Mean Seasonby Heather Cochran
What would you do if a movie star was living under your roof?
Prepping for his new movie in the tiny town of Pinecob, West Virginia, up-and-coming actor Joshua Reed lands himself another drunk-driving conviction, this time involving a stolen limo, a dark country road and a cow. Rather than let him rot in jail for the summer, twenty-five-year-old Leanne/p>/b>… See more details below
What would you do if a movie star was living under your roof?
Prepping for his new movie in the tiny town of Pinecob, West Virginia, up-and-coming actor Joshua Reed lands himself another drunk-driving conviction, this time involving a stolen limo, a dark country road and a cow. Rather than let him rot in jail for the summer, twenty-five-year-old Leanne Gitlin, his fan club president, agrees to vouch for him so he can serve out his sentence under house arrest. In her home.
But playing the gracious guest isn't in Joshua Reed's repertoire. And while everyone in town is thinking up excuses to drop by the Gitlin house, Leanne quickly finds herself counting the days until her famous visitor leaves.
Leanne, the youngest of five, watched her family fall apart and dutifully stayed put to help her mother pick up the pieces. Stuck in Pinecob, she was itching for something new, but Joshua Reed's media circus isn't quite what she had in mind.
In a debut novel as endearing as it is wise, Heather Cochran has whipped up one season the town of Pinecob won't soon forget.
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By Heather Cochran
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDay One
Joshua Reed was delivered to our house on Prospect Street in a police car. Lars and Judy followed in their rental, then Momma and I in her station wagon. Momma was humming, like she found it all so amusing. My oldest brother, Tommy, had got into trouble with the law a few times back when he was in high school, and each call from the police station had sparked words between Momma (who wanted to see him punished) and Dad (who thought a good scare was punishment enough). But when it came to Joshua, Momma didn't seem to care whether he learned anything from his punishment. She said that Joshua not being her son made it seem like a movie, something she might keep her distance from and maybe even enjoy a little.
The policemen who drove Joshua Reed to our house stayed for a couple minutes to make sure that his ankle sensor was working, and also to review the boundaries of our property. In the backyard, Joshua would be allowed to wander to the edge of the lawn, where the trees started, and on the unfenced side of the house, he could go as far as the stand of creepy dead oaks. In front, he could wander to the mailbox at the edge of our driveway.
Once the police drove off (after one of them had asked Joshua for an autograph, for his daughter he made sure to say),the five of us who were left stood a moment in our living room, me and Momma and Judy and Lars and Joshua Reed, newly incarcerated movie star. It was the first time that Judy and Lars and Joshua had actually been inside our house. I caught them looking around, and my cheeks burned. I was suddenly aware of the peeling ceiling paint and the frayed edge of the living room rug and how the fabric on the big couch was worn through, so that Momma had long ago thrown one of her quilts over top of it, like a slipcover that didn't fit neat around the curves or corners. We'd cleaned - well, I'd cleaned - the house all that previous week. And it looked clean, but it was still nothing like the houses you see in TV shows. And I knew it was nothing like where Joshua Reed usually called home. A year back, there'd been an article about his house in a home decor magazine, so I'd seen pictures. The magazine had called his place an "artist's cottage," though it was maybe twice as big as the largest house along all of Prospect Street, maybe in all of Pinecob.
No one looked too comfortable, just standing there. I wasn't sure what to do besides offer to show Joshua his room, and I noticed him glare at Judy and Lars before he followed me up the stairs.
"I'll call you soon, J.P.," Judy said.
He didn't answer her.
I had put my best sheets on his bed and cleared out some space in the dresser and closet. Vince's stuff was still all through the room, on the walls and the shelves. After he disappeared, Momma mostly stopped going in there, so it had stayed the same for the past decade. It was only maybe a season before that she'd started to leave Vince's door open during the day, and I noticed that sometimes, when I got home from work, the shades in his room would be up, letting in a little light.
Vince had always been Momma's favorite. Maybe I shouldn't say that - it's the sort of thing kids aren't supposed to pick up on, which pretty much ensures that they will. I picked up on it, even when I was little. So when Vince took off, well, I'm sure I won't get the words right to describe how hard it was on Momma. I can barely describe how hard it was on me. Vince had been my favorite, too.
If you knew Vince, you'd understand. He was the sort of person you'd notice as soon as he entered a room, and the sort of person your eyes would search for, as soon as you entered. He was the guy you always saved a seat for, because sitting beside Vince was like sitting in the sun on a cold day. He could make even church fly by, pointing out who was about to fall asleep, imagining who was daydreaming what, and when it came time to sing, belting out hymns in perfect pitch.
He made up silly games to pass the time, like the one where he'd give you two choices.
"Avocado or banana?" he'd ask, and if you chose differently from him, he'd make you say why. "Orange or green?" he'd ask. "Brother or sister?" he'd always end with. That was the only one we were allowed to disagree on.
Vince was a hair shorter and quite a bit skinnier than both of my other brothers, Beau Ray and Tommy. Still, he'd made varsity football his freshman year of high school, on account of being so fast. No one could catch him, and if someone did manage to get a handful of jersey, they had a hell of a time trying to keep him pinned. That's what I'd tell myself, whenever I got to thinking about him, that he was one of those people you couldn't hold down. Maybe he wasn't made for a town the size of Pinecob. Of course, me being his younger sister surely had something to do with that opinion.
Even with the shades open, it was still Vince's room. It was still full of his trophies and his football uniform and cleats; and those things, I'd left there. I didn't know how much shelf space Joshua would need. I didn't know if he was going to have boxes of clothing sent from California, or whether he planned to spend the whole of his time with us in sweat-pants. I showed him the closet, and the bathroom he would be using.
"I'm going to lie down now," Joshua said, without looking at me.
As soon as I came back downstairs, Momma left to pick up Beau Ray from the adult care center.
I asked Lars and Judy whether they'd be staying for dinner - I figured they would, to make sure that Joshua was settling in okay - but Lars shook his head.
"Love to, Leanne, but we've got a flight back to Los Angeles tonight."
I nodded. I had seen so much of them in the past weeks, it felt strange to remember that they lived all the way across the country.
"Leanne," Judy said. "I want to tell you something. Lars and I both do."
Her tone made me nervous. "Something bad?" I asked.
"Nothing bad," Lars said, shaking his head.
"You must know how much we appreciate all you've done for J.P.," Judy began. "I'm not talking about the fan club. If it weren't for you, he'd almost certainly be in jail right now."
I nodded. "I guess," I said.
"But I want to say, well, I hope you're not thinking," Judy went on, "that the next ninety days are going to be some sort of slumber party."
"Judy," I said. I was embarrassed she would think such a thing. "I'm twenty-five. I'm not nine."
"Oh, I know, dear, I know. It's just that you've only really known J.P. for a week. Maybe it seems like you know him better, because of your work with the fan club. But you don't. Not really. He's a stranger. And Lars and I, well, we'd prefer that you keep that in mind."
"That he's a stranger?"
"You know, don't be too accommodating," Judy said.
"Keep your distance."
"But he's stuck here," I said. "For the summer. You're saying I shouldn't be nice to him?"
"I'm saying you don't have to be. He hasn't earned it," Judy said. "He got himself into this mess," she said. "You call me for any reason at all. Okay? You have all my numbers."
"I'll be back in the next month or so, as things with the production start to heat up." She looked at me. "Trust me, someday this will make sense," she said.
Excerpted from Mean Season by Heather Cochran Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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