Authors: Rebecca Royce
He looked at the clock. “Cue in nine, actually.”
She turned and hustled away, telling herself she wasn’t fleeing because of Ian as much as because she was a minute behind in her daily schedule. Teirney reached her area and sat. Screens illuminated the audience and the stage. She stuck her microphone and headset on, which put her in contact with the entire stage crew. Everyone would wait for her direction and do as she said, even the actors if need be.
What the hell was up with Ian? Was he simply anxious to tell someone—anyone—about his nephew? New parents made a fuss about their babies. Maybe new uncles did, too. Why tell her? There were hordes of fans lined outside waiting to catch a glimpse of Ian and his nephew. Why show her the baby?
Teirney glanced at her watch. It was time. She took a deep breath. The world steadied as it did each night, right as the moment came. Everything working in sync, all their hard work and rehearsals coming together. She was in charge.
“Light cue one. Music. Curtain. Go.”
The lightening operator, orchestra, and stage crew responded to her directions. The actors were in place. Teirney settled in her chair.
Movement caught her eye. Most nights she didn’t look directly at the stage. If she wanted to see the actors, she watched them on the screen. Tonight, she let her gaze drift to the stage. Ian walked on and the applause started. He had delivered no lines, yet the audience greeted his presence under the lights as something special. His very existence on the stage warranted their glee.
Arriving at his spot, he waited a beat for the clapping to die, so he could speak the words written for his character to say. His performance might well guarantee him an award. Ian stood in the heat from the stage lights and the audience’s rapt attention seemed too bright for her—as Ian was. His star in ascendance, he was blazing a trail across the stages of Broadway, and she needed to be careful lest his passage leave her burned.
Ian Mackenzie signed his last autograph and handed it to the starstruck fan. She was in her thirties, and her eyes seemed to twinkle when she looked at him. Or maybe it was the glitter all over her body. Was glimmering a thing now? Hadn’t the sparkly fashion thing gone away? Why was it back?
Teirney Mitchell exited through the stage door, then headed down Broadway. She didn’t pause or glance in his direction, and that annoyed the hell out of him. His need for her attention didn’t speak well of him. His sister would call him any number of names for being such an ass. When had he become so completely egocentric?
Fame knocked everything out of perspective, which was why he’d chosen to do the show in the first place. He had to be able to know he could act without the flashing paparazzi of Hollywood. New York had its fan culture, but it wasn’t anything like LA.
Before he could think better of the idea, he charged after her, pulling his hoodie over his head as he went. The truly dedicated stalkers wouldn’t be put off by the sweatshirt. Normal fans would know enough to leave him alone when he didn’t make eye contact or respond to their calls. The “leave me alone” vibe worked wonders.
She halted, then pivoted to face him. Confusion filled her face.
Why did she always say his name as if she couldn’t quite believe he had spoken? Her attitude and surprise gave rise to the first of a thousand questions that roared through his brain whenever he got close to her. Earlier, backstage, had been the first time he thought she might be interested in him. When he touched her, he’d experienced a spark—and seen a hint of it reflected in her eyes.
“Where you off to?”
He caught up to her, wearing what he hoped was his best come hither grin. Ian had learned the devastating value of a smile at his grandmother’s knee. Smile at a woman with the right amount of charm and she would give him whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted it.
Eye contact and a grin got women every time.
His Texas-bred Gran deemed his smile more powerful than his silver tongue for getting what he wanted.
Whatever. It worked.
Except on Teirney.
She didn’t so much as blink. “Home.”
“Not out with everyone?”
Most of the crew got together every night for drinks. The actors tended to their own thing, most of the socialization of the first weeks well behind them.
He wasn’t sure if he imagined the sadness in her voice or if she were really upset about missing after-show drinks.
“Obligations at home?” He really didn’t know much about Teirney outside of the tight rein she kept on their production. “Kids?”
God, was she married? Had he spent an unfortunate amount of time fantasizing about a woman with three kids at home when he had been visiting with his sister?
Alarm punched her voice higher. No way to mistake the first pang of panic. She’d paled when she looked at Connor, too. Teirney might not be a kid person.
“I have my grandmother. I mean, she lives with me. She’s not well. So I take care of her.”
His heart clenched. He had adored his grandmother. Well, both of them really. They’d been entirely different from one another. Dad’s mother, Grandma Bess, had worked a farm her whole life. She’d been steady, loud, opinionated, and not afraid to tell anyone what she thought if she believed they needed to hear it. It had been Bess who told Ian he had to stop doing what his parents wanted and pursue his creative dreams. Life was too short, she’d warned him. Her death of a heart attack a week later drummed her lesson home.
Mom’s mother had been gentler. Nanny Grace was a real southern belle. A hugger by nature, she told him he could charm an Eskimo into buying ice with his smile. No one had ever loved him as she had. Her death had been swift and totally senseless—a car accident at dusk.
He’d have given anything to have said goodbye to both of them.
“You’re lucky you’re getting time with her.” He meant it.
Her eyebrows shot up. “I agree.”
Enthusiasm surged through him. “Well, then, let’s go home. See your grandmother.”
Yes, spending time with Teirney’s family seemed a great idea. Visiting with Presley, Mason, and the baby had pushed the lack of steadiness in his life right to the forefront of his mind. Normalcy, people to count on, and a routine he could cling to were all missing. Fame had major perks. But true relationships didn’t fall into the bonus category of being a celebrity. Everyone wanted something from him. Except his family in Texas and, he suspected, Teirney Mitchell. Well, maybe that wasn’t exactly true.
She wanted him to be on time and, maybe to leave her alone.
“I think my Granny is probably sleeping.”
He shrugged. Sounded good. “We’ll be quiet.”
She put her hands on her hips. “Why exactly do you think this is a good idea?”
Ian shook his head. “I don’t know. I just do. It’s been a really long time since anyone questioned me on anything I said I wanted to do. Thanks.”
“I suppose there is no reason you can’t come.” She motioned forward. “Shall we go?”
Wow. They were finally getting somewhere. She’d agreed. His cup runneth over.
“I could call for my car.” He took out his phone.
“How did you get my number earlier?” She pointed at his cell phone.
“Jim from lighting. I figured if you have mine, I should have yours.”
She hadn’t answered his question about the ride. Should he not call? “Car?”
“Subway will be faster. Any second your fans will notice you’re still standing out here. They’ll swarm. Let’s go.” She pivoted and continued along the sidewalk, glancing at him over her shoulder.
“And for the record, I keep your number in a locked safe in the theater. I never call you from my own line. I don’t have you stored on my phone.”
He fell into step with her. “I texted you from my number earlier. Store it.”
“Ah….” She shook her head. “Okay.”
“Great.” He loved when things started to come together. “I haven’t been on the subway before. Only taxis or car services. This will be my first time. Kind of fun actually. I was raised in Austin. We don’t have subways. Then I moved to Los Angeles and spent years in Toronto filming. So, first New York subway.”
She smiled and pride made him stand up taller. He’d made the woman grin; he felt as if he’d won some kind of battle.
“I’m glad to be giving you your first time then.”
Ian laughed. Her dirty innuendo surprised him. “Do you promise to still respect me when it’s over?”
She raised her eyebrows and answered him deadpan serious. “Maybe.”
Ian laughed, her dry humor catching him by surprise. So Teirney was funny, too. Awesome.
They walked in companionable silence. Teirney didn’t speak much. She was always thinking, constantly planning. Her eyes darted around when she got really involved in a train of thought. Her quietness was really kind of hot.
“Where are we headed?” he finally asked when they started to descend into a subway stop. She pulled out a metro card and swiped it through twice. When she indicated, he walked through the turnstile. Countless movies where criminals jumped the device to file onto the subway filled his mind.
He’d never experienced the smell before, and the best he could equate it to was dirty socks in the gym. The heat and the sheer loudness of the train passing by caught him by surprise. Ian made a memory. Some day he might need such a moment. He’d call on it, and the scene he acted would be real because he’d done so.
She halted near a bench toward the back of the platform, and he stood next to her.
“Brooklyn?” He shouted over the roar of a passing train and then realized he had been a little bit too loud. Ian really didn’t need fan attention right then. He was with Teirney. Fans were a gift, and he almost always had time for them. But in the subway station waiting for the train to Brooklyn, he wanted to be only with Teirney. It had to be possible to have quiet moments, even for him.
Ian pulled his hood over his head. Probably too little too late if someone who wanted to talk to him had seen him. He sighed.
“First time in Brooklyn?” She smiled bigger. “A whole night of new beginnings for you.”
“Hey. Can we find some pizza?”
There wasn’t anything he wanted more than to eat pizza with Teirney.
“I think we can probably acquire some.”
Ian put his arm around her, and she stiffened but didn’t push him away. He’d have to warm her up to him. He couldn’t wait to see the woman she turned out to be when she let her guard down.
As far as first dates went, tonight was a weird experience. In fact, he would bet Teirney didn’t realize dating was exactly what they had started doing the second they walked together toward the subway. He was taking her on a date to her house. Whatever it took. He’d told Presley he needed to make some major changes to find happiness.
Teirney was the first on his list.
The cardboard pizza box Ian held warmed his skin as he trailed after Teirney toward her house. He skipped a step to keep up with the tiny dark-haired lady whose vanilla scent he was becoming rapidly addicted to. Was it possible he could end the evening in bed with her? His cock hardened. He hadn’t thought about it when he asked to follow her home.
After a full half an hour together, he wanted her more than he ever had. Fantasy Teirney didn’t hold a candle to the real deal. She looked over her shoulder to smile at him as she unlocked the door.
“Wishing you hadn’t suggested coming along?”
“No, I’m seriously excited.”
Maybe she had old movies. They would sit and eat the pizza she’d ordered from an app on her phone. He needed to know more about these things so he could use them himself. His assistants probably knew which ones worked best.
Another thing Ian needed to change involved handling more of his life without professional help. He followed her inside. A blonde woman who wore her clothes at least one size too tight, probably to go with her heavy makeup, stood when they entered.
Teirney nodded. “My apologies. Five minutes over. I’ll add it to your salary for tonight. Any problems?”
The woman snorted. “I’d rather have the time. I told you, I have a life, and for what you’re paying me, I’m not willing to be late to see my guy.”
“Yes.” Teirney pulled cash out of her pocket and handed a wad to the woman. “I respect the fact that you have a life. Were there any problems with Granny?”
“I mean you need me. I think you should be a little more grateful I even show up for work.”
Ian had had enough. Teirney needed to hear about her grandmother. He stepped forward and lowered his hood.
“Hi, I’m Ian.”
“Oh.” Her eyes got really wide. “You’re Ian Mackenzie.”
“Last time I checked. Sorry she’s late; my fault.”
He gave her his best charming smile, and she responded, showing him a mouth full of teeth.
“It’s okay. I didn’t know she knew you.”
He smiled, although he didn’t feel it. “Well she does. How’s her grandmother?”
“She slept the whole time.”
He nodded. “Great.”
“Hi Georgia.” He really didn’t care.
Teirney’s eyes met his, and she nodded, a silent thank you in her eyes. A million people applauding had never felt as good as the soft glow in her gaze.
Teirney closed the door on her grandmother’s bedroom, leaving her asleep. For all Georgia’s bluster, she took good care of her Granny when she was here. The IV was in place, the appropriate drugs giving the old woman relief from the pains of her life ending.
The movie star waiting in her living room provided an entirely different problem. What was he doing here? The entire subway ride home she kept waiting for him to yell out “just kidding!” and run off at the next stop. Only he hadn’t and he was here, like something out of her imagination, mere feet from her bedroom. He was eating pizza while watching a black and white movie she’d never heard of on her old television. Yet, Ian, with his feet on her coffee table, seemed right at home.