Twice in a Blue Moon

Page 44

When I step outside, the crisp air feels immediately easier to pull in deeply. Inside the room, at the table, I couldn’t quite catch my breath, and my delivery suffered, my words coming out tight and clipped. Neon-yellow leaves crunch beneath my boots as I round the corner to the empty side of the porch. I can see the pond from here, the rows of corn that sway in the breeze, and a field of pumpkins warming in the fading sun. Footsteps sound on the boards behind me, and I turn to see Marco standing there.

“What the fuck is going on?”

I don’t bother to ease him into it. “Sam is here.”

“Sam? Sam who?”

“The writer, S. B. Hill? It’s Sam Brandis.”

It takes a moment for everything to click, and Marco’s eyes widen. “From London? How did we—?”

“He wrote the script, and when I was suggested for the role he tried to email and warn me. Obviously, the emails never got through. He’s here. It’s completely fucking with my head.”

Marco bends, meeting my eyes. “I was going to head home to LA tonight. Do you want me to stay on set?”

“No, no, but if you could kick him really hard in the balls before you go, that would be fantastic.”

Marco laughs.

“And get this,” I say, looking around to make sure no one can hear us. “On top of everything else, all the millions of questions I have and all the shit this brings up? He wasn’t sure he even wanted me for the role.”

“He what?”

I nod. “Yeah, so he’s still a monster. Good to know.”

God, what a potent reminder that there’s no room in this industry for self-sabotage. Other people will be more than happy to do it for you.

“Keep your head down and just get the job done,” Marco says. “You were born for this role.”

“Maybe, but I was awful in there.” I press my hands to my face and feel Marco reach for them.

“You were surprised. Of course you’re off your game.” He turns and leans against the railings. “Jesus. What are the odds?”

“What am I supposed to do now? Do I try to get out of it or—?”

“This is your movie, Tate. You’re not going anywhere. He’s the writer, not your co-star. If you have questions about the script you talk to Gwen or Todd. There’s no reason you and Sam need to interact, and he can stay the hell away. I assume you told him as much?”


“Good. Just give yourself some time. You’re not the teenager he remembers. You haven’t been Tate Jones in years. You’re Tate Butler now, and he’d better watch himself or he’s going to answer to me, too. Though I’m nothing compared to what he’s got coming.”

I look up at him, confused. “What do you mean?”

“Charlie is going to fucking murder him.”


SOMEHOW WE MAKE IT through the read. By the time we’re standing, shaking hands with studio execs, telling each other how excited we are to get rolling tomorrow, it’s a wonder that there’s anyone left in the room who has any confidence in me. Gwen’s enthusiasm is too big, too bright for her normally understated personality. I hear Marco with our producer Deb and one of the studio heads, Jonathan Marino—who looks like a Ken doll wearing a brown swim cap—talking about how “Table reads aren’t really Tate’s favorite. She likes to be in there, on set. Tomorrow will be amazing.”

Everything inside me feels droopy: my spirit, my pulse, my energy. I expect Dad to come find me immediately afterward but—even worse—he just shoots me a tight smile before finding a woman seated at the periphery. He helps her up and then kisses her.

Blinking, I take a closer look. No way is she a day over twenty-five. My father is late-fifties now, dating a woman younger than his daughter. It’s such a tired story, and now I’ll have to see it every day on set.

Drained, I smile, hug, and handshake my way over to Marco, who maneuvers me out of the room. We don’t say anything as we leave the Community House and tromp down the dusty trail toward my cabin. Finally, the silence feels like a two-ton weight on my chest.

“That was terrible.”

“It wasn’t that bad, sweetie.”

I groan. “You ‘sweetie’d’ me. That means it was awful.”

Marco laughs and then rakes his hands through his hair, turning his face skyward. “Who would have guessed this?” He laughs again and his genuine disbelief, his bursting amusement, is almost enough to make me smile, too. “I was watching Sam on and off the whole time. It’s so weird to see him in person.”

I feel like a jerk: of course this would be weird for Marco, too. There would be no Tate-and-Marco if there hadn’t been a Sam Brandis first.

“Is he what you expected?”

“He’s . . .” Marco trails off, and I watch him struggle for words, assuming—based off his sly smile—that he’s trying to find a way to say how sexy Sam is without actually saying it. Sam’s size, his composure, his eyes, the rugged look of him—he’s objectively captivating. “It helps me understand, let’s put it that way.”

This makes me burst out laughing, finally.

“Look,” Marco says, bringing his hands to my shoulders, “this whole situation is so weird. Frankly, it’s beyond comprehension. But you—we—have to get it together. You are the same person who stepped out of that London hotel directly into the spotlight and never let her smile waver. You are the world’s favorite broken, manipulative, good-hearted vampire. You are the woman who made millions of people laugh as Tessa in Rodeo Girls, as Veronica in Pearl Grey. You are beloved.” He crouches so we’re the same height. “Sam or no Sam, I truly believe you’ll crush this. In fact, I have no doubt. He’s a complication—an annoyance. You’re so far above that.”

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