~ And Playing the Role of Herself... ~
DISCLAIMER: This is an original fiction story. Any similarities to real people are purely coincidental.
FICTION WARNING: The entire story takes place in cities where I do not live. The internet is an amazing tool for research and I tried to make things as realistic as possible, but I'm a writer, and I'll admit that when reality didn't suit, I made stuff up. Apologies to residents of LA, New York and the Florida Keys for any 'where the hell is that?' moments you may experience.
LOVE/SEX WARNING: This story contains a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If this bothers you, move along, there's lots of other good fiction out there.
THANKS: Many, many thanks to those who've helped me through this one, especially Renée and Linda for their beta greatness, Meghan for inspiration, support and always believing, and Deb for infinite patience, steadfast encouragement and love.
The boy cowered, shrinking back as I crouched down and reached out a hand towards his face.
"It's ok," I said quietly, stilling my hand, waiting.
Huge, brown eyes looked up at me hesitantly through long, dark lashes.
"It's ok, Samuel." I smiled reassuringly. "I'm not going to hurt you."
I reached out again and his eyes widened in fear, but he let me touch his chin and gently turn his head to the side. I froze for a moment, staring at the swollen bruise that ran along the left side of his face, and then gripped him by the shoulders, harder than I intended, allowing the anger I was feeling to show in my face.
"Who did this to you, Samuel?" I hissed. "Who did this?"
The voice sliced across the silent set like a pistol shot, and I could feel the small shoulders under my hands jump in reaction.
I sighed and dropped my hands to my thighs as noise and chatter erupted on the set around me. The camera looming to my right moved back and I pushed myself to my feet.
The boy giggled and wiped at his runny nose, leaving a shiny trail of mucus across his upper lip.
"Becca?" I called over to one of the hovering assistants. "Can we get a kleenex or something over here?"
I was all for realism in television, but there was no way I was going to hug this kid with all that snot on him, regardless of what the script called for.
While Becca, a tiny red-head in a tight, lime-green top, hurried over and began fussing over the boy, I turned towards the sound of approaching footsteps, schooling my face into polite deference that I did not feel.
"What's wrong, Adam? I thought that was going well."
I didn't, really - I had been too aggressive, stemming from not enough sleep, a very long week and a vicious headache - but I sure as hell wasn't going to admit that to this asshole.
Adam Kreizeck was short, obnoxious and sweaty; I had disliked him on sight, and it had become quite obvious over the last week of shooting that the feeling was definitely mutual.
"That's why I'm the director, Miss Harris, and you are not."
You're the director because you're married to the producer's niece, jackass.
I forced a non-committal smile, and kept my thoughts to myself.
I hated guest directors.
They threw off everyone's game, screwed around with the normal pace of shooting, and were generally a pain in the ass. Kreizeck's stint as director had resulted in 16-hour days, multiple scenes having to be re-shot, and the killer headache that I'd had for what seemed like the last 72 hours.
"Let's try this again," sweaty-man continued, "with a little more compassion and a little less Rambo. You're trying to help the boy, Miss Harris, not assault him."
The fact that he was correct in this particular case annoyed me even more than his arrogant smile. I nodded curtly, resisting the urge to slap him.
He snapped his fingers impatiently, bringing production assistants scurrying to his side. "And someone please tell Miss Stokley we'll be ready for her soon."
"Miss Stokley," a rich, very feminine voice drawled, "is already here."
The effect of the voice on Kreizeck was instantaneous. He spun towards the sound with more athleticism than I'd given him credit for and practically sprinted to the front of the set where Elizabeth Ann Stokley was regally settling herself into her chair.
"Hello Adam," she murmured. "Sorry if I'm a little late. I got held up in wardrobe."
I looked at her outfit - the same one she had worn for walkthrus 3 hours before - and thought her tardiness was more likely due to a certain muscle-bound intern named Chad, Liz's flavor of the week, than any type of wardrobe problem. Not that it would have mattered what her excuse was. Hell, she could have told him she was blowing the head of the network in the men's room, and I doubt he would have batted an eye or changed his panting eagerness one bit.
"Oh, not a problem, not a problem. Wonderful. You look great, just great."
I rolled my eyes, torn between annoyance and amusement as Liz worked her magic and Kreizeck was reduced to a pool of drooling, fawning jello.
And who could blame him?
Elizabeth Ann Stokley was certainly easy on the eye. Blond hair, blue eyes, a dazzling smile, a body that curved in all the right places and a southern belle charm that could wrap even the biggest of assholes, male or female, around her perfect little finger.
An attractive package, no doubt.
She was also a temperamental, moody perfectionist, one hell of an actor, and since the very first day I started work on the set of 9th Precinct, a good friend.
It still amazed me, when I thought about it. An unknown from nowhere - me - acting opposite an established television personality like Liz Stokley. From beer commercials to the big time in the blink of an eye.
9th Precinct, or 9P as the cast and crew called it, was a police drama showcasing the lives of six detectives in a Homicide unit in Los Angeles. Liz played the series' main character, Jen Hastings; a young, optimistic detective with a five year old daughter, a mortgage, and extremely bad taste in husbands, while I played Rita Stone, her rather caustic, intense, and cynical partner. When they were casting for the part of Rita, they were looking for a woman who was basically the polar opposite of Liz. My dark hair, square jaw and rangy 5'10'' frame was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time; I got the part, and my life since then had been quite the rollercoaster ride.
Kreizeck's snapping fingers brought me out of my thoughts; I guess he'd finished his fawning and wanted to get back to work. "Miss Harris, can we try this again?"
I met Liz's amused gaze above the director's head - that's how short the little prick was - and smiled slightly.
"Sure, Adam. I'm ready when you are."
"Okay people!" More snapping. "Places!"
I rolled my shoulders, blew out a long breath, and looked down at my snotty co-star. Despite the kleenex, he was still oozing mucus.
It was going to be a long, long day.
Some last-minute rearranging of the day's shooting schedule had turned my long day into a relatively short one, and by two that afternoon I was done with my scenes for the day and not due back on the set until an 8:30 call time the following morning. Pleasant thoughts of comfortable clothes, spring sunshine, and a good book in the hammock in my backyard were dancing in my head as I opened the door to my trailer, and I didn't realize I had company until I kicked the door shut behind me and the tall, lean woman on my couch jerked awake, blinked in confusion for a moment, and smiled at me sleepily.
"Caidence...hey." The voice was low, rough and husky - whiskey-soaked, I'd heard someone in the media call it - and I felt it, and that smile, all the way down to my toes.
She stretched luxuriously, like a big, satisfied cat, making a little mewling sound that turned into a long, satisfied groan. With effort, I tore my eyes away from the flash of skin above the waist of her jeans, and the way her breasts - Jesus, is she even wearing a bra? Christ, Caid, stop looking at her breasts! - strained against the fabric of her shirt.
"Robyn. Shit, you scared me." I sat down heavily in the chair in front of the mirror, glad to have an excuse for suddenly weak legs.
You'd think I would be used to it by now.
We'd worked together several times, and I saw her if not daily, at least one or two times a week for the last eighteen months, whether on the set of 9th Precinct or In Their Defense, the lawyer series that Robyn worked on for the same network. The two shows were launched the same year, set in the same city, and often, actors from one show did guest appearances on the other, as Robyn had been doing for the last three weeks. The woman even shared my trailer when she worked on 9P, which explained why she was on my couch.
But no matter how many times I saw Robyn Ward, worked with her, or shared her space, her stunning looks and raw sensuality always left me tongue-tied, slightly off-center and just a little breathless.
"Sorry." She yawned and swung long legs off the couch to sit up, running a hand through long, slightly tousled dark hair, looking around the room blearily. "I think doing this double duty is finally catching up to me. I nearly fell asleep on the set today between takes."
"I'll bet," I agreed, watching her reflection in the mirror, absently going through the motions of removing the makeup that, onscreen, was suppose to make it look as though I didn't wear any. "I'm only working one show this week, and I'm about to drop. If there were more space on that couch, I would have joined you."
Remember what I said about the tongue-tied part? Let me re-phrase. I either can't think of anything to say, or the stuff that does come out of my mouth is really embarrassing and leads to uncontrollable blushing, like I was doing now.
I was thankful for a darker complexion that hopefully hid it.
"Really?" She quirked her eyebrow at me with an amused grin. "I'll remember that for next time, and make sure to leave you some room."
Oh, how I adored when she did that thing with her eyebrow.
In fact, her eyebrows were one of my favorite things about her, sweeping upward across her brow in dark, linear precision, wielded with devastating effect at opportune moments. Indeed, I loved those eyebrows, ranking right up there with chocolate brown eyes, silky dark hair, wide, full mouth, angular face, endless legs, beautiful hands, smooth, tan skin, tall, graceful body, the tiny cleft in her chin, and the mole on the side of her neck, just below her ear, that you could see when she absently pushed her hair behind her ear?
I blinked, realizing that I was staring.
"Caidence?" She had leaned back, draping a long arm across the back of the couch and was regarding me with a look she'd begun to favor me with recently - a secretive little smile that was a mixture of amusement, curiosity, and taunting.
I was starting to think that perhaps Ms. Ward was quite aware of the effect she had on me, and enjoyed watching me make an idiot of myself.
"Uh, sorry. Spaced out there for a second." I smiled weakly, took a last swipe at my face, and turned around to face her.
"I can relate, believe me," she said with a tired smile and stretched out her legs to their full length - which took up nearly half of the room - crossing them at the ankle. "So, what's your opinion of Kreizeck? I haven't had to work with him yet, but I have three scenes today. I talked with Liz, and she said he was fine, but Danny said he was an 'effin' loosa'."
She mimicked the actor's New York accent flawlessly and I laughed, startled by a less serious side of Robyn that I hadn't seen before. The laugh was spontaneous, and seemed to take us both by surprise, probably because my laughter in her presence up until now had always sounded slightly giddy or hysterical, like a 12 year old girl hopped up on pop tarts and ho-hos.
Hey, maybe I could behave like a normal adult around her, after all.
"Well," I said, laughing again and pleased that, again, it seemed very natural. "Liz, in typical Liz-like fashion, has the poor man eating out of her hand. Her only complaint should be that he drools a little too much. I, on the other hand, would have to agree with Danny. The guy's a prick."
This was probably the longest statement I had ever managed to string together in front of her, and I was quite proud of myself. The nervousness I'd felt minutes before had faded into a kind of heady euphoria to just be in her presence and have her attention focused on me. Unable to stop myself, I flashed her a huge grin.
She blinked, and returned the smile tentatively, but her brows were furrowed in what looked like confusion.
"You?" she started, but paused.
"What?" I cocked my head to the side, still smiling happily. I don't think anything could wipe that smile from my face.
"You?" she hesitated again, and smiled slightly. "You have a great laugh, Caidence. I don't think I've really heard it before."
Ok. That worked. Smile now turned into stunned 'O' of disbelief.
"Uh?thanks," I stammered and dropped my gaze, blushing furiously.
My sudden and obvious loss of equilibrium had the opposite effect on Robyn, and when I managed to meet her gaze again, the little secretive smile was firmly back in place.
My nervousness returned, although not to the near debilitating levels of before, and I was reasonably certain that I would be able to continue the conversation without making a further idiot of myself.
"So Kreizeck's a prick, huh?" She raised one arm off the back of the couch and rubbed at her temple, closing her eyes for a moment. "That's just great."
"Yep," I agreed.
"Shit. I hate guest directors."
I smiled slightly at that, and gave her more bad news. "And I've noticed that he's not particularly fond of tall people."
Robyn topped my 5'10 by at least an inch. It was going to drive Kreizeck insane.
She stopped her rubbing and opened her eyes to stare at me. "You're kidding."
"Sorry." I shrugged in sympathy. "But if you really want to piss him off, stand close to him so that he has to look up to talk to you. Works like a charm."
The eyebrow went up, and she said dryly, "Sounds like a technique you may have used yourself, a time or two."
"A time or two," I replied, and winked.
I winked at Robyn Ward.
One might even construe what I had just done as?flirting.
I was flirting with Robyn Ward.
Me - who had just a few years ago come to the cautious conclusion that I was attracted to women and had yet to act upon that attraction - flirting with Robyn Ward, who was constantly being photographed with her very handsome, very famous, very sweet tennis playing boyfriend Josh Riley; together the poster children for blissful, rich-and-famous heterosexual coupling.
Holy fucking crap. What in the hell was I thinking?!?
Robyn seemed as stunned as I was, whether by the fact that I had winked and was quite possibly flirting with her, or the fact that, contrary to what she had believed before, I had shown in the last few minutes that I actually possessed a personality equal to my 34 years, and could be somewhat charming when I put my mind to it.
The moment was broken by a loud knock on the trailer door, and both of us jumped at the sound.
"Caid?" The muffled voice of the 2nd Assistant Director, Mariel Lacey, came from outside.
"Yeah," I answered, dragging my eyes away from Robyn's. "Come on in, Mari."
The dark-skinned woman poked her head in the door, the beads in her tightly braided hair clacking gently together. "Caid, I'm glad you're still here. Thought I was going to have to call you back in..." She noticed the woman on the couch, and smiled happily, "Oh, hey Robyn. I'm glad you're both here."
She stepped into the trailer and handed a stapled set of papers to me, then shuffled through a stack of papers she was carrying and pulled out another set, handing them to Robyn.
"Josiah's dad was hospitalized this afternoon with chest pains, and he left as soon as he heard?Adam doesn't want to wait for him to get back, so he had the writers re-work some of the remaining scenes, using the people we had. These are your sides?Robyn, yours haven't changed much, you'll just be doing two of the scenes with Danny only, and the one you had with Josiah, you'll be doing with Caid."
I took the papers automatically. "Uh?"
"Great. We'll see you both in the breakroom set in," she glanced down at a minuscule watch on her wrist, "one hour." She looked at Robyn. "You'd better get to wardrobe, and you," she pointed at me, "get to makeup. Now I've gotta go find Danny?"
The woman bustled out of the trailer, and I sighed, leafing through the sheets absently.
The hammock was going to have to wait for another day.
"Well, you heard the woman," Robyn rasped eventually. "We'd better get ourselves going."
"Yeah," I said, sighing heavily as I stood up and stretched. "There go my big plans for the afternoon."
Robyn followed me out of the trailer, and we continued to talk as we made our way across the parking lot and into the building. "You had something special planned?"
I glanced at her. "Probably not what most people would call special?just a good book and the hammock in my yard, and maybe a nap."
"Oh god," she said with a groan, "that sounds heavenly. Sign me up."
I smiled, thinking I'd sign her up for whatever the heck she wanted, whenever and however she wanted it.
We parted company at wardrobe, and I made my way on to hair and makeup. As I sat in the chair and let Jules reapply my non-makeup, Drew the hairdresser came by and tisked at my hair with pursed lips.
"Hon, what did you do to yourself?"
I looked at my reflection in the mirror. My hair looked the same as had for the past few months - short and dark with highlighted streaks sticking out wildly in every direction.
I just smiled at him as he started teasing and spraying, he and Jules moving around me in a comfortable, silent synchrony that spoke of hundreds of hours working together.
The first year on the show, I'd had slightly longer, wavy dark hair, but for this season, they'd asked for a change, wanting me 'edgier'. The porcupine on my head was the result of my acquiescence, and I was actually starting to like it quite a bit. I found it extremely easy to take care of, but Drew always fussed over it, working hard to make it look like it already looked when I rolled out of bed. I told him once that I could just save him the trouble by not showering in the morning before I came in, and the horrified look I received from him had made me laugh so hard that Jules nearly poked my eye out with the eyeliner pencil.
I heard someone enter the room, and moments later Liz dropped herself heavily in the chair beside me.
Drew and Jules both looked at her expectantly, until Liz waved a vague hand at them. "No, no, I'm just here to talk to Caid."
"What are you still doing here?" I asked after the two went back to work on my hair and face. "I thought you'd be long gone."
She snorted, a decidedly un-southern-belle like sound. "Fuck. That man won't leave me alone."
I didn't have to ask who 'that man' was. Every time I had left the set that week, Kreizeck had been hovering all over her like a bad smell.
"If you'd let Bitchy Liz show up, instead of Charming Liz, you wouldn't be having this problem," I pointed out reasonably.
She frowned at my lack of sympathy. "There are certain people who respond better to charming, and Adam is definitely one of those." She sniffed. "You should work on charming. It's amazing what it can get you sometimes."
I thought of my earlier conversation with Robyn, and smiled to myself.
Liz was running a hand through her hair and stopped when she saw the smile.
"What?" She demanded, narrowing her eyes.
"What what?" I tried for innocence?I was an actor, goddamnit, I should be able to manage a little innocence.
"What's that satisfied little smile for?" She leaned forward, peering at me intently. "Caidence Harris, what aren't you telling me?"
I laughed lightly. "There are lots of things I don't tell you, Liz, because you can't keep a secret to save your life. This is just one more of those things."
"Ohhhh, so it's a secret?"
Shit. Walked right into that one.
"No, it's not."
"Yes, it is, and I'm going to find out what it is."
I rolled my eyes and shrugged. "Suit yourself. There's nothing to find out."
She smiled sweetly, and turned her attention onto Drew. "Drew?"
He shrugged, not taking his attention from my hair. Liz frowned, and looked at Jules. "Jules?"
The makeup artist paused in her task and shrugged. "I don't know?she seems the same to me."
Liz pouted and I smiled at her smugly.
"?although she was whistling when she came in," Jules finished.
I shot her a wounded look, while Liz's eyes lit up in glee.
"Caid was whistling?" she cooed, and reached out to pinch me in the arm. "Our own little Grumpy Gus?"
"Ow." I jerked my arm away. "I was not whistling. I do not whistle."
Jules just raised her eyebrows in disbelief. I scowled.
"Come on Caid, fess up. Who is it?" Liz turned her chair and propped her elbows on her knees, like she was getting ready for me to read her a bedtime story. "Is it that sexy little extra that played the barrista? Yum-yum! He had a great ass. Good choice, Caid. God knows you need to get laid."
Shit. I nearly groaned out loud.
If there were two people on the set who were bigger gossips than Liz, they were Jules and Drew. By tomorrow morning it would be all over the set that I'd been caught spanking some extra's ass in the prop room. There would probably be a monkey involved, and a steaming cup of cappuccino. Half-café, double-tall.
"Liz," I said sharply, and risked Jules' ire by turning my head and meeting Liz's blue gaze. "I told you it's nothing, okay? Now, did you come in here for a reason?"
She pouted prettily, but dropped the subject with a nod, knowing from experience that I could be less than forthcoming when I was pissed off. "Actually, there was. You know that Q & A session I was supposed to do tomorrow at the Four Seasons?"
"Well, I was supposed to go with Josiah?I assume you heard Josiah's gone?"
I nodded again and asked, "Has anyone heard how his father is?"
She blinked, and frowned as though the question had never occurred to her, but she knew it should have.
For Liz, one of the residual effects of being in the spotlight since the age of seven was that unless she forced herself to, she rarely thought of others. It wasn't selfishness, really, just a lack of ever having to hear about, or deal with, other people's problems. She really was a genuinely nice person; she just hadn't been trained to show it.
"George said that Josiah called from the plane, but he hadn't heard anything else," Drew broke in, saving Liz any embarrassment.
She smiled at him, and turned her attention back to me. "Yes, so anyway, they asked Danny to do it with me, but he has a pretty heavy schedule tomorrow, and so does Henry, and you know how Micah is?"
I smiled slightly, picturing Micah - who hated the press and wasn't at all shy about saying so - at a Q & A session with a bunch of reporters firing questions at him.
"So that leaves me." At her nod, I continued, "I've got an 8:30 call tomorrow?"
"Already taken care of. They're rearranging the schedules, and we don't need to be in until late afternoon."
Which meant a nice, long evening of work for me, after what promised to be a nerve-wracking morning with the press. Wonderful.
"So basically," I said as Jules turned my face back to the front impatiently, "you're not here to ask me, you're here to tell me that I'm doing this."
"Well, basically, yes. They thought you'd be nicer to me if I told you?you know, Charming Liz."
I sighed, accepting my fate. "What time?"
Liz smiled - the brilliant smile that had graced countless magazine covers and had made her famous. "Meet me here at eight; they'll have a car for us."
I nodded and after a few more minutes of chatting, Liz left me to my primping. Two more fluffs of my hair and a critical look later, I was deemed presentable and made my way to set seven to find a quiet spot to look over the scene and my lines.
No scenes were shooting when I got to the set, although there was a lot of activity. I found a semi-lit corner in the back and looked around for a seat, smiling when I spotted a neon green beanbag up against the wall. I kicked it under the light, dropped myself down, and settled in comfortably.
I looked through the sheets once, then again. I didn't know whether to be elated or terrified. The scene was between my character, Rita, and Robyn's character, Judith Torrington; a slightly smarmy but hot-enough-to-get-away-with-it defense attorney from a prestigious law firm. In this episode, Judith was defending the pedophile son of a state senator accused of raping and murdering a young boy. My character, although gruff and cynical, had a big soft spot for kids, and the scene called for me to lose my temper and push Robyn/Judith physically up against a wall.
The thought of pushing Robyn up against a wall sent shivers up my spine.
A very, very good kind of shiver.
I closed my eyes and steadied my suddenly ragged breathing.
Whoa. That was new. Apparently in the last few hours I'd move from adolescent crush to full-on adult lust, complete with NC-17 rated video.
"I don't know whether to feel sorry for whoever you're thinking about, or to be insanely jealous."
I snapped my eyes open in panic at the low, raspy voice. Robyn stood in front of me, gazing down with a thoughtful look.
The video played again, and I looked away. "What do you mean?" I mumbled.
"You looked?" She paused for a long moment, and I risked a glance at her face. She was staring at me intently. "?hungry."
I coughed. "Must have been because I missed lunch." I smiled sickly, and scrambled to my feet before my brain added the picture of her length towering above me to the new video collection.
She looked at me for a second longer, and then glanced down at the beanbag. "Nice chair."
"Pretty comfortable, actually." I gestured at the busy set. "I wanted to get away from the noise a little."
"I've heard very nice things about that chair. In fact, I heard that Chad and Liz?"
"Oh god," I groaned, and began wiping desperately at my pants. "Ew-ew-ew-gross-gross-gross?"
Robyn's loud, delighted laugh stopped my movements, as well as the movements of every one else within hearing range.
Robyn had a fantastic laugh.
"Gotcha," she said, winking as she walked past me towards the set, a definite swagger to her step.
Oh, honey. You have no idea.
I smiled to myself, and followed her.
"Cut!" Kreizeck yelled again, and I gritted my teeth, stepping back from Robyn and turning towards the director.
I didn't know how much more of this I could take. This was the sixth take of the scene between Robyn and me. Six times of pushing her up against a wall, feeling her shoulders under my hands, looking into her eyes from a distance of less than a foot?I was going to explode. Explode or kiss her - both of which were probably career-ending moves.
"Adam," Robyn began, but he cut her off with an imperious wave from the safety of his directing chair, where he had decided to stay after both Robyn and I had gotten into his space one too many times. Not on purpose, of course.
"No, Miss Ward, you're doing fine. Although a little more smugness, perhaps. You're a slimy defense lawyer defending a rapist and murderer of children. The audience doesn't want to sympathize with you, no matter how good you look."
I looked at her quickly, startled that Adam was once again right. From the look on her face, and the grudging nod, I could tell that she was, too.
"But you, Miss Harris. I saw more emotion from you this morning when you were sneering at me than I've seen in all six takes. You're supposed to be angry! Seething! This is a slimy defense attorney defending a rapist and murderer of children! You are a female police detective; disgusted that anyone - especially another woman - could defend such a scumbag! Let's see some fury, some emotion, some chemistry! And stop being so timid. You're touching her like a china doll. You're angry, damnit, act like it!"
I knew he was right. I'd been so conscious of being near Robyn that I'd forgotten what the scene was about; just saying my lines and praying it would be over soon.
And if Adam didn't watch it, I might even come to the conclusion that he was a halfway-decent director. Still and asshole, but and asshole that could direct.
"Let's take it from 'if you hadn't mishandled evidence,'" he yelled, and snapped several times. "Okay, people - places."
I glanced at Robyn, who shrugged, and moved back to her mark. I did the same, closing my eyes for a moment, trying to come up with a way to act around what I was feeling.
Then it dawned on me that I shouldn't. I shouldn't act around it, I should use it. And if all went well, I'd only have to do it once.
A look of smug conceit fell across Robyn's face as though someone had flipped a switch. She crossed her arms and sneered at me, the tone of her voice mocking, "If you hadn't mishandled evidence, detective, my client wouldn't be walking around free. I guess I should thank you."
Ok?I took a deep breath. Here goes nothing.
I looked at Robyn, letting every lustful thought, every fantasy, every desperate wish come to the surface and then, hoping people would mistake lust for anger, I lunged at her. I used my entire body this time, not just my hands, and pinned her against the wall with my arm across her chest and my stomach pressed up against hers.
"You defended a man who brutally raped and killed an eight year old boy, and now he's out walking around, looking for his next victim," I whispered harshly, ignoring the close-up camera that was moving in. "The evidence was clean - you brought up the doubt, and most likely destroyed a good detective's career in the process. That IS your fault."
At this point in the scene, Robyn was supposed to struggle and break away, yelling that I had made my point.
She didn't move.
She stood there, staring at me with wide eyes, her breath coming in quick gasps, her body molded to mine. I could feel her breath on my lips, feel the hard muscles of her abdomen tense and stretch against me.
After what seemed like an endless stretch of time, she finally whispered softly, barely audible. "Take your hands off me, detective. You've made your point."
Going on instinct, I stayed where I was, not releasing her. More endless moments went by as we stood locked in that embrace, breathing in each other's air, staring unblinkingly at each other.
Someone yell cut, goddamnit! I felt like screaming, Jesus, yell cut before I kiss her?
"And?Cut! Nice job, ladies."
The normal set noise was slow in starting, and mostly consisted of low whispers.
Adam's annoyed voice cut across the murmur of conversation. "Let's go, people! That's a wrap. You can stand around and chat later, let's get set up for scene '7D?"
Voices swelled around us, but Robyn and I still stood chest to chest. I blinked and stepped back.
"Robyn, I'm sorry?" I started.
"Shhh." She placed two thin, elegant fingers against my lips. "Caidence, it was great. You were great."
I nodded dumbly, feeling drained and just wanting to go home, but enjoying the pressure of her fingers.
She smiled at me, not her amused, smirky smile, but a genuine, honest smile laced with respect. "Now I need to get to wardrobe before the next take. I'll see you later."
She took her fingers from my lips, trailed them down my arm and squeezed my hand before turning and walking off the set.
I tapped on the door to Liz's trailer with the toe of my boot the next morning at 7:55, sipping from a large paper coffee cup in one hand and dangling a cardboard carrier containing two more steaming cups from the other.
The door opened and Liz's assistant, Paula, motioned me in. I grunted in greeting and entered the trailer, holding up the carrier and gesturing with my chin at the one closest to Paula.
"White mocha something-or-other. With soy."
She took the indicated cup out of the carrier, murmuring, "You're a doll. Thank you." As I moved past her, she touched my arm. "And I don't believe a word of it."
I frowned. "A word of what?"
"What they're saying. About you and that extra and the goat."
Goat, monkey?not much difference when you're supposedly fucking them.
I smiled politely. "Thank you Paula, I'm flattered you think so highly of me." She frowned, not quite believing the sincerity of my words. Before she could say anything more about my rumored love of goats, I continued on. "How's Liz this morning?"
Liz wasn't a morning person, and it was always good to know where her mood was before conversing with her.
The door to the trailer's tiny bathroom swung open and Liz stomped out, glaring at Paula and me.
"Liz is an adult and doesn't like it when people talk as though she's not present." She flopped down on the couch, still glaring. "And for god sakes, Paula, I told you that thing about the goat was just a stupid rumor. Honestly, I don't know how that crap gets started."
"Amazing, isn't it?" I commented dryly, and held the carrier up as a peace offering. "The most caffeinated, sugary thing they had."
Her eyes softened a little and she reached out her hands. "Ohhhh. Gimme."
I set the carrier down and handed her the cup. She sniffed at it and took a sip, closing her eyes and groaning in a way that should have made me blush, considering my recently acknowledged sexual orientation, but didn't. Liz, despite her undeniable attractiveness, had never affected me in a sexual way. That put me in a very minuscule percentage of people on this planet, and was most likely the reason why Liz liked me.
Someone pounded on the trailer door. "Car here for Stokley and Harris!"
I reached out a hand and hauled Liz to her feet. "Let's get this over with," I said, with obvious trepidation.
"It's not that bad, Caid," Liz cooed, and patted my cheek. "You need to work on your people skills, anyway."
I scowled and she laughed, leading us out of the trailer and stopping on the top step with a little squeak of dismay when the bright sunshine hit her face. She turned to Paula, who was already handing her a pair of sunglasses that were designed with more thought to style than function. She took them without a word.
I shook my head, pulling my own sunglasses from on top of my head and slid them into place before following Liz and Paula down the stairs and into the gray limo where two people from the network's PR department were already waiting.
Liz absolutely hated sharing limos with people she didn't know, and sat in sullen silence during the ride to the hotel, shooting daggers at the car's two extra passengers. The two looked uncomfortable, but I didn't have enough sympathy to start a conversation that might have eased the tension. Liz's preference for riding by herself was well known, and these two should have known better. Instead I sat back and sipped on my cooling coffee, letting the caffeine do its work while Paula typed furiously on a thin laptop and occasionally talked on her cell phone.
At the hotel, we were escorted to a small conference room and offered croissants, muffins and more coffee. A few minutes later, 45 reporters from various national and international media outlets were herded in, took their seats, and started a barrage of questions.
I was nervous at first, still not used to the growing celebrity that 9th Precinct had brought me and unsure of myself with the press. The majority of questions, though, were aimed at Liz, and soon I relaxed, enjoying the show that was Elizabeth Ann Stokley. The woman was truly a master at handling the press; deflecting questions with a charm that left the reporters smiling, serious one moment and flirting the next, controlling the room without letting them know they were being controlled.
Finally, after and hour and a half, the moderator called for last questions.
"This question is for both Ms. Stokley and Ms. Harris," A short, stocky woman in the back said. "Are you aware that over the past two years there has been an explosion of on-line stories depicting the two of you in homosexual relationships, with each other and various other 9th Precinct cast members? Has this affected your working relationship at all, and what do you think of the chances of such a relationship story line ever making it into prime-time?"
I heard Liz's shocked intake of breath beside me, but kept my eyes on the reporter and what I hoped was a casual smile on my face, even though my heart was pounding so loud it was a wonder the mics didn't pick it up.
Taking a calming breath, I glanced over at Liz, noting that she was as rattled as I'd ever seen her. I felt a flash of annoyance. Was the thought of being a lesbian, or being thought of as a lesbian, so appalling?
I immediately pushed the annoyance aside; my own initial reaction to the question hadn't been much better, and I was a lesbian. At least in theory.
Amazing how society has trained us.
"I guess I'll take that one, if you don't mind, Liz?" I said, giving her a reassuring smile.
She seemed to regain some of her composure, and even managed to smile back. "Go right ahead."
I directed my attention back to the reporter, noticing that the other reporters were awfully damn quiet.
I thought for a moment.
Okay, Caid, let's go easy with this. I had barely come out to myself, and certainly wasn't ready to come out to the world.
"Yes, I'm aware that there are websites that contain stories about our characters on 9th Precinct, and that some of the stories are lesbian in nature."
I surprised at how natural it sounded to use the word.
I was a lesbian.
I hadn't actually said it to myself yet; it was much easier than I expected.
I paused at my internal revelation, and the reporter who asked the question opened her mouth to speak. I cut her off before she could expand on her question.
"How do these stories affect my relationship, working or personal, with Liz?" I shrugged. "They don't. Liz and I are good friends, and have a very comfortable working relationship, contrary to what occasional newspapers and magazines might report. None of you, of course," I smiled my most charming smile, taking a lesson from Liz, and was gratified to hear a several chuckles. "I don't see either of those relationships changing because people are writing stories about the characters we play on a TV show."
"As to whether I think a homosexual storyline will ever make it into prime time?I thought it already had. There have been several gay characters in primetime television. Granted, maybe we've got a ways to go before it's an established, popular character on a drama like 9th Precinct, and their sexuality is handled with the same casualness as it is for heterosexual characters, but we're getting there." I smiled at the woman. "So, to answer your question, I'd say the chances of that kind of storyline showing up on primetime are good, but I'm not going to guess at a timeline."
Several reporters raised their hands after I was done, but one of the PR people - Nick, I think his name was - announced that we had engagements elsewhere, and the session politely, if reluctantly, broke up.
We signed some autographs for a group of people waiting in the lobby and then climbed back into the limo, the two men from PR wisely electing to take a cab.
As soon as the car door had closed, Liz turned to me and gripped my arm. "What the fuck was all of that about? People think I'm a lesbian, and they're writing about it on the internet? That's illegal! Can I sue them or something? Shit, I need to call Woody and see if I can sue. Paula, get me Woody."
I sighed. Thank you for being concerned about my career, too, Liz.
"Liz?calm down. Jesus." I pulled my arm away and sat back, running a hand through my hair in annoyance. "They're not stories about you, for fuck sakes; they're stories about Jen Hastings. A fictional character."
This seemed to calm her a little, but she still took the phone when Paula handed it to her.
"Woody? Of course it's Liz. I'm having a crappy day, thank you very much. Did you know about these internet people who think I'm a lesbian?"
I rolled my eyes. "Liz?"
"Here, Woody, let me give you to Caid. She knows all about it."
The phone was thrust into my hand, and I resignedly put it to my ear.
"Woody? It's Caid."
"Caid, what the hell is she talking about?" Woody Stein's harried, nasal voice came over the line.
I put my fingers to the bridge of my nose and closed my eyes. "Listen, let me call you back, okay?"
"I'll call you back." I snapped the phone shut, knowing that would piss Woody off, but also knowing that Liz would smooth it over for me.
"What are you doing?" Liz asked angrily, "You need to?"
"?tell Woody about this?"
"I'll sue them?"
"Liz, shut up!"
Liz blinked, and Paula looked at me in shock, but the car was finally quiet.
"Thank you. Now just listen to me for a second, okay? These stories - they're called Fan Fiction. People write stories about the characters on TV shows, and then put them out on these internet sites for other people to read. They aren't about you. You can't sue anyone, because they aren't about you. They're about the characters in the show."
"No, you can't."
She was quiet for a moment, then frowned. "How did you know about this stuff? And why didn't you tell me?"
I scratched absently at my neck. "I was doing some?ah?research on the Internet one night, and I came across a site that had some stuff about the show. I was curious, so I read some of it." I didn't think she needed to know exactly what my 'research' was about. "I didn't tell you, because I didn't think it was important. They're just stories, Liz. It's not about you. No one is accusing you of being a lesbian."
She was still frowning, her brows furrowed in thought. "I want to see some," she said abruptly.
I shrugged. "Fine, I'll send you some URLs."
Liz was hopeless with computers. I looked over at Paula, who nodded.
"Paula knows what I mean, and she'll show you."
"Show me now. Use Paula's computer. It's a half-hour trip back to the studio."
Sometimes her attitude really ticked me off.
Liz blinked. "What?"
"Say please. I'm not your goddamn assistant, Liz - no offense, Paula," I glanced over at the assistant apologetically. She smiled slightly and shook her head. "I'm your friend and coworker. Say please."
We stared at each other for a long moment, and finally she sighed. "I'm sorry, Caid." Her voice was subdued. "Please."
I let out my own sigh, and turned to Paula. "Paula, can we borrow your laptop for a bit please? This car has wireless, doesn't it?"
"Of course, Caid." The woman nodded, clicking a few times to get out of what she was doing, and handed the laptop over to me.
I opened up a browser window, Googled a few keywords I knew would get me what I was looking for and browsed through the results, finally selecting one, glancing at it quickly, and placing the computer in Liz's lap.
"Here's one. Press this button when you want to go down more."
"Thank you," she murmured politely, and started reading.
I divided my attention between watching the cars around us who were also caught in lunch-time traffic, and watching Liz's expression go from curious and slightly bored to intent and involved. I smiled slightly at her absorbed expression. I actually hadn't read a lot of 9P fan fiction - it seemed slightly egomaniacal - but I had enjoyed this one very much.
Liz was still reading when the limo pulled up in the lot outside the studio, looking up reluctantly when Paula announced they had arrived.
"But?I'm not done. Can I save it somehow?" she asked sheepishly.
Paula assured her they could and took the laptop from her, bookmarking the site and looking over at me with a wink.
I smiled back and followed Liz out of the limo and through the lot, curious about the thoughtful expression on her face.
When we reached her trailer she turned, the thoughtful expression now turned slightly calculating. "So there are a lot of these stories?"
I nodded. "Hundreds?thousands even, I suppose."
That surprised her. "All about Jen and Rita?"
"Oh?no, no. They put all sorts of characters together." That seemed to disappoint her, and I frowned. "Why?"
She ignored my question and asked her own. "How many are lesbian stories? A lot?"
"A lot." I nodded.
That satisfied her, and she climbed the stairs to her trailer, throwing a vague, "See you later," over her shoulder.
I stared at the closed door to her trailer for a while, wondering what was going through her head, and thinking that whatever it was, I probably wasn't going to like it.
Finally I shrugged, and headed for my own trailer, wondering if Robyn was on the set today.
Kreizeck's episode, titled 'Snap', wrapped shooting early the following week, and despite my original misgivings and intense dislike of the man, when post production was finished, it turned out to be one of the better episodes we'd done. Still, we were all glad to have some of our regular directors back in the director's chair, and the next few weeks went by quickly as we settled back into our normal routine.
9P worked on a sixteen-day cycle for each episode, with the first eight days dedicated to preproduction activities such as casting and finding and confirming locations, and the next eight days consisted of the actual shooting. With rotating directing and production teams, they were able to overlap the preproduction of an upcoming episode with the actual shooting of the current episode, so the actors were always shooting, the casting department was always casting and one of the production teams was always working on setting up our next week.
It was a grueling schedule that ran from late July until mid May, and I knew I wasn't the only one looking forward to the summer hiatus. Like many of the other cast members, I had other projects going on during the break so I'd still be busy, but a change of pace would be very welcome.
Liz hadn't mentioned the dreaded Internet-authors-who-thought-she-was-a-lesbian again after the day of the Q&A, but Paula told me she had asked for more sites, and spent a lot of time on Paula's laptop, much to the assistant's annoyance.
I ordered a new laptop online that evening and gave it to Paula when it arrived a few days later, telling her she could keep it and give the other one to Liz. She seemed stunned at my generosity, but Christ, I made more money than I'd ever be able to spend?might as well spend it on people I liked.
Robyn caused a stir in Brazil during Davis Cup play, where she watched from reserved seats as Josh Riley served and backhand-volleyed his way to two match wins, helping the US gain a victory over the Brazilian team. Her sunglass-shaded face and bronze skin were shown and commented on so many times during Josh's matches that it was amazing anyone watching actually remembered there was tennis going on. I watched what matches I could, not even making the effort to lie to myself and say I was watching for the tennis, although the tennis was pretty damn good. I just wanted to see her face, as pathetic as that sounds. The memory of her body against mine no longer stopped my breath, but it was still burned in my memory, and wasn't going away any time soon.
I'd seen her rarely and only in passing since our scene together; the plotline she had been involved with on 9P had concluded for the moment and she was no longer required on our set, so I was surprised one morning, more than a month after the wrapping of 'Snap', when she showed up for the preliminary table read for the season finale that would start shooting at the end of our current eight-day shoot.
A table read was a sit-down reading of a script for an upcoming episode with the writers, producers, director and the regular cast members present to give feedback and discuss any location or casting issues. It was one of the only roles that the cast members had in the preproduction process, and I liked the chance to get a peek at what we would be doing the following week, as well as being able to give feedback.
I'd arrived about ten minutes early and after pouring myself a glass of water, chatted idly with Josiah Rollins, a short, slightly rotund man with thinning red hair and Micah Saams, a beautiful giant of a man with rich, deep-brown skin and startling green eyes. Both were regular cast members, playing two of the other four detectives on the series besides Liz and me.
The rest of the regulars sat across from us; Danny DeLorenzo, a loud but undeniably likable Italian ladies man, Henry Stoddard, stocky and strong with a bald head and bushy mustache, and finally Arturo Garza, a former Latin soap opera star with a dazzling smile, charming accent and an ego to match.
I glanced at my watch. None of the writer's had arrived yet, which was odd. They were usually here before anyone else, eager to pass out script drafts and get first thoughts before the producer or producers showed up. The producers were absent as well, but that was normal, and Liz, of course, would be one of the last people to walk through the door. She always arrived when the dramatic impact of her entrance would be the greatest, and none of us expected her for another twenty minutes at least.
I smiled slightly as Danny and Henry debated the specifics of the latest story making the rounds of the gossip circuit, involving two crewmembers, several pulleys and a power tool.
Finally, my goat-loving days appeared to be over. Maybe people would stop bleating behind my back and joking about goat cheese sandwiches during lunch.
One could only hope.
The door swung open and Robyn walked in, pausing in the doorway to survey the room.
"Hey all," she rasped.
Danny stopped in mid-sentence, and Josiah and Micah fell silent.
Good god, she was an attractive woman.
Dark hair held back in a loose braid highlighting the clean angles of her face; a snug, black spaghetti-strap top that showed off miles of gloriously tan skin; faded jeans that covered endless legs, and flat, simple sandals that showed burgundy painted toenails.
Arturo was the first to recover. "Ah?Robyn. You are a vision, as always. Please, come sit with me."
He stood and pulled out the chair next to him, bowing gallantly. I rolled my eyes and when I looked back at Robyn, her eyes were on me, and the Mona Lisa smile, tempered with humor, was firmly in place.
It was good to see her.
Very, very good.
And not just because she made my hormones sit up and beg.
It was more than that. I had genuinely missed her; missed her smile, missed her voice, and missed her presence. And what the hell. Why not tell her? It was the friendly thing to do, wasn't it? It didn't mean I wanted to strip her naked and eat caramel sundaes off of her stomach. Of course it didn't.
"Hey Robyn, long time." I smiled shyly. "It's good to see you."
She nodded at me, her mouth twitching into a genuine smile. "Caidence."
"Yeah, Robyn, we haven't seen you in a while," Micah's deep voice rumbled, drawing the room's attention away from me. "What brings you here today? We don't normally see you for these prelim things. They gotcha doing something big for the finale?"
Robyn walked around the table, ignoring the chair Arturo had pulled out, and slid into the chair next to me. It was normally Liz's chair, but I sure as hell wasn't going to say anything.
"All I know is that I got a message last night to show up here this morning, nine o'clock sharp." She shrugged. "And here I am."
You certainly are, I thought, taking a sip of water from the glass in front of me, eyeing her surreptitiously while her attention was on Micah.
"Yes, you certainly are," Arturo said with smooth, perfectly accented charm.
Oh god. I was a female Arturo.
I choked as I swallowed, coughing until my eyes watered. Josiah pounded heavily on my back in concern.
"Take it easy, Joe, you're gonna kill her," Robyn drawled, laying a hand on my arm. Joe stopped thumping on me, and Robyn bent her worried face near my own. "You okay, Caid?"
"Yeah," I squeaked after a moment and nodded, to busy trying to breathe to react to her nearness, or the fact that this was the first time in memory that she'd used the shortened version of my name.
"Yo Caid, y'alright there?"
I raised my head, giving Danny a watery smile. "Yeah, Danny, I'm good."
I gave one final cough, and blinked rapidly.
Crap. My throat felt raw, my head hurt, and I was extremely embarrassed.
But on the bright side, Robyn had her hand on my arm and was looking at me with concern?life could be worse.
"Water?" She took her hand off me and reached for my glass, still half full on the table.
Conversation around us started up again as I sipped and swallowed cautiously.
"Hey." Her voice was soft.
I looked over questioningly.
"It's good to see you, too." She gave me a crooked smile, and bumped into my shoulder with her own. "I missed ya."
It was such a guy thing to do, I couldn't help laughing. Even as the words made my heart beat double-time.
"Yeah?" I said with a stupid grin.
We sat smiling at each other, and I felt sad and elated at the same time.
Robyn was beautiful, smart, funny?
And very, very straight.
I might never eat caramel sundaes off her stomach, but maybe I'd ask her to go for coffee sometime, or dinner, or a hike, just as friends.
Because I realized that I sincerely liked Robyn as a friend.
On impulse, I asked, "You have plans after this? For lunch?"
"I have to be back at ITD by one-thirty," she answered with a raised eyebrow, but no hesitation.
"Care to join me on a little trip?"
"Well, I certainly can't turn that down."
The room fell silent as the show's creator, Grant Hardy, walked in, along with the two other executive producers, two co-exec's and 4 writers, including the head-writer, or showrunner, Dorn Talren.
What the fuck was going on? Dorn rarely showed for these things, and Grant? Never. And how many executive producers did it take to do a preliminary read of a script?
I glanced over at Robyn, who looked as perplexed as I was.
"Good morning everyone!" Grant boomed.
A chorus of muted greetings accompanied the group as they settled into places around the long table, and Grant surveyed his cast members.
"Right here, Grant," came the reply from the door as Liz entered the room, frowning slightly when she noticed Robyn in the spot next to me. She walked by me, giving my shoulder a squeeze of greeting, and took the vacant seat on the other side of Robyn.
"Oh, good. I wouldn't want you to miss this. It was, after all, partially your idea." He waved at one of the writers who began distributing copies of the script around the table.
Liz looked confused for a moment, and then smiled brilliantly. "You liked it?"
"We sure did. The premise, anyway. We made a few changes that we think will work better."
Her smile faltered, but she took the offered script with a nod.
"Now," he boomed. "You're all probably wondering what's going on."
There were cautious nods around the table, and Grant smiled. "You all know how well the show is doing. We've been in the top five in our time slot all this season, and the numbers just keep getting better. The suits see that as a sign to keep doing things like we're doing them, but I didn't get here by sitting back and being cautious. I see this as an opportunity to take risks, to push the envelope, to see just what we can get away with. This season finale is going to set us up for some big things next year."
He stood and began pacing. "Our numbers in eighteen to forty-nine are the strongest, and that works perfectly for what we have in mind, since that's a demographic slightly more open-minded than the older or younger dems." He stopped his pacing and leaned his hands on the table, catching each cast member's eye. "We're going to take advantage of that, and make television history while we do it."
He sat down and opened his copy of the script. "Let's get started, shall we?"
There was an expectant pause, and finally Micah cleared his throat and spoke. "Grant? Are you going to tell us?"
The creator waved his hand. "No, I want you to look at this fresh, with no preconceptions. Just like the audience will."
Micah shrugged and opened his script, and the rest of us did the same.
Scripts were broken up into four acts, each act accounting for approximately fifteen minutes of the show and containing three to five scenes. The script was a good one, revisiting some of the threads from previous shows involving Robyn, and playing up the tension between her character and mine from the infamous wall-slamming scene in 'Snap'.
The bombshell didn't come until halfway through the fourth act, in the next to final scene.
The scene was once again between our characters, Rita and Judith, trading barbs during a run-in at Judith's office.
I read my lines then skipped ahead a bit as Robyn read hers, noting that this time, it was Robyn's character that gets physical, pushing Rita against the wall and?
I turned the page absently.
I re-read the last few lines, blinking in shock. Beside me, Robyn's voice stuttered to a halt.
"What!?!" Liz screeched, jolting me out of my dazed state. I looked swiftly over at Robyn.
She was staring at the pages, her eyes wide and her face very pale.
"Grant, this was supposed to be me!" Liz fumed. "This story line was for me! Remember our conversation? Me wanting to take a few risks, and branch out a little?"
"Liz, honey, calm down," the man said soothingly, "we really liked the idea, but when we ran it by our test groups, people just didn't want to see you kissing another woman."
"But they wanted her?" The words and the look she cast my way were venomous, disbelieving.
I drew in a sharp breath. It had been a while since I'd been on the receiving end of one of Liz's tirades. I'd forgotten what a bitch she could be.
"Well, actually, yes. Her character, at least," Grant said, nodding at one of the exec-producers. "Raj?"
Raj Matis shuffled through some papers in front of him, pulling out a pale blue sheet. "We polled a group of eighteen to thirty-five, and only thirteen percent of the group believed that Jen would kiss a woman, and only two percent thought she would work as a lesbian. For Rita," he glanced at me, "seventy-one percent believed she would kiss a woman, and forty percent thought she worked as a lesbian, with several commenting that they already assumed she was."
Jesus. Forty percent of the public knew before I did.
"Numbers for Judith are higher than Jen's, but not nearly as high as Rita's, except when asked specifically about the Judith/Rita pairing - most say the scene in 'Snap' left them wondering."
"Holy shit!" Danny said, finally cluing into what all the commotion was about. "You're gonna make Caid a lesbian? And Robyn?" His voice was incredulous.
There were other murmurs around the table.
"I'm fairly certain he means our characters, Danny." Robyn said drolly, having regained her cool. "Caid and I won't suddenly be morphing into lesbians?sorry to disappoint."
Danny looked crestfallen.
I felt his pain. I wouldn't mind Robyn morphing into a lesbian, either.
Liz's anger had faded into a slightly shell-shocked expression. I doubted she'd ever polled that low in anything in her career. She stared at the script, and then gently closed it.
It was never good when Liz did things gently.
She stood, and looked at me for a long moment. The look on her face was wounded, as though I'd betrayed her somehow.
It killed me.
"Liz?" I didn't know what I would say, but I wanted to say something, anything, to stop that look.
"I don't want to talk to you right now, Caid," she said, holding up a hand. "I can't believe you'd?" She shook her head, picked up the script, and left the room.
"Goddamnit!" I spit out after the door had closed behind her. I tossed my script down and ran an aggravated hand through my hair. "I didn't do anything!" I rounded on Grant. "Thanks for the heads-up there, big guy. This may just fuck up our working relationship beyond repair, not to mention our friendship - a little notice would have been nice."
The room went deathly silent.
No one talked to Grant that way.
Especially not some ex beer commercial actress.
A very expendable ex beer commercial actress who picked an extremely stupid time to lose her temper.
Under the table, Robyn grabbed my thigh and squeezed hard, telling me without words to shut the hell up.
I took several deep breaths, trying to regain control. Grant watched me through narrowed eyes.
"Grant," Robyn said, in a tone I'd never heard before. It was soaked in promise, hinted at fantasies come true, and had every man in the room shifting uncomfortably in their seats. It was sex and heat and forbidden things?meant to get attention, then get Robyn whatever she wanted.
Damn. I needed a trick like that.
"Grant, do you think that Caid and I could talk with you privately after we finish the read? I think there are some things we need to discuss." Her smile promised everything that her voice had, and more.
Goddamn. And I thought Liz was good at this.
I pried her hand off my thigh and gently placed it back in her lap. Even though I was aware of its manipulative intent, I was far from immune to Robyn's sudden come-and-get-it aura. Her hand on that area of my anatomy?I could do without it.
She glanced at me quickly and I gave her a tight smile, assuring her that I was back in control of my suicidal, producer-insulting urges.
"Of course, Robyn," Grant agreed obediently, forgetting my transgressions for the moment. He looked around the table. "In fact, why don't we wrap this up? Read through the rest on your own, let Kenny or Brenda know if you've got any comments or suggestions before the writer's meeting, tomorrow at two. Okay?"
From the pitying looks thrown my way as the others left the room, I knew that I needed to administer a major dose of damage control.
Pucker lips and apply to insulted ass, STAT.
As the last writer filed from the room, I rose from my chair, ignoring Robyn's warning look.
I used to work in the service industry. Ass kissing was something of a specialty of mine.
Now I don't have the classic beauty of Robyn or Liz, but I have big, expressive green eyes and a full, wide mouth recently been deemed one of televisions twenty most kissable. I turned those big eyes on Grant and arranged my face in a properly sorrowful expression.
"Grant, I am so sorry I snapped at you. I was upset at Liz's reaction, but that's absolutely no reason to speak to you that way." I laid a hand on his arm. "I hope you can accept my apology. I promise it will never, ever happen again."
After several moments of me kneeling beside him, in essence begging for forgiveness, Grant nodded. "See that it doesn't, Caid. See that it doesn't."
"It won't." I squeezed his arm in thanks and straightened, smiling slightly at Robyn's surprised expression.
I guess I couldn't fault her for her surprise; until recently, she was under the impression that I had the intellectual and maturity level of a twelve-year-old.
I walked back to my chair and dropped into it heavily, the problem with Liz filling my thoughts now that my job was re-secured.
I forgot all about that kissing Robyn in front of a bunch of cameras thing. Not for long.
"Grant," Robyn was saying, "about this script. I really wish you had run it by us before okaying a script. This is something I'll need to talk over with Mark." Mark Goodhead was her agent, and Robyn would want to talk to him about how this might affect her future prospects, career-wise.
"Do you need to talk to someone, too?" Grant asked me, dragging me back in conversation. The look on his face was predatory - the wrong answer and my groveling would be for nothing.
Robyn had been in the business much longer than I had been, modeling for the first few years before moving into acting. Robyn Ward had enough of a name to decline this script and withstand any backlash. Caidence Harris did not. Despite the popularity of 9th Precinct, I was still a newbie in the business, and couldn't afford to turn this down. Especially after being a colossal ass to a man who could break my career with a few casual words.
He knew it, and I knew it.
"No, I'm fine with it," I answered, as he knew I would.
In eight days time, when we started shooting for this script, I'd be kissing a woman on camera. It was up to Robyn who that woman would be.
We walked back to the trailer in silence after our meeting with Grant, my mind back on Liz, and how to fix the sudden rift between us. I'd think about having to kiss Robyn, or some other woman, later.
When I could freak out in private.
Robyn was busy on her cell phone, setting up a meeting with her agent. She told him they needed to talk about "an interesting opportunity."
An interesting way to put it.
We walked across the lot, and my steps slowed to a stop as we passed Liz's trailer. I felt a gentle pressure on my arm.
"I don't think talking to her right now is such a good idea, Caid." Robyn said softly. I hesitated, and she wrapped a long fingered hand around my wrist, stopping me from moving towards the trailer. "Trust me, Caid. Just let her be for a while. Try tomorrow."
She tugged lightly in the direction of our trailer and after a moment, I started walking again. We entered the trailer without speaking; I walked around, absentmindedly picking up the few things I'd left out that morning before the table read.
I swung around, blinking at her. "Hmm?"
She looked as though she was going to say something, but then changed her mind. "So, what about this little trip you were talking about. I've got?" she looked at the bulky silver watch on her wrist, "two and a half hours, give or take."
"Oh." I stood staring at her stupidly.
"Were still on, right? You promised me lunch, Harris. Don't let me down."
My lips curled into a smile. "Well, I do hate to disappoint."
"Good. I hate to be disappointed." She held her arms out and looked down at herself. "Am I dressed appropriately for this trip?"
I cocked my head to the side, taking the offered opportunity to study her from head to toe.
"You're perfect," I said, and meant it. I looked at her feet. "Those look pretty comfy. Can you walk in those sandals?"
She raised both eyebrows. "Will I need to?"
"It's a good possibility," I replied vaguely.
"Well then. Like I said - perfect." I grinned, and grabbed a small duffel bag off the table. "Let's get out of here."
I led the way to my baby; a metallic blue Audi S4 Cabriolet convertible. It had been my first big purchase after landing a four-year deal on 9P, completely frivolous, impractical, and I loved it.
The top was already down - I'd left it down that morning when I drove in - and I tossed my bag in the back seat, pulling the driver side door open and sliding in behind the wheel.
Robyn moved around the car slowly, giving it the once-over. "Oh, Caid, I didn't know this was yours. I've wondered. This car is great." Robyn trailed a finger along the hood as she walked to the other side, pulled open the door and slipped in beside me. "I've always wanted a convertible, but I'm depressingly practical about things like that." She ran a hand over the dashboard with a delighted smile. "This is so cool."
Lucky damn dashboard.
I patted the steering wheel. "Twila, this is Robyn. Robyn, Twila."
Yes, I named my cars.
I know, I'm a dork, and I was definitely clueing Robyn in to my dorkiness, but I didn't really care. I was glad to be leaving the lot for a while, and happy to have her along as company.
She patted the dashboard, her face completely serious. "Nice ta meet ya, Twila."
The woman was perfect.
I shook my head and checked my pockets for the keys, grunting when I remembered that I'd left them in my bag. I reached back through the space between our seats and pulled the bag into my lap, grabbing the keys from where they were clipped in the outside pocket, and rummaging around a bit more before pulling out a faded baseball cap from a charity event I'd done a few years back.
"Might get a little breezy," I said, and handed the cap to her before zipping the bag up and tossing it in back.
"Thanks." She was already pulling her long braid through the hole in back and settling it on her head. "So, where are we going?"
She looked adorable. How can someone look so goddamn sexy and adorable at the same time? I shook my head again and started the car.
She leaned back in soft leather and smiled. "To lunch."
The studio was on the western edge of Pasadena, and I hopped on 210 for a bit before exiting north on Lake Avenue. Having the top down made conversation difficult, but neither of us seemed to mind not talking, just enjoying the sunshine and cool breeze. We stopped once at a deli where I ran in and picked up a bag of goodies, then continued on through Altadena and on to Chaney Trail.
I caught Robyn's smile out of the corner of my eye when we passed the sign telling us we were entering Angeles National Forest. I let out a relieved sigh, not realizing that I had been worried she would be less than thrilled with our trip's destination. I pulled the car into a parking spot, noting with satisfaction that there were only a few other cars in the lot.
Robyn turned to me, still smiling. "So this is lunch?"
"Nope." I grabbed the deli bag, pushed the button to put the convertible top back up, and rolled up the windows, not wanting to tempt anyone with a wide-open car. "You're going to have to work just a little for your lunch."
I opened the door and got out, and she did the same.
"Hey," she said as she slammed the door. "No one said anything about working for my lunch."
I just smiled and started walking, confident she would follow. We walked through a small campground, following the signs to Millard Canyon Falls. The trail wound along a stream through a small, shaded canyon, and we reached the falls in less than 15 minutes. The area around the falls was empty; the owners of the cars in the lot must have hiked on further behind the falls to the mine.
I led us off the trail, over a few boulders, and under a tall oak tree near the canyon wall, plopping myself down on a flat rock. Robyn folded herself gracefully beside me, staring at the fifty-foot tall cascade of water not twenty yards from us. The stream was high from recent rains, and the falls were impressive. We hadn't spoken once during the short walk, but the silence had seemed comfortable, and not at all strained.
I opened the deli bag, and the crinkling of paper attracted Robyn's attention. She looked at me expectantly.
"So this is lunch?" she said hopefully.
I pulled two sandwiches, two bottles of water, a slightly greasy bag of kettle chips, an apple, an orange and a brownie out of the bag, along with some napkins.
"This is lunch." I handed her a sandwich and a bottle of water. "Apple or orange?"
I handed her the orange, and took a swig of water as she unwrapped her sandwich.
She peeled back the bread, frowning slightly. "Roast beef?"
"I've got turkey and avocado, if you'd rather. I'll take that one."
She was still looking at the sandwich. "What if I'm vegetarian?"
I had taken another drink of water and stopped mid swig. I lowered the bottle.
"Are you?" Shit. I should have asked, instead of just assuming?
"Hell no." She took a huge bite of the sandwich, chewing happily for a while and finally swallowing. "I just wondered how you knew I liked roast beef."
I sighed in relief. "You just seemed like a roast beef kind of gal."
She stopped eating for a moment, contemplating that. "I don't know if I should be offended by that or not."
"I didn't mean?"
"Caid," she laughed, and took another bite, talking around it. "I'm kidding."
We sat in silence for a while, eating our lunches and listening to the splash of the water against the rocks. When I was finished, I balled up the wax paper my sandwich had been wrapped in and put it back in the bag. Popping a chip into my mouth, I leaned back on my elbows and closed my eyes, crunching slowly.
"How was Brazil?" I asked eventually, opening my eyes and sliding them over to her. "You know they showed you almost as much as Josh?"
She laughed, and leaned back next to me. "Caid, you wouldn't believe it. It was insane. I'd look across the court during this intense point, and the camera that was supposed to be pointed at the players was pointing at me. And god, every time we'd go anywhere, this huge cadre of photographers would follow?"
"That seems to happen to the two of you here in the States, as well."
"To some extent, yes, but nothing like that?Josh loves the attention, though." She shuddered. "Ugh. I can't stand it."
That surprised me. She seemed very comfortable in the spotlight, as though she liked it.
"Josh played well," I said, after a few more minutes of silence.
"He did, didn't he?" She tipped her head back and closed her eyes, catching a stray bit of sunshine through the leaves and giving me an excellent view along the smooth, kissable line of her throat and down to the hint of cleavage where the edge of her shirt dipped lowest. I looked away and cleared my throat.
"That match against Gruspania?that was a close one."
She smiled, her eyes still closed. "I was afraid he'd be so upset after that one?he's usually such a baby when he thinks he didn't play as well as he could have. He wasn't, though."
We were both quiet for a few minutes, before Robyn chuckled. "He wants to meet you, actually."
I looked over at her, perplexed. "He does?"
"Oh, he won't admit it, but I remember when I first started getting time on 9th Precinct, and Josh was all excited that I'd get to work with Caidence Harris, the hottest Balentine Babe ever.
"Oh god," I groaned and closed my eyes. In my beer commercial days, I hawked Balentine Pilsner, a German-style beer, brewed in America, with an Irish name. It was surprisingly popular, especially with the college crowd. "You're kidding."
"Nope, his exact words." She was quiet for a few seconds. "I'd like you to."
I opened my eyes and looked over at her. She'd been watching me, but looked away.
"You'd like me to what?"
She looked back. "Meet him. Maybe we could all have dinner sometime. You could bring?a date, if you want?I mean, if you're seeing anyone?" Her voice was rushed, and then trailed off. She looked back at the falls.
Wonderful. Girl-talk about my love life with the object of my unrequited affection.
"I'm not," I said with a wry smile. "Frankly, I don't know how you have time for it. I usually fall into bed as soon as I get home. I can hardly get up the energy to brush my teeth, much less date. And that would be nice, by the way."
She had been listening intently, and frowned at the last bit. "Pardon?"
"Dinner," I clarified. "Or something, with you and Josh. If it's okay that it's just me, sans-date."
"Just you will do just fine. Tomorrow night?" she asked hopefully.
"Umm?" She'd caught me off-guard. I ran through my schedule for the next day. "We're shooting in the city tomorrow, so I probably won't be done until eight or so?"
"Come to the house. Josh will grill. He can't boil an egg, but the boy can grill." She touched my arm briefly. "Unless that's too late?"
Her head was cocked slightly to the side, watching me with those impossibly dark eyes. She'd left the hat in the car, and whips of dark hair had come loose from the braid and blown across her face.
I struggled to breathe, overwhelmed by a sudden flood of emotion. Sometimes just looking at her did that to me. She was so damn beautiful?it made me ache.
"No, it's not too late. I'd love to." I managed.
She smiled brilliantly, our eyes met, and the ache intensified.
I jumped to my feet, brushing the dirt off my jeans and gathering the remains of our lunch. "We'd better head back."
"Oh?yeah." She sounded disappointed, but slowly climbed to her feet. "I guess so." Her hand brushed down my back, leaving a trail of delicious tingles in its wake. "Thanks, Caid. This was really nice. Is this a regular thing for you?"
I looked around for a moment, regaining my equilibrium, and shrugged. "Depends, I guess. I like to get away from the set when I can, and there are lots of spots in Angeles within a half-hour or forty-five minute drive?I picked this one because it was close, and I didn't know how far you wanted to walk in sandals. I usually like to hike a little further."
"I'll leave a pair of hikers in the trailer so next time, I'll be prepared." She was stretching her arms over her head, leaning one way and then the other to loosen her back, and didn't notice the huge grin on my face.
Hot damn. I liked the sound of that.
I packed away our trash and unwrapped the brownie, breaking it in half and handing one part to Robyn.
"Energy," I said, "for the long, brutal hike back."
She eyed the treat before taking it with a sigh of resignation. "If I keep hanging out with you, I'm going to have to add another mile to my morning run."
I grinned, and took a bite, chewing happily. "You run?"
She nodded, nibbling on her portion daintily. "Yeah, I started in college?just kind of a habit now. I swim, too, a couple times a week. It was either that, or stop eating, and I love to eat."
That explained the long, sinewy arms and well-muscled shoulders.
"How far do you usually run?"
"Around five miles, I guess."
I nodded. That was about what I did most mornings, too. Casually, I said, "We should go together sometime."
She smiled. "Sounds like a good idea. It'd be nice to run with someone again?I used to run with Josh, but he's got this whole, 'I am a professional athlete and must crush you' thing going on." She said the last with an Arnold Schwarzenegger accent. "I finally told him to go try to crush someone else. Now he pays someone to get crushed."
I laughed, and stuffed the last bit of brownie into my mouth before leading the way back to the trail, and we started back walking side by side.
"I promise not to crush you. In fact, with those endless legs of yours, I imagine you'll be the one doing the crushing."
Jesus. Did I just say that?
Robyn shot me a curious look, but didn't comment. "It's a deal."
We walked quietly for a few more minutes, Robyn dropping back behind me when came up on a group of three chatty, middle-aged women going towards the falls. The woman at the head of the group blinked at me in recognition.
"Hi," I said, and smiled when her eyes widened in surprise.
"Hello, ladies." Robyn's throaty voice drew the woman's attention away from me, and her eyes widened further, to near saucer size. She slowed as we passed, watching us open-mouthed. The two women behind her, absorbed in conversation, bumped into her back with squawks of surprise. Robyn and I walked on, smiling slightly at the furious whispering behind us.
Robyn took two long strides and was beside me again, looking around at the canyon walls with a contented smile. She looked at ease, comfortable in this kind of activity.
"I don't suppose you mountain bike, do you?" I asked suddenly.
"I haven't before." She looked over at me and smiled. "But I've been wanting to try."
I pulled Twila into her parking space thirty minutes later, laughing when Robyn patted her gently on the dash and whispered, "thank you".
"Maybe you should get your own, Robyn." I got out, grabbed my duffel from the back and slung it over my shoulder.
She fell into step beside me. "Don't need to now - I'll just have you chauffeur me around."
I think she expected a comeback, but I had absolutely no problem with it, so I just smiled.
We walked to the trailer, and I entered first, stopping abruptly when I saw a haggard looking Liz on my couch.
"Caid?" She made as if to rise, then sank back down when she spotted Robyn behind me. She looked from me to Robyn, frowning.
Robyn stepped slightly in front of me, her stance relaxed but perceptively aggressive. I looked over at her in surprise.
Robyn, defending me? The thought made me ridiculously happy, regardless of whether it was true or not.
I put my hand on her arm gently and stepped back in front of her. "Liz?I'm glad you're here?"
Liz's eyes darted to each of our faces, then down to where my hand was still on Robyn's arm. Her frown deepened. She stared for a moment, then shook her head slightly and stood.
"Hi Robyn," she flicked a glance at the dark-haired woman, and then settled her eyes back on me. "Do you mind if I talk to Caid a minute?"
Robyn gave me a searching look, and I smiled, assuring her that it was okay. She looked back at Liz. "Sure, Liz. I need to get back to ITD anyway." She placed a light hand on my shoulder and squeezed gently. "Thanks for lunch, Caid. It was the nicest lunch I've had in quite a while. I'll call you about tomorrow?"
I nodded, smiling. Robyn threw with one final glance at Liz, then left.
Liz frowned after her as the door closed. "What's up with her?"
I shrugged and watched her, trying to gauge her mood. I was hoping she was here to talk things out, but it was just as likely that she was here to yell at me?maybe I shouldn't have sent Robyn off, after all.
She turned to me abruptly, and pulled me into brief but forceful hug. Liz wasn't normally very touchy, and I was surprised into stillness. Before I could respond, she stepped back, looking embarrassed.
"Here." She thrust something at me, and I automatically opened my hand to receive it. "I'm sorry I was such a bitch, Caid. I never wanted to be that way with you."
I looked at the objects in my hand. Three miniature Cookies 'N Cream candy bars.
"Paula said that maybe I should get you flowers or something, but I know you hate crap like that, since they just die and stink up your trailer, and hell, everyone always sends flowers to suck up, and I know you're a freak for these stupid chocolate things?" Liz rattled on, and I just watched her, smiling slightly.
I was a freak for these stupid little candy bars. Maybe four people in the world knew that about me. Liz had remembered, and without Paula's help.
I loved it when people surprised me in a good way.
"?I was just so goddamn mad at Grant for blindsiding me like that?"
"Liz, it's okay."
She paused. "Really?"
I nodded. "Really."
Her whole body slumped in relief, and she sank down on the couch. "Thank god."
"But for the record," I added, "Charming Liz is still my favorite."
She bit her lip. "I'm really sorry, Caid."
"I know you are, hon." I unwrapped one of the candy bars and offered it to her. "Want one?"
She grimaced. "God no. Those things are disgusting. I don't know how you eat them. They look like squares of lard with ants in them."
The candy paused on its way to my mouth. I looked at it - really looked at it - and saw that she was right.
"When in your entire life have you seen a square of lard, woman?" I popped the candy into my mouth, trying not to think of lard and ants.
She sniffed. "I know what lard looks like."
"Because you cook with it so often."
"Hey, I watch Iron Chef?those guys are big on lard." Her eyes widened. "Holy shit, the other night I saw them do this thing with some fucked up kind of melon and a part of a shark that should never be shown on television?."
My loud laugh echoed off the walls of the trailer. I loved this woman, and it was nice to be reminded why.
She stopped mid-sentence and frowned. "What?"
"Liz, don't ever change."
She smiled beautifully. "Well of course not, Sugar. Why mess with perfection?"
Why not indeed.
I laughed again and sat down on the couch next to her.
"So we're okay?" she asked again.
She turned to me, suddenly very serious. "You're one of the only real friends I have around here, Caid. I couldn't stand it if something messed that up."
"I'd be pretty damn upset about it too Liz," I said, and patted her on the thigh. "And I think you have a lot more friends around than you think."
I leaned back in the cushions with a deep sigh. Already today I'd learned that my future on 9P was about to take a very interesting turn, come very close to ending my career, nearly lost a good friend, embarked on a promising friendship with a woman I wanted far more than friendship from?It had been one hell of a day, and it was barely halfway over.
"Speaking of friends - you and Robyn seemed pretty chummy. I didn't know you two hung out."
"We hadn't, before today. I needed to get away from the set for a while, and Robyn came along."
"Oh, Caid?you didn't take her on one of your nature hikes, did you?" She wrinkled her nose in distaste. I'd asked Liz along on one of my trips once, after which we both agreed I would never ask again. Nature was not Liz's thing.
"She liked it," I said, somewhat defensively.
"I knew there was something off about that woman?"
"There is not!" The vehemence in my voice startled both of us.
"Whoa, Caid, I was joking. I actually kind of like Robyn. Anyone who can shut Arturo up with a look is okay in my book."
I rubbed my face and sighed. "Sorry, I'm a little on edge today, I guess."
We sat in silence for a few minutes. I looked at my watch, noting I needed to be in makeup soon.
"Caid?" Liz was staring into space, a puzzled expression on her face.
"Why do you think no one thinks I'd kiss a woman?"
Oh boy. I knew those stupid numbers would worry her.
"I don't know, Liz, but I wouldn't worry about it too much. It's just a test group."
She nodded, and fell silent for a while.
I'd been idly studying the ceiling, and turned my head towards her. "Have I what?"
"Kissed a woman?"
"No," I answered honestly, after a moment of hesitation.
But I've wanted to. God, how I've wanted to. During the scene with Robyn, today at the table-read, at the falls, and every damn time Robyn walks in the room?
"Have you ever wanted to?"
I drew in a surprised breath, and Liz looked over at me curiously.
I sat for a moment, then cleared my throat and said quietly, "Yes."
She nodded thoughtfully. "That must be it. I never have. Wanted to kiss a woman, I mean."
I stared. I wasn't sure what reaction I was expecting, but it certainly wasn't calm logic.
She pushed herself off the couch using the armrest and one of my knees. "Well, I've got a two o'clock call time. Paula's going to be over here pounding on the door any moment. Might as well save her the trip." She stopped at the door. "I'm glad we're okay, Caid."
I found my voice. "Me too."
She opened the door, and looked over her shoulder. "And you're not off the hook about this kissing a woman thing. We'll talk about that later."
The door closed with a loud snick.
I groaned, and put my face in my hands.
Great. Just great.
I pushed the lit doorbell and waited nervously; shifting my feet and gripping the bottle of wine I carried tightly. The arched wooden door was carved with intricate Mexican designs, in keeping with house's white stucco and red-tiled roof that blended nicely with the abundant greenery surrounding it.
The door rattled and I drew a deep breath, plastering what I hoped was a pleasant smile on my face. The heavy wood swung inward to reveal a tall, blonde-haired man with light blue eyes and a mega-watt smile, currently aimed at me.
"Ms. Harris," he held out a large hand, "It's great to meet you. Josh Riley."
Like I didn't know who he was.
In photographs, Josh Riley was an attractive man, but in the flesh, he was quite a bit more than that. I felt an instant, visceral reaction, and had to squelch an urge to touch him to see if he was real.
Good god. No wonder people followed these two around, wanting pictures.
Slightly dazed, I took his hand. "Caidence Harris. Please, call me Caid."
His grip was strong without being overbearing.
"Caid," he said, as though trying it out. He grinned. "And you should call me Josh."
Before releasing my hand, he tugged me lightly through the door and closed it behind us.
I held up the wine. "Robyn said not to bring anything, but my mother would kill me if I showed up empty handed."
"Ah. Fully house trained. No wonder Robyn likes you." He took my hand again. "I'll let you deliver that yourself. Robby's just in the kitchen, I think."
I let him pull me further into the house, slightly disconcerted by his complete disregard of the physical boundaries that normally existed between virtual strangers. He led me past a curving, stone stairway going up to our left, and down a wide hallway, our footsteps muffled by expensive-looking woven rugs that covered smooth tile floors.
A railed landing at the end of the hall overlooked a huge, open living room with a two-story wall of glass offering a breathtaking view of Los Angeles at night.
I stopped, pulling Josh to a halt as well. "Wow."
"Nice, isn't it?" He tugged me towards a stairway. "You should see the view of the mountains in the daytime. That's really why she paid out the ass for this place."
"I bet," I murmured, following Josh down the stairs, still gazing at the view.
At the bottom of the steps, Josh paused, glancing around. "Robby? Your guest is here."
"Caid." The husky voice affected me like a jolt of electricity and I dropped Josh's hand hastily, afraid my feelings could somehow be transferred by the contact. Robyn emerged from an arched doorway that led into a large kitchen, wiping her hands on a towel. "I'm so glad you could make it. Welcome."
"Thanks," I said, unable to stop the large smile that spread across my face at the sight of her. Her long hair fell loose down her back; she wore a faded green t-shirt tucked into worn jeans and no shoes.
This was by far my favorite view in the house.
She answered my smile with one of her own, and we stood like that for several moments, until Josh moved towards the kitchen.
"Where's my meat, woman? I'm starving."
Robyn threw the towel over her shoulder and stopped him with a hand to his chest. "Uh-uh. Stay out of my kitchen, grill-boy." She turned him around and motioned towards a sliding glass door leading out onto a wide deck. "Go light the grill, and I'll bring it out to you."
He pouted a little, but did as she asked, flashing me a quick grin as he walked by. Robyn watched him go with a fond smile, and motioned for me to follow her into the kitchen.
"Want me to open that?" She motioned at the wine in my hand.
"Oh. Not necessarily, unless you want to." I held it out to her, and she took it, glancing at the label and treating me to a raised eyebrow.
It was a nice wine. At least it had better be, for what I paid for it.
"I'll let you get away with it this time, but next time you come over, you really don't need to bring anything." She glanced at the label again. "I think we'll save this one for later. I've got a merlot open that I've been sipping on," she motioned to an opened bottle and half-full glass on the counter. "Or there's beer, soda?I think I've got some ice-tea made. Or a cocktail of some sort, if you'd rather."
I nodded at the open bottle. "Some of that would be great, thanks."
She picked up a foil-covered pan and handed it to me. "If you take this out to Josh, I'll bring you out a glass."
"Hey," I said, taking the pan with a mock-pout. "No one told me I'd had to work for my dinner."
"At least you've got the right shoes," she said with a smile. "Now shoo. I'll be out in a second."
I wandered through the living room and out onto the deck, spotting Josh in a corner where the deck wrapped around the other side of the house, scrubbing vigorously at a monstrous grill with a wire brush.
"Delivery for you." I walked over and set the pan down on a nearby table.
"Oh, great!" He set down the brush and rubbed his hands together in anticipation before peeling the foil back to reveal three large steaks, a pile of chopped peppers, onions and zucchini, and a dish filled with marinade.
"You are in for a treat. I don't know what magic sauce stuff Robyn puts on these steaks, but it's damn tasty."
"It looks wonderful," I said, meaning it. My stomach grumbled in agreement.
Josh and I chatted about the art of grilling until Robyn brought out our drinks, then the two of them proceeded to charm the hell out of me with their comfortable banter and obvious affection for each other. Josh told some hilarious stories about his life on tour and some of the other players, and Robyn countered with tales of her days as a model and a recent trip to the grocery store.
By the time we sat down to dinner, my sides ached from laughing, and the three of us were giggling like teenagers. By the time dinner was through, I felt as comfortable with the two of them as I had with anyone in a long, long time.
We all chipped in clearing the table and stacking the dishes in the kitchen, and then Josh announced that he needed to head home. That surprised me - I'd just assumed that this was home.
"Amazing how you always mange to leave just when it's time to do dishes," Robyn said dryly, slapping him lightly on the stomach.
"My timing is impeccable, isn't it?" He smiled charmingly and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, pulling her close. She leaned into him, resting her cheek on his chest, and threaded her arms around his waist. They stood like that for several long seconds, and I wanted to look away but couldn't. They were beautiful together.
Finally he kissed her dark hair, murmuring, "Love you."
"Love you too," she answered.
They untangled themselves from each other with a final, private smile, and Josh turned to me, grinning hugely.
"Caid," he took my hand and held it within both of his. "It's been a true pleasure to meet you. I hope I get to see a lot more of you."
"Me too," I said, and meant it. I stepped forward to kiss him on the cheek.
He was surprised, but pleased, and bent his head in an endearing display of bashfulness.
Well, if Robyn wasn't going to fall madly in love with me, I supposed she could do a lot worse.
"I'll walk you out," Robyn said, and glanced over at me. "Be right back."
I nodded and headed into the kitchen, secretly relieved to miss their final good-byes, which would no doubt be steamier than the chaste, almost sisterly one I had witnessed.
I could hear the low murmur of voices, and Josh's laughter, followed by Robyn's. Then the door closed and Robyn's bare feet padded back down the stairs.
I started rinsing off plates, stacking them by the side of the sink. Robyn came in and pulled out what I had assumed was a cupboard, but turned out to be a dishwasher.
"Clever," I noted, and started setting the plates inside while Robyn moved next to me at the sink and took over my rinsing job, handing me dishes as she finished. We were finished within five minutes, and I wiped my hands on a towel, chewing on the inside of my cheek. Robyn had been silent since she came back into the kitchen. That was probably my cue to leave.
"Well," I said, and smiled brightly, "I guess I'd better head out, too. Thanks so much for dinner?it was delicious. And Josh is a sweetheart. You're very lucky."
And he's the luckiest person on this planet.
She picked up her wine glass and swirled what was left, smiling the fond smile that I'd begun to associate with Josh.
"Yes, I'm very lucky to have Josh in my life. He's the best friend I could ever ask for." She looked over at me, hesitated, and continued. "Do you need to go home? Or can you stay for a while?"
I corralled my giddiness, fighting down the urge to grin like a maniac. "I can stay."
"Great." Her happy smile, showing even, white teeth and crinkling the corners of her eyes just a little, brought on another one of those breathless moments that I'd labeled 'Robyn Rush'. I looked down at the towel in my hands and took a few steadying breaths.
She poured us both another glass of wine, handed me mine and grabbed my hand. "Come on."
I wondered if this habit of dragging people around by the hand was one she'd picked up from Josh, or if he'd picked it up from her. Either way, I wasn't complaining, enjoying the casual contact as she led me up the stairs and along the hall towards the front door, then up the curving stairway I'd noticed when I first came in.
At the top of the stairs was a huge room with a gigantic bed on a simple log frame, the headboard filled with books.
Robyn dropped my hand, muttering, "one sec," before crossing the room to disappear into an arched doorway that led to a large walk-in closet.
I stood stock-still. I was standing in Robyn Ward's bedroom.
I glanced around nervously, shifting uncomfortably and trying not to stare at the bed. I felt like a voyeur, and it was not a pleasant feeling.
Robyn emerged from the closet and tossed a shirt at me. I snagged it out of the air on pure reflex, the rest of my body still to busy trying not to look the bed, where Robyn slept, every night, wearing god knows what, or what not?
"It's getting a little chilly."
Robyn's words drew my attention thankfully away from not looking at the bed, and I followed her through a sliding glass door, out onto another deck. This one smaller and more cozy; offering an even better view, with a low table and two large adirondack chairs taking up most of the space. Robyn set her wine down on the table and threaded her long arms through the sleeves of the shirt she had brought out, buttoned up a few of the buttons, and sat down in one of the chairs, motioning for me to take other.
I set my wine glass next to hers on the table and quickly pulled the shirt she had handed me over my head, settling it down around my torso. The cloth was soft and warm against the skin of my arms, and it smelled like her?I had to stop myself from burying my face in the folds and just breathing the scent of her in.
Difficult to explain that kind of behavior.
I settled into the chair, and we sat looking over the city, not speaking. Or rather Robyn sat looking over the city - I spent more of my time watching Robyn's profile in the dim light, wanting to trace every curve, every line, every hollow.
"This is a great place, Robyn," I said eventually, dragging my eyes back to the cityscape.
"Yeah," she sighed contentedly, "I love it here."
"I can see why."
She picked up her glass and held it balanced on her stomach, tracing the rim absently with a thin, elegant finger. "I'm going to miss it. I'll be gone most of the summer filming on another project. Lynne Wesson's latest. We'll be on location in the Florida Keys for about half of it, and then in New York for soundstage work."
I loved her hands. The fingers were long and slender, strong and graceful?she used her hands often when she spoke, and I'd caught myself several times that evening, mesmerized by the movements of those hands.
Her words finally registered, and I dragged my eyes away from her hands and leaned forward. Lynne Wesson was a hot independent director, and landing a role in one of her movies was quite a coup. "Lynne Wesson? Robyn, that's great! Hell, that's fantastic!" I touched her on the arm. "Congratulations."
She looked over at me with a pleased, slightly embarrassed smile. "Thanks. I'm a little freaked out about it, to be completely honest. I don't even know how in the hell I got the part." She laughed and shook her head. "I didn't even see the script first - I just got this call out of the blue from one of Lynne's assistants, wondering if I wanted to read for a part in her new film. Auditions were in New York and damn, I couldn't get on the plane fast enough. I met her, and after we'd talked about five minutes - kind of weirding me out because she kept staring at me - she told me I had the part, handed me the script, and left. I didn't even have to read for it. It was pretty damn strange, but I'm not complaining."
"I bet you're not. Have you done films before?"
"No?well, a made for TV thing a few years back, but nothing like this. And the part is a good one, too. The movie's about a thirty-something family man from the mid-west who just walks out on his life one day and goes to the Florida Keys to try to get some perspective but ends up getting caught up in a lot of shit?she's cast Lonnie Colchev as the lead, and I get to play his strung-out, ex-stripper girlfriend. The working title of the script is Lost Key." The excitement and pleasure in her voice was evident.
"Lynne Wesson and Lonnie Colchev? Damn, woman, that sounds great," I said, impressed and a little awed that she was going to be in a Lynne Wesson movie. Made my summer seem pretty pathetic.
As if in answer to my thought, she asked, "Got any projects lined up this summer?"
I laughed. "Well, none as exciting as yours?let's see?a golf tournament right after we break for the summer - and I suck at golf - a week of remodeling a house in New Mexico on the celebrity version of Fix This House, a couple charity 5Ks?Connie is still working on some stuff." I shrugged. "If it pans out, that's great, if not, I won't be too upset. I kinda like having the free time."
She took a sip of wine, and glanced at me curiously. "Why are you doing a golf tournament if you suck at golf?"
"Because Liz doesn't play golf, and Danny is really persuasive," I replied dryly. She raised an eyebrow, and I elaborated. "Danny is a golf freak. It's a little scary, actually, how much that game means to him. Anyway, he got asked to do this celebrity co-ed tournament, and he signed up, thinking he'd get Liz to play. The two of them talk golf all the time, so Danny just assumed she played?but it turns out she doesn't, she's just an avid watcher, and so Danny asked me?but I don't think he realizes how truly awful I am at golf. He might as well just play with Liz."
She chuckled and sighed, settling back into her seat. We were quiet for several minutes, just enjoying the night and the view.
"Thanks for coming over tonight, Caid," she said finally, and looked over at me. "It's nice?to get to know you better."
I thought of how much I enjoyed her company, how I liked her intelligence, her humor?and I remembered how good she and Josh had looked together in the kitchen. My smile was bittersweet. "Yes, it is."
She took a sip of wine and looked away. "Especially since I'm going to be kissing you in a week or so."
Goddamn. The woman had all sorts of ways to leave me breathless.
"You are?" My voice cracked. Like a freaking fourteen-year-old boy.
"Yes?" She went back to tracing the rim of her glass, staring at it intently. "That is, if you're sure you're okay with it. I know Grant was being kind of a dickhead yesterday and didn't give you much choice, so if you're not okay with it, I can probably talk to someone..."
"No, really. I'm okay with it." It was nice she was willing to do that, but I really was fine with it, especially now that I knew it was going to be her. Although it would probably be better for me if it wasn't.
"Absolutely." I frowned, and asked cautiously, "Are you?"
I gulped at my wine. "Uh?how does Josh feel about all this?"
She was quiet for a moment, staring at her glass. "We're not together, you know. Not a couple, I mean." She delivered the information matter-of-factly, as though she hadn't just said something that completely stunned me. Then she laughed. "Actually, Josh thinks I'm very lucky."
"Pardon?" I stammered.
"Josh thinks I'm lucky. To get a chance to kiss you?"
"No, no?I mean the 'not together' part." I sat up in my chair and put my wineglass down. "Robyn, the last time I was at the store, I saw the two of you on no less than five magazine or newspaper covers. Most of them speculating on the date of your impending nuptials, except for the one that said Josh was wildly jealous because you were pregnant with George Clooney's baby."
"Caid," she said lightly, amusement coloring her tone, "you should know as well as anyone not to believe a word of that garbage. Don't tell me you actually read those things."
"I was bored," I mumbled defensively, my head spinning with the realization that Robyn had suddenly gone from completely, unattainably safe, to something else. I didn't know what that 'else' was yet, but it scared the crap out of me. "I don't?"
"Besides," she waved her hand dismissively, "I've never even met George Clooney."
The look on my face must have been priceless, because when she looked at me, she burst out laughing. "Oh, god, Caid. You are so damn adorable."
She thinks I'm adorable.
I shook my head. I'd think about that later. Right now, I wanted her to stay on the subject.
"I just spent the evening with the two of you, and you seemed pretty damned together to me. This isn't just me believing what I read in the tabloids, Robyn, this is what the entire world has been led to believe for the past two years."
She shrugged, and took a sip of wine. "We're good friends, and enjoy being with each other, but we're not together romantically. If the tabloids misconstrue that, that's their problem."
She seemed so nonchalant about it, and I tried to match her attitude. Honestly, I should be leaping for joy. Praising the heavens. She was - technically - single. But instead I was angry. I was like any other human being, and didn't like to be duped. I also didn't like contemplating other parts of who I thought Robyn was that might not be genuine.
Conversation after that was forced - she tried to draw me out, but I was distracted by her announcement, and I'm sure my answers seemed curt, verging on outright rude. When I told her I needed to head home, she didn't argue, only nodded resignedly, and showed me to the door.
The mixture of sadness and confusion on her face as we said painfully polite goodbyes made me feel like an ass, and I berated myself the entire way home, trying to figure out why I'd reacted the way I had. So Robyn wasn't with Josh. So what? So they let the public think they were. So what?
What really had set me off, I realized, was my fear at her sudden change in status from forbidden to not-so-forbidden, and that was ridiculous. She was still just as straight, just as unattainable as ever.
That was the question. All my dealings with Robyn up to now; the smiles, the slightly flirtatious banter, the touches?all that time I'd been under the impression that she was with Josh. I'd assumed she was flirtatious by nature, and touchy.
But what if?
I sighed, frustrated. With guys, it was easy. But I'd never done this before with a woman. Were the signs the same? How did you know? How could you tell what was friendship and what was more?
I let myself into my small, cottage-style house in the hills outside of La Canada, still puzzling over these questions, and no closer to an answer, although I had come to the conclusion that I needed to call Robyn first thing in the morning and apologize.
Robyn beat me to it.
The voice on my machine was hesitant and subdued. "Caid?it's Robyn. I don't know what happened?but I feel like somehow I upset you?whatever I did, I'm sorry." There was a sigh, and I could picture her running a hand through her hair. "I'd like to talk to you, please call me."
She left a number, which I automatically wrote down, and then stared at.
I picked up the phone and tapped it against my forehead a few times.
Ok. You can do this. Just tell her you're sorry, that you had a nice evening?something like that.
I took a breath and punched in the numbers.
Her breathless voice answered on the fourth ring, and I basked for just a moment in the warmth that flowed through my body at the sound.
"Caid." The relief in her voice was obvious, and I kicked myself again for being such an ass. "Caid, I'm sorry. Whatever I did?"
"No," I stopped her, "It's me that should apologize. I'm sorry, Robyn, you just?you just surprised me, and I felt like I'd been lied to, and I overreacted."
Ohhhh. Good thinking on your feet, Harris. Maybe you should go into acting.
"Oh." That stopped her, and it was several seconds before she spoke again. "I'm sorry, Caid, I never thought about it that way. Josh and I?we've never actually lied about it, but I guess lies of omission are just as bad?it's been good for both of our careers to be seen as a couple?"
"You don't owe me any explanation, Robyn. It's your business, and I had no right to act the way I did."
She sighed. "Caid, I like you. Very much. I haven't felt?I haven't had a new?friend?in a long time. That's why I told you tonight." She paused, and continued quietly. "I'm sorry if you felt as though I'd lied to you. I didn't do it purposely; Josh and I, we've just been doing this so long?"
"Are you running in the morning?" I asked suddenly. I didn't want to hear her apologize anymore for my stupid behavior.
"Yes," came the hesitant answer.
"Usually at 6:30 or so." No hesitation this time.
"Silver Lake trail. I start out from here, there's an entrance about five blocks down the hill."
"I'll see you at 6:30, then."
Another pause, then she laughed. "Deal."
-- CHAPTER FIVE --
When I pulled into Robyn's drive the next morning, she was already out front, pushing against the wall and stretching out her calves. She wore mid-calf black running tights and a gray and black, zip-up top against the morning chill, both items hugging the flat planes and subtle curves of her body, accentuating her athletic build and long limbs. I'd been hoping she wouldn't run in shorts, not knowing if I could function with a view of her bare legs, but I wasn't so sure this was any better.
I took a deep, calming breath, got out of the car and walked over.
She smiled a greeting, pulling her hair back into a tight ponytail as I approached. "Morning."
"Gonna be warm enough?" she asked with a teasing grin. I had chosen loose navy blue running pants, a gray hooded sweatshirt with the sleeves cut out, and a lightweight white skull hat. It was a cold morning, and I hated running cold. Compared to Robyn, thought, I looked like a thug.
I smiled back at the jab, wondering if I should bring up the night before, or wait for her to do it.
"Ready to go?" she asked, bouncing on her toes a few times.
Or maybe we wouldn't talk about it at all. That was okay by me.
She nodded, and set off down the drive at a good clip. I chased after her and settled into stride on her left. I'd been right about those endless legs of hers - she had a long, easy stride and I could tell immediately I was going to have my work cut out for me this morning.
I felt a competitive spark flare inside me, and did my best to squelch it. I didn't know how far Robyn planned to run, and already her pace was faster than my usual speed. I'd end up killing myself if I tried to outrun her.
Robyn told me during one of our few spurts of conversation that the trail around Silver Lake was just over two and a half miles long, and she usually ran it twice. I was welcome to go further if I wanted.
"Twice is fine," I assured her hastily, trying to keep from showing that I was already breathing heavily.
I did myself proud for four miles, keeping up with her stride for stride. Then she glanced over at me with a wicked grin.
I was about to get crushed.
She lengthened her stride and I managed to keep up for another hundred yards before my lack of breakfast and lack of sleep the night before caught up with me. At least that's what I told myself.
Soon Robyn was just a speck in the distance, and I shook my head with a wry grin, slowing down and finishing the last mile at more comfortable pace.
She was sitting against a tree on the grass, pretending to take a nap when I jogged up and collapsed beside her, breathing heavily. She opened one eye and looked over at me with a lazy grin.
"I was wondering when you'd show up."
"Bite me, Ward," I growled through gasping breaths, shedding my sweatshirt and using it to wipe the sweat from my arms and face before tossing it to the side. I groaned and leaned back on my elbows, closing my eyes and listening to my breathing and heart rate slow.
Underneath the sweatshirt I'd worn a gray and white bra top that ended a few inches above my navel, and the early morning sun felt good on the damp, exposed skin of my stomach and shoulders. I sighed in pleasure and turned to Robyn to comment on how quickly it had warmed up. The words stuck in my throat when I saw the look on her face as she watched the rise and fall of my stomach. She seemed?enthralled was a good word for it, I guess.
I tensed in reaction; she flicked a glance at my face and looked away quickly.
"Nice morning," she said, and picked at the grass under her hand.
"Sure is." I replied when I was able. "Warmed up quick."
"Supposed to rain this weekend, though." She held up several blades of grass and let them go, watching as they floated away in the breeze.
"Well, we could use the moisture." I watched the grass fall to the ground between us.
"Yeah, they're predicting a pretty bad fire season this year."
I'd had this exact conversation with my grandfather about a million times. I never expected to be having it with Robyn.
I rolled on my side, and propped my head on my hand. "Robyn," I paused until she met my gaze. "I'm sorry about last night. I was having a really nice time, and I feel like I ruined it. I haven't had a new friend in a while either?I hope we can try again some time."
She looked down at the grass again, then back at me. "How about Friday?"
I felt the smile spread across my face. "Really?"
She smiled back. "Eight o'clock again?"
"That's fine?but I can probably get off a little earlier. Unless they change the shooting schedule we're on the soundstages all day. I should be finished by seven at the latest."
"Why don't you just come over whenever you can, then?" She paused, thinking. "I might be a little later than that, myself. Josh will be here, though. Uh?oh." She bit her lip. "If that's okay?"
"That Josh is at your house?"
"Robyn." Again, I waited until she met my gaze. "I wasn't just being nice when I said Josh was a sweetheart. I like him, very much. Of course I wouldn't mind. Why do you think I would?"
She brushed her hands off on her pants, and pushed herself to her feet. "Come on, let's walk back." She reached down, and I grabbed her hand and let her pull me up. I scooped up my sweatshirt and tossed it over my shoulder.
We started walking and she looked over at me. "Caid, when I talked about me and Josh before?you kinda wigged out."
"I didn't?.it wasn't?" I sighed. "It wasn't about Josh. It was never about Josh, really." I glanced over at her. "Tell me about the two of you? I didn't stay around last night long enough to hear the whole story."
She was quiet for a while and then started speaking as we left the trail and started up the street. "Josh and I met at school?UCLA." she said. "I was two years ahead of him, but we both played sports - he was on the tennis team, obviously, and I played some volleyball - we met at an athletic awards banquet and hit if off immediately. Like you said, he's a sweetheart. We dated through most of college, even lived together for a while."
"And then I graduated, and I went off to Europe to model, and Josh joined the circuit. We decided not to do the long distance thing, but kept in touch for the next few years, on and off. I moved back to the States, to New York, and we'd see each other occasionally, but then when I came back to LA, we started seeing each other a lot, just as friends - we'd always made better friends than lovers, and we'd both?changed a lot in that time apart."
She glanced at me, and I nodded encouragement but stayed quiet. "Josh had just broken the top fifty at that point, and was trying to find some sponsors, and I'd only had some minor acting gigs, but together," she shrugged, "we got noticed."
"The year I moved back to LA, I flew out to New York to watch him play in the US Open. I watched a few of his practices, we went out a few times before the matches started?And then the morning after the first match, my agent called - he'd gotten over fifty inquiries about me. And Josh was getting some interest suddenly from sponsors?"
She shook her head. "It was surreal for both of us. We were both nothing, then suddenly, the press was all over us."
"Anyway," she said as we got to the top of the hill, "needless to say, both our agents pushed us to do things together, and, hell?I love Josh. He's my best friend. I don't want to sleep with him, but I love him more than just about anyone it the world. It's no hardship for me to do things with him, and it's certainly good for my career." She shrugged. "So that's the story."
"So?" I didn't know if I really wanted to know this, but I asked anyway. "What if one of you?"
"Wants to date? Finds someone they're really interested in?" she paused, and made quoting motions with her fingers. "Falls in love?"
"Uh?yeah." I said, wondering at the mocking tone in her voice.
She shrugged again. "It's never been an issue before?when we started doing things together again, we were both just out of bad relationships and neither of us was looking to get serious with someone. We didn't have any fantasies about getting back together, we were just spending time with each other and being seen. We?both of us?have always pursued things on the side?"
"Things?" I repeated, only half-joking. I didn't like how she'd said that.
"People, affairs, trysts?whatever you want to call them?I know Josh sees other women sometimes, and he knows that I?have lovers, too." She looked slightly embarrassed. "Neither of us are saints, Caid?far from it. But we're both aware of the fact that what we do affects the other, and we're discreet?and so far, it's worked out."
"Uh?wow. Okay?" I wasn't quite sure what to say. Congratulations, nice ruse?
We walked for a block in silence, until we turned onto the street Robyn lived on.
"So," she asked hesitantly, "do you still want to have dinner on Friday?"
"Of course," I said, silencing any internal objections.
"Great," she replied, smiling hugely.
We turned into her drive. "Wanna come in for a bit? Have some coffee?"
I checked my watch, thought for a second, and shook my head. "I need to go home before I go to the set?" I said regretfully.
"Next time, bring your clothes and you can change here."
I fought back a grin. "Okay."
As we walked up to my car, I unlocked the doors with the keyless fob clipped inside the pocket of my pants and pulled the door open.
Robyn stopped beside me and gently patted the car's roof. "Heya Twila."
She talked to my car.
If I wasn't careful, I'd fall head over heels for this woman.
There was a good chance I already had.
I slid into the driver's seat and felt around under the floor mat for the key. Once I found it, I put it in the ignition and turned it partway, enough to roll down the window, but not start the engine.
Robyn leaned in, smiling. "Thanks for the run."
I snorted. "Thanks for the whoopin'"
She laughed, and I grinned up at her. "That wasn't really fair, you know."
"What?" she asked innocently.
"You said when you used to run with Josh, he crushed you." I allowed myself a glance up her long frame. "I imagine you kept up with him just fine."
"I said he tried to crush me," she corrected, placing her hands on the windowsill and gently closing the door. She leaned against the frame for a moment. "I never said he succeeded."
She winked and walked away, whistling.
I laughed and started the car.
Yep, a very good chance I already had.
"Nice job Liz, Caid?you too, Danny." Nate Wiley rapped on his bound script and pointed at the three of us on the set. "That one will work fine?let's print it and move on. You three are off for now - check with Addy for when we need you back." He turned and raised his voice further. "Micah, Henry, Joe, Arturo, Irene?you're up. Extra's for 12, check in with Brent. Brent, where are you?"
There was a whistle from across the stage. "Over here!"
The director pointed. "Check in with Brent over there. Regulars, let's get this blocked out, and do a run through?"
"Thank god," Liz sighed, blowing a stray piece of hair out of her eyes and rolling the tension from her neck. "I thought he was going to make us go again."
I just grunted, arching my back until it popped.
"I thought we nailed it the first time," Danny grumbled. "Picky damn bastard."
There was no venom in his words - we all liked Nate, and trusted his direction.
The three of us moved off the squad room set where we'd done the last scene, dodging members of the crew who darted around purposefully, with a controlled sense of urgency that always accompanied the shoots that Nate directed.
"Danny, back in forty-five," yelled Addison Couch, a small, curly-haired man who was several yards away, conferring with the lighting tech. "Liz, we need you at one, and Caid?" he consulted the clipboard in his hands, "two-thirty, for the bust scene."
We all nodded, and headed for the exit of the cavernous warehouse where the soundstages were housed.
"And Caid?" I paused expectantly, noting that Liz had stopped at the door and was waiting for me. Addy finished his conversation with the lighting tech and walked over to me, flipping through the papers on his clipboard. He eventually pulled out a small envelope and handed it to me. "This came with a script delivery from ITD?"
I frowned, but took the envelope. I wasn't up for a guest role on In Their Defense any time in the near future?I wondered what this was for.
"Thanks, Addy," I said absently, looking at the envelope. It was small, invitation or note card size, with my name written in bold, very precise capitol letters on the front. There were no other markings on it.
I felt Liz move over beside me. "What's that for?"
I shrugged. "I don't know. As far as I know, I don't have anything going on over there."
I slipped a finger under the flap and drew out a small card.
I'll give you a chance to redeem yourself. Tomorrow, same time and place.
Loser buys coffee, winner gets taunting rights.
The grin that split my face was huge, and I laughed out loud.
Several crew members stopped what they were doing to stare.
Okay, more than several.
In fact, just about all of them. I wasn't known for my spontaneous laughter.
"Caid?" Liz was frowning, and she looked genuinely concerned. "Are you okay?"
Jeez, can't a woman laugh like an idiot anymore?
"I'm fine," I answered, dimming the wattage of my smile but still thinking of Robyn. "Just fine."
Liz shrugged, and started walking towards the door. "Paula's picking up from that Thai place you like so much?come by in ten."
It was not optional.
I'd managed to avoid talking with Liz since the 'have you ever wanted to kiss a woman' incident, but it didn't look like I was going to be able to avoid it any longer.
I sighed internally and I nodded. "See you in a bit." At least she made the effort to get something I liked.
In my trailer, I gratefully pulled off the black, lightweight jacket I wore for the last scene and hung it neatly on the back of the door. I unclipped the leather holster and rubber prop gun from my hip and clipped it on the hanger with the jacket so I wouldn't forget it, and then looked down at the wine colored v-neck shirt I wore. After a moment of debate, I stripped it off too, hung it on a different hanger, and pulled on the tank top I'd worn in to the set that morning. Zoe in wardrobe would kill me if I dribbled pad thai all over the v-neck and they had to find something similar to finish up with today.
I checked my cell for messages - one from my agent Connie, who wanted to know my thoughts about shampoo commercials, and one from my brother, Perry. He and a friend were hiking a two-week section of the Pacific Crest Trail in June, ending up in Big Bear. I'd agreed to send them a re-supply package in Idyllwild and when they were through, pick the two up in Big Bear, let them stay with me a few days, and put them on a plane back to Madison where they were both in school at UW. Perry was calling to confirm dates and try to taunt me into joining him on the trip, clucking like a chicken and spouting insults about my advanced age in some kind of weird Slavic accent that made me laugh out loud.
I made a mental note to call him later when I had more time, then I phoned Connie back and left her a reminder that I'd just gotten out of doing commercials, and I didn't want to get back into them. Finally, after some hesitation, I called the studio's main switchboard and talked the admin out of Robyn's cell number. I only felt slightly guilty that I lied to get the number - I didn't think Robyn would mind.
I dialed the number, expecting, and hoping, to get voicemail, but that raspy voice answered on the third ring.
"'lo," she sounded annoyed at the interruption, and I winced. Maybe I shouldn't have called her on the set.
Too late now.
"I got your message, Ward, and you got a deal," I told her, "but let's make it Ledos Canyon at six?we'll see how those pencil legs do in some real terrain. Six o'clock." I heard her laughter as I hung up, and smiled like a Cheshire cat.
After puttering around for a while longer, my ten minutes were up and I strolled over to Liz's trailer, hopefully ready for whatever she was going to lay on me.
I knocked on the trailer door and let myself in; Paula was sitting at a desk at the far end of the trailer, talking rapidly into her headset while working away on her laptop. Liz looked up guiltily from a bowl of noodles, slurping them up hurriedly.
"Sorry, I was starving. Couldn't wait," she said when the noodles were sufficiently chewed enough that she could talk.
I shrugged and started poking around in the other containers, my mouth watering at the smell.
"This one's yours," she tapped a container with her chopsticks, "extra sauce, and spicy."
"Oh, yum. Thanks."
We both dug in hungrily, eating for several minutes without talking, the only sound in the room Paula's voice and her furious typing.
Liz eventually sighed and sat back, stabbing at the noodles. "You took off fast after shooting wrapped last night?hot date?" Another few stabs at the defenseless noodles, then a sly look up at me. "Was it a woman?"
I concentrated very hard on swallowing and not choking, finally managing after a few swigs from a bottle of water Liz calmly handed me. "Jesus, Liz." I coughed, and took another sip. "At least wait until I'm not eating to throw shit like that at me."
"Shit like what? It's just a simple question, or rather two simple questions." Seeing that I wasn't going to give her water back any time soon, she leaned over and grabbed another out of the mini-fridge. "One - was it a hot date?"
I shook my head. "No, it was not a hot date. I went to dinner?"
She pounced on that. "With a woman?"
"Well, one of them was?"
"Oh, Caid, a threesome?" She looked at me speculatively. "I never pegged you for the type."
I rolled my eyes. "Liz, do you want to know what I did last night or not? Do I even need to be present for this conversation?"
"So you didn't have a threesome?"
"No, I did not."
This seemed to disappoint her greatly and she stared at me intently. "Did you want to? Because in those online story thingies, lot's of the women seemed to want to have threesomes?"
"Jesus?" I put my food down with a sigh.
"Is that a lesbian thing?" She looked at me expectantly.
"I wouldn't know, Liz." Maybe I would someday, but I sure didn't now.
"But you've wanted to kiss a woman though, right?"
I suddenly noticed the silence in the trailer - Paula had stopped typing and was looking at me, her mouth an astonished little 'O'.
"Because, you know, that makes you an almost lesbian, right?" she nodded, as though it were obvious. "So, who did you go out with last night? Oh?was it the same person who sent you that note today? I don't think I've ever seen you smile like that, Caid, it must have been?"
"I had dinner with Robyn, and Josh Riley," I cut in, before she could get rolling about why I might be getting notes that made me smile.
That stopped her. "Really?"
"What's Josh Riley like? Is he as attractive in person? Ohhh, those blue eyes and those cute, sexy little buns?"
Well, at least we were off the subject of me kissing women.
"?but I've heard that he cheats on her when he's on tour. Marty said that Ken said that Anthony said that he met this girl at a club in Rio who swears she spent the night with Josh Riley?"
Maybe Josh needed to work on his discreetness.
"Oh, who knows if it's true or not, you know how Anthony is with the girls?"
Indeed I did know how Anthony was with the girls, having made the mistake of letting Liz set me up with him once. A very pretty man with a serious coke problem and a desperate need to be liked?Anthony would say anything to anyone if he thought it would make him more popular.
"?so, what did you think of him?"
"I thought he was very nice?" I could tell she expected more. "And he's gorgeous. Much better in person."
That seemed to satisfy her, and she sat back with a tiny smile on her face. Then she leaned forward. "Did you ever want to kiss me?"
I blinked. Conversing with this woman was like ping-pong.
I cleared my throat and looked over at Paula who was typing again, or at least pretending to.
"No, Liz, I never wanted to kiss you."
"Why not! What's wrong with me?"
I sighed. "There's nothing wrong with you?"
"Don't you think I'm attractive? For god sakes, I'm one of People's 100 Most Beautiful People!"
"Of course your attractive, Liz," I said in exasperation, "I just don't want to kiss you, okay?"
"No, I don't."
She crossed her arms and pouted. "Why?"
"Because you're my friend, Liz." A horrible thought struck me. "You don't want to kiss me, do you?" I asked fearfully.
"God no." She looked shocked. "Oh, Caid, ewwww."
"Hey," I started to protest, but thought better of it.
"So, do you want to kiss Paula?"
There was a squeak from the other end of the room, and the pace of typing increased.
"No, I don't want to kiss Paula," I said with a slight smile.
Liz looked at me intently. "So who have you wanted to kiss?"
I felt like I was in Junior High, playing a game of Truth or Dare.
I shook my head.
"Caaaaiiiidd?" she whined. I smiled, but kept my mouth shut.
"I'll get it out of you," she promised, and I was certain she was right.
But not today.
Continued in Part 2