Izzie Greene never wanted the limelight. As a caterer for Poe, the top-rated U.S. TV show, she had background player down pat. Her main focus was to spoil the cast and crew and fantasize about her celebrity crush, Scotsman Cardwell Bennett, while navigating the daily chaos.
Izzie’s professional life takes a sharp left turn when her ex-boyfriend unexpectedly arrives on set. Her personal life spirals into Hell when she runs afoul of an unethical paparazzo. Thrust into the public eye, her notoriety is fueled by equal measures of constant scrutiny, speculation, and half-truths. Her rumored romance with Cardwell further stokes the flames.
Held captive by the media, accident-prone Izzie struggles to keep her privacy, secrets, and sanity intact—not to mention her sense of humor. With help from her best friend Delly, her temperamental cat Edgar, and unexpected backup, Izzie might withstand the onslaught. And survive the season.
|Publisher:||The Wild Rose Press|
|Edition description:||Large Print|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.58(d)|
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I coaxed my vintage VW Bus into the driveway, skidding on the wet gravel as I jammed my foot on the brake. When the wreck on wheels jerked to a stop, I slid the gearshift into neutral, yanked up the parking brake, and let the engine idle. The funky beat of Depeche Mode's "Wrong" played in the background as I slumped over the steering wheel, staring at my single-story antebellum cottage. The front porch light was barely visible through the deluge and the swaying branches of the Magnolia tree hovering over a good portion of my front yard.
"Beacon of hearth and home, my ass," I groused. "I'll be happy when March arrives. January's so depressing."
The swishing wipers were pretty much useless, and I couldn't decide which was the better of two crap options — sleeping in my car to avoid getting drenched or masquerading as a drowned rat. After the day's never-ending frog strangler, I doubted I'd ever dry out.
Drowned rat beat zonking out in the car. Comfortable cotton pajamas and a cushy double bed were calling my name. Granted, I had to share the bed with Ritchie Samuels, my live-in boyfriend of eight months, but I might have it to myself for a few, if I hurried.
Grunting, I tugged the messenger bag serving as my purse from the passenger seat and hiked it over my shoulder. "Please, please, please let there be a lull." I cut off the engine, jiggling the keys in my hand.
As the wind howled its displeasure, the van rocked back and forth, pea-sized hail plinking its emphasis. Resigned, I shoved open the door and stomped one foot on the ground before getting pegged in the eye by an ice shard. Pea-sized might as well have been a boulder.
"Damnit to all hell!" Half blind, I slammed the door, lurching in what I hoped was the direction of my porch. Thankfully, my sense of direction worked for once. I staggered against the assault, my feet thudding on the concrete sidewalk running the length of the house. My bag caught on the corner of the railing, and I tripped up the stairs. Tugging loose the big black satchel, I propelled myself all the way up to the door.
I slumped into the dark house, wet shoes squeaking, and flicked on the light, illuminating the cozy, shabby chic I called home. Against the right wall was an old red brick fireplace, more decoration than function. Ritchie wouldn't let me use it. He was afraid he'd suffocate, or I'd burn down the house. A chocolate-colored highboy with off-white trim stood angled in the corner, repurposed as an entertainment center. A wooden- framed futon with its black mattress covered in big white polka dots served as a couch. To round out the eclectic mix, a rather beaten-up coffee table I'd picked up at a local thrift store sat on a throw rug with a funky, black-and-white-checkered design.
From the day he moved in, Ritchie begged me to toss out the "trash," as he called it, and get "grown-up" furniture.
I almost gave in until I realized he expected me to pay for all of it. Plus, his tastes ran to the boring, all sleek lines and dull, neutral colors.
Shivering, I shrugged out of my useless rain jacket and slung it on the coat rack. The sodden fabric dripped a steady beat onto the hardwood floor, and I sagged against the front door. "Bored. I would love to be bored for at least five seconds."
Fat chance. My gray-and-black Maine Coon, Edgar, raced from the bedroom to meet me. His jangling metal tags accentuated his usual yowling. He wound in and out of my legs until I bent down to pet him.
A slight nudge from his head sent me tumbling to the floor — I was clumsy even on a good day. I sat there stunned. Edgar climbed in my lap and thrust his head in my face. I rubbed my hands along his zebra- striped sides, feeling the vibrations from his purring, and muttered to myself. Again. "I say if you're gonna dream, dream big, Edgar. Half an hour of boredom, maybe."
He kneaded his claws into my thigh.
Wincing, I shooed him off before liberating my curly hair from its tie, running my fingers through it to dislodge the tangles. I sighed in relief — having the damn mess pulled back all day had given me a headache.
I toed off my shoes and kicked them by the door before creeping to the futon on my hands and knees. I crawled up, rolled onto my back, and closed my eyes. Despite being exhausted, I was still wound up from the day's insanity, and Edgar jumped on my chest, knocking the wind out of me in search of a proper cuddle. Peace lasted all of two seconds.
The perfect ending to my perfectly breathless day.
The morning had started off fine, normal even — though the pouring rain and maniac Atlanta drivers should have been more than enough to give me a heads-up normal wouldn't last long. By the time I arrived at the Grave Catering shop, I was twenty minutes late and already feeling ragged. I stood next to the supply closet just inside the kitchen door, a puddle forming around my feet, as the small load-out crew hauled food to the truck.
"You look a mess, Izz!" Delly Morse, in all her pink-haired glory, rushed by and tossed me a towel. "Sit. We're almost done."
I collapsed onto a stool by the stainless steel island in the middle of the kitchen. The cup of coffee Delly, my best friend and one of my business partners, made me soothed the guilt over not being on time. I drank my joe and waited for the crew to finish so Delly, Jimmy, and I could head to the set.
We were only supposed to have an eight-hour shoot. We ended at eleven, three hours over. Thirty minutes into filming, Nessa Whittmore, Poe's very own pixie-like animal wrangler, screeched and dashed onto the set.
"Which infernal idiot left the ravens' cage unlocked?"
Her head whipped around so wildly I half expected it to topple from her shoulders and roll under the nearest set piece. Nessa was the tiniest person I'd ever seen and normally sweet as can be, but I wouldn't want to piss her off. She looked as if her newest hobby was demon channeling.
"Cut!" Vincent, showrunner cum director cum Lord of all that is Poe, shot her a thinly veiled peeved look. "What's the matter, love?"
Vincent controls everything concerning the show, and he usually doesn't bat an eye at interruptions. I didn't know when he found time to sleep, which might explain both his current state of crankiness and his trademark scraggly hair and beard.
A bloodcurdling scream cut short Nessa's look of death. A second later, Adriana Godfrey, Virginia Clemm to leading man Cardwell Bennett's Poe, bolted onto the set, her jet-black hair flying every which way while her arms thrashed, staving off the raven intent on attaching its claws to her head.
If I hadn't been so shocked, I would have laughed. I loathed Adriana. As far as I was concerned, she deserved whatever she got.
"Three ravens are loose. That's what's the matter!" Nessa ran after Adriana, her voice strangled in her throat.
My job is not to herd errant animals — the union would have a fit if a mere food-services person handled a professional animal wrangler's job — but, when pandemonium ensues, everyone pitches in. The entire crew scrambled as Vincent and Nessa barked orders, tripped over each other, and caused more chaos than the birds.
The first raven was caught within thirty minutes, and we all sighed in relief, expecting the others would turn up sooner rather than later.
Or so we thought.
Turned out, the other two ravens played hide-and-seek, hiding far more often than they sought.
Vincent eventually shot around them, because no one could corner the damn things, and he wanted to stay on schedule.
Avoiding the dive-bombing, raven poop, and Adriana, who had gone from hysterical to stark raving mad, exhausted me. I covered and uncovered the craft services table at least a dozen times while Delly bounced back and forth between the table and the truck, making sure everything was as it should be. People get peckish during a crisis, and they apparently frown on eating a side of bird crap with their nibbles. I held up the plastic cover — prompted by Adriana, who turned her nose up at everything and ate nothing — whenever someone wandered over for a bite. The constant up and down created an incentive of sorts to go to the gym like Boyfriend Ritchie often demanded-and which I just as often resisted.
My arms would have probably hurt less if I'd ripped them from their sockets.
Filming around the birds proved to be a lesson in futility, because one of the two had uncanny timing.
Craft services was slow while the cast and crew were working, so I sneaked onto the set, clutching a brown paper bag filled with goodies, to watch Cardwell shoot a pivotal scene. Chaos reigned as usual.
Vincent conferred with the lighting techs, making last-minute adjustments before moving on to confer with his assistant director. Hair and makeup hovered around Cardwell, making a few touch ups.
They stepped away, and I got my first look at him. He was drool-worthy, dressed exactly how you'd imagine Poe would be — black pants, black vest, and black frockcoat. A crisp white shirt peeked through the vest, and a white cravat, knotted just so, coiled around his neck. The period costume worked well with Cardwell's quirky good looks.
I slid in beside Sebastian Cooper, the head lighting tech, as he made tweaks to the setup. Sebastian reminded me of Danny Trejo — the actor who played the titular role in Robert Rodriguez's Machete — with his craggy face and long, dark hair, which Sebastian always wore in a braid hanging down to the middle of his back. He towered over me, so I always ran the risk of getting a crick in my neck from craning to meet his gaze, and that, coupled with his perpetual scowl, scared the bejeezus out of me the first time we met. Once I discovered his weakness for chocolate, though, I got over being scared. Hard to be afraid of someone who acted like a kid on Christmas morning whenever I brought goodies to the set. Chocolate was a rarity, but I made some just for Sebastian once a week for letting me hang on his turf and for running interference with Adriana, which was all too often needed.
Sebastian stepped back, his tweak finished, and ogled the bag. "What you got there, D.I.?"
I made a sour face at his use of the nickname — Dizzy Izzie — he'd given me the second week of filming, when I'd been brave enough to finally sneak on set. Vincent made it clear we were a family and anyone could watch filming, but being anywhere near Cardwell sent me into a panic attack. He was my celebrity crush, and working with him was both a rush and mortifying in equal measures.
Delly finally told me to suck it up and go. She didn't bother to let me know they were filming a love scene between Cardwell and Adriana. Long story short, I tiptoed in just as they were about to share their first kiss and got so flustered I tripped over a cord, unplugged the lighting, and stopped the scene cold. Neither Vincent nor Cardwell were upset about the accident, but Adriana threw an apoplectic hissy fit. When she dressed me down in front of the cast and crew, not even Vincent or Cardwell could rein her in.
Sebastian was the only who could get her to back off. He told me later Adriana had her sights set on Cardwell and my interrupting their kiss, acting or not, was perfect timing.
Right about then, Cardwell showed up at craft services more often.
The bag crinkled when I handed it to Sebastian. "Is it too early for truffles?"
"No. Should it be?" He opened the bag and took a deep whiff. "Do I smell orange?"
"Blood orange, along with hazelnuts and a super-secret blend of spices." I motioned him downward with a crook of my finger. "The recipe's new, so let me know if it's a keeper."
He popped one in his mouth, his lips pursing as he let the blended flavors mingle. "Oh my god, Izzie. If I wasn't a confirmed bachelor, I'd beg you to marry me right now!"
His entire demeanor changed from gruff blue collar to childlike delight, and I grinned at his assertion. "I call shenanigans on the exaggeration, but it's good enough for me."
"I'm serious. These are wonderful." He held the open bag toward me and shook it.
I waved him away. "No, thanks. A bit early for me, actually."
"Not for you." He thrust the bag closer. "For Cardwell."
I glanced over at Cardwell. He now lounged in an American Empire side chair in front of a drop leaf secretary desk, both reproduced from what Edgar Allan Poe was believed to have used while writing for the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond, Virginia. While the crew scurried around him, he twiddled with a quill pen and absentmindedly blew at a small shock of hair curled onto his forehead. Someone from hair and makeup swooped in to take care of it.
"Are you crazy?" I grabbed for the bag of treats. "I'm cutting you off. The chocolate has made you completely lose your mind."
Sebastian grinned like a man with a secret. "Go on." He nudged me in Cardwell's general direction.
"Stop it, before you make me knock something over," I hissed.
"Get hold of yourself," he retorted. "Do you think I'm dumb enough to believe I'm the reason you come watch filming nearly every morning?"
"Shut. Up." I glanced at Cardwell.
He intently watched Sebastian and me and cocked an inquisitive eyebrow.
My face burned. I looked down at my feet, but not before catching Cardwell's wink.
"Quiet on set!" Vincent's command shut us up. He glanced around before crouching behind his monitor. "And ... action."
The silence was broken by the scratching of quill on paper, the tinking of the nib dipped into the inkpot.
Sebastian all but forgotten, I crossed my fingers behind my back, a private ritual I'd started on the first day of filming when everything that could go wrong had. If I'd placed bets on whether the show would be a hit based on the first day, I would have wagered against lasting more than a couple of episodes.
Cardwell scrawled the words as he spoke, his Scottish brogue undetectable. "'Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou art sure no craven ...'"
His soft, gravelly voice rose and fell melodically, filtering across the set. I clenched my fingers tighter as he continued. "'Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore. Tell me what thy Lordly name is on the night's Plutonian shore! Quoth the Raven —'"
From recesses unknown, one of the missing ravens croaked, "Nevermore."
The usual anticipation of watching Cardwell work shifted to stunned silence followed by an eruption of hysterical laughter.
"Cut!" Vincent yelled over the din before he, too, roared along with everyone else.
That was the first and last time a raven hit its cue. Not an hour later, the crew was murderous, the actors frustrated and snippy. Adriana bitched at Cardwell all the way across the set. Her tirade didn't last long, but only because we lost the lights.
"Oh, for fuck's sake! What now?" Vincent's low growl echoed through the darkness.
"On it, Boss." Sebastian's hand skimmed my shoulder, and he skirted around me, striding across the set until a loud crash and a grunt of pain broke the silence.
I froze where I stood, afraid to make the slightest move for fear of knocking over something or inadvertently committing sexual harassment while groping my way around the darkened set.
Flashlights flickered here and there as Sebastian and his crew searched for the problem.
"Aw, shit. Someone bring me another cord." His exasperated sigh elicited a high-pitched giggle from Adriana who, apparently, had a death wish.
Once the lights glowed bright again, we discovered one of the riotous ravens had ravaged through an extension cord snaking along the floor. I guess birds got peckish, too.
Sebastian found the poor thing fried to a gentle crisp over by the cabinets where the prop master keeps his toys.
We said a few choice words over the carcass before Nessa carried off the bird wrapped in a towel, muttering about fines, paperwork, and set visits from the American Humane Association. We never did locate the third raven, but at least he was quiet.
Later, disaster struck again when one of the stuntmen sliced and diced himself on a pendulum. Oh, he was fine, but he'd be on medical leave until the hundred and fifty stitches were removed from his ass.
No idea how that one happened.
Clearly, the crew needed more to deal with, and during the inadvertent bloodletting and freak out, a few of the weaker-stomached extras hurled all over the set. Cleaning up piles of vomit took some time. Two wet vacs and three bottles of fabric refresher later, the smell still hadn't dissipated.
Excerpted from "Yours Truly"
Copyright © 2017 Kathryn J. Pierce.
Excerpted by permission of The Wild Rose Press, Inc..
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
KJ Pierce has a way of putting humanity into her main character. Izzie is a mess of emotions and insecurities, but this does not detract but makes her human. I am a male and I can relate to her. It was a fun read.