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Authors: Karen Kingsbury

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BOOK: Take Two
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“Some. I put a call into Brandon, but he must be out. I’ve seen a few recent paparazzi photos of him clubbing it up with Hollywood’s
wild-child crowd. I’ve been meaning to talk to him about it, but we’ve played phone tag.” She exhaled. “Now this.”

“So you think …” Chase grabbed at straws, desperate for more of her positive spin on things. “You think maybe it’s all a mistake?”

“That’s possible. Brandon was dead-set on starring in
Unlocked
. I can’t believe he’d sell out to NTM like that. Not for any kind of money.” She went on to explain that even if NTM offered
him more money for ditching the author and producers, to take their offer would be shortsighted. “We have studios lined up
who will pay him more than NTM, with all of us involved. This can’t be about money.”

He nodded, grateful for any hope she could offer. “Keith and I want to press on, but I don’t know. I mean, do you think maybe
God’s closing the door on all of it?”

“Not at all.” She sounded outraged by the idea. “Chase, you listen to me. You and Keith are two of the most talented producers
I’ve ever come across. Combined with your talent as a director, I believe with all my being you’re about to break into this
business with a vengeance. Brandon’s lucky to work with you, and I think Stephanie’s told him so.”

In the wake of her words, hope suddenly had a heartbeat again. Brandon Paul wanted to work with them. Which meant they could
most likely attract other investors. A single announcement by NTM didn’t change that, no matter what the explanation. “We’ll
meet for lunch tomorrow after you fly in,” she said as the conversation wound down. “Between now and then I’ll talk to Luke
and Brandon, and we can figure out where things really stand.”

“Okay.” Chase felt much better. The weights on his shoulders were gone, at least for now. “God’s brought us this far, right?”

“Exactly.” There was a smile in her voice, and it was contagious.

He felt his own weary smile fall into place. “We need to believe, that’s all.”

“Right. God wins, remember that. You and Chase are God’s filmmakers. You keep on, and He’ll meet you. Seriously, Chase. You
have to keep believing.”

He let her words roll around his heart for a minute, soothing the wounded edges. “Thank you.”

“We’re a team. When I’m down, you can remind me. This time it’s my turn.”

As the call ended, Chase returned to his packing. Calling Kendall had been just what he needed. She was right. Even with the
disappointments from tonight, their movie-making was headed in the right direction. Ahead of them they had this week’s meetings
for
Unlocked
and
The Last Letter’s
appearances at the film festivals. And there was the theatrical release.
The Last Letter
might be a huge box-office hit. It was all suddenly possible.

He reached the bedroom and stared at his wife. Kelly had apparently brushed her teeth in record time, because she was under
the covers, softly snoring, not concerned whatsoever about the state of his heart or his confidence.
Fine
, he thought as he looked at her.
At least I have Kendall to believe in me
.

He finished packing and set his suitcase near the front door. Then he brushed his teeth, set his alarm, and turned in, careful
to stay to his side of the bed so he wouldn’t wake Kelly. So he wouldn’t have to deal with her. He’d be gone before she woke
up, which meant one more time of parting ways without finding common ground. One more time of leaving home feeling her disappointment
like a chain around his ankles. But that couldn’t be helped. He would press on without her and when they climbed over this
mountain he would spend time on his marriage. Until then, he could survive without Kelly’s support, the way he’d survived
these past several months. He didn’t need her praise and encouragement.

God had given him Keith and Kendall for that.

Twenty-Five

A
NDI UNDERSTOOD THERE WAS A BATTLE
going on — a battle for her heart and soul. But she didn’t care. If the world was on one side and God and her faith on the
other, Andi was cheering for the dizzying, intoxicating world. Everything about her life had grown more intense, more exciting,
since she’d fallen for Taz. And if that meant stepping over the edge, she would do it. For now, at least. While she still
had so much about life to experience, so many emotions to discover. She could always go back if things got too deep. What
was the worst that could happen?

Her date with Taz to the jazz concert had been like a journey of brilliant reds and oranges, all the colors of a sunrise and
sunset combined into one amazing night. They sat next to each other, the heat from the nearness of his body filling her senses.
But even then, he didn’t kiss her. They talked about physical love as they walked back to her dorm, and Taz said he wasn’t
a fan of free love. “Our bodies are instruments of art and love, all tied into one. If we share them too freely, we cheapen
the art.”

Andi loved that, the way he saw physical love as simply one more form of art. Until that night, she’d wondered why he was
waiting to kiss her, why he hadn’t acted when he was clearly taken by her, the same way she was taken by him. But after their
talk on the way back to her dorm that night, she understood better. If physical love was art, then this time of waiting was
a prelude, a way to heighten the beauty of whatever lay ahead.

It was the second week of May and finals were over. Andi had studied hard, and she had a good feeling about her grades. Taz
hadn’t been a distraction in that sense whatsoever. She filed out of her psych class, and across the campus she spotted Cody
Coleman. He was walking with a group of guys, and for a moment she stopped and watched him.

How different she might feel about her faith if God had allowed her to have a relationship with a guy like Cody. Whatever
his rocky past, he was completely sold out to Christ now, and Andi guessed he always would be.

She started walking again, making sure her path wouldn’t cross his. Their friendship had fizzled, and she could live with
that. She didn’t need a lecture from Cody about how she spent her time. She had Bailey for that. Also, she was in a hurry.
Taz planned to make her dinner at his apartment tonight. She didn’t need an awkward conversation with Cody to make her feel
guilty.

She remembered a time a few weeks ago when she’d run into him between classes. “Why so quiet?” she’d asked him. She kept her
tone light, not wanting to sound like the poor victim in their friendship.

“School has me pretty busy.” He raised an eyebrow. “And you seem busy with Taz Bazzi.”

Andi had been surprised. “You know him?”

“He went to Clear Creek High. Hung out with the music types.” Cody shrugged. “Had quite a reputation with the girls.”

Something about Cody’s tone offended Andi that day. She wanted to defend Taz and his beautiful heart, his unique way of looking
at life. “That doesn’t surprise me. He’s very special.”

Cody laughed. “Be careful, Andi. He had that ‘special’ thing going on back in high school too. Most of the girls figured him
out pretty quick. He could say what he wanted to get his way with one of them, and then he moved on.” He let his laughter
fade. “If you were my sister, I’d forbid you from seeing him. Seriously.”

If she were his sister …
Andi hated the way he said that. As if she could never be good for anything other than a close friendship. She wanted to
scream at him and ask him what was wrong with her. What did Bailey Flanigan have that Andi didn’t? But she wouldn’t give him
the chance to hurt her any more than he already had. She held her head high. “We must know different guys, then. The Taz I
know is nothing like that.”

The conversation ended, and Andi hadn’t seen or heard from Cody since. But now his warning came back to her, and she was frustrated
at herself for remembering it. Today was a perfect day, otherwise. The sun was out and the leaves and flowers were coming
to life across campus. The temperature was already in the mid – eighties. Finals were behind her, and tonight she and Taz
were going to celebrate. She didn’t need Cody or anyone else putting a damper on her excitement.

She walked back to her dorm and caught Bailey just as she was leaving. “I’m having dinner with my parents and Tim.” She beamed
with happiness. “Doesn’t it feel good to have finals over?” She let out a victory cry. “And all of summer stretched out before
us.”

“Yeah, it’s amazing.” Andi had been so busy with Taz and her classes that she and Bailey had grown somewhat distant. “Did
you decide what you’re doing? For the summer, I mean?”

“I’ve got the Cru retreat at Lake Monroe. But after that I’m definitely going to New York next week with Tim and my mom. We’re
auditioning for ensemble roles in three shows — sort of an open casting call. After that, I’m not sure. If I don’t get a part,
I’ll be in Bloomington.” She set her bag down on her bed and looked at Andi, her interest genuine. “What about you?”

“I’m not going on the retreat, and I’m not going home. I know that much.” She laughed at the idea. “My parents would have
me signed up as a church camp counselor in no time.” Andi realized how she sounded, but it was too late. She managed a sad
smile. “You know what I mean.”

Bailey hesitated, as if there was much she wanted to say. But she only held Andi’s gaze for a long while. “You can stay with
my family any time over the summer. We have the apartment. If your parents don’t want to pay for the dorm …”

“Thanks.” Andi imagined the freedom she’d have with Taz if she had their dorm room to herself. Taz had three roommates. It
was a rare night when — like tonight — he had the place to himself. “Actually, I’ll probably stay in the dorm. I’m taking
a few classes. Nine units, maybe. I’d like to get ahead a little, so that means making up the time somewhere.”

“Acting still, right?”

“Definitely. My dad’s struggling with the Brandon Paul movie, but there’ll be others. I wanna be ready next time the chance
comes up.”

Andi felt strange, the way the conversation with Bailey was going. When they started out as roommates last fall they were
so much alike — two girls with a love for God and a determination to be pure. But now … their differences made even a talk
like this feel strained. Like there was far more they weren’t saying. “I talked to the librarian. Looks like she has a part-time
job for me over the summer recataloging the books.”

“Sounds tedious.” Bailey wrinkled her nose.

“I can listen to my iPod while I work.” Andi gave a light shrug. “Sounds like a paycheck to me. And my parents won’t let me
stay unless I’m earning money.”

Again Bailey seemed like she wanted to say something, and this time she dropped the chitchat about their summer plans. “How
are things with Taz?”

“He’s wonderful.” Andi felt her whole face light up. “I wish you knew him better, Bailey.”

“I knew him a little at Clear Creek. He was a year older, so I’d forgotten until Cody reminded me.” She frowned with worry.
“He didn’t have the best reputation.”

“He’s changed. I’ve never met anyone like him.”

“Hmmm.” Bailey fiddled with her bedspread. She’d packed up most of her things, so her side of the room was pretty bare. “What
do your parents think?”

“They don’t know that much, really. Just that I’m seeing someone.”

“But it’s more than that, right?” Bailey didn’t sound judgmental, just concerned. “You can be honest with me. You’re falling
for him, huh?”

“I guess.” Andi walked over and sat on the bed next to Bailey. “He talks about love and then he talks about art and film and
music, and the lines blur between all of it. I’ve never met anyone so romantic.”

“What about … what about the physical stuff. He’s kissed you, right?”

“That’s the weird thing.” Andi was dying for someone to talk to about Taz. Until now she and Bailey had only said a few words
in passing, both of them too busy to discuss in depth their lives outside school. And of course Andi didn’t want to be reprimanded.
“We spend all our free time together, but every time I think he’s going to kiss me, he backs away. I mean, I feel like we’re
kissing every time because, I don’t know, we’re just that close. But he’s a gentleman, Bailey. He doesn’t want to do anything
I’m not comfortable with.”

Bailey looked relieved. “That’s good.” She bit her lip. “What about the movie? The film you made?”

“It’s finished. He turned it in last week as part of his final. I guess the department gave out awards and his film took the
top prize.” There was something else, something Taz wanted to tell her tonight. But for now that’s all Andi knew. Except that
the short movie was the talk of the Indiana University film department. “I think it really grew me as an actress.”

Bailey nodded. “You took off your shirt, right? Down to your bra?”

The conversation was going too well for Andi to ruin it now with the whole truth. She nodded. “Yes. The scene called for it.”

“You’d better hope it doesn’t get out on the Internet.” Bailey put her hand on Andi’s knee. “You know how easy it is to put
things on YouTube or Facebook. If your parents saw it, they’d be freaked out for sure.”

“For sure.” Andi’s stomach twisted at the thought. She hadn’t considered the possibility, and now it was too late. She would
talk to Taz about it later.

“And what about God?” Bailey seemed more relaxed now. Less worried about hitting a taboo topic. “How are things with you and
Him?”

“Well …” She winced. “I haven’t exactly been a good little Cru girl this quarter. Too busy with
Robin Hood
and my grades.”

“And Taz.”

“Yes, and Taz.” She took a quick breath and tried to sound upbeat. “But there’s always the fall quarter. It’s easier to get
involved then, anyway.”

“Yeah, but I wasn’t talking about Cru.” Bailey’s voice softened. She cared; Andi could feel her sincerity in a way she’d forgotten
until now. “I was talking about God.”

“God.” Andi stood and wandered back to her side of the room. She opened her dresser drawer and glanced at Rachel’s journal,
tucked in near the back. She shut the drawer and leaned against the wall near her bed. “I still believe, if that’s what you
mean. I guess I just have to find my own way. You know, because God will always be there for me.”

BOOK: Take Two
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