Authors: Rian Kelley
Tags: #Romance, #Military, #New Adult & College
California Dreamy Series
Previous Books by Rian Kelley:
From the California Dreamy Series
“Honestly, Shae, you’ll be doing yourself a favor.”
“And you, too,” she pointed out. Not that she had a problem with that—she’d do just about anything for Stevie. He’d believed in her when no one else had, except family. Back when she was living out of her parents’ cast-off mini-van and writing in the back of a surf shop in Santa Monica. “It’s just that I planned to leave.”
“Connections,” he reminded her. “In this business it’s all about connections.”
“Of which I have plenty,” she returned.
“You can never have too many,” he argued, and he was right.
Ethan Abrams was on the cusp of joining the elite in the big-time, power-house. He directed or produced a film every year and they were high quality, A-list projects that rocked the theaters. But he wasn’t a writer and Shae didn’t want to try to shape him into one. Especially not now-she had plans. Big-time mommy plans that ran by their own clock.
“You know that I’m leaving,” she tried again, because Stevie had a way with denial Shae had never experienced before. He could spin a ‘no’ into an ‘absolutely’ faster than a marshmallow melted in July.
“A bad decision,” he pointed out.
“You’re leaving. I know.”
“Tomorrow,” she emphasized, and pushed back a strand of wheat-blond hair the wind had picked up and tossed. She listened to the silence as it built on the other end and counted down to his mini-explosion. Stevie tried to keep a steady passage, but he often failed.
“What? Tomorrow? You can’t be serious, Shae. Hollywood is your life. It’s your livelihood.”
“I’m not leaving the business,” she reminded him. “Just the landscape.”
“I thought you were talking vacation.”
She’d told him differently, but Stevie’s form of denial was reflective. Anything he didn’t want to hear bounced off him. Of course that denial had done wonderful things for Shae—it landed her big contracts, including her first with DreamWorks when she was only twenty-three years old.
“I sold my house.”
“I plan to. In Mill Valley.” She wanted home—suburbia, thirty minutes north of San Francisco. She didn’t worry she would lose her creative drive. That an environment of tall, leafy trees, smiling faces and green belts would suck her dry. She’d realized, as many veterans of the trade did sooner or later, that Los Angeles had a dying pulse. She didn’t have to live in The City of Angels in order to produce works that moved the human heart.
She wouldn’t be able to surf as much, not from Mill Valley, and she’d have to travel further to do it, but she wanted family more than anything else.
When one of her screenplays went into production, she would have to head south again, but lots of people in the business did that—flew in, settled in a rented house for six months, then when the movie wrapped, escaped to parts unknown.
Stevie returned to his offensive stand. “Ethan is an amazing talent.”
Shae already knew that. She followed Ethan Abrams’ work and had probably
seen every movie he’d directed—including a docu-drama that had her crying from mid-point to finish.
“But he’s never written before.”
“That’s not exactly true.”
“Stevie,” the reprimand was light. They both hated it when directors crossed out lines and wrote in “possibles.” It was part of the process, of course, and often times Shae had come around to believing the director had a point. Still, applying patches to someone else’s work was not writing.
“You’d be proud to be a part of this project. It has
Shae didn’t doubt it. Ethan was known for projects that had a full arc of emotions. He didn’t limit himself to blockbusters, either, but loaned his talent to indie films and start-ups that he found worthy.
Which was part of Shae’s dilemma. She’d never been asked to give back before. And shouldn’t she be doing exactly that? Facing her thirtieth birthday, she was ancient by industry standards but had accomplished so much more than many people did in comparable careers. It hadn’t come easy, but she’d arrived at an astounding level of success through hard work and her share of luck. She felt her resolve begin its landslide.
“What’s the project?”
“I don’t know,” Stevie admitted.
“But you said it has depth.”
“It does. Everything Ethan does has depth.”
“He isn’t saying. First time jitters and all that.”
Shae rolled her eyes. “You’re his agent.” Who else, if not your agent, to bounce ideas off of? “Fine. Have him e-mail me what he’s got. I’ll take a look at it.”
“Not gonna happen,” Stevie insisted. “Listen, if I didn’t
this was going to be the movie of the year and that you weren’t the absolute right person to help, I wouldn’t be bothering you.”
“You’re not bothering me, Stevie.”
“Well, I am. A little.”
“Okay. A little,” she conceded. “What does he want?”
“For you to meet with him. He’ll come to you.”
“I am a suite at Chateau Marmont,” she reminded him. She thought about lunch in the bar downstairs, but there would be too much exposure there. While sh
e was able to move around her world unrecognized, Ethan wasn’t as lucky, so there would be cameras to deal with outside the private patio and inside, hopefuls digging in for their chance to make it. She thought about Riptide, her little surf shop at the beach, easily her most favorite spot in the L.A. area, but didn’t want to reveal her hiding places to anyone. “I’ll meet him at his home,” she offered.
“Let me check,” Stevie said and put her on hold before Shae could erupt.
Eight years in the business, six of them with a success that included three Emmy’s, a Golden Globe, and most recently an Oscar, and she was placed on hold. By her agent. For a man who wanted something from her, but strictly on his terms. Crazy.
“The man will be damn lucky if I show at all,” she muttered.
“Of course you’ll show,” Stevie chided. “It’s the decent thing to do and you, love, are that rare gem found among the plastered fakes—decent.”
“Some consider that a character flaw. Others take advantage.” Another thing she really didn’t like about living in L.A. Show any weakness, and you were chum in a fish bowl.
“Where are you now?”
“The Monde.” Savoring what was to be her final truly perfect latte. At least for awhile. It was eight-thirty in the morning and the sun was already hot enough to reflect off the pavement. September in Southern California was like mid-summer anywhere else in t
he country. She sat under a green and white umbrella and enjoyed what little breeze managed to flutter this east of the Pacific.
She didn’t smile. That was not done here, not unless you were glammed up and in front of the cameras. And that was precisely the reason she was so hell bent on leaving. She didn’t want to raise her child in an unfriendly environment, where you didn’t know your neighbor’s name and if you needed cream for your coffee you had to drive to the nearest mini-mart.
And more than anything else, Shae wanted a baby.
She didn’t have a steady boyfriend. In fact, she had absolutely no prospects. She hadn’t done very well in the dating department since leaving UCLA during her second year and embarking on a do-or-die approach to her writing career. She’d dated and bedded her requisite leading man. She’d shacked up—although briefly—with the lead guitarist of a rock n’ roll super star duo. She’d even put in a few good months with a hungry waiter/writer and started to think that could be it. He’d left her when he received
. Stupid man. Shae had told him the number of times she’d gotten calls and how flat and flotsam she’d felt afterwards when they hadn’t panned out. She’d realized, of course, that Bruce wasn’t as into her as he was her contacts. It hadn’t made her feel any better and it had taken months for her to shake the images of wedding gowns and matching rings.
Bruce had been attentive. She’d loved talking the trade with him. And he was talented. All that, and she was twenty-seven years old and wanted to be part of a couple. She’d wanted to tie it off and make the announcement. She’d wanted the house, the yard, the children.
She wanted to be grounded and in Hollywood no such thing existed.
She wanted an anchor, a purpose greater than herself. Because after awhile, when the people who populated your life were like balloons, with their toes barely trailing the earth, you
began to feel the same way. A swift wind, and you were swept away. And she knew never to forget the way the pressure in Hollywood led to popped lives.
She wanted out. She wanted normal. What she’d had in Mill Valley, where she’d grown up the youngest
of two sisters and a brother, with parents who actually made them earn their privileges, and neighbors who called them by name and waved across yards.
“Did you write that down?”
“What?” Shae was startled by Stevie’s voice. The annoyance twisted his words into tight little pebbles.
“Shae,” he complained. “Did you hear anything I just said?”
He took a breath. “Writers,” he reminded himself, “you’re a one-foot in the world breed of people.”
“Who make you a lot of money.”
“Definitely a world of good and evil,” he agreed. “And you, Shae, are at the root of all that is good in my life.”
“Stop sweet-talking me,” Shae returned. “I told you I would meet with Ethan.”
“And I just gave you his address, but I bet you have no idea where you’re going.”
“None,” she admitted.
“Pick up a pencil, Shae.”
She jotted notes the old-fashioned way. Her iPad was on the table and she had a digital voice recorder somewhere in her computer case, but ideas, directions, phone messages were scribbled across scraps of paper that settled in the bottom of her purse or pocket and were often forgotten. She was never without a pen or a pencil and a small notebook.
“I’m ready, Stevie.” She wrote the address as he gave it to her and was only mildly surprised to find that the great director lived outside the tight trade circle of Los Angeles. “What time is he expecting me?”
“Yesterday,” Stevie admitted. “If you had returned my calls. . .But he’ll be happy if you arrive by noon.”
Shae returned calls same day only when one of her screenplays was in production. She had ten weeks before the miniseries she’d written for cable would begin shooting and a good four weeks before she started hearing from directors and producers on changes. She used the time between projects to create what she hoped would be more winning stories.
“Santa Barbara is a two hour drive,” she pointed out. She gazed down at her attire. She was wearing a bikini the color of a Caribbean sea and a white, gauzy wrap over it. She’d hit the beach at sunrise and spent ninety minutes on the waves. She would need to return to the hotel for a shower and a change of clothes. And maybe a change of attitude, too.
“Did he say what kind of trouble he was having?”
“He is too close to his subject,” Stevie said.
“Did you suggest he run his story idea by a professional writer—or hire someone to write it for him?”
“That’s where you come in, Shae.”
“I’m not a pen for hire, Stevie,” she reminded him. Her work was original. She knew no other way. Wanted
it no other way.
“Just give the man some pointers,” he suggested.
“And he’s going to be happy with that?”
“Ethan is a no retreat, no surrender kind of guy,” Stevie warned. “He’s former military, you know. And guys like that are, well, tenacious with a bone.”
“And I’m the bone?”
“It’s an analogy.”
“I get that. Why me?”
“He mentioned, ‘When We Were One.’”
Not her most recent screenplay, nor one that had won any awards. She’d written that story more than five years before and it was turned into an HBO Special Presentation less than a year after completion. All of that was curious enough, but the subject matter—the careful, and even methodical, according to some reviews, dissolution of a marriage made in heaven—appealed to an almost mandatory female audience.
“Is he going through a divorce?” Shae didn’t bother to hide her suspicions. Or her returning reluctance.
“Ethan Abrams is not married. I doubt he’d ever entertain such a thought,” Stevie advised. “He’s the George Clooney of the directing world.”