As a director, Gwen is known for being meticulous. The love scenes are no different. We know exactly how the scene will be blocked, how we’ll move and what we want to come across on camera. I’m not looking forward to this, but at least we’ll all be prepared.
On days like today, only essential crew members are present. As we return to the room that’s designed to look like Ellen’s bedroom in the farmhouse, I see Gwen, Liz, Feng, the camera operator, the assistant camera operator, the boom operator, script supervisor . . . and Sam. It never occurred to me that he’d be here.
I stop short but I needn’t have bothered, because he’s already headed my way. “I tried to grab you before you left earlier,” he says immediately, expression tight with what I can only assume is panic.
I’m feeling a little panicked myself. Today will be hard enough, but knowing Sam will be here too? I mean, shit, we’ve just found some easy, solid ground. I’m not ready to be naked in front of him all day. “Sorry, I went for a run and then had hair and makeup.” I bite my lip.
Why am I explaining myself?
“So, if you look at your contract you’ll see I’m supposed to be here,” he says. “But since my name wouldn’t have meant anything to you before, you probably wouldn’t have noticed. I tried to tell Gwen I wasn’t needed but she said she’d prefer if I stay.” He runs a nervous hand through his hair and then looks around before lowering his voice. “I didn’t know what else to say without telling her too much . . .”
“No . . . it’s fine,” I say, exhaling a slow, steady stream. “Really. We’re all professionals, and I mean . . . it’s not like you haven’t seen it all before. Though fourteen years of gravity takes its toll . . .” The joke lands harshly and creates a dead zone of uncomfortable silence.
“Right,” Sam says finally.
Thankfully, we’re rescued when Charlie comes over to check my makeup.
Her glare follows Sam as he steps away and takes his seat just behind Gwen. “What is he doing here?”
“His job.” I close my eyes as she runs a brush over each of my lids.
“Well he better do his job in the dark corner over there. Behind a thick wall.”
I look at her. “Charlie. Come on. He’s not Satan anymore.”
“Tater, you’re going to be naked all day.”
“Uh, yeah, I’m aware.”
“You can’t blame me for being protective. It’s like when a friend breaks up with someone and tells you all the terrible things about them. They get back together but you’re just supposed to forget about it all?”
“We’re not—You know that’s not what’s happening here.”
“Fine. But if I see him looking at your boobs, I’m going to beat his ass. I’m ride or die Team Tate here. That’s my job.”
When I turn back, Nick is watching us.
“Everything okay?” he asks, tilting his head as Trey makes some last-minute checks on his makeup.
“Just ready to get this over with.”
Trey barks out a laugh and Nick reaches over to pinch my arm. “I can assure you that is the only time I’ve ever heard a woman say that.”
In the middle of some passionate thrusting, Gwen cuts and I have no choice but to stare up to where Nick is hovering—naked—above me. He’s not really naked, of course. He’s wearing a modesty pouch (a glorified penis sock) and has enough glycerin and rose water on his back to make it look like we’ve been at this for a long, long time. Which, frankly, it feels like we have.
A sheet covers my right breast, and Nick’s arm blocks any view of the other. I’m at a place in my career where I can stipulate what I will and will not show. By contrast, Nick’s entire ass is on display.
“Do you know what time it is?” I ask.
“I left my watch in my pocket and, as you may have noticed, I’m not wearing pants.” For as awkward as it must be to have your junk in a sock and a pillow between you and the parts you’re supposed to be convincingly fucking, Nick is still as easy to be with as ever.
“I meant, can you see a clock or a sun dial or something. All I can see from this angle is your gleaming chest.”
He shifts slightly. “I can’t see a clock, but I can see our screenwriter. And he does not look happy.”
This piques my interest, and without thinking, I try to crane my neck and get a look for myself. Nick stops me with a gentle hand to my shoulder. If I move, the shots won’t line up, and we’ll have to do the scene all over again. I know this, but the idea of Sam’s frowny reaction is throwing me.
“Yeah, ‘Oh,’ ” he says with a shake of his head. “You ever going to tell me what really happened between you two or should I continue with the most lurid version I can imagine?”
I’m saved for a few moments when Gwen calls for us to pick up where we left off, for me to bend my leg and slide it up toward Nick’s side, for him to kiss down my neck.
“That’s right, that’s right,” Gwen calls out; her voice will be cut out later. “Arch your neck a little more, Tate.”
“Yeah, give her what she’s looking for, Tate,” Nick whispers against my throat, his face hidden from view. “And tell me why Mr. Intense over there looks like someone just canceled his birthday.”