Princess and the Plague:
Erika goes to Hollywood
“Erika, wake up.” Her mother’s voice was heard.
Erika stretched and looked up to her mother’s face. “You need to get dressed. “Hunter will be here soon.”
That was like being splashed in the face with cold water. Erika nearly jumped from the bed and ran to the bathroom. After using the toilet, she peered at herself in the mirror. Her hair was still presentable from Maria’s work straightening it. Her fringe brushed the base of her brows, but the makeup was too heavy. She scrubbed her face and went to work applying something more appropriate for the evening’s date. Was it a date? Or just Hunter being considerate and taking them both to dinner?
She needed to look stunning, but not like she was expecting too much. She didn’t want to look slutty either.
As she was zipping herself into her newly acquired sequins serape designed dress, she heard a knock at the front door and her mother greet Hunter. She studied herself in the mirror again going down a mental check list. Makeup, hair, earrings, breast form seams. They all looked good. She smiled as she slipped into her new favorite sparkly shoes and took a few steps to adjust to the change in balance and height before grabbing her fully charged phone and stepping out to meet Hunter.
Her heart sped up as she spied him wearing a gray suit looking quite fit, the suit was obviously tailored for his fantastic physique.
“Wow, don’t you look fantastic.” He greeted, his eyes lit and sparkled. He stepped forward and gave her a peck on the cheek. It was a romantic gesture that was quite acceptable in front of her mother, but she felt her blood warm and her head tingle at that tiny intimate contact.
“It is very nice of you to invite us to dinner.” Her mother was saying.
“Yes, it was.” Erika echoed.
“It is the least that I could do for your last night in Hollywood.” He escorted them to the door.
Erika was curious if he would have the top down on the Mustang for the evening. When they arrived at the valet, she was surprised when a valet held open the door to a silver Austin Martin.
“Please, Mrs. Martin.” Hunter beckoned her to take the front seat.
“This is a beautiful car.” She commented before sitting.
“Thank you.” He held the door for Erika. “As nice as the weather is here, not every day is good for a convertible Mustang.”
The cream-colored leather seats were luxurious and soft. Erika stroked them with her fingers as she admired the clean, beautiful interior.
Hunter fastened his seatbelt and checked to make sure the others had as well before pulling out of the Hotel and onto the street. “I’m afraid it is a bit of a ride to get to the restaurant.” He told them.
“I’m in no rush.” Her mother stated.
Erika scanned the sides of the freeway and roads as they went along, trying to memorize the palm trees, stucco buildings and the occasional citrus tree. Lucky people of this area were able to grow their own oranges and lemons in their back yards. She wondered if they knew just how lucky they were.
She recognized landmarks and buildings as they drove. They passed the Santa Monica pier and drove North past the beach where she and Hunter had spent the previous day. Her chest warmed again at the memories of their visit there. She watched the sun low on the horizon as they drove along the P.C.H.
Erika’s curiosity was piqued when she read a sign saying welcome to Malibu. They drove a little farther up the coast and Hunter pulled off the highway and down a small private road with no signs. He pulled up to a valet at the front of a large contemporary restaurant and opened the door for Erika as a valet did the same for her mother.
Large windowed door set in cedar frames opened up to a terracotta tiled floor. The other side of the room opened up out onto a similarly tiled, large balcony overlooking the ocean.
Several people in fine clothing stood around the lobby, some holding drinks.
“Mr. Allyson.” A host greeted. “It’s good to see you again. Your table is ready for you.”
“Thank you.” Hunter smiled.
Erika heard people suddenly abuzz at seeing a celeb of Hunter’s caliber. Some pulled out phones to snap pictures while a few others whispered and pointed. Erika didn’t know if she should feel special or annoyed. She knew that Hunter was annoyed, but he kept his smile.
The host led them past cloth covered tables out onto the balcony and up next to the railing. Erika looked over the railing. Sixty feet below them the cliff ended at a thin strip of buff colored sand. White frothy waves lined the teal and aqua colored water.
“This is beautiful.” Her mother commented as the host held her seat for her.
Erika was almost embarrassed when she realized that Hunter was holding a seat for her. She quickly walked over, her heels clicking on the tiles. She sat on the sun warmed seat and allowed Hunter to scoot her forward towards the table before taking his own seat.
She and her mother smiled at each other then took in the stunning view. The salty breeze wafted around them bringing in fresh cool air contrasting with the warmth emanating from the balcony.
“Mr. Allyson, the Chef sends his compliments.” A server brought forth a silver bucket of ice in which a bottle of champagne was nestled.
“Thank you.” Hunter smiled. “tell the chef that I am grateful and am excited to taste his culinary treats tonight.”
The whipped out three glasses and placed them in front of each of them, popped the champagne and poured.
Hunter tasted his and smiled to the server. “Fantastic, thank you.”
Erika leaned towards her mother. “He didn’t card me.”
Hunter chuckled. “You’re with me, and the Chef loves that I come here. No one will card you here as long as you are with me.”
Erika quickly overcame her surprise when she felt Hunter’s hand touch her knee and lightly slide up the inside of her thigh stopping at the hem of her short dress. Goose pimples erupted along her arms as her chest warmed at the intimate touch.
“My mom used to bring me here when I was younger.” Hunter scanned the balcony. “She loved the view and Chef always treated us right.”
“Did she stop bringing you here?” Erika inquired.
Hunter smiled. “Now I bring her here.”
Erika’s mother pulled out her phone. “Okay you two. I need to get a picture.”
“That sounds fantastic.” Hunter cut her off. “But you’ll have to send me a copy.”
“Consider it done.” Her mother smiled. Hunter moved closer to Erika. His head touching hers. “Take off your sunglasses so that we can see who you are.” She directed. Hunter and Erika removed their shades and smiled for the picture.
“Thank you.” Her mother put her phone away. “Something to show the girls back home.”
The Server returned with menus. “Mr. Allyson, Chef says that the swordfish isn’t as fresh as he’d like and would recommend that you have the Halibut.”
“Thank you, the Halibut fits my mood tonight.” Hunter told him.
The server nodded. “I’ll return after you two ladies have had a chance do decide upon something.”
Erika scanned the menu. Like the other night, prices were not listed. Everything sounded amazing. Finally, she set down her menu and looked to Hunter. “I can’t decide.”
“Well, it is all good.” Hunter nodded.
“Mr. Allyson.” A man in a white chef’s coat and apron approached. “It is so good to see you.”
Hunter rose and the two hugged.
“Chef, this is a special friend of mine, Erika Summers and her mother Mrs. Martin.” He introduced.
The Chef gave them a small bow with a large smile. “Welcome to you both.” He glanced back at Hunter. “Hunter has been one of my best customers.” He looked back at Hunter. “Did the Jose tell you about the swordfish?”
Hunter nodded. “I feel more like Halibut tonight anyway.”
“Chef?” Erika’s voice was uncertain.
“Yes, Ms. Summers.”
“Everything looks so wonderful, I don’t know what to order.” She felt strange admitting that.
“In that case, Ms. Summers, I will take care of you. Are you allergic to or have sensitivities to anything?”
Erika gave her head a small shake. “No.” She looked to her mother. Who shrugged.
Chef looked from Erika to her mother. “And you, Mrs. Martin?”
“The scallops sound good.”
“They are very good.” Chef beamed. “Fresh in this morning. Very good. I’ll have everything out in no time.”
“No rush, Chef.” Hunter sat back down. “We are enjoying your balcony.”
The chef hurried back in, stopping and greeting a few patrons as he did.
“I’ve never had a chef pick my dinner for me before.” Erika was nearly gushing.
“Of course, you have.” Her mother corrected.
Erika looked blankly at her mother trying to remember such a time.
“Every night I make dinner.” Her mother smiled causing Hunter to chuckle.
Erika laughed as well. And was rewarded with Hunter’s hand again resting on her thigh. He gave it a tender squeeze as he took another sip of his champagne.
“Erika told me that she was a tomboy until recently.” Hunter inquired of her mother.
Erika’s body stiffened. Hunter must have felt it because he removed his hand and looked from her mother to her and back.
“You could definitely call her that.” Her mother’s smile was a touch tight. “She was very into comic books and skate boarding.”
Hunter looked to Erika with surprise. “Skateboarding? You didn’t mention skateboarding.”
“A lot has happened in the last year.” Erika excused.
“She went to summer camp in jeans and t-shirts from Hot Topic and came back in dresses and heels, wearing makeup.” Her mother elaborated.
Erika’s heart nearly stopped. Just how far was her mother going to take this? She hadn’t told Hunter the truth about her and here her mother was, dancing all around the touchy subject. She tried to give her mother a warning glare but couldn’t with Hunter watching the two of them so closely.
“I find that hard to believe.” Hunter stated. He looked Erika up and down trying to imagine her in masculine clothing.
Thankfully the server approached interrupting the flow of the conversation. “Compliments of the Chef.” He placed a large plate in the center of the table. It was arranged with many bite sized morsels and decorated like no other plate of food she had ever seen. “Everything on the plate is edible.”
“Even the flowers?” Erika asked feeling stupid once she had.
“Everything.” The server assured.
“It looks beautiful.” Her mother told him.
“Tell Chef, thank you.” Hunter stated and picked up a morsel and placed it in his mouth.
Erika watched as his eyes lit up as he savored the taste. She and her mother quickly followed suit.
It was so hard trying to be a lady sometimes. As a boy she would have gobbled up as much from that plate as she could and then licked it clean. But now, being a young woman, she had to take small bites and try not to look too much the pig that she wanted to be.
The champagne was beginning to make her a little light headed. She noticed that she was giggling more at Hunter’s stories and jokes than she normally would have.
Hunter stopped his story as the server approached with a tray. Chef was right behind him.
Chef took a plate and placed it in front of her mother. “Scallops.”
Her mother oohed over the beautifully browned scallops.
He placed Hunter’s plate in front of him. “Halibut.”
“Wow.” Erika commented on seeing Hunter’s plate.
“And for the special lady.” Chef placed a large shallow bowl in front of Erika. “Risotto of the sea.”
Erika gasped at the beautiful presentation of food in front of her.
“You never make me anything special like that.” Hunter complained.
“You never ask.” Chef smirked. “You always ask for the swordfish.”
“It looks amazing, Chef.” Erika could hardly take her eyes from her plate.
“Enjoy.” Chef and server both left.
“I have got to try some of that.” Her mother told her.
Erika looked closer at her bowl of risotto nearly over flowing with prawns, scallops, muscles halibut and even lobster. A light shaving of parmesan was more of a garnishment than a seasoning.
“That’s not even on the menu.” Hunter was still near to complaining. “You definitely made an impression on Chef.”
Erika giggled in delight and took her first bite.
“How is it?” her mother asked.
She realized that both Hunter and her mother were watching her as she savored the glorious flavor.
“Heavenly.” She managed. She pushed the bowl closer to Hunter to take a spoonful and then her mother. She decided that she wouldn’t be sharing anymore as she brought the bowl back to her.
She watched the other two as their faces lit up upon tasting her dish.
“I’ll have to have a long talk with Chef about that.” Hunter finally broke the silence. “Man, that is good.”
“I have to admit, I don’t follow the tabloids on you.” Her mother stated. “Are you dating anyone?”
“Other than your daughter? No.” Hunter stated. “I was dating Amanda Ferndale for a while, but we had a bad break up last year.” He shrugged. “It happens.”
He said that he was dating her? Erika? Her mind reeled at that simple statement. They had only spent the day together yesterday and were having dinner tonight? Was that considered dating? Part of her rejoiced in the thought, the other part felt doom on what would happen back home. Besides, as they both figured out, he was leaving for Sao Palo in a few days and she was leaving tomorrow. How could they possibly be dating?
“Wasn’t she a co-star in one of your Rom-coms?” her mother asked.
Hunter nodded. “Many actors start dating their co-stars. You spend so much time in intimate situations for months at a time, it is bound to happen.”
The sun had dipped below the horizon changing the golden sky to a magenta and scarlet wash.
Erika needed to change the subject. As much as she loved Amanda Ferndale, she was starting to feel a little envious of her past with Hunter.
“What hobbies do you have, Hunter?” she asked after swallowing another divine bite.
“I used to do a little skate boarding.” Hunter shot her a toothy grin. “Lately, I try surfing. When I’m not filming, that is. I’ve been doing a bit of charity work, which is one of the reasons I was at Tommy’s gala the other night. Lately though a lot of my time has been spent working out getting ready for this action film I’m about to shoot.
Erika had noticed that he seemed a bit more muscular than she had seen him in past films. That explained it.
“Sao Palo sounds amazing.” Her mother stated. “I have a friend who went a few years ago. She said it was one of the best trips she’d taken.
“I am excited.” Hunter nodded.
“What about school?” She asked.
Erika felt her face flush.
“What about it?” Hunter asked.
“When do you have time to study?” her mother continued.
Hunter smiled. It wasn’t a tight smile Erika had seen before, but almost a sneaky smile. “While I was on the film sets growing up, I had tutors.” He explained. “I took my G.E.D when I was sixteen.” He paused and went on. “I have been doing a lot of on line classes and when I have long breaks between jobs, I take an occasional class. I’m on schedule to get my Associates degree this summer.”
“Wow. That is very impressive.” Her mother looked satisfied.
Erika was kind of in awe. He had accomplished so much in such a short amount of time. She put her hand on his thigh and gave it a squeeze. She felt like she was being a bit bold, but she felt it was the right thing to do.
The heat from the patio radiated its warmth, but the ocean breeze seemed a bit chillier with the sun gone for the day. A bus boy was making his rounds lighting the patio heaters that dotted the balcony between tables.
The server came and cleared their plates. Hunter poured the last of the champagne and looked from mother and daughter. “It’s amazing how alike you two look.” He commented.
“That is very kind.” Erika’s mother smiled.
“Chef has made you a dessert.” The server stepped forward and placed Crème’ Brule’ in front of each of them.
“One of my favorites.” Her mother gasped with surprise.
“If you ladies will excuse me.” Hunter gave Erika’s thigh a gentle squeeze. He stood up and walked in the direction of the bathrooms.
“Did you have to say that stuff about me?” Erika hissed at her mother.
“About me going to summer camp as a boy.”
“I didn’t. I simply said that you went wearing boy like clothes.” Her mother defended. “How else would you describe a tomboy?”
She did have a point. She let out a breath instead of what she was going to say. “It just hits a little close to home and I like him. I mean, like like him.”
“He likes you too.” Her mother pointed out. “Or else we wouldn’t be eating someplace like this.” She made a small gesture to their surroundings. “I’m just worried about what happens when he finds out.”
Erika’s heart felt like someone had stabbed her. The joy she had been feeling drained from her body. “Me too.”
“Well, some distance between you two and some time may fix that for you.” Her mother stated.
Erika nodded. “I know.
“What I’m trying to understand.” Her mother lowered her voice. “Is I thought you liked Tricia.”
“I do.” Erika affirmed. “But I like Hunter too. He makes me feel so… special.” She managed to find the right word.
Her mother nodded. “He has been doting on you.
“It’s like you said. We are both leaving and won’t be able to see each other for a bit. I’m sure this’ll just be a weekend that I won’t soon forget.”
Her mother nodded.
“How is the Brule’?” Hunter returned.
“Fabulous.” Her mother said around a mouthful. “Your Chef sure knows his craft.”
Hunter agreed then tapped on the top before tucking in.
“How was everything?” Chef asked approaching the table.
“Unforgettable.” Her mother stated with a huge smile. “I don’t think I’ll forget this meal anytime soon.”
“It was fantastic, Chef.” Hunter shook his hand. “It’s one of the reasons I keep coming back.”
“And you Ms. Summers?” Chef inquired.
“You really out did yourself, Chef.” Erika squeezed his hand. “Like my mother said, Unforgettable.”
“I am so pleased.” Chef beamed back. “I hope to see you again sometime soon.” With that he walked to another table to speak with another patron.
“Shall we go?” Hunter asked.
“What about the check?” her mother asked.
“Already taken care of.” Hunter smiled getting up.
“That was very nice of you, Hunter.” Her mother commented. “Thank you for such an unforgettable meal.”
“It was my pleasure.” Hunter helped Erika to her feet.
It took a second to remember that her center of gravity was different in her pretty sparkly heels. Her mother led the way followed by her with Hunter behind, his hand pressing gently on the small of her back.
The pretty silver Austin Martin was waiting for them when they exited the restaurant. Once again Hunter assisted her mother into the car and then her before sliding behind the driver’s seat.
“Where shall we go next?” Hunter asked.
“Why don’t you drop me off at the hotel. Its our last night here. You two go have some fun.” Her mother opined.
Her mother trusted her and Hunter out at night? Alone? Together? Well, they did spend most of the day together alone. She must trust Hunter.
“Are you sure?” Hunter probed.
“Yes. I have to pack and would like to rest a bit.” She stifled a yawn. “I’ve been enjoying my alone time as well.”
The ride back to the hotel seemed to take forever as Erika’s mind raced about what they would do or where they would go. She did enjoy the vast city lights. Something she didn’t see too much of in Constitution.
“You two have fun and be back by midnight.” She directed that last part directly at Erika.
The valet’s opened the doors for them. Erika gave her mother a big hug.
“Is your phone charged?” She asked Erika.
Her mom took Erika’s hand and slipped some money into it. “Just in case of emergency or you need a cab back to the hotel.”
“Yes, mom.” She gave her another squeeze and began to take her place in the front seat of Hunter’s car.
“I want updates.” Her mother called over her shoulder.
The door was closed behind Erika.
“Finally, we are alone.” She told Hunter.
“Your mom isn’t that bad.” Hunter smiled at her. He placed his hand on her thigh as he pulled out of the hotel parking.
You haven’t been living with her for the past few months. Erika kept the thought to herself. Aloud, “Where are we going?”
“I thought we could go see Cass.” He tossed her a big grin.
Hunter parked his car and assisted Erika in getting out. The night was balmy. It was a winter evening and she felt perfectly comfortable in the short dress without a jacket or coat. They walked down the sidewalk and came to a line of people waiting to get into a nightclub. Hunter walked past them, holding her hand and went to the front of the line.
“Good evening, Charles.” Hunter greeted a bouncer that looked like a professional wrestler.
The large mountain of a man glared at Hunter for a moment and then his face cracked into a huge smile. “Hunter!” he roared. He gave Erika a once over. She felt like she was a piece of meat being inspected by a butcher.
“This is Erika.” Hunter introduced.
“Well hello, Erika.” Charles scanned her again. He gave Hunter a hug nearly enveloping her date.
She saw Hunter slip the bouncer some cash which disappeared so fast she thought she imagined it.
“Come on in, Hunter and Erika.” He made a grand gesture. He then leaned close to Hunter. “She’s tearing it up tonight, and she looks clean.”
“Awesome, Thanks Charles.” Hunter led her into a large thick door.
Loud guitar and drums hit her like a concussion as they entered. Bright lights and lasers flashed and turned everywhere. Erika scanned the large room filled with dancing, bouncing and gyrating bodies.
“I’m not old enough to be in here.” Erika yelled at Hunter.
“What?” Hunter turned to watch her lips.
“I’m not twenty-one!” She tried again.
“Neither am, I!” Hunter shouted back. “No one will care! Come!” With her hand firmly in his, he led her down to the main dance floor and towards the stage.
Cassandra and her band Purple Mischief were rocking away on stage. Hunter turned to Erika and began dancing, well more like bouncing. There were too many people packed in there to really dance. Erika didn’t want to be a cold fish, she remembered the dancing that they did at the charity ball and started to bounce and shift her feet. Soon she was wiggling her hips and was rewarded as Hunter placed his hands on them and moved his in time with hers.
Erika glanced up at the stage and caught Cassandra’s eye. She smiled at them and continued on with her set. It wasn’t long before Erika was sweating. Mostly due to the amount of bodies pressed into the room but part was because of her dancing and part because of how close Hunter was. With so little room, Erika wrapped her arms around his neck and was rewarded with a kiss.
At the end of the set, Purple Mischief disappeared back stage and canned music was pumped over the speakers.
Hunter took her hand. “Follow me.” He pulled her off to the side.
A bouncer stood in front of a door with his arms crossed over his chest. Not as big as Charlie, she still wouldn’t want to come across him in a dark alley.
“Came to see Cass!” Hunter told him.
The bouncer nodded and spoke into a radio. He must have gotten an answer because he stepped aside and opened the door for them.
Hunter led her down a corridor and knocked on one of the doors. It opened, and Erika was led into a lounge. Sofas, large lounge chairs, a wet bar with a microwave, lined the walls of the room.
“What brings you two here?” Cass greeted. She gave Hunter a big hug and then to her surprise, gave Erika a hug as well.
“It’s her last night here before going home. We wanted to catch you last night, but she wasn’t feeling well.” Hunter explained. “We are here now, though.”
“You guys sounded great.” Erika meant it.
Cass quickly introduced the rest of the band.
“Water?” the drummer held out a bottle of ice cold water.
“Sure.” Erika was thankful for the offer. It may be cooler in this room, but out on the dance floor it was sweltering.
“What are you in town for?” The keyboardist asked.
“She just started modeling.” Cass told her.
“I shot for Teen magazine today.” Erika smiled.
“Sweet.” The lead guitar chuckled.
“Give her some slack,” Cass rounded on him. “She’s a good kid.”
Sweet? Kid? Erika may be a few years younger than these band members, but she wasn’t exactly a kid.
“Ignore them.” Cass glared at the guitarist. “You disappeared at the gala the other night. There were rumors that you were sick.”
“I had a seizure.” Erika tried to let the band member’s jibes roll off her.
Cass made a face. “Ouch. Was it bad?”
Erika shrugged. “I don’t ever get to watch.”
Cass burst out laughing. Causing Hunter and herself to join her.
“Does it hurt?” Cass clarified.
“Not exactly.” Erika shrugged. “I get a bad headache and usually vomit afterwards.”
“I’m sorry to hear it.” Cass said. She drained her own water bottle. “I’ve got to go hit the head and get back out there for another set. You sticking around?”
Erika looked to Hunter.
“For a bit.” Hunter agreed. “Erika is flying back home tomorrow, so we have to call it an early night.”
Thankfully he didn’t say anything about a curfew. That would definitely have been humiliating.
“Come with me.” Cass brushed by Erika.
Erika shot Hunter a glance and then followed Cass to the bathroom. She entered the stall and closed the door. “I like you Erika.” She said from behind the closed door. “Hunter seems really happy with you. That Amanda chick did a number on him. Really messed him up. I don’t think you’d do that to him.” The door opened a crack. “Let me see your phone.”
“Uh, okay.” Erika dug for her phone and handed it to the bass player.
“Don’t worry. I’m giving you my number.” Cass told her. “Here.” She handed Erika’s phone back. “If you come back to Hollywood, drop me a line. Maybe we can hang out.”
“Really? That would be awesome.”
The toilet flushed, and Cass came out. She washed her hands and ran her wet fingers through her hair then messed it up a bit more. She checked her makeup and turned to Erika. “I think you are good for Hunter, and he needs someone… don’t take this the wrong way. He needs someone sweet.”
“Thank you, Cass.”
“No problem, Erika. I gotta go. Have some fun tonight.” She opened the door and ran to join the band back on stage.
“What was that about?” Hunter inquired with a raised eyebrow.
“Just girl talk.” Erika winked. She stepped up and gave him a peck on the cheek. “Just girl talk.”
The street noise as they exited the club was like a welcome silence compared to the loud music in the nightclub.
“Leaving so soon?” Charles asked of Hunter.
“Big job coming up.” Hunter explained it away.
“Well, break a leg and come back and see us soon.” Charles bid them a safe journey.
“That was great.” Erika told Hunter. “Thank you so much for dinner and this.”
“I take it you’ve never been to a night club before.”
Erika shook her head. “I’m just about to turn sixteen. No one under twenty-one is allowed in night clubs in Constitution.”
“It’s not really allowed here either.” Hunter admitted. “I just happen to get certain perks.”
“Perks?” Erika questioned. “Charles and you know each other.”
“I come by to check on Cass from time to time.” Hunter admitted. “Charles and I have had a few heart to hearts. He’s actually a big teddy bear when he is away from the club. His teenage son and I have gone surfing together a couple of times.” Hunter held the door open for her as she sat and swung her legs in.
Her feet were starting to hurt. She loved these sparkly shoes, but she had been modeling all day and then dancing for the last couple of hours. She slid them off and rubbed the bottom of her feet against the carpet of the car floor.
When she looked up, her heart dropped to the pit of her stomach. Three rough looking men were surrounding Hunter. She didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t fight. She was always the person who fled fights or lost them. Even with the limited self-defense classes, she would be useless in a fight.
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