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Authors: Lauren Blakely

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BOOK: Playing With Her Heart
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Alexis raises her hand.
Odd, because I wasn’t expecting a verbal response. Nor did I want
one. “Davis?”

So, fine. There’s one
actor who calls me by my first name. I let her get away with it
because there are only so many battles I want to fight with Alexis. I
save my energy for the bigger ones.

“Yes, Alexis?”

“I think I speak for
all of us when I say this is going to be the greatest show Broadway
has ever seen.” Then she rises from her seat, turns to her cast
mates, encourages them to stand and begins a round of cheers and
clapping. Some stand, some stay seated. Some cheer, some don’t. I
glance briefly at Jill. Her hands are resting in her lap. She’s
looking down at her feet now, but then she lifts her face and her
beautiful blue eyes meet mine for the briefest of seconds. Maybe even
a millisecond, but it’s as if the room goes silent and she’s the
only one I see. I want to stalk over to her, kneel at her feet, cup
her face in my hands. Feel her melt into me again. Kiss her neck,
taste her skin, trace the hollow of her throat with my tongue. Hear
her gasp again.

I remind myself that I
don’t date actresses. I don’t develop feelings for them anymore.
Except, there’s something about her—her humor, her toughness, her
vulnerability, her beauty—that has already latched onto the
fortress around my heart, threatening to undo me.

Against all my better
judgement.

I wave off the
clapping. “Enough.”Alexis is about to open her mouth, but I hold
up a hand. “Let’s get to work.”

And so, our first
rehearsal begins.

* * *

As soon as I see the
pinstriped suit I groan. Don is waiting outside the rehearsal studio
the next morning. The billowing trench coat makes him look even more
like a two-bit mobster, and the bluetooth headset that dangles from
his ear completes the douchebag look. He glares impatiently at his
watch, but I’m not late for a meeting with him because I don’t
have a meeting with him. In fact, I’m early and the cast isn’t
due for another hour but the stage manager, Shannon, and I are
scheduled to review the songs and scenes we’ll be rehearsing today.

I brace myself for
whatever unpleasantries he’s come to spew as I walk to the
revolving door. He holds up a hand.

“Davis,” he says in
a voice that grates on me.

“Don.” I stop
walking. A cold wind whips past us and Don shivers, pulling his coat
closer.

“We need to talk.”

“Ah, my four least
favorite words. What is it, Don? Make it fast, since Shannon and I
have several songs to run through in the next hour.”

He clucks his tongue.
“It’s come to my attention that you might be being a little harsh
with your cast.”

I laugh instantly. Oh,
this is brilliant. This is better than I could have imagined as the
raison d’etre for him showing his face this fine morning. “Oh
really? We have a tattletale in our midst already?”

“No,” Don lies.
“But I’d like you to be a little nicer. Maybe tone it down a
bit,” he says and demonstrates by pressing his palm downward.

“I should let the
actors be in charge? Perhaps they can set the call sheet too? Maybe
even handle the blocking, the staging, and also direct themselves?”

“Of course not. But I
hope you understand that actors can be sensitive artists. And when
they think you’re kind of mean –“

I cut him off. “
Kind
of mean?
Is that the sixth-grade level we’re playing at? Let me
guess. Alexis has your ear and said I was a dick when I told them to
leave if they couldn’t give it their all?”

Don affixes his best
poker face. “I’m not naming names,” he says, but it doesn’t
take a genius to know Alexis is the narc. I knew that woman would be
trouble from day one.

“What is it you want
me to do differently?”

“Be nicer, okay?”

“Honestly? You came
here to tell me to play nice?”

“Yes,” he mumbles.

“And, if I’m not
the complete doormat you want me to be are you going to pull that
whole—wait—how did it work? Oh, right. That routine where you
threaten to pay my exit clause?”

“Davis,” he says,
and deliberately tries to soften his voice. “I never did that.”

I step closer to him,
pointing my index finger in his lying face. “You did threaten to
can me. And you won the first time. But if you keep coming around
here, telling me how to run the show, then I’ll walk. Got it?”

He gulps, and says
nothing.

“Am I clear? If this
keeps up and you show your face every time Alexis cries wolf, I will
leave and then you can go find a new director. Because I won’t have
this kind of questioning.”

He swallows again. His
eyes look like those of a dog admonished. Then he nods.

“Good,” I say, then
return to my best gentlemanly voice. “Now, if you’ll excuse me I
have a show to run.”

I push hard on the
revolving door, head into the lobby and press the elevator button. I
don’t look back. I force myself to keep my eyes fixed on the
elevator doors.

When it arrives I step
inside and let out the breath I’ve been holding. I run a hand
through my hair. I try to shove off all the nerves I’m feeling
right now, because I hate it when I have to act.

I had no choice. I
needed to get him off my back, so I bluffed. I played pretend.
Because the truth is, I’d never walk. I’d never leave this show.
He’ll have to throw me out kicking and screaming. I am madly in
love with
Crash the Moon
. I love this show so much it hurts,
and I swear it has nothing to do with the stunningly gorgeous and
talented understudy who will walk into the rehearsal studio in sixty
minutes.

Alone last night, I
tasted her lips again. Claimed her mouth with mine. Laced my fingers
through hers and pressed her up against the wall, so she couldn’t
move, and she didn’t want to, because of the things I made her
feel, and say, and scream.

Sixty minutes and
counting…

Chapter 7

Jill

It has to be fate.

What else could it be
when the subway doors rattle open and Patrick steps inside at the
next stop after mine?

He’s so handsome I
have to catch my breath. It’s like looking at a Monet; he’s
beautiful in the way that only masterpieces can be. I grip the pole
and I can literally feel a rush of warmth expanding from my chest all
the way to my fingertips. I am fluttery being near him, and when he
locks eyes with me a spark of recognition flares.

“Hey there,” he
says, his eyes smiling.

“Hi,” I manage to
say, hoping it doesn’t come out in a breathy whisper that reveals
all the years I’ve longed for him.

“You’re in the
show, aren’t you?”

“Chorus. And
understudy for Ms. Carbone.”

“That’s fantastic,”
he says and his smile lights up the train. “Is this your first
show…?” He pauses and waits for me to say my name.

“Jill. Jill
McCormick.”

“I’m Patrick
Carlson.”

I laugh nervously. “I
know who you are.”

“What did you think
of yesterday’s rehearsal? Of Davis’ patented first day speech?”

I don’t want to talk
about Davis with Patrick. I’ve filed away all thoughts of my
director that are less than professional. “It was great. Like it
was scripted in some intense sports movie,” I add, though there’s
a part of me that feels sordid for discussing him at all with
Patrick.

The train shakes as it
slows into the next stop and I grab harder onto the pole otherwise I
might bump into him, and if I did that, I’d probably shiver and
shudder and blabber on about how he got me through many lonely nights
full of self-loathing. How the possibility of him started to heal all
the dark places in my heart—places where I hated myself.

Patrick tilts his head
to the side. “You know, you look familiar. And I don’t mean
because of rehearsal. But I feel like we’ve met before.”

I blurt out the truth.
“We met when you did
Guys and Dolls
. We talked and sang a
few lines together.”

His eyes widen, and a
huge grin plays on his lips. “Holy crap. That was you? Of course
that was you. That was a blast.” Seeing his gorgeous features
brighten as he remembers that moment fondly makes me want to bounce
on my toes and punch a fist in the air. Praise the Lord—Patrick
remembers me. “We did a hell of a duet, didn’t we?”

“I’m not sure why
we haven’t been offered a recording contract yet,” I say.

He laughs, and it’s
such an incredible feeling to have made Patrick laugh. “We should
rectify that, don’t you think?”

“Absolutely.”

He’s flirting with
me.
I can’t wait to tell Kat that we’re having a movie
moment, that we’re connecting like the leads in a romantic comedy
do. Soon, we’ll be making the audience swoon and say
aw
.

“Why don’t we come
up with some numbers and put together a demo for the record labels?
We’ll do all the great duets in musical theater history. ‘You and
I’ from
Chess
. ‘Light my Candle’ from
Rent
,” he
says, and I love that he’s cleverly rattling off the best love
songs, and I’m about to toss in “You’re the One That I Want”
from
Grease
when something shifts in his expression. He
furrows his eyebrows together. “Wait a second. You’re the one who
sent me flowers, didn’t you?”

My face flames beet red
as the train crawls into the theater district. Forget our movie
moment. Now he’s going to think I’m a stalker creep.

“Yes.” I look down,
out the door, away from him.

“The flowers were
beautiful, Jill,” he says as we reach our stop. The doors open and
he guides me out, placing his hand on my back protectively, as if
he’s shielding me from any rushed, frenzied New Yorkers who might
bump into me. Crowds press around us, the sardine-like pack of New
Yorkers in the morning racing to work.

“Thank you,” I
mutter.

“Hey.” He stops
walking before we reach the turnstiles, tugs me away from the crowd
to make me look at him and meet his gaze. “I loved the flowers.
They lit up my dressing room at the Gershwin. And I wanted to respond
in kind. I wanted to say yes. But I was involved with someone and,
besides, I knew you were in high school. And I didn’t want to do
anything inappropriate.”

I gulp, crowds fanning
out around us. He’s a gentleman, too. Now I know the reason he
never responded to the flowers. He could never break my heart. He was
kind then, and thoughtful, always a good guy.

I needed a good guy
after all that went wrong with Aaron. After all those things he said
and did and wrote when we broke up. The notes and the letters and the
pleas. I’ve kept them locked up in a wooden box by my nightstand,
but they seep in and out of my life at the most inopportune times.

“That’s okay. It
was just a fun thing to do. I’ve admired you for so long,” I say
as he holds out his arm, letting me pass through the turnstiles
first.

“And now we’re
acting together. Perhaps it’s fate.”

My heart skips all its
beats. It’s fate he was on the subway. It’s fate we’re in the
same show. It’s fate I saw him in
Guys and Dolls
. Because
back then my life was falling apart. Back then, my heart was
splintering into a thousand shards, and nobody knew why because I
never told anyone. When I was seventeen everything changed, and I
kept it all to myself. Rather than open my mouth and tell someone—my
mother, one of my brothers, one of my friends—running became my
therapy, acting my salvation, Patrick my pure, unbroken heart.

I could never be with
anyone else and so I haven’t. I’ve been completely alone since
Aaron. No one but me has touched me. Because no one else has given me
what this man has. Love that doesn’t hurt.

I need to find the
perfect way to make this real with him.

* * *

I do lunges as Kat
packs. She’s heading to Mystic tomorrow to see her parents, and to
be feted at their gift shop where her necklaces have been selling
like crazy. She invited me to go with her and I want to be there, but
rehearsal lasts until six and her party is at seven, so there’s no
way I can make it. She graduated from MBA school a few weeks ago, and
her Kat Harper necklaces have become amazingly popular and are now
carried in boutiques and in the fancy Elizabeth’s department stores
around the country. She’s running her jewelry business full-time,
and planning a summer wedding in Mystic where she and Bryan first
met.

Yeah, she’s kind of
sickeningly happy.

She considers a purple
scarf with white stars, looping it around her neck and pouting at me
like a glamour queen. “What do you think?”

“Oh, darling, purple
is so your color.”

“You really can’t
leave rehearsal early?” She tosses the scarf on top of her other
clothes. I switch legs and do more lunges. I rarely sit still.

“Have you met Davis
Milo? If you’re late, he paddles you.”

She laughs. “Really?
Got a BDSM director there, do you?”

I shrug, and look at
the floor. Why am I even making stupid jokes about Davis? But I can’t
seem to stop. “I wouldn’t be surprised. I bet he ties up all his
conquests.”

“Maybe I should leave
the scarf with you then,” she says, then winks.

“I didn’t say he
was going to tie me up,” I say, feeling the need to draw some sort
of line between Davis and me. I didn’t tell Kat he kissed me at his
office. Because it was a mistake. Because it won’t happen again.
Besides, I haven’t thought about it since then.

“Would you let
Patrick tie you up though?”

I roll my eyes. “I’d
let Patrick do anything to me. But I doubt that’s his style,” I
say because surely Patrick is passionate but also loving, caring, and
oh-so-sweet between the sheets. He’d never tie up a girl or talk
dirty to her. Besides, he wouldn’t have to. He doesn’t need
tricks or techniques like that.

BOOK: Playing With Her Heart
11.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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