Authors: Lauren Blakely
Playing With Her Heart
By Lauren Blakely
Copyright 2013 by Lauren Blakely
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Table of Contents
Also by Lauren Blakely
at all fine e-tailers
Caught Up In Us
Pretending He’s Mine
With Her Heart
for 17+ due to sexual content.
When you’re acting
the role of a lifetime, how can you know if love is real—or all
just a part of the show?
rising theater star Jill McCormick has built a life out of
pretending. Pretending she’s happy, pretending her long-distance
crushes add up to something real, pretending she’s not haunted by
the dark secret that shattered her world six years ago. Cast in her
first Broadway show, she desperately needs to keep her façade
intact, but that’s before she comes face to face with her
devastating new boss…
Hot-shot director Davis
Milo knows the first rule of directing: never fall for your leading
lady. Captivated by Jill’s raw talent, he fights his feelings, but
watching Jill onstage with another man is more than his jealous
streak can take. Keeping things professional isn’t an option. He
wants all of her.
Soon the ingénue and
her director are staying late in the empty theater, their private
rehearsals spiraling into new, forbidden territory. Caught up between
fiction and reality, Jill struggles to find the truth in all their
staged kisses. But how can she be sure that what she feels is real,
and not a part of the play? And when two people spend their lives
pretending, what happens after the final curtain falls?
This book is dedicated to all my readers. Thank you for making
this possible, especially my early readers – Violet, Melody, Cara,
Michelle, and Kelly.
When the lights go down
in the theater, I am ready to pretend. I leave the past behind to
become the character on the stage. I share a lingering look with the
handsome man across the crowded room. I turn back to the others. Then
a hand brushes against my shoulder. I shudder. Close my eyes. Feel
him near me. Everyone else fades away. He’s suddenly the only one
there. He kisses me. I kiss him back, and I can feel the kiss in
every single cell in my body. Deep, and fevered, and possessive. My
head is spinning, my heart is jumping. I am that woman on the stage
and I’m having what she’s having. Love without reason. Love
For two hours under the
spotlights, I’m living someone else’s life.
Then the play ends, the
curtains rise, and I am back to being me. I come down from my
temporary high, still wanting, still wishing, knowing only that I’ll
need another role, another part to feel this way again.
I take my bow, and say
goodbye to the character, to the kiss, to the possibility of that
kind of love.
Because love like that
only happens when it’s make believe.
At least, I’ve always
Then I met Davis Milo
and everything in my life changed.
The moment she emerges
from the wings and steps on stage at the St. James Theater to sing
her solo, I know—without a shadow of a doubt—that she’s my Ava.
Her voice gives me
chills. She starts small, as the song calls for, in a trembling kind
of tone, and then through each verse her voice strengthens, matching
the lyrics, the tone of the song, the story the music is telling: a
young woman who was all alone, but who had to find her own way to her
dream, and found it through pain and patience and heartache.
When she reaches the
chorus, her voice is all I feel, and it’s got arms and fingertips
that stretch from the center of the stage all the way around the
theater to the balcony. A voice that surrounds you, and mesmerizes
you with color and heat. The voice has layers and hurt all in one and
so does this actress, her face, the way she wrings the emotion from
I rest my elbows on my
thighs, my hands clasped together, seeing only her from my seat in
the second row. I want to hold onto this moment, this feeling of
being the director who discovers the next big star, because it comes
around so rarely.
She has it all,
everything I want, but she also has something more. She has sex
appeal and she doesn’t even know it. Something in the way she
carries herself, in how she looks at you, a torch singer sort of
sensuality in her gaze. She’s all innocent blond on the outside,
but deep down she can pull off the provocative with that fantastic
body and the way she moves on stage. That’s what I need. That’s
what I want.
She’s going to bring
down the house. She’s going to make the audience cry and cheer.
She’s going to make them
And it sure as hell
doesn’t hurt that she’s absolutely fucking beautiful.
When she finishes, I
want to stand up, shake her hand, and tell her she’s been cast in
this love story. But I restrain myself. “Thank you so much. Now,
the scene and song with Mr. Carlson.”
Patrick Carlson, the
actor who landed the lead role in
Crash the Moon
, jumps from
the red upholstered chair next to me. He’s here at the final
auditions, along with the producer and Frederick Stillman himself,
the most revered composer in the last quarter century, who’s
collected armfuls of awards for Best Musical. Actors fall all over
themselves to star in his shows, directors fawn at his feet.
I would have fawned to
land this gig, but I didn’t have to.
I’ve won three Tonys,
one Oscar, and my Broadway shows have all returned on their
investors’ dollars. I directed a film too—that’s how I nabbed
that golden statuette. So Stillman called my cell one fine afternoon
six months ago, and told me he was offering the directing job to me,
only me, and to no one but me.
I said yes on the spot.
Now I want to say yes
My twenty-three years
on earth have led me to this moment. Every singing lesson I ever
Every acting class I
ever went to.
Every play I read, song
I heard, emotion I called forth from deep inside for a part.
Here. Now. Today, as I
wait center stage on the creaky floorboards in this gem of a Broadway
But really, more than
anything, it’s the fact that I finished five marathons that matters
most right now. Because of that, I have the training, the
perseverance, and the composure to not freak the fuck out as Patrick
Carlson joins me under the spotlights that shine on us. I can barely
see the powers-that-be because the seats are shrouded in darkness,
and the lights are on the stage. But I can make out the silhouette of
the hotshot director Davis Milo in the second row, along with the
producer, and the God I bow down to—Frederick Stillman himself, who
wrote this anthemic musical. I’d enter the Hunger Games for a
chance to perform in something he’s created, but fortunately all I
have to do is nail a scene with Patrick, the man I’ve been in love
with from afar for the last six years.
So, as if I’m running
with the kind of focus I need for 26 miles—blinders on, nothing but
blinders—I ignore the fact that Patrick is the most beautiful man
I’ve ever seen, that his honey blond hair looks thick and soft and
that his light brown eyes draw me in with their warmth, just as they
did all the times I skipped class in college to see matinees of
to watch him play Roger, or
see him as Fyero. All the moments I was mesmerized by him, and fell
deeper under his spell.