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Stars collide, p.1
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       Stars Collide, p.1

           Janice Thompson
 
Stars Collide


  Backstage Pass Book 1

  Stars Collide

  A Novel

  Janice Thompson

  © 2011 by Janice Thompson

  Published by Revell

  a division of Baker Publishing Group

  P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287

  www.revellbooks.com

  E-book edition created 2010

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

  ISBN 978-1-4412-1428-7

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

  Scripture is taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

  Published in association with MacGregor Literary Agency.

  In loving memory of my father, Billy Hanna, who moved our family from Houston, Texas, to Los Angeles, California, in the late ’70s so that he could pursue his dream of co-writing and producing a Hollywood movie.

  Thank you, Dad, for opening a whole new chapter in my life—that of a writer.

  1

  Whose Line Is It Anyway?

  “You want me to kiss him . . . where?” I stared at my director, hoping I’d somehow misunderstood his last-minute change to the script.

  A look of exasperation crossed his face. “On the lips, of course. This is a family show, Kat. Remember?”

  “Of course.” I nodded and fought to keep my breathing even as I rephrased my question. “I mean, where in the scene? Beginning, middle, or end? What’s my cue?”

  “Oh.” A look of relief passed over Mark Wilson’s face as he sank into his director’s chair. “At the very end of the scene. Right after Jack says, ‘This has been a long time coming, Angie.’ At that point I want the two of you to kiss. On the lips. In a passionate but family-friendly way. PG, not PG-13.”

  “Ah.” My gaze darted across the crowded studio to Scott Murphy, my love interest in the sitcom Stars Collide. He raked his fingers through that gorgeous, dark, wavy hair of his and flashed an encouraging smile. Apparently the idea of kissing me on camera hadn’t startled him. Why should I let it make me nervous? We’d both known for months this moment would come. And now that it had arrived, there would be no turning back. Kissing him—whether it happened at the beginning, middle, or end of the scene—was something the viewers had anticipated for three seasons. Ironically, I’d spent almost as long waiting, hoping, and praying for it myself.

  Over the past two seasons, my off-screen friendship with Scott had morphed into something more, and I knew he felt the same. Still, we’d danced around each other for months, neither of us willing to open up and share our hearts. And now that the opportunity had finally presented itself, I felt like slinking back to my dressing room and diving under the makeup table. Would anyone notice if the show’s leading lady skipped out on the scene?

  “Kiss him, Kat! Kiss him!” The voices of the youngest cast members rang out, and my cheeks grew warm as I realized the sitcom’s children had a vested interest in this too. They’d worked for two full seasons to push the characters of Jack and Angie together, after all. A kiss seemed inevitable, even to them.

  Only now, it just seemed impossible. How could I kiss Scott, passionately or otherwise, with my heart in my throat? And how—I gulped in air as I thought about it—how could I kiss him when my feelings offstage were as strong as those my character Angie faced when the cameras were rolling?

  My heart did that crazy junior high flip-flop thing, and for a moment I thought I might faint. Squeezing my eyes shut, I invited the opportunity. If I hit the floor, we could probably avoid filming the scene altogether.

  Nope. No such luck. After a few seconds of feigning dizziness, I realized I was as steady on my feet as ever. Opening my eyes, I contemplated my options. Now what?

  From across the studio, Scott smiled again, offering me a glimmer of hope. Was that a “come hither” look in his eyes? Mm-hmm. A sense of peace flooded over me and I whispered a prayer of thanksgiving.

  I can do this. I can do this. With the eyes of the masses watching, I took my place on the set, ready to begin filming.

  Scott continued to tease me with a smile. Oh yes, this certainly made things easier. His baby blues stared deep down into my soul, giving me the courage I needed.

  At this point, everything began to move in slow motion.

  I heard the director yell, “Action!”

  Managed to speak my opening lines, then listened for Scott’s impassioned response.

  Watched as the cameras overhead swung near for the big moment.

  Felt my heart race when Scott—as the character of Jack—took a step in my direction.

  Heard him whisper those magic words: “This has been a long time coming, Angie.”

  Sensed the studio audience members holding their breath.

  Closed my eyes in anticipation.

  Then, just as Scott swept me into his arms for that magical moment we’d all been waiting for . . . the power went out.

  Studio B faded to black.

  2

  Saved by the Bell

  A collective gasp went up from the studio audience as the filming of the infamous kissing scene came to an abrupt halt. Ironically, the filming was the only thing that ended. What no one saw under the blissful cover of darkness—I hoped, anyway—was the long-awaited moment being played out just between the two of us. Scott’s lips, tender and sweet, found mine, and the kiss that followed squelched any lingering doubts I might have had about his feelings for me. Our private exchange lasted an extraordinary length of time—extraordinary being the key word.

  Wowza! Was this guy worth the wait, or what?

  Scott eventually loosened his embrace and brushed his fingers through my hair. His words, “It’s about time, Kat,” were whispered gently into my ear, sending tingles down my spine. All I could manage was a lame nod, which, of course, he could not see in the dark. Brilliant, Kat. Still, what did it matter? Our kissing scene was the stuff Emmy awards were made of. Didn’t matter that we’d missed our opportunity to share it with the world. Some things were better left off camera. At least the first time around.

  I half expected a laugh track to shatter the moment, or at least some piped-in music. A dramatic love song, perhaps. Most everything in my life was staged these days, right down to my dialogue.

  Fortunately, the only music was the impromptu drum solo going on in my heart. I felt sure no one heard it except Scott. My arms instinctively slipped around his neck, and he drew me closer still, offering yet another sweet promise that his feelings for me were as strong as mine for him.

  Off in the distance, a tremulous little voice rang out, and the words “I’m scared” now hovered over us. As the darkness lingered, the children grew more restless and one began to cry. I could hear the studio audience members stirring now.

  “Rex, what happened to the backup generator?” Mark hollered to Rex Henderson, our new producer.

  “No idea, Mark, but I’m working on it.” I recognized that voice. Jason Harris, cameraman. If anyone could figure it out, he could. Jason was our resident geek.

  The lights came on just as Scott and I each took a giant step backward, creating a respectable chasm between us. By the time my eyes adjusted to the glare of the generator-powered light
s flickering overhead, I realized chaos had struck the studio audience. People tripped over each other and shouted obscenities as they struggled to exit the studio. Lovely. Did they not remember we had a room full of children? And tearful children at that.

  Scott shifted gears at once, morphing into protector and guardian. Turning to the audience, he hollered, “Calm down, everyone. Take it easy!”

  Ironically, no one paid a bit of attention except the kids, who rushed his way. He pulled them into a fatherly embrace and began to comfort the ones most shaken.

  I should have been reacting in some way too, I suppose, but my eyes were fixed solely on Scott. Be still my heart. This guy really knew how to get to me. Kind to children and romantic too. What next? Would he leap tall buildings in a single bound?

  “KK, are you all right?”

  As my grandmother’s voice rang out, I turned to face her, finding her long, silver hair in disarray. In the madness of the moment, I’d forgotten about her. Not that Lenora Worth was one to be easily forgotten. Oh no. She made her presence known at each day’s filming, showing up in a variety of ensembles from Hollywood days gone by. She had become a mascot of sorts, and everyone loved her. Right now, though, she looked frazzled and a bit messy.

  “Your combs must’ve come loose,” I whispered as I pointed to her untidy updo.

  “Oooh, thanks.” She fussed with them in an attempt to make herself look presentable, then turned her attention to her sparkling black gown.

  I helped straighten the sheer black scarf across her shoulders. “There. You look lovely.”

  “Thanks again, KK. I think I panicked when the lights went out. Scared me.”

  “Me too.”

  “Mm-hmm.” She squinted her eyes with an “I’m not buying it” look.

  “W-what?” That little-girl feeling swept over me. I was a seven-year-old once again, caught with my hand in the cookie jar.

  Grandma continued to fuss with her dress, her gaze never shifting. “Honey, my hearing’s not what it used to be, but my eyesight is twenty-twenty.”

  “O-oh?”

  “Yes. Funny thing about working in a studio for so long. These old eyes get accustomed to the dark. Sometimes they even play tricks on me. Make me think I’m seeing things.”

  I swallowed hard, pretty sure I knew where this was going.

  My grandmother took my hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. With tears glistening in her eyes, she whispered, “I’m thrilled for both of you, sweet girl. You know what a romantic I am. Sometimes the things we wait the longest for are the things most worth the wait. I’ve known for some time that Jack was God’s man for you.”

  Jack?

  “I, well, I . . .” My mind reeled as I fought to come up with a response. Thankfully I didn’t have to. Grandma Lenora’s gaze darted to her left.

  “Incoming battleship,” she whispered. “Stage left.”

  I turned just as Mark approached with Rex Henderson at his side.

  “We just got a call saying the whole building is down. Utility company is working on the lines in the area for the next three hours.” Mark began to pace. “This is a nightmare. We can’t afford to get behind.”

  Scott took a few steps in our direction. “I say it’s probably for the best that we stop for the day, anyway. The kids are having a hard time adjusting to what just happened, and the studio audience is, well . . .” He shrugged. “Nonexistent.”

  “We should release the kids.” Rex gave them a sympathetic look. “Emotions are running high.”

  Mark gave me a pensive glance before shifting his gaze to Scott. “Can you two stick around? I’d like to call a meeting.”

  “Sure.” Scott and I spoke in unison, our voices sounding almost rehearsed. I wanted to turn to him and grin but resisted the urge. Now that we’d broken the ice, I wanted to sing, to dance, to . . . Hmm. Better stay focused.

  Mark dismissed the kids, but several of them stopped by to share a hug before leaving the set. I gazed down at little Toby, the youngest cast member. At five, he was quite a star. I’d never seen—or heard—a child so young with such talent. Perfect comedic timing. Nice singing voice. This kid would go far in the business.

  And then there was Candy. The eight-year-old came complete with a stage mother. Sure, the little beauty queen could sing and act and certainly deserved her part in the show, but talk about a diva. I’d seen Hollywood megastars with less attitude. I hated to think about what she’d morph into if she stayed in the business.

  Scott—being Scott—took his time with each of the children, offering uplifting and encouraging words before releasing them to their parents. The kids responded with smiles and laughter. Well, all but Candy, who complained that she had wasted two hours getting her hair curled for nothing. She stomped off of the set looking more devilish than

  pixielike.

  Once the children had left the room, Mark gestured for Scott and me to meet him onstage. Rex joined us as we settled onto the sofa and wingback chairs that adorned the living room portion of the set. The welcoming decor made me feel right at home. I knew that Grandma would be along shortly, so I saved her a seat next to me.

  “So, what’s up?” Scott asked. “Other than the obvious, I mean.”

  Mark pursed his lips, saying nothing at first. “I’m rethinking the direction of this episode,” he said at last. “We want to boost ratings, but I’m not sure this last-minute addition of a kiss is my best idea. Not yet, anyway.”

  What? I could hardly believe his abrupt change of direction. Why switch gears? Now that I’d jumped the hurdle of kissing Scott, I certainly wouldn’t mind jumping it again. And again.

  Mark shrugged. “I’ve called in Athena and some of the other writers to help us figure this out. We might want to go a completely different direction for the time being.”

  Rex didn’t respond. I had a feeling we’d be hearing from him later.

  A shuffling behind us alerted me to the fact that the writing team had arrived. I turned to Athena Pappas—my best friend and confidante—and shrugged. She and the other writers had done a fine job already. Why stress them out by making them rewrite the scene?

  I could tell Scott wasn’t happy with the way things were going. “I hope you’re joking, Mark,” he said. “It’s been three years. If Jack and Angie don’t move ahead with their relationship now, viewers are going to give up on them. We can only drag this out for so long.”

  Mark shook his head. “But part of what makes Stars Collide work is the ongoing romantic tension between the two of you. I’m afraid if we release that tension, the viewers will lose interest. They’ll think it’s too . . . predictable. Love stories are about the chase, not the catch.”

  Hmm. I wasn’t sure I agreed with that one but didn’t interject my opinion just yet.

  “I disagree.” Scott held his ground. “Viewers have watched Jack and Angie take two opposing talent agencies and merge them into one. They get the whole ‘stars collide’ symbolism. They know what’s coming. Everyone knows what’s coming. These characters don’t just care about the kids they represent, they care about each other.” His gaze shifted momentarily to me, and I tried to push back the smile that threatened to erupt. Thankfully Scott turned back to Mark and continued sharing his thoughts. “And if we don’t show that emotion to the audience, sooner or later . . .” He shook his head.

  “What?” Mark asked. “The world’s gonna blow up? C’mon, Scott. I’m just saying we should draw it out a bit longer. Play it for all it’s worth.”

  Athena shook her head. “Mark, I thought we all agreed that the timing was perfect to reveal the couple’s feelings. Right? The show has a loyal audience, you know.” She gave him a “please play along” look.

  Mark stood and began to pace. “I know, I know. It felt right at the time. But now I’m not so sure. Have you seen our ratings? We’ve slipped from the number three spot to number four. Could be we’re on a downward spiral.”

  “That’s a bunch of hooey,” Grandma Lenora
said, drawing near. The sequins on her black evening gown sparkled underneath the generator-driven stage lights above. “Face it, Mark. You’re just scared of the unknown. You don’t know what will happen if these two kids share their feelings openly, and it scares you.” A wistful look came over her. “But life is always like that. You hold on to your feelings, scared to express them, not knowing what will happen on the other side of that emotion.” Her eyes got misty, and for a moment I wasn’t sure we were talking about the show anymore.

  I could read the exasperation on Mark’s face as he responded, “Lenora, I really don’t think you’re the one to be telling us how to run this show. Honestly, you’re not even—”

  I glared at him, hoping he wouldn’t say anything to hurt her. Except for a handful of brief appearances on the sitcom playing the role of my grandmother, she couldn’t be counted among the regulars. But she was Lenora Worth, onetime Hollywood star, and deserving of his utmost respect. Mark’s mouth eventually closed, and the conversation was left hanging midsentence.

  Rex gave her a sympathetic look and nodded. “I agree with Lenora.”

  I decided to add my thoughts in an attempt to steer this ship into a different port. “I know we’re concerned about ratings, Mark. But we have a strong fan base. They love us. And I, for one, love the idea of shaking the audience up a little.” Of course, I hadn’t loved it an hour ago, but now that I’d overcome the obstacle of kissing Scott, nothing could hold me back. I’d released my feelings to him . . . now I might as well release them to the viewers.

  “We’ve already written in just about every funny bit I can think of for the kids,” Athena said. “They’ve pulled dozens of pranks to nudge Angie and Jack together.”

  “That crazy scene last spring where they kidnapped Jack and Angie and locked them in a closet together was priceless.” Scott chuckled.

  “And so was that scene where they convinced Jack and Angie to act out the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet to raise funds for charity,” I threw in. “So cute. And very romantic.” I hadn’t minded playing Juliet to Scott’s Romeo . . . then or now.

 
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