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Wally Kohler left Weaver’s Circle to go on the road with rock bands. Over the years his job has changed from moving equipment to protecting people and fixing problems for Touchstone and SendDown. He hasn’t had time to visit home in years so when Candy needs someone to take a spoiled starlet out of the limelight for a couple of weeks at Christmas he agrees. Honestly how much trouble can she be?
Flora Mason could be a super star, unless she wrecks her own career. For her latest stunt, she went on national television to promote her blockbuster Christmas movie and instead announced that Christmas is a sham. But it is really that she has something against Christmas or is something else ruining her Christmas spirit?
Flora studied the cracks in the ceiling of the room she’d been given. The light reflecting off the snow made the whole room glow in a soft lavender. A whole month here. Nightmare. Cold. Spotty internet. Nothing for miles. The one sign of civilization was the city they had passed through about halfway through the trip from the airport. Not that she could get to it. She picked up her phone and scrolled through her contacts. There had to be two hundred numbers there and nobody she wanted to talk to. Candy, Stella, and Mike, her business manager, were pissed. Julian Keeting, her co-star from Heart Of the Holiday, had been hot for her on the set, but once production ended he’d stopped taking her calls. Khalil was off duty and her bodyguard wasn’t especially chatty when he was on duty. She hadn’t gotten much more than, “yes, miss,” “no, miss,” and “you shouldn’t do that, miss” from him since he was hired. Her mother would just ask for more money. So would her little brother. In fact, anybody she tried back home would ask for money and of the people in Hollywood, if they weren’t mad at her for ruining their precious movie, they wanted something, too. Dirt, access, money. Her thumb hovered over Amanda’s name. Amanda was her assistant. She had to answer because she was already getting all the dirt, money, and access she needed.
“Hello, Flora. How’s Ohio?”
“I hate it here. You have to get me out.”
“Sorry, Mike said you had to stay until after the New Year.” Paper crinkled on Amanda’s end of the line.
“What are you doing?”
“Wrapping gifts for Taylor Elgin.”
Amanda sighed. “My other client.”
“You’re cheating on me?” Flora sat up.
“We have a non-exclusive arrangement and I was working with Taylor before you so if you force me to choose, I will have to quit working with you.”
“You can’t talk to me like that,” Flora snapped. Tears welled in her eyes.
“Flora, calm down. Everything is going to be fine. Candy Perry had been hard at work cleaning up your image. Julian and Whilimena have been on the circuit talking about how great the movie is and how hard you worked which is why you’re so tired. I’m not sure how she managed it, but even TMZ pulled that old video of you in the fountain on Rodeo off their home page.”
Flora closed her eyes and let the tears roll down her cheeks. That video was never going away. She’d been out celebrating her first summer blockbuster. The rigorous protein and fasting diet she’d been on to drop fifteen pounds she couldn’t afford to lose had left her more vulnerable to the drinks than she realized. When somebody suggested re-enacting the opening of Friends, it had seemed like a great idea. She’d grown up worshiping at the altar of Aniston and Cox.
But nobody else had gotten in the fountain. Instead, they’d stood back and filmed it, earning a nice paycheck for their false friended cleverness.
“Flora? Do you want to switch to video so we can really talk?” Amanda asked.
“No.” Flora sniffled. Amanda shouldn’t see her with swollen eyes. “Why do you have to work for Taylor Elgin?”
“Taylor was my first client. She got me started. And if you’re worried about her taking up all my time, don’t. She doesn’t need much.”
“She was on Second Chances.” Flora remembered watching that with her grandmother on OCN. “Is she even still acting?”
“She’s on a show called Space Odyssey now. It shoots in Vancouver.”
“But she’s just TV.” Doing TV would be nice. Nowhere near lucrative enough, but regular.
“She doesn’t want anything else.”
“So is Stella still mad at me?” If her agent was mad, she might not get more parts, which would mean no more money and Mami crying over the phone.
“She said if you laid low for a couple of weeks until the heat died down, you’d be okay. Right now the studios don’t want to hear your name, but pretty soon they’ll remember how much money you made for them and they’ll be back. Don’t worry.”
“It was stupid what I said, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah. I don’t disagree, but it’s not what people want to hear. You need to sell the movie. Honey, just treat this like a vacation. A real vacation, not one of those set up things for the paparazzi.”
Flora flopped backward on the bed. “But there has to be something I can do.”
“Relax. Honestly, you’ve been in the States for six years and made fifteen movies, starring in the last five. You deserve a vacation. What time is it there? Why don’t you get some rest?”
“Okay.” Of course, Amanda was right. “Thanks for the talk down.”
“Part of the service. Call me anytime. Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas,” Flora said brightly. It slipped out before she could stop herself. Her character in the movie had been with one with all the Christmas cheer so she’d spent all of last winter on set saying Merry Christmas in her chirpiest tone. She tossed her phone to the side. To sleep, perchance to dream.