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A Real Hero
By Jean Brashear
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
"ZANE, IS IT TRUE that you and Gisella had a secret wedding last weekend in Cancu'n?" the blond reporter from the Star shouted. The noise level rocketed as camera crews and microphones crowded the hotel ballroom at the press conference for Zane MacAllister's latest film.
Zane resisted a groan. He'd known that the snapshot of him with the supermodel would be fresh meat for the tabloids. "Thanks for the vote of confidence, Heather, but I just met the woman a week ago when we attended the same preview party." He winked. "I'm sure a famous beauty like her can do better than some ole small-town Texas boy."
The assembled reporters hooted. The blonde named Heather batted her eyelashes at him. Fresh off an Oscar nomination and just named "Sexiest Man Alive" by People magazine, Zane MacAllister was the hottest star in Hollywood at the moment. Life was sweet. He was enjoying the heck out of it, but the man who'd been a skinny, brainy runt of the litter was only too aware of what life could be like on the flip side of good looks and fame. And if he forgot, his older brothers, Diego, Jesse and Cade, would gladly bring him back to earth.
He missed them, missed his mother and father, his pesky younger sister, Jenna. Two more stops on this publicity tour for his new release, then he had six weeks off before his next film. He couldn't wait to head home to Texas and hibernate for a while.
As the director fielded questions, Zane listened with half an ear, scanning the crowd without really seeing. He was so tired. His ex-girlfriend Kelly's middle-of-the-night call had kept him tossing in his bed. They hadn't been an item in months, not since he'd finally realized that she didn't want to kick her cocaine habit, that no matter what help he offered, she wasn't ready to accept. It frustrated the hell out of him. The waste of it sickened him. He'd seen too many people in his business dragged down by the fast life. Kelly was well on her way to being another casualty, no matter how hard Zane had fought to save her.
"Zane has no comment on that."
The tension in his publicist Annie Schaefer's voice alerted Zane that he'd missed a question.
That the room had fallen unnaturally silent.
"So she's just another disposable girlfriend?" jeered a voice from the back.
"What?" Zane turned to Annie. "What's he talking about?"
"Get up and leave - now," she whispered, hand over Zane's microphone. "I'll handle this."
Zane almost obeyed - he'd had plenty of experience with the landmines the press could plant - but something in the gathering buzz of the audience, something about the shock in Annie's eyes, kept him in place. "Tell me what's going on," he demanded.
A reporter spoke up first. "Her brother says it's your fault, Zane. That Kelly Mason killed herself because you abandoned her when she told you she was pregnant. Not exactly what we've come to expect from All-American Zane MacAllister, is it?"
Dead? Zane couldn't speak. Kelly ... pregnant? His mind went white. How could - Last night she'd cried on the phone but refused to tell him why. She'd begged him to come back, but she'd been high and hysterical and -
He jerked the mike toward him. "When she called, she never mentioned -"
The buzz leaped to a roar.
"You mean she called you before she did it?"
"What did you say to make her kill herself?"
"You didn't want the baby?"
How could it be his? They hadn't made love in -
Annie grabbed the mike back. "This news comes as a terrible shock to all of us. Mr. MacAllister will have a statement later." She flipped off the microphone, nudging him none too gently to his feet. "You know better than to hand them something like that. Let's get out of here."
"But -" Zane looked out at the crowd as though somewhere in it lay the answers.
"Forget them -" she snapped. "They're piranhas, ready to feed." Her tone gentled. "You're rattled. I don't blame you. I'll phone some sources from the suite, see what I can find out."
He turned blind eyes to her. "She never said -" He glanced away. "I didn't let her finish. I thought it was just the same old -"
The crowd still clamored, shouting questions as he walked through the door in a daze.
He'd hung up on Kelly in disgust only hours ago. Given up on her, at last.
In so doing, had he driven her to give up on herself?
Excerpted from A Real Hero by Jean Brashear Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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