Heroes (Hollywood Heartthrobs #1)

 

 

 

 

Heroes:
A Hollywood Heartthrobs Novel

By
Kate Rivers

Heroes: A Hollywood Heartthrobs Novel

Copyright © 2015 by Kate Rivers

All rights reserved. This work or any portion
thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the
express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief
quotations in a book review.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or
are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons or events is entirely
coincidental.

 

Dedication

To my mother, who was putting books into my hands as
soon as I was big enough to hold them.

Also to R.B. and J.P., brilliant teachers without
whom this story would not exist.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 1

 

She
was holding back tears when he opened the door. He crossed the room to her
without a word. When she looked up to meet his gaze, stormy blue eyes stared
into hers as if to read her soul. His strong hands were gentle as a butterfly’s
wing as he reached out to wipe a single tear from her cheek with his thumb.
Then the gentleness changed in an instant. He grabbed her shoulders with both
hands and kissed her, hard, as if to drive away the darkness by force. Her lips
parted to his tongue as she let out a soft sigh. His hands slid slowly and
sensuously up the back of her neck, then adroitly removed her hair clip. Her
hair fell down her back in soft blonde waves as she draped her arms around him,
feeling the muscles of his back tightening as he concentrated on the deep,
conquering kiss. His hands glided down her back, lingering over the silky feel
of her hair as his lips moved to her neck. “Oh, Jared,” she whispered huskily,
with nothing else to be said.

He
moved his hands under her blouse, tracing his fingertips along her soft skin.
She trembled visibly in his arms. He pulled her in close, lifting her off the
floor as easily as a doll. For a moment he held her suspended against his
muscular bulk, then laid her down tenderly onto the bed. His hand caressed her thigh,
pushing her black skirt up above her knee, baring the creamy paleness of her
skin. “Jared,” she said again, this time with urgency. He deftly pulled his
faded black t-shirt over his head. The defined muscles of his chest, only
hinted at beneath the fabric, glowed like marble as he took a deep breath in.
He let it out slowly, forming a single word in a moan of longing: “Cora.” He
stood over the bed, looking down at her with palpable desire, letting the
moment stretch to an unendurable postponement. A flash of lightning lit the
room, and for a heartbeat the outline of his body was thrown in sharp relief,
the chiseled definition of his shoulders and chest illuminated before the
shadowy backdrop of the bedroom. Then he threw himself down on the bed with the
fury and passion of a demon.

“Cut!”

The
heavyset director stood up from his chair as a diminutive assistant sporting an
enormous headset raced over to whisper in his ear.

“Okay,
guys, looks like we’ve got the shot. That’s it for today, call at 7am tomorrow
for the scene at the crossroads. This is the big season finale, so everybody
bring their A game.”

Dean
Everett stood up, grabbed the shirt from the floor of the set and put it
hastily back on. Catherine Fleck swung her long, thin legs across the bed, standing
up as far away from him as possible.

“Thank
God! It feels like we’ve been shooting this one scene all damn day. My lips are
going to be chapped,” she with a scowl. She stormed off past the cameras
towards her mousy assistant, a petite woman who always seemed to be wisely
holding a pack of cigarettes, a silver lighter, and her tongue. As Catherine
grabbed the cigarettes and lighter, she turned to shoot a last parting look at
Dean, now on his way off the set in the other direction. “And the next time we have
to spend the day making out, stock up on the breath mints, okay?” She headed to
the outer door, mousy assistant trailing her at a safe distance.

Dean’s
talent agent Stuart was waiting for him just inside the set door. “Jeez, what’s
her problem?” he asked with a smile. Stuart always seemed to be wearing a
smile, and he had as many different smiles as he did shirts. A lanky
Californian with sunny trust-me-baby-I-would-never-lie-to-you good looks,
Stuart reminded Dean of something between a cheap used car salesman and an
expensive motivational speaker. He understood Hollywood in a way Dean hoped he
never would.

“Eh,
she’s just still pissed about the award show dinner thing,” Dean replied
offhand. “No big deal. That and I had a tuna fish sandwich with extra onions
for lunch.”

“Harsh.”

“She
was like this in the morning, too. I figured if she’s going to be unpleasant,
why not at least give her a reason. Plus I like tuna,” he said with a shrug as
they headed back to Dean’s dressing room.

“I
know I said this already, but would it really be such a bad idea to go to the
dinner with her? The paparazzi will be all over it.”

“And
like
I
said already, that is exactly why I don’t want to go. I don’t
want it all over the tabloids that we’re some kind of item.”

“Being
all over the tabloids is precisely the point! I know you don’t want to hear
this again, but the ratings for season six haven’t been as strong, and the
fantasy that you and Catherine are an actual item might light a fire under the
fans. Have you seen her twitter following?”

“But
we’re not an actual item! I’m an actor, she’s an actress, we pretend to be in
love because that is what the script says we’re supposed to do. That’s it. If
we’re convincing on the show who the hell cares if we get along off screen?”

Stuart
gave Dean one of his aw-aren’t-you-adorably-naïve smiles. “I’m just saying, it
might give the ratings a boost if the fans saw you two out together a bit,
that’s all,” Stuart said gently.

“No,
it would give Catherine Fleck a boost in her likelihood of becoming a regular
on season seven.”

“Two
birds, my friend, two birds. And you could do worse than a willing starlet on
your arm on a Saturday night.”

“Yeah,
well, she’s not my type.”

“Oh
right,” Stuart said airily, now sporting his
less-holy-than-thou-and-absolutely-enjoying-it smile, “forgot I was talking to
the last man in California that hates bottle blondes with big tits and button
noses.”

“I
like authenticity, so sue me.”

“Authenticity?
You’re an actor! Your whole career, your whole life are based on fantasy. You
play a damn vampire for god’s sake. So what if Cathy from Yuma was born a
brunette with small breasts and a big nose? Now she’s gorgeous. It’s an
improvement.”

Dean
rolled his eyes.

“And
you have to admit she gets more work since the nose job,” Stuart said
matter-of-factly.

Dean
rolled his eyes again, harder.

“Well,
it’s your funeral. Don’t blame me when the ratings drop.”

Dean
turned suddenly. “Would that be such a bad thing? Maybe it’s about time for the
ratings to drop. Six years I’ve been playing Jared the sexy vampire, maybe it’s
time for something else?”

“Here
we go,” said Stuart, switching instantly to his it-will-all-be-okay-what-doesn’t-kill-you-makes-you-stronger-smile.
“This is about the war movie, isn’t it?”

Dean
took a deep breath in. He hated to admit it, but Stuart knew him too well.
“Yes, okay? Yes, this is about the war movie. I just really thought I had it; I
really thought it was going to be my big break.”

“Dean,”
Stuart said, waving an arm around Dean’s dressing room. “Remember when
this
was your big break? You’re the lead in a long-running, popular cable TV show
with a lot of devoted fans. You’ve been on the cover of
Entertainment Weekly
for god’s sakes. There are actors who would kill for a part on
Once Bitten
,
let alone the lead.”

“I
know, Stuart, I know. When I got Jared I was so excited to just be here. It’s
just, I thought I was still on my way up, yaknow? That there would be more out
there for me. I’m thirty-two still playing a vampire who’s eternally
twenty-one. Captain Collins felt like the next step.” Dean looked shamefaced.
“I know, I sound ungrateful. I just... I just wanted it bad.”

Stuart
switched to his big-brother-comforting-little-brother’s-booboo smile. “Dean,
sometimes you just don’t get the part you want and it isn’t your fault. It’s
the 300lb Eskimo woman trap. If the casting director decides she wants a 300lb
Eskimo woman for the part listed as ‘best friend gender unspecified,’ it
doesn’t matter how well you read for best friend. You’re either a 300lb Eskimo
woman or you’re not.”

Dean
smiled ruefully. “Yaknow, that would be a lot more comforting if they had
actually given the part of Captain Collins, the small-town American soldier who
falls for a peasant refugee while liberating Nazi-occupied France, to a 300lb
Eskimo woman. As it is, they gave the part to an early thirties, 6’2’’ blonde
Caucasian male who is essentially a better looking, more famous version of me.
So please, save the story about the Eskimo.”

“Just
trying to help,” Stuart said, now complete with a
don’t-you-remember-we’ve-been-here-before smile.

“Don’t,”
Dean said. Leave it to Stuart to make him feel petulant and ashamed at the same
time. Maybe he was right about the dinner after all.

****

          Three days
later, Dean stretched out languidly on his sofa. In his designer jeans and
designer t-shirt (both selected by some or other assistant to the show), he was
a perfect match for the chic black leather sofa (selected by a former costar
with a passion for decorating with whom he had had a brief love affair). The
trouble was, the designer jeans were ill-fitting and the leather sofa was
always cold to the touch. On the occasions when he stopped to consider them,
which were infrequent, neither was particularly comfortable.

Comfort,
that was what he needed. He sat up and reached for his glass of whiskey and
water with one hand and his phone with the other. He had three choices, really.
He could call his costar, Shiloh. Shiloh played Jared’s arch nemesis, a vampire
named Benedict, but the two had become great friends over the years of the
show. No doubt Shiloh would offer to cheer him up by taking him out to one of
his seemingly infinite Hollywood hangouts to pick up tourists eager to invite
Jared the
Once Bitten
vampire into their Holiday Inn beds. But Dean had
sworn off that kind of easy hunting. Shiloh might think it was great fun, but
Dean couldn’t help but want more. Dammit, he wanted a woman to want Dean, not
Jared, was that so much to ask? His TV alter ego was at once the best and worse
wingman in history. So, tonight Shiloh was out. He could call Stuart and get
the increasingly frequent pep talk speech. Since losing the Collins part, Dean
had seemed to need those speeches more than ever. Even when he first came to
the city twelve (God, really? Twelve?) years ago and suffered through years of
starving artist rejections, his spirits had been high. Construction jobs had
kept the lights on; small-time commercials and the occasional guest spot had
kept the dream burning. Dean had been one of Stuart’s first clients as an
agent, and they’d been together ever since. Like an annoying younger cousin you
never really love but never seem to get rid of, Stuart was practically family.
But Stuart would say what he always said, and Dean had heard the speech too
many times already. So that left Nathan.

Even
Dean knew he had done his little brother wrong. Last Christmas Dean had
promised his nephews he’d be there, having missed both their birthdays and
Thanksgiving. He and Nathan both knew those boys adored Uncle Dean, and he had
sworn up and down to fly in on Christmas Eve. They were supposed to wrap five
days before Christmas. Then it was four, then three, then two. Christmas Eve
morning Dean was still on set, swearing he was leaving at noon. Of course,
there were camera problems, and he didn’t leave. No, instead he stayed until he
missed his flight. He had never heard his brother so angry. Dean had promised a
Christmas Day flight, in time to make it for dinner, but Nathan had told him
not to bother coming at all. Dean knew Nathan was right, and the thought of
letting down his nephews on Christmas morning filled him with shame. That was
four months ago, and they hadn’t spoken since. It was the longest Dean and Nate
had ever gone without speaking, by about three-and-a-half months.

Taking
a swig of liquid courage, he decided to bite the bullet. Family was family, and
if he couldn’t call Nathan who could he call?

Three
rings in he heard a high, clear, slightly exasperated voice on the other end of
the line. Nathan’s wife Samantha. Perfect.

“Hey
Sam, it’s Dean.”

“Dean,
wow. Long time no hear.”

Dean
took another quick swig from his glass. “I know, Sam, and look, I’m sorry. I
know I really screwed things up at Christmas. I was wondering…” He cast about
in his mind for how to put what he was about to ask. “I was wondering if I
could come out and make it up to the boys. And to Nate.”

The
pause on Samantha’s end seemed to last unnaturally long. Dean held his breath.

“Wait,
did I just hear one of the Everett men say ‘I’m sorry’? God yes Dean you can
come anytime, just be sure to teach those magic words to your nephews. And your
brother, come to think of it.” She laughed into the phone.

Dean
sent up a silent prayer of thanks to his little brother for marrying just about
the kindest and best woman in Illinois, if not the Continental United States.

“Dean,”
she went on, probably aware of the effect her words were having on her
brother-in-law, “Nathan was seriously angry at you at Christmas. And waiting
months to call again probably didn’t help matters. On the other hand, he’s
cooled off, and he’s still your brother. Things here are great, and you know
you’re always welcome. The boys haven’t seen their Uncle Dean in ages, and I
know how happy they’d be if their famous favorite uncle came for a stay.”

Other books

Snowjob by Ted Wood
Winter's Thaw by Stacey Lynn Rhodes
Slave Girl by Sarah Forsyth
Perception by Nicole Edwards
Forgotten by Evangeline Anderson
Rhubarb by M. H. van Keuren
Genie and Paul by Natasha Soobramanien
Sue-Ellen Welfonder - [MacLean 02] by Master of The Highland (html)
Beyond the Rules by Doranna Durgin