Excerpt from book:
LOS ANGELES AUGUST 6, 1961
FORMER STARLET LANGUISHES IN JUVIE!
Receives Visit from Mystery Man in Black Time in solitary goes by with unbearable slowness when you've killed every member of your family. With nothing for Pagan Jones to do but pace the five steps back and forth between the walls of a former broom closet, it wasn't surprising that all she could think about was blood and shattered glass and her baby sister's final scream.
At Lighthouse Reformatory for Wayward Girls, a summer Saturday night usually offered up a group dinner of canned beef stew followed by a Lawrence Welk rerun. But here in solitary, Pagan had only a hard narrow cot next to a seatless toilet, a sink, and four blank walls reflecting back her darkest thoughts.
Miss Edwards herself came bearing a tray of congealing food in her bony hands. Her heavily starched black uniform rustled as she set the tray down on Pagan's cot. Waitressing creamed corn and meat loaf would have normally been beneath her. But from the smirk on those narrow lips, Pagan could tell Miss Edwards had made an exception so she could take in every moment of Pagan's humiliation.
It took every ounce of Pagan's self-control not to grab the woman's skeletal upper arms and shake her, but then she'd never know what had happened to her roommate after their aborted escape attempt the night before. She swallowed down her anger and asked, "Could you tell me, please. What happened to Mercedes?"
Miss Edwards lifted her narrow shoulders in a sad little shrug.
Horror threatened to close up Pagan's throat. Mercedes couldn't be dead. "You have to tell me if she's okay, at the very least!" It came out louder, more desperate than she wanted. "What happened?"
The matron's shark-like smile widened. "What makes you think you deserve to know?"
Pagan fought back a flush of shame. She didn't deserve anything. She knew that. She'd earned a fate far worse than two years locked up in Lighthouse. But ever since the night she drove her cherry-red Corvette off Mulholland Drive, killing her father and younger sister, a kind of claustrophobia had closed in. It wasn't a fear of enclosed spaces. More like a need to know she had a way out of any situation. As soon as the judge had sentenced her to reform school, the remorseless itch had taken hold. Any situation she couldn't extricate herself from felt like the end of the world.
She'd tried to be good her first few months in Lighthouse. She'd stuffed down her anxiety, bitten her nails, and annoyed Mercedes by constantly pacing their tiny room like a lion in the zoo. But inevitably the necessity to get the hell out, to prove she had a choice, had become unbearable.
So she'd started planning her escape, and Mercedes had asked to come along. Their careful, months-long strategizing had soothed Pagan's anxiety, but their climb over the barbed wire fence had been interrupted by Miss Edwards's inmate enforcers. By the time those girls had sauntered up, Pagan had made it to the other side of the wire. Mercedes had not.
Mercedes had ordered Pagan to go, but then Susan Ma-honey pulled a knife. No way would Pagan have left her besther onlyfriend behind to face that alone. She'd climbed back over the fence and dropped into the fray only to be pummeled nearly unconscious by Phyllis Lawson and Grace Lopez.
That didn't matter. What mattered was that Susan had viciously stabbed Mercedes in the shoulder with her stiletto just before the guard rushed in, gun drawn. Pagan had heard nothing about her friend's condition since they'd carried her away, trailing blood.
"You'll be here in solitary for two weeks," MissPagan Jones went from America's sweetheart to fallen angel in one fateful night in 1960: the night a car accident killed her whole family. Pagan was behind the wheel and driving drunk. Nine months later, she's stuck in the Lighthouse Reformatory for Wayward Girls and tortured by her guiltnot to mention the sadistic Miss Edwards, who takes special delight in humiliating the once-great Pagan Jones.
But all of that is about to change. Pagan's old agent shows up with a mysterious studio executive, Devin Black, and an offer. Pagan will be released from juvenile detention if she accepts a juicy role in a comedy directed by award-winning director Bennie Wexler. The shoot starts in West Berlin in just three days. If Pagan's going to do it, she has to decide fastand she has to agree to a court-appointed "guardian," the handsome yet infuriating Devin, who's too young, too smooth and too sophisticated to be some studio flack.
The offer's too good to be true, Berlin's in turmoil and Devin Black knows way too much about herthere's definitely something fishy going on. But if anyone can take on a divided city, a scheming guardian and the criticism of a world that once adored her, it's the notorious Pagan Jones. What could go wrong?