Authors: Kim Carmichael
Her fiancé took a step back. “I think we have nothing more to say. I’m off duty.”
“You can be off duty forever,” Erin whispered. “It’s over.”
Ryder nodded. “It’s time.”
“We all need to do the right thing.” Logan exhaled.
“You should stay. Everyone really wanted to talk to Ivy.” Ryder let out a laugh. “How did you end up on stage anyway?”
“We took a wrong turn.” From behind some crates, Drew appeared.
“Oh my God.” Erin put her hand over her mouth and dashed away.
“You know, I always thought no one could make me out, but your fiancée figured out my identity at Wilson’s opening and never said a word.” He lifted his chin in Logan’s direction.
“I know who I can trust.” Logan tightened his hold on her.
“Why don’t I do the media thing tonight, and you and your fiancée can get out of here?” Drew tilted his head toward the exit. “I think I’m a pretty good distraction.”
Logan bowed his head, and with her still in his arms, he walked away. “Let’s go have a happily ever after, shall we?”
“I think I finally got over my stage fright.” She pulled him down.
He brushed his lips over hers. “Well, it looks like I finally got the girl.”
Book Two in the Hollywood Stardust Series
Flashes from the cameras created lingering, silver, glowing starbursts in Drew Fulton’s eyes. The media frenzy started almost instantly, derailing the twentieth-anniversary screening of the one and only movie he had filmed,
. For someone who had successfully remained hidden for two decades, he chose the ideal subtle moment to come out of his self-imposed exile—or maybe not.
“Drew, where have you been all these years?” called out one of the reporters gathered for the gala.
Once the studio executives had realized what had happened, they’d stopped all the festivities and, with a bit of movie magic, had made the stage into a spot fit for a press conference in record time.
Before showing up at the shindig, he had promised himself to go for it. Now was the time for full disclosure, and he leaned down to the microphone. “To encapsulate two decades into one sentence, I changed my name, went to school, earned my doctorate, and opened up a small nutraceutical laboratory.” All right, it wasn’t the world’s best sentence, but it would suffice. In the next two days, he would have to show up at his business and do a lot of explaining, something he sort of pushed aside when he made his snap decision to come here to find her.
A woman waved her hand. “Why did you feel the need to change your name and disappear?”
Drew wasn’t sure if she was part of the media or not, but if he didn’t answer her, someone else would force the issue.
He searched for her in the studio set converted to look like the inside of the Hollywood Stardust theater, the destination for the four characters in the movie. In the film, their quest took them across country. The road was a metaphor for the trip one takes to transition between adolescence and adulthood.
In real life, he and the other actors had faced the same challenges.
Once more, he looked for her. With her knowledge of all things smoke and mirrors, no doubt she managed to squirrel away where she could watch everything, yet not be seen. For the first time since he had met her, she’d shied away from the limelight.
He swallowed and took hold of the microphone stand. While he wanted to offer the fans of the movie the truth they sought for all these years, the answer as to why he disappeared was better left unspoken, at least in public.
“Sometimes you need to just get away from everything and everyone and start over.” More lights went off, leaving him blinking to see.
“But how did you hide your identity?” The question came from a male in the crowd.
An easy one. “During the movie I wore prosthetics to appear more like the producers wanted the character, and they asked me to stay in costume for public appearances. It was very easy to fade away once the costume came off . . . and the weight came off.”
Some chuckles went through the audience.
Yes, he was the chubby kid. During filming he had lost weight, causing a whole host of issues for the movie. They had to keep adding padding to his costume to keep the consistency. He hid for a while, let the fanfare of the movie die down, and then went abroad for college. By the time he returned with a different name, no one ever put it together. He still found it incredible that he had pulled it off at all. Maybe he was a real actor after all.
“Have you kept in touch with your cast mates?” Another question barreled toward him.
He glanced off to the side. While he might not be able to find her, his best friend, Logan Alexander, was always there. Logan nodded, giving him the okay to answer. “Only Logan Alexander.” The quote unquote villain of both the movie and of real life was one of the best people he knew. One might even say a hero.
Some mumbles went through the crowd.
“Drew, why did you decide to come back now?”
Again, he looked for her. Where did she hide herself? On the other side of the stage, he located Ryder Scott, their leading man. The poster boy for a movie star, he always had everything. After the film, Ryder went on to a successful career and now also dabbled in directing and producing. However, he couldn’t locate the last of their four. The reason he came out of hiding.
“I have some unfinished business.” He needed to go find her. “I can take one more question before we should probably let you all get back to the movie.”
“Can we get a picture of the four of you together?”
Well, the promise of a picture that would be all over the world should bring her out. He turned left and right. Ryder joined him first, shaking his hand and taking center stage to thunderous applause. Logan, who only moments before proposed to his fiancée on this exact stage, came out next, and the clapping grew to the point where it vibrated the building.
Logan shook his hand and raised his eyebrows.
“Where is she?” Drew attempted to ask the question without moving his lips.
“She’ll be here.” Logan patted his back and took his place.
The crowd stilled as if holding its collective breath, waiting for the one female of the group.
He ground his teeth together. After everything he just did, would she not reveal herself?
And then she appeared.
Damn him to hell for his breath catching at the sight of her. Though he followed her career and watched her in her movies, her television appearances, even clips of her in a stage play, nothing compared to her in person.
She stepped to the edge of the stage, and the applause began once more. Yes, even with his news of showing up after twenty years, Erin Holland would always steal the spotlight.
The color that overtook her cheeks would be gorgeous in the pictures, but he knew better. He knew the blush came from her being flustered, unsure, and taken off guard. If they were alone, away from the scrutiny of the public, she would be crying. Not that it mattered. Crying, flush, with or without makeup, and even with twenty years behind them, he had never seen a more beautiful woman.
Instead, she nodded toward the audience and made her way to them. Her silver form-fitting dress moved like liquid metal, fluid and flowing. She wore her blonde hair down, smooth and cascading over one shoulder, but pulled back from her picture-perfect face. Her doelike blue eyes and heart-shaped lips were all natural and the envy of many a teenage girl way back when.
She stared into his eyes, asking questions, shooting accusations. In short, being Erin through and through. The one woman he couldn’t stand, but couldn’t get out of his mind. He could never move forward if he only looked back, and the second she came within reach, he held his hand out to her.
“Drew.” She licked her lips, put her hand in his, and gave him a hug. Her trembling betrayed her cool outward demeanor.
“I came here for you.” He inhaled. Her perfume might have changed, but the aroma enveloping him was the same. It was just her. “We need to talk.”
Without a word, she pulled back and took her position between Logan and Ryder. The three made up the love triangle of
, while Drew’s character was always left standing on the edge, just like him.
Again, the flashes went off, and he found himself posing with the rest of them. Old habits returned—subtle changes in his position to catch the light, show off a better angle, allow the photographers to get the ever-important shot.
He needed to get to the person he came here for and raised his hand, the universal signal for stopping the show.
“Drew, one more question before you leave,” a woman called over the mumbles, the claps, and the oohs and ahhs.
“What unfinished business brought you back? Is this a publicity stunt for the movie or was it something, or someone, else?”
“It wasn’t a stunt. In fact, I didn’t even know I was going to do this until about an hour before I arrived.” He turned, wanting to catch her before she ran away licking her self-perceived wounds.
As usual, he was too late. Erin had already vanished, and he almost fought a laugh. Once more, he changed his life for her, and again she wasn’t around. “As for the rest, stay tuned.”
TO BE CONTINUED . . .
Kim Carmichael began writing nine years ago when her love of happy endings inspired her to create her own.
A Southern California native, Kim’s contemporary romance combines Hollywood magic with pop culture to create quirky characters set against some of most unique and colorful settings in the world.
With a weakness for designer purses, bad boys, and techno geeks, Kim married her own computer whiz after he proved he could keep all her gadgets running and finally admitted handbags were an investment.
Kim is a PAN member of the Romance Writers of America, as well as some small specialty chapters. A multi-published author, Kim’s books can be found on Amazon as well as in Barnes & Noble.
When not writing, she can usually be found slathered in sunscreen trolling Los Angeles and helping top doctors build their practices.
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