By Karen Kingsbury
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2005 Karen Kingsbury
All right reserved. ISBN: 0-8423-8743-9
But something was missing, and by three that afternoon Dayne knew what it was.
Dayne leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms as the last of the six read through her lines. A person couldn't fake innocence-not even with an Academy Award performance. Innocence was something that grew in the heart and shone through the eyes. And it was the innocence that was lacking with each of them.
Mitch Henry, casting director, was pacing near the back of the room. He finished with the final actress and bid her goodbye.
On her way out she looked at Dayne and gave him a teasing smile. "See ya." She was one of the ones he'd dated. Actually, he'd lived with her off and on for a month or so. Long enough that their pictures made the tabs a couple of times. Her eyes locked onto his. "Call me."
"Yeah." Dayne pretended to tip an invisible hat, but his grin faded before she left the room. He turned to Mitch. "Who's next?"
"Who's next?" Deep lines appeared between Mitch's eyes, his tone frustrated. "Do you know how hard it was to get six A-list actresses in here on the same day? The part doesn't even require the kind of talent we had in here, Dayne. Any one of them would knock it out of the park."
"They're good. They're all good." Dayne uncrossed his arms and tapped his fingers on the table. "But something's missing." He paused. "I'm not seeing innocent, Henry. Sophisticated, flirty, take me to bed, yes. But not innocent."
"Fine." Mitch tossed his clipboard on the table and yelled at a passing intern to shut the door. On the table were the files belonging to the six actresses, and when the door was shut, Mitch took a few steps closer. "We're on a schedule here, Matthews." He gripped the edge of the table and leaned in. "Hollywood isn't exactly a stable of innocence."
"Okay." Dayne pushed his chair back, stood, and walked to the window, his back to Mitch. He stared out through the hazy blue, and a face came to mind. A face he hadn't forgotten in nearly a year. He held the image, mesmerized by it, and an idea started to form. It was possible, wasn't it? She worked in theater. She must've dreamed of the silver screen somewhere along the way, right?
Dayne felt Mitch's eyes on him, and he turned around. "I have an idea."
"An idea?" Mitch scratched the back of his head and strode to the door and back. "We don't need an idea; we need an actress. Filming starts in four months. This film is too big to wait until the last minute."
"I know." The idea was taking root. It was definitely possible. What girl wouldn't want a chance like this? Dayne sucked in a slow breath. He couldn't get ahead of himself. "Listen, Mitch, give me a week. I have someone in mind, but she's out of state." He leaned against the windowsill. "I think I can have her here in a week, by next Monday." Mitch folded his arms, his expression hard. "Some girl you met at a club, Matthews? Someone you made drunken promises to? Is that what you want me to wait for?"
"No." Dayne held up his hand. "She's the real deal. Give me a chance."
A moment passed when Dayne wasn't sure which way the casting director was leaning. Then Mitch swept up the six files and the clipboard and shot him a look. "One week." He was halfway out the door when he turned once more and met Dayne's eyes. "She better be good."
Dayne waited until he was alone to look out the window again. What had he just done? Buying a week meant putting the other talent on hold. It meant playing with a budget of tens of millions of dollars so he could find a girl he'd seen just once and ask her to read for a starring role opposite him in a major motion picture.
All when she might not have the interest or ability to act at all.
The idea was crazy, except for one thing. In the past year the only time he'd seen genuine innocence was when he'd watched this same girl light up the stage at a small theater in Bloomington, Indiana, directing the chaos of a couple dozen kids in costumes at the close of what was apparently the theater troupe's first show.
He remembered most of what he'd seen that day, but still the details were sketchy. The location of the theater was easy, something he could definitely find again. But he had almost no information on the girl except her name.
Dayne gripped the windowsill and leaned his forehead against the cool glass. He could fly out and try to find her, but that would bring the paparazzi out of the woodwork for sure, make them crazy with questions about why Dayne Matthews was in Bloomington, Indiana.
He turned and grabbed his keys and cell phone. There had to be a way to reach her, to ask her out to Hollywood for an audition without the story making every tabloid in town. Dayne shoved the phone in his pocket and headed down the hall toward the elevator.
A coffee, that's what he needed. A double-shot espresso. Most of his friends in the industry had found offbeat coffee shops, places where they were less recognized. Not Dayne. He was a Starbucks man; nothing else would do. If the paparazzi wanted to take his picture coming and going with his double espresso-and they almost always did-that was fine with him. Maybe he'd get an endorsement deal and he could stand out front and pose for them. Dayne chuckled. That would send them packing. Take all the fun out of it.
He opened the back door of the office building and felt a blast of warmth as the sunshine hit his face. The weather was perfect, not the usual June fog. He crossed the studio's private parking lot to his black Escalade near the bushes and high privacy fence. Usually the studio back lots were free of the press hounds. Sometimes a lone photographer would climb the trees or sit on adjacent hillsides with high-power cameras trained on the office door. But only when a big deal was coming together or someone was in need of rehab-something like that.
Today things looked calm. This time of the day there wouldn't be too many camera hounds on the hunt. Besides, his SUV was new. Only a few of them would know it was him behind the tinted windows. He pulled out of the studio lot and turned left on La Cienaga Boulevard.
Two blocks down he looked in his rearview mirror and saw a familiar Volkswagen. Paparazzi. Even now, even with his new vehicle. He shrugged. Whatever. They can't crawl into my mind.
Once in a while he liked to lead them on. He glanced in his rearview mirror again and shrugged. He could use a little amusement. He turned into the Starbucks strip mall, but instead of stopping in front of the coffee shop, he parked near the Rite Aid, three doors down. He grabbed his baseball cap, slipped it low over his brow, and headed inside. There wasn't another person in the store. Dayne dashed to the magazine rack and found the current editions of each of the four national gossip rags-the colorful, busy magazines that reported all manner of information regarding celebrities.
Bloodsuckers, he and his friends called them.
The old, white-haired man at the register didn't recognize him. "That'll be nine fifty-eight." The guy hummed "Moon River" as he slipped the stack of magazines into a bag and handed it to Dayne. "Nice day, huh?"
"Yeah, beautiful." Dayne gave the man a ten-dollar bill. "June's not usually this sunny."
"God's smiling on the Dodgers." The man winked. "Five wins in a row, I tell you. This is the year."
"Could be." Dayne grinned. He relished the moment. A sales clerk-probably a retiree-making casual conversation with him. Moments like this were sometimes all the normalcy he had anymore. "See you later."
"Yep." The man shook his fist. "Go Dodgers."
Dayne walked outside, scanned the parking lot, and found the Volkswagen and the camera aimed straight at him. Then, with broad, dramatic gestures, he jerked one of the magazines from the bag and appeared to stare, shocked, at the cover. He covered his mouth and pretended to be absorbed in some scandalous story.
After a minute he saw a group of teenage girls headed his way. They hadn't recognized him yet, but they would. He slipped the magazine back in the bag, saluted the photographer, and slid back into his SUV. The fun was over. Enough of the cameraman. He hit the Lock button on his key chain, made sure his windows were rolled up tight, then pulled into the Starbucks drive-thru lane.
By the time he hit Pacific Coast Highway the double espresso was gone, and he'd forgotten about the photographer or whether the guy was still behind him. The girl from Bloomington. That's all he could think about now. How was he going to find her without flying to Indiana? And how crazy was he to tell Mitch he could get her into the studio for a reading in a single week?
Dayne passed the usual landmarks-the Malibu Surfer Motel and the Whole Foods Market. His home was just past that, sandwiched between others belonging to people in the entertainment industry. A director and his singer wife on one side and an aging actress and her much younger husband on the other. Nice people. All drawn to the ocean, the watery view of endless calm and serenity. The picture of everything their lives lacked.
Dayne took his bag of magazines inside and made himself another cup of coffee. Black, no sugar. Then he slipped on a pair of sunglasses and went outside onto his second-story deck. No photographer could see him up here, not with the steep walls built around the deck's edges. He sat down, just barely able to see over the edge out to the Pacific Ocean.
One at a time he took out the magazines. Of the four, his face or name was on the cover of two. Dayne studied the first one: "Dayne Matthews: Hollywood's Most Eligible Bachelor Hits the Party Scene."
"I did?" he muttered and turned to the article. There were many more photos on the two-page spread, each one showing him with a different woman. One he was kissing. One was a waitress and no matter what the photo showed, he wasn't making moves on her. The bar had been loud, so he'd moved in a little closer when he ordered. Beneath that photo the caption read "Even barmaids are fair game."
"Nice." Dayne frowned. What would the waitress think? She was only doing her job, and now she had her picture splashed all over grocery checkouts throughout the country.
He flipped through the pages. There had to be other pictures of him; there always were. A few pages in he saw a short article in the section titled "Police Blotter." The small heading read "Is Dayne Matthews Being Stalked by a Woman? Police Find More Clues."
Dayne rolled his eyes. Often there was a nugget of truth to the articles in the gossip magazines. Police had notified him three times in the past month about a stalker, someone who was mailing strange letters to the police department threatening violence against Dayne Matthews.
So far Dayne hadn't seen any sign of a stalker. The matter wasn't something he thought about for more than a few minutes when he was talking to the police. But leave it to the rags to have the latest scoop. He read the article, looking for anything truthful.
Police say they've received another letter from the person writing threatening letters about Hollywood heartthrob Dayne Matthews. This time handwriting specialists say the letter is from a woman. One source close to the story said he was fairly certain the person writing the letters was a deranged fan, someone intent on harming Matthews. "She could be a phony, someone looking for attention, but still," the source said, "we can't be too careful." Exact details of the letters were not available, but a source told our reporter that the person writing the letters is demanding a day with Dayne Matthews or his death. Police will keep us posted on the story.
Dayne blinked and a chill ran down his arms-more because of the breeze off the Pacific than any fear the article might've stirred up. A day with him or his death? Were people really that crazy? He scanned the story again and dismissed it. Anytime information came from the ever-popular and oft-quoted "source," Dayne and his friends knew to ignore it.
Real truth came from real people-not imaginary sources.
He turned the page, looking for additional stories. This was his ritual, his way of staying in touch with the audience and its view of him. Whether the stories were true or not didn't matter. If they were in print, he wanted to know about them. He kept flipping. Near the front was a section titled "Regular People." Sure enough. There he was coming out of Starbucks with his double espresso. The caption read "Dayne Matthews loads up at his favorite haunt."
Ten pages later was a photo of him and J-Tee Ramiro, a hot Cuban singer he'd dated a month ago. Okay, maybe they never went on an actual date. But they spent the better part of a week together, and the paparazzi hadn't missed a moment. The shot was of the two of them sharing a salad at a small café near Zuma Beach. The point of the story was that J-Tee was seeing someone new and that she had better rebound abilities than half the guys on the LA Lakers.
Dayne thumbed through the rest of the magazine. For the most part the thing was made up of pictures. It was why the photographers followed him, why they followed anyone with celebrity status. Whatever the rags paid the paparazzi, it was enough to keep them coming back for more.
And some of the pictures were ridiculous.
A section near the middle of the magazine showed half a dozen actresses and the undersides of their arms. "Who's Flabby and Who's Not?" the banner headline shouted. The photos were close-ups of actresses caught pointing or raising their arms in a way that showed less-than-perfect triceps muscles.
Dayne rolled his eyes and turned the page. In the past few years the rags had gotten even uglier. One of his friends-an A-list actress named Kelly Parker-was definitely feeling the effects of the pressure. She used to go out dancing or shopping with friends. Now she rarely left her house, and the last time he talked to her the spark was missing from her voice.
He flipped another ten pages, and something at the bottom of one of the layouts caught his eye. A breeze off the ocean rustled the pages as Dayne squinted. It was a small article with two photos -one of Marc David, Dayne's friend and fellow actor, and the other of a bedraggled man behind bars.
Beneath the photos it said "Hollywood's People sent a reporter to investigate Marc David's recent trip to Leavenworth and guess what we found???" Dayne inched himself up in his chair. His heart raced, and he felt blood rush to his face. What was this? Marc was his friend, but the guy had never mentioned anything about Leavenworth. Dayne kept reading.
Excerpted from FAME by Karen Kingsbury Copyright © 2005 by Karen Kingsbury. Excerpted by permission.
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