Cassie Taylor was just another acting student with big dreams at her prestigious performing arts college…then she met Ethan Holt. She was the good girl actress. He was the bad boy on campus. But one fated casting choice for Romeo and Juliet changed it all. Like the characters they were playing on stage, Cassie and Ethan's epic romance seemed destined. Until it ended in tragedy when he shattered her heart.
Now they've made it to Broadway where they're reunited as romantic leads once againand their passionate scenes force them to confront the heartbreaking lows and pulse-pounding highs of their intense college affair. For Ethan, losing Cassie was his biggest regretand he's determined to redeem himself. But for Cassie, even though Ethan was her first and only great love, he hurt her too much to ever be trusted again. The trouble is, working with him again reminds her that people who rub each other the wrong way often make the best sparks. And when it comes to love, sometimes it's the things that aren't good for us that are the most irresistible.
Don't miss Leisa Rayven's Bad Romeo, the intoxicating romance beloved by over two million fans onlinea story that'll captivate you and hold you breathless until the final page.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
By Leisa Rayven
St. Martin's GriffinCopyright © 2014 Leisa Rayven
All rights reserved.
TOGETHER AGAIN, TOO SOON
New York City
The Graumann Theater
First Day of Rehearsal
I rush down the crowded sidewalk, and a nervous sweat has broken out in all my most unglamorous places.
I hear my mother's voice inside my head—"A lady doesn't sweat, Cassie. She glows."
In that case, Mom, I'm glowing like a pig.
Anyway, I never claimed to be a lady.
I tell myself I'm "glowing" because I'm running late. Not because of him.
Tristan, my roommate/life coach, is convinced I've never gotten over him, but that's crap.
I'm so over him.
I've been over him for a long time.
I scurry across the road, dodging the unstoppable New York traffic.
Several cabdrivers curse me out in various languages. I merrily wave my middle finger, because I'm pretty sure flipping the bird means "fuck you" all over the world.
I glance at my watch as I enter the theater and head to the rehearsal room.
Five minutes late.
I can almost see the look of amusement on his bastard face, and I'm horrified that before I've even set foot in the room I have an overwhelming urge to slap him.
I pause outside the door.
I can do this. I can see him and not fall apart.
I sigh and press my forehead against the wall.
Who the hell am I kidding?
Yeah, sure, I can do a passionate play with my ex-lover, who broke my heart not once, but twice. No problem.
I bang my head against the wall.
If there were a Nation of Stupid People, I would be their queen.
I take a deep breath and exhale slowly.
When my agent had called with news of my big Broadway break, I should have known there'd be strings attached. She raved to me about the male actor who'd also been cast. Ethan Holt—the current "It Boy" of the theater world. So talented. Award winner. Adored by screaming fans. Handsome as hell.
Of course she didn't know about our history. Why would she? I never talk about him. In fact, I walk away when other people mention his name. It was easier to cope when he was on the other side of the world, but now he's back and tainting my dream job with his presence.
Finding my game face isn't going to be easy, but I have to.
I pull out my compact and check my reflection.
Goddammit, I'm shinier than the Chrysler Building.
I slap on some powder and retouch my lip gloss as I wonder if I'll look different to him after all of these years. My brown hair, which used to be down to the middle of my back in college, now sits just below my collar, messy-layered and edgy. My face is a little thinner, but I guess I'm basically the same. Decent lips. Okay bone structure. Eyes that are neither brown nor green, but a strange combination of both. More olive than hazel.
I snap the compact shut and throw it back into my bag, pissed I'm even contemplating looking good for him. Have I learned nothing?
I close my eyes and think about all the ways he hurt me. His stupid reasons. His crap excuses.
Bitterness floods me, and I sigh in relief. That's the insulation I need. It brings my anger to the surface. I wrap it around me like iron and take solace in the aggressive simmer.
I can do this.
I pull open the door and stride in. Before I even see him, I can feel him watching me. I resist looking for him because that's what I want to do, and one thing I've learned with Ethan Holt is to push down my natural instincts.
Following my gut is how things got screwed up between us. It told me I could have something from him, when in fact he offered me nothing.
I head over to the production desk where our director, Marco Fiori, is having a discussion with our producers, Ava and Saul Weinstein. Standing next to them is a familiar face—our stage manager, Ethan's sister, Elissa.
Ethan and Elissa are a package deal. He has it written into his contracts that she runs all of the shows he works on, which baffles me, considering they fight like cat and dog.
I'd say that Elissa is his security blanket, but of course, why would he need one? He doesn't need anyone or anything, right? He's untouchable.
He's freaking Teflon.
Elissa gestures to a scale model of the set we'll be using, as she talks about the stage mechanics.
The producers listen and nod.
I have no issue with Elissa. She's a fantastic stage manager, and we've worked together before. In fact, a million years ago we used to be good friends. Back when I still thought her brother was born of a human mother and not spawned straight from Satan's asshole.
They look up as I approach.
"I know, I know," I say as I drop my bag onto a chair. "I'm sorry."
"It's fine, cara," Marco says. "We're still talking production details.
Calm down, get a coffee. We'll get started soon."
"Cool." I dig in my bag for my rehearsal supplies.
"Hey, you," Elissa says, and smiles warmly.
For a moment, my anger is tempered by a flood of nostalgia, and I realize just how much I've missed her. She's so different from her brother. Short to his tall. Rounded to his angular. Even their coloring is different. Blond and straight versus dark and chaotic. And yet, seeing her again reminds me why we haven't spoken for years. I'll always associate her with him. Too many bad memories.
As I pull out my water bottle, my bag slips off the seat and flops loudly onto the floor. Everyone stops to stare. I grind my teeth when I hear a low chuckle.
Screw you, Ethan. Not even going to look at you.
I pick up my bag and throw it back on the chair.
The chuckle happens again, and I swear to the Almighty God of Justifiable Homicide, I'm going to murder him with my bare hands.
Although he's on the other side of the room, he might as well be right next to me, because his voice vibrates through to my bones.
I need a cigarette.
I glance over at Marco, resplendent in his cravat as he flamboyantly describes the play. This is all his fault. He's the one who wanted Holt and me to do this project. I convinced myself it would be a great career move, but in reality it's going to be the last show I ever do, because if the chuckling idiot in the corner doesn't shut up, I'm going to go on a murderous rampage any second and be put away for life.
Mercifully, the chuckle stops, but I can still feel his gaze searing my skin.
I ignore it and rummage through my bag. I have my cigarettes, but my lighter is MIA. I seriously need to clean this sucker out. Jesus, is there anything I don't have in here? Gum, tissues, makeup, pain-killers, old movie tickets, small bottle of perfume, tampons, keys, a one-legged WWF action figure—what the hell?
"Excuse me, Miss Taylor?"
I look up to see a cute African American boy holding out what smells suspiciously like my favorite green bean macchiato.
"Wow, you look stressed," he says, with just the right amount of concern to prevent me from ripping off his ears with my teeth. "I'm Cody. The production intern. Coffee?"
"Hey, Cody," I say while eyeing the cardboard cup. "Whatcha got there, sport?"
"A double-shot green bean macchiato with mocha and extra cream."
I nod, impressed. "That's what I figured. It's my favorite."
"I know. I made sure to familiarize myself with the likes and dislikes of yourself and Mr. Holt, so I could anticipate your needs and facilitate an enjoyable rehearsal environment."
An enjoyable rehearsal environment? With me and Holt? Oh, you poor, deluded child.
I take the coffee from him and sniff it while I continue digging in the Tardis of Crap. "Is that a fact?"
Where the fuck is my lighter?
"Yes, ma'am." He pulls a lighter out of his pocket and hands it to me with a crazy-cute smile.
I sigh and drop my head back.
Sweet Jesus, the boy has been sent from God Himself.
I take the lighter and resist the urge to hug him. Tristan says I can be a little too touchy-feely. Actually, his term is touchy-fucky but I modify it to make myself feel better.
I smile at the kid instead. "Cody, I hope you don't take this the wrong way, because I know we've only just met, but ... I think I love you."
He chuckles and lowers his head. "If you want to duck outside, I'll come get you when they're ready to start."
If he didn't look like he was sixteen, I'd probably kiss him. With tongue.
"You're a rock star, Cody."
I see a dark shape in my peripheral vision, slouching in a chair on the opposite side of the room, so I draw my shoulders back and strut like I don't give a crap.
The heat of his gaze follows me until I hit the stairwell, then I just go numb.
I tell myself I don't miss the burn.
The stairs are steep and dark and lead to an alley behind the theater. Before the door even closes behind me, I have a lit cigarette in my mouth. As I lean against the cool bricks, I inhale and look up at the thin finger of sky visible between the buildings. The nicotine does little to calm my nerves. Pretty sure nothing short of hospital-grade sedatives is going to help today.
I finish my cigarette and head back to the stage door, but before I can grab the handle, it opens, and the trigger for all my anger issues steps out.
His dark jeans hug him in ways I really shouldn't be noticing.
His eyes are the same as I remember. Pale blue, mesmerizing. Dark, thick lashes. Intensity to burn.
Everything else, however ...
Oh, Lord, I'd forgotten. I'd made myself forget.
Even now, he's the most handsome man I've ever seen. No, that's not right. Handsome doesn't do him justice. Soap actors are handsome, but in a completely predictable, bland way. Holt is ... captivating. Like a rare, exotic panther: equal parts beauty and power. Enigmatic without even trying.
I hate how good he looks.
Strong, furrowed brows. Sharp jaw. Lips that are full enough to be pretty, but in the context of his other features seem powerfully masculine.
His dark hair is shorter than it was when I last saw him, and it makes him seem more mature. And taller, if that's possible.
He's always towered over me. Six foot three to my five foot five. And going by the width of his shoulders, he's been working out since college. Not a huge amount, but enough for me to see clear muscle definition beneath his dark T-shirt.
Blood rushes to my cheeks, and I want to slap myself for the reaction.
Trust him to show up looking more attractive than ever. Douche.
"Hi," he says, like I haven't spent the last three years dreaming of punching him in his gorgeous bastard face.
He stares at me, and, as usual, I feel the vibration of him in the marrow of my bones.
"You look good, Cassie."
"Your hair is shorter."
He takes a step forward, and I hate the way he looks at me. Appraising and approving. Hungry. It draws me in against my will, like he's flypaper, and everything inside me is buzzing and trying to wrench itself free.
"It's been a long time," he says.
"Really? I hadn't noticed." I'm trying to sound bored out of my mind. I don't want him to know what he's doing to me. He doesn't deserve this reaction. More importantly, neither do I.
"How've you been?" he asks.
"I've been fine." Automatic response. It means nothing. I've been anything but fine.
His gaze stays on me, and I really want to be somewhere else, because right now he looks like he used to, and it hurts to remember.
"And you?" I ask with white-knuckle politeness. "How have you been?" "I'm ... okay."
There's something in his tone. Something buried. He's left just enough of it poking through to make me curious, but I don't want to dig to find out more, because I know that's what he wants.
"Wow, that's awesome, Ethan," I say with just the right amount of perky to piss him off. "Good to hear."
He looks at the ground and runs his hand through his hair. His posture tenses into the familiar form of the jackass I know so well.
"Well, there it is," he says. "Three years, and that's all you have to say to me. Of course."
My stomach rolls.
No, asshole, that's not all I have to say, but what's the point? It's all been said before, and talking in circles isn't my idea of a good time.
"Yep, that's it," I say cheerily, and push past him. I fling the door open and clomp down the stairs, ignoring the tingle on my skin where we touched.
There's a muffled "Fuck" before I hear him hurrying after me. I try to outrun him, but he grabs my arm before we reach the bottom.
He turns me to face him, and I expect him to press against me. To ruin me with his skin and smell like he has so many times before. But he doesn't.
He just stands there, and all the air in the narrow, dark stairwell is as thick as cotton. I feel claustrophobic, but I won't let him see.
He taught me that.
"Listen, Cassie," he says, and I hate that I've missed hearing him say my name so damn much. "Do you think we could just put all our bullshit behind us and start again? I really want to. I thought you might, too."
His expression is full of sincerity, but I've seen it before. Every time I trusted it, I ended up getting my heart ripped out.
"You want to start again?" I say. "Oh, sure. No problem. Why didn't I think of that?"
"It doesn't have to be like this."
The implication is that I'm being unreasonable. If I weren't so angry, I'd laugh.
"Then what should it be like, huh?" I ask, words like acid. "Please, tell me. After all, you're the one who always makes decisions about our relationship. How do you want to play it this time? Friends? Fuck buddies? Enemies? Oh, wait, I know. Why don't you play the piece of shit who broke my heart, and I'll be the woman who doesn't want anything to do with him outside the rehearsal room? How would that be?"
His jaw tightens. He's angry.
I can deal with angry.
He rubs his eyes and exhales. I expect him to yell, but he doesn't. Instead, he says in a quiet voice, "None of what I said in my e-mails meant anything to you, did it? I thought we might at least be able to talk about what happened. Did you even read them?"
"Of course I read them," I say. "I just didn't believe them. I mean, there's only so many times I can swallow bullshit before I despise the taste. What's the phrase? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice—"
"I'm not fooling you this time. Or myself. In the past, I did what I needed to, for both of us."
"Are you kidding me? Do you actually expect me to thank you for what you did?"
"No," he says, voice brimming with frustration. "Of course not. I just want to ..."
"You want another chance to ruin me? How stupid do you think I am?"
He shakes his head. "I want things to be different. If you want me to apologize, I'll do it until I lose my fucking voice. I just want things to be right between us. Talk to me. Help me fix this."
"No, Ethan! Not this time. Not ever again."
He leans forward. He's close. Too close. He smells just like he used to, and I can't think. I want to shove him away so I can clear my head. Or beat him with my fists until he understands I haven't been truly happy for years, and it's all his fault. I want to do so many things, but all I do is stand there, hating how powerless he can still make me feel.
His breathing is just as uneven as mine. His body's just as tense. Even after everything we've been through, our attraction still tortures us. Just like old times.
Thank God the door at the bottom of the stairs opens. I look over to see Cody staring up at us with a confused expression.
"Mr. Holt? Ms. Taylor? Is everything okay?"
Holt steps away from me and rakes his fingers through his hair.
I exhale a ragged, shallow breath. "Everything's fine, Cody. All good."
"Okay, then," he says brightly. "Just letting you know we're about to start."
He disappears, and it's just Ethan and me again. Oh, and the shitload of baggage we carry.
"We're here to do a job," I say, my voice hard. "Let's just get it done."
His brows furrow and his jaw tightens, and for a second I think he's not going to let it go, but he says, "If that's what you really want."
I push down a vague sense of disappointment. "It is."
He nods, and without saying another word, heads downstairs and out the door.
I take a moment to compose myself. My face is hot, my heart is pounding, and I almost laugh when I think how he already has me tied in knots, and we haven't even started rehearsals.
The next four weeks are going to suck harder than a black hole.
I straighten myself up and head back into the rehearsal room.
By the time I grab my script and a water, there's only one chair left at the production table, and naturally, it's beside Holt. I drag it as far from him as I can and sink into the uncomfortable plastic.
"Everything okay?" Marco raises his eyebrows.
"Yep. Fine," I say with a smile, and it's like I'm back in the first year of drama school, saying what others want to hear so they'll be happy even if I'm not.
Playing my role.
"Then let's start at the beginning, shall we?" Marco says. There's a rustling of paper as everyone opens their scripts.
What a great idea. All good stories need to start somewhere.
Why should this one be any different?CHAPTER 2
IN THE BEGINNING
New York City
The Diary of Cassandra Taylor
Tristan has suggested I use you to help chronicle the events in my life that led me to being the maladjusted individual I am today. He wants me to look at some of the unhealthy relationships that have made me moody and emotionally unavailable, so I thought I'd start with the jackpot of all my regrets:
The first time I saw him, I was simulating anal sex with someone I'd just met.
Excerpted from Bad Romeo by Leisa Rayven. Copyright © 2014 Leisa Rayven. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Griffin.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. Together Again, Too Soon,
2. In the Beginning,
3. Back to Before,
4. Making the First Move,
5. Birthday Wishes,
6. Courageous Casting,
7. Point of No Return,
8. Emails and Zen,
9. Faking It,
11. Stage Fright,
12. New Roles,
13. Not Caring,
14. Push and Pull,
15. Green-eyed Monster,
17. Sick & Tired,
18. Sure Bet,
19. New York, New York,
Praise for the Author,
About the Author,