The receptionist at his office.

Zane turned to look and in doing so, he released Hailey’s hand and knocked over his beverage. He didn’t even react to the cold liquid splashing on his suit. He stood on shaky legs, watching the woman in the doorway. Hailey felt a sudden and familiar stinging in her eyes and a small tear escaped; it ran unhindered down her cheek, glistening and shining in the lighting of the restaurant. The tear slithered slowly until it formed a tiny, perfect droplet and then disappeared, evaporated into her thirsty skin. 

The wet woman took a faltering step towards the table. Everyone was looking at her now, and Hailey couldn’t help being a little jealous. Maybe if she had made her appearance drenched to the skin, with a pretty, floral sundress clinging to her curves, they would have noticed her too. Ah, the parts we play, she thought. The things we’ll do for love. Hailey glanced down at the uncomfortable and overpriced little black dress she was wearing. She’d never wear it again, that was certain. Not after today.

“Go to her,” she told Zane. “You’re meant to be together. I release you.”

He looked at Hailey for a long moment, almost as if memorizing her face. He smiled then, one of those devastating smiles that made her heart flip over in her chest, and mouthed a silent thank you.

And then he left her. Left her sitting there with her water that was too cold, and the plastic carrots and cucumbers and the congealed polenta, and the puddle of what was it? iced tea? on the floor, that she’d best take care not to slip in with her damn boots. Left her to go to his dripping receptionist, the one who’d always been there for him, but that he’d been too blind to see.

Love is blind. Indeed.

Hailey turned her attention to the Jonathan Taylor Thomas look alike and contemplated what his reaction would be if she ordered a real life cheeseburger.

“Okay, cut! That’s a wrap!” the voice of the director bellowed.

The JTT double (Steve) flopped into the chair opposite Hailey and gave an exaggerated groan. “Finally!” he whispered to her. “One hundred years later. God, I told my boyfriend I’d be home for dinner tonight. He’s gonna be so pissed.”

“Plastic cuke?” Hailey offered him, teasingly. She held up the shiny object. Definitely not from a garden. It was amazing what the food stylists could do these days.

“Yeah, no thanks.” He rolled his eyes. “I’m going while the going is good. With my luck, my whole part is probably going to be on the cutting room floor anyway.”

“Nah, you’re really good.” Hailey smiled at him her famous girl next door, coquettish smile. His ears stayed the same color this time. Wow, he really was a good actor. She felt a little disappointed that his blush from before had been performed by a makeup artist, the same way her tear had been triggered by stinging eye drops. “I’ll put in a good word for you with the big guy.”

“You talking about me again?” Zane appeared and grinned at them.

“The whole world is not about you, Mr. Movie Star,” Hailey reminded him, grinning back. “Stop turning those pearly whites on me again though, would you? You’re hurting my baby blues.”

“Come on, you. My trailer has coffee and pastries. I’d say this day deserves at least a cream cheese Danish, don’t you?” He offered Hailey his arm. “Quick. Before everyone changes their mind about it being wrapped. If we have to do this scene one more time I’m going to swear off movies forever. Poor Lily. She’s going to get pneumonia. Why do all the romantic movies have to have a rain scene?”

“Rain is romantic, I guess?” Hailey shrugged. “I don’t get it either. Unless you’re Colin Firth coming out of a lake, I prefer everyone dry myself. But a billion movie goers can’t be wrong.”

They ducked under a hanging wire and around several cables and murmured excuse me to what seemed like dozens of extras and set people. She liked that he still said that, that he was still polite, despite being a movie star. He was still classy. Well, not if you read the tabloids, but Hailey never did. She used to, back in the beginning of her career, but she wasn’t thick skinned enough to handle them. She’d quit right after she realized she was on the fast track to a nervous breakdown, or a pill addiction, and a series of sex tapes. She had no desire to start a chain of events that would lead to rehab. It was practically a mantra. Now she had people to do her grocery shopping for her, mostly to avoid the supermarket tabloids, and she never watched the entertainment television shows.

“Do you think it will be a hit? Love is Blind, I mean?” Zane asked as they walked briskly towards his trailer. He needed a hit, coming off a major disappointment with an action movie that had completely bombed over the summer at the box office. He hadn’t admitted it, but Hailey knew it had really affected him. The critics had killed him, and the late night talk show hosts had been brutal and nasty. It was the worst his professional career had ever gotten, and Hailey had known him back when he was just starting out, doing crummy community theater and commercials. Zane had smiled through it all and bounced right back, like a true professional.

“It’s releasing on Valentine’s Day,” Hailey reminded him. “It’s going to be golden. We’re due for a hit. I can feel it.” Well, it was always a gamble, movies, but she wanted to seem behind the film and confident. And even if it didn’t do well, they still got paid a fairly obscene amount of money. Not as much as Lily, but still. Lily was the It-Girl this year. Hailey remembered when she had been the It-Girl. It hadn’t been that long ago, but time moved fast here. Once she hit thirty, the leading parts all but disappeared, and the only roles her agent was even showing her anymore were the parts of Best Friend, or Bitchy Boss, or Hot Soccer Mom. Of course, with Zane and the other male actors, this wasn’t the case: they could be leading men and sex symbols well into their sixties. Oh well. Such was the Hollywood life. She’d had a good run, and she’d been careful with her money; if she wanted to retire and buy a mansion back in Nebraska, she could do so. Heck, she could probably buy Nebraska. Hailey tugged on her dress and longed for her ratty sweats that she only wore in the comfort of her estate in the hills when she was sure the paparazzi weren’t lurking nearby.

“If you say so,” Zane said, doubtfully. “I’m not sure how realistic it is. The movie I mean.”

Hailey laughed. “It’s a romantic comedy, Zane. We’re not going for realism.”

“Good,” he answered, opening the door to his trailer. The scent of jasmine incense crept out and tickled Hailey’s nose. “Because I’ve been divorced three times, and it wasn’t anything like that debacle in there.”

“No?” Hailey had never married. Never really wanted to: didn’t want to fail and give the public a chance to mock her. Besides, there’d never been anyone she’d liked well enough. Oh, she’d been in love a time or two, but she’d never liked a man enough to want him around all the time. The very idea seemed exhausting: constantly looking your best in your own home, holding in your stomach, wearing mascara to breakfast. Just to keep a man who would most likely leave anyway.

“No.” He looked at her and there was a heaviness in his gaze that made Hailey’s mouth dry and her stomach do a flip. He really was devastatingly gorgeous. And she liked him, which in her book was better than love. “Doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying though.” He winked and the heaviness was gone.

Actors. They were maddening. You never knew when they were acting and when they weren’t.


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