Writing fan-fiction was an excellent distraction for Claire. Enter Nick Larsson, her number one muse. Tall, good-looking and sexy beyond comprehension, and clueless to her fictional fantasies. Or at least . . . he was supposed to be. A misappropriated copy of her latest installment was bound to change that. Claire was going to get the best material of her life, or end up with a restraining order. Either way, the story was getting a hell of lot more interesting…
T. Gephart’s latest Romantic Comedy is releasing next week, and I have a sneak peek for you.
“So, guess who I saw tonight?” Her eyebrow rose, goading me further.
With Scully, it could have been anyone. She once slammed on the brakes on the 405 because she swore she’d seen Henry Cavill in the piece of shit Buick two cars behind us.
It wasn’t him.
Just someone who looked remarkably like him.
But she did manage to get his number and date him for about three months before she faster-than-a-speeding-bullet told him to take a hike. Thank God he was not the baby daddy.
“Babe, I didn’t even know where you were for sure tonight, how the hell am I supposed to guess who you saw?” I added another lashing of mascara as I kept my eyes on the mirror in front of me.
I could hear the smile in her voice as she enlightened me. “I was at a wrap party for The Blue Line.”
My hand stopped mid-stroke, the mascara wand inches away from taking out an eye.
“YOU WERE AT NICK LARSSON’S WRAP PARTY?” The words barreled out of my mouth like they’d been shot from a gun. Just as loud too, any hope of controlling a silly thing like volume getting tossed out the window the minute she’d mentioned the show that Nick happened to be the star of.
She rested her hand on her chin, staring off into the distance as she started to recount her evening. “Well I didn’t start there. I was supposed to be at our wrap party, you know that documentary on thirteen-year-olds I’ve been—”
“Scully focus, I don’t care where you were supposedto be.” I tossed the mascara wand, grabbed her with both my hands and gave her a little shake. “I need to know how you ended up being at Nick’s party? Details, all of them. Start talking,” I demanded as heavy footsteps came down the hall.
“Jesus Christ.” Luke entered the room like he was SWAT, almost knocking Scully over as his eyes darted between us. “I had headphones on and still heard you. How did you get to Nick’s wrap party?”
Scully rolled her eyes, the smile beaming on her lips. “I was trying to explain but apparently I’m not allowed to say what I was supposed to be doing.”
“Just give us the condensed version.” I shook her again impatiently, not any closer to the details. “Please, tell me everything.”
She took a deep inhale, opening her bright pink lips as she blew out a breath. “Well the short version is one of the girls from wardrobe is dating Ben—one of the support actors—apparently it’s new because she’s never mentioned it before. So when we got to our party and saw it was only a bunch of old people standing around drinking wine and eating Brie, we had to bail. I mean, I’m pregnant and both of those things are on the “no” list from my OB/GYN. And if I’m going to spend my evening out torturing my feet in these heels, I don’t want it to be with a bunch of old dudes in cardigans eating cheese and crackers. At least give me something decent to eat.”
I nodded, hoping my head bobbing would encourage her to keep going and not elaborate further on the shitty menu.
“So anyway, Lisa—our wardrobe girl—said she knew of something better, we slipped out and went to Max’s on Sunset. And there he was.”
There was no need to clarify the he.
I knew whohe was.
I had dreamt about him, weaving his dreamlicious smile and sexy body into pages upon pages of literary fantasy.
“What was he wearing?” asked Luke, like his choice of attire was important.
“Did you speak to him?” I added my question, wishing there was some way I could connect a cable to Scully’s mind and download the experience like some weird science experiment and watch it back live.
“Jeans, T-shirt, and the sexiest smile I’ve ever seen.” She answered Luke before turning back to me. “And yeah, I spoke to him almost all night. He’s amazing, so nice.”
“Tell me. What. Words. Said. You. Him.” Language became something I didn’t know, reduced to out of sequence words in sentences that didn’t make sense. I needed to know everything. Morethan everything.
What he said, how he said it, tone used, the visual cues and the fifty-seven ways it might have been interpreted. Not a freaking byline, but a leather-bound thesis with footnotes and citations.
She laughed, not surprised by my reaction, as her eyes lit up with a playful mischief I wasn’t sure was a good thing.
“Okay, so he was hanging back and watching the rest of the crowd who were drinking and having a good time. It was sort of dark so I wasn’t sure at first, but once I saw the smile, I was positive. There were also about thirty girls who were circling him, but he seemed more interested in merely chilling rather than which blond or brunette was in front of him. So I took a chance and walked over and started a conversation. He was so sweet, even asked me how far along I was.”
“Skip how sweet he was and tell us how hot he was,” Luke interjected, his impatience probably for different reasons than mine.
“So we got talking about the industry, and he mentioned he was taking the summer off because he hadn’t read any decent scripts he wanted to work on. And because I was looking for a way to work you into the conversation—I totally have your back girlfriend—I gave him a copy of your latest work which I had tucked away in my handbag.”
That was the sound of my mind exploding, my brains flying across the room while I clasped at my skull screaming “medic.”
My mouth opened, releasing a soundless scream. The lack of volume wasn’t intentional, the absence of air in my lungs responsible for the silence.
“What work?” I managed to rasp out, praying to God the workshe was referring to was the script I’d written three weeks ago and not my Blaire and Nick stuff.
I mean, she wouldn’t give him that, would she?
One look at her face and I could tell it was, Luke as equally quiet as we stood in stunned silence.
“Why do you look so horrified?” she laughed nervously, her eyes flashing between me and Luke. “I thought you’d be ecstatic. He took it and said he’d be happy to read it, and we’ve all agreed it’s some of your best writing.”
“I’m going to die.” My hands clutched at my throat as reality set in. I was having a panic attack or a heart attack, my pulse racing at a rate I was positive was more favorable toward mortality. And it was just as well too, the idea that he had his hands on wordsIhad written about him—not something I could even reconcile right then.
“Breathe, Claire!” Luke’s arm wrapped around my waist stopping my body from crumbling as my knees buckled. I wasn’t really worried about hitting the floor, a broken bone or two were the least of my problems.
“No. He can’t read that. It’s not . . .” I spat out between gasps, “for him or anyone else to read. That stuff was for fun, private. Oh. My. God, Scully. How could you give it to him?”
If I’d been in better shape, I’d have plotted her murder. I mean she was a good and loyal friend who’d had my back more times than I could count, but clearly we’d come to the end of our run.
That, or she’d finally succumbed to the absence of mind that apparently accompanied growing a human in your body.
Those were the only explanations on why she would give my muse the fantasy he’d inspired.
“I was trying to help,” she squeaked out, her smile dropping as concern set in. Either she’d come to the realization that it wasn’t her best idea or my interpretive dance of a zombie was freaking her out. “I thought that if he read it and saw how good it was, then maybe he’d—”
“Want to meet the crazy person who wrote it?” I didn’t let her finish. “Sure, that doesn’t make me sound deranged or delusional or even worse . . . like a stalker.”
It couldn’t be real; it was a bad dream—a nightmare—I was going to wake up from.
Wake up, I chanted silently. Wake up.
It wasn’t a dream.
“He probably isn’t even going to read it. Didn’t you say he was bored with all the scripts he’d read?” Luke nodded to Scully as he tried to smooth things over. “A hundred bucks says he threw it into the trash the minute she left.”
Okay, so there was that. I nodded, agreeing it was completely ridiculous that he would bother keeping it andthen read it.
Actors got unsolicited scripts all the time, and most of them never saw the light of day. Banished, their fate to either be recycled into something more useful, or used as kindling for firewood in the cooler months.
“Don’t be mad, Claire. I’m pregnant, I wasn’t thinking clearly.” Her voice warbled, her chin shaking a little like she was about to cry.
Of course it was an act, something she’d throw out there whenever she wanted to escape trouble, pretending it was mood swings brought on by the pregnancy. Not that she couldn’t or didn’t get emotional, but crying on cue—even with the hormone surge—was not Scully.
Overlooking her bad acting routine, I pointed to her bump like it might yield the answer.
“Of course, that’s why he took it in the first place. He probably was just trying to be nice because you were pregnant.” I tried to convince myself more than anyone else. “There’s no wayhe’s going to read it.”
Newsflash. Scully wasn’t the only person in the room who was a bad actor.
Her lips pulled into a tight smile that didn’t signal good things. “Actually, he sat down and started reading before I even left.”
“Not helping,” Luke cursed under his breath as a renewed wave of panic washed over me.
“Okay, Okay.” I nodded, reassuring no one in particular because I didn’t possess that kind of power. “So even if he read it. My name isn’t on it; he has no idea who wrote it. It’s not like there is anything tying it to me.”
And chances were he wouldn’t even like it, wondering why a pregnant woman he met at a party handed him a story that wasn’t even a real script. He’d laugh, tell his friends about it and chalk it up to a glitch in the Matrix.
All of which I was totally fine with.
Because the truth was so much more horrifying.
The silence wasn’t reassuring. Neither was the look of guilt that clouded Scully’s eyes as she rolled her bottom lip against her teeth. She did that when she was nervous, almost chewing her lips to pieces when we were waiting to find out if she was indeed with child, and its reappearance could only mean one thing.
“My name wasn’t on it, was it?” I asked again. I hadn’t even bothered with a cover page, leaving no indication at all as to who could have authored it.
“I maaaaaay have scribbled your name on the back page.”
“Oh dear God!” a strangled voice called out, and from the look on my friends’ faces, it had been mine.
“Yeah, there’s no coming back from that. Let’s hope he has a short attention span and doesn’t finish, though I have to tell you, it was compelling reading.” Luke laughed, no longer able to hold on to the pretense there was any silver lining.
“We need to go get it back, we need to figure out a way and get back the pages and remove all traces of it.”
There was a chance—albeit slim—that our paths would cross in the future. A project we’d both work on, a party we’d attend, or at the Academy Awards when he acted in the movie that I won best screenplay for. Okay, the last one was a long shot, but you get the idea. But he hadn’t hit his older brother, Eric’s, level of stardom yet, and I hadn’t been banished to the colony of the pariahs. So, until either one of those happened, I was holding onto that middle ground like my life depended on it. And on the chancethat one of the above transpired, I couldn’t risk him thinking I was a hack with stalker tendencies.
Luke scoffed, loosening his hold on me as he shook his head. “Hold on there, Mission Impossible. How the hell are we supposed to do that? Break into his house and steal it back?”
Hmmm, I hadn’t thought that far ahead but breaking in sounded like a good idea. It was a stack of A4 paper, not the crown jewels. He’d probably leave it on a coffee table or something like that, easy to find and recover.
“Sure, why not? It’s L.A., people get broken into all the time.” And technically I wouldn’t be taking anything that wasn’t rightfully mine anyway.
The fact I had no experience in crime and unlawful entry was swept aside, there was always room to expand your personal set of skills.
“I know where he lives,” Scully volunteered, finally being proactive in helping us sort out the mess she’d created.
“Do not encourage her,” Luke warned her with a raised brow before turning to me. “My suggestion is you take your chances he thinks you’re a fruit loop and leave breaking and entering to people who want to go to jail.”
“She only goes to jail if she gets caught,” Scully interjected.
Luke blew out a frustrated breath. “Still not helping.”
Maybe risking jail to save myself embarrassment seemed extreme, but it wasn’t justmy pride at stake. It was my career—which had yet to get off the ground—on the line as well.
Nick not only knew hundredsof people in the industry, but also by virtue of his brothers, had a reach I couldn’t even begin to fathom. Did I really want to leave it all up to chance? The chance he’d take pity on me and my slightly creepy compulsion for writing himinto my fan fic and not think I was a weirdo with no talent? This was the kind of thing that could ruin me, reduce me to cocktail party fodder and exile me to the graveyard of I-could-have-been-a-contender.
If I was going to be a washed up nobody, then it would be on my terms alone. I didn’t need anyone to help me with my fall from grace, and I wasn’t going to allow writing that had been the bright spot in a fairly bleak creative landscape, be the source of my undoing.
“You know where he lives?” My body stiffened with a renewed sense of purpose as I focused on Scully.
Luke shook his head. “You can’t be serious.”
“Yes,” she answered, choosing to ignore Luke and his warning.
My heartbeat thumped out of control under my skin as I looked to the open doorway of my bedroom. “Then let’s go.”
I was no closer to knowing how I was going to get my manuscript back than a few minutes ago. Who knew if he’d even be back? He could’ve potentially still been partying somewhere in Hollywood, celebrating being awesome while I was having my nervous breakdown. But encouraged by Scully’s claim he’d been uninterested by women and the surrounding festivities, it was worth the risk he’d ditched the crowd and headed home. Or I could be delusional, always a possibility. Either way, I was damn well sure not going to sit in my room and watch my world burn.
Resolution settled in. I was willing to do whatever it took.
Let’s hope “whatever” didn’t see me end up with a conviction and shitty mug shot.