Adelaide allowed herself to be flattered for only a moment before she waved off the compliment. “Tell me about that gown. Nobody’s worn anything like it in years. It reminds me of what fashion used to be about…” She tilted her head toward the unzipped producer’s wife. “…before vulgarity replaced style.”

“The man who designed it will be here later tonight. He’s extraordinary. You have to meet him.” Fleur smiled. “I’d better go talk to Harper’s before she burns a hole in your back.”

Adelaide caught her arm, and Fleur saw what looked like genuine concern on her face. “Wait. Before you turn around, you should know that Belinda just walked in.”

A queer, dizzy sensation swept through Fleur. She hadn’t expected this. How stupid of her. She should have realized…Even without looking, she knew every eye in the room would be watching them. She turned slowly.

Belinda was loosening the scarf that lay just inside the collar of her golden sable coat. She froze when she saw Fleur, then her unforgettable hyacinth-blue eyes widened.

Belinda was forty-five, blond, and lovely. Her jawline remained firm, and her knee-high soft leather boots clung to small, shapely calves. She’d worn the same hairstyle since the fifties-Grace Kelly’s sophisticated Dial M for Murder side-parted bob-and it still looked fashionable.

Without even a glance at the people standing around her, she walked straight toward Fleur. On her way, she pulled off her gloves and stuffed them in her pockets. She didn’t notice when one of her gloves fell to the floor. She was conscious only of her daughter. The Glitter Baby.

Belinda had invented the name. So perfect for her beautiful Fleur. She touched the small spinning charm that she’d begun to wear again on a chain under her dress. Flynn had given it to her during those golden days at the Garden of Allah. But that hadn’t really been the beginning.

The beginning…She remembered so clearly the day it had all started. That September Thursday in 1955 had been hot for Southern California. It was the day she’d met James Dean…

The Baron’s Baby

Chapter 2

Belinda Britton lifted a copy of Modern Screen from the magazine rack at Schwab’s Sunset Boulevard drugstore. She couldn’t wait to see Marilyn Monroe’s new movie, The Seven Year Itch, although she wished Marilyn weren’t making it with Tom Ewell. He wasn’t very handsome. She’d rather see her with Bob Mitchum again, like in River of No Return, or Rock Hudson, or, even better, Burt Lancaster.

A year ago Belinda had a terrible crush on Burt Lancaster. When she’d seen From Here to Eternity, she’d felt as if it were her body, not Deborah Kerr’s, that he’d embraced as the waves crashed around them, and her lips he’d kissed. She wondered if Deborah Kerr had opened her mouth when Burt kissed her. Deborah didn’t seem the type, but if Belinda had been playing the part, she would have opened her mouth for Burt Lancaster’s tongue, you could bet on that.

In her fantasy, the light wasn’t right or the director had gotten distracted. For some reason the camera wouldn’t stop and neither would Burt. He’d peel down the top of her sandy one-piece bathing suit, stroke her, and call her “Karen” because that was her name in the movie. But Burt would know it was really Belinda, and when he bent his head to her breasts…

“Excuse me, miss, but could you hand me a copy of Reader’s Digest?”

Fade to waves pounding, just like in the movies.

Belinda passed over the magazine, then traded her Modern Screen for a Photoplay with Kim Novak on the cover. It had been six months since she’d daydreamed about Burt Lancaster or Tony Curtis or any of the rest. Six months since she’d seen the face that had made all the other handsome faces fade away. She wondered if her parents ever missed her, but suspected they were glad to have her gone. Every month, they sent her one hundred dollars so she didn’t have to work at a menial job that would embarrass them if their Indianapolis society friends ever found out about it. Her well-to-do parents had both been forty when she was born. They’d named her Edna Cornelia Britton. She was a terrible inconvenience. Although they weren’t cruel, they were cold, and she grew up with a faint sense of panic stemming from a feeling that she was somehow invisible. Other people told her she was pretty, her teachers told her she was smart, but their compliments meant nothing. How could someone who was invisible be special?

When she was nine, Belinda discovered that all the bad feelings went away when she sat in the Palace Theater and pretended she was one of the dazzling goddesses who shone on the screen. Beautiful creatures with faces and bodies a hundred times bigger than life. These women were the chosen ones, and she vowed that she, too, would someday take her place among them on that same screen, that she would be magnified as they were until she never again felt invisible.

“That’ll be twenty-five cents, beautiful.” The cashier was a handsome, Chiclet-toothed blond, too obviously an unemployed actor. His gaze slid over Belinda’s figure, fashionably clad in a pencil-slim navy cotton sheath trimmed in white and cinched at the waist with a poppy-red patent leather belt. The dress reminded her of something Audrey Hepburn would wear, although Belinda thought of herself more as the Grace Kelly type. People told her she looked like Grace. She’d even had her hair cut to make the resemblance more pronounced.

The style complemented her small, fine features, meticulously enhanced with Tangee’s Red Majesty lipstick. She’d blended a few dabs of Revlon’s newest cream rouge just below her cheekbones to emphasize their contour, a trick she’d learned in a Movie Mirror article by Bud Westmore, makeup man to the stars. She kept her pale lashes touched up with dark brown mascara, which highlighted her very best feature, a pair of exceptionally startling hyacinth-blue eyes, saturated with color and innocence.

The Chiclet-toothed blond leaned over the counter. “I get off work in an hour. How about waiting around for me? Not as a Stranger’s playing down the street.”

“No, thank you.” Belinda picked up one of the Bavarian chocolate mint bars that Schwab’s kept displayed on the counter and handed over a dollar bill. They were her special treat, along with a new movie magazine, on her twice-weekly trips to the Sunset Boulevard drugstore. So far, she’d seen Rhonda Fleming at the counter buying a bottle of Lustre-Creme shampoo and Victor Mature walking out the door.

“How about this weekend?” the cashier persisted.

“I’m afraid not.” Belinda took her change and gave him a sad, regretful smile that made him feel as if she would remember him forever with faint, bittersweet regret. She liked the effect she had on men. She assumed it came from her uncommon looks, but it sprang from something quite different. Belinda made men feel stronger, more intelligent, more masculine than they were. Other women would have turned this power to their advantage, but Belinda thought too little of herself.

Her gaze fell on a young man sitting in a back booth, shoulders hunched over a book and a cup of coffee. Her heart flipped, even as she told herself she would only be disappointed again. She thought about him so much that she imagined she saw him everywhere. Once she’d followed a man for nearly a mile only to discover he had a big, ugly nose that didn’t belong on the face of her dreams.

She walked slowly toward the back booth, excitement, anticipation, and almost certain disappointment churning inside her. As he reached for a pack of Chesterfields, she saw fingernails bitten to the quick. He tapped out a cigarette. Belinda held her breath, waiting for him to look up. Everything around her faded. Everything except the man in the booth.

He turned a page of his book, the cigarette dangling unlit from the corner of his mouth, and thumbed open a match pack. She’d nearly reached the booth when he struck the match and looked up. Just like that, Belinda found herself staring through a cloud of gray smoke into the cool blue eyes of James Dean.

In that instant she was back in Indianapolis at the Palace Theater. The movie was East of Eden. She’d been sitting in the last row when this same face had exploded on the screen. With his high, intelligent forehead and restless blue eyes, he’d roared into her life larger than all the other larger-than-life faces she’d ever seen. Fireworks exploded inside her and Catherine wheels spun, and she’d felt as if all the air had been punched from her body.

Bad Boy James Dean, with the smoldering eyes and crooked grin. Bad Boy Jimmy, who snapped his fingers at

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