Authors: Robin Covington
Tags: #Playing Around#1
Playing the Part
a Playing Around novel
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2013 by Robin Covington. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Entangled Publishing, LLC
2614 South Timberline Road
Fort Collins, CO 80525
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Edited by Alethea Spiridon Hopson and Rochelle French
Cover design by Heather Howland
Manufactured in the United States of America
First Edition June 2013
The author acknowledges the copyrighted or trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction:
The New York Times
, Zumba, Yoda,
Inside the Actor’s Studio
, Shelby Cobra GT-350, iPod, Maroon 5,
, PlayStation, Katy Perry, Forbes Top Ten,
, Google, Photoshop, Chuck E. Cheese, Skype, Tiffany & Co
For Emmie Dark. You’ve been with me since the beginning—friends over long distance and time zones. Thank you for taking this journey with me, my friend.
Dammit. She was late.
Piper James mentally bitch-slapped her inner whiner, who persisted in spouting out monologues of melodrama. She needed to haul up her Teflon-coated big girl panties and focus on executing the here and now. Yes—she was late to her important meeting with Charlie Nelson, director of the film adaptation of her book
. Yes—the future of her career as a published author of romance novels hinged on how well she consulted on the movie. No—she’d had no control over the canceled flight in Chicago nor over the loss of her luggage at LAX.
She could do this. She was Piper James. The
New York Times
bestselling author who’d risen out of the slush pile five years ago to kick ass, take names, and make them all a distant memory.
She glanced down at her watch as she held on to the golf cart whizzing around the streets of the movie production lot as actors of all shapes and sizes wandered the road in costumes from all eras—and some eras that had never existed. It was all so exciting. Creative. Bustling. Hollywood was still one of her favorite places in the world.
The last time she’d walked onto a movie lot, she’d been one-half of the entertainment industry’s biggest power couple since Brangelina. She’d basked in the glow of the paparazzi flashbulbs, enjoyed all the perks and benefits, and cultivated the celebrity image with every red carpet appearance and magazine cover. Her life had been like the epilogue in one of her novels: she’d had a solid spot at the top of every bestseller’s list, and Antonio had loved her like one of her heroes.
Until he didn’t.
After that, they’d blown apart like a scene in one of his Hollywood blockbuster action movies, and her subsequent meltdown had been a game changer. She’d gone after him in the press like…well…like a woman scorned.
Unfortunately, she’d forgotten just how fickle the media and the public could be and soon they both grew tired of the angry, jilted fiancé in favor of the newly minted “it” couple. After all, no one can resist a love story—she’d built a career on that very fact.
Her public freak-out had done so much full-frontal damage that her career as a best-selling romance novelist was now barely limping along. Her publisher wasn’t thrilled with her behavior and the negative impact it had on her sales, and this consulting gig was her last chance to make nice. Her agent and best friend, Chris, had negotiated with her publisher and the movie producer.
All she had to do to salvage her career was teach the leading man, Mick Blackwell, the sexiest playboy in Hollywood, how to act like he was in love.
Piece of cake, right?
The driver pulled to a jarring stop in front of a set of large, open double doors. He hopped out and came around to help her out, with a flourish and a large smile. “The set of
, the multimillion-dollar film adaptation of
The New York Times
bestselling romance by the very lovely Ms. James.”
Laughing at his unexpected gallantry, she thanked him and grabbed her laptop bag. Turning to look at the open doorway, she huffed out a heavy breath and adjusted her glasses. She knew nothing about mentoring actors. But if this was what it took to make good with her publisher and keep her contract, she’d give it her all.
Two seconds later, she’d breached the threshold, the cooler temperature inviting her to step out of the hot, California sunshine. For a moment, the interior was dark, until her eyes adjusted to the change. Empty. Silent. The absence of the usual bustle and noise caused her to wonder if she’d arrived too late to catch Charlie. But maybe someone would still be on set. Rounding a corner, she pulled up short at the scene before her.
It was Regan’s kitchen.
Shaking on knees suddenly weak with emotion, Piper observed a world that, up until this moment, had only existed in her mind. The kitchen, the main setting of her book and the place where Regan and Chance fell in love, was laid out before her just like she’d pictured it in her head. Wow.
All the details she’d woven into her books reflected back at her in amazing detail—the red enameled jars lining the countertop, the quirky ceramic roosters collected by Regan’s grandmother and passed down two generations, the spot where Chance kissed Regan and pulled her down to the floor to make love for the first time. It was all here.
She dropped her bags onto an empty table, then eased her way in between cameras, lights, cords, and other equipment until she stood at the place where the concrete of the soundstage met the antique, pecan floorboards of the farmhouse kitchen.
A happy zip of energy jolted through her body, making her laugh out loud and twirl around, arms wide open.
“I think the music video shoot is next door,” a deep, male voice said.
Startled, Piper spun around, tripping on her high-heeled Mary Janes and simultaneously knocking over one of the ceramic roosters. Grabbing the bulky bird just before it toppled off the kitchen island, she then clutched it to her chest in a death grip. Looking up, she discovered the witness of her klutzy behavior—and bit back a gasp as she locked eyes with the man voted Sexiest Man in America for the last two years.
Damn. He looked even better in person. Six feet two inches tall, light mocha skin tone that attested to his biracial parentage, and the most gorgeous set of green eyes. A slow, sexy smile and firm chest muscles defined by a tight, blue T-shirt and strong forearms that led to large hands tucked into his front pockets and framing his considerable assets, hidden behind faded denim.
A rush of desire hit her, making her palms grow damp, loosening her hold on the chicken. With a bit of effort, she adjusted and tightened her grip on the bird and realized her knees had gone all wobbly. Damn, Mick was her fantasy come to life.
His gaze unapologetically traveled up and down her body, lingering over the places that usually got the most attention. She knew she had great legs and full, lush breasts and tried to dress to showcase them and offset her overly large mouth and short stature. But she’d float for days on the look of approval she saw in his eyes right now.
Thank you, Zumba
“The chicken.” He gestured to the bird and stepped closer. He reached out and everything went into slow motion as his long fingers closed over hers. “Here. Let me help you.”
The arousing male combination of spicy cologne and the clean scent of sweat on warm skin surrounded her. His eyes met hers, and the dark amusement lurking in them thickened the brain-addling lust fogging her brain.
“Apparently these chickens are made in France or something. If you break one, the prop department will kill you.”
“That’s a little extreme,” she sputtered still trying to balance the unwieldy fowl in her arms.
Mick eased the bird from her grasp and carefully lowered it back to its safe place on the countertop, then turned to face her once again, his motion bringing him inside her personal space. Up close, the amazing bone structure of his face was even more defined, and even the hint of a smirk on his lips did nothing to lessen the intensity of his expression.
“I have a dilemma,” he said. His voice was deep and measured but edged with the rough finish that made him a dream to listen to in surround sound. Piper swore she saw a jolt of fire in the mossy green depths of his eyes as he moved even closer.
Whoa. Mick Blackwell was hitting on her. And her body was responding like an addict who’d suddenly stumbled upon a pile of their favorite dope. He might be off-limits, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t indulge a little.
“What is your dilemma?” She mirrored his movement, deliberately stepping closer to the high voltage area of his body. Damn, he was like a sexual magnet, the black hole of hotness dragging her down.
“I don’t know whether to call security or to get your phone number.” His expression shifted slightly, the twist in his smile even sexier—if that were even possible.
Oh, sweet sugar
Mick moved in a half step closer, and heat swept over her skin, settling in her most intimate places. He was the man every woman wanted in spite of his playboy reputation. Or maybe because of it. She loved men who came with a warning label. And Mick Blackwell didn’t just have a label—he had a neon “Flammable. Do not touch” sign flashing over his head.
But she couldn’t let a guy like him think he had the upper hand. Where was the fun in that?
“Maybe I should call security on
.” Piper licked her lips, delighting in the way his pupils dilated as he watched the movement of her tongue.
He let out a laugh, flashing a bit of his perfect, white teeth. Apparently, Mr. Blackwell liked a challenge.
“My mama taught me not to talk to strangers or dangerous men,” she said. “I think I’m supposed to go to the nearest public area and find a member of law enforcement.”
“So I’m a stranger?” He raised a hand and traced a finger along his lower lip in what was clearly an open invitation.
God help her, she wanted to follow that path with her mouth. “Actually, I think you fall into the
“You have no idea.”
Oh, yes she did.
She had her gaze fixed to his face but knew he was going to touch her even before she felt his hand, hot and rough, settle on her arm and take a long, slow glide down to her wrist. Whew.
The blazing sparks against her closed eyelids were in perfect sync with the low moan that escaped her throat and reverberated in the large space of the set. A year of what amounted to a sexual starvation diet with only men who were “good” for her had made Piper a very hungry girl.
But hunger for Mick Blackwell was a very dangerous proposition.
Because while the bad boy was a nice little fantasy, the reality sucked. You could play with them, have a good time, but you couldn’t let them get too close to your heart.
She backed up. One step. Two steps. He followed when she backed up against the set’s kitchen counter. She met his gaze and let her mouth curve into a grin at the over-the-top, self-satisfied smirk plastered across his own face.
“I’m Mick Blackwell.”
Okay, Captain Obvious.
Did he actually think she didn’t know who he was? “I know.”
“And you are…”
“I’m—” It dawned on her he had no clue who she was. Was that a good or bad thing? “I’m the author. I was brought in to help you work out the kinks.”
A puzzled expression clouded Mick’s handsome features, then his brows furrowed in understanding as he let go of her arm. “You’re Piper James?”
“Yes, I am.”
“But, you’re…” He tracked his eyes down her body, lingering over the places he’d seemed to want to touch moments before. Returning his focus to her face, he said, “You’re not what I expected.”
“What did you expect?”
For the first time since she’d met him, Mick looked a little less confident, but it didn’t last long. In a flash, his expression went back to that of cool confidence.
“My photo is on the back cover of my book. Didn’t you see it?” she asked.
“I didn’t read the book.”
She snorted. “You didn’t read it?”
“No. I read the
.” Mick paused and then pointed at her. “Wait a damn minute.” His tone was sharp and the hard edges around his mouth betrayed his displeasure. “What did you mean by ‘help you work out the kinks’?”
Uh-oh. Apparently, no one had explained her job to the leading man. Piper shifted backward. “Your director brought me on as your acting consultant.”
“What does a writer know about acting?” Mick gave her a tight smile. “No offense, sweetheart.”
.” She took a breath and reined in her temper. Mick was mad and lashing out. This really wasn’t about her. Damn, her therapist would be so proud. “I’m supposed to give you some insight into Chance.” She cleared her throat. “From what I understand, you’re not quite nailing this role.”
Mick’s body was a rigid line of steel as he stared her down, the thoughts colliding in his brain completely absent from his expression. He was a highly skilled actor, and he was only going to show her what he wanted her to see. Finally he nodded, having come to his own conclusion. “Guess I don’t have an option but to work with you,” he said, his voice lighter than before, but not quite carrying over to his eyes.
Piper relaxed the tension from her shoulders and loosened her fingers from the tight grip on her skirt. Thank God. Mick may have needed her to help him, but she needed him just as much—consulting with him was her only way back in with her publisher.
He crossed his arms over his chest. With an exaggerated drawl, he said, “So, Piper, you’re the supposed to be the
. What do you suggest I do?”
“Well, for starters, you might want to read my book.”
Never let them see you sweat.
Yeah, it was an old quote, but it was what Mick’s father always said about the barracudas populating Los Angeles. In a business as cutthroat as this one, you always had to watch your back, your front, and your balls. And he wasn’t about to let his guard down now.
Three hours after unexpectedly meeting his consultant on the set, in a darkened screening room Mick reclined in his seat, his posture deliberately nonchalant, making sure he gave away nothing to Charlie or Piper, who were both focused on the screen as the rushes flickered by. Not all of it was crap—he was a good actor. The physical scenes were actually pretty good, but that was to be expected. His acting success was in big-budget action movies. It was in the emotionally charged love scenes where it all fell apart.
He’d lobbied hard for this dramatic part, against the wishes of his agent, manager, and the studio. He didn’t blame them—movie-making was about making money. But he’d pursued the part, even auditioning for the first time in years. He wanted to grow as an actor, and this was the next, logical step. And now he was renegotiating his contract with the studio, and part of that deal included projects of his own choice—more dramatic parts. But if this role didn’t work, he’d lose much of his leverage.