Sometimes you have to try a little harder for what you want.
Taylor Elgin was a child star, but keeping her career as an adult is frustrating. Now executives want to cut her part unless she garners more audience appeal. Her producer has a perfect plan. Match her character up with a fan favorite played by hot guy and terrible actor Ryan Asher. It would be easier to just quit…
Ryan had a crush Taylor when he was a kid and is thrilled to be partnered with her now. But does a guy carrying the scars of an abusive childhood deserve America’s Little Girl? And then to learn she never wanted to work with him in the first place? There’s no reason to even try…
Ugh, Christmas. The reason for the break in production. “I have no idea yet. I spent last night in a hotel because I couldn’t bear to be in the condo.”
“If you need anything, call me.” Rachel patted her arm before walking away.
“The same goes for me,” Angie said. “Anytime. Tyler, can you help me at the grill?”
“Why?” the blond guy said. “Neither one of us can cook.”
“Two bad cooks are better than one.” She grabbed his hand.
“But Shelly is a great cook,” he protested as Angie pulled him away.
“Very subtle,” Ryan said.
“Marty said you were upset because he’s an idiot.”
Ryan raised an eyebrow. “So your boyfriend was cheating on you?”
“You heard that?” Of course, he did. She’d made up the whole backstory as they approached so he would.
His delivery was flat. He wasn’t buying some part of this, and she needed something to go right. To lose her boyfriend and her life’s work in the same week was too much. And right at the time of year when everybody was celebrating with their loved ones. Black misery welled up her throat. She didn’t have time to deal with her feelings right now. She blinked back tears.
“Are you okay?” Ryan asked.
Taylor put up her hand, but he reached for her. “Please—” Her throat choked closed. How could Garrett do that? She’d loved him. Trusted him while she was away. She’d let him in, and he’d made a fool of her.
Ryan pulled her against his chest, petting her hair. “Geez, I’m sorry.”
“He was the first guy who didn’t want to talk about Kimmie Arthur. God, I hate that bitch. She ruined my life.” Ruined to the point where the best person she had to confide in was Ryan Asher. Sobs shook her. “I’m crying in the middle of a goddamn Christmas party.”
“Come with me.” Ryan tugged her.
Blinded by tears, Taylor allowed him to lead her through a door. The room inside dimmed. He settled her on something soft with his big arm around her shoulders. None of this was how she’d wanted it to work. She’d planned to come here and make light of the breakup, be angry, not wounded. Certainly not talk about Kimmie Arthur. Just feed him the line about why she skipped the party and get him on board with the romance character arc so she could keep peace on the set and maybe keep her part.
But he wasn’t acting uncomfortable or telling her everything would be fine. He was holding her, letting her cry. Why couldn’t he be like this on set?
Taylor reined in her emotions. She had no time for this, even though it felt really nice. Working closely with him was not going to be awful. “I’m sorry.”
“Why? Your guy cheated on you.”
“It wasn’t fair of me to cry on you, though.” Taylor sat up, wiping her eyes. They were sitting on an orange banquette across from a set of louvered doors. Must be the cabana. She’d never been inside it, but it had been close when she had her breakdown.
“I was handy.” He shrugged. “When you bolted before the wrap party, I thought it was because of me.”
“Why you?” He was smarter than she’d given him credit for.
He shrugged again. “Marty said you weren’t happy about the new arc.”
Taylor wiped her cheeks again. “I wasn’t happy about the distributors wanting to cut my part. I just want a series I can settle into.”
“They said you could do anything. Feature films even.”
“I don’t want that. Two months filming and then six months flogging the film? Dealing with all the movie-star drama? No thanks. I just want a solid series with a bunch of serious actors.”
He frowned. “So, you want to work with me?”
“Yes. Do you want to work with me?”
“Of course. Anything to make the show better, right?”
Taylor slipped her hand into his. Ryan was a bona fide good guy, and now she felt like a heel for using him. At least, while she was using him, she could teach him to act. “I’m sure we can.”
He leaned forward. “Can’t wait to run lines with you.”
Taylor’s skin tingled. How long would it be before the writers got to their first kiss? “Me either.”
“We should go.” He stood up, pulling her with him. “It’s a family show.”
“Yeah.” Meaning there probably wouldn’t be a first kiss.