What would you do if one day all of your dreams came true?
Melissa ‘Lissa’ Loring was a successful author. She was happy living in her home at the base of the mountains in Tucson with her assistant, Hannah Mills. First the phone call came; they wanted to make one of her books into a movie. Within six months, she was flying out to Los Angeles and talking with the studio about the final script and a list of actors to play the roles. Excited about her lunch meeting, she was shocked when her muse for one of the characters walked in and sat down at the table with her.
Will Martinsson was riding high on his fame and loving every minute of it. He traveled the world meeting his legions of fans and could pick which roles he wanted. When the script was presented to him, he read it and was intrigued. Then he found out that the author had modeled the character after him, so he searched out information on her and his interest was piqued. He told the studio he wanted in, but he also wanted to meet her before he would sign on the dotted line.
When two independent, successful people meet and have a strong connection, there is nothing they can do but see where the dream takes them.
Melissa Loring sat in the hippest restaurant in Los Angeles trying to act like she belonged there. Looking around was like reading the most recent gossip magazine; celebrities were all over the place and she felt completely out of her element. With one ear, she listened to the lilting Australian accent of her agent. She knew she should be paying closer attention since she was going over what was going to happen at the meeting, but she was just too nervous. At some point she knew she was either going to knock something over, or when she got up she’d trip, or somehow take the whole tablecloth with her. Something was going to go wrong.
“Lissa!” Angelica Sanderson leaned over and pinched her arm. “Lissa, pay attention, they’re going to be here any minute. Remember, we already have a contract to turn your book into a movie, so this is the final meeting before deciding the final details of filming and cast. We both know how important this deal is going to be, but to them it’s nothing. It’s no sweat off their back if it doesn’t happen. We don’t want to blow anything now, so try to come up with a poker face so they don’t realize how much it means to you.”
She might only be five foot three, but Angelica was one of the fiercest agents in the business, and going up against men twice her size to boot. Putting her heart and soul behind every one of her clients, she’d do whatever it took to make sure they received the best deal. Lissa felt lucky they’d found each other and worked so well together. They’d been working together for years, and finally one of Lissa’s books was going to be turned into a movie by a big-name studio. She had Angelica to thank for that, and if things went their way, it wasn’t going to be the last deal.
“What? I have a poker face.” When Angelica narrowed her eyes at her, Lissa shrugged. “Okay, I know I don’t, but at least let me lie to myself once in a while.”
Angelica did a double-take, looking behind Lissa before she reached over and grabbed Lissa’s arm in a death grip. “Oh, my God…” She whispered.
Lissa had her back to the door and was looking at Angelica when she saw her visibly start to shake and go pale. That was something on the red-headed Aussie; Lissa didn’t think she could get any paler. She wondered what could have caused her to react like that. Slowly, Lissa turned in her chair and saw Will Martinsson walking in his six-foot-two, long, lean and dangerous stride, and he was heading in their direction. He was, by far, perfection. Lissa actually had a huge crush on him, and he had been her muse for the book they were talking about making into a movie. Her mouth went dry seeing him in person; the big screen did nothing for him, and he was more magnificent in real life. But it wasn’t just his looks, which couldn’t be tossed aside; it was his personality, his humanitarian efforts, the whole damn package which was outstanding. He effectively ruined women for any other man with the standards he’d set forth.
Her mind whirled and she had no idea what to do. Not wanting to stare, or drool, which she knew would be mortifying she turned back to Angelica and was surprised when she stood up and held her hand out.
“Sam, it’s good to see you again. You didn’t tell me you were bringing company.”
“Well, if I told you, it wouldn’t have been a surprise, now would it?” Sam Lundy’s big laugh boomed through the restaurant.
Lissa’s head whipped back around. She hadn’t even seen the studio exec walking next to Will Martinsson, she’d been so focused on him. Considering Sam was larger than his personality and laugh that was saying something. She could feel everyone’s eyes on them, but slowly she turned back toward Angelica when she heard her agent continue to speak. Lissa knew that he was right there and she was terrified she was about to say something completely stupid herself, she decided to keep her mouth shut as long as possible.
“Mr. Martinsson, I’m Angelica Sanderson, Melissa Loring’s agent.”
“Please, call me Will. And if I’m not being too forward, may I call you Angelica?” His smooth, deep British accent rumbled right behind her.
Lissa turned her head to the right and there were hands there. Will Martinsson’s hand was right next to her face. She should have stood up, but it was too late; all she could do was stare at his long, graceful fingers wrapped around her agent’s small, delicate ones. A small frown crossed her face when their hands began to rotate and slowly Will’s face came into her view as he kissed the back of Angelica’s hand.
His face was inches from hers and he smelled so good, she wanted to bury her nose in his sleeve and take a deep breath to remember the scent forever. With a quirky smile to his lips, he turned his head and looked at her. They were almost nose to nose.
“Melissa Loring, I presume?”
She could do nothing but nod. Her voice wouldn’t work, and she didn’t want to open and close her mouth like a fish out of water, testing if she could actually make words come out.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have put you in such an awkward position.” He let go of Angelica’s hand and reached down and grabbed hers, bringing it up to his lips. “Forgive me,” he implored, gazing at her over the top of her hand.
“Umm… yeah… sure…” She blinked a few times and tried to smile, but she was afraid it came across as a grimace. Her mind raced to come up with something brilliant to say to him, but her thoughts were a vast wasteland at the moment.
Easily, he stood back up to his very tall, impressive height and she followed his face up, not wanting to look at what was at eye level. Her face flamed red even at the thought. Deciding she needed to do something else, she looked at Angelica and almost burst out laughing as she wondered if they wore matching lovesick faces for him.
Both men walked around the table and sat down, Will Martinsson taking the seat right next to Lissa. Her mind scrambled and she knew she had to stop using both of his names to think of him. It would be so embarrassing if she did that in a conversation with him. I am having a conversation with Will Martinsson. No, not just a conversation. We’re having lunch. What am I supposed to do? Deciding to let Angelica take the lead, she reached out with shaking hands to take a drink of water. She was hoping she wasn’t going to spill any, or that anyone would notice she took a large gulp as the sound of her blood rushed through her ears, drowning out most of the noise in the restaurant.
Lissa shook her head, trying to focus on what everyone else was saying; she’d hoped she hadn’t missed anything important. Lucky for her, they were looking at the menu and making small talk. She had no idea where to look so she picked up her menu, but her face went red again. Will Martin… Will was sitting right next to her. As if being in Los Angeles talking to a studio executive about the final stages of turning her book into a movie wasn’t surreal enough, there she was having lunch with a movie star she had a crush on. Somehow, almost amazingly, she managed to get through ordering the lunch and the general small talk without sounding like too much of an idiot.
It felt strange looking at him while he was talking. One reason she felt so drawn to him was that it didn’t matter if it was a movie role or if he was being interviewed; it always seemed like he was totally in the moment and focused on the other person who was talking to him. It was almost as if a bomb could go off next to him, but he’d never break eye contact, never lose that focus on the other person. She never expected to be on the other end of it, and especially not sitting two feet away from him. He put her at ease, telling stories about his different film roles or just general life stories, making him appear more human and less the big movie star.
“So, Melissa,” He leaned his chin in his hand, turning his body toward her. “I must say I’m very interested in your writing.”
“Really?” Why did her voice pick right then to squeak? She’d been playing it so cool! Well, as cool as she could.
He smiled at her. “Yes, really. I love how you give the reader just enough information so they can fill in the blanks with their own imagination.”
“Well, for me,” Lissa started, fiddling with the edge of the tablecloth. “I was a reader first, and I always skipped over the paragraphs which held too much information. Or when something was mentioned later on in the book I’d say to myself that was all wrong, because it wasn’t how I imagined it. I wanted the readers of my books to be able to fill in the blanks. They can really make the characters or settings any way they want to. I give them the basics, and they can do the rest. They get to pick the general shape and colors of my creation, which I think makes the story more personal to them.” She shrugged, blushing again. “There were times in my life when reading was my escape. I’d play the whole thing out in my head, with me as the heroine of course. I’d be able to go and do things I’d never be able to do in real life. I just hope I’m able to do that for others.”
“That’s why I’ve always loved to read. There’s something quite wonderful about getting lost in a story, isn’t there?” He waited for her to nod. “And your villains, darling, they are magnificent. Really, such depth, such psychosis. Tell me, this one we’re talking about for the movie, how did you come up with him? What else can you tell me about him?”
She knew the only way she’d be able to get through the lunch was to get into her writing and talking about her stories. This was her passion, this was what she knew. If she could get lost in the story of telling him about them, she might be able to forget who he was.
Lissa took a deep breath, knowing instinctively she needed to lay it all out there. “It was actually you.”
“Me? Now I’m really intrigued. I want to know everything.”
“I was surfing the internet, looking for inspiration, and there you were at one of the superhero conventions, dressed as the villain.” Lissa narrowed her eyes, wanting to get the words just right. “How you commanded the room, how you walked and moved. The power which came from you completely inspired him, and my villain was born. I wanted to make him completely crazy, yet there was something sexy about him. I wanted people to be conflicted about him. That’s actually what I try to do with all of my villains, male or female. In one way or another, I want my readers to be both drawn to and repulsed by them. I want people to wonder about their neighbors, their co-workers, and the people they pass on the streets. We are all hiding secrets, but what if theirs happened to be they killed people, a lot of people, horrifically?”
Will smiled at her. “I read the proposed script and then had to read the book. You did a good job transitioning from the book to the movie, by the way, but as always, the book was better.” His smile overtook his face.
He liked it. He read my book, and he liked it. Lissa was in shock and for a minute wasn’t sure what to say. “Thank you. Ummm… so, yeah, that was how he was ‘born’ and then I filled the others around him.”
“Some of the situations or things you have him doing, how exactly do you come up with that?”
Lissa fiddled with her napkin. “Well, I don’t scare easily. I’m one of those people who is always first in line to go through the haunted houses and the guys are screaming and hiding behind me. I don’t get grossed out in movies that often, because I know it’s all fake. So, I think of a situation and keep playing with it, adding more and more until I feel that would be too much to put in a book, and I back it off a step or two. I know that way, most people who read it will be scared or creeped out. It’s always a delicate balance between too much and too little.”
He leaned toward her and dropped his voice to a whisper. “I have a confession to make. I have read all of your books.”
She couldn’t help herself; she leaned in a little closer to him. “Did I hear right? You’ve read all of my books?” Surely she had to be mistaken.
With twinkling eyes, he nodded.
“Wow. Why?” Really, Will Martinsson had read all of her books. He’d even read her sex scenes. Her face went red again, thinking about some of what she’d written and there she was sitting next to him, talking about her books.
“Because they are very good. They kept me on the edge of my seat, or laughing. You’ve got quite a sense of humor there. You know us Brits; we love a good bit of dry humor.”
His eyes were an amazing shade of blue and he didn’t hold anything back. Being that close, she could see every emotion in his eyes; there was nothing he could hide. She had to control herself not to prop her chin in her hand and sigh while looking at him like some lovesick school girl.
She looked down again. “Thank you.”
He tipped her chin up, and her heart fluttered like a little bird caught in a trap as she locked her gaze with his. “You don’t take compliments well, do you?”
“No.” She gulped.
“You’d better get used to it. You’re good, this script is good, and your other books are good. You could have a long career in Hollywood, if you want. Always remember to enjoy today, especially the compliments. Take them, hold them close, and do what you do best. This isn’t the easiest of towns, and it won’t always be hearts and flowers, but remember it’s your talent. Just keep doing what you do best and you’ll be fine.”
When he let go of her chin and leaned back, it was as if the restaurant came roaring back to life. The noise of the other diners surrounded them and they were no longer in their little bubble. Blinking, she looked over at Angelica who was deep in conversation with Sam. It was like no one had noticed the moment they had. Thinking it all had to be in her head she took another drink of her water, needing something to do. She was thankful when their lunch arrived.
Lissa’s stomach was in knots and she knew there’d be no way she could eat anything. Taking small bites and pushing the rest around her plate, she thought she was fooling them. Since the meeting was about her book and movie, most of the questions were directed toward her, or questions Angelica asked of Sam. Either way, she had to pay attention and talk.
During a lull, Will leaned over to whisper in her ear. “You’re not eating.”
She started to look down and stopped herself, deciding to ride it out. After all, having lunch with him could be the only time she ever had a chance to spend any kind of time with him. She leaned over to whisper in his ear. “I’m too excited to eat.”
Softly he chuckled, his breath tickling her neck. “Nothing ever stops me from eating, but I must tell you, I’m also a bit excited.”
“I shouldn’t tell you this, since you’d have me at a great disadvantage, but I want this part. Out of all of your characters, this is the one I want to play. There’s also the fact you left the ending open.” He heard her suck in her breath. “I’m right, aren’t I?”
She could hear the excitement in his voice. “Yes. I’m planning another book, where he is released from the facility, completely rehabilitated, or so they say. He wants to ruin their happily ever after.”
“I knew it.” His breath came harder on her neck. “Knowing how he was in this one, I can’t wait to see what you have in store for him with the next one. Tell me.”
His scent was so intoxicating she was willing to give him anything to stay that close to him. Again having an intimate moment with him surrounded by so many people. “I can’t. I don’t have it all worked out yet.”
“Well, I can understand that.” He pulled away from her and pulled something out of his pocket. “Here.” He lifted her hand and turning it over, placed a card across her palm. Closing her fingers around it, he gave her a little squeeze. “Don’t lose that. You’ll keep me informed, right?”
“Sure. Yeah, I can do that.” She didn’t want to be a complete dork and open her hand, but she suspected it was a way to get a hold of him, most likely email. She wanted so badly to do a happy dance, but she was trying to be all professional and like she took lunch meetings with famous actors in Los Angeles all the time. Acting like a groupie would totally blow the image.
They spent the rest of the lunch talking about the movie and the possibility for more. She thought it was going well, and then Sam said they were going to be drawing up contracts for her first series. She knew she didn’t have to worry; Angelica knew what would be best for the both of them and she’d make sure they got the best deal. Besides, they had the basics down with this one.
When dessert was delivered, Lissa felt that she might finally be able to relax and enjoy some food. The lemon-raspberry cheesecake was one of her favorites and she couldn’t decide between that and the chocolate mousse. Somehow, Will must have seen her looking at his dessert and when he offered her a bite she almost fell off her chair. The world famous movie star was holding his fork out for her to take a bite of his mousse. What if she was reading him wrong and he was expecting her to take the fork from him and feed herself? Or should she just lean in and take the bite? He waved it closer to her.
Very carefully she moved forward, afraid she would miscalculate and stab herself in the cheek. She tentatively took the bite, trying not to think about how the fork was just in his mouth. She closed her eyes as it melted in her mouth, trying not to moan at the decadent taste of it.
“More?” his soft, sexy, deep voice asked.
Oh, God, yes. That and you, spread all over me. “No, no, it’s your dessert. I’m fine.”
“It’s just you looked like you were thoroughly enjoying it.”
“I was.” She needed a drink of water and took a sip.
He pushed his plate toward her. “Who am I to deny a woman her pleasure?”
Not sure she’d heard him right, she wasn’t paying attention to what she was doing and ended up choking on her water. Her face turned red as she coughed and she was sure everyone was, once again, staring at her. Once Angelica’s hard pounding on her back had gotten her coughing under control and she could talk again, she pushed the plate back to him. “Really, mine is good. Please, have yours.”
They finished their dessert and it was time to leave. He was right there pulling her chair out when she was ready to stand, a hand on her elbow. She was wearing heels and it was nice to be able to wear them and still be shorter than his six-foot-two. As they walked out together, he kept his hand on the small of her back and guided her off to the side so they could wait together for the valet to bring their cars around. Angelica had driven, but since she and Sam were deep in conversation about ten feet away, it was nice to have a few private moments with Will. It may be my only one, ever. Deciding to let him know how much she appreciated it, she wanted to come clean.
Once again, the two of them were in a bubble. She turned so she could look at him. “Thank you.”
“For what, darling?”
“Making me feel so comfortable. This whole thing.” She waved her hand around. “It isn’t something I normally do. You made sure I didn’t make a complete dork out of myself.”
“So, you’re saying you were a partial dork today?” he asked, smiling.
She couldn’t help it; she smiled back at him as she reached up and put her hand on his arm. “Actually, I was on my best behavior. I’d have to say I was only about ten percent dork, and most of that was internal conversations.”
“I look forward to seeing if I can bring out more of the dork in you.”
“Be careful what you wish for.”
“What’s life without a bit of dorkiness?”
“A life less dorkful? Dorkless? Void of dork?”
He threw his head back and laughed. She couldn’t help it when she joined him, all of her tension leaving her body in that one shared act of laughter.
“Ahhhh, Melissa Loring, I look forward to working with you.”
“Wonderful. Will you be on set, or don’t you know yet?”
“I should be, based on what we’ve asked for in the contract.”
“Excellent. Now, about that whole superhero convention I was part of. Do you like superhero movies?”
Lissa bounced on her toes in excitement. “Oh, yes, I do. My friend, she’s also my personal assistant, she’s here with me, and we watch them all the time.”
“You know part of the reason I’m in Los Angeles right now is because the premier for the next installment of the superhero movie is tonight..”
“Hannah and I were wondering if we’d have time to squeeze in going to the movies while we were here, or if we were going to have to wait until we got home. We’ve been counting down the days.”
“I could get the two of you in to the premier tonight.”
“Get out. No way!” She stopped herself from punching his shoulder just in time.
She giggled. “Seriously?”
“Oh, my! Oh, I can’t wait to tell Hannah. She’s going to love it. She’s a huge fan of Royce Rivers. Thank you.” She wrapped her arms around him and his automatically went around her. She backed up a little bit from him. “Sorry, that was a bit forward.”
He didn’t let her go. “Don’t worry; it’s refreshing. You have no idea how it makes me feel to make someone else happy. Something which is so easy for me to do means so much to the other person.” He let her go when his car arrived then grabbed her hand and kissed the back of it. “I cannot begin to tell you the pleasure it was to meet you. I’ll send a car for you, so all you and Hannah need to do is show up. I’ll take care of the rest.”
“Thank you, Will.”
She waved to him as he pulled away. Seeing Angelica’s car waiting, she walked over to it and sat down before her legs gave out. They waited until they were away from the restaurant before they turned to each other and screamed like teenage girls.
M. Stratton is an International Amazon bestselling author in the romantic suspense and mystery suspense categories for her debut novel After the Storm. She is a self-proclaimed dork that loves to make people laugh and can trip over nothing. Her inner rock star is always on stage performing to a sold out crowd but is quiet and shy on the outside.
She lives with her husband and son in Arizona, which is a big difference from where she grew up north of Chicago Illinois. As an only child she learned to tell herself stories to make the long winters go by quicker while dreaming of summer vacations. Now as an adult she still makes up stories to pass the time, but now she writes them down to share with other people.
When not writing you can find M. watching football (Go Bears!), NASCAR, or classic movies, watching her husband and father restore classic cars, and seeing who can be sillier, her or her son, and of course reading.