I’ve been working on a bonus story to add to the boxed set of the Hollywood Nights books when I get around to doing that. What with everything being closed and me only being able to so do much cleaning and renovation, I finally finished drafting the story. I’ll be putting up a chapter a day for the next 6 days (because it’s that long.) Please let me know what you think and if you spot any inconsistencies. Like I said, this is a draft. I haven’t even edited it beyond what happened as I wrote. I hope you enjoy it.
Taylor clutched Ryan’s hand under the table. Two weeks ago she had pondered aloud what their kids would look like and here they were meeting with the Space Odyssey writers about next season’s story arc that would allow her to be off camera for the last few episodes. When Ryan wanted something, he made it happen. When she wanted something, he made it happen faster.
“We’re planning to have as many of the scripts ready as possible so we can shoot your scenes early if we need to. Nobody wants to have you stuck behind tables or in big coats for half a season.” Jeanie moved a sticky note from one of the twenty taped segments on the far wall to another. She and Grey ranged along the other side of the conference table in the sparse office like hunters searching elusive prey. The wall was covered with large, bright colored sticky notes corralled into blue taped segments giving the room its only color. “Right now the season arc is that Ebulous has been enslaving a new population and in episode ten he attacks. The team defeats him and he goes off to rub his hands together in frustration for a few episodes while we tie up a couple of loose plots. Then in episode fourteen he kidnaps Dr. Weston while she’s on a side mission with Colonel Phillips.”
“I thought Ebulous was dead.” Ryan frowned at Taylor, his hand tightening around hers.
“This is sci fi. We’ll claim he had a narrow escape,” Grey said.
“It’ll be nice to work with Daniel again.” Taylor smiled. Daniel Hawthorn had played Ebulous the first season she was on Space Odyssey. He was fun to work with and did a terrifying villain.
Ryan nodded, still frowning. “Why is Dr Weston on a mission with Phillips instead of me—I mean, Kol?”
“We need to have a lot of tension between Kol and Phillips for the rest of the season.” Jeanie studied her tablet.
Ryan leaned forward. “But I’d never allow her to go on a dangerous mission.”
“Because Kol wouldn’t allow her to be kidnaped—“ Jeanie began.
“Or he’d die trying to protect her,” Grey cut in.
“Yeah, that.” Jeanie nodded. “But Ryan’s right. Whatever the side mission is, it’s got to be a milk run and it’s got to require the two of them or Kol has to be someplace else.”
Grey searched through the sticky notes until he found the one he needed and wrote on it.
Jeanie glanced from Taylor to Ryan. “We’re shooting for an arc where the team is falling apart. Take one character out of the mix and pit two others against one another and viola, automatic tension.”
“That sounds good.” Taylor squeezed Ryan’s hand again. “It’ll get my character off screen while keeping her central to the storyline.”
“Exactly,” Jeanie said.
“But Dr. Weston will be in danger for the rest of the season,” Ryan said.
“And the beginning of next season,” Jeanie gestured to a sticky note near the window. “In the season climax they’re going to almost find her but the building she’s in will explode and everyone will think she’s dead. Then Kol will quit the team to hunt down Ebulous on his own.”
Grey held out the note that said, “Boom! Weston dead? Kol quits in huff.”
Taylor studied the words. How did the writers make so much out of that little? It looked like gibberish. “That really looks great, guys. I am impressed as always.”
Ryan grumbled, sounding a lot like his character. “How many episodes are Taylor kidnapped for?”
“We have a twenty episode order so five—six including the kidnapping episode that she’ll have to appear in.” Jeanie laced her fingers together like the whole season was not just written, but filmed, edited, and ready to air.
“Yup, five episodes where Taylor will be off camera completely.” Grey looked up from the sticky notes he’d been counting. “You’ll be done shooting by March. When are you due?”
Taylor shifted in her seat. Grey apparently couldn’t count. Next March was ten months away. “I’m not pregnant yet.” And she might not be able to get pregnant. Ryan’s doctor said he had good motility. Dr. Singh said everything looked normal last week, but what if she was wrong? The doctor had said it would be easier to estimate her fecundity if they had more family history, but that required talking to Taylor’s mother and Taylor hadn’t spoken to the woman since she was sixteen when she got her emancipation. Taylor shifted in her seat, pulling her hand away from Ryan. He wanted kids so much now. When the topic came up he’d lit up. He had to be jealous of his friends. Mick had a one-year-old now and they were already talking about baby number two for next year. Gale loved being a dad to Lisa’s boys and she was expecting one with him in August. Ryan had to be feeling left behind. If she couldn’t carry to term, he would be devastated. He might decide to move on to a woman who could give him kids. He had a career now. What did he need her for?
Should have married him when he asked. Why hadn’t they gotten married? They’d been engaged for three years. Sure it had been a busy three years, but they could have carved out the time. Taylor clenched her fists. Carved out time. As if they hadn’t had to go through a series of meetings to discuss family planning.
Grey cocked his head. “So why are we planning for you to be pregnant next spring?”
“Grey!” Jeanie snapped.
“We wanted to make sure my shooting schedule was clear.” Taylor could barely keep the whine out of her voice.
Ryan put his arm around her shoulders. “We shoot a Hercules movie this summer so we’re off a year. Next year is a good opening for Taylor to take it easy.”
Grey opened his mouth, but Jeanie smacked his shoulder with the back of her hand.
“Don’t you worry about it. We’ll make sure we write you a nice light schedule,” Jeanie said. “You guys must be so excited.”
Ryan stood, pulling Taylor with him. “We are. Thanks.”
Jeanie stood. “We’ll get the scripts to you as soon as we can.”
“We appreciate that. I know you don’t usually work this far in advance.”
Grey snorted. “Tell me about it. Remember when I spent that Christmas break reworking the back half of the year for your romance arc?”
Jeanie slugged him again. “And thanks for sitting down with us today. We really wanted to make sure you were happy with the direction we were taking.”
“It’s great, Jeanie.” Taylor stepped around her chair. Ryan already had the conference room door open. “It’ll be a really strong character arc and I’m looking forward to working with Daniel again. Remember to keep it as quiet as possible. We don’t want this getting into the news yet.”
“Of course not.” Jeanie smiled. “Congratulations.”
Taylor walked out and Ryan let the door fall closed behind them.
“You idiot!” Jeanie shouted. “What is wrong with you?”
“Why clear Taylor’s shooting schedule if she’s not already pregnant?” Grey shouted back.
Ryan jabbed the elevator button and the doors slid open. Ever since she’d broached having kids he’d acted like she was already advanced in a high-risk pregnancy and couldn’t climb stairs. Not even one floor.
“Because Taylor is a professional and it’s not like either Disney or Marty will just sub in another actress,” Jeanie’s voice carried all the way down the hall. “God, you have no manners at all.”
The elevator door closed cutting off the rest of the tirade.
“I don’t like this kidnapping idea,” Ryan grumbled.
“Why? It gets me off screen while keeping my character central to the plot. And if your character is fighting Trey’s you’ll get a lot of good screen time.”
“It makes it look like I can’t take care of you.”
“Kol and Weston do separate missions now and then.”
“But she gets kidnapped on this one and I’m not there to protect her.”
Taylor slid her arm through his elbow. “No, Kol is not there to protect her. You know, this is really going to inform your acting when the time comes. It’s going to boost your performance.”
“It makes Kol look weak and useless.”
“Jeanie and Grey won’t let that happen.”
The elevator door slid open. The security guard was at the glass door to the parking lot, blocking a woman with her phone held high.
“I told you to go,” the security guard barked.
“Taylor, when are you due?” The woman shouted over his head.
“I’m not.” Taylor said.
Ryan blocked the woman from getting into Taylor’s space. The security guard pressed in on the other side as if there was a mob of reporters instead of one woman recording on a phone.
“Then why are you taking a year off?” The woman shouted around Ryan’s shoulder.
“I’m not. Just stepping back after a couple of very busy years.” Three. Hercules had been such a huge hit that, instead of the planned every other year shooting schedule, they were in their third consecutive summer of shooting. She and Ryan had also been filming Space Odyssey all winter. Ryan wanted to snag everything that came his way. He’d picked up a couple of supporting parts in the expanding Mythic Heroes movies Disney was rolling out, done two of Lem’s passion projects, and had a sideline as an influencer. He had a great work ethic.
The woman pivoted her phone toward Ryan’s face. “Congratulations on becoming a father, Ryan.”
Ryan used the fob to unlock and start the car, aiming it as if it were a weapon on the set.
“How many kids are you planning to have?” the woman asked.
The security guard risked two steps ahead to open Taylor’s car door.
“You look great,” the woman said. “You have that glow.”
The security guard closed the door and stood in front of it, blocking the view of Taylor.
Thwarted, the reporter trailed Ryan to the driver’s side. “Are you going to carry on making Hercules movies without Taylor? Or is Disney taking a new direction with the franchise? Is it true there’s going to be an Artemis movie?”
Ryan closed his door on her. “Somebody leaked.”
The security guard crowded the reporter away from the car so Ryan didn’t run her over since she seemed intent on throwing herself on the hood to make them answer her questions.
“Must have been somebody at Disney.” Taylor clenched her hands in her lap. Nobody at Kaleidoscope would dare.”
“Doesn’t matter. The news is out. We should move someplace more secure.”
“The condo is secure. Nobody can get upstairs without going past the desk.” She’d bought her condo with money from the show that made her a child star, and nearly tanked her adult acting career, Second Chances. It had been her home for years. Sure it was a little small for a family, but it was really safe. And it was all hers.
“Maybe out near where Gale and Lisa live. They’re out of the fire zone and we know the cops are pretty alert.” Ryan clutched the wheel as he guided the car onto the highway. “I’d just feel better.”
“I’d feel better if the news hadn’t leaked until I was at least three months along. Twenty percent of pregnancies fail and I’m not even pregnant yet.” Taylor’s phone rang. Sarina. “Hello?”
“Hi honey, it looks like we’ve had a leak,” Sarina said.
“You’ve seen it already?” Taylor glanced at Ryan. He was glaring out the windshield like traffic was a battlefield he had to fight through.
“It was live. Cady Standish started streaming as soon as you guys walked out of the offices and Mick and I both got pings. The time has come to get in front of this.”
“I thought we’d at least have time to get pregnant.” Taylor started to chew her lip, remembered it would wreck the line and chewed the inside of her cheek instead.
“Sorry. This is the world we live in. So can I issue the release?”
“The one that says you and Ryan are talking about having a family. We can hold off the pregnancy announcement until you actually are.”
Taylor slid deeper into her seat. Though if Kol quit at the end of the season it would make it easy to write him off the show if he left her and quit the show. Her too. Kidnapped could become dead as easily as writing a new sticky note.
She could lose him and her career if she turned out to be barren.
“We have to say something,” Sarina said.
“Go ahead,” Taylor said.
“How did the meeting go?”
Through the phone Taylor heard the soft click of Sarina’s mouse. The news was going out to the world right now. No pressure. “Fine. They’re working on a story arc that will have me off camera for the last five episodes.”
“Good. Trust me, you’ll want the time off.”
“I’m sure I will. Thanks, Sarina.” Taylor disconnected. “The press release is out. The one about us considering starting a family.”
“Great.” Ryan scowled at the road. “You have a lunch meeting tomorrow, right?”
“Yeah.” Not really a meeting, per say, but he knew that. He always knew her schedule, just like she knew his. But he wasn’t doing anything tomorrow. At least nothing that he’d put in the calendar. “Why?”
“I was going to get together with the guys.” Ryan shrugged one shoulder, still focused on traffic.
“You usually lift with them on Sundays and Wednesdays.” Taylor chewed the inside of her cheek.
“Yeah, but if you’re going to be out I thought I’d see what they were up to.” He glanced at her. “You are going to be out.”
“Yes.” Her lunch with Melinda and Livia had been on the books for weeks now. Making her schedule so available to him gave him lots of chances to know when she wasn’t home.
“They might not even be free. Especially Mick. He’s always working.” Ryan glanced at her with a smile.
“He is busy.” Why did this sound like a lie? What was Ryan really doing tomorrow?