Chapter 3 of the tentatively titled "Her Leading Man" came to me late last night. I had lost all track of time and before I knew it, it was 3 AM.
I hope you are enjoying the story of Lane and Ella so far. This is my back-up novel for NaNoWriMo and I'm running with it while the muse has my imagination.
Get caught up:
Ella loved walking around back stage of the small theater. She smiled as she read the words of troupers and thespians past on the old exposed drywall. The smell of must, old sweat and makeup brought a lingering smile of days long past. She touched the pull ropes of the aged stage curtains with a sort of reverence one might reserve for church. If nothing else came of this day, she knew she would die happy for trying. How strange to think that Lane Tuloch had something to do with that.
She thought about trying to wash the coffee stain out of her shirt and fixing her hair but rejected it. If this was the hand she was dealt today, this is what they were going to get. She couldn’t be any more real than that. And with the entire day to kill, she had nothing but time, so it didn’t bother her that they didn’t start calling people in for at least another hour.
To her amusement, she was quite aware of the five other women waiting back stage for their turn to impress the casting director. If she were to hazard a guess, she was probably the oldest one of the lot, and from her vantage point, judging by their catty looks toward one another, they seemed pretty hungry for the job even though it was slated for a short run with a terrible per diem. Still, it occurred to her that it wouldn't be beneath any of them to throw their competition down a flight of stairs, yet with her mussed hair and coffee stains, they didn’t give her a second look.
Good lord, what am I doing here? She wanted to laugh. She was anything but a cutthroat stage diva, but the dichotomy of stage life was appealing. Ella could not think of another job where the competition was so fierce, yet once accepted, vehemently loyal.
Apparently the casting director was choosing people randomly as a few of the girls who had come in after her were called to the stage until she was the last one standing back stage. It was a little disconcerting considering that it gave her too much time to think about the dark blue eyes of a certain actor and whether or not she was going to O’Grady’s for a drink. She turned the ring on her finger using her thumb, a nervous habit more than anything, and wondered if it saved her from embarrassing herself later.
To go or not to go? That is the question. She snapped out of her daydream upon hearing her name.
The young stage assistant waved her toward the stage.
“Last one on, huh?”
The young woman smiled. “Until the next wave. Break a leg.”
“Thanks.” Taking a deep breath, she made her way center stage. The lights were warm, glaring in such a way to prevent her from seeing specific details of the house beyond shadows. It was a small theater and she guestimated it had less than 150 seats. She would have to project her voice, but not to the point of hurting herself. Peering out, Ella saw a red glowing dot next to the shadow of two people toward the back of the small theater.
“Okay…Ms…Whitmore," the disembodied voice said, “for the camera, introduce yourself. Your name, a quick bio, and why you deserve the part, and then you can go right into your prepared material.”
She closed her eyes. Just relax and be yourself. Taking a deep, calming breath, she opened her eyes again and gave a relaxed smile. “Ella Whitmore. The call was for a professional woman with grown children on a mission of self-discovery and I have miraculously appeared for you. I don’t deserve the part because I am the part."
After a short pause, she summoned the spirit of Carolyn from Martine’s Promise of You. The words flowed so easily from her lips.
“…But here’s the thing, Bobby. Time doesn’t heal all wounds. Not really…”
“Thank you!” The disembodied voice interrupted.
It was like a bucket of cold water had been dumped on her, snapping her out of her trance - out of Carolyn. Not knowing exactly what to say or do, she might have muttered, “Thank you,” before pivoting on stiff legs to exit stage left. But another voice, a familiar voice made her stop in her tracks.
“One moment, please.”
The baritone voice had a distinct brogue to it and she could feel the hairs on her arms rise from the sudden goosebumps. Pivoting back to face the shadows, she saw his large frame shuffle through a pile of papers before he approached. With the agility of a cat, he hopped onto the stage and handed her a copy of a beat up looking manuscript. “Tom, are you recording this?”
Lane’s lips twitched with a barely kept smile, completely disregarding her best murderous glare. “You’re in the Scottish Highlands traveling alone when a couple of kids try to swipe your purse and I come to your rescue. You’re upset…”
“Oh yeah, a little steamed.”
“Read Gail’s part from page 28.”
Taking a moment to regain her composure, she took the script and walked away from him, quickly reading the dialogue and returned full force, harnessing the plethora of emotion and adrenaline flowing through her.
“I suppose I’m supposed to thank you now? Well, I won’t. I’ve had nothing but a run of bad luck since I’ve come to his godforsaken place. If I wanted to be this miserable, I could have stayed home.”
“Well there’s a bonny fire in you, isn’t there? At least you’re not all weepy, I could’na stand that.”
They bantered back and forth in their roles, Lane circling her as he pantomimed waving her purse. Snatching it away, she rummaged through it. “I suppose you’ll be demanding a reward or something,” she huffed.
“Nae. The reward I’m seeking must be given freely. I’ll not take it otherwise.”
“Oh? And what’s that supposed to be?”
Lane approached her, his eyes dark and dilated; one hand nestled perfectly against the curve of her waist, the other gently cupped her cheek. She felt the buzz of electricity as his thumb stroked the sensitive part of her bottom lip. His touch was feather soft awakening all the warm places she had carefully packed away for so many years.
“Just a kiss,” he whispered.
Ella briefly wondered if his lips were as soft and warm as they looked as he hovered just inches away from stealing one.
“That’s what I’m looking for!”
In a snap, the moment was broken. Lane and Ella stepped away from each other.
“What’s that, Tom?”
“I can practically swim in the sexual tension. That’s the missing ingredient. The job’s yours to refuse, Whitmore. The hours are gonna suck and the pay is worse, but you can add it on your resume.”
“That’s comforting,” she muttered, stealing a glance toward Lane whose intense gaze sent butterflies adrift in her belly.
Lane winked then shrugged. “It’s a passion project, more or less.”
“Cute, Tuloch. I’ve got my neck on the line for your play. And you…” he looked her up and down, “Don’t fuck it up. Tanya!”
The young stage assistant poked her head out from behind the center stage curtain. “Make sure we have Whitmore’s information and send her a copy of the contracts.”
“Don’t ‘yeah, yeah’ me. When’s the next batch of auditions coming in?”
Those two wandered off in animated banter leaving Ella alone with Lane. Her pulse was slow and steady - or maybe it was too fast to count the beats, but the situation was unreal, as if the real world had metamorphosed into imagination. “Did I just get…”
“The job?” he finished for her, nodding.
Still feeling his touch, she rubbed her bottom lip and slowly backed away. “This wasn’t supposed to happen.”
His smile turned inquisitive. “What?”
“Any of it. All of it.”
Then she ran; her name echoing from behind as he called to her.
Will she meet Lane at O'Grady's or is she going home?
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