Hollywood Wives

By: Jackie Collins

PROLOGUE



He stood in the living room of the small house in Philadelphia. He stood and stared at the three of them. Three pigs. Three laughing faces. Teeth and eyes and hair. Three pigs.

There was a black rage within him. A rage which beat at his head from the inside.

The television was on in the room. Archie Bunker mouthing futile jokes. Canned studio laughter.

And more laughter. In the room with him. More inane laughter.

His mother. Mousy wisps of brown hair. A sagging body and a sagging mind.

His father. Balding. Skinny. False teeth that clicked in and out at will.

Joey. He had thought she was different.

Three pigs.

He walked to the television set and raised the sound.

They took no notice. They were too busy laughing. At him. Yes. They were laughing at him.

The rage was in his head, but outwardly he was calm. He knew how to make them stop. He knew.

Fast and fluid. Before they had time to stop laughing and start thinking.



Fast and fluid. The machete swung in a lethal circle.

Fast and fluid as the blood spurted. His mother and father felled with the first lethal sweep.

Joey. Swifter, younger. Her eyes bulging with horror, as clutching at her wounded arm she staggered toward the door.

You've stopped laughing now, Joey. You've stopped laughing now.

He swung the machete again, felling her before she could progress further.

They did not scream. Not one of them.

He had taken them by surprise, just as soldiers were trained to do. Only he wasn't a soldier, was he? He wasn't a soldier.

Sobs began to shake him violently. Strange silent sobs which convulsed his body as he wielded the machete. Dealing with all three of them equally. Indulging in a frenzy of grisly deathblows.

The television drowned out the sounds of the carnage. Archie Bunker. Canned laughter.

And the machete continued to whirl and slash as if powered by some demonic force.



BOOK ONE





Elaine Conti awoke in her luxurious bed in her luxurious Beverly Hills mansion, pressed a button to open the electrically controlled drapes, and was confronted by the sight of a young man clad in a white T-shirt and dirty jeans pissing a perfect arc into her mosaic-tiled swimming pool.

She struggled to sit up, buzzing for Lina, her Mexican maid, and at the same time flinging on a marabou-trimmed silk robe and pressing her feet into dusty pink mules.

The young man completed his task, zipped up his jeans, and strolled casually out of view.

"Lina!" Elaine screamed. "Where are you?"

The maid appeared, inscrutable, calm, oblivious to her mistress's screams.

'There's an intruder out by the pool/Hilaine snapped excitedly. "Get Miguel. Call the police. And make sure all the doors are locked."

Unperturbed, Lina began to collect the debris of clutter from Elaine's bedside table. Dirty Kleenex, a half-finished glass of wine, a rifled box of chocolates.

"Lina!" Elaine yelled.

"No get excited, senora," the maid said stoically. "No intruder. Just boy Miguel sent to do pool. Miguel sick. No come this week."



Elaine flushed angrily. "Why the hell didn't you tell me before?" She flung herself into her bathroom, slamming the door so hard that a framed print sprang off the wall and crashed to the floor, the glass shattering. Stupid maid. Dumb-ass woman. It was impossible to get good help anymore. They came. They went. They did not give a damn if you were raped and ravaged in your own home.

And this would have to happen while Ross was away on location. Miguel would never have dared to pretend to be sick if Ross was in town.

Elaine flung off her robe, slipped out of her nightgown, and stepped under the invigorating sharpness of an ice-cold shower. She gritted her teeth. Cold water was best for the skin, tightened everything up. And, God knew, even with the gym and the yoga and the modern-dance class it still all needed tightening.

Not that she was fat. No way. Not a surplus ounce of flesh on her entire body. Pretty good for thirty-nine years of age.

When I was thirteen I was the fattest girl in school. Etta the Elephant they called me. And I deserved the nickname. Only how could a kid of thirteen know about nutrition and diet and exercise and all that stuff? How could a kid of thirteen help it when Grandma Steinberg stuffed her with cakes and latkes, lox and bagels, strudel and chicken dumplings?

Elaine smiled grimly. Etta the Elephant, late of the Bronx, had shown them all. Etta the Elephant, former secretary in New York City, was now slim and svelte. She was called Elaine Conti, and lived in a six-bedroomed, seven-bathroomed, goddam Beverly Hills palace. On the flats, too. Not stuck up in the hills or all the way over in Brentwood. On the flats. Prime real estate.

Etta the Elephant no longer had a sharp nose, mousy hair, gapped teeth, wire-rimmed glasses, and flat tits.

Over the years she had changed. The nose was now retrousse, cute. A perfect Brooke Shields, in fact. The mousy hair was a rich brown, cut short and tipped with golden streaks. Her skin was alabaster white and smooth, thanks to regular facials. Her teeth were capped. White and even. A credit to Charlie's Angels. The unbecoming glasses had long been replaced with soft blue contact lenses; without them her eyes were slate-gray and she had to squint to read. Not that she did a lot of reading. Magazines, of course. Vogue, People, Us.

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