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Authors: Olivia Evans

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BOOK: Hollywood & Vine
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Approaching the age of fifty, he’d seen and heard everything Hollywood had to offer. He explained how tired he was of the same faces and compliant attitudes. He wanted someone fresh, someone not jaded by years in the industry, someone like her. In a matter of days, Josie landed a spot on his team. It was entry-level, per job freelance work, and the pay was barely enough to get by on, but she managed. After a few months of saving, she was able to move out of her brother’s place.

That was over four years ago, and just as Holden and Madison had flourished in their relationship, Josie had flourished in her career. Craig’s praise and constant support resulted in more and more projects, each having a little more responsibility than the last. Eventually, she left her cramped apartment after purchasing a small bungalow close to her brother.

When Cooper Designs signed a contract with Argent Films Studio, Craig promoted Josie to Costume Supervisor and advised her to hire another assistant. Josie didn’t hesitate to take the opportunity to work with her best friend, and the rest was history.

Josie took a bite of lasagna and watched Holden and Madison move around her kitchen, fluid and in sync. She wondered if she’d ever find someone who complemented her as well as the couple in front of her. She was young and attractive, but she worked too much, leaving little time for socializing.

“What are you thinking about so hard?” Holden fell onto the bar stool beside her, his eyes full of curiosity.

“That you need a haircut,” she deflected, tugging on the back of his dark brown hair. While she and Holden had similar personalities, their appearances couldn’t be more different. Josie had their father’s light brown hair and crystal blue eyes, but Holden had taken after their mother, inheriting her dark brown hair and eyes.

“Uh-huh, not buying it. But I’ll let it slide for now.”

Josie smiled, her shoulders relaxing as she turned her attention to her food. After eating until they could barely move, they cleaned up and retired to the living room. Josie flipped on the television, keeping the volume low as she crawled under her blanket and reached for the script once more.

“I’ll see you later.” Holden leaned down and kissed Josie on the cheek then crossed the room to Madison.

“Okay, thanks for dinner,” Josie said.

“No problem.” He leaned over Madison and gave her a quick kiss. “Don’t work too late.” He moved to the front door and with a final wave, he left the girls to their work.

“Oh, Josie, look,” Madison giggled, her eyes focused on the television. Josie followed her gaze and tried to keep her expression neutral as Anders Ellis smiled and laughed with a pretty blonde reporter at a press junket. Josie hummed in acknowledgement and dropped her eyes back to the script, sneaking another peek seconds later.

“Oh, stop trying to pretend that man doesn’t get you going.” Madison laughed, throwing her pen at Josie’s legs.

“Shut up,” Josie huffed and kicked the pen to the floor. She’d tried to stay nonchalant about her one-night stand with Anders, but often found herself lingering in line at the grocery store to read about his latest hookup and watching entertainment shows whenever they mentioned his name. She was far more interested than she wanted to admit.

It was pathetic. He wasn’t any less of an asshole today than three months earlier, but that didn’t stop her mind from wandering to their night together whenever she saw him. Today was no different.

“Oh my God,” Madison gasped, covering her mouth as she stared at the television wide-eyed.

Josie rolled her eyes. “I’m going to tell my brother he has competition if you don’t stop flailing over Anders Ellis.”

“No, Josie, look.” Madison jumped from the chair and grabbed the remote, turning up the volume as she walked backward to her seat, never taking her eyes from the screen.

Josie’s eyes snapped to the television. Her mouth fell open as Walker Hayes ducked into the back of a police car.

“What the

?”

“Shhh,” Madison scolded, turning up the volume more while the reporter recounted the events leading to his arrest.

“...arrested for drug possession yesterday after being pulled over for swerving across several lanes of traffic. Witnesses say he couldn’t stand when the officer asked him to step out of the car. Aside from the obvious legal issues Hayes will face, we can’t help wondering what this means for his upcoming movie scheduled to begin filming later next month....”

Madison muted the television when Josie’s phone rang. Josie fumbled with the blanket and tripped across the room to where her phone lay.

“Hello?”

Madison paced around the room, biting the edge of her thumb as she watched Josie tug at her hair while listening to whoever was on the phone. “Well?” Madison asked impatiently as soon as Josie hung up the phone.

Josie shook her head. “That was Craig. They’re dropping Walker from the movie.”

“Oh, shit. What are they going to do? Postpone the movie?”

Josie sighed and walked to her couch, falling onto it heavily. “The movie is still a go. Craig said to continue working on the script. They have a contingency plan. He said we’d know more soon. Craig hinted this wasn’t Walker’s first run-in with trouble. The studio doesn’t feel it’s worth the risk to keep him.”

“Did Craig say who would replace Walker?”

“Nope. Only that they were in talks with someone’s agent.”

“I wonder who it could be,” Madison mused, moving to her chair and picking up her script.

“I have no idea,” Josie mumbled, already focused on the words in front of her. The movie was still a go. The other details didn’t matter.

While Josie dove back into the task of reading the script, Anders pulled into his driveway across town. He breathed a sigh of relief when he killed the engine, happy to be home after traveling the last several weeks. The cool air was a welcome relief as he stepped inside and removed his suit jacket. He froze seconds later, his face twisting with confusion when he realized the television was playing. As silently as he could, he headed toward the sound.

“Hello?”

“In here!” Nathan called from the living room.

Anders rolled his eyes and walked into the room. Nathan Hoffman, Anders’ manager, sat on the couch with his feet propped on the coffee table and chip crumbs scattered around him.

“What the fuck, man? Go trash your own house, and get your damn feet off my table,” Anders grunted, smacking Nathan’s feet to the floor.

“I don’t have a maid at my house.” Nathan’s voice was nonchalant as he answered, unbothered by Anders’ mood. Being an asshole was second nature to Anders.

“What are you doing here?” Anders sighed in defeat as he slumped onto the couch next to Nathan and pulled a handful of chips out of the bag.

“How was Chicago?”

Anders slid his gaze to Nathan and studied his face. “Chicago was fine.”

“Yes, it was.” Nathan laughed, brushing more crumbs to the floor. “The picture of you and that dark-haired girl leaving the club a few nights ago had the paps salivating.”

Anders nodded and squinted, trying to piece together his fuzzy memory of that night.

“You don’t remember, do you?” Nathan wondered how long it would be before Anders’ bullshit caught up with him. Nathan had been Anders’ manager for nine years, and over that time the industry had chewed him up and spit him out. Long gone was the fresh-faced seventeen-year-old boy he’d met years ago. Hardened by life, he’d become the prick Nathan knew and loved today.

A conniving woman and opportunistic jerks would do that to a person though.

“I remember she gave great head.” Anders’ mouth curved into a sly grin causing Nathan to laugh.

“So are you going to tell me why you’re in my house, eating my food, and making a mess?”

Nathan cleared his throat and sat up straighter. He might be eleven years older than Anders and used to his shit but that didn’t mean he enjoyed dealing with Anders when he was angry.

“Um, I got a call a couple of days ago

from Roman. He called on behalf of Argent.”

“Fuck no,” Anders spat, jumping to his feet and shaking his head. He didn’t need to hear more; he knew why Nathan had come to his house.

“Now, Anders, at least hear me out.”

“No.” He shrugged and threw his arms out wide. “No. Fucking. Way.”

Anders was aware of what happened to Walker. He saw the clip of him being led into the back of the police car. He knew what it meant for Walker’s movie scheduled to start filming next month

the movie that should have been Anders’ in the first place. The problem was Anders’ schedule conflicted with filming and the studio had refused to put the movie on hold.

Instead, they’d hired Walker Hayes, and that had been that. Never mind that less than two weeks later Anders’ schedule changed and he would have been able to start filming in the timeframe they wanted.

The fact of the matter was Anders was still angry they hadn’t postponed filming to accommodate him. People bent over backward, doing whatever it took, to have him in their movies. It pissed him off that the producers on the film wouldn’t budge.

“Anders, this movie will be huge. Don’t let your bruised ego stand in the way.”

“Whatever,” Anders scoffed, waving off Nathan. “My ego isn’t the problem. It’s the principle.”

Nathan rolled his eyes. Anders was full of shit. “They got Aubrey Nash back as the lead actress.”

Anders lifted his brow at this news. The audition with her had been quite enjoyable, both on and off the clock. They shared amazing on-screen chemistry and the thought of working with her was very appealing. She’d dropped the role after the studio announced Walker Hayes as the new lead actor. There was no doubt she was resuming the role because of him. The thought made Anders smile. At least someone understood how much of an opportunity it was to work with him.

Nathan watched Anders turn over the new information and sighed. He pulled a folded sheet of paper from his back pocket and slid it to Anders. Once Anders saw the amount written inside, he’d have his full attention.

“What’s this?” Anders asked, unfolding the paper, his eyes widening in surprise.

“That’s what Argent is willing to pay you for this movie, and that’s just the base salary.”

Anders swallowed, his throat dry. “There’s a six in place of the four.”

“There is.”

“When do I get the script?” Anders asked, causing Nathan to laugh and clap him on the shoulder.

“I’ll make the call now.”

Anders grinned and fell back against the couch. The studio might have bruised his ego, but the new offer was one hell of an apology.

“A
re we all set?” Josie asked, sliding the drawings into the portfolio bag and throwing it over her shoulder.

“Yup. Now we just need to book it across town to make the meeting on time.” Madison grabbed the car keys off the table and tossed them at Josie as they moved through the front door.

Josie looked at her watch and swore under her breath when she realized they were due at the studio in thirty minutes. “Shit. Let’s go.”

Josie and Madison had spent the last two months working on costume designs for the movie. It had been somewhat of a challenge without knowing who would be the lead actor, but the studio executives had been tight-lipped about Walker’s replacement. They’d said the actors had a similar build and to carry on like they would’ve with Walker in mind.

Luckily the more pressing designs were for the lead actress, Aubrey Nash, and the scenes she would film in Italy. Drawing up ideas for her clothing had been easier and bought them some time. After today, none of that would matter. The reason they were racing to the studio was to meet with Craig, the director, and the new actor to go over wardrobe ideas.

As they approached their turnoff on the freeway, Josie cursed their bad luck. They were already running late, so of course there was an accident blocking all lanes of traffic right before their exit. Josie called Craig, but every call went to his voice mail. Finally, forty-five minutes later, traffic was moving again.

“Grab the stuff in the trunk,” Josie instructed, slamming her car door. “I’m going to try to catch everyone before they leave.”

Josie ran toward the building and yanked open the door, the cool air inside prickling her skin. She’d taken a few strides down the hall when her phone rang. Without looking at the caller ID, she began speaking. “Craig, I’m so sorry. I tried to call several times, but I kept getting your voice mail. There was an accident


Before she could say another word, someone slammed into her. Her phone flew into the air and skidded across the hall as a pair of strong hands grabbed her as she stumbled forward.

“Shit,” she gasped, grabbing the person’s biceps. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t paying attention.” She stopped talking when a familiar laugh filled the hallway. The space suddenly felt cramped and suffocating. Josie squeezed her eyes shut and swore under her breath. With great effort, Josie forced her eyes open. The moment she locked eyes with Anders Ellis, memories of slick skin, panting breaths, and muscle-clenching pleasure flooded her mind.

BOOK: Hollywood & Vine
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