, ever caught her without her head up. Even on the worst day of her life-the day her husband left her for Jade Gentry-Georgie had managed one of Scooter Brown’s trademark grins and a goofy pinup pose for the jackals that stalked her. But today that final remnant of pride had been stolen away. And Bram Shepard had witnessed it.

Her stomach churned. She’d last seen him at a party a couple of years ago. He’d been surrounded by women-no surprise. She’d left right away.

A horn blared. She couldn’t face her empty house or the public pity party that had become her life, and she

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