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Authors: Anne Styles

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BOOK: Sins of Sarah
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'I'm not too interesting, really,' she confessed. Her speaking voice was clear, with a pleasant pitch, he noted quickly, ideal for film sound. 'A normal Home Counties girl, I suppose - dancing classes, pony club, that kind of thing. My family are all the super bright types. Daddy was in the City, Mummy was a solicitor, my brother is a tax lawyer. I was what Daddy called his "surprise package",' she laughed. 'My brains are in my feet, so I was packed off to stage school, since I was so useless at school. I'm good at scuba diving and abseiling down rocks, thanks to Do or Dare but I can't add up.' 'Neither can my wife, and she's an Oxford lecturer,' commented Nick, drily. 'But it's not the end of the world.'

'Unless it's alimony,' added James, to shouts of laughter from the other two, and he smiled sympathetically at Sarah. 'Cheer up, sweetheart,' he counselled quietly. 'They won't bite!'

Nick leant back in his chair, studying her carefully. 'Would you unplait your hair, please, Sarah?' he asked at last. 'I'd like to see how long it is.' Oscar had been right, thought Sarah, wryly as she obediently untwisted the plait and shook the curtain of hair free, letting it tumble around her waist. Loose hair annoyed her normally, and she preferred to wear it up or plaited. The plait was her programme trademark, and both Paddy and Oscar re-fused to allow her to cut it off. 'Now,' he instructed, 'stand up and take your shoes off. I'd like to see you and James together - please, James.' James laughed, and held her hands as they stood together.

'He'll count your teeth later!' he told her cheerfully, and Sarah smiled gratefully up at him, forgetting the scrutiny they were under. He really seemed to be the charmer she had heard he was. Though neither as tall nor as Latin-dark as Nick Grey was, he had a ready warmth and the kind of caressing brown eyes that signalled his sympathy for her nerves without the need to say anything.

In fact there was a great deal more to James than his pretty-boy looks suggested. An intelligent and multi-faceted actor, his last film had catapulted him into the higher league of the industry, and Nick knew he was lucky to get him at the rates he had. James, unlike many in the business, had a great sense of loyalty to the man who had given him the first big break of his career.

Nick studied the two of them carefully, his fingers drumming together. Only Caroline knew he was pleased by the momentary glance they exchanged as she came in. Then he too stood up. 'Right, let's go down and shoot these scenes,' he suggested. 'But before we do, I'd like a private word with you, Sarah. You two go down, we'll join you in a minute.' He drew Sarah aside as James and Chris left them and gestured her to a chair again alongside Caroline. 'Don't panic.' He smiled at her. 'I simply want to talk to you without James listening. Look, Sarah, you have read your script carefully, I suppose?' She nodded, knowing what was coming. 'You do realize we would be asking you to do two fairly explicit love scenes, don't you?' Sarah bit her lip, and she concentrated on the straps of her shoes as she put them back on.

'Yes, I do,' she said finally, in a low voice.

'Are you happy about that now you have met James?' he asked, worried by her discomfort. More than ever, he was sure she was right for the part.

'No, I'm not happy,' she admitted. 'I've always refused to do anything like that before, but I do realize that it's part of the contract.' She knew she was giving way to him with hardly a fight, and she hated herself for letting ambition win over her better judgement. Oscar had given her a hard time all the way over about it, but face-to-face there was something about Nick Grey that made her feel instinctively that she could put her trust in him - as Oscar had wisely pointed out.

'We'd make it as easy as we could,' he said gently. 'I wouldn't try to exploit you, Sarah, I promise.'

Sarah kicked at the floor in a panic. How could she possibly admit to Nick, of all people, that she had only once been to bed with anyone, so she had no real experience to call on when simulating lovemaking in front of a camera - apart from reading about it in the odd block-buster! 'As long as you know I'm probably not going to be much good at it, that's all. I accept that I'd have to do it,' she muttered finally.

'James will help you, I'm sure,' he tried to reassure her. 'He can be a cheeky sod, but he's actually quite sensitive under all that blarney!'

'He certainly seems nice,' she allowed, and then lifted her eyes to his. 'I'd just have to get very drunk to do it,' she tried to joke. 'And go on a diet!'

It was Nick's turn to smile. 'That's something you certainly don't need to do. I've seen your showreel; I'm well aware that you have the perfect body for this job!' His frank admiration made her blush a deep crimson as she followed him down to the studio. It was no more than she was used to from the men she met, but somehow, from this powerful man, it seemed to mean so much more.

Caroline smiled sympathetically and wished her luck, then went off to talk to Oscar, fairly certain that she could discuss some preliminary terms with him. She had not missed the relief in Nick's eyes as he had talked to Sarah.

While Nick and his cameraman set up lights James carefully went over the scenes with Sarah. He knew well enough what Nick wanted, having done the same scenes with Harriet eight weeks before. 'We'll do eighteen first,' Nick told them, and Sarah's heart sank. It was by far the most difficult of the two - a sharp exchange of words, highly charged with emotion, hard enough to do at the best of times. But She had reckoned without the experienced James.

'Give us a few minutes,' he said to Nick as he set their positions to camera, again making Sarah take off her shoes. He bent close to her ear so that Nick could not hear them. 'Concentrate,' he urged her. 'Close your eyes and concentrate on hating me.' He was gripping her wrists and hurting her deliberately. He held them, twisting his fingers into the flesh, so that when Nick said, 'Action', she sprang furiously from him, launching into the scene with flashing eyes, spitting the words at James, who reacted beautifully to them out of nowhere, turning in an above average performance -much better, Nick thought happily, than he had with Harriet.

'Not bad,' he conceded. 'Now try it again.' He made them do it four times, deliberately testing Sarah's patience, changing lines, changing movements, assessing how well she could follow directions - after seeing the showreel he knew she could act - noticing quickly how intelligently she interpreted his instructions. James knew what he was doing, and cautioned her furious tongue when she was tempted to lash out at him.

When Nick pronounced his satisfaction, and switched them to the shorter, easier scene, James hugged her to him, laughing. 'Well done, sweetheart,' he soothed her. 'You didn't let the bastard wind you up!'

'He speaks well of you too!' Sarah retorted. 'But thank you, James, you were a great help.'

'I'll get my reward now.' He grinned at her.' I'm going to enjoy kissing you!' Sarah had dreaded that on the way over, now she decided that it might be rather fun.

After only a few minutes, she was half under James's spell. It was a short scene - a few gentle lines and then a kiss. To her surprise, James kissed her each time with a fervour that made Nick and Chris smile with amusement, but the rapport between the two was immediate and obvious.

Afterwards, Nick suggested that James took her back upstairs for a drink while they looked at the recording.

Caroline joined them while they played them back and then compared them with Harriet's audition. A few minutes later they were hugging each other, laughing with delight as Nick - for once - let his enthusiasm bubble forth.

'We've done it!' he cried in relief. 'At last! We've got her! Now all you have to do is sort Oscar on money!'

'And billing!' sighed Caroline. 'And the TV people. They're not going to release her from Do or Dare early. You're going to have to reschedule the first two weeks.'

'It'll be worth it. She's so much better than Harriet, and stunningly pretty,' he assured her.

'I'll try and talk to Paddy Brennan - we're certainly going to need a lot of her time for fittings and press calls anyway,' Caroline suggested as they made their way back upstairs. 'I know him from way back. He's pretty amenable, or at least he was.'

'Offer him some filming opportunities,' Nick suggested. 'It might work.'

'As long as it's not during one of the heavy scenes. Not quite children's hour stuff!' They were both laughing at that thought as they walked back into the office. Nick went straight over to Sarah, who was sitting talking to James and Jane, her drink untouched.

'Congratulations, Miss Campbell. I'm making a very swift decision for once, but the part is yours, if you want it.' Sarah seemed truly astonished. Having done the difficult scene so many times, she had decided he really didn't like her performance at all - even though both James and Jane had tried to convince her that Nick had probably been winding her up, to test her nerve more than anything. Her mouth was smiling as she stammered her thanks to him but he could read the sheer panic in her expressive hazel eyes as she did so.

'Is there something else worrying you, Sarah?' he asked, suddenly concerned, but she shook her head vehemently.

'She's probably waiting for you to live up to your revolting reputation,' James said with a grin. 'Don't worry, he won't start throwing things until you've signed your contract!'

'Ignore that!' Nick was in such a good mood he could even forgive James for teasing him. 'Now, let's celebrate and go to lunch. Chris and I are meant to be meeting Charlie at Neal Street. We'll surprise him. How about it, Sarah, James?'

'Love to,' said James. 'I can chat up my new leading lady.' Sarah could hardly believe what was happening to her.

She had really half hoped he would turn her down, and now she was being whisked into a car to drive the short distance from Wardour Street to Neal Street, being treated as the star of the film and feeling terrified of the responsibilities suddenly thrust upon her. It began to dawn on her that there was no way out now. She was going to have to do those scenes.

As she busied herself replaiting her hair in the back of the car she watched Nick surreptitiously when he turned from the front seat to talk to Chris Howard. He really wasn't at all what she had expected from her friends' descriptions of him. Certainly he wasn't the kind of man you could easily ignore, with his hard, austere face, long, slightly hooked nose and those sharply intelligent blue eyes with their heavy brows above high, well-defined cheekbones. True, there were fine lines at their corners that betrayed his age against James's gilded youth, but that only seemed to add strength to his attractiveness. James had hinted at his temper, but he had been quite charming most of the time. She had only found him difficult when he had changed his instructions during the first scene, but she realized that she had done every-thing he had asked of her without question - even giving in over the nude scenes.

She knew then that it was his sheer ability that made him so frightening. He controlled so many lives with his powerful talents.

He also had immaculate manners, she realized as he helped her from the car, held her chair, assisted her with her jacket when she made a movement to take it off. 'Snap!' He smiled, indicating the Ralph Lauren label on his own jacket. 'We have a tailor in common.'

'The only one I have,' she told him. 'It came from a commercial.'

'I bet it wasn't an NGA one,' joked James. 'They make you give everything back!'

'No, it wasn't, but I still had to pay for it at Polka Dot,' Sarah retorted, wondering if she should mention a rival production company.

'Rob Lomas is a man after my own heart!' laughed Nick, and ordered champagne as he looked round. 'Where the hell has Charlie got to?'

'He phoned to say he'd be a few minutes late,' the head waiter told him as he took the order.

'Typical!' Nick shrugged. 'Well, we'll order. Everyone else is starving, I'm sure.' Sarah was surprised to see him use glasses to read the menu, it seemed a sudden admission of weakness, but at least he appeared more approachable. 'Penalty of old age,' he said with a conspiratorial wink as he caught her looking at him. 'Oh, there's Charlie at last.' Sarah suddenly connected 'Charlie' with Charles Hastings, a baronet and businessman of some repute. Nick introduced him as 'my old friend Charlie Hastings', but Sarah had seen his photographs enough times in the papers, and read enough of his background to be very much in awe of him.

Charles Hastings himself was totally floored by Sarah Campbell, and he was smitten from his first glimpse of her. He and Nick were the same age - had grown up together, gone to Kings Canterbury and Oxford together -but he looked much older. He was lightly bearded and his sandy hair was thinning slightly on top, and his body was certainly heavier than Nick's well exercised one.

'Wonderful, isn't she?' James was laughing, completely at ease with Charles as he was with everyone. 'Put your tongue back, Charlie, it's hanging out!'

Nick raised his glass. 'A toast to our new leading lady!' The other three followed suit. 'Now just be careful how you drive for the next few weeks, Sarah!'

'Driving's no problem,' Sarah told him with amusement. 'My work schedule next week is hang-gliding and a parachute jump!'

'The hell it is!' Nick suddenly looked angry. 'I'll speak to Paddy. We can't take that sort of chance now!' '

Don't worry,' Sarah soothed. 'I've done it before - it's a doddle.'

BOOK: Sins of Sarah
10.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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