Taylor drummed her fingers on the tabletop. To confide or not to confide, the eternal question. But Livia had never been viciously competitive and Melinda had no reason to leak anything. In fact, since she’d moved into directing, she had a vested interest in keeping her actors happy. “Ryan has been acting funny.”
“Funny how?” Livia asked.
“He’s been quiet. Withdrawn. And he hates the arc the writers have planned to get me off screen.”
“Since you started talking about having kids?” Melinda sipped her coffee.
“Maybe he’s just nervous about becoming a father.” Livia shrugged. “Perfectly normal.”
“He’s been really driven about making sure my shooting schedule is clear for my pregnancy though. Why wouldn’t he want me off screen at the end of the season?” Taylor stared at Melinda’s coffee cup. A mocha with whole milk and whipped cream. Taylor couldn’t remember the last time she’d had whole milk. Oh wait, yes she could. The night she vomited all over that Spencer psychopath at Marty’s dry New Year’s Eve party where she secured the Disney deal for herself and Ryan. Suddenly whole milk was not as appetizing as she imagined.
“Sounds like nerves to me. He can’t have the baby for you so he’s making sure you have everything you need,” Melinda said.
“So you don’t think he’s cheating on me?” Or thought she was lazy. He took every part he could schedule while she stuck to Space Odyssey and the Hercules films. And she had a smaller part in the Hercules films. Most of her time on set was just because he was there. What if he thought she didn’t work hard enough? She was the one who’d said she would need to clear her shooting schedule if she was going to have a baby. That was so her delivery wouldn’t disrupt shooting, but did Ryan know that?
Livia laughed and Melinda snorted, covering her mouth with her hand.
“Ryan?” Melinda asked when she’d recovered enough to swallow. “Cheat? Unthinkable.”
“How can you be so sure?”
Livia leaned forward. “Ryan is devoted to you. He has been since he met you.”
“How can you be sure?” When I’m not.
Melinda reached for her hand. “Honey, I’ve have watched him through a camera lens. Nobody is that good an actor. When he looks at you, it’s utter adoration.”
“He looks at you the same way off screen, too. He can be deep in conversation with somebody, but you blink and all his attention is on you. I wish I could meet a guy who is half as into me as Ryan is into you.”
“Me too.” Melinda slouched back in her seat.
“I thought you and Mark Pollitz…” Livia trailed off, glancing at Taylor.
“No.” Melinda shuttered. “I did those two directing stints on Internal Affairs and things were going well, but as soon as I was out of town again it was over. Out of sight, out of mind.”
“That sucks. I thought you really liked him.”
“I did, but I’m not settling for another self obsessed actor.” Melinda picked up her cup again as she turned to Taylor. “And you, Ryan is not cheating on you. You’re more likely to cheat on him than he is to cheat on you.”
Taylor nodded. The only person she’d ever trusted as much as Marty was Ryan, and Marty, in twenty-five years, had never steered her wrong. “How are things going with that pitch you were working on?”
“Great! I met with the production company yesterday and we’re a go for five episodes.”
“Five?” Livia curled her upper lip. “That doesn’t sound like confidence.”
“The short season allows me to lure in some bigger, busier names.” Melinda smiled. “Speaking of which, would either of you ladies be available for a two or three week shooting commitment with an eye toward a recurring role?”
Livia pressed her hand to her chest and batted her eyelashes. “Are you implying that I’m a big star like Miss Thing here?”
“I am. From a certain point of view.” Melinda lifted her cup with a coy eye roll.
Livia laughed and Taylor laughed with her.
“I was thinking of the oddball mayor for Taylor and the crystal shop owner for you, Livia.”
“Who’s playing the doughnut shop owning rival?”
“I’m hoping to get Addy Gates.”
“Well, that’s the most perfect part I’ve ever heard for her.” Livia finished her coffee and shoved the cup away.
“I thought she quit acting.” Taylor twisted her cup on the table. Addy had been so pleased with her part in Lem Sharrod’s Clockwork New York. Lem had come out of that mess with the Hercules movies, but Addy? She’d done a couple of guest roles and a few failed pilots before disappearing. Taylor had been headed for that exact trajectory when Marty intervened and asked her to coach Ryan.
“She just took a little hiatus. Have you approached her yet?” Livia asked.
“No, but we kind of developed that character with her in mind.” Melinda grimaced.
Livia glanced at her phone. “I’ve got to go. I’m meeting my agent. Speaking of whom, you should give her a call about that crystal shop lady part.”
Melinda clapped. She waited until Livia walked away from the table before turning to Taylor. “Well, what about you? Do you think you have enough time to play my oddball mayor?”
Taylor shook her head. “I doubt it. We leave next week to shoot the third Hercules movie. We’ll be back in the middle of August long enough to do the press for this year’s release and then we leave for Vancouver to shoot Space Odyssey. Ryan is doing a small part in the Poseidon movie shooting over the winter break and a supporting part in the Artemis film shooting next summer. With any luck, I’ll be pregnant. Jeannie is already planning light duty episodes for me next year.”
“Congratulations. I’m so happy for you.”
“I’m not pregnant yet.” Taylor glanced around. Nobody was close enough to their table to hear. She leaned forward. “What if I can’t? I mean, it’s not a sure thing.”
Melinda leaned forward too. “Is there any reason to believe you can’t?”
Taylor bit her lip.
“I take it that’s a no.”
“I’ve been on birth control since I started menstruating. You know how it is. I couldn’t afford an accidental pregnancy and it’s a lot easier when you can schedule your PMS.”
“Don’t I know it? Do you know how many times I’ve had guys on set ask me if it was that time of the month when I called them out for being dicks?”
“I know, right? But if you don’t put up with their crap you get labeled ‘difficult’ and can’t get parts.” Difficult. She’d had that sign around her neck before and it had taken a Disney tentpole and Ryan to really get rid of it. If she lost Ryan, she’d lose her career. Again. She needed to make new connections and Melinda’s little series might help. At the very least it might prove to him that she wasn’t lazy.
Melinda groaned and rolled her eyes. “Can you talk to your mom? I mean, if it was easy for her, it should be easy for you, right?”
“I suppose so.” As if talking to her mother was an option. She could pick up the phone and say, hey, I know we haven’t spoken since I was sixteen, but can I ask you a few awkward questions about how I was conceived and why dad left us?
“Look, before you get all twisted up about this, go to your doctor and get checked out. She’ll tell you if there’s any physical problems. And if there are, there are alternatives.”
“I don’t have much of a window to do a lot of rounds of IVF.” No point in mentioning that she’d already been to the doctor. Melinda would just tell her she was being silly.
“No, but there’s surrogates or adoption. You could pull an Angelina Jolie and adopt from another country.” Melinda patted her hand. “You have options. Don’t freak out yet.”
Too late. “About that oddball mayor.”
“Yes?” Melinda batted her eyelashes.
“Don’t give it away just yet. I might have some availability after all depending on the time commitment.”
“Don’t worry. We can shoot around your Odyssey schedule and your baby schedule.” Melinda patted her hand. “Us girls have to stick together.”
Taylor forced a smile. That’s what she was afraid of.
Marty’s assistant pranced to the door of his office. “Can I get you anything? Coffee? Bottled water?”
The assistant pushed open the door. “Ryan Asher is here to see you.”
“Thanks, Bel. Top me up, would you?” Marty held out his cup. “Ryan, have a seat. I just need a minute to finish this thought.”
Ryan sat down in the chair by the window. Marty’s Old English style study in his Spanish style house always rattled him. It didn’t fit. The assistant swanned out, returning a few minutes later with a steaming cup. Marty jabbed a key on his computer and stood to carry his refilled cup to the chair beside Ryan. “Damn, if I had had any idea how much work running a big production company was I never would have bought out Kaleidoscope. How is everything going at home? I have to tell you, I was so happy when you and Taylor got together. She deserves to be loved.”
“She’s great. I’m grateful for every day with her.” Sometimes he woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t believe she was in bed beside him. It made no sense that a woman like her wanted to be anywhere near a guy like him, but she seemed to.
“You have no idea how happy it makes me to hear you say that. And planning to have a baby. You’re a lucky man. She’s going to be a wonderful mother. If you need anything, anything at all, you let me know.”
“Actually, that’s why I’m here.” Ryan swallowed. “I want…I mean, I’m thinking…it’s just…”
“Ryan, spit it out.”
“I want to buy a house for her.” Ryan stood and paced across the floor. “I don’t think this is a good idea. I mean, she loves that condo. She keeps telling me how she bought it with Second Chances money and it’s really safe. Nobody gets inside who shouldn’t be there. I shouldn’t have bothered you.”
Marty stepped in front of Ryan before he could bolt out the door. “Junior, you need to stop. This is way too much stress over a house. What’s really worrying you?”
“I love her, Marty. I’m afraid of losing her.”
“Why would you ever lose her?”
Ryan sunk into the chair he’d just abandoned. “I don’t deserve her.”
“Junior, if there is anyone in the world who deserves her, it’s you and I say that with the wholehearted belief that she is too good for this world.”
“How do you know?”
“That she’s too good for this world? Because I have seen her deal with shit that would have broken anyone else and I know you have quite a horror story of your own. Speaking as a recovering alcoholic, I’m daily amazed that neither one of you ever turned to drugs or alcohol.” Marty sighed. “Would you feel better if I talked to her? See if I can figure out why she’s stubbornly clinging to that little bachelorette pad.”
“Feels a little like junior high, but for you, I’ll do it.” Marty eased back in his chair. “Since I’m doing you a favor, do you think you could reciprocate?”
Ryan raised an eyebrow. This was why he usually only saw Marty when Taylor was with him. He still had a hard time saying no to the boss, but she could do it and laugh as she did. “Like what?”
“Ex-girlfriend of mine just got the green light for a passion project and a little bit of star power would go a long way to getting eyeballs on screens.”
“I don’t have time to pick up a regular part.” That made it easy.
“It’s not a regular part, only a couple of episodes. I told her you’d be great as the alpha werewolf. It’s shooting in Vancouver with all the same folks and they’ll schedule around Space Odyssey. So I can tell her you’re in?”
“Once Taylor gets pregnant and after the baby comes, she’s going to need me.” But if he was going to buy a house more money meant more house.
“Don’t worry about that. You know I’ll make sure you two have everything you need.”
“I need time. I want to be a father to my child.”
Marty blinked. Taylor was the closest Marty had to a child making him the closest Ryan had to a father-in-law. “I wouldn’t expect anything less. You heard me say it’s shooting in Vancouver while you’re both already there for Space Odyssey, right?”
Ryan rolled the fabric of his jeans between his fingers. This was the other reason he liked to negotiate business with Taylor or his agent around. They kept him from overreacting. “Send the scripts to Stella.”
“I can do that.” Marty stood and held out his hand. “Glad you could come by. I’ll talk to Taylor about how she needs a bigger house with a baby in the future. I doubt she’s going to say no.”
Which wasn’t certain she would say yes.
A crowd of paparazzi clustered around the gate to the parking garage. They started shouting questions as soon as she turned in. Boz hurried out to herd them away from the gate as it slid up. Taylor needed to send them lunch or something as a thank you. They’d been doing a lot more guarding since the leak.
“How was your lunch?” Ryan’s voice came from the top of the stairs when she got inside her condo.
Taylor glanced at the table. What did she expect to see? Two empty plates and two half finished glasses of red wine? Ryan wouldn’t be that cruel, or that stupid. Ryan was smart enough to cheat where she wasn’t going to walk in on him. He’d take his cheating someplace else.
“Taylor, is something wrong?” Ryan stood at the top of the stairs looking down at her.
I don’t know, is there? Taylor shook her head.
“How was your lunch?”
“Good. Melinda is doing a short series and she wants me for a bit part.” Taylor put her purse on the table by the door. “I’m having her contact Stella.”
Ryan bounded down the stairs, frowning. “I thought we were clearing your schedule so you’d have time to take it easy for the baby.”
Did he not remember that she told him she might not be able to even get pregnant let alone carry to term? “It’s only a little part. She said a few weeks around Odyssey.”
“I guess if you’re sure.”
“A little more money and a little more exposure isn’t a bad thing.” Taylor forced a smile. She could have been working as much as Ryan had the last three years. They could have easily been Kristen Bell and Dax Sheppard in funny refrigerator commercials. She could have been in all the Mythic Heroes movies.
Ryan’s frown deepened.
“What were you doing upstairs?”
“Looking at the guest room. We’re going to need to do some redecorating for the baby.” He ran up the stairs.
Taylor followed him.
“Once we get a crib and a changing table in here, there’s no room to divide this room so there’s space for a nanny. I talked to the desk about bigger condos inside this building, but they’re full so this is the floor plan we need to make work.”
“This is a very safe building.”
“Malibu is safe.” He leaned his forehead on hers. “We could find a place close to our friends with nanny quarters for Devi.”
“You’re not going to be able to convince Devi to become our nanny. She has a career.”
“A guy can dream.” Ryan brushed his lips across hers.
Taylor stretched against him, letting him melt her with his kiss. He was so strong and determined. Nothing stopped him when he, and now she, wanted something. He’d make everything work out.
Ryan hooked his arm under her knees and carried her into the bedroom, settling her on their bed as she slid a hand under her shirt.
“I think I know why you agreed to have kids,” she murmured, arching at his touch.
“Because making them will be so fun?”
“Them? I thought we were talking about one.”
He nibbled her ear. The heat of his breath tingled. “We’ll see.”