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Authors: Karen White-Owens

Now Until Forever

BOOK: Now Until Forever
6.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
“I want you to go to the celebration with me.”
Ryan drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. She didn't want to have this conversation. “Keir, I can't do that.”
“Why not?”
“What do you mean, ‘why not?' I thought we agreed to keep our relationship away from the gossipmongers. I can't jeopardize my career.”
“Nobody said you had to.”
Annoyed, Ryan shut her eyes, reaching for a way to describe her fears. Facing him, she said, “Keir, I really like being with you. But my career is very important to me. Just like yours is to you. When we started seeing each other, you agreed to stay low-key. Now you want to change the rules.”
“You are right,” Keir said, taking her hand. “I did agree. But, I also said we'd revisit this subject if things changed. That's happened and we're revisiting.”
“Don't!” Panicked, Ryan shook off his hand and placed hers in her lap.
Frustration was etched into his normally pleasant features. He grabbed her hand and held it tightly. “The situation has changed. Our situation is different. I'm not going to pretend anymore. Why should we act like teenagers worried about how our friends and parents will react? This isn't Romeo and Juliet. We're too damn old to play games, and I don't live that way. And I'm not going to.”
NOW Until Forever
Karen White-Owens
Kensington Publishing Corp.
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.
Chapter 1
Keir Southhall kicked the black leather executive chair away from the desk at his Los Angeles production company, One Leaf Studios. He rose, stretched, and strolled to the coffeemaker, with his mug in hand. As he passed the floor-to-ceiling windows, he took a minute to examine the set, zeroing in on a petite female figure buzzing in and out of the construction area.
Who is she?
Unable to resist, he trailed her movements across the studio. Eager for a better glimpse of the woman with skin the color of warm mocha, Keir leaned closer.
Slightly built, with jet-black hair that framed her face with short wisps, she looked gorgeous, striking. One of the workers called her, and the woman turned and smiled. Her entire face lit up.
Keir felt as if he'd been sucker punched. With a shaky hand, he placed the mug on the desk. The desire to vacate his office and head down to the set warred with his common sense.
He wondered how it would feel to hold that ray of sunshine in his arms, be inside and a part of her. Keir allowed that fantasy to emerge, conjuring images of himself and that woman intertwined in the heat of passion. “Damn,” he muttered, feeling his flesh grow hard as stone.
Man, get a grip,
he admonished silently, shaking his head and laughing out loud.
She's only a woman, and you were just released from thirteen years of turmoil and hell that lesser men refer to as marriage. You don't need any new complications, especially not with a chick that works for you.
Yet, Keir remained glued to the window. From this distance, he barely made out her straight nose and full, lush lips. “What color are her eyes?” he mumbled, lingering over her heart-shaped face and the smoothness of her skin.
A rap on the door reluctantly pulled him away as the pungent odor of tobacco crept into the office, making his nose twitch. With one final glance at the woman, he strolled reluctantly to his desk, opened a drawer, and removed an ashtray. After he gave the black plastic dish a shove, it slid across the highly polished mahogany surface and teetered on the opposite edge of the desk.
“Phil, come on in,” Keir called, returning to his vigil at the window.
A tall, lanky man with thinning red hair entered, with a clipboard in one hand and a pen in the other. An inch of ash hung from the cigar glued to the right side of his mouth. “Hey, my man. How'd you know it was me?”
“Cigar. No one in their right mind has the guts to come to my office with that stench doggin' them.”
“Hey!” Phil protested, chewing on his cigar. “I'll have you know, this is the best one-dollar cigar you can buy.”
Keir chuckled, searching the set below for the tiny figure. “I believe you. But, it might be advantageous to our cast and crew if you'd upgrade your cigars to a two-dollar brand.” He pointed at the desk. “There's an ashtray with your name on it over there.”
“Right.” Phil moved to the desk and stamped out his cigar, leaving the butt in the ashtray. “How's life in the Eiffel Tower?”
Laughing softly, Keir perched on the edge of his desk and folded his arms across his chest. “Eiffel Tower? Who came up with that?”
“A few people on the construction crew.” Phil glanced around the office and nodded. “It fits.”
Keir's office sat above the sets and was surrounded by windows. The place resembled a lighthouse more than a tower. It offered him a perfect view of all the activities that went on the sets below. Often, he watched the hustle and bustle of the daily shoots from this vantage point and found it useful.
“Here you are, up here watching your subjects do your dirty work,” said Phil.
“Hey,” Keir admonished good-naturedly, “you better check yourself.”
Phil waved a dismissing hand at his boss. “I'm not worried about you. We go way back.”
“That may be true. But I'm still your boss. Don't forget it.” Standing, Keir dropped his hands to his sides. “What brings you my way? Everything okay on the set?”
“We're fine.” Phil scraped his thumb across his tongue and then flipped a page on his clipboard. “I want to go over the shooting schedule for episode six and talk about the guest stars.”
Keir's eyebrow flew up, and a giant grin of approval curved his lips. “Six? We're ahead of schedule.”
“That we are.”
Pleased, Keir pursed his lips, considering the situation. “Good! Once five is in the can, we'll have a celebration lunch. I want the crew to know how much I appreciate their hard work.”
“Won't be long. Maybe another day or two.” Phil moved across the office and stood next to his boss, studying the view. “My man, what are you looking at?”
“Her.” Keir nodded toward the woman. “I've never seen her. Is she an extra?”
Phil shook his head.
“Who is she?”
“Ryan Mitchell. Costume and set designer. We were lucky to get her.”
Keir seldom heard that note of admiration in Phil's voice, and it stirred his curiosity. “Why?”
“She just finished out her contract on an action/ adventure series with your buddy Joel. You know the one,
SWAT Command.
Won her an Emmy, too. She's excellent. Comes to work on time, does her job, then goes home. No hassles. No headaches. No drama.”
Keir's lips pursed. “It sounds as if we hit the jackpot.”
“That we did. Why so interested?”
“No reason,” Keir answered, running a hand through his wavy hair. “She caught my eye, that's all.”
Phil examined Keir with the practiced eye of a longtime friend, someone who knew him well. “Yeah ... and?”
“And nothing.” Keir turned away from the window.
“You just got out of a funky situation with Shannon. Don't tell me you plan to check her out?”
“I haven't said a word,” Keir replied. “You're the one making all the assumptions.”
“Yeah, but it's time. I mean, you haven't had a regular bed partner since the divorce. Is that why you're interested? Want me to make the introductions?”
“I'm old enough to handle my dick. Maybe you should worry about your own.” Keir returned to his desk, sank into his chair, and waved a hand at the visitor's chair. He leaned back, methodically squeezing a red rubber exercise ball. “I've got two kids, who need my reassurance. Just because their mother and I found it unbearable to live together doesn't mean that I'll forget them. Let me add the fact that I'm the creator/director/writer/ producer for
Renewed Case Files
, slated for an October premiere. It's already June, and we need to stay on schedule or exceed it. The last thing I need is an on-the-job romantic situation, which could turn into my worse nightmare if things get out of hand.”
Phil raised his hands in an act of surrender. “Hey, my man. I'm sorry. I saw you studying her form, and I thought you might have an interest. Nothing more.”
“There's no vibes here. Ms. Mitchell caught my eye because I'd never seen her before. That's all. Got it?”
“Got it. By the way, it's Mrs. Mitchell.”
“Mrs.?” A jab of regret stabbed the armor around Keir's heart as a volley of what-ifs raced through his head. Shaking off those feelings, Keir refused to analyze the disquieting sense of disappointment he incurred.
“Widow. Husband's been dead two or three years.”
Relief flowed into Keir. For the second time in five minutes, he refused to examine the reasons behind his feelings. He cleared his throat. “That's too bad. Let's get back to work.”
“It's your world, boss.”
“As long as we understand each other.” Keir opened his desk drawer and pulled out a script. He flipped through the pages before tossing it to Phil. “We need some major revisions to this crap. Call a meeting with the writing team so that we can do some brainstorming. This won't fly without rewrites.”
Phil reached for the script. “Will do.”
Ryan Mitchell sat near the platform of a new set that was being constructed, sketching the new room as she envisioned it. As her fingers flew across the page, she added furniture, window treatments, and accent pieces to give it that lived-in, realistic appearance, while the construction team's boom box spilled the country-western lyrics of the Dixie Chicks. Once she completed her designs, she planned to search the warehouse for the items she needed to bring the set to life.
She studied her drawing as memories from her first interview for this job came back. In preparation, Ryan had boned up on Keir Southhall, studying all the information she'd found on the Internet, in the library, and through her limited circle of friends in the business. From his bio, she learned that he was forty-two years old and the father of two. Born and raised in California, Keir Southhall had capped off his film school years by receiving an Oscar after producing his documentary depicting the plight of children growing up in brothels.
Known for his innovative style of filmmaking, he represented one of the new breeds in Hollywood, a true visionary. He made movies that he wanted to see, rather than what the big brass dictated. No longer satisfied with his movie career, he'd turned to the small screen to write, produce, and direct a weekly television series.
The day of her interview, Ryan had arrived early, expecting to meet Keir Southhall and dazzle him with her knowledge of his background and achievements. No such luck. Instead, she'd met with the set director, Gloria “Glo” Kramer, and the production executive, Phil Berger.
Disappointed, Ryan had walked away from the interview with the distinct impression that she hadn't measured up. Surprise! Not only did she get a call back for a second interview, Glo Kramer offered her the job.
Ryan loved it here. After the restrictive nature of the directors on
SWAT Command
, she enjoyed the encouragement and praise she'd received since joining Southhall's team.
A set of French-manicured fingers curled around Ryan's shoulder and squeezed in a friendly gesture. “Hey, lady. How are things coming?”
She found Glo at her side. The fifty-something blonde oozed excited energy. Her enthusiasm and ideas were legendary in Hollywood.
“Hi. I'm working on the living-room scene for episode six.” Ryan shifted the sketch pad in Glo's direction. “The crew promised they'd be finished with the set this afternoon. What's up with you?”
“Things are heating up.” Glo laid a hand on a pile of scripts nestled securely in the crook of her arm. “Keir and I are going to meet and go over this stuff.” She drew closer, whispering, “Here's a word of advice, don't do too much work on this set. Things may change.”
“I hear you. Should I expect this?”
“No. Not at all. Keir's pretty decisive.” Glo shifted the pile from the crook of her left arm to her right arm. “The scripts we're looking at are ones that he didn't see until now.”
“Why not? I thought he always gives final input before we go hot.”
“He does, but his son's been sick. So, he didn't get to read them. While I'm thinking about it, we need to schedule a meeting with you and Keir. You are one of the few new employees that he hasn't met yet.”
Finally, I'm going to meet the big man himself,
Ryan thought, recalling some of the details she'd learned for her interview. That info might find its way into her meeting. “Whatever you decide is fine with me. By the way, where's his office? Is he in this building or the studio's administrative office?”
“Keir's here.” Glo pointed to the tower overlooking the studio. “That's his office. You've probably seen him but didn't know it.”
Ryan shrugged. “Possibly.”
“If you had, you'd remember. Keir is quite handsome. A real hottie. I have a son close to Keir's age.” Glo nudged Ryan playfully, giggling like a teenager on her first date.
Ryan smiled, waiting for the proper moment to steer the conversation back to work. She didn't need or want this extra info about a man that she'd probably see two or three times while she worked at One Leaf.
“He's about five feet eleven, with the greenest eyes I've ever seen. You could lose yourself in his eyes.” Glo used a finger to draw an invisible circle around her face and added, “Round face, toffee-colored skin, dark brown curly hair, and dimples. He's cute.”
Sounds like a Cabbage Patch doll to me
. “I don't recall seeing him.”
“Between his son's illness and drumming up advertising dollars and investors for the show, he's been away from the studio lately.”
Nodding, Ryan let Glo ramble on.
“But, that's about to change. Earlier, I noticed the lights were on in the Eiffel Tower, so I took a little trip up there to talk with him. And believe me, he's ready for business.”
BOOK: Now Until Forever
6.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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