Read an Excerpt
He'd only been gone for three weeks. When he'd left, everything for this film had been fine and in place, but a mere twenty-one days later he'd returned to find the entire project sliding into hell.
Finn Marshall sat back in his chair in the trailer that served as their temporary offices while they were on location here in Maryland and rubbed a hand over his eyes. He was jetlagged and had hoped to have a couple of hours of sleep before he had to be in D.C. for the fundraiser tonight, but that wasn't looking to be in his cards. He had to sort out this God-awful mess first, and the more he heard, the less likely it seemed he'd even make it to his brother's in time to shower first.
Dolby Martin, his partner in Dolfinn Pictures, seemed remarkably upbeat for someone who had just rammed the Titanic into the iceberg. "We've been filming for a week now, and we're almost back on schedule."
Finn took a deep breath and tried to remember it would do no good at all to punch Dolby in the mouth. "And you saw no reason to tell me any of this while it was unfolding?"
"You needed to concentrate on getting us those permissions to shoot, and really there was nothing you could do from Monaco, anyway."
"I could have talked Cindy down."
"After Farrell told her he'd seen better acting in low-budget porn? Sorry, Finn, not even you could have charmed that snake back into the basket." Dolby shrugged. "Personally, though, I wasn't sad to see her go. I'll bet Cindy's in rehab before the premiere, and would you really want that hanging over the release?"
Dolby had a point, as much as Finn hated to admit it. Cindy had been perfect for the part of Rebecca: the right looks and a strong talent, coupled with a name guaranteed to get attention without overshadowing the leads. She'd sworn that she was clean the day they'd signed the contract, but he'd seen this story too many times before.
Maybe it was for the best. Technically, Dolby and the director had done the right thing, finding a replacement quickly and getting her on the next plane to Baltimore so that production was not shut down for long. On a professional level, Finn should be pleased. He should even be personally touched that Dolby understood the importance of this film to him and had reacted quickly to mitigate the damages. But Cait Reese? He shook his head. Focus on what's important.
"Caitlyn has been a real life-saver and a complete pro. She had her script memorized in days and jumped straight into rehearsals. Wait until you see what we have in the can already. She's perfect for Rebecca. Better than Cindy, even."
Finn didn't necessarily agree. The Cait he remembered was too primal and wild. She'd been able to channel that into light frothy characters, but the earthy, quiet strength of Rebecca? It had been three years, but..
"Trust me, Finn. You're going to be really pleased."
"If you honestly believed that, you wouldn't have signed her to Folly behind my back." He picked up his phone and scrolled through the voice mail messages. "Naomi is fit to be tied. You want to hear?"
"I've heard enough, thanks. Naomi doesn't want to share her spotlight with anyone. She's a real diva."
"That's a privilege she's earned and one we'll tolerate to keep her happy on this film."
Naomi Harte was one of the biggest names in Hollywood right now, and based on star power alone she had no reason to worry about anyone stealing any of her limelight. But this was personal for Naomi, too. She and Cait had launched at about the same time, and their rivalry went back to the years when they'd both still been playing teenagers in high-school romantic comedies and slasher films. Cait had always managed to stay a rung above Naomi on the ladder, though, her trajectory seemingly unstoppable until she'd flamed out so spectacularly. Many people said that Naomi wouldn't be where she was today if Cait hadn't left town when she hadand Naomi knew that. They were probably right.
"You know there's bad blood between Naomi and Cait. Did you intend to turn the set into a battlefield?"
Dolby snickered. "It's actually working out well. Naomi's real-life problems with Caitlyn make their on-screen animosity even more realistic."
"And Cait?" She wasn't one to keep her mouth closed or her opinions to herself.
"Is being far more adult about this. Caitlyn has been very up front about her desire to re-create herself and relaunch her career. Folly is the perfect vehicle for her return, and she's not too proud to admit that."
Folly might be perfect for Cait, but Cait might not be perfect for Folly. He wasn't in the business of providing starlets with second chances. Especially with a project like Folly. He had too much investedprofessionally and personallyto let this become some kind of experiment.
"I'm still not sure Cait is the smart choice here."
"I gave Farrell full directorly discretion to find the right person for the role and make sure it was someone he could tolerate. Caitlyn was his choice, and unless she decides she wants out of her contract we're bound." Dolby shook his head in censure. "I'm not courting her parents' wrath because you don't want your ex on the set. I like my career, thanks very much."
Talk about having the tables turned. All his life he'd been the one no one wanted to cross out of fear of retaliation from his family. That was simply one of the perks of being a Marshall. But the Marshalls ruled the East Coast. In L.A., John Reese and Margaret Fields-Reese were the sitting monarchy. It wasn't false pride or ego to say that he was pretty damn influential in the business, but even he couldn't touch the power of Cait's parents. One day, maybe, but not today.
"Anyway," Dolby continued, "all reports indicate that Caitlyn is sober and stable now."
Caitlyn had never had a problembeyond partying a little too hardand he wasn't one to throw stones there. The press had just played it up until she'd looked like a good candidate for rehab in order to sell papers. She'd been all but set up to crash if she slipped even the tiniest bit. "I'm sure she is, but that won't stop the press from going insane with this."
Dolby's grin didn't help Finn's mood much. "The buzz is amazing. Between the return of the exiled princess and the possibility of a Naomi-Caitlyn catfight, everyone is talking about Folly already."
"That's not what I meant and you know it."
Dolby laughed. "You have to admit the possibility of a Finn and Caitlyn reunion will make all kinds of headlines."
"Which is exactly why you should have consulted me before you signed her."
"If we have to avoid your exes every time we try to cast a film, pretty soon there won't be an actress under thirty available to us."
But Cait wasn't just any ex. She was the one ex that made all his other exes look like good choices. The bitterness surprised him. "I don't want my personal life making more news than this project."
That sobered Dolby. "Folly will stand on its own."
Dolby was an idiot occasionally, but he, too, took pride in Dolfinn's reputation. The Folly of the Fury might be Finn's pet project, but Dolby was committed one hundred percent.
"I know it will, but since we just stepped into soap-opera-waiting-to-happen territory, I want everyone crystal-clear in their understanding of what will and won't fly around here. All the drama needs to be kept on camera."
Finn sincerely hoped it would be that simple.
Caitlyn Reese breathed the humid night air deep into her lungs as the door swung shut behind her and the noise and lights of the party inside died as if she'd hit a mute button. She'd done well in thereshe knew thatbut she needed a few moments of relief from the stress of the evening. Looking around, she was happy to see that the terrace was desertednot that she was surprised. Between the heat and the fact that anybody who was anyone was inside The air-conditioning inside was almost worth the noise, but she crossed to the balustrade, anyway, and leaned against it as she exhaled.
She chuckled to herself when she realized her hands weren't quite steady. She'd been mingling at cocktail parties since before she could walk, so there was no real reason to let a simple fundraiserregardless of the prestige of the guest listto give her stage fright. And the crowd was friendly enough. Whatever they might think of her personally, no one was stupid enough to do anything that might limit their access to her parents and her parents' friends. There was way too much Hollywood money they'd like to see in their campaign coffers at stake for anyone to treat her with anything other than friendly respect.
Maybe a D.C. charity fundraiser peopled by the city's social register was exactly the right place for her to make her first official reappearance. Her plan was working out better than hoped for. She wanted to call someone and share her success, but she wasn't exactly close with anyone on this continent anymore, and it was the middle of the night in London. Her parents both happened to have releases this month, so they were on their respective junkets and she had no idea what their schedules were like. Even if she did have someone to call, she wasn't sure what she'd say. My career may not be dead anymore? Oh, well. She shrugged and smiled. She was still proud of herself.
Caitlyn turned to see that she wasn't alone now. The tall blond man she'd been speaking to earlier was approaching her with a cautious smile on his face. She racked her brain for his name. He worked for one of the congressmen, and he was a big fan of her parents' work, knew all of her movies Bits of their conversation came back to her, but not his name. He'd been a little overenthusiastic, bordering on creepy, and the fact they were now quite alone didn't sit well.
Be nice, but not too nice. "Hi, again."
"I saw you leaving." His forehead crinkled in concern. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine. I just needed a little air. It's a little crowded in there."
He nodded. "It's a good turnout, so that's good for the fundraising part. But it does make it hard to really talk to people." The man stepped a little closer than was comfortable. Caitlyn eased back a step herself. "And I very much enjoyed talking to you."
She nodded slightly, not wanting to encourage him with anything more.
"In fact, I'd like to take you to dinner so we can get to know each other better."
Caitlyn kept her face neutral even as alarm bells began to clang faintly. Don't overreact. Give him the benefit of the doubt. She took another step back, anyway. "My schedule is quite tight, I'm afraid."
"How about tonight, then, since you're already here. There's a nice bistro not far away "
She shook her head. This shouldn't be happening here. The guest list was very exclusive and supposedly kept situations like this from even coming up. "I'm sorry, but I can't."
He was not to be deterred by the gentle brush-off, though. Maybe she was overreacting, but the alarm bells rang louder as he leaned closer and she smelled the alcohol on his breath.
"Then we'll talk here."
"Actually, I was just about to go back inside when you caught me." She picked up her purse and indicated they should walk. "Shall we?"
"Miss Reese " He didn't take the hint, so she moved past him. "Caitlyn, wait, damn it."
She was two steps past him when he caught her arm and tried to stop her with a too-tight-to-be-casual grip. At that moment he crossed the line. Her training kicked in, and a second later he was on his knees whimpering in pain from the way Caitlyn had his fingers pulled back. "Do not touch me. We don't know each other well enough for that, so it's quite rude."
"I just wanted to talk to you."
She tightened her grip just enough to make him gasp and understand that she was serious. "That's not going to happen. You're going to go back inside so that I don't have to have you arrested for assault and make a scene in front of all those people."
At his nod of assent she released his fingers and he flexed his fingers experimentally. "No need to be such a bitch about it."
This was not what she'd signed on for tonight. "Go away. I'm done talking to you." She stepped away and pinned him with a stare that hopefully would convince him she meant business. The adrenaline pumping through her system left her shaky but energized.
"I think Cait was very clear in her instructions. I suggest you do as you were told."
The voice hit her like a brick wall. Her stomach sank at the same time electricity sizzled up her spine. Damn, damn, damn. This was not how she'd planned on seeing him again.
Maybe it wasn't him. It had been three years; she'd probably just confused his voice with a stranger's. She'd been tense about seeing him, and her mind was surely just playing tricks on her. Because anything else wouldjust be really unfair. Holding on to that hope, Caitlyn looked over her shoulder as the owner of the voice emerged from the shadows.
Great. What had she done to karma to deserve this? She just seemed destined to have Finn a part of all the times of her life she'd just like to forget.
At least Finn wouldn't blab about what he'd just witnessed to the papers. It was a small consolation, and Caitlyn grabbed on to it like a life raft in the swirl of emotions and memories that low, rich voice stirred up.
She could tell the guyshe still couldn't remember his namerecognized Finn, which wasn't surprising since Finn garnered almost as much press as the stars in the films he produced. And, of course, everyone on the planet knew about her past with Finn. The double whammy for her admirer, though, had to come from Finn's family ties: smart people didn't make enemies of the Marshalls. Especially if they wanted any kind of future in politics. They were simply too powerful a family to mess with.
But this guy, proving again he wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, got belligerent instead. "This is a private conversation, if you don't mind."
"Oh, I mind." Disdain dripped off Finn's words.