Less than 24 hours, and Summer with a Star will be here! Let’s continue reading from where we left off yesterday….
Spence heard women’s voices from the second floor porch where he’d stretched out with a script and an iced tea, but he figured they came from the beach. He did his best to tune them out and concentrate on work. The problem was, work was about as boring as sitting in rush hour traffic. He thumbed ahead a few pages in his script. Explosions, chases, dialog that could have been written by his eight-year-old cousin. He’d read the same story in five different scripts now, all of them pale imitations of the film he’d wrapped last summer—a film that was finishing up a solid run in theaters now. If he had to play another emotionally ambiguous FBI agent or cop or investigator, he’d punch something.
The two female voices grew louder, far too loud to be down on the beach. No, they were right underneath him, on the porch, and they didn’t sound happy. Glad to be rid of it, he tossed his script aside, took one last sip of his tea, and hopped up to investigate. Just like a cop in one of these horrible scripts. He grinned to himself as he crossed the upstairs hallway and circled down the big, open staircase in the center of the house.
Yvonne had struck pay dirt with this rental. It was exactly what he’d been looking for, the perfect place to hide away from the rat race for a few months while he figured out what he wanted to do next. With a hat-trick of blockbusters behind him over the past year, a pile of scripts that reached the ceiling, and more money than he’d ever dreamed he would see, it should have been a no-brainer to pick his next project. Yvonne was already breathing down his neck about not having the next three years of his life scheduled. But nothing he looked at seemed right.
Except this house, he thought as he strode across the elegant dining room and through the cozy living room with its huge fireplace. It’d been ages since he’d taken a real summer vacation, since he’d felt like a real human being and not a series of roles and accolades. He’d only been there for a few days, but already every bone in his body wanted to sink into the place and never leave. It was quiet. It was gorgeous. It was remote. No one knew he was there.
“…some third-rate motel, or worse, at home, because a real estate big-wig thinks I’m too much of a loser to live a dream for just two months,” one of the women on the back porch was saying. Spence winced at her distress. It made him want to fix something.
“It’s not that,” the other woman said as he stepped through the screen door and onto the porch. She was blonde and pretty, the kind of woman that turned guys into blabbering idiots at first sight. “Of course you’re not a loser. It’s—”
“Can I help you?” he interrupted.
Both women pivoted to face him. Both sets of eyes went round. The blonde’s mouth dropped open, but it was the brunette who stopped his heart in his chest. She was petite, with short, pixie-cut hair, bangs slanting across her forehead. Her t-shirt and jeans were faded and comfortable and fit her curves well. Her cheeks were rosy in her round face and her brown eyes sparkled. No, not sparkled, she was on the verge of tears. She took one look at him and sobbed.
“Spencer Ellis?” The blonde gaped as she threw an arm around her friend.
So much for no one knowing he was there.
“Yes.” He nodded, stepping closer to the weeping brunette. As badly as he wanted to help, he wasn’t sure what to do. “Is something the matter? What can I do?”
“Spencer Ellis,” the blonde said again.
“You’re the person in my house?” The brunette sniffled. She wiped her eyes with the backs of her hands and made a valiant effort to pull herself together with short, gasping breaths. Her watery eyes stayed fixed on him, as though she didn’t quite believe what she was seeing.
An awkward itch spread across his back. “I’m staying here for the summer,” he answered as simply as he could.
Apparently, it was the wrong answer. The brunette’s bottom lip quivered. “No,” she spoke in a strained voice, “I’m staying here for the summer.” She buried her face in her hands and moaned. “Of course. Of course they would give my house away to somebody famous and perfect instead of letting me catch just one tiny break.”
The way she drew out the last three words shot straight to Spence’s heart. He hummed and ran a hand through his hair, glancing around the porch and off across the beach as though an explanation would appear or a director would shout “Cut!”
“There must be a mix-up somewhere,” he said, stepping closer to her, arms itching to hug her and make things better. “My agent took care of all the arrangements and booked this place last month.”
“Last month?” the brunette asked. She was tense from the top of her head to her flip-flops, as if battling to keep anger at bay and hold herself together. “I’ve had this house reserved for the last three years. How could anyone walk in just last month and swipe it out from under me?”
“Spencer Ellis.” The blonde growled his name this time. She jerked her phone up and tapped on the screen “I should have known. Celebrities. You think you can wave a little money and a few movie tickets around and the world will fall at your feet.” She held her phone to her ear.
“I’m so sorry,” he told the brunette as the blonde stomped away. “If I had known, I would have—”
“She’s just over-protective,” the brunette apologized, sagging. She squeezed her eyes shut and pressed her fingers to her temples. A moment later, she huffed an ironic laugh. “The universe sure does like screwing with me. I should give up and lay down.”
Guilt and anger on her behalf hit him at the same time. That and the awkward thought that she had an excellent rack.
“I am sorry,” he said, blushing over where his thoughts had gone. He pulled his phone out of his pocket. “Let me see if I can figure out what’s going on here.”
“Please do,” she replied, weak with frustration.
He hated that. Boy, did he hate that.
He hit Yvonne on speed-dial as the brunette wandered to the edge of the porch and leaned on the railing. Spence watched her closely. She had a nice butt too, enough to get a good handful if—
“Spence, sweetheart,” Yvonne’s cloying voice cooed through the phone. “What’s up?”
“Hi Yvonne. Was someone else booked into this house when you found it for me?” He cut right to the chase.
“The house?” That was all it took. Spence could tell from the false innocence in her voice that she’d pulled strings and worked her so-called magic again. “I’m not sure, sweetheart. Possibly.”
“Yvonne.” He grimaced and rubbed his forehead with his free hand. “I told you to stop doing stuff like that. I wanted to find a nice summer house away from things so I could think. I didn’t ask you to evict the rightful renters.”
“I didn’t think they would mind, whoever they are. The real estate broker said they would send a nice fruit basket with a note of apology and a full refund.”
Spence shook his head. “Unbelievable. This is exactly why I wanted to get away for the summer.”
“Is there a problem?” Yvonne’s voice turned a shade more serious. “Those other people didn’t show up there, did they?”
“She did.” Spence said and ended the call. He growled and shoved his phone in his back pocket. It immediately started vibrating, but he ignored it.
The blonde ended her call at about the same time. “I don’t believe they would actually do it,” she muttered, shaking her head. “I don’t believe the Cavanaros would let them do it, but they’re in Florida. Dana says that someone was supposed to tell you and refund your money.” Her heels clicked as she walked over to smooth a hand across the brunette’s shoulders. It was a gesture Spence thought he should be making.
“This is my agent’s fault,” he said, joining the pair.
“It’s all so unreal,” the brunette said, blinking so fast Spence worried she might start crying again. “Twenty years, down the drain.”
“I’m sorry?” he offered.
She glanced up at him, frustration knotting her shoulders. “Some people are meant to get the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and some aren’t,” she said. “You’re one of the gold ones, I’m not. I like your movies, by the way,” she added with a surprise shy look.
“Thanks,” Spence murmured, more impressed with the soulfulness in her eyes than the compliment.
She swallowed and rolled her shoulders, standing straighter. “I have dreamed of staying in this house since I was ten-years-old, I guess I can keep dreaming. I’m sorry I bothered you.”
Her words might not have been intended to wound him, but they did. She pushed away from the porch railing and started to leave.
“What’s your name?” He stopped her, brain scrambling to figure out a way to clean up Yvonne’s mess.
She stopped and turned back to him. “Tasha. Tasha Pike.”
“I’m Jenny Young,” the blonde said, thrusting out her hand to shake his. “I can’t believe I’m meeting you in person. I’ve seen all your movies. You’re great.”
“Thanks,” he said as graciously as he could, then turned his attention back to Tasha. “Let me make this up to you somehow, Tasha. I feel terrible.”
“Oh no, I couldn’t ask you to do that, Mr. Ellis.” Tasha’s cheeks flared bright pink with shame, and she looked down.
“Call me Spence. And I insist on doing something.”
“Dinner?” Jenny suggested.
Both Spence and Tasha blinked at her.
“Hey, I’m just saying.” Jenny held up her arms in defense.
Tasha inched close to her friend and whispered, “Let’s go. I’m so embarrassed. We shouldn’t bother him.”
“No, please, bother me,” Spence said to stop Tasha from leaving. “You have no reason to be embarrassed.”
Maybe dinner wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Any woman who could send every last one of his protective instincts into overdrive in less than five minutes was a woman he wanted to buy a drink. And more. He’d do just about anything to make up for Yvonne’s meanness and help Tasha to hold onto her childhood dreams.
The solution to both of their problems hit him like a ray of sunlight. “Why don’t you stay here for the summer too?”
“What?” Tasha balked.
Her friend stood a little taller, a wide smile spreading across her neatly made-up face.
Tasha wasn’t wearing any make-up. She didn’t need to. Even with a cry-face, she was gorgeous. Spence caught himself smiling at the thought of spending the summer with her, at the whole grand idea unfolding in his mind.
“I’m here by myself,” he said. “The house has six bedrooms. It’s huge. I don’t really need it all. Why don’t we share?”
“Share the house?” Tasha’s shoulders loosened a fraction and she shifted her weight to one hip as if considering.
“Share a summer house with Spencer Ellis,” Jenny breathed in wonder.
“I wouldn’t mind if you wouldn’t,” Spence said, keeping his eyes on Tasha. “Look, I’ll even pay for everything. It’s the least I could do. My agent is a little over-eager when it comes to pampering her clients, and I’m afraid I’ve made her a lot of money in these last couple of years.”
His words had the opposite effect from what he’d intended.
“I wouldn’t feel right taking your money,” Tasha said, dropping her arms and shaking her head. “The one thing I can hold my head up about is that I’ve always paid my own way.”
“All right.” He held up his hands in surrender. “You can pay for whatever you want.”
She softened from wary suspicion to worry. “You aren’t planning to throw any wild celebrity parties, are you?”
“Definitely not,” he answered.
“I’m not going to wake up to paparazzi outside my window, am I?”
“I sure as hell hope not. I came here to get away from all that. Nobody knows I’m here.” He glanced pointedly to Jenny.
“Right,” Jenny whispered. “My lips are sealed.”
“Jenny’s lips are sealed,” he told Tasha with a smile. It was, admittedly, a practiced smile, designed to weaken her knees.
Instead, she chewed her lip and picked at one of her nails, clearly nervous. “You’re willing to leave me alone to read or walk on the beach or whatever I feel like doing?”
Tasha drew in a breath. She glanced out over the beach below the cliff as she let it out. Her doubtful expression melted to a sadness that grabbed hold of Spence’s gut. It was early summer still and a weekday. The beach was only half-filled with sunbathers and kids playing in the waves. Their laughter and happy calls drifted up to the house along with the soothing roll of the waves. Tasha closed her eyes as if letting it all sink in, as if she needed it to sink in.
“Okay,” she said at last.
“So you’ll stay?” He liked the idea far more than he expected to.
“I think you should stay,” Jenny whispered to her.
Tasha turned and frowned at her friend, then at Spence. Her face pinched as she thought. “Twenty years.” She pressed the palms of her hands to her temples and groaned. “I can’t just walk away from all that saving and planning, not after the spring I’ve had.”
“Don’t walk away, then,” he insisted. “There’s no need to. I’m a pretty quiet guy. We don’t have to get in each other’s way if we don’t want to.” Though he would very much like to get to know any woman who didn’t turn into a pile of giggles at the sight of him. “It’s up to you,” he finished as casually as he could.
“I’ll stay,” she said, dropping her hands and shaking her head. “I can’t believe I’m doing this, though.”
“Neither can I,” Jenny added, though for an entirely different reason, Spence was sure. She watched him with that giddy spark in her eyes that he hated.
“Okay, now that that’s settled, can I help you carry your bags in?” he asked.
“No,” Tasha replied. “You can go back to whatever you were doing. I’m sorry I interrupted you.”
As much as it burned him that they’d gotten off on the wrong foot, Spence backed down with a sheepish grin. He had the summer to make it up to her, and he promised himself he would.
“I’ll just be on the upstairs porch if you need me,” he said, turning toward the door.
Tasha gave him one more guilty glance before turning and marching off to the front of the porch. He waited until she’d turned the corner before chuckling and shaking his head. Yvonne would be annoyed that the perfect vacation she’d set up for him had hit a bump.
He, on the other hand, thought he might like it.
And you can go ahead and preorder Summer with a Star on Amazon right now if you’d like! I won’t stop you.