Showmance, p.1
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       Showmance, p.1

           L.H. Cosway



  L.H. Cosway

  Copyright © 2016 L.H. Cosway.

  All rights reserved.

  Cover design by RBA Designs.

  Editing by Indie Author Services.

  This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author.

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  For anyone who’s ever been terrified of something, but went ahead and did it anyway.

  “The power of a glance has been so much abused in love stories, that it has come to be disbelieved in. Few people dare now to say that two beings have fallen in love because they have looked at each other. Yet it is in this way that love begins, and in this way only.”

  ― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables



  All actors are sluts.

  Okay, so maybe not all actors, but whatever. I was in love with an actor, or at least I thought I was, and he was about as oblivious as those little old ladies who used to swoon over Liberace. So oblivious that, even though we’d been sleeping together, he had the gall to ask me to pop to the shop and grab him a pack of johnnies. But not for us, oh, no. Apparently he planned on banging the leading lady after the show.

  I stood there, gobsmacked, my bleeding heart dripping all over the floor as I tried to maintain some dignity.

  “Excuse me?”

  “Johnnies, condoms, prophylactics. You’ve heard of them, yes?” Blake elaborated.

  “Y-yes, of course I’ve heard of them, but what about — ”

  He cut me off. “These past few weeks have been great, Rose, but I’m just not in the market for a relationship. Best if we both move on now, eh?”

  My head moved slowly from side to side in disbelief. “So it all meant nothing to you?”

  “Of course it meant something. It meant I got you in my bed. We had a nice time. Let’s leave it at that.”

  There was an odd, disconnected look in his eyes that I couldn’t quite decipher. Then it hit me. He didn’t care about me at all. Probably never had. It was my own hopelessly romantic heart concocting a very lovely but very misleading illusion. I must’ve looked pissed beyond belief, because Blake swallowed and braced himself as though about to take a punch.

  I wanted to punch him. Maybe I should have. Instead I told him angrily, “Buy your own johnnies, you whore.” And then I stomped out of the room, tears catching in my throat.

  I arrived home just after eleven to find my flatmate, Julian, entertaining a few friends in the living room of our spacious London flat. And before you wonder, no, I couldn’t afford spacious, not on a choreographer’s assistant’s salary. Julian was the one who could afford it, and that was because he was a big ol’ gigolo.

  And before you wonder, yes, he was an actual gigolo. I wasn’t adopting that oh-so-modern habit of affectionately referring to my BFF as a whore. Not my style. When I’d called Blake one earlier in the evening, I’d meant it in the traditional sense.

  “Cheer up, Rose!” Julian called to me, draped across the lap of a blonde wearing a purple blouse. “If you keep up that face, it might get stuck.”

  I glared at him, hung up my coat, and went into my bedroom. The door slam was satisfying, but it was all I had left. Flopping down onto my bed, I buried my face in the pillows.

  My heart ached as I finally let the tears flow. God, why did this shit have to hurt so bad? What was the point? I wished I’d been born asexual. That way I could just focus on my career and not get sidetracked by pretty men with wandering penises…penii?

  “Okay, let’s be having it,” Julian declared as he flounced into my room and shut the door. “What happened this time?”

  I turned over to scowl at him. “Get out. You’re all…sexed up. I don’t want sexed-up sympathy.”

  He smirked. “Olivia’s put me in a cheery disposition. You should be glad. It means I’m in a mood to indulge this episode, whatever it’s about.”

  I assumed Olivia was the blonde in the purple blouse, though I knew she wasn’t a client because he never brought his work home. No, she was purely for enjoyment. Julian cocked an eyebrow, waiting for me to spill. He often refused to talk about my love life because I chose the worst men to fall for, even though I knew better. And I did know better. Nevertheless, I always went for actors. When you worked in theatres throughout the West End, they made up ninety percent of the dating pool.

  “I’ve been sleeping with Blake,” I blurted before burying my face in the pillows once more. I couldn’t take the judgement that was sure to follow. When I was met with stony silence, I chanced a peek at him. Julian stared at me, his luscious lips drawn into a thin line.

  “What are you looking at me like that for? Say something.”

  “Anything I have to say you’re not going to like.”

  “Just hit me with it. I can take it.”

  Another long silence, followed by a breathy sigh. “Of all the men you could have slept with, you chose Blake Winters, West London’s very own public bicycle. Everybody’s had a ride.”

  Well, you couldn’t accuse Julian of mincing his words. I exhaled heavily, my throat clogged with emotion. “But he was so beautiful, and charming, and he made me feel special. Every day for three whole months we’d meet for tea and biscuits on the roof of the theatre at eleven fifteen. We used to talk about everything -- our fears, our hopes and dreams. I felt like we had this…connection. Then last month after we’d been out drinking with the cast, he took me back to his place and we had sex. It went on for two weeks, until one morning he got distant on me, couldn’t get me out of there fast enough. And today when I saw him on set he was just awful. I trusted him, Julian. He was the first person I’d been with in a whole year, and now my heart feels like it’s breaking.”

  He came closer and wrapped his arm around me, smelling of perfume. Olivia’s, I presumed. “Well, of course it does. You’re not a casual-fling girl. You’re a forever girl. But the likes of Blake Winters doesn’t want forever, nor does he deserve it.”

  “He might want it…someday.”

  “No, he won’t, and I’m telling you this because I’m a Blake Winters, so take it from somebody who knows. Our attention spans are as short as our list of conquests are long.”

  “You’re not helping.” I groaned as I imagined a different woman gracing Blake’s bed every night. My breast bone ached with misery.

  “I’m sorry, love. Maybe this will make you feel better. Did you know his real name is Oswald?”

  I grimaced. “As in Cobblepot?”

  “The very same. I had a romp with one of his exes several moons ago, and she had a big mouth. Doesn’t have quite th
e same ring to it as Blake Winters, eh?”

  “No, definitely not.” I almost smiled. Julian gave my shoulders a squeeze, his embrace a small comfort to me.

  “Tomorrow’s closing night, isn’t it?”

  “Yes. At least after that I won’t have to see him again. Iggy’s been contracted to work on a stage adaption of Moulin Rouge. We start rehearsals in a fortnight.”

  “Well, that sounds exciting.”

  “Yeah, I think so, too. Anything to take my mind off Blake.”

  Julian gave me a stern look. “Don’t let this get you down, Rose. You’re too good for him, far too good. Look at that rack and those legs, look how gorgeous you are and how talented. You just need to learn your worth. As soon as you do, you’ll see that Blake was never worthy of you and you’ll finally find someone who is.”

  His words hit home. I was certain Blake couldn’t see the real me, not after how he’d acted tonight. But perhaps I couldn’t see the real me, either. I smiled at Julian grimly. “Sounds like a fairy tale.”

  His eyes softened. “If anybody deserves one, it’s you.”

  “And you,” I said quietly, my voice tender.

  He grew uncomfortable and glanced away, clearing his throat. “Yes well, you get some sleep, beautiful. First thing on tomorrow morning’s agenda is a trip to the STD clinic.”

  As he turned to leave, I launched a pillow that went sailing through the air and hit him square on the back of the head. But damn, he was right. He always was.



  For two whole weeks I wallowed. The first few days were particularly unpleasant and consisted of me going through several boxes of Kleenex, not washing my hair and letting out dejected sighs that I was sure were driving Julian up the wall.

  In the end his patience ran out, and he firmly escorted me to the shower, still in my PJs, and shoved me under the water.

  It was COLD.

  “Fuck! Julian!” I swore loudly, struggling to get out of his hold.

  “Finally, a sign of life,” he exclaimed glibly, and I scowled at him hard.

  The icy liquid slithered down my body, and somehow the shock of it drew me out of my stupor. Julian was right. I’d been acting like a zombie, and it was ridiculous. Blake didn’t warrant such broken-heartedness, especially not after how easily he’d tossed me aside.

  After my cold shower intervention, I threw myself into work, spending hours with my boss, Iggy, as we put the finishing touches to the Moulin Rouge choreography. It wasn’t long before the first morning of rehearsals arrived.

  Iggy pulled me excitedly inside his office the moment I walked into the studio. His eyes glittered with untold gossip as he closed the door behind us. “Have you heard that Jacob’s hired Damon Atwood to play the male lead?”

  I gave him a perplexed look. “Who in the what now?”

  Jacob Anthony was one of several directors who kept Iggy and me employed on London stages. He also had a reputation for being something of a diva, but he was so good at what he did that most people chose to overlook it.

  “Damon Atwood,” Iggy repeated. “Don’t you remember him? He won the Oscar when he was thirteen for that Holocaust flick where he played a little boy in a concentration camp. Riveting stuff.”

  “Oh, yeah,” I said, memories surfacing. “I saw that one. It was amazing. Didn’t he retire from acting, though?”

  Iggy nodded. “Yes, when he was seventeen. His career was riddled with bad luck, truth be told. His mother died of cancer when he was fourteen, and afterwards his dad crawled out of the woodwork, looking to cash in on his success. He made sure Damon only took the big money roles, a right bastard, if you ask me.”

  I eyed him. “You’re well informed.”

  “Of course I am. Spent the morning on Wikipedia after I heard the news.” Iggy grinned. “Anyway, there was a very high-profile court case when Atwood won emancipation from his father. He hasn’t been heard of since, but apparently he’s been living on the Isle of Skye in Scotland.”

  “From Hollywood to the Isle of Skye. That’s quite a long way to go. His dad really must’ve been a bastard,” I said sadly.

  “Yes, well, it was a long time ago. Actually, he’s probably about your age now, twenty-six or so. I for one am eager to see how the years have treated him,” said Iggy just as the door swung open.

  “Hahaha! That’s the most hilarious thing I’ve heard all week, Jacob!” a syrupy-sweet voice crooned.

  Jacob Anthony walked into the office with Alicia Davidson on his arm. Iggy shot me a cynical look at her sugary fake tone, and I tried to stifle a grin. I loved my boss. He was nicknamed for his distinct resemblance to Iggy Pop, and I’d known him since I was a scruffy teenager, hovering outside his dance studio, penniless and eager to learn.

  Alicia was tall, red-haired, voluptuous, and probably the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen in real life. She was an actress from L.A. making her West End debut in the lead role of Satine. If the rumours were true about Atwood, she’d be playing his love interest as the glamorous, ailing courtesan.

  Alicia and Jacob barely acknowledged that Iggy and I were in the room with them.

  “So tell me about Damon,” Alicia went on. “How on earth did you manage to lure him out of obscurity for this? I mean, can he even sing?”

  Jacob shrugged. “To be perfectly honest with you, hon, I haven’t met with him in person yet. All our correspondence has been through email. He’s supposed to be arriving today so that we can audition him properly, but for I all I know this could be a very elaborate catfish scam. As for if he can sing, who’s to say. If he can’t, we’ll get him lessons. Can you imagine the sort of attention we’ll attract from the press with Damon Atwood on the roster? Alongside your good self, of course.”

  Alicia glowed and shot him a flirtatious smile while Jacob ushered her further into the office. “Miss Davidson, might I introduce you to our choreographer, the wonderful Iggy Thomas.”

  “Very pleased to meet you, Mr Thomas,” said Alicia.

  Iggy took her hand and gave it a gentlemanly peck. “Likewise, and please, call me Iggy. Rose and I are really looking forward to working with you.”

  Alicia’s bright green eyes landed on me, and she gave me a wide, pretty smile as she reached over to shake my hand. “It’s lovely to meet you, too, Rose.”

  “And you.” I grinned, momentarily dazzled by her beauty. Note to self: stop falling in love with every new actor you meet, male or female.

  Jacob quickly whisked Alicia away, leaving me and Iggy alone once more.

  When they were out of earshot, Iggy asked dryly, “Do you think the carpet matches the drapes?”

  I snort-laughed and sat down, pulling my dance shoes from my bag to unravel the laces. Mustering a surprisingly accurate impression of Jacob, I lazily waved a hand through the air. “Who’s to say.”

  Iggy snickered and took the shoes from me, unknotting the laces within seconds.


  We spent the morning with the chorus line, teaching them preliminary sequences for the big club scene. Jacob, Alicia, the choral director, and a number of assistants sat at a long table, watching our progress and taking notes.

  It was after lunch that the tension in the building heightened, whispers cascading from ear to ear as news spread that Mr Atwood had finally arrived. Iggy’s studio took up the entire top floor of a large Victorian building in central London; it included one large practice room, several smaller ones, dressing rooms with showers, and a few offices. I wondered where they’d sequestered Damon Atwood.

  I summoned up an image from the movies of his that I’d seen. He’d been young, but I remembered he was tall, with dark hair and deep, soulful brown eyes. Though who knew what he was looking like these days.

  I often found that child actors looked odd when they got older. Not because their appearances were particularly unusual, but more because you were so used to seeing their faces as children that it was strange when their features transformed into

  Case in point: Macaulay Culkin.

  “I heard he lives in a tiny little cottage and works on the fishing boats that operate out of the island for no pay. Why anyone would want to work on a stinky fishing trawler when they’ve got millions sitting in the bank is beyond me,” said a woman sitting a few feet away from me as we took our break. I recognised her from the chorus line.

  “But can you imagine him working?” said another. “I saw him arrive out front a half hour ago. Boy has grown up good.”

  I shamelessly continued listening to them gossip for the next ten minutes as I chomped on some Bombay mix. Then Jacob flounced into the room once more, several assistants heavy on his heels, and took a seat at the long table.

  There was some frenzied chatting between him and the choral director, an older woman named Maura. Turning to one of his assistants, he gave some instructions and the girl hurried from the room. When she returned, a hush fell over the studio as she escorted a tall man inside. His brown hair was long and came to just below his ears. Some heavy stubble dusted his face, and he wore scuffed, workman’s clothes: a long grey coat and steel toe–capped boots. Despite his distinctly laid-back appearance, I sensed a special aura from him, that certain je ne sais quoi they called star quality.

  This was Damon Atwood, and he was entirely unexpected.

  He didn’t look weird to me, like grown child actors normally did. No, he looked like his previous incarnation had been a costume and this was his true self come to fruition.

  “Well, then, Mr Atwood, let’s see what we have to work with,” said Jacob, a pad of paper in his lap and a pen poised at his lips. “Have you prepared a song?”

  Damon nodded but didn’t speak. There was a stoicism about him, his dark brows drawing a distinctive line across his forehead. He stood at the front of the studio and shot a look to the assistant as she hit a button on the sound system. Music began to play, the intro to “Nature Boy.”

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