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       Capture, p.6

         Part #1 of Seaside Pictures series by Rachel Van Dyken

  Lincoln: Pick your poison.

  I texted her a picture of Starbucks and waited for her to answer back.

  Dani: Sugar and caffeine — surprise me.

  I was still grinning at my phone when the barista asked for my order, and, because my brain was still on that same vacation from yesterday, my mind went completely blank.

  "Uh." Great start. And I had to actually spout out lines today about true love? Kill me now.

  "Lincoln?" Jo-Jo's voice was like nails on a chalkboard. "Lincoln, is that you?" Like five hundred nails getting simultaneously dragged down the chalkboard. On repeat. "Lincoln?" Five hundred times.

  "Yup?" I turned around and forced an easy smile, even though I really wanted to jump over the counter, steal the barista's apron and visor, and yell, "Doppelganger!"

  With a very practiced pout, Jo-Jo pressed her lips together, then made a grand show of swiveling her hips as she walked toward me. "You didn't text last night."

  "Fell asleep," I lied, backing toward the counter. Maybe the barista would take pity on me and dump hot coffee on my hand so I had an out clause.

  "Oh." Jo-Jo frowned. "Well, I have some time this morning if you want to do something?"

  "Can't." I gave her my shoulder. "I'm meeting with my new assistant then driving down to set."

  "In your truck?"

  What was with her and my truck?

  "Yes." I mouthed "Sorry" to the barista, while the line tripled in size. I moved my lips to order, but Jo-Jo interrupted me. Again.

  "Oh, well…" She ran her nails down my arm. "… guess we can take a selfie here. It won't have the desired effect spending the day with me would, but it's better than nothing." Before I could protest, she lifted her phone and pointed it at us, snapped a picture of her kissing my cheek, and then slapped my ass. "Great. We'll be in touch."

  My ass was tingling — and not in a good way. More like a warning that it might actually cease to exist if she tried to touch it again.

  "Dude, you gonna order or what?" The barista tapped his marker against one of the cups and narrowed his eyes at me.

  "Yeah." I choked. "Two grande vanilla lattes. Triple shot."

  I slipped him a hundred while he wrote down my order, and whispered, "For the customers behind me."

  He stared at the hundred-dollar bill, then narrowed his eyes. I fumbled with my sunglasses as recognition dawned on his face. "Dude, you're Lincoln Greene!"

  "Shh." I waved my hands in front of me and pasted a fake smile on my face. "Let's keep that between you and me, man. That okay?"

  "Sure." He licked his lips and slid the black marker toward me. "But can I have your autograph?"

  "Yeah." I quickly scribbled my name on the cup he'd handed me and went to wait for the drinks.

  Portland people didn't care about my celebrity status. I'd been asked for my autograph more when I was in Hollywood. Maybe they didn't care, or maybe they really were high all the time as Jaymeson believed.

  He said filming between Portland and Seaside would be like a vacation, and I was starting to believe it.

  Damn, I needed one of those.

  "Lincoln…" The barista nodded to me and called out my drinks. "… you're up, bro, and thanks for being so cool."

  "Sure, man." I grabbed my drinks and jogged out of the coffee shop to my waiting truck, a little too eager to meet Dani and irritated that I was excited to meet my assistant. I took a misstep and nearly dropped the lattes all over the pavement.

  My assistant.

  She intrigued me.

  And it wasn't because she hadn't thrown herself at me. Plenty of girls kept their distance. I mean, granted most of them were usually blind or over the age of eighty, but still. It's not like I'd never been rejected.

  It just didn't happen often.

  I started the quick drive back to my apartment, tapping my fingers against the wheel, nervous energy pouring out of me. It wasn't Dani. It was the movie.

  And the stupid part I had to play.

  My stomach clenched.

  Ha, well at least I'd found the object of my nervousness. The fact that I had to play a brooding alpha male who vies for the girl's attention. I was the second half of the love story, the guy every girl roots for even though she knows he's bad… the unredeemable. Hell, give me a motorcycle and a leather jacket and I'd be all set.

  I'd played that character before.

  But something about this specific one, Dean Elis, bothered me. He was so… passionate. About everything. Not just about the girl but about life in general. I'd never experienced that type of passion. In fact, I was pretty sure experiencing that much passion in a lifetime was unhealthy. And I'd never been in love, not that it had ever been a problem for me to play the shit out of the part.

  But sometimes, it made me feel like a fraud.

  I burst out laughing. And this was why I needed coffee.

  "Get your head out of your ass, Linc," I growled to myself as I braked, cut the engine, and hopped out of my truck, two coffees in hand. "You're early," I blurted to my new assistant.

  Dani was standing outside my building, and her phone was held to her ear. Her lips were moving — fast.

  What the hell?

  What type of person faked a sickness like that? Rage boiled inside me as I stomped over to her, ready to grab the phone out of her hands and toss it into the air, feeling a bit self-righteous, because how could someone be so selfish? I mean, her poor family! And she could actually talk?

  "I miss you." Her low voice was barely above a whisper making it hard to hear what her voice actually sounded like. "I start a new job today." She paused. "It's Jaymeson's fault." She twirled her blonde hair around her thumb. "I love you so much. I'm so sorry."

  "Well…" I cleared my throat, not caring that I was intruding on her private conversation. "… what are you? The girl that calls wolf?"

  Slowly, Dani raised her eyes and met my gaze. The harsh glare of the morning sun revealed her face was white as the proverbial sheet. Her mouth opened, a small squeak emerged, and her lower lip trembled.

  "Oh, please," I sneered. "I heard you talking, so drop the act, Dani. God knows I'm not the type to go tattle to your sister and brother-in-law. It's not my business that you like to lie to family."

  With a hoarse cry, she smacked me in the chest. I backed up as some of the coffee spilled out of the cups.

  She tugged the phone from her ear and started typing.

  My phone buzzed.

  I rolled my eyes. "Hands are kind of full, darling. Why don't you just use your words?"

  She shook her head and pointed to my front pocket.

  "Let's try this again." I could feel my irritation growing. "Tell me what it is you want to say. Like an adult."

  She stomped her foot.

  "Oh, great." I huffed out a breath "I lose a clepto assistant only to gain an angry teenager who thinks the only way she can get attention is to act out, pretend she actually has a disease that effects REAL people, and stomps to get attention. Tell me I'm not off base."

  Tears filled the corners of her eyes.

  "Wow." I sighed heavily, too tired to put up with her bullshit. "Ever think of going into acting? You're probably better than your sister, and she's the best I've seen in ages."

  Tears spilled onto her cheeks. She just kept furiously pointing at my phone.

  I stared her down. "Sorry, sweetheart. Your family may enable you, but I'm not going to. In fact, as of right now, consider yourself fired. I don't need drama in my life. I get enough of it as it is."

  She let out a little cry and grabbed my arm.

  "Let go," I said in a chilled voice.

  Dani shook her head then held up her phone, the screen pointed in my direction. It was the text she'd sent me.

  Dani: The only person I can talk to is my dad. I listen to his last voice message every morning, and when he's finished, I talk back.

  "Well… shit," I muttered dropping my gaze to the ground, where her knees damn near knocked together
, they were trembling so bad.

  I raised my head.

  Her chest heaved, cheeks stained with red.

  Slowly, she typed back into her phone.

  Dani: You're a jackass.

  "Shit," I said again, lifting both coffees into the air in frustration. "I know. Look, I'm sorry, I saw you talking, heard you talking, and just assumed the worst. I didn't know."

  She held up her phone again.

  Dani: Now you do.

  She snagged one of the coffees, jutted out her chin, and marched away from me. Feeling like one of the biggest pricks in the world, I called after her, and, when she didn't stop, let out a curse.

  "Wait!" I set my coffee down on the sidewalk, raced after Dani, and grabbed her. "Look, I said I'm sorry. I just assumed. Can't we start over?"

  She jerked away from me and shook her head no.

  "Dani…" Shit, I really needed an assistant, Jaymeson wasn't joking when he said my life was chaotic. I'd had an assistant since my first commercial. Not having a right-hand person was like not having my phone, or walking around naked on set, extremely uncomfortable and unnecessary. "… wait, I need you."

  She kept walking.

  "Don't make me call Jaymeson!" Low blow. I knew it, but I was desperate.

  She froze, her shoulders tensing.

  "I'll do it." I held up my phone. "You don't want to let him down, do you?"

  Her fists clenched at her sides, and she glanced back at me out of the corner of her eyes, nostrils flaring.

  "I'm sorry," I repeated, only slightly distracted by the way her chest rose and fell. Minor, minor, minor. "I need help. Can't we just call it our first fight and move on?"

  She threw her hands up in the air then pulled out her phone.

  Dani: How much are you paying me?

  "Clearly not enough since you have to put up with me yelling at you," I joked.

  She didn't laugh. Well, at least I'd tried.

  Dani: I want double what Jaymeson asked.

  "Wow, tough bargain."

  She turned around and crossed her arms.

  "Deal," I croaked. I could afford it, but the girl seriously had no idea how much she was already getting paid. She was now officially one of the highest paid assistants in history — or at least it was going to feel like it. "So I'll just deposit that fifteen grand at the end of every month then?"

  Her eyes widened.

  "Kidding." I grinned.

  With a scowl, she kept walking away from me.

  "Wait!" I called after her. "Aren't you riding with me to Seaside?"

  She pointed at the truck, made a cutting motion with her hand across her neck, and then shook her head no.

  "But what are you riding in then?"

  Her hand shot into the air, pressing a button on the key ring that lit up a brand new, black Jeep Cherokee.


  She nodded and got into the driver's seat.

  "See you at Seasi—"

  The door slammed, cutting off the rest of the word.

  Never had I seen a car peel away so fast. Yeah, something told me she wasn't going to be trying to seduce me or sell my stuff online. If anything, I was going to need to watch my back, just in case she switched my sugar and salt containers and flashed my number on Twitter or something.

  Not the best start to our relationship.

  Then again, our relationship was only going to last as long as filming. Three months, and I'd be, hopefully, a semi-non-traumatic memory she could stuff away.

  Three months without actual conversation.


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