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Authors: Stephanie Taylor

Tinseltown

BOOK: Tinseltown
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Tinseltown

by Stephanie Taylor

Published by Astraea Press

www.astraeapress.com

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.

 

TINSELTOWN

Copyright © 2013 STEPHANIE TAYLOR

ISBN 978-1-62135-180-1

Cover Art Designed by AM Designs Studios

 

For Bryan –for always making me laugh

 

Other Books by Stephanie Taylor:

 

Lucky for Her

The Picture

Tinseltown

My One True Love

Doubting Thomas

The Unexpected Choice

 

Chapter 1

 

“Cut!”

Deborah Atkins threw her hands up in frustration.

“Zach! Deb! Over here now!”

Deb shot Zach Sparks an exasperated look. This was his fault anyway.

As they approached the director, Stephen Fernbank, who sat in his little director chair, she saw from the stern look on his face it was reckoning time.

“Okay,” he said in a low, tightly controlled voice. “I want to know what’s going on. The chemistry between you two is unmistakable. All of a sudden, you’re acting like you’d both rather be in a room full of hungry crocodiles. I can tell you right now it’s making this film suffer, as well as your careers.”

Zach spoke first just as Deb was about to apologize. “I’m not trying to place blame, Mr. Fernbank, but Deb is making it really hard for us to work together.”

Deb’s jaw dropped in astonishment. The idiot!

“Sir, that’s not true at all. I’ve gone above and beyond to accommodate his silly idiosyncrasies.” She shot Zach another look, but he avoided eye contact.

“What started this?” Mr. Fernbank crossed his arms.

Zach and Deb looked at one another, but Deb wasn’t willing to tell the director the genesis of their feud.

“Don’t tell me this has to do with that crazy marriage I just read about,” he demanded. “I thought it was just tabloid fodder.”

This time Deb spoke first, albeit reluctantly. “Yes, it does. Zach, the Academy Award-winning actor here, decided to take advantage of my rather inebriated state and didn’t like it when I woke up horrified.”

“Oh, what a lie.” Zach laughed heartily. “She dressed in next to nothing and threw herself at me. I merely suggested a marriage as a joke, and before I knew it, she’d hauled me into a chapel. It’s not my fault the paparazzi caught everything.”

Mr. Fernbank nodded. “So, in other words, you’re both at fault.”

Deb clenched her teeth. When he put it that way, she couldn’t argue. Yes, they had both made mistakes in Vegas almost two days ago. Despite her drunken state, Zach knew full well a marriage was what she wanted. Not necessarily with him but someone. He just happened to be the lucky winner. But, most of all, she was embarrassed she had taken his proposal seriously. What had she been thinking? Moreover, what had he been thinking to allow it to happen?

“Look.” The director stepped off his pedestal and looked each of them square in the eye, one at a time. “I’m cutting filming short until this is resolved. We’re wasting our time and our efforts here. It’s almost the holidays, so I’m going to do something I’ve never done before.”

He continued to eye them and Deb bit her lip. What he was about to say couldn’t be good.

“I’m ordering both of you to spend the next few weeks together. And while you’re at it, resolve all this pettiness and come back ready to work, understand? Even if you get a divorce to put you back where you were before you married in Vegas. If I find out either of you broke this deal, I’m finding new actors. You’re lucky I’m giving you this opportunity instead of just replacing you.”

“But…” Deb squeaked, not wanting to push her luck but knowing she had to say something. “I’m going home for the holidays.”

“Then I guess you’ll have to take your new husband home to meet the parents,” he shot back.

Deb understood the underlying tone in his words. They were almost halfway through filming a movie, causing a buzz for Oscar potential. To bow out now meant bad press and speculation over why she left, not to mention no one would hire her if she’d been fired from a movie set. Deb didn’t want to mess up her own career because little Zachey-boy didn’t want to be rejected.

“What do you say?” Mr. Fernbank asked the two of them.

“I won’t say I like it,” she said first, beating Zach to the punch, so she looked eager to do Fernbank’s bidding. “But I’m willing to give it a shot.”

Zach looked at her and ran a hand through his hair. If he hadn’t been such an egotistical jerk, Deb could get lost in his intense golden eyes. She had once, and it had landed her right where she stood now: in a mess of trouble.

“I kind of have plans, too. I’ve already told her—” he said hesitantly.

“Everyone has plans over the holidays,” Mr. Fernbank argued.

“But…”

“Ahhh, need to see a lady friend, huh? Well, I guess you’ll just have to pick your poison,” he said.

Deb bristled at his implication and glared at Zach. All the while, the desperation in her chest threatened to choke her. If Zach didn’t agree to this, he was out of his mind.

“I don’t like it either, but if it’s spend time with you or new actors, I’m in.” His voice was flat, his eyes emotionless.

“Thanks for your enthusiasm.” She shot him a saccharine-sweet smile. “He’s in for a treat, spending time in New York,” she directed at Mr. Fernbank. “It might put his world back into perspective.”

“Good,” Mr. Fernbank replied. “Now get ready to leave. I want you two and the bodyguard on a flight out of here tonight.”

“I told my bodyguard he could have the holidays off,” Deb said.

Fernbank looked to Zach. “I guess that means you’re in charge of her protection. Now both of you run along and get ready to fly out of here in a few hours.”

Deb’s heart raced. She knew if she told her family why she was bringing him home, it would shame them. Deb Atkins did
not
marry someone in a Vegas wedding, especially not when she had been raised to keep herself grounded and apart from the Hollywood scene. She also knew if she didn’t tell her family she was suddenly married, things would get infinitely worse. They knew not to read the tabloids and Deb sent up a prayer of thanks.

“Zach,” she called out when they were far enough away from Fernbank.

He turned and looked at her, waiting for her to speak.

She hesitated. He stared into her core, as if he could see through her. Those full lips, which could kiss so well, were held in a grim line, but it just made him look fierce. All she wanted for Christmas was to be able to look at him without the threat of weakened knees. “I know this isn’t what you want, but…”

“Yeah,” he snarled. “This isn’t what I want. It’s not what you want, either. After all, you’d rather be dead than be married to me, right?”

For a second, she could remember quite clearly those words she’d spoken to him at the bar on D-Day. “Zach, I didn’t…” She licked her lips and swallowed. “I didn’t mean it the way you think I meant it.”

His eyes hardened further. “I guess we’ll never know, huh?”

She inhaled a deep breath and took another step toward him. “Listen, my family? They’re really excited for me about this movie, and if they find out I’ve done anything to jeopardize this, they’re going to be disappointed in me.”

“And?” he asked, his tone harsh.

“And if I don’t tell them why you’re coming, they’re going to assume…” She let the rest fall away.

“We’re really married?” he supplied.

At her nod, he shook his head.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t tell them my job is at stake,” she said.

“What about telling them you have a husband?”

“We both know this isn’t a real marriage, Zach.”

His hard glare told her he wouldn’t dignify her sentence with a comeback. She lowered her head and closed her eyes, sure her life was about to come unhinged.

“Give me one good reason why I should help you,” he said after a moment. He crossed his powerful arms across the expanse of his chest and spread his feet wide, a typical intimidation technique she’d witnessed him using more than once.

“Because your job’s at stake too. If you had a family to go home to, you’d want them to be proud of you. If you knew my family, you wouldn’t want to disappoint them either.”

“So I’m supposed to
pretend
we’re together even when we really are?” He arched his brow as he stared her down.

“We’re not really together and you know it. If you can find another way then I’m all for it.”

Zach pressed his lips together and ran frustrated fingers through his black hair. His jaw pulsed. Without another word, he turned on his heel and began walking.

Deb’s frantic heart beat faster and she took off after him. She refused to be rattled by his rudeness. “Will you do it?”

“No.” His voice left no room for discussion and her steps faltered, stopping altogether. Her heart sank and she felt as if she stood at the edge of a cliff, looking down at the turbulent waters of her own life. Her family was about to find out she wasn’t just a failure at her job, but at her marriage, too.

* * * *

Zach rubbed his jaw as he sat in his trailer, unable to think straight. Deb wasn’t playing fair. She hadn’t from day one.

At first, he had believed she played the ol’ cat-and-mouse game. They had flirted and touched. They had made eye contact and winked occasionally. She genuinely kissed him on set during filming instead of the dead fish kiss most actresses gave him. But on the night that everything went horribly wrong, Zach realized she
had
played a game, only not the one he thought. She had led him on.

Deb had showed up at the Vegas party, wearing the most incredible gown he had ever laid eyes on. The deep “V” in the neck extended down to her ribcage with a tight-fit bodice and a flowing train. The rosy color had looked amazing against her tanned skin and golden-blonde hair. And he’d been the first one she had sought out, coming straight up to him with those beautiful blue eyes and full lips, flirting and saying all the right things. He had pulled her into a bathroom where cameras or prying eyes couldn’t see and kissed her senseless.

She’d looked at him through confused eyes and while he knew she had been drinking, he hadn’t realized how completely intoxicated she was.

“Let’s get married,” he had suggested, unable to picture his life without her. She was so beautiful and everything he could ever imagine wanting.

Her eyes danced back and forth between his. “Let’s do it,” she whispered back and gave him a stunning smile.

Releasing her, he took her back out to the ballroom to dance. It was there she had said the sexiest things to him, what she would like to do to him, how she would do it and then kissed him like he’d never been kissed before, right in front of the press. And, heaven help him, he hadn’t stopped her. Instead, he’d responded, fueling the flashes and clicks from the other side of the room.

After the kiss, they were in her limo in less than ten seconds, and at a chapel in less than twenty minutes.

Vows had been issued, cheap rings exchanged, and a kiss had sealed their fate.

When Deb surfaced for air, her eyes had held a softness he hadn’t seen before. Something inside his gut twisted then, and he’d known he was in love. He’d taken her back to their hotel and made love to her as long as his body had allowed. She was the most amazing woman he’d ever met. Her outer and inner beauty shined even when she was drunk. The sweet noises she’d made as he loved her, the promises of forever they’d made together that night fueled his desire for her.

Early the next morning she’d finally fallen asleep in his arms and he’d watched her slumber. He’d vowed then and there he’d never be like his father and take for granted the wonderful gift he’d been given. Feeling her soft breath against his chest and the beautiful sight of her long hair splayed against her pillow had made him hold her a little tighter. She’d burrowed into him more and put her small hand against his chest, completely trusting.

It was just before noon before she’d awakened. He still watched her, thinking about what their future might hold, and she had opened her eyes and looked around their hotel room. That’s when the crap had hit the fan, so to speak. She’d pushed up from the bed, the sheet pooled around her bare waist. After a quick glance down at her naked body and the glinting gold band on her hand, she’d quickly covered herself and grimaced.

“This is a joke, right?” she had asked, her voice scratchy.

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