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Authors: Maya Brooks

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BOOK: The Actor
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She couldn’t
make out their words, but suddenly people pointed in her direction.

Why?

She hadn’t done
anything.

Did they know
she didn’t belong and should be eliminated?

The crowd
opened up around her, and an officer walked towards her. Seconds later, a firm
grip on her arm dragged her through the room, outside, towards a waiting police
car.

“No… God, no.”

To her
surprise, the office smiled.

“Don’t worry
about it. It’ll be fine.”

He still locked
her in the back. She touched the seat and pulled her hand back. It was sticky
and smelled bad.

“Eeewww.”

A thick sheet
of glass separated her from the driver.

I’m just
gonna die now and get it over with.

This was clearly
the most humiliating moment in her life, locked up like a criminal on Cops on
TV. Where did all these photographers come from all of a sudden? She kept her
face turned away, hoping she wouldn’t be interesting to them. Just imagine what
her boss would say if he saw her on TV, in the back of a police car. And her
mom…

If this was the
punishment for straying out of the ordinary, it seemed overly harsh.

“I don’t even
have a speeding ticket, let me out of here!”

If anyone heard
her shout, no one cared enough to answer.

 

*****

 

When the car
pulled up at the station, Marc was nowhere in sight.

What did
they do to him?

She was too
scared to ask, and didn’t even look at the officer leading her inside. When he
opened the door, she stopped on the threshold, and her mouth re-found the
ability to speak.

“I’ve never
been to a police station before, but this can’t be normal.”

A long row of
drunks in colorful superhero costumes cheered for a woman with pink hair
pulling her top off.

The officer
sighed.

“They get worse
every year.”

A woman in
civilian clothes stepped up to them.

“This her?”

The man nodded.

Her? What do
you mean her? I’m a person, not a parcel.

“Come with me.”

The woman
showed the way into a small office.

“Sit there.
I’ll be right back.”

Sit. Yes,
I’m a good girl and I do tricks.

This urge to
laugh must be brewing hysteria. Not good.

Being behind a
closed door was good in the sense that it sheltered her from the crazies
outside, but it also made her heart thump and her hands sweaty. Was this where
they interrogated suspects? She couldn’t be a suspect for anything, could she?

Why am I in
here? What does it all mean?

The woman
returned with a pile of forms.

“Fill these out
and drop them off at the counter over there when you’re done.”

It was a big
pile of papers and the pen barely worked. This must be a new and improved form
of punishment.

Relation to
the detainee, what the hell are they talking about?

She filled out
the first page the best she could and headed for the counter.

“This is crazy.
I didn’t do anything.”

The woman
tapped her finger against the pile.

“If you want
your man to get out of here tonight, you fill out the forms. If not, we’ll keep
him.”

“He’s not my
man.”

Her objection
drowned in the commotion from one of the superheroes climbing up on a desk in
an attempt to fly.

“Worst night of
the year. Just do it, okay?”

Moments later,
Marc arrived, and she kept her eyes away from him the best she could. He had a
cut over an eyebrow, an impressive bruise forming on a cheek, and his hands
cuffed behind his back.

Strange that
his jaw isn’t dislocated, or something.

The woman
behind the counter kept her eyes fixed on Laura.

“We don’t want
him. As you can see, we have other problems than drunken actors and talking to
the press. We’ll let him go, if you take responsibility for him. I don’t want
to see him again. Sign there and there, and initial there, there, and there.”

Laura sighed
and tapped the pen against the forms. This night held more than enough of new
experiences.

Take
responsibility for him? How?

Marc looked at
her with puppy eyes.

“I’ll be good,
I promise.”

She sighed
again and signed the form.

“I must be the
most gullible schmuck ever.”

Someone
unlocked the cuffs.

“He’s all
yours.”

What makes
you think I want him?

Marc wrapped an
arm around her shoulders and smacked a kiss on her temple.

“Thank you,
Babe. I’ll be good. You’re going to have the night of your life.”

She grumbled,
“I was afraid you’d say that,” but followed him out of the station without
complaining. There was something about him she couldn’t resist. Especially when
he was touching her, and he touched her all the time. Telling herself it was
just endorphins didn’t help one bit.

Marc waved to a
cab and pulled her close in the back seat.

“Are you okay?
This won’t happen again, I swear. I’ll make it up to you.”

At least he
seemed to have sobered up somewhat. She should make herself free from his arms,
she really should, but her will was weak and she relaxed.

Leaning her
head against him just for a moment couldn’t be all that sinful.

He was there,
solid and strong, and she was more tired than ever before.

Marc held her
closer.

“I know it’s
late, but don’t fall asleep.”

The driver
looked back at them.

“You two going
somewhere or are you just sitting there?”

Marc handed him
a couple of bills.

“Take us to a
nice jazz club with food. I owe the lady dinner.”

I don’t like
jazz.

The words never
left her tongue. Sitting so close to him, with those arms she’d dreamed of so
many times wrapped around her, made both thinking and talking difficult. He ran
a hand over her hair in a gesture much more gentle than she expected.

“You’re still
awake, right?”

“Sure…”

Did he say
dinner? Who eats at one in the morning?

She wanted to
stay in the taxi and sleep curled up to Marc. Forever would be good, or at
least until the end of her natural life. Giving him her heart was the worst
idea ever, but how was any woman supposed to resist him?

The thought
disappeared into dreams, and she woke from his fingers caressing her cheek.

How could she
sleep snuggled up to her idol? Well, his idol status was a bit jagged at the
edges, but she still adored him. Strange time for a nap.

“Wake up,
beautiful.”

The car idled
outside a club.

I don’t want
to walk anywhere.

Marc smiled and
sounded as if he could read her mind.

“You’re going
in there, even if I have to carry you.”

“I’m coming,
I’m coming…”

They got a table
at once. Someone else probably had to wait.

A waiter pushed
a menu in her hands, but it didn’t make any sense at all. It took a few long
moments to realize it wasn’t because of her; it was in French. Marc stared at
his and tossed it over his shoulder.

“Useless. Do
you like fish?”

She nodded and
listened with half an ear as he talked to their server. Surely, she must have a
deer-in-the-headlights look in her eyes. At least the music wouldn’t let her
fall asleep...

Not until the
food arrived and Laura tasted it did she realize how hungry she was.

“Wow, this is
really good.”

“It is.”

Eating helped
Marc sober up even more, and he fell into his most charming persona. It was
impossible not to listen to him, and she heard herself laugh at his jokes even
when she didn’t want to. Damned man doing this to her when she tried so hard
not to care for him.

Once the food
was gone, he leaned back in the chair and waved to a waiter. Laura watched him
slip the man a bill, and a few moments later, the band played another type of
song, less syncopated and easier for her to follow.

Marc winked and
held his hand out.

“Come on,
beautiful, time to dance.”

It was
impossible not to be seduced when he held her, doing his darndest to impress
her.

He was right;
she did have the night of her life and the sky was getting brighter when they strolled
towards the hotel, arm in arm. Her feet ached, but that wasn’t important.

Please don’t
let this night end. It would be so great if it could go on forever, just a tiny
miracle so I can keep him a little longer.

A
little
longer might not do it. She didn’t want him to go away, ever. This might only
be an illusion of the man she wanted, it could be just another role he played,
but that didn’t seem important.

Marc stopped a
few steps away from the entrance. He turned towards her and ran his fingers over
her cheek.

“You’re a
beautiful, intelligent, and funny lady, and I want you very much. I’ll call you
a taxi if you really want one, but…”

The butterflies
in her stomach just wouldn’t settle. She wanted him too, of course, had always
wanted him, and he had been so close, touching her all day and through the
night. Fought for her, even. How much was one girl supposed to handle?

“Really? So what
are you going to do about it?”

He laughed
softly and pulled her close, and his lips against hers seemed like a dream.

Afterwards, she
wouldn’t be able to say how they got into the hotel and up to his room, but she
would remember the wonderful night, and eventually falling asleep in his arms.

I’ve never
felt this much at home before.

Chapter Three

 

 

Laura woke after
just a few hours and slipped out of bed.

What a
wonderful, crazy, and enchanted day. Life sure took peculiar turns at times.

It seemed
prudent to take a peek in the mirror and check that she didn’t have mascara all
over her face, or something equally silly.

Marc slept,
snoring softly, and didn’t seem to notice her leaving or coming back. This
might be her one chance to curl up to him, a once in a lifetime opportunity,
and she smiled when he wrapped an arm around her, murmuring something in his
sleep.

The next time
she woke the doors were open all through the suite and warm sunlight filled the
room. Marc sat on the side of the bed, dressed in one of the hotel’s white
robes, caressing her hair.

“Wake up,
sleeping beauty. It’s time for breakfast, and if you don’t come by yourself I
both can and will carry you outside.”

“Oh… It’s
morning. Good morning.”

I thought
he’d want nothing more to do with me once morning came and he wasn’t drunk
anymore.

Here he was,
still being nice to her. He took her hand and brushed his lips against her
fingers.

“The convention
doesn’t start for a couple of hours yet. We’ll have to be there, but it’s no
big hurry.”

The way he said
we
filled her with a warm fuzzy feeling. His face didn’t look as bad as
she expected, and he definitely didn’t seem as hung-over as she expected.

I thought I
would have to pull you out of bed and dress you to get to your job on time, or
have to call the arrangers and say you wouldn’t come.

If
she
went through all the things he’d done the previous day, she’d probably fall
down dead.

She anticipated
his lips on hers, but he dropped a robe on her instead, and she plodded after
him through the large rooms, into the sunshine on a balcony she didn’t know
existed. A sumptuous breakfast table waited.

Did I sleep
through you calling room service and someone bringing all this?

It didn’t seem
likely, but there was no other logical explanation. Maybe she was still
dreaming.

He poured a
glass of juice for her, and it tasted real enough. She nibbled a croissant and
sipped some juice and coffee, but mostly played with the food, pretending she
didn’t watch him read the newspaper. He looked so handsome it almost hurt, and
if he wasn’t feeling good, he hid it well.

When he finally
folded the paper up and put it on the table, he gave her a long glance.

“So what do you
say?”

She blinked a
couple of times, but the question didn’t make any more sense after thinking
about it.

“About what?”

He flashed a
smile that made her melt.

“About us. I
like you. I want to see you again.”

The future
seemed very far away, she hadn’t thought further than the next few hours, and
the mere idea of later in the day or even tomorrow was overwhelming.

“I would like
that.”

Marc got to his
feet and bent down to kiss her cheek.

“Good.”

Should she
follow him inside or stay where she was? Luckily, he returned before she had to
make any decisions of that magnitude. He squinted at a cell phone.

“And how the
hell do you add people to this thing?”

He tossed it in
her lap before she had the chance to open her mouth.

“You’ll stay
with me at the convention today, right? Figure out how to put yourself in this.
I want your cell number so I can text you.”

“I…”

There was no
way out of confessing it, but the fact embarrassed her beyond belief.

“I sort of
dropped mine a while ago and never got around to getting a new one, and…”

She trailed
off, feeling her cheeks heat under his astonished stare.

“Are you
serious? Wow, I haven’t met anyone without a cell phone for so long I can’t
remember when…”

He pulled his
chair closer to hers, took her hand, and kissed her fingers at the same time as
he placed a call.

Now what is
he doing? This is all so weird.

“Hey, Lawrence,
I need a favor. I need another phone. What? No I didn’t destroy mine, I’m
calling you from it.”

Rolling his
eyes, he mouthed, “Idiot.”

When Laura
grinned, he winked and returned his attention to the call.

“I don’t care
what number, a good number. Hang on…”

He stopped
playing with her fingers and fixed his eyes on her.

“What kind do
you want?”

She made a
helpless gesture, and he nodded.

“Lawrence, make
it same as mine, or whatever’s new. Have it sent to the hotel. Thanks. For a
lawyer, you’re not bad.”

Wow. Was this
man buying her a
phone
? It didn’t make sense at all.

Marc grinned,
as if reading her mind.

“Hey, now when
I’ve finally found you, I have to make sure I don’t lose you.”

“I need to go
get some clothes.”

“Where ya at?”

Normally, she
wouldn’t remember the name of a hotel if her life depended on it, but she had
looked at the booking so many times, just to make sure she was really going,
the name rolled off her lips without effort.

“The
Courtyard.”

“Never heard of
it. Room number?”

“305.”

“Do you have
your key?”

“No. I left it
at the front desk.”

“Good. That
makes things easier.”

For a moment he
looked weary, but the expression disappeared as quickly as it came. “You’re
staying here with me, right?”

“Of course.”

Strange. She
wouldn’t have expected
him
being the one needing reassurance.

Marc brushed a
lock of hair away from her face.

“You should go
try the Jacuzzi. All your stuff will be here when you’re done.”

Something in
his eyes made her wonder if she was his new favorite toy, or maybe a pet.

She still
didn’t have the willpower to protest.

“Okay.”

 

*****

 

As enchanted as
their time together seemed, it had to come to an end.

The next morning
Laura needed to go south while Marc’s destination lay north. He ordered a limo
to take her to the airport in style, and followed her down to meet it. The car
was exciting, she’d never even seen one up close, but she was also horrible
with goodbyes.

I’ll never
see you again. Damn, I promised myself not to do anything stupid. That worked
well.

A single tear escaped
down her cheek, and he frowned and dried it off.

“Oh no, no
crying over me. I’m a heartless bastard who will go off to cheat on you with my
wife, and I’m definitely not worth any tears.”

His words made
her laugh in spite of all, and he smiled.

“See, that’s
better.”

“I… I don’t want
to go.”

“I know, but you
have a real life waiting somewhere, and I have to go back to my fake one. I’ll
talk to you soon. The sooner you get in the limo the sooner I can call you.”

She nodded and
sat down in a back seat as big as her living room sofa. When the large car
rolled away from the sidewalk, she turned back and looked out the window.
Marc’s shoulders slumped and he pulled a hand over his face, looking worn-out
and old as he went back into the hotel. How much of his real life was acting,
and how much was genuine?

 

*****

 

Marc dragged his
feet through the lobby and into the elevator.

With Laura
there, the rooms resembled a home. Alone once more, it was just another place
with pretty and uncomfortable furniture.

What time is
it?

Right after
eleven. Good enough.

The bar was well
stocked and he poured himself a generous scotch. Staying sober was easy as long
as he had company, but now, with only his own mind to talk to, the silence was
unbearable.

He wandered
around the room and ended up in front of a mirror where he struck some poses of
favorite characters from the past. Leaning forward, he stared into his own
eyes. Was there still a real person in there somewhere, or had he truly lost
himself?

“What the fuck
is wrong with you?”

The mirror
offered no answers and he turned his back to it, barely able to resist an
impulse to smash it. He grabbed the phone instead, squinting at it as he
browsed through the contacts.

I don’t know
where my fucking glasses are, I shouldn’t need glasses. Why can’t she have a
name starting with an A? Anne does, but who the fuck wants to talk to that
nagging bitch?

Maybe she
wouldn’t answer.

Please pick
up.

Laura’s voice
sounded surprised.

“Hello?”

He did his best
to appear cheery. This woman had a good heart. If she suspected how bad off he
was she might turn the car around and miss her flight.

“Hey babe, are
you on the plane yet?”

Her laughter
made everything feel better.

“No, silly, it’s
only been five minutes and I’m in the car.”

He rolled the
cool glass over his forehead.

“Good. Then you
have plenty of time to talk to me.”

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